20 - 01/01/1999 - THE RITUAL - How I like to enjoy my single malts
21 - 08/01/1999 - Springbank 1969 - Talisker 18yo CS - Linkwood 15yo - Longrow 8yo - Glen Ord 12yo - ...
22 - 21/03/1999 - YB 'Why Be' - Balvenie 15yo 1980/1996 - Balvenie 21yo Port - Glenrothes 1985/1997
23 - 30/04/1999 - Ardbeg 1974/1995 - Ardbeg 1975 - Bladnoch 1984 - Linkwood 12yo 1984/1996 - ...
24 - 14/06/1999 - Old Rhosdhu 5yo - Tamdhu 12yo 1984/1996 - Inverleven 21yo 1966/1988 - Paddy NAS
25 - 30/06/1999 - Lagavulin 16yo - Lagavulin 1979 DE - Ardbeg 17yo - Macallan 10yo 100 Proof - ...
26 - 18/07/1999 - Glenlivet 18yo - Dailuaine 1971/1992 - Glen Spey 21yo
27 - 20/08/1999 - Glendullan 8yo - Scapa 8yo 1989/1997 - Glengoyne 10yo - Glengoyne 12yo - ...
28 - 28/11/1999 - Ardbeg 8yo 1991/1999 - Knockando 1982 - Balvenie 21yo Port - Longmorn 1963/1995 - ...
29 - 27/12/1999 - Status Report Phase 1 - Part 1
My personal tasting rituals take place in my special, 'virtually antique' smoking chair.
The lights are dimmed, and there's some soothing music (preferably Albinoni or Puccinni) playing in the background. The largest cognac snifter in my collection is already warmed-up (just a little!) and the bottle I'm about to sample is placed before me on the coffee table. I always take my time to carefully check the label for the corny stories that the marketing people have made up.
The gentle "Plop!" of the cork...
The promising "Gloo... gloo... gloo... " of the whisky filling my glass....
And then the real fun starts. After sniffing with my nose a few inches above the glass, I put my nose in the glass and take in another big whiff. Then I waltz the glass and nose once more. Finally, I have my first sip and let the taste of the whisky fill my mouth., concentrate on the "structure" and taste development of the malt, which can be an amazing experience. After the last notes of the taste bud symphony have drifted away, I add a teensy weensy splash of water and start nosing again. When I'm feeling particularly wild I might even add some more water.
Depending on the amount of water, the taste and aroma of some malts seems to keep unfolding, releasing different layers every time. After I've sniffed the last drop I like to smoke a good cigar while making notes in my Little Black Book. This ritual is my personal equivalent of the Japanese tea-ceremony. I find it just as relaxing and I don't get tea-leaves in my mouth...
Take your time to appreciate a fine single malt.
There's no need to empty your glass in a few thirst-quenching gulps.
In fact, don't let me catch you guzzling in my presence, or I might slap you around the head a few times - just for educational purposes of course...
I'm under the distinct impression that the more whiskies you taste, the more you'll be able to appreciate the differences in character, style and complexity. Maybe it's just my overactive imagination, but I even have the notion that my sense of smell and taste have developed considerably as a result of the tasting of many different whiskies. As soon as I became aware of this sensory overdrive I started keeping notes on all the malts I tasted and rated them in my little black book. After a while I was amazed to find that I was sometimes able to roughly determine the origin of a malt just by absorbing it's aroma. On a few occasions I've even managed to recognize a specific label in an "honest blind test". This parlor trick actually won me two bottles of Bowmore 12 yrs. on a bet a few years ago.
When I started out tasting single malts, I could hardly distinguish a Talisker from a Lagavulin, but after a while entire universes of complexity opened up to me. A pleasant side-effect of the sharpening of my senses is that it has enhanced my enjoyment of the 'simpler' blends like Teacher's and Bailie Nicol Jarvie. Obviously, this sensory enhancement is completely wasted when drinking dribble like Ballantine's, Johnny Walker Red, or Old Smugglers. In my humble opinion, the blenders of these whiskies should be prosecuted for crimes against humanity in general and my taste-buds in particular...
But wait a minute - I'm wandering off again.
I was telling you about my personal "aqua vitae" tasting ritual.
Except - there's not much else to tell, really. If you want to learn more about the fundamentals of malt whisky tasting, check out the chapter on nosing and tasting in the Beginner's Guide.
Over the years, I have been frantically spreading the single malt gospel. I have managed to make quite a few converts along the way. Five of them are ex-colleagues from my days at the Dutch Yellow Pages publisher. Over the years, they have tasted almost all the malts in my collection, so I invited them for a tasting session at L&B's whisky cafe in downtown Amsterdam. L&B's has a pretty good collection of single malts, and they are conveniently located near the central "Leidseplein", so check it out whenever your in Amsterdam. (The bar opens at 21:00.)
