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Hi, you're in the Archives, September 2014 - Part 1

August 2014 - part 2 <--- September 2014 - part 1 ---> September 2014 - part 2


September 14, 2014




So after twelve years of Whisky Fun, today we’ll publish our 10,000th tasting notes. No need to tell you that I’ve been thinking hard about this session. Selecting old whiskies? New whiskies? Rare whiskies? Bang-for-your-buck whiskies? Obscure bottlings? All-time favourites? Rum? (Come on Serge, not rum!) And then I remembered that the very first inception of this little website was all about Brora, aka ‘old’ Clynelish distillery. So I decided to go back home, in a way, and to choose three very emblematic – to me, at least – whiskies. One very old blend by Clynelish’s former owners, Ainslie & Co, then the brand new Brora Special Release, and lastly, the brand new official Clynelish ‘Special Reserve’, which might represent the future of malt whisky. Why am I saying that? Because it’s ‘NAS’, baby…
I have many other stories to tell you, such as a failed attempt at breaking a motorcycle speed record at Bonneville (as a wee sponsor) just last month to celebrate WF’s 10,000 tasting notes, and several others. But this is not the day, I’ll rather tell you all that in the coming ‘celebratory’ weeks. Because mind you, we’ll keep celebrating WF’s 10,000th, with quite a few other exceptional whiskies…But let’s focus on our Ainslie’s – Brora – Clynelish just now, if you don’t mind…
… Especially because this will be a very unusual set-up, as I’ve called two great friends for help, for once. One of them is my old buddy Olivier ‘Zind’ Humbrecht, the superstar winemaker from Alsace (he simply makes the best whites in the world if you ask me). Olivier’s been totally instrumental in my whisky life – although I’m not totally sure I should thank him. With Olivier, we’ll taste the whiskies together at home, and then I’ll taste them a second time two days later, while on Islay at the Lagavulin Jazz Festival, with another great friend as a guest taster, the very famous independent whisky expert and author Dave Broom. Dave is simply the best in his art, and keeps making me feel like Justin Bieber listening to the Duke Ellington Orchestra.
(… Fast Forward…)
And these, my friend, are the amalgamated results of our two wild sessions:

One Brora, his ancestor and his successor


The Royal Edinburgh (OB, James Ainslie & Co., driven cork, +/-1910) Five stars An old bottle bought for me at an auction a few years back. Time to crack it open! Shouldn’t be a fake, but you never know, let’s see. What’s sure is that the embossed/moulded bottle fits the label and bears the same owners, James Ainslie & Co., a company that was transformed into Ainslie, Baillie & Co. in 1913, hence my guestimate of 1910 as the year of bottling. BTW, we’ve tried a Royal Edinburgh by Ainslie, Baillie & Co. last year, it was just fab (WF 94.) I’d add that despite the label that advertises Clynelish as the brand’s ‘home distillery’, as was customary at the time, this is probably a blend. But probably a blend with high old Clynelish content, and most possibly 19th century Clynelish! Oh and the driven cork is fitted with a small early Bakelite-like peg in its middle, something only to be seen with very old closures as far as I know. Colour: straw/pale gold. Nose: quite surprisingly, we do not find any ‘OBE’, but it’s well fully 100% (that’ll do, fellows) Old Highlands, and certainly close to modern Clynelish and even more so to Brora. Olivier finds it very waxy indeed, while I’m finding touches of tinned pineapples. Dave finds tallow, a little pear compote, then more mineral notes, pencil shavings, lead… Even myrtle and chestnuts. After more breathing we’re all finding more coal, iodine and wee touches of tomato leaves. Also a little mocha. Mouth: remarkably punchy, a bit acrid at first, but with a very oily mouth feel, very dense. Feels like 46% vol. but we wouldn’t know for sure. Rather spicy with some bay leaves, pepper, cedar wood, paraffin, candle wax, mineral oil… Olivier also finds some grape seed oil, juniper… Dave thinks that the age shows more on the palate, and finds a lot of coal as well, ashes, yellow plums, and then more and more yellow chartreuse (Tarragone of course) as well as the fatness of wulong tea. Finish: gently fades away, with touches of birch sap says Dave. A touch of sherry and a touch of mineral sulphur. Comments: phew, it’s certainly not a fake. It keeps improving once oxygen’s done its job. SGP:463 – OH 92 – DB 88 – SV 91 points.

Brora 35

Brora 35 yo 1978/2014 (48.6%, OB, 2964 bottles) Five stars After last year’s 1977, and then the famous ‘big cat’ the 40 yo 1972, this is the brand new Special Release that’ll be available later this year. It doesn’t bear any vintage on the label as far as I can see, but the distillers have confirmed that it’s well 1978, while I’m afraid I’ve only tried two or three 1978s so far, as it’s a very uncommon vintage. Interesting! This baby’s a vatting of refill American and European oak casks, all for the better in my book as the distillery’s very singular character should really shine through despite the old age. Let’s see… Colour: gold. Nose: incredibly soft after the old Ainslie, rather fruitier than earlier releases (pomegranates). Freshly squeezed oranges, then lemon balm. Olivier finds more and more woodruffs, embers, peach skins… It tends to resemble the Ainslie’s more and more, with less oranges and more and more smoke. Takes its time. Dave finds notes of ‘an artist’s studio near the sea’ (linseed oil, paint, old turpentine, sea breeze.) This baby’s rather less earthy, farmy and ‘dirty’ than its older siblings. Mouth: very balanced, elegant… Olivier thinks it’s the most elegant Brora’s he’s tasted (and he’s tasted quite a few.) Starts more coastal than smoky, but the peat’s growing, ala Talisker. An obvious salinity. A little grapefruit. Dave found it tongue cleaning. He also finds linoleum, a bowl of fruits, wet rocks… Finish: of medium length, with notes of dead fire and embers, says Dave. We all find that it’s not a very wild Brora at this point, although we do find more bandages and creosote after twenty minutes. Heavy oil. Comments: some sides really make us think of an old Islay, with this very specific fruitiness. A rather easy Brora, which is just great. SGP:555 - OH 93 – DB 93 – SV 93 points (quite amazingly).


Clynelish 'Select Reserve' (54.9%, OB, limited release, 2964 bottles, 2014) Four stars and a half An interesting bottle, this one! In theory, I’d have preferred to see a vintage and/or an age, while this baby’s NAS, which may imply that there’s some young Clynelish inside. In reality, the youngest vintage inside is 1999, so 15 years old already, but there are much older casks as well. No I couldn’t tell you about those older vintages, or about the proportions. Besides, I think it’s the first time I see such emphasizing on the work of the blender on a single malt by Diageo, as Dr. Jim Beveridge’s role is heavily advertised on the rather lovely retro packaging. It’s true that having followed Clynelish’s vintages and their styles throughout the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s, I imagine that working on such a composition may have been an orgasmic experience! Colour: gold. Nose: a different kind of complexity. Olivier feels the sugary side of the grains, notes of Gueuze, a touch of yeast, stone fruits, mirabelles, peaches… A touch of sawdust too, bark, young dry white Bordeaux… A little less emotion than in the others. Improves over time, with more aromatic herbs, lemon grass, lime… Dave finds it slow to open but worth the wait. A little ozonic, he says. He also finds fried plantains, ginger and ginseng. With water: more perfumed, with some pear tart. Also more classic Clynelish wax, wet limestone, a little menthol. Becomes purer. Mouth: creamy, fruity, powerful. Very thick, needs concentration. White fruits and not much wax at this point, which is a little surprising. With water: sir, it’s a revolution! Opens up, everything comes out, first wax then more white fruits, grapefruits, that salinity… Dave thinks it really needs water. Finish: long, on more or less the same notes. Some ash. Comments: the lineage is amazing, one can really feel that the three whiskies came from the same ‘terroir’. Terroir? Sure! But this Clynelish really needs water, it’s not an easy whisky when naked. SGP:552 - OH 89 – DB 89 – SV 88 points

One last thing, you may be wondering which whisky was #10,000. Well, technically speaking, it was the Brora, but I’d say all three were ‘#10,000s’.

All the best from Islay's Jazz Festival!



Block Today: JAZZ. This should go well with our 10,000th tasting notes! Performer: John Handy. Track: Hard Work. Please visit his website and buy his music...

September 11, 2014


Four Benrinnes, two styles

Benrinnes is one of these malts that undergo a partial – and mindboggling - third distillation, like Springbank or Mortlach. I’ve never found Benrinnes to be particularly easy, but still, let’s have an old aperitif…

Benrinnes 1968 (40%, Gordon & MacPhail, Connoisseurs Choice, Old Map label, +/-1985)

Benrinnes 1968 (40%, Gordon & MacPhail, Connoisseurs Choice, Old Map label, +/-1985) Two stars and a half An earlier bottling, bearing the famous ‘old brown’ or ‘old banner’ label, was rather to my liking (WF 85). Colour: gold. Nose: one of these old malts that display big notes of roasted chestnuts and other nuts, as well as touches of old rancio and honey-coated baked fruits. A few walnuts as well, raisins, a little marmalade, then touches of iron that may come from bottle ageing. Almost forgot to mention Marmite. Ah, Marmite! I find this nose rather lovely. Mouth: all in keeping with the nose, with this yeasty maltiness covered with glazed chestnuts at first sips, but it tends to become a little weaker and disjointed. You never know with low strength malts in old bottles! Oranges, malt, cardboard. Drinkable, but forgettable and a little flattish flavour-wise. Finish: a little short, with some burnt oak and more cardboard. Comments: it all happened in the lovely nose. SGP:351 - 78 points.

