Longrow

Maybe it's about time the malt maniacs formulated an 'official' position on this issue? Yeah, that sounds like a plan, actually. So, the certified malt maniacs are discussing the re-use of finishing casks right now, but I'll post the question to the team in the near future. That's the perfect excuse to give myself a special dispensation of a month to sample some more drams and check my numbers.
 
Please hold...

1 - Miltonduff / Mosstowie
2 - Littlemill / Dunglass
3 - Glen Flagler / Killyloch / Garnheath (grain)
4 - Springbank / Longrow / Hazelburn
5 - Tobermory / Ledaig

To make matters worse, there is no 'maniacal' consensus either.
Some maniacs seem to view Glenburgie and Glencraig as a single distillery,
while some of the others see it (or 'them') as completely separate entities.
What's more, there are quite a few more 'questionable' distilleries;

Michael Jackson's position seems to be that both Glenburgie and Glencraig are made at the same distillery but Jim Murray's '2004 Whisky Bible' identifies them as two different distilleries. Well, it seems we have quite a conundrum on our hands. Both 'whisky popes' preach a different gospel...

Wrong!
Nothing is as easy as it seems in the whisky world.
Up until now I've always considered the malts released under the names 'Glenburgie' and 'Glencraig' to be distilled at the same distillery, simply because they were produced at the very same location. However, different stills were used to produce these malts - malts released under the 'Glenburgie' name came from traditional pot stills while 'Glencraig' was produced in so-called 'Lomond' stills. (Check out chapter 4 of the Beginner's Guide for an explanation of the difference between these stills.)

The Big Distillery Trick

Log Entry 200  -  December 31, 2004
Topic:  La Grande Desillusion...

Blasted! Maybe I didn't really complete phase II of my mission?
I've just received an e-mail that wiped the smug grin from my face. Now it seems
I might have just missed it by a margin of 0,5%. Serge kindly pointed out that my
column on the monitor 'only' had 995 Scotch single malts on it - instead of the
1000 that should be on there according to my own records. That's odd.
Hmmmm... I guess I'll have to double-check all my data...

Aberfeldy
Aberlour
Ardbeg
Ardmore
Arran
Auchentoshan
Auchroisk (Singleton)
Aultmore
Balblair
Balmenach
Balvenie
Ben Nevis
Benrinnes
Benromach
Bladnoch
Blair Athol
Bowmore
Brackla (Royal)
Bruichladdich
Bunnahabhain
Caol Ila
Cardhu
Clynelish
Cragganmore
Craigellachie
Dailuaine
Dalmore
Dalwhinnie
Deanston
Dufftown
Edradour
Fettercairn
Glenallachie
Glenburgie / Glencraig
Glen Deveron / Macduff
Glendronach
Glendullan
Glen Elgin
Glenfarclas
Glenfiddich
Glen Garioch
Glengoyne
Glen Grant
Glenkinchie
Glenlivet
Glenlossie
Glenmorangie
Glen Moray
Glen Ord
Glenrothes
Glen Scotia
Glen Spey
Glentauchers
Glenturret
Highland Park
Inchgower
Jura (Isle of Jura)
Knockando
Knockdhu / An Cnoc
Lagavulin
Laphroaig
Linkwood
Loch Lomond
Lochnagar
Longmorn
Macallan
Mannochmore
Miltonduff / Mosstowie
Mortlach
Oban
Pulteney
Scapa
Speyburn
Speyside / Drumguish
Springbank / Longrow
Strathisla
Strathmill
Talisker
Tamdhu
Teaninich
Tobermory / Ledaig
Tomatin
Tomintoul
Tormore

***
****
*****
***
**
***
***
***
***
**
****
****
***
***
****
***
***
***
***
****
****
**
***
***
***
***
***
**
**
***
***
**
***
**
***
****
***
**
****
***

****
****
***
***
****
***
***
***
***
***
****
*
***
**

****
***
***
***
***

*****
*****
****
**
***

****
****
***
****
****
***
****
****
***
*
***
***
*

*****
***
***
**
****
***
**

9
23
50
11
5
9
3
4
3
3
19
7
5
8
9
3
42
3
22
14
38
4
17
10
6
5
3
3
3
4
10
3
3
3
7
9
3
6
24
15
14
7
7
6
18
3
13
6
4
12
6
1
3
5
29
5
6
4
4
16
19
13
4
3
13
54
7
6
16
4
3
10
3
6
28
4
3
17
3
3
11
5
6
4

***
****
*****
***
*
**
***
**
***
**
****
***
****
***
****
***
***
***
***
***
****
**
***
****
***
***
***
**
**
***
*
**
***
**
*
****
***
**
***
**
***
***
**
**
****
***
****
***
***
****
****
*
***
**
****
***
**
***
***
*****
*****
****
*
***
****
*****
**
***
***
***
****
***
***
*
****
***
*
*****
***
***
*
****
***
**

So, that's the end of Part 1 - right now the new 'to do' list has exactly 100 malts.
I will do some further research during January 2005 and finish this report at the end of the month.

Well, I had to do that anyway, so this is as good an excuse as any to delve into
my archive in the Distillery Data section. That might help me gain some insights
into the future course of my research as well. And there's one hard 'fact of life' that
has already become painfully clear to me; sampling only three different bottlings
from a distillery (the goal I set for myself at the end of phase 1 of my mission in
December of 2001) just isn't enough. I'll need to sample at least six versions
before I can say anything meaningful about the output of that distillery.
 
It took me almost a decade to reach this point (or at least almost reach it ;-) but I
should be able to crank the number of expressions from three to six in just two or
three years - apart from a few silent distilleries like Ben Wyvis or Ladyburn.
But first of all, let's look at the active distilleries, shall we?

The first column shows the 'Still Score' at the end of
phase one of my mission, the second column shows the
name(s) of the distillery and the third one shows the
number of different expressions I've sampled seriously
so far - around 1,000 whiskies (until the end of 2004).

