140 - 01/07/2003 - SCOTLAND PILDRAMMAGE 2003 - A report on our adventures in Scotland.
141 - 17/07/2003 - Chieftains & Provenance session at De Still - 3 x Chieftain's & 3 x McGibbon's.
142 - 18/08/2003 - Texel Tasting - Speyside 10yo - Glen Elgin 12yo - Glenlivet 18yo - Balvenie 25yo - ...
143 - 01/09/2003 - Ardbeg 1975 - Glen Mhor 12yo - Glengoyne 21yo - Glen Mhor 22yo - Glen Ord 23yo - ...
144 - 10/09/2003 - Balmenach 11yo - Banff 18yo - Blair Athol 13yo - Longmorn-Glenlivet 1971 - ...
145 - 20/09/2003 - Ardmore 12yo - Aultmore 12yo - Dailuaine 1974 - Longrow 13yo - Tomintoul 16yo - ...
146 - 21/09/2003 - Ardbeg 11yo 1991 - Clynelish 10yo - Clynelish 14yo - Clynelish 18yo - ...
147 - 19/10/2003 - Braes of Glenlivet 12yo - Cragganmore 1976/1993 - Imperial 18yo 1982 - ...
148 - 25/10/2003 - Glen Albyn 22yo - Glenglassaugh 1986/1998 - Glenfarclas 1983/2001 - ...
149 - 31/10/2003 - Ardbeg 1974 Provenance - Bowmore 1965 Full Strength - Lagavulin 23yo Mission - ...

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Log Entry # 140 - July 1, 2003
Topic:  Scotland 2003 Pildrammage

Gloria In Exelcis Deo! I made it back safely from my very first trip to Scotland.
Due to the crash of my hard disk I wasn't able to write a proper report before, but I've finally managed to sort through the huge pile of notes and snapshots. Ah, wonderful memories... Together with malt maniacs Craig, Davin, Krishna and Serge I scoured the Scottish countryside searching for knowledge and whisky.
We did some serious dramming and managed to visit six distilleries in six days;
Aberlour, Benromach, Blair Athol, Edradour, Glenfarclas and Glen Rothes.
Needless to say, we also investigated the whisky shops of Scotland.

CLICK HERE for my full report of the events, including plenty of pictures.
Make sure to check out Serge's website if you like to see some more snapshots.
Davin and Krishna have written E-pistles about our adventures for Malt Maniacs as well.
For your browsing convenience, I've included my own 'Dram Diary' of the trip on this page.
 

Dram Diary 30/05/2003 - 05/06/2003  (New discoveries/scores are printed BOLD.) 

83 - Ardbeg 8yo 1992/2000 (43%, Signatory Vintage)
92 - Ardbeg 24yo 1975/2000 (50%, OMC, 712 bottles)
93 - Ardbeg 27yo 1973/2000 (50%, OMC, 240 bottles)
80 - Ardmore 11yo 1992/2003 (43%, SigV)
77 - Allt A'Bhainne 1989/1999 (50%, Milroys)
77 - Balblair 10yo (40%, G&M, bottled early 1990's)
67 - Balmenach 10yo (43%, Scottish Wildlife)
64 - Banff 18yo 1980 (43%, Chieftains)
80 - Benrinnes 15yo (43%, F&F)
80 - Benromach 18yo (40%, OB, Served at the distillery)
82 - Benromach 1973 (40%, OB, Served at the distillery)
79 - Blair Athol 12yo (43%, Flora & Fauna, Served at the distillery)
78 - Brora 1982/1999 (40%, Connoisseurs Choice)
73 - Bruichladdich 11yo 1986/1998 (46%, Murray McDavid)
83 - Bruichladdich 1983/2001 (46%, OB, Ceramic)
87 - Bunnahabhain 25yo 1964/1990 (46%, Signatory Vintage, D 30/11/1964, B 2/90)
76 - Fettercairn 25yo 1970/1996 (57%, Signatory Vintage, Cask #4709, bottle #114 of 202))
91 - Glendronach 20yo 1970/1990 (56%, SigVint Selection, Casks #513-518, D 2/70, B 7/90)
80 - Glenfarclas NAS 105 (60%, OB)
82 - Glenfarclas 21yo (43%, OB)
88 - Glenfarclas 22yo Millennium Malt (43%, OB, Bottled 2000)
85 - Glenfarclas 25yo (43%, OB)
86 - Glenfarclas 30yo (43%, OB)
75 - Glen Garioch 12yo 'National Trust' (43%, OB)
68 - Glenlossie 10yo 1989 (43%, McGibbon's Provenance)
79 - Glenrothes 1989/2000 (43%, OB)
80 - Glenrothes 1979/2002 (43%, OB)
D  - Glenrothes 1973/2000 (43%, OB)
90 - Lagavulin 12yo Cask Strength 2002 Release (58%, OB)
82 - Linlithgow 1982/2000 (61.6%, Scott's Selection)
65 - Lochside 10yo (40%, MacNab)
87 - Macallan 18yo 1976/1995 (43%, OB)
87 - Rosebank 20yo 1979/1999 (60.3%, UDRM)
79 - Springbank NAS 'Visitor Bottling 2003' (no ABV, OB, Bottled for Distillery Visitors 2003)
82 - Talisker 8yo 1988/1996 (45%, Milroy)
70 - Teaninich 1982/2001 (40%, Connoisseur's Choice)
84 - Tomatin 21yo (43%, Culinara)
84 - Tomintoul-Glenlivet 30yo 1966/1996 (52.7%, Signatory)

We sampled plenty of 'other' whiskies as well - meaning non-Scottisch malt whiskies and a grain whisky.

85 - Garnheath 1969/1995 (47%, Private bottling, single grain whisky from Moffat distillery)
67 - Great Outback NAS (40%, OB, single malt produced and bottled in Australia)
65 - Lammerlaw 12yo C/S (50.5%, OB, single malt produced and bottled in Australia)
F   - McDowell's NAS Single Malt Whisky (42.8%, OB, produced and bottled in India)
80 - Nikka White NAS (43%, OB, bottled in Japan, rumoured to be a vatting of Islay and Japanese whiskies)
69 - Sullivan's Cove 2yo (40%, OB, single malt produced and bottled in Tasmania)

That means I can add no less than 20 new Scotch single malts to my Track Record. The same goes for the 5 exotic single malts from Australia, Tasmania and India, bringing me up to a grand total of 414 sampled single malts. What's more, all these Scotch single malts have now been sampled by at least three or four other maniacs.
That means they have made it on the
Malt Maniacs Matrix.

 

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Log Entry # 141 - July 17, 2003
Topic:  Provenance / Chieftains Tasting at De Still

This is just a very quick and dirty report of a tasting session in De Still.
The session was hosted by Hans Bresser, who has been the Dutch importer for Ian Mcleod's 'Chieftain's' range for a few years now. The 'McGibbon's Provenance' range from Douglas Laing has recently been added to his portfolio. It's nice to see an old army buddy of mine involved in bringing malts to the masses. I had a relatively bad nose day, but I decided I felt confident enough to use final scores for tonight.

We started off with a Rosebank 11yo 1991/2002 (43%, Chieftain's).
This bottling was 'finished' in sherry casks for one year before being bottled in June 2002. That's reason for some healthy skepticism right from the start - these days 'special' finishes from independent bottlers sometimes feel like a desperate attempt to 'rescue' a cask that might have otherwise been unfit for bottling.
Nose: Soft and floral. A little honey - nectar maybe. Sour notes as well. Slightly flat.
After a minute harsher, more spirity elements take over. I'm not having much fun here.
Taste: Sharp bite. Bitter. Not unlike wodka. No substance. Absolutely forgettable.
Score: 63 points. Below par, I'm afraid. It's not bad whisky, but it lacks personality.

I didn't get the chance to pick up the details about age and vintage about the next dram on the table; a Highland Park bottling in the McGibbon's Provenance series. Without these details it's no use adding the tasting notes to this report, so I'll just move right along to our next candidate; the Mortlach 11yo 1991/2002 (43%, McGibbon's Provenance). This bottling comes from sherry cask #5222, was distilled in the summer of 1991 and bottled in the summer of 2002. Things should start to light up now - I never tried a bad Mortlach.
Nose: Lots of 'real' sherry. Slightly oily. Sulphur. Ammonia. Dies after a few minutes.
Taste: Not as sherried as the nose. Malty. Dry. MOTR. Pleasant but unremarkable.
Score: 72 points. Hardly what you'd expect from a sherry casked Mortlach.

We proceeded with the Macallan 11yo 1990/2002 (43%, McGibbon's Provenance) - one of the very few independent bottlings of Macallan I've encountered so far. This bottling was matured in a sherry cask. Well; if Macallan is prepared to sell a sherry cask there must be something wrong, don't you think?
Nose: Oily. Soft sherry. Spicy. Quite a sting, but not bad at all, actually.
Taste: Not as woody as most OB's, but quite bitter. Pretty short finish.
Score: 75 points. Not bad, but why not spend a little more on the 10yo Cask Strength OB? That'll really knock you off your socks, while this bottling merely provokes indifference. As a Macallan it doesn't make the grade and as a single malt whisky it's just 'average'. Obviously, it still beats most blends with a stick!

Now it was time to bring out the 'big guns'.
The Caol Ila 12yo 1990/2002 Rum Finish (43%, Chieftain's) was distilled in July 1990 and bottled in October 2002 - a 'sequel' after the succes of the previous batch that was bottled in 2001. According to Hans Bresser, they produced this one in an unusually large batch. Why change a winning formula, right?
Nose: Ammoniac, iodine and brine - but slightly restrained. Where's the rum influence?
Taste: Dry start with iodine develops into a smooth center. Bitter finish. Can't find the rum.
Score: 79 points. Nothing wrong here, but once again there are many better alternatives.

The last dram of the evening, the Glencadam 16yo 1985/2001 (43%, Chieftain's, D April 1985, B June 2001, casks #2689/2691,  1170 bottles) was a favourite of Hans Bresser. When I checked my notes I saw I had tried it twice before; in November 2002 (see log entry 127) and on the night before I left for Scotland (see log entry 139). It scored 77 points on both occasions.
Nose: Refined and smooth. Coconut. Liquorice all sorts. Spicy. Organics. Hint of oil.
Taste: Soft and smooth start. Honey. Woody and a little sour. Tannins in the finish
Score: 77 points seems about right, although I was tempted to go a little higher this time.

So, any conclusions?
Well, like I said - I was suffering from a relatively bad nose day. That means I can't be too harsh in my judgement. That being said, none of these drams managed to really excite me. The Caol Ila and Glencadam in the Chieftain's range were slightly better than average but the Rosebank didn't hit the mark. Granted, none of the young Rosebanks I sampled before scored above average, but this one was definitely sub-standard in my book. Some more time in the cask might have served it well. Hans told us that Macleod's Chieftain's range has a relatively short history - it was introduced just a few years ago at the request of French customers. That means they can't rely on large stocks like (for example) Gordon & MacPhail. Maybe that means that the bottlings Ian Macleod is releasing these days come from casks that were rejected by the distillery? In the past 'inferior' casks (a relative term, of course) often found their way into blends, but with the growing demand for independent bottlings it seems quite a few sub-standard (or, let's say 'deviant') casks are bottled as single malts.

I wasn't very excited by Ian Macleod's Chieftain's range, but on average tonight's selection performed better than the three bottlings in Douglas Laing's McGibbon's Provenance series. Considering the pedigree of these bottles (Highland Park, Mortlach & Macallan) I was expecting much more than I actually got. Maybe I was just too focused on finding the 'official' distillery character, I don't know. The prices of these McGibbon's bottlings are usually very friendly but I'd have to say it's often worth to pay a little extra for an OB or a bottling in the OMC range - I haven't had a bad one yet. Of course, the introduction of Douglas Laing's new 'Platinum' series could mean the really good casks disappear from this OMC range in the future.

And that's it from me for now - sweet drams and goodnight...
 

Dram Diary 17/07/2003  (New discoveries are printed BOLD.) 

79 - Caol Ila 12yo 1990/2002 Rum Finish (43%, Chieftain's)
77 - Glencadam 16yo 1985/2001 (43%, Chieftain's, Casks #2689/2691)
75 - Macallan 11yo 1990/2002 (43%, McGibbon's Provenance)
72 - Mortlach 11yo 1991/2002 (43%, McGibbon's Provenance)
63 - Rosebank 11yo 1991/2002 Sherry Finish (43%, Chieftain's)

Except for the Glencadam all bottlings were fresh discoveries.
That means there are now exactly 418 single malt whiskies on my
Track Record.

 

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Log Entry # 142  -  August 18, 2003
Topic:  Texel Tasting

It seems I'm becoming a drunk with a reputation...
Because I've been telling tall stories on the web for quite some time now, I receive more and more invitations to show my face at presentations and tasting sessions. You'd be surprised to know how often I respectfully decline, however tempting the chance of free boozing may sound. Undoubtedly you've run across one of my lamentations about my 'Bad Nose Days' by now, so you know I'm often 'nasally handicapped'. That means I never know if I'm going to be able to produce any significant notes on the event.
Most of the time I just sit on the couch waiting for a good nose day to come by...

But every now and then I get the urge to escape my mundane and meaningless existence - if only for a day. And it was during one of those urges that I received an invitation to join the panel for a nosing & tasting session organised by a new Dutch whisky magazine called 'Whisky Etc.' The other people on the panel were Wouter Wapenaar (Publisher of Whisky Etc. and organiser of the The Hague Whisky Festival), Jaap Vissering (Editor of Whisky Etc.), Thom Olink (Travel writer and editor of Whisky Etc.), Maarten Willems (Dutch spirits writer), Ad de Koning (president Dutch SSMW Society), Willem Ham (host of restaurant/whisky-bar 'Het Kompas' on Texel) and Wullie Macmorland (Chef-Patron of restaurant/whisky-bar 'Hielander' in Alkmaar).

Het Kompas, the location for the event, is located on Texel, an island off the North coast of Holland. The only way to get there is by ferry - unless you fancy a brisk swim, of course. Actually, Holland has been suffering from the worst heatwave in decades, so when I was standing on the shore looking over the water that didn't seem like such a bad idea at all. But sensibility took over and I decided to take the boat - after stopping over at a small restaurant in Den Helder for some fish soup and oysters. It wasn't a purely recreational visit, mind you - I had to lay a solid foundation for the upcoming liquid line-up. The oysters were among the best I ever tried, so I ordered myself a second helping. I had lots of fun but as I result of my copious brunch I missed the ferry, which meant I had to wait an hour for the next boat - not as much fun as it sounds amidst the unwashed hordes of tourists traveling to the islands for the summer.

I managed to get on the next ferry and arrived on Texel without further delays. I actually could have made it to the restaurant just in time if I hadn't panicked - but I did. Already running late, I managed to get on the wrong bus on an island with only three busses. Realising my mistake after a few kilometers, I had to get off the bus in the middle of nowhere and make my way to the village 'Den Hoorn' by foot. Ordinarily this would have been no punishment at all - the island is quite beautiful. However, I couldn't afford to maintain a leasurely pace and it was 13:00 PM with temperatures of more than 30 degrees in the shadow.
Hardly ideal walking conditions, I think you'll agree...

Fortunately Texel isn't very large, so I arrived
only 'fashionably' late at restaurant Het Kompas.
Most of the other members of the tasting panel
were already present, but we had to wait for the
photographer before we could open the bottles.
Everybody present showed remarkable restraint,
in this matter, but things were helped a lot by
the wonderful hospitality of Willem Ham and his
wife Els Veeger who served us plenty of the
local specialties of the island. Texel is famous
for its sheep cheeses produced at the local
farms. Even if you're not a 'cheesy' person
you would have loved some of the delicacies
we enjoyed - from creamy and almost sweet
young cheeses to spicy, salty ancient ones.
Lovely, lovely, lovely....

While we waited for the photographer we had
the time to get to know eachoter a little better.
Willem told me Het Kompas is mentioned in the
Guiness Book of Records as the bar with the
largest whisky collection in the world. After
Willem showed me the seperate stock room
I could certainly believe it - literally hundreds
and hundreds of bottles smiled at me, some of
them extremely rare, some of them priceless.

