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Whisky Tasting




Hi, you're in the Archives, September 2019 - Part 2


September 2019 - part 1 <--- September 2019 - part 2 ---> October 2019 - part 1



September 30, 2019


New Benromach 50 years old

But first, a few stepping stones, so to speak.

Benromach 15 yo (43%, OB, +/-2018)

Benromach 15 yo (43%, OB, +/-2018) Four stars
We last tried this one three years ago and liked it a lot (WF 87) Colour: gold. Nose: ah this typical sooty note, not quote smoky, or at least not quite peaty, rather around coal, then sour cigars, soot, ashes, shoe polish, diesel oil… Once again we’re on the axis of the waxy, which, as well know, starts in Campbeltown. Mouth: big umami, black and green tea, chalky and waxy broths (should some one ever prepare that), bitter oranges, Jerusalem artichokes, burnt Brussels sprouts (not joking), a little burnt caramel too… There really is an oddness to this make, but that really is an asset here. Finish: long and bitter, on concentrated turnip and spinach extracts. Yeah I know. Comments: extremely singular, at some point this baby would make Springbank taste like Glenkinchie. Quite. Unchanged.
SGP:372 - 87 points.

Benromach 10 yo '100° proof' (57%, OB, +/-2018)

Benromach 10 yo '100° proof' (57%, OB, +/-2018) Four stars and a half
Another favourite that we’re just revisiting. Colour: deep gold. Nose: as much chalk and copper as possible, then fresh asparagus, leaves and branches, then this very peculiar kind of sulphur that’s also to be found in Mortlach (from the distillate, not from the casks), and then the same artichokes as in the 15. With water: similar at first, then mustard, brine and fresh walnuts come through. Which, naturally, suggests fino sherry. Mouth (neat): it’s really heavy, dense, with loads of ginger and macha tea, grass, even more artichokes and bitter vegetable, then a sweeter side, with oranges, that does not quite manage to make it properly rounder. Not that we needed that anyway. With water: excellent, really. It gets tenser and even tighter, with really a lot salted lemon juice. You cannot not think of a perfect margarita (the cocktail). Finish: long, muscular, tight, bitter but with a rounder, orange-y aftertaste. Bitter beer, amer-bière… Comments: I think I like it even better than the one I had tried around 2016.
SGP:463 - 88 points.

Benromach 1998/2018 ‘20th Anniversary’ (53.2%, OB, 3000 bottles)

Benromach 1998/2018 ‘20th Anniversary’ (53.2%, OB, 3000 bottles) Three stars
A blend of bourbon and sherry, issued last year to celebrate the distillery’s reopening under the helm of G&M. We should have tried it earlier, I suppose… Colour: golden amber. Nose: this one’s a little fatter than the others, but the overall style is similar to that of the 15, just with a little less smoke, and a little more copper and other metallic notes (old coins). Behind that, walnut oil, tobacco, a little fennel, a touch of burnt butter, a little ham, and certainly some church candles, containing a lot of paraffin. Also dill, wild carrots, soy sauce… With water: some saponification happening, and you need a lot of time to get rid of those notes, this time. I tend to like both the 10/100 and the 15 rather better at this stage. Mouth (neat): really rich, mostly on bitter oranges, Campari, bitters, cherry stems, and once again some artichokes. With water: absolutely good, but once again, both the 10/100 and the 15 outflank it. Perhaps have they been a little too liberal with the sherry, well that’s my opinion. Remember, big distillates and sherry may clash more often than never, in my little book. Finish: rather long, waxy and bitter, with hints of raisins. Salt and a little soap in the aftertaste. Comments: really good, but I would probably not swap three barrels of the latter for one of the formers.
SGP:451 - 82 points.

And so, the brand new 50!

Benromach 50 yo 1969

Benromach 50 yo 1969/2019 (44.6%, OB, sherry hogshead, cask #2003, 125 decanters) Five stars
A wonderful thing by G&M, once again. It’s been said that family businesses usually take the long view, while corporations and public companies are rather obsessed with short-term profit. Well, a look at the ages of their inventories should confirm, or invalidate that saying. We’ve already tried a short few 1969s, especially a wonderful 1969/2004 (WF 91) and an even greater 1969/2011 (WF 92), so big hopes here… Colour: amber. Nose: oh sweet Mary and Joseph, what a glorious nose! Extraordinary notes of ‘a walk in the woods’, mushrooms, chestnut honey and honeydew, camphor, newly sawn fir wood, embrocations, Vicks, beeswax, lemongrass, tiger balm, angelica, woodruff… Well, this kind of complexity only comes with age, that’s bleeding obvious, but naturally, you would not always need fifty years. In any case, this is fabulous, let’s only hope this baby won’t suffer from many a very old whisky’s fate, you know, great fresh nose, woody and drying palate. Let’s see… Mouth: the answer’s no, there. Not that there isn’t any oak, but it did not come out, it’s still well-mingled with the rest, which includes many sorts of oranges and honeys, balms and ointments, tobacco, waxes, and just the right amounts of the usual cloves, cinnamon and nutmeg. Some well-mannered oak, I would say. Finish: long, rather on great teas, Assams, Darjeelings, and oranges again in the aftertaste, as well as chocolate… Comments: less smoke than in the ‘G&M-distilled’ brothers, and ‘of course’, a nose that’s a little greater than the palate, which is absolutely normal at these ages. Not cheap, but who is counting?
SGP:561 - 91 points.

More tasting notesCheck the index of all Benromach we've tasted so far


September 29, 2019


Insane tasting, twenty white rums
(a little more, actually)

Do not try this at home! And do not expect any long notes, as we’ve really got many such white rums that we’ve accumulated over the last two years. But sometimes white rum can be just superb, especially good agricole or proper ex-pot still juice. Let’s do this randomly if you don’t mind, for more fun…


Karukera 2016/2017 ‘L’Intense’ (63.8%, OB, Guadeloupe, agricole)

Karukera 2016/2017 ‘L’Intense’ (63.8%, OB, Guadeloupe, agricole) Four stars and a half
This is own-estate blue cane still distilled, I believe, at Longueteau. I don’t think it’s very smart to start such as session with such high voltages, but there, we said ‘randomly’. Colour: white. Nose: oh! That’s the thing, you could never achieve proper terroirness with molasses, you need pure fresh cane juice. This is a perfect example, it’s just terrific, on samphires, capers, rainwater, and green lemons (not lime). It’s even noseable at nearly 64% vol.! With water: some grassy and salty cane juice. No ideas if this is kind of esterified, but it feels like it is. Let me remind you that I do not know much about rum, thanks for your understanding. Mouth (neat): too strong, but it’s luminous spirit. Extremely well-carved, salty and lemony. Wow. With water: I love this. In the same category as the great white. Love the olives inside. Finish: long, fresh, grassy, with notes of smoked fish and overripe bananas. Perhaps a tad ‘lighter’ than expected at this point. Comments: impressive distillate, only the finish was a tad less convincing, but that often happens with ‘new makes’.
SGP:372 - 88 points.

Blimey, we had said we’d keep this short and sweet…

La Favorite 2016 ‘Rivière Bel’Air’ (53%, OB, Martinique, agricole)

La Favorite 2016 ‘Rivière Bel’Air’ (53%, OB, Martinique, agricole) Five stars
This is red cane this time, from a single terroir (named Bel-Air). Hey, whoever talks about barley in whisky? Everyone should, for crying out loud! I wasn’t a huge fan of La Favorite because of some of their heavily sauced-up expressions, but I know other bottlings have been or are way better. In short, I’m ready to change my mind… Colour: white. Nose: much softer and gentler than the Guadeloupean, a tad earthier, but also rounder, with lower definition, I would say. With water: tinned anchovies, asparagus, and tar. And fresh cane juice. Amazing now. Mouth (neat): oh nice! It’s a tad cologne-y at first, but a sumptuous earthiness arises, together with notes of Jerusalem artichokes and fennel. Sumptuous, really. With water: oh s***t! This is just marvellous, brine-y, waxy, earthy, with notes of pistachio syrup. Incredible. Finish: long, superb, complex, earthy, brine-y, herbal… The best of agricoleness. We’ll see if we have some white Neisson in the boxes, but otherwise, we already have a winner. No, really, not many provenances can compete with proper terroir, in the ‘white’ category. Comments: and there, La Favorite becomes one of my favourites. I know, too easy.
SGP: 362 - 90 points.

Too fast, we’re too fast…

Bacardi ‘Facundo Neo’ (40%, OB, Puerto Rico, +/-2018)

Bacardi ‘Facundo Neo’ (40%, OB, Puerto Rico, +/-2018)
This is different, it’s aged rum that’s then charcoal-filtered (aarghg, where have we seen that horrible thing before?) to make it white. And remember, in marketing speak, white = pure. Total B.S. Colour: white. Nose: nada, niente, nothing, nichst, rien. Crush and dilute three sugar cubes in a litre water, you’ll get the same. Mouth: barely acceptable. Sweet and sour, bizarrely herbal, badly defined, and unpleasant. Finish: short and sugary, very bad. Comments: junk in a lovely bottle. For posh bars, I suppose newly born bearded mixologists won’t know what hit them. Bwaaah.
SGP:620 - 20 points.

That’s what happens with randomness, but we’ll persevere!...

Cor Cor ‘Green’ (40%, OB, Japan, +/-2017)

Cor Cor ‘Green’ (40%, OB, Japan, +/-2017)
Japan’s been very disappointing recently, as far as spirits were concerned. Fake Japanese whiskies, use of rice, denials, anger… But this pure cane rum may stand out, let’s see… It’s from Okinawa, where people live longer than elsewhere., but the minimal strength’s a bad sign. Colour: white. Nose: interesting! It’s different, very muddy, a bit bacterial, with notes of rotten fruits (bananas and others), new Chinese plastic (bisphenol, phthalates and friends), a curious kind of paraffin that smells of.. dried fish?... But I do like all these differences, even if it’s very light. Forgot to mention fish oil. Mouth: rather difficult. It’s cool to produce different flavours, but in this case we’re rather in lost sake territories. Glues, fennel, horseradish, molasses, bottarga (fish eggs), coal smoke… Finish: rather short, and that’s rather a relief. Sugar in the aftertaste? What? Comments: clumsy but very nice, in the sense that it’s very creative distillate. But what did they distil? Durians? No, this is supposed to be rum, but this is also Japan…
SGP: 231- 55 points.

I think we’ll go back to French rhums, if you agree… Wood can mask many flaws, but when a spirit is white, truth comes out. Ever tried white Zacapa? Diplo? Don Papa? Macallan? (joking)...

Depaz ‘Cuvée de la Montagne’ (55%, OB, Martinique, agricole, +/-2017)

Depaz ‘Cuvée de la Montagne’ (55%, OB, Martinique, agricole, +/-2017) Three stars
All canes have been harvested on the slopes of the volcano Montagne Pelée. More proper terroirism, you see. Colour: white. Nose: rather delicate this time, almost whispering, with fresh almonds and hazelnuts, and just three crushed olives, as well as a little kelp. Fresh and maritime. With water: rosewater, soap, lady’s moisturizer, kelp, almond cream… Some fun to be had with this one. Depaz, really? Mouth (neat): oh funny indeed, aquavit, caraway, menthol, pastis… Is that all really natural? Of course it is. With Water:  fish sauce, sugar syrup, almonds, sour fruits, more aniseed… This one really plays with you, but some would say it lacks focus. Finish: medium, salty, with some ink this time. Comments: what was that? Free rum, perhaps, as in free jazz. There’s always something mysterious with mountains, not to mention volcanos that already killed thousands in the early 20th century. La Montagne Pelée, kss, kss...
SGP:451 - 80 points.

