30 - 01/01/2000 - THE SYSTEM  -  Explanation of my rating system
31 - 22/01/2000 - Ardbeg 8yo 1991/1999 - Ardbeg 17yo - Laphroaig 10yo - Laphroaig 15yo - ...
32 - 05/02/2000 - Glenturret 1978 C/S- Blair Athol 12yo - Dalwhinnie 15yo - Glen Keith 1983 - ...
33 - 01/04/2000 - Caol Ila 20yo 1974/1995 - Caol Ila 21yo 1975/1997 - Caol Ila 1981/1995 - ...
34 - 15/04/2000 - Ben Nevis 8yo 1990/1999 - Loch Dhu 10yo - Glen Garioch 15yo - Scapa 1985/1995 - ...
35 - 23/05/2000 - Springbank CV - Glen Scotia 14yo - Glenallachie 11yo 1985 - Coleburn 14yo 1983 - ...
36 - 24/05/2000 - Glenlivet 12yo - Glenlivet 21yo - Glenkinchie 21yo 1978/1999 - Glenfarclas 105
37 - 25/05/2000 - Ardbeg 8yo 1991/1999 - Ardbeg 10yo - Ardbeg 17yo - Laphroaig 10yo - Laphroaig 15yo
38 - 26/05/2000 - St. Magdalene 1965 - Cragganmore 1976/1993 - Glen Mhor 20yo 1977/1998 - ...
39 - 30/06/2000 - Loch Dhu 10yo - Cockburn 6yo - Ardbeg 10yo - Strathisla 12yo - Glen Grant 10yo - ...

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Log Entry # 30  -  January 1, 2000
Topic:  The System

As you've probably realised by now, I'm a sad loser without any real goals and purposes in life.
One of the things that make my life somewhat bearable is writing my own little Little Black Book. It contains notes on almost all the whiskies (blends, single malts and vatted malts from all over the world) that have passed my tonsils since my amazing discovery some nine years ago. I use my little black book to translate the multimedia experience of a fine whisky into black and white.

Perhaps I take my nosing and tasting too serious and is my 'hobby' just a way to rationalise a mild case of alcoholism. Nevertheless, since my senses went into overdrive, I haven't emptied a bottle of whisky (or, for that matter, whiskey) without sampling at least three glasses extensively with my eyes, nose and tongue. I've taken the fact that I had to drink some of the worst whiskies in the world in the process for granted.

But there I go again, blabbering on and on....
Back to the subject at hand: What about the infamous Johannomatic whisk(e)y rating system?
Well, first of all, it's strictly PERSONAL. Taste, like style and hygiene, is a personal matter.

So how do I come up with the exact ratings? Does the fact that Lagavulin 16yo scores 95 points and Drumguish 3yo 40 points means that Lagavulin is exactly 2.375 times as good as Drumguish?
Well, not quite...

The basis of my alcoholic beverages rating system (as well as my life) is 'the Pleasure Principle' - I just try to translate the fun my nose and tongue are having into a number between 1 - 100. This means that the malts are ranked according to their perceived 'Fun-Factor'. What makes a malt 'fun', you ask? Well, to me that means a single malt with 'a lot of nose'; a big bouquet with a lot of different fragrances. And if the nose shows development over time in the glass that's a bonus. I like development in the mouth as well, together with a long finish. Some people judge a malt (partially) by its colour. Personally, I don't give a rat's ass about the colour; I wouldn't care if a whisky were green or orange - It's the aroma and the taste that interest me.

It's very hard to quantify, qualify and explain WHY I love a certain malt as much as I do.
What do I look for in a single malt whisky? What do I 'prefer' in a single malt whisky?
A malt that responds well to water - or a malt that doesn't need any water at all?
A nicely balanced nose - or a very expressive nose that highlights the extreme traits?
A chewy palate that ends in a clean finish - or a dry malt with a finish that lasts forever?
Well, it all depends. Instead of breaking my brains on these sorts of fundamental questions, I focused my attention on thinking of a system that would express HOW MUCH I love a malt as precisely as possible.

I'm trying to express my love for a particular single malt whisky in two digits.
The ratings are on a 1 - 100 scale. The theoretical average score of 50 points is the 'watershed' between me liking and disliking a drink. Please note that the scale includes other alcoholic liquids as well; drinks like beer, wine, blended whisky, bourbon, Irish whiskey, cognac, armagnac, calvados, grappa, etc. That means my scores aren't always comparable with other people's scores, for example those of single malt whisky guru Michael Jackson.

The Meaning of the Numbers:
As far as the entire scale goes: here's the meaning of the bottom end of my scale - the drinks I don't like;

01 - 09:   Barely drinkable gagwater. Serving me this may result in physical violence.
10 - 19:   Truly disgusting. Varying degrees of awfulness; highly avoidable.
20 - 29:   Only suitable for intoxication purposes. Best used as Anti-freeze.
30 - 39:   Definitely not enjoyable. Don't pour me another glass, please.
40 - 49:   Flawed. I'll drink it, but don't expect me to be happy about it.

Above 50 points I'm slowly starting to warm up to things.
My scores on the 'positive' end of the scale mean something like;

51 - 54:   All things considered I like it, but just barely. It's a thin line between love and hate.
55 - 59:   I'm far from crazy about this, but I could find some redeeming qualities.
60 - 64:   Quite drinkable, but I could find nothing in there to get very excited about.
65 - 69:   An altogether satisfactory experience, but somehow it doesn't fulfil its potential.
70 - 74:   An enjoyable drink, just a tad below average. Could do better.
75 - 79:   A very enjoyable drink; above average but not exciting enough to be reccommendable.
80 - 84:   Recommendable. Very nice indeed, thank you. Pour me another one, please.
85 - 89:   Highly recommendable. Wonderful! Never a dull moment with one of these.
90 - 94:   Everybody should try this at least once in their life. Great liquids of the world.
95 - 99:   Exceptional. The sort of stuff where price starts to become almost irrelevant.
100 pts:   True 'aqua vitae'. Once I've found this legendary drink I can rest easy.

Here are some 'anchors' or 'benchmarks' in my rating-system;
80 - Bowmore 12yo, Dalmore 12yo, Glen Ord 12yo
60 - Glenfiddich Special Reserve, Johnnie Walker Black Label
40 - Drumguish 3yo, Dimple
20 - Johnnie Walker Red Label

60 points is the very least I expect a decent malt to score.
So how come my top single malt whisky scores 94 points instead of 100?
Well, first of all: I'm an optimistic person. It's feasible that I will one day encounter a single malt that surpasses even the wonderful Lagavulin 16. Second of all: Before I discovered single malts, I had been rating cognac and armagnac for several years. My whisky rating system is derived from my original cognac/armagnac scale. See the info to the left for my benchmarks.

I don't take my tasting and rating TOO serious, but serious enough to wait until after I've sampled at least 5 glasses of a particular whisky before I give my final rating. Due to frequent attacks of sinusitis, my nose is often 'out of synch'. As a result, I'm often not able to fully explore a single malt on the first or second tasting session. And then there's the time-factor. Some malts change considerably in the months after the bottle is opened. And even then my final ratings aren't always all that final. Sometimes there are notable differences between various bottles of the same malt. It's a shame not all distillers put the dates of distillation and bottling on the label. Whenever I encounter a malt that has changed considerably since my last tasting I will update the rating. This has happened with Lagavulin 16yo (down), Ardbeg 17yo (up) and Macallan 10yo 100 Proof (up).

