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Hi, you're in the Archives, September 2013 - Part 1

August 2013 - part 2 <--- September 2013 - part 1 ---> September 2013 - part 2


September 13, 2013


Tasting two new Littlemill

It seems that the Littlemill fury isn't over yet, and we certainly won't complain. In theory, we should have the younger one first but as the old one is much lighter, we'll rather have that one as #1.

Littlemill 36 yo 1977/2013 (40.2%, Cadenhead, small batch, bourbon hogshead, 150 bottles)

Littlemill 36 yo 1977/2013 (40.2%, Cadenhead, small batch, bourbon hogshead, 150 bottles) Four stars and a half I have tried very few Littlemills that were distilled in the 1970s. Should we expect a straight fruit bomb or rather a quiet cereally one? Let's see... Colour: white wine. Nose: straight on pina colada! This is something new to me, I had always thought these old Littlemills were much more on grass and grains, and much less on fruits as, say the ones from the early 1990s. So, good news - but it could be that Cadenhead chose to bottle this baby precisely because it's greatly odd. Pineapples, coconut, a few sour fruits (around overripe passion fruits? Kiwi?) and then a wee earthy touch. Great but as always, at this strength and at this age, the palate could be a wreck... Let's see. Mouth: sweet Vishnu, it's almost a miracle! Sure the oak's strongish, with quite some 'dry' tea both black and green as well as spoonfuls of cocoa powder and cinnamon, but the fruits are still there, although we're maybe more on grapefruits and their skins than on an extravagant tropicality. Good body at barely 40%, another small miracle. And it remained fresh. Finish: medium, lemony, with touches of salt in the aftertaste. Cinnamon and ginger as well. Comments: I had thought this old Littlemill would be more fragile or unstable. SGP:451 - 88 points.

Littlemill 23 yo 1990/2013 (52,4%, The Whisky Agency, refill hogshead, 332 bottles)

Littlemill 23 yo 1990/2013 (52,4%, The Whisky Agency, refill hogshead, 332 bottles) Four stars In my experience, 1990 was a very good 'vintage' at Littlemill. Colour: straw. Nose: classic and classy. More straight citrus fruits than in the 1977, a little more sweetness that hints at American oak (vanilla) and then passion fruits indeed. Grapefruits too. With water: sweeter and fruitier, with more oranges and honey. Lovely now. Mouth (neat): it's a rather strange one, not too sure this one isn't grassier than the 1977. There's certainly a lot of lemon and grapefruit zests, a little vanilla, lemon marmalade and then cardamom and, yes, grass juice. It's actually pretty dry and grassy. I even find touches of capers. With water: it didn't get any sweeter this time. I'd swear I had some Taiwanese wulong the other day that was very close to this. Finish: good length, with lime and touches of agave. Some paraffin in the aftertaste. Zesty! Comments: it's not quite one of those fruitbombs that we know well, but this sharpish greenness works very well if you're into this style as much as I am. SGP:561 - 87 points.

More tasting notes Check the index of all Littlemill I've tasted so far



Block Today: BLUES. Performer: Alvin Lee who passed away in March this year. Track: The bluest blues (although probably not the best version). Please visit his website and buy his music...

September 12, 2013


Tasting three rather impressive
peated Cooley

There are some new or newish independent peated Cooley aka Connemara around! I'll always remember the first Connemara I could try, that was blind, on location at... Ardbeg! That was fun.

Cooley 13 yo 1999/2013 (51.4%, The Whisky Mercenary)

Cooley 13 yo 1999/2013 (51.4%, The Whisky Mercenary) Four stars The Whisky Mercenary is one of these sweet Belgian proams that are so passionate about whisky (and sometimes shrimp croquettes, just like yours truly). Colour: straw. Nose: it's a fresh and relatively light kind of peat smoke that first arises, and then rather sweeter elements, around jelly beans and sweets. I seem to detect cherries, for example. Also a little lemonade, which works well in this context, honeycomb... It tends to become pleasantly fatter and oilier after a few seconds, but never quite a, well, an ashtray. With water: becomes more medicinal, so Islayesque. Antiseptic. Mouth (neat): well in line, although a little drier and grassier. The peat is bigger than expected - although not as ashtray-y as some officials - and there's quite some pepper, ginger and cardamom. Becomes more citrusy after two or four seconds, mainly on grapefruits. It's funnily both powerful and light, not too sure you see what I mean. With water: very good, very well balanced. A little easier with water. Finish: long, with notes of smoked tea. Maybe bergamots as well? Comments: excellent, well on par with the best Islays of similar age. I tend to like this better than the officials! SGP:456 - 87 points.

Connemara 15 yo 1992/2007 (50.5%, OB for Whisky Fair Limburg, bourbon barrel)

Connemara 15 yo 1992/2007 (50.5%, OB for Whisky Fair Limburg, bourbon barrel) Three stars and a half This one isn't recent but I thought it would be a good idea to have it after the 1999 since it's of similar age. Colour: straw. Nose: oh! This is completely different, it's smokier, peatier, much drier and, above all extremely walnutty. It's almost bone-dry fino sherry or heavy vin jaune from Arbois. Interesting, but dangerous... With water: same plus a little dark chocolate. This is very ashy and sooty. Mouth (neat): big, bitter and acrid, almost violent. Lories of walnuts again, grass, bitter herbs and rocket. I've seen some call that also aragula? And this feeling of 'swallowing an ashtray'. With water: more of all that, plus something inky, perhaps. Finish: long, smoky and ashy. The ink and soot got even louder. Comments: this one's very extreme and totally unsexy. Quite an experience and I like experiences. SGP:267 - 84 points.

Cooley 21 yo 1992/2013 (56.3%, Cadenhead, World Whiskies, bourbon barrel, 210 bottles)

Cooley 21 yo 1992/2013 (56.3%, Cadenhead, World Whiskies, bourbon barrel, 210 bottles) Five stars Another new Cadenhead from summer this year. We're having a lot of Cadenhead these days but it's true that they fired earlier than others with their new bottlings. That was smart! Colour: straw. Nose: this one sleeps a bit after the younger ones, but maybe that's the higher strength. Quite some mash though, mashed potatoes, then more earth and humus, which I always like when it's not plain dirty. Oh and a little gentian. With water: oh, some kind of smoked pears now! Or strawberries? It's a great nose. Mouth (neat): a very unusual one, with a combination of flavours that's nowhere else to be seen in my experience. It's actually a triplet of bitter herbs, ashy smoke and candied oranges and kumquats. Quite a cocktail! But it's also very strong, water is needed. With water: oh yes! What's starting to happen here is the kind of 'transmutation of peat' that's also to be observed in old Laphroaigs or Bowmores. So less straight smoke and more tropical and citric fruits, maracuja, mangos, lemon, tangerines... Perfect! Finish: long, citrusy, with also touches of waxes and oils. How could we be against that? Comments: at 25 yo these casks will be stellar. They're already quite stellar, in fact. SGP:457 - 90 points.

More tasting notes Check the index of all Irish I've tasted so far


Pete McPeat and Jack Washback



Block Today: JAZZ. Performer: Gitte Haenning in 1968. Track: A Sack Full of Dreams. Please visit her website and buy her music...

September 11, 2013


Tasting Clynelish from 1965 to 1997
(Rather the other way around)

Imagine we haven't tasted one single Clynelish since the 16th of July this year! What happened? To think that we've been having some cheapo rum instead... I agree, that's a shame and a straight scandal! Let's put all this back on the rails, with these babies...

Clynelish 15 yo 1997/2012 (46%, Carn Mor, Strictly Limited, 605 bottles)

Clynelish 15 yo 1997/2012 (46%, Carn Mor, Strictly Limited, 605 bottles) Three stars A vatting of two casks. Not too sure about the name 'strictly limited', that may be a notch excessive. Right, it stinks. Colour: light gold. Nose: well these just cannot be bad, although this version is rather on the drier side. Indeed there's quite some cinchona, tonic water and something faintly spritzy that's a bit unpleasant. It's a little soapy too, like some Clynelishes from the late 1970s could be at times (not the best years up there in my opinion). So, despite the nice waxy citrons, this is a bit difficult. Aspirin tablets? Let's check the palate. Mouth: better, fuller, oilier, with more oranges and citrons and absolutely no soap this time. Rather wax, which was expected. Some sweet barley too, a little juniper that gives it a 'gin' side that quite a few Clynelishes already had in my opinion. More than fine. Finish: long, with a little more fudge and a salty aftertaste. A little custardy too. Comments: I'm not fond of the nose but find the palate excellent. To hell with the nose! SGP:562 - 82 points.

