Danfield’s – Limited Edition 21 Year Old “Classy Hoser”

I know very little about Danfield’s 21, I do know that it was a brand that was once produced at the Schenley distillery (Diageo) in Québec and that it is now produced in Lethbridge Alberta at the Black Velvet distillery (Constellation Brands). It seems to be one of those classic Canadian whisky brands like Gibson’s Finest, which has been bounced around from home to home.

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Like many of the legacy Canadian distillers they have a lot of sleeping barrels aging on site.

This sample is courtesy of @paddockjudge, I had the pleasure of being the recipient of a small box containing a plethora of mysterious elixirs decanted by the man himself. Three of the whiskys inside had instructions concerning the drinking order, this is the first of those samples tasted blind.

Nose: Brown sugar, vanilla and a good dose of spices that seem to stem from the wood, in this case cinnamon and a bit of nutmeg. Loads of oak, like a carpenter’s shop, a little green bell pepper and paraffin, it’s quite a bit nippy.

Water softens the nose, bring in some honey and increasing the vanilla.

Palate: Oak & cedar, warm caramel with loads of brown sugar and baking spices. Grapefruit pith, white pepper and a touch of wax. Surprisingly hot for, 40%. Nice mouthfeel.

Water brings out cardboard, more spices, reduces the bitterness a touch.

Finish. Is medium length, that sweetness you can only get from corn whisky, some astringency from the oak, a little cardboard, and chili pepper not as sweet as on arrival,

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Love the old school packaging

I feel like this is a perfect representation of a classic Canadian whisky, I found the bitterness a bit off putting at first but with time it seems to bring equilibrium to this blend. The wood notes are interesting because they push into the cedar/tobacco like territory. This isn’t my favorite Canadian whisky but it’s hard to deny that this is a well crafted gem in a style that doesn’t seem to be as popular.

Danfield’s 21 yrs Old

40%/ABV

88/100

 

Whistlepig – 10 yr old Single Barrel “Goin’ Whole Hog”

Late last year a friend offered to mule a few bottles from South Carolina if I had them shipped to his place in advance, I attempted to select bottles I knew I would be difficult to obtain in Canada.

In the end two of the three bottles he brought back contained whisky distilled in Canada (the other was a Crown Royal hand selected barrel), the other was this bottle Whistlepig store selection, a single barrel at 56.7% abv for Third Base Market & Spirits.

At this point it’s public knowledge that the 10yr old Whistlepig whisky is 100% rye sourced from Alberta Distillers Limited, a powerhouse of a distillery that has over a million sleeping barrels of some of the best rye whisky. Sadly it’s a whisky that we rarely see on our side of the border in anything but it’s adulterated form (cut down to 40% abv or blended in the case of Dark Horse) or sold back to us by US firms under the guises of brands like Masterson’s, Hochstader’s & Whistlepig. This was the first time I was able to get a taste of ADL juice at cask strength (or nearly).

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In good company.

Nose: Waxy, rising brioche dough, rye toast and orange peel. It has a floral cologne like note, a bit of sandalwood, there is oak but it’s restrained. There is an almost soapy note but it’s fresh and clean it works well. The payoff with this whisky is to let it air out and then it really opens up, a sweet maple syrup like note with that mineral tang. Fresh and fermented grain, coriander seed and mint finishing on a bit of prune, almost like in Armagnac (perhaps from oak?)

Palate: Dry & sharp, floral & aromatic, there is a slight heat reminded you that this is almost 57% abv. Then it bursts with rye bread, a touch of cumin, apricots, candy apple & butter tarts. Full bodied, earthy and sweet salted caramel & cracked pepper, after the initial tickle there’s very little burn on palate.

Finish: Creamy like eating flan or pannacotta, more oak, earthy sprouted rye and a slight chalkiness, green fresh coriander like feeling.

The Blab: This is a great full bodied dram, more of a winter whisky than a fresh summery one. The bottle is in it’s last third and It’s lost some steam on the nose, it’s a bit closed and lost some of it’s initial peppery-ness and full throttle in your face rye.