Anyway, when the photographer arrived around 16:00 PM it was time to start the proper tasting session. Because the 'official' report of the session will be published in 'Whisky Etc' later, I won't write about the actual events and conclusions of the entire panel; I will just list my own tasting notes and scores.
We sampled seven different single malts;

Malt #1: Speyside 10yo (40%, OB). This 'Speyside' single malt was introduced recently as an 'upwards' extention to the Drumguish NAS. Well, from Drumguish there's not really any other way than up...
Nose: Malty and grainy. Some sweetness after a minute. Faint hint of orange skin.
I have to say that this is pretty much devoid of character - could have been a blend.
Maybe a fain hint of apple afer adding some water, but it still said 'blend' to me. No depth.
Taste: Flat and bitter. Quite harsh. No body, complexity and/or development. A big bummer.
Score: 53 points . I liked the old Glentromie 12yo better - and I didn't like that one very much...

Malt #2: Glenlivet 18yo (43%, OB). I've sampled a batch of this 18yo Glenlivet that was bottled around 1999. That batch scored 79 points - not bad at all, but its 21yo brother did notacibly better with 83 points.
Nose: Polished. Tangerines and fruit sweets. Fruitier with time. Peppery prickle.
Faint organics. Pleasant, but not quite as 'profound' as I expect from a 18yo single malt.
Taste: Malty, turning slightly astringent towards the center. Not a lot of power at first.
Slightly gritty on the palate - not as smooth as other Glenlivets I've tried. A bit MOTR.
Score: 77 points . I've never tasted a bad Glenlivet and I still haven't. But is this the best they can do after eighteen years in the cask? Is Glenlivet going the way of Glenfiddich? Blander and 'blendier' single malts?

Malt #3: Springbank 15yo (46%, OB). Ah, it's time for a more 'high profile malt. Springbank has many avid fans, but most of the bottlings I've tried so far (the Springer 21yo excepted) didn't live up to their reputation.
Nose: Pleasantly candy sweetness with fruits and some of the trademark Springer coconut.
Some sherry, but not a lot. Slightly nutty. It grows spicier over time, but more spirity as well.
Taste: Not very smooth. Sweet and quite fruity. Sherry. I even imagined I found a hint of peat.
Score: 79 points. That's the same score I gave to my big bottle, so this could very well be from the same batch. Not a bad score, but the results of the Springbank JOLT in September 2002 proved that the Springbank 15yo that was around a few years ago was in a different class altogether. (See log entry #124 for more...)

Malt #4: Glen Elgin 12yo (43%, OB). This is a brand new official bottling of Glen Elgin - I'm not sure if it's a replacement for the stocky NAS 'White Horse' bottling or an extention of the range. Let's see how it does...
Nose: Not a lot of character - malty and quite fruity. Opens up a little after 10 minutes.
Taste: Smooth but very restrained. If you like your malts neutral, this is your thing.
Score: 61 points . I may have underscored it a bit because the Glen Elgin followed the relatively expressive Springbank. It's certainly not a bad whisky, but I like my malts to show some personality.

Malt #5: Balvenie 25yo 1974/2000 Single Barrel (46.9%, OB). This bottling was distilled on 12/11/1974, matured in cask #15208 and bottled in 28/11/2000. With the exception of the 17yo 'Islay Cask', all the Balvenies I've tried so far have scored in the eighties. That means this 25yo has a big reputation to live up to.
Nose: Ah, a wonderful perspective - very subtle. Sweet with late fruits and chocolate.
Great composition; balanced without supressing any of the individual elements. A beauty
Taste: Very soft and accessible. Extremely fruity - maybe a tad too much so. Long finish.
Score: 84 points. This is the oldest Balvenie I've tried so far and I wasn't disappointed. Nevertheless, I have to admit I personally prefer the 21yo Port Wood Finish on account of it having slightly more personality.

Malt #6: Glenfiddich 12yo 'Caoran' (40%, OB). Big Fiddich jumps on the Islay bandwagon. I spotted this bottle in the UK two months ago, shortly after it was released. After my experiences with the Balvenie 17yo Islay Cask (Balvenie is also owned by Glenfiddich) I was slightly suspicious, so I kept my money in my pocket.
Nose: Grainy and a bit sweetish - sweeter than the latest 'standard' 12yo I tried. Prickly.
There was a very faint hint of peat, but it didn't seem to fit very well with the other elements.
Taste: Prickly and a little bit flat. Grainy. Doesn't have a lot of body or character. No peat.
Score: 63 points . If peat is what you're looking for, you're better off with the Black Bottle, or...

Malt #7: Connemara NAS (40%, OB, Batch L2177). This Irish whiskey has been one of my favourite 'low budget' malts for years - I'm very curious about the 12yo version that will be launched soon.
Nose: Smoky and fruity (apple and melon). Smoked eel? Potent, but needs a few minutes to open up.
A bit like beer - or maybe cider or calvados? Then more fruits and stronger organics. Sea spray.
Taste: Gritty, bitter start grows smoother and sweeter. Some smoke. Nice, but lacks body.
Score: 77 points. I've sampled four different batches so far and all scored between 75 and 80 points - meaning that none of these bottles rated below average. At a price of +/- 25 Euro's that's not bad. The NAS cask strength version I discovered a while ago is quite a bit pricier, but worth the difference - at least once.

And that pretty much concludes my report for now.
My personal favourite of the afternoon? The Balvenie, obviously.
But did the other members of the panel agree - and how did they rate it?
I won't tell - you should be able to read further details in 'Whisky Etc.' soon.
 

Dram Diary 18/08/2003  (New discoveries are printed BOLD.) 

84 - Balvenie 25yo 1974/2000 Single Barrel (46.9%, OB, Cask #15208)
77 - Connemara NAS (40%, OB, Batch L2177, Bottled +/- 2002)
61 - Glen Elgin 12yo (43%, OB, Bottled 2003)
63 - Glenfiddich 12yo 'Caoran' (40%, OB, Bottled +/- 2003)
77 - Glenlivet 18yo (43%, OB, Bottled +/- 2002, dark label)
53 - Speyside 10yo (40%, OB, Bottled +/- 2003)
79 - Springbank 15yo (46%, OB)

Six out of these seven single malts were either unknown bottlings (Balvenie, Glen Elgin, Glenfiddich and Speyside) or new batches of familiar friends (Connemara and Glenlivet). I'm not sure about the Springbank so I'll ignore that bottling.
This puts the number of malts on my
Track Record at a nice and round 424. Hurray!

 

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Log Entry # 143  -  September 1, 2003
Topic:  Going For Glens

Wow! We've finally seen the end of an historic heatwave here in Holland.
This summer also brought the worst drought in recorded history and the water authorities even had to reverse the flow of some rivers and let in sea water to prevent half of Holland from sinking even further below sea level. Such extreme conditions proved hardly ideal for serious dramming, so the chaos on my shelves is even bigger than before I left to Scotland. Although the weather is still not ideal for dramming, I desperately have to get rid of some of the bottles and samples on my shelves. Here's a short and sweet report about part 1 of my shelf cleansing operation. I had finished the 'Glen' session on May 29 before sampling every Glen on the table, so I started this session with some more Glens in my collection - mostly older bottles this time.
I know it's not much of a 'theme', but I have to deal with my 'traffic' problems right now.

I started with a sample bottle I had opened more than three months ago, the Glenfarclas 22yo Millennium Malt (43%, OB). Craig sent it over from Australia as a blind sample and I fell in love with it right away. I got to sample it again during our Scotland trip and all the other maniacs loved it too - although Craig and Krishna preferred the 30yo OB. Let's protect the last dram in the bottle from oxygen by hiding it in my stomach.
Nose: Sherried with wonderful sweet and organic overtones. Fruity episodes. Great composition.
Toffee. Cookies. Wood. Something faintly oily - not enough to become disturbing. Quite gentle.
Very mature, although it has some fresh, minty moments as well. I imagine some oxidation took place.
Taste: Ooofff... Starts of sweet and smooth, but grows very, very sherried quicky. Big power.
Minty freshness, but hot as well. The wood seems more dominant than last time. Sour finish.
It seems the breathing in the bottle has definitely influenced the palate - and not for the better.
Score: I'll stick with 88 points - still the best Glenfarclas I've tried so far. Great find, Craig!

Another 'Glen' I received from our Aussie Craig was the Glengoyne 21yo (43%, OB).
Nose: Malty. Sweetish. Something prickly. Faint hint of string beans? Yeast? Not much else at first.
Then some very faint fruity notes emerge. Furniture polish? Organics? Too subtle for me, maybe?
After about 5 minutes the nose seemed to desintegrate, becoming oilier and more herbal.
Taste: Velvety smooth. Bittersweet. Malty. Fresher and sweeter in the centre. Great balance.
Good burn. Fruitier (raisins) after a while, growing a tad sour and bitter towards the finish.
Score: 80 points . The taste is very, very easy on the tongue, but the nose fails to impress me.

And now things are getting even more interesting.
When I spotted a dusty bottle of Glen Mhor 12yo (40%, G&M) at Ton Overmars over a year ago I picked it up on sight. It looks like one of these semi-official bottlings Gordon & MacPhail produces for some distilleries and the corny design of the label suggests this bottle was produced somewhere in the eighties. But it's a 70cl bottle, which means it was probably bottled after 1992. Given the fact that the Glen Mhor distillery closed in 1983 (and assuming the whisky is indeed twelve years old) I'm guessing this one must have been bottled between 1992 and 1996. It's the only bottle of Glen Mhor in my reserve stock and I have no particular attachment to it. Serge valentin sent me a sample of the Glen Mhor 22yo 1979/2001 (61%, UDRM) a while ago, which offered me an unique opportunity to compare my G&M bottling with an older, cask strength version.

So, in spite of my traffic problems I decided to unscrew the cap...
Nose: Rich and malty. Alcoholic - seems more powerful than 40%. Fruitier after a minute. Spices?
A distant hint of rancid butter? This is a very decent malt, but not 'pronounced' enough for me.
The same 'problem' as many old G&M bottles: nothing to offend anyone, but a little dull as well.
But wait - a deep toffee sweetness that emerges after fifteen minutes lifts it above 'average'.
Dust? More spices and fruits after five more minutes. The nose grows better and better with time..
Taste: Smooth and a little bittler in the start. Malty, sweeter center. Long, hot finish.
A tad thin. Once again not a lot of individuality, but there's certainly nothing wrong here.
Score: 78 points . Right after opening the bottle, the Glen Mhor 12 performed a little above average. Especially after it had the chance to breathe for a while it kept improving. Let's see how it does in a few months time.

And now it's time for an interesting experiment.
Serge Valentin sent me two 125ml samples of the Glen Mhor 22yo 1979/2001 (61%, UDRM). One sample was sent to me 'blind' and was opened a few months ago. As you can read in my 'Blind Ambition' E-pistle the results were mixed. I couldn't decide on a 'final' rating because I loved it one day and hated it the next. On a good nose day I loved it for its nose, but on a bad nose day I had to pull my pleasure from the palate. Today my nose seems to be in good shape, so this is a great opportunity to figure out a final score for the Glen Mhor.
What's more, the 'blind' sample is nearly empty and the disclosed sample is nearly full.
This allows me to compare them and see if oxidation plays an important role.

Glen Mhor 22yo / Blind sample (opened +/- 6 months ago, nearly empty):
Nose: Very spicy compared to the 12yo. Deep, dry sherry elements. Banana. Great complexity.
Some liquorice. Sherry. With a dash of water it became smoother - after an alcoholic explosion. 
Taste: Very hot and powerful at C/S. Sour and woody. Not really drinkable.
Becomes very gritty with some water, but sweetens out after a minute.
With some more water it grows smoother and fruitier. Long, hot finish.
Score: 84 points. This one really didn't agree with me during the first few encounters, but after some breathing the nose has really grown on me. One a good nose day this does quite well.

Glen Mhor 22yo / Disclosed sample (unopened, nearly full):
Nose: Starts MUCH more restrained than the 'oxidised' sample. Not very pronounced at all.
Faint sweetness & soft spices. Some saltiness? Much more powerful after a few minutes.
Ah, wait - now the spices emerge. Some smoke? Pine? Paint thinner. Something nutty?
Melon? The sherry component seems much more obvious here, and it's not as sweet.
Taste: Very similar to the blind sample, but with a smokier finish. Seems rougher.
Score: 77 points. Yeah, that's right. This one really needs to breathe a little, I think.

This was the situation for the first few minutes. After +/- five minutes most of the differences disappeared, so I could come up with my 'final' tasting notes and score for the the Glen Mhor 22yo 1979/2001 (61%, UDRM).
Nose: Spicy. Sherry and furtniture polish. Fruity - a little fresher in the new sample. Organics.
Great nose. Plenty of power. Paint Thinner. The family resemblance with the 12yo is obvious.
Taste: Sweet, smooth & strong. Heavy fruits. Sweet liquorice. Smoky, woody finish.
Nice, but nothing really special. Just like the nose, it's a little too 'alcoholic' for my tastes.
Score: 80 points. This bottling shows notable improvement if you give it some time to breathe. After maybe 15 minutes where both malts seemed nearly identical they drifted apart again. The fresh sample deteriorated, showing unpleasant soap in the nose and vomit on the palate. Beer? Sour, woody finish. Strange...

So, any conclusions? Well - just a few 'observations' so far.
American malt maniac Louis Perlman has been advocating the blessings of breathing for many years now and in the case of this Glen Mhor I'd say it certainly seems to benefit from 'breaking in' - i.e. breathing in the bottle. Based on my experiences so far, this goes for most bottles. Never judge a bottle by its first dram, but give it another go in a few more weeks - or even months. But beware, because not all malts change for the better! Most bottles I had on my shelves performed as well as could be expected for a year or more, but others started to deteriorate within six months. One thing is certain: Once the level in a bottle has dropped to 1/3, polish it off quickly. Otherwise, you may be in for a nasty surprise.

OK, enough digressions - let's get on with the tasting report. I finished the 'Glen' part of this sampling session with the Glen Ord 23yo 1974/1998 (60.8%, UDRM, bottle #6683). The bottle was opened a few months ago to draw some samples for our second 'Pandora' blind tasting. Time to give it another go.
Nose: Flat and superficial at first. Alcoholic. Woody. Resin? Then some fruits appear.
It slowly grows more interesting with spices and maybe even some pepper.
Faint organics. Dryish. Odd fragrances keep popping in and out of the picture.
Taste: Undiluted, it seems rough and a little gritty. Wood - but not very good wood.
The finish is very sour and winey - hardly the profile of a top notch single malt.
Score: 80 points - down from 81. No top malt but the nose becomes quite entertaining over time. It seems some crappy casks made it into the vatting - I think a 23yo cask strength malt should do better than this.

Hmmm....It's only 11:15 PM and I'm not really tired just yet.
Well, the weather isn't ideal for it, but after the cask strength mayhem of the UDRM bottles anything less than an Islay malt would be disappointing. And what would be even better than an Islay malt? Two Islay malts! I've tasted samples of two different bottlings of the Ardbeg 1975 (43%, OB) - a 1998 bottling sent to me from Sweden and a 2000 bottling sent to me from France. But it proved to be a tricky malt to pin down, and so far I've only managed to come up with 'indicative scores. Fortunately, I ran into Ardbeg freak Niels a few weeks ago in De Still. He has a massive Ardbeg collection and he was prepared to do some sample swapping. With two fresh 5cl sampled I was able to give both batches another go and come up with 'final' ratings. The nose of the 2000 took a little more time to open up, but expressed the same lovely leathery and organic notes of the 1998. The 1998 had a tad more peat, but none of them are peat monsters. The profile of the nose of the 2000 is quite similar to that of the 17yo - a sherried (almost fruity) sweetness offering a counterpoint to the Islay, but the taste seems more powerful. The peat and salt in the 1998 is slightly more obvious - both are a tad woody.
Both bottlings would have made it into the 90's if it wasn't for their overly woody finish.
The 1998 bottling gets 89 points, its 2000 successor receives 88 points.
Please see the Ardbeg Distillery Profile for the full tasting notes.