Clynelish 16 yo 1997/2013 'Spiced Chocolate Cup' (46%, Wemyss Malts, hogshead, 302 bottles)

Clynelish 16 yo 1997/2013 'Spiced Chocolate Cup' (46%, Wemyss Malts, hogshead, 302 bottles) Five stars Another 1997 nicknamed 'Fresh Fruit Sorbet’ has been much to my liking last year (WF 87). Now I like chocolate too when it's not industrial junk (which this whisky can't be of course). Colour: straw. Nose: this one is so much more like it! No tonic water and no soap whatsoever, and more waxes, citrons, lemons and brine. And olive oil. And pepper. Textbook modern Clynelishesque nose. Mouth: I don't find much chocolate but too hell with chocolate. Now it's true that this one is a little unusual, it's got quite some caraway and cloves, some caramel, vanilla fudge, white pepper, all that on top of the usual crystallised grapefruits and maybe oranges. I find this quite irresistible and the fact that it's rather different from the many other 1997s that are to found these days makes it even greater. Finish: long, wonderfully waxy, rather on the citrusy side again. The freshness remains impressive. And touches of salt as is customary. Comments: just mega-good. Still waiting for the chocolate, having said that. SGP:652 - 90 points.

Clynelish 17 yo 1995/2013 (57.3%, Cadenhead, small batch, sherry butt, 588 bottles)

Clynelish 17 yo 1995/2013 (57.3%, Cadenhead, small batch, sherry butt, 588 bottles) Two stars and a half A sherry butt! Will the spirit's usual zesty side manage to come through? Colour: light amber. Nose: hmmm... Flints everywhere, leather as well, gravel, struck matches, then quite a lot of sour wine and beers... Wheelbarrows of spent lees, actually. A blunderbuss that was just fired (using truffles, haha). What a strange one! With water: not a blunderbuss, rather the Big Bertha! What's quite funny though is that this is kind of enjoyable, unless you're religiously against this style. Mouth (neat): it's the clash of the titans. The spirit's bigness and the sherry's ... erm... flintiness (to put it mildly) fight endlessly. What a strange beast indeed. With water: more utter weirdness. Old Seville oranges, leatherette and black truffles. Finish: more of all that. It's so funny that they chose to bottle this cask(s) within this stellar new series, but it's no secret that they are sometimes, just like us, fond of a joke. Comments: lol! SGP:461 - 78 points.

And now, tah-dah...!!!

Clynelish 23 yo 1966/1989 (51.7%, Cadenhead for Nibada, 90 bottles)

Clynelish 23 yo 1966/1989 (51.7%, Cadenhead for Nidaba, 90 bottles) Five starsThere was also a 1965, I utterly loved it. I guess there's no need to tell you that this beauty was distilled at 'old' Clynelish aka Brora. Colour: gold. Nose: pah pah pah pah... We're well at the old dumpies', because there's more metal, soot and fumes than at a smithy's. It's astounding whisky if you like this style. There's a little more oak influence than in the old officials, both the 5s and the 12s, as well as (even) more shoe polish, greases, engine oils, then mosses, ferns, leaves, wet dogs (sorry dogs, you know we love you)... It is immense whisky. With water: an eagle. Totally and exactly my preferred style. If you're into wine, maybe you know Dagueneau's Asteroide? Well, then this is a blend of that one with Trimbach's best Saint-Hune and Zind-Humbrecht's best dry Rangen. Fifty-fifty-fifty ;-). No need to fight. Mouth (neat): makes you cry. Not everyone is an utter fan of these dry styles, but if you are, this is the Miura or the GTO of them all. Utter waxy and sooty perfection, God's own whisky, it would even send the whole isle of Islay to the bottom if you ask me. Yes I love Islay and its whiskies, dearly. With water: crikey, it got bigger! Amazing! Even at +/-45%! I think you should call the anti-maltoporn brigade NOW. Finish: delayed. Comments: cancelled. SGP:375 - 97 points.

Clynelish 24 yo 1965/1989 (46%, Cadenhead for Sestante/Mainardi, 75cl)

Clynelish 24 yo 1965/1989 (46%, Cadenhead for Sestante/Mainardi, 75cl) Five stars You see, its not the first time we're trying this sweet baby but the last time I've published notes that was on August 2, 2004. This will be one of the very few occasions when we'll be trying the same whisky twice on WF, but that's for the cause! Hope you understand... Colour: full gold. Nose: very similar to the 1966, only toned down a bit, and with more obvious sherry. That is to say that there's this lovely sootiness once again, mingled with walnut wine and maybe a blend of tar and mint liqueurs, all that in a gangue of toffee and dried fruits. Indeed, fruitcake. And after twenty minutes, some camphor, always welcome in my book. It's amazing that this baby does not succumb to the eternal glory of the 1966, despite a lower strength. Mouth: it's just struggling a bit if you don't wait a little longer after the massively dazzling 1966, but then this 1965 takes off like a Brora-fuelled Spitfire and would then never go down. What's noticeable are the citrons that we also found in the modern ones, the saltiness, the polishes, the ashy side, the fruity olive oil (my favourite in this style is Nyons in Provence, just saying) and the, well, just the fullness. Such a perfect spirit, I really wonder why they decided to close this distillery down back in 1967. Well no wonder they decided to reopen it in 1968 ;-). Finish: I've seen longer ones, but this is so perfect... What's especially fabulous is when all flavours mingle together and become only one. That happens very rarely and I think it's always a sign of utter quality whether with wine or with spirits. Right, not with vodka, there's only one flavour in the first place anyway. Yes, if any. Comments: I am impressed. This is from a bottle I've opened more than two years ago and I think it became even greater. Sadly, stocks are getting very low... SGP:464 - 95 points.

(with hugs to Diego)

More tasting notes Check the index of all Clynelish I've tasted so far



Block Today, to go with those stunning old Clynelishes: JAZZ. Performer: Eric Dolphy. Track: It's magic. Great remastering of that utterly amazing recording from 1961. Please buy the music...

September 10, 2013


The Quest for Malternatives,
more rum at random

Once again, five young rums picked at random from the rum shelves at WF Towers. Today that'll be Abuelo 12, Père Labat 8, Malecon 12 Reserva Superior, Sixty Six 12 and Plantation Barbados 5. We'll sort them like this:

Plantation Barbados 5 yo 'Grande Reserve' (40%, Ferrand, +/-2012)

Plantation Barbados 5 yo 'Grande Reserve' (40%, Ferrand, +/-2012) All the Plantation rums I could try have been more than decent. Cognac Ferrand are behind the brand. Colour: gold. Nose: well, this is rum. I mean, there's no particular aromas, rather the very usual coffee, bananas, sugar cane, caramel and, well, burnt sugar. It's decent, it's just not very interesting in my opinion. Mouth: sweet, caramelly, slightly roasted and toasted, with a little brioche, more caramel sauce, sweets and a very faint tar. Very sweet. Finish: not much. Quite sweet. Coffee liqueur. Comments: decent but I'm not too sure this was meant for sipping. Very average. SGP:720 - around 60 points.

Malecon 12 yo 'Reserva Superior' (40%, OB, Panama, +/-2013)

Malecon 12 yo 'Reserva Superior' (40%, OB, Panama, +/-2013) I wasn't too fond of the 21yo, so... Colour: gold. Nose: the Plantation was nicer. This is flat and watery, although there is a little raw alcohol and maybe burnt wood. A feeling of sugar as well. Pass. Mouth: a little better, but I don't find much superiority in this reserva superior. Orange liqueur, cane sugar, caramel, then notes of cold stale tea. It's weak stuff, not for sipping either. Finish: short, with something like overcooked orange sauce. Not pleasant, disty-ish. Comments: well I liked the 21 better. This is not for whisky lovers, if you allow me. SGP:630 - around 40 points.

Abuelo 12 yo (40%, OB, Panama, +/-2013)

Abuelo 12 yo (40%, OB, Panama, +/-2013) Two stars This baby was aged in whisky barrels. Will that be enough?... Colour: amber. Nose: not exactly more aromatic or complex than Malecon but it's cleaner, straighter, and these whiffs of blood oranges are very nice. What I especially like is the fact that there isn't any notes of burnt caramel this time, so... erm, hurray! Mouth: sure it's a very sweet one yet again but the oranges play first fiddle, which works well. Not crappy liqueurs, plain and pure oranges. Not bad. The body's also less thin and the whole isn't as flabby as other South-American rums. Finish: short again, maybe a little too sugary this time, but it's clean. Read not burnt. Comments: honest and loyal sweet rum. I could drink half a glass of this. SGP:640 - around 70 points.

Sixty Six 12 yo (40%, OB, Foursquare, Barbados, +/-2013)

Sixty Six 12 yo (40%, OB, Foursquare, Barbados, +/-2013) Three stars Foursquare is a family-owned distillery. There aren't many left in the Caribbean... Colour: gold. Nose: immediately more complex than the others, with more herbs and even flowers. A little oak as well, chamomile, kumquats, almonds, marzipan... And then, something that I cherish, a combination of shoe polish and camphor. Well, touches of that, this no real old Ardbeg either. Mouth: there's a little sweet ginger and coconut in the arrival, which is very 'bourbon'. The vanilla is soon to arrive as well, together with some maple syrup and honey. Very nice spiciness. Another world after the Panameans. As for the Plantation, maybe it was made at Foursquare as well, but it didn't have this complexity. Finish: good length, always quite bourbony. Comments: maybe more a bourbonative (wot???) than a malternative, but I like this one even if we're still far from the 'great greasy ones' that I enjoy. SGP:751 - around 82 points.

