180 - 01/10/2004 - Blind Ambition Tour - Part 1: Talisker 1955, Longrow 1987, Jura Whisky 3yo, etc.
181 - 02/10/2004 - Blind Ambition Tour - Part 2: Glen Elgin 16yo 1985, Ardbeg 28yo 1972/2001, etc.
182 - 03/10/2004 - Blind Ambition Tour - Part 3: Ben Nevis 32yo 1971, Scapa 25yo 1975, etc.
183 - 14/10/2004 - More Speyside Siblings; a Speyburn, three Glendronachs and four Glenfarcli...
184 - 22/10/2004 - Malt-Market Malts - First Batch; four W&M's and five Douglas Laing OMC's.
185 - 01/11/2004 - Autumn Amsterdramming with Davin; mostly miniatures from the 1980's & 1990's.
186 - 06/11/2004 - Festival Fever; how I managed to 'do' the Leiden festival within a single hour.
187 - 11/11/2004 - Winter Walpurgis; Eastern European whiskies, Penderyn, Old Maltky, absinth...
188 - 21/11/2004 - Malt-Market Malts - Second Batch; fresh Wilson & Morgan bottles from Italy.
189 - 30/11/2004 - Eurotripping 2004; a quick 'Dram Diary' of the maniacal trip through Europe.
 

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Log Entry # 180 - October 1, 2004
Topic:  Blind Ambition Tour, Part 1

Ooooh... woe is me...
At the beginning of this year I received a package from France,
filled with more than 100 samples. Most of them were disclosed,
but there were about three dozen 'blind' samples in the box as well.
Most of them were filled right to the neck, but amongst the blinds
there were quite a few bottles that were only 1/3 or even 1/4 filled.
I'm well aware of the dangers of oxidation, so I planned to start my
sampling with these as soon as possible. Yep, that was the plan...
In reality, I got scared every time I wanted to try them and turned
my attention to some less intimidating disclosed samples instead.
Meanwhile, Serge's samples kept haunting me in my nightmares...

When I finally ran out of disclosed samples it was time to face the music.
By now, there were 34 blind samples left in the box. Serge had included a list of all the samples in the package and I had been frantically crossing off the bottles that I had tried. With 34 names left on the list, I wouldn't have to do my sampling completely blind. Statistically speaking, I had about 3% chance of identifying one malt correctly with my first try, even if my nose decided to go on strike completely. I'll take those chances...

Before I started the sampling, Serge and I agreed on some 'Pandora rules'.
We've been dabbling with blind tastings in the past, but we wanted to establish a few rules so we would me able to include an element of friendly competition in future blind tastings. We'll have to work out plenty of minor details later on, but for now we decided on these simple 'rules';

Sounds simple enough, eh?
Well, let's put our rules to the test and start with the first flight.

Blind #1: Nose: Ultra-light. A tad 'veggy'. Unripe banana. Slowly mellows out. Peanuts?
Soft fruits. Very little character - this must be a Lowlander or from a tired bourbon cask.
Taste: Very flat and dull at first. Grows sweeter and a little more substantial in the centre.
Develops into a dry and fairly harsh finish. Hot. Pine? But then an unexpected sweet twist.
Score: 77 points . It's a nice enough summer malt, but just not really my type of whisky.
First guesses: Linlithgow, Bladnoch, Ledaig (last guess because it takes an oily turn)
Serge's reply: Nope, sorry. Hint: you're not too far geographically, but it's no Lowlander.
My baffled reaction: Not a Lowlander? That means it must be Jura or Springbank/Longrow.
Serge's answer: Yes, it's Springbank 11yo 1989/2000 (45%, Signatory Stills of Scotland).
My conclusion: Well, I'm off to a shaky start. Just 1 point earned on Blind #1.

Blind #2: Nose: Hmmm. Once again very, very light. The first impression is 'oily'.
Superficial. Grows a little sweeter after a little while, then smokier. Hey, that's better...
With some water it blossomed at first, but then got some 'Bowmorish' perfume notes.
Taste: That's odd; a 'fatty' start quickly takes a more liquorish direction. Hint of smoke?
It doesn't hang together very well, though. After adding water I got 'perfume' here too.
It shows definite improvement over time, though - more so in the nose than in the taste,
Score: 77 points - although it takes quite some time to get there. A tad disappointing.
First guesses: Isle of Jura, Ledaig, Bowmore. (That last guess because of the perfume.)
Serge's reply: You're much further away now. Hint: it's a duty free version.
My baffled reaction: What, on the north-east coast? Sorry, I don't have a clue...
Serge's answer: Blind #2 is the Macallan Elegancia 12yo 1990/2002 (40%, OB).
Wondering whether this wasn't kind of and advanced try for the 'Fine Oak' series.

My conclusion: Now I'm really flabbergasted. I tried the Elegancia a few weeks ago.
I thought about it when Serge said 'duty free', but dismissed it again: very different.

Blind #3: Nose: Bold and round with sherry tones. It's a big Speysider or Highlander.
Then organics appear. Very nice indeed. The sherry really comes to the foreground.
It's big and the sherry grows stronger with time, but it never becomes very complex.
Taste: Oh yeah, very heavily sherried. A lovely fruity sweetness in the centre. Wood.
My kind of malt - reminds me a bit of the Glenfarclas 'Family Reserve #4". A big beast.
It takes a while before you notice it's an overproof malt, though - and it grows too dry.
Over time the sherry becomes so prominent that it's more like a Macallan, actually.
Hey, now I even get a hint of liquorice on the palate. Orange zest bitter citrus combi.
Score: 87 points - I had it a tad higher at first, but it drops off rather quickly.
First guesses: Glenfarclas, Macallan, Highland Park.
Serge's reply: Bingo!!! It's Glenfarclas 22yo 1978/2000 (59.8%, OB, James Watt Edition #6).
My nonchalant reaction: Haha! This was relatively easy, because I knew the 'Family Reserve'.

Blind #4: The darkest sample in this flight had an almost reddish hue and was 2/3 empty..
Nose: Tobacco. Oak. Opens up with more sherry and fruits after a minute. Great stuff.
Spices & organics. This seems like a malt that spent a looong time in a fine sherry cask.
Tea leaves? Raisins? Extremely entertaining. By far the 'biggest' nose in this flight.
Taste: Woody start, sweetening out towards the centre. Fruity sherry notes.
Feels fabulous in the mouth. Fruity finish, reminding me of 'Southern Comfort' liqueur.
Hot, smokey, peppery and dry in the finish - slowly evolving into looong winey tannins.
Wait a minute... Smoke? Could this be a Bowmore, Ardmore or Glen Garioch? Nah...
Score: 90 points . Lovely, lovely, lovely. A bit on the extreme side, though.
First guesses: Highland Park, Talisker, Glenfarclas. I'm clutching at straws here.
Serge's reply: Congrats, you nailed it with your second guess!
It's the Talisker 1955/1993 (53.6%, G&M Cask series, Cask #1310, 1311, 1257).

My intrigued reaction: Interesting! Similar to the 20yo 1981/2002 OB I tried last year.
Talisker was my second guess, so I've earned four more points with this one.

That means I've earned 10 out of 20 points on this first round; not too bad...
Let's see if I can improve that score with the second flight. This one spells trouble, though - all the malts are very light in colour and (more important) all sample bottles were only 1/4 full. That doesn't only mean I have to make a judgement from smaller quantities than I'm used to (and I'll only have one go at each malt instead of two), it also could mean that the whisky is oxidised. I usually try to empty the big bottles on my shelves into smaller sample bottles when they hit 1/3 to prevent this. Some single malts (Ardbeg 10yo OB, for example) improve after extensive breathing, but most don't. So, let's wander off blindly again...

Blind #5: Nose: Light and grainy at first. It takes quite some time before peat emerges.
Notable improvement after five minutes with more brine and organics. Salty. Seaweed?
The organics grow stronger and at times it even seems to lean in a medicinal direction.
Taste: Sweetish start, then a growing peaty presence. No doubt this is an Islay malt.
At first I though it might be Bruichladdich, but it seems much too peaty on the palate.
Dry finish. With a bigger nose I might even be tempted to guess this was a Port Ellen.
The nose is quite lovable at times but it's just a little too dry on the palate for me.
Score: 78 points. First guesses: Caol Ila, Ardbeg, Bruichladdich.
Serge's reply: Ah, too bad you didn't persist with Port Ellen.
As a matter of fact, it was Port Ellen 10yo (43%, Scottish Wildlife).
I consider you earned 2 points here. It was tricky as we're not used to YOUNG Port Ellens.

My baffled reaction: Well, now I know for certain that this one was oxidised.
I simply waited too long with sampling them - this one was pretty much destroyed.
I know this because I just sampled from an 'unaffected' bottle a few weeks ago.
That one scored 87 points and I stand by that score. Or - is this another batch?

Blind #6: Nose: Bigger and fruitier, but some peat as well. Caramac and a hint of smoke.
A big nose that grows more and more complex over time. Wow, this is quite great.
Taste: Oy... Perfumy start - must be a Bowmore, then. Sweet with some smoke.
The smoke grows stronger and stronger and in a 'Bowmorish' fruity dry finish.
Hey, now I get an entertaining hint of liquorice. This grew on me over time.
Score: 85 points. First guesses: Bowmore, Ardmore, Talisker.
Serge's reply: Good work. You missed it but it was a dirty trick I played.
It's Longrow 1987/2000 (45%, Samaroli, cask #123)
.
My annoyed reaction: And once again it's completely different from my old notes.
I'm afraid I must conclude that these scores have rather limited significance.
Oxygen seems to have deformed already two malts in this flight.

Blind #7: Nose: Wow!!!! Big, sweet and complex. Right up my alley. Character.
Then more organics and maybe even some peat. An adventure for the nose.
Taste: Very woody, but not unpleasantly so. Sherried, fruity and 'winey' notes.
Great mouth feel. There seems to be some peat as well, but that doesn't show at first.
After a while it grows bone dry with suggestions of liquorice and iodine. Smoke. Very nice.
Score: 91 points. First guesses: Ardbeg, Talisker, Ardmore.
Serge's reply: No sir, but again it was very tricky. It's 3yo, but heavily peated!!!
It's Jura Whisky 3yo 1999/2002 (60.7%, OB for Japan, Cask #92, 447 bottles).
This Jura is something; 3 years old - some food for thoughts about maturation etc.

My blank reaction: Well, this could be further proof for my 'oxidation' theory as well.
Arguably, a young and harsh malt could actually benefit from some breathing in the bottle.
Also, this indicates that the current mainland 'peating' trend will complicate blind tastings.
Islay malts used to be the easiest to identify thanks to the peat. Alas, no more.

Blind #8: Nose: Light and a little nutty. Peaty elements emerge after half a minute.
Taste: Fruity start, growing gently peated towards the centre. Quite potent.
Smoke. It's really a wolf in sheep's clothing - very hot and dry after a while.
Score: 84 points. First guesses: Ardbeg, Port Ellen, Longrow.
Serge's reply: Yeah, Ardbeg! No more dirty tricks... Yes sir, a bottling for HOLLAND!
It was Ardbeg 1991/2002 (55.6%, Spirit of Scotland for Holland, c. #1182).

My confident reaction: Well, I didn't quite know what to make of this one.
The 'delay' in development made me guess Ardbeg this time around.

Serge went on to say: Now please consider this: you rated the two 'non-Islay Islayers' higher than the Islayers! Should fuel our discussions as for borders etc. (But we must admit Campbelltown and Jura aren't very far from Islay, are they?) You did well regarding your comments, and to be honest, getting the three first malts would have made you Superbatspidertasterman. So, no shame at all!

Yeah, well... Interesting from a 'borderline' perspective, that's for sure.
Meanwhile I've earned only five 'real' points this time - although I might have earned one or two more points if there had been enough whisky left for a second 'revision' round. No reason for pride, that much is clear. Fortunately, there's one flight left, so there's a chance to redeem myself.

Blind #9: This time we start with the darkest whisky in the flight.
Nose: Sherried and woody, but not a lot of depth at first. Pleasant, though.
Opens up with time - more organics. Oriental spices. Sambal. Horse stable.
Taste: Sherried start with a big burn in the centre. Winey. Surprisingly dry.
With some water it became much smoother, sweeter and fruitier. Smoke. Long finish.
This one might have actually benefitted from vatting with a soft-spoken bourbon cask.
Score: 86 points. First guesses: Highland Park, Talisker, Bowmore, Caol Ila, Longrow.
Serge's reply: It was Bowmore 14yo 1988/2003 (50%, DL Old Malt Cask, DL 910).
Congrats! I gave it 88 points, and so did Olivier. That's 3 points for you.

My baffled reaction: Hey, a Bowmore! I thought I noticed some 'Darkest' overtones.

Blind #10: Nose: Light, veggy and slightly oily. Sourish. Milk powder. Not my kind of malt.
Taste: Unexpected power. Sweet and peaty. A very pleasant hint of liquorice later on.
I love the taste but this has no nose to speak of, it seems. Hard to from an opinion.
Score: 75 points. First guesses: Caol Ila, Ardbeg, Bowmore, Longrow, Isle of Jura.
Serge's reply: Hey hey! Yes, Ardbeg! 7 points for you now...
It was Ardbeg 10yo 1993/2003 (58.6%, Cadenhead's Bond reserve)
We all rated it quite highly, if I'm correct. A defective sample again?