The real fun is to be found in column #4.
It shows the new 'Still Scores' I arrived at after I had
analysed all my research data at the end of phase two
of the single malt mission that I embarked on in 1997.
The results are colour-coded like this;

*** = Solid, unchanged still score
*** = Still score has increased
*** = Still score has decreased
*** = Further research required

Of course, the 'star system' can be interpreted as an
indication of the likelihood of me spending any more of
my money on other expressions from that distillery;

Auchentoshan - thanks to some oldies
Ben Nevis - confidently jumps from *** to ****
Bunnahabhain - the oldies pulled it upwards
Edradour - Andrew's clever marketing pays off
Glen Deveron - old Macduffs did well
Glenfarclas - jumps from 'good' to 'great'
Glenfiddich - jumps from 'fair' to 'good'
Glen Garioch - pre-1985 bottles are fabulous
Glengoyne - I tried some great 2004 releases
Glen Grant - can be great when aged properly
Glenkinchie - jumps from ** to ***
Isle of Jura - not all bottlings are weak & oily
Mannochmore - it's not all Loch Dhu
Miltonduff / Mosstowie - interesting stuff
Mortlach - goes from 'good' to 'great'
Scapa - can be brilliant when they're old enough
Tobermory - Some Ledaigs pull it from * to **

Cragganmore - I can't justify four stars anymore
Glenmorangie - OB's are not all that interesting
Glenrothes - a tad boring vintages these days
Macallan - not quite worth five stars anymore
Springbank - young ones are not that special

These were not all the 'still scores' that changed; in all
cases where I haven't sampled and scored at least six
different versions, I considered my 'verdict' temporary.
I should be able to tell more about the overall 'quality'
of those distilleries at the end of phase three of my
mission, whenever that may be.

What's more, these are just the distilleries that were
active when I started the second phase of my mission.
Since then, there have been three malt whisky
distilleries that were revived;
 
Benriach - reopened by Billy Walker & friends
Glencadam - reopened by Angus Dundee
Tullibardine - some 'Disney' distillation again

*****  =  Definitely, this is really good stuff...
****  =  Sure, there's plenty to love here...
***  =  Probably, nothing really wrong here...
**  =  Unlikely, too many superior alternatives...
*  =  Not bloody well likely! Sub-standard material...

I'll update the information in the Distillery Data section soon.
After adding these 3 revived distilleries to my new 'to do' list it seems my 'marching orders' for phase III are clear enough. I'll have to sample more expressions from exactly 40 distilleries. And adding up the number of bottlings I arrive at precisely 100. You can check out my calculations in the column at the right. Seems straightforward and logical enough, right?

Unfortunately, a few distilleries lost a star in the
proceedings as well. The relative 'losers' are;

So, that's how you can interpret columns #1 & #4.
You can see plenty of 'green' in the fourth column,
which means that a substantial portion of these
distilleries have succeeded in improving upon their
first impression later on. These distilleries are:

That means I will have to add these distilleries to the
new 'to do' list - I haven't tried six different versions
from any of these distilleries. I have to admit that I
don't relish the thought of having to taste Tullibardine
again, but perhaps the new owners will produce a
new type of spirit that will please my nostrils and
taste buds.
 
Of course, unless they jump on the 'finishing'
bandwagon (or decide to produce a heavily peated
Tullibardine) that means that we'll have to wait a
decade or so to see the results.
 
Fact of the matter is that a distillery is only as good
as its most recent releases - more and more 'new'
maltheads will wonder why Macallan, Glenmorangie
and Springbank were once such prestigious names.

--  Active distilleries during phase II  --

Preliminary Plan:

1 x Arran
3 x Auchroisk
2 x Aultmore
3 x Balblair
3 x Balmenach
3 x Benriach
1 x Benrinnes
3 x Blair Athol
3 x Brackla (Royal)
2 x Cardhu
1 x Dailuaine
3 x Dalmore
3 x Dalwhinnie
3 x Deanston
2 x Dufftown
3 x Fettercairn
3 x Glenallachie
3 x Glenburgie / Glencraig
3 x Glencadam
3 x Glendullan
3 x Glenlossie
2 x Glen Ord
5 x Glen Spey
3 x Glentauchers
1 x Glenturret
1 x Inchgower
2 x Knockando
2 x Knockdhu / An Cnoc
2 x Loch Lomond
3 x Lochnagar
2 x Oban
3 x Pulteney
3 x Speyburn
2 x Strathisla
3 x Strathmill
3 x Tamdhu
3 x Teaninich
1 x Tomatin
2 x Tormore
3 x Tullibardine
--------------
     100 Bottles

Log Entry 200; Part III - The Italian Adventure

February 25, 2005 - I have received some questions about the trip to Italy in November 2004.
The fact that we still haven't published an official report led some people to assume we didn't have a lot of fun there. Well, on the contrary! But we had the idea to write a 'collective' report for Malt Maniacs and that isn't finished yet. That's the bad news; the good news is that I finally found the time to make a transcript of my own tasting notes. Here they are, including a few elaborations on the skeleton report #189.
You'll have to wait a little longer for the fully illustrated report in Malt Maniacs, I'm afraid.
However, Serge already published some pictures in the MM Picture Book on Whiskyfun.
 

Wednesday Morning, 3AM

That's the title of my first Simon & Garfunkel album - and the time I got up today.
I hadn't had the time to do my packing last night, so I had an extra early start of the day.
Then it was off to Antwerp by train where Belgian maniac Luc Timmermans picked me up.
Before we headed further south to Alsace Luc served me four absolutely smashing malts.

First, Luc poured me a Caol Ila 15yo (57%, Bulloch Lade, Orange label, Bottled 1980's, 75cl).
Nose: Organica and peat - not as transparent as current bottlings. Farmy and very, very briny.
Taste: Very full, but soft. Smoke. In your face. very serious. Straight.
Score: 90 points - this one takes no prisoners.

Next: the Aberlour Glenlivet 8yo (50%, OB, Square bottle, small cork, Bottled 1950's?, 75cl).
Amazing - it didn't have any problems making its voice heard after a cask strength Islay malt.
Nose: Maggi. Vegetable stock. Spices. Organics. Sellery. Antique - you can smell the age.
Taste: Very robust, sweet and fruity. This feels so good in your mouth. Simply incredible.
Score: 93 points originally, recently stretched to 94 points - best Aberlour I ever tried.