If I really want to examine a whisky closely, I compare it to two or three 'reference' malts.
At any given time, there are 48 different open bottles 'on stock' in my collection, which is quite useful for the calibration of my senses. That way, I don't have to rely on my memory alone to place a particular single malt in 'the grander scheme of things'.

I'm afraid that's about all there is to tell about my rating system.
Now I know what you're thinking; "That's not much of a system!".
Admittedly, it's a bit nonsensical to try and express a single malt experience in numerical form. Nevertheless, my system allows me to make some kind of quantifiable comparison between whiskies - which is nice.

Check out which Top 10 I arrived at after I've used this system for a while.
 

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Log Entry # 31  -  January 22, 2000
Topic:  Second Davin Tasting

Fellow 'malt maniac' Davin de Kergommeaux came over from Canada to do some more serious tasting.
Sadly, I didn't take any notes the first time he was in Amsterdam in June 1999. This time, I made sure I had a notepad handy. A good thing too, because we tasted some of the finest malts in my current collection.

During an invigorating walk from the Central Station to the outskirts of Amsterdam, Davin and I visited a few liquorists to pick up some new tasting material. The Gall&Gall near Dam Square had a decent collection, but the prices were pretty steep. That's why I picked up the Tyrconnell Irish single malt and the Johnnie Walker 15yo. pure malt instead of a new bottle of Ardbeg. The 17 was priced at fl. 120,- (+/- 55 U$ Dollars at today's exchange rates), and older ones were even more overpriced.

After a few more stops on the way (I bought myself a new bottle of Suntory Kakubin Japanese whisky) we reached one of my two favourite liquorists in Amsterdam; Menno Boorsma on Ferdinand Bol street. Davin was impressed by the collection. Prices used to be very low here, but the last few months they have been increasing. There are still some very good deals to be found, though, like a litre of Lagavulin 16 for less than fl. 70,-. Even though Davin warned me that the Loch Dhu 10 could disappear soon, I avoided the bottle. I did pick up a bottle of Ardbeg 17 (only fl. 100,- here), as well as a Signatory Glendronach 1987. Davin picked up the Laphroaig 15 (which he generously left behind after the session).
Then we headed off to my place for some head-to-head tastings.

We started off the session around 17:00 with the Glen Rothes 1985/1997 (43%, OB) and Scapa 8yo 1989/1997 (43%, Ultimate). The Glen Rothes had just become available in Canada. A deep and sweet aroma with old fruits, currants and pipe tobacco. After some breathing a little more oiliness and vegetables. The taste: Smooth of body with a delicate sweetness. Davin's taste impressions helped me to refine some of my own findings. I was finally able to put my finger on a 'peppery' mouth feel that had eluded description until now. Davin described the 'over cooked vegetables' component I find in the Glen Rothes as 'musty'. This doesn't sound anything more appetising, but trust me: this one is worth a try. The Glenrothes was very nice; final rating 79 points. The Scapa 1989 (on my shelves for over a year now) seemed to have improved a bit. There's still enough in the bottle for three or four tastings; if it keeps improving I may have to increase the 'final' rating from 73 to 74 points.

The next head-to-head was a creative one: Balvenie 21yo Port Wood (40%, OB) against the Japanese Suntory Kakubin (40%, blend). No contest really, especially because this bottle of Suntory wasn't nearly as good as the last one I had. I missed the honey and flowers that gave the last one such a sunny character. This one had a distinct soy sauce ring to it. This is my fourth bottle, and I've found that the quality of this blend varies a lot from bottle to bottle. The first two rated 65, the third 69 but the preliminary rating of this one would be no higher than 62. Still worth the fl. 40,-, though. The Balvenie was, as always, great. Davin thought so too. I discovered incense in the bouquet for the first time. It's a shame it's not as 'porty' as the Glenmorangie Port; that would have meant an extra point.

Time for more serious stuff: Laphroaig 10yo (43%, OB, 100cl) against Davin's Laphroaig 15yo (43%, OB, 70cl). What a treat! It was the first time I ever tasted the 15; it has a more balanced and longer lasting bouquet than the 10, with more peat and less iodine. Like most Islays, the older Laphroaig was sweeter than the younger one. The 10 seemed almost 'floral' next to the 15, but both had that trademark hint of ammonia. The 10 clocks in at 83 points; the 'riper', more balanced nose and body of the 15 would put it in the upper 80's. Davin generously left the bottle behind, so I'll be able to give it a final rating in the future.

We proceeded with the last two glasses of my bottle of the Longmorn Glenlivet 1963/1996 (40%, Gordon & MacPhail) that Australian malt maniac Craig Daniels brought from Down Under over a year ago against the litre bottling of Glenfarclas 105 (60%, OB). I wasn't having a particularly good nose day, but even then the bouquet of the Longmorn managed to surprise and delight me. One of the best aroma's I've ever encountered, but the taste ends at 'very nice'. For me, the provisional rating of 83 (a pretty darned good score, mind you!) changed to a final rating of 84, but Davin would have rated it considerably higher. The wonderful Longmorn made the Glenfarclas look bad; it's cask strength aroma seemed harsh and uncivilised next to the water of life from 1963. We looked it up in the latest edition of Michael Jackson's Malt Whisky Companion Davin brought with him; Michael rates the Glenfarclas at 88 points. To me, this is amazing - right now I wouldn't rate it over 77 or 78.

For our last 'official' head-to-head we tried the Ardbeg 8yo 1991/1999 (43%, Signatory Vintage) against my new bottle of Ardbeg 17yo (40%, OB). The 17 unveiled a sour liquorice component I hadn't noticed in my two previous bottles. Both had the distinguishing Ardbeg 'delay'. By now, our nostrils and taste buds were quite burnt out. The bourbon miniatures Davin brought over and the other new acquisitions of the day would have to wait.

We both were quite intoxicated when I put Davin on the subway around 22:00.
Visit Malt Maniacs for Davin's perspective on tonight's tasting...
 

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Log Entry # 32  -  February 5, 2000
Topic:  The 34th Birthday Session

Hurray! It's my birthday and I'm having a wonderful nose day.
I started with an exceptionally wee dram of Dalmore 12yo (43%, OB), just to empty my third bottle of the good stuff. The rating stands at 80 points. I proceeded with the Dalwhinnie 15yo (43%, OB). I've tried this one a few times in earlier years, but it was only recently that I discovered that this malt has a lot of nose. Fresh, and a little chemical. Just a pinch of peat. Grassy and slightly oily. Dried apples and peanuts? The taste is very soft and smooth, a bit malty with a very nice afterburn. 72 points.

The Blair Athol 12yo (43%, Flora and Fauna) had a very flavoury nose, with a sweetness that got more pronounced after some breathing. Smoky. Ginger? Red wine? Sweet and sour? Excellent and elusive. The taste is very nice, and it has quite a bite for its 43%. Sweet and fruity. A soft start develops into a prolonged explosion. I tried adding some water, but that proved to be a mistake. This malt is best drank straight. A very nice malt; final rating: 79 points.