And that's it for this session - I just realised that I forgot to have dinner tonight, so those last two drams really hit the spot. I'd better get some sleep so I can do some serious work on reconstructing the site tomorrow.

Sweet drams!
 

Dram Diary 01/09/2003  (New discoveries/scores are printed BOLD.) 

89 - Ardbeg 1975/1998 (43%, OB)
88 - Ardbeg 1975/2000 (43%, OB)
88 - Glenfarclas 22yo 'Millennium Malt (43%, OB, Bottled +/- 2000)
80 - Glengoyne 21yo (43%, OB)
78 - Glen Mhor 12yo (40%, G&M, Bottled early 1990's)
80 - Glen Mhor 22yo 1979/2001 (61%, UDRM)
80 - Glen Ord 23yo 1974/1998 (60.8%, UDRM)

Only two fresh discoveries tonight - but six brand new scores. There are now 426 malts on my Track Record.
And because 221 of those are listed on the
Malt Maniacs Matrix as well, you'll be able to see a few 'second opinions' on more than half of the single malt whiskies in my little black book. Make sure to check out the opinion of a few other people!

 

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Log Entry # 144  -  September 10, 2003
Topic:  Shelf Cleansing Operation - Part 1

Like Mark Davidson already told us in Edinburgh, a new Cadenhead's store was opened in Amsterdam recently. That's great news, because these bottlings have been almost impossible to find in Holland for a long time now. Many of the Cadenhead bottlings on my Track Record were sampled at De Still and bottled in the early 1990's. These bottles had been opened many years ago and I often got the last dram in the bottle. I've only recently started to worry seriously about oxidation, but looking at the generally low scores for these old Cadenhead bottlings, I should have done so sooner. (Fortunately the new landlords at De Still have promised to get rid of their ancient bottles soon and stick to a smaller but fresher collection in the future.) The new Cadenhead's store in town allows me - finances permitting - to give Cadenhead's a few more chances on my Track Record.

Today, I finally found the time to drop by the new store and was surprised by the friendly reception by proprietor Andries Visser. Maybe the fact that I wore the official Malt Madness T-shirt helped a bit, because I wasn't my cheerful self when I was rummaging around the shelves looking for bargains. I had just worked all through the night to finish an assignment and I was on my way to another client (a fellow whisky lover) to discuss a web project I thought I had very little chance of getting my hands on. With my mind on my precarious finances, I just wandered around the roomy store aimlessly for a bit. There was plenty of interesting stuff to choose from, but because I'll get to work on the profiles of the 'B' distilleries soon I finally decided on a Blair Athol and a Braes of Glenlivet.

After I paid for my bottles, Andries invited me for a little tasting in the back.
Because the client I was going to see later was a fellow whisky lover I figured he wouldn't mind to much if I arrived a little late smelling of whisky - if anyone can understand that it's just plain impolite to refuse a free dram it would be a fellow whisky lover, right? We were joined in the back by Wally The Collector and Andries poured us our first dram, a Cadenhead's #3 Bond (53.3%, vatted malt). You might think this comes from the cask you can (apparently) find in every Cadenhead's store, but it's actually bottled in Scotland.
Nose: Soft and creamy like a young Springbank. A real summertime whisky.
Taste: Smooth but slightly bitter. Pleasant but not expressive enough for me.
Score: E. I'm not used to daytime dramming and I didn't bring my big glasses.
Whiskies that are this subtle have a hard time registering on my malt-o-meter.
Oh wait - now I see on the label that it's indeed a Campbeltown vatting.
Well, it must be a yung'un - inoffensive because it hasn't hit puberty yet...

Andries must have noticed the poorly disguised flash of disappointment that clouded my face for a moment, because things became more interesting quickly. He proposed a H2H session of the standard Old Pulteney 12yo (43 %, OB) against an independent sibling, the Pulteney 12yo 1990/2002 (62.1%, Cadenhead's, 234 bottles).
Nose: Sweet and creamy. Malty. Organics and spices after a minute. Nutmeg? Hint of peat?
Over time it grows spicier and spicier with strong organics. Girlie sweat - in a nice way.
Taste: Smooth and sweet, followed by a big burn. Creamy. Great structure.
Hardly feels like a cask strength malt, actually. Remains sweet throughout.
Score: 82 points. Yes, this is certainly reccommendable - I was even leaning towards 83 points. And at this strength , the pricetag of 54 Euro's means it offers better value than the 12yo official bottling in my book.
This is proof that Pulteney can run with the pack - and that Cadenhead's bottles a mean cask.

The OB smelled more 'veggy' in comparison. String beans? Haricots Vert? Not as spicy.
The palate of the OB was flat and gritty in comparison. Not as smooth, a bit fragmented.
When I last tried the OB it scored 79 points, but this time it would be 75 at best.

While we were dramming we were shooting the breeze and discussed a wide variety of topics. Wally thought that me and the other maniacs were crazy for revealing our favourite bottlings to 'the public'. He argued that the laws of supply and demand dictate that, if enough people heed our advice, the prices of our favourite malts might rise in the future. Well, if I'm not mistaken that may have already happened with one of own my favourite bottles, the Saint Magdalene 19yo 1979 UDRM. I was pleased to hear Andries and Wally confirm my own suspicions: this is probably the very best Saint Magdalene / Linlithgow bottling ever released, so investing a lot of money in other expressions might not be such a great idea.
OK, that seems to be a wallet-friendly piece of info.
Wally also presented an interesting theory. He claimed that ever since WWII, the very best batches of whisky are shipped to 'dollar countries' - i.e. the USA. The second best material is reserved for the rest of the world. Well, that seems to make sense for the first few decades after the war when the dollar was the key currency in the world. But wouldn't recent econimical developments like the introduction of the Euro have affected this practice, if it ever existed? Recent smashers like the Macallan 10yo C/S and Laphroaig 10yo C/S have been available in Europe for at least a year now but haven't made it to the US yet.
I'll have to feel up my whisky contacts about this....

Anyway, our last dram together proved to be the absolute highlight of the afternoon.
Wally pulled out a Longmorn-Glenlivet 1971/1999 (57.8%, Scott's selection) from the back.
Nose: Fruits. Sherry - great sherry. Salt. Liquorice. Spices. Laurel? Tobacco. Smoke. Butter.
Absolutely fabulous. Heavy wood. A real sherry monster that beats any Macallan I've tried so far.
Taste: Full. Heavily sherried. A tad woody - wet oak. Some tannins in then finish.
Not as great as the nose, but that always seems to be a trade-off in these old malts.
Score: 92 points . Stunning. A fabulous sherry monster with plenty of spunk and personality.

I was already late for another appointment that afternoon and after three generous drams I thought it would be wise to get back to business - but they wouldn't let me leave. Wally insisted I had a sniff of an empty bottle of Bowmore Claret. Wow! Ever since my disastrous encounter with the Bowmore Darkest I've crossed Bowmore off my christmas list, but this bouquet was magnificent. Hmmm... Maybe I shouldn't write off Bowmore just yet?
It was well over an hour later when I finally managed to escape the clutches of Andries and Wally, but only after making arrangements for another sampling session later this year. I arrived fashionably late at my business appointment, which was promptly forgiven as soon as my client Peter spotted the brown paper bag in my hands. To my own surprise, we closed the deal in half an hour - allowing me to open my fresh acquisitions right there in Peter's office to celebrate my new assignment. Peter only had some small snifters in his office, so these primary results (from freshly opened bottles too boot) shouldn't be taken too seriously.

First, we opened the Blair Athol 13yo 1989/2002 (58.8%, Cadenhead's, Bourbon Hogshead, 240 bottles, bottled June 2002). After visiting the distillery this summer and trying the semi-official Flora & Fauna 12yo again, I was eager to sample another version. An earlier 11yo 1989/2000 bottling (58.1%, also bottled by Cadenhead from a bourbon hogshead) scored 82 points, so with some luck we could have another winner here.
Nose: Sweet and spicy at first. Honey sweetness. Very pleasant, but not a lot of depth.
Diluted to +/- 55% it became dustier with more spirity elements. Light organics. Androgynous.
Taste: Straight, it's sweetish with a faint coffee sensation. Greasy finish - like oatmeal?
Easily drinkable at C/S. Pleasant mouth feel. With some water it became a little smoother.
Score: 75 points for now - but I wouldn't be surprised if it improves after some breathing.

My other purchase was the Braes of Glenlivet 12yo 1989/2001 (62.1%, Cadenhead's, Bourbon Hogshead, 294 bottles, bottled July 2001). Based on earlier experiences with Braeval, I was having high hopes for this bottling.
Nose: Very rich and expressive. Lots of power. Horse sweat. Organics. Oriental spices.
Smoked ham. Liquorice. Fruit sweets. Faint citrus? Cinnamon. Not unlike an old rhum.
Quite alcoholic. With a dash of water it showed some flowery elements as well.
Taste: Fruity and a little smoky at C/S. Sweet. Quite hot in the centre. Great structure.
Diluted to a strength of +/- 50% it appeared more woody. I like this one best at c/s.
Score: 82 points - and it could even go up quite a bit after the bottle has broken in.

After sealing our deal in such stylish fashion, it was time for me to return home. I can tell you I felt slightly under the influence with six drams under my belt before 18:00 PM. In my delusional state I forgot all about my traffic problems and opened the Balmenach 11yo 1990/2001 (43%, Chieftain's, Casks 5414-5417, 1800 bottles, bottled September 1990, distilled December 2001) from my reserve stock. Under 'wood type' the label says 'hogshead'. Well, that information is hardly useful, is it? Hogsheads are usually sherry casks but then why didn't they print 'Sherry' instead? Could this mean it's a vatting of bourbon and sherry casks?
Nose: Restrained. Polished and quite fruity. Chloride. Dusty. Pleasant but superficial.
Organics. If I'm not mistaking, there must be one or more sherry casks in this vatting.
Taste: Smooth start. Opens up quite nicely into a fruity center. Not very sweet though.
Pleasant mouth feel. It grows sweeter, although it's a tad woody in the finish. Dry.
Score: 79 points. This one shows great potential. Some breathing might push it over 80.

Suddenly I remembered my traffic problems, so I turned my attention to the open bottles and samples on my shelves. I opened the bottle of Banff 18yo 1980 (43%, Chieftain's Choice) on Walpurgisnacht 2002 and didn't like my first dram very much - hence the score of 64 points. After this initial disappointment I didn't touch the bottle for over a year, until it was time to select some samples to bring to Scotland with me. Since this Speyside distillery was demolished in 1983 and bottlings are hard to find, I decided it might be interesting for the other maniacs. Well, not just that - as it turns out they all liked it and scored it somewhere in the lower 80's!
Well, that's odd - reason enough to give my bottle one final, serious inspection tonight.
Nose: Smooth and veggy, quickly growing stronger and more spirity. Some smoke.
Faint oil? Flowery. Spicy. Some light fruits. Melon. Nectar? Cattle feed? Furniture polish?
There's a lot of subtle stuff going on in the background, but it's too subtle for my nose.
Taste: Faint sweetish start. Minty freshness, evolving into a winey dryness. Smoke?
Prickly. Playful fruitiness. The sweetness disappears completely after a while. Woody. Dry.
Coffee? It becomes too woody and astringent in the finish, pulling your gums together.
Score: 75 points. That's right - 11 points more than my initial score. I already felt like I seriously underscored this Banff when I sampled it again in Scotland and after trying it again I'm convinced 64 points doesn't do this malt justice. At the same time, I wouldn't classify this as 'above average' - especially for those of you who are looking for personality and character. This seems a bit like a wannabe sherry monster.

I picked up the Benrinnes 1985/1999 (43%, Mac Kullick's Choice, Distilled in May 1985, matured in cask #1213, bottled 22/06/1999, bottle #718, unchillfiltered) in a supermarket near Serge's place in France last year. I opened the bottle a few months ago but haven't had the chance to report on it earlier. The strange thing about this bottle is that it looks uncannily like a MacKillop's Choice bottling, even though the label is signed by one 'Ian Mac Kullick', Malt Master of William Peel Family Blenders from Lormont, France.
They also released bottlings of Caol Ila, Dalmore and Highland Park.
These distilleries have different owners, so this looks like a real independent bottler.
Nose: Grainy and 'veggy' over a soft sweet underground. Not much depth at first.
Soft pepper? Maggi? Sweetish with a hint of dust now and then. Fresher with time
Remains restrained. Much lighter and grainier than any other Benrinnes I tried so far.
Taste: Hot. Gritty with a hint of coffee in the centre. Too thin. Astringent, dry finish.
Score: 73 points . Below average, but not much. Based on previous encounters with Benrinnes I was ready to like this a lot, but as a single malt it's slightly disappointing. The other bottlings I tried (especially the 15yo Flora & Fauna) had a much more pronounced sherry character that set it apart from the crowd. This is fairly MOTR.

I misplaced part of my tasting notes for the Benrinnes 12yo 1989/2002 (43%, Coopers Choice), but here are the notes I managed to salvage. I've made it a habit to fill 125ml samples from every big bottle that leaves my shelves, so I'll be able to check my rating and produce some new tasting notes later on.
Nose: Sherry. Some smoke. A little alcoholic. Pleasant composition. Quite light.
Starts strong and becomes even more powerful after a minute. More smoke.
Taste: Sherry and smoke. Woody. Deep flavours, but a bit 'muddy'. Liquorice feeling.
Score: 79 points. I'll have a H2H of my sample against some other expressions later.

Strictly speaking, the Stronachie 12yo (43%, 'replica' bastard malt) isn't a B-malt, but I've heard rumours about the origins of this whisky that lead me to believe this could be a 12yo Benrinnes. I picked up this bottle at Robertson's in Pitlochry, Scotland. The colour is much darker than that of the Mac Kullick's Choice.
Nose: More sherry and fruits that the Mac Kullick's Choice, but not a lot. Spicy. Soap.
After a minute, the fruitiness grows much more prominent. Lemon drops. Sweet cider.
Then some smoke drifts by, followed by intriguing organics. Opens up very nicely!
The style is very different from the Mac Kullick's - more akin to the 15yo F&F.
Taste: Sweetish start, coffee in the centre and a long, dry finish. Sticky. Smoke.
Faint liquorice? Not quite as pleasant as the nose but adequate.
Score: 75 points . That's right, I like this 'bastard' bottling better than the Mac Kullick's Choice. If the Mac Kullick's Choice had been the only Benrinnes I ever tried I would have said that the Stronachie doesn't resemble a 'real' Benrinnes, but the profile of the Stonachie isn't that different from that of the 12yo Coopers Choice or 15yo F&F.

OK, now it's time for the (Royal) Brackla 16yo 1984/2001 (43%, Coopers Choice).
Nose: Soft sherry. Light fruitiness. Sour apples. Flash of horse radish? Maybe some honey?
Dusty. Pinch of salt? Soft spicyness with a faint oily/fishy undertone - like Gravad Lachs.
Deeper with more organics after a few minutes, but then it drops off again. Faint leather?
Taste: Wood. Dried apples? Menthol freshness. Feels fragmented. A little winey. Dryish.
Unremarkable - somehow it rubs me the wrong way. Short finish. No matchg with the nose.
Score: 76 points . The interesting nose keeps it from dropping below average.
Pleasant enough, but it has little personality and it's gone too soon.

Next was the remainder of the Braes of Glenlivet 16yo 1979/1995 (60.4%, Signatory Vintage, USA bottling). This was another sample sent to me by Serge for one of our blind tastings - it was my absolute favourite sample of that particular shipment, actually - even outperforming my beloved Saint Magdalene 19yo UDRM.
Nose: Wow! Gobsmacking blast of sherry. Lots of wood. Organics and dust. Late fruits.
Furniture wax? Tobacco. Coffee beans. This isn't unlike an old cognac or armagnac.
Hint of smoke after a splash of water, but otherwise the profile didn't change a lot.
Taste: Dry sherry at first, sweetening out into a big fruity center. Wood. Very dry.
Woody finish. Tastes wonderful at cask strength - is this really more than 60%?
With water it still has a mighty burn. Tobacco? Pleasant woodiness - a tad much for me.
Score: 89 points. Considering this bottling and the 17yo 1979/1997 (58.1%, also Signatory Vintage) were bottled from different casks, Andrew Symington and his people have managed to achieve amazing consistency between these consecutive batches. Though similar in style, I'd say this USA bottling is slightly superior. With some more refinement on the palate it might have made the 90's. A blast from the past...

