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Hi, you're in the Archives, September 2015 - Part 1



August 2015 - part 2 <--- September 2015 - part 1 ---> September 2015 - part 2


September 14, 2015


Our 11,000th whisky!

That’s right, eleven thousand different whiskies reviewed on little whiskyfun, not to mention a few hundred other spirits.
I’ve been thinking hard while looking for a 11,000th whisky to taste, and settled for Springbank. I guess that’s self-explanatory. Tradition, quality, moderate marketing, style, fair prices, little BS, no made-up stories, no Franklin Mint packaging, no ultra-young oak-doped NAS, and no salesm… I mean brand ambassadors who think they’re Leonardo. Yeah or Heidi Klum … So Springbank meet all requirements in my book. But which Springbanks? Something special for sure… Let’s say our 11,000th will be our favourite amongst these four... (I already know it won’t be the contemporary 15 yo, mind you).

Springbank 15 yo (46%, OB, +/-2014)

Springbank 15 yo (46%, OB, +/-2014) Three stars We last tried a ‘new’ 15 in 2010, and I have to say that in my little book, it did not quite hold a candle to the 10s, 12s or 18s that were available back then. Colour: pale gold. Nose: it’s really austere, flinty, earthy and grassy, with a medicinal touch (antiseptic) and wee touches of rubber (a box of bands). I also find a little baker’s yeast and, above all, plenty of chalk. Reminds me of my schooldays. And perhaps a little thyme and parsley. Intriguing, as they say. Mouth: yes, it’s a strange one indeed, and it does remind me of the older 15 from a years back. Very chalky again, kind of fizzy, with plenty of walnut skin, apple peelings, and then orange squash. Something Fanta-ish, I’d say. Tends to become bitter. Fernet Branca at cask strength. Finish: long, dry, still very chalky, and bitterly herbal. The good news is that a little grapefruit’s coming to the rescue in the aftertaste, lifting it a bit. Comments: I’m cursed. Love almost all the others, and I quite like this one, but I’ve got troubles with the 15s. A spell? A matter of numerology? SGP:272 - 80 points.

But that was only the aperitif. Time to have something properly serious to celebrate our 11,000th review. Wouldn’t a little horizontal of 1965s do?

Springbank 27 yo 1965/1993 (46%, OB for the Everest Challenge)

Springbank 27 yo 1965/1993 (46%, OB for the Everest Challenge) Five stars This baby was bottled for a charity bike ride in the foothills of the Himalayas, and the label had been designed by Mary Quant herself! Let’s see if this one will get us high (ooh, full form S.!) Colour: gold, so no deep sherry. That’s cool. Nose: but what a fab spirit! This is going to be a tough race. The first two aromas that spring to my nostrils are ‘old copper pan’ and ‘old beehive’. And what’s stunning is that both notes first mingle together, and then explode into myriads of other aromas, including metal polish, shoe polish, candle wax, honey, dried quinces and dates, raisins and touches of old roses (oriental perfume), limestone and earth… It’s really very complex, but I’d say the leading aroma would be honeydew. Mouth: starts a bit shier and drier, with some tea and tannins, but the honey’s doing a come back, together with several dried fruits, especially dates, figs, and quinces. Quince jelly. The tannins get mellower over time, while more citrusy notes arise, such as crystallised tangerines. Shall I dare adding ‘kumquats’? Nah, not yuzu. Having said that, it’s perhaps not the most Springbanky of all old Springbanks on the palate, but it’s great. Finish: medium, with touches of mint. Raisins, mint, and honey. Comments: excellent, as expected, even if it’s perhaps no massively flamboyant old Springbank like others can be. SGP:561 - 90 points.

Springbank 29 yo 1965/1994 (46%, OB for Miller & Landau, sherry, cask #1298)

Springbank 29 yo 1965/1994 (46%, OB for Miller & Landau, sherry, cask #1298) Five stars To be honest I don’t quite know who Miller and Landau are or were. I’ve tried to google them and could find several options, but nothing that would make us dead sure. Better not write more nonsense than what’s already on this little website. Colour: full gold. Nose: we’re very very close to the ‘Everest’, this one being only rather rounder and fruitier. That means more honey, nectar, sultanas, then oranges and kumquats (there) plus stewed peaches. Rather more menthol too, cough syrup, a box of eucalyptus lozenges (or Pulmolls, but I believe that’s only a French brand)… All in all, it’s perfect old whisky. Mouth: impressive arrival, very mentholy and pleasantly acrid – that must have been the wood. Would rather go on with apple pie, even cider, and perhaps a little green tea. In a way, it’s a rather farmy Springbank, and certainly not a totally polished one that’s only to be sipped in a genuine old chesterfield armchair. And old Springbank for the hipflask? Finish: long, more citrusy, always a tad raw, with more tannins as the signature. Well not exactly tannins as in wine, rather say ‘a tannicity’. A little toffee too. Comments: forgot to mention yuzu this time. I really loved this one despite – or maybe because – its roughness. We’re making good progress. SGP:561 - 91 points.

And now, the crème de la crème, supposedly…

Springbank 1965/2001 'Local Barley' (52.4%, OB, cask #65/9)

Springbank 1965/2001 'Local Barley' (52.4%, OB, cask #65/9) Five stars Cask #8 had been excellent, but perhaps not as great as most 1966s, for example (WF 89). Really curious about this one... Colour: deep gold. Nose: same whisky as the Miller & Landau, only stronger and perhaps fatter. That means that we’re feeling beehives in the midst of summer, mead, a few yellow flowers, raisins, light toffee (or our beloved box of Werther’s – buy Werther’s instead, that’s cheaper, says someone I know very well), hints of café latte… And behind all this quasi-roundness, a little earth and soot, which is very Springbanky. All is well so far. With water: careful with water, never drown the Local Barleys. In any case, it’s more a drying oak that comes out. Oh drop water. Mouth (neat): once again, we’re extremely close to the Miller & Landau (which could well have been a LB as well). A fat spirit, and yet it’s not exactly heavy, starting on citrus marmalades, raisins, and the same faintly herbal notes yet again, mint, eucalyptus… A little lemon grass as well, drops of honeysuckle tea, then,… wait, yuzu? Really? What’s sure is that it’s all very superb, and rather fresher than expected. It’s even got something of some old Rosebank, but its true that Rosebank wasn’t located very, very far away. With water: swims much better on the palate. Marmalade, drops of limoncello, more golden raisins, more honey… Finish: quite long, more honeyed, but also with rather more notes of cider apples, calvados… Something a little rough. Comments: excellent. Perhaps not as totally magical as the older labels, but it sure is one of the great and legendary Local Barleys. SGP:561 - 92 points.

Good, let’s state that that LB was our 11,000th. Moving on…

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



Block Today: JAZZ. Performer: Sarah Vaughn. Track: not music, a lesson! Autumn leaves. Please buy her music...

September 13, 2015


A verticale of very old armagnacs

Part Deux,

You may remember that last Sunday we had quite a bunch of very old armagnacs, including a smashing recent 50 years old ‘Les Grands Assemblages’ (which you could translate as ‘The Great Blends’) from the house Darroze. We stopped the session while we were in 1900, so already in the 19th century. Time to go further back today, as promised, but first a little aperitif/reference. This time I’ve chosen a very young armagnac by a large house, so that we have a faithful impression of what a ‘normal’ modern armagnac tastes like.

Janneau 5 yo (40%, OB, armagnac, +/-2014)

Janneau 5 yo (40%, OB, armagnac, +/-2014) Two stars See, even the Armagnacqais are now adding age statements to their young spirits. A matter of trust and transparency! Colour: gold. Nose: lovely, fresh, fruity, full of yellow peaches, golden raisins, and yellow melons (Spanish?) Orchard fruits. It’s not an old-style ‘caramelised’ armagnac at all, even if it does get a little fudge-y after a few minutes. Vanilla fudge. Mouth: well, the vanilla got a little loud for me, and the spirit’s a little rough, perhaps. Not feinty of course, but perhaps a little too eau-de-vie-ish, reminding us of some ‘white’ armagnacs that they like to drink down there in the Gers region. The vanilla and the oak are a little prominent, and make me think of many a modern Scotch malt whisky. Right NAS. Finish: rather short, an a little oaky. Comments: the nose was quite superb, but the palate’s pretty uninteresting. Unless, I guess, you add a few ice cubes. Maybe that’s the point… SGP:430 - 75 points.

Let’s make a large jump now. Like, around 110 years… By the way, here's a picture of a mobile still in Armagnac, circa 1900...


Baron Gaston Legrand 1898 (40%, OB, Armagnac, +/-2010)

Baron Gaston Legrand 1898 (40%, OB, Armagnac, +/-2010) Three stars and a half The house belongs to Cognac Lhéraud. It should actually be Bas-armagnac, although they wouldn’t say so on the label, and is entirely made with grapes from their own vineyards (25 hectares). I guess such an old vintage should come almost entirely from folle blanche, but you just cannot be sure. The house is located in the little village of Lannepax. As for the 1898 vintage, well, it is the year when Enzo Ferrari was born. Hope this baby won’t be too fast. Oh and if you wish, you can try a 2cl measure at the Park Hyatt Regency in Paris, the price is only 196€! Well… Colour: full amber. Nose: it’s the freshness that’s really impressive. I don’t know how much time it spent in wood and how much time in the paradis, but this baby’s anything but tired or flat. Fantastic whiffs of beehive, nectar, golden sultanas, then a surprising burst of calvados-like notes, overripe apples, ripe black cherries… And old sherry! No herbal or phenolic notes this time, it’s just great old-style armagnac. Oops, forgot to mention prunes, bags of prunes… Mouth: starts soft, perhaps a little grapy and even remotely soapy, before notes of cake and tobacco kick in. But the oak’s there as well, and I wouldn’t call this the best balanced old armagnac ever. As if it lacked polishing, after +/-110 years! Finish: perhaps a little short. Goes toward caramel and fudge. Comments: it’s the nose that’s totally impressive, while the palate was only ‘very good’. A little fragile, I’d say, but a great experience altogether. Well, it’s hard to remain fair, isn’t it… SGP:541 - 84 points.

Maybe was it the vintage? Only one way to find out…

Laubade 1898/2007 (40%, OB, Bas-armagnac)

Laubade 1898/2007 (40%, OB, Bas-armagnac) Four stars and a half Laubade again! Remember we loved the 1900/2006 (WF 90)… But this one’s older, it’s almost 110 years of age (the back label certifies that it was fully kept in wood for all of its life). Colour: deep amber. Nose: fantastic, rather in the ‘cooked’ style. Sauces, honeys, natural caramel, Werther’s Originals, agave syrup, toffee, dried quinces and figs, raisins, more raisins, Christmas cake… Frankly, you cannot not think of old pre-war Macallan! But who did copy whom? Mouth: extraordinarily lively, and even raw! Not raw as if that was a flaw, rather raw as a true armagnac should be. Plenty of prunes and dark chocolate, honey sauce, marmalade, tobacco, liquorice, dried dates, baked raisins (kugelhopf), more chocolate… And imagine it’s even a little malty. Only the body is marginally thin – not weak – and one cannot not dream of this at a higher strength. 43% vol. would do! Finish: perhaps a little short and dry, with a few burnt notes. Overcooked honey sauce. Comments: the second part of the palate and the finish weren’t totally-top-notch, but other than that, it’s glorious old spirit. Some parts also remind me of the most sherried ‘cooked’ Karuizawas. Seriously. SGP:551 - 89 points.

What would you have after a 1898, in a verticale? That’s right…

Laubade 1897/2007 (40%, OB, Armagnac)

Laubade 1897/2007 (40%, OB, Armagnac) Five stars The 1998 was pure Bas-armagnac, while this one’s a ‘simple’ armagnac. Shall we start to argue after almost 120 years? As for the year 1897, apparently, it’s in that year that the USA have annexed Hawaii. Colour: dark amber. Nose: wow, I’d have never thought I would taste a 1897 vs. a 1898 by the same house one day. Tell me about a head-to-head. This one’s immediately grander, more subtle, more oily/herbal, more complex… We’re in very old malt territories, and this time I seem to get echoes of that famous very old vintage of Dalmore that they have then rebottled several times as components in their recent ‘airport decanters’. So, it’s brilliant, surprisingly tarry, with a lot of fruitcake, prunes, raisins, liquorice, very old triple-sec, perhaps a little putty, cigars… Very, very promising nose, but the palate could still go astray… Mouth: sweet Vishnu! Great arrival, even if it gets then rather oakier, and a little too drying. Stewed fruits, tamarind jam, blood oranges, burnt maple syrup, black tobacco (untipped Gauloise), strong honey, roasted pecans and cashews. The honeyed side tends to grow, and to overwhelm the slightly drying oak All for the better! Finish: sort of long, on orangettes (zests dipped into chocolate), honey… And very old Dalmore! Drops of old calvados in the aftertaste. Comments: really a miracle. Spirit this old shouldn’t be this good (say people who are selling young stuff, of course). SGP:551 - 90 points.

I’m afraid this lousy blogger hasn’t got any 1896 or 1895. So…

Laubade 1894/2006 (40%, OB, Bas-armagnac)

Laubade 1894/2006 (40%, OB, Bas-armagnac) Five stars A pure Bas-armagnac again this time, and well over 110 years old. It’s in 1894 that Coca-Cola sold their very first bottles; not sure we should celebrate that, should we? Colour: dark amber/brown. Nose: it’s really amazing that all these very old armagnacs are so different. But remember there is a vintage effect in wine, and that armagnac is distilled wine. In fact this one’s kind of cleaner and better polished than both the ‘98 And ’97, with more jams, dried fruits, and cakes. Although the background would be more phenolic and greasy, with engine oil, tarmac, then rather moss and fern, then hessian and ‘old leather bags’. This baby’s actually quite hard to follow, as it just wouldn’t stop changing. At some point, it’s like the best orange cake ever, straight from the oven. A 112 years old nose that makes you fall in love… Mouth: yes! This time it’s totally perfect, amazingly fresh, even gritty and (mildly) aggressive, with and incredible aromatic continuum that would lead you throughout an orchard, a pastry shop, an old bookstore, and an orange grove. Not one single flaw this time, it’s perfect spirit. Finish: medium, more honeyed and chocolaty. Candy sugar, maple syrup, raisins… So a rounder finish for once. Yet another achievement! Comments: one par with the Darroze 50 that we had the other day. Fabulous old armagnac. SGP:651 - 93 points.

