40 - 01/07/2000 - PREJUDICED, MOI? - Am I being unfair to 'inferior' vatted malts and blends?
41 - 05/07/2000 - Caol Ila 21yo 1975 - Glenkinchie 21yo 1978 - Inchgower 19yo 1977 - G'farclas 105 - ...
42 - 25/07/2000 - Bowmore NAS 'Legend' - Bowmore 12yo - Bowmore 17yo - Bowmore 21yo
43 - 28/07/2000 - Glenkinchie 1986 DE - Dalwhinnie 1981 DE - Oban 1984 DE - Glenmorangie 10yo - ...
44 - 30/07/2000 - Glentromie 12yo - Glenlivet 21yo - Glen Garioch 15yo - Glen Mhor 20yo 1977 - ...
45 - 01/08/2000 - Loch Lomond NAS - Inchmurrin 10yo - Glenlivet 21yo
46 - 06/08/2000 - Glen Grant NAS - Glen Grant 10yo - Glenkinchie 10yo - Glenfiddich NAS - ...
47 - 19/08/2000 - Inchgower 12yo - Inchgower 19yo 1977/1997 - Glendronach 9yo 1987/1997
48 - 23/08/2000 - Aberlour 10yo - Bowmore 12yo - Longmorn 15yo - Lammerlaw 10yo
49 - 26/08/2000 - Bowmore NAS 'Darkest' - Caol Ila 21yo 1975 - Macallan 10yo 100 Proof - Arran NAS - ...
In log entry #30, I wrote about my rating system. After I published the log entry, I received a lot of questions about the relation of my single malt scores to the ratings for other alcoholic beverages. Now we've arrived at log entry #40 I'd like to take the opportunity to write just a few words about my feelings for blends, vatted malts, cognac, etc. - and the scores I use to express those feelings.
Malt Madness focusses on single malt whiskies, but my rating system encompasses other drinks too.
'Noblesse oblige' - it goes without saying that a single malt has to meet different standards than a blend. Fifty points may be an excellent score for a 25 guilders blend, but for a single malt it is absolutely insufficient. To give you some idea about the scores of other whiskies; Johnnie Walker Red (blend) scores 20 points, Grant's (blend) 27 points, Dimple (blend) 40 points, Teacher's (blend) 50 points, Johnnie Walker Black Label (blend) 60 points, etc. A couple of 'touchstone' single malts are Bowmore 12yo, Dalmore 12yo and Glen Ord 12yo - each one scores 80 points. Every malt that scores 80 or higher is very OK in my book, and most of them are part of my 'steady stock' of bottles that get replaced as soon as they're empty - finances permitting, that is...
To put things in perspective, I've started my 'Little Black Bulletin' (later retitled to 'Deviant Drams')
I will use it to keep track of my experiences with other alcoholic liquids as well.
I thought it would be wise to start off this session with two regular strength malts, just to get my nose and tongue into an alcoholic mood. And then I thought some more. Wouldn't it be nice to taste two different 'vintages' of the same malt? I figured it would. I selected the two Inchgowers in my collection, the oldest almost twice as old as the younger one.
1 - Inchgower 12yo - Inchgower 19yo 1977/1997
Strange..... The Inchgower 12yo (43%, OB) is a lot darker than the very light Inchgower 19yo 1977/1997
(43%, Signatory Vintage). The colour of the 1977 suggests a bourbon wood treatment, the colour of the 12 either sherry or heavy caramel colouring. The 1977 was one of the blind 'industry' samples that my liquorist surprised me with recently, so I don't know who bottled it.
The nose of the 12 is spicy and sweet - it has improved quite a bit since I first opened the bottle two months ago. The '77 was much oilier and saltier, with the sweet spiciness coming forward later on. The 12 is exactly reverse, revealing salty sea notes only after a while. Weird....
The 77 also had a quality I can only describe as 'farmy'.
Taste: The 12 starts sweet after a few seconds 'delay', ending in a long, dry finish.
The 77 has a lot more power; an explosion after a few seconds, dying out rather quick.
Not a very pleasant finish, though....
Inchgower 12yo. - 75 points
Inchgower 19yo. 1977 - 70 points
It seems like in this case, young beats old pretty decisively.
OK - and now it's time for the big boys to come out and play....
2 - Glenkinchie 21yo 1978/1999 - Caol Ila 21yo 1975/1997
Not really a fair match, so I won't give the Glenkinchie 21yo 1978/1999 (60.8%, Signatory Vintage) a final rating yet - nor the Caol Ila 21yo 1975/1997
(61.3%, UD Rare Malts) for that matter. The Caol Ila starts to exhale from the start; the Glenkinchie needs a minute. The Caol Ila showed a lot of very interesting layers around a heart of Islay. Peaty and fresh at the same time. The Glenkinchie started to get interesting as well; spicy, becoming greasier and more aromatic altogether. Oranges? Still, the Caol Ila has a lot more depth and range.
Taste neat: Caol Ila very sweet start, then switching between sweetness and Islay.
Glenkinchie: A bit sweet and grassy; good start but dropping off rather quickly.
Adding about 1/4 of water brought the Islay nose in Caol Ila forward, smoke and citrus tones in Glenkinchie became more obvious. The taste of the Caol Ila became rounder; sweeter and saltier at the same
time. The Glenkinchie got sweeter at first, with more chloride in the finish later on; still very nice, but vanished too soon.
The 'kinchie will do quite nicely in the summertime, but the Caol Ila is the real surprise.
One of the rare Islay malts that performs just as well when it's hot outside.
And both are cask strengths at that!