My astonished reaction: Hey, this is very interesting indeed!
I did try this before and didn't like it as much as the previous version.
I thought that might have been an subconscious response to the 'white' label.
Nevertheless, I expect oxygen to be responsible, so I'll stick to my original score.

Blind #11: Nose: Peat. More spices and organics after a moment, then faint fruits.
A hint of mint? A little 'sombre' like the Ardbeg Uigeadail. More 'horse stable' with time.
Taste: Peaty and serious on the palate. More smoke after a few seconds. Powerful.
It has a strong 'Buysman' bitterness in the finish keeps it from approaching the 90's.
If I hadn't already had the Port Ellen 10yo, this would definitely have been my guess.
Score: 87 points. First guesses: Ardbeg, Port Ellen, Caol Ila, Bowmore, Longrow.
Serge's reply: Bingo! It's Ardbeg 30yo 1973/2003 (51.9%, DL Platinum, 94 Bottles).
I loved this one (95 points!) That means you earned 12 pandora points now.

My testy reaction: Well, now I'm quite positive I let these breathe for too long.
When it comes to these old OMC Ardbegs, I usually agree with the French.
I do find some family traits, but this seems quite different from other old OMC's.

Blind #12: Nose: Polished start with developing organics. Pipe tobacco. A sherry cask?
At first it almost seems like a Speysider, but it slowly creeps in a more coastal direction.
Hmmm... is that peat? Yeah, I think it is. A minute later it's almost medicinal. Nice one...
I had it at 88 for a very long time, but the continuous development pushes it to 89.
Taste: Very soft start, followed by a peaty punch. This 'delay' could mean it's an Ardbeg.
Quickly grows drier and smokier. A little more depth on the palate than the previous one.
Score: 89 points . First guesses: Ardbeg, Port Ellen, Caol Ila, Talisker, Bowmore.
Serge's reply: Absolutely, Ardbeg again. I loved it too (94 points). Hey hey, 17 points!
It was Ardbeg 1974/2003 (52.3%, OB, Managers Choice, Belgium, Cask #2740, 120 Bottles).
Sure, it wasn't the most difficult flight ever, but still! Congrats!

My confident reaction: Well, some much needed relief for my ego...

I could write a lot about what I've learned tonight - but I won't.
I've got two other blind session planned this week to check if I've actually learned anything.
I most certainly hope so, because we recently decided to do the tastings for the 2004 MM Awards 100% blind.

Meanwhile, I'd like to leave you with my impressions of the Caol Ila 18yo (43%, OB).
I received this sample from Twan van Enckevort who was curious to find out how I felt about it.
Nose: Malty and sweetish, remarkably restrained for an Islay malt. Time killed the peat?
No wait, there it is - just a tiny little bit. Faint organics. Some fruits. Heather? Wax?
It grows stronger and stronger over time with growing complexity on the organic side..
Taste: Quite soft in the start as well, but after a few seconds it grows peaty, then dry.
A little smoky, and then it grows sweeter again. Very nice, it earns a few more points.
Strangely enough, as the nose improves the palate grows a little sour and falls apart.
Score: 84 points . At first the style reminded me a little of the 'old' Bruichladdich 15yo.
Over time, it grows much more complex. Still, too many tiny 'flaws' for the upper 80's.

And that's it for this report.

Bye bye...
 

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Log Entry # 181 - October 2, 2004
Topic:  Blind Ambition Tour, Part 2

Hmmm.... Isn't the wisdom of hindsight a great thing?
In the face of the upcoming Malt Maniacs Awards I decided to try and quit smoking - again. I wanted to get in top sampling shape for the awards, and smoking really is a bad thing. However, as it turns out that wasn't such a smart idea. After I finished the session Serge explained to me that it would probably take at least two weeks before my nose and palate had completely adapted to the new situation. Another complicating factor was the fact that some samples were only half filled, so they had been breathing for more than six long months. As a result, tonight's results were less than perfect...

Blind #1 - Nose: OOoaaah... very rich. Sherried. Fruity. Spices. Polished.
Drops off rather quickly. With some water hints of clay and more organics emerge.
After some ten minutes it makes a comeback. Tobacco. Highly entertaining.
Taste: Not as rich and complex as the nose. Quite woody and bitter. Too bad.
Over time (and with a drop of water) it grows sweeter on the palate. Smoke?
Score: 85 points. Guesses: Highland Park, Scapa, Macallan, Longrow, Linlithgow.
Serge's reply: Bull's eye: Highland Park 30yo 1970/2001 (50%, DL Old Malt Cask, 570 B.).
My response: Hey, hey - not too bad... Five pandora points right from the start.

Blind #2 - Nose: Rich and malty. A fairly 'middle of the road' profile, but quite expressive.
Smells a bit like a very old blend. It's odd; it has a lot of lack of character, so to speak.
Clay? Over time some strange organics emerge, but they add little personality to the malt.
Taste: A hint of fruits, but no sweetness at all. Flat and bitter. Not my kind of malt.
Score: 60 points . Guesses: Glen Elgin? Bladnoch? I really wouldn't have another clue...
If the nose hadn't been so expressive it would have ended up below 50 points.
Serge's reply: Again, it was Highland Park 25yo 1977/2002 (53%, SigV SftC, C#3794).
My response: Well, that's another crappy old Highland Park from Signatory Vintage.
This is the 3d Signatory Vintage HP from 1977 - and the third that's below par.
It seems Andrew Symington just bought a bunch of HP casks without sampling.
From now on, I'll actively avoid old Signatory Vintage bottlings of Highland Park.

Blind #3 - Nose: Fruity and woody with lots of organics. Teak? My kind of profile.
Unfortunately, it grows fairly one-dimensional after a few minutes in the glass.
Taste: Woody. Sweetish towards the centre. Too much smoke keeps it out of the 90's.
Score: 89 points. Guesses: Ardmore? Ben Nevis? Highland Park? Scapa? Talisker?
Serge's reply: Glen Elgin 16yo 1985/2001 (56.7%, The Bottlers, Cask #1212).
My response: Hey, this is by far the best Glen Elgin I ever tried. Good stuff.
What a lame and unimaginative name for a bottler, though: 'The Bottlers'.

Blind #4 - Nose: Cod oil - and very little else at first. Mint? Herbal? Spices over time.
I really didn't like it at first, but it sort of grew on me. Still, it's a 'whimpy' whisky.
Taste: Bitter. A little oily as well. Extremely superficial; gone within a few seconds.
Score: 69 points. Guesses: Isle of Jura, Ledaig, Longrow, Linlithgow, Bruichladdich.
Serge's reply: Well done, it's Ledaig 1974/2000 (40%, G&M Rare Old).
My response: Well, I've never been a big Tobermory / Ledaig fan myself.
Anyway, that's four more pandora points during this session.

Serge suggested I should take a little break right about now - so that's what I did.
Reviewing the results so far I'd have to say nine points out of four blinds isn't very good.
Only six drams left to help repair what's left of my fragile ego...

Blind #5 - Nose: Aaaah, there's the peat... Iodine and something medicinal as well.
Taste: No sweetness, and a little bit flat. Smoke. Then a little bit of sweetness.
It definitely loses some points here. Too bad, because the nose is very characteristic.
Score: 88 points. Guesses: Ardbeg, Port Ellen, Caol Ila? Must be one of these...
Serge's reply: Bingo, this is the Ardbeg 1974/1996 (40%, Spirit of Scotland).
My response: Five points - and I didn't even need all five guesses this time.

Blind #6 - Nose: Oil. Dust. Nothing else I could find. Faintest hint of peat?
Taste: Completely and utterly flat. Very bitter. This has died a long time ago.
Score: 42 points . Guesses: Isle of Jura, Ledaig, Bruichladdich? Three guesses.
Serge's reply: Ardbeg 28yo 1972/2001 (43%, Silver Seal 'First Bottling', 288 Bottles).
I'm sure this sample was dead.
My response: Hmm, could be, I guess.
Still, the sample was more than half full - and most other malts were still OK.
Maybe at 43% it just didn't have the 'spirit' to stand up to a little oxygen?
I thought my nose was 'off course', but a 2nd try produced the same results.
A whisky that can't stand up to a little oxygen doesn't deserve a higher score.

Blind #7 - Nose: Once again oil. Hint of peat? Iodine? What has happened here?
Over time, the peat grows more prominent and it sort of grows on me.
Taste: Weak start, but it does get some peat over time. Still, not my kind of malt.
Score: 71 points. Guesses: Ledaig, Isle of Jura, Ardbeg. No other ideas...
Serge's reply: Longrow 1987/1999 (45%, Samaroli 'Dreams', 967 Bottles).
Again a dead one, it appears.
My response: Nah, I think I just don't like it a lot.
This seems to be one of those 'subtle' malts that are just too 'whimpy' for me.

Blind #8 - Nose: Oily with a hint of fruit. Faint spices. Wet cardboard?
Taste: Hint of peat? Beer. Dry. This has very little distinguishing marks.
Score: 59 points . Guesses: Isle of Jura, Ledaig. No other guesses for me...
Serge's reply: No, it was a dead sample of Caol Ila 24yo 1974/1998 (46%, Wilson & Morgan).
My response: Hmmm... Now I'm starting to think that even a little oxygen can do damage.
I usually like Caol Ila and I usually like Wilson & Morgan bottlings. This was dead and gone.

Blind #9 - Nose: Oily once again. Organics. What's the matter with my nose today?
Over time it grows much. much peatier, but the oil already spoiled some of my fun.
It grows fruitier with time. Interesting development, lifting it well into the upper 80's.
After ten minutes I got some strong organics that signaled a change in direction.
Taste: Sweet and fruity. Dry. Smoke. Fairly simple, but very pleasant. Nice...
Just like the nose, it needs quite some time to 'get into shape'. A peat monster.
It reaches the upper 80's eventually, but it needs quite some time to get there.
Score: 89 points. Guesses: Ardbeg, Port Ellen, Caol Ila, Isle of Jura, Ledaig.
Serge's reply: Yes, Caol Ila 1991/2002 (57.8%, Celtic Germany).
My response: Hey, that's interesting... Higher proof malts seem to do better.
Three much needed pandora points bring the grand total to seventeen points.

Blind #10 - Nose: Clean and malty. Quite transparent. Hint of peat?
Middle of the road. It doesn't pick sides, resulting in a fairly boring experience.
Taste: More peat on the palate than in the nose. Bitter, flat and fairly dull.
Score: 74 points. Guesses: Bruichladdich, Longrow, Caol Ila, Bladnoch, Linlithgow.
Serge's reply: Again, Caol Ila 11yo 1991/2003 (56.5%, Eidora Whiskyauction, 313 Bottles).
My response: Pfffft. Three more pandora points - that's twenty pandora points this time.
Given the complications (quitting smoking and possibly oxidised malts) that's not too bad.

Tonight's session was highly educational, but it seems that some samples have indeed suffered from oxidation. That's a topic that really deserves further investigation, because the effects appear very hard to predict. Different malts respond differently to oxidation (age, peating levels and wood types seem to be some of the factors involved) and it even seems that different malts have a specific 'point of no return' after which they just desintegrate completely. And there's the misguided attempt to quit smoking when I'm busy with my 'Mille Malts Challenge'. Looking at my guesses and other maniacal scores for the Silver Seal Ardbeg 28yo and Wilson & Morgan Caol Ila 24yo these results are just too far off course to include them in my Track Record.

That's it for this session - only twelve more malts to go tomorrow...
 

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Log Entry # 182 - October 3, 2004
Topic:  Blind Ambition Tour, Part 3

Well, that didn't last long....
With the Malt Maniacs Awards around the corner it's the worst moment I could pick to shock my system by trying to quit smoking - so I picked it up again (hopefully temporarily). I'm still convinced quitting will hugely benefit my sense of taste and smell in the long run, but after learning that my nose and palate would probably need a few weeks to adapt, I decided I couldn't risk it right now. I've got a 'reflective' period planned early next year and I should have the opportunity to let my senses adapt then.

Fortunately, tonight's session promised to be relatively easy.
There were only twelve blinds left from the package Serge sent me this spring.
Each sample came from another distillery; on the table were Ardmore, Ben Nevis, Bladnoch, Bruichladdich, Caol Ila, Isle of Jura, Linlithgow, Longrow, Macallan, Port Ellen, Scapa and Talisker. This should be easy enough - especially because almost every sample was filled all the way to the top, minimalising the effects of oxidation and given me the chance to try each malt twice when neccessary.

Blind #1, Nose: Malty and grainy. Grows sweeter and bolder over time. Oil?
More fruits. Then some spices emerge. Even some organics after ten minutes.
It keeps growing bigger, bolder and better. Creeps from lower '70's to lower 80's.
Taste: Bittersweet, prickly and a little gritty. Beer-like bitterness in the finish.
After some five minutes some sweeter fruits (overripe peaches?) emerge.
This one needs at least a few minutes to reach its peak. Well rounded.
Score: 82 points. Guesses: Ben Nevis, Ardmore, Scapa, Talisker, Linlithgow.
Serge's reply: OK, you guessed it, it was Linlithgow 1975/1999 (56.3%, Scott's Selection)
My baffled response: Hmmm... That was my last guess - but now my notes make sense.
I also found grain and oil in the nose of the Linlithgow 1982/2000 (61.6%, Scott's Selection).
I gave that one 82 points as well, so I think I don't need to revisit this one just now.