And imagine this perhaps-not-too-lousy-blogger has got the following vintage at hand…

Laubade 1893/2007 (40%, OB, Armagnac)

Laubade 1893/2007 (40%, OB, Armagnac) Five stars This is 113 or 114 years old! No demijohns have been involved. ‘Simple’ armagnac again, by Laubade. What happened in 1893? Well, Mao Zedong was born. Colour: brown. Touchy… Nose: oh, this is different again. This time it’s all things from some forests that we have, mushrooms, fir needles, moss, fern, bark, mud, dead leaves, last year’s chestnuts, then quite some eucalyptus – quite amazingly, we haven’t found that much eucalyptus in the other ones, while that’s usually what comes with very old wood. There’s also some old pu-erh tea, with its very earthy side, Havana cigars, a little myrtle… I’m not sure this isn’t the most complex one so far. And between us, it could have been some great very old Scotch malt – older than what our friends have ever bottled. Highland Park? Stromness? I’m joking… Mouth: an incredible miracle. I was sure, after the nose, that this one would have gotten flat and woody. Not so. Sure it’s lost a bit of body, but some dried fruits and some jams are guarding this temple. Marmalade, candied angelica, kumquats, then rather ripe peaches – which is amazing, we usually rather find that in young armagnacs or cognacs – and even melons. This, is glorious. We could write pages about it, but I don’t want to bore you to death. Vicariousness has its limits. Finish: but what’s this miracle? Even the finish is pretty long. Honey, marmalade, jams, dried fruits… What’s also worth noticing with all these old armagnacs, is that contrarily to Scotch, they never give you too much cloves/cinnamon/pepper in the finishes and aftertastes. I don’t know why… Better seasoned oak? French oak? (it is French oak for sure, but that shouldn’t make the spirit less spicy)… I really don’t know… Any clues? It’s even got a fabulous earthiness. Comments: exceptional. There. And I think we should thank the house Laubade for all these super-old armagnacs that are, after all, very fairly priced when you compare them with what they’re doing beyond Hadrian’s Wall these days. Indeed, you can find these 1893s for between 2,000 and 4,000€ these days. I know, that’s a lot of money, but…  SGP:651 - 94 points.

Well well well, that little 1893 has been great, so let’s go a bit horizontal…

Baron de Saint-Feux 1893/2007 (40%, OB, Armagnac)

Baron de Saint-Feux 1893/2007 (40%, OB, Armagnac) Five stars According to the back label, this baby’s been integrally aged in wood, so it is a 113 or 114 years old armagnac, even if you take the Scots’ meaning into consideration (only years in wood do count). Colour: bright deep amber. Nose: it’s shier than the Laubade, perhaps even subtler, but you have to work on it a bit. I mean, nose deeply. Having said that, aeration does it much good, and honeys and raisins are soon to start to sing louder and louder, while some unexpected notes of strawberry jam are coming to the rescue. In fact, it is superb, even if fruitier and less ‘tertiary’ than the Laubade. Total pleasure, you could nose this without even noticing it’s such an old spirit. Impressive freshness, yet again. I also find overripe apples – old calvados – and it’s not the first time. Mouth: hold on, is it the same spirit as the Laubade? Colours and transparency weren’t the same at all, but I’d swear they are almost the same spirits. Good, this one’s a little rounder and jammier, perhaps, and it hasn’t got those earthy tones that we found in the Laubade, but other than that… Come on, it would be funny if those were sister casks, both filled in 1893, that would have evolved pretty similarly for no less than 113 years. Finish: impressively complex and fresh. Oranges, overripe apples, soft honeys, a touch of blond tobacco. Comments: probably folle blanche, and most possibly pre-phylloxeric vines. And yet again, I’m dreaming of such an armagnac that would have been bottled at 43 or 45% vol… (yeah, dream on, S.!) SGP:651 – 94 points.

We’re flying high now… (so to speak)… I guess we should stop this madness soon, and just have two more, both from the same vintage. An even older vintage, no need to say, and since we we’re at Monsieur le Baron de Saint-Feux’s…

Baron de Saint-Feux 1888/2007 (40%, OB, Bas-armagnac)

Baron de Saint-Feux 1888/2007 (40%, OB, Bas-armagnac) Five stars A Bas-armagnac this time. Remember, Bas-armagnac is the best, even if ‘bas’ means ‘low’, but that’s purely geographical. Once again and according to the back label, this baby’s integrally matured in oak. So, it’s almost 120 years old. Imagine! As for the vintage, it seems that 1888 was when Van Gogh cut his ear. Colour: dark amber. Nose: oooh… coffee! And gunpowder, tar, flints, engine oil, roasted chestnuts… It’s akin to the greatest sherry monsters on the nose, and a very old Glenfarclas Family Cask springs to mind. Can’t quite remember the vintage, perhaps 1952, perhaps 1953. This is similar. Should I also mention black tea? Tobacco? Corinthian raisins? Cigars? Red apples? The most wonderful Turkish dried figs? Beware maltopo… I mean, armaporn. I’m speechless (better like this). Mouth: ho-ho-ho. There are tannins this time – did you notice that we haven’t mentioned tannins yet? – but they’re perfectly integrated, while some superb chocolate and something like crushed prunes and oranges tend to invade your mouth. The thickness and the vivacity of it all are just mesmerizing. Incredible. We’re approaching total stardom, the pantheon of all aged spirits, and further proof that age may matter. Lol. Finish: and you know what? Even the finish is almost perfect, rich and fresh, raw and elegant, very ‘armagnac’ and totally… philosophical. This thing, you know, makes many other aged spirits kind of laughable and pitiful. Poetry in glass. Love the chocolate in the aftertaste. Comments: some eternal spirit. My, almost one hundred and twenty years in wood, and a freshness that would even make Miley Cyrus look a little seasoned. SGP:662 - 95 points.

We should stop now, on a very high note, but this is whiskyfun… Let’s go horizontal again, and we’re done.

Baron Gaston Legrand 1888 (40%, OB, Armagnac, +/-2010)

Baron Gaston Legrand 1888 (40%, OB, Armagnac, +/-2010) Five stars Let’s see if Monsieur le Baron is up again. One from ‘Cellar number four’, where only their oldest armagnacs are stored. Colour: almost coffee. Nose: right. This is glorious, it’s ‘a whole’, it’s full of black raisins, chestnut honey, coffee indeed (say Blue Mountain – ha-ha), these subtle tarry notes (not Port Ellen-tarry, mind you), ceps and white truffles, chocolate… In fact its like at some Mozart’s, at some point, you’d better say nothing and listen… to the spirit. A masterpiece. Mouth: only the 40% vol. cast a shade over this epic spirit. I don’t want to waffle on about strengths and weaknesses (but still, this would be so fabulous at…) but this is perfect. There are raisins, chocolate, herbs, old liqueurs, marmalade, tertiary ‘umami-esque’ notes, a little smoke – really – and then more and more bitter chocolate. Loads of chocolate. I guess that comes from the French oak, and it works greatly. Now, I think I loved the other Baron’s (Saint-Feux, that is) even better, it had rather more freshness. But this chocolaty and cigar-like style is just as fabulous. Finish: bums around a bit – that may be the strength – but other than that, all this chocolate is just extraordinary. Comments: what a session! I find it fantastic that a new generation of makers and bottlers of armagnac are starting to bottle at cask strength, because that’s armagnac’s main weakness – and probably only weakness –, modern palates need more oomph. Well, I need more oomph. But the spirits, the spirits… Are perfect. SGP:461 - 93 points.


Harvest in Armagnac, late 19th century

(with thanks and hugs to Diego)



Block Today: JAZZ. Performer: some great jazz with some fun, to go with some very old armagnacs, French pianist Bernard Peiffer. Track: I want to be happy (recorded some time in the 1950s - don't miss 1:55). Please buy his music...

September 11, 2015


Time Warp tasting, today Tullibardine

Let’s do some very young vs. very old bottling sessions again, those can be fun. Today it’s going to be the rather whacky Tullibardine… We don’t taste enough Tullibardine on WF!

Tullibardine 'Sovereign' (43%, OB, +/-2015)

Tullibardine 'Sovereign' (43%, OB, +/-2015) Two stars and a halfTullibardine’s entry-level NAS, priced at a slightly incomprehensible 50€ a bottle. We tried an early bottling two years ago, and found it pretty okayish (WF 78). Colour: white wine. Nose: squeeze grass, add chalk, add a spoonful of yoghurt, and add a smidgen of backing vanilla. Stir well, filter, you’re on. But in facts, it tends to improve with some breathing, with more rounded vanilla and even a little malted barley. Mouth: sweet, malty, grassy, chalky. It’s rather characterful, only mildly feinty/yeasty, and once again the malted barley starts to dance only after a few seconds, making the whole rounder. But a wee dirtiness remains there, pretty ‘old-style Tullibardine’. Finish: long, bitterish, grassy. Fresh walnuts. Comments: I won’t change my score, but this is, indeed, much more to my liking than earlier young Tullibardines that used to be, ach, erm… I don’t know… Remember baby vomit? SGP:341 - 78 points.

So, the older one…

Tullibardine 1965/2008 ‘Single Cask Edition’ (48.3%, OB, hogshead, cask #939, 164 bottles)

Tullibardine 1965/2008 ‘Single Cask Edition’ (48.3%, OB, hogshead, cask #939, 164 bottles) Three stars I had tried an official sister cask (#949) back in 2007 and that one had been very unlikely in my book. But it was sherry cask, according to my notes… Colour: amber. Nose: certainly smells of sherry, especially raisins. Sherry hogshead? It would just say H/head on the label. It’s a very fine nose, but it’s bizarrely raw and young, I mean rather more like 15 years than 42 or 43. Maybe I’m dreaming but it’s also got a feeling of Mortlach, with some wood smoke and chocolate, as well as, again, many raisins of various colours. Some toasted oak as well. Re-racked or finished? Mouth: it’s rather big, just as raw, very oaky and tannic, and as drying as some strong black tea. Peppered black tea. In the background, touches of Swiss cheese and grapefruit juice. The tannicity never stops growing, making it even more drying. Finish: quite long, very drying. Some concoction! There’s even a medicinal side, which must come from the oak. Jägermeister. Comments: I also tried it with water, and that rather worked, it made it a little smoother and rounder, with more raisins. I was rather ready to go with 75 points, but water really saved it. It does need water. SGP:471 – 80 points.

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



Block Today: JAZZ. Performer: Leon Parker. Track: one of his hits, All my Life. Please buy his music...

September 10, 2015


Grainy Days, Part Two,
Strathclyde and Others

Yesterday, we had liked Cameronbridge, while North British had been rather more difficult. Let’s try other grain distilleries if you don’t mind…

Strathclyde 27 yo 1987/2015 (51.5%, Douglas Laing, Old Particular, refill barrel, 198 bottles)

Strathclyde 27 yo 1987/2015 (51.5%, Douglas Laing, Old Particular, refill barrel, 198 bottles) Two stars and a halfColour: straw. Nose: fresh paint and putty in this one at first nosing, then almonds and candy sugar. Cake. I find this nice. With water: fruit salad, while most fruits were tinned. Tinned pears spring to mind. Mouth (neat): bites a bit at first, gets then smoother. Relatively smoother. Fresh walnuts, grass, apple skins, young bourbon… We’re rather closer to the North British than to the Cameronbridges we had the other day. Crunching a sugar cube. With water: more of that feeling of white sugar. We may have found an alternative to sugarcane syrup for our mojitos ;-). Finish: rather short, sugary. Comments: a very sweet, uncomplicated one. SGP:630 - 78 points.

Not sure it was worth waiting. Imagine 27 years! Only one way to find out…

Strathclyde 9 yo 2005 (55.7%, Douglas Laing, Clan Denny, sherry butt, cask #10710)

Strathclyde 9 yo 2005 (55.7%, Douglas Laing, Clan Denny, sherry butt, cask #10710) Four stars and a half I know, a sherry cask, and it’s true some claim that grain needs sherry. Let’s see… Colour: deep gold. Nose: of course. This baby found in some sherry what it didn’t have in the first place, namely depth and complexity. Roasted nuts (chestnuts for sure), black raisins, earth, cigars, menthol, pipe tobacco… Hurray! With water: superb aromatic herbs, bitter caramel… Mouth (neat): how spectacular! Cigars, pipe tobacco, caraway, smoked tea, cardamom, pu-erh, pepper, chillies, ginger, bitter oranges, cloves… We don’t need more. With water: a spicy cake and a Mars bar. Finish: very long, on peppered raisins. Chilli liqueur. Comments: I’m always fighting the popular idea that the cask accounts for most of the flavours with whisky (if that was true, Lagavulin and Glenkinchie would taste the same), but in this case, that’s probably exactly true. Great little grain whisky, beats the old ones hands down. SGP:462 - 89 points.

