50 - 01/09/2000 - TOP 10 TIPPLE - A look at my ten favourite (commercial) malts
51 - 07/09/2000 - Glen Salen NAS - Glen Green 5yo - Te Bheag NAS - House of Lords 12yo - ...
52 - 24/09/2000 - Glenrothes 1985/1997 - Macleod's 8yo - Inchgower 12yo - Glentromie 12yo
53 - 07/10/2000 - Bowmore NAS 'Darkest' - Tomatin 10yo - Old Fettercairn 10yo - Tullibardine 10yo - ...
54 - 15/10/2000 - Caol Ila 21yo 1975/1997 - Glengoyne 12yo - Oban 14yo - Glen Garioch 15yo
55 - 20/10/2000 - Lagavulin 14yo 1984 - Balvenie 15yo 1980/1996 - Rosebank 8yo 1983/1992
56 - 21/10/2000 - Balvenie 21yo Port Wood - Lagavulin 16yo - Macallan 12yo - Singleton 1981 - ...
57 - 23/10/2000 - Dallas Dhu 10yo - Lochside 10yo - Tomintoul 12yo - Caol Ila 1981/1995 - ...
58 - 25/10/2000 - Arran NAS - Ardbeg 8yo 1991/1999 - Convalmore 15yo 1983 - Glen Keith 1983 - ...
59 - 28/10/2000 - Scapa 1985/1995 - Glenfiddich 15yo Solera - Highland Park 12yo - Macallan 12yo - ...
In the nine years since my amazing discovery of single malts, my senses seem to have been magically enhanced. My sense of taste has developed considerably, and with it my appreciation of Single Malt Scotch Whisky. It's the wonderful variety in character and style that sets "the water of life" apart from other noble drinks like Cognac, Armagnac and Calvados. This wide variety makes it difficult to discuss single malts in terms of "good" or "bad". Like so many things in life, it's a matter of personal preference. That's why I'd like to stress once more that the rantings and ratings on this site just refelect my own personal opinion.
For what it's worth, here's my current Top 10;
Well, that's it, really.
11.58 : Phew!
Just returned a few days early - well... not so early - from a week of 'Parapente' (parasailing) in Mieussy, France. Sadly, I had to leave a little early because of a mouse arm that started to act up again. Nevertheless, I managed to make half a dozen 'high altitude' flights and it was ABSOLUTELY AMAZING!
The evening is still young, so allow me to bore you with a few tall tales from the south of France while I pour myself a stiff dram of the... lets see... Laphroaig 15yo.
I have found myself a new passion.
Parasailing is the closest I have come to heaven in my life. But make no mistake; you have to work very hard to get there. First of all there's the hours of rather boring theory and equipment lessons you have to take in order to fly safely. Then there's the gruelling climb up the steep mountains. The 4 wheel drive vans could only take us so far, so we had to haul all 35 kilo's of flying equipment (harness, parapente, emergency parachute, etc.) uphill on our backs. I assure you, that's no picnic; especially in the thin mountain air, desperately trying to avoid the mad French cows on the mountain - and their main contribution to the environment: shit.
However, all of that is forgotten when you're standing on the top of the mountain; strapped in and ready to fly. In the distance, you can barely see your designated landing point - marked by a foreboding cross. The fact that it's almost a mile below your starting point and this is your first actual flight doesn't bother you one bit; after all, you've had several helpful theory lessons.
And then the instructor starts shouting at you: 'Run! Run! Run!'
And then you start running like your life depends on it - which it does....
You're running down the steep mountainside like crazy, desperately trying to pull your screen off the ground into the right position over your head. No, not yet. Oops, almost tripped when the mountainside turned from 'steep' into 'very steep'. You manage to keep running, but the edge of the cliff is coming closer and closer. You're not panicking yet, but you're getting there - especially when you realise the edge of the cliff isn't really coming closer at all. It's really a trick of your mind, trying to make you believe the edge of the cliff is rushing towards you. The awful truth is that it's actually you that is running like a maniac towards a point somewhere beyond that edge - and you can't stop anymore. Only a few more meters and then....
... You're flying.
Suddenly the exhaustion and tedious preparations are forgotten.
After a few wobbly moments while you're trying to get comfortable in the harness, you start to realise that you're actually flying! In the air! By yourself!
I assure you, my first flight was one of the most exhilarating moments of my life (whilst not in bed, that is...) Just flying there, enjoying the wind in my face and the beautiful scenery of the French Alps. Soaring half a mile over the tip of a little old church I admired only a few hours ago gave me a whole new perspective on things. And the really amazing thing is that it's just a lot of hot air that's carrying you. You would think I should be used to that by know, after a career in the Internet business and all...
To cut a very long story short - I had to return prematurely.
The taxi picked me up shortly past noon, I had a swift trip to Geneva and an absolutely terrible journey back to Holland by the French 'TGV'. Especially Paris was a disaster. I needed to switch trains - but the trains were in different stations! I needed to use the subway and make the transition within 45 minutes. I was completely lost and didn't know what direction I needed to go. Man, can't they put English signs in the subway stations, just like civilised countries?