Blind #2, Nose: Mellow and sweetish with a very faint hint of oil. Bladnoch?
Opens up quickly. Something spicy and herbal with some very faint organics.
Smoke? Highly entertaining development over time, especially in the coastal direction.
Just amazing - after ten minutes I was even thinking of a score in the lower 90's.
Taste: Hey, that's much stronger than I expected. Dry and hot, flat and gritty.
That's disappointing - I have to say I like the nose a lot more than the palate.
Based on the nose I'd go for an upper 80's rating but the palate drags it down.
Score: 79 points. Guesses: Bladnoch, Linlithgow, Longrow, Scapa, Isle of Jura.
Serge's reply: Your notes are quite correct (good news), but not the guesses.
It's a 46% malt. Bruichladdich 15yo 1986/2001 (46%, Murray McDavid, Bourbon).
My baffled response: Well, my score seems on par with those for other MurMac Laddies.
Still, I didn't find any Islay traits whatsoever - let's give this one another try, shall we?
Once again it appeared very sweet in the nose - not as 'clean' as other Laddies.
I couldn't find any peat on the palate for five minutes, and then finally I got a pinch.
I was finally convinced by the lack of 'pearls' and the distinctively bourbony palate.

Blind #3, Nose: Aaah. Rich and mellow. Gentle and a little fruity. Balsamico vinegar?
Very pleasant and quite unique. Changes quite radically. Mint? Menthol? Longrow?
All the time subtle organics keep spicing up the 'main' bouquet. A 90's malt for sure!
Wowie! What a stunning nose - it reminds me of the UDRM Saint Magdalene 1979.
Taste: Sweet and sparkly, but mealy towards the centre - like an old Golden Delicious.
Slow, steady development towards a slightly bitter finish. Very nice but not spectacular.
Score: 91 points . Guesses: Linlithgow, Bladnoch, Longrow, Talisker, Scapa.
Serge's reply: No, it's the Macallan 1990/2002 As We Get It (55.6%, Kirsch Import).
Check the bubbles and the 'pearls'. They should tell if this is a cask strength whisky.
My baffled response: What? This is complete and utter madness! Is this a Macallan???
I tried an old sample from Klaus just a few weeks ago and gave it 79 points then.
First of all, I should check if this amazing score can stand a second try.
The nose was mellow and toffeeish, just like before. Sweet with some sherry.
And yes, there's the change in style to mint and menthol. Hey, now I get lemon!
Then the clay and the strange organics I found earlier emerge. Still seems like a Lowlander.
The strange thing is that I don't get ANY pearls in the glass. Is this really cask strength?
OK, let's try a sip... Sweet and mealy again. This hardly feels like 46%, let alone over 55%.
While Klaus' sample dropped off after five minutes this one kept improving and improving.
At first I thought my score was too high but after fifteen minutes I can confirm all 91 points.
This really is too far off course - this must be a label mix up or it's another batch altogether.

Blind #4, Nose: A little 'veggy', quickly growing stronger. Smoke. Developing organics.
Hey, wait, is that a hint of peat under the heather? Not very complex, unfortunately.
Taste: Sweet and powerful. Very satisfying centre. Woody and very dry in the finish.
Smokier over time - this must be an Islay malt although I don't find any (fresh) peat.
Maybe a hint of liquorice playing around my gums? Or is that a slight 'winey' effect?
Score: 81 points. Guesses: Bruichladdich, Port Ellen, Caol Ila, Talisker, Longrow.
Serge's reply: No, not an Islayer, but the very high ABV can be misleading.
It's Bladnoch 1987/1999 (58.8%, Scotch Single Malt Circle) Check the bubbles!
My baffled response: Hmmm... Yes, reading back my notes this makes sense.
With the wisdom of hindsight I see similarities with the '92/'02 from James McArthur.

Blind #5, Nose: Woody and smoky; smells like an old sherry monster. Lovely.
Now I get some organics. Not a lot of fruits, though. Lapsang Souchong? Chloride?
It grows a little sweeter after five minutes; this is a nose worthy of a score in the 90's.
Ooooh... And those organics are getting more complex as well. What a supermalt!
Taste: Sweet start. Solid. Pinch of salt? Then it turns very smoky and very dry.
A shame - it's a bit too simple on the palate, so it drops from the upper 90's again.
Score: 90 points . Guesses: Talisker, Caol Ila, Port Ellen, Scapa, Ardmore.
Serge's reply: Yes, it's Scapa 25yo 1975/2001 (50%, DL Old Malt Cask, 438 Bottles).
Good analysis and deductions this time. Maybe you could use 'benchmark' malts?
My baffled response: I finally earned some points again. Still, just 3 points so far.
In this case I'm afraid the sherry wood overpowered the distillery traits.

Blind #6, Nose: Mellow. Sweet. Bakery. Drops off rather quickly. Hint of smoke?
Wait a minute, it makes a sneaky comeback after five minutes. Medicinal. Organics.
I had it in the upper 70's at first, but the score rose as the nose grew more potent..
Taste: Sweetish start, a little flat. Someting fruity, but altogether quite dry.
Score: 85 points . Guesses: Ardmore, Ben Nevis, Talisker, Scapa, Longrow.
Serge's reply: Sorry, no. This one's difficult, because it's very old...
This is the Isle of Jura 36yo Bottled 2001 (44%, OB, Cask #590, 449 Bottles).
My baffled response: Once again wood and age overshadowed distillery character.
Now the 'coastal' notes I detected make sense. No oil this time, fortunately.

Blind #7, Nose: Varnish. Polished and a little fruity, growing more pronounced.
Beatifully balanced. Mocca? After five minutes some gentle organics emerge.
It hangs together very well and seems to grow even better integrated over time.
Taste: Sweet plums, nectarines and late summer fruits. Dried apples? Toffee.
Very pleasant, even though it's not terribly complex. Sharpish finish.
Score: 87 points. Guesses: Ben Nevis, Ardmore, Bladnoch, Linlithgow, Longrow.
Serge's reply: Congrats, you nailed it! Very good analysis this time. Things improve...
It's Ben Nevis 32yo 1971/2003 (45.8%, OB, for La Maison du Whisky, Cask #1846).
My relieved response: Well, this sample is almost empty, so let's give it another go.
This one is nearly empty because I tried two drams - maybe that explains things...
During my third try I discovered some apple in the nose as well. A very nice dram.
Now that I've tried it all relaxed I decided to increase the score to 88 points.

Blind #8, Nose: Ah, there's some peat I think. Yes, along with cow stable aroma's. Band aid.
Smoke later on, moving towards horse stable. Must be an Islay malt. Just the way I like it.
Taste: Peaty with a pinch of salt. A serious malt, but not particulary complex.
It does show some woody and fruity accents as well. Dry, relatively short finish.
Score: 91 points . Guesses: Caol Ila, Port Ellen, Longrow, Talisker, Scapa.
Serge's reply: Yep, it's Port Ellen 19yo 1982/2001 (59.5%, The Bottlers, Cask #573).
Strange that you found the finish to be short. Maybe your mouth is still anaesthesized?
My confident response: Hey, I've just earned four more pandora points - that's a relief.
My score seems a bit on the generous side, though - Serge and Olivier had it in the mid 80's.
Let's save the rest of the sample for Davin when he gets here in a few weeks.

So, after eight drams I've only earned twelve pandora points.
That's quite pityful, especially considering there are only twelve options.
Only four drams left to try and salvage what's left of my reputation...

Blind #9, Nose: Grainy. Quite light. Slightly 'veggy' overtones. Sweet tomato?
Nothing really stands out at first. More organics (and peat) after five minutes.
Taste: Gritty start with something vaguely peaty in the centre, growing stronger.
Dry and a bit uneven. Quite hot and dry, although it does grow sweeter with time.
Fresher with time. Is that menthol or eucalyptus? The palate pulls it from the lower 80's.
Score: 78 points. Guesses: Bruichladdich, Port Ellen, Caol Ila, Isle of Jura, Talisker.
Serge's reply: Good description again – good news – but it's an unusual Speysider...
The answer: Ardmore 11yo 1992/2003 (46%, Signatory for Lavinia, Cask #03/374)
My baffled response: Huh??? Well, I was miles off course with this one.
I'll save the rest of the sample to get a 'second opinion' from Davin.

Blind #10, Nose: Mellow and middle-of-the-road. Powdered milk? Nothing else.
Taste: Hey, there's some peat - not a lot, though. Dry. Disappointing and simple.
I'm sorry, this is just a tad too dull and simple for my tastes - even with the peat.
Score: 68 points. Guesses: Bruichladdich, Port Ellen, Caol Ila, Talisker, Scapa.
Serge's reply: Again, good description, your tastes ARE coming back.
You missed the distillery, though... Peat and disappointment, agreed...
This sample was the Longrow 10yo 1992/2002 (46%, OB).
My baffled response: What??? Well, everybody on the matrix has it around 90 points.
I'll need to give this one another try. More organics this time - and more medicinal.
The peat is more obvious on the palate as well. I have to admit it improves over time.
It's still too simple for my tastes, but 68 points is a bit harsh. Let's make it 70 points.

Blind #11, Nose: Grainy at first. It grows more powerful, but lacks some 'definition'.
The bouquet grew on me over time, but it never becomes complex enough for my tastes.
This one needs some 10 minutes to make it into 'likeable' territory. Quite similar to #9.
Taste: Sweetish, growing fruitier - and once again I imagined a very faint hint of peat.
Or is it smoke? Yes, I think so. It doesn't hang around for long - but the sweetness does.
Score: 79 points. Guesses: Scapa, Talisker, Bladnoch, Linlithgow, Bruichladdich.
Serge's reply: Excellent, Talisker 20yo 1980/2000 (50%, Old Malt Cask 'Tactical', 359 B.)
I quite agree on the similarity with #9, although it's not the same distillery at all. 
My baffled response: Pffft... Four more pandora points, but a very deviant score.
I need to give this another try. Again, it starts off light and grainy. Next: organics.
Hey yes - now I get a peppery pinch on the palate. Nice, but still a little simple.
I'm still not swept away by this puppy, but it seems I was getting tired last time.
With the wisdom of hindsight I think twelve malts on a night is just too much for me.
Let's pull up the score for this one to the lukewarm recommendable 81 points.

Blind #12, Nose: Light and mellow. Something vageuely nutty with the faintest hint of oil.
Hey - is that citrus? Sweet tangerine rather than lemon or lime. Honey? Soft organics.
Taste: Sweet, prickly and quite hot. For once I like it better than the nose.
Score: 80 points. Guesses: Linlithgow, Bladnoch, Isle of Jura, Scapa, Ben Nevis.
Serge's reply:  Oh no, now you're way off the tracks again. Please check again.
Can you get any peat in there? And check the bubbles – it's got a very high ABV.
If the label is correct this is the Caol Ila 20yo 1975/1996 (61.12%, UDRM).
My baffled response: Is this a Caol Ila? Well, not at first - or second - sight...
It didn't have any peat - and the citrus and vinegar notes were more pronounced.
No peat on the palate, although it does feel like a cask strength malt in the mouth.
It's very different from the 21yo 1975/1997 at 61.3% - that was a peat monster
But then again, I did the 'pearl' test and it had the most solid string of the night.
And hey, wait... after more than 10 minutes I'm finally getting some peat and liquorice.
Yeah, a combination of a burnt out palate and an impatient disposition are to blame.
It really opens up with time, so I'll jack up this score by two points to 82 points too.
It grows into a very nice dram, but it simply takes too long to get there.

Well, that settles it then... These results seem to confirm that I'm not in top tasting form just yet. If it wasn't for the 'Mille Malts' challenge I might have even decided to add none of these scores to my Track Record, but after reviewing my guesses and scores most of them seem to make some sense. Still, in some cases something seems to have gone wrong. Maybe the fact that I started dramming in the afternoon instead of in the evening had some effect. And of course there's the smoking issue. And maybe the meals I enjoyed beforehand played a role? But then again, twelve drams could be simply too much to handle in a single session. Or maybe the scores were off course because I had been focusing too much on trying to guess the identity of the whiskies. I guess it's even feasible that some of the samples caught too much direct sunlight - I didn't store these in a closed cupboard like I usually do with my other samples.

A message from Michel van Meersbergen about the results of the first blind session only added to my confusion. He argued that peaty whiskies tend to oxidise rather quickly, with the exception of the Ardbeg 10yo. He theorised that the Ardbeg 10 resists oxidation because they add some old sherry casks to the vatting. Hmmm.. I've always felt the 10yo to be quite 'bourbony' - not nearly as sherried as the 17yo, for example. Michel feels that younger peaty malts from first fill bourbon casks are particulary vulnerable to oxidation. He specifically referred to an Ardbeg 1993/2003 from Cadenhead and an Ardbeg 1993/2004 in the OMC range. Well, the amazing performance of the heavily peated Jura Whisky 3yo seems to contradict Michel's theory, but I'll give it some thought.

There simply are too many 'variables' that could have affected these 'blind' results.
Fortunately, I've already planned some serious investigations into a number of these issues. Next year I won't focus on increasing my malt mileage as much as I have in the last few years. Instead, I'm going to do some research on issues like oxidation and the influence of direct sunlight.
 

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Log Entry # 183 - October 14, 2004
Topic: More Speyside Siblings

After the confuring results of the 'Blind Ambition Tour' I made sure to give my nose and palate some rest before I resumed my sampling activities. Tonight's session focuses on eight samples from Speyside. I still have more than 200 samples to try for the 'mille malts challenge', so this is another short and sweet report.