I was having a good nose day, so I decided to try my luck on the Dufftown 15yo (43%, Flora & Fauna) that has managed to escape a final rating for over six months now. The aroma is smoky and very rich. Just a tad of oiliness; less than the 10yo. old, though. After a while a pleasant, malty sweetness develops. This malt is smooth of body, but with an afterburn. Sweet at first, then dry. It's better than the 10yo. distillery bottling - but not much. Nice, but not too many surprises there. 77 points.

The next treat, Glenturret 19yo 1978/1998 (43%, Ultimate), was a gift from my boss last year. It's very light for a malt over 20 years old, both in colour and nose. The bouquet develops into a faint sweetness. Not very impressive, nose-wise. The taste is quite another story! A short, dry start is followed by one change after another. Very complex; way better than the 12yo. old. If it hadn't been for the unimpressive nose, this would have been potential Top 10 material; one of the few malts that taste better than it smells.
Now, it clocks in at 75 points.

Time for the Glenfarclas 105 (60%, OB). When I got myself this bottle over a year ago it seemed like a wonderful investment; only fl. 70,- for a litre of cask strength malt that gets 88 points from malt guru Michael Jackson. Well - that was a bit of a disappointment. The nose is powerful but a bit crude. Very strong; at times even glue-like. Red cabbage and toffee? A hint of peppermint after dilution.
This is a 'loud' malt; the taste is just too overpowering at 60% neat. Even after heavy dilution it's strong and overwhelming. This malt doesn't respond as well to water as I'd hoped. Not a lot of complexity there. Time hadn't been kind to it; the initial rating was somewhere around 81, but by now it has dropped to a final rating of 76 points. Still good value for your money, mind you.

I figured my taste buds and nostrils could handle one more malt, and picked the Glen Keith 1983 (43%, OB), a fairly recent acquisition. A restrained nose; a bit oily at first. After a few minutes of breathing: wood, ginger and whiffs of citrus. A simple sweetness gets more malty after a while. Very nice, despite the rather bitter finish. Final score: 76 points.

Looking back at tonight's tasting, I realised that all tasted malts fell in the 70 - 80 range. This is the "nice" range; all malts were very enjoyable, but none of them were special enough to reach the heights of '80-points-or-more' heaven.

I was feeling frisky, so I decided to try one of the miniatures of Canadian whisky Davin De Kergommeaux brought over from... er... Canada. Davin is one of my main malt sponsors. A few months ago he brought me a bottle of the wonderful Lagavulin 1979 DE, and at the previous session he surprised me with a Laphroaig 15 and a bunch of obscure Canadian miniatures. I went for the Pike Creek Double Barreled. Wow! Something very different. The nose is quite sweet, rounder and more honeyish than American bourbons. Not too complex, but nice. The taste is more like a bourbon - Not too bad, but little more. Still an altogether pleasurable experience. Somewhere around 40 points, I would think, which makes it comparable to some generic vatted malts.

And that's where tonight's proceedings end.

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mAddendum 32A - The KPN Shopping Spree

Hurray! I've got a great new job; Content Manager at KPN Internetdiensten. I decided to celebrate my career move (and my nearly complete recovery of RSI) with a shopping spree. On March 4, I visited Ton Overmars - one of my favourite liquorists in Amsterdam. They have a pretty good selection and the prices are usually very wallet friendly, about 10 - 15% below the 'standard' prices. I could have kicked myself; the Chivas Century of Malts I bought the day before for fl. 90,- at a Gall & Gall in Doorn would have set me back only fl. 75,- here. And to think the bottle I bought probably had been in the window for a few months.

It had been a while since I last visited the shop, and they had some exciting new stuff and special offers on their shelves. In this case, only fl. 460,- (just a little over 200 U$) bought me these 6 bottles:

At these prices, I could only stay away for so long. This morning, I returned to expand my collection with another 7 new bottles I declined to pick up last time;

How's that for value for money, eh?
Thanks to these new acquisitions I had to remove the last blended and Irish whiskies from my shelves and put them in a special cupboard. I picked up the Loch Dhu 10 despite several warnings I received. I've heard rumours that the Loch Dhu is disappearing soon, and I wanted to know if it is really as awful as people told me. 
 

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Log Entry # 33  -  April 1, 2000
Topic:  April Fools Tasting

Today was my first day at my new job. I figured I might as well start tonight's tasting with one of the special bottles in my collection. The Lagavulin 1979 Distiller's Edition (43%, OB) was a gift from Davin from Canada.
Like before, I used the 'standard' Lagavulin 16yo (43%, OB) for reference.
Nose: First nasal impression of the DE was smoke - against peat for the 16. The DE is sweeter than the 16 from the start. After a while, the DE got even sweeter and the sherry in the nose became more apparent; it became almost a bit like Macallan in character. Meanwhile, the 16 seemed to get saltier and oilier in comparison. The DE has lost almost all of the peat of the 16 but gained some new nuances as well.
Taste: The DE is very balanced but just a tad too sherried for my taste. It hasn't lost the Lagavulin 'punch', though. Warm, salt and sweet with a dry finish. For a moment there, I even got a flash of smoked eel! Wow, what a malt! Final rating: 89 points, which makes it number 4 in my personal Top 10 or 'regular' bottles!

Both the Lagavulin 16 and 1979 DE are Top 10 material, but it makes you wonder what 'Master Distiller M. Nicholson' was thinking when he tasted this one for the first time. The extra years in Pedro Ximenez sherry casks have produced a malt that has lost some of the Islay character that makes Lagavulin the no. 1 malt of a lot of 'extremists' like me. The result is a more mainstream malt that costs almost twice as much as the original. This means the Distiller's Edition won't be part of my 'steady stock' after I've finished this bottle, no matter how much I like it... Meanwhile, the latest bottling of Lagavulin 16 seemed to be unable to reach the original 96 mark. This version seemed to have lost a little of the perfect balance of previous bottlings. Still 93 or 94 points, mind you! If this keeps up, the historical rating (96) will have to be adjusted.

I had planned to save the opening of the new Caol Ila 21yo 1975/1997 (61.3%, UD Rare Malts) for a special occasion, but I couldn't resist comparing it to the other two in my collection; the Caol Ila 1981/1995 (40%, Connoisseurs Choice) and the nearly empty Caol Ila 20yo 1974/1995 (55.7%, Signatory Vintage) that scored 83 points the last time I tried it. So I poured myself a first glass from bottle no. 0519 from April 1997 next to the two other versions - and was amazed by the light colour of this cask strength (61,3%) malt.
The results:

UD Rare Malts 21yo 1975/1997 - Undiluted, the nose is surprisingly subdued at first. It acquires some subtle 'low' sweet notes at first and opens up after a few minutes, displaying more of its Islay character. Amazing development that goes on like forever. It's surprisingly drinkable at this strength, but I decided to add about 1/4 of water. The nose became more oily and got a more pronounced salty/smoky sea character - then it got fresher and fruitier. The palate got sweet, then salt, followed by a slow but powerful explosion. After adding another 1/4 of water more chloride and bitterness in the nose; a softer and even sweeter palate. Wow! Great stuff - We may have a possible new Top 10 candidate here. Preliminary rating: 87 - 88 points.