But what about the Laphroaig 15yo (43%, OB), you ask? Wonderful as ever. Peaty and sweet; with a hint of sherry in the nose. This is the first time I noticed a certain resemblance with Bowmore 17 and 21. I decided I wasn't tired anymore and have myself a tasting session. That's one of the advantages of my bachelor's life - I can follow my own rhythm and do whatever I like whenever I want to. So, while I'm at it - why not play some of the music I have been missing so much over the last few days. I have been 'napstering' frantically over the last month and decided to play some MP3's of a band I've just discovered: Toad The Wet Sprocket.
Spending a week in the fresh mountain air must've been good for my sinuses. I have a very good nose day, so I will have a closer look at two blends that have been eluding me for over a year. The
House of Lords 12yo (40%, blend) is rather filthy - but the bottle was over 5 years old when I got it as a gift. Little beyond the sharpness in the nose.
Some nuttiness after 10 minutes. Taste was bland and watery, yet sharp. If I had to describe it in one single word it would be 'de-appetizing'.
Final rating 24 points . Considering the age of the bottle this probably isn't fair. I won't buy another bottle to appease my sense of justice though.
Let's try another blend; Te Bheag NAS (40%, blend).
According to the label it's 'The Original Gaelic Whisky' - whatever that means. Nutty and peppery nose; oranges. Some smoke perhaps, and more citrus later on. Taste starts soft, but opens up into malty notes with a very long, peppery finish. A very decent blend with character.
Final rating 49 points.
I picked up the YB 'Why Be' NAS (40%, blend) in France almost two year ago. The nose seems inoffensive at first, but turns rather oily after that. Later sweeter. The taste is not very pleasant, but smooth enough, with a short afterburn. I guess it isn't completely fair to rate a whisky so long after opening the bottle, but then again it wouldn't have been on my shelves this long if it was a nice whisky. 26 points.
It's 03:25. Let's finish the evening in style with a H2H of two bottom shelf vatted malts, Glen Salen and Glen Green 5yo Neither one was a big winner. The Glen Salen NAS (40%, vatted malt) was a bit malty in the nose, with a hint of sherry and something like cookies. The taste was soft and sweet, with menthol later on. The Glen Green 5yo (40 %, vatted malt) smelled and tasted more like a cheap blend. The nose had no real distinguishing features; the taste was sweetish. Final ratings: Glen Salen NAS 41 points, Glen Green 5yo 34 points
OK, Now I've gotten these tricky final ratings out of the way I can add them to my new 'other whiskies' page. Here you can find a short list of ratings for whiskies that are not Scotch single malts - like blends, vatted malts and whiskies from Ireland or America.
That's it for now, folks.
With the introduction of my new stock system, every bottle that is emptied causes one or more other bottles to move between shelves. When I decided to finish the bottle of
Glenrothes 1985/1997 (43%, OB) on my top shelf (despite my bad nose day) I knew there would be consequences. Boy - this is a nice nose! Sherried, sweet, spicy, a
little nutty, some pipe tobacco - my kind of malt. The taste is soft and smooth; some menthol this time? Warm and long finish, but just a pinch too bitter to reach 'highly recommendable' status.
Nevertheless, this malt has aged pretty well; the rating of 79 stands.
But.... now there's an empty spot on my top shelf...
Let's fill it temporarily with the Inchgower 12yo (43%, OB) from the bottom shelf. It's no 'high concept' malt, but nice enough and pleasantly priced to boot. Unpretentious, for easy drinking.
A decent all round malt - pretty good value.
Nose: Soft; a bit oily and spicy at first. Then sweeter, very gentile.
Opens up to citrus, and... vanilla? Some smoke. Subtle.
Taste: Soft start, then sweet and a bit malty. More oily later on. Dry finish.
Not as good as the nose, but quite nice. It would have scored 75 instead of 76 points this time around.
Will have to watch how it develops in the bottle (1/2 full).
But.... now there's an empty spot on my bottom shelf - meaning I have to finalise the rating of one of the less popular malts from middle shelf. I went for the Glentromie 12yo
(40%, OB). If memory serves, this stuff comes from the same distillery as Drumguish 3yo.
Nose: A bit spirity. Flat; no depth. Maybe a bit malty. Very disappointing.
Taste: Bah! Very bitter start. It lasts for quite a while, but that's no blessing with this malt.
After a few minutes of breathing it becomes sweeter - and stickier.
One of the worst single malts I've tasted so far. Final rating: 59 points.
But.... now there's an empty spot on my middle shelf...
Let's pick a bottle from my reserve stock I've been very curious about: The MacLeod's 8yo (40%, bastard malt) Klaus Everding brought me from Germany during his visit. It is a single malt, but the bottle doesn't say from which distillery. Now the problem is that MacLeod's bottles different 8yo old malts. Three that I know of; Lagavulin, Talisker and Glenfarclas. Let's see if I can find out which one this is.
Well - the bottle is a bitch to open. After I finally managed to remove the plastic cork wrapper a smooth plastic cork
cap appeared - much too smooth for my greedy little hands. However - this was soon forgiven when I sniffed the
first whiff from the bottle - salty, peaty and sweet - just the way I like it.... This is no Glenfarclas, that's for sure.
In the glass, the nose had a little more sherry and at times more citrus.
