(Current entries)

Facebook Twitter Logo

Whisky Tasting





Hi, you're in the Archives, September 2017 - Part 2


September 2017 - part 1 <--- September 2017 - part 2 ---> October 2017 - part 1


September 30, 2017




Angus's Corner
From our casual Scottish correspondent
and guest taster Angus MacRaild
Lagavulin 16
a wee odyssey!

It’s often fun to check a longstanding bottling against older examples of itself and spot differences and similarities. Companies are banging on endlessly about consistency so it’s always interesting to see how things change over time. Particularly with iconic and distinctive examples such as Lagavulin 16 year old. Lets have a few today, in quick fire succession, starting with the most recent...


Lagavulin 16 yo (43%, OB, 2017) Lagavulin 16 yo (43%, OB, 2017) Colour: Amber - gold. Nose: Leafy and earthy peat to start, bracken, beach wood, coal hearths and seaweed. An oiliness and a slightly syrupy sweetness underneath. A little green fruit, camphor and sea salt. All quite excellent. Coming back to it after the others you really notice the more active wood aspects, there is a distinctive lick of vanilla sweetness about it. Mouth: Big, loud peat oils, tar resin, camphor, sea weed, shellfish and peppered mackerel. Quite syrupy in texture and with a rising sweetness. A slightly buffeting, gravelly minerality and lots of saltiness. Finish: Good length, warming, leafy, smouldering peats and more syrupy sweetness. Comments: Still a great, benchmark whisky. I’m always happy when I’m tasting or drinking this. SGP: 548 - 87 points.  


Lagavulin 16 yo (43%, OB, 2012) Lagavulin 16 yo (43%, OB, 2012) Colour: Amber - gold. Nose: The peat is denser on this one straight away, more simmering, more crystalline but still with this slightly earthy and leafy edge. Beyond this it’s more medicinal and fruitier; more notes of green fruits with plenty of big hospital aromas. Perhaps more classically coastal as well with a lean minerality. Mouth: Immediately more complex and more drying than the 2017. A balance between a crusty saltiness, oily and umami peat and a sweeter, green fruitiness. More of these classical Lagavulin camphor, resin and sea weed aspects. Perhaps a handful of green olives in brine and some anchovies. Finish: Long, slightly ashy, peat smoke, more seaweed, crab meat and some dried herbal notes. Comments: A notch better in my wee book. SGP: 438 - 88 points.  


Lagavulin 16 yo (43%, OB, 2003) Lagavulin 16 yo (43%, OB, 2003) Colour: Same. Nose: Phwoar! This is richer, fatter, oilier; the peat is almost greasy with some notes of pineapple and coal tar soap. Various tinctures and ointments, drying seaweed, lanolin and hessian. Still with these green fruits. This is a notch more magnificent on the nose than the previous two. Mouth: Beautiful! More elegant, more harmonous and more complex still. The fruit is louder and the peat more wispy, softer, a little subdued perhaps but it’s subdued to a beautiful, leafy smoulder. Gravadlax with dill, motor oil, coal hearths, kelp (I’m getting bored of writing seaweed) and notes of iodine and mercurochrome. Some lemon skins and smoked fish. Finish: Long and full of tobacco, peat smoke, tar liqueur and hessian. Quite a bit more drying. Totally beautiful. Comments: I’m quite surprised at the gulf between 2012 and 2003. This seems to be the decade where Lagavulin started to shed a lot of its more overt fruitiness. SGP: 548 - 91 points.  


Lagavulin 16 yo (43%, OB, White Horse Distillers, 75cl, -/+ Late 1980s)

Lagavulin 16 yo (43%, OB, White Horse Distillers, 75cl, -/+ Late 1980s) This is one of the earliest batches of the 16 year old, a UK market version this one. Colour: Gold, a notch lighter than the others. Nose: We’re in different territory again, this is a more even balance between sweet, whispering peats and more luscious, up-front fruit qualities. Banana, pineapple, greengage, a little mango. Then iodine, old rope, hessian, tar liqueur and brine. Quite magnificent and more towards a fruitier, older style of Islay whisky. Mouth:    Gah! Magnificent! Old rope, tar, peat, various oils, fruit liqueurs, oysters, lemon peel, crystallised tropical fruits. A whole other ballpark this stuff! Camphors, resins, smoked tea, black olives, earth, sandalwood, the list goes on and on... call that brigade of yours Serge! Orange blossom and medical tinctures emerge with a little more time. But then, you could write an essay about a whisky like this so we’ll just stop here I think. Finish: Full spectrum: coastal to sweet; deep peat to fragrant smoke; green to tropical. Beautiful and not a little humbling. SGP: 447 - 93 points.



Conclusions... Well, for starters I think we can safely say Lagavulin 16 remains a ‘no brainer’ of a whisky. When so many brands are releasing dull nonsense it seems to only shine brighter on the shelves. Looking over this little vertical it seems that as you go back in time Lagavulin also becomes drier and fruitier - not surprising as that is often the story at many Scottish distilleries, especially on Islay. It’s also interesting to note that it really seems to have ‘shifted’ - for want of a better expression - to its more contemporary style between the early and late 2000s. Were there many changes in the early-mid 1990s when those bottlings would have been distilled? What’s also pleasing is that there is a sense of identity that runs through all these whiskies - they all ‘feel’ very much like Lagavulin. Which makes me happy.  


Now, I’m not sure what could climb over that magnificent old 16 year old but lets have one for the road...  


Lagavulin 16 yo (55.8%, OB, Feis Ile 2017, Moscatel Double Maturation, 6000 bottles) Lagavulin 16 yo (55.8%, OB, Feis Ile 2017, Moscatel Double Maturation, 6000 bottles) Moscatel is a fortified sweet wine not dissimilar to Pedero Ximenez, not much is made these days. Lets see how it gets on with Lagavulin... Colour: Chardonnay. Nose: A pin-sharp, bright, crystalline peat at first. Chiselled, poised and muscular. Decked out with notes of freshly squeezed lemon juice, lime zest, ink, TCP, heather, brine, grilled fish skin and sea water. Not a shred of evidence of sweet wine on the nose so far. With water: becomes more lemony, more floral and a tad grassy. Mouth: Big, undulating peat oils with an ashy, briny and razor-edged smokiness. Smoked mussels, kippers, black olives in brine, a few dried herbs and some kerosine. No naked flames near this one please! Wet pebbles, sea salt, some kelp and a mineral edge. With water: develops a more meaty texture with notes of shellfish, smoked salmon and more citrus notes. Some black pepper and another chunk of seashore. Finish: Big, grizzly and drying. Lots of cracked pepper and sea salt, brine, lemon oil and black olives. More savoury peat. Comments: It’s a solid Lagavulin. I’m not sure what the Moscatel really added and overall it’s probably a tad simplistic for me. But it remains highly sturdy and quaffable. SGP: 349 - 88 points.  


(Big thanks to Dirk and Chris)  



September 29, 2017


Three new Glen Spey by two indies

It’s a crying shame that no one seems to care about names such as Glen Spey… Until someone such as Billy Walker buys the distillery and propels it to stardom, which might happen soon with Glenallachie. But indeed, this is Glen Spey, a.k.a. Glen Grass within some circles. We’ll only have three of them, let’s not exaggerate!

Glen Spey 2007/2017 (46%, Gordon & MacPhail, Connoisseur’s Choice)

Glen Spey 2007/2017 (46%, Gordon & MacPhail, Connoisseur’s Choice) Three stars Indeed, a brand new one. Colour: straw. Nose: not quite grass this time, rather a certain sucrosity that mingles with some fresh mint and perhaps one drop of cough syrup. After that, it’s all apple juice and barley water. Fine, easy, unassuming, uncomplicated. Mouth: very good fruits, around greengages and gooseberries (both nicely ripened), then apple pie and compote, orange cake, and a handful of raisins. Not one of those malt whiskies you’ll remember forever (such as… wait… the name escapes me)… but it sure is fine. Tends to become grassier, which is very Glen Spey in my book (as we’ve said before). Finish: medium, sweet and rather liquoricy. A little lemon, always great in any finish. Some grass too. Comments: these ones reek of honesty – and they’re good. SGP:451 - 81 points.

Glen Spey-Glenlivet 15 yo 2001/2017 (46%, Cadenhead, Small Batch, bourbon hogshead, 720 bottles)

Glen Spey-Glenlivet 15 yo 2001/2017 (46%, Cadenhead, Small Batch, bourbon hogshead, 720 bottles) Three stars From two casks, this little one. Colour: white wine. Nose: a little tenser than the GM, with rather more acidic fruits, and consequently, less roundness. Apples, whiffs of beach sand, and a pack of wine gums (the green and yellow flavours, naturally). Then a little humus, fresh white mushrooms… Mouth: hits you a bit, with lemons and lemons, becoming more and more acidic, with our beloved rhubarb and certainly some grapefruit peel. Icing sugar. Finish: rather long, really very lemony, zestier than the zestier… oh well, the zestier lemons. Comments: there’s something spectacular to this one, something a little difficult too. For lemon lovers. SGP:461 - 80 points.