The last two 'B' malts on my shelves were two laddies - and they were not the best ones I ever tried.
The Bruichladdich 11yo 1986/1998 (46%, Murray McDavid, Cask Ref. MM2083, Refill Sherry cask)
Nose: Farmy and a tad grainy. Quite light and sweet for a Laddie. Grows fruitier.
Hardly any Islay character at all. Hint of rubber? Not quite powerful enough for my tastes.
Taste: A sweet start turns salty, then bitter. Decent burn, but slightly superficial.
Score: 78 points. I like it better than the old 10yo OB, but it seems Mark Reynier and the gang have been able to pick the better casks ever since they have taken over the distillery - most new OB's are better, I think.

I finished the evening with a Bruichladdich 1989/2002 (58.5%, OB, bottled for the 2002 Paris Whisky Festival), but maybe I shouldn't have. Where the Signatory Braes of Glenlivet 16yo was top of the class in Serge's latest selection of blind samples, this puppy came in at the very bottom.
Not for lack of character, though...
Nose: Soft and a bit sweet. Hints of chloride. Then it grows drier and more serious.
Creamy with some smoke. Old, cold coffee. Water doesn't make a big difference.
Taste: Ooph! Now I remember why I don't like it very much. Smoky, woody burn.
It's quite harsh and fragmented. Beer? Sour and dry with hints of soap. Flat and bitter.
Water doesn't help much. The nose is quite pleasant, but the taste ruins it for me.
Score: 56 points . Bowmore Darkest Light. Please note that this is a love-it-or-hate-it dram.
Other people might love it - but I don't. By far the 'worst' Bruichladdich I've ever tried, in fact.

And that's it from me. Since there was no specific 'theme', there were no cosmic insights or grand conclusions gleaned from this sampling session. Right now I'll have to focus in cleaning my shelves and increasing my malt mileage. So, until January it's dramming time - there should be plenty of time for reflection later...

Sweet drams!
 

Dram Diary 10/09/2003  (New discoveries/scores are printed BOLD.) 

79 - Balmenach 11yo 1990/2001 (43%, Chieftain's, Casks 5414-5417, 1800 bottles)
75 - Banff 18yo 1980 (43%, Chieftain's Choice)
79 - Benrinnes 12yo 1989/2002 (43%, Coopers Choice)
73 - Benrinnes 1985/1999 (43%, Mac Kullick's Choice, Cask #1213, Unchillfiltered)
75 - Blair Athol 13yo 1989/2002 (58.8%, Cadenhead's Authentic Coll., Bourbon hogshead, 240 bottles, Btl. June 2002)
76 - (Royal) Brackla 16yo 1984/2001 (43%, Coopers Choice)
82 - Braes of Glenlivet 12yo 1989/2001 (62.1%, Caddenhead's Authentic Coll., Bourbon hogshead, 294 bottles, Btl. July 2001)
89 - Braes of Glenlivet 16yo 1979/1995 (60.4%, Signatory Vintage, USA Bottling)
78 - Bruichladdich 11yo 1986/1998 (46%, Murray McDavid, Cask Reference MM 2083)
56 - Bruichladdich 1989/2002 (58.5%, OB, Bottled for the 2002 Paris Whisky Festival)
92 - Longmorn-Glenlivet 1971/1999 (57.8%, Scott's Selection, Sherry casks)
82 - Pulteney 12yo 1990/2002 (62.1%, Cadenhead's Authentic Collection, 234 bottles)
75 - Stronachie 12yo (43%, 'Replica' bastard malt, probably Benrinnes)

Twelve single malts (and one bastard malt) sampled - seven of them brand new additions to my Track Record.
I've now sampled a grand total of 433 single malts and we still have more than 3 months before Christmas.
With some luck, I might be able to break the 500 malts limit this year and crown myself 'Malt Magus'.

 

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Log Entry # 145  -  September 20, 2003
Topic:  Shelf Cleansing Operation - Part 2

I've made some progress in bringing order and stability to my shelves during last week's 'shelf cleansing' session, but my work is far from finished. I decided to devote the last evening of summer to one final push to empty as many bottles and samples as possible. There's no real theme here, so I'll just list my tasting notes. I decided to go for twelve drams - mostly non-Islays that I wanted to get out of the way before the Islay season is here again. We've had an unusually hot and long summer here in Holland and I'm actually looking forward to the cold...

The Aberlour 12yo Double Cask Matured (43%, OB, France?) was a relatively recent acquisition. The price was friendly enough and I haven't been let down by any of the Aberlours I bought during the last few years.
Nose: Very nice. Smooth. Sherry. Fruit sweets. Grows sweeter and spicier after a few minutes.
Some spiciness. 'Boerenjongens' (raisins soaked in brandy). Maybe a hint of smoke.
Taste: Slightly shallow and fragmented at first, but it blossoms in the center. Rhum?
Coffee? Fruits. Some smoke. Liquorice. Stays rough. Woody and winey towards the finish.
Score: 82 points . Great nose, but the palate isn't integrated and refined enough to reach 'highly recommendable' status. However, with its friendly price it's an interesting alternative for the 10yo OB.

My second dram was the Ardmore 12yo 1986/1999 '100th Anniversary' (40%, OB). It was a sample sent from France by Serge. Based on the (fairly young) versions I've tried so far I can't say Ardmore deserves its reputation as a 'hidden gem'. Most versions scored above average, but only one SigVint bottling made it to 80.
Nose: Wonderful sweetness - marzipan? Polished. Nice and fruity. Peanut butter later on.
Spices and strange organics after a minute. Sadly, it drops off a bit after a few more minutes.
But this is no asskissing malt - there's a suggestion of power beneath the smooth surface.
Taste: Starts off quite flat. Not as sweet as the nose - and not as entertaining either. Peat?
A little gritty. Then a whiff of smoke. Grows hotter, drier and woodier towards the finish. Tannins.
Score: 78 points . Another single malt that loses points on the palate. The nose is very pleasant but the taste is plain disappointing. The overall conclusion is 'better than average' - but not quite 'reccommendable'.

I picked up a 5cl miniature of the Auchentoshan NAS 'Select' (40%, OB, code F391) in Pitlochry. I haven't seen this bottling in Holland yet and I was curious how it would perform compared to the 'standard' 10yo.
Nose: Surprisingly nutty - just on the right side of oily. Fruity and a little flowery. Tea?
Soft maltiness.  Clean, but it seems to have more substance than the 10yo OB.
The second dram I poured from the 5cl bottle smelled much, much sweeter and fruitier.
Taste: Smooth and slightly oily. The center grows dry quickly. Gritty. Fairly short finish.
Very clean. I'd have to say that enjoyed the palate of the 10yo more. This lacks cohesion.
Score: 64 points. Nothing too offensive, but this is just too light for my tastes. If you prefer your malts light and clean this just might be your thing. I imagine the Auchentoshan 'Select' could also be a good introduction to SMSW for those who are used to drink less 'noble' distillates like gin and wodka.

Sjoerd Veldkamp provided me with a 5cl sample of the Aultmore 12yo (40%, OB) a few weeks ago. That's great, because I needed to sample a third bottling before I could write a proper distillery profile for Aultmore distillery.
Nose: Alcoholic and fresh. Herbal. Light and sweet. Faint smoke? Not very expressive.
More fruity and flowery elements with water. It has something sherried as well.
Taste: Light. Smooth and a little sweet. Malty. A little floral and perfumy.
Decent burn. Lasting, dry finish. Pleasant but not a malt you'll remember for long.
Score: 69 points - but please note that this sample may have been drawn from an old bottle.
This score may not be quite as 'solid' as some of my other scores, but I really needed that third score.

Dram #5 was the Tamnavulin 12yo (40%, OB). This 125ml sample was half finished during the last Pandora session but so far I haven't been able to come up with a final rating. It's time for the last tamna-twelve-test.
Nose: Veggy. Oily. Light. Spirity. Something more floral after a while. Faint early fruits.
The oily elements seemed to grow stronger with time, overwhelming the other elements. 
Taste: Smooth and quite flat. Dusty, veggy and a little bitter in the start. Coffee?
The centre and finish are very oily - like cod oil. No depth whatsoever. Nasty finish.
Score: 58 points . To me, the style seems quite similar to that of Isle of Jura, Tobermory and Loch Lomond. An earlier batch I tried a few years ago (bottled in the 1990's) was much, much better - it scored 72 points. This batch is not in the same league, if you ask me. But please note that my relatively negative opinion isn't shared by the other maniacs that tried it; Craig, Davin and Serge all scored the Tamnavulin 12yo in the upper 70's.

I picked up a bottle of Tomintoul 16yo (40%, OB) at The Whisky Castle in Scotland. It's a brand new bottling that was not available in Holland yet. Previous tastings indicated that it would probably score in the upper 70's.
Nose: Malty and spicy. Rotting hay. Beer? Something nutty and grassy. Hint of citrus fruits?
Dried apples. Butter. Rhubarb? String beans? Nutmeg? Maybe the softest whiff of smoke?
Growing complexity with more spices over time. The nose remains entertaining for a long time.
Taste: Malty, turning into a long bitter centre. Not quite as individualistic as the nose.
It has some sweet spots, but not enough for me. The finish has some sour woody notes.
Score: 79 points. Better than average but I wouldn't rate it in the 80's like Davin and Serge did.
However, it's a good dram - perfect for introducing a blend drinker to some of the virtues of single malts.
Not very powerful or expressive, but everything fits together quite well. Well composed.

Six drams down, six to go - let's proceed with the 'high potentials'
The seventh dram was a Linkwood 13yo 1988/2002 (43%, Signatory Vintage, Sherry Butt #2998).
Nose: Wow! Sherry and honey. Just enough wood. Hints of soap and oil. Soft organics.
Smoke? Heavier and spicier after a minute, followed by fruits - even some citrus. Soy sauce.
Toffee? Caramel popcorn? Dentist? Drops off for a moment but makes a solid comeback.
Taste: Quite powerful. Hot. Lots of sherry and wood. Fruity sweetness. Great structure.
Hints of liquorice and salmiak, growing stronger. Ultra-dry, woody finish - it loses points here.
Score: 83 points. The profile somehow reminds me of the Signatory bottlings of Braes of Glenlivet.
You'll have to let this one breathe for a bit for best results - the nose really needs a few minutes.
The clear winner of the evening so far, but now it's time to bring out the big boys...

The Dailuaine 1974/2001 (40%, G&M Connoisseur's Choice, code IH/CJI) was another 5cl sample I brought from Scotland. I've only seriously sampled two other bottlings before and I wanted to broaden my perspective.
Nose: Very rich, but subtle at the same time. Round. Polished oak. Tea. Toffee.
Fruit cake and rhum. It smells a lot like the old candy store I used to visit as a kid.
Earthy with more organics after a while. Some smoke? Mighty pleasant.
Taste: Fruity and woody with a hint of liquorice. It suggests a power beyond its 40%.
Slightly nutty. An excellent palate for a malt this age. Bottled at just the right time it seems.
Score: 84 points. More expressive than many other Connoisseur's Choice bottlings I've tried.
This confirms my suspicions: Dailuaine could be one of those underestimated 'hidden gems'.

The Longrow 13yo 1989/2002 Sherry Wood (53,2%, OB) was yet another sample provided by Serge. The steep prices (starting at +/- 100 Euro's) have so far prevented me from buying a big bottle. I've sampled a few Longrows in whisky bars, but this time I would have the opportunity to 'seriously' inspect a bottling.
Nose: Aaah... That's nice. A woody, fruity base enlivened by coastal and earthy elements.
Growing more powerful with time. Something medicinal. This is not unlike an 'Islay Light'.
Faint pepper? A splash of water pretty much killed it. Too bad - I was sort of enjoying myself.
Taste: Straight up, it's dry and slightly peaty. Hint of vanilla? Rather short finish - very dry.
I didn't find the palate nearly as entertaining as the nose. It's powerful enough, though.
Woody. Tastes more like a bourbon wood malt to me - I guess they used re-fill casks.
Score: 83 points. A fine malt, but I'm happy I didn't spend over 100 Euro's for a big bottle.
If this light coastal style is your thing you might as well go for a young Bruichladdich or Caol Ila by a reputable independent bottler. Or better yet - double your chances and buy two single cask bottlings and compare them.

The next heavy hitter was the Saint Magdalene 24yo 1978/2002 (50%, Douglas Laing OMC); yet another sample sent to me by Serge. He should really do something about his handwriting, because at first I thought the sticky label said 'Refill urine treated'. After a few seconds of amazement I realised that probably was 'refill wine treated'. Well, at least I hope so ;-)  The unusually dark colour of the whisky suggested I'd probably be allright.
Nose: Heavy and heavily sherried. Slightly spicy. Woody. Oriental notes after a minute.
Mighty pleasant. The spicy elements grow stronger - like a buffet of Indonesian dishes.
They really managed to find a beautiful balance in the nose. Responds well to water.
Taste: Wow - easily drinkable and very fruity at 50%. Sweet and smooth. I like it.
Bigger sips bring forward the woodier elements. Dry. More winey towards the finish.
Flattens out abruptly with too much water. No sweetness whatsoever, unfortunately
Score: 86 points . I would never have identified this as a Lowlander in a blind test. It has plenty of character and for the first few minutes it might as well have been a Macallan 18yo. Loses some substance with time, though.

Contestant #11 was Serge's sample of my #1 baby; the Saint Magdalene 19yo 1979/1998 (63.8%, UDRM). Strangely enough, during the Pandora samplings my (preliminary) ratings were all over the place - from A to E.
Nose: Ah! Fruits and flowers on the attick of a grain warehouse. Marzipan. Oriental spices.
A deep sweet undercurrent. Something 'winey'? Over time more coastal elements emerge.
With some water a strong liquorice aroma emerged. Dry - seems much dryer than before.
Taste: Oops - I took a big sip before I remembered its strength. That blew out my pappilae.
Let's add some water. Smooth. Liquorice. Very sweet. Nuts. Toffee. Still burns at +/- 50%.
Oriental spices again. Dark coffee? Woody burn in the back of my throat. Fabulous structure.
Score: 95 points . I increased the 'final' score from 94 to 96 points some time ago, but that may have been just a tad too generous in hindsight. The bouquet of this particular sample was pleasant enough, but for whatever reason (oxidation - or not enough breathing?) it didn't seem quite as expressive as I remembered.

The last of tonight's 'dirty dozen' was the Port Ellen 19yo 1982/2001 (43%, McGibbon's Provenance, Spring Distillation). This was another Pandora sample from Serge; an older sibling of the 18yo 1981/2000 bottling.
Nose: Lightly peated. Soft and fruity, but it grows much more powerful with time.
More smoke and organics. Pinch of salt? Ammoniac? Chloride. Soap? Faint melon?
Taste: Peaty, but sweet as well - didn't find that last time. Liquorice. Great palate!
A salty centre evolves into a bitter finish with winey overtones. Lasts for a looong time...
Score: 85 points . Here's a malt with a superior palate for a change. The nose is just fine, but in this case it's the palate that won me over. A lot of personality; the profile reminded me a bit of the old Lagavulin 16.

So, what have we learned tonight?
For one thing that my gut feelings about Dailuaine and Linkwood were correct; both are serious 'hidden gems'. I've always liked the Flora & Fauna Dailuaine 16yo a lot and tonight's Connoisseur's Choice bottling was even better. I'll have to try and track down a big bottle. I've seriously tried four (relatively young) Linkwoods before and three of them scored in the eighties. The 13yo Signatory Vintage bottling I tried tonight was no exception. I was having high hopes for Ardmore as well, but this particular sample left me not overly impressed. On the other hand, three of the four other bottlings I tried scored above average - and that's more than some other distilleries can say.