Caol Ila 1979 - 87 points
Glenkinchie 1978 - 80 points
The Glenkinchie performed quite well, actually. I'm not too crazy about the standard 10yo distillery bottling, but this version manages to hold its own.
3 - Glenfarclas NAS '105' - Macallan 10yo '100 Proof'
Over the last few weeks, I've done a few H2H's of a fresh bottle of the Glenfarclas NAS '105' (60%, OB) against an forgotten old litre bottle that's nearly three quarters empty almost three years after opening. The fresh bottle clearly was a lot better; the tastings were definite proof that some malts deteriorate after a longer period in an opened bottle. On the other hand, quite a few malts need a couple of weeks to 'break in', as Louis puts it. And then there are just a few malts that seem to get better and better, no matter how long you take to empty the bottle...
But the Glenfarclas 105 clearly isn't one of those. Nevertheless, a fresh bottle provides amazing value. As long as you make sure to finish it within 6 months to a year, it's hard to beat this one in the
'bang for your bucks' area. The 'final' rating of 76 points has to be revised; I only need one more H2H with another C/S to determine how much points will be added for the 'fresh' rating.
The Macallan 10yo 100 Proof (57%, OB, previous score 88 points) is that malt.
Both malts have big noses; a lot of 'volume'. Next to the Macallan, the GF seemed almost spirity and oily, with lots of (artificial) sweets. The Macallan had a more refined and balanced sweetness. More
Taste neat: GF 105 seems almost drinkable at first - but then the burn starts. Numbing.
The Macallan starts off much drier, but ends in a wonderful developing finish with woody and sherry tones. Also shows a delayed burn, this time deep in your throat.
Nose, after about 1/4 dilution:
The GF became even more spirity; fresh and almost grassy. Great. No sherry.
The Mac' developed some deeper sherry and salty notes. Very complex.
The GF died out after about 15 minutes, the Mac' kept exhaling.
Taste diluted: GF still very strong with a powerful burn; Mac' a lot more accessible - and more woody.
Conclusion: The Macallan is the definite winner; the GF is outclassed and outstyled in every possible aspect. Still, the GF is a powerful malt with a lot of personality. And at the friendly price of 70 guilders a litre it's hard to beat in the value department. Final new rating Glenfarclas 105: 80 points (for a fresh bottle). And I'm thinking of increasing my rating for the Mac 100 Proof to 89 points.
Ooh! I just took a good look at the cover of the CD of 'The Corrs' that's playing right now. Lovely looking lasses, the three of them. Hamma.... hammmana... Wowieee! Nice music too.
You know what? The Celtic interludes have inspired me; how about...
4 - Connemara NAS - Tyrconnell NAS
Something special; two Irish single malts go head to head.
Irish single malts???? Yes! The boost in Scotch single malts has inspired some Irish distilleries to start producing Irish malts the Scottish way. And the results are quite promising.
The Irish seem to be shy about their age - both bottles proudly announce that they're 'pure pot still' single malt whiskey, but not a clue is given as to the age of the whiskey.
Both have wonderful noses; the Tyrconnell NAS (40%, OB) seems a little more oily and salty at first next to an almost Speyside-like sweetness in the Connemara NAS (40%, OB). This one became unpleasantly soapy after a few minutes, but picked up a while later with a surprisingly strong peatiness. Meanwhile the Tyrconnell kept developing into a lemony Lowland like sweetness. It took a good 15 minutes before it lost some of it's complexity. What a surprise! These are both noses worth almost 80 points.
It's a shame the palate of these malts isn't at the same level. The Connemara would rate around 65 points on the tongue scale, the Tyrconnell only slightly higher. Nevertheless, I think I've made some new Amazing Discoveries - Right now these malts decisively beat my the Jameson 12yo. old - up until now my favourite Irish whisky. Too soon for even a preliminary rating, though...
OK, the time for serious tasting is over.
Just a wee dram of the Balvenie 15yo 1980/1996 (50.4%, OB) to finish off.
After almost two years on my shelves, a lot of the nose has gone, but the taste is still great!
Uh..... Well..... That's about it for now.
Check out mAddendum 41A for a report on my new acquisitions.
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mAddendum 41A - 26 Free Malts
The next tasting report will take a little longer to finish, because I made an interesting deal with my liquorist. In exchange for building a website for his liquor store I will receive 26 bottles of single malt whisky I've never tasted before! Building the site will take up most of my free time for the next two months, but with the help of a few glasses of single malt the time just flies by... Check out the list:
Are you green with envy yet?
There are over 10 malts on the list from distilleries that are 'officially' new to me, and the other ones are unfamiliar versions of familiar malts. This deal means a major leap forward in my search for the perfect single malt! I will have to restrain myself though - I've got some 60 open bottles in my collection right now, and quite a few are starting to suffer from oxidation.
On July 25 and 26, I tried the gift set of four different Bowmore miniatures (Legend, 12yo, 17yo and 21yo, all bottled at 43% in 20cl bottles) that my skiing buddy Rene Tammes bought me in a whim. The 12 has been an old favourite of mine, but I haven't tasted the other three versions yet. These quantities are not enough to produce final notes and ratings for my Black Book, but here are my sketchy impressions, based on two different 'H2H' sessions with little drams:
(1) Bowmore NAS 'Legend' vs Bowmore 12yo
Nose: Both started soft, becoming peatier after a minute. The Legend is more 'transparant' than the 12, which is heavier and more 'sombre'. The 12 has more sherry too.
Taste: Legend softer and sweeter, 12 more sherry and peat. No huge differences in style and profile; but the 12 is definitely more refined.