The nose has a lot to offer - a lot of interesting fragrances apart from the peat. The taste isn't nearly as sweet as the nose and starts off quite soft. After a few seconds, the peat explodes and slowly dies out in a sweet finish. Very nice, a bit 'greasy'.
But... Is it the Lagavulin or the Talisker? Judging from the peat I'd say Lagavulin, but the seaweed in the nose and
'explosion' in the taste could indicate a Talisker. Let's have another glass to make sure.
Nose: Peat. I picked up more chloride. Burnt cookies?
Taste: Soft start and again the explosion. Seemed sweeter this time.
I would guess this is the Lagavulin - but I will have to do some more tasting.
Preliminary rating: Upper seventies. Very nice.
I had my doubts, so I asked the malt oracle from Australia, Craig Daniels, about it.
His answer: I'm not sure where I got the info about the Macleods Island being a Lagavulin, but I think it was from the retailer, who may or may not be a reliable source, but the supposition certainly gels with my experience of the Signatory Vintage Islay (which definitely is a Lagavulin). I found the Macleods very similar, almost identical in fact, if a little sweeter and a little less peaty. Both are almost certainly from first fill bourbon wood with no sherry influence, which is probably why they don't taste much like the standard 16, but actually tend to exhibit flavour profiles much more akin to Laphroaig and Caol Ila, although a little too sweet for Caol Ila, but as I've never tasted a Caol Ila younger than 11 years, it is hard to be dogmatic about it. But I suppose the origin doesn't matter in the grander scheme of things as it has gathered a group of fans anyway and at around A$45 is good value for money. I think you will enjoy it regardless of source.
Wow! Tonight had the most beautiful sunset I've seen in years. Cobalt and violet high up in the sky, yellow and orange above the horizon, divided by clouds who were backlit by the sun. Some clouds had a deep, reddish hue that reminded me of the Bowmore Darkest. I got inspired, sat down on the balcony and poured myself a dram.
After the latest international tasting, I had hoped the Bowmore NAS 'Darkest' (43%, OB) would have improved -
but quite the contrary! I thought the nose was so-so last time, but now it seems even worse. Sherry, Rotting grass - later more smoke - something like burning caramel. Menthol. Very interesting is the best thing I can say about it
right now. It does seem to pick up after some breathing, though, with more Islay in the nose.
Taste: Some sweetness. Burnt liquorice, too smoky, bitter aftertaste. Dry.
Dare I say it has a bit of a Loch Dhu character? Incredible! The 17 and 21 are very good, but they sure messed up this one. The younger 'Surf' and 'Legend' versions I tasted seemed a lot better too - I know I liked them better anyway. Perhaps it's an acquired taste... If the nose hadn't been so interesting, it would have ended up below Glenfiddich Special Reserve on my best-to-worst list.
Preliminary rating: lower sixties - which sucks at about 120 guilders (+/- 70 U$) a bottle.
It has to be said that the particular way this malt is bottled can cause major differences between different batches. I guess I just got stuck with one of the lesser ones. See the interview with David Gilchrist for details.
I needed something 'safe' after the unsettling Bowmore Darkest.
Ah - this is a tough one. Over 50 bottles to choose from; should I draw myself a 'decision tree' or.... just go for the Tomatin 10yo (40%, OB) from my bottom shelf. Yeah, let's do that, the bottle is nearly empty anyway. In this case the Tomatin isn't on my bottom shelf because I don't like it - because I do. It's nice, but just plain 'nice' isn't good enough to reach my top shelf these days.
I still might buy another bottle in the future, though.
The nose had something in it that reminded me of a visit to the dentist. Weird...
Peanuts? Some smoke. Fruit sweets. Spicy. Sour later. Very interesting.
The nose of this malt has something new to offer every time you smell it.
The taste hadn't notably improved after extensive breathing - a shame.
A bit sweet, a bit malty. Sherry? Ginger? Eucalyptus? Nutty and dry finish.
The chameleon of Speyside wins a point for pure versatility; 75 points.
This is a malt everybody should try some time. A challenge.
OK - I feel ready for a final rating. The lucky winner: Glendronach 9yo 1987/1998 (43%, Signatory Vintage, matured in sherry butt #62, bottle #522 of 580). The nose starts soft (a bit oily), but grows into a very sherried attack. Deep sherry, not much else. The palate is very sherried too, sharp at first but smoothing out after a few seconds. The finish is long, with warm, dry and bitter episodes. A bit one dimensional, though. All in all, it is too sherried for my taste. This might have been an interesting malt for a double wood treatment; perhaps with port or wine wood. Final rating 71 points.
So - the 'Dronach moves from my middle to my bottom shelf. This means I can open a fresh bottle from my reserve stock. Although 'Old' Fettercairn 10yo
(40%, OB) doesn't sound particularly fresh, I've been very curious about this one for quite some time. About ten years ago, a friend gave me a bottle as one of the first single malts I ever
tasted. I liked it back then, but I want to find out if it still manages to tickle my (more experienced) fancy.
Nose: Very oily & nutty; dried apples, peat and some smoke.
Maybe a bit too nutty, if such a thing is possible.
Taste: Better than the nose. Very nice toffeeish sweetness. Some sherry.
Unique character. Preliminary rating: lower to mid seventies.