And that pretty much sums it up for this summer.
I've now got 443 single malts on my Track Record; I'll try to make it 450 tomorrow.
 

Dram Diary 20/09/2003  (New discoveries/scores are printed BOLD.) 

82 - Aberlour 12yo Double Cask Matured (43%, OB)
78 - Ardmore 12yo 1986/1999 '100th Anniversary' (40%, OB)
64 - Auchentoshan NAS 'Select' (40%, OB, 5cl)
69 - Aultmore 12yo (40%, OB, Bottled 1990's?)
84 - Dailuaine 1974/2001 (40%, G&M Connoisseur's Choice, 5cl)
83 - Linkwood 13yo 1988/2002 (43%, Signatory Vintage, Sherry Butt #2798)
83 - Longrow 13yo 1989/2002 Sherry Wood (53.2%, OB)
85 - Port Ellen 19yo 1982/2001 (43%, McGibbon's Provenance, Spring Distillation)
95 - Saint Magdalene 19yo 1979/1998 (63.8%, UDRM)
86 - Saint Magdalene 24yo 1978/2002 (50%, Douglas Laing OMC, Refill Wine treated)
58 - Tamnavulin 12yo (40%, OB, French Bottling, Bottled in or after 2000)
79 - Tomintoul 16yo (40%, OB, Bottled 2003)

That means I can add 10 more single malts to my Track Record on the last night of summer.
With a grand total of 443 malts, I'll have to sample 57 more to break the 500 malts limit this year.

 

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Log Entry # 146  -  September 21, 2003
Topic:  First Impressions of Autumn

Yesterday it became official - The summer of 2003 has been the hottest EVER.
Well, now I'm just bragging; but it has been the hottest in recorded history in Holland. And one of the dryest too. We had to cancel this year's party in the woods due to forest fire danger and the water level in the river Rhine was at it's lowest point since records were first being kept in the 18th century. We even had a small panic in the media when a small dyke collapsed due to drying out and a mudstream flooded part of Wilnis. Scientists even sketched disaster scenario's where, if the drought continued, the big dams and dykes that protect the submarine half of Holland could break. I guess that would solve the drought instantly, wouldn't it?

Well, the fact that I'm writing this from Amsterdam with dry feet proves that the dams and dykes did not break. Forecasts predict some rain in the coming weeks, so I guess the long hot summer is now finally over; both officially and effectively. That's bad news for my liver. I've written about my diminishinging capacity for whisky during the summer in my Four Seasons report; with the arrival of autumn my intake should increade significantly. I managed to solve some of my shelf problems during the last few sessions, so I guess it's safe to open a few fresh bottles from my reserve stock on the first night of autumn.

I started tonight's dramming with a sample of the Clynelish 10yo 1989/1999 (50%, Douglas Laing OMC, Distilled 6/89, Bottled 8/99) that was sent to me from Germany by Klaus Everding. It will be the first (and the youngest) of three different bottlings of Clynelish I plan to examine tonight. Should be interesting...
Nose: Young and brash. Spirity. Grainy. Hint of rhum? Oil? Something dusty. Bread?
Opens up for a moment after a splash of water, revealing some smoke. Hint of brine?
Pleasant enough, but not much depth or character. A little thin. Quite powerful though.
Taste: Hot burn. Dry. Not a lot of depth. Coffee. Sweeter with time. Winey, woody finish.
It became much grittier after some water. Might as well be a blend - a deluxe blend, but still...
Score: 74 points . Below average, if you ask me. Should have been a McGibbon's Provenance bottling.

The Clynelish 14yo (46%, OB) was introduced in Holland a few months ago but I didn't have an opportunity to sample it just yet. With two other versions on the table, it seemed like the ideal opportunity to open it. Strangely enough, this will be the oldest Clynelish I've ever sampled. Fourteen years isn't that old, is it?
Nose: Slightly more expressive than the OMC. Malty and creamy. Sherry and organics.
Developing sweetness. Spices. Smoke. Opens up a little with time, but doesn't choose sides.
Taste: Dry and hot start, mellowing out into a sour centre. Some liquorice. A bit flat.
Little development after that; the taste just slowly fades away in a winey, bitter finish.
Score: 77 points. I have to admit I expected a bit more from the neigbours and successors of Brora. I have to say the nose grew on me with time (even got some peat), so maybe the bottle just needs to break in.

The Clynelish 18yo 1983 (46%, Benivor - W. Milroy, Bottled +/- 2002) was another sample sent from France by Serge. The 14yo OB I just tasted managed to hold on to the title 'oldest Clynelish sampled by Johannes' for less than half an hour. Let's see what four more years in wood have meant for this particular cask or batch.
Nose: Polished. Light. More coastal than the previous two, but not very powerful either.
Some light fruity elements, developing into a more organic complexity. Quite nice.
Taste: Quite smooth at first. Then a slow sweet burn develops, growing drier. Chloride?
Prickles like a soft drink. A dash of water seems to bring out the dry, coastal elements.
And then I got a hint of honey liquorice again - could this be one of the 'marker's of Clynelish?
Score: 80 points . The only 'recommendable' Clynelish of the three. Don't get me wrong - the 'average' 10yo OMC and 14yo OB still beat most blends, but why settle for 'average' with so many great alternatives available?

I have to say I'm a bit underwhelmed, even though I probably shouldn't be.
So far Ive tried four other (young) bottlings of Clynelish and none of them managed to pass the 80 points mark. And from tonight's trio only the 18yo 1983 bottling reached 80 points - not very remarkable at that age. Now, let's turn our attention to another 'C' distillery; Caol Ila. I'm really eager to try some new Islay malts, but with sunny weather and temperatures of circa 20 degrees Celsius I felt the time wasn't ripe for real peat monsters yet. Once again I selected three different bottlings.

I bought the Caol Ila 11yo 1990/2001 Rum Finish (43%, Chieftain's, Casks #90201/90205, 1540 bottles) almost two years ago and now it's time to see if this one can convince me that rum finishing is a good idea.
Nose: Starts deceptively light and fruity, then the coastal organics hit hard.
Something medicinal. However, it loses some steam within a few minutes.
Taste: Smooth start, growing drier. Then a peaty undercurrent appears.
It has a sweet side as well. Nice, but it lacks substance and refinement.
Score: 81 points. This is right up my alley - more to my liking than its 12yo 1990/2002 successor. At the same time, I have to admit I'm willing to overlook some of its 'flaws' because this fits my favourite profile. This is by no means a spectacular malt - in fact, I don't think I've ever sampled a really spectacular Chieftain's before. At the same time, there hasn't been a young Signatory Vintage bottling from Caol Ila that disappointed me yet.

The Caol Ila 11yo 1991/2002 Port Finish (46%, Signatory Vintage Unchillfiltered, Cask #02/472, 1132 bottles) is another release in last year's avelanche of special wood finishes. I have to admit I'm a bit suspicious...
Nose: Quite restrained at first - dry as well. It opens up a bit after a minute.
Soft organics and spices. It grows more coastal with time - really needs a while.
Taste: Ah, that's nice. Powerful burn, you can really taste the port influence.
Salty centre, long dry finish. A little 'winey'. Much more body than the Chieftain's.
That's the way, aha aha, I like it, aha aha. However, it's not something for everyone.
Score: 82 points. Yeah, in this case the special finish works for me. But I'm fully aware of the fact that the unique combination of Islay and port characteristics might not work for everybody. Very interesting at least.

The Caol Ila NAS Cask Strength (55%, OB) was introduced as part of the new range of official bottlings last year, but with all the other stuff on my shelves I just didn't have a chance to open my bottle.
Nose: More fruity than peaty at first, growing more coastal. Then more sherry notes emerge.
Grainier after some breathing. After a splash of water it became very alcoholic and overpowering.
Chloride? Mint? Something 'veggy'? Much more organics from the empty glass - very nice.
Taste: Relatively soft start, growing smokier and hotter. Very dry. Short finish.
With some water the start appeared fragmented and the finish became more winey.
Score: 81 points. That's nothing to be ashamed about, but it isn't in the upper eighties either - and that's where Serge, Olivier and Michael put this one. Judging from his 79 points, only Peter shares my feelings. Maybe it needs to breathe for a bit, but as things stand now I'd say this bottling plays in the league of the Bowmore NAS Cask Strength rather than the Laphroaig 10yo Cask Strength or Lagavulin 12yo Special Release.
Too short on substance for my tastes, but very powerful.

OK; now it's time for the 7th and last dram of the evening - also my 450th single malt.
I picked up the Ardbeg 11yo 1991/2002 (62.2%, Cadenhead's Bond Reserve) in Edinburgh.
The 'strongest' Ardbegs I've tried so far were a couple of Douglas Laing OMC bottlings at 50% so this will be my very first genuine cask strength Ardbeg. I love Ardbegs AND cask strength malts, so this one should do well.
Nose: Wow, extremely powerful and briny with lots of organics. Sweeter with time.
Chloride? Burnt rubber. With some water softer fruitier elements emerge. Honey?
Taste: At cask strength it's dry and incredibly hot. It almost burnt a hole in my stomach.
After a dash of water it becomes frendlier on the palate. Lasting, woody finish.
Score: 84 points . I have to say I prefer the 10yo OB myself, but if you're looking for pure Islay power this is an excellent choice. It might reveal some more complexity after the bottle has broken in.

And that wraps things up for tonight.
On the first night of autumn, order has finally returned to my shelves. I now have 36 open bottles distributed across three shelves. Let's hope I'll be able to maintain peace and stability this time...
 

Dram Diary 21/09/2003  (New discoveries/scores are printed BOLD.) 

84 - Ardbeg 11yo 1991/2002 (62.2%, Cadenhead's Bond Reserve)
81 - Caol Ila NAS Cask Strength (55%, OB)
81 - Caol Ila 11yo 1990/2001 Rum Finish (43%, Chieftain's, Casks #90201/90205, 1540 bottles)
82 - Caol Ila 11yo 1991/2002 Port Finish (46%, Signatory Vintage Unchillfiltered, Cask #02/472, 1132 bottles)
74 - Clynelish 10yo 1989/1999 (50%, Douglas Laing OMC)
77 - Clynelish 14yo OB (46%, OB, Bottled +/- 2003)
80 - Clynelish 18yo 1983 (46%, Benivor - W. Milroy)

That's right - with 7 brand new single malts sampled tonight I now have exactly 450 malts on my Track Record.
Just 50 more malts and I'll have earned myself a promotion on the matrix. Jolly good show!

 

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Log Entry # 147  -  October 19, 2003
Topic:  A Shock To The System

One would think that dramming a week together in Scotland should have satisfied our maniacal apetite for new malts and the company of international maltsters for a while, wouldn't one? Well, one would be wrong - very wrong. First Serge invited the maniacs for a 'Big Brora Bash' and a 'Distillation Day' in Alsace in December. Next, Olivier proposed we should take a tour around 'Domaine Zind Humbrecht' as well while we were in the neighborhood. That seemed like a fine plan to nearby maniacs Klaus and me, and pretty soon Davin, Krishna and Mark indicated they would like to hop over to Europe for the occasion as well. And when taking such a long trip, Amsterdam is not that far away from Alsace. So, the maniacs from 'the old colonies' decided to swing by Amsterdam on their way to Alsace. Great news - another maniacal meeting in less than two months.

However, there's a small problem...
Just now that I've managed to bring back law and order on my shelves, I've discovered that I'm not entirely happy with the current selection of 36 bottles. It'll work fine for my personal consumption and that of my regular guests, but just a few bottles on my top shelf are likely to make the other maniacs jump up and down with excitement. I'll have to try and get a few more heavy hitters on my top shelf to make the occasion extra memorable. But any occasion where three or more maniacs are gathered in the name of malt mania should go beyong the mere ingestation of as many top shelf drams as humanly (and humanely) possible. This will be a perfect opportunity to open a few relatively obscure bottles from my reserve stock and pump up the matrix some more. At the same time, I wouldn't want to force any drams down the throats of my guests. Well, except for the Loch Dhu 10yo - Krishna and Mark haven't tried it yet and there's just enough left in the bottle to give them a taste of 'aqua crematoria'. Any certified malt maniac should have tasted this once in his life, methinks.

To make sure Mark and Krishna don't hate me for the rest of their lives, I'd better have more than a measly 36 bottles on my shelves to help wash away the haunting aftertaste of Loch Dhu. That means I'll have to start opening some bottles from my reserve stock to allow them to break in sufficiently before my guests arrive. But before I got to open any fresh bottles I had to deal with five samples I received in a sample swap with Rogier Prins. Like most of our fellow Dutchmen, Rogier and I have a fondness for affordable malts. This is reflected in both of our collections. We pass up on the really old and rare 'deluxe' malts and are prepared to work through lots of 'average' (but often interesting) material to find the occasional 'Bang-For-Your-Buck' gem. This sample-swap included two Signatory Vintage bottlings and three 'Flora & Fauna' bottlings. (Note: most of the bottles these 5cl samples were taken from were opened over a year ago, so the profile might be different from that of a fresh bottle. Since all bottles were still more than half full I expect the effect of oxidation to be minor.)

First, I turned my attention to the Bladnoch 11yo 1988/2000 (43%, Signatory Vintage, Bourbon cask #42003). Most of my earlier encounters with young Bladnochs ended in scores above average, so this one should do well.
Nose: Grainy and a little lemony - becoming fruitier and nuttier with time. Not very powerful.
Sweetish. It presents an ever changing parade of accents, but does so in a whispering voice.
Taste: Fruity and nutty start. Very nice, although the nuttiness evolves into an oily centre.
Citrus overtones. On the other hand, the palate becomes grittier and ends in a dry, flat finish.
Score: 77 points . Better than average, but not the best young Bladnoch I ever tried. It packs quite a punch for a 43% whisky, but I have to say usually I prefer my Lowlanders at a higher proof - it gives them more 'body'.

The Glen Scotia 9yo 1991/2000 (43%, Signatory Vintage, Bourbon cask #211) must have been released almost a year before its sibling; the 9yo 1991/2001 Signatory Vintage vatting from casks 222 and 223. I opened that bottle on Walpurgisnacht 2002 and it scored a respectable 81 points. Let's see if this single cask matches up.
Nose: Soft and a little grainy. Hints of oil and paint thinner. Pine? Air freshener or shampoo?
Ginger? Quite strange - smells more like a grain whisky than a malt whisky, if you ask me.
Taste: Thin and deconstructed. Something faintly medicinal. Eucalyptus? Utterly forgettable.
Score: 66 points . A far cry from its slightly older sibling. An interesting nose, but not very 'likable'.
Hardly a perfect specimen of a Glen Scotia - the 14yo is a much safer (and smoother) bet.

After kicking things off with two Siganatory Vintage samples I proceeded with three different 'Flora & Fauna' releases. I've purchased a few bottlings in the range in the past and liked some of them a lot - the Benrinnes 15yo and Dailuaine 16yo in particular. Now the Glen Elgin 12yo (43%, Flora & Fauna) gets a chance.
Nose: Malty and sweetish. Some paint thinner in the start. Quite pleasant, but MOTR.
Taste: Pleasant sweetness, but little depth or development. Oily and soapy episodes.
Score: 73 points. A fairly decent single malt, but it just doesn't show enough personality for me.
I imagine this will work a little better in the heat of summer. Right now, I need more heat.

The Strathmill 12yo (43%, Flora & Fauna) was next. I've only ever sampled one other version of Strathmill before (a 10yo Scottish Wildlife bottling) and with a score of 67 points I can't say I liked it very much.
Nose: Rather nondescript. Nutty and oily. Faint hints of lemon, molasses and smoke.
Taste: Smooth, sweet and malty at first, then menthol and eucalyptus screw it up.
Score: 70 points . Maybe this is a typical 'blenders' malt? It might not work very well on its own, but it could have a role in the composition of a blend. I can't think of another reason this distillery has survived so far.