Benrinnes 28 yo 1984/2013 (49.8%, Hunter Laing, Old and Rare, refill butt, 133 bottles)

Benrinnes 28 yo 1984/2013 (49.8%, Hunter Laing, Old and Rare, refill butt, 133 bottles) Three stars Very, very ‘refill’ according to the colour. Colour: white wine. Nose: amazingly bready, this could have been distilled last year! I even find whiffs of rye. Also porridge, old papers, grass and, indeed, that faint mineral sulphur that probably comes from the spirit, not from the cask. Lager beer, baker’s yeast… Really, this smells extremely young, even if I do enjoy these very ‘natural’ noses that are very close to the raw ingredients. Mouth: same feeling, this is very young, fresh, full of grains, oranges, pears, leaven, beer, ginger… Tastes like some newish craft whisky, minus the heavy wood. As naked as old whisky can get. No traces of sherry, or maybe only the tiniest sultana, somewhere… Finish: quite long, spicy, a little bittersweet and even a little sour, but in a rather good way. Comments: interesting! An almost immature oldie, this one reminds of some friends of mine ;-). SGP:451 - 82 points.

Benrinnes 14 yo 1998/2013 (54.6%, Exclusive Malts for Whisky.com Taiwan, first fill sherry, 689 bottles)

Benrinnes 14 yo 1998/2013 (54.6%, Exclusive Malts for Whisky.com Taiwan, first fill sherry, 689 bottles) Four stars and a half This one could be a sherry monster. Colour: amber. Nose: wee whiffs of good sulphur precede a whole bag of dried fruits, such as the obligatory raisins, figs, pears, apricots… I also find a little cedar wood, some pipe tobacco and quite some marmalade. Classic fruity sherry, all good. With water: a touch of wet raw wool. Like that. Mouth (neat): excellent! Rich and creamy, fruity and spicy, with many dried fruit and a lot of oranges. Love the both fresh and luscious side, it’s not that common in very sherried whiskies. With water: yes, very excellent. It’s some kind of spicy fruit sauce and I could well see it poured over some chicken or prawns. Finish: long, very rich and very clean at the same time. Tinned pineapples in the aftertaste. Comments: it happens even on the palate, for once. And that was very lovely indeed. Almost perfect, in fact. SGP:651 - 89 points.

Now that naked Benrinnes by one of the Laing brothers was really intriguing, let’s try to find another one…

Benrinnes 21 yo 1979/2000 (50%, Douglas Laing, Old Malt Cask, 234 bottles)

Benrinnes 21 yo 1979/2000 (50%, Douglas Laing, Old Malt Cask, 234 bottles) Three stars Colour: white wine again. Nose: it’s younger than the 1984, but it’s certainly more mature, without much bread/yeast/grain and with many more fruits, including some very zesty tangerines and blood oranges. I find touches of mineral sulphur again (not burnt, no eggs, no cabbage, no matches…), then drops of Gueuze, sweet apples, plums and just a little barley sugar. Nice, clean, natural and mature. Mouth: same, more or less, although it got a little grassy and bitter this time. Not its best side, I’d say, loses points now. The grains are more obvious as well, porridge, oatcakes, bread… And always this bitterness (walnut skin.) Too bad. Finish: of medium length, grassy and grainy. Apples. Comments: I had deep hopes but the palate was so-so, after the very lovely nose. In fact, I think I liked the 1984 a little better altogether. SGP:551 - 81 points.

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

Pete McPeat and Jack Washback



Block Today: FUSION JAZZ. Performer: Hugo Montenegro. Track: Too High. Please buy his music...

September 10, 2014


Three Miltonduff for the crusaders in us

Not much to say about Miltonduff I’m afraid…

Miltonduff 7 yo (46%, Douglas Laing, Premier Barrel, 448 bottles, +/-2013)

Miltonduff 7 yo (46%, Douglas Laing, Premier Barrel, 448 bottles, +/-2013) Three stars … In its unlikely kind-of-retro stone decanter… Colour: gold. Nose: it’s very blendish malt whisky, I cannot not think of Chivas Regal 12. Roasted nuts, toasted bread, bits of oranges, Ovaltine, raisins, chocolate, fudge, soaked grains… It’s not unpleasant, but it’s probably not the Zauberflöte. Mouth: hey, I like this! Once again it’s rather Chivasy, and that works well. Oranges, honey, raisins, fudge… and all that. No need to write a novel about it, let alone an opera, but yeah, it’s pleasant. Finish: rather long, candied, raisiny and malty. Comments: very solid and honest at seven years of age. No flaws. Worth the crazy decanter! SGP:451 - 82 points.

Miltonduff 1992 (56.7%, Kreuzritter, sherry cask, +/-2014)

Miltonduff 1992 (56.7%, Kreuzritter, sherry cask, +/-2014) Two stars and a half Kreuzritter is a small Swiss bottler. I think the bottling’s done by Jack Wiebers. Colour: gold. Nose: struck matches everywhere at first nosing, gas, truffles… Yes it is pretty sulphury. You like that or you don’t… With water: more struck matches and gunpowder. Sniffing an old rifle. Mouth (neat): forget about the nose, the palate is much more engaging. Heavy raisins and spices, mulled wine, caramel, bitter oranges, pepper… It’s big stuff. I’m sure the Kreuzritters would have liked it (Kreuzritters means crusaders). With water: fine, honeyed, rounded, raisiny, brioche-y and orangey. Walnuts after that, as often. Finish: long, rounded, with notes of spice cake. Comments: the nose was full of sulphur, but we avoided cooked cabbage. Really enjoyed the palate. SGP:551 - 77 points.

Let’s try an older one…

Miltonduff 30 yo 1982/2013 (49.5%, Maltbarn, sherry, 63 bottles)

Miltonduff 30 yo 1982/2013 (49.5%, Maltbarn, sherry, 63 bottles) Three stars and a half Another very interesting micro-bottling by Germany’s Maltbarn. Colour: light gold, so probably refill. Nose: starts with a funny combo of acrid grassiness, grapefruits and coconut oil, before if starts to unfold rather on hay and lemongrass. A little sugarcane as well, a touch of acetone that was there right from the start, then more and more apple peelings and fresh almonds. Also raw barley. Mouth: starts with pepper and ‘green’ apple juice as well as quite a lot of lime, which makes it very zesty, almost green, with a bitterish side. A lot of green tea and then just a touch of butterscotch to make it slightly rounder. And then it tends to become very lemony. Maybe not the easiest and the smoothest dram ever. Finish: long, sharp, very lemony, with some green pepper in the aftertaste. Dry cider. Comments: a green Miltonduff! A little austere, perhaps. SGP:461 - 84 points.

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



Block Today: BLUES. Performer: Tinsley Ellis. Track: Speak No Evil. Please visit his website and buy his music...

September 9, 2014


French Karuizawa bourbon vs. sherry

This year La Maison could already get two casks of Karuizawa via owners/distributors Number One Drinks, one bourbon and one sherry. More than time to try these cult babies with their very unassuming labels. Because it’s all about the content, isn’t it!

Karuizawa 1984/2014 (58.5%, OB for La Maison du Whisky, bourbon, cask #8173, 363 bottles)

Karuizawa 1984/2014 (58.5%, OB for La Maison du Whisky, bourbon, cask #8173, 363 bottles) Five stars Colour: dark amber. Nose: a pretty magnificent woodiness here, that is to say not only polished oak, but also other species, such as eucalyptus wood and many precious woods, but I just couldn’t tell you which ones. Maybe rosewood? I imagine the interior of a 1950’s Rolls Royce when it was brand new (maybe!) Other than that, there’s a little smoke, there’s tobacco for sure and there’s a faint chalkiness. I also find dry sherry, or vin jaune, as well as their walnut notes. Also a little humus and mushrooms. Perfect. One strawberry or two after ten minutes. With water: the menthol comes out, old herbal liqueurs, verbena, chartreuse… This is almost a blend of essential oils. Having said that it gets much quieter after just one minute. Mouth (neat): huge and incredibly fruity! You would think that this massive woodiness would overwhelm the spirit and just make the whole extremely dry, while that’s exactly what’s not happening. We’re gravitating around sweeter citrus, that is to say kumquats, oranges and mandarins, covered with crushed cloves and ground pepper. Christmassy? You said it. With water: same profile, just even more vivid and ‘nervous’. Perfect oranges. Finish: long, never embarrassingly oak, always fresh albeit massive. The hidden child of a sumotori and a ballerina. Comments: I think I found this one ampler and more complex than other ex-bourbon Karuizawas. We’re close to the best sherried versions in my opinion. SGP:662 - 92 points.