I felt 'jazzy', so I put on a CD of Chet Baker and poured myself a dram of the Tullibardine 10yo (40%, OB). It has been on my shelves for almost a year and the overwhelming oily character had changed to a more nutty tune. The taste had a oily sweetness and some toffee, much better than I remembered. Still too oily in the finish. This one has actually improved - it just took a year. Final rating is increased from 59 to 61 points - and it might even grow further if this change keeps up.
As long as we're exploring the nether regions of my shelves, I might as well go for a double check of the Loch Lomond NAS (40%, OB) I rated not so long ago. It's spirity and malty in the nose; sweet and sharp on the tongue. Sweeter nose later on; some smokiness? It lacks character, but I can't seem to pin down why I dislike this malt so much. It's rating drops from 58 to 51 points. The less said the better. Quite a few mid-priced blends and vatted malts are superior; avoid it.
Not a single single malt (huhuh - geddit?) managed to break the 80-points barrier tonight.
Let's try harder next time.
The bottle of Glegoyne 12yo (43%, OB) has been almost empty for quite a while now.
Let's put it out of its misery. It is the strangest thing... The nose has become very 'dusty'. Malt and sherry. Fruity with a little smoke. Some dust in the (smooth and warming) taste as well, along with sherry and malt. Coffee and mocca? 'Chewy' finish. A bit woody and bitter; warm, very long, becoming drier. No top malt, but it has only sustained minor damage after more than two years in the bottle.
The rating of 73 points stands.
OK - What bottle moves from my middle shelf to my bottom shelf?
It's the Glen Garioch 15yo (43%, OB), a malt that has a lot to offer.
Nose: Whowie! Very complex and aromatic. Sweet and sour. Smoky.
Later on: Fruit sweets and rum. Turkish Delight.
Taste: Perfumy. Liquorice. Prunes after a while. Final rating 78 points . Very good value; this deserves better than my bottom shelf. It takes the place of the Inchgower 12 on my top shelf; the 'Gower shamefully moves to my bottom shelf after just a few weeks in the limelight.
And while I'm in top tasting form, why not have another look at a malt that has been puzzling me for about six months now; the Caol Ila 21yo 1975/1997
(61.3%, UD Rare Malts). I thought I had finally figured it out with a final rating of 87 points, but recent dramming indicated that it should score even higher.
When I poured myself a dram I was surprised once more by the light colour of this cask strength malt.
Almost yellow. The nose has the obviously Islay peat, but there's just so much more to it. Like a fresh sea breeze. Wonderful complexity; the character changes with the minute. The taste (undiluted) is sweet and peaty, understandably strong. Some water revealed some fainter elements in the nose and peppermint on the palate, but broke up the finish. I am still in doubt, but for now the rating of 87 points stands. It won't get into my Top 10, because this isn't a 'commercial' bottling - in the sense that it can't easily be replaced.
Oh yeah, let's not forget I got to open another bottle from my reserve stock.
My eye fell on the Oban 14yo (43%, OB) - one of the 'classic malts'. This is actually my third bottle, but the other ones were tasted years ago before I started to make notes. It almost seemed like a very light Bowmore at first, with light sherry and peaty overtones. Second whiff: Sweet, then sour. Perfumy, flowery. More versatile than I remembered. Taste: Sharp start, then sweet, then dry. A little peat. Nice development.
Preliminary rating: Upper seventies - Just short of greatness.
At first sight, it's hard to imagine why they made this one of the 'classic malts' - but then again, I have my doubts about other choices in that particular selection as well. In fact, my personal selection of 'classic malts' might look something like:
Islay - Laphroaig 10
Campbeltown - Glen Scotia 14
Islands - Talisker 10
Highlands - Dalmore 12
Speyside - Macallan 12
Lowlands - Bladnoch 16
But then again - would I pick these regions? Would I base my selection on regions at all? After all, I find the
Highland Park 12 (an Island whisky) closer in style to the Macallan 12 (a Speyside malt) than to its fellow Islander Talisker 10. I might have to write a log entry on this topic some time.
The bottle of Balvenie 15yo 1980/1996 'Single Barrel' (50.4%, OB) may very well have been on my shelves for over three years now, and oxidation is finally beginning to take its toll. I decided to empty the bottle. Peppery nose with lots of nuances and character; smooth taste after dilution. See previous tasting reports for more detailed tasting notes. Still a very good dram with a very good cask strength burn. The original rating of 85 points stands, because I feel anything that happens after, say, one year doesn't really count.
The Rosebank 8yo 1983/1992 (43%, OB) I picked up about seven months ago was bottled in 1992, so it must've been kept in storage for quite some time. The distillery has been closed in 1993, so this will probably be the
youngest Rosebank I'll ever taste.
This bottling is not chill filtered and bottled for the Bristol Brandy Company.
Nose: Soft and fresh; something lemony. Sweeter and heavier after a few minutes. Becomes very fragrant for a Lowlander, especially considering it's triple distilled and has aged in American oak for only 8 years.
Taste: Not as spectacular. Clean, dry and a little bit sweet. Nice burn, though... A little water kills the nose (too much chloride) but helps the taste. Final rating: 73 points. Some of my lady friends prefer these light Lowlanders over Islay or Speyside malts, so it takes the place of the Balvenie 15 on my top shelf - although its rating doesn't really justify this honorary position.