I started out with a sample of the Speyburn 21yo (43%, OB, Bottled +/- 2002), sent to me by Kees Vink.
Excellent initiative, Kees; I've only tried two other expressions of Speyburn so far.
Nose: Mellow with soft early fruits; apples and pears. Melon? Maybe a hint of smoke?
That's entertaining - now I get more 'autumn' notes and even the faintest hint of peat!
Taste: Sweet and quite solid. Malty. Drinks away very easily, but could do with more body.
Score: 78 points. A very decent malt, but it could do with just a little more personality.

The Glenfarclas 1990/2001 'Plain Oak First Filling' (46%, OB) came from fellow maniac Olivier and was part of a series of three bottlings of identical age, but from different casks. This should be interesting!!!
Nose: Surprisingly fruity. Very pleasant and accessible, but not overly complex.
Taste: Once again quite fruity at first, growing sweeter towards the centre.
Smooth at first, but after a while it grows a little rough and uneven on the palate.
I had it at 79 or 80 for a while but then the flat & dry palate drags it down a bit.
Score: 77 points . This makes me suspect Glenfarclas uses more bourbon casks than I thought.

I proceeded with the Glenfarclas 1990/2001 'Fino First Filling' (46%, OB).
Nose: Aaah... Much 'later' fruits and more organics. Definitely more expressive.
I'd rate this a few points higher based on the nose, although it does drop off.
Taste: Hmmm... A hint of pine on the palate. A little thin. Dry and rather flat.
It's 'winey', but there's no compensation in the form of body or sweetness.
Score: 73 points. Not really my cup of tea, I'm afraid. A tad too bitter for me.
I should however point out that most maniacs preferred this one in the trio.

The Glenfarclas 1990/2001 'Oloroso First Filling' (46%, OB) was the last in the series.
Nose: That's more like it! Deep, heavy fruits. Raisins. Smoke. Rubber. Pipe tobacco. Organics.
A nose to get lost in, although it has a blunt roughness I also find in the 'Farclas '105'.
Toffee. After a while the smoke and perfume become a tad too strong for their own good.
Taste: Fruity start, developing into a sweeter, then woodier centre. Solid. Some spices.
Here the tannins (which I don't like in itself) are softened by fruits and good wood. Smoke.
Score: 81 points . It has some flaws and it might be too extreme for some people, but I love it.
Now that I think about it, this has some of the strong features of the old Glendronach 15yo 'Sherry'.

I have to say this range from Glenfarclas is an interesting offer, giving everybody a chance to experience the effects of different kinds of wood without actually visiting the distillery like some maniacs did last year. And the proceedings got even more interesting with the Glenfarclas 21yo 1978/1999 (60.3%, OB, 1800 bottles). This sample from Olivier enables me to observe the effects of age rather than wood.
Nose: Oh, wow!!! This has everything I liked in the previous three and more.
At the same time it's much smoother and better balanced. Tobacco. Smoke?
Grain warehouse? Heather? Honey? Some organics emerge after five minutes.
Taste: Absolutely lovely. Sweet, fruity and perfectly drinkable at cask strength.
Faint liquorice. I just didn't dare to add any water because it's so very lovely.
Score: 88 points. One of the finest Glenfarcli I've tried so far. Beautiful.

After a short break I proceeded with the Glendronach 13yo 1990/2003 (46%, Murray McDavid, MM579). This came from a bourbon cask and once again the sample was provided by Olivier Humbrecht.
Nose: Very light and fruity at first - almost like a Lowlander. Oil? Very little character.
After some five minutes some faint organics emerge that (barely) lift it into the 70's.
Taste: Soft and dry at first, growing grittier. Very little to get really excited about.
Score: 70 points. Once again this 'MurMac' appeals more to French palates than to mine.
They both gave it 87 points, which I think is a little excessive, even by their standards...
Do they design whiskies especially for 'wine lovers' at Murray McDavid and Bruichladdich?

Next: the Glendronach 25yo 1968/1993 (43%, OB, 100% Sherry).
Nose: Aaaaaah... This is MUCH more like it. Kiwi fruits. Deep sherry. Good wood. Unique.
It has a 'light' and subtle fruitiness, despite the fact that it's obviously from a sherry cask.
This is really something - it has a combination of features I never found in any other malt.
Taste: Surprisingly soft start, developing into something medicinal with smoke and liquorice.
You can taste the age. Pink bubblegum. Dry, woody and distinctively 'winey' finish.
That might have lost it some points if it didn't keep surprising me at every corner.
Score: 94 points - it earns one or two extra points for uniqueness. Simply stunning.
That makes it the highest scoring malt at a 'normal' proof (40% or 43%) in my book..
Also, it's the highest scoring Speysider on the Hit List. Really amazing stuff.
But then again I guess I'm a sherry freak. This may be too much fun for some.

My last sample was the Glendronach 26yo 1974/2001 (47.5%, DL Old Malt Cask, 198 Btl.).
Nose: Sweet and grainy. Faint organics and a hint of smoke after a few seconds.
It's quite pleasant and mellow and grows more so over time, lifting it above average.
Taste: Chewy. Sweetish. Not a lot of substance at first. Hint of liquorice. Smoke?
Over time it grows quite dry and hot - a little bit too much so, if you ask me.
Score: 79 points. This 'bourbony' style of Glendronach doesn't really suit me.
Serge and Olivier were more impressed with scores in the mid-80's.

My sense of taste and smell seem to be recovering and I've learnt at least two things tonight. My first epiphany concerns sherry casks; I always thought I loved all sherry casks, but the differences between the 'fino' and 'oloroso' Glenfarclas bottlings indicate that I'm particulary fond of Oloroso casks. Could that be because they tend to produce a sweeter whisky? Another observation during tonight's session was a distinctive 'coastal' characteristic in all Glendronachs I've tried. Maybe that's a distillery 'marker'.

OK - That's it for tonight...
 

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Log Entry # 184 - October 22, 2004
Topic:  Malt-Market Malts; First Batch

If I had joined the army like the recruitment poster at the right
suggests, I might have become a 'skilled tradesman'. However,
I didn't - so now I'm stuck behind a desk doing all sorts of odd
jobs instead of serving my country by inspecting horse shoes.
Ah, isn't it funny how life can turn out?

Fortunately, one of those 'odd jobs' isn't too unpleasant.
Actually, it's great fun. Some time ago Italian bottler Fabio Rossi
from Wilson & Morgan contacted me and asked me if I happened
to know anybody who would be interested in bringing back W&M
to the Dutch market. I'm not sure why they ever left, because
last year's MM Awards proved that Fabio bottles a mean dram.
And when I looked at the price list I was pretty confident that
I would be able to find somebody who would be interested.

It wasn't much later when one of my favourite liquorists told me
that sales for single malts that received a positive review on Malt
Madness or Malt Maniacs often increased quite dramatically.
He suggested that he wouldn't mind using my whisky reviews
to boost his on-line sales - and he was even willing to give
me a modest commission on each bottle for my troubles.
That sounded interesting, especially because he was
willing to aim for the sharpest price possible.

Well, it's easy enough to put one and one together, eh?
However, I did see one potential and very hairy problem; batch
variation - the fact that single malt whisky is produced in batches.

If somebody bought a bottle of Lagavulin 16yo or Springbank 21yo based on some random notes from Malt Madness, there would be a large chance that the bottle he or she bought would be from another batch. In that case, the tasting notes would be rather pointless. Being the 'fundamentalist' that I am, I would hate the thought that somebody bought a 'Fine Oak' Macallan 12yo based on my notes for the massive sherry monster that was available in the 1990's. Since it's nearly impossible to get reliable data on most official bottling, I stipulated that I only wanted to have my notes used for independent 'single batch' bottlings - including Wilson & Morgan.

While my liquorist was still busy reluctantly agreeing I already threw my second demand on the table. If I had to rely on somebody else to edit my tasting notes, any errors that might occur would frustrate me beyond belief. So, I wanted to build a seperate website myself for the sales of these bottles. Well, that was no hair off my liquorist's back, so that was just fine by him. But I wasn't ready just yet.

I also stipulated that I wanted to include only bottles I could recommend myself - i.e. only malts that scored at least 80 points on my Hit List. That one really freaked him out and finally I had to agree to at least mention some available bottlings that I scored below 80 points but that he or Fabio felt were good malts. That way, people who are foolish enough to go against my better judgement can still order them if they really, really want to - and if they can find those bottlings in the dark corners of the website where I'll hide them.

We also reached sort of a compromise on the issue of prices.
Initially I was strongly opposed to ever including any bottling with a price tag of more than 100 Euro's because I've only spent more than that on a handful of occasions myself and you don't HAVE to pay that much for a fabulous bottle. However, when I discussed my plans with the malt maniacs, Olivier pointed out that everybody should be able to determine for themselves what they find too expensive. Well, that's a good point. And I have actually paid more that 100 Euro's myself for liquid dreams like the UDRM 19yo Saint Magdalene or some old Ardbegs from Old Malt Cask. Still, I think that a malt that costs THAT much money should be utterly fabulous. In my book, that means it has to score 90 points or more on my Hit List.

Anyway, to cut a very long story short...
After some 'knife-edge' negotiations my own little webstore now approaches completion.
Well, the actual logistics (including free shipping within Amsterdam, and cheap shipping in Holland and Europe) will be handled by my liquorist, but I'll be in control of the website and the selection procedure - so it feels like 'my own little store'. And tonight I'm going to test the very first batch of malts for the website. After Wilson & Morgan agreed Douglas Laing is on board as well, I'll be sampling five W&M's and five OMC's tonight.

However, before I start tonight's session I'm going to give you my notes on two siblings from the Campbeltown area; Longrow 10yo 1991/2001 'Bourbon' (46%, OB) and the Longrow 10yo 1991/2001 'Sherry' (46%, OB). I tried these at the office of Diederik van Voorschoten - the lucky b*st*rd has a big-ass bar in his office. When I told him about the strange results of the 'Blind Ambition Tour' (two supposedly fabulous Longrows both scored around 70 points) he proposed a H2H of two different Longrows he opened some three months ago. Great idea. Both bottles were half empty. His glasses were smaller than I'm used to, but I was able to get a good impression of both malts and give them a fairly solid score. Both appeared more smoky than peaty at first in the nose. Rich and creamy as well. More fruits in the sherry wood and more leather and organics in the bourbon wood. After some ten minutes I got some organics in the sherry version as well - and some wood as well. Still both remain fairly 'subtle. I was inclined to go for scores in the upper 80's before I tasted them. Both were a little smoky, but too gritty for my tastes. I decided to go with 83 points for the bourbon wood and 84 points for the sherry wood. Ultimately, these Longrows are just a tad too subtle for me.

So, that was a nice 'training round'.
Just a few hours later I returned home to attack the flight of W&M's with gusto.

The Clynelish 1989/2003 Marsala Finish (46%, Wilson & Morgan) is something of an 'innovation'.
Marsala wine is made exclusively on Sicily, just like sherry comes from Jerez in Spain. With good sherry casks becoming very rare these days, Fabio Rossi decided to try some some Marsala finishes not too long ago. Well, it worked - this was one of many W&M bottlings to win a medal at the Malt Maniacs Awards 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. This one really grows more and more complex after a few months.
Even 'fundamentalists' Serge (85) and Olivier (87) seemed to appreaciate this finishing job.

The Glenrothes 1989/2003 Rum Finish (46%, Wilson & Morgan, Rum Finish) didn't do too well on previous occasions. Something reminded me of the Irish 'Greenore' single grain (partly matured in rum casks too).
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 decent dram, but among single malts that's just average. The difference with the 1990/2002 matured in Sherry casks is stunning - and so was the 1990/2002 itself. That was without a doubt the best Glenrothes I ever tried, so it's no wonder that it's not available anymore. This one really doesn't make the grade for the store, I'm afraid. It's a fine whisky, but that goes for a lot of other whiskies too.

The Macallan 1991/2004 (50%, Wilson & Morgan Extra Strength) is the successor of the slightly underwhelming 1990/2003 (bottled at 50.5%) I tried last year. That one was no typical sherry monster.
Nose: More heavily sherried than the colour suggests. Big, rich and mellow.
Quickly more organics emerge. Tea! It's quite sweet but not as 'fruity' as others.
Is that a hint of smoke? Yes, it is. Hey, are these 'lighter' Macs growing on me?
Hey, now it's lighter and creamier - an interesting turn of events. Next: More fruits.
Taste: Hmm... Not sweet for the first seconds, but then it grows sweet and malty.
A solid palate. Just a little fruitier over time - grape skins? Now I get some smoke.
After maybe ten minutes I found some unexpected liquorice notes among the fruit.
Score: 83 points. At first I missed the rich fruity character of the 'old school' OB's here.
It's strange how it grows to be actually very similar to the old OB's after ten minutes.
I had it in the lower 80's for a long time but it slowly krept upwards. Very entertaining.
Abother plus point; the higher proof gives this expression a bigger and bolder punch.
It needs time, but grows into a recommendable dram. Bonus points for development.
Warning: it doesn't respond very well to a lot of water - just give it time.