We started off with a head-to-head of Laphroaig 10yo and Linkwood 15yo.
I had a very bad nose-day, so I could only pick up some vague impressions. The Linkwood 15 seemed to have a little more smoke in the nose than the 1984 I have at home; it seemed very flowery as well. The Laphroaig 10 was as always salty, smoky and with a lot of iodine - I picked it to introduce the malt-novices that were present to one of the extremes of the malt spectrum. They seemed suitably impressed, but most preferred the Linkwood.
The Laphroaig proved quite an assault on my bladder, so I had to visit my porcelain friend...
When I returned from the toilet my colleagues challenged me to do a complete blind test.
I failed miserably. Only after they reduced my choices to five malts I managed to dispose of three of the five options, and was left with the choice between a Glen Ord or a Dalmore. I thought I detected bitter peanuts and guessed wrong - It was the Glen Ord 12 instead of the Dalmore 12. In my defence I have to say that both malts are quite similar, and both have the same score (80) in my rating-system.
Around 11.00 a very attractive lady with a deep décolleté took position on a barstool directly in my line of sight, so it was getting more difficult to concentrate on the matter on hand: single malts. The line-up of the next head-to head managed to get my attention back where it belonged, however. It was the Johnnie Walker Blue Label against the Talisker 18yo Cask Strength. The JW Blue was very nice, but no more than that. Clearly better than the JW Black, but certainly not worth the 40,- guilders per dram. The Talisker 18yo. Cask Strength, however, was ABSOLUTELY AMAZING! - A lot of wonderful wood; More like the Macallan 18 than the Talisker 10. Perhaps a bit early to say, but we might have a new number two malt here! Somewhere in the neighbourhood of 94 points, I should say. I'm not sure I can afford a whole bottle to conform my findings, though....
The bartender seemed to appreciate my extensive knowledge of single malts and charming personality, so he poured me a few drops of Springbank 1969 - on the house. Great stuff! Apples and pepper? After a disappointing first encounter with Springbank (in the form of a 1979 version some three years ago; see my Black Book) I wasn't too crazy about it, but after tasting this I'm starting to understand what all the fuss on the web is about. We're talking mid-to-upper 80's here. At U$ 200,- a bottle, I don't think I'll have a chance to taste it again anytime soon, though.
We finished with a Glenfarclas 105, a Longrow 8yo, a Suntory Hibiki from Japan and an older Auchentoshan (can't remember the age). By that time my tongue and nose were so numb I couldn't say anything worthwile about it, except that the Longrow seemed more smoky than the Springbank, which comes from the same distillery in the Campbeltown area.
This was another session that left me with the feeling that I've somehow failed to capture the magic of the evening on paper. I have to remember to drink a little less and make a little more notes at my next session.
It's 00:25 and I've just returned from a wonderful week of skiing in La Plagne, France. Great snow, not so great people. The 12-hour drive back to Holland was pretty exhausting, so I've decided I deserve a decent drink.
All the more so, because I had the misfortune of buying a bottle of YB "Why Be" whisky in France. I picked it up after a fun-filled, but cold day on the glacier. The "bugels" at the "La Chiaupe" piste proved quite a challenge, and at night me and my friends needed a lot of liquid warmth. The shop we visited had only two blends to offer: Ballantine's or the aforementioned YB. I knew the Ballantine's, so the YB didn't seem too much of a gamble at first....
And then we opened it. The blend had no discernible nose, which proved to be a good thing after my first bitter sip. Old leather and fungus! It was not unlike chewing on an old shoe! Bloody Awful! It's an Yves Bataille Production. Perhaps the French should concentrate on what they do best: produce cognac and annoy foreigners?
Erm.... Sorry. I may have gotten a bit carried away here, I know it's wrong to generalise, and I'm sure there are very nice Frenchmen (and - women) - It's just that I haven't met any of them last week. And besides, I had brought my own emergency-bottle of Lagavulin 16, so washing away the YB was'nt exactly punishment. But enough about my little holiday-frustrations - back to liquid matters.
A head-to-head of Balvenie 15yo 1980/1996 Single Barrel (50.4%, OB, 70cl) against the Balvenie 21yo Port Wood (40%, OB, 70cl) should be interesting, especially because both score a (provisional) 84 points. The nose of the 21 is bigger and sweeter at first - but it's a deeper sweetness than the honey of the younger versions. It's more like a Macallan or Highland Park sweetness. The 15 seemed to develop some freshness and almost Glenmorangie-like pepper notes after a while - in bouquet and palate. Both have quite a burn in the mouth - especially the 15 at 50.4%. After dilution to about 40% the 15 showed a lot of development - but not necessarily for the better. The 21 had also changed considerably after a few drops. At first sight the Balvenie 21 Port is just slightly better than the 15 - but not quite enough to justify the price difference. I'll have to do another head-to-head of the 21 again the 12 to make a final judgement.
