170 - 12/08/2004 - Macs & Music; diving into my collection of modern music & malts.
171 - 21/08/2004 - Clash of the Cooleys; 4 Irish whiskeys, including the first single grain whiskey.
172 - 31/08/2004 - Stock Shock; bringing law and order back to the shelves of my collection.
173 - 01/09/2004 - The Art of Whisky; nine divine drams from Italian bottler Wilson & Morgan.
174 - 11/09/2004 - Speyside Siblings & Alexander's 'Blinds'; just working on my 'malt mileage'.
175 - 12/09/2004 - Coast-to-Coast Dramming; a coastal trip from Clynelish to Springbank.
176 - 15/09/2004 - Meeting The New Mac; the introduction of Macallan's 'Fine Oak' series.
177 - 21/09/2004 - An Islay Adventure; about one of the best and one of the worst Bowmores.
178 - 25/09/2004 - Cleaning Out Cadenhead's; trying to make a dent in Andries' collection.
179 - 30/09/2004 - Exotica Caledonia; some pretty exotic samples from Olivier and Ho-cheng.
 

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Log Entry # 170 - August 12, 2004
Topic:  Macs & Music

Over the last few months I've grown quite addicted to Serge's Whiskyfun website.
There's some fresh content almost every day - if it isn't about malts it's probably about music or motorcycles. I've already found some fantastic new music on WhiskyFun over the past few months, including Beth Gibbons, Harry Lauder, Monica Zetterlund and Susana Seivane. This inspired me to have a 'musical' session myself tonight. I've already written some words on some of my favourite classical music in the 'Sound Advice' E-pistle in Malt Maniacs #8, so this time I'll flip through some of the more contemporary music on my hard drive while I have a go at a bunch of Macallan samples on my shelves.

So, let's see... What would be a good choice to kick off this 'macs & mucis' session?
Well, how about French band Air? Their music is hard to put in any predefined category. I guess 'ambient chill-out lounge' is as good a decription as any, although one reviewer described it as 'electronic retro-futuristic dinner party music for stoners'. That doesn't sound nearly as appetising as the music itself, though. I had my first encounter with Air in the form of their fantastically weird song Playground Love which was playing at at a parapente bar in Mieussy, France one evening during my last trip there. I had spent quite some time in the air that day, and the music lifted me higher than a kite once again. I instantly knew I wanted to hear more of them, but I couldn't find any CD's of them in the Dutch music stores back then. Fortunately, the blessings of the world wide web include access to a world of music in MP3 format, so it wasn't long before I had found some tracks from their debut album Moon Safari (1998). The song Kelly Watch The Stars taken from that album was a small hit in some European countries and if you listen to the audio clip you can find through the link below you'll quickly know if this your kind of music. Other personal favourite songs are Mike Mills, Cherry Blossom Girl, Jeanne and Alone in Kyoto.

You can find some RealAudio clips at www.popnews.com/air/indexang.htm
You can find a review of Moon Safari at www.music-critic.com/electronica/air_moonsafari.htm
You can find a review of Talkie Walkie at www.bbc.co.uk/music/dance/reviews/air_walkie.shtml

Meanwhile, I've started on my first dram, the Macallan 7yo (40%, OB, International bottling, Bottled +/- 2000). This was a sample I filled myself shortly after the eye-opening Macallan JOLT in the summer of 2002.
Nose: Softer than during the JOLT. Still no MacSherry attack, though. Toffee? Fudge? Vanilla?
Then vegetable notes emerge. Almost oily. Faint hint of smoke or peat in the background?
Taste: Soft, nay weak start. Soap? Vanished too soon. This isn't very promising.
It has a brief moment of sweet fudge/caramac glory but it's over before you know it.
A little breathing seems to have some positive effect, but it never becomes 'Macallanish'.
Conclusion:  but I see no reason to raise the score of 65 points. Absolutely not up to Mac standards, as far as I'm concerned. But then again, the JOLT showed that those standards are dropping fast...

Hmmm... Suddenly I'm covered in a blanket of nostalgia.
Fortunately, the music of the Cherry Poppin' Daddies always
cheers me up again. These daddies don't restrict themselves to
one style, but they are at their best when they just let it swing.
Their tunes are exceptionally energetic, even the more 'straight
faced' songs like 'So Long Toots' and 'Mister White Keys'. CPD's
repertoire includes some raunchier titles as well, like 'Shake
Your Lovemaker'
, 'Drunk Daddy' and 'Here Comes The Snake'.
 
Just to give you a taste, here are the first lines of the last one;
'Here comes the snake and he circles your leg,
He's come to play and make your body parts shake
.'
Sophisticated, isn't it? Well, maybe not, but I think it's funny.
References to 'the water of life' in songs like 'Irish Whisky' and
'You, me & The Bottle makes Three' earns them bonus points.
 
Oh yeah, they also have a funny website at www.daddies.com.

You can listen to some samples and read some reviews at:
www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg/detail/-/B000005B00/104-2420635-7016729?v=glance
You can find more reviews at www.worlds-music.com/Zoot_Suit_Riot_B00005RIJH.html

Hopping on my chair to the rhythm of the daddies has improved my mood once again; I'm ready to resume the session. I received the sample of Macallan 7yo (40%, OB, Bottled 1990's, 'Armando Giovinetti, Italy) from Davin a few months ago but hadn't had a chance to try it yet. Time to see how it compares to the new 7yo.
Nose: Restrained start with a faint whiff of rhubarb. Then fruitier, spicier and more sherried.
Some more woody elements after a minute. Then toffee and something metallic. Pleasant.
Taste: Quick burst of soap, sweetening out very quickly. Big and chewy. Fruity.
A big and pleasant surprise after the slightly underwhelming nose. Hint of smoke.
Score: 75 points. Not too bad at all, but I have a hard time forgetting the soapy start.
That being said, it resembles the 'classic' Macallans a lot closer than the 'international' 7yo.

Hmmm... Once again no reason to be ecstatic.
I liked this Italian version of the 7yo better than the 'international' bottling, but it was bottled in the 1990's which means I won't be able to buy another botte. Well, that's no major disaster since it's not an outstanding malt anyway. Nevertheless, let's give in to the melancholy about the demise of Macallan for a moment and play some moody music. And it doesn't get much moodier than Judie Tzuke - well, at least some of her songs. This British singer released her first single in 1978, the moving (and virtually a-capella) 'For You'. That song didn't become a big hit, but her next single 'Stay With Me Till Dawn' did and stayed in the UK charts for 16 weeks. Other personal favourites of mine include 'On A Ship' and the decidedly less moody 'Welcome to the Cruise'.

You can find more information and listen to some samples on www.tzuke.com

Ah, lovely - like a gentle twilight sea-breeze for my ears...
Completely revitalised I felt ready to move on to some more serious business.
The sample of the Macallan 1990/2002 'Elegancia' (40%, OB) came from Germany over a year ago but it has managed to stay below my radar all that time. Now the circumstances are ripe for a serious test.
Nose: Spicy and not nearly as sherried as other expressions. Some restrained organics.
Malty. No fruits and no sweetness, which could indicate that bourbon casks were used.
Opens up a little after 5 minutes with more nutty notes. Earns an extra point here.
Taste: Some sweetness and some fruits in the start, but they vanish rather quickly.
A fairly good mouth feel at first, but the promising centre soon grows gritty, woody and bitter.
Score: 77 points. A decent single malt whisky, but not in the 'classic' Macallan style.
In fact, this reminded me a bit of Glenrothes; another 'Edrington' distillery.

The 'Elegancia' isn't a bad whisky, but I'm having mixed feelings just the same.
Until not too long ago the word 'Macallan' on the label was a guarantee that there was a sherry monster lurking inside the bottle, but that doesn't seem to be the case anymore. I guess this calls for some more melancholic music to wallow in memories of sweeter days for a while longer. The music of American singer Alison Krauss is sweet indeed. You may know her and the bluegrass band 'Union Station' from a few songs on the soundtrack of 'O Brother Where Art Thou?' by the Coen brothers. Alison's beautiful voice shines in a wide variety of styles, from slow ballads like 'Maybe' and 'It Doesn't Matter' to more up-tempo country songs like 'I've Got That Old Feeling' and 'The Lucky One' and from fairly straightforward gospel material like 'Walk Over God's Heaven' and 'When God Dips His Pen of Love' (no kidding) to more adventurous compositions like 'Daylight' and 'Happiness'. Some other personal favourits are 'Forget About It', 'It Wouldn't Have Made Any Difference' and 'There Is A Reason'.

You can find more information and some music on www.alisonkrauss.com
You can read a review at www.bbc.co.uk/music/folkcountry/reviews/alisonkrauss_live.shtml

Aaaah... I'm feeling all mellowed out - ready to take on what should be 'the good stuff'.
The Macallan 18yo 1983/2001 (43%, OB) was another Canadian sample sent by Davin.
Nose: Ooooaah! Heavy sherry, that's more like it! Then fruits and a hint of smoke emerge.
More organics and toffee later on. A classic Macallan - maybe a tad lighter than earlier 18yo's.
Still, it has everything that made me fall in love with Macallan in the first place.
Taste: Oy... Once again I got a punch of perfume in the start. Lingers longer than in the 7yo.
The soap slowly turns to sherry, then fruits and then sweeter and woodier elements. Too bad.
Apart from the soapy start it's a classic Macallan - maybe a tad lighter on the organics.
Score: 85 points . Without the soapy start it would easily have made 88 or 89 points.
As it is, it really needs some time before it settles comfortably in your mouth.
The nose seems a tad lighter than other 18yo OB's I tried; a summertime Mac.

Speaking of summertime; it's steaming hot in Amsterdam right now.
That seems like a perfect excuse to switch to some hot summer music by the Barenaked Ladies from Canada. I don't take all of the musical tips from my tone deaf ex-collegue Jan seriosuly (he loves Status Quo, need I say more?) but when he mentioned this band I somehow felt a subconscious urge to do a fuzzy search on the web. It took me some time to find the (smashing) site of the the band (www.bnlmusic.com) and by that time I had already seen my fill of naked ladies flashing across my computer screen. As a result, the discovery that the band members were neither bare naked nor in fact ladies didn't disappoint me as much as it otherwise might have. Some of their music is guaranteed to bring any stranded party back to life; some of my personal favourits are 'Blame It On Me', 'Box Set', 'Be My Yoko Ono', 'Crazy' and (of course) 'Alcohol'.

For your enjoyment and enlightenment, here's the first part of the lyrics of that last one;

Alcohol, my permanent accessory
Alcohol, a party-time necessity
Alcohol, alternative to feeling like yourself
O alcohol, I still drink to your health
I love you more than I did the week before I discovered alcohol

You can find more information and listen to some tunes at www.bnlmusic.com
Read a review at www.reviewjournal.com/lvrj_home/2004/Mar-21-Sun-2004/news/23484628.html

Oh boy, my mood is getting better and better - and maybe it's not just the music...
The Macallan 18yo 1978/1996 (43%, OB, L6087MCLR 17:10, 5cl) was a miniature sent from France by Serge. Oddly enough I haven't tried any Mac 18's distilled between 1976 and 1982 so far. Let's remedy that.
Nose: Hey... Not quite as extremely sherried as most other 18yo OB's I tried.
Then fruitier notes emerge. Furniture polish and old books. Very, very subtle.
Taste: Hey, this one has a perfumy start as well... So it isn't just Davin's sample.
Good body. It turns fruitier quickly. Feels quite hot at 43% - a minty, peppery freshness.
Score: 87 points. Yep, that's more like it. I've got an 'Italian' bottling in my reserve stock that's supposed to be one of the best 18yo bottlings from the 1990's, but I'll have to investigate that one a little later.

A fine dram - further evidence that 'Mac' was 'bigger' once.
If I had to describe it in one word it would have to be 'subtle'.
That means I had to find some subtle music on my hard disk
to match the mood of this Big Mac. I wasn't quite sure what
to look for until I stumbled upon the October Project. Ideal!
 
The music may not seem all that subtle at first, but when you
listen closer to the odd rhythm of 'Sunday Morning Yellow Sky'
or the hypnotic vocals of 'Take Me As I Am' or 'A Lonely Voice'
you'll quickly find all kinds of subtle elements that are artfully
woven together to form a tapestry of sound. Other personal
favourite compositions include 'Something More Than This',
'Ariel', Return To Me' and 'Wall of Silence'. Check it out.

You can find more info and listen to many different samples at:
www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg/detail/-/B000002968/002-9788983-7037633?v=glance
You can find a review at www.spies.com/~rawdon/music/artists/october.project.html

OK - time for the next dram. I tried the Macallan 25yo 1976/2001 (50%, Silver Seal, Single Barrel) in a blind session on June 6 and gave it 87 points on that occasion. Serge sent me quite a generous sample and when I tried it again last week I got the strong impression that I may have seriously underscored it after my first try. Well, now it's time to arrive at a final judgement in the presence of its peers.
Nose: Aaah.... Very polished and balanced. Wood and sweet fruits. Extremely rich.
Growing complexity, especialy in the 'organics' department. Extremely entertaining.
Ghurkins or pickled onions? A real sherry monster and the best Mac of the evening.
Taste: Sweet and woody with a fabulous mouth feel. Toffee and tea leaves. Coconut.
A surprising hint of liquorice. Maybe just a tad too unidimensional on the palate.
Score: 92 points. Oh yeah, this is definitely MUCH better than a mere 87 points. In fact, I think this is the very best Macallan I've tried so far. I really underscored this one last time when my senses were suffering from the onslaught of foreign experiments like Sikkim and Swissky. This is a beauty and it deserves a score in the 90's.

So, what music would be appropriate to accompany the last drops of this magnificent Mac?
How about the Dutch 'nederfolk' group Flairck ? Just like this Macallan, they were 'born' in 1976 and they still shine today. Their music is a cocktail of a wide variety of influences, the most important of them classical music and 'ethnic' music from Holland, Ireland and the rest of Europe. I had the pleasure of seeing them perform live in the 1980's a few times and their craftsmanship really sparkles on stage. Some of my own personal favourite works are 'Aoife' (a slowly meandering piece with celtic and medieval influences), 'Behind The Glass Curtain' (with its fragile flute floating across an ebb and flow of other instruments) and 'The Toll' (a short, dreamy piece with woodblocks). Compositions like 'Oneven Wals' and 'Voorspel in Sofia' have a more traditional feeling to them, but they also made a few 'pop-rock' songs like 'Walk Upon Dreams' (the song available through one of the links below).

You can find more information at www.flairck.com
You can read a review at www.folkworld.de/14/e/flairck.html
You can listen to one of Flairck's songs at www.songsouponsea.com/q&a1.html#Dreams

With the Macallan-Glenlivet 30yo 1963/1993 (54.7%, Cadenhead's, Oak Cask, D2/63, B10/93, 5cl) we have arrived at the beginning of the end of this 'Macs & Music' entry. It's another miniature from Serge and it will actually be the oldest Macallan I've tried so far. As such, it has quite a reputation to live up to.
Nose: Strong organics in the start. Leather? Spicy fudge. No sherry, though.
Grain warehouse. Dried apples. A very likeable profile, but not terribly complex.
Taste: A little weak in the start, growing sweeter and fruitier quickly. Dusty.
The profile didn't really change after I added some water. Remains a bit 'coastal'.
Score: 87 points . This is the very first unsherried Macallan I really like - so it CAN be done. That being said, it still doesn't offer the complexity of some Macallan OB's that were matured for only half as long in sherry casks. So, is there really a point in pouring fresh Macallan spirit into bourbon casks? I'm not quite sure yet - I'd really have to try some more bourbon-matured Macallans before I can make up my mind.

Actually, it seems I'll get that chance sooner than I'd like because Macallan has recently announced the introduction of a new range of malts; the 'Fine Oak'. According to Macallan's global controller Matthew Turner the 'secret' behind this new expressions is 'maturation in carefully selected European and American oak casks, which have previously held Sherry or Bourbon, resulting in a particularly smooth, delicate and light single malt'. Well, that's interesting... When we look at the back label of the Macallan 7yo OB it says: 'For reasons not even science can wholly explain, whisky has always matured best in oak casks that have contained sherry. Due to increasing expense and scarcity, other distillers no longer insist on sherry casks. THE MACALLAN DIRECTORS DO.'.

Or at least they did...
It seems Macallan has been going downhill fast since they fired their nosing team a few years ago. The marketeers and controllers have really gone into overdrive during the last few years. You'd think they would want to play things safe after all the commotion about the 'replica's' that turned out to be replica's of fakes, but they boldly move forward in 'rationalising' Macallan further. Pretty soon there may be little left to set the once legendary Macallan brand apart from 'the other distillers' they scoffed at on the label of the 7yo...