Oh joy! The Rosebank left an empty spot on my middle shelf. I get to fill it with a bottle from my reserve stock. I had promised myself to open the Lagavulin 14yo 1984/1999 (46%, Murray McDavid) on a special occasion, so I
declared October 20 'Bogus Day' - a new holiday celebrating the fact that the longest night of the year is only almost two more months away. This is actually my very first Murray McDavid bottling, and I'm very happy about the
amount of information on the bottle. According to the label, this malt is distilled in December 1984, has aged for 14
years in bourbon casks and was bottled in February 1999 at 46%, without chill filtering or caramel colouring. Just so you know...
Nose: Restrained and not very complex, compared to the standard 16yo
More peaty later on, with a hint of smoke and some salt. A whiff of pickles?
Becomes smokier and smokier over time.
Taste: Wow! Lagavulin peaty power and an overwhelming sweetness.
The sweetness dissipates after a few minutes, leaving only dry and salty peat.
This is perfect with some cold, smoked meat like 'Serrano' ham - or maybe salmon.
Preliminary rating: Upper 80's. 'The Summertime Lagavulin'.
Not at all what I've expected. More like Caol Ila than Lagavulin at first sight, but still a worthy addition to my Islay pantheon.
I poured myself a second dram and closed the bar for the night.
Here are some assorted notes on the latest events in my little malt universe;
Last week, I visited a friend in The Hague who had just bought himself fresh bottles of Macallan 12yo (43%, OB) and Balvenie 21yo Port Wood Finish (40%, OB). A great opportunity for a series of H2H's between the two of them. He also had half a bottle of Johnnie Walker Blue Label left, but we didn't even bother when we could be drinking these two great malts. My suspicions were confirmed: The Balvenie 21 is different from, but every bit as good as Macallan 12. Maybe even a little more complex.
The rating of Balvenie 21yo will be adjusted, from 85 to 86 points.
Meanwhile, the members of the Malt Maniacs have been having a long and frantic discussion by e-mail about the sense end nonsense of rating single malts. As a result, I've been looking into my own rating system. How fair is my own system and does it adequately reflect the differences between the different single malts - as I see them? I wasn't completely sure, so I organised a few calibration sessions at home and in 'De Still' to compare my ratings to one another and the ratings of the foreign correspondents. I'll spare you the gory details, but my conclusion was that I may have been a little stingy at the top end of my scale. After a lot of soul searching and a series of head-to -head tastings the following changes occurred in the top of my list:
94 pts -> 95 pts - Lagavulin 16yo
90 pts -> 91 pts - Talisker 10yo
89 pts -> 90 pts - Macallan 18yo 1976 (last bottle the bar had on stock)
84 pts -> 85 pts - Laphroaig 10yo
84 pts -> 85 pts - Glenmorangie Port Wood Finish
83 pts -> 84 pts - Glenmorangie Madeira Wood Finish
I've been hitting the bottle of Singleton of Auchroisk 1981 (43%, OB, 100cl) a lot over the last few days.
I wanted to get as much enjoyment out of it as possible now that I found out that the cork isn't properly sealing the bottle anymore. Still a nice and smooth dram, but the sherry is taking over in a big way. Yesterday I've finished the last few glasses, which leaves an empty spot on my top shelf.
Which brings me to:
- - -
mAddendum 56A - KPN Bonus
Today I discovered I had received an unexpected bonus from my previous employer and decided to immediately spend it on single malts. I've been buying my malts mostly from 'Favourite Liquorist #1' (Ton Overmars, Hoofddorpplein, Amsterdam) lately, so I decided to check out 'Favourite Liquorist #2' (Menno Boorsma, Ferdinand Bolstraat, Amsterdam) for the first time in nine months.
As it transpired, he has expanded his collection to over 200 single malts. Sadly enough, he had also expanded a lot of his prices, but there were still plenty of good deals to be found. I got myself these 7 bottles for less than 600 guilders ( = around 225 U$):
Why did I choose these bottles, you may ask?
The first three are easy. I haven't 'officially' tasted any version from these three distilleries yet, so I simply have to taste them if I ever want to be able to make my own 'claim to fame' (having tasted at least one bottle from every distillery in Scotland that has been active since my birth).
Two of them are private bottlings in the 'Chieftain's Choice' range from Ian Macleod & Co Ltd from Broxburn, Scotland. Those are the same people responsible for the very nice MacLeod's 8yo Klaus Everding gave me two months ago. This particular range may be targeted exclusively towards the French market; I haven't seen it in Holland before.
And three Macallan's, no less. With all the unfamiliar new bottlings I've been acquiring over the last few months - and 20 more on their way - I felt the need to buy myself a few old favourites and a 'safe bet' as well. The new bottling of Macallan 12 has more info on the label than the previous one. It has been matured in Jerez Sherry Oak. The 10yo, 40% version is one I haven't tasted yet - but if it's anything like the older distillery bottlings it's an absolute steal. Comparing the prices of the 'ordinary' 10 years old and the 100 Proof cask strength version you realise that you have to pay almost 100% more for only 17% extra alcohol. This may seem extravagant but after the latest international tasting I think Klaus from Hamburg would agree that it's worth it - especially because this bottling is becoming rarer and rarer. This particular bottle seems to have found his way to Holland via Japan - which may account for the relatively steep price.