(2) Bowmore 17yo vs Bowmore 21yo
Nose: Both are great - but quite different from the 12 and Legend - and from each other.
Both are headed in the same direction, but the 21 takes it a few steps further.
At the same time, they have lost most of their Islay characteristics - especially the 21. The 21 seemed oilier than the 17 at first, and became very 'oriental' spicy very quickly. Heavy, unique sourness. Maggi? Soy sauce? Very strange! The 17 became smokier, lighter, cleaner and showed some menthol after a while. Both have a lot of nose, with tons of exotic fragrances and a lot of development.
Taste: Ah - there's the Islay peaty burn! The taste of the 17 is much like that of the 12 - but more refined and balanced. The 21 is clearly woodier and more sherried than the 17 - a bit too much maybe, for my tastes. Oh, but that wonderful nose....
(1) Bowmore NAS 'Legend' vs Bowmore 21yo
Strangely enough, the 21 is only slightly darker in corolla. Heavy colouring in the Legend?
Nose: What a difference! The 21 is hardly recognisable as an Islay next to the Legend - and this time that isn't as bad as it sounds. The Legend has the more obvious Islay profile, but not nearly as powerful as a young Ardbeg or Lagavulin. The 21 showed something like soy sauce (again) and tobacco; smoke and more sweetness later on.
Very, very different.
Taste: Not as much difference here. This time, the Legend showed a lot of metal tones and not as much sweetness as before. Plenty of sherry sweetness in the 21, though, with a long, complex and entertaining finish.
(2) Bowmore 12yo vs Bowmore 17yo
Nose: Very similar at first; the 17 is slightly more sherried, with more iodine.
Peat a little more obvious in the 12; the 17 showed some more development.
Not too may clear differences at first.
Taste: Both are peaty and sherried. The 12 has more obvious salt, the 17 more sherry sweetness. Here, the 17 is the clear winner. The finish of the 17 is superior, both in quantity (time) and in quality (development). A lot of subtle but unidentifiable extra elements.
Bowmore Legend: 76 (a bit like like a softer, young Bruichladdich)
Bowmore 12yo: 81 (a bit like a Bunnahabhain 12 with some extra dry sherry)
Bowmore 17yo: 84 (a bit like an extra good version of the 12 with a hint of the 21)
Bowmore 21yo: 86 (a bit like nothing I've ever tasted before!)
Of course, these are just very preliminary results, but from the look of things none of these three new Bowmores beat the 12 in the 'bang for your bucks' department. The 17 and 21 seem to be great malts, but at the prices that these older Bowmores go for these days, I won't be buying any big bottles soon to confirm my findings. Still - I can recommend this gift set to anyone - it's a beautiful example of the ageing of a single malt whisky. To me it revealed that if you're looking for the typical Islay characteristics, you'd better go for the youngest Bowmore you can get. The 12 is a sherried malt that's still instantly recognisable as an Islay, the 17 is a very well balanced all-round malt with a softly beating Islay heart and the 21 is... well... Unique. It has lost a lot of the obvious Islay character, but has gained so much in return....
Conclusion: All in all, these Bowmores lived up to the expectations. Much like previous experiences with Ardbeg, Laphroaig and Lagavulin, this Bowmore range shows that Islay malts tend to lose some of the
more extreme Islay characteristics (peat, salt, smoke, iodine) after 10 to 12 years of ageing. As my ratings show, I'm very fond of the younger, expressive Islays. A lot of older Islays lose some of their extreme characteristics -
but you get a lot of extra balance and complexity in return, making for a better all round single malt whisky.
In June 1999, Davin De Kergommeaux (on of the 'foreign correspondents') surprised me with a bottle of the wonderful Lagavulin 1979 Distiller's Edition. It's part of a series of 'double matured' versions of the six self-proclaimed Classic Malts by United Distillers (Lagavulin, Talisker, Cragganmore, Oban, Dalwhinnie and Glenkinchie). Although I felt the Lagavulin 1979 wasn't as spectacular as the standard 16yo. bottling, it was certainly good enough (90 points) to make me curious about the other DE versions - particularly the Talisker and Cragganmore. Of course, those two were exactly the ones that were sold out when I visited Ton Overmars. He did have the Oban, Dalwhinnie and Glenkinchie, though. All were priced around 100 guilders. That's around 30% more than the standard versions. Let's find out if they are worth the extra dough...
I wanted to try these three malts in the proper order, starting with the 'lightest' one. That would be the Glenkinchie 1986 DE
(43%, OB, code G/273-7-D, aged in Amontillado sherry casks). I couldn't resist putting 'Tales of Mystery and Imagination' in the CD-player; the first album of the Alan Parsons Project. The 4th number on the album is titled 'The Cask of Amontillado'.
Nose: A lot of sherry added to the 'standard' character.
After a while, the sherry moves to the background and hints of honey and melon emerge.
Taste: 'Dusty'. Sherry, but very soft. The wood becomes more obvious over time.
More astringent and woody in the finish than the standard bottling.
Rating: 73 points. Quite nice actually - a dream within a dream...
In this case, the double wood treatment pays off. This version is considerably better than the standard 10yo. version which received a rating of 66 points.
The second malt of the evening was the Dalwhinnie 1981 DE
(43%, OB, code D.SD.312, finished in Oloroso sherry casks). After the Glenkinchie 10, the Dalwhinnie 15 is my least favourite classic malt. It's just a little too smooth and friendly for my tastes. And what about the DE?
Nose: A lot stronger than the standard 15, with much more sherry.
Oloroso. Hay and a hint of liquorice root. A pinch of peat as well.