Another malt that did exceptionally well during the 2003 MM Awards was another Macallan.
The Macallan 12yo 1990/2003 (57.5%, Wilson & Morgan C/S, Sherry Butt #8748, 637 Bottles) turned out to be a real sherry monster. After sampling some of the new, official 'Fine Oak' expressions from Macallan I'm inclined to say that 'they don't make 'em like that anymore'. It scored an impressive 89 points during previous sessions and managed to win a silver medal during last year's awards. Let's see how it held up over time.
Nose: Toffee sweetness. Caramac. More powerful organics emerge quickly. Maggi?
Rubber? Something nutty, then more earthy. Old pipe tobacco. Leather. Linoleum?
Then a parade of old fruits; especially dried apples and sultana raisins. A work of art.
With a dash of water a hint of dust and old milk powder floated across the surface.
Palate: Big, sweet and fruity. Smoky. Hangs together very well. Fabulous mouth feel.
A tad woody towards the finish. Fresher and even fruitier with a splash of water.
Score: 90 points - This has matured beautifully and finally makes it into the 90's.
There's already a run on good sherry matured Macs, so this should be gone soon.

The last Wilson & Morgan bottling was their 'House Malt Born on Islay' 1995/2004 (43%, W&M, C#655-672). It's a 'bastard malt', but I'm quite positive this is a massive vatting of seventeen casks of Caol Ila. Its 1994/2003 predecessor was made up of only six casks (#1496-1502) and won a silver medal at the MM Awards.
Nose: Wow!!! Much more sherry than I expected. Hint of mint. Fruits. Lemon drops.
Aaah... Now I get horse stable aroma's. Light smoke. No overwhelming peat, though.
Well, not for the first five minutes. After that, I got some nice sweet (fresh) peat.
Quite peculiar - I would have picked this as a Lagavulin or Ardbeg in a blind test.
And based on the nose I would have guessed it to be much older than nine years.
Taste: Oy... There's peat, but after the overproof Macallan this seems a little tame.
Still mighty pleasant, mind you - sweet liquorice. Bigger and bolder after a while.
Score: 87 points . The nose approaches the 90's, but the palate doesn't.
Still, at only 30 Euro's this offers a lot of bang for your buck.

So, that concludes the 'Wilson & Morgan' part of this session.
How did we do? Not bad at all, actually. Four out of these five bottlings are good enough (at least in my book) to put on public display in my little on-line shop - only the Glenrothes limps behind.

After a short break I attacked the second batch of five samples; these were provided by Douglas Laing. I started relatively light and easy with a Lowlander; the Inverleven 24yo 1978/???? (50%, Douglas Laing OMC 0665, DL689, November 1978). So far the only Inverleven that tickled my fancy was a '89/'03 by G&M/lMdW).
Nose: Rich and creamy, then a very strong sweet and citrussy aroma. Lemon drops!
Very pleasant, especially when it slowly grew more 'coastal'. Subtle smoke and organics.
A very 'substantial' nose; much more depth and character than most other Lowlanders.
It opens up even further with a dash of water; now I get 'freshly broken Prunus twigs'.
Taste: Mellow start, growing sweet and malty in the centre. Hot. What a fabulous palate!
Well, at first - it grows drier and grittier after five minutes, pulling it from the upper 80's.
Score: 83 points. The nose hints at the greatness of the UDRM Saint Magdalene 1979. Lots and lots of development over time. Too bad the palate loses steam too soon. Fortunately, it seems a good dash of water improves the palate again. I'm usually modest with adding water but in this case it helps.

The Ardmore 21yo 1979/???? (50%, Douglas Laing OMC 0345, DL266, November 1979) comes from a distillery that's severely underrated according to some malt maniacs. Well, I'm not convinced just yet.
Nose: Quite mellow, growing creamier and oilier. Surprisingly restrained at first. Maggi?
After the first peaty punch on the palate the nose suddenly seems to open up as well.
More organics and a hint of smoke emerge and grow more complex with time. Chalk.
Taste: Wow! A very sweet start, quickly followed by an unexpected peaty punch.
Quite amazing; one of the most satisfying palates I've encountered this year. Lovely.
Sweet, smoky and solid from start to finish. Liquorice. Easily mistaken for an Islay malt.
After a few drops of water the fruit and wood come to the surface. Like Lagavulin 16yo!
Score: 90 points - and for once a malt earns this score mainly on the palate. Earlier experiences with Ardmore never quite convinced me that this was the highly underrated malt many people rave about - most of them scored between 78 and 82 points. That can be translated as 'good but not spectacular'. Well, this one IS spectacular; simply the very best Ardmore I ever tried. Especially the palate is highly addictive. This is the first expression I tried at a strength of more than 46%, so maybe I need that extra proof to lift these peaty traits upwards.

The Macallan 26yo 1977/2004 (50%, Douglas Laing OMC 0824, DL986, Cask 986, 192bt) is one of the oldest expressions I've ever tried. A 27yo 1976/2004 Douglas Laing I tried at Vintage House in London earlier this year scored 88 points, which isn't too shabby. The new 'Fine Oak' 30yo OB didn't act according to its age.
Nose: Surprisingly restrained at first, but then it exploded into one of the oddest noses ever.
Crude oil, nutty and very strange organics. Peanuts. Sweetens out. No fruits at all, though.
I can't say I've smelled anything quite like it before. Hint of lemon after a splash of water.
Pickled ghurkins? Maggi? Balsamico vinegar? Giving it the time to develop is really worth it.
Taste: Some liquorice in the start, flattening out rather quickly. Dry and woody finish.
I couldn't really tell from the nose, but I'd say this comes from a fresh bourbon cask.
Once again it's worth it to give this one time. It grows sweeter and fruitier with time.
Score: 86 points . As old Macallans go, that seems like a bit of a disappointment - until you consider this probably came from a bourbon cask. This one decisively beats the new 25yo 'Fine Oak' OB that's supposed to have a good portion of sherry casks in the vatting. The nose is really quite unique - unlike any other Mac I know. Please note that I had it in the lower 80's for at least fifteen minutes - this one really needs time and a little water.

As it turned out, the Brora 21yo 1982/2003 (50%, Douglas Laing OMC, DL386, Sherry Cask #1186, 264 Btl.) was already sampled by Serge and Olivier who both put it in the upper 80's. That's a good omen.
Nose: Rich, fruity and well balanced. Some leather and organics but no apparent peat.
Quite big. Hey, now I get some 'horse stable' notes. A little later it sweetens out again.
The 'horse stable' becomes 'cow stable', then 'grain attick'. Interesting development.
Taste: Big, sweet and fruity. Aaaah... Now I get some smoke and a spicy prickle.
Quite lovely; just the profile I like - although it isn't complex enough to reach the 90's.
Score: 88 points. Better than most Brora's in their early twenties I tried, with the notable exception of the Brora 19yo 1982/2001 (50%, Silver Seal, Sherry, 240 Btl.). Still, the Ardmore 21yo I just tried packs a bigger punch. Wow, I can't believe I just wrote that. Could Ardmore be the successor to the Brora throne?

The Port Ellen 25yo 1978/???? (50%, Douglas Laing OMC 0843, DL1343, September 1978) will be the oldest Port Ellen I ever tried. I tried some other OMC expressions but they were all a few years younger.
Nose: Sweet and fairly mellow. Not quite as big or complex as I had expected at first.
Next organics emerge, lightened up by hints of mint. And yes, now I get some peat!
Some smoke is next, but organics set the tone with this one. Ant acid? Great development.
This is another one of those malts that should not be finished too quickly. Hot stuff.
Taste: Aaaah. There's a lot of power after the sweet start. Smoke, but no (fresh) peat.
Oh, boy, the smoky bonfire burn lasts until the end of a dry, woody and loooong finish.
Buysman? In the end it's just too smoky on the palate for me to keep it in the upper 80's.
No, wait a minute! A splash of water brought more fruit and sweetness to the surface.
Score: 87 points . The oldest Port Ellen I ever tried - but not the very best. It beats every Signatory or McGibbons bottling I ever tried, but the 20yo '82/'02 OMC, the 22yo UDRM and - indeed - the 23yo Wilson & Morgan were even more to my liking. Still, this is a highly recommendable dram.

So, that's all five OMC's dealt with.
And the result? Well, quite impressive I must say; four in the 80's and one in the 90's.
But then again, I selected these malts myself from a very large list - and I know what I like by now. Unfortunately, the Inverleven was just a tad too pricy for its 83 points, so that one won't be available in the store. The others will be, just like the Laphroaig 16yo 1987/2003 (50%, DL OMC, Cask DL REF 814, 276 Bottles) that I tried some time ago. All in all, we're starting to get a small assortiment together.

And that's it for now - a lot of work remaining on the on-line shop...

Oh, wait a minute...
What's the name of that fabulous on-line store you ask?
Well, after Maltmadness.com and Maltmaniacs.org I decided to go with... Drumroll...

You guessed it; 'Malt Market'. Clever, huh? Well, I thought so...
Well, not THAT clever, apparently - those beer guzzlers at Heineken already claimed the 'maltmarket' domain, so I had to add the dash between 'malt' and 'market'. But hey, that's just a 'mad dash' referring to Malt Madness ;-)

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Dram Diary # 184 - October 2004

After careful consideration I decided not to include some of the 'Blind Ambition' malts on my Track Record.
The results for the Ardbeg 28yo 1972/2001 (43%, Silver Seal 'First Bottling', 288 Bottles), Caol Ila 24yo 1974/1998 (46%, Wilson & Morgan) and Macallan 1990/2002 'As We Get It' (55.6%, Krsc) were just too far 'out of whack'. These samples may have suffered from oxidation (both were party empty), direct sunlight or some other factor that remains to be identified. I'm a little more confident about my scores for the other malts, so I'll put them on my Track Record while I try to hunt down other samples from these bottlings. I'm making pretty good progress w.r.t the 'Mille Malts' challenge - in October I've sampled these 44 new single malts;

84 - Ardbeg 1991/2002 (55.6%, Spirit of Scotland for Holland, Cask #1182)
88 - Ardbeg 1974/1996 (40%, Spirit of Scotland)
89 - Ardbeg 1974/2003 (52.3%, OB, Managers Choice, Belgium, Cask #2740, 120 Bottles)
87 - Ardbeg 30yo 1973/2003 (51.9%, DL Platinum, 94 Bottles)
78 - Ardmore 11yo 1992/2003 (46%, Signatory for Lavinia, C#03/374)
90 - Ardmore 21yo 1979/???? (50%, Douglas Laing OMC 0345, DL266, November 1979)
88 - Ben Nevis 32yo 1971/2003 (45.8%, OB, for La Maison du Whisky, Cask #1846)
81 - Bladnoch 1987/1999 (58.8%, Scotch Single Malt Circle)
86 - Bowmore 14yo 1988/2003 (50%, DL Old Malt Cask, DL 910)
88 - Brora 21yo 1982/2003 (50%, Douglas Laing OMC 0880, DL386, Sherry cask #1186, 264bt)
79 - Bruichladdich 15yo 1986/2001 (46%, Murray McDavid, Bourbon)
74 - Caol Ila 11yo 1991/2003 (56.5%, Eidora Whiskyauction, 313 Bottles)
89 - Caol Ila 1991/2002 (57.8%, Celtic Germany)
84 - Caol Ila 18yo (43%, OB, Bottled +/- 2002)
82 - Caol Ila 20yo 1975/1996 (61.12%, UDRM)
70 - Glendronach 13yo 1990/2003 (46%, Murray McDavid, MM579, Bourbon)
94 - Glendronach 25yo 1968/1993 (43%, OB, 100% Sherry)
79 - Glendronach 26yo 1974/2001 (47.5%, DL Old Malt Cask, 198 b.)
89 - Glen Elgin 16yo 1985/2001 (56.7%, The Bottlers, Cask #1212)
77 - Glenfarclas 1990/2001 'Plain Oak First Filling' (46%, OB)
73 - Glenfarclas 1990/2001 'Fino First Filling' (46%, OB)
81 - Glenfarclas 1990/2001 'Oloroso First Filling' (46%, OB)
88 - Glenfarclas 21yo 1978/1999 (60.3%, OB, 1800 bottles)
87 - Glenfarclas 22yo 1978/2000 (59.8%, OB, James Watt Edition #6)
60 - Highland Park 25yo 1977/2002 (53%, SigV Straight from the Cask, C#3794)
85 - Highland Park 30yo 1970/2001 (50%, DL Old Malt Cask, 570 B.)
83 - Inverleven 24yo 1978/???? (50%, Douglas Laing OMC 0665, DL689, November 1978)
91 - Jura Whisky 3yo 1999/2002 (60.7%, OB for Japan, Cask #92, 447 bottles)
85 - Isle of Jura 36yo  (44%, OB, Cask #590, 449 Bottles, Bottled 2001)
69 - Ledaig 1974/2000 (40%, G&M Rare Old)
82 - Linlithgow 1975/1999 (56.3%, Scott's Selection)
83 - Longrow 10yo 1991/2001 'Bourbon' (46%, OB)
84 - Longrow 10yo 1991/2001 'Sherry' (46%, OB)
70 - Longrow 10yo 1992/2002 (46%, OB)
71 - Longrow 1987/1999 (45%, Samaroli 'Dreams', 967 Bottles)
90 - Macallan 12yo 1990/2003 (57.5%, Wilson & Morgan C/S, Sherry Butt #8748, 637 Bottles)
83 - Macallan 1991/2004 (50%, Wilson & Morgan Extra Strength)
86 - Macallan 26yo 1977/2004 (50%, Douglas Laing OMC 0824, DL986, Cask 986, 192bt)
91 - Port Ellen 19yo 1982/2001 (59.5%, The Bottlers, c. #573)
87 - Port Ellen 25yo 1978/???? (50%, Douglas Laing OMC 0843, DL1343, September 1978)
90 - Scapa 25yo 1975/2001 (50%, DL Old Malt Cask, 438 b.)
78 - Speyburn 21yo (43%, OB, Bottled +/- 2002)
77 - Springbank 11yo 1989/2000 (45%, Signatory Stills of Scotland)
81 - Talisker 20yo 1980/2000 (50%, DL Old Malt Cask 'Tactical', 359 Bottles)
90 - Talisker 1955/1993 (53.6%, G&M Cask Series, Cask #1310, 1311, 1257)

By the end of September 2004, there were 756 single malts on my Track Record.
By October 21 I had sampled 44 brand new entries for my Track Record, bringing the number up to 800 exactly.
If it wasn't for the fact that I've still got dozens of
MM Awards malts to try I could almost take a breather... .
 