Signatory Vintage 20yo 1974/1995 - Nose: Sweet, with a lot of development. A little more Islay after a while, with oily and nutty tones. The nose disappeared sooner than in the other two versions, and was no real match for the wonderful growth and complexity in the RM. The palate seems heavier than the RM 1975, despite the lower alcohol percentage. Burn, baby, burn... Drinkable at 55,7%, but slightly better diluted. Dilution improved the palate (sweeter and more salt and pepper) and finish, but did little for the nose.
The rating of 83 points stands.

Connosseurs Choice 1981/1995 - Nose: More smoke and peat than the older ones, and considerably less sweetness at first. After some breathing it became more complex - distinctly oily; nutty and sweeter. The palate has that great Islay twang. Much too soon to warrant even a preliminary rating, though. Somewhere in the lower 80's, I guess.

I decided to put Wagner's "Fliegende Hollander' in the CD player and proceeded with a long overdue final rating of the Longmorn 8yo 1989/1997 (43%, Ultimate, distilled on 14/4/89, bottled on 30/6/97, cask no. 6052, bottle no. 208). This one has been bothering me for some time now. I've tasted 4 different, older Longmorns (two of them officially), and all were quite wonderful. I've taken 18 months to empty this bottle, hoping it would improve. Not much luck there, I'm afraid. It's very light and pale; not a lot of nose, really. Grassy and 'bourbon' clean. The taste is surprisingly strong; but it lacks complexity and development. Malty, with some sweetness. The finish is pleasant and sweet, but a bit flat. Final rating: 69 points.

Then another 'Ultimate' bottling; the Bladnoch 16yo 1980/1997 (43%, Ultimate, distilled on 30/6/80, bottled 1/97, cask #98/591/40, bottle no. 219 of 440) that had been gathering dust on my middle shelf for quite a while now. I think I haven't 'officially' reported on this one yet, but it's bloody great stuff, actually.
Nose: Lemons! Then smoky with some sweetness, then sour again, becoming oily after a while. The bouquet is very rich and has a lot of development. Remarkable; very complex!
Taste: Soft and sweet (sweet lemons?), a bit malty with a long afterburn. Very warming - I just cannot believe this is a Lowland malt. Perhaps this has something to do with the fact that Bladnoch is the southernmost distillery of Scotland, located near the west coast. I'm not too fond of other Lowlanders like Auchentoshan and Glenkinchie, but this is nearly Top 10 material! My score: 82 points - a great malt. This may very well be the best 'Ultimate' bottling I tasted yet - given the fact that I prefer most distillery bottlings over the 'Ultimate' incarnations, I'll be on the lookout for a distillery bottling.

For the last 'official' rating of the evening I picked the Tullibardine 10yo (40%, OB). Hmmmm. According to the label it's 'best procurable'? First tastings: Quite soft; a bit like cod-oil. Overcooked vegetables and some smoke. Not very impressive, it reminded me of Isle of Jura. The taste started off with a mild and distinctive sweetness, but ended very astringent with a tannine-like dryness. This one completely lost it quickly after opening. The last few glasses were pretty awful. This is one of the worst single malts I ever tasted - final rating 59 points.

Well - that was a bit of a bummer.
Let's try to end tomorrow's tasting on a more cheerful note...
 

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Log Entry # 34  -  April 15, 2000
Topic:  A Quick Look At The New Stuff

And with 'new stuff' I mean the brand new whisky map of Scotland that I added to the website.
It uses 'dynamic HTML' to show you which distilleries are located in which regions - and whether they are active or not. It's also time to taste some of the new stuff in my collection. I'm having a bad nose day, so I will pour the tiniest possible drams and stay clear of final rating, though.... 

First, I went for the Ben Nevis 8yo 1990/1999 (43%, Signatory Vintage, distilled 14/12/90, bottled 2/3/99, Butt # 1376, Bottle # 712 from 773). It reminded me a bit of Oban, which isn't surprising considering both are from the western highlands. The nose is big, malty and salty at first, with more smoke and some sweetness after a few minutes. The taste has quite a bite - a bit like a young Scapa, but with a longer afterglow. At first, it doesn't seem like a spectacular malt. Because of my bad nose day, I poured myself a few extra drams. I figured any of the good stuff would be wasted in my present condition.

My nose, tongue and liver have had a lot of exercise over the last few weeks, so I figured I could do some more nosing and tasting (just a few drops, mind you...) to get some first impressions from my most recent acquisitions.

Scapa 1985/1995 (40%, Gordon & MacPhail)
Nose: Seemed restrained at first. Old Grapes? Some salt.
Tongue: First sweet, then salt. Some sherry?

Glen Garioch 15yo (43%, OB, litre bottling)
Nose: Sweet and sour at first. Turkish Delight? Very nice.
Tongue: Strange. A bit perfume-like, with some smoke later on.

Royal Lochnagar 12yo (40%, OB)
Nose: Great! Strange combination of smoke and fruit.
Tongue: Smooth - Warm fruity freshness.

Inchgower 12yo (43%, OB)
Nose: Unique sweetness. Apples?
Tongue: Soft and sweet; a lot of development.

Inchmurrin 10yo (40%, OB)
Nose: Hard to describe. Oily and a little bit malty.
Mouth: Smooth, with a cold burn; Menthol or Eucalyptus on the tongue?
Bitter and peppery aftertaste. Not very enjoyable.

Loch Dhu 10yo (40%, OB)
Nose: Unique - but not very good; Hints of burnt caramel and ashes.
Tongue: Awful! Smoke and ashes; some liquorice, filthy aftertaste.
New 'worst malt' candidate!

Lochside 10yo (40%, MacNab Distilleries)
Nose: Tingly; slightly grassy and oily. A little sweet, but very reserved.
Tongue: Bitter; dry finish. Quite unremarkable.

Tobermory NAS (40%, OB)
Nose: Hmmmm.... Vegetables? A little bit sweet.
Tongue: Quite a burn, with a peculiar sweet finish.

Chivas Regal NAS 'Century of Malts' (40%, vatted malt)
Nose: Sweet and sour. Well balanced, but not very outspoken.
Tongue: Soft and sweet, but not as pleasant as the first version two years ago.

I finished the evening around 2:30 with the first glass from the new shipment of Black Bottle 10yo (40%, blend). This one seemed not as heavy on the tongue as the bottles I've had over the last two years - at first that is. After a few seconds the burn starts, lasting for quite a while. The nose of this incarnation was not nearly as expressive as last year's bottling, though. I guess this one would rate somewhere near 65 points instead of the initial 72. At less than 50 guilders (+/- 20U$ dollars) this is still amazing value for your money.

Which reminds me....
I forgot to add the Black Bottle to my 'Bang-for-your-Buck' list.
In fact, the old list I published on the previous 'Geocities' version of Malt Madness desperately needs an update.  This gave me another thought; at this moment I haven't accounted for the difference between 70cl and 100cl bottles in my calculations. The same goes for the alcohol percentages. If my mouse arm keeps getting better, I will get to work on a new version in the near future.

And that's where tonight's proceedings end.
Looking back, I think this has been one of the most varied tasting sessions I've had so far.
 