Père Labat 8 yo (42%, OB, rhum agricole, Guadeloupe, +/-2013)

Père Labat 8 yo (42%, OB, rhum agricole, Guadeloupe, +/-2013) Four stars The little Poisson (not poison, eh) distillery is actually on Marie-Galante, a tiny island next to Guadeloupe. Could be good... Colour: gold. Nose: pure agricole. Not all agricoles are to my liking but this one is full of the style, with herbs, a lot of sugar cane, overripe bananas, engine oil and then more overripe fruits. Pineapples, for example. Caution, many agricoles have stunning noses and, well, less stunning palates (like burnt) so let's hold our horses... Mouth: starts pleasantly dirty-ish and, above all, immensely liquoricy. This, I like. Hay, cough lozenges, a little salt and then even more liquorice. Finish: quite long, between ripe bananas and liquorice. Comments: I believe Père labat have also high strength aged agricoles, I really have to put my hands on some. Classy distillate and a worthy malternative. SGP:651 - around 86 points.

That Labat was great, if you still have time, maybe we could try five more rums at random? Perhaps luck will give us more great agricole or some excellent Demerara? Let's see... Eenie meenie miney mo... (I'm not making this up!) This is what we found: Cartavio XO, Plantation Westerhall, Kraken Black (crikey, it's spiced!), Havana Club and Zafra 21. Ahem, not sure we had too much luck, let's see...

Kraken Black (40%, OB, Spiced Rum, +/-2013)

Kraken Black (40%, OB, Spiced Rum, +/-2013) Two stars Ardbeg could have used the name, couldn't they. Another mistake by yours truly, I shouldn't have sourced this - because it's spiced. Let's see... Colour: coffee. Nose: coffee with a lot of sugar. There's something pleasant in there, maybe the 'good' caramel that reminds me of Werther's Originals, as well as the whiffs of rosewater. In a way, it's a little gewurztraminery (you'll get fired one day, S.) There's also more chocolate than at Lindt's. Mouth: the tropical equivalent to a better Bailey's Irish cream. This isn't bad, it's very easy, very sweet, caramelly and, again, extremely chocolaty. Finish: medium length, with more coffee this time. Kalhua. Comments: it's a pleasant liqueur. I wouldn't classify this as an 'aged distillate' but yeah, it's well made. A good surprise. SGP:820 - around 70 points.

Cartavio 18 yo 'XO' (40%, OB, Peru, +/-2013)

Cartavio 18 yo 'XO' (40%, OB, Peru, +/-2013) Two stars and a half I quite liked the 12yo back in 2009 (WF 75). Colour: amber. Nose: once again, a true South-American rum, smooth, sweet and honeyed, but it's actually quite complex, with additional notes of herbs, spices and nuts. A little pepper, for example, cardamom, chamomile tea, chestnut honey, then more sappy tones, pine needles, even a little eucalyptus. Very fine. Mouth: balanced sweetness. It's too sweet for my taste but there are also pretty elegant fruity notes, oranges, ripe bananas, drops of ultra-sweetened coffee (that would be coffee liqueur once again)... Nice grassy touches too (green tea). Sadly, it lacks body and oomph, like so many rums at 40% vol. (not all of them). Finish: shortish, with more oranges. Comments: not my style but as an ultra-sweet rum, it's rather on the top shelf. SGP:730 - around 78 points.

Westerhall 'Plantation' (43%, OB, Grenada, +/-2013)

Westerhall 'Plantation' (43%, OB, Grenada, +/-2013) Two stars This one is made from cane juice, not molasses. It's an agricole, if you will. It's aged for 6 years in ex-bourbon wood. Sansibar had a nice cask of Westerhall this year (WF 82). Colour: light gold. Nose: not quite 'agricole' in style, it's more molassy, in a way. More 'classic rum', with candy sugar, orange peel, bananas and then a little grass. I think it's a rather light style of rum. Mouth: same feeling, it's fine, rather liquoricy this time, with also a little aniseed. Towards raki or pastis, if you will. It's not big. Finish: surprisingly long, on... some sweeter pastis? Does this belong to Pernod-Ricard? ;-). Comments: one that I quite like. Funny aniseed. SGP:640 - around 75 points.

Havana Club 'Seleccion de Maestros' (45%, OB, Cuba, +/-2013)

Havana Club 'Seleccion de Maestros' (45%, OB, Cuba, +/-2013) Four stars Havana Club 7 yo was an excellent surprise, so this should be nice as well. It's said to be around 10 years old. Colour: amber. Nose: starts unexpectedly metallic and grassy, much less 'commercial' than I had thought, just like the 7. Having said that, there's less fruits than in the 7, and more oak, which gives it a dry side that's maybe a little austere. Mouth: good! Great grassy profile, with some candy sugar of course but not too much, then this mix of spices that we use to make mulled wine. Star anise, liquorice, cinnamon, cloves... Also unexpected notes of grapefruits, that really lifts the whole. Finish: quite long, zestier, fresher, with even more grapefruits. Excellent. Comments: yes, excellent and more so on the palate. A genuine malternative, well done, maestros! SGP:641 - around 85 points.

Zafra 21 yo 'Master Reserve' (40%, OB, Panama, +/-2013)

Zafra 21 yo 'Master Reserve' (40%, OB, Panama, +/-2013) Four stars This baby was blended by one of rum's Richard Patersons, Francisco 'Don Pancho' Fernandez. Colour: amber. Nose: yes. Very aromatic, rich yet elegant, with more smoke than in the others (garden bonfire), touches of pencil shavings from the casks, then more and more grass and green tea plus various berries. Also quite a lot of tobacco, always a good sign. Cedar and sandal woods. A 'tertiary' rum of high quality, let's only hope the low strength won't be too much of a handicap on our palates. Mouth: no, that's fine because the spirit is rich. This time again we're a little on bourbon, with vanilla fudge and grated coconut, but there's also some lovely grenadine, oranges and even mangos. Good good good. Finish: not the longest and maybe there's a little too much oak now (too much tea) but otherwise it remains great rum. A little mint in the aftertaste. Also tamarind, perhaps? Comments: probably one of my favourite South-Americans at this point, but we've got a lot more to taste. The quest for malternatives isn't over! SGP:640 - around 85 points.

Bonus, two 3yo aged white rums

These rums are virtually white, but they’re aged, not too sure about the containers they’ve been using. Worn out wood? Stainless steel? Glass?

Angostura 3 yo 'Reserva' (37,5%, OB, Trinidad and Tobago, white rum, +/-2013)

Angostura 3 yo 'Reserva' (37,5%, OB, Trinidad and Tobago, white rum, +/-2013) According to some quality literature, this was aged in bourbon barrels indeed. Really? Did they discolour this baby? Colour: white. Nose: strange. Not much sugar cane, rather some tutti frutti spirit, a little pineapple, maybe ‘ideas’ of mei kwei lu and then more pineapple. Tinned pineapples and litchis. I must say this isn’t unpleasant at all, but the devil usually hides on the palate, doesn’t he. Let’s see… Mouth: it’s a clean, extremely simple spirit. Tastes exactly like cane sugar syrup, only with alcohol. Finish: a little wishy-washy, but acceptably fruity. Comments: I’m not sure this ought to be drunk neat. It’s probably more for making mojitos, but it’s not undrinkable, just very narrow… And too sweet. I have no idea about what the three years did to this baby rum. SGP:620 - around 60 points.

El Dorado 3 yo (40%, OB, Demerara, +/-2013)

El Dorado 3 yo (40%, OB, Demerara, +/-2013) Two stars Colour: white. Nose: completely different from the Angostura. It’s a much bigger, smokier spirit, the smoke is actually huge! The opposite of the Angostura as far as, erm, sexiness is concerned. A lot of grass, soot, brine, then some bacon, garden bonfire, bitter chocolate and then, hidden behind the smoke, small touches of bananas. Maybe a little plastic too (brand new car). So a much fatter spirit than the Angostura! Mouth: oh yes, it’s another world. This is punchy, grassy, certainly quite rough but the sugar cane is talking, it’s got an ‘agricole’ side that’s very nice. The bananas are also louder on the palate, more obvious, and there’s a little coconut too. From the wood? Finish: a little less nice now, lacks a little precision and cleanliness. Maybe a tad watery too. Comments: not sure this one’s meant to be sipped naked either, but you certainly can. Good spirit considering its youth. Nice smoky nose. SGP:452 - around 70 points.

Aye, we've had enough rum for now (but we'll have more from time to time), tomorrow we're going back to good old whisky!

More tasting notes Check the index of all Rums I've tasted so far



Block Today: BLUES. Performer: Ian Segal. Track: Like hell. Please visit his website and buy his music...

September 9, 2013


The Quest for Malternatives,
even more rum, now at random

I often plan to do 'randomised' sessions but almost always fail because I cannot resist the need to compare what's comparable. Or maybe I'm too Cartesian. That's why I'll try another method today, which consists in blindly selecting five rums from WF's sample library (not looking at the labels at all) and then sort them out. So, abracadabra... This is what we've selected at random:
Zaya Gran Reserva 12, Diplomatico Ambasador, Master of Malt's Rumbullion, Ophtimus 15 Oporto, St. Barth Chic. How does that sound? I agree, completely incoherent, but let's hope it'll be fun. As often, we'll sort them by ascending strength.