Karuizawa 1981/2014 (54.5%, OB for La Maison du Whisky, sherry, cask #152, 566 bottles)

Karuizawa 1981/2014 (54.5%, OB for La Maison du Whisky, sherry, cask #152, 566 bottles) Five stars Colour: dark amber, but slightly paler than the bourbon. Ha! Nose: it’s not that different at first nosing, and it’s all probably more a matter of wood than a matter of sherry as such. After a few seconds, this one develops rather on resinous wood, thuja, pine and such (and cedar), becoming more balsamic than the bourbon version, more herbal as well. Camphor, thyme… and just as much tobacco. It’s almost like nosing a newly opened pack of pipe tobacco. With water: hurray! Old pu-erh tea, lapsang souchong, mushrooms, very old vin jaune, pinewood smoke…  Mouth (neat): once again, we aren’t that far from the bourbon version. Same oranges and mandarins, same spices, just a little more roundness and easiness, maybe because of the lower strength. So yeah, it’s a wee bit lighter, but don’t get me wrong, it’s huge whisky. With water: this is precious old earthy tea – that’s right, our beloved old pu-erhs. I don’t quite understand why they’ve added ethanol to it ;-). Finish: long, becoming even earthier, with some tannins dancing on your tongue. I mean, a feeling of tannins. Comments: why are all the finer things in life so rare? You’re right, and so expensive? I was ready to go as high as 94, but the slightly drying tannins in the finish made me revise my score. Well, I’d say it’s a tie, although I’m now starting to wonder if the bourbon wasn’t a little… better balanced? Yes, we’re splitting hairs again… SGP:562 - 92 points.

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



Block Today: FUSION JAZZ. Performer: Gary Bartz. Track: Carnaval De L'Esprit. Please visit his website and buy his music...

September 8, 2014


Not much luck with Invergordon today, but…

We’d better get ready for more grain whisky. They have oceans of them, and old malt is in short supply here and there. Let’s do a bit of training…

Invergordon 1988/2014 ‘Lemon Cheesecake’ (46%, Wemyss Malts, barrel, 220 bottles)

Invergordon 1988/2014 ‘Lemon Cheesecake’ (46%, Wemyss Malts, barrel, 220 bottles) Two stars Colour: light gold. Nose: seemingly rooouuunded, smooooth, with some vaniiiilla (that’ll do, S.), brioche, toasted oak, white chocolate, café latte and only then, a little varnish and bubblegum. A little sawdust too, but since you’re wondering, no or little pencil shavings. Typical nice grain, but not sure ‘nice’ is such good a word here. Mouth: it’s not quite vodka-caramel, and indeed you could think of some slightly stuffy cheesecake. It’s just that it’s also pretty sugary, with a feeling of cane syrup I’m not too fond of. It’s me, it’s not the whisky. Finish: good length, sweet, caramely, chocolaty. ‘Cheesecaky’ indeed but that would not be the much lighter Mitteleuropa cheesecake. Comments: it’s great whisky, but I don’t like it too much. As I said, it’s not the whisky, it’s me. Too sweet for me, but then again, I’m sure it’s great. SGP:730 - 75 points.

Invergordon 24 yo (56%, Lady of The Glen, 156 bottles, +/-2013)

Invergordon 24 yo (56%, Lady of The Glen, 156 bottles, +/-2013) Two stars Most probably another 1988. Colour: light gold. Nose: same whisky, just bigger, so more ‘emphatic’, as they say. The juice is most probably the same, but grains take higher alcohol well. Toasted pastries, vanilla, toasted oak… With water:  maybe a wee notch leafier. Very distant whiffs of damp earth, but that may well just be water and oak extracts interacting. Mouth (neat): sweetness. Sweets, syrups, caramel. With water: same as the Wemyss. Good, but not for me. Finish: same. Comments: these are very easy whiskies, they go down well, they’re sexy, they’re not too intellectual, they are even rather flattering. But… SGP:730 - 76 points.

Invergordon 35 yo 1971/2007 (49.5%, Bladnoch Forum, cask #66663, 120 bottles)

Invergordon 35 yo 1971/2007 (49.5%, Bladnoch Forum, cask #66663, 120 bottles) Two stars and a half Colour: gold. Nose: not many differences, despite the older age. Right, maybe a little more coconut, as well as pleasant whiffs of aniseed and chives. Other than that, marshmallows, vanilla, croissants, white chocolate and all that. I’m afraid it’s also a little solventy. Mouth: I quite like this, but it’s very sweet whisky again. Sugar, sweets, syrups, liqueurs. Custard. Finish: medium length. Fructose, mirabelle liqueur, corn syrup. The aftertaste has got a little more sawdust. Comments: it’s actually a good grain, you just have to like this style. I know, I’m always wittering on about the same old things. SGP:740 - 79 points.

All right, that’s already enough. Let’s have one more grain, but that’ll be it.

Strathmore 1970/2014 (43.8%, Malts of Scotland, single grain, bourbon hogshead, cask #14032, 212 bottles)

Strathmore 1970/2014 (43.8%, Malts of Scotland, single grain, bourbon hogshead, cask #14032, 212 bottles) Five stars Strathmore, aka Alloa, aka North of Scotland Distillery, has only been working between 1957 and 1980. I think this bottling’s another real coup by Malts of Scotland. Colour: full gold. Nose: it’s another old Scottish grain that really hints at bourbon. This baby’s jam-packed with coconut and vanilla notes, before it becomes rather more complex, with plenty of milk chocolate, cappuccino, faint whiffs of cologne, praline, pecan pie and then more and more roasted peanuts. Not complicated, but rather splendid. Great freshness given the age. Mouth: I’m not a grain guy, as you may know, but here, I succumb. Perfect fruity freshness, splendid nuts/pastries combination, and most appealing notes of café au lait. I know, sounds a bit like Starbucks (apologies), but it’s all simply perfect. Finish: not very long, as most grains are, but I really enjoy the added spices, all around speculoos /gingerbread. Bitterer aftertaste, which is more than fine. Comments: it was a great hoggie. SGP:640 - 91 points.



Block Today: JAZZ. Performer: Marc Ducret. Track: Danser. Please buy his music...

September 7, 2014


Malternatives on Sunday,
today more rum at random

This might be a dangerous session, with heavy hitters before flattish sugar bombs, or old Jamaicans before young Guatemalans… Or maybe we’ll have luck? Or maybe better to keep the line up under control?

CaraÏbes (40%, Compagnie des Indes, blended rum, +/-2014)

CaraÏbes (40%, Compagnie des Indes, blended rum, +/-2014) Three stars and a halfPerfect, this is going to be easy. A lovely retro label on a brand new product (haven’t we seen that before?) that’s bottled in France. It’s a young blend of Trinidad, Barbados and Guyana – not too sure if it’s French Guyane or Guyana/Demerara, that is. Colour: gold. Nose: great, it’s a- fat and heavy blend, more or less Caroni style – although there just cannot be any Caroni inside. Great combination of smoky/tarry molasses, black olives, then lemon liqueur and citron liqueur, Corsican style. Much, much more personality so far than in many other blended rums, in my humble opinion. Mouth: yes indeed, it’s excellent, even if it’s rounder and sweeter on the palate. Bananas flambéed and liquorice with drops of tar liqueur and, again, a salty touch. Heavy honey. Finish: quite long but a little too sweet for me this time. A little too molassy, I’d say. Sugary aftertaste, which is less good. Comments: globally excellent, this one’s been composed by a skilled blender for sure. Only the finish was too sweet for me. SGP:632 - around 83 points.

You said Trinidad?...

Caroni 1998 (40%, Jean Boyer, Bullion, Trinidad, +/-2014)

Caroni 1998 (40%, Jean Boyer, Bullion, Trinidad, +/-2014) Four stars and a half Another French bottling, by pioneering whisky bottlers Jean Boyer. Colour: gold. Nose: oh, Caroni indeed! Burning tarred papers, linoleum, new tyres, old musty cellar, green olives, damp earth, kippers, old banana skin… What’s not to like? And the power is good at 40% vol. The palate might be another story… Mouth: my my… Why only 40% vol.? (no worries, I’ve got the answer.) But what a superb combo involving tapenade, plenty of tar and liquorice, smoked fish and meat, candy sugar, violet sweets, gherkin brine… This is absolutely perfect rum for whisky freaks. Correction, peat freaks. Finish: extremely long despite the low strength. Concentrated smoked tea, salt, salmiak and kippers. And yes, this is rum. Comments: love it. Can we have more, but at a higher strength? SGP:452 - around 89 points.

The only problem is that when Caronis pass, other rums pass away. Unless it’s more Caroni… 

Caroni 1996/2013 (43%, Bristol Classic Rum, Trinidad)

Caroni 1996/2013 (43%, Bristol Classic Rum, Trinidad) Four stars Colour: gold. Nose: a sweeter, rounder version, with a little more sweet oak as well, more smoothness, more vanilla and bananas… In short, an easier Caroni. This baby might have been finished in some kind of sweet cask – if I remember well, it was. Strawberry jam, mango chutney… So yes, it’s a gentler Caroni, but quality’s there again, and so are the (lighter) tar, olives and liquorice. What’s so wrong with easiness? Mouth: no no no no no, we’re well at Caroni’s on the palate, and the 1998 and 1996 are pretty similar, even if this baby’s a notch sweeter and more candied. Bags and bags of smoked liquorice and olives in Grand-Marnier. We might have to try that one day. Love the tarry smoke. Finish: dangerously long, don’t eat delicate food after such a monster. Comments: one day we’ll do a large Caroni vs. Ardbeg session. One day! SGP:642 - around 87 points.