Hmmmm.... The previous two bottlings don't seem to be 'prime examples' of the F&F range.
Let's see how one of their more coastal cousins performs; the Clynelish 14yo (43%, Flora & Fauna).
Nose: Malty and grainy at the same time. Some coastal traits under a sherry coating.
Some of these F&F bottlings seem to have a style that overwhelms the distillery character.
Taste: Gritty and dry at first. Woody elements don't mix very well with the rest.
Score: 76 points. Slightly better than average; nothing more and nothing less.
I can't say I regret passing up on the big bottlings of these particular malts.

After five 5cl samples, it was time to take a break and have myself a proper meal.
I prepared some cauliflower with a peppery mushroom/toadstool sauce that turned out just right for a change. To allow the meal to settle I popped a DVD in the player - 'Me, Myself & Irene' with Jim Carrey. As a whole it's no masterpiece, but a few brilliantly funny scenes nearly made me wet myself. Especially the 'mercy-killing' of the cow and the shenanigans on the handicapped parking spot made it hard for me to keep my seat dry.
Ah... just what I needed...

In high spirits I continued the tasting. Now it was time to crack open a few fresh bottles.
I acquired a bottle of Imperial 18yo 1982 (43%, Chieftain's Choice) over two years ago, before I got the chance to actually try it. When somebody served it to me after a meal this summer I discovered that there was no particular reason to keep this one in my reserve stock. Tonight; I decided it's time to open the bottle.
Nose: Not a lot. Alcoholic and slightly grainy. A little oily as well. Flowery sweetness. Dust?
Rotting hay? String beans? Organics become more powerful. Fades away after 5 minutes.
Taste: Minty freshness. Creamy and malty - quite powerful at first, actually. Peanuts?
Slightly winey in the finish. Not nearly as refined as the nose. Overall, it lacks complexity.
Score: 73 points . Not a bad whisky, but ultimately not refined enough to make my heart flutter.
However, this Imperial may improve after the bottle has 'broken in' for a while.

The label of the Cragganmore 1976/1993 (53.8%, Gordon & MacPhail, Casks #3588-3591, Distilled 21/7/1976, Bottled October 1993) says it's a 'natural cask strength' whisky, but 53.8% seems not all that strong, does it?
Nose: Very spicy. Opens up nicely. Toffee. Something flowery - nectar? Mighty complex.
Sherry and organics. One of the most expressive G&M Speysiders I've ever encountered.
Peppers? Spicy black Chinese beans - the ones used in the Kantonese dish 'Tau Sie Kai'.
Taste: Toffee sweetness. Big burn, but drinkable at cask strength. Pleasant mouth feel.
Strong bittersweet centre. Responds well to water, becoming sweeter and smoother.
Score: 85 points. That's the score for my second glass - my first dram from the bottle scored 84 points but I decided to give it another go after the bottle had a chance to breathe for a few days. Fabulous stuff.

Next, I needed to do a 'revisionist tasting' of two Cadenhead's bottlings I bought and opened exactly one month ago at the new Amsterdam store. The Blair Athol 13yo 1989/2002 (58.8%, Cadenhead's, Bourbon Hogshead) scored 75 points from a small glass right after I opened it. Let's see how it does in proper glasses.
Nose: Surprisingly restrained at first, then sherry and smoky elements emerge. Nuts?
Sweet but superficial. Dried apples. Orange skins? Faint spices and organics. Quite nice.
Opens up a bit with time and water. Dustier and oilier at first, then more fruits. Mellow.
Taste: Sweet and rough at C/S. Irish Coffee? Pleasant but short-lived. No real finish.
With a splash of water the palate became grittier. I still couldn't find a lot of personality.
Score: 78 points . A little better than average but that's it, I'm afraid. The nose does fine but the taste is just not complex enough. Pedigree, age and strength should have produced a more memorable experience.

I sent a sample of the Braes of Glenlivet 12yo 1989/2001 (62.1%, Cadenhead's, Bourbon Hogshead) to the French maniacs and both liked it 89 points worth. My own score for the first dram from the bottle (served in a small glass) was 'just' 82 points, but I liked every dram I've had since then a little bit better.
Nose: Extremely rich. Polished. Organics and spices. Smoke. Horse sweat. Apple. Rotting fruit.
With a few drops of water the sweeter elements come forward. Then the organics return.
Taste: Smooth and soft start with a distinct apple flavour. Big sweet centre. Long fruity burn.
Fabulous mouth feel at cask strength. It becomes a little grittier with some water.
Diluted to about 50% it became even grittier and hotter. Winey finish. No improvement.
Score: 88 points . Believe it or not, but this is a malt that should be enjoyed at cask strength.
Don't panic - as long as you make sure to take small sips even 62.1% is perfectly drinkable.

When I last visited the Amsterdam store I noticed Cadenhead's also offers 'quarter bottles'.
They hold 18.75 cl - more than enough to get a good impression of a malt. I only noticed they didn't specify the  distillation and bottling year after I picked up the Tamdhu-Glenlivet 10yo (58.9%, Cadenhead's, 18.75cl).
Nose: Honey sweetness. Slightly oily. Lemon. Dried apples. Cinnamon! A bit like apple pie.
Not very expressive. A little more spices and organics after some water. Something fishy?
Taste: Dry, short and flat at C/S. Woody. Beer-like bitterness in the grainy finish.
Smoother with hints of cinnamon and liquorice with water. Still not very exciting.
Score: 74 points. Let's give it time to breathe for a bit before I give it another go.

I proceeded with the Aberlour A'bunadh Batch #8 (60.2%, OB) that was released some time ago.
Nose: Sweet start - the sherry takes a while to come forward. Next stop: organics.
The sweetness dissipates, leaving a bouquet dominated by sherry notes. Lemon drops?
Soap? Shortbread? Water has little effect, it only brings some sourness to the front.
Taste: Very sherried start, but surprisingly drinkable at C/S. Sweet, fruity centre.
The sweetness slowly evolves into a long fruity and woody finish. Slightly 'winey'.
Score: 86 points . Based on the first dram from the bottle I'd say this is the 'worst' batch so far.
Still highly recommendable, mind you - if you're into sherry monsters. This is sailing close to the edge, though.

I picked up the Aberlour A'bunadh Batch #9 (60.0%, OB) in the Edinburgh Oddbins.
Nose: A little nuttier and more balanced than Batch #8 at first. Not as extremely sherried.
Toffee! Furniture polish. Fruitier notes appear after a minute. nice - very well-balanced.
Taste: Sherried for a second, then sweet and fruity like lemon drops. Long woody finish.
Not very deep or complex at C/S. After a dash of water the fruit became more prominent.
Score: 87 points. This batch seems slightly more balanced than the previous one.
I've now sampled five different batches of the A'bunadh and all scored between 86 and 90 points.
This bottle set me back just 35 pounds, so it scores high on the 'value' scale as well.

And that's it for this session. From the twelve drams I enjoyed tonight four proved to be 'highly reccomendable'; Batches #8 and #9 of the Aberlour Abunadh, Cadenhead's Braes of Glenlivet 12yo 1989/2001 and G&M's Cragganmore 1976/1993. You may have a hard time tracking down a dusty bottle of the Cragganmore, but the others should still be widely available. You could do worse than putting these on your shopping list.
 

Dram Diary 19/10/2003  (New discoveries/scores are printed BOLD.) 

86 - Aberlour A'bunadh NAS Batch #8 (60.2%, OB)
87 - Aberlour A'bunadh NAS Batch #9 (60.0%, OB)
77 - Bladnoch 11yo 1988/2000 (43%, Sigantory Vintage, Cask #42003)
78 - Blair Athol 13yo 1989/2002 (58.8%, Cadenhead's, Bourbon hogshead)
88 - Braes of Glenlivet 12yo (62.1%, Cadenhead's, Bourbon hogshead)
76 - Clynelish 14yo (43%, Flora & Fauna)
85 - Cragganmore 1976/1993 (53.8%, Gordon & MacPhail)
73 - Glen Elgin 12yo (43%, Flora & Fauna)
66 - Glen Scotia 9yo 1991/2000 (43%, Signatory Vintage, Cask #211)
73 - Imperial 18yo 1982 (43%, Chieftain's Choice)
70 - Strathmill 12yo (43%, Flora & Fauna)
74 - Tamdhu-Glenlivet 10yo (58.9%, Cadenhead's, 18.75cl)

Twelve drams sampled tonight; 10 of them new malts for my Track Record, bringing the grand total up to 460 malts.
Only 40 more to go before I'll hit 500 and ascend to the rank of 'Malt Magus' on the Matrix.

 

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Log Entry # 148  -  October 25, 2003
Topic:  Glenannigans

Wow, it seems the Dutch climate is really changing...
After the hottest and driest summer in recent history the North of Holland saw the first real snow yesterday.
That's unusually early - the last time we had proper snow in October was in 1975. The white blanket was gone again by this morning, so I didn't have to pull out my powerhouse Islay malts just yet. That was just as well, because I had been planning another 'Glen' session for tonight. For reasons that will become clear soon (I can't tell you anything just yet) I've been frantically trying to increase my 'malt mileage'.
I need to get at least 500 malt whiskies on my Track Record a.s.a.p.

The last time I checked my Track Record showed 460 different single malts.
I've decided to go on an insane mini-mission to try and achieve the rank of 'Malt Magus' (500+ malts) before the arrival of Davin on November 15. Davin has recently been promoted to 'Malt Mogul' with more than 250 malts under his belt. That means we currently hold the same rank among the certified malt maniacs. As long as I haven't achieved a higher rank myself I won't be able to treat Davin with the proper disrespect... ;-)

So, the clock is ticking - let's take care of a couple of 'Glens' first.
I spotted the Glen Albyn 10yo (40%, Noord's Wijnhandel) in a shady little shop near Amsterdam's flower market last year. Serge, Roman and I were just strolling down the streets during the 2002 DrAmsterdam Maltathon and when we climbed down some stairs we found the store. The storekeeper was quite a nasty character, so Serge left the place without buying anything - not even this rare Glen Albyn he seemed quite interested in. I didn't have Serge's backbone, so a few days of fighting my urges later I returned and got myself two bottles.
Nose: Very light. Flat, grainy and slightly oily. Grassy. Over time it becomes a little nuttier.
Remarkably superficial, although it gets some coastal traits after a while. Hint of peat?
Taste: Sweet start, growing dustier and grittier. Slightly oily. Flat. Dry and grainy. Mwaah...
Score: 60 points . Not unpleasant, but far too light and shallow for my tastes. All in all it's no impressive package, especially with the cheap tin screwtop and everything. Could this be a fake bottling? The distillery closed in 1983, so this one would have been bottled around 1993. What are the chances a bottling from such an obscure silent distillery surviving on the shelves of a liquorist for nearly a decade? What's more, a thorough search of the yellow pages and the archives didn't produce any information on this 'Noord's Wijnhandel' that supposedly bottled it. Yeah, this could very well be a fake, I'm afraid...

I found the much more 'credible' bottle of Glen Albyn 22yo 1977/1999 (43%, Signatory Vintage, Cask #1952) at Menno Boorsma in December 2000. Less than 50 Euro's seemed like a friendly price for an obscure 22yo single malt. Of course, that depends what other 'obscure' malts you compare it to. Next to a 100 Euro's bottle of Loch Dhu 10yo, even bottom shelf fodder like Johnnie Walker Red Label seems like a great deal...
Nose: Sweet, flowery and spicy at first. Then grainier and organic elements emerge.
Quite soft and fruity - distinct apple notes. After a few minutes coastal traits take over.
Taste: Dry. Light start, growing maltier and more powerful. Liquorice. Quite gritty.
Interesting development, but it lacks depth and substance. Woody finish. Tired cask?
Score: 76 points . Not bad, but a malt this old could (and should) en up in the 80's at least.
However, like with all freshly opened bottles we'll just have to wait and see how it develops.

The Glenglassaugh 1986/1998 (40%, MacPhail's Collection) has been in my reserve stock since January 2001, when Klaus and his friends muled it over for me from Germany. It's now almost three years later and the level in the bottle was still way above the shoulder. So, it seems these tin screwcaps can work fine after all.
Nose: White wine? Raw string beans? Chicory? Soft malty notes. Developing organics. Dust.
Sweeter & more sherried with time. Rum filled chocolate? Shoe polish? Intriguing development.
Taste: Soft & smooth start. Malty. Sweeter and fruitier after a minute. Little depth. Menthol?
Develops into a relatively flat and bitter centre. Woody, winey and bitter in the centre.
Score: 78 points. I had a tough time with this one. My first glass scored only 72 points, but nevertheless I found myself strangely attracted to it and went for a refill. As I was sniffing my way through my second dram, my score krept up slowly but steadily. This whisky has a really interesting nose on it with much more personality than I've found in some other G&M bottlings. Where I find many of those a bit 'middle of the road' you could say this one is a bit 'off the beaten track' - and I like that in a whisky. I'll make sure to serve it to some of the other maniacs when they drop by in November to get their opinion. I liked the 1973 Family Silver bottling a lot better than the other maniacs and I want to find out if I have a soft spot for Glenglassaugh.

I opened the Glenrothes 1987/2000 (43%, OB) a few weeks ago to let it breathe for a bit. I bought the bottle a while ago but didn't have an excuse to open it before. However, my distillery visit in June and the enthusiasm of Ronnie Cox and Marion Fergussion has rekindled my interest in the Glenrothes whisky.
Nose: Softly sherried, fruity and a little nutty. Faint spices and maybe even some smoke.
Opens up quite a bit after a minute, becoming a lot fruitier. Something coastal and 'fishy' too.
The organic and spicy elements take control over time; and I don't mind! Very good.
Taste: Smooth. Not as sweet as you'd expect at first. Malty and ever so slightly dry.
Alcoholic. Very bitter in the finish - menthol? Not very complex but pleasant enough.
Score: 78 points. Lots of 'oomph' for a Speysider (this seems 'edgier' than other Glenrothes vintages) but the taste is just too bitter for my tastes. The nose is very fine though and would deserve a score in the 80's.

Next, I turned my attention to two other Glenrothes vintages I obtained through a sample-swap with Stefan Bakker from Rotterdam. Stefan is a big Glenrothes fan and he claims he has an unopened bottle of all but two of all 'vintages' that were ever released in his reserve stock. For this swap I selected two vintages from Stefan's opened bottles; the 1984/1995 and the 1973/2000 I already sampled at the Glenrother distillery.

The Glenrothes 1984/1995 (43%, OB) is about the same age as the 1989/2000 OB I sampled a while ago. With a score of 79 points that one was a very decent dram - just not quite characteristic enough to make it into the 80's. But that's just because I personally prefer 'extreme' and expressive single malts.
Nose: Sherry and fruits - maybe slightly less nutty than the 1987. Something 'veggy' as well.
Currants? Cherry? Hmmm... It's around 11 years old, but it feels a bit younger. Not very powerful.
Taste: Malty with a touch of sherry. Bittersweet. Pleasant but slightly rough around the edges.
Score: 75 points . A good standard single malt whisky - nothing more and nothing less. Based on my experiences so far I'd say Glenrothes typically needs a few more years to fully develop.

I sampled the Glenrothes 1973/2000 (43%, OB) at the distillery this summer but I didn't get enough from the glass to give a proper rating. I went with an indicative score of 'D' - better than average.
Nose: Ah... This is very nice indeed - sherry and wood and spices and furniture wax.
It's quite complex but very subtle as well; you really have to work at it. Well balanced.
Taste: Malty. Bittersweet and woody - but not too much. A bit softer than the young-uns.
Score: 83 points. It seems Glenrothes needs some time in the cask to reach truly recommendable status. When given enough time, it develops into a really beautiful whisky. It's not quite expressive enough for me but this is a great malt for introducing blend drinkers to the virtues of single malts without scaring them off.

From a marketing point-of-view releasing many different vintages makes sense.
It means you can potentially get more shelf space and media coverage than a brand with just one or two releases. But I have to say I personally wouldn't mind some more variety in the Glenrothes range - otherwise, the audience might lose interest when 'yet another' new vintage is released. And while I'm at it, what's with that 'checked & approved' scribbling on the label? My 1987/2000 vintage was checked by J. L. Stevens on 23/5/87. That makes sense; I assume that was on (or around) the distillation date. But the fact that it was approved by someone who's name I can't read (R. H. Fenwick?) on 3-9-98 while the whisky was bottled in 2000 makes no sense at all. A small international survey I did suggests that the names and dates on all the labels for each vintage are identical. That's just as I expected, because Ronnie Cox told us all 'vintages' are vattings of many casks. The fact that all the (printed) 'approved' dates on the labels are identical suggests that the date applies to either all the casks in the vatting or the vatting itself. OK - let's think about that a little, shall we?