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Log Entry # 35  -  May 23, 2000
Topic:  H2H Marathon / Night 1 - Hidden Treasures

I'm running out of shelves to put my malts on. But even on a good nose day, it's impossible for me to accurately taste and judge more than six or seven malts. That's why I decided to expand the H2H tasting session I had planned for a few ex-colleagues to a genuine four day head-to-head marathon.
That should take care of my storage problems - at least for a while...

When I opened my bookcase a few weeks ago I was confronted with the fact that I don't read nearly enough. Inside, I found four almost empty bottles I had purchased (and opened) around Christmas 1998 and forgotten all about. Talk about your sweet surprise! I decided to postpone tasting of the 'major malts' to the last evening of the marathon and finish my tasting notes on Glen Scotia 14yo, Inverleven 1984, Coleburn 1983 and Glenallachie 1985, using some clever juxtapositioning in head-to-head tastings.

1 - Glen Scotia 14yo vs Springbank CV

The Glen Scotia 14yo (40%, OB) was something very special. I've searched for this malt for quite a while - partly because Michael Jackson rates it at 87 points, partly because the name sounds so very, very Scottish. The distillery has been closed for a large part of the 1980's, but this bottle is filled with the malt produced before the closure. This malt is from the Campbeltown region. I used 'the other Campbeltown malt' Springbank for comparison - the Springbank NAS 'CV' (46%, OB), to be precise.
Nose: The nose of the Glen Scotia is amazing! The Springbank seems a lot sharper and oilier at first, but after closer inspection the Glen Scotia also shows some peculiar oily components. The Glen Scotia has a lot more salt too. With time, the Glen Scotia showed much more development and complexity than the CV - Even after 15 minutes the CV had hardly changed, but the nose of the Glen Scotia had completely transformed.
Taste: The Springer isn't bad at all; sweet with quite an afterburn for a malt that I suspect to be relatively young. The Glen Scotia is something else; sweet and salt on the tongue, with lots of interesting nuances - almost Top 10 material.

Verdict:
Glen Scotia 14 - 83 points
Springbank CV - 75 points
The Glen Scotia 14 is the best Campbeltown malt I've had so far - it should have been one of the 'Classic Malts'. It has gone straight to my top shelf, but I have to stock up soon, because the pre-closure product is disappearing soon. Especially at it's reasonable price of around 75 guilders, the Scotia beats the overrated Springbank all the way.

2 - Glenallachie 1985/1997 vs Coleburn 1983/1997

Two of the 'hidden treasures' I've found in my bookcase go head-to-head.
Both are Signatory Vintage bottlings of mid 80's Speysiders. Hmmm..... The SigVint bottlings are usually quite good, but the Glenallachie 11yo 1985/1997 (43%, distilled 10/1985, bottled 6/1997) didn't really do it for me and the Coleburn 14yo 1983/1997 (43%, distilled 30/4/83, bottled 7/97) was a genuine disappointment.
Nose: The bouquet of the Glenallachie 1985 was very nice! Clearly Speyside; Complex with citrussy overtones at first and more pepper later - and menthol after that. A lot of development. The Coleburn 1983 seems a lot simpler and more restrained. Faint hints of sweets, but not much else. It breaks up very fast.
Taste: The Glenallachie was very smooth and slightly oily. Cold menthol or eucalyptus in the finish; interesting, but not very enjoyable. Loses a lot of points here. The Coleburn was sweet and oily - warm, but not very interesting.

Verdict:
Glenallachie 1985 - 74 points
Coleburn 1983 - 66 points
Both malt score below average in my rating system. The Coleburn distillery closed down in 1985 - and I'm not surprised. Nor was I surprised when I heard it was used in the Johnnie Walker Red Label blend - as far as I'm concerned (almost) one of the worst whiskies in the world.

3 - Inverleven 1984 vs Bladnoch 1980/1997

And again I found a perfect partner in my collection for an interesting H2H.
Both are about the same age, both are Lowlanders and as it turned out they were the best two Lowlanders I ever tasted. I'm not a fan of Lowland malts in general, but the Bladnoch 16yo 1980/1997 (43%, Ultimate, oak casks #89/591/40, bottle #219 of 440) that recently received a rating of 82 is stunning. It has been on my shelves for almost a year now, but since I discovered it as a perfect springtime malt it's going fast. The Inverleven 1984 (40%, Gordon & MacPhail) turned out to be quite a surprise, too.

Nose: The Inverleven had a very soft nose with some grassy sweetness. Light, with some sherry. The bouquet grows oilier after a while, and lasts for quite a long time. It almost seemed to get some nutty elements in the end, but I'm not quite sure about that. The Bladnoch was smoky and rich with a lot of development. Also oily after a while. Some mocha sweetness, then citrussy sourness. Amazing complexity.
Taste: The Inverleven was very warm; extremely oily after a few seconds, especially in 'mouth feel'. A long, sweet finish ends on a dry note. One of the better Lowland malts I've tasted. The Bladnoch was soft and sweet - and a bit malty. Sweet lemons, very warm. Just great. It's a sad thing that this 'private' bottling has been sold out everywhere I checked.

Verdict:
Bladnoch 16 - 82 points
Inverleven 1984 - 74 points

Well, all right then... One final match.
And what a great match it is....

4 - Lagavulin 16yo 'old' - Lagavulin 16yo 'new' - Lagavulin 1979 DE

I've received continuous reports that the quality of Lagavulin 16yo (43%, OB) is changing for the worse. Of course, this is alarming news. Since Lagavulin 16yo is my number one malt and the touchstone for my entire rating system, I felt a re-tasting was warranted. I bought myself a new bottle and tasted a dram against the contents of my old 'reserve' bottle of Lagavulin 16yo (distilled +/- 1995) and the 1979 Distiller's Edition Double Matured (43%, OB) Davin bought me a while ago.

As it turn's out, the new 16yo bottling is slightly less balanced than the old 16 - both in nose and palate. Still full of Islay character, with some interesting sweet and sherry contrasts. There was just a little less 'cohesion'; one of the elements that made the old bottling such an unique drink. It is, in fact, a little more like the Distiller's Edition in character than the old 16. It's still the best single malt around, it still beats the 1979 DE by a nose length, but it loses three points. This may not seem very dramatic but the 'old' Lagavulin 16 was the touchstone for my quality and value ratings. Well - I'll worry about that later.

Verdict:
Lagavulin 16yo (old bottling, bottled +/- 1995) - 95 points
Lagavulin 16yo (new bottling, bottled +/- 1999) - 92 points
Lagavulin 1979 Distiller's Edition Double Matured - 91 points

And thus the report of the first night ends on a sad, sad note.
 

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Log Entry # 36  -  May 24, 2000
Topic:  H2H Marathon / Night 2 - First Impressions

Wow, what a surprise.
I'm helping out my liquorist (Ton Overmars in Amsterdam) with some Internet stuff, and yesterday he kindly offered to bring along a few bottles that had been used in a blind test. For free! The bottles were unlabeled, but I didn't mind! All bottles were at least 3/4 full - what a bud bonanza!
This is what he dropped off:

- Glenkinchie 21yo 1978/1999 (60,8%, Signatory Vintage)
- Glenlivet 21yo (43%, OB)
- Glen Mhor 20yo 1977/1998 (43%, Signatory Vintage)
- Inchgower 19yo 1977/1997 (43%, Signatory Vintage)
- Glenfarclas 105 (60%, OB)

I didn't have a very good nose day, so tonight's impressions are rather vague.