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Log Entry # 185 - November 1, 2004
Topic:  Autumn Amsterdramming with Davin

Phew... My head is still buzzing from all the malts Davin and I sampled last weekend...
Just like last year, Davin flew from Canada to Amsterdam to pick up his awards package.
While he was here, we used the opportunity to try and get as many malts on the matrix as possible.
I'd like to think we were rather successful; I sampled 20 brand new single malts in a single weekend.

You can find the full report in Malt Maniacs #11, but I'll include our 'dram diary' on this page.
That's mainly for 'administrative' purposes. I switched to monthly dram diaries some time ago, but with all the malt mania that lies ahead (the Whiskyfestival in Leiden, tasting the 2004 MM Awards submissions, the maniacal trip to Bologna and Zurich, finishing the 'mille malts' challenge, etc.) I'll need law and order in my liquid log. So, feast your eyes on the list below, read the full report or scroll down to my report on the Whiskyfestival in Leiden.

- - -

Dram Diary # 185 - Autumn Amsterdramming 2004

Here's an alphabetical overview of the malts Davin & I tried during the last weekend of October 2004.
Many of these bottlings were old miniatures from the 1970's, 1980's and 1990's procured by Davin.
The 20 malts that were new to me are printed bold.

JH DK - Malt:
90 93 - Aberfeldy 25yo 1975/XXXX (57%, Cadenhead's)
64 71 - Auchentoshan NAS 'Select' (40%, OB, Bottled +/- 2002)
68 74 - Auchentoshan 10yo (40%, OB, Bottled 1990's)
79 78 - Auchentoshan 12yo (43%, OB, Black label, Bottled 1980's)
90 90 - Balvenie NAS (40%, OB, 3cl miniature, Bottled 1970's?)
80 82 - Balvenie 10yo (40%, OB, 5cl miniature, Bottled 1980's)
76 77 - Banff 18yo 1978/1997 (43%, Signatory, C#4617, Distilled 12/12/1978, Bottled 6/97)
85 86 - Bladnoch 1987/1999 (58.8%, Scotch Single Malt Circle)
86 90 - Caol Ila 9yo 1992/2002 (43%, Coopers Choice)
87 86 - Caol Ila 10yo 1988/1999 (43%, Hart Brothers, Distilled December 1988)
80 76 - Caol Ila 11yo 1990/2001 Rum Finish (43%, Chieftain's, Casks #90201/90205, 1540 bottles)
82 78 - Caol Ila 11yo 1991/2002 Port Finish (46%, Signatory Vintage Unchillfiltered, Cask #02/472, 1132 bottles)
69 71 - Clynelish 11yo 1989/2000 'Summer/Autumn' (43%, McGibbon's Provenance)
64 76 - Clynelish 11yo 1990/2001 (45%, Blackadder, Distilled 11/05/1990, Bottled 09/2001, Oak Puncheon #3953)
83 86 - Clynelish 1989/2002 (46%, Wilson & Morgan)
77 80 - Craigellachie 12yo (43%, Master of Malt, 95/547)
86 86 - Craigellachie 21yo 1973 'Drumbowie' (53.5%, The Whisky Connoisseur)
83 83 - Edradour 10yo 1993/2004 Sauternes Finish (57.2%, OB, SftC, C#04/11/3, 444 Bottles)
70 76 - Glen Elgin NAS (43%, OB, 'White Horse', Bottled 1990's)
73 82 - Glendronach 13yo 1990/2003 (46%, Murray McDavid, MM579)
94 94 - Glendronach 25yo 1968/1993 (43%, OB, 100% Sherry)
84 86 - Glendronach 26yo 1974/2001 (47.5%, DL Old Malt Cask, 198 Btl.)
82 83 - Glendullan 12yo (47%, OB, Macdonald Greenlees Ltd, Bottled 1980's)
75 75 - Glenlivet 12yo (43%, OB, 100cl, Bottled +/- 2001)
82 82 - Glenlivet 12yo American Oak Finish (40%, OB, 100cl, LK10997, Bottled +/- 2003)
78 79 - Glenordie 12yo (40%, OB, Dewar, Bottled 1980's)
85 86 - Isle of Jura 36yo Bottled 2001 (44%, OB, Cask #590, 449 Bottles)
74 72 - Knockando 1987/1999 (40%, OB, 70cl)
78 75 - Knockando 1984/1998 (43%, OB, 75cl)
76 75 - Linkwood 10yo 1990 (43%, Chieftain's Choice, 3154)
72 73 - Linkwood 12yo 1989/2002 (43%, Coopers Choice)
88 87 - Linkwood 27yo 1961 (40%, Gordon & MacPhail)
83 89 - Linlithgow 1975/1999 (56.3%, Scott's Selection)
79 76 - Macallan 1990/1999 (50%, John Milroy Golden Strength, Millennium Selection)
72 73 - Macallan 12yo Fine Oak (40%, OB)
82 84 - Macallan 1990/2003 (50.5%, Wilson & Morgan Extra Strength)
75 77 - MacDuff 11yo 1990/2002 (43%, Cooper's Choice)
81 79 - Mosstowie 1970 (40%, Connoisseurs Choice, Old Label)
83 84 - Mosstowie 1975 (40%, Connoisseurs Choice, IC/FG, New Label)
83 87 - Pittyvaich 12yo (54%, James McArthur, C#15096)
89 91 - Pittyvaich 13yo 1977/1991 (58.4%, Cadenhead's, Black Label)
75 81 - Rosebank 10yo 1991/2001 (43%, Chieftain's, Hogsheads #1646-1648, Distilled 05/1991, Bottled 10/2001)
74 78 - Rosebank 11yo 1989/2001 (43%, Ultimate, distilled 12/4/1989, bottled 30/01/2001, C#789, bottle #153)
80 77 - Scapa 8yo (40%, OB, Bottled 1980's)
77 76 - Scapa 12yo (40%, OB, Bottled +/- 2003, L01752/LF0480)
90 89 - Scapa 25yo 1975/2001 (50%, DL Old Malt Cask, 438 Bottles)
73 79 - Strahisla 8yo (40%, G&M OB, Bottled 1980's IB/ADA)
75 81 - Stronachie 12yo (43%, 'Bastard' botling, Dewar Rattray)
74 73 - Three Ships 10yo Whisky (40%, OB, South Africa)
64 62 - Penderyn NAS Madeira Finish (46%, OB, Wales)
73 72 - Greenore 8yo (40%, OB, Bottled +/- 2004, Single Grain, Ireland)
70 68 - Tyrconnell NAS (40%, OB, Bottled +/- 2004, Ireland)
81 79 - Connemara 12yo (40%, OB, Bottled +/- 2004, Ireland)
83 82 - Connemara NAS Cask Strength (60%, OB, Bottled +/- 2004)

Among these whiskies were exactly 20 single malts that were brand new to me.
That puts the number of single malts on my
Track Record at 820. Only 180 more malts to go this year!
And that's not all the good news; Pittyvaich was one of the inactive distilleries on my list that required further investigation because I hadn't tried at least three different expressions. After trying two more versions this weekend, I could cross it off my list. Even better, I could cross three active distilleries from my 'to do' list as well; Craigellachie, Glendullan and Knockando. That leaves just four active distilleries I'll need to beef up on; Glen Spey, (Royal) Lochnagar, (Old) Pulteney and Teaninich.
Hurray!  Thanks a lot, Davin!

 

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Log Entry # 186 - November 6, 2004
Topic:  Festival Fever

With the upcoming MM Awards and the preparations for the official launch of www.malt-market.com requiring most of my attention, I didn't really have time to visit this year's international whisky festival. However, after missing the first edition in Amsterdam, I did make it to The Hague in 2001, 2002 and 2003 - so it would be a shame to break the chain of events in 2004. This year's festival moved from The Hague to Leiden, but the venue was once again a church; the Pieterskerk in Leiden. The university city of Leiden is less than 30 train minutes removed from Amsterdam by train, so getting there was the easy part. Finding the church proved remarkably easy as well; it was near the 'North End' pub on Noordeinde that was the location of a 'Whisky Etc.' tasting featuring some blends and Irish whiskies earlier this year.

Here's a small aside for potential foreign tourists; if you
decide to visit these flat lands, make sure to venture a
little further than the red light district and coffeeshops
of Amsterdam (although there's fun to be had there too).
The canals, architecture and musea in many older cities
like Leiden and Delft rival those in my home town, and
they can be enjoyed in releative peace and quiet, far
from the hustle and bustle of the 'big' city.
 
Anyway, I didn't have any time for sightseeing.
Dramming was the one and only thing on my mind today.
I really need to increase my malt mileage before the end
of the year; I still have 180 malts to sample if I want to
meet the 'mille malts challenge' - an average of more than
three drams a day. Based on previous experiences, I fully
expected to make a little head start at the festival today.

Well, that's not how it turned out...
It started off nice enough at the Cadenhead's stand with the Inchgower 19yo (55.2%, Cadenhead, 60 Bottles) from a sherry cask that was supposedly bottled 'especially for the store' for a release on 5/11/'04. Hmm? Only 60 bottles? I guess there must be some left then, no? Well, it could have been a micro-cask, I suppose... Anyway, the nose was very nice. Lots of sherry with subtle organics and spices. Mint? Very nice, but the palate is where it really shines; sweet and solid and not overly sherried at all. Lots of great fruits. Score: 87 points.

Hey, now I get a pleasant whiff of cigar smoke in the nose.
No wait, that's not a pleasant whiff - that's the foul stench of Loch Dhu!
What kind of chicanery is this? Did somebody switch my glass when I wasn't looking?
Ah, no; as it turned out a sad young git had walked onto the scene with a big smelly cigar.
It's bad enough to smoke a cigar on a festival, but did he have to pick such a cheap one?
Well, that succeeded in turning my fairly cheerful mood right below freezing point.
I was having a bad nose day anyway, and I didn't need this aggrivation!

I was forced to leave the Cadenhead's stand because any meaningful dramming was impossible in a wide radius around this yuppie relic from the 1980's. Blasted, I thought they solved this problem. But they hadn't - in fact now that I noticed it there were many clouds of blue smoke circling above the crowd. Yeah... that crowd... Once I started paying attention I noticed that the clouds of smoke usually originated around either yuppies from the 1980's and reformed hippies from the 1960's - and the church was teaming with them. Hmmm, hardly 'my crowd'. Actually, 'my crowd' would be a crowd of maniacal sociophobes and as a species we don't get out much, let alone crowd in public places. But once again I digress...

I figured I could endure a few hours of smoking gits, kilts and other annoyances if it meant I would get to sample a few interesting new malts. Well, once again my high expectations were shattered. As it turned out, I had already tried most of the stuff that was offered for free and you had to pay extra (in addition to the 40 Euro's entrance fee) for all the interesting drams. I'm on a very tight budget right now and there still are dozens of MM Awards submissions I'll have to try before December 1. Meanwhile, the church was filling up nicely with people in a 'boozing' mood, making my own mood take another swing for the worst. It wasn't that there were no improvements over previous years, mind you. They put all the stands that offered 'country style' clothing, trips to Scotland, books, paintings, etc. in a seperate part of the church so you wouldn't have to be confronted with these 'paraphernalia' if you didn't want to. There were some water coolers installed throughout the church to allow drammers to clean their glasses and keep their liquid levels up, which was a nice touch as well.

Nevertheless, I didn't feel like hanging around longer than I had to.
Within an hour I decided to simply follow my instincts and 'vote with my feet'.
I picked up a few OMC samples at the Bresser & Timmer stand and casually strolled back to the train station. In the train back to Amsterdam I pondered my disappointing experience. Serge and Charlie were absolutely right when they discussed 'the' single malt market in a few recent E-pistles. There are actually two different audiences for SMSW, many people who enjoy an occiasional dram and/or the 'folklore' around whisky and the 'anoraks' like the malt maniacs who tend to be interested in other aspects of the whisky world.
It seems that festivals like Whisky Live are better suited for maniacs like me.

Anyway, I had turned into my own cheerful self again when I reached home.
I decided to try the OMC samples to find out which would be eligible for includion in my little virtual malt shop. If all goes according to plan I'll be able to 'open for business' shortly - but I'll need to find some more 'above averge' drams for the store. Not 'hard labour', exactly...

I started with the Bladnoch 12yo 1991/2003 (46%, DL McGibbons Provenance, Autumn/Winter). I've tried some great young Bladnochs in the past. Usually, the whisky from this distillery manages to please my nose and palate more than the product from other Lowland distilleries like Auchentoshan or Glenkinchie.
Nose: Oy... Grainy and oily. Cheap vinegar? Yeast? Rotting hay & other 'farmy' aroma's.
The good thing is that this has a lot of nose - the bad thing is that it's not my style.
Faint organics. Over time, the nose settles down. This is unlike anything else I know.
Taste: Odd. Sweetish. Beer-like and a little sparkly. Rotten peanut? Bitter in the finish.
Score: 75 points - this is an average malt in my book; simply not enough character.
I guess I'll need some Lowlanders on the malt-market shelves, but not this one.