Glen Spey-Glenlivet 15 yo 2001/2017 (56.4%, Cadenhead, Authentic Collection, bourbon hogshead, 288 bottles)

Glen Spey-Glenlivet 15 yo 2001/2017 (56.4%, Cadenhead, Authentic Collection, bourbon hogshead, 288 bottles) Four stars Colour: white wine. Nose: similar, of course, but rather rounder and more on fresh nuts. Fresh almonds, fresh hazelnuts, fresh walnuts… This is a lovely feeling. I’m also finding a little plasticine, and a little fresh mint. It’s probably the most elegant of them all, so far. With water: salty sparkling water, ginger tonic, green walnuts, green oranges. Hermès are having something similar, it’s just much more expensive ;-). Mouth (neat): back to full-lemon mode. Plus grapefruits, plus grass, plus our good friend the rhubarb. Shall we call this one ‘Sancerre-y?’ How about a Glen Spey white-Sancerre-wood-finish? With water: a wee tad rounder. Don’t I find pineapples in the back? Finish: rather long, sharp, zesty, lemony. Grassier aftertaste. Comments: one of my favourite Glen Speys. Some kind of blade… SGP:561 - 85 points.

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



Block Today: JAZZ. Performer: Guillermo Klein. Track: Nave. Please buy his music...

September 28, 2017


Ardbeg NAS

That would be Ardbeg. Agreed, could have been Laphroaig, but no, it’s Ardbeg… (what a waste of electrons, S.!)

Ardbeg ‘An Oa’ (46%, OB, 2017)

Ardbeg ‘An Oa’ (46%, OB, 2017) Four stars This new baby’s now part of Ardbeg’s core range. It’s been composed using a variety of casks, namely Pedro Ximenez (aargh), charred new oak, and bourbon (phew!) Sadly, it’s NAS, so probably very young. Colour: straw. Nose: fine, really. The PX never gets in the way, but indeed you feel this modern oakiness, with some ginger, sweet cinnamon and vanilla… Behind that, a rather mentholy profile, a few cough drops, and a spoonful of lemon marmalade. Rather modern style, quite uncomplicated, but fine. Whiffs of fresh seaweed in the background, which is obviously nice. Mouth: same feeling overall, one will feel that it’s not very complex and that it’s been a tad doctored (in the best sense of that word), but the combination brings a feeling of mezcal reposado, which isn’t bad at all. All-spice, bitter grapefruit, a little muscovado sugar, and more marmalade. Finish: medium, rather soft, with sweet oak spices and a little praline. Oh and soft mezcal. The lemons are back in the aftertaste, and would come together with a little cardamom. Comments: certainly not the wildest Ardbeg ever, and neither is it the most complex, or the peatiest, but despite the oak treatment that feels a bit, I rather like it. But yeah, I prefer the faithful Ten. SGP:555 - 85 points.

We needed a sparring partner, and thought that…

Ardbeg 'Uigeadail' (54.2%, OB, +/-2017)

Ardbeg 'Uigeadail' (54.2%, OB, +/-2017) Four stars Ah Uigeadail! Used to be glorious when they were still adding old casks and good sherry, and in my book, it was still glorious around 2013 (WF 92). Let’s see if anything changed… Colour: pale gold. Uigie is getting paler and paler… Nose: it’s probably narrower than its older bros and sisters, and rather less expressive, perhaps less ‘black’, perhaps peatier, and certainly less sherried. There’s still this feeling of bacon infused in lapsang souchong, though… With water: tarry ropes. That’s very Ardbeg. Mouth (neat): there’s been some modernisation happening, once again, as the oak feels more, with its cortege of spices (always the same culprits, ginger, cinnamon, cardamom)… The rest remains really nice, although some complexity may have been lost along the years. More lapsang than smoked fish and camphor, if you see what I mean. With water: same feeling, but bigger. A little bitter oak, and a little more chocolate, which is very Uigeadail indeed. Finish: rather medium, which is surprising. Liquorice and salted lemon juice in the aftertaste. Comments: fewer subtleties, but this famous expression is still a lovely peater. Just not a glorious one that stands out anymore. SGP:457 - 86 points.

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



Block Today: JAZZ. Performer: Amit Friedman. Track: Optimism. Please visit his website and buy his music...

September 27, 2017


Rosebank, young and older fruitbombs

Cadenhead are still celebrating their 175th anniversary, and rightly so. Let’s join them with their latest Rosebank, but first, a young one, because young Rosebank could be just impressive. Pure limejuice at times!

Rosebank 10 yo 1989/1999 (59%, Blackadder, cask #839)

Rosebank 10 yo 1989/1999 (59%, Blackadder, cask #839) Four stars Try any young Rosebank or St Magdalene at full strength and you’ll forget anything some have been telling you about the Lowland malts. Colour: pale white wine. Nose: between overcooked coffee and kerosene. And guess what, this is nice, and certainly quite unusual. Whiffs of new plastic bags (before those were banned), funny hints of a new pack of raspberry gums, Haribo’s Tagada strawberries, and pink grapefruit juice. Pretty restless and full of youth. With water: settles down a bit, with many fruit juices. Notes of fresh concrete and plaster. Mouth (neat): do they have a distillery at Haribo’s? This is ridden with wine gums - and ethanol of course. With water: joyful fruits. Pears, apples, plums… Now it’s rather less citrusy than I had thought. Finish: medium, sweet, fruity. A feeling of sugarcane syrup. Comments: this old young Rosebank was incredibly sweet and fruity. SGP:741 - 85 points.

Rosebank 25 yo 1991/2017 (50.5%, Cadenhead, 175th Anniversary, bourbon barrel, 190 bottles)

Rosebank 25 yo 1991/2017 (50.5%, Cadenhead, 175th Anniversary, bourbon barrel, 190 bottles) Four stars and a half Love it that they had some Rosebank – and that they don’t do crystal decanters and silver-plated plastic stag’s heads. Colour: straw. Nose: we’re finding these juicy fruits again, it all only got mellower and more civilised. But this is very Rosebank indeed, with pineapple sweets, liquorice allsorts, lime and green apples, and quite some acacia honey. All-vitamin fruit juice. With water: no changes, perhaps a little more cut grass, and leaves. Mouth (neat): some perfect fruit juice indeed, fruit salad, sweets and bonbons, Juicy fruit, sherbets, and once again, a little light and flowery honey. Notes of zucchini flower fritters (do you know how good that is?) and wee bananas, like they have in Cuba. Best bananas in the world. With water: delicious. I’m not using that word often, but it is delicious. Finish: medium, clean, fruity. More all-vitamin fruit juice, this will cure just anything. Send a bottle to D.J.T.! Comments: one of the fruitiest makes there ever was. This one is still young, and just very lovely. SGP:751 - 89 points.

(Thank you Tom)

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



Block Today: JAZZ. Performer: Gael Horellou. Track: Moral de fer. Please visit his website and buy his music...

September 26, 2017


Three Brora from the 1980s

Not Brora's best years in my book, but you never know. And there's this new Special Release that's just out... But indeed it's a 1982... Let's see...

Brora 1982/2015 (46%, Gordon & MacPhail, Rare Old, refill sherry puncheon, Lot #RO/15/01)

Brora 1982/2015 (46%, Gordon & MacPhail, Rare Old, refill sherry puncheon, Lot #RO/15/01) Five starsIndeed, perhaps not Brora’s best vintage, but let’s see what gives… Colour: straw. Nose: it frankly is a Clynelishy Brora. Virtually, this is Clynelish, with this waxy style, the ripe fruits, the faint smokiness, this orange peel, and all the beeswax. And lamp oil, hay, a little clay… All very fine, all quite subtle, and yet rather fat and assertive. Class. Mouth: wonderful. This time, it’s more Brora than Clynelish, with more mineral notes, more chalk, a small mustardy side, more sea elements, and rather more lemons than tangerines. Also green bananas, ripe white currants, and some slightly smoky lemons. Some wulong tea as well, this is very complex. Finish: only medium, but beautifully waxy and citrusy. Totally love the saltier signature. Oysters? Comments: not a peat master, but in a higher league than that of several previous 1982s by G&M (CCs and such). It’s good that they had decided to keep this puncheon until the year 2015. Smart decision! SGP:553 - 92 points.

Brora 23 yo 1980/2003 (49%, Dun Bheagan, hogshead, cask #824, 276 bottles)

Brora 23 yo 1980/2003 (49%, Dun Bheagan, hogshead, cask #824, 276 bottles) Four stars Some were bottled by Ian McLeod under the Chieftain’s (Choice) flag, others under Dun Bheagan. Quality, in my opinion, was similar. Colour: gold. Nose: it is rather wilder, more porridge-y, almost young in fact. Wonderful earthy tones, some sour dough, something metallic (old tin box), notes of roots (manioc?), and rather grass smoke than straight peat. I mean, real grass, in a garden. Oh, and wet dogs (we’ll say it again, we’re sorry, dogs). Mouth: starts vibrant and citrusy, with more smoke than in the 1982, but also a grassy bitterness that’s maybe not totally top-of-range. Leaves, walnut peel, green tea… Perhaps also a touch of soap, almost plastic. Not something we’ve never found in these vintages, mind you, not all Broras were top-class. Finish: rather long but a little bitter and harsh. Sucking a teabag after it’s been used. The oranges in the aftertaste are nicer. Comments: of course it’s good, it’s even very good, but as they say over there in Sutherland, there are better Broras. SGP:463 - 86 points.