I finally poured myself a glass of Glen Rothes 1985/1997
(43%, OB, 70cl). Hmmmm......
A very deep and sweet aroma. Faint hints of currants and pipe tobacco. Old fruit. After some breathing a little oiliness and something that reminded me vaguely of vegetables. The taste is a bit harder to pin down.
... (another sip) ...
... (another sip) ...
No - nothing yet. Today seems to be a "Bad Tongue Day" rather than a "Bad Nose Day".
Or rather Bad Tongue Night - It's 01:40 AM and I've got to get some sleep.
More - much more - later.
Today is 'Queen's Day' here in Holland. On April 30 (the birthday of the queen mother), all of Amsterdam becomes one big orange party zone. After a festive day in town, I returned home for some peace and quiet. It's been a few months now without a single good nose day, and all this time there have been two very intriguing miniatures waiting for me in my cupboard; Ardbeg 1975 and Bladnoch 1984. The Ardbeg is the new official distillery bottling and was sent to me from Sweden by Mats Ola Ekberg. Franz Konig from Switzerland snail-mailed me the (Connoisseur's Choice) Bladnoch. I'll just have to give it a go.
I tried the "official" Ardbeg 1975 (40%, OB, 5cl) next to the Ardbeg 1974/1995 (40%, G&M Connoisseurs Choice, 70cl), which had some more peat and sour tones in the aroma at first. The peat in the '75 bouquet vanished quite quickly and abruptly, leaving a more "Highlandish" character. The '74 kept it's peaty character a lot longer, and the change in character was much more gradual. The '75 seemed to have less peat than the 1974, and it evaporated more rapidly. The taste was amazingly soft for an Islay, and a lot sweeter than the '74. It was almost like there was a soft layer around the peaty heart. Compared to the 1975, the '74 almost seemed to have some chloride-tones. Mats - or rather his wife - was good enough to send me a "two dram tasting quantity", so I will be able to confirm my findings next to an Ardbeg 17 soon. First impressions say 87-89 points - which can be translated as super nice (which is almost as good as mega nice and ultra nice).
The Bladnoch 1984 (40%, G&M Connoisseur's Choice, 5cl) was, like all the Lowland malts I've tasted so far, very light in colour and taste. The nose was quite 'heavy', though. There were some very interesting variations of honey and citrus-aroma's, but not much more I could pick up. Very light taste. Although Lowlands aren't really my style, this one felt very comfortable. I guess this one would score somewhere in the upper 70's. Maybe even 80 points - which makes it one of the best Lowlanders I've tasted so far.
O.K. - That takes care of the two miniatures on my shelf.
Ah... the Glenfiddich 'Special Old Reserve'.
I have been drinking this single malt since the mid 1980's, way before my amazing discovery.
I didn't even know I was drinking a single malt whisky back then. In fact, I didn't even know what a single malt whisky was! All I knew was that here was a whisky that performed considerably better than most of the blends I used to taste in those days. Since then, however, my standards have changed. Compared to most single malts I've tasted so far, the Glenfiddich Special Reserve isn't all that 'special'.
Which brings me to another topic; the nonsense some bottlers and distilleries put on their labels.
To me, this is a continuous source of entertainment and amazement. If this is so 'special' and 'reserved', how come it's on all the shelves of all the whisky bars and liquorists in the world? And what's with the confusing 'Pure Malt' on the label? This usually indicates a vatted malt, but the Glenfiddich actually is a single malt - as it also says on the label. But then again, it says a lot of things on the label;
William Grant & Sons Ltd.
Special Old Reserve
Distilled & bottled at
The Glenfiddich Distillery
Product of Scotland
And so on and so forth...
I like to propose that from now on Glenfiddich shall be known as Glen Bogus.
Anyway - I've heard some rumours about Glenfiddich planning to release a new 12 years old version, replacing the current version without an age statement. For old times sake (and to check if the rating of 60 points is still valid), I bought myself a bottle of the current release, the Glenfiddich NAS 'Special Old Reserve' (40%, OB, 70cl). Hmm... The nose is very restrained but balanced. Sweetish, with a grainy undercurrent. Fresh with the faintest hint of fruit. The taste is sweetish, a bit malty and dry. It completely lacks character; could easily have been a blend.
So - the rating of 60 points stands.
Today, I can't imagine that I once used to buy this for special occasions.
Nostalgia isn't what it used to be...