The Glen Garioch 1971 (59.6%, Samaroli, 2280 Btl., Bottled +/- 1988) was a big surprise too.
Nose: Lots of peat. Organics. Farmy! Very rich. Extremely complex. An amazing discovery.
Taste: Sweet & chewy. Fabulous mouth feel. Peat and smoke as well. Very 'solid'.
Score: 92 points at the time, 93 points after 'the big stretch' in February 2005.

Our last dram in Antwerp was the Brora 22yo 1972 (61.1%, UDRM).
Or rather, MY last dram - Luc would be driving so he enjoyed these drams vicariously.
Nose: Farmy. Oily. Rice crackers. Sake. Sellery. Chives, perhaps? Not very expressive.
Taste: Peaty and chewy. The peat grows stronger and stronger. A hint of liquorice too.
Score: 89 points - but maybe it would have made the 90's in lesser company...

Wow! Especially the Aberlour 8yo from the 1950's was a relevation. What a stunner!
Surprisingly enough, the youngest (and oldest) Aberlour I ever tried was also the very best.
With a big smile on my face I jumped into Luc's car - what a great start of the trip...
 

Wednesday Evening

I had never met Luc before, so we had plenty to chat about during our drive to France.
And when you're in a car with 'Mr. Glefarclas Belgium', you can imagine what the main topic of conversation was. Talking about whisky for a few hours can make somebody very thirsty indeed, so we were glad that Serge whisked us away to Olivier's wine cellar as soon as we arrived in Turckheim a little after 18:00PM. The night had just fallen over Alsace, the moon peeked over the hills and the 'Italian Task Force' was now at full strength. A wonderful moment to toast with a bunch of Olivier's first experiments with spirits. Fabulous!

Next, it was off to one of the many charming restaurants in Turckheim where I enjoyed one of France's most infamous dishes; frog's legs. Tastes like chicken... Serge couldn't tell me if these frogs are 'farmed' or hunted in the wild. I imagine that's a pretty hectic job; frog hunter... You'd have to shoot a few dozen frogs before you had enough for a decent meal and since they jump around a lot they're very hard to hit. I guess that explains the popularity of that other typically French delicacy: snails. They are much more docile and easier to catch...

After our culinairy intermezzo we proceeded with a big Ardbeg session at Serge's place.
We kicked things off with an Ardbeg 1975 (40%, G&M, Connoisseurs Choice, New label).
Nose: Serious. Restrained. Some peat - but not quite enough for me to enjoy myself.
Taste: Sombre. No sweetness. And these were all the notes I made, I'm afraid.
Score: 78 points - not a great Ardbeg, but a great one to start this session.

The Ardbeg 1975/2001 (43%, OB) was notably more expressive.
Nose: Sombre and peaty like the last one. Some sweetness here. That's better...
Taste: Bitter and sombre; just a tad sweeter than the G&M bottling we just tried.
Score: 83 points - the nose seemed veggier and spicier in another glass.

The Ardbeg 15yo 1989/2004 (40%, Mandibolari, 120 Bottles) had an 'interesting' label.
Nose: Verry 'veggy' at first, then the peat moves forward. Smoke. Sweaty.
It's a great drinking whisky, although not terribly complex, it would seem.
Taste: Very peaty at first, growing more watery. Very dry but a little bit flat.
Score: 86 points - I like the profile a lot, but it's not very expressive.

The Ardbeg 14yo 1988/2002 (40%, Mandibolari) could be a 'fake'.
As far as we know, Ardbeg didn't operate in 1988 (See a recent issue of Malt Maniacs for details).
Nose: Peat, fruit and a little brine. Horse stable. Sweaty. Grapefruit. Leather.
Then I found lots of rubber - the bicycle tire variety. It's very obvious here.
Taste: Oy... Starts quite watery. Slightly MOTR. Some very dry peat. Not much else.
Score: 87 points - I really like the nose, but it isn't matched by the palate.

Next: Ardbeg 11yo 1991/2002 (46%, MMcD, MM654, February 1991, November 2002).
Nose: Peat and paint. Latex. No development over time, as far as I could tell.
Taste: Peaty and playful. Dry, growing bitter towards the finish.
Score: 85 points - I like it, even though it is a little 'simple'.

While we had a short break Serge poured me a Longrow to confirm my score.
He felt that that my initial score of 71 points for the Longrow 1987/1999 (45%, Samaroli 'Dreams', 967 Bottles) was just too low and thought there must have been something wrong with the sample he sent me.
Nose: MOTR - very much so. Light. Opens up with some organics over time. Sweaty.
Taste: Dusty. Mouldy. Watery. MOTR again. More and more peat emerges over time.
Score: 79 points - sorry Serge, but this is as high as I can go for this one.
This Longrow just doesn't really 'work' for me - I can't recommend it...

OK - back to Islay with the Ardbeg 1990/2003 (46%, G&M Symposion, Sherry cask #3133).
Nose: Sweet & peaty. Spices. Horse stable. Orange marmelade. Organics. Brine seaweed.
Taste: Sweet & peaty, just like the nose. Chewy. Drier and smokier towards the finish.
Score: 91 points - wow! Now THIS is a good Ardbeg, especially looking at the age.
So it would seem that G&M still has some great Ardbegs in their warehouse...

The Ardbeg 17yo 1974/1992 (43%, SigV, Cask #2026, 2400 Bottles) was great as well.
Nose: Anitiquity - I could 'smell the age' here. Very rich & spicy. Great composition.
Taste: Big & spicy. Peat. Chewy. Not a lot of notes for a malt that is a lot of fun.
Score: 91 points - just as good as the Symposion - best Signatory Ardbeg so far.

In contrast, the Ardbeg 9yo 1991 (45%, Samaroli) didn't do too well.
Nose: Odd. Grappa. No peat at all. Very faint fruits. A strange Ardbeg puppy.
Taste: Sourish. Flat and fairly watery. It has a distinct 'off' taste. This is a failure.
Score: 69 points - but the other maniqacs liked it better with scores around 80 points.

We proceeded with an Ardbeg 10yo 1993/2003 (46%, High Spirits, 285 Bottles).
Nose: Oil. Washbacks. painty. It opens up a little more over time, but not a lot.
Taste: Peat. Not much else, but peat lovers don't need much else, I guess.
Score: 79 points - interesting, but a bit of a 'one trick pony' if you ask me.