While we’re at DL’s…

Girvan 25 yo 1989/2015 (51.5%, Douglas Laing, Old Particular, refill barrel, 232 bottles)

Girvan 25 yo 1989/2015 (51.5%, Douglas Laing, Old Particular, refill barrel, 232 bottles) Three stars William Grant’s grain distillery, now bottled as an OB (and, ahem, sold for the price of malt). Their much cheaper Black Barrel used to be Girvan too. Colour: straw. Nose: I was wondering when this profile would come. You know, coconuts and vanilla all over the place… And this feeling of pina colada! Not much else, but it’s, well, pleasant. With water: tinned fruits. Mouth (neat): creamy oily easy, full of sweet oak. That’s right, vanillin and coconut, plus a touch of pink grapefruit for good measure. And marshmallows. Not unpleasant at all. With water: improves, with touches of herbs and flower jellies. Perhaps a little rhubarb and hay. Hay wine. Finish: medium, sweet, creamy, very easy. Marzipan in the aftertaste. Comments: total easiness. Unquestionably pleasant. SGP:630 - 80 points.

Good, let’s have the rarer ones…

Cambus 30 yo 1985/2015 (53.4%, Hunter Laing, Sovereign, cask #11591,256 bottles)

Cambus 30 yo 1985/2015 (53.4%, Hunter Laing, Sovereign, cask #11591,256 bottles) Four stars and a half Cambus is closed, it stopped working in 1993. It’s getting very rare… Colour: white wine. Nose: I do get a few oils and saps, probably from the cask. That makes it less ‘sweet and easy’ than the others (well, not than DL’s young Strathclyde), with some honeydew, autumn leaves, or olive oil. Fine! Other than that, vanilla and preserved fruits, as usual. With water: it’s very subtle and elegant, mostly on various vegetal oils. Grape seeds, sunflower, sweet and easy olive… Mouth (neat): goody good! There’s a layer of pineapple jelly and jam, on top of a subtle concoction that would have involved mint, caraway, chives (perhaps), and most certainly blood oranges. It’s got this vibrant tartness that works so well. With water: becomes as thick as honey, with depth and, again, complexity. Which I find unusual with grain (nah, I think we got you, S.) Finish: medium, delicate, oily. Mint and apples? Peppery aftertaste. Comments: I wasn’t expecting much, but this baby almost blew me away. And it’s not very expensive! SGP:561 - 89 points.

And the very last one. A very rare grain…

Garnheath 41 yo 1974/2015 (50.8%, Càrn Mòr, Celebration of the Cask, barrel, cask 313235, 144 bottles)

Garnheath 41 yo 1974/2015 (50.8%, Càrn Mòr, Celebration of the Cask, barrel, cask 313235, 144 bottles) Four starsI’d never have thought we’d see a new Garnheath! I’ve tried three Garnheaths in my entire life, and all had been distilled in the 1960s. Together with Ladyburn, the distillery used to lie within the bankrupt Moffat complex, and was closed for good around 1985. Colour: gold. Nose: well as I was remembering Garnheath (yeah yeah), that is to say very light, discreet, whispering… In truth it’s the barrel that speaks here, and what it tells us is pleasant. Butterscotch, praline, white chocolate, vanilla, a wee touch of wood dust, one or two jelly babies (pineapple-flavoured)… Whispering indeed. With water: the barrels speaks out, the spirit answers… not much. But it was a nice barrel. Mouth (neat): ho ho ho! We’re in rum territories now, and I cannot not think of lightish Enmore from Guyana. Pineapple butter cream, coconut liqueur, sugar cane, drops of orange juice… In truth it’s very tropical. Very approachable, and certainly not tired. With water: becomes truly excellent, if still easy. Fruity, vanilla-ed, sweetly oaky old juice. Doesn’t taste old at all, by the way. Probably filled at 70% vol., if not more. Finish: easy, sweet, not old. This could be 10yo. Comments: you haven’t got the complexity of an old malt, and the distillate had probably been filled at super-high strength in fifth-fill wood, but I find this delicate style rather entrancing. But I doubt anybody would still do this these days. SGP:640 - 87 points.

No, there won’t be any Part Three tomorrow. Around ten grains, however good, is more than enough.

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



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September 9, 2015


Grainy Days, Part One,
North British and Cameronbridge

I’ll say it again, I’m not a huge fan of grain whisky (which many are now trying to sell for the price of malt), and that may come from the fact that I’m rather in favour of spirit-driven whiskies, as opposed to wood-driven ones. And grain is often some rather neutral high-ethanol distillate that’s been flavoured with oak, wine, or both. Oh, and time, of course, so I’m not saying grain whisky just cannot be to my liking. I've had some excellent grain! So let’s have a few Scottish ones today, perhaps we could even try to compare various distilleries and check whether there are a few idiosyncrasies that may come from the spirit…

North British 29 yo 1985/2015 (46%, Cadenhead, Small Batch, single cask, 432 bottles)

North British 29 yo 1985/2015 (46%, Cadenhead, Small Batch, single cask, 432 bottles) Two stars I think North British used to distil maize, but I’m not sure that’s what they still do. Although that’s probably what they were still doing back in 1985. Colour: pale gold. Nose: as expected, not the most characterful spirit ever, and what we first get is a combination of fresh marzipan and fresh paint. Then rather white chocolate and custard powder, with quite some cut grass and green apples in the background. More a super-vodka so far, if I may… A touch of wood smoke. Mouth: rather raw, with the oak talking first, and then the grass. This feeling of vodka again. After that, rather lager beer and applejack, varnishy almonds, and some bourbon. Yep, which makes sense. Finish: rather short, letting the grassy part coat your palate. Comments: not quite my thing, it’s rather raw grain whisky, but I’m sure grain lovers will find it interesting. Now, maybe is it this year’s best vodka? I would have rather bottled it in a crystal decanter with diamonds and sold it for £5,000. SGP:460 - 75 points.

North British 21 yo (50.9%, Douglas Laing, Old Particular, refill hogshead, 294 bottles, 2015)

North British 21 yo (50.9%, Douglas Laing, Old Particular, refill hogshead, 294 bottles, 2015) Two stars and a half No mention of a vintage, which is a little strange given that this is a single cask. What’s the rationale? Colour: white wine. Nose: younger and fruitier, which was more what I was expecting. Bubblegum, wine gums, custard, melon, grapes, pears… It’s youthful spirit, without much depth, but it wouldn’t kill anyone. With water: a pleasant smoothness. Tinned fruits, vanilla cream, perhaps a small touch of rubber.  Mouth (neat): raw, but fruitier than the 29 yo. Tart fruits, jelly babies, lemon drops, and always a lot of grass. With water: yes, easy, sweet, rather creamy, uncomplicated. A good filler. Finish: rather short, grassier again. More tinned fruits and grass in the aftertaste. Comments: a pleasant spirit. But is this whisky? Well, we aren’t in 1909 anymore, are we? SGP:550 - 78 points.

Cameronbridge 30 yo 1979/2009 (51.2%, Duncan Taylor, Rare Auld, cask #3586, 181 bottles)

Cameronbridge 30 yo 1979/2009 (51.2%, Duncan Taylor, Rare Auld, cask #3586, 181 bottles) Four stars Duncan Taylor had a lot of old grain whiskies in their inventory. Those casks used to go into high-end blends in the old days. Colour: gold. Nose: much more happening in this one, probably thanks to some more active wood. Cake, shortbread, vanilla, a touch of varnish, sponge cake, light rum (Cuban style), tinned pineapples… It’s very easy and very pleasant. With water: I’m afraid it’s quite superb! Milk chocolate filled with banana jam – or something like that. Mouth: big, creamy, extremely fruity, with mangos (hurray) and bananas, and even a malty side. The oily mouth feel reminds me of Irish un-malted barley. In fact, this Cameronbridge is very Irish! With water: aye! Pineapples come out. Finish: quite long, very fruity, lively… More tropical fruits in the aftertaste. Comments: you’d think you have just tasted Midleton’s Very Rare! SGP:640 - 85 points.

Cameronbridge 25 yo 1990/2015 (60.6%, Douglas Laing, Old Particular, refill butt, 282 bottles)

Cameronbridge 25 yo 1990/2015 (60.6%, Douglas Laing, Old Particular, refill butt, 282 bottles) Three stars Colour: straw. Nose: closed, but that’s normal at this insane strength. Wood alcohol, perhaps. So, with water: no, sweet barley? It’s very simple, and yet it’s satisfyingly cerealy – despite a wee plankiness in the background. Mouth (neat): very creamy and sweet, with plenty of pineapples and green melons, plus lemon drops. Not much else, but once again, that may be the strength. With water: sweet, fruity, good. Bonbons, drops and gums aplenty, plus a little candy sugar. All that is coated with some sweet oak. More acidic fruits coming out as well, chiefly grapefruits. Finish: medium, clean, fruity, easy. Comments: very likeable easy grain whisky, with excellent fruity balance. Something of Tyrconnell this time. What would Beckham think? SGP:630 - 82 points.

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



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September 8, 2015


A few Tamdhu of various styles

Time to have more Tamdhu. It’s fine malt whisky, and while the official versions have always rather been for the lower shelves (when you also own Macallan and Highland Park, you know…), the new owners Ian MacLeod seem to be pushing harder since one or two years. Some indies too…

Tamdhu 18 yo (43%, OB, +/-2008)

Tamdhu 18 yo (43%, OB, +/-2008) Two stars and a half Colour: gold. Nose: pretty light, pleasantly caramely, with some roasted malt, Ovaltine, and whiffs of smoke ala Johnnie Walker Black Label, if that rings a bell to you. Also leaves and hay, but that’s pretty all. To tell you the truth, I find this extremely discreet… Mouth: starts well, with a very malty and caramely arrival, but tends to nosedive after just five seconds, becoming cardboardy and bizarrely grassy. A little flat. Finish: short. Marmalade and chocolate. More cardboard in the aftertaste. Comments: I find it a little indefinite and hesitative, despite a pleasant arrival. SGP:441 - 78 points.

While we’re at it…

Tamdhu 25 yo (43%, OB, +/-2008)

Tamdhu 25 yo (43%, OB, +/-2008) Four stars I seem to remember the 25 was way above the 18 in the old days… Colour: gold. Nose: we’re well in the style of the 1970s Macallans indeed, with this touch of wood smoke flying above a malty and raisiny profile. There’s some tobacco as well, humus, soy sauce, marmalade, perhaps whiffs of old roses, wood polish… All that works in sync, for our pleasure. Mouth: more body, more flavours, and more complexity than in the 18, with a style that’s much more ‘tertiary’, mature, autumnal, and… mushroomy. Yes. Mint liqueur, pinesap, always a lot of malt, dry raisins, apple pie, then a touch of cinnamon, oak… It’s very fine, and it has stories to tell us. Finish: quite long given its low strength, spicy… More and more cinnamon. Comments: it was a very good – albeit unnoticed – bottle. Having said that, it’s a little troubling that we don’t quite find the huge fruitiness that’s so obvious in most good independent versions. SGP:461 - 87 points.

Tamdhu 30 yo (43%, Gordon & MacPhail, MacPhail's Collection, +/-2009)

Tamdhu 30 yo (43%, Gordon & MacPhail, MacPhail's Collection, +/-2009) Four stars A very fairly priced old Tamdhu at the time, that used to have an excellent reputation. I know I’m very late yet again, but a taster has to make choices. And better late than never! Colour: deep gold. Nose: we’re not far at all from the official 25, and to be honest, now that I’m trying this one, I have the impression that the 25 had a very ‘G&M style’. Yeah, whatever that means. So we’re very, very close. This one may have a little more honey, but other than that, it’s almost the same whisky. Strange, isn’t it? Mouth: same feeling, more or less. Perhaps a little more honeyed creaminess, and a little more orange syrup, but both whiskies are extremely similar. And similarly excellent. Finish: the finishes are identical. Comments: it’s not often that this happens. Excellent whisky nonetheless. SGP:461 - 87 points.

Time to have modern ones by new owners Ian MacLeod. Starting with the obligatory NAS…

Tamdhu 'Batch Strength' (58.8%, OB, 2015)

Tamdhu 'Batch Strength' (58.8%, OB, 2015) Three stars and a half So, NAS, but high strength. What ‘batch strength’ means, I don’t quite know. Perhaps a typo? Cask, batch… Colour: gold. Nose: much rougher indeed, with plenty of raw malt Ovaltine-style, chocolate, burnt sugar, roasted raisins and PX. It’s got gunflints too, perhaps coal, some tea, and then more prunes and black raisins. It’s not complicated, but it works very well. With water: dead leaves aplenty, saltpetre, putty, damp grains, walnuts, cherry stems… Curiously un-fruity. Mouth (neat): we’re more or less navigating between A’bunadh and Glenfarclas 105, with some heavy chocolate and raisins, and a growing grassy side, bordering rubber. Certainly good, but perhaps a bit raw. Leaves. With water: swims well! Lovely notes of tobacco and menthol, all for the better. Really benefits from water. Finish: long, half-grassy, half-raisiny. Very firm. Some mustard in the aftertaste. Comments: well in the style of the newish 10yo, with an unexpected un-sweet style. SGP:361 - 83 points.

Tamdhu 11 yo 2002/2014 (54.9%, Malts of Scotland, sherry butt, cask #MoS 14016, 679 bottles)

Tamdhu 11 yo 2002/2014 (54.9%, Malts of Scotland, sherry butt, cask #MoS 14016, 679 bottles) Four stars and a half Colour: amber. Nose: a very flinty and walnutty sherry, with lit cigars everywhere and quite a few packs of matches, plus chocolate and leather. Add a few vegetables such as celeriac and even turnips, and you’ll understand this is no sweet and luscious sherry bomb. With water: more or less the same. An old musty cave or something… Prehistoric whisky? ;-). Some shoe polish too. Mouth (neat): very rich, and you instantly think of the old Macallan Cask Strength. Really heavy, in a good way, full of chocolate and heavy honey, plus several sweet and spicy cakes. Ginger cookies? Perhaps a bit of beef jerky as well, with a little chilli. Big stuff, as they say. With water: chocolate and bitter oranges, all for the better. Tends to become a little salty, which is fun. Manzanilla? Finish: long, herbal, leathery, and even saltier. Salted chocolate. Comments: truly excellent, deep for its age, you just have to let the matches go. A matter of a few minutes. SGP:462 - 88 points.