Domaine de Séverin ‘Blanc’ (55%, OB, Guadeloupe, agricole, +/-2017)

Domaine de Séverin ‘Blanc’ (55%, OB, Guadeloupe, agricole, +/-2017) Two stars
This one’s got a GI. It’s to be noted that 50, 55 and 60% vol. are common strengths in the French West Indies. Séverin mature this rhum for six months in stainless steel, to ripen it a bit. Colour: white. Nose: it’s a rather earthy one at first sniffs, while it would get then very brine-y. Olives, green tea, liquorice wood, cactus juice, gherkins… Lovely, really tense and lovely. With water: same-ish, with touches of new plastic and soap. Which is not unseen in proper good raw rhum agricole. I believe that comes from some kinds of essential oils. Mouth (neat): it’s lacking definition this time, while it’s rather lost the lovely brine that we fund on the nose. A tad too raw and brutal too. With water: indeed, it’s bit sugary and dirty at the same time. Pixelized white rum? Finish: rather long and a little fruitier. Overripe bananas and pineapples, I would say. Some salt. Comments: rather a disappointment. We’ll try other cuvées soon. What’s really weird is that we had an earlier batch just last year and that we just loved it (WF 88).
SGP:451 - 73 points.

J. Bally ‘Blanc’ (55%, OB, La Martinique, agricole, +/-2017)

J. Bally ‘Blanc’ (55%, OB, La Martinique, agricole, +/-2017) Three stars
Since the 1970s, Bally’s not made at the old distillerie anymore, it’s distilled at St. James. Colour: white. Nose: this baby’s much rounder, rather less on brine-y cane juice, and more on pineapple liqueur, and perhaps mangos. A very different style, I suppose that comes from the yeast they’re using. There’s also something slightly medicinal, iodine, aspirin tablets, bandages… With water: tarmac, whelks and clams, really! Mouth (neat): indeed, it’s fruitier, with coastal notes as well as touches of artichokes and concrete. So not quite a fruit bomb, while the vegetal side is less on olives here. With water: soft, rather on green bananas. It’s a sweeter one for sure. Finish: long, saltier. Salted bananas. Comments: I’m more in favour of the ‘mezcaly’ ones, but this one isn’t half bad, for sure.
SGP: 641- 81 points.

Trois Rivières ‘Anniversaire 355 ans’ (55%, OB, Martinique, agricole, 2015)

Trois Rivières ‘Anniversaire 355 ans’ (55%, OB, Martinique, agricole, 2015) Three stars
Trois Rivières is made at La Mauny, it’s not a distillery, although it’s probably the French brand that’s most seen on shelves all around the world. And 355 years, that’s a lot of years. By the way, Campari just bought the brand, as well as La Mauny. Colour: white. Nose: back to the saltier, brine-ier ones, In short back to mezcal, olives, new plastic, and rotting bananas. With water: chalk and fresh concrete, plus rubbed herbs. Mouth (neat): very good, perhaps rather between both styles (sweet and dry). Olives, lemons, green pepper, overripe bananas, cane juice, tar, earth… With water: more fruits this time, especially grapefruits. Banana skin. Finish: long, a little saltier again. Fish cooked in banana sauce or something. Comments: no problem here, it’s rather cheap, it is or was widely available, and it’s really good. Only the bottle is a tad too unlikely and really looks like a bottle of gin. But who cares…
SGP:551 - 82 points.

Rhum J.M ‘Jungle Macouba’ (51.2%, OB, Martinique, agricole, +/-2017)

Rhum J.M ‘Jungle Macouba’ (51.2%, OB, Martinique, agricole, +/-2017) Four stars
J.M is a proper distillery and this was a limited edition, matured for one year. Colour: white. Nose: yeah! Kerosene, diesel oil, brake fluid, tar, new tyres, hand cream, then broom and gorse, then fresh pineapples. Extremely well-defined this time, what a wee rum! With water: love these coastal notes, seawater, oysters, and of course crayfish, as well as the pink grapefruits. Mouth (neat): exceptional, rich and yet refreshing, with touches of Turkish delights and litchis at first, then olives and tar, then engine oil and liquorice. Love these three well-defined stages. With water: perfect, rather more on grapefruits again. Shall we call it ‘Margarita’?  Finish: rather long, saltier. Grapefruits and green olives, with an earthy/tarry touch in the aftertaste. Comments: fruits perfectly well mastered. But the bottle, come on! Do they share the same designer with 3 Rivières?
SGP:652 - 87 points.

Bologne ‘Blanc’ (55%, OB, Guadeloupe, agricole, +/-2017)

Bologne ‘Blanc’ (55%, OB, Guadeloupe, agricole, +/-2017) Two stars and a half
Not a rum that I’ve tasted very often. Colour: blanc. Nose: rather hard after the J.M. This one’s much rougher, kind of dirty, hot and raw, but water should improve these things, let’s see. A little fish oil, perhaps. With water: got clean and sweet, and rather floral. Elderflowers. You would have thought it would be much more ‘agricole’, but it’s very gentle. Some raisins. Mouth (neat): it’s very creamy, very sweet, almost sugary. And almost some papaya and banana liqueur! With water: it’s good, very easy, pretty simple. Some kind of grapefruit liqueur. Finish: medium, rounded, sweet. Comments: possibly the roundest and sweetest of all Guadeloupean agricoles. Pretty good, just not exactly what we’re looking for.
SGP:641 - 78 points.

Longueteau ‘Blanc’ (50%, OB, Guadeloupe, agricole, +/-2017)

Longueteau ‘Blanc’ (50%, OB, Guadeloupe, agricole, +/-2017) Four stars and a half
Their white ‘Genesis’ was very good. They also have a 55% and, I believe a 62% that may rip your head off. Colour: white. Nose: oh yeah! Cod liver oil, engine oil, olive brine, fisherman’s rope, woodruff, wormwood, verbena, clams, crushed strawberries… With water:  impeccable freshness. Rain water, seawater, lime juice, brine, ripe bananas, fish, almonds… Mouth (neat): we’ve known some Cuban aguardiente that used to be kept in some private cupboard in Cienfuegos (I’m being smart)… With water: there’s a wee cologne-y side but that’s nothing and that would go away. Otherwise, sardines, olives, lemon, lime, cane juice, strawberries… Finish: long, saltier and more coastal yet. Touches of williams pear spirit. Comments: immaculate distillate. I’m asking you, who needs wood when the distillate’s this good? And some big savings to be made, on all accounts.
SGP:562 - 88 points.

Since we’re at Longueteau’s…

Longueteau ‘Parcelle N°1’ (55%, OB, Guadeloupe, agricole, 2014)

Longueteau ‘Parcelle N°1’ (55%, OB, Guadeloupe, agricole, 2014) Three stars and a half
This is red cane from a very specific ‘parcelle’ and from a single vintage. In short, stuff that only proper vine growers would do, as well as just a handful of whisky makers from the Mark-Reynier school. Colour: white. Nose: clearly wilder, more deviant, with more plastic-like aromas, paraffin, sour fish oils, acacia gum, fermenting hay… It’s quite something. With water: not sure it swims too well. Gets closed, with just whiffs of cane juice and fresh almonds. Mouth (neat): I hate to say that I liked the generic Longueteau a little better. This is grassier and hotter, with much more hard liquorice as well. Let’s see what water will do to it: sweeter, easier, almost mundane after the fantastic generic white Longueteau. Finish: medium and curiously gentle. A nice brine-y aftertaste, though. Comments: excellent white rum, of course, and indeed it’s singular. Single estates or parcels make even more sense with cane than with barley, but ‘singular’ doesn’t obligatorily mean ‘better’.
SGP:551 - 83 points.

So, grey cane, blue cane , red cane, black cane… I just couldn’t tell you about the differences I’m afraid. But let’s go on…

Clément ‘Blanc’ (55%, OB, Martinique, agricole, +/-2017)

Clément ‘Blanc’ (55%, OB, Martinique, agricole, +/-2017) Two stars
Rhum Clément is made at Distillerie du Simon, where they also make HSE a.k.a. Habitation St Etienne. Colour: white. Nose: a little hot and a little burnt, with notes of pineapple juice, sweet cider, and simply sucrose. Mouth: Woops! With water: rose petals? Other than that, it’s rather empty, I hate to say. Mouth (neat): no. It’s fine-ish, but too sweet and ethanoly. With water: a little better, with some brine indeed, but it’s really simple. For cocktails only, I suppose, while you could sip all the others like that, or with some ice (or with three olives, as rumtinis). Finish: medium, simple, sweet, with a little earth. Comments: this had to happen. No you can’t sip just any white agricole as if it was Clynelish. 1965.
SGP:640 - 70 points.

Perhaps try an improved Clément?

Clément ‘Colonne Créole’ (49.5%, OB, Martinique, agricole, +/-2016)

Clément ‘Colonne Créole’ (49.5%, OB, Martinique, agricole, +/-2016) Two stars and a half
This one came in a flat decanter. The colonne créole is the traditional still that they use for rhum agricole in Martinique and Guadeloupe. So, nothing really fancy or unusual here, but there. Colour: white. Nose: it’s rather earthy and nutty, and rather light. Notes of roots but not much else. Beetroots? (which would take the biscuit, historically!) With water: lemon grass, celeriac, green tea. Mouth (neat): better, and rather in the gentian-like category. Roots, gentian, tonic water, Suze… With water: gets sweeter, but it would never lose its gentian-ness. Finish: medium, rooty, clean, fresh. Saltier aftertaste, as almost always with white rhum agricole. Comments: clearly much better, although still a bit lazy or sluggish. These rhums are pretty light.
SGP:650 - 78 points.

No, I’m not dead yet, let’s go on…

HSE ‘Cuvée de l’Année 2010’ (50%, OB, Martinique, agricole, +/-2014)

HSE ‘Cuvée de l’Année 2010’ (50%, OB, Martinique, agricole, +/-2014) Three stars
This cuvée has been kept and nurtured for more than three years before bottling. Remember HSE comes from Le Simon, just like Clément. Colour: white. Nose: extremely soft, gentle, on soft cakes and tartes. Mirabelle is particularly obvious here. Ylang-ylang. With water: just as soft. Hints of cane juice and anchovies. Mouth (neat): did they distil mirabelle plums indeed? With water: a few salty touches over all these ripe or stewed or baked (or distilled) mirabelles. Finish: medium, nice, delicate, salty. Comments: very fair, well made, easy, a good introduction to white agricole, I would say.
SGP: 551- 80 points.

La Favorite ‘Coeur de Canne’ (50%, OB, Martinique, agricole, +/-2018)

La Favorite ‘Coeur de Canne’ (50%, OB, Martinique, agricole, +/-2018) Four stars
If we’re anywhere near the fabulous Rivière Bel’Air, we’re in for a treat with this Heart of Cane, even if this very cuvée is said to be softer. I’m asking you, who needs softness in a harsh world? Colour: white. Nose: softer it is. Ripe bananas, balsa wood, macadamia nuts, hints of smoked salmon, gorse and honeysuckle, fresh cane juice… It is intriguing, let’s dig further… With water: some paraffin, fresh concrete, books, engine oil… that’s all good! Mouth (neat): oh this is good indeed! Sloe eau-de-vie (not gin), caraway, violet sweets, curaçao… It’s very different. With water: do not add too much or it’ll down. Otherwise, some saltiness, pepper, sloe, juniper… And o, still not gin. Finish: quite long, salty, more lemony. Zucchini flower beignets and pepper. Comments: clearly one of the better white agricoles. I’m so glad I could change my mind, it’s true that the first Favorites I could try, quite some years or decades ago, were heavily sauced-up, Plantation-style. Happy, I am happy.
SGP:551 - 85 points.

Rhum Transat ‘Blanc’ (45.1%, Charbonnaud, agricole, +/-2016)

Rhum Transat ‘Blanc’ (45.1%, Charbonnaud, agricole, +/-2016) Two stars and a half
This is rhum that’s travelled on some ship from La Martinique to Burgundy. Yeah, and? Now it is said that this is rhum from J.M, which ought to inspire respect. Colour: white. Nose: rose petals, gewurztraminer, litchis, lilies… Well this is one of the most floral rums I could nose. It’s really lovely and in the 1980s, you would have called it ‘a little feminine’. Mouth: a little less focussed, a little grassier. Lime juice, grass, grapefruits. Not huge, but pleasant. If it’s well J.M, it’s gentler J.M. Finish: only medium but very, and surprisingly peppery. The aftertaste is very sweet, almost too sweet. Comments: their 15 yo was rather superb (WF 85), this is less entrancing, I think. J.M, really?
SGP:640 - 78 points.

Hop to French Guyana? Why not?