I wouldn't want to end this entry on such a cynical and depressing note.
And I don't have to... I poured myself the last dregs of the oldest Macallan
I ever tried and started looking for some suitably soothing music on my HD.
Pretty soon I came across my Natalie Merchant collection and that seems
like the perfect choice to end this session. Natalie used to be the singer of
10,000 Maniacs before she embarked on a solo career in the mid 1990's.
Her distinctive voice already stuck out in some of the 'softer' 10K maniacs
material like 'One Fine Day', 'Eat For Two' and 'The Lowlands of Holland',
but after Serge pointed out some of her solo work to me I discovered that
Natalie's vocal abilities stretched far beyond most of the 'maniacal' material.
Some of my personal favourites are 'Just Can't Last', 'Life Is Sweet', 'My Skin',
'Effigy', 'Break Your Heart', 'Build A Levee', 'Motherland' and 'Thick As Thieves'.
You can get more info and listen to some clips at www.nataliemerchant.com.
If the clips of 'Sally Ann' and 'Which Side' make you go soft in the knees just
like me you should consider clicking onwards to the shop there and order one
of her albums. I'd go for 'Ophelia' or 'Motherland' first and take it from there.

And that's it for tonight's Macallan madness.
I need to get some sleep because I'll need all my strength for an upcoming 'Deviant Drams' session.
 

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Log Entry # 171 - August 21, 2004
Topic:  Clash of the Cooleys

Jack Teeling of Cooley (Irelands's last independent distillery) sent me
an e-mail last week to let me know he wouldn't mind seeing some more
Irish whiskeys featured on Malt Madness. Quite right. Irish whiskeys used
to be a relatively obscure segment (especially here in Holland) but over
the last few years interesting things have been happening in Ireland.
And many of these things have been happening at a place called Cooley's.
The Cooley distillery was founded by mr. John Teeling as recently as 1987.
 
John Teeling acquired an old potato alcohol plant in the Cooley peninsula
on Ireland's east coast. The plant was converted into two distilleries; one
pot still and one patent still operation. Pretty soon other people like Willie
McCarter, Paul Power and Lee Mallagahan joined forces with John Teeling
in competing with the one and only producer of Irish whiskey in the world
at the time; Irish Distillers. Partly thanks to these alliances, Cooley now
owns a large number of brands, including Connemara, Tyrconnell, Locke's,
Kilbeggan, Millars and Inishowen. They also have a liqueur called 'Eblana'.
 
Cooley is a public unlisted company with over 300 shareholders.

I started off with something really special; the Greenore 8yo (40%, OB, Bottled + 2004).
What's so special, you ask? Well, for one thing it's the very first Irish single grain whisky. What's more, it has been matured in bourbon and rum (!) casks. Until last year I was convinced I didn't like grain whiskies after an encounter with the Blackbarrel in the early 1990's. I realise now that that's just as senseless as making a statement about single malts based on an encounter with Drumguish or Loch Dhu.
Nose: Subtle, but developing very quickly. From a sweet flowery start to smoke in seconds.
More powerful grainy elements after a minute. Very entertaining, a good summertime whiskey.
Gentle but firm. It sweetens out after a few more minutes with honey and something nutty.
Something 'earthy' in the back of the nose. One of the most complex Irish whiskeys I've tried!
Wow!!! I was expecting something like Blackbarrel but this is closer to Olivier's Garnheath '69.
Taste: Fairly weak start, developing into a bittersweet centre. A tad uneven in the finish.
Relatively smooth for a grain whiskey, but it's still a little too 'gritty' on the tongue for me.
A dry heat livened up by flashes of menthol freshness. Gooseberry skins? Maybe too dry.
Not the perfect profile for somebody with a sweet tooth like me, but the nose wins the day.
Score: 72 points - and that's from a freshly opened bottle, mind you! An unexpected surprise. It had something that reminded me of the 'Platte Valley' corn whiskey, but this is much smoother and more complex. The Greenore does present me with a little problem, though. It's both an Irish whiskey and a single grain whiskey at the same time, so I'm not sure if I should list it under Irish whiskeys or under single grain whiskies. You know what? I'll just go completely crazy and list the Greenore under both...

OK, time to proceed with dram #2; the Tyrconnell NAS (40%, OB, Bottled + 2004).
An earlier expression I tried (bottled +/- 1999) did pretty well with a score of 75 points.
Nose: Veggy and spicy with a hint of oil. Opens op with more fruits emerge quickly.
Then some sour beer notes float to the foreground. A lot of quick developments.
More power and a hint of smoke after five minutes. A nice profile, but a tad superficial.
Taste: Sweet, malty start. A soft beer-like bitterness on the tongue as well.
Score: 73 points . Light and refreshing, but it could do with some more complexity.
If memory serves the bottling from the late 1990's had more 'substance' in the mouth.
No real reason to switch to the Irish here but if you do, this performs above average.

OK, now we get to the fun part of the evening...
I've always been a fan of the Connemara, a peated whisky from Ireland. So far I've tried 5 different batches of the standard version without an age statement and all of them scored in the upper 70's. The Cask Strength version I sampled a few years ago did even better, but that one was hard to find in Holland. Now I have the chance to try two fresh bottlings; a new expressission of the C/S at 60% and the brand new 12yo.

The Connemara 12yo (40%, OB, Bottled + 2004) was only released in October last year and I hadn't had a chance to sample it before. The packaging is absolutely brilliant; the bottle comes in a wooden tube with wooden inlays - quite classy and unlike anything I've seen before. Now let's see if the whiskey is any good...
Nose: Sweet organics and spices. Very interesting. Most complex bouquet so far.
Then the peat emerges - lots of it. Salt liquorice. Something medicinal as well.
Did I imagine that hint of mint or menthol in the back of the nose? Some sour fruits?
Opens up beautifully after two or three minutes and shows lots of development.
Rotten peanut. Hint of chloride? Vanilla pudding? The best nose on any Irish whiskey!
Is it just me or are Irish malts becoming more characteristic - i.e. more like Scotch?
Taste: Starts off softer than the nose - and it isn't as sweet either. Dry. Smoky finish.
The smoke becomes the dominant impression after a few minutes. It lacks depth, though.
Nothing wrong here, but the mouth feel is nowhere near as big and beautiful as the nose.
Score: 81 points. A step up from the NAS version, although it isn't really convincing on the tongue. With a palate to match the nose it might have made the upper 80's, where no Irish malt has gone before... Even as it is, it outclasses some Islay malts - some recent OB's from Bowmore in particular.

The last dram of this clash of the Cooleys was the Connemara NAS Cask Strength (60%, OB, Bottled + 2004). This bottle is the latest expression in a dumpy bottle; a version bottled (in a tall bottle) at 59% I tried for the last time in January 2003 scored 82 points, making it the current #1 Irish malt in my book so far.
Nose: Oooaaah. Starts of surprisingly light, grainy and complex. Strawberry yoghurt?
Smoke emerges after a few minutes, followed by organics. Maybe some wood?
With a generous splash of water some more salty and peaty notes materialise.
Taste: Nice! Bittersweet, hot and smoky (and surprisingly drinkable) at cask strength.
No big change with water.This fire water should satisfy even the most hardened Islay snob.
Score: 82 points. Every bit as good as the previous expression that came in a taller bottle.

All of these bottles were freshly opened for tonight's session.
I'll put them on my shelves and let them 'break in' for a few months before I give them another go. Based on these first results, it seems that Cooley has more to offer to the average malt maniac than Midleton or Bushmills. But then again the Jameson 18yo I tried in Leiden in May wasn't bad either with a score of 76 points. Maybe Cooley isn't the only Irish distillery that's starting to rival its Scottish counterparts - I'll have to investigate further in the forseeable future. Meanwhile, I can heartily reccomend both new expressions of Connemara.

You can find more information about all these whiskeys at www.cooleywhiskey.com.
And that's it as far as this log entry is concerned. The four new whiskeys I tried don't count for my Track Record (only Scotch single malts are eligble), but I'll add these Irish whiskeys to the Deviant Drams section.
I'll return to more familiar territory (i.e. Scotland) for my next session.
 

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Log Entry # 172 - August 31, 2004
Topic:  Stock Shock

Oh, boy - my whisky cabinet looks like it has been ravaged by an unpleasant drunk.
Well, in fact is has been. I organised a little open-air whisky tasting in the woods a few weeks ago and I needed to pillage my collection in a hurry before I left to make the preparations. I packed up the Laphroaig 10yo Cask Strength, two Bowmore OB's (15yo & 17yo) and two Braes of Glenlivets (a 12yo from Cadenhead's and a 17yo from Signatory Vintage). That left me with some 'holes' on my shelves I'll need to fill now that autumn is around the corner. Two of these holes could be filled by contributions from guests of the forest party; a Scapa and a Glenlivet. Let's start this session by testing these latest expressions, shall we?

Dram #1: the Glenlivet 12yo (40%, OB, Bottled +/- 2001, LH10593, 100cl).
I think this is one of the runner ups to Glenfiddich in the international sales stakes.
Nose: Sweet, malty and fruity. Some gentle organics as well - that's surprising.
It actually seems to be a little more expressive in the nose than previous batches.
Taste: Not as sweet as the nose. Feels very rough on the palate. Loses points here.
Score: 75 points. Not a bad malt, but not nearly characteristic enough for me.
No obvious 'faults', but nothing to fall in love with either. So far, Glenlivets seem to need at least two decades (preferably three) before they reach their full potential - but when they do, watch out. Older Glenlivets that have been aged in a good sherry cask can rival anything from the sherry powerhouse of Macallan.

The Scapa 12yo (40%, OB, Bottled +/- 2003, L01752/LF0480) sells for 30 Euro's these days.
That's not a bad price at all, but earlier batches I tried scored only slightly above average.
Nose: Wow! A spicy punch I don't recall from earlier batches. Organics as well.
It settles down within a minute, growing maltier, fruitier and much more subtle.
Hints of grey clay. Maybe some very faint chloride? Well-rounded but quite MOTR.
Taste: Smooth; not as powerful as I'd expected. Fabulous sweet & malty centre.
Liquorice and fruity notes pop up here and there. Could be a tad more expressive, though.
Score: 77 points. I had it at 78 for a while, but the sweetness on the palate eventually evaporates. I imagine this would perform a lot better at 46% - that could make it a little 'bolder', maybe pushing it into the 80's.

OK, what's next?
Well, I can fill the rest of the gaps on my shelves by the bottles of Irish whiskey I opened last week. That's a good thing too, because the size of my reserve stock has just been diminshed with a few Ardbegs, Brora's and Port Ellens. Serge invited me to come to the Whiskyship festival in Zurich in November but I'll need some extra cash to afford the trip. Fortunately, some maniacs were willing to pay good money for a few bottles.

That means I can turn my attention to the unruly collection of samples covering most of my furniture. I started with a sample of the Glenallachie 9yo 1991/2000 (43%, Signatory Vintage, Sherry Butt #1345, 902 Btl.) sent to me by Geert Veenstra. Oh, jolly -  I've only tried two other bottlings of Glenallachie so far.
Nose: Starts out restrained. Faint notes of fresh early fruits - mostly apples. Citrus?
Not a lot of 'sherried' notes. Quite MOTR, with more malty and nutty notes later on.
Just like the sample from Butt #1340 I tried in July 2002 it grows sweeter with time.
Taste: Soft, sweet and nutty start. Quite flat and nondescript. Dry, woody finish.
Score: 71 points . It's not bad but it could have done with some more character.
I've now sampled three versions. This means I can cross Glenallachie off my 'to do' list.

I proceeded with a quick & dirty review of three Braes of Glenlivets.
The Braes of Glenlivet 8yo ????/???? (61.8%, Cadenhead's Bond Reserve) that Andries secretly snuck into my backpack during my latest Cadenhead's session was big, rich and complex in the nose - but not as sherried as some older Cadenhead's expressions I tried. Some 'grainy' notes as well - the 'attick of a grain warehouse' variety rather than the paint thinner variety. Very subtle organics - half a kilometer away from a cow farm. Maybe a distant dash of peat? Lovely minty sweetness on the palate at cask strength. Unfortunately, the nose desintegrated after a modest dash of water. Not quite hunky dory on the palate either, although the sweetness combined with a light peppery feeling and a hint of pine worked surprisingly well. Some more water didn't change much. I finally went for a score of 80 points. Recommendable - but just barely.

I've reported extensively on the Braes of Glenlivet 12yo 1989/2001 (62.1%, Cadenhead's, Bourbon Hogshead) and the Braes of Glenlivet 17yo 1979/1997 (58.1%, SigV, Sherry Cask #6082) before, so I'll keep it short this time. The nose of the 17yo might have shown a little more smoke and organics than I remembered, but both performed pretty much as expected and hung on to their score of 88 points each. For reasons still unknown to most of mankind this distillery was closed in 2002. That means that expressions from this distillery may get harder to come by in the future. A word to the wise: Pick up any bottles you can because this distillery has produced some very fine malts in its day. In a few years time bottlings could command a hefty price.

The Ardbeg 10yo 1993/2004 (58.6%, Cadenhead's Authentic Collection, Bottled April 2004, Sherry Hogshead, 282 Bottles) was an almost empty bottle that Andries handed to me at the end of the latest Cadenhead's session. I simply didn't have a chance to try it sooner, but oxygene could very well have affected it.
Nose: Surprisingly soft and fruity at first. The subtle Ardbeg peat emerges after a minute.
Smoke. Dried chili peppers? Peanut butter. Delicate nutty sweetness. Subtle medicinal notes.
With some water the nose fell apart for a while, before returning with even more determination,
Taste: Hot, dry and fairly bitter at cask strength before the peat emerges in the centre.
After I added a little water I got more beer impressions in the start and much more smoke.
Score: 87 points . A very fine dram, but not quite as well composed as some other Ardbegs.
It should be wildly popular amongst hard-hitting peat freaks, though - it's a real peat monster.

Okidokie; it's 10:45 PM and I'm not tired yet. What to do, what to do...
Ah, I know! I still have three rather special samples hidden away in a corner of my cabinet.
I already tried them during the 'Borderline' session in June, but there was plenty left to have another go at them. They've now had a chance to 'breathe' for over two months; time to check if it had any effect.

The Ardmore 21yo 1977/1999 '100th Anniversary' (43%, OB) didn't quite dazzle me as much as it did Serge, Olivier and Peter the first time I tried it. They all scored it near 90 points while I had it in the lower 80's.
Nose: Subtle, fruity start with sherry and toffee. Cinnamon. Whiffs of peat & smoke later on.
Some organics. Marzipan. It grows more powerful with time, but never becomes really complex.
Taste: Smoky. Fairly bitter start, and it never becomes quite sweet enough for my tastes.
It has a rather overbearing perfumy side to it. A little bitter 'winey' and 'piney' in the finish.
Score: 82 points seems about right. A good malt, but too much like a borderline Bowmore for me. There are some Ardmore's I really like, but it seems my scores are generally quite a bit lower than those of the Frenchmen.

The Glen Garioch 21yo 1965/1986 (43%, OB) resembles the Ardmore in the sense that it comes from a relatively low-profile distillery that's held in very high regard by Serge and Olivier as well. Just like with Ardmore, some expressions managed to put a big smile on my face, but not every bottling tickles my fancy.
Nose: Wow!!! Heavy sherry, fruits and wood. Then the organics come marching forward.
Something vagualy minty. A malt to get completely lost in. Adding water doesn't help.
Tase: Not quite as overwhelming as the nose at first, but it has a powerful smoky afterburn.
At first it feels almost weaker than its 43%, but in the end it packs a whallop. Good stuff.
Score: 92 points isn't excessive for such a classic beauty. The finish seems to last forever. This without a shadow of a doubt the very best Glen Garioch I've tried so far; even better than the smoke monster the Belgians served us after Whisky Live - the Glen Garioch 29yo 1968/1997 (55.9%, OB, Cask 629).

Which brings us to the Macduff 36yo 1965/2002 (49.2%, DL Platinum Series, 516 bottles), the last dram of tonight's session. Younger expressions from the Glen Deveron distillery are usually a tad on the light side for me, but since this malt was 'born' before I was, it has had plenty of time to build up some 'gravitas'.
Nose: Apples in the start, sweetening out quickly. Big and well rounded. Fabulous!
Malty with some very subtle organics in the background. Slowly developing fruits.
I'm almost afraid to add water. When I did it seemed a little dustier and more restrained.
Taste: Soft start with a hint of pine or menthol, developing into a chewy sweet centre.
Mocca? Not as woody as you'd expect. An explosion of sweet fruits with a dash of water.
Score: I'll stand by my initial score of 87 points. This is another highly recommendable dram.
In fact, it's the best offering from this distillery I've sampled so far.