That said the palate has bloomed I don’t remember getting as much dried fruits at first. This is really a sipper it takes time to discover and let everything come into play, it has a pleasant mineral waxiness that goes well with the sweetness, no dill notes either… I wish I could get a group together to buy a cask of this stuff.

Whistlepig 10 yr old “Third Base Market & Spirits” store selection

56.7% ABV

88/100

Pike Creek 21 European Oak Finish – Northern Border Collection 2018 Preview part IV

On May 5th 2018 I was at Spirit of Toronto with fellow Connosr members Nozinan and Paddockjudge, we attended the Wiser’s Masterclass that was given by Dr. Don Livermore. We were presented with the 6 new expressions that would be released by the distillery in 2018, you can find parts I, II & III here.

At this point in the good doctor’s presentation we were a bit rushed as the masterclass was only allocated an hour, the crowd was well lubed with the 4 previous whiskys, it was getting a bit rowdy but still manageable The 35 yr old was the last whisky of the night I knew from the previous edition that it needs time to be appreciated, something the circumstances of this masterclass wouldn’t allow. Therefore I concentrated my efforts on this whisky

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The Pike Creek Modus Operandi is a vatting of a high proportion of double column corn whisky with just a hint of rye, it’s aged in ex-bourbon and Canadian casks and then given some sort of finishing barrel.

In 2018 the 21 year old blend includes a proportion of whiskys finished in French oak & Hungarian oak 50% & 25% the remaining 25% being ex-bourbon casks. The idea from what we we’re told is the corn whisky would be a good vehicle to highlight the influence of the oak types.

Nose: Nutmeg, vanilla, that corn whisky sweetness, ginger, lots of oak, mincemeat, nougat, a little bit of red fruits.

Palate: Warm, slightly creamy and sweet, fresh ginger and apples, spicy…very spicy. A hint of Indian spices like a sweetened Garam Masala, caramelized onions with maple syrup, the oak lingers at the end.

I am really enjoying the effects of the European oak on Canadian whisky. it seems to meld well with the usual spices and grippy oak we get in most expressions. I believe this is an interesting direction that should be further explored and doesn’t feel as gimmicky as most cask finishes we see with Scotch or Bourbon. I think the key is that only a proportion of the blend is finished, this enables the blender to dial in or control the influence of the casks, rather than creating a veil over the whole thing.

Pike Creek 21 European Oak finish

45% ABV

84/100 *I am marking this in accordance with the environment and time I had with it, so it’s only a quick preview.

J. P. Wiser’s Seasoned Oak – Northern Border Collection 2018 Preview part III

On May 5th 2018 I was at Spirit of Toronto with fellow Connosr members Nozinan and Paddockjudge, we attended the Wiser’s Masterclass that was given by Dr. Don Livermore. We were presented with the 6 new expressions that would be released by the distillery in 2018, you can find part 1 and part 2 here.

This was one of two whiskys that were an unexpected addition to our tasting. The other being the Canada 2018 release, while it was good I only had an hour so I chose to focus my attention on the four most striking.

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Seasoned Oak is an LCBO exclusive that will be released for father’s day (much like Dissertation and Last Barrels the two years prior).  In essence it is a 19 year old blend of double distilled corn & column still rye that was aged* in barrels made from staves that were traditionally air dried for 48 months, my notes indicate that these barrels we’re toasted and not charred…but I could be wrong.

Nose: Oak, vanilla, candied apples, a bit of raisins & allspice. It’s in many ways a traditional Canadian whisky on the nose but with presence and good development, it does have a touch of warm bread and fennel.

Palate: A pleasant hint of burnt wood, lots of maple, orange blossom water, the oak is complex like opening an old cigar humidor, great spice & citrus integration.

It’s the first time I get actual maple syrup in a Canadian whisky, I know many people use that as a tasting note but I never quite get that complex sweetness and underlying minerality (not a word I know) of maple syrup in most Canadian whiskys, this one though…round, warm and solidly crafted, the oak wasn’t out of hand. I would like to try this in a blind tasting in a line-up with other American and Canadian whiskys, see how it would fare.