Working on the new version of this Malt Madness site has made me thirsty, so I've decided to resumed the tasting of the Glen Rothes 1985/1997 (43%, OB, 70cl). Hmmm... This is still an elusive one. Very nice indeed, but I can't pinpoint the reason why exactly. A very delicate sweetness; the body is very smooth. This malt just "feels" very good; I'm thinking lower 80's, but I'm not quite sure yet. Maybe a few drops of water will help...
No! Adding too much water to the Glen Rothes ruins the palate!
The aroma became a little smokier and produced some new sweet overtones, but the palate had lost it's wonderful creamy smoothness. Time for an emergency re-fill of my glass. And to make things interesting, I'll make it a head-to-head tasting with... let me take a look in my cupboard... Ah! The Linkwood 12yo 1984/1996 (43%, Signatory Vintage, 70cl); another malt that has managed to escape me for over a year now.
It's high time for a final rating.
<..... a lot of nosing and sipping ....>
Perhaps the alcohol has numbed my senses, but this is really another of those bad nose days.
Let's just give the Glen Rothes 79 provisional points and call it a night. Both bottles still have enough content to last me through five or six tasting sessions, so there's no rush.
I've been buying quite a few new malts over the last couple of weeks. At the same time, I've been drinking hardly anything due to the warm weather. It's time to empty a few old bottles to make room for some new ones. Technically speaking, it's still springtime - so let's do some late spring cleaning...
The first bottle to go is the Old Rhosdhu 5yo (40%, OB, 70cl), matured in oak casks. You would think it would be distilled at 'Old Rhosdhu' distillery, but it actually comes from the 'Loch Lomond' distillery. I had never tasted anything from this distillery before, and after the Old Rhosdhu I'm not in any hurry to try anything else. The first thing that comes to mind when you smell this malt is 'Phew!'. Sickeningly slick. Castor-oil. Sweat and cheap aftershave. Hints of coffee. The taste is very oily as well. Perfumy. Just too smooth - it's gone before you know it. Rating: 44 points. This wanders into Drumguish 3yo territory. Perhaps only the truly great distilleries like Lagavulin can produce something that's enjoyable at such a young age.
After this insult to my senses, I decided to try a more mature malt.
I picked the Tamdhu 12yo 1984/1996 (43%, Ultimate, 70cl, distilled 27/1/84, bottled 3/96, cask #169, bottle #376 from 410). The nose is flowery, slightly oily and a little bit grainy - but not unpleasantly so. Plenty of character. The taste is smooth and malty. Sweetish, but with a bitter undercurrent. Rating: 74 points. Two points more than the 'no age statement' distillery bottling. I suspect it would have scored considerably higher if they would have kept it in the cask for a few years more. Now it's not worth the extra 20 guilders; it only shows that the official NAS version offers very good value at 45 guilders a bottle.
Yes, I like the direction this tasting is taking.
Let's try an even older malt. The Inverleven 21yo 1966/1988 (46%, Cadenhead's, 75cl) was a gift from a nephew of mine, who received it as a gift many years ago and only poured three or four glasses of it before deciding he didn't really like it. It is currently the oldest bottle in my collection - in more ways than one. It was distilled in May 1966 and bottled in February 1988 (!). This means this malt was bottled over 10 years ago. That's even before my amazing discovery. This may also be the explanation for the fact that this is a 750ml bottle, instead of the 700ml bottles that are standard in Europe these days. Or maybe it is just another example of creative importing.
Anyway - Despite (or perhaps because of) its advancing years, this malt didn't perform too well.
The nose was watery and a little 'farmy' at first. It opened up and improved a bit with some water, gaining more obvious pine and cedar notes. Some salt; a hint of malt, smoke and toffee. The nose was quite OK, but the taste was a bitter disappointment. Short but numbing, with a bitter burn on the tongue. Rating: 65 points. I've come to expect more from malts this old. The Original Mackinlay 21yo (a blend for crying out loud!) scores a lot better than this single malt.
Having thus proven (again) that older isn't always better and that a single malt isn't better than a blend by definition, I decided to finish the session with something completely different; the Paddy NAS Old Irish Whiskey. The label just says that it's old - not how old it is. That's not much help then, is it? This is a triple distilled blend from Ireland, the green island. I've never been to Ireland or Scotland, but if the impressions I get from pictures and stories is anything to go by, the character of the product mirrors the image of the countryside. Irish whiskeys tend to be softer and more 'rounded' than their uncompromising and 'wilder' Scottish brethren.