By now the hour of midnight had passed and we were starting to feel a tad sleepy.
However, Serge managed to produce three more top class Ardbegs we simply had to try.
The first of the trio was the Ardbeg 13yo 1990/2004 (55%, OB, 1140 Bottles for Japan).
Nose: Organics, quickly followed by the peat. Powerful. Golden Delicious. Sweat. Liquorice.
Washbacks. Opens up just wonderfully over time. One of the winners of the evening, I'd say.
Taste: Oooh... A little thin, although it does show some peat. Dry and rather serious.
Score: 90 points - with a palate to match the nose it might have gone a little higher.

Next: Ardbeg 1972/2004 (48,3%, OB, Managers Choice for Oddbins, C#866, 239 Btl.).
Nose: Oil. Painty. Sweet. No peat. These are all the notes I have on the nose, I'm afraid.
Taste: Lots of peat and extremely dry (and I mean extremely). Perhaps I've reached my limit?
Score:  89 points - but I should mention that Serge, Olivier and Luc all had it in the 90's.

The Ardbeg 1976/2004 (51,4%; OB for Feis Isle 2004, Sherry C#2398, 504 Btl.) was the last one.
Nose: Very rich. Sherry. Maggi. Spices. Organics. Vegetable stock. Peat. Smells 'aged' somehow.
Taste: Very full and peaty. Big. Chewy. Some distinct notes of clove. A true masterpiece.
Score: 91 points - making it one of the three top scoring Ardbegs of the evening for me.

And that's where we decided we should probably call it a night.
That's a dozen Ardbegs - after the 4 drams I sampled at Luc's this morning.
I could add 16 fresh malts to my Track Record after today. Not bad for a day's 'work'. 
 

Thursday Morning

After spending a short but revitalising night in the beautiful medieval centre of Turckheim, we were 'en route' to Italy quickly. Unbelievably enough, Serge managed to take a wrong turn when we were only a few kilometres from his home. But then again, maybe it's not that unbelievable - I managed to get lost myself in the Ruhrgebiet a little over a year ago thanks to a few chattering maniacs in the car. And unlike yours truly, Serge quickly found the right route again - or rather, his auto-navigation system found it for us ;-)
 

Thursday Afternoon

After a speedy and educational trip we arrived in Bologna early in the afternoon.
We spent pretty much the entire afternoon at Giuseppe Begnoni's 'Whisky Paradise'.
His showroom and warehouse are simply amazing - the biggest collection of ancient bottlings I've ever seen. My nose was in awful shape during the afternoon, so I tried only very little of some of the stunning malts that Giuseppe poured us. I didn't make many notes on the Macallan 1947 (46%, OB, Bottled +/- 1962/1963) and a Highland Park 1902 (39,8%; Berry Brothers & Rudd, Bottled circa 1952/1953). I managed to spend enough time with the Highland Park to give it a fairly solid score (90 points), but I didn't try enough of the other ancient elixers to give them a reliable rating. However, from what I could tell in the mesmerising showroom, all of them were 90's material. (Check out the Malt Maniacs Picture Book on WhiskyFun for some nice shots.)
 

Thursday Evening

After having been to paradise, where can you go?
Well, to a restaurant to enjoy some white truffles, according to the French maniacs...
Unfortunately, they didn't have my beloved 'Funghi Trifolati' on the menu and the salmon turned out to be 'out of stock' as well. So, I decided to play it safe with a local specialty... Tagliatelle Bolognese. The other maniacs enjoyed their truffled risotto and the wine they chose to go with it was actually one of the very few wines I've actively liked so far. Very expressive and robust, as far as I could tell. The restaurant's selection of single malts wasn't quite as impressive as we've been lead to belive, so we finished the meal with two fairly mundane malts; starting with the Macallan 7yo (40%, OB, Giovinetti & Figli) that blows the later 'international' version (as well as some of the new 'Fine Oaks') out of the water with an impressive score of 82 points - not bad.

I also tried a Caol Ila 1994/2003 (40%, G&M for Meregali) at the restaurant.
Nose: Clean & peaty. Just the way I like it. A straight shooter, not very complex.
Taste: Peaty, dry and very bitter. Too much so to classify it as 'recommendable', in fact.
Score: 78 points - a slightly underwhelming finish of a great dining experience.

Having filled our stomachs to the limit, we were ready for some serious sampling.
Luc had been enthusiastically planning a major Bowmore session with some legendary bottlings - and most of which even convinced a 'Bowmore sceptic' like myself. We managed to find an empty conference lounge in our hotel (Aemilia Golden Tulip) that was perfectly suited for our purpose.

Dram #1: Bowmore 15yo 1989/2004 (58%, SSMC, Cask #6185)
Nose: Old style. Quite mild. Some peat, but not too much. Austere after a minute.
Dille - like in Gravad Lachs. Hint of oil. 'Boerenkool'. Peppermint. There's much to enjoy.
Taste: Perfume! Dry and a little gritty. Herbal. It loses quite a few points here.
Score: 74 points - but please note that Serge, Olivier & Luc scored it much higher.
(Check out the matrix for our scores for all the 'Italy 2004' malts.)

Dram #2: Bowmore 32yo 1968 'Anniversary' (45,5%; OB, 1860 Bottles)
Nose: Rich. Liquorice. Fructose. Melon. Yoghurt. Finally the peat comes through.
Lots of spices as well. Amazing - this really is an adventure for your nose.
Taste: Passion fruits. Just a tad perfumy - but it's just bearable. Violets?
Orange zest. Melon. Dry. The perfume keeps it from the 90's - I can't stand it.
Score: 87 points - 1986 seems to have been a good year for Bowmore.

Dram #3: Bowmore 38yo 1964 (42,9%, OB, Oloroso cask, 300 Bottles)
Nose: Raisins. Sherry. Extremely big and complex. Furniture polish, then peat.
Vegetable stock. Sellery. Spices. Definitely 90's material, I'd have to say.
Taste: Sherry. Sombre. Cold tea. Fruity. Woody. Smoke. Melons. Aged. Violets.
There's some peat as well, but it's not quite sweet enough for my tastes.
Score: 91 points - here the seed of perfume is present, but no more.

Hey, I may have had an epiphany just now.
I've found 'raisins' in the nose - just like in many of the 'old school' Macallans.
Could this trait be transferred mainly by Oloroso casks? That seems to make sense.