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They are also displaying the actual age on the label (from what I can see on the Wiser’s website) which is refreshing since most of the other rare cask series did not…perhaps this is to help in selling it at the price point they are looking for (100$).

*After fact checking it is aged for 18 months in traditional refill Canadian whisky barrels and only finished for 12 months in these air dried barrels, I wish they had made this a bit clearer. Nonetheless, it’s great to see what the use of this finish can do to ad complexity without going overboard and into licking a wooden plank territory like some double barreled bourbons.

JP Wiser’s Seasoned Oak (19yrs old)

48% ABV

84/100 * I tried these whiskys in a public event so these notes are quick impressions rather than in depth reviews. 

Corby Lot 40 Cask Strength 2018 – Northern Border Collection 2018 Preview part II

This is my second review taken from Spirit of Toronto’s 2018 Northern Border Collection Masterclass. We were presented with the 6 new expressions to be released this year by Corby Distillers. The first part can be found here.

Dr. Livermore built his presentation in such a way that each of his talking points would culminate in one of the samples placed before us. The whisky would be the embodiment of the aspect he was trying to highlight in his talk (the points varied from Canada’s whisky history, grains, aging, the importance of wood…get your mind out of the gutter).

He joked that the next whisky was the one everyone was here for. In a way he’s right, if there’s one Canadian whisky that gets the masses hot and bothered it’s Lot 40 Cask Strength. since it’s re-release in 2012 Lot no.40 gained a massive following and was ahead of the curve in gauging there would be a revival and solid demand for rye on the market.

Hiram pot still Windsor star

Last year’s cask strength inaugural release was a really solid whisky on par with other cult inducing ryes, it showed that Canadian rye is no slouch when pitted against its American counterparts. Sadly at < 5000 bottles, few if any made their way outside of the country to retailer in US or overseas.

The 2018 release is from a parcel of 11 year old whiskys, Dr. Livermore said that his reason for choosing this specific bond was because they all exhibited a particular flavor profile which he felt was quite different than last year’s edition (he mentions a licorice/anise note).

Nose: Caramel, pine tar, orange creamsicle, the nose was so unexpected that I had to smell my friends glass to make sure I had the right sample. Steak spice, floral, rising pastry (like brioche dough) and a bit of vanilla. I am only comparing it from memory but the nose seems very different than last yeas edition.

Palate: Creamy, thrills gum, licorice, grippy oak, green apple. Super floral but in this context it works, cooked stone fruit, a mix of cinnamon and clove. There’s a richness to the rye produced at Hiram Walker distillery that isn’t found anywhere else, I think the use of virgin oak really helps accentuate this.

This was delicious and worthy of the frenzy it will cause at the LCBO.

The bad news is the price is going up to 99$ (for all the NBC releases barring the Wiser’s 35). I understand why they are doing this, I just don’t think all of the releases have found their legs yet.

In this era of 147$ Elijah Craig barrel proof selling out at the LCBO, I’m sure it will fly off the shelves.

Lot 40 Cask Strength

58.4% ABV

89/100 * I tried these whiskys in a public event so these notes are quick impressions rather than in depth reviews. This is just that good that it gets a high mark for quality despite not being my favorite pick of the evening.

*Pot still picture credit Windsor Star

Gooderham & Worts Eleven Souls -Northern Border Collection 2018 Preview part I

 

On May 5th 2018 I attended Spirit of Toronto with a couple of members from Connosr (the board I frequent the most). It was my first time attending but my companions @Nozinan and @paddockjudge were both pros who’ve attended many times.

One of our main reasons for going was to catch the Masterclass that would be given by Dr. Don Livermore, the master blender for Corby Distillers. I knew from listening to interviews that “Doctor Don” is not only an accomplished scientist and blender but also a history buff, often citing the legacy of the Canadian whisky barons in his explanations. After this class I can add that he is a skilled orator as well, articulate, funny and down to earth, deeply passionate about Canadian whisky like few others.