If the vatting itself was 'approved' on September 3, 1998 and it was bottled in 2000, where did they keep the vatted whisky for over a year? You'd need one very big container, that's for sure. I guess the big players like Edrington must have some huge blending vessels available but I imagine they don't want to use those for long-term storage. On the other hand, if all the casks in the vatting were individually approved on a single day in 1998 and then the casks were left alone to mature for more than a year longer, wouldn't the wood of the casks have worked its magic in the time between approval and bottling, altering the whisky in all kinds of unpredictable ways? And then, what's the use of approving them? Strange indeed...

Well, maybe it's best not to dwell on these things - at least not at a time when I'm frantically trying to boost my malt mileage past 500. So, I proceeded with three samples sent to me by Alberto Righi from Italy.
According to Alberto the Glen Scotia 12yo Full Proof (54%, OB, 75cl) was bottled in the late 1980's as a limited edition for Italy. Some of these bottles appeared at auctions by Krugers and McTear's.
Nose: Light fruits. Faint organics struggling with a nutty undercurrent. Sweet & spicy.
Very promising, but it drops off after a minute. Water helps just a little. Lemon? Chloride?
Taste: Smooth start, quickly growing drier. Flat and a tad woody. Gritty finish. Tired.
No significant improvement with some water. A pleasant burn, but little personality.
Score: 75 points . A decent but average single malt. Given my personal preference for overproof whiskies I've got to say I expected a little bit more. It's quite an interesting whisky but there are too many grainy odeurs distracting me from the heart of the malt. I liked the 14yo bottlings released at 40% in the late 1990's better.

The Glenmorangie 10yo '100 Proof' (57.2%, OB, Bottled 1990's, Duty Free) came from Alberto as well. Glenmorangie replaced this tall bottling (tube package) with the new dumpy 'Traditional' bottling in a box.
Nose: Sweet and mellow at first. Spicier with time. Reminded me a bit of the 'Cellar 13'.
Not overly complex, but I like the overall profile a lot. More organics with water. Brine?
Wait a minute - after ten minutes it catches a second wind with lots of spices and organics!
Taste: Quite a burn. Slightly flat at first, but it develops nicely into a big apple pie sweetness.
Dry and woody towards the finish. Breaks apart after a splash of water but recovers quickly.
Score: 82 points. If memory serves, this profile is quite similar to that of a 'normal' 10yo from the 1990's. Well, apart from the surprising coastal outbreak in the nose after ten minutes, of course. That's a bit odd. When I compare the 'normal' Macallan 10yo with its '100 Proof' and 'Cask Strength' brethren I find that the stronger versions add much more depth and substance to the distillery character. And when I look at the differences between the standard Laphroaig 10yo and the Cask Strength version - well, it's almost like they are from completely different (Islay) distilleries. This 100 Proof Glenmorangie hardly seems to add anything to the portfolio other than the nasal coastal outbreak. It's more like a compacted version of the 'normal' 10yo bottled at 40% or 43% - a 'director's cut' with some added scenes and a surprise ending, if you will.
Still, the best nose of any 'Morangie I ever tried - too bad the palate doesn't match up.

My last 'Alberto Righi' sample was the Glenfarclas 15yo (46%, OB), a more recent bottling.
Alberto suggested this batch might have been bottled especially for the Italian market.
Nose: Fruity and sherried. The slightly higher proof accentuates the organics. Dust. Smoke.
Drops off quickly. Fruit sweets. Some water unlocks some lighter fruity notes for a moment.
Taste: Woody, bitter start. Not a lot of depth. Sweeter centre. Some fruits. Lacks cohesion.
Winey finish. Water doesn't have a lot of effect. This somehow feels younger than 15 years.
Score: 77 points . 'Better Than Average' might be good enough for some other Speysiders, but I expected more from Glenfarclas. Given the fact that this batch (L3034M0455 1 13:55) scores well below the younger 10yo and 12yo bottlings I suspect that either A) It needs some more breathing, B) It has suffered from oxidation, C) Batch variation between Glenfarclas OB's isn't as negligable as I believed or D) This is indeed especially bottled for the Italian market and the 'profile' is adapted to the Italian preferences for brasher whiskies.
I'll have to revisit this one again later to form a second opinion...

Klaus muled the bottle of Glenfarclas 1983/2001 'Family Reserve' #4 (46%, OB, Bottle #1596 of 2400) over from Germany over a year ago. I thought I had seen many different Glenfarclas bottlings on the shelves in Holland but compared to Weinquelle in Hamburg that's nothing - they offer 40 (!) different expressions.
Nose: Malty and spicy. Some sherry, but not too much. Quickly strong organics appear.
Something metallic. Dust. Old fruits. A forgotten glass of white wine the next morning.
Deep. Stock cubes. Veggy. Medicinal. Smoke. Complex. Peculiar, but mighty entertaining.
Taste: Nice & simple start. Sherried and very woody at first. Dry and fruity centre. Hot.
Hint of eucalyptus? A superb 'Farclas, but the nose performs better than the palate.
Score: 87 points , but I'm quite sure this is not for everyone - it's not ashamed to reveal its wood. If you're interested, Weinquelle in Hamburg still offers bottles from the same cask for 42 Euro's. That's quite a steal for a 18yo Glenfarclas if you ask me, especially because it shows more character than the 'house style' OB's.

I finished this session by opening a fresh batch of the Glenfarclas NAS '105' (60%, OB, LB 350BB 3 11:29). I picked it up earlier this year and I suspect it was bottled in 2002. We sampled a relatively new batch at the distillery as well, and that one received a score of 80 points - in the same range as a few earlier (1990's) batches I've had on my shelves over the years. Let's see if it still offers as much bang for my bucks.
Nose: Very fruity. Marzipan. Fudge. Sweet and mellow. Smoother than I remembered.
More sherry and organics after a minute. Then it suddenly takes a soapier, perfumy route.
A generous splash of water drove away the soapy demons, but only for a moment. Too bad.
Taste: Candy sweetness. A bit too overwhelming at cask strength. Fruit and sherry.
Diluted to +/- 50% it became a little smoother in the centre and woodier in the finish.
Score: 80 points. It starts off just great - like a liquid candybar... But after a few minutes an unpleasant soap perfume (not unlike the one found in some Bowmores) emerges that ruins the rest of the party for me. Strange, I don't recall finding that in earlier batches of the 105. Nevertheless, as long as you make sure to pour small drams and finish them quickly you should be in for a nasal treat with this one. And let's not forget this must be the cheapest cask strength malt on the market - still pretty great value!

So, any famous last words about Glenfarclas before I finish this log entry?
Well, just like the people at Glenrothes they sure know their marketing at Glenfarclas. I think they were one of the first distilleries (if not the very first) that offered such a huge range of different expressions. I have to say I've never been hopping up and down about the Glenfarclas OB's before. Don't get me wrong; I've never tried a bad Glenfarclas in my life and with the exception of an 8yo bottled exclusively for Gall & Gall every single bottle I ever bought scored above average. There are many avid 'Farclas fans among the maniacs, but for me personally the differences in style between the 10yo, 12yo and even the 21yo are often too subtle. Even the 25yo and 30yo OB's (which are excellent single malt whiskies in their own right) struggled to achieve the 'highly reccommendable' status that comes with a score in the upper eighties. Why is that? Because their added value compared to the reccomendable 12yo is relatively limited. And why would that be? Well, you have to pay quite a bit more for a more balanced, more complex version of the 12yo. In all my Dutchness I'd rather take the price difference and invest it in another bottle that reveals some other aspects of the Scotch whisky spirit.

But that's just my opinion - when you check out the matrix you'll find that some maniacs disagree with ratings in the lower 90's for the older OB's. And I have to admit I'm coming around myself as well. After discovering expressive and single-minded gems like the 22yo Millennium and 1983/2001 Family Reserve I've learned there's a lot more to Glenfarclas than the 'main range' of OB's (10yo, 12yo, 15yo, 17yo, etc.). And suddenly the huge range makes sense . Their main range caters to people who just want to enjoy a good (or even great) malt whisky at a price they can afford. You can't go wrong with any of the OB's in the main range there. And for the freaks like me there are dozens of 'special' bottlings available that show different and often unexpected sides of Glenfarclas that might offend the faint-hearted. Well, such a strategy makes a lot of sense - both from a marketing point of view as from the perspective of a malt maniac. I have to say I wouldn't mind if Glenrothes adopted a similar strategy and released a few 'freaky' (but affordable) bottlings now and then.

And that's all the nitpicking I've got for tonight. Sweet drams!
 

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Dram Diary 25/10/2003  (New discoveries/scores are printed BOLD.) 

60 - Glen Albyn 10yo (40%, Noord's Wijnhandel, possibly a 'fake')
76 - Glen Albyn 22yo 1977/1999 (43%, Signatory Vintage, Cask #1952)
80 - Glenfarclas NAS '105' (60%, OB, Batch LB 350BB 3 11:29, Bottled +/- 2002)
77 - Glenfarclas 15yo (46%, OB, Batch L 3034M0455 1 13 50, Italian bottling)
87 - Glenfarclas 1983/2001 Family Reserve Edition #4 (46%, OB, Sherry Cask, Bottle #1596 of 2400)
78 - Glenglassaugh 1986/1998 (40%, MacPhail's Collection)
82 - Glenmorangie 10yo 100 Proof (57.2%, OB, Duty Free, Bottled 1990's)
75 - Glenrothes 1984/1995 (43%, OB)
78 - Glenrothes 1987/2000 (43%, OB)
83 - Glenrothes 1973/2000 (43%, OB)
75 - Glen Scotia 12yo 'Full Proof' (54%, OB, Bottled late 1980's)

The last time I checked, my Track Record showed 460 single malts.
I've sampled 11 whiskies tonight and except for the Glenrothes 1973/2000 (I sampled it before at the Glenrothes distillery) they were all new discoveries. That puts the number of malts on my track record at 470 malts. Only thirty more to go.
 

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Log Entry # 149  -  October 31, 2003
Topic:  Northern Overexposure

Some of you may have noticed I've adapted my shopping behaviour this year.
It's a tough time for free-lancers and my disposable income has dropped quite a bit. As a result I've had to limit my frequent visits to liquorists - and I've had to make some tough choices on the rare occasions when I did enter a store. And like I feared, the Dutch liquorists have suffered with me - their sales dropped a whopping 27% since this January. I knew I was a 'heavy user', but I never suspected some moderation on my part could have such dire consequences...

Actually, now that I think about it the recession could have something to do with it as well. And when I think about it some more I'm quite sure the recent tax increase on liquor is the real culprit here. Pennypinching is a national sport here in Holland and I remember the drinking public being quite pissed off about the tax increase, especially after the 'expensive' introduction of the Euro a year earlier. The government hoped to increase its revenues from liquor tax but their cunning little plan backfired. They now receive a little more money per bottle (a mere 3 or 4 percent, I believe), but the volumes have dropped dramatically. Let's just hope this little 'faux pas' doesn't put some of my favourite liquorists out of business. If it does, I might have to try and bring back the old and respectable tradition of illicit distilling to these parts. Over the years I've learned quite a bit about the theory of distillation and now that I've seen a few working distilleries on the inside I theoretically should be able to reproduce the process on a smaller scale with some household appliances. Theoretically...

But there I go again, wandering off into the fields of insanity.
I was telling you about my recent shopping behaviour. Even with my favourite liquorists still in business, I've been relying heavily on bottles in my reserve stock to satisfy my need for new discoveries lately. Many of those bottles were never meant for long time storage anyway, so after a few years of explosive growth my reserve stock is now slowly shrinking again. That's just as well, because I was really running out of room to store the bottles, even after I moved some of them to my stash in the woods.

While the stock situation w.r.t. my big bottles has been improving a new, smaller 'problem' has emerged. Over the last few months I've been indulging in heavy sample swapping. This helped moving some big bottles through my shelves more rapidly, but it also left me with dozens of 50ml and 125ml return samples to investigate. With the hectic month of November just around the corner I decided to round up all the Islay samples for a big Islay investigation. I decided to start with the northernmost distillery on the Island (Bunnahabhain) and work my way south from there via Caol Ila, Bruichladdich and Bowmore to the Kildalton distilleries.

The Bunnahab(h)ain 20yo 1979/1999 (56.7%, Signatory Vintage, Cask #3184) was the first of three Bunnies sent to me from France by Serge. A 25yo 1964/1990 Signatory bottling we had in Scotland was fabulous.
Nose: Quite sweet. Toffee. Organics. Some sherry. Tobacco? Hardly any Islay character.
Some fruits too. Very interesting, actually - just not what you'd expect from an Islay malt.
Taste: Sweet, smooth start. Malty, bitter centre. Feels softer than the high proof suggests.
Easily drinkable at C/S. I have to say I quite liked it until the bitter, woody finish took over.
After a few minutes the palate turns nasty and extremely bitter. Water doesn't help. Bummer.
Score: 71 points. That's decidedly disappointing for a 20yo Islay malt. I had it in the upper 70's for the first few minutes but it deteriorates quickly. A splash of water releases some smoke, but nothing more. Nevertheless, the nose remains quite entertaining - if you ask me this is a malt for nosing, not for drinking.

Let's hope the Bunnahabhain 20yo 1980 (54.8%, Prestonfield, Cask #9063) does better. I've never seen a Prestonfield bottling in Holland before but I've heard some good things through the grapevine.
Nose: Wood. Smoke. Something extremely sour like raw rhubarb. Vinegar? Organics.
Old sherry and dust in the background. Unique, but once again no real Islay power.
Taste: Very soft start, growing quite fruity towards the centre. Tannin dryness.
It has a wonderful candy fruitiness that slowly fizzles out into a dry, beer-like finish.
Score: 83 points . A malt that stands up much better than the Signatory Vintage bottling of the same age, especially if you give it some time. While the SigVint passes out this one keeps developing and improving. But I can't quite fathom why Serge and Olivier thought it was worth 90 points. It's good, but not THAT good... However, I have to admit I might have scored it a bit higher in a blind sampling when I wasn't gagging for peat.

I'm thrilled I get to sample the Bunnahabhain 34yo 1968/2002 'Auld Acquaintance' (43.8%, OB). Four other maniacs have sampled it so far and they all scored it in the 90's. Can't be a bad malt, right?
Nose: Wow! Fruit and sherry. Organics. Spices. Sweaty socks - but in a nice way...
Sweet like carnival candy after a few minutes. Black berries. Smoke. Eucalyptus?
Amazing complexity. My typing just can't keep up with the ever-changing fragrances.
Taste: Woody start. Fruity centre. Dry finish, still woody. Nice, but nothing spectacular.
Quite bitter. It seems a tad watery, but that may be because I've just had two c/s malts.
Score: 89 points. The nose is just fabulous, but I found the palate not complex or sophisticated enough (not to mention too woody) to warrant a score in the 90's. Maybe I'm being too critical, but I'm looking for an excellent performance on both nose and palate before I start handing out ratings of 90 points and more - the highest honour that can be bestowed upon a whisky in my little malt mad universe.

Let's reflect on my scores for the first three drams for a moment while I take a small break, shall we? It wasn't easy rating the two 20yo Bunnies. The score for the Signatory Vintage bottling started around 77/78 points and as time went by it dropped to something in the lower sixties. The 'final' score of 71 is sort of an average of the overall performance between start and finish. The Prestonfield, on the other hand, started out in the upper 70's and had made it into the 80's by the time the Signatory Vintage had dropped below 70. It kept kreeping up to 83 points. The Auld Acquaintance did very well from start to finish and would have easily made the 90's with a palate to match the fabulous nose.  Just like so many other very old whiskies, this 34yo Bunnahabhain suffers from an over-aged palate. However, this is still the best Bunny I ever tried.