Zaya 12 yo 'Gran Reserva' (40%, OB, where?, +/-2013)

Zaya 12 yo 'Gran Reserva' (40%, OB, where?, +/-2013) A very complicated story. I usually like to' read the fucking manual' (RTFM via google) but this time I've seen either Trinidad, or Guatemala, or both, and it seems that Diageo's involved via Zacapa. I'm sure I haven't understood everything but let's move on... Colour: deep amber. Nose: very smooth, very South-American (Guyana's ranked amongst the Caribbean rums, not within South-America - don't ask). That means sugared water with caramel and corn syrup. In short, exactly not my style. Mouth: what a soup! Sugar, sugar, sugar and sugar. Completely dull, flat, way too sweet and frankly repulsive. It's syrup, not spirit. Finish: there is one. Not too bad in fact, it's starting to resemble some kind of triple-sec. Cheap arrak. I think ice cubes are obligatory! Comments: I hate this totally unbalanced style. I'm sure it's well crafted rum but yeah, I hate it. I hate spinach too. There. SGP:810 - around 15 points.

Let me insist again and again, I'm not saying Zaya 12 is crap rum, I'm saying it's the antithesis of what I personaly enjoy as far as aged spirits are concerned. This is only an opinion.

St Barth Chic (40%, OB, St. Barthélémy, rhum agricole, +/-2013)

St Barth Chic (40%, OB, St. Barthélémy, rhum agricole, +/-2013) Two stars French footballer Mikael Silvestre launched this rhum a few years ago. I'm not too sure there's a distillery on the very posh island of St. Barth(élémy), so the rhum may come from Guadeloupe or Martinique. The name's scary isn't it. Colour: gold. Nose: it's amazing how 'agricole' makes a difference. Lovely grassy notes, ginger, kumquats, curry, pepper, juniper... It's quite tense, spicy, herbal... And I really like the kumquats. Curious about the palate... Mouth: very unusual, even by 'agricole' standards. Starts grassy and spicy but a massive dose of pineapple kicks in after five seconds, as if they had poured some juice into this fine rhum. That makes it a little 'arranged' but I'm sure it isn't. Other than that, it's a little weak but there are also nice almonds and oranges. Probably more to be sipped on ice (and on your yacht) but it's a pleasant rhum, even if it's no 'grand agricole'. Finish: not much, but that's why you usually order another glass as soon as you've finished the previous one in the French Caribbean. Time is money. More oak in the aftertaste. Comments: more than decent but again and again, 40% is too low or you need some big distillate. This isn't. SGP:541 - around 75 points.

Opthimus 15 yo 'Oporto' (43%, Oliver & Oliver, Dominican Republic, +/-2013)

Opthimus 15 yo 'Oporto' (43%, Oliver & Oliver, Dominican Republic, +/-2013) Strangely, the label states that this Dominican was 'reposado y terminado in barricas de Oporto', which may mean that it was both matured and finished in Port casks (is my Spanish good or what?) How's that possible? Pure drivel? Or refill + first fill? Double first fill Port? Colour: gold. Nose: it's a smooth one but it's firmer and tenser than Zaya, with more coffee and tobacco. I do not seem to find much Port at this points - not that I would complain -, rather growing notes of crème brûlée, chocolate and vanilla. Pleasant nose, so far I like it more than the Opthimus 18 yo that I tried quite a while ago. Mouth: not as bad as the Zaya but it's another one that's way too sweet for my taste. Let's put things into perspective again, we're in a quest for malternatives here, and this one isn't any at all. Too sweet, pass... Too bad, the nose was nice! Finish: very syrupy. Pineapple liqueur with a little grated ginger. Comments: sugar will kill us all. Pass. Very nice nose though. SGP:820 - around 65 points.

Man this is becoming hard...

Diplomatico 'Ambassador' (47%, OB, +/-2013)

Diplomatico 'Ambassador' (47%, OB, +/-2013) An expensive one from Venezuela that was finished for two years in sherry casks. Hope it's not PX! I'm even more scared now because I do not enjoy the regular Diplomatico 'Reserva' at all (SGP:810, in case your wondering, how unbalanced is that?) Colour: amber. Nose: no, this is nice, with delicate flowers and fruits plus something like ambergris and bergamots. It's actually very subtle and it could be a lady's perfume. Also precious wood (humidor?) and old fruit liqueurs. Turkish delights. All very fine but now, drum roll... Mouth: it's an oak-aged liqueur. Super-Bailey's, extra-Kalhua, mega-Tia Maria and... Hell, it's so sweet that two wasps just flew into the glass! I'm dead serious! Usually it's fruit flies that love sugared drinks but this time it's more serious (... I'm drowning the wasps and then refilling the glass...) So back at the ranch, yeah, it's really sweet stuff, it's ridden with sugar. It's a liqueur and even super-Drambuie (I mean the luxury version, forgot the name) isn't any sweeter. Finish: makes you want to brush your teeth or to drink two litres of Perrier. Make that three. Comments: I'm sure it's great rum, but it's not a malternative at all. It's an antimalternative - even at 200€ a pitcher. Pass. SGP:910 - 60 points.

This session is a nightmare, so much for 'blind' selecting... Last chance...

Rumbullion! Navy-Strength (57%, Master of Malts, Professor Cornelius Ampleforth, +/-2013)

Rumbullion! Navy-Strength (57%, Master of Malts, Professor Cornelius Ampleforth, +/-2013) Three stars From these guys up there who are so pleasantly nuts. Colour: amber. Nose: ah, this is not rum, it's some kind of orange liqueur, much akin to Compass Box's Orangerie or maybe to some kind of oranged Bourbon - I've forgotten the name, sorry I can't find it in WF's archives but I remember it was nice. Nice juniper, ginger, oranges and cinnamon. Very christmassy, if I may say so. But why 'navy-strength'? I had really thought this was rum, my mistake I suppose! Mouth: yeah, it's a liqueur but the spices are big so they perfectly balance the sweet side (I'm starting to understand why so many brands are making spiced rum in South-America.) Excellent oranges, lemons, pepper, ginger, cardamom (huge), juniper, caraway and honey. Finish: very long, on the same notes. Comments: hell, the best rum today - by far - was not a rum! I'll try to pour this onto vanilla ice cream, I'm sure I'll be the king of the neighbourhood at the next meeting. Anyway, apologies, I had thought this would be rum with the name, the hints at the navy and so on. Sneaky b.... ! SGP:950 - 82 points.

Most sadly, we haven't found any worthy malternatives today, but the quest is very far from over! With the way the Scots are rising their prices, I think it's really becoming a public cause to try to find some worthy - and fairly priced - malternatives.

More tasting notes Check the index of all Rums I've tasted so far



  Malty Previews

Many new whiskies and a nose that's still a little tired, so while we're posting about rum, let's simply also preview a few malts. I won't score them, that wouldn't be fair, I'll just try to use stars and halves. Halves? Well it's like Justin Bieber, he's only half a star, isn't he. Oh, and we won't even bother with pictures.

Braeval 15 yo 1998/2013 (50%, Hunter Laing, Old Malt Cask, ref #2285) Four stars The Old Malt Cask range is now in the hands of Stewart Laing and offspring. This is one of their first bottlings. The nose is typical, on barley sugar and roasted nuts, then apples and maybe pears. A young fruity Speysider, rather firm and malty. The palate is sweet and creamy, with some honey and more barley sugar, sponge cake and touches of grass from the wood. I like this very 'natural' malty malt.
Longmorn 21 yo 1992/2013 (49.8%, The Whisky Agency, Liquid Library, bourbon hogshead, 271 bottles) Four stars All on western fruits! Apples, cherries, peaches, even touches of kriek beer or gueuze. The palate is just as fruity, very satisfying, relatively easy. It's quite zesty too, with tangerines that keep coming more to the front. Arch-classic, very drinkable.
Glen Keith 1992/2013 (49.8%, The Whisky Agency, Liquid Library) Four stars and a half I haven't found much data about this one yet, it's brand new. We'll find some when we'll publish more thorough notes. It's a lovely beeswaxy nose (!) with also plums and quinces. Polished wood. The palate is no less excellent, superbly honeyed and waxy. A beehive! And a lot of vanilla, in a nice way this time. Great dram.
Mortlach 20 yo 1992/2013 (50%, Hunter Laing, Old Malt Cask, ref #2288) Four stars It's one of these ex-refill Mortlachs that display some grease and grass on the nose, a little paraffin and maybe ham, then apple pie. It's a rather straighter and more austere Speysider wrt the 'western fruitbombs'. The palate is excellent, starting a little citric and then becoming smoother but never smooth. I know what I'm trying to say. Leathery aftertaste, a notch drying (walnut skin). Mortlach au naturel.
Glenglassaugh 30 yo (44.8%, OB, 2013) Four stars and a half This is the brand new one by the new owners. It's a very leathery and vinous one on the nose, we're more or less around walnuts, mustard, old sherry, vin jaune and such. The palate is full of oranges, both bitter and 'smooth', then tobacco and leather. It's a dry one and what's interesting is the way it complements Benriach and Glendronach in the range, because it's very different from both.
Tamdhu 33 yo 1980/2013 (55,7%, The Whisky Agency, Private Stock, bourbon hogshead) Four stars The nose is on toffee, caramel and toasted oak. Touches of sour wood, artichokes? Black tea. The palate is thick, less oaky than I had feared, yet spicy. Toffee and orange fudge, with some dry spices around cinnamon in the background. Apple skin and Jaegermeister. Bitter oranges in the finish. You have to like spicy oak but then this will be very rewarding.