Or Blanc de Guyane (50%, OB, French Guyana, agricole, +/-2018)

Or Blanc de Guyane (50%, OB, French Guyana, agricole, +/-2018) Two stars and a half
This baby was distilled at distillerie Saint Maurice in St Laurent du Maroni. That’s the only distillery in Guyane, where they also make Belle Cabresse or Toucan. Some of their rum is industrial (molasses), but this is well agricole. Colour: white. Nose: it hasn’t got the depth and the wideness of most Martinique or Guadeloupe, but it’s fine, rather earthy, with some bananas and a wee pack of liquorice allsorts. A bit shy, perhaps? With water: no further developments, I’m afraid. Perhaps a little more earth. Mouth (neat): good, rather sweeter, and clearly different from its neighbours in the East. Blood oranges are to be found, while you won’t find any in the rhums o the isles, also the traditional pineapples and bananas. It’s good, simple juice. With water: same, plus notes of muscat raisins. Finish: medium, rounded, easy. More muscat. Comments: pretty good and easy, this little white gold. They make good rum at Saint Maurice. I think I liked the original Belle Cabresse at 50% a little better.
SGP:630 - 78 points.

Perhaps a short hop to Grenada?

Westerhall ’12 Degree Clear’ (40%, OB, Grenada, +/-2018)

Westerhall ’12 Degree Clear’ (40%, OB, Grenada, +/-2018)
Terrible packaging here, looks like a bottle of English milk. Frightening… (not English milk of course, just this bottle!) Colour: white. Nose: oh, that thing that we managed to avoid since the start, coconut! We not want that in any spirit, you keep coconut for coconut liqueur, thank you Mister Distiller. Mouth: light, smooth, coconutty. We can do without coconut. Finish: short. Comments: it is not sauced-up, it’s even pretty clean, it’s just that all this coconut just wrecks it all, although I wouldn’t say it’s flawed, its just characterless, beyond the coconuts.  Weak rum.
SGP:620 - 50 points.

So, back to France. I mean, metropolitan France this time…

BOWS ‘HEOC 2017’ (56.5%, OB, France)

BOWS ‘HEOC 2017’ (56.5%, OB, France) Five stars
Organic Thai molasses distilled in Montauban, north of Toulouse, what could go wrong? Well, not sure, they’re using some kind of dunder/muck-style fermentation, so who knows? And I have to say I rather like the very minimalist post-growth (and post-Pollock) packaging. Colour: white. Nose: instant love! Pinewood smoke, changing room, gherkins, cancoillotte (you may google that), acetone, model airplane glue, mango eau-de-vie (terrible when pure, very varnishy), fresh bread, bandages… They call the Jamaicans ‘funky’, well this is George Clinton in full form. With water: dead bacteria, cheeses, tar, rotting Chinese fruits (no I won’t mention Durian), more acetone… Mouth (neat): so funny, so unusual. Pumpkin soup, caraway liqueur, rotten bananas, mouclade (spicy mussels pot), sorrel soup, more model glue, other rotting fruits… Well this one talks! With water: caraway and curry. A tad sweeter when reduced. Finish: very long, very fermentary and bacterial,. It did not calm down. Comments: so Serge, you wanted some distillate-driven spirits? Well, coffee is served. PS rumour has it that the Thais did throw a few ill-mannered tourists into the mixture. Dead ones, naturally. Seriously, I’m a fan of this funk.
SGP:473 – 90 points.

Good, a last one and we’re done. This getting a little insane anyway.

BOWS ‘HEOC 2018’ (57%, OB, France)

BOWS ‘HEOC 2018’ (57%, OB, France) Four stars and a half
Also high-esters, like 500g/hlpa. Colour: white. Nose: very close, obviously, I suppose they have used the same methods. What I realise though, is that we’re also very close to the craziest mezcals, like true unreduced pechugas.  And that I forgot to mention onions. And aniseed, fennel, dill, wild carrots, and ‘stuff’. Now we all know that ‘smart’ bacterial fermentation will soon be all the rage with many spirits, including Scotch, while that’s forbidden as of now, unless ‘it would just happen’. Nature is queen anyway. With water: reminds me of both Issan and Chalong Bay. And Real Minero mezcal. Mouth (neat): clearly gentler than the 2017, better civilised, and more on citrus, lemongrass, gherkins and capers, lemon curd, angelica, olives, pearl onions, wine vinegar… With water: super, earthier, rougher, gritty, green, gherkin and olive-y. You could almost use this as a dressing. Finish: rotting bananas sneaking in! Comments: the 2017 was a little more fermentary, this 2018 is rather grassier and rounder, and a tad more ‘normal’. Not Havana Club-normal, mind you.
SGP:572- 88 points.

I think we’d better stop this madness here. Unless we give Westerhall another chance…

Westerhall ‘White Jack’ (70%, OB, Grenada, +/-2018)

Westerhall ‘White Jack’ (70%, OB, Grenada, +/-2018)
At 70%, this should roar and kick us in the tenth. Which would be very welcome… Now on the brand’s website, they tell us that this is ‘smooth’. Ooooph… Colour: white. Nose: I seem to detect a few asperities and idiosyncrasies; this is not just some window cleaner. Olives, for instance, and some kind of smoked vegetables, hard to describe. Who would smoke French beans, for example? With water: not quite. Big brand-quality rum, burnt and smoked. Smoked ham. And burning balsa wood. Not the first time I’m finding balsa wood in these whites. Mouth (neat): shall we really take one or two drops of this kerosene into our mouth? Well, I’ve tried, and it’s horrible. Liquid soap. With water: no. Soapy sugar syrup, that doesn’t work at all. Plus, you should only try this one in the open, or it would make all your windows opaque. Finish: long and pretty poor. Burnt sugars., molasses, corn syrup. Lazy rum-making. Comments: cross my heart, I’ve tried my best.
SGP:430 - 40 points.

Twenty-two white rums. Adios, ciao, au revoir, auf wierdersehe,. I shall probably never do this again.

(Merci Anthony, content d’avoir découvert ces BOWS!)

Last minute bonus, this just in (as if we hadn’t had enough whites already!)

Grand Arôme de la Baie du Galion (60%, Latitudes, Martinique, 2019)

Grand Arôme de la Baie du Galion (60%, Latitudes, Martinique, 2019) Four stars
This is called a ‘rhum de sucrerie », or ‘traditionnel’, that is to say not an agricole made from cane juice, as it’s made out of by-products of sugar-making, such as molasses or some cane syrups. So it hasn’t got the appellation contrôlée, but it’s still got an Indication Géographique (IG). This is a grand arôme, so some high-ester rhum that was originally only meant to go into blends, as a dresser. As in, for example, Jamaica, bacteria and indigenous yeasts are most welcome during fermentation. Actually, they do not add any commercial yeasts at Le Galion. Let’s try this little baby (which, by the way, is the first commercially available grand arôme by Distillerie Le Galion). Colour: white. Nose: extremely fermentary, bacterial indeed, balsamic, dry, and full of yeasts. It can happen that I get the same kinds of aromas when I let some fruits ferment before distilling them, but with fruits, that’s not always good news. With rum, it is! I even find a little garlic, beyond olives and coaltar. What it hasn’t quite got so far, and which the Jamaicans or Guyanans do usually have, is citrus. With water: we tamed it! It got much gentler, yet not dull at all, with rather lovely notes of fresh almonds, touches of candlewax, a few olives as usual, touches of fennel and always wee hints of garlic, which works extremely well. Absolutely not a ‘sweet’ nose. Mouth (neat): it’s a raw spirit! Some lemon skin, raw greens (zucchini?), tar, artichokes… This baby means it! With water: very dry, vegetal, peely (do you say that?), with some tar and paraffin, as well as our beloved liquorice and gentian roots. Celeriac. Finish: very long, with more aniseed and liquorice. In the aftertaste you could believe you just had some good pastis! Pastis without water. Comments: the trick is to find the right amount of water to add. And to enjoy rather brutal spirits, in any case.
SGP:372 - 87 points.

More tasting notesCheck the index of all rums we've tasted so far


September 28, 2019





Angus's Corner
From our casual Scottish correspondent
and guest taster Angus MacRaild
The two faces of Edradour
No, I don’t mean Andrew and Des. Let’s simply try a recent Edradour, which of course is unpeated, and this brand new 15yo Ballechin that’s just been/about to be released. Ballechin being Edradour’s heavily peated sibling make. Just don’t mispronounce it in front of Andrew Symington if you’re keen on avoiding a blow dart to the neck…



Edradour 10 yo 2008/2018 (55.4%, OB for Helgoland Travel Retail, cask #61, oloroso sherry butt, 510 bottles)
Colour: deep amber. a little closed at first nosing. But in time develops some nice notes of fruit loaf, ginger cake, wild mushrooms and bay leaf. Gets increasingly dense and earthy. A little black pepper and lots of sooty notes, beef stock, liquid seasonings such as Maggi, lightly salted liquorice and raspberry jam. Clean, lean and surprisingly disciplined. Some cola syrup and root beer - which I’m always happy to find in sherry cask whiskies. With water: some softer notes of various teas of the green and chamomile varieties. Pickled ginger, saffron, turmeric and green pepper. Mouth: a nice balance of sootiness, beefy notes, game meats, red chilli jam, hints of banana liqueur, mincemeat and wild strawberry. There’s some pretty strong and earthy black tea in there too along with a slightly modern oak shaving note. With water: works well with water! A nice cohesiveness and a big, warming spiciness. More ginger along with cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves and star anise. Finish: good length. Rather earthy and drying with notes of cocoa powder, hessian and spicy salami. Comments: Something of a curiosity. At times it feels a tad imbalanced but works very well with water and there’s no denying its many spicy thrills. A tough one to score. Perhaps a couple of more years would have knitted everything together just that wee bit extra? Anyway, still a lovely boisterous wee sherry monster of an Edradour.
SGP: 472 - 85 points.




Ballechin 15 yo 2003/2019 (55%, OB for The Whisky Exchange 20th Anniversary, cask #204, sherry butt, 482 bottles)
Not often you get to try Edradour and Ballechin both out of sherry like this. Should be fun… Colour: dark rosewood. Nose: I often find Ballechin extremely medical and that’s certainly the case here. Pure, crystalline peat smoke, dense medical embrocations, natural tar and heaps of cured game meats, sods of earth, smoked teas, old rope, smoky bacon and mentholated tobaccos. There’s some herbal, medicated toothpastes, smoked rosewater and a hint of burnt raisins. A rather deep, sharp and singular smokiness runs between everything. I find it very good. With water: develops a rather sooty and muddy side. Anthracite, putty, aniseed and vase water. Cracked black pepper, smoked sea salt and creosote. Mouth: liquid smoke, peat embers and hot tar. Super tarry whisky! TCP, frying pancetta, strong black coffee, bovril, smoked paprika, soy sauce, the saltiest Dutch liquorice, fermenting bean curds. Hot smoked meats. Madness! With water: superb with water! The smoke and the medicine make peace with each other. The meatiness feels more textural and fatty now. There’s a touch more sherry influence with water as well, notes of birch beer, cola syrups, red fruit jams and tobaccos. Finish: Long, syrupy and extremely peppery, earthy, smoky and meaty. Increasingly bitter herbal extract notes and hints of green walnut in the aftertaste. Comments: I love this whisky, but I’m struggling to tell how technically good I think it is. This is really one of these occasions where extreme flavours and personal opinion can really collide to obfuscate the process of objectivity. It’s a very polarising style that’s for sure, some will loathe this and some will jump through flaming tractor tyres for a second dram. You’ll all just have to take my score with a pinch of salt and taste it for yourselves. Perhaps Serge also has a sample he could record some notes for… 
SGP: 576 - 89 points.