Which reminds me... Kenneth Moore asked me why I list 'different' malts like Glen Deveron and Macduff or Tobermory and Ledaig under a single header on my Track Record and the Matrix, while Serge lists these under different headers on the Monitor. The question sounded simple enough, and I had to suppress my first instinct to send a quick reply along the lines of 'Because Michael Jackson says so, dummy!'.

However, for some mysterious reason my train of thought didn't stop at the first station like it usually does. Instead, it merrily rambled along on its track and by the time I realised what was happening I found myself in an awkward and uncomfortable position; I was actually having an original thought. And it wasn't just one original thought either - soon there was another, and then yet another. I was having a string of original thoughts! By now I started to panic and if I hadn't pulled on the emergency break there's no telling where I might have ended up...

When the dust in my head had settled I found myself unable to make sense of it all.
I'm afraid you'll have to wait until my next log entry for a coherent reconstruction of my thought process, though. Right now I'd like to bask in the glow of my own brilliance for a bit longer...

- - -

Dram Diary # 172 - August 2004

87 - Ardbeg 10yo 1993/2004 (58.6%, Cadenhead's Authentic Collection, Bottled April 2004, Sherry Hogshead, 282 Bttl.)
80 - Braes of Glenlivet 8yo ????/???? (61.8%, Cadenhead's Bond Reserve)
71 - Glenallachie 9yo 1991/2000 (43%, Signatory Vintage, Sherry Butt #1345, 902 Bottles)
75 - Glenlivet 12yo (40%, OB, Bottled +/- 2001, LH10593, 100cl)
75 - Macallan 7yo (40%, OB, Bottled 1990's, 'Armando Giovinetti, Italy)
65 - Macallan 7yo (40%, OB, Bottled +/- 2000, International bottling)
77 - Macallan 1990/2002 'Elegancia' (40%, OB)
87 - Macallan 18yo 1978/1996 (43%, OB, L6087MCLR 17:10, 5cl)
85 - Macallan 18yo 1983/2001 (43%, OB, Canada)
92 - Macallan 25yo 1976/2001 (50%, Silver Seal, Single Barrel)
87 - Macallan-Glenlivet 30yo 1963/1993 (54.7%, Cadenhead's, Oak Cask, D2/63, B10/93, 5cl)
77 - Scapa 12yo (40%, OB, Bottled +/- 2003, L01752/LF0480)

With the exception of the 'International' 7yo OB and the 25yo Silver Seal bottling, all Macs were new to me.
The same goes for the Ardbeg 10yo, Braes of Glenlivet 8yo, Glenallachie 9yo, Glenlivet 12yo and Scapa 12yo.
That pushes the number of Scotch single malts on my
Track Record to exactly 699.

 

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Log Entry # 173 - September 1, 2004
Topic:  The Art of Whisky

At the end of my previous tasting session I had what can only be described as an epiphany.
Well, it also could have been a nasty case of 'delirium tremens' - I always get these Latin phrases mixed up... Whatever it was, during the state of heightened awareness that often follows an evening of dramming a question from Kenneth Moore came to mind. He asked me why I list 'different' malts like Glen Deveron and Macduff or Tobermory and Ledaig under a single header on my Track Record and the Matrix, while Serge lists these under different headers on the Monitor. The question sounded simple enough, but when I started to think about it some more I realised that the answer was more complicated than it seems.

When I compiled the list of distilleries for this website I simply took the overview in Michael Jackson's Whisky Companion (a 5th edition was launched not too long ago) as my guideline and only made some minor changes. Michael's point of view seems to be that all malts that are distilled at the same distillery complex belong together. Well, that seems to make sense - at least from a certain point of view I'd like to call the 'artiste perspective'. But you could very well look at it from an entirely different direction; the 'consumer perspective' so to speak. At the extreme end of this side of the spectrum you find the people who couldn't care less what name is on the label of the bottle, as long as there's an enjoyable single malt whisky in the glass.

If we were to lift these opposing visions from the whisky world and project them onto the art world I imagine you'd find Michael Jackson nearer to the corner of the people who feel that everything produced by a licensed artist is art by definition. I would probably hang out somewhere on the other side of the fence at a safe distance from the people that feel that life itself is art and that even a talented chimpanzee with a brush can produce art. I'm not sure I'd huddle in the far corner with these folks, but if they were to go over to the other corner to give the snobs over there a good arse kicking I'd problably enthusiastically lend them a hand.

So, looking at my own sensibilities it's quite odd that I've never questioned this focus on distilleries before. Is an unsherried Macallan still a Macallan? Well, it says so on the label, so I guess Michael Jackson (along with probably most other whisky writers) would say 'yes'. And of course that makes perfect sense in the real world; what else would it be? The 'Michael Jackson approach' is certainly helpful in establishing a clear classification in a whisky world that sometimes seems a little too complex for its own good.
Whenever a certain field of study is too complicated to completely comprehend, it's always useful to create simplified 'models' of a complex reality. However, such models cease to be useful when they start obstructing our view on reality. After many years of dramming I'm only starting to realise that, in a sense, any division of the malt whisky world based on its distilleries is an over-simplification of reality. The main features that attracted me to single malts in the first place were quality, character and variety. I'll admit that even a level-headed Dutchman like myself isn't immune to the 'mystical' element of Scotch single malts either, but if I had to pick one single trait that has kept my malt madness raging for all these years it would have to be variety.

So, let's put on our special bogus detecting goggles and look at 'variety', shall we?
Does the fact that we 'divide' Scotland into some 80 different distilleries mean that there are 80 different styles of malt whisky - i.e. 80 different 'user experiences'? Not quite. In fact, in many respects an Ardbeg 17yo has more similarities with the Lagavulin 16yo than with the Ardbeg 10yo. The same goes for the an old Glenlivet matured in sherry casks - it resembles other heavily sherried malts like Aberlour of Macallan (even younger ones) much closer than the Glenlivet 12yo OB. Or take the peated Croftengea released by Loch Lomond a while ago. Many would swear they were enjoying an Islay whisky. At the end of the day, factors like peating levels, the type of cask and the time the whisky has spent in that cask are just as important as the distillery where the whisky was 'born'. Or as the location of that distillery, i.e. as the 'region' where the whisky was produced for that matter.

Hey, that brings us back to that unresolved 'borderline issue', doesn't it?
Yes it does, and that's one hot potato I don't really want to touch right now. I'm still wrestling with that particular topic and there's a new E-pistle from Charles MacLean in the pipeline that might shed some interesting new light on the discussion. What's more, retracing all the steps of last night's thought process and transforming them into a coherent text proves to be more difficult than I anticipated. Maybe that should be attributed to the fact that, when I'm writing this, I'm in a very different state of mind (i.e. not out of it) than when I had my epiphany.

So, I'm going to forget about 'variety' for now and focus on another feature: 'quality'.
Of course, there's no surefire way to determine the 'quality' of a whisky objectively, but many of the maniacs seem to agree that the average malt whisky is a 'better' whisky than the average blended whisky. Making a good malt whisky requires craftsmanship of the highest order - some would even say it's an art form. Making a good whisky is just like other art forms in the sense that you can control only part of the process.

In a sense, single malt whisky is made of equal parts chance and choice.
At the very start of the process we have the quality of the barley harvest that year, which is still pretty much a matter of chance. But then the distillery buyers can choose which varieties and crops they buy. The element of chance has been removed as much as possible from the actual distillation phase of the process, but when it comes to the magic of the wood there's only so much the whisky makers can do. Fortunately, the matter of choice becomes important again when it comes to the decisions concerning vatting and bottling. Deciding which casks will be used for blends and which should be bottled as an 'official' bottling' is probably the most crucial when it comes to maintaining a certain standard for a single malt 'brand'. But even in a highly rationalised production process, chance and 'the human factor' make sure that there will be quality variations in the end product - even among consecutive batches of the 'same' expression.

This phenomenon is known as 'batch variation' and the Lagavulin 16yo is a good example. If you're lucky enough to find a dusty bottle of the 'White Horse' variety bottled in the early 1990's you should compare it with a more recent 'Port Ellen' bottling. Both are excellent Islay malts, but the former is definitely more excellent. Other big sellers like Glenmorangie 10yo, Macallan 12yo and Springbank 15yo have changed quite a bit over the years as well. I became aware of batch variation quite some time ago, but the information has taken a few years to work its way past the over-developed pleasure centres in my brain to reach the shriveling cognitive centre for processing. When the data finally arrived, I slowly started to realise that my focus on official bottlings during the 1990's was a tad unhealthy. Mind you, I had a reasonably good excuse during most of the 90's. Apart from a few well established names like Cadenhead and Gordon & MacPhail, and a few upstarts like Signatory Vintage (1988) and Wilson & Morgan (1992) there were only a few significant independent bottlers of single malt whisky.

That started to change in the late 1990's. Forced by the economic crisis in Asia, companies like Douglas Laing started to bottle some of their stock as single malt whisky instead of drowning them into blends aimed at businessmen on expense accounts. The earliest Douglas Laing bottlings I've seen are from 1999. Murray McDavid seems to have been established slightly earlier, as well as Chieftain's, Coopers Choice and 'The Bottlers'. It took a while before the wealth of new expressions they provided trickled through onto the Dutch market, and when it did I didn't respond with as much enthusiasm as you might expect. During most of the 1990's I was still under the assumption that my research would come at an end as soon as I sampled every available official bottling of single malt Scotch whisky. Michael Jackson's 'bible' listed some 300 single malts, so it seemed easy enough to check them all out. All I needed to find 'the perfect single malt' was time, determination and a full purse.

Unfortunately (or so I thought), the situation changed quite dramatically around the year 2000.
Suddenly hundreds of new bottlings appeared on the shelves of my liquorists within a matter of months; much faster than I could taste them without doing extensive damage to my brain and liver. The whisky world quickly became much more complicated than I had ever imagined, and I resented these pesky independent bottlings for ruining my dream of ever sampling all available single malts, thus making sure once and for all if Lagavulin 16yo was 'the perfect single malt' - now until the end of time.

Four years later, much sadder and a little wiser, I've come to accept that 'the perfect single malt' doesn't exist. Once again, 'the water of life' imitates art in the sense that 'the perfect painting' or 'the perfect composition' doesn't exist . Fortunately, I don't really care about finding the perfect malt anymore; I have advanced to a new level of malt madness where the search is its own reward. Sure, I still enjoy sampling the very best single malts now and then (many of them thanks to my French friends), but I also have great fun trying to figure out what went 'wrong' with bottlings like the Bowmore Darkest and Edradour 10yo.

Which finally brings us to the actual tasting part of this session.
Bowmore and Edradour are both rather infamous for batch variation. Some batches of bottlings released around 2000 have some distinct off-notes that have been described by various people in terms ranging from 'French Whore Perfume' to 'Baby Vomit'. But where Bowmore chose to deny the problem (making the purchase of any Bowmore OB without opening and trying it first a risky business), Edradour's new owner Andrew Symington has boldly chosen a different route. After operating as an independent bottler for more than a decade, Andrew bought the Edradour distillery some two years ago. For a while things were deceptively quiet, but then he managed to blow us away with some pretty fascinating bottlings at at Whisky Live London 2004. The Edradour 30yo 1973/2003 (53.4%, OB, Butt #97, 88 points) was pretty much a 'classic beauty', but there were some interesting finishes as well; from fairly traditional ones like a port finish to avant garde experiments like a tokai finish. One of the whiskies we tried at Andrew's booth was a 'work in progress'; a 10yo Edradour that had been finished in a sauternes cask for three months. That was a very interesting experience, to say the least.

And wouldn't you know it - tonight things just became more interesting...
A bottle of Edradour 10yo 1993/2004 Sauternes Finish (57.2%, OB, Straight from the Cask, Cask #04/11/3, Distilled 15/12/1993, Bottled 22/06/2004, 444 Bottles) arrived on my desk a few days ago. That's right, this comes from the very same cask as the 'work in progress' we tried in at Andrew's stand in London - but it has been finished for three more months. This is an excellent opportunity to see a sauternes cask in action!
Nose: Wow! Very sweet and creamy - I like it! Nutty as well - sweet almonds? Unique.
So far I can't find any of the 'vomit' I found in some of the OB's. Spices - speculaas!
This is quite spectacular, actually. Like a cocktail with Frangelico and Drambuie liqueurs.
Taste: Very odd! Like a sweet herbal liqueur at first, followed by... indeed, vomit.
This off-note disppears after a few minutes, leaving a sweet and solid malt. Mint?
Eucalyptus? After a little while longer it grows grittier and woodier on the palate.
Score: 83 points. I'm willing to overlook some weaker points on the palate because of the unique nose. This is something rather special, and it's amazing to see what three more months in a cask can do for (or to) a malt.

Well, that was very interesting. And you know what's even more interesting?
The last time I checked, my Track Record showed exactly 699 Scotch single malts.
This Edradour was actually my 700th single malt whisky. Ordinarily, that would be reason for some serious partying. Unfortunately, the maniacs received a smug little message from Serge last week, informing us that he had just sampled his 1000th whisky. Blasted! Why can't we just live in peace... Now I'm forced to risk life and limb to try and make that elusive 1000 malts mark myself this year as well. And there are only four months left!

So, I'd better get bizzy...
The Edradour was just the ouverture to a symphony of independent 'voices'.
Andrew Symington bought Edradour, which made him a distillery owner as well as an independent bottler. And he hasn't made making that distinction any easier by releasing a bunch of Edradour 'official bottlings' in the 'Straight from the Cask' series that used to be a series within the Signatory Vintage range. Andrew's position is a bit of an exception, though - even though Cadenhead's and Murray McDavid are involved with their 'own' distilleries as well. Most independent bottlers - especially the smaller ones - stick to the 'bottling' part and have managed to withstand the urge to crawl up the value chain. This has some advantages and disadvantages.

Maybe the biggest 'problem' for an independent bottler is securing the right quantity and quality of casks. If the distilleries are unwilling or unable to supply them with enough of the right casks, they would be out of business soon. This is a disadvantage that Andrew Symington has managed to overcome by buying his own distillery, but in return he has to deal with a problem that faces distillery managers as well: not every cask of whisky distilled at the distillery will mature to the same 'quality'. Nevertheless, every cask represents a value of thousands of pounds, so the 'mistakes' can't be written off just like that. One of the results is that the quality variations between casks can trickle through in the consecutive batches of the official bottlings. That's definitely a bad thing to official bottlings that are often marketed as 'brands'.

The story is often completely different for independent bottlers.
Granted, they could face problems in securing the right stocks, but in return they don't have to worry about what the outcome of the maturation process will be for a stock of thousands of casks; they can just pick the casks they want. (Well, that's not always how it works, but I won't go into that right now.) In a sense, they have eliminated a large part of the 'chance' element and focused on 'choice'. And it seems that choosing the right casks and choosing when to bottle them is an art form in itself. When Serge analysed the average matrix scores for a number of independent bottlers some time ago, there were obvious differences between different bottlers. The 'quality' differences between different bottlers seemed to be just as significant as the 'quality' differences between different distilleries. Just like there's a smaller chance you'll encounter a bad Ardbeg than a bad Arran, there seems to be a smaller chance you'll encounter a bad Douglas Laing than a bad 'Ultimate' bottling.
Seems to make sense, doesn't it?

So, can you see where this lengthy introduction is leading?
It's about time I paid more attention to independent bottlers.
I was eager to compare my own data with Serge's analysis,
but found out that I hadn't sampled enough expressions from
bottlers like Adelphi, Culinara and Lombards to be able to say
anything meaningful about them. Fortunately I have enough
data on most of the other major players to at least paint a
broad picture and I plan to paint that picture after I've filled
in some of the last blanks tonight. This session will focus on
nine bottlings in the Wilson & Morgan range from the Italian
bottler Fabio Rossi. Many of these bottlings were submitted
to the 2003 MM Awards but I didn't report on them before.
 
So, here we go...

Dram #701: The Glenrothes 1990/2002 (46%, Wilson & Morgan, Sherry Wood).
Well, actually, I've sampled it before - it won the BFYB Award and a silver medal on the 2003 MM Awards. However, I neglected to make proper notes then. I'd say it's about time I rectified that omission.
Nose: Wowie! Polished oak. Sherry. Very rich. Deep fruity sweetness. Lovely!!!
Spices. Sellery? Maggi plant? Rum? Amazing complexity. Is that galvanised rubber?
An old tobacco store. This one definitely takes no prisoners - love it or die trying...
Palate: Woody and sherried with mint and liquorice. Raisins. Sweet & Sour. Liquid candy.
Hot. Smoke? Dry. I love it, but it's quite extreme - maybe just a tad too extreme for me.
Even so, if given the choice I'd take this 'personality' over the 'MOTR' OB's any day.
Score: 88 points - up from an initial 87 points. Still in top shape after almost a year.
A genuine sherry monster with lovely hints of tobacco. Feels much older than 12 years.
Incidentally, this is the very best Glenrothes I ever tried - although it's not for everyone.