Block Today: JAZZ. Performer: Thelonious Monk. Track: Something In Blue. That's from Monk's last recording in 1971. Please visit the website and buy the music...

September 8, 2013


The Quest for Malternatives,
more young rums

I feel my nose isn't quite back to full form, so let's drop our precious and subtle (yeah yeah) malts once more and have more young rum. I've got dozens, if not hundreds of rums yet to taste and I'm planning to publish a list of true malternative rums in the coming weeks. So, more or less at random once again (or it may become a chore), let's try these babies today...

Mount Gay 'Eclipse' (40%, OB, Barbados, +/-2013)

Mount Gay 'Eclipse' (40%, OB, Barbados, +/-2013) Two stars The name comes from a solar eclipse that happened in 1910. Yes they use dodgy stories in rum too. Colour: gold. Nose: it's a rather flowery one it seems, and I have to say we aren't too far from some whiskies. Isn't this peonies? Dandelions? Also vanilla and a little mead, the sugarcane remains pretty discreet so far. Mouth: it's light, I'm getting quite some coffee and then burnt sugar, there's a feeling of coffee + schnapps, then more bananas flambéed (au rhum of course) and more and more candy sugar. It's a very easy one but it isn't dull. Nice presence. Finish: rather short, maybe a little flabby and too sugary, but it remains fine. Molassy aftertaste, not the most pleasant. Comments: okay but not very interesting. Very 'fair average-ish rum', that is to say pleasant enough but maybe not quite for malt enthusiasts. SGP:630 - around 72 points.

Dos Maderas 'Anejo 5 + 3' (37.5%, OB, blend, +/-2013)

Dos Maderas 'Anejo 5 + 3' (37.5%, Williams & Humbert, blend, +/-2013) Two stars A blend of Barbados and Guyana rums that were kept for five years in bourbon wood, then shipped to Jerez were they spent three more years in sherry wood. Not too sure when the vatting happens, after five or eight years. It's onwed by Bodegas Williams & Humbert. Colour: gold. Nose: this is nice. Very light but nice. Once again there are touches of malt whisky (could be the sherry's impact), quite some raisins and figs, honey, vanilla, then overripe melons and maybe plums. Not very 'rum' this time. Mouth: it's sad that they bottled this at 37.5, because the profile is quite lovely, citrusy, zesty, honeyed and raisiny. But there's almost no middle and it just makes you salivate. Unsatisfying, in that sense. Finish: almost none by whisky standards. Right, ideas of sultanas and rhum baba. Comments: a wasted opportunity if you ask me. I'll still rate it relatively high, but at this strength it's almost torture - right, because it's no crap! SGP:320 - around 70 points.

Wait, I've got a stronger bro, let's try it too...

Dos Maderas 'PX 5 + 5' (40%, OB, blend, +/-2013)

Dos Maderas 'PX 5 + 5' (40%, Williams & Humbert, blend, +/-2013) Two stars Same story except that this one spent 3 years in palo cortado and then 2 years in PX after the first five years. Colour: very dark amber. Nose: what a difference 2.5% make, sang Dinah Washington. We're extremely close to some kind of old Macallan or Glenfarclas - excuse me? Yes, or Glendronach - with bags of raisins, coffee, dates, figs, honey and prunes. Seriously, I'd have said 'Scotch!'. Mouth: nah, it's not Scotch this time. It's a little too light again, too syrupy now, too smooth, too sugary... Too Spanish, in a way (as far as rum styles are concerned of course). I'm disappointed, I had high hopes after the perfect nose. Finish: not that short but all these sugary raisins are really too much for this taster. Grapy aftertaste (cream sherry). Comments: I don't know, not my business but maybe less time in PX and 3 or 6 more degrees? SGP:720 - around 74 points.

Wait, I've got yet another Dos Maderas (random tasting, he said, yeah yeah...)

Dos Maderas 'Luxus' (40%, OB, blend, +/-2013)

Dos Maderas 'Luxus' (40%, Williams & Humbert, blend, +/-2013) Two stars and a half This baby's actually a '10 + 5'. That's right, ten years in bourbon wood and then five years in sherry casks in Jerez. Colour: light coffee. Nose: oh yes, a wonderful nose again, this time it's drier and nuttier, more fino-ish if you will, with walnut wine, almonds, sweet mustard, then Corinth raisins, some honey, wonderful notes of blueberry jam, maraschino and then Turkish delights (rose-flavoured). Let's pray now, let's pray... Mouth: mixed feelings. It's bigger and less flabby/fatty than the 5+5, but it's certainly very sweet and probably a little too liqueury for whisky lovers. I do not hate parfait amour (violet liqueur) or rose liqueur, but when there's too much there's too much. The arrival was satisfying as far as body's concerned but the middle is much weaker. Finish: shortish and, once again, too sweet for my taste. Comments: I loved the maraschino in the nose and the palate was acceptable, so this is clearly the best of the three but it's not my style. Too sweet! SGP:730 - around 77 points.

Good, we just had some dark sweet ones, let's have something hopefully different...

Caribbean Jack (43%, The Whisky Agency, Trinidad, 2013)

Caribbean Jack (43%, The Whisky Agency, Trinidad, 2013) Four stars A brand new one by or for our German friends that comes in a skull more or less like Dan Aykroyd's bottle of Crystal Head vodka. Is it deadly spirit? Let's see (lazy writing again, S.) Colour: pale gold. Nose: more, much more my style, even if it's not quite a full-petrol rum such as Caroni or Hampden or Albion and a few other Demeraras. It's actually well midway between those oily/petroly notes and sweeter cane sugar and honey. Less spectacular than the Dos Maderas on the nose, but it's the palate that will determine the outcome. Mouth: same feeling, which is actually pretty perfect. It's easier and smoother than the petrol bombs (yeah well) and firmer and more, say kind of phenolic than the sweet ones that I do not like. Nice oranges and cloves, star anise, a little cinnamon. All good. Finish: good length, a bit narrower than expected but clean and, above all, it does not leave a ton of sugar on your tongue. Sugar is THE enemy! Comments: a very, very fine sipping rum that is very pleasant when taken neat and when you're not up for some monsters at tropical strength. Well done Limburg in Germany! SGP:542 - around 85 points.

Okay, what could we have now? Maybe this one that I've always wanted to try. Lovely old label!

O.V.D. (40%, OB, George Morton, Demerara, +/-2013)

O.V.D. (40%, OB, George Morton, Demerara, +/-2013) OVD stands for Old Vatted Demerara. Not too sure this is the matching piece to the famous and no-less seminal O.V.G. (Old Vatted Glenlivet). It's intriguing... Colour: dark coffee. Very natural... not. Nose: pah-pah-pah, what is this? I like it but it's very unusual. Earthy, dusty, curiously herbal (cactus??? Lovage??)... Floorcloth? Vase water? Asphalt? Cut grass for sure. I had thought/feared that this baby would be extravagantly sweet and smooth and it isn't at all. Mouth: no, it isn't! But it's not great either, it lacks definition, it's all kind of jumbled, liquorice, raisins, gherkins, tar, oranges... Once again, the strength is too low and the spirit doesn't quite stand what's been put inside (better not know). Caramel for sure. Not quite Loch Dhu levels but... quite. Finish: medium length. Burnt sugars, more liquorice, kirsch. Comments: it's not unpleasant, it's less sweet than I had feared, but it's also a little too simple. Not bad, though. And I love the label ;-). SGP:631 - 65 points.

While we're having dark ones from Demerara...

Watson's Demerara Rum (40%, Ian McLeod, +/-2013)

Watson's Demerara Rum (40%, Ian McLeod, +/-2013) Colour: coffee. Nose: very similar, but this one's actually a little sweeter and more citrusy, which works well. Cleaner, so to speak, but there is a feeling of floorcloth again. More oranges for sure, Cointreau, then dust and earth, clay... Mouth: indeed it's sweeter than the OVD, and frankly this is cloyingly sweet, especially because there's no backbone. Caramel, maybe raisins, cane syrup, more caramel and then even more caramel. Thank Vishnu there's also oranges. Finish: shortish, not flat but way too sugary. Comments: probably for cooking or golden mojitos. Mixologists, don't shoot! But yeah, it's not undrinkable, so not worth less than 50 in my book. SGP:720 - around 50 points.

All right, a last attempt at finding a nice cheap Demerara...