September 27, 2019



Genuine Japan,
today Akashi, part 2

I insist, only their fully Japanese single malts, not any of their blends… I would say we’d better start with a bourbon, before we tackle the crazier ones…

Akashi White Oak 5 yo 2012 ‘Bourbon Barrel First Fill’ (50%, OB, +/-2018)

Akashi White Oak 5 yo 2012 ‘Bourbon Barrel First Fill’ (50%, OB, +/-2018) Three stars
Will these be a vanilla bomb? Let’s see… Colour: straw. Nose: typical vanilla and limoncello plus acacia honey and butterscotch that are to be found in any unpeated malt whisky that are ex-first-fill bourbon. It’s simple, it’s nice, and it’s sparing us any dreadful coconut notes. Perhaps just one coconut ball, and a wee bit of candyfloss. With water: a few metallic touches coming out. Copper coins, touches of angelica, perhaps a little rhubarb wine… Mouth (neat): yeah, exactly, sweet malt, vanilla, marshmallows, butterscotch, sunflower oil and baked apples. Good and simple, simply good. With water: pretty much the same, only with more oak. A feeling of sweet sawdust, cinnamon, lemon drops… Finish: rather long, still rather simple, but with more white pepper from the barrel. A touch of strawberry jam, perhaps. Comments: simple pleasures. Good, easy whisky, perhaps lacking a few more ‘asperities’, as we sometimes say.
SGP:541 - 80 points.

At this point we’re having the feeling that Aksashi sits somewhere between Kavalan and unpeated Chichibu, no?

Akashi White Oak 5 yo ‘Ariake Virgin Oak – Oloroso finish’ (50%, OB, 1000 bottles)

Akashi White Oak 5 yo ‘Ariake Virgin Oak – Oloroso finish’ (50%, OB, 1000 bottles) Four stars
Ariake are makers of casks for the sochu and sake industries. This baby was matured for 5 years in virgin American oak from Ariake’s, and finished for 5 months in some oloroso wood. Colour: full gold. Nose: spices! So first nutmeg, caraway and cinnamon, and only then oranges and white cherries, with then more pepper again. Freshly ground black pepper and raw chocolate, topped with a little olive oil. Very oak-driven. With water: cracked pepper in miso, really. Quite some gingerbread too, speculoos… Mouth (neat): pretty good, I say. Brighter than others, although the oak would be huge again, thanks to clear notes of orange blossom water and a whole bag of small bergamots. Something drying from the oak, around black tobacco. With water: bright, good, with a sweeter and rounder spiciness. Thyme and rosemary. You could pour this over barbecued prawns. Finish: rather medium, rather softer. Some kind of speculoos covered with marmalade. Comments: more excellent young modern cask-driven malt whisky.
SGP:561 - 85 points.

And now the real crazy ones… Well, I suppose they will be crazy.

Akashi White Oak 3 yo ‘Sake Cask’ (57%, OB, distillery only, cask #101528, 2018)

Akashi White Oak 3 yo ‘Sake Cask’ (57%, OB, distillery only, cask #101528, 2018) Four stars and a half
That had to happen (did it happen before?), some Japanese whisky matured in ex-sake wood. It’s said that the cask had held sake for two years. Colour: gold. Nose: I’m not absolutely certain I’m finding clear notes of sake, but indeed it is very fermentary, bready, and pretty yeasty. What’s really nice, and I suppose that’s the sake, is that very obvious, almost heady notes of rose petals start to rise to your nostrils after just 30 seconds. Also elderflowers, I would say, as well as orange blossom and jasmine. So it’s very floral, you got it. With water: IPA and tiger balm! Then proper bread and fresh croissants. Bingo! Mouth (neat): ex-cel-lent! Orange cordial, curaçao, Turkish delights, oriental sweet bread, baklavas, vanilla… This works wonderfully. With water: did I already mention the word ‘bingo’? A wonderful sweetness, oranges, sweet IPA, pink grapefruits, more Turkish delights, more orange blossom tea… And indeed, sake. I have to say I love sake, although I’m extremely far from being a sake connoisseur, apologies to our dear Japanese friends. Finish: medium, rounded, sweet, perfectly fermentary. Comments: sure I’m no finish guy, but at least they’ve used some of their national products here. And frankly, this works extremely well, as it seems that the spirit borrowed some of the sake’s complexity. Very smart.
SGP:551 - 89 points.

Let’s be consistent…

Akashi White Oak 4 yo ‘x Hanahato’ (61%, OB, 388 bottles, 2018)

Akashi White Oak 4 yo ‘x Hanahato’ (61%, OB, 388 bottles, 2018) Three stars and a half
This one was finished in a Hanahato Kijyoshu Sake Cask. These sakes are kept in wood for 8 years, so not white. Colour: gold. Nose: ah, no, I liked the previous one rather better, for this one’s a little too tarry and too much on beer for me. Hard to have a good grasp of it at 61%, so let’s add water right away. With water: bizarre. More tar, rubber, and vase water. Hints of spent lees? I don’t find my fruits, ma’am. Mouth (neat): extremely citrusy, it seems. Does anyone make some lemon-flavoured beer or something? Our friends the Belgians? With water: ah, yes, now we’re talking – it was about time. Many candied citrus fruits, caramelised beer, zests, pumpernickel, bread pudding… The rubber never goes away, but it just got buried under those lovely citrusy flavours. Finish: rather long, on pretty much the same bready and citrusy flavours. Comments: you’ll need water and patience to properly tackle this strange(ish) baby. Less bright than the 3 yo, but still very good, although a tad wobbly here and there.
SGP:551 - 83 points.

A last one that our friends at Diageo would just adore…

Akashi White Oak 5 yo ‘Tequila Cask’ (61%, OB, cask #1503, 92 bottles, 2017)

Akashi White Oak 5 yo ‘Tequila Cask’ (61%, OB, cask #1503, 92 bottles, 2017) Three stars
Matured for 3 years in a regular hoggie, then for 2 additional years in a tequila cask. In Scotland, tequila was not deemed traditional enough until this year, but new regulations just made it legal to use ex-José Cuer… I mean, ex-tequila casks with Scotch whisky. So since they’ve opened Pandora’s box, better get ready for some Coca-Cola wood, or there, Minute-Maid whisky. Or Woolite Wood, why not? Or worse, Aperol Casks? ;-). Colour: straw. Nose: look, I don’t get no tequila here, rather some creamy custard and dollops of maple syrup. Where’s the agave? Behind those faint touches of cologne and rosewater? With water: a little more breadiness. Poppy seed bagels? And cranberry juice? Mouth (neat): not bad at all, and indeed, the agave comes through, rather as a soft floral combination, we’re far from the most hardcore mezcals here. But those are hardly matured in wood anyway, are they. Schweppes Orange, a drop of late-harvest riesling, and a tiny-wee soapy side, typically tequila as well. With water: no quibbles, this rather works (terrible news). Beyond the singular floral tones that are hardly ever found in whisky, it’s the additional earthiness that brings (moderate) success, although you could not avoid a feeling of ‘premixed spirits’.  Finish: medium, sweeter than expected, rather on flower syrups. Roses, for example, mullein, violets… Comments: I prefer whisky, but this smart blended spirit works well. Now, they only managed to produce 92 bottles, unless there are other casks around, not too sure.
SGP:651 - 81 points.

Good, I think we’re done with Eigashima/White Oak/Akashi this time. Some wonderful finds, assuredly, we’d just love to be able to get a better grasp of the distillate, since all these whiskies were rather heavily, albeit smartly oaked-up. Oh and we loved it that they would always display the (young) ages!

(Gracias, Chris!)

More tasting notesCheck the index of all Japanese we've tasted so far


September 26, 2019



Genuine Japan,
today Akashi, part 1

We had some very good Eigashima by Blackadder the other day, so White Oak/Akashi, time to have some of their OB. All single malts, so fully Japanese and not some their blended Aksahi, which is not Japanese or at least not fully Japanese, I’ve heard. So this is a situation akin to that of Cardhu ten or fifteen years ago, remember? A bit shady…

Akashi White Oak 5 yo ‘Oloroso Cask’ (55%, OB, cask #1484, +/-2017)

Akashi White Oak 5 yo ‘Oloroso Cask’ (55%, OB, cask #1484, +/-2017) Two stars and a half
Three years in a hogshead then two years in an oloroso cask. Similar combos that we have tried before have been very good (WF 83-85) Colour: gold. Nose: a little harsh at first (varnish), with quite some toasted oak too, then rather leaves and stems (not unseen in sherry finishes) and pencil leads and shavings. Well, pencils. With water: really a lot of fresh oak, toasted oak, warm sawdust and all that. Mouth (neat): extremely spicy and strong, with bags of pepper and nutmeg, also cinnamon mints. Not exactly drinkable like that, I would say, water is needed. With water: indeed it got a little easier, with oranges, but the pepper remains huge and bites your tongue. A little extreme. Finish: very long, very peppery. Comments: careful, this one stings and bites. Extreme pepperiness.
SGP:371 - 78 points.

Akashi White Oak 4 yo ‘Chardonnay Cask’ (61%, OB, for Mitsukoshi Isetan, cask #61091, 2017)

Akashi White Oak 4 yo ‘Chardonnay Cask’ (61%, OB, for Mitsukoshi Isetan, cask #61091, 2017) Three stars
A similar ‘double wood’ set-up, excusive to Shinjuku’s Mitsukoshi Isetan department store. Naturally, a chardonnay cask does not make much sense, which country was it from? Which region? Chardonnay’s just a grape that’s made just everywhere in the world. Colour: gold. Nose: once again, really a lot of fresh oak, with an even grassier side than with the oloroso. What’s nicer is that a few tropical fruits seem to be hiding in the background.  Mangos and guavas, I would say. With water: back to sawdust, toasted wood, cloves, cinnamon… Yeah I guess you could say cask is king here; it’s dictatorship. Mouth (neat): loads of oak, with a little lemon and grapefruit juice. At this strength, the pepper just burns. With water: phew, we got it! Still a lot of oak – you can’t get rid of this much oak just by adding water – but some nicer and easier citrus manages to make it through. Citrons, touches of cranberries… Finish: long, a tad smoother, and not too peppery although the tannicity would remain pretty huge. Comments: they should not sell these without a free bottle of water.
SGP:461 - 80 points.

Akashi White Oak 5 yo ‘Red Wine Cask’ (50%, OB, cask #61592, 480 bottles, 2017)

Akashi White Oak 5 yo ‘Red Wine Cask’ (50%, OB, cask #61592, 480 bottles, 2017) Four stars
Red wine in whisky, remember our motto, that’s like pineapple on pizza! This is a shorter finish (a few months) and nobody will tell you which ‘red wine’ it was, except that, apparently, it was French. French oak, perhaps? Colour: deep gold. Nose: well, what’s cool here is that it’s way less oaky than its bros., and consequently, much fruitier and breadier. Ever tried some bread with some goji berries inside? A touch of umami too, which is very cool too. No heady wine aromas, that’s cool as well. With water: very nice and cool. Fruit breads, dried berries, barley… I cannot not think of some of Westland’s offerings. Hope Westland are doing well! Mouth (neat): I rather enjoy this, even if it’s a little wacky. Balance has been found, with obvious notes of coffee-kirsch, Schwarzwälder cake, butterscotch, and brioches. A drop of mandarin liqueur. All fine, surprisingly fine. And cool! With water: really good. Orange cake, pepper, figs, a touch of wax, some cherries but not too many (Pinot Noir cask?) and a good deal of coolness. Finish: rather long perhaps a little drying this time. Black tea, tannins, sawdust, white pepper. Comments: a whole different category.
SGP:461 - 85 points.

Akashi White Oak 15 yo ‘Sherry/Konara Cask’ (58%, OB, cask #40100, 795 bottles, 2017)

Akashi White Oak 15 yo ‘Sherry/Konara Cask’ (58%, OB, cask #40100, 795 bottles, 2017) Four stars
A pretty rare older Akashi, first matured for 12 years in sherry, then for the remaining years in some Konara cask, a.k.a. Quercus serrata, which is some kind of East Asian oak that we call ‘Korean oak’ or ‘Jolcham oak’ here in the West. Strange set-up, but let’s see… Colour: amber. Nose: this is pretty fragrant, resinous, rather around tiger balm and eucalyptus at first, before it would become a little balsamic and tarry, with touches of latex, new Wellies, tyres... With water: same, plus patchouli and pot-pourri. Whisky for old hippies? Hints of black truffle as well. Mouth (neat): more sherry this time, as well as the usual huge pepper and cinnamon that are to be found in many young or youngish new spirits that are rather oak-driven. In the middle distance, rather bitter oranges and tonic – we’re approaching Campari and bitter herbs. With water: more spices, cloves, caraway, cinnamon, and a pretty glutamate-y ending, from the sherry I suppose. Finish: long oaky, spicy, with some ‘Japanese’ character that’s geared towards miso. Seville oranges in the aftertaste, which is nice, obviously. Comments: I need to know if the tarry notes came from that Konara oak. Any ideas? Excellent nonetheless, without any excessive pepper this time.
SGP:462 - 86 points.