You know what would be interesting?
Comparing the sherry monster I just tried to a Glenrothes that has matured in a bourbon cask before being 'finished' in a rum cask. Finishing whiskies in other casks was mostly pioneered by Glenmorangie in the early 1990's, but recently the phenomenon has taken the market by storm. Unfortunately, my research so far has indicated that some of the finishing jobs by independent bottlers have been creative rescue attempts of sub-standard casks. Let's hope the Glenrothes 1989/2003 (46%, Wilson & Morgan, Rum Finish) isn't.
Nose: Much lighter than the sherry matured version. Soft grainy overtones.
Glue? The soft flowery sweetness is interrupted by frequent chemical flashes.
The nose showed some subtle organics after a few minutes, but little complexity.
Taste: Beer. Sweetish and a little malty. Pleasant but hardly challenging. Dry.
Cool on the palate; this would make a fine summerime dram out on a sunny terrace.
Score: 75 points. A very decent dram, but among single malts that's just average.
Some traits reminded me of the 'Greenore' Irish single grain (partly matured in rum casks too).

Interesting indeed...
Despite having spent more time in a bourbon cask and being finished in a rum cask, the second bottling doesn't come close to the first one, although I'll be the first to admit that the rum finish isn't as likely to make any enemies as the extreme 1990/2002 from a sherry cask. So, why don't we try to get back on a more sherried track again? The Macallan 12yo 1990/2003 (57.5%, Wilson & Morgan C/S, Sherry Butt #8748, 637 Bottles) also won a silver medal during last year's awards. I have to say that I don't fully understand Fabio's labeling policies; most bottlings lack an age statement, but there actually IS and age statement on this cask strength range.
Nose: Sweet & toffeeish at first, then more powerful with more organics.
Then a parade of old fruits. Something nutty. Linoleum? Clay? Great!!!
With a dash of water a hint of dust and old milk powder floated across the surface.
Palate: Hot and sweet at cask strength. Fruits. Excellent mouth feel.
A fiery burts of smoke before the centre transforms into a lengthy fruity finish.
Another sherry monster. Fresher and fruitier with some water. Just great fun.
Score: 89 points . Ab fab... It might have made the 90's with a more complex palate.
I think this one beats the 10yo Cask Strength OB and most maniacs seem to agree.
However, just like the sherried Glenrothes this isn't a dram for the faint-hearted.

Yet another opportunity to compare a 'sherried' malt with a 'bourbonned' sibling.
Well, the label of the Macallan 1990/2003 (50.5%, Wilson & Morgan Extra Strength) doesn't really specify in what sort of casks it was matured but the colour and a first quick nosing suggested bourbon.
Nose: A bit sharp and dusty at first, slowly developing into subtle organics.
Not very expressive, although it definitely has its charms. A background dram.
Taste: Ah, yes, that's nice. Full-bodied. And on the palate it certainly has sherry!
Faint liquorice. Black currants. Great mouth feel, but in the end it grows dark and bitter.
That's odd - now I think it coul have been matured in a sherry cask - probably refill.
Score: 82 points . I had it at 85 points after my first try, but that's really too generous.
It's a good malt, but like some 'bourbonned' Macallans it seems uncertain about its identity.
Once again I'd clearly have to cast my vote for maturing more malts in good sherry casks.

That's four single malts down - five more (and one 'bastard' malt) to go.
So far I've been galivanting around Speyside, but now it's time to head for the coast. Unlike bottlings in the 'Extra Strenght' series, the label of the Clynelish 1989/2002 (46%, Wilson & Morgan) specified that this whisky was matured in a bourbon barrel. That's nice - I would like to see that information on all my bottles.
Nose: Smooth and creamy start, growing grainier, then sweeter. A tad grassy. Holly?
Fresh. Apple? No, a young pear - not quite ripe yet. Subtle spices. Surprisingly gentle.
Taste: Something fruity - but this is no whimpy whisky. Clean and straightforward.
Light but firm - much unlike the bosom of Janet Jackson (or so I've been told anyway...)
Score: 83 points . A fine dram, but like other Clynelish bottlings it could be a little more 'extreme'.

The Clynelish 1989/2003 (46%, Wilson & Morgan, Marsala Finish) offered me the opportunity to compare the bourbon matured version with a truly exotic finish: marsala cask. That's not something you see every day, eh? Marsala wine is made exclusively on Sicily, just like sherry comes from Jerez in Spain. Fabio Rossi (who has a background in wine himself) told me that he was the very first to try out some Marsala finishes not too long ago. Well, it worked out just fine - this was one of many W&M bottlings to win an award last year.
Nose: Light and very fruity. More coastal notes and organics float to the surface.
Fruit cake. Mellow. Many subtle and spicy surprises hiding behind the wall of fruits.
After some five minutes more organics appear. Maybe even a faint hint of smoke?
Palate: Sweet. Gentle woody notes. Quite dry in the centre. Cranberries? Nice!
Just as it seems to settle down into mellow fruits it comes back with a spicy punch.
Score: 85 points - up from an original 82 points. This one really gets better with time.
I'm certainly not against exotic finishes if it produces malts like this. Good work.
Even Serge (85) and Olivier (87) seemed to appreaciate this particular finishing job.

The 4th pairing of the evening was a straightforward one - from the looks of it we have two bourbon matured malts from Caol Ila here; the Caol Ila 1992/2002 (50%, Wilson & Morgan Extra Strength) and its successor.
Nose: OOoh.. That's different. Grainy, but in a nice way. Sweetish. No peat, though.
Oh wait, there it is! Smoke. Chloride. Slightly medicinal - this opens up wonderfully!
Now the organics grow stronger - at this point it could be an Ardbeg instead of Caol Ila.
Much more complex than your average 10yo Caol Ila - but it drops off after ten minutes.
Palate: Soft peaty start, a hint of sweetness and then the peat returns in full force again.
Lovely mouth feel. Dry, smoky, chewy finish. Subtle hint of liquorice in the background.
This feels 'heavier' than other Caol Ila's and it has a fruity side I often find in Ardbegs.
Score: 86 points. Sadly enough it becomes a tad too dry in the finish for my tastes.
Nevertheless, it was another silver medal winner at the 2003 Malt Maniacs Awards.

The Caol Ila 1993/2003 (50%, Wilson & Morgan Extra Strength) was the successor of the '92/'02, but I'm seriously behind on my sampling schedule because there's going to be a '94/'04 bottling very soon.
Nose: Sharp and clean start, then peat and a hint of a light fruity sweetness.
The peat quickly develops into organics, then liquorice. Brine, perhaps?
It's an odd one, it has lots of complexities but they are light and fleeting.
Taste: Sweet start, growing hot, peaty and smoky very quickly. Bitter finish.
This is one for the peat monster afficionado's. Hot and feisty.
Score: 84 points. Once again the finish is a tad too dry and bitter for me.

The last pairing of the evening was an decidedly uneven one.
The Port Ellen 23yo 1979/2003 (46%, Wilson & Morgan, Butt #6769) has quickly achieved legendary status amongst the maniacs as one of the few really great Port Ellens. If it would have competed in the awards like the other W&M bottlings it might have even won the 'Islay Award of Excellence' instead of Ardbeg 21yo.
Nose: Loads of sherry with some potent organics just beneath the surface. Wood.
Tobacco. Soy sauce. Something strangely herbal. Old fruits. Rotting leaves? Wet dog.
Simply magnificent - the complexity is just amazing. No big peat but I don't miss it.
Mint. I haven't really got time to make notes; I'm too busy enjoying myself. Aaaaah...
Taste: Sweet, sherried and woody, then fruitier. Smoke. Very cool on the palate.
Doesn't need a single drop of water. Fresh but a tad winey (and woody) in the finish.
Score: 93 points - that's two points up from my initial score of 91 points, but still not quite as high as the scores from Davin (94), Serge (95), Olivier (96) and Klaus (97). In the greather scheme of things, this shares its position as the top scoring P'Ellen on the matrix with the Port Ellen 22yo 1978/2000 (60.5%, UDRM).

The Wilson & Morgan 'House Malt Born on Islay' 1994/2003 (43%, Wilson & Morgan, Cask #1496-1502) was the last dram of the evening - and obviously in a different league than the Port Ellen. What's more, I already examined this one in may. So, let's just have a quick drop to see how it has evolved since then.
Nose: Polished and gently fruity. Hint of sherry in the start? Surprisingly gentle.
Oh, wait - after I minute I get more and more peat. Smoke and evolving organics.
Yeah, it's growing on me. Unfortunately, it drops off again after fifteen minutes.
Palate: Hmmm... Much weaker start than I expected. Smooth, almost watery.
It becomes creamy in the centre and then slowly fizzles out. Very friendly.
Hey, wait a minute - now I get peat. And loads of it!!! Smoke and liquorice too.
I think it's no Laphroaig because there's no iodine. Not transparent enough for a Coal Ila.
Score: 84 points - one point down from my initial score of 85 points. It has some flaws.
For one thing, it seems to turn the peat on and off. Also, it's not quite sweet enough for me.
That being said, it offers plenty of bang for your buck - and it beats most new Caol Ila OB's.

Excellent - with 7 brand new W&M bottlings on my Track Record I can include them in my analysis.
I've drawn up a bottler ranking for my Independent Day II E-pistle, but that list was based on the scores of all the malt maniacs at the time. This time I only looked at my own (very personal) average scores for all the independent bottlers that I've tried a reasonable number of different expressions from.
Ranked and clustered from 'best' to 'worst' the list looks like this;
(I've also included my favourite bottling from each bottler.)

Berry Brothers - Glenlivet 1971/2003 (55%, Berry Bros, Cask #6447)
Cadenhead - Ardbeg 11yo 1991/2002 (62.2%, Cadenhead's Bond Reserve, 306 Bottles)
Douglas Laing - Ardbeg 25yo 1975/2000 October (50%, DL Old Malt cask, 702 Bottles)
Duncan Taylor - Invergordon 36yo 1965/2002 (51.8%, Peerless, Cask #15539, 252 Bottles)
Hart Brothers - Tomatin 37yo 1965/2003 (47.2%, Hart Bros)
Wilson & Morgan - Port Ellen 23yo 1979/2003 (46%, W&M, Butt #6769)

Blackadder - Bowmore 12yo 1989/2002 (63.3%, Blackadder Raw Cask, C#22533)
Chieftain's
- Brora 19yo 1982/2001 (46%, Chieftains, Sherry)
Coopers Choice - Caol Ila 9yo 1992/2002 (43%, Coopers Choice)
Gordon & MacPhail - Tomatin 1968/2001 (40%, G&M Connoiseurs Choice)
James McArthur - Bladnoch 1992/2002 (58.8%, James McArthur)
Murray McDavid - Lagavulin 14yo 1984/1999 (46%, Murray McDavid)
Signatory Vintage - Glendronach 20yo 1970/1990 (56%, SigVint., C#513-518)

John Milroy - Talisker 8yo 1988/1996 (45%, Milroy)
Ultimate - Bladnoch 16yo 1980/1997 (43%, Ultimate)

Of course, this is a simplified picture, depicting one point in time. I should point out that I haven't tried that many expressions from Berry Brothers and John Milroy. In the middle segment James MacArthur is held back by some very old and empty bottles I sampled at De Still. Murray McDavid is leaning towards the top segment and Gordon & MacPhail shows improvement as well. Basically, I haven't tried enough bottlings from enough different independent bottlers to draw any conclusions just yet. And the 'best-to-worst' perspective is limited as well; allmost all bottlers have released a few spectacular bottlings, but opinions about what's fit for bottling as a single malt at the 'bottom end' of the range seem to differ. It would be more accurate to work out some kind of 'quality bandwidth' for all independent bottlers - but that would be fairly pointless untill I've tried at least a dozen expressions from each major independent bottler.

So, it seems I can add some more research to my 'To Do' list.
However, my main priority for the next few months will be passing the 1000 malts mark.
Watch this Liquid Log for frequent updates of my progress.
 

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Log Entry # 174 - September 11, 2004
Topic:  Speyside Siblings

With the 'Mille Malts' challenge (I'm trying to push my malt mileage past 1000 this year) I'll have precious little time for writing elaborate tasting reports over the next few months. I'll have to use most of my time to make sure my tasting notes are accurate enough to aid me in my future research. The main part of tonight's session focuses on three pairs of Speysiders from three different distilleries (Knockdhu, Cragganmore and Longmorn), but I'll start with three 'blind' samples I received from Alexander. I begged for clues, but received none - at least not until I had given them a first try. The colour of the malts didn't provide any clues either - they were almost identical.

Blind #1 - Nose: Peaty and sour. Something metallic? Opens up quite nicely.
This is an Islay malt for sure. Right now I'm thinking Ardbeg or Caol Ila. Brine?
Slowly developing organics but nothing medicinal, which rules out Laphroaig.
Growing complexity, with some sweeter 'bakery' aroma's joining the party.
A very pleasant dram. Unfortunately, it falls apart after some fifteen minutes.
Taste: Not quite as powerful as I expected at first, but then the peat explodes.
Fruity and sweet elements as well, drifting across a dry surface. Hint of liquorice?
It doesn't have the 'Phroaig medicine and it's too strong to be one of the 'B' Islays.
Preliminary score: 85 points . First guesses: Ardbeg? Caol Ila? Lagavulin?
Alexander said: You're right, it's Caol Ila. You tried it before and gave it 85 points.
Second try: Hmm... You'd think that these clues would make it easy to identify this one.
Well, not really - I checked my Track Record and found five Caol Ila's that scored 85 points.
The nose starts off quite soft and a little sweeter from the start. Powerful peat. Organics.
Feels quite soft on the palate at first, but grows more powerful. Hard to determine the ABV.
Looking over all my old notes, the Caol Ila NAS Cask Strength (55%, OB) comes closest.
Alexander's answer: It's Caol Ila 12yo 1989/2001 (43%, Bourbon, SignV, C#766-768, 610 B.)
I found this Caol Ila very pleasant and we know that Mark loves it even better.
He almost started to sing when he tasted it. I gave this one 85 points too.

Blind #2 - Nose: Sweet with the faintest hint of oil growing stronger. Grainy.
A little fruitier with time. Not very expressive, but it grows very alcoholic. Simple.
Some dust appears after some ten minutes. This just isn't very interesting...
Taste: Hot and feisty start, growing bitter. Menthol? A very faint hint of peat?
Slightly dusty. Maybe I should add some water. Hmmm... Little effect - still hot.
Preliminary score: 60 points. Clynelish? Tobermory/Ledaig? Scapa?
Alexander said: Let it breathe for a while and try it again with another nose.
Your guesses are in the right direction (coastal) but it's none of these three.
Indeed, don't add water. My score was much higher than 60 points, though.
Second try: Starts off sweet again, maybe a little maltier and nuttier. Hey...
No oil in the nose this time. Instead, there are gentle spices and fruits. Peat?
Breathing has really transformed this - especially if you give it some time.
Beer-like bitterness and fruits on the palate. Harsh finish. Little change here.
Flat. Wait a minute... Could... it... be... High... Highland... Highland Park?
Whatever it is, Alexander was right - I like it much more than 60 points.
Revised score: 72 points. Second guesses: Highland Park, Pulteney or Glen Scotia.
Alexander's answer: Great again ! But Iīm still a bit ghastly flabbergasted.
I like it a lot better than you, but also found other things than you.
Even when not very complex, it seemed a very accessible malt to me...
Youre right...It, it....it, itīs High....Highland.......Highland Park ! Itīs the...
Highland Park 11yo 1990/2001 (60.1%, Sherry, Signatory, C#15446, 612 B.)
I still believe something went wrong...

Blind #3 - Nose: Aaaah! Big and sweet - then a hint of oil. Hmm... More oil.
Maybe the faintest hint of smoke? Amazing, this falls apart within seconds.
Oh wait, now it recovers again. A little creamy. Still not a lot of character.
Taste: Hhhhmmm... Very questionable start, but it grows sweeter and fruitier.
Woody and cool on the palate. Not enough personality for a positive identification.
Preliminary score: 70 points. Balvenie? Glenfiddich? Glenlivet?
Alexander said: This one is known as a decent bottling from a 'lesser' distillery.
You were absolutely right that it's a Speysider, but you're looking too far west.
Wally loves it. It's even more C/S than #2. It's supposed to be metallic.
Second try: Polished, more wood than the first time. Tea leaves. Pipe tobacco?
Once again some breathing seems to have had a lot of effect. Interesting indeed.
Some sour notes - sorrel? Rhubarb? Really hard to find any specifics, though...
Not so much improvement on the palate, I'm afraid. A tad too dry and woody for me.
Indeed something metallic. Smoke. Alltogether not quite good enough to make the 80's.
But what could it be? There's not a lot of 'Speyside' area east of my first guesses.
I don't think it's Aultmore, Strathisla, Strathmill or Glen Keith. Or Auchroisk / Singleton.
Revised score: 78 points . It seems the Caol Ila knocked me off course last time.
Second guesses: Inchgower, Ardmore, Glentauchers. I'm really just guessing here.
Alexander's answer: Gothcha! Itīs the Tormore 13yo 1984/1997 (63.9%, Cadenhead).
Itīs one of the old green bottles, and even a 75 cl one, for the US market.
I know it was hard to find, since you donīt have a lot of these under your belt.
My baffled response: So, Tormore lies east of Balvenie, Glenfiddich and Glenlivet?
Well, not according to my map...