Brora 34 yo 1982/2017 (51.9%, OB, Special Release, 3,000 bottles)

Brora 34 yo 1982/2017 (51.9%, OB, Special Release, 3,000 bottles) Four stars and a half Indeed, this is the brand new Special Release from Diageo’s racing team, and it is the second time we’re being proposed a Brora SR from the ‘lighter’ years, so post-1980. There had only been a Brora ‘Rare Malt’ 1982 back in 2003, and a 25 in 2008. Colour: light gold. Nose: indeed, it is a rather light one, with the softest fruits (apples…) and only in the background, touches of lime. Then the expected lightly waxy development, around lemon-scented candle wax and perhaps a pinhead of coal tar. Perhaps an idea of some ripe kiwi? Vase water? To tell you the truth, I’m not sure I’d have said ‘Brora’, had I nosed this baby blind. With water: muddy waters and beach sand, perhaps a wee touch of fresh asparagus. Not a big nose. Mouth (neat): certainly more power, this palate hasn’t got much to do with the very soft and almost innocuous nose. Big lemon with an ashy side, some white pepper, and perhaps even green grapefruits. It’s all nicely focussed on citrus, but there isn’t much smoke, if any. Ideas of clay, sucking a green cigar, beedies… With water: gets a bit too dry for me, rather on green tea and grape-pip oil. Finish: medium, grassy, with artichokes and lemon zests. A tiny-wee saltiness in the aftertaste, and a little paraffin. Comments: a pretty un-Brora Brora, very good of course, but rather without the wideness and the complexity of earlier vintages, including the utterly superb 1977 from last year (WF 95). Please don’t tell everyone, but I think neighbours Clynelish used to be better in the early 1980s. SGP:452 - 88 points.

(Thanks Nicolas, Phil and Tom!)

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



Block Today: JAZZ. Performer: Jerry Gonzalez. Track: Obsession. Please visit his website and buy his music...

September 24, 2017


Young French rums from the Caribbean

So, Martinique, Guadeloupe, and adjacent island Marie-Galante. The very heart of rhum agricole, although contrarily to popular belief, not all rums from those islands are agricole (and ex-pure cane juice)… And let’s do that randomly, and see what we have, with a thought for all the people in the Caribbean who have been struck by those terrible recent hurricanes.

Montebello 3 yo ‘Vieux’ (42%, OB, Guadeloupe, +/-2017)

Montebello 3 yo ‘Vieux’ (42%, OB, Guadeloupe, +/-2017) Three stars and a halfMontebello, from Distillerie Carrère, is one of the lesser-known makes, and stems from the Basse-Terre part of the island of Guadeloupe. Fermentation is a little longer at Carrère (48 hours) and they are doing something funny that some Scots may try as well one day, they put their barrels into huge metallic containers, which seems to speed-up aging in a fairly natural way. In other words, a cheaper equivalent to heated warehouses. This is molasses-based, not agricole. Colour: pale gold. Nose: reminds me of other Montebellos, with this slightly whacky style, slightly ‘rotten’, in a good way. Fermenting cane juice, warm croissants, custard, and aniseed/fennel seeds. Do they add pastis? Mouth: simply good, mentholy and pastis-y indeed at first, then with ripe bananas and pineapples, and a rather lovely cane-y background. Finish: rather long, a tad rubbery and slightly salty, and with notes of pineapple-flavoured gums. Caramel in the aftertaste. Comments: very young and already very good, in my opinion. A very singular style, worth trying. SGP:642 - 84 points.

A 1710 ‘Soleil de Minuit’ (46.4%, OB, Martinique, 1300 bottles, 2016)

A 1710 ‘Soleil de Minuit’ (46.4%, OB, Martinique, 1300 bottles, 2016) Four stars A brand new distillery in Martinique, at Habitation du Simon, but this is sourced rum, not theirs as they just started. This baby’s 8 years old, it seems. I’ve heard some rum lovers complain about the fact that this was too expensive (170€, but the Cognacqy decanter is lovely). Colour: deep gold. Nose: rather complex, polished, with precious woods and some cigarette tobacco, then touches of red currants and, maybe, black cherries. Then ripe bananas, olives, and a little tar. I don’t find it very ‘agricole’, I have to say, but it sure is pretty complex. Mouth: it’s funny that it’s rather in the style of the Montebello, with a feeling of salted pastis and ultra-ripe bananas, then salty liquorice. A lovely earthiness in the background, as well as some salty menthol and tar liqueur. Really very nice rhum that will please many a whisky lover, too bad the price is too high. Finish: rather long, on earth, tobacco, liquorice roots and a little charcoal. Nice caraway and nutmeg in the aftertaste. Comments: probably not worth the price, unless you love decanters, but I think quality’s very high. Not my business but they should make a cheaper version in regular bottles. SGP:552 - 86 points.

Neisson ‘Réserve Spéciale’ (42%, OB, Martinique, agricole, +/-2016)

Neisson ‘Réserve Spéciale’ (42%, OB, Martinique, agricole, +/-2016) Four stars Neisson is probably the French rum that’s most talked-about these days. The Foursquare of the French Caribbean ;-). This is a multi-vintage Neisson from 2004, 2006 and 2007. Colour: gold. Nose: some kind of tarry butter at first nosing, then dried pineapples, figs and dates (we’re very close to malt whisky at this point), then rather flowers (lilies, honeysuckle) and natural vanilla. A wee metallic touch in the back, lovely. Mouth: really easy, yet characterful, with this feeling of fruits just starting to rot. Okay, to ferment. Some light fruitcake, angelica, banana jam, and some clove-y oranges. Half a Belgian speculoos (aren’t all speculoos Belgian, S.?) Finish: medium, fresh, on cassata and all-honey gingerbread. Comments: easy and good, with something of some young fresh estate Cognac. High quality, as expected. SGP:641 - 85 points.

Distillerie de Paris ‘Rhum Faubourg’ (46%, OB, France, 2016)

Distillerie de Paris ‘Rhum Faubourg’ (46%, OB, France, 2016) Four stars This is not quite made at Distillerie de Paris, it’s a vatting of rums from various origins, finished in small casks at the lovely wee Parisian distillery. I’m not too sure about the proportions of proper French agricole or ‘industriel’ inside. Colour: light gold. Nose: wholegrain bread, pumpernickel, bergamots, geranium flowers, quinces, and caraway in some rum? Doesn’t quite feel like ‘100% rum’ I have to say, but what is rum? Could be high-end gin, which would make it a gin-rummy (oh come on, S.!) Mouth: indeed, not ‘rum’ as such. Or say not organoleptically rum, but this sort of herbal eau-de-vie is just brilliant, in my opinion. The oak doesn’t quite feel, but there are many lovely spices, caraway, juniper, lavender, liquorice, then rather yuzu… In short, it loses you but it’s fun. Finish: rather long and extremely fresh. Yuzu and caraway to the power of ten, as well as juniper. Comments: not quite rhum or rum, but “c’est si bon, de partir n'importe où, bras dessus, bras dessous…”… SGP:561 - 85 points.

Bielle 2010/2016 ‘Extra Vieux’ (56%, OB, for LMDW 60th Anniversary, Marie-Galante, 1200 bottles)

Bielle 2010/2016 ‘Extra Vieux’ (56%, OB, for LMDW 60th Anniversary, Marie-Galante, 1200 bottles) Three stars Utmost love and respect to Bielle! Colour: deep gold. Nose: makes you want to eat it. Gingerbread, banana cake, honeycomb, cumin, cigars, pu-erh tea, buttercups, ultra-ripe mangos (a.k.a. airplane mangos, seen from here), small Cuban bananas, more cigars, sandalwood… What a whirlwind! With water: butter and copper, then stewed mangos and passion fruits, then big bready oak spices. A little heady, perhaps? Mouth (neat): heavy and thick, very spicy, and perhaps a tad too woody for me. Many oak spices, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, all that over a bucket of pina colada (coconut and pineapple, you know). A bit too much for me. With water: easier, but it’s still pretty much on polished wood and exuberant pineapples and mangos. Goes a little too far. Finish: medium, sweet and sour (wood sourness). Comments: some great Bielle, but on steroids. Perhaps a tad too overworked for me – again, that’s just me. SGP:651 - 80 points.

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



Block Today: LATIN JAZZ. Performer: Marco Toro. Track: Oh lame saint. Please visit his website and buy his music...

September 23, 2017




Angus's Corner
From our casual Scottish correspondent
and guest taster Angus MacRaild

New Inchmoans
+ an aperitif

It can’t have escaped your attention by now that Loch Lomond’s new owners are making more effort and more noise about their various distillates. I for one am quite delighted as there was a sense with the old owners that their cask selection policy was very much one of ‘fling a handful of pennies into the warehouse and bottle what they hit’.


Thankfully, however, this attitude seems to have departed with the previous owners and the distillery is now more open, more accommodating and far more interested in making, and bottling, interesting and often excellent whisky. We’ll taste a couple of (relatively) new Inchmoans today, but first a wee appetiser in the form of the un-peated Loch Lomond 18 year old...  