Let’s see what happens with longer aging in sherry, an no Konara oak…

Akashi White Oak 10 yo ‘Sherry butt (60%, OB, cask #105206, 795 bottles, +/-2018)

Akashi White Oak 10 yo ‘Sherry butt' (60%, OB, cask #105206, 795 bottles, +/-2018) Four stars
Did I already say that all these young Akashis, however good they are, are rather expensive? Like, €200 for this one. Colour: full gold. Nose: it’s really rather rubbery this time, if not sulphury. Gas, tyres, then Aperol, jasmine tea, grenadine, then back on rubber and flints. Intriguing , shall we say, but you know, at 60% vol…. With water: miso again, that’s funny. Soy sauce, bouillons, all that over red plums and more Aperol. No, of course we won’t make any sacrilegious Spritz out of this. Mouth (neat): completely different. Loads of bitter oranges and grapefruits, then those flinty notes, as well as some blackcurrant jelly. It’s got something Burgundian, shall we say. With water: the rubber’s back. Don’t get me wrong, that’s not a huge, quasi-sulphury rubber, it’s just as when we were chewing rubber bands at school, remember? Finish: long and, I should admit, rather Aperoly again. Tonic water, cinchona, bitter oranges, all that…  Comments: a little less ‘different’ than the Konara, but it’s a very fine cask-driven whisky for sure.
SGP:562 - 85 points.

Good, that’s a session, but we’ll be back with many more Akashis. I hope we’ll find at least one spirit-driven one…

(Thanks again, Chris!)

More tasting notesCheck the index of all Japanese we've tasted so far


September 25, 2019



Genuine Japan, today Chichibu without ChaCha

No, not particularly proud of that clumsy headline either. Alliterations kill, so triple alliterations, imagine! Anyway, we’re going on with our Japanese week, and since the last one was a Blackadder yesterday, let’s have another Blackadder if you don’t mind…

Chichibu 4 yo 2013/2018 (63%, Blackadder, barrel, Virgin American oak finish, cask #2862, 237 bottles)

Chichibu 4 yo 2013/2018 (63%, Blackadder, barrel, Virgin American oak finish, cask #2862, 237 bottles) Four stars and a half
Yet another crazy finish by Chichibu. Can we please have some Chichibu Chichibu finish next time, and no plastic surgery? Thank God, Chichibu is Chichibu. Colour: deep gold. Nose: varnish, acetone, tea, orange zests, sawdust, fresh mint, celeriac and other roots. Not a bad combo, mind you, it just feels pretty doped. Well-doped. With water: more bread. Fresh baguette, of course. Mouth (neat): doped, but totally excellent. Good, good, well done, I take my hat off to you. Oranges, lemon balm, peppermint, nutmeg, liquorice, cedar wood. With water: and earth, mushrooms, pepper, lime, and just a drop of cologne. Finish: long, fresh, spicy and herbal. Between gentian, limoncello, and verbena liqueur. Comments: they got me here. A virgin oak finish?
SGP:561 - 88 points.

So we said Chichibu today…

Chichibu 2011/2018 ‘Peated’ (62.9%, OB, for La Maison du Whisky, Chronicles, Mangacamo, ex-Hanyu cask, cask #2070, 258 bottles)

Chichibu 2011/2018 ‘Peated’ (62.9%, OB, for La Maison du Whisky, Chronicles, Mangacamo, ex-Hanyu cask, cask #2070, 258 bottles) Five stars
I think we tried all the other Chronicles, not too sure. Colour: white wine. Always good news. Nose: blend young Ardbeg with young Laphroaig, fifty-fifty. It is kind of obvious, luminous, evident, and implacable. Let’s move on. With water: oh, burnt tyres! And crushed olives and some wine vinegar. Bandages and ointments. I think they did something very well here… Mouth (neat): I’d rather say young Ardbeg, with a tablespoon of banana liqueur. Like, 1%, max. Which, mind you, works extremely well. But really, this is eminently Ardbeggian, although I’m sure that wasn’t the main goal. With water: wow! (in French that’s ouah!) Once again, this is very Ardbeg. We love to needle Ardbeg – and Chichibu – but that’s because we love Ardbeg – and Chichibu. Finish: long, saltier and more lemony. More or less the finish of a proper young… right, starts with an A. Comments: what was that? Chichibeg? Ardchibu?
SGP:457 - 90 points.

Chichibu 2013/2018 (48.7%, OB, for Prineus Germany, oloroso hogshead, cask #2593, 306 bottles)

Chichibu 2013/2018 (48.7%, OB, for Prineus Germany, oloroso hogshead, cask #2593, 306 bottles) Five stars
This is Chichibu under the Ichiro’s Malt banner. Don’t know who Prineus are but they have good tastes. Colour: orange-y amber. Nose: it’s not unusual that casks that have naturally dropped under 50% when still very young would be very good. It seems that that’s the case here. Wonderful fruit breads, raisins, dough, copper, dried dates, and fresh cinnamon rolls. Absolutely love fresh cinnamon rolls – but who doesn’t? Mouth: of course. No red wine and presto, success! Wonderful breads, spices, pastries, dried fruits, and a good dollop of walnut wine. Finish: rather long, and even more on cinnamon rolls. One ought to start a Friends of Cinnamon Rolls on Facebook (before someone jails Zuck).  Comments: it’s not only very good, it’s also very smart. You can’t do much better at just, what, 5 years of age? Scandalously excellent.
SGP:551 - 90 points.

It's magic, is it not? But this may be different… Why not Inca figs wine while they are at it? Dutch mackerel beer? Swedish surströmming likör?

Chichibu ‘IPA cask finish‘ (57.5%, OB, 6700 bottles, 2017)

Chichibu ‘IPA cask finish‘ (57.5%, OB, 6700 bottles, 2017) Three stars
An IPA finish? That sounds pretty WTF if you ask me (which means Where’s The Funnel, naturally). Were IPA casks ‘traditional’ at some point? Now it’s true that we aren’t in Scotland, are we… And Glenfiddich did it as well. Colour: gold. Nose: LOL. Rose petals, citric hops (citra), kiwis and litchis, pink grapefruits, ylang-ylang, and really, perfume for wealthy older ladies. It’s extremely singular. With water: wha-a-at? Huge musk, really. It’s extremely musky. Perhaps some pecan pie, and that red thing they make in Lyons, tarte aux pralines. Google is your friend - just hope they would pay their taxes. Mouth (neat): really, it’s marc de gewurztraminer, blended with small-berry white muscat wine. Why not, I agree… With water: totally LOL, and totally on muscat wine. Would love to hear about the kind of hops they’ve used to flavour that IPA. Finish: long, very fruity, really not bad, just extremely sweet – and yet not sugary at all. Comments: just call this an experiment and I’ll be happy. Not quite whisky, and not sure you needed whisky to come up with such a spirit, but well, I suppose it’s still better than the tequila-ed Scotches to come…. I’m asking you, what's the world coming to? Nah, it’s Chichibu, so it’s well crafted, at the very least.
SGP:641 - 82 points.

A last Chichibu, so perhaps a proper BB cask?...

Chichibu 2011/2018 (59,7%, OB, for Prineus Germany, bourbon, cask #1179, 207 bottles)

Chichibu 2011/2018 (59,7%, OB, for Prineus Germany, bourbon, cask #1179, 207 bottles) Four stars and a half
So another one for those German chaps with impeccable tastes. Full bourbon and no finishing, that’s whisky as nature intended. Let’s see… Colour: white wine/straw. Nose: get out of here! Custard, croissants, white currants and gooseberries, and just a whiff of tincture of benzoin. Immaculate. With water: yep. Peach bread, perhaps? Mouth (neat): crikey, how good is that? Sure it’s not very deep, nor complex, and neither is it spectacular, but it’s precise, like an old well-taken-care-of Swiss watch. Millimetric vanilla, dough, shortbread, barley, oranges, and a wee touch of lovage for good measure. Cal that miso if you must. With water: not the first time I notice that Chichibu swims very well – even the craziest finishes do. Peaches and apricot biscuits with a firmer maltiness. Finish: long, on cakes. Liquid pastry. Comments: let’s talk about carbon emissions and efficiency at the Japanese whisky distilleries. Okay, maybe next time.
SGP:451 - 89 points.

That’s it, but we’ll have many more, newer crazy Chichibus next month, if God lets me live…

(Wirklich, danke vielmals, Chris at Sushi & Soul in Munich!)

More tasting notesCheck the index of all Japanese we've tasted so far


September 24, 2019



A bag of genuine Japanese whiskies

Now that Bloomberg have posted a rather strident public warning ('That Expensive Japanese Whisky May Be Mostly Scotch') about all those Japanese whiskies that are only partially Japanese, or sometimes not Japanese at all while the hardcore chatting whisky enthusiasts had been commenting on those issues for decades – including here - it’s time to have a little bunch of very carefully selected proper samurais, don’t you think! Good to see that the pendulum may start to swing back whilst some have been letting the general public believe, for a good decade, that ‘Japanese whisky was the best in the world’. In many cases, especially in those of many blends and ‘pure malts’, it wasn’t even Japanese! Now it seems that some official bodies are currently working on a new definition of Japanese whisky, I’m sure that’ll go into the right direction and I do hope that’ll happen in the flesh before the whole category gets damaged too much.. Because we do all love Japan and the proper Japanese whisky makers!

Let’s see what we have in the boxes...

Yamazaki 25 yo (43%, OB, +/-2016)

Yamazaki 25 yo (43%, OB, +/-2016) Four stars
I’ve tried the 25 several times in the past and always thought it was extremely good (WF 86-89) but not exactly great, partly because of its low A.B.V. It’s still sold for approximatively €6,000 to su**ers these days. Get your hankies ready. Colour: red amber. Nose: it’s well as I remembered it, rather complex and sweetly spicy, but also a tad too oaky. Notes of Demerara sugar and rum, raisins and prunes, whiffs of incense, liquorice, pu-erh tea, caraway, cinnamon… The lower strength already shows, but let’s be honest, this is a beautiful, pretty complex nose. Mouth: excellent, but the oak really feels a lot, with pine-y flavours, saps, raisins, walnut stain, dark chocolate, and really a lot of over-infused black tea, old-samovar style. That makes it a little rough, if not a little unpleasant. Finish: short and rather drying. More black chocolate and pinesap. Comments: exactly what I was expecting, a very lovely nose and a palate that’s a little too much on the oaky side for me. But naturally, investors used to like it better.
SGP:361 - 86 points.

Perhaps the 18, which I used to like a little better in general…

Yamazaki 18 yo (43%, OB, +/-2018)

Yamazaki 18 yo (43%, OB, +/-2018) Four stars and a half
Colour: bright amber. Nose: indeed, I like it rather better. Nutshell, less oak tannins, more bright fruits, both fresh and dried. There’s also more marzipan, coconut balls, then prickly pears, blood oranges, and just a nice box of Jaffa cakes. It’s got a Macallany side, but we’re talking older Macallan, like the old 30 blue label (and box). See what I mean? Mouth: it is a little oaky too, to be honest, but it’s still brighter than the 25, fresher, and simply nicer, in my book. Oranges, touches of tonic wine, caraway and cinnamon, a drop of Dutch genever (I owe you a very large genever session), and nice notes of mint-flavoured liquorice. Does not feel weakfish despite the strength, while the 25 used to. Finish: medium, rather on bitter oranges, quinine, and a wee bit of speculoos. Only the aftertaste is a little drying this time. Comments: I could quaff this! For one tenth of the price of the 25, it’s a no-brainer, although it’s still a little too expensive, in my opinion. Some retailers milking the cows a little too much too…
SGP:451 - 88 points.