Tamdhu-Glenlivet 25 yo 1989/2015 (53.3%, Cadenhead, Authentic Collection, bourbon hogshead, 225 bottles)

Tamdhu-Glenlivet 25 yo 1989/2015 (53.3%, Cadenhead, Authentic Collection, bourbon hogshead, 225 bottles) Four stars Bottled in July this year. An unsherried Tamdhu, that gives us a rest ;-). Colour: pale gold. Nose: but where have Tamdhu’s fruits gone? Are we cursed today? All great whiskies for sure, but I haven’t found one single fruity one. Indeed this one’s as dry as the sherry monsters, and bizarrely, it’s got flints and matches as well. What’s spectacular is this foresty side, with fern, moss, pine needles, mushrooms… No need to say this is something that we enjoy. We’ve got a mushroom here that’s the last one to grow in the season, in November, that’s called the pied-bleu (blue foot). It’s a very potent, and rather spicy mushroom. Well, this Tamdhu noses a bit of pied-bleu. With water: old books, ink, magazines, white beer. Mouth (neat): triple hurray, we found the fruits! In this case it’s all oranges and grapefruits, citrons, lemon grass, covered with ginger and white pepper. And bitterish grass. With water: lovely lemon marmalade. Robertson's Silver Shred Fine Cut Lemon Marmalade, if you want to know everything. Finish: quite long, citrusy. Peppery aftertaste. Comments: no sexy malt, it’s rather austere and Jansenist. Serious stuff, as they say. Like mucho, says this humble taster. SGP:361 - 87 points.

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



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September 7, 2015


Two indie Braeval 1992

Braeval aka Braes of Glenlivet has always been taken for an underdog, but true connoisseurs (whoof) have been in the know since Signatory issued some lovely sherried ones quite a few years ago: the whisky can be great. But we’ll rather have some ex-bourbon ones today…

Braes of Glenlivet 20 yo 1994/2015 (50.4%, Chapter 7, bourbon barrel, cask #165681, 172 bottles)

Braes of Glenlivet 20 yo 1994/2015 (50.4%, Chapter 7, bourbon barrel, cask #165681, 172 bottles) Three stars and a halfThis one’s brand new. Love the minimalist packaging, by the way. Colour: pale gold. Nose: old style! A bit raw, pretty grassy and grainy, with faint notes of ‘good’ rubber and crushed almonds, then rather ink and plasticine. It’s got the fatness of, well, true malt whisky. Also a little ale. With water: vanilla-infused ale indeed. And custard. Mouth (neat): pure malty goodness, rounder than expected, more vanilla-ed, creamier, with a few slices of ripe banana, pears, and a little crystallised orange. Some sides remind me of Glenmorangie. With water: very good for sure, natural malt whisky, full, creamy, and perfectly barleyish. Finish: quite long, always creamy. Vanilla, a little sweet oak, some grass. Comments: a kind of perfect anti-blend, I’m all for it. SGP:541 - 83 points.

Braeval 18 yo 1994/2013 (55.3%, Tasting Fellows, barrel, cask #165661, 170 bottles)

Braeval 18 yo 1994/2013 (55.3%, Tasting Fellows, barrel, cask #165661, 170 bottles) Three stars and a half A sister cask, obviously. Colour: pale gold. Nose: same, word for word and aroma for aroma. Even the extra-5% vol. don’t feel. Okay, perhaps a wee bit more marzipan in this one. With water: we got even closer. Custard and such. Butterscotch. Mouth (neat): same feeling, some zesty malt, clean, pure and totally au naturel. Barley cookies? Vanilla fudge? Pear cake? With water: same. Creamy barley, fudge, vanilla… Finish: long, vanilla-ed, a wee bit grassy, with excellent maltiness. Comments: only some mad soul would give another score to a barrel that’s so similar. Probably distilled on the very same day. SGP:541 - 83 points.

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


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September 6, 2015


A verticale of very old armagnacs
Part Un, 1975-1900

Frankly, it’s all good and well when some distinguished Scots come up with another pretty heavily priced bottle of very old malt, such as G&M’s brand new Mortlach 75 yo 1939. At least there is an age statement – and not just any age statement! But are such very old spirits extremely rare indeed? In Scotland, the answer is yes, but in other countries that are also making lovingly aged spirits? Not too sure. For example, there are some very brilliant, and even older armagnacs that retail for much, much, and I mean much less money. So, as you may have guessed, we thought we could try to retaliate to all these pricey oohs and all those obligatory aahs that are emanating from up there in Scotland with, indeed, some very, very old armagnac. Are you ready to go quite far?

Armagnac ad circa 1925

But first, a little aperitif to season our nose and palate… A very young one, a 1975…

Castarède 1975 (40%, OB, armagnac, +/-2005)

Castarède 1975 (40%, OB, armagnac, +/-2005) Four stars and a half Colour: salmony amber. Nose: straight on sultanas and ripe peaches, but rather without the usual prunes. Starts rather mellow for an armagnac, so a bit cognacqy, perhaps, but there is a little earth coming through after a while, as well as hints of mushroom. Becomes more complex over time, with some milk chocolate, and a little old Banyuls. Only the low strength makes it a little shy, but that’s something we might encounter with almost all armagnacs that we’ll try today. Mouth: excellent arrival, bigger than expected, and with this little grittiness that sets them apart from cognacs. Spiced fruits, raisins, loads of dried figs, and then a combination of rum/raisins ice cream and strong honey. Very lovely old style armagnac, let’s only hope the older ones will go the distance, this session starts almost too well. Finish: rather long, candied and jammy, with beautiful roasted raisins. Comments: almost 1950s Macallan ;-). SGP:631 - 88 points.

Warning, we’ll go down the years at the speed of light…

Francis Darroze 49 yo 1965/2014 ‘Domaine de Peyrot’ (48%, OB, Bas-armagnac, brut de fût)

Francis Darroze 49 yo 1965/2014 ‘Domaine de Peyrot’ (48%, OB, Bas-armagnac, brut de fût) Five stars Darroze have a huge reputation! Brut de fût means natural cask strength. Colour: pale amber. Nose: Waaah! Sultanas and fresh mint, then figs and lemon grass, then honeydew and butter cream, then orange liqueur and yellow chartreuse. Then mushrooms, autumn leaves, a touch of ‘good’ rubber (bicycle inner tube), and some liquorice. Simply a glorious nose – this is clearly going too fast! Mouth: oh what a punchy spirit! Starts with lemon and oranges, with some ginger, and goes on with peaches, quinces, raisins, maybe a few prunes, and this gritty leafiness that really screams ‘armagnac!’ There are some tannins, but those remain soft and never get in the way of the spirit. Finish: very long, with these oranges singing loud. Heavy liquorice in the aftertaste. Comments: if this was a Scotch, it would be an old Dalmore. I find it just superb, and it certainly is a more than perfect malternative, for approx 200/250 Euros a bottle. Aye, that price is shocking, my dear. SGP:662 - 91 points.

Was that an exceptional bottling by Darroze? Only one way to find out… Trying an even older one.

Darroze 50 yo ‘Les Grands Assemblages’ (42%, OB, Bas-armagnac, +/-2015)

Darroze 50 yo ‘Les Grands Assemblages’ (42%, OB, Bas-armagnac, +/-2015) Five stars Between 195 and 250 Euros a bottle depending on the retailers. You read that right, no zero missing. Yes, fifty years. Yes, a highly reputed house. Yes a 70cl bottle. Colour: amber. Nose: what a complex, subtle, and elegant spirit! The grapy and raisiny notes have gone to the background, leaving room for very delicate notes of artisan marzipan, soft olive oil, chocolate, wet earth, earl grey tea, oriental pastries and, perhaps, a little putty, eucalyptus and menthol. The whole is magnificent, subtle, never in-your-face, and with an amazing complexity. This nose makes most old Scotches pretty, well, rustic if you ask me. Mouth: e.x.c.e.p.t.i.o.n.a.l.,  bright, vibrant, fresh, incredibly fruity, extremely tertiary (there are myriads of flavours) and yet totally coherent. Peaches, vanilla, raisins, mangos, buttered fudge, liquorice, oranges, more raisins, dates… What I especially love in this is the way the oak only underlines the fruits and other flavours, and never comes to the front. At 50 years of age! The body’s totally perfect, and so is the strength. Amazing and glorious. Finish: long, rather a little simpler, but that’s great as it doesn’t make you want to spend hours with it, and makes you totally ready for another one. Thank you, Mr Darroze. Now, the aftertaste might be a wee tad too tannic, but 50 years! Comments: this is going too fast, and this is going too high. One of the greatest ‘new’ spirits I could taste this year, and most certainly the cheapest. SGP:651 - 93 points.

To think that you can now buy some new NAS whisky for the price of that stunning 50 yo Armagnac! Many people seem to believe that since this is a free market, as long as someone buys the product, the price is right. To me, that does not make a price right, you shouldn’t take advantage of suckers, even if they’re wealthy and even if there are many of them. Anyway, I’ve got Darroze’s 60 ans d’âge as well, and in theory, we should have it now. But we’ve got ‘younger’ vintages by other houses as well, and this is meant to be some kind of verticale… So…

Armagnac Vaghi 1963/1992 (40%, OB, Baron de Sigognac, Chai des Sables)

Armagnac Vaghi 1963/1992 (40%, OB, Baron de Sigognac, Chai des Sables) Five stars Okay, okay, this one’s much younger – but the vintage is older, or similar. Always the same dilemma with verticales, sort upon vintages or ages? Colour: amber. Nose: oh, this is completely different. Beginners sometimes believe that all armagnacs – or cognacs for that matter – taste the same. Not so, not so, and if they do, Ardbeg and Auchentoshan taste the same as well. So, this one’s much more roasted, chocolaty and coffee-ish. In a way, it’s more ‘old style’ than the Darrozes, but it’s certainly not less entrancing. Wonderful smoky coffee, black earth after a long hot day, black tobacco, and chocolate cake straight from the oven. Wow. Mouth: ooooh… Glory glory hallelujah! Amazing caramelised quinces, roasted raisins, genuine café latte (not Starbucks’!), kugelhopf, panettone, and more roasted raisins. Stunning mouth feel, perfect strength, amazing spirit. And not even 30, mind you, it’s almost a baby armagnac! Finish: long, a wee bit caramelly, candied, with plenty of dried fruits. Even bananas, mind you. Comments: good, I had thought this baby would have been a perfect ‘break’ armagnac after the Darroze 50. I was wrong – who said once again? Who?. SGP:652 - 92 points.

Pfff, only 1963, we’re running late… But Castarède is on again…

Castarède 1957 (40%, OB, armagnac, +/-2005)

Castarède 1957 (40%, OB, armagnac, +/-2005) Four stars So around 50 years of age. Remember, over there in humanist Scotland, this kind of baby would now cost you around £10,000. Colour: amber. Nose: well in the style of the 1975, as if the vineyard was exactly the same. But there are a little more herbs, such as parsley, a feeling of beef bouillon, a bit of leather, perhaps a spoonful of strawberry jam, certainly a little marmalade, some chestnut puree… It’s just that the power is a little low this time, after the glorious ones that we just tried. Let’s check the palate… Mouth: yess! It’s a rather rustic one, that tastes of the farm, the countryside, the grass, the prunes, the ducks, the geese (wot?)… Well, we’re well in the south-west of France. I imagine this excellent old armagnac would go very well with foie gras. With a bit of black truffle right in the middle! Finish: perhaps a little short, and that’s most probably because of the dreadful 40% vol. The EU should make that strength streng verboten beyond cheap vodkas and gins. Yes, and blended Scotch. Comments: a bit short, and that’s a shame. An old armagnac that had just everything but that’s also a little frustrating. Great spirit nonetheless, just a tad weakish. SGP:641 - 86 points.

Serge, faster please…

Darroze 60 yo ‘Les Grands Assemblages’ (42%, OB, Bas-armagnac, +/-2015)

Darroze 60 yo ‘Les Grands Assemblages’ (42%, OB, Bas-armagnac, +/-2015) Four stars 499€. I kid you not. Yup, 70cl again, not 50cl in a bottle that looks almost the same as a 70cl if you’re not careful. Doesn’t that ring a bell? Colour: dark amber. Nose: it’s often said – well, I often write – that great old spirits from anywhere in the world tend to converge, and this is yet another fine example. Indeed it’s got notes of very old Demerara, it’s certainly got ‘ideas’ of pre-WWII Macallan, it’s got touches of hyper-old Calvados, and it’s got fantabulous whiffs of coffee from the best plantations, perhaps is that Ethiopia, perhaps is it Jamaica. In fact, it’s a whole, it’s not a collection of various aromas and scents. I’ll say it again, wow. Mouth: well well well, nope. We’ve gone too far, it’s getting tannic and drying, it’s lacking smoothness, and it really becoming too gritty and, yeah, drying. You need a lot of intellectualisation to really enjoy this on the palate. The nose was fabulous, but the palate, well, rather less so in my opinion. Don’t get me wrong, it’s great old armagnac, but I think it’s past its prime. The 50 yo anytime over this. Finish: a bit better, thanks to rummy notes of dried bananas and burning leaves. Herbal tannins in the aftertaste. Comments: it would be excruciating to give a bad score to this grandpa armagnac, but to be honest, the palate did not hold a candle to the very fantastic nose. To think that Robert Parker himself just loved this one! SGP:461 - 85 points.