Well - that was educational - if slightly frustrating....
That Caol Ila was relatively easy, but I had a hard time with the Highland Park.
I didn't identify the HP with one of my first tries, but I did pick up something that put all my guesses in a 'coastal' direction. That's very interesting - especially in a time where my ongoing research into the 'borderline issue' has made me very suspicious of alleged 'regional' characteristics. Even if my conscious mind is in a state of serious doubt about regional 'styles', my subconscious seems to recognise some common 'coastal' traits. I didn't even get close with my guesses for blind #3, but part of that can be attributed to the fact that Alexander sent me in the wrong direction after my first guesses. My ego was protected from complete and utter deflation by the fact that I did identify it as a Speysider right from the start. That's sort of reassuring...

OK, enough blind business for now - time to open my eyes again.
I proceeded with two disclosed 'Speyside sibling' samples provided by Olivier.
He and Serge were raving about the An Cnoc 12yo (40%, OB, New label, Bottled + 2004).
Nose: Aaah.. Light and smooth like a (decent) grain whisky. Fresh. Unripe apples.
Sparkly - maybe a hint of citrus? Over time it definitely takes a sour, winey direction.
Hint of smoke. After some ten minutes some more chemical and metallic notes emerge.
Taste: Smooth and sweet with a fruity undertone. Pleasant mouth feel - chewy.
Hey, wait - now I get a very pleasant explosion of smoke and even some liquorice.
Unfortunately, it turns beer-like and then a tad too bitter towards the finish.
Score: 78 points . I can't really fathom why Serge and Olivier have it in the upper 80's.
It's quite a step up from the 1990's bottling, but by no means really spectacular, i.m.h.o.
That being said, it clearly showed improvement over time - maybe I finished it too fast.

But that can't be helped; the Knockdhu 23yo Cask Strength (57.4%, OB, Bottled +/- 2000) was already waiting. This sample from Olivier actually comes from the very same distillery as the An Cnoc I just sampled, but for some unknown reason they keep switching between the names 'An Cnoc' and 'Knockdhu'. If anybody at the offices of Diageo is reading this: could you cut that out, please? It's becoming a tad annoying...
Nose: Wow!!! Rich, polished and sweet at first but then salmiak and liquorice emerge.
Some grainy elements as well; the good (grain warehouse) and the bad (glue, paint thinner).
Then the aroma changes radically: more cooked vegetables and maybe some organics.
A dash of water didn't seem to have much effect - maybe some more clay, chalk or mortar.
Taste: At cask strength it develops wonderfully in your mouth with a recurring sweetness.
But then the sweetness vanishes and all that's left is a slightly bitter smokiness.
With some water the fruity impressions become more pronounced in start and finish.
Score: 81 points. It starts out very promising, but in the end I can't go any further than a fairly lukewarm recommendation. After five minutes it drops off and it needs some water and ten more minutes to show brief flashes of brilliance again. In the end its performance is a tad uneven.

That being said, the Knockdhu certainly packed quite a punch.
I decided it might be best to take a little break. And what better way to kill half an hour than watching some of the finest British comedy - in this case 'I'm Alan Partridge'. I came into contact with britcom in the early 1980's with reruns of Monthy Python, Fawlty Towers and the complete anarchy of The Young Ones. That was quite a revelation to somebody who until that moment had only experienced the home grown Dutch 'comedies' who generally are 'as funny as an arrow through the neck- with a gas bill attached to it'. That's a quote from my absolute favourite britcom so far; Blackadder. In four series of six episodes each, we follow the misadventures of several incarnations of the two main characters, Blackadder and Baldrick, through British history. Especially the 4th series ('Blackadder Goes Forth') is pure brilliance, but it can only be enjoyed fully if you've also seen the three earlier, progressively excellent series. For those of you not familiar with the 'Blackadder' phenomenon, here are just a few quotes;

Prince George: Tell me about these oppressed masses. What's got them so worked up?
Blackadder: They're upset, sir, because they are so poor that they are forced to have children merely to provide a cheap alternative to turkey at Christmas.

Blackadder: Baldric, you have the intellectual capacity of a dirty potato. You wouldn't recognize a subtle plan if it painted itself purple and danced naked on a harpsicord singing 'subtle plans are here again'.

Baldrick : My mother told me to stand up to homicidal maniacs.
Blackadder : Yes. If this is the same mother who confidently claimed that you were a tall handsome stallion of a man, I should treat her opinions with extreme caution.
Baldrick : I love my mum.
Blackadder : And I love chops and sauce but I don't seek their advice.
Baldrick: I want my mother!
EB: Ah, yes. A maternally crazed gorilla would come in handy at this very moment.

George: If we do happen to step on a mine, Sir, what do we do?
Blackadder: Normal procedure, Lieutenant, is to jump 200 feet in the air and scatter oneself over a wide area.

Anyway - that's 'Blackadder' for you. Tonight's TV-menu featured 'I'm Alan Partridge'.
It's a very different brand of comedy, but equally brilliant. The series focuses on Alan Partridge, a relatively minor character from 1990's mock news show 'The Day Today' (itself sort of a follow-up to 'KYTV' with Angus Deayton). After losing his TV chat show 'Knowing Me, Knowing You', Alan has ended up at Radio Norwich. Tonight I watched the first episode of that series, which starts with Alan going off on one of his usual radio rants: 'This is Radio Norwich , and that was Big Yellow Taxi by Joni Mitchell, a song in which Joni complains that they 'paved paradise to put up a parking lot', a measure which actually would have alleviated traffic congestion on the outskirts of paradise, something which Joni singularly fails to point out, because it doesn't quite fit with her blinkered view of the world. It's 4:37 AM and you're listening to 'Up with The Partridge'.

Are your sides split yet? If not, check out these sites for more Blackadder quotes;
- www.zaputa.com/Blackadderweb/Quotes/pages/quotes_01a.htm
- http://mahonri.anu.edu.au/humour/bladderquote.html
- www.cs.princeton.edu/~min/black/quotes.html

Phew, I think I may have broken my funny bone - time for some medicine.
For my second pairing of the night I turned to one of the 'classic malts'; Cragganmore.
The Cragganmore 1973 (40%, G&M Connoisseurs Choice, Bottled +/- 1990) was an oldie.
Nose: Fruits on the top of the nose, with an undercurrent with more organics. Tea.
Sweet and creamy elements, but there's a distracting perfumy off-note as well.
That's not all - the perfumy element seems to grow stronger over time.
There's a lot going on beneath the surface, but the perfume overpowers all.
Taste: Ooooh! Perfumy start, quickly settling down into a fruitier centre.
Once I get such a heavy punch of perfume on the palate I'm out for the count.
Score: 74 points . Serge and Olivier love it, but I'll have to put it below average.
The nose has many appealing elements, but the perfume drags everything down.

The Cragganmore 13yo 1989/2002 (46%, Signatory Unchillfiltered, Oak Cask #962, 375 Bottles) was a sample from Thomas Lipka in Germany. Thomas was modestly enthusiastic about this expression.
Nose: Surprisingly light and flowery, before becoming creamier and fruitier. Smoke?
Is that citrus? Stale beer? Farmy notes. It completely falls apart after two minutes.
It makes a quiet comeback after a few more minutes. Spices and organics. Sorrel?
Given time it grows ever more complex. This malt needs some time to reveal itself.
Taste: Bittersweet start, growing smoother and fruitier towards the centre. Malty.
Not terribly complex, but endearing enough to make up for the weak moment in the nose.
Score: 82 points . The nose has some weak moments, but the palate keeps it in the 80's.
I have to admit I'd prefer this over the 12yo OB - it just has much more body at 46%.

Hmmm.... Mixed results for Cragganmore this time around.
Most expressions I've tried so far scored in the upper 70's and lower 80's.
The story was quite similar for Longmorn, until I tried a fabulous sherry monster from 1971. I've been on the lookout for older Longmorns ever since, and tonight my prayers were answered in the form of two samples provided by Ho-Cheng. The Longmorn 20yo 1981/2001 (50%, Douglas Laing OMC, Sherry Cask, 570 Bottles) made a solid impression immediately after I poured myself a stiff dram: a very big nose.
Nose: Oh, boy! Extremely rich and heavily sherried - in a subtle way. Old dry sherry.
Organics and an overload of farmy notes. Mint? This is unique! A bit extreme, though.
It grows gentler with time with more fruity notes. Lemon drops. Oriental spices. Wood.
Taste: Sweet and surprisingly light in the start. Then it grows dry, smoky and woody.
It's hot and it has a lot of substance in the centre, but then it just dries out and dies.
Score: 89 points. I had it at 91 for a long time, but the finish is too dry and woody for me.
The nose is really spectacular, though. Worth purchasing for the educational value alone.

The Longmorn 30yo 1973/2003 (56%, Millennium Malts / Duncan Piper, Sherry Cask #3978) was Ho-cheng's second sample. I have to admit I don't know this bottler; the only references I could find were to a bunch of Japanese sites, so I suspect Millennium malts and/or Duncan Piper focuses on East Asia. The colour is extremely dark - maybe the closest to Loch Dhu I've ever seen. It's darker than the Bowmore 'Darkest'.
Nose: Another sherry monster. Much sweeter and fruitier than the 20yo OMC at first.
Then smoke drifts to the surface, followed by an unidentified component of Blue Curacao.
It looks like Loch Dhu and it smells like Loch Dhu should have; smoke, but well balanced.
Taste: Smoky start, growing cool and fruity in the centre. Sweetness turns sour & smoky.
Just like with the 20yo they didn't get the balance just right. This is just too dry and winey.
Oh, this is really too bad. It loses lots and lots of points in the bitter and smoky finish.
Score: 73 points . In this case I had my score in the lower to mid-80's for a very long time.
Only when I experienced the freeze dried finish (caramel?) did the score drop dramatically.
A single malt for nosing rather than for drinking, if you ask me. The 'Longmorn Darkest'...

And that's it as far as this session report is concerned - I've got another session planned for tomorrow.
 

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Log Entry # 175 - September 12, 2004
Topic:  Coast-to-Coast Dramming

17 malts down since I started the 'Mille Malts' challenge - 283 more to go.
That's a tall order, but I still have a whole bunch of samples from France to keep me suitably busy. So, without further ado I give you the results of tonight's 'coastal' session. I started at Clynelish on the North-eastern coast of Scotland to work my way north, west and south again.

The Clynelish 20yo 1983/2004 (46%, Murray McDavid Mission III, Bottle 298 of 498) was sent to me from Taiwan by our fresh maniac Ho-cheng. I have to admit I'm not a big Clynelish fan; the 'restrained' coastal character always makes me long for a 'proper' Islay whisky that's not afraid to play dirty.
Nose: Oaaah, Rich and full. Creamy and malty with some pleasant grainy overtones.
Then something 'veggy' and oily emerges (string beans?), followed by subtle organics.
Fruits are next. Wonderful development over the first five minutes, then it stops in its tracks.
Taste: A tad weak at first, firming up into a sweet and fairly fruity centre. Woody. Quite dry.
Not nearly as complex or satisfying as the nose, I'm afraid. Too bitter in the finish for me.
A few drops of water helped to suppress the woody notes and bring some fruits to the surface.
Score: 79 points. I had it in the lower 80's before I tasted it and then lowered my score to 77.
A positive response to water helped this Clynelish to reclaim some of its lost points - but not all.
So, this is a Mission III bottling - the 'top of the line' these days? What a rip-off...
But then again I have to point out that I'm not a real Clynelish fan - too subtle.

Traveling further North along the coast, we arrive at the picturesque Orkney Islands.
The Highland Park 24yo 1977/2001 (43%, Signatory, Distilled 8/4/77, Bottled 8/10/2001, Cask #3788, 5cl) is a successor of the fairly mediocre 22yo 1977/2000 Signatory bottling on my bottom shelf. Let's hope that this sample from Serge manages to earn a score befitting its respectable age and heritage.
Nose: Alarmingly restrained. Grainy. Some sour off notes in the back of the nose.
Hmmmm... Sour milk? Sorrel? Mint? Sweat? Something faintly dusty, then oilier.
An odd one. Over time something metallic (rusting oil cans?) grows more prominent.
Taste: Not as bad as I feared, actually. Full, fruity and sweet. Hint of peat? Liquorice.
It is quite entertaining for the first ten minutes, before a woody finish takes centre stage.
That's something you don't see every day; an old malt that tastes better than it smells.
Score: 74 points . I'd still have to classify this as a sub-standard malt, I'm afraid.

The Highland Park 35yo 1966 (43.4%, Peerless, Cask #4627) was a 'work in progress'; a sample from a cask that hasn't been bottled yet. Well, from the looks of it they can't wait very much longer before the proof drops below the legally required 40%. Serge, Olivier and Ho-cheng all gave this puppy 88 points.
Nose: A little perfumy, but not too much so. Organics and fruits, then nuttier notes.
Pink bubblegum. Paint thinner. Rum. Malibu - more so than actual coconut. Ab fab!
Taste: Oy, there's that perfume again. It's a little more obvious on the palate, actually.
Nevertheless, there's enough interesting stuff going on to keep things from getting messy.
Chemical fruitiness. Touch of smoke - even some peat. Then it becomes distinctly medicinal!
Meanwhile, a pleasant fruity sweetness had replaced the perfume. Terrific mouth feel.
Score: 89 points . What a spectacular difference with the 24yo 1977 from Signatory.
But then again, the standard 12yo OB almost played in the same league until quite recently.
Whatever the case, I think they should bottle this one a.s.a.p. Don't let the angels take all of it!

Now, let us turn west and follow the coast until we arrive at the beautiful isle of Skye.
The next dram was a 5cl sample of Talisker 10yo (45.8%, OB) I received at Whisky Live 2004.
I'm not quite sure when this was actually bottled, but the new label suggests this year: 2004.
Nose: Heavy. Tar? Some sherry. Hint of smoke. Organics. Not terribly complex at first.
Settles down after a few minutes. Something medicinal? Then peaty notes emerge.
Taste: Sweet liquorice in the start. Peat. Smokier towards the centre, then sweeter.
None of the trademark pepper at first, but it does finally pop up towards the finish.
Score: 88 points . It seems like this batch has more of an 'Islay' profile than others.
My score is the same as that of other recent batches, but it's a different malt.
I can't remember ever finding liquorice in the Talisker, but this has lots of it.
This is a tad 'simpler' than previous batches, but a more powerful dram too.

Travelling due south we quickly find another island off the Scottish coast: Mull.
The Ledaig 19yo 1979 (43%, OB, Bottled +/- 1998) was distilled at Tobermory; the only distillery on the island. Ledaig is the name used for their peated whisky, and I usually prefer it over the unpeated Tobermory.
Nose: Sweet and polished. Creamy. Malty. Not particularly peated, if you ask me.
Then some veggy notes emerge and the nose grows sharper. Some soft organics.
Taste: Smooth and fairly weak at first. A hint of soap before it grows sweet and malty.
Reasonably long finish that finally shows some peat. Grows drier and grittier with time.
Score: 77 points. Olivier Humbrecht (who sent me this sample) gave it only 74 points.
I'm curious how he's going to rate the 20yo predecessor (bottled around 1997) I sent him.
I liked that one a little better (79 points), but I have to admit that I like this as well.
If it hadn't been for the soapy moment it might have matched the 20yo. Not too bad.
That being said, you'd think that two decades in wood would have had more effect.

Moving further south we find the island Jura, just north-east of Islay.
It's home to the (Isle of) Jura distillery - one distillery that hasn't grown on me yet.
The Isle of Jura 21yo (40%, OB, Botttled +/- 2000) was another sample from Olivier.
Nose: Rich and sherried at first, flattening out a little bit and growing dustier.
Then it picks up again. Subtle woods and fruits. Something vaguely 'veggy'.
To my delight I found none of the overwhelming oiliness of the 10yo OB.
I did find some subtle organics an vegetable stock notes later on, though.
Taste: Hmmm... Now, there seems to be a faint hint of oil before it firms up.
Rather sweet, growing fruitier towards the centre. Fresh and quite gritty.
I had it in around 80 for a while, but the finish grows too dry and woody.
Score: 82 points . At first I didn't think I could recommend this to anyone.
The nose seems just fine but the palate lacks some substance and finesse.
However, given time (at least 15 minutes) the nose becomes very complex.
The organics keep developing. That boosts the score well into the 80's.