Who said that only Caroni can follow Caroni?...

Caroni 1991 (40%, Mezan, Trinidad, +/-2013)

Caroni 1991 (40%, Mezan, Trinidad, +/-2013) Three stars Colour: gold. Nose: oh this is interesting. Quite strangely, we’re going downwards as far as phenols are concerned, this is well a lighter style, much more on crisp and clear tropical fruits. The tarry side remains there in the background, but melons and papayas are doing most of the talking, together with small bananas (the pink ones) and a little bit of tamarind. It seems that we did it all… backwards. Mouth: it’s heavy rum when compared to the schmaltzy Dominicans or South-Americans, but it’s, indeed, light and fruity rum when compared to the other Caronis we just had. Probably a cask of light-style Caroni, as they were doing both heavy and light when the distillery was alive. I find melon again, maybe apricots, pineapples, bananas and some light honey. Only a drop of tar liqueur in the background. Even the body’s lighter, it’s got less fatty heaviness. Finish: of medium length, but quite surprisingly, Caroni’s heavy style is back to add a worthy signature to this baby. Smoky olives, tar and ashes. Comments: a fun Caroni, even if it’s kind of schizophrenic. Liked the other ones better, though. SGP:632 – around 82 points.

It’s good that the Mezan was lighter, because that means that we can go on…

Trinidad Distillers 6 yo 2000/2006 (45%, Alambic Classique, Trinidad)

Trinidad Distillers 6 yo 2000/2006 (45%, Alambic Classique, Trinidad) Two stars and a half That’s right, more Trinidad, but this cannot be Caroni, as Caroni was closed in 1993. In fact, it’s most probably Angostura, so lighter column rum. Colour: white wine. Nose: oh-hum, this is much lighter indeed. It’s nice, but it’s light. Hay and sugarcane, overripe apples and bananas, herbal teas (lime tree), a touch of earth… It’s all delicate and pretty subtle, and I’m sure quality’s high, or Alambic Classique wouldn’t have bottled it. Let’s check the palate… Mouth: it’s okay. The higher strength makes it powerful, but the profile is narrow, rather on orange cake and sugar cane syrup. A touch of raspberry, melon, even apricots… So it’s good and it’s gentle, it’s just not characterful. A kind of Glenlivet of rum? Finish: medium length, rather on ripe plums this time. Mirabelle tart. Comments: good and even ‘perfect’, but probably forgettable. It’s true that the Caronis didn’t help… SGP:531 - around 78 points.

Good, there’s room for a last one. Let’s try to find a potential bomb…

Diamond 10 yo 2003/2014 (51.1%, Whisky-Fässle, Demerara)

Diamond 10 yo 2003/2014 (51.1%, Whisky-Fässle, Demerara) Four stars What, why isn’t this named Rum-Fässle? Seriously, whisky bottlers have already proven that they were good at finding worthy malternative spirits. I don’t know why, I have the feeling that this one will match our tastes… (no preconceptions, he once said.) Colour: red amber. Nose: I’d like to know with which stills this baby was made. I find it rather ‘Enmore’, with both a light and fruity style and a phenolic, almost petroly background. Honey cake? It’s quite superb but I simply do not believe that it was bottled at some measly 51.1% vol. Surely they were meaning 71.1%? With water: there, it opened up, with these typical notes of tarry liquorice and fruitcake. Mouth (neat): we’re sitting right between rum and whisky. Or Demerara and Speyside. Raisins aplenty and of all kinds, plus a very vivid feeling of pure Pedro Ximenez. Very thick stuff. With water: classic rum. Not much phenolicity (c’mon, S.!) and rather sweet honeyed dried fruits. Bananas. A drop of crème de menthe. Finish: long, sweet, well balanced when reduced. Comments: not one of the heavy tarry ones, but it really delivers and would please many a single malt drinker. The body’s perfect. SGP:631 - around 85 points.

(Thanks Christophe and Pierre)

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



Block Today: JAZZ. Performer: Joe Henderson. Track: Terra Firma. Please buy his music...

September 5, 2014


Bits and Pieces, today tasting Japan
(or Yoichi, Yamazaki and compadres)

I’m behind with my Japanese. We’ll have a true hotchpotch today, and try to go ‘everywhere’, starting with a blend.

Hibiki 12 yo (43%, OB, blend, Suntory, Japan, +/-2012)

Hibiki 12 yo (43%, OB, blend, Suntory, Japan, +/-2012) Two stars and a half Imagine I’ve tasted the 17, the 21 and the 30 years old, but never the 12. Whisky blogger my hat! Colour: light gold. Nose: I find it rather dry, probably quite elegant but it’s mostly grass and paraffin that first come out, before something slightly resinous (propolis?) and then garden fruits emerge. Apples, a little coconut perhaps, grapefruit skin… Mouth: good power and a pleasant spiciness (ginger and white pepper), then more baked apples and slices of orange cake and perhaps plum cake. I enjoy these notes of lemon and orange marmalades. Finish: quite long, rather gingery. Comments: it’s not a blendy blend, I’d say. I’ve read that this baby’s partly matured in ex-plum liqueur barrels, is that true? High quality blend for sure, but not quite my favourite within the range. SGP:452 - 78 points.

Yoichi 10 yo (45%, OB, Nikka, Japan, +/-2012)

Yoichi 10 yo (45%, OB, Nikka, Japan, +/-2012) Three stars Same story, I’ve formally tried quite a few older Yoichis for WF, but never the 10. Incredible! Colour: gold. Nose: it’s quite wild, earthy and grassy, with little fruitiness and rather a feeling of pu-erh tea. Then rather eucalyptus and the kind of menthol that can come from extractive oak, as well as touches of pencil shavings (same) and burnt wood. Austere and unsexy, not obligatorily a bad thing. Mouth: creamy, starting on a combination of eucalyptus drops again, mint, a touch of mustard and a little sawdust. Then come the fruits (apples and raisins ), together with a little ginger. Pleasant firmness Finish: rather long, earthy, honeyed and gingery. A touch of iron or silver in the aftertaste. Comments: very solid, the wood technology does not feel too much. There are some similarities with the Hibiki – maybe the oak works? SGP:452 - 81 points.

Yoichi 1990/2011 (50%, OB, Nikka, Japan)

Yoichi 1990/2011 (50%, OB, Nikka, Japan) Four stars And yet another earlier Yoichi that hasn’t been subjected to our stringent checks – yet. Colour: full gold. Nose: it’s another rather earthy and oaky one, a bit in the same style as that of the 10 yo, but with more complexity and an oakiness that’s… yeah, more complex. Some menthol, dry liquorice, ginger, beeswax, sawdust, thuja wood (Moroccan wooden box for tourists – that would be me), then a touch of meat, probably from sherry ( a new pack of beef jerky), then more moss and pine needles. It’s not a smooth/rounded one at all, and that, we like. Mouth: starts on some heavy gingery oak and quite some earthy peat. There are funny touches of vegetables (celeriac?) and then more sweetness, but that remains grassy. Banana skin, ginger, cinnamon, spicy orange marmalade… It tends to become a little acrid and pungent, but in a way, that’s an asset. Finish: very long, with lovely notes of all kinds of teas and oaky spices, chiefly cinnamon. Comments: there’s a lot of oak in this baby, but those exposed beams, so to speak, are part of this style. You just have to like that. SGP:372 - 85 points.

Taketsuru 21 yo (43%, OB, Nikka, blended malt, Japan, +/- 2013)

Taketsuru 21 yo (43%, OB, Nikka, blended malt, Japan, +/- 2013) Four stars It’s been a few years years since I tasted my last Taketsuru 21. They actually call it ‘pure malt’. Colour: dark gold. Nose: great, all on tobacco and soft leather, then dried fruits and vanilla cream. Much softer than the Yoichis, much easier, and perhaps even more complex. The oak as such doesn’t feel this time, and it would rather unfold on crystallised oranges, citrons and mints. After Eights. Mouth: the oak feels a little more (leather/coffee/cinnamon) but balance is perfectly achieved, while raisins and nuts start to dance on your tongue. Add a few oranges, tangerines and kumquats and you get a perfectly sexy combo. Finish: long, soft and fruity, with some earl grey tea, honey, salted fudge and even more oranges. Orange blossom water. Comments: this goes down extremely well. Warning, reaching danger zone. SGP:651 - 87 points.

Nikka 'From the Barrel' (51.4%, OB, blend, Japan, +/-2013)

Nikka 'From the Barrel' (51.4%, OB, blend, Japan, +/-2013) Four stars I’ve noticed that this baby’s many whisky enthusiasts’ darling. I have to say a simply love the very minimalist, and very… Japanese packaging. Colour: gold. Nose: it’s like nosing a freshly brewed hazelnut-flavoured coffee at Starbuck’s. More or less. So coffee with milk and roasted nuts (bingo, S.), then praline, vanilla and various spices from the oak, more or less the same as in the Yoichis (ginger, cinnamon). Black tea too. No varnish, hurray! Mouth: not as much toasted oak as I had feared, rather fresh and tinned fruits in the arrival, which is a great surprise. Peaches, apples, plums and tangerines. The oak is there but it remains tamed and discreet. The vanilla’s there as well but it all remains fresh and lively. And fruity. Finish: long, with even more fruits. I’d say gooseberries this time. The aftertaste is a little oakier and spicier, understandably. Comments: I have to say this is a great fruity surprise to me. Great work by Nikka’s masters of many things. SGP:641 - 86 points.