Taste: A watery start. Slightly sherried. Becomes very toffee-like, then bitter.
Long, oaky finish. Definitely more powerful than the standard 15.
Rating: 74 points. I like it more than the standard version because it demonstrates more character. This being said, I think it's certainly not worth the money.
Moving swiftly along, I turned to the Oban 1984 DE
(43%, OB, Montilla Fino finish).
Nose: Sherry & peat. Some smoke. Opens up after a few minutes, becoming very rich.
Big and complex; the double maturation has enriched the character of the Oban.
Taste: Smooth start, quickly followed by a nutty/malty burn. Some of the salt of the 14 as well.
Here, the double maturation didn't have an obvious effect.
Rating: 79 points. Only 2 points more than the standard Oban 14.
Certainly not enough to justify the large price difference.
In fact, this final observation goes for all three bottles. 100 guilders is simply too much money for a malt that doesn't manage to break the 80 points quality barrier. There are just so many alternatives available that offer much more 'Bang-For-Your-Buck'.
This concludes tonight's tasting, but read on for some extra notes.
- - -
mAddendum 43A - Switching Standards
I've tried the latest new bottles of Longmorn 15yo (45%, OB) and Glenmorangie 10yo (43%, OB) a few times over the last four months. The Longmorn is slightly better than last year's version, so it receives an extra point (= from 81 to 82 points). The new Glenmorangie 10yo seemed a little less good than before, so the original rating of 82 is decreased to 81 points. This means they've effectively switched places on my best-to-worst list.
The last 'non wine' litre bottlings of Glen Moray 12yo (43%, OB) are better than ever. 75 to 76 points. I've also added the notes and ratings on Connemara and Tyrconnell (Irish single malt whiskies; scoring 77 and 72 points respectively) to my black book.
- - -
mAddendum 43B - First Bottles for Reserve Stock
I've told you about 'the list of 26 free malts' in mAddendum #41A.
My supplier still has to verify the availability of some of the 'special stuff' like Macallan 1874 and Springbank 1969. If everything is available, the bottles should arrive somewhere in the next two months. That's a long time with a holiday bonus burning in your pocket. To celebrate the birth of my first niece Marijne (any old excuse would have done...), I went on a little shopping spree a few days ago. Here are the malts that start off my new 'Reserve Stock' of unopened bottles:
These are the relatively rare and 'unusual' bottles to be opened on a special occasion sometime in the future; I've also picked up a few more 'mundane' bottles to fill up the gaps on my middle shelf (unrated, opened bottles) as soon as they appear.
Hopefully this new 'Reserve Stock' will help me better manage the flow between the top shelf, middle shelf and bottom shelf of my single malts cabinet. As soon as a bottle from the middle shelf has been rated, it moves to either the top or bottom shelf. From now on, it's place is immediately filled by a fresh bottle from my reserve stock. This way, I can make sure the number of open bottles in my collection doesn't exceed 60; effectively preventing oxidation taking too much of a toll.
According to the new edition of Michael Jackson's Malt Whisky Companion, there are only around 30 'undiscovered' distilleries left in Scotland - meaning I haven't tasted at least 1 bottle of the product of the distillery, or have a bottle on my shelves to make that happen soon. When the 'list of 26' arrives, that number will have dropped to around 20. Considering that about half of these distilleries have been closed over the last 20 years, I'm hoping I will be able to make the own 'claim to fame' soon - Having tasted at least 1 bottle from each Scottish distillery that's active in the third millennium.
That's it for now, folks.
I always try to find a certain 'theme' for my tastings sessions.
Tonight's theme is brilliant in it's simplicity - namely tasting all the single malts on the middle shelf of my whisky cabinet that start with 'Glen'. These are all malts I haven't given a final rating yet, and given the condition of my nose that's not likely to change tonight. I'll use some H2H's against other malts with similar ratings in my next session to try and get some final results.
Some 'Glen' statistics first: From the +/- 110 Scotch single malt whiskies in my Little Black Book, 27 have the word 'Glen' in their name. None
of the malts in my Top 10 have 'Glen' in them, though.... On the other hand, there's no 'Glen' malt that scores below my minimum single malt quality requirement of 60 points - yet...
Lets see if one of tonight's malts can increase the 'Glen Bandwidth'.
18:35 - The Glentromie 12yo (40%, OB) was a relatively new acquisition, so this bottle hadn't been opened yet. Time to remedy that. When I wanted to start my first dram, I examined the bottle, and saw that this stuff was distilled at the same distillery as Drumguish. The Speyside distillery, on the banks of the river Tromie, only started production in 1991, so how can this be a SINGLE malt? Nevertheless, that's what it said on the label. Bummer. I've had a Drumguish NAS from this distillery a few years back which was pretty bad (40 points), so this new Glentromie 12 may just be an inventive way to circumvent a bad image. Based on my experiences with Drumguish, I feared the most.
Not too much reason for that, as it transpired. A reasonably nice nose; fresh with hints of coffee on a solid but distant sherry sweet base. Chemical toy goo. The taste was not spectacular, but interesting.
Starts with a decent menthol and malt character; very little sweetness but a decent burn. Then bread. Falls apart after a few minutes, though. The finish is rather unpleasant too. First impression: Nose superior to palate. Way
better than the Drumguish 3, but still a bit of a disappointment as a single malt whisky. Preliminary rating: 62 - 64 points.
A lot of bottles improve after some breathing, though....
The Glenkinchie 21yo 1978/1999 (60.8%, Signatory Vintage) certainly has improved my opinion of the Glenkinchie distillery over the last few months. The ordinary 10yo. is one of the six 'Classic
Malts' from United Distillers, but it doesn't seem al that 'classic' to me. Maybe it's just too subtle for my crude tastes.