The Springbank 10yo 1993/2004 (50%, DL OMC, 628 Bottles) was an unusually small sample, so I'm afraid my notes on this one are a bit sketchy. It's hard to get a really 'solid' impression out of a few drops.
Nose: Hey, surprisingly big and spicy. A pinch of salt, perhaps? Something grainy.
This is a good, all-round malt. No obvious flaws, but it could be more expressive.
Taste: Very sweet - just the way I like it. Liquorice. Drier and woodier in the finish.
Score: 80 points - maybe it's the slightly higher proof, but I prefer it over the 10yo OB.

The Mortlach 11yo 1992/2004 (46%, DL McGibbons Provenance, Autumn/Summer) didn't do particulary well on an earlier occasion - slightly above average, which isn't impressive for a malt from this esteemed distillery.
Nose: Much grainier than I expected. Light and a little creamy. Vegetables.
Some spices emerge after a few seconds. Hints of smoke and oil? Flowery?
Cod oil, growing stronger over time and slowly pulling it from the upper 70's.
Taste: Slick, smooth start, growing fairly harsh towards the finish. Pinch of salt?
Fairly flat and dry on the palate. Hint of oil? Finally a malty sweetness lifts it above average.
Score: 76 points - this becomes likeable enough, but doesn't leave a lasting impression.

My next dram was the Mortlach 13yo 1990/2004 (50%, DL OMC, 384 Bottles). Mortlach seems to be one of those distilleries that are able to produce a very solid malt at a relatively tender age.
Nose: Wow!!! A load of sherry first. It settles down, but it leaves some strong organics.
Mushrooms? Leather? Now some fruits emerge as well. Rice crackers. Very peculiar.
Taste: hey, that's interesting! Fruit and smoke. Lots of smoke! Woody and winey.
Liquorice. Herbal - like Swiss cough bonbons. This one is really 'on the edge'.
The amount of smoke is amazing - this would appeal to lovers of Ardmore and G'Garioch.
Score: 88 points - this is a very extreme malt; it disguises itself like an Islay whisky.

The Clynelish 14yo 1989/2003 Rum Finish (50%, DL OMC, cask #3850, 312 bottles) was finished for 6 months in a rum cask. Based on previous experiences, I became suspicious. I'm either allergic to the remnants of rum in these whiskies, or they use it as a last resort for the casks that weren't very good to begin with.
Nose: Sweetish. Coffee? Pleasant, but not very complex. Hey, now I get some fruits.
Interesting development. Waxy. Water didn't help much at first. Hey, now I get tea.
It smelled much grainier during a second try - maltier and a little sweeter as well.
Taste: Sweet and very accessible. Dried Apples. Hotter and grittier in the centre.
A decent malt that I could easily empty a bottle of. But is it recommendable? Erm...
Score: 72 points - the nose grows very interesting, but it disappoints on the palate.
Time and water didn't help, so on account of the flat finish this one drops below average.

Up next was the Macallan 25yo 1978/2004 (50%, DL OMC, DL 1214, 258 bottles).
Nose: Mellow. Nutty? Grainy and painty aroma's in the nose. Mellows out after a minute.
Not very expressive at first - especially for a Macallan and especially one this old.
Melon? Hint of chloride? Clay? Dust? Given time, more and more subtle organics emerge.
Taste: I got some liquorice notes on the palate - salty like salmiak. Quite hot eventually.
Time reveiled an odd hint of menthol or eucalyptus. Sweeter & even hotter with time.
Score: 75 points - but it needs a lot of time getting there. Don't add water, just time.
Needless to say, my liquorist won't be putting this one in the store window...

Like the name of the Caol Ila 12yo 1991/2004 Sherry Finish (50%, DL OMC, DL 876, 360 bottles) suggests, it was finished for 6 months in a sherry cask. Well, it's no secret that I'm a sherry freak.
Nose: Another light one; not very expressive at first. Bigger and mellower later.
Hey, wait, now the peat comes through. Ah, that's much better. Quite lovely.
Much more organics over time - coastal and somehow 'celtic'. Caramac. Water melon?
This one definitely needs a while; I wasn't overly impressed for the first few minutes.
Taste: Yes, powerful and peaty. Fabulous hot centre, but it just dries out too soon.
It shines for a moment, but deteriorates too quickly. This is the time paradox malt.
That being said, it shows a very different, gentler side after ten or fifteen minutes.
Score: 87 points - this is a very clean, peaty whisky for those who enjoy a big burn.
It's worth your while to give this time; I got some great organics from the empty glass.

Next: the Ardbeg 10yo 1993/2004 (50%, DL OMC, DL 1248, 341 bottles).
Nose: Light and grainy, sweetening out. Some mild spices and organics in the distance.
Hey, is that some peat? Yes, it is - but not a lot. Pleasant, but very big or complex. Clean.
In the back of the nose there's a strange sourish off note - like yeast or rotting milk powder.
Growing complexity, with more spices and even whiffs of something vaguely medicinal. Great!
Second try: Wow! Much more power in the nose than the first time. Sweet and sweaty.
Peat. First it seems deceptively simple, but then all kinds of subtle fruits and organics emerge.
Briny and coastal with some spices. Blimey, this nose is worthy of a score in the 90's. I'd say.
I get yeast, barley and mash - all sorts of distillery aroma's, in fact. This is a nose to get lost in.
Taste: Dry and sweet start, growing peatier towards the centre. Very dry, bitter finish.
On the palate it performs very well; hot, clean and peaty. Just a bit too dry in the finish.
Score: I'd have to go with 89 points - incredibly pleasant, even though it's not very complex.

Next: the Laphroaig 17yo 1987/2004 (50%, OMC, DL 1217, 256 bottles, 6 months rum finish).
Nose: Grainier than the last three (but just as light in colour). Milk powder? Odd fruits.
Hint of oil - industrial oil as opposed to 'organic' oil like oilive oil or cod oil. Eucalyptus?
I really didn't like it, so adding a big splash of water was no big risk. Hmmm. Opens up a bit.
Yes indeed! Now I get some more 'good' organics. This one needs at least fifteen minutes.
Second try: Sweet, grainy and a little 'painty' in the nose at first. Good grains. Porridge?
Gradually, the sweetness is replaced by organics. That's all that happens; it's slightly boring.
Taste: Oy... Slick, growing maltier and grittier towards the centre. Mash? Farmy. Odd.
Dominant and not too pleasant in the finish. It's unlike any other malt I ever tried before.
Not exactly overwhelming in the nose, but after a while the palate grew sweeter and smokier.
Score: 82 points . A pleasant hint of liquorice finally lifted it into the 80's. A very weird malt.

I finished the evening with the Port Ellen 21yo 1982/2004 (50%, OMC, DL 414, 420 bottles, Full sherry) and that one really blew me away right from the start. The absolute hightlight of the evening.
Nose: Hamana, Hamana, Howie! What a feast for the nose. A fruity sherry monster.
Lots of good wood as well. Balsamico vinegar. This is something really special. Unique.
Sour and very strange fruits. More organics over time. Soy sauce. Pipe tobacco? Icing?
And it gets even better with time! Arguably the most amazing nose so far. Stunning.
Taste: Sweeter and not as woody as I had expected. Amazing centre with more smoke.
Fruit and a little 'winey' as well. Unfortunately, the smoke grows just too strong eventually.
Preliminary impression: Definitely 90's material. It loses just a few points in the smoky finish.

Let's try that one again, shall we?
Second sampling: Oh boy, what a nose! Sherry, fruits, organics, spices, wood, tobacco...
What a killer malt - simply stunning. It does very, very well on the palate as well. Smooooke!
Score: 95 points. An amazing malt. It's not often that both nose and palate shine so brightly.
Wow! What a 'grand finale' to a day that started out relatively disappointing...
A fresh bottling for the pantheon at the top of my Hit List with best Scotch whiskies.

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Dram Diary # 186 - Festival Fever

Here's an overview of the single malts I've sampled today;

89 - Ardbeg 10yo 1993/2004 (50%, DL OMC, DL 1248, 341 bottles)
75 - Bladnoch 12yo 1991/2003 (46%, DL McGibbons Provenance, Autumn/Winter)
87 - Caol Ila 12yo 1991/2004 (50%, DL OMC, DL 876, 360 bottles, 6 Months Sherry Finish)
72 - Clynelish 14yo 1989/2003 (50%, DL OMC, cask #3850, 312 bottles, 6 month rum finish)
86 - Inchgower 19yo (55.2%, Cadenhead, 60 Bottles, Released 05/11/2004 for whiskyfestival Leiden)
82 - Laphroaig 17yo 1987/2004 (50%, OMC, DL 1217, 256 bottles, 6 months rum finish)
75 - Macallan 25yo 1978/2004 (50%, DL OMC, DL 1214, 258 bottles)
76 - Mortlach 11yo 1992/2004 (46%, DL McGibbons Provenance, Autumn/Summer)
88 - Mortlach 13yo 1990/2004 (50%, DL OMC, 384 Bottles)
95 - Port Ellen 21yo 1982/2004 (50%, OMC, DL 414, 420 bottles, Full sherry)
80 - Springbank 10yo 1993/2004 (50%, DL OMC, 628 Bottles)

If I'm not mistaken, the Clynelish is the only one I've tried before.
That's 10 new malts for my
Track Record - bringing the total to 830 malts.

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Log Entry # 187 - November 11, 2004
Topic:  Winter Walpurgis

It's 11/11 again - time for another 'Walpurgis' session.
I'm insanely busy with the preparations for this year's MM Awards, so I'll have to keep this report short and sweet. So, here are the bare essentials of some 'deviant drams', most of them sent to me by Lex Kraaijeveld.

I started with the Old Family Whisky NAS (40%) that's distilled at the Zielona Góra distillery in Poland, just like the 'Dark Whisky' that Alexander brought to Cadenhead's last year. Paint thinner and salmiak in the flat nose. After a minute the 'rice crackers & sake' character I found in the 'Dark Whisky' emerges. Opens up in five minutes with more spices. Quite boring on the palate, although it does have an endearing candy fruitiness. Something metallic as well. It's quite surprising, but this beats your average bottom shelf blend from Scotland.
Let's go with 48 points for this one. I had to stop myself from actively liking it.

If we had a good reason to travel north-east from Poland, we'd arrive in Latvia soon. Lex sent me two Latvian 'whiskies', LB and Aleksandrs. The nose of the LB (40%) started out sharp and alcoholic. Glue. Cardboard. String beans? Sorrel. Rhubarb. Veggy. Fairly unpleasant. No fun on the palate either - 'veggy' as well and quite similar to wodka. Ever so slightly fruity. Salmiak? Speculaas? A fairly pityful attempt at whisky; only 21 points for this one.

The Aleksandrs (40%) came from Latvia as well and had even less character, but with such a disaster drink that's to be applauded. The LB disn't resemble a real whisky, but this is possibly even further from the beaten track. Very 'veggy' in the nose - raw rhubarb? Grassy on the palate. Nothing noteworthy; 15 points . These Latvian bootleggers seem completely and utterly inept when it comes to producing a proper whisky.

My fourth dram was the Flat Country (40%) from Hungary.
According to Lex this isn't actually whisky; it's plain spirit, probably made from potatoes.
The nose was very freaky; unlike anything I ever tried. Gummybears. Cassis? Chemical, dusty and metallic. Sweaty. Anthracite? Fairly restrained. The taste turned out to be very watery indeed with a hint of smoke and fruits. Rough. Sour finish. It has very little character, but with these kinds of drinks that's actually a good thing. My score: 35 points. It's an odd one that slowly grew on me. Very slowly, mind you - and not a lot...

The Jack & Jill (40%) comes from Slovenia. The nose is fresh with a hint of lemon and sour apples, but it drops dead after just a minute. Chemical. Not too bad, but it's quite filthy on the palate. Like a cheap Austrian fruit liqueur - but worse. I can't really go any higher than 12 points for this one. After five drams the data seems to indicate that the worst 'whiskies' in the world are made in Eastern Europe - I've tasted far better stuff from unlikely places like Japan, India, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and even America.

I proceeded with three whiskies from Czechoslowakia, starting with the Printer's (40%).
Hey, that's considerably better. Big, fruity and a little malty in the nose at first - this might even make it into the upper half of my rating scale. Some spices and organics emerge. Not terribly complex, but nice enough. It loses a few points on the gritty palate and the short finish, but it's likable enough to earn a score of 49 points . Not too bad at all, to tell you the truth. And what about the King Barley 6yo (43%)? The nose is malty, spicy and a little fruity. Then organics emerge. One of the 'Scotchest' profiles so far (and quite similar to the Printer's). There's a hint of glue , but it's fairly pleasant - in fact, I think it's the best nose so far. Unfortunately, it's very flat, bitter (grape skins?) and watery on the palate, dragging the score down to 45 points . I even had it at 41 points for a while, but some interesting developments in the nose pulled it upwards again.
Finally, there's the Gold Cock 12yo (43%). The nose is quite odd, but impossible to describe. It's very dull but not entirely unpleasant on the palate. Some vaguely pleasant fruity notes, then more and more organics. I can't believe this has matured on wood for 12 years - maybe they kept it in steel oilcans. Only 39 points for this one, and it needs some ten minutes to get there. Based on my research so far I'd have to say that Czechoslowakian whiskies grow worse with age, not better.