A little further to the south-east we arrive at the end of our coastal trip: Campbeltown.
Ho-cheng's Springbank 10yo 'Cuvee' (46%, Murray McDavid, MM0406, 1224 Bottles) was a marriage of a fresh sherry cask from 1965 (!) and a bourbon cask from 1993. Since British law requires the label to indicate the age of the youngest whisky in the vatting, we arrive at an age statement of 'only' ten years. Weird, eh?
Nose: Big and fruity with a slightly sour overtone. Then some sherry, then organics.
Candyish. Polished. Complex. Very well crafted. More 'bourbon' than 'sherry', though.
Well, at least at first. After ten minutes the sherry influence starts to reveal itself.
Organics are growing stronger and stronger. Another malt that needs some time.
Taste: Fairly weak start. Firms op towards the centre, but drops off again. Very dry.
Nothing special on the palate, I'm afraid. Not unlike a grittier version of the 10yo OB.
However, given time it definitely grew on me. A cool, fruity freshness with balls.
Score: 84 points. I first had it in the upper 80's at first based on the fabulous nose.
Then it dropped to somewhere close to 80 points, before the palate picked up a bit.
I wonder why they made this vatting. Did the old sherry cask drop below 40%?
I'm usually suspicious of these kinds of experiments, but this one works well.

I finished this session with a truly legendary whisky that Olivier sent me.
The Springbank 1966/1998 'Local Barley' (54.4%, OB, Bourbon cask, Distilled 2/66, Bottled 8/98) simply has to be great malt. I was born in February 1966 and I'm a great guy, so it seems 1966 was just a great year...
Nose:  Loads of sherry. Lighter and fruitier after a few seconds. 'Autumn' impressions.
Wood. Late summer fruits. The faintest hint of perfume - something I'm fairly 'allergic' too.
Very rich and complex. Developing organics. Quite unique - a real adventure for the nose.
With some water some disturbing veggy and herbal notes emerged. Cannabis butter.
It settles down again after a minute, growing more agreeable. Candy kane and fruits.
Taste: Hmmm... A disturbing hint of perfume in the start, developing into fruits. Quite dry.
I have to say the finish doesn't last quite as long as I expected - and it's pretty woody.
After adding a modest splash of water the perfume floats to the surface again. Sourish.
Like the nose it needs some time to settle after adding water. Fuller and sweeter.
Score: 90 points . I had a very hard time rating this one. It swings between 86 and 96.
It shows moments of sheer brilliance, but there are some distracting 'flaws' as well.
At the end of the day, I enjoy this as much (but not as 'evenly') at the 21yo OB.
That one (a dark August 2000 batch) isn't quite as expressive but has more cohesion.

And that's it for another fun filled session.
Check out the next E-pistle for a first look at the new Macallan 'Fine Oak' range.
 

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Log Entry # 176 - September 15, 2004
Topic:  Meeting The New Mac

Aaaaah... Ain't this a pretty picture?
This is the new packaging for Macallan, the
distillery that used to put so much 'sherry' in
its whiskies that it became a style of its own.
 
Well, no more. After putting down malts that
were matured in 'ordinary' bourbon casks on
their labels for years, 'Big Mac' has given in.

I quote from the label: 'For reasons not even
science can wholly explain, whisky has always
matured best in oak casks that ... contained
sherry. Due to increasing expense and
scarcity, other distillers no longer insist on 
sherry casks. The Macallan Directors do.'

That should be a lesson to all of us, right?
You should not accuse black kettles when
you're sitting on a high horse, or it might
turn around to bite you in the arse...
(Or something along those lines.)

And that's not the only part of the old labels that doesn't stand up to scrutiny.
For more than a decade, the back label of all official bottlings finished with the phrase 'The results are shown partly in The Macallan's rich golden colour, partly in the nose and wholly, may we venture ... in the tumbler'. Are they bonkers? If you're going to use a tumbler you might as well save yourself a lot of money and buy yourself a cheaper malt like Dalmore 12yo or Longmorn 15yo. For me, the real charm of fully sherry matured malts lies in their nose, not so much in their taste. In fact, a bitter, woody and winey character on the palate can be the price you pay for the richness and complexity of a sherry nose. From that respect, pouring it into a nose-destroying tumbler is complete and utter madness. It's like advising people to wear a blindfold in a museum...

Anyway, after taking the 'sherry high road' for many decades, it's now possible to buy bourbon matured Macallans. Of course, it's no big secret that Macallan already matured their malts in bourbon casks that were intended for blenders, but the official bottlings used to be from 100% sherry casks - mostly first and second fill Oloroso. Those of you who's read my earlier log entries that it took me some time to fall in love with Macallan. Back in the early 1990's every guilder of price different counted, and Macallans had a slightly more upmarket image. Nevertheless, as soon as I found a supplier who delivered a duty free litre bottling of the Macallan 12yo for a friendly price I was addicted. A few years later I discovered the 10yo 100 Proof and that one really blew me over the roof. Against my Dutch penny pinching nature, I had turned into a Macallan lover.

I lived in a sherry wonderland for a few years, happily but not ever after...
Around the year 2000 things began to change at Macallan. It all started with rumours that Macallan sacked it's 'nosing team' that had been responsible for the cask selection until then. I'm not sure if these rumours are true, I'm not even sure if there's a direct correllation, but not long afterwards I started to encounter my first 'mediocre' OB's. The latest bottlings of 7yo, 10yo and 12yo all seemed to have lost some of 'that lovely feeling' - although the new 15yo expression as well as the 18yo were still going strong. The younger expressions were still very good whiskies, mind you - just not quite as deep and characteristic as their predecessors who easily managed to earn scores in the 80's again and again. When Macallan introduced the 'Travellers Edition' series around 2001 the general feeling amongst the maniacs was that these new expressions didn't have a whole lot to offer - we generally scored them in the 70's and preferred the 30's and 50's over the 20's and 40's. Then came the 'replica's (1841, 1876) and if the lukewarm public response wasn't enough, Macallan suffered a serious 'egg on face' situation when it turned out earlier this year that these whiskies were actually replica's of fake whiskies.

So, you'd say that Macallan has had a rocky ride through the first years of the 21st century. You'd expect a major brand that has had to endure so much bad publicity to want to lie low for a while to let the dust settle, but Macallan has clearly chosen for the offensive by releasing a brand new series of malts; the 'Fine Oak' series. As soon as the news broke, excitement and scepticism raged across the ranks of the maniacs. You'll understand that I was delighted when I received an invitation from Maxxium to join a tasting to introduce the new range onto the Dutch market. Maxxium is the marketing organisation for brands like The Macallan, Highland Park and Jim Beam here in Holland. The different relationships within the whisky industry keep baffling me, but I think it works something like this; The Macallan distillery is owned by Highland Distillers, just like Glenrothes, Glenturret, Highland Park and Tamdhu. Highland Distillers itself is owned for 70% by the Edrington Group and for 30% by William Grant. Together with Jim Beam Brands (part of Fortune Brands) and Remy Cointreau, Highland Distillers founded Maxxium a few years ago for the distribution of wine and liquor outside the USA. Complicated, eh?

Yes - but fortunately you won't have to remember all this to be able to enjoy a Macallan.
In fact, maybe it's time to wrap up this lengthy introduction and report on the tasting session. The press event took place in the swanky 'Blake's Hotel' on the Keizersgracht in Amsterdam. I didn't have to look very hard for the hotel - all I had to do was follow the sound of the bagpipes produced by two overly enthusiastic bagpipers in the courtyard. I know it's traditional and everything, but maybe some Scots who aren't tone deaf could try to select a less invasive musical instrument to go with haggis and whisky as the highlights of Scottish culture? Maybe a nice little nose whistle or something. That would be great actually - then you would be able to drink and produce music at the same time! Or how about a bottle xylophone to put these vast amounts of empty whisky bottles to good use? For one thing, it would be environmentally friendly.

But once again I'm drifting off towards the cliffs of insanity.
Once I've worked my way past the pipers who were fondling their bags with slightly disturbing enthusiasm I was quickly made feel welcome by some people from Maxxium and Edrington. Amongst the assorted press I also saw some familiar faces from Whisky Etc. A had arrived fashionaly late, so there was little time for chatting. A last, desperate solo of one of the bagpipers indicated that it was time to start the session. Global Marketing Manager Elizabeth Taylor started off with a presentation that focused mainly on the Macallan brand image and the completely new packaging. I have to say that I felt a bit like I had wandered into the wrong room and ended up at the launch of a new perfume or fashion brand. It seems I wasn't the only one who had expected something else; the images in the presentation became increasingly vague and there were quite a few bemused sniggers from the audience when a sports car popped up in the presentation.

That being said, the new packaging is indeed quite beautiful.
Well, at least the slender shape of the bottle - it looks round but 'feels' different as soon as you pick it up. Very nice and certainly distinctive. As for the label; I'm not so sure about that. I actually loved the old labels; relatively simple but very classy. The new labels are much more modern and 'feminine'. So, despite the 'marketing sauce' I was starting to warm up to these new expressions - until Elizabeth Taylor claimed that 'Macallan is still he malt by which all others must be judged'. That lofty remark cooled me right off again - and caused some more sniggers in the audience. Everything was a tad 'over the top' for most level headed Dutchmen.
There's a thin line between big-headed and pig-headed, I guess...

Fortunately, Elizabeth's presentation was followed by a much 'meatier' one from whisky maker Ian Morrison that focused on the actual product. He stressed the fact that Macallan still exclusively uses 'Golden promise' barley. One picture in the presentation drew my attention; I never quite realised how short the necks of the stills at Macallan really are - shorter than any I've seen so far. Macallan uses five 12,000 litre wash stills and ten 3,00 litre spirit stills. They take a middle cut of only 16%. Another picture in the presentation showed the amazing variety of colour of samples fresh from the casks. Ian explained that Macallan uses no artificial colouration, so they have to compose their vattings on colour as well as nose and taste. At this point in the presentation we were asked to divert our attention to the first three glasses in front of us. They contained cask samples from an American oak bourbon cask, an American oak sherry cask (from 1967) and a 10yo European oak sherry cask. The American oak bourbon sample was grainy and sweetish in the nose with something spicy. The taste was smooth as first, growing grainier towards the centre. A classic example of a good bourbon cask. I got to take a quick sniff of the American oak sherry cask from 1967 (light with a chemical fruitiness) before we jumped to the next part of the sampling.

We hopped through a sample of new make spirit; the nose was quite typical - oily, fruity and grainy. Very much like Grappa. I didn't dare to taste it because now I would finally get to sample the first of four new Macallans, starting with the youngest expression, the Macallan 12yo 'Fine Oak' (40%, OB, Bottled 2004).
Nose: Malty with a hint of spices. Very light. Extremely faint organics. Clay? Veggy. This one is definitely spicier than I expected. Some fruit but no obvious sherry traits. Taste: Very light start. Smooth and very 'bourbony'. Grittier after a few minutes. Great body, but the finish is a tad too woody for my tastes. Hint of liquorice? This is a good summer malt, but it doesn't seem to stand up very well to time. Score: 76 points . It's a different whisky from the previous 12yo, that's for sure. In a blind test I might have mistaken this for an older, 'coastal' malt from a tired cask. This is a preliminary score; I'll have to try it some more with a fresh palate.

The Macallan 18yo 'Fine Oak' (43%, OB, Bottled 2004) seemed a lot 'bigger' than the 12yo.
Nose: Rich and polished. Lovely. Much more like the old, intense Macallans. Much more organics than the 12yo and it opens up some more after a minute. Taste: Spicy, fruity and potent. A few steps up from the 12yo, if you ask me. The old 18's could be a tad woody and winey, but this is beautifully balanced. Score: 83 points . Not quite the 'old' Mac but a very fine malt by itself. Arguably, this could appeal to a much wider audience - women included.

The Macallan 25yo 'Fine Oak' (43%, OB, Bottled 2004) was again quite different.
Nose: It seemed fruitier at first, but the fruits disappear rather quickly. It's definitely more restrained than the 18yo. Not much else to say, really. Taste: More substance on the palate than in the nose. Good mouth feel. Hey, maybe even a subtle hint of smoke and peat. Again a very different profile. Score: 80 points . A good malt but not really outspoken enough for my tastes.

A very generous dram of the Macallan 30yo 'Fine Oak' (43%, OB, Bottled +/- 2004) was served after the 'proper' tasting part was over. I had already packed my big cognac bowl, so I enjoyed this in a smaller glass - this may have put me off course. I got to mingle and speak to some more people, so my tasting notes on this one are rather vague. The nose was definitely 'oriental' in style. Soy sauce. Maggi. Clearly, they used a much larger proportion of sherry casks for this one. It went remarkably well with some sushi they served just afterwards. My notes on the taste are rudimentary: all my little black book says is 'recommendable'. My score of 82 points should be taken even less seriously than my scores for the other three. A number of the new expressions have been submitted for the MM Awards and I should be able to give them one more go. And the great thing is that we're going to be sampling them completely blind, so any lingering 'brand' preconceptions shouldn't affect my judgement so much.

One slightly disturbing piece of information I received just before I left was that future 'sherried' expressions won't be available in Holland anymore - at least not officially. All sherried releases will be reserved for the main markets, America, France and... erm... Germany if I remember correctly. Add that to the launch of these new expressions, and you'll understand that sherry matured Macallans will become much more scarce than they have been so far. Expect a run on all 'old style' Macallans - even if the younger expressions from the last few years haven't been quite as magnificent as in the 1980's and 1990's. Keeping that in mind, I must admit that I prefer the launch of new expressions over having to watch the steady decline of old favourits like the old 12yo. One other definite improvement is the increased 'range' within the portfolio. The old Macallans used to be variations on a theme, but even withing the 'Dutch' range of 12yo, 18yo and 25yo there's something for everybody - well, except for peat. The loss of the trademark sherry punch in this part of their range will drive some of their old fans up the walls, but it might attract many new customers as well. It's a bold gamble from Big Mac, that's for sure. But then again, releasing relatively 'mainstream' malts worked just fine for Glenfiddich and Glenlivet.
Is the world ready for a more 'feminine' Macallan? Only time will tell...

And that's it as far as the new 'Fine Oak' Macallans are concerned - at least for now.
Serge and Olivier already sampled the 12yo and 18yo at Whisky Live Paris this weekend (lucky b*st*rds!), so you can find our first impressions on the matrix. Since I had to return home to write this log entry (and edit a few smashing new E-pistles for MManiacs #10) there was no time to stick around for very long (Sorry, Stephen). That meant I couldn't ask the burning questions I'd like to ask. Where do all these bourbon casks 'suddenly' come from. Since when have they been putting aside bourbon casks for this surprise attack? In fact, was this a carefully prepared operation or more of a emergency measure? Does all the Golden Promise barley they use come from Scotland? Which expressions remain 100% sherry casks?

Anyway, these questions will have to wait until later.
When I returned home I decided to pour myself three more Macs for reference purposes.
I started with a sample of the Macallan 12yo 1990/2002 'As We Get It' (55.6%, Kirsch Import) that Klaus sent me from Germany almost two years ago. Somehow I never got around to trying this particular puppy.
Nose: Some sherry, but not as 'heavy' as the old style OB's - just like the colour suggests.
It's lighter and a bit sweeter than your average sherry casked OB - was this a refill cask?
I'm quite sure it wasn't a bourbon cask, but it's hardly 'first fill Oloroso' character either.
With some time and water organics appear - before disappearing again just as quickly.
Taste: Very sweet. Drinkable at C/S, provided you take small sips. rum. Fruity.
Not as woody as the classic OB's, although wood appears towards the dry finish.
After a while the sweetness disappears, leaving a fairly bitter finish. Hint of smoke?
Score: 79 points. I holds up reasonably well for five minutes but then it falls apart.
This really is no match for the old 10yo Cask Strength OB - at least not this batch.

Speaking of OB's... I don't remember how I got a sample of the Macallan 15yo 1983 (43%, OB, USA, 75cl), but it's on my shelves and I'd like to sample it with the profiles of the new 'Fine Oaks' still in my mind.
Nose: Sherry, fruits and wood. Typically 'old school' Macallan, but a little bit thin.
Taste: Once again sherry, fruits and wood - and in that order. Also a tad 'thin'.
Score: 85 points . Not quite as enjoyable as the more 'solid' 15yo 1984 OB.