Skipper Rum (40%, OB, Demerara, +/-2013)

Skipper Rum (40%, OB, Demerara, +/-2013) Another beautiful old label. We never see these English 'navy' rums in France, maybe something to do with Napoléon? ;-) Colour: dark mahogany, so ultra dark. Nose: same as O.V.D., more or less. Maybe a little more smoke but that's probably smoke from caramel. It's actually a little flat, after two minutes both the OVD and the Watson have more oomph and 'wideness'. Poor skipper... Mouth: not bad. Sweet raisins, sweet raisins, sweet raisins and then sweet raisins. Unless there's sweet raisins. All that in caramel and again a little feeling of smoky tar. Finish: not short, on sweet raisins and caramel. I should have bet. More oranges in the aftertaste. Comments: fair and kind of honest despite all the caramel. There may be more caramel than ethanol. SGP:721 - around 60 points.

All right, very last attempt, let's try something more expensive from Demerara... While not being one of these small batches by Velier, Bristol, Samaroli, Silver Seal or other wizzards of rum (coz that would be too easy).

Boote Star 20 yo (43%, OB, Demerara, +/-2013)

Boote Star 20 yo (43%, OB, Demerara, +/-2013) Four stars I don't quite know who is Boote, I guess it's a Dutch company according to the name. I know, google is our friend but you see, I'm in a kind of rush... Colour: gold. That's a honest colour! Nose: another world. I may have been too generous with my previous ratings, this is so much nicer, more complex, more elegant... It's actually superb, with splendid herbal notes, smoke, olives both green and black, engine oil, hay, pine needles, a little camphor and then more and more tobacco. Brilliant whiffs of old style cigarettes. I adore this nose. Mouth: oh yes it's quite perfect. Not quite as perfect as on the nose, as almost always, and sure 3 extra-% would have been welcome, but this praline, the olives, even the baked parmesan cheese, the tobacco and the bananas are perfect. Finish: that's where its losing points, it's becoming drying and oddly herbal. Maybe a little flat as well. Comments: forget about the flattish finish, it's great rum. Now, who is Mr. Boote? SGP:451 - around 86 points.

More tasting notes Check the index of all Rums I've tasted so far



Block Today: ARABO-ANDALUCIAN. Performer: Reinette l'Oranaise. Track: Nhabek Nhabek. Please buy her music...

September 6, 2013


Malternatives or not?
Great and poor young rums

We're having some mildly bad nose days (nose is tired but not distorted according to my benchmark/reference malts), so we're going on with our quest for worthy malternatives today, with quite a bunch of young rums from various countries that shouldn't need much nosing. We'll select them more or less at random, so that some surprises can happen, and we'll remain quick as far as nosing is concerned. Let's see if we can find some gems...

Angostura 5 yo (40%, OB, Trinidad, +/-2013)

Angostura 5 yo (40%, OB, Trinidad, +/-2013) Colour: pale gold. Nose: not much happening, it's light and relatively grassy, easy, with some sugarcane coming through. Mouth: very sweet, too sweet for my taste. Liqueurs, orange peel, corn syrup and touches of bananas. Not a lot happening, I don't think this should be sipped neat. Finish: rather short, molassy, sweet. Cane sugar. Comments: not bad but bland. I think younger ones or plain white ones can be more interesting and certainly less 'lumpy'. Absolutely no true 'malternative'. SGP:530 - around 50 points.

Angostura 7 yo (40%, OB, Trinidad, +/-2013)

Angostura 7 yo (40%, OB, Trinidad, +/-2013) Colour: gold. Nose: a rather toned down version, less 'joyful' than the 5 yo. It's also rather more molassy. It remains light rum, with more and more honey, though. Mouth: acceptable, mainly thanks to these notes of oranges (marmalade and liqueur) and to a moderately grassy feeling that keep it 'straight' and not quite cloying. Finish: quite long, with more bitterness. Old walnut skin? Comments: I did not quite find anything that would allow me to claim that this 7 is 'better' than the 5. For mixing as well, most probably. SGP:630 - around 50 points.

Arehucas '7' (40%, OB, Canarias, +/-2013)

Arehucas '7' (40%, OB, Canary islands, +/-2013) This is from Gran Canaria, so Spain. Colour: gold. Nose: we're close to the Angostura 7, this Arehucas is just a notch less expressive. The styles are identical as far as I can nose. Very molassy. Mouth: yeah, not bad, this is even a little spicier in the arrival (cumin? cloves?) but sadly, it tends to become rather dusty and sugary at the same time. Burnt sugar. Finish: shortish, very sugary. Caramel (burnt). Comments: should we call this acceptable rum only for mixing? What's nice is that you do not need a lot of time to 'understand' this very simple baby. Pass... SGP:720 - around 40 points.

Hampden Estate 'Gold' (40%, OB, Jamaica, +/-2013)

Hampden Estate 'Gold' (40%, OB, Jamaica, +/-2013) Four stars This should ne nicer, we've had several great Hampdens by whisky bottlers (cheers guys). Now, this official version says it's a 'blend' on the label, which is strange considering it's an estate. In France you'd be in jail and presto! Colour: white wine (and yet it contains caramel, says the label). Nose: oh yeah, it's another league, another planet, or even another galaxy. Superb notes of asphalt, liquorice, olives and coal smoke. Exactly the kind of rum I like and a very worthy malternative - so far. Mouth: maybe not quite as thrilling as on the nose but it's still great grassy, smoky and tarry rum. Natural rubber, brine, salmiak and all that jazz. Lovely. Finish: not very long because of the light strength but it remains great. Salty aftertaste. Comments: very Caroni-style, quite phenolic and extremely tarry. Great stuff, try to find a bottle, I think it's cheap. Hey, didn't we just find a worthy malternative - yes, already? SGP:573 - around 87 points.

Havana Club 7 yo 'Añejo' (40%, OB, Cuba, +/-2013)

Havana Club 7 yo 'Añejo' (40%, OB, Cuba, +/-2013) Three stars Colour: gold. Nose: hey hey, it's a nice nose! Quite the opposite of the Hampden but this light and lively fruitiness is quite engaging. It's a kind of blend of fresh pineapples with some vanilla, some white chocolate and then more ripe kiwis and maybe tangerines. Mouth: it's a good surprise again, we're moving toward bourbon territories in my opinion, with a caramelised oak and a pleasant range of fruits such as bananas and, again, pineapples. Oh, and tinned litchis, big time! Finish: not very long but it remains pleasantly fruity. The litchis are still there. Comments: it's light rum but it's very pleasantly fresh and fruity. A very good surprise, I had thought this would be junk. SGP:631 - around 80 points.

Oh well, while we're having 7yos, let's go on... With rums, 7 seems to be some kind of 12. I'm sorry, Einstein.

Matusalem 7 yo 'Solera' (40%, OB, Dominican Republic, +/-2013)

Matusalem 7 yo 'Solera' (40%, OB, Dominican Republic, +/-2013) Two stars I well-known brand, I think. Colour: straw. Nose: it's a sweeter, more molassy style again, but we're well above the Angosturas as far as aromas and 'focus' are concerned. What's really striking is the incredible amount of bananas in this, and the vanilla as well. Maple syrup too. Fine sweet, rounded, aromatic and yet un-heady (?) rum. Mouth: nah, now it's too sweet for me, but I won't deny it's pleasant rum. Banana liqueur, barley sugar (yup) and sugarcane syrup. So sweet but not too stuffin', I'd say. Finish: same, very sweet but not totally shmalzy. So to speak. Comments: you have to enjoy the sweet side of things better than me to like this, but yeah, it's probably very well made, I'm sure. SGP:730 - around 70 points.

More 7s? Let's see what we can do...

Banks '7 Island' (43%, OB, blended rum, +/-2013)

Banks '7 Island' (43%, OB, blended rum, +/-2013) Three starsWe're cheating now, this isn't 7 years old, it's a vatting of rums from 7 different islands. And why not? According to purveyors of fine rums Master of Malts, 'Banks are aiming to bring the art of blending from Whisky and Cognac to Rum'. Scary, isn't it! Colour: deep gold. Nose: no, it's very nice, there's some Hampden/Caroni style rum providing a pretty perfect backbone to this. The rest is more or less supererogatory (that was smart, S.!) It's more or less like a Scotch blend with a lot of Laphroaig and Clynelish inside, it can be superb but it's not the blend, it's the malts inside. Oh well... So yeah, tar, smoke, oils, petrol, brine, black olives... Mouth: indeed. Some sweeter, lighter, blander rums are there too but the core is the same as in the nose. Tar, cough lozenges, smoke, burnt sugar and such. Finish: quite long, a little more candied. Some kind of peat smoke and salt in the aftertaste, not kindding. Comments: we're kind of midway between the heavy tarry ones and the sweetish cloying ones. Thank god the former has much more, let's say resonance. This is a worthy malternative. SGP:562 - around 80 points.

But let's have a genuine '7'...

Grenada 7 yo (46%, Berry Bros. & Rudd, +/-2013)

Grenada 7 yo (46%, Berry Bros. & Rudd, +/-2013) Two stars and a half So an indie this time, I've already tried some superb rums by BB&R. Excuse me? Yes, and whiskies too, of course. Grenada? That could well be Westerhall Estate... Colour: straw. Nose: it's a style of rum that's not very far from malt whisky, with a combination of apples, wax, muesli and walnuts that works well. So rather little sugar cane or bananas (or pineapple, or oranges) this time, it's a rather clean and austere young rum. I like this. Mouth: sweeter, but it remains decently elegant, with more burnt sugar though. Apples, maybe strawberries, more sugar cane... Good body. Maybe it's a tad simple, although I also enjoy the touches of mint and aniseed in the background. Finish: quite long, even sweeter for a while, before it becomes grassier and a little sharper. A salty touch. Comments: very solid, honest, young rum but maybe it's lacking wow. SGP:541 - around 78 points.