1 - Glenfarclas 105 (old) vs Glenfarclas 105 (new)

Oh boy. This proved one of my suspicions.
The last few glasses of my previous bottle of Glenfarclas NAS '105' (60%, OB) had been relatively disappointing. It didn't seem nearly as great as I remembered. But this may have been the result of the fact that this old litre bottle had been on my shelves for over a year in a quarterly state of fullness. And since it had a cheap tin screw cap instead of a decent cork, it's feasible there was some illicit breathing going on - resulting in accelerated quality loss. While I recently adjusted the tasting notes and rating (downwards to 76 points), the new bottle seemed closer to 80 points again!
Will have to examine further in the future - a re-rating might be in order here.

2 - Glenlivet 12yo vs Glenlivet 21yo

The Glenlivet 12yo (40%, OB) has always given me a funny feeling. It is a good malt - there's an undeniable quality there. Nevertheless, it has never really 'done it for me', which explains the 'just short of average' rating of 71 and 73 points for two small bottles (35 and 50cl) I tried in the early 1990's. The fresh big bottle I bought a while ago offers an interesting opportunity to see if an older version works for me.
The Glenlivet 21yo (43%, OB) has a lot more nose than the 12, with much more overwhelming sherry. Very full and complex. Compared to the 21, the 12 seemed almost sharp at first, becoming very nutty after a few minutes, and oily later on. The nose of the 21 had a lot more staying power, too. After about ten minutes, the 12 had stopped breathing, but the 21 kept developing. It had gotten some toffee tones. The taste of the 21 starts off very woody, but mellows out after a few seconds. Very deep, sweet sherry. The taste of the 12 seemed very poor in comparison. Tonight's rating of the 12 would be no higher than 76, the 21 scores 82-83 provisional points. Very, very nice!

3 - Glenkinchie 21yo 1978/1999 Cask Strength

Hmm.... Hard to find a good match in my collection for this one. So I didn't, and sampled this cask strength malt all by its lonesome self. The nose of the Glenkinchie 21yo 1978/1999 (60,8%, Signatory Vintage) is pretty sharp, but doesn't really advertise the cask strength. Couldn't find a lot there. Sweet start, with a bit of artificial orange like in 'Fanta' lemonade at the end of every whiff. Some smoke after a few minutes. Seems very sweet and surprisingly drinkable for a cask strength at first, until it reaches your throat. Wow - What a burn. Time to add some water. More citrus and sweetness in the nose; taste still full of sweet power. A bit more malty.
With an extra big splash of water (to about 30 Alc %) a lot more smoke in the nose, but very little sweetness left. The taste seems very soft at first, but explodes within seconds into a sweet burn. Very peppery finish. Woehah! Somewhere around 82 points, I suspect - Very nice.

Because of my relative bad nose day, I decided to postpone the H2H of Glen Mhor '77 against Inchgower '77 to the last evening of the marathon.

01:35 - Bedtime.
 

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Log Entry # 37  -  May 25, 2000
Topic:  H2H Marathon / Night 3 - Islay Hopalong H2H

I just came up with an interesting new concept; the 'Hopalong Head-To-Head Session'.
A 'Hopalong H2H' is a series of ordinary H2H's, but for every new H2H, one malt from the previous H2H is pitted against a new opponent. The latter one itself is confronted with yet another new malt in the next H2H, etc. Well - Just look at tonight's line-up and you get my drift. Needless to say; the tasting quantities have to be extra small to be able to detect any nuances whatsoever at the end of 10 glasses.
On the menu for the Islay Hopalong H2H;

- Ardbeg 10yo - Ardbeg 17yo
- Ardbeg 10yo - Ardbeg 8yo 1991/1999
- Ardbeg 8yo 1991/1999 - Laphroaig 10yo
- Laphroaig 10yo - Laphroaig 15yo
- Laphroaig 15yo - Ardbeg 17yo

1 - Ardbeg 10yo vs Ardbeg 17yo

I was very curious about the new 'official' Ardbeg 10yo (46%, OB) that reached our shores some two months ago. I decided to put a glass of the official Ardbeg 17yo (40%, OB) next to it for the first bout of the evening. Oohah! The Ardbeg 17 is still one of the greatest malts around right now. A lot sweeter and more balance in the nose than the 10. More complex, too, with a whole range of aroma's. The Ardbeg 10 years old seems a lot like Laphroaig 10 at first, with a lot of salt. Ammonia - but not as much nose as I've come to expect from Ardbegs - and less peat, too.. After a few minutes, it starts to develop quite nicely, though. The taste becomes sweeter and suddenly there's the 'delay', followed by an explosion of warmth.
Conclusion: Both Ardbegs show the amazing nasal development that I love, but the New Ardbeg 10 definitely needs a few minutes to reach it's full potential. The nose disappears after 15 minutes or so, where the 17 keeps developing.

2 - Ardbeg 10yo vs Ardbeg 8yo 1991/1999

The new Ardbeg 10yo (46%, OB) was more like the Laphroaig 10 in character than the older Ardbegs I've tasted. The same goes for the Ardbeg 8yo 1991/1999 (43%, Signatory Vintage) to some extent, but the first impressions were 'oily' and 'veggie'. Hmm; the official 10 certainly has more complexity in the nose, and shows some sweet elements that didn't show up against the 17. Both are salty, but in a different way. They are a lot more diverse than I would have expected. The official 10 has the longest lasting nose. The 1991 SigVint only reveals it's Ardbegness on the tongue after a few seconds.
Conclusion: The official 10 beats the 1991 Sigvint, in part because it's closer to the familiar Ardbeg style I love. It lasts longer too.

3 - Ardbeg 8yo 1991/1999 vs Laphroaig 10yo

The Laphroaig 10yo (43%, OB, litre bottling) beats the Ardbeg 8yo 1991/1999 (43%, Signatory Vintage), no question about it. It's definitely more Islay, and there are just so much more different elements in nose and taste. Salt and iodine. Next to the aromatic Laphroaig, the Ardbeg 1991 hardly seems like an Islay malt.
Conclusion - On a personal level, I prefer the Laphroaig 10 over the Ardbeg 1991. On the other hand, the extremity of the Laphroaig makes it not the most accessible malt, especially for beginners.

4 - Laphroaig 10yo vs Laphroaig 15yo

The Laphroaig 15yo (43%, OB) had more peat and less iodine in the nose than the Laphroaig 10yo (43%, OB, litre). More balance, too. Ammonia? Salt and sweet. One of the longest lasting noses I know - still great well after an hour. Taste: Salt and sweet with some liquorice. A lot rounder and sweeter than the 10 with a pronounced sherry finish. The 10 was as always extreme; Salt and iodine, and some smoke and peat.
Conclusion: Great stuff. Islay malts seem to need at least 15 years to reach the optimum balance between Islay power and mature sweetness and complexity. Think about the Lagavulin 16, the Ardbeg 17 etc. Nevertheless, the Laphroaig 10 earns extra points for its uncompromising youthful power.