Loch Lomond 18 yo (46%, OB, +/-2017)

Loch Lomond 18 yo (46%, OB, +/-2017) Colour: Orangey gold. Nose: Quite a clean aroma, full of baked apples in butter, freshly baked bread, raw barley and various other cereals. Not to complex to begin with. The label mentioned peat smoke which seems curious as there is a distinct absence of phenols here. Develops along the lines of orange skins, herbal sweets, some slightly overripe fruits and various resins. Quite lovely really and very approachable. With time some notes of fresh American oak begin to arise; suggestions of sawdust, wood shavings and pencils. These characteristics dominate a little after some time suggesting some wood technology at play. Mouth: Orange liqueur, cloves, nutmeg, a little cardboard, oatmeal and a lick of paraffin. Some notes of lemon rind and sage emerge along with more wood sweetness and some syrupy, slightly artificial fruit notes like juicy fruit chewing gum. Not too thrilling in all honesty. Finish: Medium length with resurgent notes of cardboard and porridge. Some green and slightly leafy notes such as tobacco and final flourish of green apple peelings. Comments: I feel this bottling has been touch and go since it was released, for me there are better official - and contemporary - bottlings of Loch Lomond. But it’s still perfectly drinkable, just feels a bit ‘doctored‘ with wood to me. SGP: 532 - 77 points.



Onto the Inchmoans. Inchmoan is one of several peated distillates made at Loch Lomond and takes its name from one of the tiny islands on the distillery’s namesake Loch. Sibling peated makes include Inchfad (also named after one of the Loch’s islands), Craiglodge and Croftengea. It remains to be seen if the new owners will eventually launch ranges for all the various Loch Lomond distillates in future.



Inchmoan 12 yo (46%, OB, +/- 2017)

Inchmoan 12 yo (46%, OB, +/- 2017) Colour: Orangey gold again (I wonder if there isn’t a little caramel at play in these whiskies?) Nose: A pleasing and oatmeal rich smokiness that suggest bonfires, a little brine, some dried kelp and old ropes. There’s also a very easy coastal edge with some lemon peel and notes of wet beach pebbles and fresh oysters. This could almost be a lighter Islay whisky. Some sheeps wool, a little gorse and some gently smouldering peat embers. Quite lovely really. Mouth: Surprisingly big and tarry. Notes of lanolin, peat oils, kippers, gravadlax, parsley and various other dried herbs and shellfish qualities. Goes on with a little iodine, some white pepper and a bit of citrus and green fruitiness. Finish: decent length with a lean mineral edge and some lingering peat oils, a little ashiness and some soot. Comments: Simple but clean, flavoursome and - dare I say it - fairly priced. I feel this is a lot more ‘together’ than the Loch Lomond 18. That and it’s a perfectly lovely peated malt in its own right. Surprisingly coastal. SGP: 447 - 83 points.



Inchmoan 25 yo 1992/2017 (48.6%, OB, refill bourbon barrels)

Inchmoan 25 yo 1992/2017 (48.6%, OB, refill bourbon barrels) Colour: Light gold. Nose: A leafy, supremely elegant and very farmyard style of peat not unlike (dare I say it Serge?! – if you must -Ed) some old early 1980s Brora? Camphor, resin, beeswax, some wildflowers, a few crystallised fruits knocking about the place. Goes on with plenty of green fruits, smoked cereals, salted caramel and even some white asparagus. Becomes earthier, drier and more tertiary with these notes of sea salt, medical tinctures and little mentholated touches. With water: Veers more towards coastality (this isn’t a word but I feel if the dictionary people tasted more whiskies then it would be) and develops more intensely these lush and green fruit aspects. A few wildflowers dotted about the place and perhaps a little seaweed. Mouth: An undulating, stately and gentle unfurling of muscled and drying phenols, green fruit, coal, dried mint and a myriad and farmyard complexities. Gravel, wet earth, minerals, soot, iron, mercurochrome and something akin to a very old, dry Riesling. With water: more seagreens, gorse, wildflowers, mead, waxes, pollens, a little brine and a rather dazzling and brilliantly pristine peat oil flavour. Finish: Long, earthy, farmy, elegantly drying and subtly fruity in all the right ways. A final twist of lemon in the finish. Comments: I’m not sure how often I’ve written this but it bears repeating here: great distillate left in refill wood for sufficient time yields the best whiskies. In my humble opinion of course. Having said that, this was still a great surprise. It was really reminiscent of some old Brora at times with these farmyard qualities. More of this sort of thing please Loch Lomond! SGP: 566 - 90 points.




September 22, 2017


Four young cult whiskies from Sp…

You may have noticed that there is a bunch of die-hard Speyburn aficionados that are pacing up and down Facebook and other social platforms, singing the distillery’s praises as if there were no tomorrow. Main culprits, a certain Jon B., as well as brothers Simon and Phil T., Angus MacR., and possibly Jonny McM. Take special care if you ever cross their paths… This little session is for them.

Speyburn 10 yo (40%, OB, +/- 2017)

Speyburn 10 yo (40%, OB, +/- 2017) Two stars and a half Let’s not forget that this expression of Speyburn was a gold medal winner at the 2006 San Francisco World Spirits Competition! Now, I never had it very high (WF 76 last time, in 2014). Colour: straw. Nose: can you nose sugar? Or rather lemon-flavoured icing sugar? There’s also a discreet rose-y side, as well as a little lamp oil, sunflower oil, and perhaps crushed barley. Golden Grahams. The whole’s light yet pleasant. Mouth: sweet, a little sugary again, with touches of new oak and drops of triple-sec. Then rather grass, kiwi peel, and the smallest bit of butterscotch. Finish: short, sweet and cerealy. Nice notes of lemon liqueur in the aftertaste. Comments: I believe the low strength really is a handicap here. Other than that, it’s really fine, easy malt whisky. SGP:441 - 78 points.

Speyburn 9 yo 2007/2016 (46%, Douglas Laing, Provenance, cask #11071)

Speyburn 9 yo 2007/2016 (46%, Douglas Laing, Provenance, cask #11071) Two stars Colour: white wine. Nose: how bizarre! Camembert and sour cream at first, then vanilla, butterscotch, and barley water. Now the first part goes away for good, and leaves more room for nice notes of ripe pears and unripe cherries. Malty porridge, biscuits… Mouth: we’re really very close to the official 10, just with more oomph, and a larger acetic side. Peppered yoghurt and lemon juice, then juicy pears and those not-quite-ripe cherries. Green apples. Finish: medium, slightly limping and undecided. Sour or not? Nicer aftertaste, on young calvados. Like. Comments: a funny one for sure, what it’s not is boring. Thank you! SGP:351 - 76 points.

Speyburn 9 yo 2004/2014 (46%, Hepburn’s Choice, 753 bottles)

Speyburn 9 yo 2004/2014 (46%, Hepburn’s Choice, 753 bottles) Two stars and a half Won’t this one be very similar? Let us see… Huge outturn from a single cask, probably a butt. A butt that wasn’t leaking and that was very tight, eh. Colour: white wine. Nose: there’s always something happening at Speyburn’s. This time we’re finding brake fluid and castor oil, then rather crushed almonds and golden syrup. Marzipan. Much cleaner than the DL, but also less fruity. Let’s go one… Mouth: pretty good, gingery and pearish at first, then slightly fizzy, with some ginger tonic and a drop of Campari. Some kind of readymade Spritz, all you have to add is a dollop of Krug. Excuse me? Sure, the Grande Cuvée will do, no need to use Le Mesnil or Ambonnay. Finish: medium, calmer and rounder. Really good now, with a lemony maltiness that works well. Pepper and more lemon in the aftertaste. Comments: approaching stardom. Quite. SGP:451 - 79 points.

Speyburn 2006/2016 (59.2%, Gordon & MacPhail, Cask Strength, refill sherry butt, cask #173)

Speyburn 2006/2016 (59.2%, Gordon & MacPhail, Cask Strength, refill sherry butt, cask #173) Four stars We’ve already found many glories within this series. Colour: gold. Nose: starts like sharp rum, gets then rather tarry (new tarmac), and unfolds on bitter oranges and carbon paper. Whiffs of bone-dry fino sherry, with a little sour wood. With water: crushed almonds, more carbon paper (but who remembers carbon paper?) and a little soot. Mouth (neat): very good! Sure it’s hot, but these mentholed fruits and berries (pomegranate, cranberries) are rather lovely. Bitter oak, liquorice sticks, peppered apples. Something is happening in there, and that’s an understatement. With water: sponge cake with drizzles of limoncello. Indeed, it got rather friendlier. Finish: long, rather exclusively on limoncello, with a rather perfect barley-y signature. Comments: I knew this baby would be my favourite today. In a way, these kinds of casks remind me of the early Manager’s Drams. You know, the very punchy ones… SGP:561 - 86 points.

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



Block Today: JAZZ. Performer: Cuong Vu. Track: Never, Ever, Ever. Please visit his website and buy his music...