This version doesn't have that problem, though...
The nose needs a minute, but then... Smoky and spicy. Oranges? Tangerines?
Becoming greasier and more aromatic. Seems a bit oily at times.
Taste neat: A bit sweet and grassy; good start but dropping off rather quickly.
After 1/4 of water: smoke and citrus tones more obvious in the nose. The taste got sweeter at first, with more chloride later on; still very nice, but gone too soon.
This one will do quite nicely in the summertime.
Final Rating: 79 points . A very nice malt, but way too expensive at 180 guilders.
It isn't so much that I LIKE the Glen Mhor 20yo 1977/1998
(43%, Signatory Vintage) very much, but it certainly is an interesting malt. It has some new nasal surprises every time you try it - but you really have to look for them. The nose seemed to start off sweeter then I remembered, this time.
Smokier, too. And of course the liquorice.
Taste: Assorted sweets and liquorice - and the menthol I picked up before.
There was also something 'fishy' (literally) about the taste this time.
This one sure earns extra points for versatility.... I really didn't care much for it during the first few drams, but this is a malt that keeps you on your toes.
Final 'personal likability' rating: 71 points. (But this rating doesn't really reflect the fun I've had pinning the final score down.) This is a challenging malt.
20:35 - The Glen Garioch 15yo
(43%, OB) is a bit strange as well.
Peat! Almost like a light Islay malt. Sweet and sour.
Flowery, but with smoky elements as well. Very hard to pin down.
The taste had a bit of a 'cold' start, but developed quite nicely.
Eucalyptus first, more sherried later
Very preliminary rating: 72 - 74 points?
The Glendronach 9yo 1987/1997 (43%, Signatory Vintage) has been on my middle shelf for a few months now. This is one of the rare Glendronachs aged in a sherry butt. Judging from the nose, this is a good thing - it has just about the maximum amount of sherry in the nose for me. Dry sherry at first, sweeter later on. Very rich & complex. Niiiceh!
The taste is very sherried too. It really skims my personal sherry horizon. The finish is a little crude - perhaps this malt is just a tad to young to compete with the big boys.
Preliminary rating: 73 points.
After my recent fortunate acquisition of the Glen Grant 10yo (40%, OB) I picked up a bottle of the 'ordinary' Glen Grant NAS
(40%, OB) as well. At less than 40 guilders a bottle, I must've sloshed away at least 10 bottles over the last few years (it's Holland's cheapest malt), but I've never given it enough attention to enable me to properly rate it. What better way than an old-fashioned Head-to-Head tasting to find out? The 10yo old had a decent cork - the NAS one of those cheap tin screw caps. The 10 is a tad more coloured, too.
Neither one had a very powerful nose. The 10yo. was much 'heavier' and sweeter in character than the NAS, though. The younger one seemed almost grainy in comparison.
After a while, the 10 showed some lighter aspects as well; the NAS pretty much stayed the same - amazingly clean. The taste of the 10 was a lot sweeter than the NAS at first, but became just as dry in the finish. I had never noticed how dry the Glen Grants are. Bone dry. Preliminary ratings:
Glen Grant 10yo. - 67 points
Glen Grant (NAS) - 61 points
23:15 - The last 'Glen' on my middle shelf, Glenlivet 21yo
(43%, OB), was the clear and undisputed winner of the evening. It's not that exceptional, but it has no obvious flaws either.
Nose: Sherry sweet. Fruity and flowery. Cookies??? Very round and full. Lovely!
Taste: Very sweet (sherry), growing nuttier and more peppery & spicy over time.
And while I'm at it: Let's pour a glass of the 'ordinary' Glenlivet 12yo (40%, OB) next to it. It is one of the first single malts I ever tasted, and I liked it a lot at the time. Since I've come to taste more and more different single malt whiskies - It is a good malt, but 'good' just doesn't cut it anymore these days. To me, it's kind of a Glenfiddich DeLuxe. The 21 is much more 'mellow' in nose and taste - and a more complex as well. The 12 seemed very spirity in comparison after some breathing. Both share a lot of common characteristics, but the 21 clearly is the better malt.
The Glenlivet 21 yrs: 82 points (preliminary rating)
The Glenlivet 12 yrs: 76 points (new final rating)
Oh - all right then. Nine malts may be way too much for any 'serious' tasting, but I'm feeling seriously great!
I might as well pour myself the last few drams from the bottle of Glendullan 8yo (40%, OB) that must've been oxidising on my bottom shelf for over a year and a half now. Still quite nice, despite the screwtop.
Sweet, malty nose, but not much of it left. Might just as well been a blend.
Taste: Very soft, malty burn. Dry, peppery finish. Fzzzbk.... Ftumsh...
Thank god for the legendary Van den Heuvel liver....
So what have we learned tonight? Together with the 22 'Glen' malts I've tasted in the past, these 'Glens' all rate between 60 and 84 points. Five Glens score 80 or more points, which means 'Very, very good but not excellent'. They are Glenmorangie (10, Port & Madeira), Glenlivet 21, Glen Scotia 14, Glenfarclas 105 and Glen Ord 12. At the other end of the scale we find the Glenfiddich 'Special Reserve' at 60 points. This means Glenfiddich Special Reserve is the lowest scoring 'Glen' on the list. This leads me to the conclusion:
'Any Glen is better than Glenfiddich Special Reserve.'