Serge sent me a miniature of the Macallan 1970/1988 (43%, OB, 5cl) a while ago.
A great opportunity to finish the evening with a truly 'classic' - almost antique - Macallan.
Nose: Rich, spicy and quite heavily sherried - although not quite as much as some.
Then more organics and woody notes emerge. Maggi? Smoke. A 'classic' Macallan.
Toffee or fudge? That's new. Raisins. Shoe polish. Remarkably expressive. Just lovely.
After half an hour the profile had mellowed out significantly. Good times, good times...
Taste: Fabulous mouth feel; fat and fruity. More (good) wood towards the centre.
Oaky. If I have to make one critical point, it would be the heavy tannins in the finish.
Score: 91 points . Remarkably similar to 18yo bottlings of a decade later.

And that is, as they say, 'it'.
Well, at least for now - I'm sure I'll return to this part of Speyside shortly...
 

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Log Entry # 177 - September 21, 2004
Topic:  An Islay Adventure

Hmmm...  There are now 732 single malts on my Track Record.
I'll have to pick up the pace if I want to catch up with Serge's 1000 malts before next year.
That's why I'll celebrate the arival of Autumn with nine undiscovered treasures from Islay.
Just a very 'quick and dirty' tasting report this time - I can't afford to dilly-dally too much.

The Bruichladdich 12yo 1991 (46%, Whisky Galore, Duty Free Sample) came from by Serge.
Nose: Quite restrained, even for a Laddie. This cask died a very long time ago.
Very faint organics - that's about all I can say about this one. Devoid of character.
Taste: Starts out very bitter and grows even more bitter. Hint of oil after a while.
Little or no redeeming qualities. Fragmented, thin mouth feel. Memories of peat.
Score: 47 points. Kaboom! The record of the Bruichladdich 1989/2002 'Valinch' (58.5%, OB, Paris 2002) as the lowest scoring Bruichladdich has just been shattered. The 'Valinch' had a bit too much character for me, but at least that means there's something interesting going on. This is liquified boredom with a bitter twist.

Let's hope the Bruichladdich 35yo 1966/2001 (40.5%, Douglas Laing OMC, 228 Bottles) from Olivier is able to tickly my fancy more vigourously. It's just as 'young' as I am, so there's already a warm fuzzy feeling...
Nose: Surprisingly fresh, growing maltier. Sweet & sour. No obvious 'Islay' traits. Glue.
A very quick start, but no stamina. More 'veggy' notes appear after five minutes. Dust.
The nose has a long weak stretch, but after ten minutes I finally found some real peat.
Some organics as well. Calves leather? This is surprisingly entertaining at times.
It changes quite a bit over time. From the lower 80's to the mid 70's to the upper 70's.
Taste: Big, sweetish and fruity. Malty as well. Good body. Some menthol after a while.
For the first few minutes it's not woody at all, which is quite surprising at this age.
Unfortunately, it suddenly takes a turn for the worst after five minutes. Bitter.
Score: 79 points . I was even thinking of 81 or 82 points for the first few minutes.
This is a dram you'll want to finish quickly, before the nose falls apart - despite the glue.
Surprisingly enough, 'laddies' Serge & Olivier didn't like this one quite as much as I did.
To me this had some traits that reminded me of Clynelish - which both of them love.
Finish this one quickly, though... Once it falls apart there's no going back.

Time to hop to the north-east of the island for two Caol Ila's.
The Caol Ila 14yo 1980/1994 (62.6%, G&M Cask Series) came from Serge.
Nose: Big and powerful. Surprisingly sweet. Organics. Some grainy overtones.
Much 'heavier' and melancholic than I've come to expect from CI - more like Ardbeg.
And since I adore Ardbeg, this puppy managed to send my nostrils into a sniffing frenzy.
With a dash of water is desintegrates for a moment, before returning in a more pensive mood.
Taste: Sweet and slightly herbal at first, then the peat ignites and blow-dries the palate.
Not quite as complex as the nose, but a mightly pleasant experience. Long, hot finish.
Score: 85 points. In a blind test I definitely would have marked this as an Ardbeg.
Remarkably outspoken and individualistic for a G&M bottling from the 1990's.
A tad too rough on the palate for me to venture further into the upper 80's.

The Caol Ila 12yo 1990/2002 (58.5%, Blackadder Raw Cask, Hogshead #4159) was provided by Serge as well. Based on his 70 points and Olivier's 75 points this probably isn't a prime example of Caol Ila.
Nose: Crisp and clean, growing a tad sour after a few seconds. Then the peat emerges.
Wait... Now it's gone again - most of it anyway. Not up to Caol Ila standards, I'd say.
Taste: Watery start - but quite dry. I know it sounds odd, but that's how it feels.
Not a lot of substance - hardly a raw' whisky. It grows slightly more solid with time.
Score: 67 points . By far the least potent Caol Ila I've ever tried. Many weak moments.

My next dram was one of the big sellers, Bowmore 12yo (43%, OB, Bottled +/- 2002, 5cl, L378 205M 11:31). Actually, I'm not quite sure how it arrived on my shelves, but I'll take advantage of this opportunity.
Nose: A little sherry and a little smoke. Subdued fruity notes. No obvious perfumy notes.
All in all it's not very expressive, although it got some leathery notes and 'medicine' with time.
Taste: Starts out a tad sour and bitter for my tastes, but then there's a flash of peat.
The peat disappears just as quickly as it arrived, leaving a smoky, long and dry finish.
Score: 78 points . This might have limped into the 80's with more power on the palate.
Maybe my mind is playing tricks on me, but I think the 12yo used to have more depth.
Still, this seems to be a perfume-free batch of Bowmore so I'm not complaining too much.

The sample of Bowmore 33yo 1968/2001 (46.2%, Signatory Vintage, Cask #1431, 218 Bottles) was part of the package of 'deluxe' malts sent to me from Taiwan by Ho-cheng. The modern world is a strange one. I can fly to Scotland in less than an hour from Amsterdam, but this whisky has taken quite a detour to get here.
Nose: Rich. Organics. Passion fruit. Melon. Strawberry? A forest in autumn. Rum.
It shows a faint hint of perfume, but nothing like the heavy chemical 'FWP' odeur.
Taste: Strangely fruity. No peat whatsoever, but it still has a great mouth feel.
It has a very subtle smokiness that's surprisingly appealing. Dry, woody finish.
Score: 87 points. Some things reminded me a lot of the Bruichladdich 1970.
It's great, but Islay peat and subtlety still don't mix too well for me, I'm afraid.
Maybe this cask shot just a little bit past its prime a few years ago.

The Bowmore 35yo 1968/2003 (42.05%, Peerless, Cask #1424, 201 Bottles) came from Ho-cheng's package as well. If these casks were numbered at the distillery, it's a 'sister' cask of #1431 I just sampled. That seems to be the case, because I've already sampled a 32yo 1968/2000 from cask #1422 by Signatory.
Nose: Indeed, rather similar to C#1431 at first - maybe a little grainier. Not as expressive.
Obvious differences emerge quickly: this one has no fruit at all. Maybe some eucalyptus?
It's pretty much dead after five minutes - and I couldn't revive it with a few drops of water.
Hmmmm... Maybe some life signs after all with some more water? Hardly - comateuse at best.
No wait - after ten minutes there were some vaguely interesting organics and nutty notes.
Taste: Oooh... Very bitter in the start. Woody, flat centre. No entertainment value at all.
I wonder what they were thinking when they bottled this. This almost tastes like aspirin!
The fact that the nose grows mildly interesting over time kept it in the 70's - until I tasted it.
Score: 49 points. I have no love for this puppy. What a difference a cask makes...

The Laphroaig 12yo 1990/2002 (46%, Signatory Unchillfiltered, Oak Cask #1405, D3/90, B11/02, 468 Btl.) was submitted by Olivier. The colour was remarkably light - lighter than the lightest white wine I've ever seen.
Nose: Grainy distillery aroma's - washbacks? Quite potent, but a tad unrefined.
The peat emerges after a minute. Wet dog. Not much else going on, it seems...
This is really odd - it seems like the cask has had very little effect on the spirit.
However, some breathing definitely helps to open it up a little. Subtle organics.
Taste: Ay... Quite harsh, just like I expected. Good mouth feel but a tad simple.
Score: 74 points. It teases you with brief flashes of a 'proper' Laphroaig nose.
This scores a notch below average because it's hardly up to 'Phroaig standards.

The Laphroaig 30yo (43%, OB, Bottled +/- 2000) came from Olivier as well.
Nose: Wow! You can smell the glass from the next room! Rich, sweet and sherried.
A hint of smoke and many heavy organics. Polished oak and tobacco. Beautiful.
None of the iodine found in younger expressions, though. Surprisingly powerful.
Lighter fruity notes emerge after five minutes. Reminds me of the Talisker 20yo '81.
Taste: A quick hint of perfume soon makes way for a sweet and smoky centre.
Fruity notes, growing fresher along the way. Just a tad too winey in the finish for me.
Remarkably smooth, especially at first. Still, there's a soapy distraction somewhere.
Score: 89 points . Hints of soap and perfume on the palate keep it out of the 90's.
In a blind test I would probably have guessed it was a (very good) Bowmore.

And that's the end of one short and sweet report...
 

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Log Entry # 178 - September 25, 2004
Topic:  Cleaning Out Cadenhead's

The 'new' Cadenhead's store in Amsterdam isn't that new anymore - they just celebrated their one year anniversary a few weeks ago. With the 'Mille Malts' challenge well underway, it's a good thing that Andries opens up his collection to Alexander and myself on a regular basis. We had another sampling session planned for this afternoon, but I'll start with a quick & dirty review of a few whiskies I tried there three weeks ago. That mini -session actually should have been today's session, but then I received a message from Alexander that he was at the store, ready and waiting to begin the session. As it turns out the scatterbrain penciled in the session a few weeks early. Nimble-minded as ever, I decided to just go with the flow and join him for a few quick drams.

I hadn't anticipated this session, so I had to whip myself into a sampling frenzy quickly. Before I joined Alexander and Andries I dropped by the 'Gall & Gall Exclusief' near Dam Square to check out their latest prices - that usually gets my heart pumping and my blood boiling... The first thing I noticed was a bottle of Remy Martin XO cognac for a relatively modest 133 Euro's. This was my #1 drink (measured by enjoyment, not by volume ;-) during the late 1980's and in those days the price was somewhere around 100 Euro's. If we take inflation and tax increases into account, the price hasn't really changed in well over a decade. Things are not quite as rosy on the whisky front, I'm afraid. I haven't tried the Remy Martin XO in a very, very long time, but I imagine I'd still enjoy it a lot more than the decidedly underwhelming Balvenie 17yo Islay Cask that goes for 133 Euro's as well at Gall & Gall. I have to say that 120 Euro's seems a bit rich for a Bruichladdich 20yo and I've seen the Macallan 18yo 1985 for a lot less than the 102 Euro's on the G&G price tag. (Maybe they are already anticipating the price gauging that's like going to erupt around the old, sherried Macallans.) Another bottle I certainly wouldn't invest in is the Bowmore 17yo at 67 Euro's. That will buy you a 70cl, 43% bottle of a malt that's infamous for batch variation. Why not take your 67 Euro's for a walk along the canals to Cadenhead's and spend it on something more interesting?

It's not all bad news at Gall & Gall, though. Some prices are fairly reasonable, like 28.50 Euro's for the Glenfiddich 12yo (much better than many blends in that price bracket) and 40 Euro's for the Laphroaig 10yo (40%, 70cl). That's a fair enough price in itself, but I'd save up a few more Euro's and go for a litre of the Cask Strength variety myself. Probably the most interesting bottles on offer right now are a bunch of UDRM releases (including Mortlach and Brora) for prices in the 80's. They're the best deals in the store and should be gone soon.

OK - time to give you a quick review of the Cadenhead's session that followed.
I started out with a grain whisky, the Port Dundas 10yo (60.2%, Cadenhead's Authentic Collection, 318 Bottles). The label doesn't specify a distillation or bottling date; I imagine this was bottled around 2000. The nose started out very sharp with lots of the 'evil' side of grain - paint thinner and chemical overtones. Harsh. Maybe a little herbal ? More citrus with time, more 'veggy' notes with water. The taste started out with a quick flash of olive oil followed by chemical fruits. It drops off quickly and has a bitter finish. It grows a little sweeter with time, until you add water. This is too harsh at cask strength, but it doesn't suffer water gladly. Score: 40 points.
Hmmm... Just when I was starting to appreciate grain whiskies a little bit more, this one comes along. Still, I gave them another go with the North British 21yo ????/2000 (57.8%, Cadenhead's Authentic Collection, Bourbon Hogshead, Bottled September 2000, 228 Bottles). The nose was polished with much more fruits than the Port Dundas. It started out sweet on the palate - nice and chewy. The sweetness vanishes much too quickly, but makes a low profile comeback after a little while. Score: 64 points. Much more to my liking than the Port Dundas but still not up there with Olivier's Garnheath 1969 or Invergordon's Cask #15539 from Peerless. Or the Greenore 8yo from Cooley, for that matter.

Cadenhead also offers single grains from Cameronbridge and Invergordon, but after two misfires I was eager to move on to maltier matters. The Tullibardine 13yo 1989/2003 (59.8%, Cadenhead's Authentic Collection, Bottled June 2003, 276 Bottles) tricked me into sampling it simply by being the third ever Tullibardine on my Track Record. Two expressions of the 10yo OB bottled in the later 1990's scored in the lower 60's - which made sure I didn't look for other expressions too hard. Both bottlings had an oiliness I usually associate with distilleries along the west coast like Tobermory and Isle of Jura. This cask strength offering from Cadnehead showed hardly any peat at all, but started out with a very distinctive sweet liquorice aroma - like the strings of liquorice rolled into a spiral you could get at Dutch liquor stores when I was just a little Johannes. It's quite light. After a while sour elements take over. I had a strong association with fresh plain salad. I guess that must have been (cheap) vinegar. Hint of sour apple? Based on the fairly interesting nose I was ready to go for a score in the upper 60's until I tasted it. I tasted nothing. This was completely and utterly flat - even at almost 60%.
That dragged the score down to an abysmal 53 points. Barely enjoyable.

Up until now, I had been scavenging Andries' shelves all by myself, but when Alexander and Andries saw my mood taking a turn for the worse they pulled out something really special they knew I would like. Well, they were right. I absolutely loved the Port Ellen 10yo (43%, Scottish Wildlife). The nose managed to hold its own after three stiff cask strength drams. It was very extreme and reminded me a lot of the Laphroaig 10yo as it was in the early 1990's. Loads of smoke and peat with a distant whiff of apples. Wonderful - a blast from the past. The taste was very similar to the Laphroaig 10yo ca. 1995 as well; bone dry and peaty. A chunk of peat after it has been dried over an open fire. Ah, sweet memories... My score of 88 points doesn't really reflect how much I love this; with some more complexity it would have qualified for a position in the lower 90's. A real treasure, thanks Andries! The fun thing is that Serge sent me a 'blind' sample a while ago - now I'll know what features to look for.

I finished up with a small measure of the Green Spot NAS (43%, OB), a pretty rare Irish whiskey bottled by Mitchell & Son in Dublin. This 'pure pot still whiskey' is actually produced at the (new) Midleton distillery, just like the Redbreast 12yo. The nose was very distinctive with sake and rice waffles - very much like the 'Dark Whisky' from Poland. It was softly sweet on the palate with rice waffles as well. Gooseberries too. This surely is a very pleasant dram, but it could have done with some more complexity. My score: 74 points.

That's it as far as my notes on the previous session are concerned.
I've made very little progress for my Track Record - just two new malts from Scotland so far. Fortunately, I was able to focus more on Scotland during this afternoon's session. When I arrived Alexander was already sampling, and so was 'Wally the Collector' who had plenty of interesting opinions as usual. At the moment he seemed particularly concerned with the fact that alsmost all distilleries have switched to a new generic liquid yeast strain or are about to do so. That will eliminate yet another distinguishing element from the production process, moving the actual practice of whisky production ever farther away from the 'traditional' image they like to project.

Anyway; I'll have to think about that some more, but now it's tasting time.
I started with a Macallan 18yo 1973/1991 (43%, OB) that was fresh and surprisingly fruit in the nose. Very light with subtle toffee notes. A bit like liqueur filled chocolates. More organics over time. Simply fantastic. The taste was lighter than I expected as well. Not nearly as woody as some 18yo batches bottled in the later 1990's. It loses some points on the palate, especially because it has no finish to speak of. When I had only nosed it I had it at 90 points but after I tasted it the final score dropped to 88 points. Alexander agreed.
Next, I turned to my little black book to see if some of the bottles in Andries' ever expanding collection could help me fill out some of the relatively sketchy area's on my track record. The very first malt that caught my eye was the rather impressive Caperdonich 24yo 1977/2002 (57.3%, Cadenhead's Authentic, 666 Bottles). I've only ever tried one other expression of Caperdonich; a 1980/1998 Connoisseurs Choice bottling. This Cadenhead's bottling had a very sherried nose. Rich and round. Lots of character with spicy episodes. The taste was fruity and chewy; big with a hint of smoke. My score: 86 points; a very nice surprise.