Dram #4: Bowmore 38yo 1964 (43.2%, OB, Bourbon cask, 300 Bottles)
Nose: Starts out very mellow, growing spicier. Sweet. Vanilla. Hey, is that truffle?
Taste: Dry. Liquorice. A little bit flat, a little bitter. Herbal. Gentian. Hint of peat.
Score: 83 points - and once again the other maniacs scored it MUCH higher.

Dram #5: Bowmore 37yo 1964 (49,6%; OB, Fino sherry cask, 300 Bottles)
Nose: Quite herbal. Passion fruit. Grapefruit. Yoghurt. Organics. A little metallic.
Farmy, and it grows noticably peatier over time. No perfume at all, it seems.
Taste: Woody. Very dry. Subtle peat. Herbal - gentian again. Improves with time.
Score: 88 points - a great malt, but I personally prefer the Oloroso matured version.

Dram #6: Bowmore 'Black' 1964/1995 (49%, OB Final [3d?] Edition)
Nose: Serious and smoky with lots of sherry. Our debates kept me from making more notes.
Taste: Smoky. Buysman (burnt caramel). Loads of sherry again. Not a subtle dram.
Score: 89 points - but I should mention that I wasn't 100% focused anymore....
After a big Ardbeg session yesterday and a long 'trip to paradise' six heavy duty drams were quite enough for us, so we decided to call it a day (or rather call it a night) around 02:00 AM.
We had to get up early on...
 

Friday Morning

... for a trip to world famous whisky collector Valentino Zagatti.
Luc had arranged for us to meet up with Italian malthead Giovani Giuliani (a good friend of Zagati's) who lead us to Zagati's home. For me, this was one of the highlights of the trip, and I think Serge, Olivier and Luc would agree. Valentino Zagati didn't speak a lot of English and we didn't speak a lot of Italian, but Giovani was happy to act as our translator when neccessary. Before we knew it we were sitting around the dining table, sipping malts and sharing our mania as if no language barriers existed. The most amazing thing was that Mr. Zagati (who, as you may know, is blind - and not a 'spring chicken' anymore) frequently got up, disappeared for a minute before re-appearing again with the bottle we were discussing at the moment. He knows his collection by heart and can pick out any bottle by touch alone. Just flabberghasting...

You'll have to wait for the full report on Malt Maniacs for more details, but here are my notes for the malts Mr. Zagati poured us. They offered a tantalising look into the past.

We started with a Harrod's Pure Highland Malt from Speyside 12yo (70° Proof, G&M for Harrods) that was bottled in the late 60's. I'm not sure about naming conventions in those days, but I would imagine this is a vatted malt, although it could be a 'bastard malt' as well - although I shudder to use that phrase here.
Nose: Antique. Sherry and organics. Big & fruity. Farmy. Sellery. Lots & lots of sherry.
Taste: Not quite as big and bold as the nose. Hey, there's some peat on the palate!
Score: 89 points - if it's a vatted malt, it's the best one I've tried so far.
What a fabulous dram - for a fabulous occasion.

We proceeded with the Highland Park 8yo (43%, OB, sea label, 1960's, Ferreratto Import).
Nose: Fruity. Malty. Organics. Smoke? At first it seems quite similar to the current profile.
Then it grew more medicinal and I got seaweed and even some peat. This one needs air.
Taste: Hint of peat? Big and round with a hint of smoke. Chewy. Great mouth feel.
Score: 87 points - it grows bigger and bigger over time, despite its tender age.
Is it the aging in the bottle that did this or were single malts just better then?
Or maybe they used a lot of older malts in the vatting for some reason?

Our last 'skalk' was the Oban 12yo (43%, OB, 75cl, Baroque Bottle, Bottled 1960's).
Nose: Leafy. Quite serious, but not very expressive. Could be oxidation, I'm afraid.
Taste: Very soft with a hint of peat. Pretty good, even though oxidation took its toll.
Score: 84 points - although the other maniacs scored it considerably higher.
Further proof that some malts can withstand oxidation far better than others.

Time flew by and before we knew it it was...
 

Friday Afternoon

... and we to say goodbye to Mr. Zagati and his wife - the most gracious hosts.
Giovani guided us to one of his favourite local restaurants for a copious lunch before we proceeded to his shrine for malts & music. The difference with Giuseppe Begnoni's 'Whisky Paradise' was amazing - and quite amusing. Mr. Begnoni's personal collection was beautifully presented in a spacious hall with lots of shiny brass and glass, while the 'trading' stock was stored in a practical steel & concrete adjacent warehouse. Impressive, but not really 'warm' and personal. Giovani's disorderly 'playroom', on the other hand, was a perfect peek into the life of a committed malthead. Boxes, beercans, porcelain figurines and jazz albums filled the room to the brim and there were only a few narrow corridors left. Furthermore, bottles from his personal stock and bottles Giovani was willing to sell were mixed together with reckless abandon. The ultimate browsing experience.

My nose had suddenly clogged up, so I refrained from nosing and tasting at Giovani's.
However, when I spotted a Glenesk 12yo (40%, OB, Silver import Italy, 1980's) I couldn't resist - I've only tried two other expressions of Hillside / Glenesk before and I needed to sample a third before I could finish phase II of my mission. The bottle was nearly empty, though, and as it turned out oxygen had taken its toll. So, I didn't make any tasting notes and you shouldn't put too much stock in my score of 60 points either.
 

Friday Evening

After dropping off Giovanni it was time to return to Bologna for some more truffles.
We scouted the area around the hotel for other restaurants that might offer my beloved 'Funghi Trifolati' but found none - so we ended up at the same place as the night before. We were all eager to proceed with the Bowmore session we started on Thursday evening, so we didn't waste a lot of time at the dining table this time.

Back at the hotel Olivier managed to recover our mysteriously vanished nosing glasses from the hotel bar and we took posession of the conference lounge once more for another session with (mostly) Bowmores. However, we started with the Dunglass 5yo (40%, OB, Produced at Littlemill, Bottled 1970's, 5cl). Well, I'm guessing it was bottled at 40% because as I recall there was no ABV on the label.
Nose: Very, very grainy. Otherwise restrained. Oil. Sweetens out with time.
Nutty. Maybe a little 'veggy'. Clearly not my preferred profile...
Taste: Flat, short and bitter. However, it sweetens out as well.
Score: 60 points - but that doesn't reflect the fun we had with it.
This whisky seems to be ultra-rare.