Anyway - I've tasted the Paddy plenty of times in 'Mulligan's' (an Irish pub in Amsterdam), but I've never bought a big bottle before. Now I have. I put a 'Clannad' CD in the player and started my investigation. The nose starts sweet and malty. A little smoke. I got the same 'coffee' association I get with Jameson, but that may just be a 'neural glitch' caused by too many Irish coffee's. The taste had a very soft start, becoming drier. Smooth with a decent afterburn. Nothing there to keep you entertained for long. My rating: 49 points. It's very drinkable, but ultimately just not interesting enough for my 'sophisticated' taste.
In conclusion: Tonight's tasting produced some mixed results.
I'm sure there's a lesson to be learnt here somewhere.
I just can't figure out what it is... ;-)
Since I started this site a little over 3 years ago, I have gotten to know a lot of other malt whisky lovers all over the world. That's a major kick for me - I just don't meet that many other malt maniacs in real life. But a few
days ago, Davin de Kergommeaux came over from Canada for a few drams when he was in Amsterdam. He really surprised me with a generous gift; he bought me a whole bottle of the wonderful Lagavulin 1979 DE (Double Matured) before he
left. Unfortunately, I neglected to take notes on the tasting session itself.
See Davin's E-Report for some more details.
Tonight, I'm having a session to make up for lost time.
I started off with the first glass of Davin's Lagavulin 1979 Distiller's Edition Double Matured (43%, OB, 70cl), a malt I've had my eye on for quite a while now. I poured myself a glass of the "ordinary" Lagavulin 16yo (43%, OB, 70cl, my current no.1) next to it for comparison.
The DE had more nose than the 16 at first; and more varied aromatic nuances to boot. A lot sweeter too; that must be the Pedro Ximenez finish. Certainly not as obviously Islay as the 16, with it's iodine and ammoniac. The aroma of the 16 took a while longer to develop, but after a few minutes both glasses were exhaling the most wonderful aroma's. And then for the tasting. Ah. A very nice palate; smoother than the 16. But then I noticed the taste misses the exhausting crescendo of the 16, which takes almost a minute to dissolve. The DE certainly isn't as "wild" as the 16, and loses it's aroma more quickly. The 16 has more "staying power", and the development of the aroma takes a lot longer than with the DE.
So then I added some water. It pretty much killed the nose of the DE, and didn't help the 16 much either. Oops - wait a minute. Suddenly the nose of the DE comes alive again. The taste grows a little sweeter after you've added water. One of the rare whiskies that responds well to water.
Back to the 16 that has blossomed also after the water. More oily, still peaty, and with a wonderful afterburn on your tongue. Preliminary conclusion: At first tasting the Lagavulin 1979 seems like a very good malt, but it won't knock the 16 from the top of my list. The extra subtlety from the double maturation takes away some of the peaty, smoked quality that I love in the 16. Well - I'll have another tasting session soon to confirm my initial impression, which would put it around 90 points.
Up next: The final score on the miniature of the 'official' Ardbeg 1975 (40%, OB, 5cl) Mats Ola Ekberg sent me from Sweden. Next to the last glass of my second bottle of Ardbeg 17yo (40%, OB, 70cl) for comparison, of course. Oh boy, the 1975 is also great. Like the Connoisseurs Choice '74, it had more peat and salt than the 17 yrs, although the difference isn't that pronounced. The character is a bit more extreme than the 17 at first - and I like extremities in a malt. And then there is a unexpected sweetness. And the palate is really wonderful too, with the traditional Ardbeg delay and all. After some breathing, it develops some more sweet components too. But what about the 17? The last few glasses from my second bottle of Ardbeg 17 were even better than I remembered. After some difficult deliberation, I decided that both malts fully deserve 90 points. This means that the original score of Ardbeg 17 (89 points) will be revised.
And as long as we're revising ratings; I managed to find another bottle of the Macallan 10yo 100 Proof (57%, OB, 70cl), and this one seemed even more powerful that the one before. Truly amazing stuff. After close comparison with the Mac 12 I have to say that this one is at least as good - if not better. What it lacks in balance it more than makes up for in character and power. So the original score of 86 points has just gone up to 88 points.
Finally, I decided to go with the brand-new Tullibardine 10yo
(40%, OB, 70cl).
Hmmmm. Quite soft and oily - not unlike cod-oil. And there seem to be some cooked vegetables in there also, along with something I can't quite put my finger on. Pleasant, but not impressive. The taste started of with a mild and distinctive sweetness, but ended in a tannine-like dryness. I'm thinking lower 60's here.
I didn't want to end the evening on such a depressing note, so I poured myself a stiff dram of the cask strength Mac 10. Amazing value at just 85 guilders. You really get several different malts for the price of one; the malt changes with the amount of water you add. Great stuff, a very highly recommendable malt.