I proceeded with the Bunnahabhain 24yo 1979/2003 (50.6%, Cadenhead's, Bourbon Hogshead, 234 Bottles). The nose was surprisingly light and grainy. The thing that struck me about the taste was an overwhelming 'beer' impression - a hoppy bitterness. The beer malt. This one isn't quite sweet enough for me. Score: 78 points. Next, I poured myself a Ben Nevis 15yo 1986/2002 (62.7%, Cadenhead, Bourbon Barrel, 216 Bottles). As it turns out I already sampled this on June 15 and gave it 88 points then. The sample bottle I tried today was nearly empty and the malt had clearly suffered - I would have rated it the lower 80's at best. The nose was 'heavy' but a little grainy and not very expressive. I found salmiak with a hint of fruits on the palate, and liquorice later on.

Chatting with Andries, Wally and Alexander was enlightening but distracting, so when the end of the afternoon approached there was only time for two more drams. The Cardhu 27yo 1973/2000 (60.02%, UDRM, Bottled October 2000) was much 'richer' than the old 12yo OB, but I guess that's not surprising at this strength. There's even a hint of peat or something coastal, but it flattens out surprisingly fast. The taste showed an unexpected hint of smoke and was quite dry. Let's go with a score of 79 points for this one. This seems to confirm rumours that the later expressions in the Rare Malts range are generally of a lower calibre than the first releases. I finished the afternoon with the Dallas Dhu 21yo 1975/1997 (61.9%, UDRM, Bottled April 1997). The nose was quite feisty with coastal overtones. It's solid and malty on the palate with a faint hint of smoke. Score: 81 points.

That concludes the report on the afternoon. Alexander and I headed back to my place to do some more sampling to increase his malt mileage, but I didn't try any new bottlings during the evening. Well, at least not until after Alexander left. When I was cleaning up I noticed a nearly empty bottle that Andries stuffed in my backpack to try. It was the Lochside 20yo 1981/2001 (50%, Lombard, Cask #604). There was maybe . It was quite light in the nose , just like expected. Some honeyed notes? Opens up with more grainy elements after a few seconds. Not a lot of personality, but that might have been caused by the oxygen. After some five minutes some unexpected organics emerge - that's nice! It has none of the oil I found in the 10yo MacNab bottling. Meanwhile, it's fruity (white grapes? ) and quite pleasant on the palate, although it drops off a bit towards the finish and grows too woody and bitter. All in all, it doesn't seem to have suffered too much from oxidation. That said, I'm hesitant to recommend it based on just a small sip so I wouldn't want to score it in the 80's. OK, 79 points then.

That's it for tonight's report - time to catch some zzzzz's...
 

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Log Entry # 179 - September 30, 2004
Topic:  Exotica Caledonia

Time to finish this month's reporting with a short and sweet log entry.
The mille malts challenge leaves me little time for philosophical interludes. Tonight's session focuses on some relatively obscure and exotic stuff I received from Olivier and Ho-cheng some time ago.

I've only ever bought one bottle of Inverleven, the 1984 (40%, Gordon & MacPhail) that was bottled around 1995. I did get to try two other versions (an old and probably oxidised 21yo 1988 from Cadenhead and a fabulous 1989/2003 G&M bottling at 45% for La Maison du Whisky), but I only tried small samples of both. Thanks to Olivier, I'll have the chance to expand my experience with Inverleven by exactly 33.3%. Earlier this year he sent me a stiff sample of the Inverleven 1986/2001 (40%, G&M). Obviously, I'm very curious.
Nose: Light, fruity and grainy start. A tad sourish for my tastes. Apple?
A malty undercurrent reveals itself now and then. It's a bit two-faced.
It doesn't take very long for some 'veggy' off-notes to appear. Too bad.
But after a few more minutes, the vegetables develop into organics.
Taste: Gentle start, developing into a mellow fruity centre. Floury apple.
After a few minutes it becomes too gritty, dry and woody for me. Falls apart.
Score: 73 points. I had it slightly above average for the first few minutes.
Might have performed a little better at a higher proof - 46% or more...

The Linlithgow 26yo 1975/2001 (51.5%, Signatory Vintage, Cask #96/3/86, 354 Bottles) came from Olivier as well. I actually have a bottle in my Reserve Stock I bought 'on sight', so I'm extra curious.
Nose: Harsh, grainy start. A little 'chemical', followed by dust and clay. Vegetables?
With some water very little changed. Not my cup of tea, I'm afraid. An odd one.
After a few minutes some soft fruity notes emerge. Faint dried apples. Peat???
This changes slowly but steadily over time. More interesting than likeable.
Taste: Smooth and very clean at cask strength. Not a lot of character.
After adding a few drops of water it grew a little sweeter in the centre.
Score: 81 points. For the first fifteen minutes I was convinced I didn't like it.
Still not really my cup of tea, but over time it turns into a very interesting whisky.
It needs a lot of time. I have a bottle of this in my reserve stock for later study.

The Glenugie 26yo 1977/2004 (46%, MmcD Mission III, 498 Bottles) that Ho-cheng sent from Taiwan was only the second bottling from this defunct distillery I ever tried. Good call, Ho-cheng!
Nose: Ooaaah. Big and sweet. Some citrus? Raspberry. Something metallic.
Many subtle sherry traits. Cookies. A lot of change over time. Hint of organics.
Taste: Surprisingly smooth at first, growing sweeter, then dry. A little fruity.
No real winner on the palate, though - a tad too metallic, woody and quite simple.
Score: 82 points . Much better than the 16yo Signatory bottling I tried in the 1990's.
This one makes it into the 80's primarily on its engaging nose.

The Glenury 30yo 1973/2003 (57.5%, Blackadder, Cask #6861) was another sample from Ho-cheng, and once again I've only sampled one other expression from that distillery so far. I'm in 7th heaven!
Nose: Wonderful! Rich and sherried. Surprisingly fresh fruity notes grow dusty quickly.
Sweet. Some subtle woody notes. Faint spices and organics. Highly entertaining.
The profile gradually changes over time, but the spices remain dominant. Walnuts?
Even more complexity after I added some water. A pleasant winey touch.
Taste: Very drinkable at cask strength. Sweet and smooth. Liquorice.
Shows a little more character with a few drops of water. Quickly fading finish.
Score: 89 points. It would have made the 90's with a palate to match the amazing nose.
Many Blackadder bottlings I tried recently were far below par, but this is a winner.

The Braes of Glenlivet 15yo 1979/1995 (60.0%, SigV, Butt #16040, D6/6/79, B3/95, 1200 Bottles, 5cl) was next. I discovered this distillery relatively late in life, but it has quickly secured a place in my Top 10.
Nose: Oh, boy - we have a winner... Rich woody & fruity notes. Autumn leaves.
This is a real sherry monster in the style of the 'old' Glendronach 15yo. Lovely.
After a few minutes it has grown much more complex than the 'Dronach ever was.
Incredibly rich with lots of pipe tobacco. Hints of clay and smoke. Powerful.
Taste: Big and sweet - you barely notice that it's 60%. Firm and fruity.
Not as complex as the nose, but sufficiently entertaining on the palate.
Score: 91 points. What a big bad sherry monster! How Macallan should be.
It might scare some people away, but I admire the uncompromising character.

Opinions on the Port Ellen 24yo 1978/2002 (58%, Signatory, Port Finish, Cask #02/159/1, 804 bottles) that Ho-cheng sent me are strongly divided. Ho cheng has it at 88 points and Davin at 85, but Serge and Olivier gave it 70 and 55 respectively. The colour is surprisingly light with a very faint pinkish hue.
Nose: Hardly any Islay character at first. Fruit blossoms? Then it grows a tad stronger.
Everything remains very superficial, though - like a thin layer of varnish. Dusty?
A generous dash of water didn't add any depth or complexity in the nose. Fruitier?
Taste: Ah, now I find some peaty power! Sweet and powerful in the centre. Lovely.
Fabulous mouth feel at cask strength - sweet but peaty and smoky at the same time.
Remains solid and very pleasant after I added a splash of water - a little smokier.
Score: 79 points - which is sort of an average of a 60's nose and a 90's palate.
That's quite odd, because port finished usually have more effect on the nose.

The Port Ellen 23yo 1978/2001 (62.2%, McGibbons Provenance for John Milroy) came from Ho-cheng as well, but didn't ignite such varied responses. Well, judging from his 93 points Ho-cheng loved it a bit more than some other maniacs who mostly put this one in the lower 80's. Time to add my own score.
Nose: Wow! Big and sweet - completely different from the 24yo Port. Late fruits.
Some faint organics in the background but no peat. Opens up slightly with water.
Taste: Sweet and hot at cask strength, with a short flash of peat after a few seconds.
Fuller and rounder with a generous dash of water. Now I find some peat in the background.
At about 55% it's very pleasant and fruity indeed. Diluted further to circa 45% it's sweeter.
Score: 81 points . The nose is much better than that of the 24yo but the taste isn't.
No real disappointment, but I've tried better Port Ellens - especially at cask strength.

Tonight's most exciting malts were the Glenugie and Glenury (Royal).
I've now tried two different expressions of each, which means I will have to try one more of each before I'm satisfied. Generally speaking, I'm making good progress with my hunt for the more 'obscure' malts. Since I last checked my data in January I've managed to cross Allt-A-Bhainne, Balmenach, Glenglassaugh, Glen Keith, Imperial, Lochside and Tullibardine off my list of inactive distilleries that require further investigation. That leaves Banff, Caperdonich, Coleburn, Dallas Dhu, Glen Albyn, Glencadam, Glenlochy, Glenugie, Glenury (Royal), Hillside / Glenesk, Littlemill, Millburn, North Port / Brechin and Pittyvaich.

And what about the active distilleries?
On January 1, I identified 19 active distilleries that still required further research.
Since then I've been able to cross Cardhu, Dalwhinnie, Deanston, Glenallachie, Glenburgie, Glentauchers, Inchgower, (Isle of) Jura, Knockdhu, Strathisla and Tomatin off my list. That leaves just Craigellachie, Glendullan, Glen Spey, Knockando, (Royal) Lochnagar, (Old) Pulteney, Speyburn and Teaninich.
Hurray! Only eight active distilleries left...

And that's it for September 2004. There are now 756 malts on my Track Record.
Check out the 'dram diary' below for my latest discoveries.

Sweet drams,

Johannes

- - -

Dram Diary # 179 - September 2004

78 - An Cnoc 12yo (40%, OB, New Label, Bottled +/- 2004)
78 - Bowmore 12yo (43%, OB, Bottled +/- 2002, 5cl, L378 205M 11:31)
87 - Bowmore 33yo 1968/2001 (46.2%, Signatory Vintage, Cask #1431, 218 Bottles)
49 - Bowmore 35yo 1968/2003 (42.05%, Peerless, Cask #1424, 201 Bottles)
91 - Braes of Glenlivet 15yo 1979/1995 (60.0%, SigV, Butt #16040, D6/6/79, B3/95, 1200 Bottles, 5cl)
47 - Bruichladdich 12yo 1991 (46%, Whisky Galore, Duty Free Sample)
79 - Bruichladdich 35yo 1966/2001 (40.5%, Douglas Laing OMC, 228 Bottles)
78 - Bunnahabhain 24yo 1979/2003 (50.6%, Cadenhead's, Bourbon Hogshead, 234 Bottles)
86 - Caol Ila 1992/2002 (50%, Wilson & Morgan Extra Strength)
84 - Caol Ila 1993/2003 (50%, Wilson & Morgan Extra Strength)
85 - Caol Ila 12yo 1989/2001 (43%, Bourbon, SignV, C#766-768, 610 Bottles)
67 - Caol Ila 12yo 1990/2002 (58.5%, Blackadder Raw Cask, Hogshead #4159)
85 - Caol Ila 14yo 1980/1994 (62.6%, G&M Cask Series)
86 - Caperdonich 24yo 1977/2002 (57.3%, Cadenhead's Authentic, 666 Bottles)
79 - Cardhu 27yo 1973/2000 (60.02%, UDRM, Bottled October 2000)
83 - Clynelish 1989/2002 (46%, Wilson & Morgan)
85 - Clynelish 1989/2003 (46%, Wilson & Morgan, Marsala Finish)
79 - Clynelish 20yo 1983/2004 (46%, Murray McDavid Mission III, Bottle 298 of 498)
82 - Cragganmore 13yo 1989/2002 (46%, Signatory Unchillfiltered, Oak Cask #962, 375 Bottles)
74 - Cragganmore 1973 (40%, G&M Connoisseurs Choice, Bottled +/- 1990)
81 - Dallas Dhu 21yo 1975/1997 (61.9%, UDRM, Bottled April 1997)
83 - Edradour 10yo 1993/2004 Sauternes Finish (57.2%, OB, SftC, Cask #04/11/3, 444 Bottles)
88 - Glenrothes 1990/2002 (46%, Wilson & Morgan, Sherry Wood)
75 - Glenrothes 1989/2003 (46%, Wilson & Morgan, Rum Finish)
82 - Glenugie 26yo 1977/2004 (46%, MmcD Mission III, 498 Bottles)
82 - Glenury 30yo 1973/2003 (57.5%, Blackadder, Cask #6861)
72 - Highland Park 11yo 1990/2001 (60.1%, Sherry, Signatory, C#15446, 612 Bottles)
74 - Highland Park 24yo 1977/2001 (43%, Signatory, Distilled 8/4/77, Bottled 8/10/2001, Cask #3788, 5cl)
89 - Highland Park 35yo 1966 (43.4%, Peerless, Cask #4627, Work In Progress)
73 - Inverleven 1986/2001 (40%, G&M)
82 - Isle of Jura 21yo (40%, OB, Botttled +/- 2000)
81 - Knockdhu 23yo Cask Strength (57.4%, OB, Bottled +/- 2000)
74 - Laphroaig 12yo 1990/2002 (46%, Signatory Unchillfiltered, Oak Cask #1405, D 3/90, B 11/02, 468 Btl.)
89 - Laphroaig 30yo (43%, OB, Bottled +/- 2000)
77 - Ledaig 19yo 1979 (43%, OB, Bottled +/- 1998)
81 - Linlithgow 26yo 1975/2001 (51.5%, Signatory Vintage, c. #96/3/86, 354 Bottles)
79 - Lochside 20yo 1981/2001 (50%, Lombard, Cask #604)
89 - Longmorn 20yo 1981/2001 (50%, Douglas Laing OMC, Sherry Cask, 570 Bottles)
73 - Longmorn 30yo 1973/2003 (56%, Millennium Malts / Duncan Piper, Sherry Cask #3978)
82 - Macallan 1990/2003 (50.5%, Wilson & Morgan Extra Strength)
89 - Macallan 12yo 1990/2003 (57.5%, Wilson & Morgan Barrel Selection, Cask #8748)
79 - Macallan 12yo 1990/2002 'As We Get It' (55.6%, Kirsch Import)
76 - Macallan 12yo 'Fine Oak' (40%, OB, Bottled 2004)
85 - Macallan 15yo 1983 (43%, OB, USA, 75cl)
91 - Macallan 1970/1988 (43%, OB, 5cl)
88 - Macallan 18yo 1973/1991 (43%, OB)
83 - Macallan 18yo 'Fine Oak' (43%, OB, Bottled 2004)
80 - Macallan 25yo 'Fine Oak' (43%, OB, Bottled 2004)
82 - Macallan 30yo 'Fine Oak' (43%, OB, Bottled 2004)
88 - Port Ellen 10yo (43%, Scottish Wildlife, Bottled Early 1990's)
81 - Port Ellen 23yo 1978/2001 (62.2%, McGibbons Provenance for John Milroy)
79 - Port Ellen 24yo 1978/2002 (58%, Signatory, Port Finish, Cask #02/159/1, 804 bottles)
93 - Port Ellen 23yo 1979/2003 (46%, W&M, Butt #6769)
84 - Springbank 10yo 'Cuvee' (46%, Murray McDavid, MM0406, 1224 Bottles)
90 - Springbank 1966/1998 'Local Barley' (54.4%, OB, Bourbon Cask, Distilled 2/66, Bottled 8/98)
88 - Talisker 10yo (45.8%, OB, Bottled +/- 2004, 5cl)
78 - Tormore 13yo 1984/1997 (63.9%, Cadenhead)
53 - Tullibardine 13yo 1989/2003 (59.8%, Cadenhead's Authentic Collection, Bottled June 2003, 276 Bottles)

I've only 'officially' sampled some Wilson & Morgan bottlings before.
There now are exactly 756 single malts on my
Track Record

 

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