I still have to taste bottlings of Glencadam, Glenesk, Glenglassaugh, Glenlochy, Glenlossie, Glentauchers, Glenugie, Glenury Royal and Glen Spey to see if my 'Glen' theory holds up. And let's not forget the Glenfiddich 15 Solera and 15 Cask Strength in my reserve stock - they should be able to improve my opinion of the distillery.
I had to make some more room on my middle shelf, so I selected the bottle of Loch Lomond NAS (40%, OB) for a final rating. Loch Lomond is just one of the single malts (and blends!) produced by the distillery of the same name. Old Rhosdhu and Inchmurrin are two of the other single malts distilled at the same distillery. So why not pour a glass of the Inchmurrin 10yo (40%, OB, also on my middle shelf) next to it? Previous tastings indicated that neither one would score over 60 points; the Inchmurrin seemed slightly better than the Loch Lomond. Nothing to get excited about. Let's find out once and for all....
Loch Lomond NAS
Nose: Oily and malty. No power, but more flavours than the Inchmurrin at first.
Not much complexity and 'depth', becomes even oilier later on.
Too much after 10 minutes! Loses a lot of points here.
Taste: Herbal. Soft and a bit sweet. Menthol? Bitterness. No 'challenge'.
Nose: Malty, oily... more smoke than Loch Lomond. Not very interesting at first, but becomes more powerful after a few minutes. Vegetables? Barbecue spices?
Taste: Disappointing start. Soft first, bitter later on.
More complex after a while. Eucalyptus! Peaches? Notable improvement over time.
Conclusion: When you give them enough time, these malts develop interesting aroma's. However, they have little to offer on the taste front, especially the Loch Lomond. Although both are more to my liking
than the utterly disappointing Old Rhosdhu 5yo., both malts end up in the nether regions of my best-to-worst list.
Loch Lomond (NAS) - 58 points
Inchmurrin 10yo. - 63 points
Well - that sucked! Don't get me wrong - compared to most blends these ratings are still OK. It's just that I expect single malt whiskies to meet higher standards. After tasting three different malts from
the Loch Lomond distillery, I've had more than my fill. Fortunately, there are plenty of good malts on my shelves to soothe my nose and palate. How about The Glenlivet 21yo
This is a treat! Sweet and fruity. Cookies??? Mellow, deep and round.
Some smoke. Lots of sherry in the nose - but plenty of other fragrances as well.
Taste: Very sweet, with a lot of sherry, nuttier and more pepper later. Bread?
Rather well balanced, considering the amount of sherry.
Final rating: 82 points.
If the price would have been just a little friendlier, this bottle might have wound up on my top shelf. Now it moves to the bottom shelf, despite the fine rating. Given the fact that it's a pretty good summer malt, it'll probably be a fast mover - especially because it's an inoffensive, all round malt that seems to work well for everybody.
- - -
mAddendum 45A - New & Improved Shelf System
I'm in the process of reorganising my collection.
Over the last year my focus has been shifting from familiar, comfortable area's to the (relatively) uncharted parts of maltland. I have started to taste more and more new, rare and 'special' single malts. The pleasure of the occasional new discovery more than makes up for the risks involved. For every Loch Lomond, there's a Glen Scotia 14. However, as a result of my accelerated explorations, the number of open bottles in my collection has exploded.
I have discovered that the current number of 70 open bottles is a bit too much; at the rate I'm drinking right now, some bottles take over two years to finish. Not all malts stay in good shape for such a long period after the bottle has been opened. That's why I decided to change my storage system.
I used to keep some 20 bottles containing old favourites like Talisker 10 and Longmorn 15 on my top shelf. I replaced these bottles as soon as they were emptied. This way, I made sure I had plenty of single malts I knew I liked available at any given moment. Due to the greatly increased flow of new malts, I will have to change the system - at least temporarily. This effectively means I will stop replacing top-scoring favourites automatically for a while and shift my focus towards undiscovered malts.
One of the reasons for changing my system is a rather shallow one. With the arrival (and subsequent sampling) of my next shipment of single malts, the number of active distilleries unknown to me will have dropped to around 20. With some luck, I'll be able to make the claim that I've sampled the product from each active distillery in Scotland within the foreseeable future. Now that's a claim with some snob appeal!
The new system works like this;
All my opened single malt bottles are stored on three shelves - each shelf holding 16 bottles. This way, I can be sure that the number of open single malt bottles stays the same all around the year; 48. The top shelf holds my current favourite bottles. Some malts (like the Singleton 1981 or Glenturret 1978) will be very hard to replace as soon as they're empty - others won't. The middle shelf holds the new arrivals that haven't been rated yet and the bottom shelf is for bottles that probably won't get replaced. My 'reserve stock' of unopened bottles is kept in a separate cupboard, as well as my (slowly shrinking) collection of blends, vatted malts and other whiskies.
Tonight, I decided to mix 'business' with pleasure. I had to make some room on my middle shelf for a few new acquisitions, so I decided to go for a couple of head-to-head tastings of Glen Grant. Previous reports had indicated that the 'ordinary' Glen Grant NAS (40%, OB) would rate around 60 points and the Glen Grant 10yo (40%, OB) would end up somewhere in the upper sixties. Now I didn't have any suitable H2H candidates in my collection, but Astrid (one of the few women I know who likes single malts) came over with her bottles of Glenfiddich and Glenkinchie to provide the necessary material - and some pleasant company. Lets see what the 'definitive' ratings look like...
(1) Glen Grant NAS vs Glenfiddich NAS 'Special Old Reserve'
Nose: A close match. Both malts are relatively 'fresh' and spirity - not really my type of malt. I tend to go for the big, 'smelly' ones myself. The Glen Grant was more playful in the nose, with a wider
range of aroma's. The Glenfiddich seemed a bit 'grainy' in comparison and had little to offer - nasally speaking....