Have we gone too far this time? Only one way to find out – because mind you, this isn’t over yet… Let’s jump to WWII, and try this…

Laubade 1942/2003 (40%, OB, Armagnac)

Laubade 1942/2003 (40%, OB, Armagnac) Two stars and a half So another 60 years old, just to make sure. Laubade are well-known for being able to find almost any vintage. Well, maybe not 1811… Anyway, this baby survived the thirsty Wehrmacht! Colour: red amber. Nose: I’ve often found that Laubade’s armagnacs were the closest to cognacs, and this is no exception. Starts with a combination of rich stewed fruits, chocolate, and cappuccino, and gets then pretty oaky, but in an elegant way. Freshly polished old Jaguar dashboard, humidor, chocolate, cigars. It’s old armagnac as the general public – well, in France – thinks it should be. I have to say I do also enjoy these notes of blackberry jam. Mouth: a little unlikely, slightly disjointed, and certainly quite tannic. Last night’s black tea, old Bordeaux from a dry vintage (1975 anyone?), oloroso sherry… Rather disappointing, I have to say, it’s rather lost its oomph. Finish: medium, grapy, drying. Bitter chocolate and over-infused tea. Comments: a good example of an old spirit that was kept in wood for too long, in my humble opinion. Good as a birthday gift – should your vintage be 1942 – but other than that, honestly, it’s a disappointment… SGP:371 - 78 points.

Down 13 years please…

Goudoulin 1929/1972 (40%, OB, Armagnac, for Monsieur Ruppert Epp, Lucerne)

Goudoulin 1929/1972 (40%, OB, Armagnac, for Monsieur Ruppert Epp, Lucerne) Four stars Some kind of private bottling for a Swiss gentleman – I hope he bought it before the Wall Street crash -, by a good house that still exists today. They are located in Courrensan, in the Gers region. Colour: dark amber. Nose: some kind of blend of old earthy pu-erh tea and smoky lapsang, plus quite some coffee, chocolate, and black raisins. We aren’t far from the Vaghi’s style, with the coffee-ish notes up, and the fruity ones rather down. That’s rather the ‘old style’ of armagnac, while, in my very weak experience, more modern armagnacs are rather fruitier. Now, it’s pretty beautiful, you just have to enjoy coffee as much as I do. Mouth: perfect, classic, old style indeed, and totally prune-y. So bags and bags of prunes, black liquorice, espresso, black raisins, caramel (they may have, ahem, added some, the Scots did not invent spirit caramel)… But it’s globally quite perfect. You just have to enjoy coffee… and coffee liqueur. Finish: rather long, although the ‘centre’ is a little short. A curious feeling. Plenty of chocolate in the aftertaste. Comments: it’s hard to judge this old one. Imagine, 1929! And who are we, by the way? So it may not be totally ‘natural’, meaning unseasoned, but I’ve just decided that it was a thrill. 1929, my god… SGP:461 - 86 points.

Laberdolive 1923 ‘Domaine de Jaurrey’ (40%, OB, Bas-Armagnac, Folle Blanche, +/-1990)

Laberdolive 1923 ‘Domaine de Jaurrey’ (40%, OB, Bas-Armagnac, Folle Blanche, +/-1990) Three stars A well-reputed house, and armagnac’s well-known old grape, folle blanche. Which you could translate into ‘the mad white’. Laberdolive is a superbly old-fashioned brand. This baby’s almost 70 years old! Colour: amber. Nose: oh. Let’s not rush things too much. This one tells you secrets, it tells you about its encounters with Gershwin, with Picasso… It whispers low, it’s murmuring, it’s not big, it’s even a little fragile, a tad too earthy, it may lack fruits, power, immediacy, modernity… But it’s got these whiffs of old ink, old books, old magazines, old powder, old mint cream… Some would call this ‘weak’, but I don’t agree. It’s just well-mannered. But the palate will tell us the truth… Mouth: oh. Mysteries and secrets, lightness and… coffee grounds. It is, indeed, some fragile old armagnac, not immediately satisfying, and even a little frustrating. But then you’re remembering this baby was distilled when the first 24 Heures du Mans took place, and you cannot not be amazed. Finish: a little short, a little fragile, a little wobbly. But moving it is. Comments: time in a bottle. It’s not a tasting session, we’re wandering through time. 1923, imagine… SGP:341 - 80 points.

Back, back, back… Towards the beginning of WWI…

Robert Castagnon 1914 (40%, OB, Armagnac, Ferraretto, Italy, +/-1975)

Robert Castagnon 1914 (40%, OB, Armagnac, Ferraretto, Italy, +/-1975) Four stars and a half 1914… I know this baby’s only 60 years old, but still, 1914… Imagine, the fracas of time… The house Castagnon was located in Nogaro, it seems that the brand belong to Armagnac Ducastaing. Colour: coffee. Nose: very old Sauternes. Sauternes from similar vintages, that is. And parsley (I often find parsley in extremely old spirits), oxtail soup, oyster sauce, bitter chocolate, humus, pine needles, mushrooms, dark cigars, more soups, more bouillons… I find this totally amazing, extremely far from the Darrozes, for instance, but this very herbal style is just flabbergasting. What I find fantastic is that there isn’t one single fruit, and yet it’s totally brilliant. Oh, did I mention gunpowder? You’re right, 1914…

Mouth: strange, in a great way. These very old spirits tend to lose focus, and to go into all directions, but that makes them even more interesting. What’s very moving is to find small notes of modern armagnac, as if this was distilled last year. Cherries, for example, raisins, oranges… And certainly quite a lot of coffee and chocolate. Now, the beefy notes are gone. Finish: medium, chocolaty, perhaps a tad too cardboardy. But 1914! Comments: imagine the guys who distilled this. Velvet trousers, big moustaches, bérets, jokes, and plenty of authenticity. The problem is that they were probably sent to war just a few weeks later. Verdun, anyone? SGP:451 - 88 points.

Good, how about an armagnac that’s more than 100 years old?

Baron de Saint-Feux 1904/2007 (40%, OB, Armagnac)

Baron de Saint-Feux 1904/2007 (40%, OB, Armagnac) Two stars The house Baron de Saint-Feux, in Castelnau d'Auzan, still exists. That is right, this is 102 or 103 years old armagnac. Beat this! 1904 was the year of the Entente Cordiale, signed in April between the United Kingdom and France, so of the terrible sharing of Africa between both colonial nations. Colour: dark red amber. Nose: what an amazing freshness. Earth, mushrooms, moss, old tree bark, old cigars, more earth, even more earth, plenty of earth, and dark chocolate, tobacco, Russian black tea, Spanish ham, extremely old amontillado, drops of engine oil… Sure it’s not Port Ellen 20 yo Rare Malt as far as power is concerned (oh come on), but this extremely umami-esque nose is, well, superbly complex. My, 1904! Mouth: but it fights, and it boxes, and it punches you! It’s gritty, it lacks smoothness, it’s very ‘artisan’, it’s totally unpolished, it’s drying, it’s tea-ish, it’s, well, not too good in fact, but it’s more than 100 years old. Get it? More than one hundred years old. The kind of age that some lovely Scots will try to sell us for £10,000,000 a bottle around the year 2050, if all goes well. You bet? Finish: rather long, but dry and drying, not too far from the grassiest old Calvados. Comments: some ‘symbolic’ old armagnac. I do not find it very good, to be honest, but that may not imply that all 100+ years old spirits should be too tannic. We’ll soon double-check that… SGP:251 - 75 points (but 100 emotional points).

So could we go even further? Like, tasting 106 years old armagnac? You bet? After all, is this armagnacfun… I mean, whiskyfun.com or not?

Laubade 1900/2006 (40%, OB, Armagnac)

Laubade 1900/2006 (40%, OB, Armagnac) Five stars No words, no words… We’re in the 19th century! Because no, 1900 was not the first year of the 20th century, it was well the last year of the 19th. Colour: dark red amber. Nose: I don’t think any spirit could be as moving as this. It’s got glazed chestnuts, it’s got fine Italian leather, it’s got whiffs of old incunabulum, it’s got myrtle, benzoin, ambergris and vetiver, it’s got old roses and forgotten liqueurs from the colonies, it’s got stewed strawberries, and it’s even got a little ham. I’m serious, ham. The whole’s a little light, but its complexity is just mesmerising. Mouth: yeah yeah yeah yeah yeah! Fresher than the 1923, 1914 and 1904, and even rather fruity. We’re rather talking fruitcake, in fact, or old jam, because it’s no big spirit, obviously. But it’s amazing that it’s still alive, that it did not go flat, and that it didn’t become as dry as some old black tea. There’s some life in this, despite the 106 years in wood, and we just couldn’t accuse the owners of only selling these vintages to people who celebrate birthdays. How many people who were born in 1900 were still as alive as this in 2006? Even on Okinawa? Finish: short, obviously, and rather too sappy/resinous, but again, there’s some life in this. The aftertaste is a little grapy, but those were grapes that had been harvested in the year 1900. Enough said. Comments: it seems like we’ve just tried our oldest spirit ever. One hundred and six years old. I don’t know what to say… SGP:341 - 90 points.

Well, I think we should stop ‘Part Un’ now. This is getting totally insane. But do you know what we’ll taste next time, in Part Deux? A whole bunch of armagnacs that were all distilled in the 19th century. No I am not joking! So, stay tuned… Oh and just one little thing, when we’re writing ‘106 years old’, for example, we’re taking any possible ageing in demijohns into account, so that does not obligatorily mean that the spirit was kept in wood for all of its life. But demijohns are also maturing vessels, and are usually fitted with bung-clothes that let them breathe. So they’re not like sealed bottles!


(heartfelt thanks to Diego and Olivier)



Block Today: JAZZ. Performer: Django Reinhardt. Track: September Song. Please buy his music...

September 4, 2015


Good Auchentoshan 1992 vs. 1992

I know we’ve already had quite some Auchentoshans just a few weeks ago, but this is a way of trying to keep a summery sun above our heads. Because to me, Auchentoshan is the epitomical summery malt whisky… I’d add that I find it quite ironic that Littlemill’s rather more sought after than Auchentoshan these days. Would someone have imagined that would happen, thirty years ago! Like, someone at Littlemill…

Auchentoshan 23 yo 1992/2015 (46.6%, Cadenhead, Small Batch)

Auchentoshan 23 yo 1992/2015 (46.6%, Cadenhead, Small Batch) Four stars Colour: white wine. Nose: we’re far from the vanilla-ed officials, this one’s rather a fresh and mineral one, with quite some cut grass, watermelons, lemongrass, a faint fizziness that reminds us of effervescent vitamin tablets, and then perhaps notes of vanilla-flavoured yoghurt (and lemon-flavoured ones as well). Noses very ‘natural’. Mouth: a very sharp, very zesty arrival that feels stronger than 46%. There’s a lot of lemon squash, a feeling of limestone and chalk, grasses, a touch of plasticine, as well as more and more bitter herbs. Grapefruit skin. Finish: medium, sharp, herbal. Touches of salted salmiak in the aftertaste, which reminds me of that funny Finnish thing we tried the other Sunday. Comments: it’s not an easy Auchentoshan at all, at least not one you could pour just anyone. Perhaps a more intellectual one? SGP:451 - 85 points.

Auchentoshan 23 yo 1992/2015 (52%, Maltbarn, bourbon, 134 bottles)

Auchentoshan 23 yo 1992/2015 (52%, Maltbarn, bourbon, 134 bottles) Four stars Colour: gold. Nose: this is very interesting, because it’s obviously the same distillate, only matured in more active American oak that added creaminess and ‘sexiness’, while filtering out the grassy and ‘tablety’ notes. So it feels a little less natural, and rather easier, which is not obligatorily a bad thing mind you. Let’s check it with water:  we recreated the Cadenhead, with a bit more fruits, and a bit less limestone. Mouth (neat): we’re closer to the Cadenhead right from the start, with these massive grassy notes, and this bitterish lemony side. Zests and clay are ruling this baby! With water: lemon and lime all over the place. It’s a Auchentoshan that really hints at… some kind of blend of Bladnoch and Rosebank, perhaps? Finish: medium, on the same limy notes. Comments: one more point for more easiness, but we’re clearly in the same category. SGP:541 - 86 points.

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



Block Today: JAZZ BLUES. Performer: James Blood Ulmer. Track: Forbidden Blues. Please buy his music...

September 3, 2015


Unlikely whiskies or quasi-whiskies
from the rest of the world

… As our Scottish friends would say… Well not sure they can still say that, given the current success of some of these whiskies ‘from the rest of the world’…

Praskoveykoe 4 yo (40%, OB, Russia, bottled 2009)

Praskoveykoe 4 yo (40%, OB, Russia, bottled 2009) Two starsRussian whisky made in the Stavropol Region, at Praskoveya Winery. That's in northern Caucasus. We had tried a 5yo back in 2011 and found it more than acceptable (WF 70). Colour: straw. Nose: it’s a sweet and fruity drop, it seems, full of pears and apples, with pleasant notes of ripe sweet barley and perhaps a touch of sweet vanilla. As often, there’s also a little dust, hints of cardboard, a little flour perhaps… No big nose, and no off note either. Mouth: again, this isn’t unpleasant, with apples and oranges, then vanilla and shortbread. It’s light bodied, without any obvious flaws, and no traces of burnt stuff as may be found in unlikely ‘foreign’ whiskies. I could drink this (while in Caucasus!) Finish: medium, sweet, with touches of jams and liqueurs. Perhaps plum eau-de-vie? Comments: honest and serious young local whisky. I think I’ll use the same score as that of the 5yo. SGP:341 - 70 points.