The good doctor presented us with the 6 new expressions that would be released by the distillery in 2018. With only an hour to take the whole experience in, I concentrated my notes on the whiskys that we’re the most striking, the following 4 reviews all stem from this sessions.

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The 2018 release of Gooderham & Worts will officially be called “11 souls”. The working title was “11 orphans” to have another historical tie-in to William Gooderham’s well known deeds. I am not sure why they decided to change the name but perhaps the Marketing folks felt it wasn’t as catchy?

They indicate that this whisky is a blend of “11 grains” but I feel I must clarify it is actually blended from 11 different components or permutations of the following. 5 grain types (wheat, rye, barley, corn, Brasetto rye), two different distilling methods (double column or column/pot still) and two different barrel types (virgin oak or refill casks). I do not remember if there was an age statement mentioned for this.

Nose: At first a bit floral like apple blossoms, marzipan, waxy oranges/citrus, toasted almonds, really good integration of the spices throughout. The nose really grabs you right away and keeps unfolding in the most complex way.

Palate: Chewy toffee, jasmine, vanilla, a hint of tobacco, boiled honey, nice cereal notes. It has a slightly vegetal side (celery?) not unpleasant, it just provides the right nuance. Then it finishes on cloves, green apple and a a firm oak backbone.

This was very surprising, you can feel the work that went into this blend, yet it doesn’t feel contrived.The palate was a good match to the nose, lots of both overt and subtle flavors.

The 2017 release of G&W the 17 year old Little Trinity failed to really capture my attention, it was technically a great whisky but I felt it lacked a bit of personality. This is definitely a step in the right direction, again it’s not the instant gratification of Lot 40 CS but there is plenty happening, this was my favorite whisky of the session.

Gooderham & Worts 11 Souls

49% ABV

Grade: 86/100*

*My score reflects some of the haste of sampling at such an event, I normally would taste in isolation and over several sessions. I would probably bump it up if I could have spent more time with it.

Rapid Fire Tasting Session March 23rd 2017, Glen Breton, Armorik & High West.

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Ok another Thursday, another tasting session at the SAQ, this time around the focus would be on world whisky.

The line-up would consist of 1 whisky from Glenora in Canada, 2 Breton single malts from Distillerie Warenghem and lastly some good old sourced American rye from MGP by way of High West…let’s go!

Glen Breton Ice: This is a 10 year old single malt from Canada’s Glenora distillery, it’s finished (or aged sources differ) in icewine casks from Jost Vineyards…there seems to be different versions of this, 10,14 & 17 years old and some at cask strength, this is the 40%.

Nose: soapy, sour, wet wood, sharp, violets?? it’s not very expressive.

Palate: Bitter, oaky astringence, the texture is so watery it washes away from your tongue so fast. The finish has a slight, lychee and plum feel but it’s so faded and it’s too late to rescue this malt.

Next Armorik is produced by Distillerie Warenghem in Britanny. They are some of the few French whisky producers who actually use Scottish style pot stills (made in Italy actually) rather than the Cognac style stills that many other houses use. They have been around for a while and in the last few years have really improved the quality and types of casks used. They have also gone against the current trends and gone completely unpeated, which I think they we’re using the first few years..my hopes are high.

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Armorik Sherry Finish: 46%ABV NAS, Initial unknown ageing in ex-bourbon casks and then finished in Oloroso Sherry casks no mention of how long.

Nose: Sharp, lactic/acetone tang, cumin, wormwood, brown raisins, a bit of melting brown sugar. With water the nose opens up , you get more dark dried fruits and leather a bit, the alchohol vapour recedes.

Palate: Bitter, oak overload, the alcohol dominates, ginger, barley, grain alcohol. With water the palate is…worse! Grainy, bitter herbs, burnt spices, splenda or artificial sweetener…agh! I’ve never had the palate of a whisky get so violent with water…I’m speechless.

Armorik Double Maturation: 46% ABV, non chill filtered and NAS, first aged for an unspecified period of time in new Breton oak casks and then secondary maturation in Sherry casks.