Taste: The Glen Grant is clean, very soft and sweet. Nice, but not very complex.
The 'Fiddich seemed saltier and had more development. Lasts a little longer, too.
The Glen Grant wins in the nose department, and also suits my tongue a little better.
It's amazing how many people have their first SM-experience with a Glenfiddich Special Reserve, simply because their liquorist tells them it's the biggest selling malt. OK, a 'Fiddich doesn't cost much, but even in that price-range there are some far better malts available. Not all malts will cost you an arm-and-a-leg; a lot of them even are in the same price-range as the middle-class blends like Johnnie Walker Black Label.
(2) Glen Grant 10yo vs Glenkinchie 10yo
Nose: The Glenkinchie seems especially fresh next to the 'malty' Glen Grant, which also showed some peat later on. And this is where I stopped taking notes to prepare some snacks.
OK, Let's get the final ratings for the two Glen Grants over with by a H2H-confrontation. The last few tastings showed that both (especially the 'no age statement' version) had improved considerably after some breathing in the bottle. One final Head-To-Head to catch these elusive malts in the act.
(3) Glen Grant NAS vs Glen Grant 10yo
Both noses took a few seconds to open up. The NAS appeared oilier and grainier than the 10, which was sweeter and more complex. The NAS had some pepper later on, the 10 acquired some sour
Taste: The NAS is a bit sweet, clean and a bit malty. Peppery. Short, dry finish.
The 10yo. had more sherry sweetness - and all in all more development.
Glen Grant NAS - 65 points
Glen Grant 10yo - 70 points
So - this forces me to empty two other bottles on my bottom shelf in the next few weeks to make room for the Glen Grants. Let's go for the (lovely) Bladnoch and (yuegh) Loch Dhu 10 - these bottles are nearly empty anyway. See the Black Book for tasting notes.
This latest tasting also makes room for two new bottles on my middle shelf.
I picked the Dallas Dhu 10 and Strathmill 10 from my reserve stock. The Dallas Dhu 10yo. old by Gordon & MacPhail was quite a steal. I picked it up for 90 guilders at Utrecht Central Station. Their prices are pretty steep, and if they would have known how rare this bottling is they probably would have charged at least twice what I paid for it.
First impressions after opening the bottles:
Dallas Dhu 10yo (40%, Gordon & MacPhail)
Nose: Nice. Soft and sweet. Just a hint of peat. Sweets. Great development.
Taste: Sweet. Some Sherry. Slowly expanding warmth. Very nice.
Strathmill 10yo (43%, Scottish Wildlife)
Nose: Strange. Light and sweet. Spicy. Dried apples? Very interesting.
Taste: Light, a bit malty, some bitterness. Nothing spectacular.
That's it and goodnight...
Before the main event (a H2H of two Inchgowers), I sampled a dram of the Glendronach 9yo 1987/1997 (43%, Signatory Vintage) that had mellowed out quite a bit over the last few months. The nose had lost a little of the overwhelming sherry, but gained some mysterious elements that reminded me of the Bowmore 21yo. A hint of smoke? In contrast, the taste seemed to have become even more sherried. So overwhelming that the malt loses points over it. Preliminary rating: 71 points.
OK - now for tonight's main attraction:
Inchgower 12yo (43%, OB) vs Inchgower 19yo 1977/1997 (43%, Signatory Vintage)
The 1977 Signatory Vintage bottling was a gift from my favourite liquorist, Ton Overmars in Amsterdam. Let's see how it performs against the official 12yo. old bottling. A previous H2H on July 1 (see log entry #40) suggested that the 12 beats the 1977. This may be the result of different wood treatments, which would also explain why the 12yo is much darker in colour than the 1977. Then again, it could be just caramel colouring.
The nose of the 12 was certainly more sherried. Both needed a minute to develop; the 12 reached its nasal azimuth before the 77 did. The 12 is altogether more complex, the sherry accompanied by sweetness,
chocolate and lots of other interesting fragrances.
The '77 was very salty, almost like a Campbeltown malt. No sherry at all. Soy sauce?
Opened up quite nicely after a while, especially after a few drops of water.
Taste: The 12 is a lot sweeter, but the 77 has more power.
The 12 is malty and sweet at first, with some cherry flavour. Later dry. Balanced.
The 77 is very dry; a powerful burn, but not as complex as the 12.
Conclusion: These malts are very different. Hard to imagine they are from the same distillery.
The 12 is the clear winner on the nose front. Taste? Hmmm. A tie.
Inchgower 12yo (Official bottling) - 76 points
Inchgower 1977 (Signatory Vintage) - 73 points
All these sensory shenanigans have made some more room on my middle shelf.
I filled it with Tomintoul 12yo and Bowmore Sherry Darkest. Reports to follow.
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mAddendum 47A - My First Liquid Payment
I've just picked up the first six bottles of my 'liquid payment' for building a website for my liquorist.
These bottles went straight into my Reserve Stock:
The other 20 bottles should arrive somewhere in September.
It's hard to restrain myself - the urge to open the new bottles is very strong.
I have received some alarming reports that some of my favourite commercial malts were changing. Because there are a lot of bottles in my reserve stock (and 20 more to come), I was reluctant to buy fresh
bottles to check. I went to whiskybar 'De Still' instead and tried 2 glasses of each malt with it's reputation at stake.