The majority of the bottles in my current collection is around 10-12 years old. If my experiences over the last years are any indication, the good malts around this age offer the best price/quality value. But I'm on a mission, so every now and then I go out and buy me some older (and therefor more expensive) bottles. I decided to taste three of them tonight. Only three? Yes - It's very hot tonight, and my tolerance for alcohol decreases when the temperature increases. Tonight's session deals with 3 Speysiders in their late teens and early twenties. 'Legally', they are mature enough. Let's see if they are mature enough for me...
Proceedings started with the distillery bottling of Glenlivet 18yo (43%, OB, 100cl).
It's a litre bottling, matured in oak casks for 'more than' (?) 18 years. The standard 12yo version is a slightly uninspired but dependable 'middle-of-the-road' malt. This one has a little more character. The nose starts off soft, but quickly becomes very fruity and a little flowery. Quite a spectrum, but more 'broad' than 'deep'. A hint of dust later on. The taste is spirity and malty at the same time. Bitter in the finish. My rating: 79 points. Very pleasant, but to be honest I can't find the character I'm expecting from a malt this old. The nose is considerably better than the taste.
I had high hopes for the Dailuaine 1971/1992 (40%, G&M Connoisseurs Choice, 70cl) when I bought it. I've never had a big bottle of Dailuaine in my collection before, but encountered it a few times in restaurants and bars. Some of them were excellent but this one seemed completely different. The nose started off with a very strong leather smell. Remarkable; I've never noticed that in a malt before. Quite nice actually, but after a minute it drops off, becoming very restrained. It seems to vanish completely within a few minutes. Water doesn't help. The taste showed a strong leathery start as well. The finish is dry and slightly woody. My rating: 72 points. Darned! The Connoisseur's Choice 1974 I tasted in a restaurant a few weeks ago was much better! The wood of this cask must have been very tired. Or maybe the caramel colouring has played a role.
Finally, I turned my attention towards the Glen Spey 21yo (55.4%, James McArthur Fine Malt Selection, 70cl). I had never seen a bottling of Glen Spey anywhere in Holland before, so I picked it up on sight. I have to admit that the name worried me a but. I mean, can you get any more generic? It sounds just like the name they would use for a 20 guilders blend. And that's exactly how it smelled. At first, there was absolutely nothing! After a minute, it became slightly grainy. Something like peanuts appeared, but the nose remained very watery. It was easily drinkable at cask strength. Sweetish, but no character to speak of. The proof is hardly detectable. Dilution brought no improvement. My rating: 61 points. Don't get me wrong, it's very drinkable. It's just that is has just no character whatsoever. Even light malts like Auchentoshan and Glenkinchie have more character. Who ever decided to bottle this as a single malt?
Which brings me to a final observation.
The majority of the bottles in my collection are still official distillery bottlings, but I find myself picking up more and more independent bottlings. Here in Holland, the three most widely available series of independent bottlings are The Ultimate (from Dutch importer Van Wees), Gordon & MacPhail's Connoisseur's Choice and Signatory Vintage. From my experiences so far, the Signatory Vintage bottlings are the best. The Ultimate bottlings are usually quite cheap and offer decent value, while the Gordon & MacPhail/Connoisseur's Choice versions tend to perform below average and most of them seem more or less the same in style - except the Islays.
That's it as far as single malts are concerned. Around 23:00 it's still around 25 degrees Celsius.
Too hot for single malts. I enjoyed the rest of the evening out on the balcony with a few glasses of an excellent tawny port by Graham's.
Davin's bottle of Lagavulin 1979 DE has sustained me through the past weeks of hard labour on my new dynamic 'Malt Madness' site. Now it's time to clear away some of the less interesting material on my shelves. To celebrate the completion of the beta version of the new Malt Madness site I invited a friend over for a major tasting session of some new malts. Before he arrived, I treated myself to a glass of the wonderful Linkwood 12yo 1984/1996 (43%, Signatory Vintage, 70cl). What a wonderful complexity and development in the nose. Flowery, but heavier in character than other 'floral' malts I've tasted. I keep having strange menthol sensations with Linkwood. It has taken me a while to pin this one down, but this glass did the trick: 81 well deserved points. This bottle has aged beautifully in the 7 months it has been on my shelves - it's only half empty now, so I have a few more glasses to go.
Around 19:00 I figured: What the heck, It's my sabbatical month...
So I helped myself to a generous quantity of the Scapa 8yo 1989/1997
(43%, Ultimate, 70cl).
