Last year in December, we briefly mentioned Le Gus’t when we reviewed a Tomatin they bottled for La Confrérie du Whisky. Le Gus’t / Cave Conseil is a French off-licence and independent bottler located in the south-east of France, in Manosque first, but they also have a few shops around Marseille. They became an independent bottler in 2013 when their team went to Scotland to taste and select casks, and they started with a 1999, 12-year-old Bowmore very well received. We’re trying today two undisclosed Speyside 1988 from Le Gus’t, Selection XVIII and XXVI, as each of their bottling is numbered. Rumour has it that they both may be secret Mac***…
Secrets and Transparency
People have always been fascinated by secrets and the idea of keeping information hidden from others. On one hand, secrets can create a sense of mystery and intrigue, piquing people’s curiosity and causing them to wonder what might be hidden behind closed doors. In this way, secrets can be a source of excitement and playfulness, adding a touch of the unknown to everyday life.
However, secrets can also be a source of tension and mistrust, particularly when they are used to manipulate or deceive others. This is because secrets often involve a lack of transparency, which can erode trust and damage relationships. When people feel that they are being kept in the dark about important information, they may begin to feel excluded or mistreated, leading to resentment and conflict.
Despite these negative aspects, many people still love secrets and the feeling of being in the know. This is often because secrets can provide a sense of power and control, allowing people to feel as though they have an advantage over others. Additionally, secrets can be used to build relationships and create a sense of intimacy, as sharing a secret with someone can foster a feeling of closeness and trust.
At the same time, however, there is also a strong desire for transparency in many societies. This is because transparency promotes accountability and honesty, allowing people to see what is happening behind the scenes and hold those in power to account. When information is open and accessible, it becomes easier to identify and address problems, leading to a more efficient and fair society.
Ultimately, the love for secrets and the love for transparency are both deeply rooted in human nature and can coexist in different ways. While secrets can be fun and create a sense of intimacy, they can also cause tension and mistrust. On the other hand, transparency promotes accountability and honesty, but it can also reveal information that some people might prefer to keep private. The key is finding a balance between these two conflicting desires and determining when it is appropriate to keep secrets and when it is better to be open and transparent.
When it comes to whisky, the love for secrets and the love for transparency can both play a role in how the drink is perceived and appreciated. On one hand, the mystery and tradition surrounding whisky production can add to its allure and appeal. Many distilleries guard their recipes and processes closely, creating a sense of exclusivity and intrigue for those who are interested in the art of whisky making.
At the same time, however, there is also a growing movement towards transparency in the whisky industry, with some distilleries choosing to be more open about their ingredients, processes, and sourcing practices. This transparency can be particularly important, as it allows consumers to make informed decisions about the products they are purchasing and support companies that are ethical and responsible.
In the end, it is up to each individual distillery to decide how much transparency they want to offer and how much of their process they want to keep secret. Some may prefer to keep their methods, casks and bottling details closely guarded in order to protect their brand and maintain a sense of mystique, while others may choose to be more open in order to foster trust and build relationships with their customers. Ultimately, the balance between secrecy and transparency will depend on the values and goals of each distillery and the expectations of their customers.
As you already know if you’re a usual reader of this blog or of other whisky blogs, in the world of whisky, independent bottling refers to the practice of bottling and selling whisky that has been produced by someone else, usually a larger distillery. This can be done for a variety of reasons, such as to offer a wider range of whisky options to consumers or to showcase rare or hard-to-find whiskies.
Some distilleries may choose to keep their name secret when their whisky is bottled by an independent bottler, either to protect their brand or to maintain a sense of exclusivity. This can create a sense of mystery and intrigue for consumers, as they may be left wondering which distillery produced the whisky they are tasting. They may also want to limit the use of their name to their own bottlings, and as such controlling the narrative and their image, as a cask bottled by an independent bottler may show a different profile than their own official expressions. Sometimes different can mean better, and some other times it might mean a product the distillery would consider inferior to what they usually output, so they will want to keep their name to be associated to a deemed inferior cask.
However, there are also some potential downsides to keeping a distillery’s name secret in this way. For one thing, it can make it difficult for consumers to know exactly what they are buying and where it comes from, leading to a lack of transparency and potentially undermining trust in the brand. Additionally, keeping the name of a distillery secret may also make it harder for independent bottlers to build relationships with their customers and create a loyal following, as people may be less likely to seek out and purchase whisky from a company that they know little about.
Ultimately, whether or not a distillery chooses to keep its name secret when its whisky is bottled by an independent bottler will depend on its goals and priorities. Some distilleries may prefer to keep their name secret in order to maintain a sense of mystery and exclusivity, while others may choose to be more transparent in order to foster trust and build relationships with their customers.