While we’re at it, another famous one by Suntory…

Hakushu 25 yo (43%, OB, +/-2018)

Hakushu 25 yo (43%, OB, +/-2018) Four stars and a half
I only tried this expression once, and that was a long time ago. It was complex but a little fragile (+/-2008, WF 85). Colour: full gold. Nose: what’s wonderful with this nose is how medicinal it is. It’s not a Laphroaig-like profile though, it’s rather more on natural remedies (!), eucalyptus, Indian embrocations, also a little wet chalk, fir honeydew, and a very moderate smoke. Pine wood smoke? Balsa wood? Kools? Mouth: indeed, it is a little fragile, and indeed the oak’s a little loud again, but I’m really fond of this pine-y and eucalyptussy (!) style. Also touches of mint-flavoured liquorice, once again as well as, perhaps, a small tangerine and an even smaller green lemon. Finish: medium, mainly on mint tea, with drops of honeydew. Lovely. Herbal aftertaste, with just a smidgen of peat hidden somewhere. Comments: looks like I like this newer expression better than the ones from ten years ago. Not everything degenerates!
SGP:552 - 89 points.

And now perhaps a new cat from a genuine Japanese distillery?

Eigashima 3 yo 2014/2017 (61.5%, Blackadder, oloroso sherry, cask #101474, 847 bottles)

Eigashima 3 yo 2014/2017 (61.5%, Blackadder, oloroso sherry, cask #101474, 847 bottles) Four stars
Blackadder are pretty adventurous with their sourcing, they’re not afraid of selecting whiskies from all over the world! Eigashima stems from White Oak Distillery, of Akashi fame. It’s said that it’s the oldest licensed distillery in Japan, but the west has heard of Akashi only recently. They also do partly sourced blends but this is proper Japanese single malt. Colour: gold. Nose: typical very young malt flavoured with pretty good oak. Not sure we could really talk about ‘maturing’ at only 3. Butterscotch, gingerbread, vanilla, that’s really good but you’ll find this ‘craft’ style all over the world these days, from the West Coast of the US to Japan indeed, via the Alps. With water: more or less the same. Perhaps even breadier, which we enjoy at WF Towers. Mouth (neat): the sherry remains relatively discreet, we’re rather finding huge spices, caraway, cinnamon, juniper, cinchona, white pepper… That’s all the oak talking to us. With water: swims very well. Liquorice, tobacco, dried figs, caraway, pumpernickel… Finish: long, rich, with really a lot of proper gingerbread. Comments: very cool at 3 years of age. Good casks technology, as the whisky romantics now say.
SGP:451 - 85 points.

See you tomorrow with more genuine Japanese…

More tasting notesCheck the index of all Japanese we've tasted so far


September 23, 2019


A suitcase of Jura

I don’t think the chatting whisky circles are always fair with Jura a.k.a. Isle of Jura. It’s true that the whisky’s sometimes pretty singular, that the shape of the official bottles can be seen as a little weird, and that there’s been some, say, marketing and communications errancies in the recent past. But I say those are not sufficient reasons to disregard Jura, and I remember very vividly quite a few stunners bearing that name. Let’s see what we’ll find today…

Jura 10 yo (40%, OB, +/-2018)

Jura 10 yo (40%, OB, +/-2018) Three stars and a half
I last tried the little 10 in 2012 (tsk tsk) and had rather liked it (WF 84!) Now there was also a 10 ‘Origin’ that was a little humbler in my book, but I can’t remember the main differences. Possibly a matter of oak, as always since most distillers have become lumberjacks. Colour: gold. Nose: a bit of sweet mustard and leather blended with some dry white wine, with a few metallic touches, that’s very Jura in my book. Some soot as well, pepper, fino sherry, dry nuts… Singular and nice, as expected. Mouth: really very dry, very mustardy, leathery, with some tobacco and some strong tea. Some alt too, plus notes of oloroso and drying oak. More black tea, and a little salt. Finish: short and drying, with some smokiness in the aftertaste. Comments: I think it's cool that they would keep their style with this expression, and not bury their unusual spirit under tons of oaks of all provenances and sorts. I like this fino-y saltiness rather a lot too.
SGP:362 - 83 points.

Jura ‘The Sound’ (42.5%, OB, +/-2018)

Jura ‘The Sound’ (42.5%, OB, +/-2018) Two stars
Another LOL bottling, that is to say an NAS finished in PX. But not just any PX, some 15 years old PX! Now I do not know whether they just took casks and seasoned them with that middle-aged PX for a few months, or if those casks had sheltered PX for 15 years. Seriously, I doubt it’s the latter ;-). Colour: gold. Nose: I thought the 10 was much more interesting, here the spirit starts to get buried under oak spices and fig jam. Nothing against that, naturally, but we’re losing our beloved singularities. Could be other malts, not only Jura. Mouth: well, not really. It’s got some sour wood and some weirdish peppery notes, as well as notes of stale mead, if I may. Some raisins too. Nah, it’s not that bad, but I don’t find this concoction very convincing. Finish: medium, very drying, bitter and sour. Burnt caramel. How to avoid a finish? Have a glass of water as soon as possible! Comments: the 10, anytime.
SGP:461 - 70 points.

Jura 12 yo 2006/2018 (48.4%, Douglas Laing, Old Particular, hogshead, cask # 1 12966, 357 bottles)

Jura 12 yo 2006/2018 (48.4%, Douglas Laing, Old Particular, hogshead, cask # 1 12966, 357 bottles) Three stars
In theory, this should be closer to the spirit. Colour: pale white wine. Nose: plum eau-de-vie, green apples, soot, a touch of pomegranate, and this mineral dust that’s sometimes to be found in Jura. Clean, a little minimalist perhaps? Mouth: yeah, there, distillery character. Bags of grass, pepper, mustard, and even wasabi (not bags though). With some bitter oranges on top of this bone-dry style. Finish: medium, really very peppery. Notes of salted grapefruits in the aftertaste. Yep. Comments: some very natural Jura. I liked the official 10 a little better, but it’s got some knuckle, as we say in French. And it killed the Sound.
SGP:361 - 81 points.

Older please… Oh and one question, do we definitely drop the name ‘Isle of Jura’?

Jura 25 yo 1992/2018 (48.6%, The First Editions, refill hogshead, cask # 12459, 267 bottles)

Jura 25 yo 1992/2018 (48.6%, The First Editions, refill hogshead, cask # 12459, 267 bottles) Four stars and a half
Colour: white wine. Nose: in the style of the 12 at first, but of course, there’s more complexity, here more herbs and teas, for instance. Fresh mint, chalk, linseed oil, thyme, perhaps a little mercurochrome, cigarette tobacco, old ointments… To be honest, I find this nose rather beautiful, with echoes of… Ben Nevis? Mouth: I think we have a winner. Wonderful mustardy notes over pu-ehr tea, tobacco, gentian cordial (like Suze but better than Suze), and bitter oranges. In the background, the expected peppers and a touch of salt that’s already there. Finish: rather long, with that salt indeed, leather and tobacco, pepper, English mustard, pepper and a touch of cinnamon. Citrus in the aftertaste, that’s the best signature there is. Comments: excellent, one of the best recent Juras if you ask me.
SGP:362 - 88 points.

A last one for the road…

Isle of Jura 1976 (57.5%, OB for Harleyford Manor, 75cl, +/-1990?)

Isle of Jura 1976 (57.5%, OB for Harleyford Manor, 75cl, +/-1990?) Four stars
Harleyford Manor seems to be a country house in Buckinghamshire. Colour: white wine. Nose: yeah, there, this is older Jura, more metallic, almost feinty, with notes of yogurt, sourdough, ammonia, fern, branches, old walnuts, raw grassy brandy (not-destemmed marc de Bourgogne), old tools lying in an old garage (in that old manor, perhaps)… With water: something died in the barrel, perhaps. Mice? Also embrocations, bandages, chalks, oranges, kumquats… Well, in truth, it really improves a lot once reduced, becoming almost civilised. Mouth (neat): oh yeah, I remember. Plastics,  sour fruits, glue, acetone, plaster, very bitter oranges. With water: love it now! It’ whacky and weird, but it’s plain straightforward Jura, very idiosyncratic, amusing, and astonishing. Mustard, spinach and brussels sprouts, how does that sound for a soup? I mean, for a whisky? Finish: long, on more plastic, walnuts, and sea salt. Comments: a make that’s been disconcerting generations of whisky lovers. Well not quite before 1963, obviously, although an older distillery used to exist long before the current Jura was built.
SGP:472 - 87 points.

(thank you Ronald!)

More tasting notesCheck the index of all Jura we've tasted so far


September 22, 2019


More rums as they come

Aston helping with seecting some spirits to taste >>>
No pre-selection this time, Aston (WF’s official mouser) is choosing the rums for us. Watch him, he’s Scottish! Oh, no, not this, Aston!...


Barcelo ‘Gran Platinum’ (37.5%, OB, Dominican Republic, +/-2018)

Barcelo ‘Gran Platinum’ (37.5%, OB, Dominican Republic, +/-2018)
Indeed you could be ‘gran platinum’ and use the cheapest twist-caps there is. And wait, it seems that this was aged for six years (really?) and then charcoal-filtered so that it would get white again. Why isn’t Jack Daniels white then? (oh, Serge!) Colour: white. Nose: nada. Sugar and antifreeze? Looks like the charcoal has taken off just everything, not just the colours. Mouth: hello? Saccharose and traces of green bananas. Look, Barcelo’s 30 yo 'Imperial' had been pretty okay (WF 79, but of course they’re lying as far as age statements are concerned, that’s the main job of many a rum brand anyway, to lie smartly). Terrible palate. Finish: none whatsoever. What did we just try? Comments: why this bland? But indeed there are more important questions in life, such as ‘should we tolerate intolerance?’
SGP:310 - 25 points.

No dry food for you tonight, Aston! Unless you find something better… Oh!...

Sunset ‘Captain Bligh XO’ (40%, OB, St. Vincent, +/-2018)

Sunset ‘Captain Bligh XO’ (40%, OB, St. Vincent, +/-2018) one star and a half
This baby from St. Vincent and The Grenadines, which sounds very cool. I remember we’d tried their ‘Very Strong Rum’ a few months ago – mind you, we had managed to survive its 84.5% vol. back then! Colour: gold. Nose: it’s fine, light, rather on sugar cane, and dry at that, not pumped-up. Apparently, let’s see… Mouth: it’s good, rather Cuban-style, light and grassy, with good cane-iness, a thin body, and seemingly nothing repulsive or poisonous. Notes of wood dust. Finish: short, dry, rather clean. Comments: rather uninteresting, but pretty honest rum, with no dirty tricks that I could detect. For cocktails, I suppose. Nothing to add, I’m sure these islands are totally beautiful and the people very engaging.
SGP:310 - 69 points.

Aston, please!...

Abelha 3 yo ‘Gold Organic’ (38%, OB, Brazil, +/-2017)

Abelha 3 yo ‘Gold Organic’ (38%, OB, Brazil, +/-2017) Two stars and a half
Oh come on cat, this isn’t even rum, it’s cachaça! Yeah, I know I shouldn’t have put it into the rum shelves then… What’s interesting is that this was aged in garapeira, which is some tropical wood. Deforestation? Don’t get me started… Oh and remember, cachaça = cane juice, not molasses. And I think abelha means bee, so some honeyed notes are t be expected, I suppose… Colour: straw. Nose: frankly, the good cachaças can be extremely good. We did a nice session some years ago, I believe we ought to do a new one soon. So, this little Abelha is pretty grassy, it’s got these typical fermentary notes, notes of olives, agave, mead, old white Bourgogne, a touch of wood smoke… So it’s very nice, just a tad shy and that’s probably the lower strength. Mouth: why oh why didn’t they bottle it at 43, if not 45% vol? Bread, ferments, mead, salty capers, gingerbread, dough, a touch of wormwood… It’s a beautiful spirit, it’s just a little ‘wobbly in the knees’, as we sometimes say. Finish: medium, tarry, and with always quite some mead, and perhaps burnt, or pan-fried gingerbread. Comments: bottling this quality at 38% vol. equals murder. There, I said it.
SGP:451 - 78 points.