Bowmore 12yo (43%, OB) goes from 81 to 80 points
Longmorn 15yo (45%, OB) stays at 82 points
Aberlour 10yo (40%, OB) goes from 79 to 77 points
Even though the tasting quantities were rather small, I felt pretty woozy afterwards. I almost felt sorry for the Bowmore, especially after Mr. Gilchrist was kind enough to give one of our foreign correspondents an interview. But I have to be strict. And let's not forget that 80 points is still (just) within 'highly recommendable' territory.
When I came home, I emptied the bottle of Lammerlaw 10yo
(43%, OB) from New Zealand - it tasted more perfumy than I remembered. Some menthol perhaps. After 10 minutes of breathing distinctly sherryish. All in all, time hadn't been very kind to it. Original rating was 70, but the last glass clocked in at around 65 points. It was an old bottle, so the original rating stands. Still a nice bottle to pick up for a few interesting H2H sessions with scotch single malts.
Klaus Everding, the Malt Maniacs correspondent in Hamburg, came over with his girlfriend Marlou and fellow malt aficionado Michael to sample some of the single malts in my collection. Sadly, Klaus & friends hadn't picked the perfect day to visit Amsterdam. The city was extremely busy with some major tourist events going on at the same time. It took a while before we managed to reach my apartment for the nosing and tasting. They surprised me with a bottle of the Macleod's 8yo. old single malt - which isn't available in Holland. I was having a bad nose day, and because my guests already knew this malt I put it into my reserve stock for opening on a later date. Klaus took out his almost scientific tasting forms, and we were ready to start.
Around 21:00, Klaus and Michael wanted to start with a 'light' malt. Now you probably know that I like the 'heavier' malts myself, so the number of options was limited. I suggested the Glenturret 19yo 1978/1998 (43%, Ultimate), and my guests agreed. I was having a very bad nose night, so I didn't even bother to make notes on this one. It didn't seem quite as good as I remembered. I didn't get the impression my guests were very impressed either. Best I can say that it was inoffensive.
Next up: The last few glasses of the Balvenie 21yo Port Wood Finish
I had been saving the last few glasses of this 1997 bottling for quite a while till somebody came over who would really be able to appreciate it. In the two years since I opened the bottle, the port character has all but vanished from the nose. The winey character remained, together with some soapy/perfumy elements. Still very balanced - maybe just a bit too woody. The toffee in the taste had grown even stronger since the last time I tasted it.
Very nutty. Hazelnuts? Very good, but too expensive to be replaced now that it's empty.
Klaus and Michael (and Marlou, who restricted herself to only sniffing the malts) seemed to like the 'Speyside' turn of events, because they went for the Singleton of Auchroisk 1981 (43%, OB) after that. Good choice. Very unique because of the heavy liquorice in the nose. Sherry too. The liquorice is obvious in the taste as well. This is another 'old' bottle as well; the taste had lost some of it's balance but it's still very drinkable.
And then came the Caol Ila 21yo 1975/1997 (61.3%, UD Rare Malts); another malt I didn't want my guests to miss. Marlou remarked that 'the angels had been modest' - This malt has a very high alcohol
percentage considering it has been in the cask for over twenty years. Oh, man. This malt has got it all. Nose: Peaty, flowery, smoky, oily, salty. Changed quite a bit when adding water. The sweetness became more obvious and more
like molasses - both in nose and in taste. Quite drinkable after two drops of water (to maybe 45 Vol% alc.), but still numbing.
Great stuff, though...
As long as we were drinking cask strengths...
Why not have a go at another relatively rare malt: the Macallan 10yo 100 Proof (57%, OB). Still one of my absolute favourites, bit it's becoming very hard to find these days. Very woody, with the famous Macallan sherried character all over the spectrum. Extremely versatile, character depending on the different amounts of water you add. It's like buying three or four different malts at once with this one. Becomes more fruity and sherried with some water - and sweeter with some more water. Wonderful stuff, and Klaus and Michael seemed to agree.
And then (around 12:00) it was time for what I had expected to be the high point of the evening: opening the Bowmore Sherry Darkest
(43%, OB) from my Reserve Stock. I figured tonight qualified as a 'special occasion'. Plop! Hmmm... The nose is quite nice, with sherry, smoke and some peat as the most obvious components. Nothing wrong there. The taste is quite another tale. Just after opening, it tastes pretty awful. Sickly cloying chemical sickness. Astringent aftertaste. A major disappointment, especially given the steep price. Right now, I'd take the 17 or 21 anytime - or even the 'ordinary' 12yo. for that matter.
Let's hope it improves after some breathing - or my taste buds adapt to it....
Next one: the Arran NAS (43%, OB) that Klaus was curious about. To me, it seemed very oily in the nose - like the Isle of Jura I don't like. Banana's and some peppery elements as well. It picks up slightly after a while.
And that's where my notes end. As usual, this international tasting session got out of hand and lasted until the wee hours of the night. Spirits were rising, and we tasted a lot of different stuff. From what I can remember: Glenfarclas 105, Laphroaig 15, Ardbeg 17 and the Connemara (from Ireland).
The guests agreed that Loch Lomond sucked big time (it just took Klaus a little longer than the rest ;-). They also disliked the Suntory Kakubin - a Japanese blend I rather like. And we tasted three 'vatted malts' I composed myself and one I made right there on the spot. This one (40% Glen Grant 10, 20% Highland Park 12, 15% Ardmore 1981, 10% Strathisla 12, 10% Rosebank 1983 and 5% Laphroaig 10) was no success.
I gotta wrap up this report.
See Klaus' report on Malt Maniacs for another perspective on things.
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Liquid Log Entries 040 - 049
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