Nose: Acetone again, coconut, caramel but everything is too sharp

Palate:  at first there is hope a bit fudgy, milk chocolate, bitter herbs, cumin and then it turns bitter, Indian spices and turmeric, sharp and unpleasant but the texture is also a letdown…sad

Ok last one

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High West Rendez-Vous Rye: A young distillery waiting on aging of it’s own stock, so it’s a sourced whisky at 46% ABV a mix of two rye whisky apparently a young (4+ yrs) 95%Rye mashbill from MGP and older (10+yrs) 80% rye mashbill from Barton…

Nose: Dill, rising croissants and buns in a bake shop, roasted cabbage, sweet fruit, hard candies, cloves, pepper, red fruits and a tinge of vicks/menthol

Palate: Rye, caraway,dill then red licorice, lacto-fermented vegetables, toffee, red pepper, Thrills chewing gum…the one that tastes like soap, coriander seeds. Sweet, oaky and a bit waxy but not cloying. Oh I really like this.

Verdict, this sessions was bust also in a way really fun, some would say i’m a masochist…yes but I also feel that it’s good to have these train wreck of a session, it really helps you re-set your gauge. There is a lot of average whisky out there but when you get something truly mediocre, it helps you re-align yourself. It allows you to become more in tune to how whisky is constructed and appreciate a truly outstanding malt. For what it’s worth that High west rye would have stood out among a strong roster of  whiskies as well.

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For the 3 readers of my blog if you are in Montreal (I just cut that down to 1 reader…hi mom!)  the SAQ Signature branch is sadly closing it’s doors on April 15th 2017, inventory and services will be split among the Atwater market and Maisonneuve (city concillors) locations. I believe the new Signature downtown location is being build but won’t be ready until next year…or the following this is Québec after all.

Franck

 

 

 

Alberta Distillers Dark Horse Review

Critique en Français plus bas.

 

Alberta Distillers Limited Dark Horse

45% ABV

Score: 81/100

 

As the weather gets hotter I reach for a less heavy and complex whisky,  I know it’s trite and often repeated , peated Scotch is more of a winter thing, I don’t think it’s a strict rule but let’s say it’s not the first thing I reach for when it’s sweltering.

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Besides in the summer I like to play it fast and loose, I’ll take my whisky with ice and a little soda or make myself free form Americano or Boulevardier-like constructions. This often brings me back to my first love Canadian whisky and much like hooking up with an old flame. It can be a nostalgic and comfortable hook-up that reminds you of the good times or it can go in the other direction. You want to show all the ways in which you’ve evolved and grown up, that you’re a different person but inevitably things just aren’t the same.

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Both those things have happened to me with our beloved Canadian whisky, God how I loved Canadian club, sherry cask (the old tall clear bottle version) or the 20yr old.  Those great spicy Wiser’s ryes, especially that small batch that was one of the first Canadian whisky’s I had that was a higher abv than 40%, or most Forty Creek releases.

Sadly it has been a while since I can really appreciate them with the same fervour as the most recent Springbank 12 CS for example. I had to take a third approach to realize that it’s neither the frozen good memories nor something you can take your new bag of tricks to. You must humble yourself to see take it as a new thing, it took the heat and my disgust after moving, where all I wanted was a drink and I applied ice and ADL’s Dark Horse to nurse my frustration and fell in love all over again.

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Nose: Maple sap and that sweet/fermented mash note you find in some American whiskies on the arrival. Caraway bumping into baking spices, slight solvent notes, toffee apples, slightly grassy and a little green.

Palate: Those rye spices kick out the jams right away, into oaky vanilla, and hot peppers. It has a creamy mouth-feel with a nice bite of sherry astringency. It has an instantly recognizable rye palate that is somewhat tempered by the corn sweetness and dried fruit.

The finish is a bit of a lemon pith and charred wood, with that pickle and cinnamon candy thing that only Canadian rye whisky will do.