Travellers 11 yo 2005/2017 (64.4%, Boogieman Import, Belize, barrel, cask #2)

Travellers 11 yo 2005/2017 (64.4%, Boogieman Import, Belize, barrel, cask #2) Two stars
Always liked Belize’s Travellers, it’s just that I think it’s not the most characterful spirit on earth. Is it? And Aston, from 38% to 64% vol., that’s a little steep! Colour: dark gold. Nose: cakes, praline, pastries, and cane syrup. Exactly what we were expecting. With water: same. Perhaps a little earthier? A little chocolate too, Weetabix, caramel sauce, light honey, maple syrup… Mouth (neat): yeah, good columny rum from some pretty active wood, ridden with vanilla, orange liqueur, soft spices (cinnamon rolls), and a grassy kind of caramel. But at this strength, watch your tongue. With water: to rum what good grain whisky is to Scotch. Less is more! Finish: medium and perhaps a little thin, but the cask was good and the vanilla loyal. Some coconut in the aftertaste. Comments: really not my kind of rum, but it’s well made, for sure. Originally for blends, I suppose.
SGP:430 - 76 points.

Good progress Aston, but try harder…Yess, well done! (I’ll have to teach my cat the advantages of pot stills)…

Diamond 9 yo 2008/2018 (63.2%, Hunter Laing, Kill Devil, Guyana, 258 bottles)

Diamond 9 yo 2008/2018 (63.2%, Hunter Laing, Kill Devil, Guyana, 258 bottles) Three stars
They do not tell us about which still(s) have been in use here, except that they were pot stills. Good news. Colour: pale gold. Nose: between two worlds, I would say. Estery on the one side, rounder and lighter on the other side, with some fine vanilla-y wood keeping it tight and coherent. Nah, drop that, it’s fine but a tad light so far. With water: it’s some kind of diluted Hampden, seriously. Very nice, but rather a kick-boxer with gloves. Fewer olives, less tar, not as much brine, almost no new plastic or plasticine… Mouth (neat): but this is pear eau-de-vie! Seriously, pear spirit with a few drops of diesel oil thrown in. With water: there, some seawater, lemon juice, notes of pointed cabbage, sour fruit juices… Finish: rather long, but curiously thin(nish). Brine, liquorice and apple juice – rather than lemon juice. Comments: very good, just a little more hesitant, shall we say, than the usual Kill Devils. By the way, the devil’s completely dead now, but remember, ‘kill devil’ is just another old name for rum, a drink that could always cast out the demon. Provided you would drink enough of it, of course.
SGP:362 - 82 points.

Oh and Aston, I believe we'll let you get back to your business. That’s right, foooood!

More tasting notesCheck the index of all rums we've tasted so far


September 21, 2019





Angus's Corner
From our casual Scottish correspondent
and guest taster Angus MacRaild
Two Highland Park
Time is short. So, if you don’t mind, let’s just have a couple of quick Highland Park. I know I’m regularly tasting indy HPs on these pages but there’s no shortage at the moment and they’re so often pleasurable and fun. And after all, this is Whiskfun. Maybe one day I’ll start ‘Whiskytoil’, just for complaining. Although, I think this website already exists, just go to Malt Revi… I’m kidding ;-).


Highland Park 8 yo 1999/2008 (60.6%, SMWS 4.125 ‘Nectar in a hip flask’)

Highland Park 8 yo 1999/2008 (60.6%, Scotch Malt Whisky Society, #4.125 ‘Nectar in a hip flask’)
This one came as both 70cl and 10cl variants. It’s the latter that we’re trying it from. Colour: straw. Nose: big, salty and with rather a lot of chalk, fabric, jaggedy minerals and salinity. Hints of lemon juice, lambic ale and sheep wool. A tad austere but very much in the raw HP direction. With water: some kind of salted lemon curd. Rope, hessian, sotty, some dried herbs and a little charcoal smoke. Mouth: it certainly announced both its age and strength. But it’s also rather full of putty, beach pebbles, sea shells and hints of seawater, medicine and very light, peppery peat. Good! With water: fatter with water. Develops an easy and rather medical side with a good deal more textural ‘presence’ in the mouth. Some ink, menthol tobacco, more soot and more embrocations and general seashore mineral clutter. Finish: Long and drying. Lots of sandalwood, cough medicine, moth balls and quite a big yeasty element. Comments: Pristine distillate. Probably would have been even better with a few more years of age but it works extremely well as is. I wouldn’t kick it out of my tumbler on a rainy night that’s for sure.

SGP: 363 - 86 points.



Orkney Single Malt 20 yo 1998/2019 (49.5%, Thompson Bros, refill hogshead, 353 bottles)

Orkney Single Malt 20 yo 1998/2019 (49.5%, Thompson Bros, refill hogshead, 353 bottles)
Love the label for this one! You can never have too many Viking references I think. Hopefully Edrington will take note one day… Colour: pale straw. Nose: that’s the thing about age, it just spreads everything around in such an enthralling way. The DNA between this one and the SMWS is clearly evident but you can also see all of Time’s additional decorating work that has taken place. The coastal aspect is more vivid and broad. There’s a more layered, honeyed sweetness and the medicine, peat and herbal notes have pretty much merged. There’s also quite a bit more mineral clout in this one too but it’s controlled and more precise than the SMWS - less scattergun (a prime candidate for the Axis of Minerality wouldn’t you say Serge?) Mouth: naturally sweet, buttery cereals, light notes of beeswax polish, sunflower oil. A rather delicate texture but the balance between lighter ointments and medical notes with crystallised citrus peels and herbal cough mixtures is pretty excellent. Lovely gentle sooty smokiness in the background, which builds over time to become a tad more dominant. Finish: Good length but perhaps a tad soft and thinning towards the end. These characters of chalky medicines, dried herbs and gorse flowers are all delightful though. Comments: I’m often feeling with these refill matured, very distillate-forward HPs that they are perfect drams for pouring a hefty measure into a tumbler and simply enjoying without too much overthinking. Nothing here is making me change my mind. Extremely easy, characterful and quaffable stuff.

SGP: 452 - 88 points.



Thanks to Julian.




More tasting notesCheck the index of all Highland Park we've tasted so far


September 19, 2019


Three indie Macallan

What’s really cool with the indie Macallans is that they all come with proper age and vintage statements. Would you ever buy a sportscar without knowing about the engine’s capacity ? Pomerol without a vintage ?

Macallan 26 yo 1992/2018 (50.9%, Luci di Gala, hogshead, 1st fill Château Lafite finish)

Macallan 26 yo 1992/2018 (50.9%, Luci di Gala, hogshead, 1st fill Château Lafite finish) Four stars
Looks like Luci di Gala are Jewellers in Hong Kong and apparently, they’re into whisky too. And Macallan, baby. Why this has been finished in red wine remains a mystery, perhaps is the name ‘Lafite’ alone worth it ? And more appealing than just ‘Macallan’? Colour: amber. Nose: there is a red-wine-ness inded, but it seems that it’s under control and not bursting with red fruits, rather oranges and rosehip tea. A little ganache-y, going more towards marshmallows and jelly beans after that. Cola. We’re pretty far from any classic Macallan this far, I have to say. With water: more game, chicken soup, paraffin, balsamico… More and more balsamico, actually, and orange wine (wine made out of oranges, that is). Mouth (neat): more or less the same feelings, oranges and spices, bonbons, angelica, sour apples,  Coca Cola, and a super thin slice of fruitcake covered with a little cinnamon and liquorice sauce. Wood shavings. Let’s remember this is 1st fill Lafite wood, while Lafite would only fill their barriques once, so it’s pretty active wood. By the way I’m surprised the whisky’s not frankly red/purple. With water: as often with red-wined whiskies, it gets very dry and grassy. Bags of raw cocoa powder. Finish: long, dry, chocolaty. We’re not talking sugarbombs from the nearest supermarket. Comments: looks like it’s been doing pretty good despite the unlikely wine treatment. Let’s say we’ve tasted much, much worse, so, kudos (in a way).
SGP:361 - 85 points.

Macallan-Glenlivet 30 yo 1988/2019 (42.8%, Cadenhead, Authentic Collection, bourbon barrel, 96 bottles)

Macallan-Glenlivet 30 yo 1988/2019 (42.8%, Cadenhead, Authentic Collection, bourbon barrel, 96 bottles) Four stars and a half
Not sure this new baby’s to be seen anywhere… Not 100% sure about the outturn by the way. Colour: gold. Nose: there, proof that Macallan could be a wonderful distillate, with or without proper sherry. Pretty fantastic praline, apple pie, marzipan, tobacco, a drop of gravy (not lumpy, you Zappaists), then rather fresh mint, camphor, balms, even pine needles, that walk in the woods when it’s raining, et tutti quanti. Very distinguished. Mouth: the oak’s already started to take over, but it’s like John Coltrane’s latest lost tapes, not his best, but still the real thing. Not too sure it’s the same with Miles’ latest, by the way. As often with these woody old whiskies with lower strength, pine-y flavours are now running the show. Pinesap, resins, needles… But then again, the distillate keeps singing loud and clear in the background. Wonderful notes of mocha. Finish: medium, dry as expected, but clean and not too drying. Not a cinnamon shop, as they say. Comments: all is well and very good, and some would even argue that this is ‘a proper, legitimate style’. I rather agree.
SGP:371 - 88 points.

Speyside 30 yo 1988/2019 (53,7%, Le Gus’t, blended malt, sherry butt, cask#15A/105, 518 bottles)

Speyside 30 yo 1988/2019 (53,7%, Le Gus’t, blended malt, sherry butt, cask#15A/105, 518 bottles) Five stars
My money says this is actually ‘teaspooned’ Macallan. There are currently others similar babies around, but naturally, no one will tell you the truth about them (or only after a few dry martinis in a hotel bar, which takes some credibility away anyway). Colour: deep gold. Nose: it’s rather rawer than the others but that’s most probably the higher strength. Other than that’s, we’re rather on cakes, cappuccino, marmalade, raisins, cedar wood, and touches of wood smoke, which is certainly not unseen in Macallan. With water: these whiffs of gunpowder are rather classic Mac as well. Chocolate and a pinhead of Marmite. Mouth (neat): very good, big, rather sharp, and rather on marmalade and marzipan, plus touches of paraffin and tonic wine. I’m sure water will bring it straight to classic Macallandom… With water: bingo. Black raisins, chocolate, perhaps a drop of old Armagnac (Macallan was always pretty brandy-y anyway, was it not?) and even prunes. Macallan as in the old books (websites did not quite exist back then ha-ha). Finish: long and even more chocolaty. Comments: perhaps the best recent M******n I’ve tried so far, but I haven’t tried the latest 72 yo La Clique yet. I mean, Lalique. You just have to enjoy proper chocolate.
SGP:451 - 91 points.

(thank you Fuji!)

More tasting notesCheck the index of all Macallan we've tasted so far


September 18, 2019


Not a month without Springbank

It’s like lobster or jazz gigs, you need them at least once a month. And Champagne twice a week, but we're already digressing…

Springbank 17 yo 2001/2018 (58.5%, Blackadder, Raw Cask Statement, Sherry Hogshead, cask #130, 96 bottles)

Springbank 17 yo 2001/2018 (58.5%, Blackadder, Raw Cask Statement, Sherry Hogshead, cask #130, 96 bottles) Five stars
This rare baby did very well at the MM Awards 2018. It’s probably a bit provocative to start this with a sherry monster, but this is the youngest Springer we have on the tasting table today… Colour: red mahogany. Nose: someone’s spread some perfectly fine chocolate with some concrete dust and a little gunpowder. See what I mean? With water: yep, Maggi, lovage, copper coins, miso, marrow, fudge… Need I say more? Mouth (neat): fantastic. Heavy liquorice, heavy triple-sec, heavy chocolate, some of the greatest Armagnac, some prunes and some black currants, plus this Springbanky je-ne-sais-quoi, around oils and silex. The sherry did not kill distillery character. With water: enter salt and miso again, plus some bitter oranges and some cinchona, quinine, even gin (no offense meant, Springbank and Blackadder)… Finish: long and rather perfect. Juniper and oranges, plus salted chocolate. No one’s against that. Comments: newish Springbank in the style of the 1960s, how cool is that? Sadly, a very low outturn here. That should be forbidden, a minimum of, say 250 bottles per bottling should be enforced after Brexit. Seriously!
SGP:362 - 90 points.