So did I replace the empty bottle of Singleton 1981 on my top shelf with the fresh one? No, I didn't! I decided I
wanted to save that bottle for a rainy day and put the litre of Macallan 12 up there instead. All the other bottles went straight into my reserve stock that's growing fast. I'll worry about storing the 'liquid payment' of 20 bottles for
building a site for 'Favourite Liquorist #1' (due in a few weeks) later.
After the heavy traffic between different shelves in my collection over the last few months, I decided to limit myself to bottles from my middle shelf (= unrated malts) this time around.
The Tomintoul 12yo (43%, OB) comes in one of the strangest bottles I've ever seen. You have to see it to believe it
. Almost Art Deco - or Art Nouveau, I forget. Winner of the 'Largest Plastic Screwtop In The World Award'. The 'H.K.D.N.P.' seal at the bottom shows this bottle came from Hong Kong.
Nose: Ooh - This is interesting. What a great nose!
Sweet lemons. A bit perfumy. Roses? Cookies later on.
Taste: Intriguing. Fresh. Sweets. Toffee finish with citrus overtones, very long.
Nice. Preliminary rating: Upper 70's; a lot better than expected.
The Dallas Dhu 10yo (40%, Gordon & MacPhail) is a relatively rare bottling.
Nose: Apples! Raw beans? Some sherry, more nutty and oily later on.
Some sweetness. Soap? Not a very 'strong' nose, but a lot of fragrances.
The taste had some apples too, together with a hint of sherry at first.
Started soft & smooth but had a disappointing, dry finish. More sherry & malt later.
Preliminary rating: Mid 70's. Not a real winner, but a very interesting nose.
I've been enjoying the Rare Malts Caol Ila 1975 Cask Strength so much over the last few months that the bottle is 3/4 empty. The Caol Ila 1981/1995
(40%, G&M Connoisseurs Choice) was purchased at the same time, but I've only tasted two or three little drams over the last seven months. Let's investigate.
The nose was quite soft, growing peatier. A little ketjap? A soft spoken Islay.
Taste: Subdued peatiness; long burn ends bitter. One dimensional.
Preliminary rating: Mid- to upper 70's. A bit disappointing; this just doesn't cut the mustard compared to the Rare Malts '75. Will have to do a H2H next time to learn more, but the extra years and extra proof of the UDRM '75 seem to make a big difference.
From a 'technical' point of view I'm no advocate of eating during a tasting session, but the fact that I missed dinner (a consequence of my 'workaholic nerd' lifestyle) made my knees wobbly and my head woozy after three generous drams. Time to retreat into the kitchen to prepare some 'Carpaccio al Giovanni'; the 'Giovanni' part being old Gouda cheese flints, capers and my Special Dressing #8 (Olive oil, vinegar, pepper, mustard, garlic and lime). After a smooth digestion process and a rerun of 'Blackadder' on TV I felt ready to resume my search for the perfect single malt.
Now I forgot what's so special about the Lochside 10yo (40%, MacNab, 75cl). Let's check Michael Jackson's malt
Whisky Companion. Ah, yes, of course. This particular bottling seems to be very hard to find outside Spain.
Well, I managed to get one. Lucky me.... If the cheap bottle is anything to go by I won't be in for a treat.
Nose: Slightly grassy and oily. A little sweet, but very reserved. Just a hint of smoked nuts after a while.
Tongue: Very smooth. Sweeter after a few minutes. Bitter; dry finish.
Preliminary rating: Upper 60's - nothing to get excited about.
Let's finish the evening on an ambiguous note. I've been getting mixed reports about the Tobermory NAS (40%, OB); some people like it, others despise it. Let's find out more.
Nose: Whew! This is strange. Paint? Vegetables? Sweeter after a while. Not like any single malt I know.
Taste: Ooooh! Just as weird as the nose. Starts a bit oily, turning revoltingly sweet after a few seconds.
Fortunately, it becomes more interesting and minty after the molasses sweetness has submerged. Quite long.
Preliminary rating: Lower 60's. This malt has character, but I guess I belong to the group of people that doesn't know how to appreciate this malt - yet?
That's tonight's tasting over with.
End session log.
My brother Franc (who knows how to enjoy the occasional malt) joined me for a session.
The fact that I had an awful nose day didn't bother me none. After all, I had my brother to assist me in my explorations. The fact that it's getting pretty cold outside doesn't hurt either.
We had to soak our palates before the real tasting started; I poured myself a dram of the familiar Glen Keith 1983 from my bottom shelf and submitted Franc to a blind tasting of the Arran NAS (43%, OB) at the same time. He never tasted it before, so this was just my way of getting a completely unbiased second opinion about this malt that has pleasantly surprised me. Franc did his best to determine the region, but failed - not surprisingly. His best guess was 'either Campbeltown, Midlands or Lowlands'. Considering the location of the island where this malt is produced he wasn't far off. He said it reminded him of a bit of a young Springbank - and I can see his point. Franc gave it 60 points, but I would have rated it higher. Very refined for a malt this young. I'll have myself a proper tasting session soon.