September 21, 2017


Another bag of Highland Park

There’s that new livery for the OBs, so we’ll have the new official 12 ‘Viking Honour’ (while hoping that they won’t keep the name and drop the age statement in the near future), and then use it as a stepping stone, as we often do…

Highland Park 12 yo ‘Viking Honour’ (40%, OB, 2017)

Highland Park 12 yo ‘Viking Honour’ (40%, OB, 2017) Three stars and a half 40% vol., that’s not very Viking, is it? Rather for gentle and peaceful English farmers, I’d say, but HP is a big distillate, so this may still work… Colour: pale gold. Nose: gentle indeed at first nosing, with some Jaffa cake, all-flower honey, and a touch or marmalade, but indeed something slightly rougher, smokier, and porridge-y arises. Ale, brewer’s yeast, wholegrain bread… That, I enjoy. Some oranges too. Nice. Mouth: I like this, it’s firm, actually rather farmy, with some grassy smokiness, oatcakes, earl grey, tea and milk (as the, ach, English sometimes drink tea), and some kind of green liquorice. Lemon zests in the background. Finish: medium, grassier, with a feeling oh hay and sweet bread. A little ginger (oak) in the aftertaste, suggesting some re-racking has occurred. Comments: perhaps not one to drink from the skulls of your enemies, but I like it better than I had thought. Easily beats most recent NAS ‘warriors’ (or were they heroes?), but of course the glorious old 12s from 20 or 30 years ago, remember the silkscreened bottles? The price is fair. SGP:451 - 84 points.

Highland Park 15 yo 2000/2015 (46%, Edinburgh Whisky Ltd., Library Collection, first fill bourbon, 257 bottles)

Highland Park 15 yo 2000/2015 (46%, Edinburgh Whisky Ltd., Library Collection, first fill bourbon, 257 bottles) Four stars and a half Colour: white wine, not very first fill. Nose: clean, opening on grass smoke (garden bonfire) and touches of liquorice wood and fennel, and going on with some mineral lemonness and some damp earth, after some rain. No heady vanilla getting in the way, that’s cool and most welcome. Mouth: I find this excellent, perhaps a bit austere, sharp, zesty, very mineral again, with some beautiful bitter herbs and drops of pinesap and honeydew. Grapefruits coming out as well, together with Seville oranges. Hints of juniper and even gin – but no soapiness whatsoever! Finish: long, beautifully sharp and lemony/smoky, with a little vanilla, ginger and honey in the aftertaste. Comments: I didn’t know this wee company before (not talking about HP, ha), but what’s sure is that they selected an excellent HP. SGP:462 - 88 points.

Highland Park 2007/2016 (58.8%, Gordon & MacPhail, Cask Strength, refill bourbon barrels, casks # 15603510-15603515)

Highland Park 2007/2016 (58.8%, Gordon & MacPhail, Cask Strength, refill bourbon barrels, casks # 15603510-15603515) Five stars How many great HPs have we already found within G&M’s ‘Cask’ series? Dozens – granted, including the older white/cream labels. Colour: white wine. Nose: starts kerosene-y, which I enjoy, gets then rather mineral, which I enjoy just as well (chalk, flints), and rather goes towards fruits after that (citrons, grapefruits, rhubarb). Impeccable. With water: menthol first, then various citrus fruits, sweet barley, and a touch of vanilla. Did I tell you I thought this was impeccable? Mouth (neat): wonderful at high strength, extremely lemony and chalky, with an oily mouth feel. Very pure, very zesty. With water: perfect lemon, green apples, green tea, and always this chalkiness that I like so much. Finish: long, ultra-clean. Perfect tart fruits and an entrancing minerality. Comments: this baby may well win this month’s bang for you buck contest! SGP:651 - 90 points.

Highland Park 28 yo 1988/2017 (49.6%, Cadenhead, Wine Cask, 222 bottles)

Highland Park 28 yo 1988/2017 (49.6%, Cadenhead, Wine Cask, 222 bottles) Five stars This one spent the last ten years of its life in some Port wood, so this is rather double maturation than quick aromati… I mean, than a finishing. Colour: pale gold. Not pink, hurray! Nose: and that worked. No Port, rather this very typical, slightly mouldy profile that you would find in some very old wine cellar, then a feeling of smoky/fruity herbal tea, then some mint and camphor, perhaps one raspberry, and certainly cigars. Sooty cigars. Love it that the Highlandparkness made it through the Port. Mouth: but it worked! Did they monitor this cask every single week? Air-dried red berries, blood oranges, a touch of caraway, a medicinal side (eucalyptus), a hint of thyme tea, half some blackcurrant gum… This should have been unbalanced, but it isn’t, at all. Finish: long, and using the full power of your mind, you could even find wee notes of Touriga Nacional. Comments: am I really going to give 90 points to some Porto-ed malt whisky? You bet… SGP:561 - 90 points.

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



Block Today: PUNK JAZZ (kind of). Performer: Ne Zhdali. Track: Argonauts. Please visit their website and buy their music...

September 20, 2017


Three indie Irish for my birthday

It is my birthday today (I'm 37, right), so I thought we could have some of those indie Irish that are so good, because indeed, there are more indie Irish that will just blow most officials out of the water. Okay, there’s Redbreast, but… So let’s have three of those new indies, one rather young (they’re usually rather too spirity) and some rather older (they’re usually superlatively fruity)…

Distillery in Ireland 13 yo 2003/2017 (52.7%, Exclusive Malts and The Whisky Barrel, sherry hogshead, cask #200501, 180 bottles)

Distillery in Ireland 13 yo 2003/2017 (52.7%, Exclusive Malts and The Whisky Barrel, sherry hogshead, cask #200501, 180 bottles) Three stars and a half I’ve seen that the price was very fair. This is most probably Cooley. Colour: deep gold. Nose: indeed, it starts a little spirity (wood alcohol) but some nice notes of grated coconut, shoe polish, butter cream, warm cake and old tin boxes are soon to appear. Some dry sherry too (walnuts and ‘dry’ raisins, sour apples). With water: much rounder, cake-y, softer… Water really improves it. Mouth (neat): rather rough. Cider apples, sour wine, some leather, something metallic again, some pepper and chillies… With water: phew, once again, this is much better, rather on herbs, macha cake, walnut cake, green pepper… Finish: rather long, with more green citrus. Comments: I’d have reduced it to 46% vol. – or sold it with a free quart of Evian. SGP:361 - 84 points.

Ireland 27 yo 1990/2017 (48%, Maltbarn, The Malt Clan, bourbon, 206 bottles)

Ireland 27 yo 1990/2017 (48%, Maltbarn, The Malt Clan, bourbon, 206 bottles) Five stars In theory, this should be pretty unbeatable… Colour: straw. Nose: the 2003, minus the sour/dry sherry, plus a much better polishing. Pistachio cream, mango jam, aloe, perhaps a little bacon (really), some cake straight from the bakery (raisin cake?) and, above everything, some very precious blue-green tea. Very subtle and delicate, less extravagantly fruity than other casks of this make. After ten minutes, there, passion fruits, pink grapefruits, and wet chalk. Mouth: only one major flaw, I was expecting this, while I do like surprises. Otherwise, we have passion fruits, mangos, a wee touch of salt, a feeling of clay, melissa water… And all that. Finish: medium, pure, and extremely fresh. A wee touch of litchi and pineapple in the aftertaste. Comments: luminous and refreshing. Yeah, most sadly, as expected – but we shan’t complain, shall we? SGP:651 - 91 points.

Irish Malt 28 yo 1989/2017 (49.3%, Antique Lions Of Spirits, bourbon, 209 bottles)

Irish Malt 28 yo 1989/2017 (49.3%, Antique Lions Of Spirits, bourbon, 209 bottles) Five stars This one comes under these lovely Moony labels, in this case, it would be butterflies. Does that suggest any kind of lightness?... Colour: pale gold. Nose: a slightly rounder version of the 1990, with a little more cake-y notes, and perhaps very ripe bananas. A little more oomph as well, and that cannot only be the extra 1.3% vol. Passion fruits, mangos, chalk, grapefruits… Brilliant nose, rather more ‘immediate’ than that of then 1990. Mouth: sweet Vishnu, this is a total fruit bomb! And they’re all there, papayas leading the way, then mangos, maracuja, etc., etc., etc… Also love the rather mineral backbone, it’s not just some fortified all-vitamin fruit juice. Finish: medium to long, always immensely fruity, and with a rather lemony signature. No, rather pink grapefruits again. Comments: just one stupid question, why don’t the owners have these? Granted, the prices would be five times higher, but still! A mystery… (agreed, it’s the same all over Scotland). SGP:751 - 92 points.

PS: It’s really bugging me that some of the very best whiskies that came out in the, say last three years were both indie and from undisclosed distilleries. I’m talking about those 1988-1991 Irish and about the mid-1970s ‘Speysides’. Now, all had age statements, so all is fine ;-).

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



Block Today: JAZZ. Performer: Cory Henry. Track: Gotcha Now. Please visit his website and buy his music...

September 19, 2017


New Benromach and the crazy 15

So, that would be two Benromach, one of them being very new – and very unusual. But an unusual Benromach, isn’t that a tautology!