After three Bunnies I proceeded with a sample sent to me by Klaus from Germany.
I've seen the Caol Ila 15yo (43%, Flora & Fauna) on shelves in Holland a few times but somehow I always ended up spending my money on other bottles. Not too surprising if you know that the F&F bottlings tend to be a bit pricier than comparable IB's here in Holland. And with Caol Ila, there are plenty of IB's to choose from.
Nose: Quite peaty, but little else at first. Grain dust? More organics emerge over time.
Taste: Surprisingly smooth start. Plenty of peat in the centre but rather flat. Liquorice?
Score: 79 points . It would be interesting to do a H2H of this one against some other Caol Ila's on my shelves, but I have to move along. I've got nearly a dozen other Islay malts to sample tonight.

Next up were four samples from Willem Baaijens; two Caol Ila's and two 'Laddies'.
The Caol Ila 12yo (43%, OB) was released last year, together with an 18yo and the C/S version I sampled in Spetember. The public has been awaiting these OB's for a long time but my encounter with the C/S wasn't exactly the experience of a lifetime with a score of 81 points. Recommedable but no pants-wetter.
Nose: Coastal clear. Salty and briny, but not especially peaty. Something grassy?
Taste: Dry, salty and a little peaty. A solid young Islay malt, maybe just a tad flat.
Score: 80 points . Recommendable, but I wouldn't want to go any further than that. I've sampled plenty of comparable IB's that performed better than this one; the 12yo 1989/2001 unchillfiltered bottling by Signatory Vintage (46%, Bourbon casks) for example. With so many IB's available it pays to 'pick & choose'.

I had a nip of the Caol Ila 23yo 1978/2002 (61.7%, UDRM) at last year's whiskyfestival in Den Haag but I didn't manage to get a very accurate score on that occasion. Time for a proper investigation.
Nose: Phew - flat but quite overwhelming. Chloride. Ammoniac. Organics. Smoke.
This is rather odd; I would have expected some more complexity from a malt this old.
Taste: Better than the nose for a change. Clean and powerful with a dash of peat.
A splash of water brings some saltier elements to the foreground. Quite dry.
Score: 81 points. No match at all for its illustrous 1975/1999 predecessor, but decent enough.

Time for a small break and a big steak with and some salad.
I'd like to make some profound statements about Caol Ila but the truth of the matter is that I still haven't found a distinct common denominator that links all the versions I've tried together. Generally speaking, Caol Ila's seem to be lighter and a tad more more transparant than the malts from the south of the Island. Other than that, I've found it hard to find many trademark characteristics among the many IB's I've tried so far.

From the Caol Ila distillery it's a trek of some fifteen miles south-west to Bruichladdich.
The first 'Laddie' from Willem Naaijens was the Bruichladdich 17yo XVII (46%, OB). If I'm not mistaken, this particular bottling was released in 2002 to replace the 20yo released a year earlier. So far six maniacs have sampled this expression and they all scored it in the lower to mid-80's. Should do well.
Nose: Quite floral? That's odd. It's also maltier and grainier than other Islays. Aniseed?
Toffee? Fruits as well. Lightly salted. It's a little smoky but not heavy on the peat.
Taste: Malty and sweeter than I expected at first. Again something flowery. Wood.
Score: 82 points. A very friendly Islay malt - a little too friendly to make me up and down, though.

Just like the UDRM Caol Ila I've sampled the Bruichladdich 1984/2002 'Legacy' (46%, OB) at last year's whiskyfestival in Den Haag. I couldn't decide on a solid score back then - let's hope I'll do better this time.
Nose: Quite sherried - but transparant at the same time. Fruity and nutty. Grass?
Creamy. It seems a tad less coastal than the XVII - almost like a Campbeltown malt.
Taste: Smoke and wood. Fruity episodes as well. Hints of smoke and salt. No peat.
Score: 82 points. From my perspective it seems quite similar to the 17yo. Recommendable.

So, what can I say about these Laddies? Not very much, I'm afraid. They are both recommendable malts, no question about that. Very different from the whisky distilled at the powerhouse distilleries on the south of the island , but clearly Islay whiskies nevertheless. Since the new oweners took over the house style seems to be moving away from the softer, more sherried profile of Bunnahabhain and Bowmore OB's. Instead, the new bottlings I've tried over the past years tend to go into a lighter, more transparant direction like Caol Ila. At the same time, the Caol Ila's tend to be a little feistier and peatier - something I'm quite fond of. I can't wait to try the more heavily peated bottlings Mark Reynier and his crew are working on...

Now it's time to leave Bruichladdich behind and make a small virtual hop across Loch Indaal.
Just across the water lies the Bowmore distillery. There's only one Bowmore on today's menu, but it's not just any Bowmore; it's the Bowmore 1965 'Full Strength' (50%, OB, Bottled 1980's) that whisky hunter Serge found in a small pizzeria in Milan, Italy. (Read log entry #123 for the details of this conquest.)
Nose: Wow! This smells like a heavily sherried Speysider. Dark fruity notes. Sellery. Clay.
Great wood. Subtle smoky notes - like a garden bonfire. Something metallic. Stock cubes.
Wonderful sherry. Very complex - many elements I can't quite get my hands on.
Taste: Smooth, fruity start followed by sweet liquorice. Good wood. Dry Burn.
Strong fruity centre. Long smoky finish. Fabulous mouth feel at 50%. Very complex too.
Score: 92 points. Yep, this is absolutely fabulous. Without a doubt and by far the best Bowmore I ever tried. Maybe this was the profile they tried to re-create with the Bowmore Darkest? If so, they failed miserably... But then again, this profile is so extreme that it might scare away women and children...

Moving further south we arrive at the Port Ellen distillery. Well not really, but we would have if it would have been still active. The Port Ellen 23yo 1979/2002 (43%, Signatory Vintage, Cask #5151) was the first one of a trio of PE's provided by Serge. The colour of this sample was disturbingly light - probably an old bourbon cask.
Nose: Light fruits. Apple. Some faint hints of peat and rubber in the distance.
Nothing much at first, but as times goes by it picks up. Smoked ham. Organics.
Taste: Rather thin. Flat and bitter before the peat emerges. Beer? Tired. Weak.
Score: 77 points. Fairly underwhelming. Hardly better than 'average', I'd say. I have no explanation whatsoever for the fact that Serge and Olivier scored it in the upper eighties. Temporary insanity, perhaps?

The Port Ellen 23yo 1978/2002 (54.3%, Signatory Vintage, Cask #5344) was a sibling of the previous PE, also provided by Serge. Let's hope this cask proves to be better than the previous one - no big challenge.
Nose: Sweet. Malty. Nutty. Very fruity after a minute, but nothing coastal whatsoever.
Hardly any traces of Islay character at first - apart from some 'wet dog' associations.
Taste: Weak, watery start. Bittersweet centre. Coffee? Harsh. Weak, woody finish.
Score: 74 points. Below average. This is the 'worst' Port Ellen I've sampled so far and the previous Signatory bottling wasn't very good either. It seems they have run out of the good casks a while ago...

I was very happy with Serge's sample of the Port Ellen 1979/2001 '1st Annual Release' (56.2%, OB). This would give me the opportunity to compare the 'original' to its successor, bottled a year later at 54.3%.
Nose: Ah, that's more like it! Heavy, brooding earthy and coastal notes. Smoke.
Developing organics, growing stronger with some water. Definite improvement.
Taste: Drinkable at c/s. Sweet start, growing hotter and smokier quickly. Big burn.
Bitter finish. A splash of water seems to bring the sweeter fruitier elements forward.
Score: 83 points . The bitter, woody finish pulls the score down a few points but it's still a recommendable dram. At the same time I can't resist pointing out that the Laphroaig 10yo Cask Strength (57.3%, OB) is even more recommendable and you can get about three litre bottles for the price of one of these PE 'annual releases'.

Willem provided me with a sample of the Port Ellen 1978/2002 '2nd Annual Release' (54.3%, OB). Like a few other drams I investigated tonight; I got to sample this one at the 2002 whisky festival in Den Haag.
Nose: Smoke and peat. Ammoniac. Organics. Horse stable. Oak. Brine in the distance.
Serious. Dry. Just like its predecessor, it shows very little fruity and sherried elements. 
Taste: Surprisingly subtle. Softly medicinal with a salty burn later on. Quite friendly.
Lemon and other fruity elements as well - didn't find those in the nose. Satisfying. 
Score: 84 points . A recommendable dram, just like its predecessor - maybe a tad more refined.

From the long lost Port Ellen distillery it's just a mile east along the shore to Laphroaig.
Except from the 10yo C/S OB the only Laphroaig on my shelves was the remainder of a sample Klaus sent me some time ago, the Laphroaig 16yo 1983/1999 (52.5%, MacKillop's Choice, cask #1849, bottle #114).
Nose: Toffee and fruits at first - no peat. Sweet and quite strange. Like rum cake.
Then organics appear, growing stronger. Leather? Paint thinner? Still no peat, though.
Taste: Soft, sweetish start. Seems weaker than 52.5% at first. Hint of lemon? Dry. Hot.
Woody. Dusty? Winey finish. Fragmented. The style is very different from the OB's.
Score: 79 points. A great nose matched with an average palate. Just short of recommendable.

And now it's time for an extensive break. My virtual trip south has left only three Kildalton samples on the table but my nose and palate need some rest. After half an hour I resumed the session with the last 'luxury' malts of the evening. I've heard great things about the Lagavulin 23yo 1979/2002 (46%, Murray McDavid 'Mission'); it's part of a new, top-of-the-line range from Murray McDavid. I have to admit I'm a bit sceptical.
Nose: Creamy start. Gentle organics. Some fruits. Nothing like the power of the OB.
Restrained. With a splash of water I got some more sweeter notes and some chloride.
Taste: Rough start, growing peatier. Bitter centre. Woody. Plenty of power at 46%.
The start feels a bit rough and overall it's definitely too bitter for my tastes. Too bad.
Score: 78 points . Better than average, but it doesn't really work for me. If this had been a 30 Euro's malt from the supermarket I would have been pleasantly surprised. But it's not, so I'm not...
Needless to say, I'm not reaching for my wallet just yet...

The Ardbeg 1976/2002 (53.1%, OB) was from a cask bottled especially for the 2002 Islay Whisky Festival. That means you won't be able to find it on the shelves of any store. Let's see if that's a shame.
Nose: Wow! A blast of sherry. Ripe fruits and polished wood. Dried apples. Peat.
Right up my alley. Organics. Stock Cubes. Bandages and other medicinal elements.
Amazing complexity - unique. This one continually keeps changing and evolving.
Diluted to +/- 50% it became sweeter for a moment with more fruits - water melon?
Taste: Smooth start, remarkably sweet. Then the bitter, medicinal peat kicks in. Smoky.
Dry. Perfectly drinkable at cask strength. With water it seemed even drier and sweeter..
Score: 94 points . This is a real stunner - the most amazing discovery I made in the last two years! So yes, I'd say it's a crying shame this one isn't available on shelves around the world.  In fact, unlike some other 'special bottlings' for visitors done at some distilleries this one would have made the whole trip worthwile.

That Feis Ile bottling was the very best Ardbeg I've ever tried - even better than the wonderful Douglas Laing OMC's we enjoyed so much during our last tasting session in Scotland. It would be an understatement to say that the Feis Ile bottling was a very hard act to follow for the Ardbeg 1974 'Provenance' (55.6%, OB).
Nose: Lighter and fruitier than the Feis Ile bottling. Not as peaty at first. A pinch of salt?
Developing organics. Sweet spices - like 'speculaas'. Vanilla? Dust. Quite complex.
Taste: Sweet, fruity start. Lemon drops. Then it grows smokier and woodier. Great.
With some water it remained sweet and fruity. A fabulous palate - but no peat. Dry.
Score: 91 points. A fabulous malt, but the nose never matches the depth and complexity of the Feis Ile bottling. The palate is wonderful - just not quite as brutal and peaty as I'd expected. This profile seems quite similar to that of the current 17yo OB - maybe slightly more depth and slightly less peaty power. Obviously, these are just minor nitpickings - any malt that scores in the 90's is more than OK in my book.

So, have I gained any new insights after 'stopping by' every distillery on Islay?
I already knew Ardbeg was my favourite Islay distillery so the high scores for these two latest bottlings are not really surprising. So, no shocking news about Ardbeg - just lots of fun. Especially the Feis Ile 2002 bottling blew me away. The Bowmore 1965 was VERY surprising. I've never been a huge Bowmore fan but this one is a true work of art - the first bottling to play in the same league as the 'premium' Ardbegs, Lagavulins and Laphroaigs. Too bad we won't find this one on the shelves of our liquorists these days. The two 'new' Bruichladdichs I sampled were recommendable as well, not much news there - the quality of the product has improved considerably since Murray McDavid took over the distillery. Haven't tried one in the 90's yet, though.

My respect for Bunnahabhain has grown considerably as well. The Signatory Vintage bottling was a bit of a dud, but I thought the Prestonfield 1980 was recommendable and the 1968 Auld Acquaintance OB would have made it into the 90's with a palate to match the nose. Good stuff. When we look at tonight's expressions of Caol Ila, I'm just a tad disappointed. Scores around 80 points are nothing to be ashamed about, but in tonight's esteemed company they seem to fall just a tad short. Even more so with the Lagavulin 23yo 'Mission' - I tried very hard but I couldn't find out what everybody got so worked up about. Maybe it's just too subtle for me and my bad nose. The MacKillop's Laphroaig didn't make as much of an impressions a I expected either - just short of recommendable with a score of 79 points.

Finally we have Port Ellen. The two Signatory Vintage bottlings from the late 70's were more or less 'average' and even a pennypincher like me has to admit it's worth to spend a bit more if you want to get your hands on a good Port Ellen. But that is becoming harder and harder since the number of available casks is dropping quickly. Both 'Annual Release' OB's scored in the mid-80's, but their 'premium' prices put them well outside my reach. Well, I can live with that - there are plenty of other affordable Islay malts around to satisfy my cravings for peat.

Actually, there are all kinds of exciting things happening at Islay right now and we should see the arrival of a few very interesting bottlings in the forseeable future. Watch this liquid log for the news...

Johannes
 

- - -

Dram Diary 31/10/2003  (New discoveries/scores are printed BOLD.) 

94 - Ardbeg 1976/2002 (53.1%, OB, Bottled for the 2002 Islay Whisky Festival)
91 - Ardbeg 1974 'Provenance' (55.6%, OB)
92 - Bowmore 1965 'Full Strength' (50%, OB, Bottled 1980's, Italy)
82 - Bruichladdich 17yo XVII (46%, OB, Bottled 2002)
82 - Bruichladdich 1984/2002 Legacy (46%, OB)
71 - Bunnahab(h)ain 20yo 1979/1999 (56.7%, Signatory Vintage, Cask #3184)
83 - Bunnahabhain 20yo 1980 (54.8%, Prestonfield, Cask #9063)
89 - Bunnahabhain 34yo 1968/2002 'Auld Acquaintance' (43.8%, OB)
80 - Caol Ila 12yo (43%, OB, Bottled +/- 2002)
79 - Caol Ila 15yo (43%, Flora & Fauna)
81 - Caol Ila 23yo 1978/2002 (61.7%, UDRM)
78 - Lagavulin 23yo 1979/2002 (46%, Murray McDavid 'Mission')
79 - Laphroaig 16yo 1983/1999 (52.5%, MacKillop's Choice, Cask #1849)
77 - Port Ellen 23yo 1979/2002 (43%, Signatory Vintage, Cask #5151)
74 - Port Ellen 23yo 1978/2002 (54.3%, Signatory Vintage, Cask #5344)
83 - Port Ellen 1979/2001 '1st Annual Release' (56.2%, OB)
84 - Port Ellen 1978/2002 '2nd Annual Release' (54.3%, OB)

With seventeen Islay malts (thirteen brand new bottlings as far as my own meandering experience is concerned) my Track Record now shows 483 single malt whiskies. Only 17 more to go before my 'promotion' to Malt Magus.

 
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