5 - Laphroaig 15yo vs Ardbeg 17yo

The tasting of the Laphroaig 15yo (43%, OB) against the Ardbeg 17yo (40%, OB) confirms it: There's a new top 10 malt in town! First nasal impressions: the Laphroaig 15 seems very 'farmy'; the Ardbeg 17 almost 'flowery'. Both have plenty of Islay power in the nose, as well as a lot of development over time. Their noses are an even match; very different, but equally complex and intruiging. It's the wonderful palate of the Ardbeg 17 that makes it the overall winner - the taste of the Laphroaig 15 is also very nice, but just a few points less nice. Both malts have reached my top 10 - talk about your great nosing and tasting!

Overall conclusion:

These H2H's are just great to pinpoint the finer nuances in relatively similar malts. Have to do this more often. Davin proves to have an excellent eye for quality , since he has supplied two of the malts in my top 10 - The Lagavulin 1979 DE and now the Laphroaig 15yo.

The Verdict:

Ardbeg 10yo            84 points  (provisional score)
Ardbeg 17yo            91 points
Ardbeg 8yo 1991      81 points
Laphroaig 10yo         86 points
Laphroaig 15yo         87 points  (new final rating)

So... In this clash between Lagavulin and Laphroaig they both come up roughly as equals.

Time to get some sleep - Big day tomorrow.
 

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Log Entry # 38  -  May 26, 2000
Topic:  H2H Marathon / Night 4 - Extreme Differences

Before my guests for the evening arrived, I figured out a fiendish head-to-head scheme that would hopefully delight and surprise my guests and at the same time help to empty some of my current stock. The first six items on tonight's menu:

Macallan 18yo 1976 - House of Lords 12yo (blend)
(To illustrate the difference between a good single malt and a blended whisky. Unfair by definition, but educational.)
Caol Ila 21yo C/S Rare Malts - Cockburn 6yo (bastard malt)
(To illustrate the difference between a good single malt & a typical bastard malt - or a young one & an old one.)
Lagavulin 1979 DE - Glenturret 1978 Ultimate
(To illustrate differences in regional styles and the effects of different wood treatments. Both bottles were gifts from guests, so I thought it appropriate to share the last few drams with other guests.)

Well - as soon as my first guests arrived, this schedule went out of the window.
Adwy brought a St. Magdalene 1965, Connoisseurs Choice bottling, and Reinier a Cragganmore Cask Strength bottling. (Gordon & MacPhail; from 1976 if memory serves) Of course, I had to work these malts into the tasting session, so I forgot about my original plans and decided to take my guests on a wild tasting ride. Around 20:00 my first three guests (Adwy, Reinier and Sergei) had arrived, so we kicked things off with a nice 'Justus van Maurik' cigar that Reinier brought and:

1 - Glen Mhor 20yo 1977/1998 vs Inchgower 19yo 1977/1997

There's an interesting match! The two unlabeled bottles I missed out on two nights ago. Both are northern Speyside malts from 1977 I (and my guests) had never tasted before. The first glasses of a tasting session are always difficult, but this matching proved to be especially confusing. Both the Glen Mhor 20yo 1977/1998 (43%, Signatory Vintage) and the Inchgower 19yo 1977/1997 (43%, Signatory Vintage) appeared very strange and not at all what I've come to expect of a Speyside malt in his early twenties. Both seemed a bit medicinal in nose, with very little sherry sweetness. Not very impressive, and the taste was no picnic either. Neither I nor my guests were particularly impressed. If these impressions are right, neither will score much above 70 points, which is below par for a Speyside malt this old.

2 - Saint Magdalene 1965 vs Bladnoch 16yo 1980/1997

What a treat! The Saint Magdalene 1965 (40%, Connoisseurs Choice) is a very rare bottle that I've never seen before. I picked the Bladnoch 16yo 1980/1997 (43%, Ultimate, distilled on 30/6/80, bottled 1/97, cask #98/591/40, bottle no. 219 of 440) against the St. Magdalene because it's currently the oldest Lowland malt I have on stock myself. Wow! What a nose on that St. Magdalene! Overwhelming! Very rich, with flowery and perfumy notes. Very complex, but harmonious, with just the right amount of sherry. Especially at first, it completely knocks the Bladnoch off the table. Based on the wonderful nose, it would rate somewhere around 86-88 points. But then there was a complication. After 15 minutes or so, the nose of the 'Magda' started to deteriorate quickly, but the Bladnoch kept developing. The palate of the St. Magdalene was quite a disappointment after the amazing nose. But then again, the Bladnoch doesn't do too well in that department either. This leaves the Bladnoch at it's original rating of 82, and the St. Magdalene at a provisional rating of 83 points overall. I can certainly understand why Adwy is in love with this bottle; I'll have to make sure to get one of my own soon.
Well, if I can find an affordable bottle, that is... ;-)

By now the other guests Frans and Jennifer had arrived, bringing with them a few more nice cigars - including my current favourite Romeo & Julietta 'Romeo #1'. And this is where things start to get vague. I'm not quite sure about the order of the malts we drank after that. Tonight's session was more about social alcoholism than technical analysis of the malts on offer anyway - hence the smoking.
The rest of the notes are in shorthand:

3 - Caol Ila 21yo 1975/1997 vs Cragganmore 1976/1993

Two cask strength whiskies go head-to-head. The Cragganmore 1976/1993 (53.8%, Gordon & MacPhail, distilled 21/7/1976, casks #3588, 3589, 3590, 3591, bottled October 1993) Reinier brought had a wonderful nose. A lot of marzipan and a little nutty. Almonds? My Coal Ila 21yo 1975/1997 (61.3%, UDRM) was wonderful as always, but remained a bit of a mystery. The Cragganmore was surprisingly drinkable at more than 50%%, but worked also well with some water. The Coal Ila was just too powerful neat (over 60%), but can stand a pretty hefty dilution too. Jennifer and Reinier liked both malts a lot - and so did I. I will keep my eyes open for my own bottle of the Cragganmore.

4 - Lagavulin 1979 Distiller's Edition vs Lagavulin 16yo

Everybody present seemed in agreement that the new 16yo bottling still beats the 1979 Distiller's Edition. These drams were the last from my bottle of DE - and at that price I won't buy another bottle myself soon. All present did like both malts a lot, and Adwy got inspired to share some vague stories about the Gaelic origins of his name (meaning 'void' or 'gap') and the 'Nomen est Omen' adage.

Around 22:30 we abandoned the H2H's in favour of plain tastings.
No records were kept, but my guests were mostly disgusted by Loch Dhu 10yo (burnt, ashy), mostly delighted by the last glasses of Macallan 18yo 1976 and mostly surprised by the Japanese blend (Suntory Kakubin NAS) and Irish single malt (Connemara NAS) I poured them.

That's it - tired now.
 

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Log Entry # 39  -  June 30, 2000
Topic:  Mid-2000 Mini Marathon

It's starting to get summery here in Holland. Before it gets really hot I decided to enjoy a few last winter warmers and spring surprises - as well as some of the relatively new bottles in my collection. I've put some music by Scottish band the McCalmans in my CD player to get in the mood.