Benromach 2009/2017 ‘Triple Distilled’ (50%, OB, 2017) Three stars and a half This is a brand new Benromach that was triple distilled. It went through the wash still once, and twice through the spirit still, so I imagine it became lighter and kind of thinner, but we shan’t expect some kind of Auchentoshan from the north… Colour: white wine. Nose: not too sure… This is clearly Benromach, with this sooty/smoky profile, but there are also bags and bags of pears, not sure why. Because of the youth? Because of the triple distillation? Because of the cuts? All that? With water: almost gone are the pears, enter bags of ashes, charcoal, and perhaps a little plastic of Bakelite. Mouth (neat): even more Benromach, just less fat and oily than some regular Benromach – if Benromach can be ‘regular’. Some smoked pears as well, some black pepper, and the usual ashy side. With water: fatter, more lemony, and with more oak pepper. Some newish oak involved, I suppose. Finish: medium, a tad leafier. Lemon-flavoured green tea and a little nutmeg, plus a fizzy side in the aftertaste. Comments: even if I like the 10 and the 10 CS frankly better, I find this new variant pretty good. SGP:452 - 84 points.

Benromach 15 yo (43%, OB, +/-2016)

Benromach 15 yo (43%, OB, +/-2016) Four stars I really liked this one in 2015 (WF 86), and subsequently decided to follow it almost every year. Method, always method. Colour: full gold. Nose: yeah, we’re two good steps above the Triple, with a wider spectrum, more ashes, shoe polish, camphor, rosemary and other herbs, tobacco, petrol, sour dough… It’s really not the first time we’re finding some kind of Sprinbankness in Benromach, is it? Mouth: excellent, just very unusual. Huge quantities of caraway, burnt herbs, bitter leaves, chewing tobacco, leather, paraffin, burnt vegetables, bitter oranges… It’s really odd, and I really like this. Finish: long, bitter. Artichoke cordial, dry herbal drinks, tar, grass juice, chlorophyll, chewing wax… Comments: they seem to have further improved something here, and I just love it. It’s just not whisky for your old uncle who’s drinking Bell’s. SGP:362 - 87 points.

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



Block Today: JAZZ. Performer: Mike Ellis. Track: Metamorphosis. Please buy his music...

September 18, 2017


An Arran extravaganza

There are more indie Arrans around, and always quite a lot of OBs, including semi-private ones. No, I don’t think we’ll try the over-packaged ones today, but we might stumble upon some peaters…

Arran 10 yo (46%, OB, +/-2016)

Arran 10 yo (46%, OB, +/-2016) Four stars The regular 10s often represent the easiest way of grasping the profile of any malt whisky. Indeed, or the 12s. Colour: pale gold. Nose: I like this. It’s got a good butterscotchy maltiness, some good custard without being overly vanilla-ed, and whiffs of raw barley and earth taken by hand from the field. Touches of honey and yellow flowers, and a quarter of a ripe apple. Feels very ‘honest’, whatever that means. Well, that means that it hasn’t been pimped/doctored/finished. Yeah. Mouth: indeed, this is fruity, and simply very good. Some kind of blend of natural Bruichladdich and Balblair, if you like. Apples, oranges, melons, barley, maple syrup, soft honey… Finish: medium, clean, fresh, fruity, and very easy. Comments: very honest indeed, and very well made. Should become a regular in many bars. SGP:541 - 85 points.

Arran 20 yo 1996/2017 (44.4%, Douglas Laing, Old Particular, refill hogshead, cask #DL11608, 136 bottles)

Arran 20 yo 1996/2017 (44.4%, Douglas Laing, Old Particular, refill hogshead, cask #DL11608, 136 bottles) Four stars Colour: bronze. Uh-oh, some nails? Patches? Nose: not metals, rather puréed chestnuts, leather polish, pipe tobacco, or rather narguileh tobacco, camphor, chestnut honey, old raisins, balsamico, old chardonnay… Not your regular cask for sure. Had it been leaking? Mouth: really interesting. Something has happened indeed, this is concentrated, rather un-Arran, jammy, with an oxidative style, some old jam mix, fermenting figs, tamarind jam… Really the son of nature! Finish: long and spicier, around nutmeg and bags of cinnamon, and yet it remained very jammy. Pinesap, honeydew, fig jam. Comments: we may have to thank a repairman. Very good and probably non-replicable. SGP:641 - 87 points.

Arran 19 yo 1996/2015 (52.5%, Reifferscheid, Romantic Rhine Collection, sherry puncheon, cask #1306)

Arran 19 yo 1996/2015 (52.5%, Reifferscheid, Romantic Rhine Collection, sherry puncheon, cask #1306) Three stars and a half Remember a sherry puncheon’s even larger than a butt or a gorda butt (+/-650 litres). Colour: gold. Nose: there’s a mentholy, herbal side right away, then many stewed and dried fruits. Raisins, naturally, strong honey, mead, a touch of damp cardboard… With water: muesli and that silver spoon you’re using to eat that muesli. There has been some ‘tertiary agent’, just like in the DL, although it’s not that pronounced here. Mouth (neat): very good. Marmalade and old jams, raisins, some cider (it’s even a little fizzy), overripe apples, ripe damson plums… No dry sherry, and no walnuts. With water: mead, a little earth. Finish: medium, with even more mead. Comments: unusual and good. The fizzy side on the palate is funny. SGP:651 - 84 points.

Arran 15 yo 2000/2015 (52.9%, OB, private cask, Mizunara The Library, Hong Kong, 302 bottles)

Arran 15 yo 2000/2015 (52.9%, OB, private cask, Mizunara The Library, Hong Kong, 302 bottles) Four stars Colour: gold. Nose: classic Arran, with bags of butterscotch, shortbread, vanilla cake, then rather raisins and apricot jam, ripe plums, then Vicks Vaporub. This will cure you. With water: gets softer and even rounder. Sultanas vs. sultanas, the movie! Mouth (neat): rich, thick, marmalade-y, with some sweet sherry in the front, then rather peppered marmalade and triple-sec. Bags and bags of sultanas, dates, and freshly squeezed oranges. Both heavy and light, if you see what I mean. Very good. With water: mead and barley syrup, with bags of raisins again. A little soft caramel and milk chocolate cream. Finish: medium long, sweet, round, and very raisiny. Malt and pepper are back in the aftertaste, with a firmer signature. Comments: you could think of PX at times. Proper PX, not PX-ed whisky. Like like like. SGP:641 - 87 points.

Arran 17 yo 1998/2016 (53.4%, OB, for Independent Spirit, sherry hogshead, cask # #1998/901, 286 bottles)

Arran 17 yo 1998/2016 (53.4%, OB, for Independent Spirit, sherry hogshead, cask # #1998/901, 286 bottles) Three stars Colour: full gold. Nose: classic drier sherry this time, with much less sweetness, rather some old walnuts, some leather, some dried meat, and touches of truffles. Tobacco, more leather, soy sauce… With water: tobacco, autumn leaves, mud, a wee touch of manure… Mouth (neat): rich, a tad sweeter, with hints of rubber at first, then pepper and cumin, walnut skins, bitter marmalade, pepper… With water: gets softer but these leaves remain there. Eating grass (while playing rugby, ha). Finish: long, always a tad bitter. Bitter oranges, walnuts, juniper berries… Comments: some kind of bittersweet Arran. Nice variation. SGP:461 - 80 points.

Arran 18 yo 1997/2016 (54.3%, OB, for Limburg Whisky Fair 2016, sherry hogshead, cask #913, 225 bottles)

Arran 18 yo 1997/2016 (54.3%, OB, for Limburg Whisky Fair 2016, sherry hogshead, cask #913, 225 bottles) Four stars Colour: pale gold. Nose: a cleaner one again, soft, easier, on raisins and shortbread, brioche, biscuits, all that. After that, more floral notes and a bit of sour apple. With water: ale and cider. Mouth (neat): really all on orange liqueur, marmalade, with drops of agave syrup and gritty/sour apples again. That creates a rather perfect balance. With water: ale and cider, once again, then orange blossom water and chamomile tea. There ‘s always a pleasant greenness in the background, which keeps it on the rails. Finish: medium, fresh, with a few hints of ripe bananas. Which is not uncommon in Arran, if I remember well. Comments: easy, classic, irrefutable. Just not astoundingly complex. SGP:551 - 86 points.

Arran 5 yo 2011/2017 (52.1%, OB, for Limburg Whisky Fair 2017, bourbon barrel, cask #1835, 285 bottles)

Arran 5 yo 2011/2017 (52.1%, OB, for Limburg Whisky Fair 2017, bourbon barrel, cask #1835, 285 bottles) Two stars and a half This one was made out of some heavily peated malt (50ppm). And given that we’re really not far from Islay… (but then again, the young peated Juras have been hit or miss, with some high hits though). Colour: pale white wine. Nose: I don’t know. Reminds me of the first very young peated Benriachs or Tomintouls, it’s as if they couldn’t get rid of the pears. On the other hand, these notes of old toolboxes are pleasant. Keywords smoked pears. So far. With water: mud, ink, raw peated barley. No more pears. Mouth (neat): I think this it too young, flavours didn’t have enough time to mingle together. A curious feeling of smoked pineapples this time, with a lot of green pepper. Syrup. With water: nice fruitiness this time. Ripe kiwis? Good vanilla, syrup, and less peat. Water helps. Finish: medium, fruity, with more ashes in the aftertaste. Comments: really fine, but too young for me. The 50ppm don’t feel much – not that we need them, eh. SGP:645 - 79 points.