Hold on, it seems that I’ve found an older version…

Nikka 'From the Barrel' (51.4%, OB, blend, Japan, +/-2009) Four stars Colour: gold. Nose: same, both are completely undistinguishable. Mouth: same. This one’s maybe a notch more solventy. Or maybe not. Finish: same, both batches are identical. Comments: I’m impressed, Japanese engineering at its best and most consistent. We don’t always need variations, do we? SGP:641 – 86 points.

All right, let’s tackle the more powerful ones from now on…

Yamazaki 1991/2006 'Owner's Cask' (62%, OB, Suntory, puncheon, cask #1P70529)

Yamazaki 1991/2006 'Owner's Cask' (62%, OB, Suntory, puncheon, cask #1P70529) Five stars A beast from this well-known series. We’ve got quite a few older ones yet to taste. BTW, your screen and computer are all right, it's the picture that's very blurred, sorry about that. Colour: gold. Nose: not that strong! A crystal clean blend of vanilla, coffee, earth, leather and eucalyptus. Maybe a little incense, these batches used to nose more ‘globally Japanese’ than newer batches in my opinion. Maybe a trick of my mind? With water: brilliant! Malty smoke (and conversely), earth, fern, old cellar, vanilla, great green tea, lemons… Just beautiful. Mouth: just perfect indeed. Great maltiness, coffee, citrus, baked apples, brioche and croissants, very soft spices… Love this one. With water: even better. Many citrus fruits, tangerines, Seville oranges, a touch of salt, candy sugar, tobacco, honey… And even drops of cane sugar that you can really feel. Finish: long, sweet but extremely clean. Comments: proof that whisky can be perfect without being hugely complex. Now go find a bottle, S.! SGP:651 - 91 points.

That one called for more of this breed…

Yamazaki 1991/2007 'Owner's Cask - Excellent Smokey' (56%, OB, selected by Mr. Kawachiya, hogshead, cask #1V70010)

Yamazaki 1991/2007 'Owner's Cask - Excellent Smokey' (56%, OB, selected by Mr. Kawachiya, hogshead, cask #1V70010) Five stars Colour: full gold. Nose: indeed, a pretty smoky Yamazaki! And it’s both Ardbeg-coastal and Laphroaig-medicinal, mind you. Actually, it’s a very brilliant nose, and it seems that a bit of OBE just did it more well. Burning fir wood, propolis, tar, seaweed smoke, bicycle inner tube, antiseptic, cider apples, leather, light tobacco… With water: new latex, new leather couch, seashells, pine cones smoke, mercurochrome. What’s not to like? Mouth (neat): amazing! It’s to old Ardbeg what a Lexus was to a Mercedes-Benz twenty years ago. More old Ardbeg than modern Ardbeg can be, that’s for sure. With water: oooh! Old riesling, fifty years old chartreuse, a drop of real absinth and an utterly magnificent minerality.  And salinity (I’ve heard that’s the new minerality, baby.) Finish: incredibly clean, pure, phenolic, salty, smoky, medicinal and topical… Even mangos are joining the dancing. Comments: lifts you like Mozart. Extremely well selected, Mister Kawachiya! SGP:565 - 93 points.

Where could we go from here? Maybe try yet another Yamazaki from those years?...

Yamazaki 1992/2006 'Owner's Cask' (57%, OB, hogshead, selected by T. Nigita, cask #ZQ70670)

Yamazaki 1992/2006 'Owner's Cask' (57%, OB, hogshead, selected by T. Nigita, cask #ZQ70670) Four stars and a half Colour: full gold. Nose: this is becoming embarrassing, as it seems that we’ve got another wonder on our tasting table. No peat this time, rather a full vanilla-ed profile, but it’s not dull modern vanilla at all, it’s vanilla like in some genuine, natural vanilla from, say Madagascar (oh whatever.) Behind the vanilla, rather herbs, camphor,  menthol, eucalyptus and aniseed. Nothing too bad… With water: no real further development. Maybe more herbalness? Not too sure, there’s this faint soapiness that can come from newish oak… (no saponification, that wouldn’t go away.) Mouth (neat): Japanese modernity at its best. Perfect vanilla (again!), marshmallows, mint, honey and yellow plums. It’s not complex, it’s even very simple when unreduced, but it’s perfect. Bauhaus whisky (c’mon, S.!) With water: water works this time. More fresh fruits, more marshmallows. Finish: quite long but a little sugary, perhaps. I’m splitting hairs again, it’s a great… how do you say dram in Japanese? Comments: I liked the 1991s better, this one’s a little more, say standard. But quality remains very high. SGP:641 - 88 points.

All right, enough Yamazaki for today, let’s get back to Yoichi. Independent Yoichi for a change…

Yoichi 18 yo 1987/2005 (54.1%, Scotch Malt Whisky Society, #116.6, a kilted Samurai, 232 bottles)

Yoichi 18 yo 1987/2005 (54.1%, Scotch Malt Whisky Society, #116.6, a kilted Samurai, 232 bottles) Four stars I’ve never seen any kilted samurais in any of Kurosawa’s movies! Colour: gold. Nose: this one has got as much peat as Mr. Kawachiya’s Yamazaki, but it’s a different beast, with much more tar and even rubber, and less fresh herbs. So rather Port Ellen, if you will. I also find more and more zesty aromas, lime, lemon… Or peppered rhubarb? With water: what often comes out of fine peaters after water’s been added: almond oil and marzipan. And linseed oil. No soap though. Mouth (neat): peat hell! One of the peatiest Yoichis I’ve ever tried – not that I have tasted thousands – and it’s just perfect, because the peat is encrusted in an oily, fruity oakiness that does it much good. Also lemons, of course. With water: a bit of new oak goes through the peat. I like it less when water has been added, new oak can make whisky a tad vulgar in my book. Finish: of medium length. No more tar, no more Port Ellen. Rather peated Bunnahabhain, I’d say. Some lemon for sure. Comments: all very good, it’s got a death seat after the Kawachiya, that’s all. SGP:556 - 87 points.

How many Japanese have we just tried? You say ten? Oh my, that’s already a little too many. I had hoped we could also have a little Hanyu, Haksuhu or Miyagikyo, but let’s have a last one and basta cosi. Like, a Karuizawa from a similar vintage…

Karuizawa 1992/2007 (62.8%, OB, hogshead, cask #6978)

Karuizawa 1992/2007 (62.8%, OB, hogshead, cask #6978) Five stars This baby from a time when you could still get them for a song and a dance. Almost. And without these very fancy (and beautiful, I feel I should add) labels. Colour: gold. Nose: a little too strong, I’m afraid. Hay, calvados apples and leather, perhaps, but it burns your nostrils. So, come my best friend… With water: it’s a subtle one, it’s got hay indeed, overripe apples, mentholated tobacco, a touch of cedar wood, popcorn, marzipan-filled chocolate, peanuts, fudge, pollen… and a little wood smoke too. After ten minutes it’s becoming much more floral, with violets and jasmine. Mouth (neat): very strong, thick, aggressive… and yet as oily as the fruitiest olive oil. I seem to detect quite some caramelised oak, toasted bread and warm vanilla fudge (when you leave it in your car in summer – yes I’m speaking from experience.) With water: excellent. Earth, gentian roots, walnuts, smoky liquorice and more bourbon wood goodness. Also love the oranges in it. Finish: long, clean, maybe not the most interesting part. Walnut cake? Pecan pie? More phenolic/sappy notes on the aftertaste. Smoked Chlorophyll – or something like that. Comments: an unusual Karuizawa that’s rather less ‘tertiary’ than others. More like an ex-bourbon unpeated Yamazaki, if you like, even if this Karuizawa’s a little more on tar. Needs time but then it’s extremely rewarding. Yes I liked it a lot. SGP:563 - 90 points.

Session over. I think it was an excellent one – if I may say so. Thank you Japan.

(and many thanks to Bert, Carsten, Konstantin and C.J.)

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



Block Today: BLUES. Performer: Charlie Musselwhite. Track: Where Highway 61 runs. Please visit his website and buy his music...

September 4, 2014


Summery Littlemill and compadre

The sun is shining over Alsace again, summer’s far from over, let’s have some Littlemill! That’s right, just any excuses…

Littlemill 23 yo 1990/2014 (51.2%, Whisky-Fässle, hogshead)

Littlemill 23 yo 1990/2014 (51.2%, Whisky-Fässle, hogshead) Five stars The crazy ducks are back. Colour: pale gold. Nose: wee whiffs of soap… no, forget about that, those would just go away after three seconds. In fact, this nose is boringly fruity, stupidly clean, ridiculously zesty and embarrassingly tropical. And topical. This nose is tediously wonderful – may I add as expected. Grapefruits and mangos. With water: some thuja wood coming out, menthol, eucalyptus, liquorice, unlit beedies… Mouth (neat): unreasonably fruity, with just a wee – and mucho unexpected - touch or brine, that came from… nowhere, I guess. Anchovies. The combination with the tropical fruits is foolishly brilliant. I’m wondering if there isn’t a little yak butter as well. Probably not. With water: even better. Pink grapefruits, guavas, all that always with a touch of salt. Finish: quite long, very tropical, always a little salty, always perfect. Comments: another smashing Littlemill, this time with an extra dash of salt. It seems that they used to like playing practical jokes at Littlemill! A great one, really. SGP:651 - 91 points.