All very nice but I now feel like we should have some heavy hitters to conclude this little session. Young hitters, of course...

Guyana 2003/2013 (60.9%, Rum Swedes, bourbon barrel, cask #19, 230 bottles)

Guyana 2003/2013 (60.9%, Rum Swedes, bourbon barrel, cask #19, 230 bottles) Three stars This one by Svenska Eldvatten, who have already bottled quite some fine whiskies and a great tequila (that's no oxymoron!) Crazy Swedes! Young Guyana suggests Diamond Distillery in Georgetown. Colour: dark reddish amber. Nose: sweet Jesus. At this strength, it's rather the sugar and the liqueurs that come out, and I wouldn't say it's all a bed of flowers. This is aggressive stuff, let's resort to H2O right away. With water: smoother and rounder, it's not quite as 'Demerara' as older bottlings, we're more on peaches and melons than on tar and liquorice. But it remains beautifully compact and coherent. Great nose. Even roses, it seems. Mouth (neat): cedar wood and litres of Grand-Marnier or Cointreau. Strong stuff, it seems to be rather extractive. With water: pears come out, and bags of them. Also Turkish delights and simply plain sugar. Finish: long, sweet and quite sugary. Comments: very, very good, but it's not quite my preferred style of Guyana rum, it's a little too sweet and sugary. I should be able to try some 'new old' Demeraras by Italy's Velier soon. I can't wait. SGP:730 - around 82 points.

And a sister bottling while we're at it... (sister because it's bottled at the same time, roughly)...

Jamaica 2000/2013 (58.4%, Rum Swedes, bourbon barrel, cask #4, 185 bottles)

Jamaica 2000/2013 (58.4%, Rum Swedes, bourbon barrel, cask #4, 185 bottles) Four stars and a half Jamaica? Could this be Hampden again? Colour: straw. Nose: you bet it's Hampden! Used engine oil and old tyres from an Harley 'shovelhead', born-to-be-wild style. Or were they riding knuckles? Who cares... Having said that, the very high strength also brings difficult notes of nail polish remover... But I love the olives. Let's move on. With water: whaaaaaaaaam! Fabulous. A box of Havana cigars, a bag of mid-ripened black olives and the brand new Conolly leather in a 2013 Bentley. I may have made one of those up. Mouth (neat): liquorice, agaves (yup), sugar cane and sesame oil at very, and I mean very high strength. One of the fattest spirits man can produce. With water: more sweetness, loses one or two points here. But it's still pretty perfect. Hey, and it's rum, after all. Finish: great, because the briny/olivy side is back. And all that is very long. Rum with a mezcal side, what's not to like? Comments: I always found that funny that some guys would claim that the Jamaican rums bear a 'light' style. Imagine this at 25 years of age, it's 92 points, guaranteed. But for now that'll be only... SGP:573 - around 89 points.

Isn't that reassuring that some of the 'best' rums out there are bottled by whisky people? Now, nothing can climb over that big phat Swedish Jamaican, so session over I'm afraid. Dismiss.

More tasting notes Check the index of all Rums I've tasted so far



Block Today: (very smooth) JAZZ to go with the rums. Performer: Clementine with Ben Sidran. Track: On The Cool Side. A very silly little song that'll cheer us all up. Clementine is French but although very successful in some countries, she's almost unknown at home. Please visit her website and buy her music...

September 5, 2013


Little trios, three grassy new Speysiders

Strathmill 37 yo 1976/2013 (47%, The Whisky Agency, refill hogshead, 216 bottles)

Strathmill 37 yo 1976/2013 (47%, The Whisky Agency, refill hogshead, 216 bottles) Three stars There's more Strathmill around these days but not all have really convinced me so far. Colour: gold. Nose: very nice touches of tropical fruits at first nosing (passion fruits and maybe mangos) but it tends to become drier and a little acrid after a few seconds, with quite some grass, green oak, almond pods and fresh mint leaves. Maybe even French beans. A malt in two parts, in a way. Dr. Jekill and Mr. Hyde? Mouth: it's more or less the same scenario, with a very pleasant fruity arrival and a much grassier, almost resinous middle. All that is a little bitter and harsh but I do enjoy the grapefruit peel and the green tea. That's it, this is whisky for lovers of strong green tea. Gunpowder? (no, not that gunpowder). Finish: long, bitter, oaky, drying. Not the easiest! More bitter chocolate in the aftertaste. Comments: I think it's a difficult one, you really have to like this dry grassiness. Having said that, if you love lemon and grapefruit peel - or are a sucker for Strathmill - you'll love this. SGP:361 - 81 points.

Certainly not the best whisky ever by The Honourable Agency, let's try to find one that's more to my liking within their new series...

Inchgower 28 yo 1985/2013 (53.8%, The Whisky Agency, refill hogshead, 266 bottles)

Inchgower 28 yo 1985/2013 (53.8%, The Whisky Agency, refill hogshead, 266 bottles) Four stars Colour: gold. Nose: yes! I like all these nuts (talking about the fruits) a lot. Roasted hazelnuts, almonds, walnuts... That gives a feeling of praline, very nice! Also a little wet paint, which is nice as well (rather putty/almonds-like) and some lemon marmalade. It's quite powerful, it feels rather more than 53% vol. With water: lovely, paint, putty, almonds, beeswax, a little chartreuse, broken branches... Mouth (neat): excellent! There's some oak but this time it's rather on eucalyptus, lemongrass... Wonderfully zesty and pretty medicinal at the same time. With water: swims very well. Lemon, marmalade, oranges... It's a pretty bitter fruitiness, very nice. A little orange blossom water too. Finish: quite long, with a little rocket salad and more zests and wax. Bitter oranges in the aftertaste. Comments: a great bitterish profile. Touches of Cynar and Fernet-Branca. Wins points where the Strathmill lost some in my opinion. SGP:461 - 87 points.

Glenrothes 25 yo 1988/2013 (51.1%, The Whisky Barrel, Burns Malt, cask #7861)

Glenrothes 25 yo 1988/2013 (51.1%, The Whisky Barrel, Burns Malt, cask #7861) Four stars Colour: light gold. Nose: once again, we're rather on some green oak spices. Grapefruit peels, branches, plantain bananas, mint, a little lovage, then eucalyptus again, green walnuts. With water: all good, with more honey and honeydew as well as overripe apples. So very 'Glenrothes' now. Milk chocolate. Mouth (neat): same style as the Inchgower, with a very nice lemony start (also tangerines) and a grassier development. Lemon sweets, green tea, green peppercorns, cough lozenges. With water: smoother and rounder but the mentholated side never quite leaves, which isn't bad news at all. Very pleasant freshness. Finish: good length. Orangettes (zests dipped into chocolate, how do you call that in English?) and this grassy/menthol aftertaste. It's quite malty too now. Comments: high quality Glenrothes, maybe a little less smooth and sexy than most officials but also more, say 'vibrant'. And why not? SGP:451 - 86 points.
Pete McPeat and Jack Washback



Block Today: JAZZ. Performer: Japan's Kei Akagi. Track: BWB. Please visit his website and buy his music...

September 4, 2013


Old old and new old Tamnavulin

We’re not talking much about Tamnavulin these days, are we? A fairly new but very old one by Germany’s Sansibar is a good occasion to do so. And then we’ll have an old official.

Tamnavulin 45 yo 1967/2012 (40.3%, Sansibar, bourbon, 182 bottles)

Tamnavulin 45 yo 1967/2012 (40.3%, Sansibar, bourbon, 182 bottles) Four stars Colour: pale gold. Nose: good wood! I mean, there is a lot of oak at very first sniffs but it’s all perfectly polished and rather akin to bananas and cappuccino, if you see what I mean. Light cinnamon as well, then more notes of gueuze beer (apples), beeswax and herbal teas. That part would never stop growing, but always in a lightish way. More globally, it’s a delicate old malt, maybe a little fragile so far. Mind you, it’s barely whisky at 40.3% vol. Mouth: fragile indeed. It’s not gone off the tracks yet but you’re really feeling the mint oils from the wood, the sap and all that. What’s quite a miracle is that the fruits still compensate for that, with nice notes of sweet apples and banana skin. I have to say this lightness is pleasant, this kind of very old yet very fruity malt is rare. Or maybe also at Tomintoul’s? Finish: short and light, obviously. I’d even say evanescent. In the aftertaste (that’s soon to come), maybe a little… champagne? Comments: I’ll be a little optimistic with my score, because of all these miracles and because of the Rolling Stones. Hope you understand. Maybe one of the easiest very old malts ever. SGP:441 - 86 points.