German malt maniac Klaus Everding from Hamburg sent it to me, and I like it a lot. Quirky Scottish folk songs - hard to describe. One of the songs on the CD is 'Westering Home', the song on the back of the Bunnahabhain bottle. Me and my brother have sung the song many times - but because we only knew the lyrics we had to invent a melody. Strangely enough, the McCalmans version was very different from ours.
Perhaps it's a twelve inch version or something.......

Anyway; tonight's line-up looks like this:

- Ardbeg 10yo
- Strathisla 12yo
- Glen Grant 10yo
- Glen Mhor 1977
- Loch Dhu 10

Anyway - I have tasted quite a lot of the new official Ardbeg 10yo (46%, OB) over the last month.
High time for a 'final' rating, methinks. It is remarkably light in colour for an Islay, but that doesn't bother me. What does bother me is the fact that it has hardly any nose at all for the first few minutes. (Well - for an Ardbeg, that is...) Fortunately, it starts to open up after a while, becoming smoky and peaty.
And what about the taste? Hmmmm... What a sweet burn... Some salt too. Very well balanced - a relief after the slightly disappointing nose. After the relatively sweet start it becomes more 'Islay' in a few minutes. Nice and sweet at first, with the long Ardbeg explosion in the middle and an impressive finish.
Final rating: 85 points. It's different from the Laphroaig 10 (which used to get the same grade), but it's just as good! But then again, the price of 99 guilders is pretty steep. At a very slight premium you can get yourself the superior Ardbeg 17yo. Maybe some extra breathing will help; I usually wait a lot longer before I give a 'final' rating.

The Strathisla 12yo (43%, OB) had a beautiful, saturated honey colour - once it had escaped from the dark, intimidating bottle. The fact that I even noticed it says something...
It was a good thing the colour was so interesting, because the nose wasn't. At least not at first... Soft and dry - a bit nutty and oily. Later there were some faint hints of sherry, but little more.  Disappointing - I had expected more from a Speyside malt. Water didn't help very much - just added some chloride notes. The taste wasn't particularly pleasant to my tongue at first, but there's a whole lot of development there. An explosion at first, and a very long finish with a multitude of changes along the way. Gooseberry, chocolate, coffee, toffee and vanilla were amongst the impressions. Not all stages in the development were pleasant, though. To me, this is more of an interesting malt than a nice malt.

Too bad for the Strathisla my rating system is based on my personal preferences.
Just to be sure, I poured a few drops of the Glen Elgin (NAS.) in another glass to be able to declare my final rating. The Glen Elgin is another Speyside malt that comes from a distillery not far away. It seemed a bit reserved and almost 'painty' next to the Strathisla at first. It picked up later on, though. Still - the Strathisla was clearly better overall. Final rating: 74 points. Well - this rating may not be as final as it sounds. This bottle definitely needed a little while to 'break in'. I imagined I noticed a notable improvement after a few months of breathing. I'll give it a few more months and re-taste it then - just to see if things look up.

Back to tonight's tasting. After a disappointing start, the nose of the Glen Mhor 20yo 1977/1998 (43%, Signatory Vintage) comes alive quite nicely with all kinds of 'farmy' aroma's. Some chemical lemon tones at the end of every whiff. Sherry too. Sweeter and smokier later on.
Taste: Very strange. Slick bummer. A lot of sherry, but no sweetness at all. Unbalanced. Disappointing.
Final rating: 68 points; embarrassing for a malt this age.

Although I often pick up the 'no age statement' version of Glen Grant as a volume whisky, I've never been able to nose and taste it properly. But last weekend, when I visited our family's house in the woods, I made a stop at the little local liquorist in a small town nearby. The 'ageless' version of Glen Grant is usually the only single malt they have, so imagine my surprise when I saw a bottle of Glen Grant 10yo (40%, OB) on the shelf for the price of the younger version - 34 guilders! Surely a mistake by one of the staff, but my good upbringing prevented me from confronting them with their error when I bought myself a bottle. After all, I wouldn't want to embarrass them...

Nose: The 10 seemed a lot like the 'ageless' version at first; fresh and a bit sharp.
After a few minutes, some heavier aroma's emerged. More citrus, less spirit sharpness.
Sweeter and sweeter as time goes by; more malty as well. More interesting altogether, really. A lot of staying power too. Gee Whizz; a lot better than I expected.
Unfortunately, the taste wasn't as good as the nose had promised. Still noticeably better than the younger version without an age statement on the bottle, mind you.
Sweet, glowing - then drier, but with a sweet finish. Dark chocolate?
Preliminary rating: Lower 70's. Puts the ageless version to shame by some 10 points.

The Cockburn 6yo (40%, bastard malt) was a strange puppy... Originally intended for the Italian market, this ugly little bottle had somehow managed to find it's way to Holland. The Italians like their whiskies young and spirity (as well as their women, I'm told...) The label claims it's a single malt whisky, but I have my doubts.
Nose: Spirity & Sharp; little more. Maybe a bit of a flowery kind of sweetness.
It had a 'dusty' quality, but vanished without a trace within minutes.
Taste: Is this a single malt? A grainy burn on the tongue, with a rather long aftertaste.
Not a good thing, a very unpleasant artificial sweetness dominates. Warm, clean and much too astringent. Definitely not up to single malt standards. Final rating: 35 points.
Well - as long as I'm not sure this really IS a single malt I won't put it in my black book.

And as long as I'm drinking and rating crap whiskies, I might as well get my final tasting of Loch Dhu 10yo (40%, OB) over with. The Loch Dhu is a malt that makes the Drumguish 3yo look like a very pleasant drink. I can see why this is the whisky that has inspired the most public warnings - and why it may be taken off the market soon. This malt is produced by the Mannochmore distillery as a marketing exercise to 'invent' a single malt whisky for young, successful people. Well - they have failed miserably. I'm relatively young and like to think of myself as successful - but this whisky (and I use the term as loosely as possible) is not for me. In fact I've cancelled my order of two bottles of the 'ordinary' Mannochmore single malt whisky (12 and 22yo) I had ordered just before I found out they were responsible for this freak of a drink.

Nose: I usually like smoke in a malt - but this is waaaay too much. Liquorice and burnt caramel. Medicinal, but not in a good way. A sickening sweetness behind the smoke. It really has the smell of ashes! But the unpleasant nose is not so bad compared to the really awful taste. Someone on the 'Public Warnings' page described it as 'it's like licking an ashtray' and that's pretty much accurate. Ashes and Swiss cough bonbons. It is really filthy stuff that makes a lot of cheap blends look good. And the worst thing is that it just won't go away. It has a filthy aftertaste that stays around for the rest of the evening. Even though I had poured myself a very small dram, I poured half of it down the sink. It's physically sickening! I'd much rather drink a Johnnie Walker Red! (Score 19 points). Final rating: 8 points, making it officially and by far the absolute worst single malt I've ever tasted - and a strong contender for a top 5 position in the overall worst whisky list. When you try to clean your glass the water actually starts to foam! Even a stiff glass of the Knockando 1982 couldn't revive my taste buds. I was lucky to have closed the official part of the evening with the Loch Dhu - any further serious tasting would have been useless after this insult to my taste buds.

Bugger....  And to think I had to pay almost 70 guilders for this crap!
That would have bought me TWO bottles of Black Bottle 10yo.
 

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malt whisky - Springbank Glen Turret Ben Nevis

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Liquid Log Entries - January to June 2000

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