And the Glen Keith 1983 (43%, OB). Citrus and chocolate in the nose. Sweet and warm taste. Very nice. Still pretty good, but not quite as good as I remembered. The rating of 76 might have to be decreased in the future - just a notch, mind you. Will have another tasting soon to empty the bottle.
After treating him to such an unfair blind test, I rewarded Franc (and myself) with a dram of the intriguing Lagavulin 14yo 1984/1999 (46%, Murray McDavid). It's only a little younger than the official 16yo distillery bottling. But what a difference! Very light in colour, as a result of the bourbon wood ageing. Good bite at 46% with a dry finish. We sniffed the Lagavulin 16yo from my top shelf next to it, which appeared very sweet in comparison. Franc detected a Laphroaig likeness I didn't and rated it at 80 points; I would have given it a preliminary rating of **** (Mid 80's) right now.
I sent Franc out of the room and poured him another blind; the Laphroaig 15yo (43%, OB).
Of course, I had a (very fine) dram myself as well. Again, I detected certain similarities in style with the other Bowmores (17 and 21). Franc was very pleasantly surprised and stated that he wouldn't object to drinking this every evening - or every morning for that matter. I almost agreed with him on that part, but when he said he recognised the Macallan 12 he dropped a few points on my 'People-to-take-serious-in-malt-related-matters' scale. When I informed him he was mistaken, he switched to Highland Park 12. Wrong again, but this proves he has good a nose for quality, because my current ratings are quite similar for these malts;
HP12 = 85, Mac12 = 86, Lphg15 = 86.
'Surely, this is no Islay?' he bellowed. Yes, it was! Now he detected a soft hint of the iodine in Laphroaig 10, but he
still didn't recognise it. After a few more minutes of guessing I gave him the answer. He then told me he thought of Macallan 12 first because of the strong sweetness of the malt, absent in Laphroaig 10. OK....
For me, the (already impressive) rating of 86 is increased to 87 points.
To be honest, I've been leaning towards 87 points for a few drams now. This whisky shows new sides every time you try it. One of the great malts, but just too darned expensive at about 120 guilders a bottle. The next time I want Laphroaig power, I'll go for the 10yo instead - only 65 guilders for a litre of peat-juice.
Time for some music (Al Stewart's 'Year of the Cat') and a blind test for me.
Franc was kind enough to limit his choice to my top shelf, so I only had 16 malts to pick from. The first whiff told me this definitely wasn't an Islay, which excluded almost half of the bottles on my top shelf right away. Then I went by the remaining bottles one by one.
Glen Scotia 14? No - not salty enough
Highland Park 12? Erm... No - not sweet enough
Glenfarclas 105? No - not strong enough
Cragganmore 12? Erm... Maybe
Macallan 10 C/S? No - not overwhelming enough
Macallan 12? No - not enough sherry
Glen Garioch 15? Well... Might be
Rosebank 1983? No, not light enough
Balvenie DW 12? No, not complex enough
Glenturret 1978 No, not spirity enough
This left me with two choices. The round sweetness in the nose suggested Glen Garioch, but the dry twang in the
taste could indicate a Cragganmore. I thought it to be just too sweet for the Cragganmore, so I guessed wrong: Glen Garioch 15yo. It actually was the Cragganmore 12yo (43%, OB).
Bollocks. There goes my reputation.
OK - Let's forget all these blind shenanigans and do some serious nosing and tasting.
The final rating of the Tomintoul 12yo (43%, OB, 100cl), for example. The weird ''Jugendstil Thermos' design of the bottle alone makes this a candidate for my Top Shelf. Such a wonderful bottle deserves a wonderful piece of music - Rachmaninoff's 'Rhapsody on a theme by Paganini'.
Nose: Nutty! Versatile and rather interesting. Multi-layered.
Sour one moment, spirity with chloride a moment later. Very sweet after 15 mins.
Taste: Nutty as well; sweet and simple. Gooseberries? Turns malty.
Nice, but no real finish. Very hard to pin down.
Final rating: 76 points. (Franc awarded it 77 points.) Nice!
Despite the great bottle, it moves to my bottom shelf - for now.
It may get promoted when space becomes available on my top shelf.
But right now, I will have to empty a bottle from my bottom shelf to make room.
The victim: the Ardbeg 8yo 1991/1999 (43%, Signatory Vintage) that didn't really belong on my bottom shelf anyway. I just put it there because I won't be buying another bottle soon - even if it were possible. The 10 and 17 OB's on my top shelf are better and there are a lot of other versions out there that I haven't tried before. But everyone should try this one as well. Matured in oak cask for 8 years, this is a malt that offers great value. 30 guilders cheaper than the 'official' Ardbeg 10, which only scored a few points more (80 vs 83).
Nose: Great. Relatively soft Islay with a hint of Iodine. Sea salt. Brine.
Taste: Sweet and salty. Not as complex as older versions.
Rather soft start develops into a warm, briny burn. Very dry finish.
Franc pointed out the clear medicinal character. Of course he was right; it's funny how we tend to overlook the obvious in familiar malts. My final rating of 80 points stands; Franc awarded it 75 points because he felt it was a little disappointing for an Islay malt. Nevertheless, we enjoyed a second dram to finish the bottle.
And then we got to open a fresh bottle from my reserve stock.