Next up was the Alloa Grain 40yo 1964/2004 (42,3%, Jack Wiebers WW Old Train Line, 114 Btl.).
Nose: Rich & velvety. AGED! Sweet. A truly fabulous nose. Vanilla. Roasted peanuts.
Milk powder. Salted butter (?!?). This one is incredibly complex - but hey, it's a 40yo!
Taste: Passion fruit. Coconut. Perfumy - like hyacinth or lavender. Loses some points here.
Score: 85 points - but based on the amazing nose it might have reached the 90's.
Another example of just how great a grain whisky can be...

OK - after this 'prelude' it was time to return to Bowmore.
Dram#1 - Bowmore 14yo 1989/2003 (58,9%, SMWS, Cask 3.88)
Nose: Peat - and lots of it. But nothing else, it seems - at least not at first.
Then I got organics. Farmy. Sweet. Pisang Goreng (Indonesian baked banana).
Taste: Perfumy and smoky - typical 'modern' Bowmore but better balanced.
Score: 86 points - yep, it seems the SMWS picked a good cask here.

Dram#2 - Bowmore 15yo 1989/2004 La Préceptorie Finish (46%, SigV for LMW Paris, Cask #6186)
Nose: Liquorice, vanishing quickly. Then the smoke comes through. Dusty.
Faint organics after a while. This one definitely needs some time to open up.
Taste: Dry. Hint of peat? Nothing really noteworthy. no obvious 'finish'.
Score: 81 points - although Luc liked it much better with 88 points.

Dram#3 - Bowmore 'Vintage' 1984 (58,8%; OB)
Nose: Awful! Lots of alcohol. More organics with time.
Taste: Perfumy with some peat. Nothing else to tell, really...
Score: 60 points - although I had it a little higher at first.

Dram#4 - Bowmore 17yo 1976/1994 (52,9%; SMWS, cask 3,18)
Nose: Melon. Really odd. Brussels Whaffles. It grows fruitier and fruitier.
Taste: Fruity with a smoky undercurrent. Liquorice. Quite pleasant.
Score: 84 points - once again the SMWS people made a great pick.

Dram#5 - Bowmore 16yo 1972 (43%, The Prestonfield, Sherry casks #1036-1039)
Nose: Farmy. Organics. Antiquity. Parmezan Cheese. Spices. Veggy. Excellent.
Taste: Erm... Sorry, I enjoyed myself so much that I forgot to make notes.
Score: 88 points - the clear winner of tonight's selection so far.

Dram#6 - Bowmore 22yo 1965 (43%, The Prestonfield, Sherry cask #47)
Nose: Unique! Antiquity. Maggi. Sellery. Ant Acid. Nougat. Tangerine. Grapefruit.
Passion fruit. Mocca. Oriental spices. Medicinal. Camphor. Tiger balm. Magnificent.
Taste: Smoke? Hint of perfume perhaps? A trade-off between nose and taste?
Score: 92 points - up from 91 points because the nose beats the 38yo 1964 'Oloroso'.

And that was it for me - although the other maniacs continued for a little while longer.
Once again Luc's selection managed to improve my opinion of the distillery. Interestingly enough, all independent bottlings scored 'recommendable' or higher. The only OB in tonight's line-up (the 1984 'Vintage') scored only 60 points. All maniacs agreed this was sub-standard material. You should be able to find out what the other maniacs tasted in our official report. While they were burning the midnight oil, I was sleeping the sleep of the innocent; I needed my sleep because we had to present ourselves in Zurich, Switzerland for 'Whiskyshiff' on...
 

Saturday

During our trip through the mountains of Switzerland we used our time efficiently by updating the monitor 'live' and 'en route' on Serge's laptop with the incoming results for the 2004 MM Awards. We arrived in Zurich early in the afternoon and lost little time before we walked the planks towards the ships. Once again the other maniacs ended up tasting quite a few more malts than me. I really like the concept of a festival on a bunch of ships,  but at times I found myself overwhelmed by a crowd of loudmouths and I had to stroll ashore to find some peace & quiet. Fortunately, there were numerous new drams waiting for me every time I came back on board.
Here are my notes on the malts I sampled;

Ardbeg 28yo 1972/2001 (49,5%, Douglas Laing OMC, 222 Bottles)
Nose: Extremely peaty. Serious. Liquorice.
Taste: Tar! Once again extremely peaty.
Score: 93 points - despite the brief notes.

Clynelish 32yo 1971 (55,5%, JW Auld Distillers Collection, Cask #2704, 102 Bottles)
Nose: Fruity & spicy. Sweet. Polished. Balanced. The best Clynelish I've tried so far?
Taste: Coastal. Serious. Hint of peat. Liquorice. This felt great in my mouth.
Score: 89 points - highly recommendable bordering on spectacular.

Glen Grant 1970/2003 (43%, MacKillop's Choice, Distilled 16/2/1970, Bottled November 2003)
Nose: Serious. Fino sherry, not Oloroso. Organics. Nutty Cold tea. Roasted peanuts.
Taste: A little weak & tired. Grittier later on. No sweetness.
Score: 78 points - disappointing, given its age.

Longmorn 1971/1999 (57,8%, Scott's Selection)
Nose: Mocca and sweet coffee. Sherry and wood. 'Farmy' later on.
Taste: Extremely Sherried. Smoky. Dry. A sherry monster par excellence
Score: 92 points - I've tried this before and loved it then.

Convalmore 24yo 1978/2003 (59.4%, UD Rare Malts)
Nose: Rich and polished at first, then organics emerge.
Taste: Sweet; that's all that my notes say I'm afraid
Score: 75 points - I wasn't impressed at all.

Royal Lochnagar 30yo 1974/2004 (56.2%, UD Rare Malts)
Nose: Surprisingly mild. Well balanced. Not a lot of noteworthy elements stick out.
Taste: Once again pretty mild - or is the alcohol starting to kick in?
Score: 82 points - I enjoyed myself, although it's not too memorable.