Today’s subject is one such perhaps one of the more controversial releases in that it uses the Canadian whisky regulation loopholes that allow a low percentage of additives, something which I have read, is not really done anymore.  Some consider it cheating a sherry finish others think it’s just damn fine stuff you be the judge. It is made from a combination of Column and pot still rye whisky like only ADL can produce and then hit with 8% old grand dad bourbon (from the Suntory Beam rainbow connection) and 1% sherry all this bottled at a daring Canadian 45%.

I believe it will appeal to those who enjoy American whisky and it’s big in your face punch of flavours, it works in drink and a great sipper while shooting the shit with friends and at a price that won’t break the bank .

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Franck

* ADLphoto credits day : Globe and mail at night: Devon Mackay


 

Alberta Distillers Limited Dark Horse

45% Alc/Vol

Évaluation: 83/100

 

Lorsque le mercure grimpe je me tourne souvent vers du whisky un peu moins lourd et complexe. Je ne vais pas répéter les platitudes sur le whisky tourbé étant une boisson d’hiver. Je ne crois pas que c’est une règle inviolable, ceci dit il est vrai que lors d’une canicule je ne me taperais pas du  Ardbeg.

De toute façon durant l’été je n’aime pas me cassé la tête et je bois souvent mon un whisky bon marché avec une de la glace, un peu de soda ou je m’improvise un apéro sur le style d’un Americano ou Boulevardier. Ça me rappelle un de mes premiers amours, le whisky Canadian et souvent lorsque l’on reprend avec une ancienne blonde il peut nous arriver deux choses. On peut rester pris dans le mode nostalgie en se rappelant que le bon vieux temps ou on peut réaliser qu’on n’est plus la même personne et que les choses on changées.

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Ces deux scenarios ce sont passé avec mon Whisky Canadien bien aimé. J’ai tellement adoré le Canadian Club sherry Cask (l’ancienne version dans la grande bouteille) ou le CC 20 ans. Le rye de Wiser’s surtout le « small batch » qui a été un des premiers whiskys Canadien à plus de 40% alcool que j’ai goutté et que dire des divers parutions de Forty Creek.

Tristement il y un bail que je ne les apprécie plus avec autant de ferveur que le plus récent Springbank 12 CS. Il m’a fallu une troisième approche afin de réaliser ce que j’aimais tant du profil du whisky Canadien.  Le jour suivant mon déménagement, j’appréhendais le fouillis de mes boites et j’avais besoin d’un « drink » et  il fallait que ça soit simple. Une mesure de ADL Dark Horse et 2 glaçons et je suis retombé en amour.

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Nez: Sève d’érable et ce côté sucré et fermenté qu’on retrouve dans certain whisky Américain. Carvi et épices de Noël se bouscule, légère note d’acétone, caramel mou, pommes et un côté vert un peu farine de seigle.

Bouche : La savate des épices est la première chose qu’on rencontre, vanille, chêne et piment fort. La texture est crémeuse mais fini avec un peu d’astringence du xérès. On reconnait immédiatement la bouche d’un rye whisky qui est adouci pour le maïs et les fruits secs.

La finale tire sur l’astringence de la moelle d’un citron/pamplemousse ainsi que cette drôle de combinaison de cornichons et bonbons à la cannelle que seuls les ryes Canadiens ont.

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Ce whisky n’est pas sans controverses, puisqu’il utilise l’exception accordée au whisky Canadian qui permet un léger pourcentage d’additifs.  Selon de bonnes sources ceci n’est plus vraiment pratique commune dans l’industrie mais plusieurs considèrent que c’est quand même de la triche ou que cela ne fait que maintenir cette mauvaise perception de notre jus Canadien.  Je vous laisse juger de par vous-même. C’est un assemblage de rye distillé en alambics classiques et continue auquel est ajouté 8% de bourbon old grand dad (de leur connexion à Beam Suntory) et 1% de xérès.

Je crois que son côté assez brut et intense plaira aux amateurs de whisky Américain, c’est un whisky franc à un prix qui l’est tout autant, parfait pour boire lorsque l’on fait la jasette sur le deck.

 

Franck