Brenne (40%, OB, France, single malt, +/-2015)

Brenne (40%, OB, France/USA, single malt, +/-2015)Two stars French whisky totally unknown to the French, marketed in America by some Americans, how unlikely is that. It’s a bit like the infamous Bastille, perhaps. It’s made in the Cognac region, using cognac stills I guess, and while Brenne is also the name of a lovely region of France, that’s rather around 150 or 200 km away from Cognac. Colour: deep gold. Nose: very unlikely, but not unpleasant. It’s got notes of overripe mangos and molassy rum, plus a lot of overripe bananas, which rather gives this baby some kind of Caribbean style. Not quite whisky, but truly ‘world’. In fact, blinded, I’d have said rum from Mauritius. Mouth: same feeling, this is much more rum than whisky. Bananas again, sweet medicine for kids, strawberry sweets, a little vanilla again, plus an oaky structure in the background (cinnamon, white pepper, tea). Finish: rather short, with more tannins coming out. Vanilla cream in the aftertaste. Comments: not a bad spirit at all, it's even rather likeable, and indeed it reminds me of some cured rums. Just don’t expect Ardbeg. Or Cognac XO. Or Glann ar Mor, for that matter… SGP:620 - 70 points.

Debowa Polska Golden Oak Vodka (40%, OB, Poland,+/-2014)

Debowa Polska Golden Oak Vodka (40%, OB, Poland,+/-2014) Oak aged vodka, or probably rather oak flavoured vodka. I don’t know if the vodka was made with grains, which would have made this baby a quasi-whisky, but let’s just taste it… Colour: white wine. Nose: more grassy vodka than whisky, for sure. Ethanol, mown lawn, more grass, even more grass, truckload of grass, fruit peelings, and perhaps a little oak indeed. But no vanilla-ed extravaganza! Mouth: sweeter, and rather vanilled this time. Sugar syrup, custard, tinned pears, more sugar… And perhaps a touch of strawberries. Another one that’s no bad spirit, it’s just a little ‘in the middle of nowhere’. Finish: very short. Vanilla and corn syrup. Comments: rather bland, but acceptable as some kind of component in some kind of cocktail, and certainly not repulsive. A good occasion to use a 50-mark, that doesn’t happen so often. SGP:330 - 50 points.

Well, it seems that our Russian whisky’s leading the pack at this stage… Wait, weren’t we in Poland?...

Polugar ‘Classic Rye' (38.5%, OB, Poland, unaged, +/-2013)

Polugar ‘Classic Rye' (38.5%, OB, Poland, unaged, +/-2013) Two stars Russian ‘breadwine’ made in Poland in pot stills. We have already tried some malted rye by Polugar, and that one was excellent (WF 80). Colour: white – so not aged in wood. Nose: feels like distilled bread, and this is something I enjoy. Rye, obviously, liquorice, caraway, juniper, a little fennel perhaps… And massive whiffs of some wholegrain bread straight from the baker’s oven. A touch of earth as well. It’s probably no very deep spirit, but it was distilled with care. Mouth: oily, on the same notes. Too bad it’s only bottled at 38.5%, that makes it a notch flabby. A hint of smoked ham, perhaps, otherwise herbs, caraway, a little ginger, and a lot of bread. Finish: not short, very bready, and spicy. Bizarrely, I find touches of dry oak, while there obviously isn’t any. Comments: good spirit for sure, but its too light. Especially when you know that good rye can make for true powerhouses. SGP:361 - 72 points.

Ankara 5 yo Malt Viski (43%, OB, Turkey, +/-2000)

Ankara 5 yo Malt Viski (43%, OB, Turkey, +/-2000) Two stars Some malt whisky made by a large Turkish state-owned monopolistic corporation called Tekel, since 1963. Sadly, they stopped make it quite a few years ago, and it even seems that that state monopoly was disbanded and privatised in 2004. Tekel were also making raki, Turkey’s national liquor, as well as, if I remember well, cigarettes. Colour: gold. Nose: vanilla and sawdust are ruling the whole thing, then sponge cake and biscuits. It’s very simple, and perhaps rather bourbony at times (no straight malty aromas to be seen), but I think it used to do the trick. I remember we were drinking it with Coke while vacationing around Bodrum, and we weren’t complaining… Mouth: surprisingly good. Or rather more than acceptable, with good oak, vanilla, orange liqueur, sweet bread, and, perhaps, three drops of raki. No, I’m joking. Good body. Finish: a bit short, but these spices from the oak and the oranges work in sync. Comments: even more to my liking than I remembered. Our Turkish friends were making it very well! It’s a bit of a shame that now that there seems to be an enthusiastic whisky scene in Turkey, the country stopped making this good whisky. SGP:441 - 74 points.

Good, Turkey takes the lead!

P&M (42%, OB, pure malt, France, Corsica, +/-2007)

P&M (42%, OB, pure malt, France, Corsica, +/-2007) An older bottle of the Corsican P&M. We’ve tried a recent batch two years ago and it’s been to my liking (WF 78). P&M contains chestnuts, and some say that chestnuts aren’t grains, hence that this couldn’t be whisky. I’m calling that being a notch too picky, perhaps… Colour: gold. Nose: fern, burning wood, cider apples, cider, charcoal, these sorts of things. Rather unusual, but not unpleasant. It’s rather light, it seems… Mouth: more difficult. The texture is perfect, but the oak feels, and you’ve got an impression of cardboard and cheap fruit liqueur. Saccharin. And certainly sweet beer. Pass… Finish: quite long, a tad drier, but also a little soapy. Comments: all I can confirm is that P&M have improved their malt whiskies a lot since they started. A lot! SGP:430 - 55 points.

Penderyn ‘That Try’ (41%, OB, Wales, 2015)

Penderyn ‘That Try’ (41%, OB, Wales, 2015) Two stars A lot of story around this bottle, rugby, tries, old legends and all that. Now they just wouldn’t tell you what’s inside the bottle, except that it’s Penderyn. No age, vintage, wood type… A little short, perhaps? Colour: white wine. Nose: peated apples and white cherries, perhaps, plus grapefruit and sweet porridge. I’ve always found quite a lot of porridge in Penderyn – not that I’ve tasted hundreds, mind you. I quite enjoy the notes of sauvignon blanc as well. A Sancerre from Wales? Mouth: a little light, but the profile is very fine, sweetly smoky, with again these feeling of sauvignon blanc and smoked grapefruits. Sadly, it tends to nosedive, loosing steam and power, and becoming dry and rather too ashy. That must be the 41% vol. Finish: short, dry, ashy. Too bad, some sides were really nice. Comments: it’s a little funny to celebrate rugby legends with a light whisky – whether peated or not – but again, some sides were very pleasant. SGP:444 - 75 points.

Wales just took the lead, while using a story about their rugby team defeating the All-Blacks back in 1973. The All-Blacks? Hold on…

New Zealand Whisky 22 yo 1991/2013 (60.5%, OB, Willowbank, New Zealand, bourbon barrel, cask #135)

New Zealand Whisky 22 yo 1991/2013 (60.5%, OB, Willowbank, New Zealand, bourbon barrel, cask #135) Three stars Other vintages have been very good, especially a 25 yo at 46% vol. (WF 85). Some older bottlings from the same distillery, bearing other names such as Milford or Lammerlaw, have been a little more unlikely IMHO. Colour: gold. Nose: very grassy, and almost closed. That’s the high strength. Broken branches, leaves, almonds… Not much. With water: white bread, soot, putty, and perhaps this kind of spritz car dealers put into their second-hand cars to make them smell newer. Mouth (neat): a Jonah-Lomu-esque arrival, massive, citric, flinty, and rather bready/cerealy. Rather raw despite the older age, but as always, water should help… With water: ah yes, this is good. A grassy, citrusy, sooty and grainy profile, rather raw again, but full and, as they say, satisfying. No ultra-deep whisky, bit it works. Finish: quite long, with lemons and chalk or clay. Comments: a good beast, of ‘Scottish quality’. May lack definition at times, but, well, I really liked it. SGP:362 - 82 points.

It seems that the Kiwis just took the lead, but the game isn’t over yet…

Amrut 2009/2014 (56.5%, OB, India, for Taiwan, Indian barley, PX, cask #2702, 360 bottles)

Amrut 2009/2014 (56.5%, OB, India, for Taiwan, Indian barley, PX, cask #2702, 360 bottles) Three stars This baby lost 46% of its content to the angels, according to the label. Colour: gold. Nose: we’re having cakes and raisins aplenty, a little earth as well, but perhaps not Amrut’s trademark citrusy brightness this time. PX can be tricky! A little sour wood as well. With water: more sour wood, leaves, old cellar, humus, saltpetre… A very earthy one. Mouth (neat): rich and very cake-y. More citrus this time, but also a wee dusty side, which makes it slightly dirty and sour. That’s not bad at all, but yet again, I find this one rather un-Amrut on the palate. Chestnut purée, praline, milk chocolate… With water: same feeling. This dusty earthiness is a little troubling. Like the chocolate, though. Raisin-filled Lindt chocolate. Finish: quite long, with brighter oranges and always quite a lot of milk chocolate. The aftertaste is a tad dusty again. Comments: very good, of course, but I believe we’ve all tried brighter Amruts. SGP:551 - 81 points.

The Kiwis are keeping the upper hand. Let’s try another rugby country…

Lark 'Small Cask Aged' (43%, OB, Australia, Tasmania, Port cask, cask #516, 2014)

Lark 'Small Cask Aged' (43%, OB, Australia, Tasmania, Port cask, cask #516, 2014) Four stars An unusual lighter Lark, after the ‘monsters’ we’ve tried last year. Colour: amber. Nose: a few touches of pencil shavings form those ‘small casks’, I guess, but other than that, were pretty much in old Macallan territories, which I find highly surprising. These dried figs, these raisins, this coal smoke as well, these slightly meaty notes… This has depth and complexity – while I’m sure it’s young stuff. Mouth: oak spices, raisins, honey, a touch of mint, a touch of liquorice, some caraway for sure, quite some coffee (the oak again?), café latte, butterscotch… It’s the coffee that’s most impressive. Café-Kuchen? Good body at just 43%, which mean that the spirit’s got depth. Finish: medium, and guess what, it reminds me of the old Macallan 12 again. Comments: I didn’t get the Port, and I won’t complain. I like this little Lark quite a lot. SGP:561 - 85 points.

Australia has got the upper hand now. Let’s fly back to Asia. To Taiwan, but not to Kavalan…

Nantou 'Bourbon Type' (46%, OB, TTL, Taiwan, +/-2014)

Nantou 'Bourbon Type' (46%, OB, TTL, Taiwan, +/-2014) Two stars and a half Our first Nantou! This is probably quite young… BTW, Nantou is made by TTL, a story that reminds us of Ankara and Tekel, as TTL, which means Taiwan Tobacco & Liquor, is a corporation owned by the state, and a former monopoly as well. Colour: pale gold. Nose: some light easy bourbony malt that reminds me of some entry-level Japanese malts. A young Yamazaki or something. Vanilla cake, apple pie, barley… It’s not complex, but it’s balanced and very pleasant. Custard! Mouth: very good, very easy, well crafted, with vanilla, cake, oranges, apples and a touch of sour cream. I haven’t got anything bad to say against this, it’s just not extremely… mindboggling? Finish: medium, very clean, vanilla-ed, barleyish, cake-y. Comments: very Japanese indeed. Little magic,  whisky that’s perhaps a notch technological, but totally indisputable. They’re heading this way in Scotland too, you know… SGP:441 - 79 points.

Another chance…

Nantou 'Sherry type' (46%, OB, TTL, Taiwan, +/-2014)

Nantou 'Sherry type' (46%, OB, TTL, Taiwan, +/-2014) Three stars Indeed, the Japanese way. So sherry this time… Colour: gold. Nose: it’s the bourbon plus raisins. Light, balanced, easy… Mouth: pleasant, easy, and even quite complex. Pink grapefruits, sultanas, rosehip tea, a very discreet spiciness (pink pepper, bay leaves) and then perhaps dog roses. Very good, no doubt at all. They must have put a lot of care into these batches. Finish: medium, extremely well balanced, with soft oak spices, fruits, some malt, and pastries. I even find a subtle phenolic touch, around lamp oil or other ‘chemical’ oils. Comments: no, really, this is very good. Made with a lot of seriousness and care, and I doubt you could do much better within just a few years. Perhaps not much thrill yet, but that may come… SGP:451 - 81 points.

And guess what, they do single casks as well! Let’s try one of them – not more – and we’ll call this a tasting session.

Nantou 2009/2014 (55.1%, OB, TTL, for emba wine club, Taiwan, bourbon, cask #098, 192 bottles)

Nantou 2009/2014 (55.1%, OB, TTL, for emba wine club, Taiwan, bourbon, cask #098, 192 bottles) Three stars and a half Another bottling that feels very ‘Suntory’… That’s smart! Colour: gold. Nose: straight, clean, bourbony style. The vanilla’s rather loud, but there’s very little coconut, which is a sign of good quality in my book. If you feel the coconut in anything ex-American oak, it’s junk. There. Butter cream, brioche, white chocolate, freshly sawn planks, custard… A well-known song, but there aren’t any off notes. With water: oh nice! Teas and herbs, vanilla, light honey, fresh oak… Mouth (neat): technologically perfect. Oranges, vanilla, toasted oak, apple pie, shortbread, oatcakes, custard, acacia honey… The oranges add a little vibrancy to this combo. Smart! With water: quite nice, smooth yet not dull or flabby, it just loses a bit of focus and tends to become a little… Indefinite? Now you feel the barley and you feel fresh oak. Finish: medium, perhaps a tad plankish. Not much happening. Lose points here. Comments: they must have benchmarked Suntory (whom, in turn, may have benchmarked the….) The finish wasn’t utterly great, but all the rest was ‘pretty perfect’. Kudos. SGP:451 - 83 points.

So, who won? The Kiwis! I hope that wasn’t a prefiguration of this year’s Rugby World Cup… (but we haven’t tasted any of the best French whiskies today, hehehehe…)

Bonus, this baby just in, so tasted a few days after our main session was completed...