Arran 5 yo 2011/2017 (52.8%, OB, for Limburg Whisky Fair 2017, bourbon barrel, cask #1862, 284 bottles)

Arran 5 yo 2011/2017 (52.8%, OB, for Limburg Whisky Fair 2017, bourbon barrel, cask #1862, 284 bottles) Four stars and a half Colour: white wine. Nose: amazing, there’s a lot more happening in this one. Sauerkraut, Sancerre, asparagus, smoked fish, wine vinegar, mud, damp gravel, clay… This, I like mucho! With water: perfect, green coffee, more mud, damp clay, cigars… Mouth (neat): what a difference a barrel makes… This has much more oomph, and although it’s quite fruity too (more on the tropical side), it’s also got more fine herbs, mint, dill, anise, tequila… With water: smoky tangerines, does that exist? Finish: medium, clean, on herb and fruit syrups, smoked grass (not figuratively)… Comments: ex-mezcal cask? No, I guess that wouldn’t be ‘traditional’ enough. And they don’t use a lot of oak for mezcal… But I find it extraordinary that two similar very young casks, probably filled on the very same day, would be this different after just 5 years. SGP:556 - 89 points.

And the one for the road…

Arran 1995/2016 (50.4%, OB, for La Maison du Whisky’s 60th Anniversary, sherry hogshead, cask #211, 331 bottles)

Arran 1995/2016 (50.4%, OB, for La Maison du Whisky’s 60th Anniversary, sherry hogshead, cask #211, 331 bottles) Four stars and a half The 1995s are rare. Could this be one of the oldest Arrans ever? Colour: deep gold. Nose: ah, active oak! You could almost believe this is Amrut, honestly. Bananas, mangos, custard, acacia honey, sandalwood, chamomile tea, orange blossom, honeysuckle, cigarette tobacco (say Benson & Hedges Gold – nosed my sister in law’s pack very recently - with the most honourable intentions). With water: perhaps a little oak, pencil shavings, sawdust, joiner's workshop… well I’m sure you get the idea. Mouth (neat): fantastic. Limoncello and coffee, cappuccino, old Grand-Marnier, Mandarine Impériale, crunchy peanut butter… With water: once again, the oak comes out and gives this lovely baby an obvious bourbony side. Finish: medium, creamy, on bananas covered with liquid praline. Comments: don’t use water on this one, and it’ll remain absolutely fantastic. At 50.4%, it doesn’t really need water anyway, officer. SGP:651 - 89 points.

We’ve got more Arrans but that wouldn’t be reasonable. See you tomorrow.

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



Block Today: JAZZ (kind of). Performer: John Scofield. Track: Camelus. Please visit his website and buy his music...

September 17, 2017


Yet another rum attack

Focussing on the better names this time again, because I’m no masochist. Which doesn’t mean we won’t try to keep assessing the doctored stuff as well in the future, but sufficient unto the month is the evil thereof, or something like that…

Foursquare 11 yo 2006/2017 (62.8%, Excellence Rhum, Barbados)

Foursquare 11 yo 2006/2017 (62.8%, Excellence Rhum, Barbados) Four stars From a cask marked ‘MBFS’, blended at birth using pot still and column Foursquares. This baby spent 20% of its time on location, and 80% in Europe before bottling. Colour: straw. Nose: sure it’s a little strong but I’m finding it rather gentle for Foursquare, with rather fresh grasses and fruits and not much gasoline or phenolic compounds. Butter cake, orange cake, custard, a spoonful of limejuice, some green apple peel. With water: whiffs of earth, a few needles, then rather white chocolate and crushed bananas. Indeed, it’s all rather gentle. Mouth (neat): really very strong, tart, with some sweetness in the background. Some kind of high-strength limoncello. With water: gets both oilier and firmer, with a little eucalyptus, orange zests, aniseed, then rather guavas. Some lighter phenols, perhaps a touch of wood smoke, and a rather lemony backbone that keeps it fresh and, well, even refreshing. Finish: long, pleasantly bitterer. Grass and a little Demerara sugar. Is it all right to quote Demerara? The guavas are back in the aftertaste, which is light and fresh. Comments: a rather lighter Foursquare, it could be that the ex-column part is in rather high proportions. SGP:551 - 85 points.

Hampden 16 yo 2000/2017 (54.6%, Excellence Rhum, Jamaica)

Hampden 16 yo 2000/2017 (54.6%, Excellence Rhum, Jamaica) Five stars This is LROK Hampden, so with a rather low-to-medium ester content for Hampden, and integrally ex-pot still. But low-ester rums from Hampden are much more estery than others. Colour: light gold. Nose: yeah, low esters, my foot! Limejuice, soot, brine, olives, shortbread, crushed ripe bananas, liquorice wood, humus, molassy pipe tobacco… With water: damp, mouldy old books and new linoleum (as I remember it, not sure anyone’s still making linoleum these days). Mouth (neat): so good, so good… Starts peppery and mentholy and gets then smoky and wildly grassy (old hay), with just the right amount of brine and smoked fish. Borrowed a few kippers from some distilleries on Islay. With water: liquorice and smoked tea, up. One black olive, a dollop of sugarcane syrup. Finish: long, and relatively easy for Hampden. Liquorice allsorts and lemon mints in the aftertaste. Comments: not a tiniest flaw that I could find. Perhaps the Port Ellen of rum (with a friendly nod to David Driscoll at K&L Wines). SGP:463 - 91 points.

W.I.R.D. 15 yo 2000/2015 (54%, Cave Guildive, Barbados, bourbon cask)

W.I.R.D. 15 yo 2000/2015 (54%, Cave Guildive, Barbados, bourbon cask) Four stars That’s right, this one from the West Indies Rum Distillery, a.k.a. Black Rock. Many of them are sweetened these days (Plantation’s, for example, while they actually do now own the distillery) but this one shouldn’t. And it’s pure pot still. Colour: light gold. Nose: starts rather liquoricy, with some rubbed mint leaves, but gets then rather mineral (chalk, plaster) and Vicks-y. Embrocations, overripe bananas and pineapples, then lilies and hints of wine gums and peonies. This baby’s pretty complex so far. With water: metal polish, old tea tin box, rubber bands, and linden tea. Mouth (neat): wait, may someone smoke pineapples? Or let some fresh pineapple infuse in lapsang souchong? Very funny, getting more peppery over minutes. English cake topping (right, flavoured icing sugar). With water: excellent, and rather on salted fruits, fresh, preserved and dried ones. A spoonful of tarry lapsang souchong again. Finish: rather long, and rather fruitier again. Dried pineapples and just herbal teas. A salty touch in the aftertaste. Comments: many drinks are very good when not doctored using sugar or other offensive additives. Okay, maybe not Coca-Cola. SGP:552 - 87 points.

Long Pond 30 yo 1982/2013 ‘Old Jamaique’ (50%, Ian MacLeod for Corman-Collins, bourbon barrel, cask #20, 237 bottles)

Long Pond 30 yo 1982/2013 ‘Old Jamaique’ (50%, Ian MacLeod for Corman-Collins, bourbon barrel, cask #20, 237 bottles) Four stars Did you see that Long Pond Distillery resumed operations after being closed for four years, thanks to Ferrand/Plantation, via the aforementioned W.I.R.D.? Please, not add sugary syrups! Colour: gold. Nose: rather fruity, rather fresh, and rather easy. Fennel seeds, vanilla, ripe peaches, bananas, then blueberry muffins and assorted pastries. The lighter side of Jamaica so far… With water: some incense, cedar wood, light cigars… Mouth (neat): really good, both rounded and easy, and yet more ‘Jamaican’ than on the nose. Pink pepper (Szechuan) and bitter oranges, earl grey, pineapples, and more oranges. All very good, and very easy. With water: some notes of gewürztraminer and caraway liqueur do come out. A little juniper. Finish: medium, fresh, with ‘ideas’ of good aged genever. Comments: a little more fragile than other Jamaicans, and a notch thinner, but just extremely good. Matches some of the best old agricoles, in my opinion. SGP:641 - 87 points.

Long Pond 35 yo 1977/2013 ‘Old Jamaique’ (50%, Ian MacLeod for Corman-Collins, bourbon barrel, cask #10, 229 bottles)

Long Pond 35 yo 1977/2013 ‘Old Jamaique’ (50%, Ian MacLeod for Corman-Collins, bourbon barrel, cask #10, 229 bottles) Five stars Forgot to say that these two old Long Ponds spent their lives in Scotland. Colour: gold. Nose: very delicate, floral, easy… Dandelions, vanilla, stewed peaches and mirabelles, lilies of the valley, nectar, barbecued mangos… Possibly one of the most floral rums I could nose. Indeed, barbecued mangos. With water: pure natural all-flower honey. I mean, honey from real honeybees. Mouth (neat): thin lace at first, but it grows bolder and tenser, with some pepper and caraway. Peppered pineapple cake with a little liquorice and nutmeg. Mandarine Impériale liqueur. With water (although water isn’t needed here): delicate, fruity, with notes of baklavas and other oriental delights, including Turkish ones. Finish: medium, a tad more phenolic and simply ‘Jamaican’ (say one olive). Honey and fruits in the aftertaste. Comments: a smoother old Jamaican that will please just anyone. Indeed, lace. SGP:641 - 88 points.