We picked the Convalmore 15yo 1983 (43%, Chieftain's Choice) that recently reached my shelves. This malt has a deep red hue, similar to the Glenfarclas 105. The distillery has been closed for some time now.
Nose: Nice!!! Very full and complex. Sweets. Coconut liquorice all sorts.
Interesting, but hard to define. Almost looks like top shelf material at first sight.
Taste: Relatively soft start becomes more interesting and develops into a slow, sweet explosion. Ends with a long, dry, woody finish. A lot of development. At first sight this qualifies as an amazing discovery; better than a lot of the new malts I picked up lately. Preliminary rating: **** (around 80 points); looks like the price is worth it. Franc agreed with me on that point and gave it 78 points.
Time to call it a night.
Last week, my new bottle of Macallan 12yo (43%, OB, 100cl) went straight onto my top shelf without being
opened. Let's check if this bottle is as good as the previous ones. Ah! The famous sherried sweetness filled the room after I poured myself a generous dram. Nose: Very complex. Sherry sweetness; peanuts later on.
Taste: A very dry finish. Maybe slightly less balance on the tongue than previous bottlings - but no more than a point's worth at best. The bottle may have to break in. Will have to see how it develops in the future.
So now I'm thinking: Will the Macallan 12 drop from 86 to 85 points? Let's have a dram of the wonderful Highland Park 12yo
(43%, OB, 100cl, score 85 points) to compare impressions. This is an old favourite; a steady factor on my top shelf for years. I've sampled at least a dozen bottles over the last 10 years. With all the tasting of new malts
lately I tend to forget that there's always plenty of familiar 'liquid friends' around to make me feel comfortable.
Nose: Sherry first, deepening into woodier and smokier notes after a few seconds.
Soft start, growing more complex and powerful over time.
Taste: Smooth and sweet. Toffee / Honey. More smoky after a while.
Deep finish, sweet and dry at the same time.
HP 12's time honoured final rating of 85 points stands; the little bit extra balance and complexity of the Mac 12 keep it at 86 points for now.
My nose, palate and memory are now 'in synch'. I feel ready for a final rating.
The Scapa 1985/1995 (40%, Gordon & MacPhail) seemed like a good candidate. This bottling is a lot better and completely different in character from an 8yo 'Ultimate' bottling that was on my shelves a few years ago.
Nose: Salt and a little smoke. Chloride? Rather sharp. Oilier later on.
With water: some improvement. The nose isn't as good as the taste.
Taste: Chocolate! Vanilla. Very, very nice. Some salt. Peppery later on.
Water killed most of the palate, but the finish remained very long.
Final rating: 78 points. Taste is rather impressive for such a young malt.
Would have scored even higher with a 'bigger' nose.
Like with all other final ratings, the newly rated bottle pushes another bottle from either my top or bottom shelf. For those of you not familiar with my shelf policy and situation: Apart from my 'Reserve Stock' of unopened bottles there are three shelves with room for 16 bottles each. New, unrated malts go to my middle shelf as soon as the bottle has been opened. After a while (usually 6 months or so), they receive a final rating and move to either the top shelf (my current favourites) or the bottom shelf (malts I probably won't buy again). The Scapa is a difficult one; I like it a lot, but not quite enough to remove one of my top shelf malts prematurely. For now, it goes on my bottom shelf, replacing the Glen Grant 10. Scapa may move to my top shelf as soon as a spot comes available.
The bottle of Glen Grant 10yo (40%, OB) can easily be replaced at low cost, so after tasting a last dram I used the
remainder of the bottle for one of my 'special blends'. I've found that this is a great value malt that can be used as an affordable base for my 'vatted malts'.
Nose: Nice and sweet; rum and coconuts. Malty. More spirit and citrus later on.
Taste: Sweet and malty with a decent burn. Uncomplicated. Very dry finish.
Rating of 70 points stands - very good value at circa 40 guilders.
Oops - let's not forget I get to open a bottle from my reserve stock. I decided to pick one of the two Glenfiddichs. Let's go for the Glenfiddich 15yo Solera Reserve
(40%, OB). I've had some very pleasurable (but 'unofficial') encounters with the 15 Cask Strength, so I decided to keep that one stocked for a rainy day.
The design of the bottle and label is quite beautiful, actually.
Nose: Rather flat start. Smoky. No sherry apparent at first.
Taste: Not as sweet as I expected at first, but after a few seconds it spreads out with a sweet warmth. White chocolate. Sherry. Good texture, but a tad too dry in the finish.
Preliminary rating: *** (Mid 70's); a lot better than the 'Special Reserve' without an age statement. Incidentally, this last bottling seems to be in the process of being replaced by a 'Special Reserve' with a 12yo age statement in the Dutch market. Have to try that one sometime soon. Based on the name (Solera) I had subconsciously expected a very sherried malt, but this isn't the case. The name 'Solera' indicates the particular production system of this single malt whisky.
So - now you know...
- - -
mAddendum 59A - Replenishing The Shelves
Yesterday, I picked up three bottles at Menno Boorsma. I wasn't bargain hunting this time, so I forgot my usual fl. 100,- limit ( +/- 40 U$ dollars right now) for just this once. I got myself:
I'd like to try them, but all three bottles go into my reserve stock for now.
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