Saint Magdalene 21yo 1982/2003 (56.5%, Hart Brothers, D. 09/82, B. 11/2003)
Nose: Grainy with a hint of liquorice. Opens up with time and the empty glass smells great.
Taste: Soft and sweetish. A tad fruity. Orange zest? Remarkably sippable at this proof.
Score: 82 points - quite pleasant - but als old Magda's go not spectacular.

Old Pulteney 12yo 1990/2002 (55.6%, Hart Brothers, Distilled 1990, Bottled 2002)
Nose: Malty and a little spicy, growing more expressive. Sherry? A good, solid malt.
Taste: Sorry, I completely forgot to make tasting notes.
Score: 85 points - good stuff, that much I know...

Laphroaig 11yo 'Highgrove Edition' (43%, OB, Bottled ????)
Nose: Peat, then liquorice. Quite serious. It's hard to go back to 43% now.
Taste: Peaty. Dry. Clean. A straight shooter; more potent than the 10yo OB.
Score: 89 points - amazingly enough, I only heard about this expression recently.

Bunnahabhain 1981/2002 (57.8%, MacKillop's Choice, C#2273, D. 27/11/81, B. October 2002)
Nose: Not a lot. All I noticed was that it grew a little sweeter with time.
Taste: Phew! Extremely bitter. I'd say this comes from a bad cask.
Score: 65 points - and I think that's quite generous in hindsight.

Dallas Dhu 22yo 1978/2000 (50%, OMC, Sherry, 408 Bottles, July 1981 / July 2003)
(Erm... That's what my notes say - some of these vintages are obviously wrong...)
Nose: Mildly sherried. It opens up with time but never becoimes very 'big'.
Taste: Quite serious. Bittersweet like a particaly burnt chunk of caramel.
Score: 83 points - not too bad for the final dram of the evening.

I tried a few other malts at Whiskyshiff as well, but my notes and impressions are too vague to warrant 'solid' scores. Serge, Olivier and Luc ended up trying many more malts than I did, so once again I recommend you check out the full report when it's done.
 

Sunday

It's only a short trip from Zurich to Alsace, so when we arrived at Olivier's place before noon there still was time for a few farewell drams. Olivier offered us two malts he picked up in Italy. The Glen Mhor 10yo (43%, OB for Moccia Ferrara, rotation 1972 bottled) that scored 79 points in my book showed a hint of antiquity in the nose, but was fairly restrained and MOTR as well. It powers up with time, though, growing sweeter and showing a little peat and organics. It tasted a tad tired and hardly felt like 43%. No sweetness on the palate, but I'm starting to suspect that whiskies were less sweet altogether a few decades ago.

The last dram of our eurotrip was a Highland Park 19yo 1959 (43%, OB, Black Label, Ferraretto import Milan) which I gave 90 points. The nose was big and rich with sherry, organics, coffee and mocca. Camphor. More smoke and peat than the current distillery profile. Medicinal. Antiquity. Grows fruiter. The taste was serious with, again, no sweetness. Woody and smoky. A great malt. All other maniacs scored it in the 90's too, so that was a fitting finale to a most memorable trip. During these last few days, I got to try almost sixty brand new malts!

And that concludes my preliminary report.
As I wrote before, a 'maniacal' report with more details is in the works.

Click HERE to proceed to my January 2005 log entries...
Or, alternatively, click HERE to read the preceeding entries.
 
 

<          LIQUID LOG          >
 

Marching Orders:
(Active distilleries)

1 x Arran
3 x Auchroisk
2 x Aultmore
3 x Balblair
3 x Balmenach
3 x Benriach
1 x Benrinnes
3 x Blair Athol
3 x Brackla (Royal)
2 x Cardhu
1 x Dailuaine
3 x Dalmore
3 x Dalwhinnie
3 x Deanston
2 x Dufftown
3 x Fettercairn
3 x Glenallachie
4 x Glenburgie
3 x Glencadam
3 x Glendullan
3 x Glenlossie
2 x Glen Ord
5 x Glen Spey
3 x Glentauchers
1 x Glenturret
1 x Inchgower
2 x Knockando
2 x Knockdhu / An Cnoc
2 x Loch Lomond
3 x Lochnagar
4 x Miltonduff
2 x Oban
3 x Pulteney
3 x Speyburn
2 x Strathisla
3 x Strathmill
3 x Tamdhu
3 x Teaninich
1 x Tomatin
2 x Tormore
3 x Tullibardine
--------------
     105 Bottles

Log Entry 200; Part II - The Adventure Continues...

January 30, 2005 - OK; I've gathered some opinions about what defines a distillery.
As you can read in the most recent issue of Malt Maniacs (Winter 2004) the general consensus amongst
the malt maniacs seems to be that Glenburgie and Glencraig should be treated as two seperate distilleries,
even though they were housed in the same building and were operated by the same company & distilling
crew. Well, if we look at it as two different 'production lines' that produced a very different 'product' I can
see the logic in that. I think Charles MacLean said it best when he wrote: 'The truth is they are different
'makes' from the same distillery/plant, rather than different expressions of the same make (as in ages of a
particular malt, or a wood finished version).'

The next questionable couple is Miltonduff / Mosstowie.
And here the situation is virtually identical to that of Glenburgie / Glencraig; the Miltonduff distillery is still active but the Lomond still that produced Mosstowie has been removed. Another addition for the distillery list.

Glen Flagler and Killyloch were produced by different sets of stills, so I guess I should treat them as two seperate distilleries. However, since both 'distilleries' closed in the 1980's the product is very difficult to find. That means it's a theoretical discussion anyway - I decided to remove them from my shopping list. Glen Flagler and Killyloch are for collectors, not for drinkers.

So, what about Littlemill and Dunglass?
Well, Lex Kraaijeveld remarked that the same set of stills was used to produce both malt whiskies, so I'll consider that as just one (silent) distillery.
And not one with a lot of potential, it would seem.

And Springbank, Longrow and Hazelburn?
Well, here the opinions among the malt maniacs differ.
Serge and Lex argue that the same set of stills is used to produce Springbank, Longrow and Hazelburn, meaning that we should treat them as one single distillery. Davin seems to have a slightly different view, but I'm inclined to go with Serge and Lex here. One single entry in the Distillery Data section.