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



Block Today: SOUL JAZZ. Performer: Reuben Wilson. Track: Loft Funk. Please buy his music...

September 16, 2017




Angus's Corner
From our casual Scottish correspondent
and guest taster Angus MacRaild

Three Balvenie - Including the new
Peat Week

Balvenie is one of those distilleries that many well-worn whisky enthusiasts tout as maintaining some serious character and quality while many of its contemporaries seem to fade with homogenisation.


I’m not sure to what extent that’s true but I do undoubtedly have a soft spot for this distillery. Today we’ll try a couple of scarce older independent offerings alongside the new Peat Week. I have fond memories of tasting a cask sample of peated Balvenie at the distillery a few years ago so I’m looking forward to trying this one. But first up, Cadenheads...  


Balvenie-Glenlivet 13 yo 1979/1992 (46%, Cadenhead, Original Collection)

Balvenie-Glenlivet 13 yo 1979/1992 (46%, Cadenhead, Original Collection) Colour: White wine. Nose: Pure barley juice. Oats, buttered toast, cereals, wet grains, hummus, some mineralic gravely notes and some barley sugar sweetness. Goes on with grass, hay, some stables and even a lick of wet dog. A little grassiness, a few simplistic green and garden fruits. A banana skin or two. All very pleasant, clean and fairly classical. Mouth: In keeping with the nose this is perfectly balanced, pretty classical Speyside whisky with a lovely and very fresh cereal, barely-sweetness balanced by a little vanilla and spice from the wood and some grassiness and a kind of generic green fruitiness. More buttered toast notes, muesli, a gloop of porridge. It’s highly drinkable but a tad boring I must confess. Finish: medium length with a soft spiciness that carries notes of star anise and liquorice. Maybe a tiny whiff of camphor and green tea. Comments: It’s pleasant enough, but I feel this could be almost any decent Speyside single malt from the last 30 years or so. Don’t get me wrong, it’s the kind of whisky you can almost drink without noticing. Or plop and ice cube in on a summer afternoon. SGP: 431 - 79 points. 



Balvenie-Glenlivet 15 yo 1979/1995 (57.8%, Cadenhead, Authentic Collection)

Balvenie-Glenlivet 15 yo 1979/1995 (57.8%, Cadenhead, Authentic Collection) Colour: Chardonnay. Nose: Probably from sibling stocks, you can feel an immediate and close identity with the 13yo. However, this one veers in a drier direction; notes of chalk, fresh linen, sunflower oil and sourdough bread. There is still a light, gravelly mineral quality to this one but it’s more towards white fruits with a few assorted herbs and wild flowers. More interesting for sure. With time a slightly citrus edge emerges. With water: Not too much movement really. More of these kind of linen notes, even a lick of washing powder which I’m undecided about to be honest. On the other hand there’s a more easy citrus quality and further pleasant cereal and floral aspects. Mouth: Quite shy at first with a subtle mineral edge, some natural barley sweetness, gomme syrup, greengages, a little sootiness and some notes of clay and ink. With water: again water doesn’t bring too many changes really. Perhaps a little white pepper and some more sweetness. A scraping of orange peel? Finish: Not the longest. Plenty cereals and light fruits but feels a little hollow. Comments: Hmmmm. Some parts are superior to the 13yo, others weaker. On the whole it feels a little disappointing to be honest. Same score I think. SGP: 341 - 79 points.



Balvenie 14 yo 2002 ‘Peat Week’ (48.3%, OB, 2017)

Balvenie 14 yo 2002 ‘Peat Week’ (48.3%, OB, 2017) So, the story goes that Balvenie makes heavily peated malt for one week a year and that this bottling is drawn from the first batch produced in 2002 and fully matured in American oak. Let’s see what gives... Colour: Gold. Nose: The peat is obvious but subdued and shy; this is no clumsy ash bomb. It’s more towards fermenting apples, hay, the inside of old cider casks, horse stables, dunnage and a rather elegant and leafy pipe tobacco note. A lick of bonfire smoke and some very light peat oils with more of these sharp fermenting notes such as sourdough, ale and sheep wool. Some similarly edgy notes of lemon juice in the background. Pleasingly different and quite excellent so far I feel. With water: more sootiness, coal hearths and a whole mug full of chai tea. Evolves towards mulling spices with a little time. Some tertiary notes of ink, graphite and some broad mineral aspects.



Mouth: There’s a slightly arid smokiness at first which is juxtaposed by the obvious sweetness of the American oak, these notes of vanilla and smoked sawdust. A little medicine, some soot, hay, dung (I don’t eat a lot of dung but there’s an impression I promise) and notes of clove, pine and some dried herbs. With water: more notes of smoked tea, a cup or early grey with a slice of lemon floating in it. Finish: Decent length, lean and full of smoky bacon crisps, smoked cereals, beach pebbles and more notes of smoked tea. Even a slightly salty edge towards the end. Comments: Well, I had thought the Cadenhead duo might have given this one more of a run for its money but the official easily trounces them. I like the fact that it differs quite a bit from many of the other mainland peated malts which have emerged in recent years. A worthy, highly quaffable and idiosyncratic addition to the Balvenie stable. And I especially like the fact it’s available for a fair price and there’s plenty information given on the label. I know, in know...call me old fashioned! SGP: 456 - 87 points.  



September 15, 2017


Allt-A-Bhainne by three

Chivas’s Allt-A-Bhainne is becoming a little more common these days, thanks to the independent bottlers, but it’s still not very well known, perhaps thanks to a name that’s just unpronounceable. We’ve had some very good ones in the past… and quite some duds as well I should add.

All-A-Bhainne 22 yo 1993/2015 (50.2%, Liquid Sun, bourbon)

All-A-Bhainne 22 yo 1993/2015 (50.2%, Liquid Sun, bourbon) Two stars Colour: straw. Nose: harsh and relatively feinty at first nosing, extremely porridge-y, malty, and kind of sour. Changing-room, sour dough, a little soap… What’s better is that it tends to become cleaner, with more vanilla. With water: soap up, not too good. Even when you wait, wait, wait… Mouth (neat): no foul notes this time, rather massive amounts of eaux-de-vie, kirsch, and sweet ale. Some ginger and pepper too. Not the easiest malt ever if you ask me… With water: same-ish. A little bitter caramel? Finish: medium, with bitter almonds, more raw kirsch, and more ale. Bitter oranges. Comments: perhaps rather for cocktails? Yes, Serge speaking. SGP:451 - 72 points.

All-A-Bhainne 16 yo 2000/2017 (48.4%, Douglas Laing, Old Particular)

All-A-Bhainne 16 yo 2000/2017 (48.4%, Douglas Laing, Old Particular) Three stars and a half Picture of an earlier bottling. Colour: pale gold. Nose: a bit within the same style, but with many less porridge-y notes, and rather more ripe apples, honey, and yellow flowers, as well as limestone crumbles. Possibly ex-refill sherry, but we haven’t got the data yet, as this one’s brand new. Mouth: really good. Trappist beer, chestnut honey, praline, tarte tatin, and butterscotch. It’s rather simple, but there’s not a throwaway in this wee bunch of flavours. Finish: long, rather maltier. Oranges and Ovaltine, and once again, a little kirsch in the aftertaste. Comments: very good, simple, well composed, and very malty. SGP:551 - 83 points.

All-A-Bhainne 23 yo 1992/2016 (50%, Cadenhead, Authentic Collection, bourbon barrel, 184 bottles)

All-A-Bhainne 23 yo 1992/2016 (50%, Cadenhead, Authentic Collection, bourbon barrel, 184 bottles) Three stars Colour: straw. Nose: this one’s rather grassier, with more leaves and, well grasses. Plums, gooseberries, white cherries, custards, and whiffs of lilac. All fine. With water: green tea and almond milk. More white cherries as well. Mouth (neat): rather sweet and a little bonbony. Honey bonbons, cassis… Fine. With water: sweet barley, barley eau-de-vie, IPA… You see… Finish: medium, on orchard fruits and more green tea. Comments: fine. It’s not easy to write long lines about a good yet ‘average’ malt whisky such as this one. When I write average I mean middle-of-the road. SGP:551 - 80 points.

Well, I had also planned a Braes/Braeval session but I think we’ll wait a little longer.


Pete McPeat and Jack Washback



Block Today: JAZZ. Performer: Christophe Wallemme. Track: Tandoori groove. Please visit his website and buy his music...

September 2017 - part 1 <--- September 2017 - part 2 ---> October 2017 - part 1



Best spirits I tried those weeks, 90+ points only

Brora 1982/2015 (46%, Gordon & MacPhail, Rare Old, refill sherry puncheon, Lot #RO/15/01)

Highland Park 28 yo 1988/2017 (49.6%, Cadenhead, Wine Cask, 222 bottles)

Highland Park 2007/2016 (58.8%, Gordon & MacPhail, Cask Strength, refill bourbon barrels, casks # 15603510-15603515)

Irish Malt 28 yo 1989/2017 (49.3%, Antique Lions Of Spirits, bourbon, 209 bottles)

Ireland 27 yo 1990/2017 (48%, Maltbarn, The Malt Clan, bourbon, 206 bottles)

Hampden 16 yo 2000/2017 (54.6%, Excellence Rhum, Jamaica)