Littlemill 25 yo 1988/2014 (51.9%, Archives, bourbon hogshead, cask #12, 134 bottles)

Littlemill 25 yo 1988/2014 (51.9%, Archives, bourbon hogshead, cask #12, 134 bottles) Four stars and a half The Fässle was great, it’s gonna be tough. Colour: straw. Nose: great, but a little less great indeed. It’s rather a ‘regular’ fruity Littlemill, which is already a lot, agreed. Grapefruits and papayas, one passion fruit, a little cut hay, aniseed and just a touch of eucalyptus. Normal, in a way. A minerality as well. With water: same. Mouth (neat): same feeling, it’s one of the very fruity ones, displaying many grapefruits and lemons, then some mango and papaya, with a slightly peppery background as well as herbs, fennel, grass… With water: the grass comes to the front. Sharpy white wine. Finish: long, zesty and grassy. More white wine, Loire-style. Comments: more a classic, with a smaller wow-dimension, but it is top notch Littlemill for sure. SGP:561 - 88 points.

I think we could do with another Lowlander, let’s try to find an interesting one… (rummage)… Good, I think I’ve found one!...

Rosebank 6 yo 1992/1999 (59.9%, Cooper's Choice)

Rosebank 6 yo 1992/1999 (59.9%, Cooper's Choice) Three stars and a half A super-young Rosebank from the last years, how cool is that? And these old labels were really ‘artisan-cool’. Colour: pale white wine. Nose: yes, there, that’s what I had expected, the fruity Littlemills and a young clean Rosebank such as this one do share the same profiles, more or less, although this one’s obviously rougher, harsher, and more spirity. So same kind of citrus (grapefruits and lemon) and a similar grassiness, but then this youngster starts to… burn. I have to say it tends to become feinty and yeasty as well. Beer, baker’s yeast, leaven… With water: breads of all kinds all over the place. This one reminds us that whisky’s made out of grains. Mouth (neat): yah! Extremely strong, just like some prune spirit straight from the still (I’ll distil some in November again, by the way, so I do know what I’m, cough, cough, talking about.) A feeling of cane sugar syrup, grass, almonds/fruit stones, barley water… But it burns your lips. Quick… With water: lovely! All citrus out, all grass out as well, rawness in. Tastes very young, but the spirit’s perfectly citrusy. Finish: long, simple, clean, lemony and grassy. Comments: it’s well Rosebank at its most citrusy. Great spirit indeed, even if this baby was probably too young when they issued it. SGP:661 - 84 points.



Block Today: REGGAE. Performer: Ernest Ranglin. Track: In The Rain (because now it's pouring again). Please visit his website and buy his music...

September 3, 2014


Ardmore, two boneshakers
and a gentle one

Slowly but surely, Ardmore is gathering more and more aficionados. Maybe partly because of the brand’s quietness, while some Islayers are becoming really, really loud these days. Deafening? You said it.

Ardmore 12 yo 1986/1999 'Centenary' (40%, OB)

Ardmore 12 yo 1986/1999 'Centenary' (40%, OB) Three stars Of course it's not the first time that I try this baby, but it's the first time I'm writing (hopefully) proper tasting notes for it. I had it at WF 82. Colour: gold. Nose: a rather curious nose, quite modal I’d say (in Miles’ sense of the word.) Imagine a blend of wet cardboard, ashes, old turpentine and overripe apples and bananas, then add a glass of old vin jaune and a few crushed walnuts. In other words, it noses pretty antique. A little smoked ham too – by the way the smoke keeps growing but this baby never becomes ‘a peat monster’. Mouth: the nose was quite superb, but the palate’s a little wobbly, maybe because of the low strength. You know, it’s one of these ‘powerful’ drams that are lacking a backbone, in a way. That makes the cardboardy side stand out, and gives a slight feeling of smoked water. Or peppered lapsang souchong tea. I’d have loved to be able to try this batch at 46 or even 50% vol. Finish: not that short, but rather bitter. Cardboard again. Comments: a strange one. Again, the nose as quite superb, but the palate wasn’t up to the distillery’s current standards in my opinion. Because Ardmore’s great! SGP:453 - 80 points.

Ardmore 14 yo 2000/2014 (49.8%, The Whisky Agency, Liquid Library, refill hogshead, 289 bottles)

Ardmore 14 yo 2000/2014 (49.8%, The Whisky Agency, Liquid Library, refill hogshead, 289 bottles) Three stars and a half Colour: pale white wine. Nose: it’s a sharper, much cleaner, much more Islayian Ardmore after the old 12. There are touches of pineapples and pears, signs of youth, but other than that a mineral and ashy peat reigns supreme. There are also leaves, grass, tree bark and there, walnuts again (fresher ones this time.) You may add one peach. Oh and one drop of gentian eau-de-vie. And a dash of black pepper. And a little chalk or clay. Plaster? Mouth: very punchy, sharp, narrow, ashy, acrid, leafy, smoky, bitter… So it’s all very austere, probably not a whisky to pour your beginning friends. A lot of soot, ashes indeed, grass… And pepper. Finish: long and even more austere. Green pepper. Comments: I like Jansenist a lot, and this is a great one, but to me it’s a tad too… monastic? SGP:366 - 84 points.

Ardmore 2000/2014 (50.2%, Svenska Eldvatten, refill bourbon, 180 bottles)

Ardmore 2000/2014 (50.2%, Svenska Eldvatten, refill bourbon, 180 bottles) Four stars Colour: pale white wine. Nose: a rounder and sweeter version this time, with a little more candy sugar, honey and custard at first nosing, which gives it an interesting ‘Lagavulin 12 CS’ feeling. More earth and gentian as well, green apples, an ashy smokiness, some touches of seaweed smoke (and mezcal?) and whiffs of bandages or embrocations. Tiger balm? Mouth: bang! Huge peat on a sweeter bed – when compared to the previous 2000. It’s still a bit acrid and bitter, or even pungent, and it’s certainly a dry whisky, but there’s a fruitiness that sustains it. Sweets and jellybeans plus a little vanilla-ed honey. A touch of cinnamon cake. Finish: long, with more pepper this time again. A pleasant zestiness too, leaves… Comments: I’m afraid I forgot to add water. I guess it didn’t need it. Certainly one of the peatiest Ardmores I could taste – and quite a boneshaker. SGP:457 - 87 points.

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



Block Today: SOUL JAZZ. Performer: Don Byron. Track: There It Is. Please visit his website and buy his music...

September 2, 2014


A whole basket of Glenlivet

No pre-WWII distillation this time, we’ll have old young ones, newish old ones and just anything that sits in the middle. Let’s see how far we’ll manage to go…

Glenlivet 12 yo (43%, OB, unblended all malt, 75cl, +/-1980)

Glenlivet 12 yo (43%, OB, unblended all malt, 75cl, +/-1978) Four stars Could as well have been a little earlier, not too sure. Colour: gold. Nose: it’s a dry and rather smoky one at first nosing, as older Glenlivets could be. Gravel and soot, then overripe apples, hay, cigars and walnuts, with a metallic touch. Some OBE must have happened, because it’s rather earthier than other old young Glenlivets. Mouth: big stuff, much bigger than contemporary Glenlivet twelves. Sour and tart apples, grapefruit skin, candy sugar, plus these metallic touches again. Apple crumble and strong tea after a few minutes. Not too sure it’s clear that I like it… Finish: long and ample, almost heavy, with some liquorice and more tea. Comments: big spirit of high quality. And it’s still quite easy to find… SGP:462 – 85 points.

Glenlivet 12 yo (40%, OB, pure single malt, 75cl, +/-1985)

Glenlivet 12 yo (40%, OB, pure single malt, 75cl, +/-1985) I believe this version is less old than the previous one, but I’m ready to be proven wrong. Colour: light gold. Nose: yes, it is a much lighter spirit and that’s not just the lower strength. More grains, toasted oak, roasted nuts, straight malt and honey cake. Easy, light and undemanding. Cornflakes. Mouth: a little wishy-washy, grainy, with some overripe apples and a buttery side. Premox in whisky? Some cardboard too, sawdust… Pass! Finish: short and grainy. And dusty. Comments: another, much lower world, but you never know with these old bottles, could have been bottle ageing gone wrong. It’s the dustiness that’s the main problem. SGP:331 - 65 points.