Paul John ‘Bold’ (46%, OB, India, 2015)

Paul John ‘Bold’ (46%, OB, India, 2015) Four stars A brand new peater by Paul John in Goa. I remember I had found the ‘Peated’ at 55% vol. much to my liking back in June this year (WF 86). Colour: dark gold. Nose: it’s a different peat smoke, we’re not exactly on Islay and I have to say some notes remind me of some Mackmyra. How strange. The oak’s been pretty active too, and the problem is that once you know it’s an Indian malt, you just cannot not think of Indian cooking and spices. Which I love, by the way. So yeah, some kind of soft and sweet curry, perhaps, smoked dal, a touch of smoky incense, and even, yes, a pan pack of readymade popadums. I’m aware that all that sounds stupid, and that there should be any ‘Indian’ smells in this, but there. Oh, and I find it extremely well balanced. So it’s unusual, but absolutely not weird. Mouth: same very spicy feeling, with some curry-flavoured bitter chocolate – yes – and certainly plenty of cardamom and nutmeg. It’s also a little drier than expected, and would rather develop on bitter oranges and maybe a little rosemary and thyme. Finish: long, always spicy, always ‘Indian’. Bizarrely, I find Paul John’s peaters more Indian than their unpeated offerings. Very smoky aftertaste, with some oak. Comments: not only funny whisky for old hippies, this ‘stuff’ is surprisingly well made. As some used to say in brochures, ‘this will make a nice addition to your peated collection’. SGP:456 - 85 points.



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September 2, 2015


A large bag of Irish whiskies

We don’t taste Irish very often, so let’s not waste this opportunity to go relatively deep… I said relatively. New bottlings, older bottlings, officials, indies...

Jameson 'Select Reserve' (40%, OB, Irish blend, small batch, batch #JQ-058548, +/-2014)

Jameson 'Select Reserve' (40%, OB, Irish blend, small batch, batch #JQ-058548, +/-2014) Two stars and a half A newish blended Midleton. Retails for 35/40€. Colour: gold. Nose: the pot still components speak loud, with whiffs of copper, overripe apples, tea and tropical fruits (rather around guavas). Broken branches. I find this style fairly dry, in fact. Mouth: sweeter, and yet there’s this dryness in the background. Dried breadcrumbs, bitter chocolate, always these metallic touches, and these overripe apples, peaches, and greengages. Perhaps a little PX or other sweet wines. Cornflakes, toasted bread. Finish: a little short, and rather on herbal teas, as ‘usual’. Hawthorn springs to mind. PX again in the aftertaste, cocoa powder, and always these metallic touches. Comments: certainly good, but I find it a little thin and lacking power. Must be the 40% vol. We’re still quite far from Midleton’s excellent pure pot still whiskeys. SGP:441 - 77 points.

Bushmills 10 yo (40%, OB, Irish single malt, +/-2014)

Bushmills 10 yo (40%, OB, Irish single malt, +/-2014) Two stars Time to try a newer batch of Bushmills 10. Mixed feelings back in 2007 (WF 74). Colour: pale gold. Nose: very soft, vanilla-ed, with some barley syrup and light all-flower honey, then more tropical fruits than in the Jameson, especially bananas. Maybe tangerines and only a smidgen of passion fruit. Tinned peaches. Mouth: some might call this ‘girly’ but that would mean being horribly sexist. Light and fruity, with more or less the same flavours as in the nose, bananas, cornflakes, light muesli… But it tends to become a little tea-ish and dry. A little thin. Finish: short, rather grassier. Comments: it’s perhaps a little narrow for a malt. The fruitiness tends to fade away. SGP:431 - 76 points.

Teeling 'Single Grain' (46%, OB, Irish grain, wine casks, 2013)

Teeling 'Single Grain' (46%, OB, Irish grain, wine casks, 2013) Two stars Some great whiskeys by Teeling already, but a grain finished in wine wood? Sounds very unlikely, let’s see… Colour: pale gold. Nose: very soft. Vanilla, bubblegum, marshmallows, a little green tea, a little saw dust. Blackcurrant buds, perhaps. This shy baby whispers… Mouth: easiness! Good fruity, sweet arrival, with Haribo’s best and some vanilla and white chocolate, while it tends to become grassier later on, with some green wood. The body’s not thick. Finish: rather short, with sweets and green tea. Comments: bizarrely, we’re pretty much in Bushmills 10 territories, although that one was a malt. Fine, but not characterful spirit. Rather for cocktailers and master mixologists? SGP:430 - 75 points.

The Irishman '70' (40%, OB, pot still Irish, +/-2009)

The Irishman '70' (40%, OB, pot still Irish, +/-2009) Two stars and a half An older bottle of The Irishman. The label states that this is ‘unique Irish pot still whiskey with 70% malt Irish whiskey’. Okay! Colour: pale gold. Nose: oilier, it seems, more syrupy than all other ones, with rather melons that hint at… Redbreast? It’s a pleasant nose, with this typical oily fruitiness. I also get fresh almonds, orgeat syrup… Mouth: a little light, perhaps. Here we go again… Tinned fruits, a little fudge, melon wine, light honey… It’s light, but I find it pleasant. It’s got rather more depth than the others. Finish: quite short, on honeyed herbal tea. Your pick. Comments: very fine Irish. It doesn’t sing loud, but you wouldn’t dump it into Coca-Cola either. SGP:541 - 79 points.

We may have the solution at hand…

The Irishman 'Rare Cask Strength' (56%, OB, Irish, 1400  bottles, bottled 2008)

The Irishman 'Rare Cask Strength' (56%, OB, Irish, 1400  bottles, bottled 2008) Three stars The label wouldn’t tell us whether it’s pure pot still, blended Irish, or malt… Colour: straw. Nose: not too sure. Vanilla and overripe fruits? With water: herbal teas and a curious soapy tone. Bourbony vanilla. Mouth (neat): fruits, as expected. Rather around kiwis, apricots, then drops of sunflower oil and light honey. Very easy despite the strength. With water: unfolds like a newborn butterfly. Papayas and guavas, bananas, vanilla, blond cornflakes, oatcakes, sugarcane syrup. Pleasant. Finish: medium, with this oily mouth feel, quite some vanilla, and plenty of tinned fruits. Comments: really fine, I find. I’ll try to taste a newer bottling one of these days. Weeks. Months. Years! SGP:541 - 81 points.

While we’re trying older bottlings…

Cooley 9 yo 1999/2009 ‘Our Angel’ (46%, The Nectar, Daily Dram, Irish single malt)

Cooley 9 yo 1999/2009 ‘Our Angel’ (46%, The Nectar, Daily Dram, Irish single malt) Four stars From when there were quite a lot of indie Cooleys around… Say ten ;-). Colour: straw. Nose: starts slightly eau-de-vie-ish, but bright, fruity yet not too fruity, with a little shoe polish and putty. I especially love these whiffs of grapefruits that rise to your nostrils, as well as the earthy side. Feels like some… excellent margarita! Mouth: old Tyrconnell with more oomph, more grass, more malt, and more fruit skins. More honey too, more citrus… Very good! Finish: long, fruity, always with this oily side. Comments: a young Irish with depth and body. It was a great bottle! But it seems that these casks are nowhere to found anymore. SGP:551 - 86 points.

Cooley 15 yo 1993/2008 ‘The Angel’s Port(al)’ (46%, The Nectar, Daily Dram, Irish single malt, finished in a Port cask)

Cooley 15 yo 1993/2008 ‘The Angel’s Port(al)’ (46%, The Nectar, Daily Dram, Irish single malt, finished in a Port cask) Four stars and a half Colour: pale gold. Nose: really lovely, really complex, and certainly not Porty. Earth and teas, blond tobacco, wulong tea, then, perhaps, touches of old red wine. Cherry stems, old barrel, a wee meatiness (cured ham, Spanish of course). Mouth: full-bodied, rich, earthy, with litres of herbal teas and drops of beef bouillon, red peach juice, toffee, and something like Linzer Torte. That would be raspberry jam and spicy pastries. Very good. Finish: quite long, marginally smoky, jammy, spicy… This baby’s got depth and complexity. Comments: for the record of course, you can’t find these bottles anymore. Excellent Belgian selection! SGP:562 - 88 points.

Oh, while we’re at it…

Cooley 15 yo 1993/2008 ‘The Mad(eira) Angel’ (46%, The Nectar, Daily Dram, Irish single malt, finished in a Madeira cask)

Cooley 15 yo 1993/2008 ‘The Mad(eira) Angel’ (46%, The Nectar, Daily Dram, Irish single malt, finished in a Madeira cask) Three stars Colour: gold. Nose: typical Madeira, with this unusual combination of walnuts, sweet mustard, ham, fig jam, and earthy old wine. Quite some leather too. Mouth: sweeter and rounder than expected. Walnuts for sure, sweet mustard sauce, then fudge and, once again, this feeling of Linzer Torte. The leathery side is perhaps a little extreme. Cinnamon cake, mint-flavoured liquorice, pepper… Finish: quite long, spicy. An idea of aquavit, somehow… Comments: it’s hard to know where the flavours came from, cask or spirit. For once, I liked the Port version rather better, much better in fact (yes, Serge speaking). SGP:461 - 80 points.

We’re back (the next day)…

Connemara 8 yo 2001/2009 (59.2%, OB for Limburg, cask #K01/101196)

Connemara 8 yo 2001/2009 (59.2%, OB for Limburg, cask #K01/101196) Three stars and a half A peated Cooley from when some bottlings started to become pretty impressive… Colour: white wine. Nose: it’s not the peat that’s impressive, it’s rather the fruits, around white peaches, then all this lapsang souchong. The strength is rather impressive too, so… With water: gets much more medicinal. Bandages, all that. Antiseptic. Got much drier. Mouth (neat): it’s got this slightly burnt side that wasn’t absent from several young Connemaras as far as I can remember, some candy sugar, burnt herbs, sugar coated fruits… A little strange so far. With water: much more to my liking. Raw sweet peat, and much less burnt herbs. It remains a little barnyardy, though. Finish: long, very smoky, peppery, citrusy. More ‘Islay’, whatever that means. Comments: needs water, then swims very well. A bit rough, though. SGP:457 - 84 points.

Oh Limburg, maybe we could try one that was bottled for some Limburgian entity, and that was distilled around when that Connemara was bottled… And why not?

Irish Malt 6 yo 2009/2015 (51.4%, Limburg Dramclub, 141 bottles)

Irish Malt 6 yo 2009/2015 (51.4%, Limburg Dramclub, 141 bottles) Three stars and a half Colour: pale white wine. Nose: it’s the much lighter side of Irish malt, probably from Cooley’s as well, but unpeated. Barley syrup, pink grapefruits, watermelons, ripe apples, and more sweet barley. It’s not often that you come across malt whisky that reeks of sweet barley this much. With water: same, plus grass and a touch of wax polish. Or rather engine oil. Mouth (neat): a whole pack of jelly babies or beans, more grapefruit, more sweet barley, and then a slightly grassy side, with a discreet buttery/feinty side. Very discreet. With water: the citrus comes out more. Crystallised lemons, some lemon grass… Finish: pretty long, grassy and bubblegumy. Some ginger, green pepper, and lemon skin in the aftertaste. Great zing. Comments: it’s funny that this young Tyrconnel-style Cooley’s just as good as the Connemara in my book. Excuse me? Not that funny? You may be right… SGP:651 - 84 points.

Cooley 1999/2012 (53.3%, Thosop by The Whiskyman, 179 bottles)

Cooley 1999/2012 (53.3%, Thosop by The Whiskyman, 179 bottles) Four stars Thosop used to be a wee company operated by our friend Luc Timmermans, before he handed over the wheel to The Whiskyman. Colour: straw. Nose: a light peat and some rather elegant whiffs of all kinds of precious teas. Certainly wulong! Lime, then pine sap and eucalyptus. Much freshness. With water: more raw Islayness (I know), with seaweed, antiseptic, garden bonfire, band-aid, and just whiffs of ‘a working kiln’. Mouth (neat): smashingly excellent. Extremely precise, zesty, unexpectedly salty (come on, you added some salt to this little Cooley, didn’t you), and, just like the first indie peated Cooleys by Cadenhead, pretty Ardbeggian. Don’t try this blind in front of your best whisky buddies, especially if your fiancée is around ;-). With water: loses point here, it gets a tad cardboardy and feinty. Just a tad. Ha, water! Finish: long, curiously vegetal. Beans? Grass for sure. Comments: I was ready to go very far, until the finish. But this will remain a high score, which should tell you about the rest (nobody’s following you anymore at this point, S., you may drop cryptic writing). SGP:456 - 87 points.

Cadenhead, he said… Pfff, Cadenhead…

Cooley 12 yo 1992/2004 (60%, Cadenhead, World Whiskies, bourbon barrel, 234 bottles)

Cooley 12 yo 1992/2004 (60%, Cadenhead, World Whiskies, bourbon barrel, 234 bottles) Five stars One of those first indie Connemaras… Imagine the surprise at the time. Colour: straw. Nose: indeed, imagine the surprise. A massive smoky and partly medicinal hit, unknown in Ireland at the time, with plenty of burnt herbs and then some leather and rubber and sour cream and Riesling. Phew! With water: wet dogs (apologies, dogs), kilny smells, raw wool (yes it’s wooly), sour dough… All this is perfect. Mouth (neat): in-cre-di-ble. Extreme peat and lemon, a bit in the style of a blended malt that would have involved 80% of Supernova-style Ardbeg and 20% of the most citrusy Rosebank. Does that give you a proper idea of the stuff? With water: gets a tad bitter and too grassy, careful with water. Finish: very long, perfect, zesty peat, ridden with phenolic… stuff, and lemons and salt and oysters. Comments: I remember a lot of easy tricks have been played on punters at Feis Ile back in 2004. “Try this, what do you say? What is it?” “- A-r-d-b-e-g!” But of course… Too easy, too easy… A shame that they seem to have broken the mold. SGP:368 - 90 points.