But let’s go on…

Springbank 18 yo (45.9%, Artful Dodger Collective, 1st fill sherry, cask #646, 2019)

Springbank 18 yo (45.9%, Artful Dodger Collective, 1st fill sherry, cask #646, 2019) Five stars
No picture yet, I’ve put one of another bottling from the same line. Colour: amber. Nose: ‘course. Oranges, leather, pipe tobacco, linseed oil, clay and plasticine, chicken broth, hand cream, even shampoo (antidandruff, of course), mandarin liqueur, and a solid dose of umami. Bliss in your glass, unless you like them super-clean and soulless (ho-ho-ho, S.) Mouth: it’s pretty smoky, and I wouldn’t swear there is no Longrow inside, seriously. Could we have a look at the papers? Wonderful chocolate, glazed chestnuts, walnut liqueur, zest macerate, a touch of chilli, gravy, chicken soup, stewed mushrooms, more bitter oranges… Finish: rather long, dry, leathery, chalky, umami-y (someone’s got to find a new word), with the usual bitter oranges in the aftertaste. Comments: it’s first fill but it was well-mannered sherry. With Springbank, the spirit keeps the lead anyway, under any circumstances! The Baryshnikov of whisky! Now, really, wasn’t there at least a little Longrow inside?
SGP:373 - 91 points.

Let’s check an older OB if you don’t mind…

Springbank 1996/2009 (57.1%, OB for Milano Whisky Festival, cask #264, 600 bottles)

Springbank 1996/2009 (57.1%, OB for Milano Whisky Festival, cask #264, 600 bottles) Five stars
That’s one of my biggest regrets, not having been able to attend the Milano Festival. Yet. Colour: amber. Nose: same ballpark, same kind of combo, but a little more on grilled meat, brake fluid, truffles, and gunpowder. Just a perfect example of a whisky that’s ‘sulphury’ while that would be some clear and absolute asset. Notes of very old Chambertin (or good sister that does not quite take care of herself – no apologies to The Vatican), the usual miso soup, and just a bouillon made with patience, care and passion in a typical bistrot.  With water: lovey touches of model glue, then decadent soups and sauces. Mouth (neat): extremely punchy, this one does not do the catenaccio my friend. Blackberry jam and jelly, apricot cake, ginger tonic, leather, rubber, Seville oranges, and really a lot pepper teasing your tongue. It needs water. With water: it’s hard to tame it, you need a lot of water. Becomes unusually more brutal and rough, with touches of balsamico (naturalmente) and puréed chestnuts over some kind of coffee cream. Who said tiramisu? Not me! Finish: long, meaty, on soups and roasted nuts, with chives and even garlic in the aftertaste. Also even more chestnut purée. Comments: you could almost eat this baby, rather than drink it. Thick as a brick (I know I should drop my lousy two-penny musical references, I know.)
SGP:362 - 91 points.

Springbank 21 yo 1996/2018 (47.5%, That Boutique-y Whisky Company, Madeira butt, cask #02/0118-1, 911 bottles)

Springbank 21 yo 1996/2018 (47.5%, That Boutique-y Whisky Company, Madeira butt, cask #02/0118-1, 911 bottles) Three stars
Madeira butts? What’s this madness all about? And why Blake and Mortimer on the label? Colour: amber. Nose: ah, fudge and butterscotch this time! Does Madeira impart more notes of butterscotch than sherry does? Depends on the kind of Madeira (and sherry), I suppose. This time it’s really all on Werther’s Originals, then Ricola and some kind of tourist’s Kräuterlikör. You’re right, Jägermeister. Funny, that. With water: a tad smokier. Mustard sauce, or sauce ‘à la diable’. Hard to translate, I am sorry. Mouth (neat): a bit weird, I have to say. Garlic and leek soup, tarragon - nothing against that, but perhaps not in my whisky. Sour butter and coriander. Perhaps. With water: improves a bit. Sorrel soup with a little fudge? Who would dare cooking that? Finish: medium, bizarre, mustardy, sour. Comments: a slightly schizophrenic malt, between vegetal soups and caramelly notes. Intriguing, but it's struggling after the better-constructed glories that we had before.
SGP:361 - 82 points.

Perhaps a wee cleaner one, and we’re done. Until the month of October…

Springbank 24 yo 1994/2019 (50.8%, Cadenhead, Authentic Collection, refill barrel, 312 bottles)

Springbank 24 yo 1994/2019 (50.8%, Cadenhead, Authentic Collection, refill barrel, 312 bottles) Three stars
The question remains the same, are Springbanks by Cadenhead official or independent bottlings? This is close to the Controversia de Valladolid if you ask me. I’m even wondering, is it fair that CAD would have easier access to good casks of Springbank? Colour: straw. Nose: we’re facing the distillate now, in its unvarnished core. No ooh-ha sherry to hide behind, no unnecessary Madeira or Marsala or whatever, only a full glass of engine oil blended with celeriac juice. Plus a little sea water, that is all. Now the proportions are perfect, that’s the whole trick here. With water: marzipan and a little vanillin and coconut, that’s the cask speaking out. Okay, pass. Mouth (neat): can a whisky be totally austere and yet relatively attractive? Seriously, this is some very dry Springbank, mineral, peppery, salty, and a little sour. There is a fine line between pleasure and pain here, it’s rather philosophical whisky, so no instant crowd-pleaser. With water: plain American oak coming out, no thanks. Drop water. Finish: pretty long and rather on orange skins and green pepper. Not sexy. Comments: a Springbank that you’ll need to intellectualise a bit, if I may advise so. Otherwise you may find it way too dry and austere, almost like a movie by Lars von Trier or Robert Bresson.
SGP:272 - 82 points (let’s not exaggerate).

(mucho gracias, Tom!)

More tasting notesCheck the index of all Springbank we've tasted so far


September 17, 2019


And yet another five whiskies incognito

I know, I know, but they do exist and there’s more and more of them. And half a loaf is better than no bread…

Chieftain's 1995/2014 ‘Sherry Cask’ (50.8%, Ian Macleod, for Taiwan, 1st Fill Sherry But, cask #1369, 621 bottles)

Chieftain's 1995/2014 ‘Sherry Cask’ (50.8%, Ian Macleod, for Taiwan, 1st Fill Sherry But, cask #1369, 621 bottles) Three stars and a half
This undisclosed single mat was introduced to the MM Awards last year. A little late I have to say, but I think it did well. Colour: dark amber. Nose: it’s like opening a fresh pack of small Mars bars. There are touches of rubber too, but that’s pretty all at this point. With water: chocolate and sawdust. Mouth (neat): classic heavily extractive sherry. New oak, strongly seasoned, et voilà. Very good, but nothing to do with old-school sherried whisky. I enjoy the heavy liquorice, though. With water: oak and chocolate to the front. Good but pretty emotionless. Finish: ditto. The oak’s too apparent. Comments: there’s some kind of industrial quality to this. Don’t get me wrong, it’s extremely well made, it’s just.. yep, a little emotionless.
SGP:451 - 84 points.

Black Snake ‘VAT No7 2nd Venom’ (57.5%, Blackadder, for Liquors Hasegawa Tokyo and Clydesdale Sweden, PX finish, 190 bottles, 2017)

Black Snake ‘VAT No7 2nd Venom’ (57.5%, Blackadder, for Liquors Hasegawa Tokyo and Clydesdale Sweden, PX finish, 190 bottles, 2017) Two stars and a half
Yet another PX finish, so rather WTF?, but we may be safe since this is Blackadder. Colour: gold. Nose: some sucrosity – hope that’s not the PX – and curious notes of Bacardi-esque rum - hope that’s not the PX. A little wood smoke – that’s not the PX - and BBQ. With water: there’s some kirsch quality to this, but it’s rough stuff for sure. Mouth (neat): good, modern, a tad brutal, probably young, a tad rough, and a little rubbery. Not a polished one for Westminster, but you know, Westminster these days… With water: it’s good, but we may have missed the best parts. Rough stuff. Finish: long, grassy, a little sour and rubbery. Comments: I’m not dead sure. I like this roughness, but it’s also a kind of five-men whisky. You know, one man drinks it, while the other four hold him.
SGP:561 - 79 points.

Chimera (46%, Blackadder, blended malt, cask # CH 1-2016, 550 bottles, 2016)

Chimera (46%, Blackadder, blended malt, cask # CH 1-2016, 550 bottles, 2016) Two stars and a half
A chimera, that’s an animal that does not exist, is it not? Colour: gold. Nose: fine, slightly medicinal, mentholy, with some camphor, a faint smokiness, a little soot, and a good earthiness that would have involved both mushrooms and mosses. No apparent planks this time, we are fine. Mouth: there’s a little peated whisky, and some leafy./leathery sherry too. The combo’s a tad brutal and crayony (cedar wood shavings, graphite), but we shall survive. Finish: medium, a little bittersweet and too leathery for me. Not easy. Comments: looks like we haven’t found the best of Blackadder yet, this year. But we have time…
SGP:363 - 77 points.

Back to safer places…

Speyside 1973/2017 (52.2%, Whisky-Doris, sherry butt, cask #12, 221 bottles)

Speyside 1973/2017 (52.2%, Whisky-Doris, sherry butt, cask #12, 221 bottles) Four stars
Given the pedigree here, we may keep this short and sweet. Colour: gold. Nose: yeah, apple peel, honeycomb, and the myriads of aromas that come with that. Amazing apples. With water: paraffin  and rubber up. Not too sure anymore. Mouth (neat): the oak’s a little loud and peppery, but other than that, it’s one of those stunning casks. Perhaps more chlorophyll and green lemons than in some other, smoother ones. With water: not sure it needs any water, really. Gets ‘green’. Finish: medium, green and a little resinous. Bitter mint. Good apples in the aftertaste. Comments: a narrower, greener one, it seems. Still very excellent if you ask me.
SGP:461 - 87 points.

And the last one today. Tomorrow on Whiskyfun, gin! (I’m kidding)

Speyside Malt 43 yo 1973/2016 (52%, Sansibar and Spirits Shop Selection, sherry cask, 240 bottles)

Speyside Malt 43 yo 1973/2016 (52%, Sansibar and Spirits Shop Selection, sherry cask, 240 bottles) Four stars and a half
Another one that slipped through my fingers when it came out. Undisclosed GlenX in Karuizawa clothes, how cool is that? Colour: gold. Nose: the usual beehive, the usual orange juice, and quite some mead. It’s a little more acidic than others, I would say. A little more almondy too, which I appreciate  With water: cider and beer, pretty refreshing. Mouth (neat): orangey almonds and some mildly oaky apples. White pepper and nutmeg. With water: never add too much water to these old whiskies, you may kill them. Cider and mead. Finish: medium, rounder, honeyed, lovely. Really. Comments: rather superb, just a little fragile.
SGP:451  - 89 points.

More tasting notes
Check the index of all undisclosed or blended malts we've tasted so far

September 2019 - part 1 <--- September 2019 - part 2 ---> October 2019 - part 1



Best spirits Serge tried those weeks, 90+ points only

Benromach 50 yo 1969/2019 (44.6%, OB, sherry hogshead, cask #2003, 125 decanters)

Speyside 30 yo 1988/2019 (53,7%, Le Gus’t, blended malt, sherry butt, cask#15A/105, 518 bottles)

Springbank 17 yo 2001/2018 (58.5%, Blackadder, Raw Cask Statement, Sherry Hogshead, cask #130, 96 bottles)

Springbank 18 yo (45.9%, Artful Dodger Collective, 1st fill sherry, cask #646, 2019)

Springbank 1996/2009 (57.1%, OB for Milano Whisky Festival, cask #264, 600 bottles)

Chichibu 2011/2018 ‘Peated’ (62.9%, OB, for La Maison du Whisky, Chronicles, Mangacamo, ex-Hanyu cask, cask #2070, 258 bottles)

Chichibu 2013/2018 (48.7%, OB, for Prineus Germany, oloroso hogshead, cask #2593, 306 bottles)

BOWS ‘HEOC 2017’ (56.5%, OB, France)