Another go…

Glenlivet 12 yo (43%, OB, pure malt, French import, 75cl, +/-1975)

Glenlivet 12 yo (43%, OB, pure malt, French import, 75cl, +/-1982) Four stars This baby used to be imported by Barton & Guestier. Colour: full gold. Nose: back to the style of the first one, with some soot, gravel, ashes, hay, smoke and overripe fruits. It’s actually even nicer, with notes of beeswax, pollen, old wood polish and then more floral notes, dandelions and such. Great nose. Mouth: fantastic! Bold, firm, smoky and superbly raisiny, with marmalade and honey aplenty, as well as notes of baklavas (orange blossom) and marzipan. Perfect balance and mouth feel, hurray! Finish: astoundingly long, with more marmalade and baklavas. Comments: a great bottle! Sadly, this one’s hard to find but I doubt various European countries/importers were  getting different batches. SGP:552 - 86 points.

Glenlivet 15 yo (43%, OB, pure single malt, 1l, +/-2000)

Glenlivet 15 yo (43%, OB, pure single malt, 1l, +/-2000) Two stars and a half Colour: full gold. Nose: a much lighter spirit again, this session is really a rollercoaster. In fact, it’s pretty complex, but it hasn’t got the oomph and the stamina of the old 12s. Gently floral, I’d say, with a little honey and warm brioche. Plus other pastries, this is almost a breakfast malt. But there’s some elegance in there… Mouth: indeed, it is much lighter than, for example, the 12 for France. It’s also a little cardboardy, with also some toasted bread, cornflakes, a little chocolate, roasted chestnuts, overripe apples, raisins, honey… Everything is very okay, it’s just a little ‘simple’ for a 15yo malt whisky. Finish: rather short, a bit sugary, with some honey and cakes. Comments: I found this one a little too simple on the palate, but it was still honest and loyal malt whisky. SGP:441 - 78 points.

We aren’t quite done with the oldish OBs…

Glenlivet 18 yo (43%, OB, pure single malt, +/-2002)

Glenlivet 18 yo (43%, OB, pure single malt, +/-2002) Three stars Colour: full gold. Nose: we’ve got the drier style again, but there isn’t any smoke, nor soot, ashes and all that. It’s rather hay-like dry, and the whole’s rather more herbal this time. Touches of camphor, cough medicine, rhubarb pie, then the expected honeyed oranges, baklavas, roasted nuts, toasted oak and all that. A very fine nose, let’s only hope it’ll also deliver on the palate. Mouth: it’s certainly good, and certainly very Glenlivet, with this honeyed maltiness and all these overripe apples and pastries. Good body, good nuts (roasted of course) and good marmalade. Ultra classic malt whisky that’s made to please anyone. Who wouldn’t enjoy this? Finish: good length. More honey, pastries, raisins and overripe apples. Ueberclassic. Comments: it’s hard to disagree with this classic. Not very moving, but all very fine. Classic indeed. SGP:541 - 82 points.

Good, let’s have a few youngish indies, and then… Maybe old glories!

Glenlivet 16 yo 1986/2002 (58.2%, Glenscoma, sherry, cask #013469, 300 bottles)

Glenlivet 16 yo 1986/2002 (58.2%, Glenscoma, sherry, cask #013469, 300 bottles) Three stars and a half As you may know, Scoma is one of the pioneering German bottlers. Colour: deep gold. Nose: narrow honeyness, I’d say. But if you like anything honeyed as much as I do, it’s just great. I also find a lot of mead, which isn’t that usual, then cider and even calvados. Fun stuff! With water: woof! It became simple and even narrow. Nosing a Mars bar. Mouth: punchy, very raisiny and very orangey. Cointreau and sultana juice (you may call that Sauternes, or Monbazillac), fifty-fifty. Oops, almost forgot to mention honey. With water: once again, water made it narrower. Sweet white wine and sultanas. Finish: good length, honeyed. That’s all, folks. Comments: it started well and I had high hopes, but beyond the lovely honeyed and raisiny notes, there wasn’t much. And water wouldn’t quite work. But it’s still a very solid malt whisky. SGP:541 - 83 points.

Glenlivet 1993/2006 (53.4%, Whisky-Fässle for Whiskymaniacs Süd-West, sherry)

Glenlivet 1993/2006 (53.4%, Whisky-Fässle for Whiskymaniacs Süd-West, sherry) Four stars Whisky Fässle’s bottlings are usually excellent, so I try to taste them as soon as I come across them, but this time this baby had wriggled out of my clutches. As for these Whiskymaniacs Süd-West, that’s the Southwest of Germany and no, nothing to do with the Malt Maniacs. Colour: pale gold. Nose: we’re now closer to the barley, which is something I always like. It’s almost bready, quite brioche-y (what?) and even croissant (excuse me?) Add some chocolate and you’ve got it. Nice, as they say. With water: same, nice, malty sweetness. Mouth (neat): more bread and pastries, with a firm body and a great maltiness. Also maple syrup, raisins as almost always, cornflakes… Another ultra classic Glenlivet that could have been an OB. With water: an OB indeed! Finish: good length, honeyed, malty, candied… Comments: me like mucho-mucho, even if it’s not quite ‘an alternative to the officials’ as some IBs would say. SGP:541 - 86 points.

Good, while we’re having punchy ones from the indies…

Glenlivet 14 yo 1980/1995 (57.3%, Cadenhead, sherrywood)

Glenlivet 14 yo 1980/1995 (57.3%, Cadenhead, sherrywood) Five stars How many monsters have we seen within this old series? Tremble, mere mortals… Colour: amber/mahogany. Nose: oh this is totally unusual. Imagine a combination of tamarind, roses, muscatel, blood oranges, cassis jelly and iris. I’d swear it’s the first time I come across this association in whisky. Well not only in whisky. And I just love it! With water: that profile remains but there’s also more chocolate and prunes. The whole combination makes it a little armagnacky, all for the (even) better.  Mouth (neat): totally in line with the nose. We’re eating some cassis jelly – or drinking a glass of crème de cassis de Dijon, as you like. How funny! With water: once again, the chocolate strikes back. Another one that swims like Mark Spitz. Finish: long, superb, smooth, cassissy (cut the crap, S.) Comments: a very great bottle. In my experience Glenlivet takes heavy sherry particularly well, maybe because its relatively light style does not contradict the brave Spaniard. SGP:651 - 91 points.

Cadenhead’s had utter beasts, but G&M had some too. Such as this one…

Glenlivet 1974 (57%, Gordon & MacPhail, CASK series, twist cap, +/-1993)

Glenlivet 1974 (57%, Gordon & MacPhail, CASK series, twist cap, +/-1993) Three stars The 57% vol. look like it’s simply ‘100 proof’ but it’s well natural cask strength. Colour: full gold. Nose: it’s funny how this baby reminds of the strongest official 12s that we just had. Styles are similar, with whiffs of wood smoke on top of an honey-glazed apple pie, a bunch of various roasted nuts (rather almonds this time) plus the obligatory marmalade. Simple and straight. With water: a little hay coming out. Mouth (neat): big and all on honeyed raisins, brioche, baklavas and marmalade. Not much else to say, this isn’t really complex but it works pretty well, like a one-cylinder Ducati engine (right, make that Yamaha.) With water: no further changes. Finish: rather long but it remains simple. Honey cake. Comments: very good whisky, but I wouldn’t say there’s much happening in there. Hello? My exact definition of a 80-pointer. So… SGP:551 - 80 points.

So an older 1974 please…

Glenlivet 37 yo 1974/2012 (46%, Berry Bros & Rudd for Whisky.com.tw, cask #5247)

Glenlivet 37 yo 1974/2012 (46%, Berry Bros & Rudd for Whisky.com.tw, cask #5247) Four stars BBR have already got several great Glenlivets. High hopes here… Colour: deep gold. Nose: it’s a very floral one, all for the better. Pollen and nectar, dandelions and buttercups, then sultanas and touches of polished oak. Around an old humidor or ‘grandma’s wardrobe’. Add a few roasted, or rather toasted nuts. A wee earthiness arising over time, all for the better. Mouth: a bit narrow now, not exactly tired but it lacks stamina. Overripe apples, marmalade and glazed chestnuts. Then more and more black tea, that’s the oak speaking out. A touch of menthol too, most probably from the same origins. Finish: medium length. Same flavours, same balance. Comments: extremely good but just like with the G&M, it may lack more… presence? Having said that, it’s a different league and quality is high, as expected. Just not one that you’ll remember forever, perhaps. SGP:551 - 85 points.

Shall we have more luck with a 1973?...

Glenlivet 38 yo 1973/2012 (48.6%, John Milroy, Frisky Whisky, sherry wood, cask #1005)

Glenlivet 38 yo 1973/2012 (48.6%, John Milroy, Frisky Whisky, sherry wood, cask #1005) Four stars and a half I feel I should apologise because of the blitz on the picture. These golden labels are just very hard to photograph (right, to iPhonise.) Colour: gold. Nose: we’re very close to the BBR, although this one also has a welcome tropicalness, around mangos and maybe papayas. Add those notes to the expected honey and ripe apples and you get the kind of very beehive-y profile that we all loved so much in… Caperdonich 1972. So, all great so far, in spite of the very, and I mean very unlikely label. Mouth: just excellent. Oranges, honey, wax, mangos, more oranges, more honey and a touch of warm croissant. Just excellent indeed. Finish: quite long, zestier, without any obvious oakiness, candied… This is almost like orange blossom honey and it’s only in the aftertaste that more oak spices do show up, around cinnamon and white pepper. A touch of earth. Comments: okay, not mindbogglingly great (what?), but I find this baby just excellent. Drinks very very well. SGP:651 - 88 points.