Recently, some people recommended the Scapa to me, so I decided to have another go at the bottle in my collection. I picked it up about 5 months ago despite the fact that it looked alarmingly light in colour and was just a tad under age for my tastes. My primary reason for buying it was that this malt comes from the island Orkney - home of the wonderful Highland Park. It's very light, both in bouquet and Colour. The main impression is salt, but not quite as heavy as with the Laphroaig. I wouldn't be surprised if this stuff has been matured in bourbon casks. The taste confirms it. Quite a burn for its 43%. Lightly salted at first, heavier later on. Not much development in taste, but it's got quite a long afterburn for its tender years. I'm thinking mid-70's. The aroma became a tad oilier after I added a splash of water, and the palate just a little sweeter. I may be out of my league here, but I think sherry ageing would have produced a more interesting malt.
And then Maarten, my guest, arrived. Final rating of the Scapa would have to wait until the next session. Maarten brought a Glengoyne 10yo (40%, OB, 70cl) with him; we decided to taste it head-to-head with the slightly older and wiser Glengoyne 12yo (43%, OB, 70cl) from my collection. For reference, we put a Glendullan 8yo (40%, OB, 70cl) next to them. Wow! Time hasn't been kind to the Gledullan. The original score of the fresh bottle was 74, but now the bottle's nearly empty it has lost a part of it's bouquet and it would rate around 72 points. The Glengoyne 12, on the other hand, seemed to have improved considerably. It has been a few months since I last tasted it; the different components of the rich aroma were more balanced, and the taste had become a tad softer. The original rating was 73; this one would rate 74 points. I'm curious how this one develops further.
The Glengoyne 10 was a very nice surprise. At least as good as the 12yo. old - maybe even a little bit better. I forgot to make notes, but I'll keep my eyes open for a bottle of my own. This may prove to be one of these rare occasions where a younger malt rates higher than its older brother. I'll give it 75 provisional points for now.
Next up was a sample from my new bottle of Glen Keith 1983
(43%, OB, 70cl). Not bad at all!
No top malt, but very enjoyable. A bit of a "reserved" nose at first; gingery, oily with a sudden explosion of wood after a few minutes breathing. The taste is very nice; a simple sweetness lasts quite long.
Provisional rating: 74 points.
Maarten considers himself a malt novice, but after a few malts he expressed his desire to taste some 'advanced' malts. So we went for the Lagavulin 1979 Distillers Edition, Highland Park 12yo and Balvenie 12yo Doublewood. Not much new here, and the 'official' tasting was degrading into a social event anyway, so I'll spare you the details. Suffice it to say that Maarten wasn't as happy with his Glengoyne as he was when he came in.
We concluded the session with one of my most recent acquisitions: Cockburn 6yo
Well - the bottle says it's a single malt whisky. I looked it up in Michael Jackson's malt whisky companion, but couldn't find it. Judging from the text on the label it's intended for the Italian market, where they seem to be unusually fond of young bottlings. It isn't too bad, but there's little or no complexity in the bouquet, and the taste disappears too soon. My nose and tongue were pretty much numbed out, so I decided to give this puppy another try at the next tasting. First impressions aren't promising, though... Mid-40's at best...
I'm recovering from RSI (or a so-called 'mouse-arm') right now, so doctor's orders are that I have to stay away from the keyboard as much as I can for a while. This report was published thanks to Karel and Jeroen. The first few weeks after I was struck by RSI I couldn't even raise a glass properly, so you can imagine my discomfort. Lifting my glass is no longer a problem, but writing and typing still is. This means most of my tasting in the last two months hasn't been documented properly. Fortunately enough for those of you who like to keep informed about my adventures in maltland, tonight's guests Karel and Jeroen offered to do some typing inbetween glasses.
So, with a little help from my friends, I bring you good news: I'm having a great nose-day, so I'm in the mood for some serious rating tonight.
Around 20:30 we started things off with a Balvenie 21yo Port Wood
(40%, OB, 70cl).
Nice! It has some of the Balvenie sweetness in the nose, but less honey than the younger ones. Very rich; it almost seems a c/s malt at just 40%. I thought I detected some hints of pipe-tobacco, but Jeroen proposed that my nasal association might have occurred because I often 'spice up' my own tobacco blends with some whisky or cognac. The taste is very full and round. The port wood finish isn't nearly as obvious as with the Glenmorangie, though. The predominant taste impression was 'wood' - in fact, it was just a tad too woody for my tastes. It comes in at a final score of 85 points, which means it hasn't aged very well since I opened the bottle over a year ago. In conclusion: A very nice dram, but quite frankly, I expected a bit more at a price of more than 100 guilders.
And then it's time for a final rating on the Longmorn Glenlivet 1963/1996 (40%, Gordon & MacPhail, 70cl) Craig Daniels brought from Australia over a year ago. This was the first malt I tasted that's older than myself. I've proudly served this 'globetrotting' malt to quite a few guests over the last year, and all were very enthusiastic about its wonderful bouquet. Very diverse, complex and full of contrasts. Some grass, some 'Mac' sweetness and slightly oily. Based on the wonderful aroma, it would rate somewhere in the lower 90's, but sadly enough it loses a lot of points in the taste department. Light and surprisingly clean; Very nice on the tongue, but little more.