It's pretty much the same story with Tobermory / Ledaig.
Once again the same set of stills is used to produce different 'makes', (A) the normal Tobermory and (B) the peated Ledaig. The relatively high peating level of Ledaig isn't produced in the stills; they use peat smoke to dry the barley.
So I'll treat Tobermory as one distillery, producing two makes.

Marching Orders:
(Silent distilleries)

4 x Banff
3 x Caperdonich
2 x Convalmore
3 x Dallas Dhu
4 x Glen Albyn
5 x Glencraig
3 x Glenglassaugh
3 x Glen Keith
4 x Glenlochy
2 x Glen Mhor
4 x Glenugie
4 x Glenury Royal
1 x Inverleven
3 x Littlemill / Dunglass
4 x Millburn
2 x Mosstowie
4 x North Port / Brechin
2 x Pittyvaich
3 x Tamnavulin
--------------
       60 Bottles

So, it almost looks like phase III will be 'more of the same'...
Well, not quite - my 'primary goal' will be sampling at least six expressions from all these distilleries, but I'm not in any rush and I will have plenty of time to pay some more attention to the many other factors that play a similar crucial role in my enjoyment of the dram in my hand. Factors like the company that bottled it, the cask(s) that nurtured it to maturity, the glass it is best enjoyed in, etc. Phase II of my mission was a relatively monomanic hunt for that 1000th malt; I'll allow myself some more time for explorations this time.

So, apart from the active distilleries listed a little higher on
this page I'll also need to investigate the silent distilleries at
the left a little further. That's a grand total of 165 bottles.
If my previous experiences are anything to go by, it'll take
me at least three years to seek out bottles and samples of
precisely these distilleries. Needless to say, I won't ignore
the other (active & silent) distilleries in the mean time...

But phase III will be a bit harder than I initially thought...
When I started phase II imagined that I would be able to
cross all silent distilleries from my 'to do' list by now. But
as I discovered on January 5 (see log entry 204), sampling
three versions just isn't enough to dismiss a distillery, even
if that distillery is closed and bottles are very hard to find.
So far, I could cross only 7 silent distilleries from my list on
account of the malts being A) too rare or B) not that good;

And that settles it as far as the 'distilleries' are concerned.
Like I mentioned earlier, I'll have to do some thinking about how this influences the way I'll list malts on my Track Record and the matrix in the future, but I know which distilleries I have to add to the Distillery Data section and the upcoming Lex-icon in the foreseeable future. The Lex-icon on Malt Maniacs offers a 'world' view on malt whisky distilleries.

So, now I can determine my 'marching orders' for phase III...

Yeah, this distinction seems to make a lot of sense. Springbank and Longrow are different makes that
are produced at the Springbank distillery. Until now I've followed the structure of the Distillery Data list
for items like my Track Record or the Matrix but while it makes sense for that list (it focuses on distilleries)
maybe it isn't perfect for some of the other lists elsewhere on MM. Anyway, that's something I can worry
about later; right now I'll have to figure out exactly which 'distilleries' should be on the 'marching orders'
for phase III of my malt mission.
 
So, please try to follow my reasoning...

So, the maniacs agreed Glenburgie and Glencraig are two separate distilleries. However, the tricky part is the fact that Glenburgie is still active, while the Lomond stills that were used to produced Glencraig were removed in the 1980's. So, Glencraig would be a 'silent still' in its own right.

1) Allt-A-Bhainne
2) Ben Wyvis
3) Coleburn
4) Glen Flagler / Killyloch
5) Hillside / Glenesk
6) Kinclaith
7) Ladyburn

Oh yeah, about that 1000th malt...
I already mentioned that Serge rained on my parade (in fact, he positively pissed on it ;-) by pointing out that, according to his data, I had sampled only 995 thoroughbred single malts. As it turned out, a few 'bastard malts' like the Lochindaal 10yo (most likely a Bruichladdich) and some whiskies that might or might not have been vatted malts (Glen Grant 10yo - a 'proper' single according to Serge) caused some confusion. When I decided some time ago that my Track Record should be reserved for (A) single (B) malt whiskies from (C) Scotland I didn't make it any easier on myself. If I had included either 'vatted malts', 'bastard malts', grain whiskies or foreign malt whiskies I would have made the 1000 malts mark with my fingers in my nose, but now I had to double-check all my data. As it turned out, there were some more 'confusing' whiskies.

First of all, Serge mentioned the fact that I did not count 'The Whisky That Cannot Be Named' on account of it being a 'bastard malt' (albeit a very classy one), even though we're pretty sure it actually is a Glenfarclas. At the same time, I DID count the Laudables, Tacticals, Leapfrogs, etc. for my Track Record. Hmmm... Good point. I guess I did so because the other fantasy names clearly hint at a specific distillery. They could release another 'TWTCBN' next year that came from Glenlivet or Macallan, just like Fabio Rossi could release a 'House Malt Born on Islay' next year that's Bowmore instead of Caol Ila.

'And hey, what about the SMWS??? No distillery names on the labels either...', Serge asked.
Well, I've followed pretty much the same logic here; a number corresponds with a specific distillery.
Serge went on to argue: 'I would say a single cask bottling of an undisclosed distillery isn't a bastard when we can find some information that states what it is – as it is a 'finite' bottling, which isn't the case with a vatting like Stronachie, so I wouldn't call these 'bastards' exactly.' Hmmm. Good points... Nevertheless, in this case I'm not convinced. This particular bottling doesn't just NOT say where it's from - it actually stressed the fact that it 'cannot be named'. So, in this case I'll still list is as a 'bastard malt' - just the very best I ever tried...

However, by that logic I can't count the 'Lochindaal' bastard Bruichladdich either, so I'll wipe it off.
I found a bunch of other bottlings on the monitor I had no recollection of sampling, so I've asked Serge to wipe these from the monitor as well. On the other hand, there were some bottlings I tried that were not on the monitor yet and in the end it pretty much evened out.

And that's it for now - at least as far as my 'administration' is concerned..
I've double-checked everything and after the malts I tried on January 30 I'm at 1000 again.
Ready to embark on phase III of my mission...

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Speyside
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Talisker
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Special Report: Log Entry #200

Lochnagar 12 years old whisky
Longmorn 16 years old whisky
Macallan 12 years old whisky
Miltonduff Scotch whisky
Oban 14 years old Scotch whisky
Scapa Scotch whisky