Phew, eleven Glenlivets already, and only one 90+. Let’s push it harder, with an official again, and one of the rarest… (are you still with us?)

Glenlivet 21 yo 1963/1984 'For the Chairman' (43%, OB)

Glenlivet 21 yo 1963/1984 'For the Chairman' (43%, OB)Two stars and a half I won’t explain to you how rare this bottle is, but after all, this is Whisky ‘fun’. I’ll just add that apparently, the Chairman had it good, as this is bottle #837. Eight hundred and thirty seven - or more – bottles, only for the Chairman? Anyway, a superb label, can we have more of those please? Colour: amber. Nose: now I understand why this isn’t a bottle ‘For the Gardener’, or ‘For the Brewer’, or even ‘For the Stillman’. Indeed, this nose is extraordinarily Chairmanly (is that a word?) and extremely complex. You have to ‘deep-nose’ a bit because it’s well a whole, but then you’ll find Corinthian raisins, old cigars, manuka honey (I swear), all kinds of nuts, genuine artisan maple syrup, a touch of leather polish and many tinier elements, including old teas and whiffs of barbecue smoke. Old Glenlivet’s smokiness is back. Mouth: less emphatic, I’d say. Maybe it’s the old bottle, but I find it flattish, tea-ish and tired. It must be the old bottle. Come on, The Chairman! Finish: a little short, cardboardy. The maddening thing about it is that one can feel that it used to be great. Nicer nutty aftertaste, though. Comments: old bottles are always a gamble. This oldie had superb afterglows in the nose, but the palate was tired. Hard to score, let’s remain diplomatic – because you know, he was The Chairman. Disclaimer: other bottles may be fantastic, as always with old bottlings. SGP:351 - 78 points.

So, apparently, we failed again, but as nothing is impossible for a willing heart, let’s go on…

Glenlivet 1961 (57%, Gordon & MacPhail, licensed bottling, 75cl, +/-1990)

Glenlivet 1961 (57%, Gordon & MacPhail, licensed bottling, 75cl, +/-1990) Five stars A big phat classic G&M, this should work. Sadly, no year of bottling tag on the neck or anywhere else on the label. Colour: red amber. Nose: isn’t this rather an old Demerara rum? Port Morant? Instant chocolaty pleasure, with exactly the right amount of tiny phenolic things that add so much depth, I’d even say relief. Liquorice, tar, pitch, lovage… But all those remains tiny, while both the chocolate and the prunes keep ruling this nose. Immediate and implacable. With water:  yess! Engine oil and all that… So even more depth. Mouth (neat): s.u.p.e.r.b. Bags of prunes and buckets of liquid chocolate, plus quite a lot of Corinthian raisins (I’m often quoting those because in my experience, they’re very different, deeper and more flavourful than other, smoother ones.) Immediate, obvious, instant sherried pleasure. Well done again, G&M. With water: yess! Someone may have thrown a few litres of old Ardbeg into, the casks. Unless the filters… you know, the filters… Finish: long, on smoked prunes. And an superb touch of salt in the aftertaste. Salt in a Glenlivet? Comments: I know some chocolatiers who are adding a little salt to their blackest productions. We’re in similar territories here. SGP:462 - 91 points.

Good, we’ve found a second winner, time to call it a complete session!

(With many thanks to Benjamin, Konstantin, Lukas, Olivier and Philip)

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



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September 1, 2014


Beckham’s Cameronbridge and others

The whisky industry is pushing hard anything that’s not age-bearing or vintage single malt these days. NAS, blends, grains, flavoured whisk… err, spirits, whatever, these marketing gymnastics are fascinating. So today we’ll have another go at some grains, but I’ll say it again, I’m not a huge fan of grain whisky. To me, and as Pete & Jack once said, they can sometimes be ‘blends to which they haven’t even bothered adding malt whisky.’ Having said that, as it’s the wood that does almost all the job with these ‘almost silent’ distillates, when the oak was great, the whisky can be quite good. Let’s have a few Cameronbridges today, including David Beckham’s Haig Club. The Beckhams have done everything, haven’t they.

Haig 'Club' (40%, OB, single grain, 2014)

Haig 'Club' (40%, OB, single grain, 2014) Two stars A combination of three various cask types of undisclosed ages packaged in a clever Chanel-like blue bottle that should appeal to people (women?) who are not into whisky. For FZ’s Suzy Creamcheese? Colour: pale gold. Nose: very, very mild, reminding me of some aged vodka that I could try a few years ago. A little sawdust, a little vanilla, not much coconut (hurray!) and very little bready/cerealy character. A little green tea, perhaps? It’s all extremely harmless, which, in a sense, means that there aren’t any flaws – because there just cannot be any. Touches of marshmallows arising after two minutes, which makes it a little girly, if I may. Mouth: very sweet, very light, extremely easy, the exact opposite of malt whisky. Thin body, a little vanilla, liquorice allsorts, marshmallows and a little grass that imparts a welcome bitterness (or it would taste like vodka-Red Bull, without the effects.) Finish: almost none. Comments: a very light spirit, I can well imagine that youngsters who are coming from vodka would find this to their liking. And then put the bottle on the telly. SGP:530 - 72 points (just like its brother the well-known, and very under packaged Cameron Brig, that’s what I just noticed.)

Cameronbridge 29 yo 1979/2008 (50.3%, Duncan Taylor, cask #46, 258 bottles)

Cameronbridge 29 yo 1979/2008 (50.3%, Duncan Taylor, cask #46, 258 bottles) Two stars and a half Colour: pale gold. Nose: same profile as the Haig, light and innocuous, but of course the higher age and strength do add oomph and even complexity. A typical oak-driven spirit, with vanilla aplenty, then marshmallows and coconut, then a welcome oiliness. Sunflower seeds? A little fudge as well, Werther’s Originals, butterscotch... Uncomplicated but balanced. Needs no water, for sure. Mouth: typical again. Sweet, vanilla-ed and extremely marshmallowy, with first a good mouth feel but then the body gets thinner and thinner, which often happens with grain in my experience. Notes of orange drops. Finish: short, all on bubblegum. Nice notes of tinned pineapples in the aftertaste, and very little spiciness. Comments: very fine, just a little boring. Not that I was expecting more, really… SGP:540 - 79 points.

Cameronbridge 30 yo 1978/2008 (56.6%, Adelphi, cask #5, 238 bottles)

Cameronbridge 30 yo 1978/2008 (56.6%, Adelphi, cask #5, 238 bottles) Three stars Colour: light gold. Nose: styles are obviously similar, this one’s just bigger and, I have to say, perhaps a little solventy, but that may be the strength. Marshmallows and vanilla, orange drops, new oak. With water: ah, some pleasant oak. Visiting a carpenter’s workshop, while wolfing a large pack of marshmallows and drinking coconut milk. Or a piña colada. Mouth (neat): good, powerful, rather fruitier, but we’re always on sweets and drops rather than on fresh or dried fruits. Always this feeling of chewing bubblegum. With water: more of all that, but we’re more on the citrusy side. Orange drops. Finish: rather short, but with even more orange drops. Comments: very fine, but three are enough for one man. One of the better bottlings for sure. SGP:530 - 82 points.


Whiskyfun fav of the month

August 2014

Favourite recent bottling:
Port Charlotte 2001/2013 (59.2%, Malts of Scotland, Warehouse Dram No.1, cask #MoS 13042, 145 bottles) - WF 92

Favourite older bottling:
Springbank 1958/1983 (92 US proof, Duthie for Narsai's Restaurant & Corti Brothers, USA) - WF 95

Favourite bang for your buck bottling:
Ledaig 2005/2013 (62.8%, Archives, hogshead, cask #900092, 227 bottles)  - WF 88

Favourite malternative:
Jamaica 30 yo 1982/2013 ‘Freya’ (50.8%, Lord of the Drams, 35 bottles) - WF 88



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August 2014 - part 2 <--- September 2014 - part 1 ---> September 2014 - part 2



Best malts I had these weeks - 90+ points only

Brora 35 yo 1978/2014 (48.6%, OB, 2964 bottles)

Glenlivet 14 yo 1980/1995 (57.3%, Cadenhead, sherrywood)

Glenlivet 1961 (57%, Gordon & MacPhail, licensed bottling, 75cl, +/-1990)

Karuizawa 1981/2014 (54.5%, OB for La Maison du Whisky, sherry, cask #152, 566 bottles)

Karuizawa 1984/2014 (58.5%, OB for La Maison du Whisky, bourbon, cask #8173, 363 bottles)

Karuizawa 1992/2007 (62.8%, OB, hogshead, cask #6978)

Littlemill 23 yo 1990/2014 (51.2%, Whisky-Fässle, hogshead)

The Royal Edinburgh (OB, James Ainslie & Co., driven cork, +/-1910)

Strathmore 1970/2014 (43.8%, Malts of Scotland, single grain, bourbon hogshead, cask #14032, 212 bottles)

Yamazaki 1991/2006 'Owner's Cask' (62%, OB, Suntory, puncheon, cask #1P70529)

Yamazaki 1991/2007 'Owner's Cask - Excellent Smokey' (56%, OB, selected by Mr. Kawachiya, hogshead, cask #1V70010)