Tamnavulin-Glenlivet 25 yo (45%, OB, Stillman's Dram, 1800 bottles, +/-2000)

Tamnavulin-Glenlivet 25 yo (45%, OB, Stillman's Dram, 1800 bottles, +/-2000) Three starsWe had the vintage versions in the past but never this 25. It’s more than time. Colour: pale gold. Nose: an unusual one, much grassier and even slightly peaty, that would develop mostly on fresh nuts and then camphor. Hazelnuts and almonds are prominent but fresh walnuts aren’t that far. Also new thuja wood, pinesap, light cough syrup… I have to say I quite enjoy this big grassiness. Mouth: more power and a global style that’s not too far from the 1967, except that this has more oomph. Grass, walnuts, banana skin, a drop of crème de menthe, apple peelings, green tea… I must say it tastes older than 25 yo. Hold on, maybe it IS older than 25 yo? That wouldn’t surprise me… Finish: not very long but much more peppery, almost prickly. Ginger tonic. Comments: an unusual one, not always very easy. The nose was more to my liking than the palate. SGP:351 - 81 points.

More tasting notes Check the index of all Tamnavulin I've tasted so far


Pete McPeat and Jack Washback
(hey, this is only a joke!)



Block Today: BLUES. Performer: Lucky Peterson. Track: Beyond cool. Indeed. Please visit Lucky Peterson's website and buy his music...

September 3, 2013


Tasting Cameron Brig and Bridge

Just the once won't hurt, we'll have two grains today, both from Cameronbridge Distillery. And the first is one of the very few official grain whiskies that can be found these days, isn't it as if the distillers in general are considering grain isn't worth bottling as single... Remember Black Barrel?

Cameron Brig (40%, OB, +/-2013)

Cameron Brig (40%, OB, +/-2013) Two stars It's a pretty famous bottling, with a very unassuming livery by today's standards. Excuse me? No, nothing to do with our very good friend the British Prime Minister. Colour: gold. Nose: not much happening, but it's decent whisky, with a good dose of sawdust, vanilla and coconut, all from the oak. I had thought I'd find more bubblegum and varnish but there isn't much of that. Globally, I think it's rather a kind of drier bourbon, if you allow me ... Also a little coffee. Mouth: light, very easy, fruitier this time. Pineapple drops, pears, strawberry sweets (Haribo's finest, erm...) and a little liquorice from the wood. Some body despite the low strength. Finish: not that short! But it's becoming very simple, tutti-frutti-ish. I know what I'm trying to say. A little sour stuff in the aftertaste. Comments: nothing wrong here! There's quite some oak, a part being most probably virgin - as they say these days. Right, new. SGP:430 - 72 points.

Cameronbridge 23 yo 1990/2013 (59.2%, Hunter Laing, The Sovereign)

Cameronbridge 23 yo 1990/2013 (59.2%, Hunter Laing, The Sovereign) Three stars and a half I think this is the first bottling by Hunter Laing (it's Stewart Laing's branch, he's now working with his sons Andrew and Scott) that I'm trying. Let's see... Colour: straw. Nose: high oak impact! Sawdust, new planks and other bits of oak all over the place. Add pencil shavings and a fair dose of varnish. I think the high level of alcohol makes it rough and difficult to nose. With water: more of all that and it's quite a mono-dimensional spirit, but I enjoy the fact that it's no vanilla bomb at all. Wee touches of fresh butter, coconut and banana give it a slightly Irish feeling. Mouth (neat): hyper estery. Lemon drops, tinned pineapples, white cherries and jelly babies. Strong stuff. Also wood. With water: that worked. Fruit salad, melon, peaches, plums... All that with some cinnamon from the oak. Nice lemony touches too. Finish: medium, clean, lemony, zesty. Comments: this one is a clean, zesty grain with a no less clean layer of fresh oak. And it loves water. A very good grain for people who aren't much into grain - like yours truly. SGP:550 - 84 points.

More tasting notes Check the index of all grains I've tasted so far



Block Today: JAZZ FUNK. Performer: Don Cherry at his easiest. Track: Buddha's Blues. Please buy his music...

September 2, 2013


Jack Daniel’s vs. Jim Beam Black

Yes, Serge speaking. After more than eleven years of whisky blogging, it’s maybe time that I tasted the regular Jack Daniel’s ‘black’ and, while I’m at it, Jim Beam Black. I’ve never tasted any of these before, I mean ‘formally’, and not too sure I should have anyway. On the other hand, Jack Daniel’s just announced a massive extension of their distillery in Lynchburg, so this is a good occasion. Or not. We’ll probably keep this short.

Jack Daniel's Old No.7 (40%, OB, USA, Tennessee Whiskey, +/-2013)

Jack Daniel's Old No.7 (40%, OB, USA, Tennessee Whiskey, +/-2013) Two stars Colour: full gold. Nose: sawdust, vanilla and maple syrup everywhere, with a little coconut and maybe orange marmalade in the background. That’s all. This is very simple but it’s quite appealing and certainly ultra-easy, I can see why this baby is so popular all over the world. Maybe also touches of banana liqueur. Mouth: oh my! It tastes more like some kind of liqueur than like whisky. Little Easter eggs in sugar, various fruit liqueurs, jellybeans, banana, vanilla, corn syrup, touches of ginger and white pepper, nutmeg and that’s all. Finish: short but pleasantly candied. More raw alcohol in the aftertaste. Comments: this is not to my liking (much too smooth and sweet) but it’s not a disaster. Maybe not to be sipped ‘neat’ but it’s one of the easiest and sweetest whiskies I’ve ever tried. Fair, honest and loyal, I’d say. I’ll try to taste Jack Daniel’s again in ten or twelve years. SGP:730 - 70 points.

Jim Beam Black (43%, OB, USA, Straight Bourbon, +/-2010)

Jim Beam Black (43%, OB, USA, Straight Bourbon, +/-2010) Two stars Colour: full gold (exactly the same nuance as JD, how clever is that?) Nose: we’re in the same league but this is rather less sexy-ha-ha-easy-ha-ha, relatively more austere (but it’s very far from being austere whisky), with rather more orange marmalade and maybe a little less vanilla. Certainly less maple syrup! A little more ginger too, which should suggest more oak. Fresh oak, obviously. Mouth: yet again, it’s a bigger, spicier, less smooth and sweet expression but the styles are pretty similar, seen from here (I’m sure bourbon freaks will find many more differences). More pepper and ginger, cloves, cardamom… Having said that it becomes much sweeter after thirty seconds, it’s really sweet-oak-infused. Finish: longer than the JD, and mostly spicier. Pencil shavings in the aftertaste. Comments: same ballpark. I tend to like this a notch better but I think that just like JD, it’s whisky that ought to be mixed or, at least, chilled. SGP:740 - 71 points.

Good, we just cannot stop here, let’s have just another American with a black label, this time a Rittenhouse that I’ve always quite enjoyed every time I could have a sip of it. Let’s see if newer batches are still to my liking.

Rittenhouse (100° US proof – 50%, OB, USA, Straight Rye, +/-2012)

Rittenhouse (100° US proof – 50%, OB, USA, Straight Rye, +/-2012) Three stars Colour: dark gold. Nose: this is obviously much nicer. Granted, it’s just as much ‘too oaky’ as the others, but it’s also fuller and a little more complex, with café latte, vanilla (of course), sweet orange and ginger liqueurs, then coconut and corn syrup, honey, a pack of liquorice allsorts and more and more custard. It’s hard to dislike this nose! Mouth: same feeling, this is immediately both easy and sweet, and complex and challenging. This must be the rye. So bags of Seville oranges, wheelbarrows of liquorice, a few violet or even lavender drops, Haribo bears, then more ‘traditional’ dried fruits such as figs and raisins and lastly, some kind of Indonesian spicy coconut sauce. Forgot the name, silly me. Finish: quite long, with a spirit that truly balances the heavy oak impact, which was less the case with the heavier sellers. Comments: it’s not a style that I enjoy, but this baby certainly tops it. Do you see what I mean? SGP:631 - 82 points.

And now I’ll blend all this and sip it on ice, something I never, ever do. Hope the neighbours won’t notice.


Whiskyfun fav of the month

August 2013

Favourite recent bottling:
Glendronach 20 yo 1993/2013 (52.9%, OB, batch 8, oloroso sherry butt, cask #3, 633 bottles)  - WF 92

Favourite older bottling:
Glen Moray 25 yo 1959/1984 (46%, Samaroli, sherry hogshead, 240 bottles) - WF 93

Favourite bang for your buck bottling:
Bruichladdich 2002/2013 (55.2%, Malts of Scotland, bourbon barrel, cask #MoS 13026, 235 bottles) - WF 90



Block Today: FUNK. Performer: indeed there used to be a band called The Blenders in the 1960s. Track: Nothin but a party. Please buy their music...

August 2013 - part 2 <--- September 2013 - part 1 ---> September 2013 - part 2



Best malts I had these weeks - 90+ points only - alphab

Clynelish 16 yo 1997/2013 'Spiced Chocolate Cup' (46%, Wemyss Malts, hogshead, 302 bottles)

Clynelish 24 yo 1965/1989 (46%, Cadenhead for Sestante/Mainardi, 75cl)

Clynelish 23 yo 1966/1989 (51.7%, Cadenhead for Nidaba, 90 bottles)

Cooley 21 yo 1992/2013 (56.3%, Cadenhead, World Whiskies, bourbon barrel, 210 bottles)