Irish Single Malt 22 yo 1991/2014 (48.6%, Eiling Lim)

Irish Single Malt 22 yo 1991/2014 (48.6%, Eiling Lim) Four stars and a half Colour: straw. Nose: the exact opposite of Cadenhead’s Cooley. Not in quality of course, but styles are running in the exact opposite direction. Superb whiffs of fermenting tropical fruits (mangos), then herbal teas aplenty. Banana skin, and huge notes of cigar tobacco, which I find very, err, funny. Perhaps summer truffles as well, as well as a little Jamaican rum. Very, very, and I mean very unusual nose. Mouth: tropical fruits, cigars, and sugarcane. No, really, I know this is totally un-Irish. It’s even rather salty, leafy, olive-y, briny, smoky… Some kind of metanoical spirit, perhaps? Aliens? G.W. Bush? Mossad? Who was involved? Finish: long, leafy, and with the same very unlikely, but very appealing notes. Comments: I don’t know where this whiskey’s going to, and after all who cares. Oh forgot to say, I find it excellent. Vive la difference!  SGP:563 - 88 points.

Ireland 13 yo 2002/2015 (52.2%, Exclusive Malts, 10th Anniversary, cask #20021, 336 bottles)

Ireland 13 yo 2002/2015 (52.2%, Exclusive Malts, 10th Anniversary, cask #20021, 336 bottles) Four stars and a half Oh no, is 2002 already 13 years old? How time flies! (that’s probably the only thing I don’t like about age statements, you see time shifting like sand through your hands.) And imagine the totally crazy and very engaging people at Whisky Advocate have just awarded this baby with their Best-of-Something-Probably-Quite-Important award! Colour: gold. Nose: ha ha ha, I understand why, this baby’s got something bourbony. Delicately bourbony. Other than that, it’s got a clear Bushmills style, with tropical fruits (bananas) and tinned pears. But it could be Cooley/Tyrconnel as well. Love the overripe litchis. With water: perfect leathery, leafy, tea-ish, very complex notes. I won’t argue. Mouth (neat): nah, seriously, this is brilliant, you gotta agree with the Americans. Mead, fig liqueur, vanilla cake, sweet fortified wine (say light young PX), and then something that’s pretty unusual in whisky, unless that was a Muscatel finish… I mean, Muscatel! With water: and so you say they dumped fifty litres of muscatel into… I’m joking. Frankly, I find this just a tad too sweet(ish), with a faint liqueury side, but other than that, it’s great. And very talkative, it just wouldn’t let you get a word in. Finish: long, fruity, sweet, very aromatic. Comments: sweet and extremely expressive. In a way, it’s some rum of whisky. I find this superb, just don’t try to quaff more than 10cl in one go (but who would do that? Our dear American friends? ;-)) SGP:741 - 89 points.

Perhaps is it time to say goodbye, and to have a very last one for the road? Make that a peater, please…

Irish Malt Peated 1991/2015 (52.2%, The Whisky Mercenary)

Irish Malt Peated 1991/2015 (52.2%, The Whisky Mercenary) Five stars Rumour had it that this ain’t Cooley and that it’s rather peated Bushmills. Peated Bushmills? Why not Mother Theresa singing Nicki Minaj? Colour: gold. Nose: tja. Sehr schön, ausserordentlich, ausgezeichnet, tip-top, echt Klasse… Oh entschuldingung, I mean, apologies, this nose is so nice that it makes you speak German. It’s got Bushmillian bananas indeed, then a little fresh butter and orange pekoe tea (oh S., whatever), then rather blond cigarettes, Camel-style, and mint liqueur. Some eucalyptus, perhaps. With water: exceptional herbal complexity. Oils, leaves, waxes, putties… Fabulous nose. Mouth (neat): oh yeah yeah yeah… Ardbeg, Longmorn, Rosebank, and Springbank. Plus some salt. With water: we’ll keep this short, this is semantically splendid (time to go to bed, S., perhaps…) Finish: why the officials hardly ever come up with such bottlings, I don’t know. Perhaps because they’re afraid everybody would start asking for this very quality, while it was just one exceptional cask or batch? Comments: seriously, what was that? Peated Bushmills, really? I find this whisky plainly and utterly stunning (perhaps just a tad tiring – oh please, let it go, S….) SGP:476 - 91 points.

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



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September 1, 2015


Indie Lagavulin, most undercover

There was a poll in the Malt Maniacs’ Facebook group (almost 9000 members), and the question was ‘what’s your favourite Islay distillery?’ Quite surprisingly, and although I might well agree, Lagavulin came out as #1, despite the very low number of available expressions. Granted, that may change if they ever replace the much loved 16 with some kind of NAS (like, Dunnyvaig Gold or something), but despite 'rampaging rumours', it seems that there's no such thing in sight AFAIK, which is just super-mega-hyper great news. So let’s celebrate this non-event with a few… Lagavulin (like)!

Finlaggan 'Old Reserve' (40%, Vintage Malt Whisky Society, +/-2005)

Finlaggan 'Old Reserve' (40%, Vintage Malt Whisky Society, +/-2005) Four stars and a halfNobody knows if this is really Lagavulin, what’s rather sure is that the bottlers, of Coopers Choice fame, do hold or did hold contracts with Lagavulin (or White Horse, or Diageo's predecessors) and so ‘could’ have bottled Lagavulin under another name. But nothing is dead sure… Anyway, they might have switched to Caol Ila, but perhaps not in 2005, which was rather one or two years before the gold rush. Colour: gold. Nose: that it could be Lagavulin is obvious. It’s got his very peculiar peaty sweetness and the touches of tar and ‘good’ rubber that do hint at the star distillery indeed. And orange cake, praline, earl grey tea, smoky raisins… We’re not even far from the 16, mind you, but of course I could be wrong. Mouth: it’s true that we’re going a wee bit more towards Caol… No, wait, this ought to be Lagavulin. Orange liqueur and strong lapsang plus a drop of brine and pepper liqueur. The fatness behind speaks, and I do not know of many other distilleries that would taste like 45% vol. when bottled at 40% vol. Finish: quite long, a tad saltier. Comments: I wouldn’t stake my life on it, but… Oh and it was an exceptional whisky! SGP:457 - 88 big fat points.

Wait, we’ve even got the old 10…

Finlaggan 10 yo (40%, Vintage Malt Whisky Society, +/-2005)

Finlaggan 10 yo (40%, Vintage Malt Whisky Society, +/-2005) Three stars Colour: gold. Nose: well, as much as I thought the NAS could well be Lagavulin, I think this may well not be L, although I think this nose is quite lovely, with unexpected notes of strawberry ice cream (or sweets). Can you burn strawberries? Smoke strawberries? Having said that, it’s unlikely that it’s not another single Islay distillery. Hmmmm, which one could it be? Perhaps Caol Ila indeed, perhaps not… Mouth: a little burnt again, leafy, cake-y, tea-ish… And caramelly. Not too sure about this one, I think I liked the NAS rather better (yup, Serge speaking). Having said that, it’s got some very pleasant salty/orange-y notes, it’s like drinking earl grey tea on the beach. While smoking a pipe of… What? Of course tobacco. Finish: good length, salty, herbal. We’re wandering around herbal teas and smoked seaweed. Comments: a crying shame that I haven’t got any older bottling of Finlaggan Cask Strength handy. SGP:545 - 82 points.

Classic of Islay 14 yo 2006 (60.5%, Jack Wiebers, cask #1033, sherry finish)

Classic of Islay 14 yo (60.5%, Jack Wiebers, cask #1033, sherry finish, 2006) Four stars and a halfOf course we couldn’t be sure ither. This could be something else, let’s see… (but the odds are, well…) Colour: gold. Nose: huge, massive, with this je-ne-sais-quoi that makes it very… ach, hem, Lagavulin. Say a lighter Distiller’s Edition, but at cask strength. Does that make any sense? Rocks, leather, new scuba diving suit (to go get the scallops in the bay, eh), roasted chestnuts, brown coal, new ink (this week’s magazines)… And all that. With water: sharp, mineral, perhaps a tad less sweet than the ‘usual’ Lagavulin, but we’re there. Love the nut peelings and the porridge covered with smoked… say fish? Mouth (neat): high power. It’s the annual official 12yo cask strength, plus a bit of raisiny/leathery sherry. You can’t fight against this. With water: you just can’t. It’s perhaps a little brutal, and it’s probably not one to sip while you’re meditating (or reading the Best Of Kierkegaard), but this joyful smoky thing just works and you’d better not resist it, or it’ll smash you. Also melons (I mean, there are notes of melons). Finish: long, unexpectedly leafy and ‘greenly rubbery’. I’m not too fond of the finish, I have to say. Comments: well, with a better finish, it would have made it to 90. SGP:557 - 89 points.

Good, how do you fight that? Perhaps with this?...

Lagavulin 10 yo 2005/2015 (60.3%, Gleann Mor, A Rare Find, cask #200802)

Lagavulin 10 yo 2005/2015 (60.3%, Gleann Mor, A Rare Find, cask #200802) Two stars What this exactly is, I don’t quite know. An independent micro-bottling of some sort, that you could find at Master of Malt a few weeks back. What’s sure is that it proudly displays the name ‘Lagavulin’! Colour: white wine. Nose: you know, when you’re visiting the distillery, and after you’ve spent a little time with the utterly lovely and terribly knowledgeable (and energetic) Georgie (not that one mind you), you might end up trying whiskies with Pinkie-the-Great, who’s got his engaging face in more lifestyle magazines than both Donald Trump and Brad Pitt. And he’ll let you try this. I mean, something similar, that is to say a young, sweet and smoky malt that’s perhaps not very mature, and probably not totally complex, but one that’ll instantly pleasure you with its sweetness and its smokiness. Long story short, it’s probably one of the least complex whiskies I could try this year (so far), and yet it works sort-of a treat. No, you do not need descriptors. With water: smoked Williams pear eau-de-vie. In a way, this is more Alsatian – or Mitteleuropaisch – than from Islay. Mouth (neat): aged new make, sure. Raw stuff that lacks aging, that constantly hits you between your ears, and that keeps throwing williams pears and pineapples at you. Perhaps is it frankly too young, what do you say? With water: nah, it’s not bad, it’s just immature. A Miley Cyrus of a whisky. A great distillate that’s not been properly aged is still a great distillate, but it couldn’t become the greatest whisky ever – if you ask me. Finish: long, fruity and smoky. Or smoky and fruity, whichever you like best. Comments: I have no serious objections, but even if it’s Lagavulin, I wouldn’t pay 130€ for a bottle of new make, however excellent it is. SGP:637 - 75 points.

This is becoming touchy. I guess this last one will be even touchier…

Dun Naomhaig Water ‘Edition Maltmill, batch 2’ (40%, Reifferscheidt, Romantic Rhine Collection, bourbon and sherry, 180 bottles, 2014)

Dun Naomhaig Water ‘Edition Maltmill, batch 2’ (40%, Reifferscheidt, Romantic Rhine Collection, bourbon and sherry, 180 bottles, 2014) Four stars More a joke than anything else – they’ve always been good at that in Bonn-Bad-Godesberg (apologies ;-)). Having said that, I had enjoyed batch #1 quite a lot (WF 90). And yes this is L*g*v*l*n. Colour: gold. Nose: an old bottle of 16, with perhaps even hints of the last pre-16 12s. Something a wee bit metallic (old copper coins), some leather, some teas, some smoked fish, some overripe apples and other juicy fruits as well (pears for sure), plus a wee feeling of leatherette straight from f***g Amazon’s. Mouth: how excellent! It’s a crying shame that our friends aus Bonn haven’t bottled this at 46 or, better yet, 50% vol. But remember, this is a joke… Great wee whisky, salty, pretty oily… With an obvious cousinage with the first Finlaggan we tried. Finish: same (is that really all, S.?) Comments: perhaps not the place and neither the moment to tell you this, but whenever you come across a cheap bottle of NAS Finlaggan that looks a little dusty, please just buy it (them)! SGP:457 - 87 points.

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



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August 2015 - part 2 <--- September 2015 - part 1 ---> September 2015 - part 2



Best malts I had these weeks - 90+ points only

Cooley 12 yo 1992/2004 (60%, Cadenhead, World Whiskies, bourbon barrel, 234 bottles)

Irish Malt Peated 1991/2015 (52.2%, The Whisky Mercenary)

Springbank 1965/2001 'Local Barley' (52.4%, OB, cask #65/9)

Springbank 29 yo 1965/1994 (46%, OB for Miller & Landau, sherry, cask #1298)

Springbank 27 yo 1965/1993 (46%, OB for the Everest Challenge)

Francis Darroze 49 yo 1965/2014 ‘Domaine de Peyrot’ (48%, OB, Bas-armagnac, brut de fût)

Darroze 50 yo ‘Les Grands Assemblages’ (42%, OB, Bas-armagnac, +/-2015)

Laubade 1900/2006 (40%, OB, Armagnac)

Armagnac Vaghi 1963/1992 (40%, OB, Baron de Sigognac, Chai des Sables)

Baron Gaston Legrand 1888 (40%, OB, Armagnac, +/-2010)

Baron de Saint-Feux 1888/2007 (40%, OB, Bas-armagnac)

Baron de Saint-Feux 1893/2007 (40%, OB, Armagnac)

Laubade 1893/2007 (40%, OB, Armagnac)

Laubade 1894/2006 (40%, OB, Bas-armagnac)

Laubade 1897/2007 (40%, OB, Armagnac)