Speyside 1988 Selection XVIII Le Gus’t Review
Our first undisclosed Speyside 1988 was distilled, well… in 1988. This theoretically blended malt (teaspooned single malt probably) matured for 30 years in the sherry butt number 15A/105 (quite a poetic name, isn’t it?), it was selected by Le Gus’t and bottled on the 23rd of April 2019. Filled at cask strength, as will all Le Gus’t bottlings, the 510 bottles were filled without chill filtration nor colouring added. The retail price was a very reasonable €250. It is rumoured to be a Mac****.
Dark russet. Medium speed descending thin legs.
Neat: The nose is bright and fruity, with notes of sherry, figs chutney, and dates. There is also a hint of grassiness and a distinct leathery note, like the smell of a well-worn leather-covered book. A wood polish note adds a subtle depth whilst orange peel and mulled wine spices give a hint of warmth. The fruit notes are prominent, with raisins, plums, and red apples all present. There are also sweet notes of fudge, vanilla pod, and caramel.
With water: The addition of water brings out damp leaves and autumnal notes, as well as a hint of moss. The sweetness also becomes more pronounced, without ever coming close to being too sweet.
Neat: The palate is initially spicy, with notes of dark cherries, pepper, and even a hint of gunpowder. Cocoa and oak spices and cigar box notes adds a distinctive richness. In the mean time, orange and honey notes add a contrasting touch of sweetness, and sandalwood, clove, and nutmeg give a warm and aromatic side. Despite the spiciness, the whisky is very elegant and well balanced.
With water: The addition of water brings out ginger notes, which add a spicy kick to the palate. The heat from the alcohol becomes more prominent, adding an extra dimension to the flavour profile. The other flavours become clearer and more expressive, making the palate even more complex and layered.
The finish is long, with soft wood tannins and notes of dark chocolate, as well as fig and date chutney, giving a soft bitterness and structure on one side, and a fruity sweetness on the other. Finally, orange juice adds a bright and citrusy note, and wood polish adds a subtle richness.
This is just superb. The sherry butt had a wonderful but measured influence on the whisky, bringing richness and depth and complexity to this secret Mac, without being neither too woody nor overpowering. The spirit shines, and I really don’t understand why they would not be proud to put their name on this theoretical blended malt, because it would bring much more to their name than their 43% 30-year-old annual release sold for 20 times that price. Okay, I see the point: they would not be able to sell their 30-year-old for 20 times that price any more.
Speyside 1988 Selection XXVI Le Gus’t Review
Our second “blended malt” was also distilled in 1988. It matured this time for 32 years, also in a sherry butt (number 50) before being bottled on the 8th of January 2021. 609 bottes were filled from that butt at quite the high abv, after that time, of 55.3%. Non-chill filtered nor coloured, the bottles were sold for a once again very attractive price of €264. This blended malt is also very probably coming from the Mac*** distillery.
Neat: The nose of this whisky is richer and more intense than the Selection XVIII, with prominent dark cherry and rancio notes. There are also hints of cigar humidor, cedar, and sandalwood, giving a woody and aromatic character. Leather and toffee/fudge notes add richness and warmth, whilst orange peel and honey give a touch of sweetness. Some quince jam, and a light citrus note that adds brightness. There are also hints of coffee and uncooked Paris mushrooms, adding an earthy depth to the overall aroma.
With water: The addition of water brings out tobacco leaf and dusty book notes. There is also a hint of paraffin, which adds a distinct and slightly industrial and waxy note.
Neat: The palate is oily and mouth coating, with a sweet and rich arrival that is followed by a light hit of spices. There are notes of butterscotch and toffee, as well as delicate sherry notes and dark cherries. Peppery orange marmalade adds a unique and slightly spicy note, while chilli strawberry jam (I discovered that near Québec-city and it’s wonderful) adds a touch of heat and sweetness. There are also tobacco leaves and cinnamon.
With water: The addition of water brings out more chilli, butterscotch, and orange notes, making the whisky even more delicious and complex, with its flavours becoming even more expressive and pronounced.
The finish is long and warm, with prominent orange, pepper, butterscotch and dark cherries. The finish lingers on the palate, leaving a lovely warmth behind.
If the 30-year-old Selection XVIII was superb, then this 32-year-old Selection XXVI is even more. I won’t write a list of superlatives, as everything is said with “superb”. Yes, I used that for the one above, but here it’s even more deserved. Nose and palate are stunning and even richer than the Selection XVIII. There’s no point in writing more. If you encounter one of those two at a reasonable price, just go for them, you won’t be disappointed. Except maybe by the labels. I really don’t like this green and orange.