Final rating: 84 points.
The next candidate, Knockando 1982/1996 (43%, OB, 70cl), had also lost a few points since I tasted it for the first time. It's still a very nice dram, mind you... A big nose; complex and hard to define. The bouquet is very expressive, but vanishes completely after a few minutes of breathing. A little water didn't help the nose, but actually improved the soft and creamy palate a bit. Not that it needed much improvement - this is a very likeable malt. It comes in it a final rating of 78 points. Karel felt it was the best malt yet, which proved again that the really good stuff is usually wasted on beer drinkers.
Tonight seems to be about old bottles. Up until now, all bottles have been on my shelves for over a year now. The same goes for the Scapa 8yo 1989/1997 (43%, Ultimate, 70cl). Very light, both in bouquet and colour. A restrained nose, lightly salted. A salty burn on the tongue; quite feisty and long for a 43% malt this young. Not much taste development, though. Final rating: 73 points, which means this is yet another "Ultimate" disappointment. I have tasted more than a dozen different "The Ultimate" independant bottlings over the years, but none of them really tickled my fancy - or anything else for that matter.
And then we decided to go for something completely different - a single malt from New Zealand, to be precise. The Lammerlaw 10yo (43%, OB, 70cl) is the first 'antipodean' malt I've tasted, and not at all bad. It's certainly not scotch; very light and a bit sour. Oily, yet perfumy. Grapes? The bouquet is as surprising as it is interesting. The taste is a bitter disappointment - rather harsh and rough, with a bitter aftertaste. 69 points.
We quickly turned to one of my most recent acquisitions, the Ardbeg 8yo 1991/1999
(43%, Signatory, 70cl).
This one is a fast mover; a steal at less than U$/Eur. 30. The colour seemed alarmingly light for an Ardbeg. An Islay nose, but not as strong and complex as the older ones. Rather salty, a little smoke. The taste has a heavy Islay start, which develops into a surprising sweetness - and then into a bitter finish.
A lot of development for a 8yo. old; 80 points.
By now, our tongues were too numb to do any more 'frontier' tasting, but we decided to try two more malts from a previous, undocumented session to confirm my earlier findings.
The Mortlach 1984/1995 (40%, Gordon & MacPhail, 70cl) lost a point and came in at 77 points.
The Glen Elgin NAS (43%, White Horse, 75cl) was pleasant as ever and stayed at 70 points.
Time to call it a night...
It's now almost three years after I started this liquid log.
And what have we learnt so far? First of all, that I have been a bit lazy when it comes to taking proper notes of my tasting sessions. Well, I haven't been 'lazy', really - my Dutch 'Weird Planet' website has swallowed up even more of my time than Malt Madness. As a result, I've produced only thirty log entries over the last three years. That means that the vast majority of my tasting experiences are not recorded for generations of malt lovers to come.
I'll try to be more diligent in the future.
And while I'm at it, I will also start keeping a record of my purchases and the amount of money I have to pay for my liquid fixes. Prices have started to fluctuate quite a bit here in Holland, and I need to know what I paid for a bottle to determine the rating on the 'Bang-For-Your-Buck-List'. It might also come in handy if I want to find out if on-line shopping in another country with lower taxes might be useful.
Nevertheless, I'm making decent progress in my search for the perfect single malt. I have now tasted malts from more than 60 different distilleries - both active and inactive. If Michael Jackson's list of distilleries is complete, there are around 60 distilleries left to discover. In other words: I'm half-way through phase 1 of my mission.
My discretionary income has been rising steadily with the Internet-boom, and I'm enjoying it while it lasts.
When I started out, only half of the bottles on my shelves were single malts - the rest of my collection was made up of affordable to vatted malts and downright cheap blends. Nowadays, my shelves are virtually blend-free. This means I'm tasting more new malts faster. Right now, I'm guessing I should be able to investigate the remaining distilleries in Scotland within the next two years.
And then it's on to phase 2 of the mission.
That's it for now folks; Happy New Year!
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
(Click HERE for an overview of all liquid log entries)
Liquid Log Entries 020 - 029
Please note that an earlier crash of this website may have damaged some of the text links on this page.
Furthermore, some of the older pages might look a bit weird on some browsers - sorry about that...
join the mailinglist
If you're not bored
yet, you could also
check out these
other sections of
may want to look
at the whisky map
or check out the
details of one of
Allt A' Bhainne
Isle of Jura