I'd say that's enough palate punishment from behind the iron curtain.
Let's move back to the British Isles for something very rare and special;
a Welsh single malt whisky. According to Lex this one is three years old.
The nose of the Penderyn NAS Madeira Finish (46%) started out with
lots of glue and paint thinner, but after just a few seconds it grew more
'organic' and interesting. Not comparable with Scotch single malts when
it comes to complexity, but quite interesting in itself. There were some
things that reminded me of the Slyrs from Germany. Malty with a hint
of marzipan. Rice crackers? The nose is nice enough, but the taste is
the real surprise; big, sweet and fruity. This beats all those Eastern
European whiskies with its fingers in its nose.
Very pleasant indeed, 64 points.

My next dram was produced half-way around the world, in South-Africa.
The nose of the Three Ships 10yo (40%) was surprisingly big and sherried.
It has the biggest nose of all the whiskies I tried tonight, which isn't all that
surprising when you consider that it's a 10yo single malt whisky. It's produced at
the James Sedgwick Distillery (established 1886) in Wellington, in the Cape Winelands.
This has an unusual amount of character. It performs very well on the palate as well; once again it's very sherried and it shows a fair amount of smoke. It reminds me of the latest batches of the Macallan 10yo. Without a doubt the winner of the evening so far. In tonight's line-up I'd have to go with a score of 74 points; it's just a tad too extreme and uneven to make it into the upper 70's, but this puts some Scotch malts to shame. Very, very entertaining. Lex told me that they only produced 6000 bottles of this single malt; he got his hands on one of them through an ex-distillery worker. Let's hope they make some more in the future. .

OK, that's ten drams down - it's time to wrap things up with four more oddities.
The first of the last drams is the stuff I loved to hate in the late 1980's; Distilled Old Maltky (35%, 100cl). It's described on the label as 'a blend of real malt distillate and neutral spirit'. Mind you, they don't call it whisky and it doesn't even say the 'malt distillate' is whisky, so I suspect the stuff they use is less than three years old. The nose has very little to offer besides the prickle of alcohol. The taste is surprisingly dull and watery at first, quickly growing bitter. The finish is surprisingly long. Normally, that would be reason for joy - but not with this one. Let's go with a 'benchmark' score of 10 points - classifying this as 'just short of horrible'.

Fortunately, the unly way is up from this ghastly experience.
So, I wasn't afraid to proceed with the Sang Som NAS (40%), a rum from Thailand.
I got this bottle from Maaike, who picked it up from me in Thailand thinking it was a whisky. Well, she's blond, so what would you expect ;-) And I guess I can't really blame her; the company also makes a whisky and that bottle looks exactly the same - apart from some miniscule lettering that says whisky where mine says rum. So, let's take the plunge... Wow, lots of glue - Velpon glue - in the nose. This takes me back to my high school days... The taste is quite sharp at first, but sweetens out quickly. I haven't tried Bacardi in many years, but this seems quite similar. Yeah, I guess this tastes 'rummy'. Let's go with a score of 16 points. I've tried worse...

My next dram was a rum as well - but one with a far better pedigree.
The Rum Nation Nicaragua 15yo (43%, CLN Nicaragua for Wilson & Morgan) was sent to me by Fabio Rossi to be poured at a Wilson & Morgan tasting session at De Still next week. Of course, I had to open the bottle beforehand so I could have a little taste. I have to say I was very pleasantly surprised.
Nose: Big, sweet and woody. Like a sherry matured malt, but not quite as complex.
Well, over time I get some organics and smoke as well. Quite amazing! Eighties?
Taste: A little dry and thin, but it holds up pretty well. Sweet with lots of smoke.
It's not quite as extreme as the Loch Dhu or Bowmore Darkest, but it comes close.
Very woody as well. That part is very nice, but the finish is a tad short and uneven.
Score: 70 points - I was aiming for 75, but then the aftertaste pulls it down. Still, the nose is very big and complex. I even found some raisins in there, which gave me the idea to put it against a rum finished Macallan at next week's session, Oddly enough, the rum smells more like an old Macallan than the whisky.

And now for the 'grand finale': my first glass of Absinthe in almost two decades.
My liquorist fought legal battles to make the sale of absinth legal in Holland again.
I think absinthe was first bannished in France and subsequently in other countries.
The French governement banned it claiming that is was dangerous for the nation's
health, but I've been told that the chain of events was set in motion by disgruntled
French wine makers who were concerned about the exploding popularity of absinth.
Pernod was the biggest distiller of Absinthe prior to the ban, and altered the recipe
just slightly to produce the 'Pernod' liquer we know today.

So, what was the reason for all the commotion?
Well, the herb "Artemesia Absinthum" is an important part of the recipe.
The substance is rumoured to be psycho-active, causing powerful hallucinations
and paranoia. Hmmm... But isn't alcohol a psycho-active substance as well?
And they didn't ban that - well, at least not yet...
Besides, I've been told the Romans used to put sprigs of this stuff into their wine
to flavour it, and it seems they managed to build a powerful empire nonetheless.
That seems hardly feasible if they were all paranoid and hallucinating, does it?
Hmmm, now I think about it... I could think of a modern day empire that suffers
from a widespread epidemic of paranoia, but I guess that's a different topic...

So, let's give it a try shall we?
In this case I had the Absente NAS (55%, Distilleries et Domaines de Provence).
I have to say the ABV seems relatively low; I remember trying Absinths at more than 70%.
It does have the familiar green hue that's responsible for its fancy nickname; 'the green fairy'.
Nose: Quite similar to 'Pernod' and 'Ricard', but with more organics. Lots of aniseed, of course.
Liquorice notes as well, but as far as complexity goes, it's a long way from a single malt whisky.
Taste: Sweet start, quickly followed by liquorice and aniseed. Once again, like Pernod and Ricard.
I have to say it's a lot sweeter than I imagined. And so far I don't seem to be hallucinating too much.
Score: 55 points I'd say; I enjoyed it. Quite pleasant and drinkable, but maybe not 'by the bottle'.

So, that finishes another deranged 'Walpurgis' session.
No progress whatsoever for my Track Record, I'm afraid - only Scotch single malts count.
I'd love to write some more but now I have to chase some pesky pink elephants out of my room...
 

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Log Entry # 188 - November 21, 2004
Topic:  Malt-Market Malts; Batch II

A few days ago I hosted a tasting session at De Still with a few Wilson & Morgan whiskies.
I didn't have the time to report on the session at the time (although I had plenty of fun), but now it's time to review Fabio's latest shipment to see what malts are good enough to offer on 'Malt Market'.

The Mortlach 1990/2004 Sherry Wood (46%, Wilson & Morgan) did exceptionally well during the tasting at De Still; many people picked this as their favourite and I think I can understand why.
Nose: Spicy. Organics. Lots of 'farmy' aroma's, but not very strong at first. Rubber.
But then it opens up - wow! Sweeter and maltier (barley?) with time. Clay. Herbal?
It has the deep and expressive character of a sherried malt, but hardly any fruits.
Taste: Oy. Very, very woody and smoky at first. Winey. It sweetens out, though.
Tea? Fruits. Smoke remains the dominant factor throughout - maybe a tad too dominant.
Still, this one performs quite smashingly on the palate. This is definitely a 'feelgood malt'.
Score: 87 points - and please note that's for a freshly opened bottle...
Definitely worthy of placement on the shelves of Malt-Market.

The Glendronach 1990/2004 Port Finish (46%, Wilson & Morgan) was a really weird malt.
That's not something U alsways appreciate, but in this case it works miraculously well.
Nose: Grainy, veggy and a tad sour. Sorrel? There's something funky about this.
It sweetens out at first before it turns in an oilier, more coastal direction. Odd.
Second try: Hey, now it seems much sweeter in the nose. Old fruits and organics.
Dusty. Sorrel. Rhubarb? Mint. Herbs. Some smoke as well. Vegetables. Some subtle spices.
Taste: Fairly weak at first. Bolder towards the centre, but not a pronounced taste.
Quite a renaissance on the palate as well; Big, sweet and fruity. Winey, woody finish.
Score: 84 points - this one did significantly better after some breathing. Good stuff.
The nose grows more complex; I'm not sure what to make of it, but it's a fun malt.
This is definitely a love-it or hate-it whisky, though - completely 'off the beaten track'.

I was suspicious of the Macallan 1990/2004 Rum Finish (46%, Wilson & Morgan) right away; I've tried very few recommendable rum finished malts - and the few that were recommendable were Islay malts.
Nose: Very light, very grainy. Paint thinner. Nothing really stands out at first.
To me the nose seems quite agressive - and it takes too long to become interesting.
Industrial sweetness. It mellows out over time, but loses the little character it has.
Neither water nor time did seem to have much effect - well, maybe some fruits.
OK, I have to admit that it definitely opened up after more than five minutes.
It took some time, but I finally got some very interesting spices and organics.
Taste: It starts out fairly solid on the palate - at least at first. It ends hot and dry.
It's just a little bit too bitter for my tastes. Quite hot, but not a lot of depth or stamina.
Score: 73 points - In the end this one has to many flaws to reach above average.

I've tried the Macallan 1991/2004 Extra Strength (50%, Wilson & Morgan) before, but it doesn't hurt to give it another try tonight. It scored 83 points on previous occasions; let's check my findings.
Nose: Organics brooding in the background. Rather flat, but bigger after a while.
Much more nose after some time in the glass - especially spices and organics.
Malty and a little buttery at times, but the organics remain dominant. Oriental spices.
After some twenty minutes the nose exploded; turkish delight, marzipan, baklava.
There's an oily element as well. I can find very little to get excited about here.
Taste: Starts out quite powerful before turning oily and sweetish. Fairly slick.
Some fruits as well. The finish grows winey, bitter and dry. Not bad at all.
Not terribly complex, but it has a powerful liquorice punch. Hightly enjoyable.
Score: 84 points - this one takes a lot of time. It really shines after half an hour.

The W&M Born on Islay 1995/2004 (43%, Wilson & Morgan, Cask #655-672) was another whisky I've tried before. I'm curious how it will perform in this year's MM Awards. Should get al least bronze...
Nose: Polished and sweet, quickly opening up into peat and organics. Wow! Must be Islay.
This is a wolf in sheep's clothing; it starts off deceptively civilised but turns into a beast.
I'd say this is a Kildalton malt. Sweaty. Many horse stable aroma's and amazing compexity.
Second try: Wow! A bigger punch of peat than before. It's 'friendly' sweet peat, though.
Leather. I get hints of marzipan, nougat, dried fennel, bonfire smoke and lots of other aroma's.
Taste: Once again a deceptively soft start. Opens up into a fruity and peaty centre. Salty.
Flashes of minty freshness. Too bad it doesn't pack a bigger punch - although it's no whimp.
On the palate it's not as barbaric, but a fire of melancholy is smouldering beneath the surface.
Score: 87 points - This one has lots of characteristics reminding me of the Lagavulin 16yo.

I've been struggling with the Bowmore 1993/2004 Extra Strength (50%, Wilson & Morgan). Some maniacs like it a lot (Serge, Olivier and Krishna put it in the 90's), but like so many other Bowmores this just sit well in my mouth. The nose is pretty great ('old school' Bowmore), but it loses credibility on the palate.
Nose: Light and creamy at first. More spices emerge - and a little smoke and oil?.
Aah, this opens up nicely. Hmmm. Now it drops off again. No wait - now I get organics.
A strange 'up and down' malt. Something 'veggy', but something coastal as well. Peat?
Taste: Smooth start. Hmmm. Very lightly oily? Hard to describe. Fruit. Peat in the finish?
Or is it smoke? Well, it's very dry, that's for sure. Nah, I can't really recommend this.
Second try: I found more subtle grainy notes in the nose this time. White bread?
Olive oil? A hint of mint? After fifteen minutes some intriguing organics join the party.
No big surprises on the palate; dry, hot, salty and smoky like a barbeque in the desert.
Score: 82 points - it peaks for a moment, but to me it's a 'blink and you'll miss it malt'.
Good enough for malt-market though - especially since other maniacs seem to love it.

I finished the evening with a legend; Port Ellen 23yo 1979/2003 (46%, Wilson & Morgan, Butt #6769). A few maniacs have already tried it and scored it in the 90's; I gave it 93 points on an earlier occasion.
Nose: Oy! Loads of wood and sherry. Liquorice. Organics. Big and complex. Halleluyah!
Is that sulphur? Fruity as well - something reminding me of the 'Morangie Madeira Finish.
Another malt that gives me loads of fun, although it's quite extreme. Maggi? Magnificent.
The nose is amazingly complex - if it tastes as good it could very well end up in the 90's.
Taste: Hmmm..., It's not quite as bold as I expected. Fruity, growing woodier quickly.
Is that smoke? Yes it is - and now I imagine I get some faint 'perfumy' or 'soapy' notes.

Hmmm... It seems just a little funky on the palate. Let's give it another try.
Lots of sherry and wood in the nose this time - and some burnt peat as well.
Hey, now I get some nice organics and 'meaty' notes. Wow!!! That's wonderful.
Deepening sherry notes with subtle fruits and pipe tobacco. Simply flabbergasting.
It's extremely smoky and meaty on the palate - like a hard 'Rotterdammer' sausage.
Very salty as well. Oh, boy this is pretty unique! This really sets your palate on fire.
Too bad it turns too smoky and woody - but I can sort of live with it because of the nose.
Score: 94 points - with a palate to match the nose it would have reached the upper 90's.

That's nice; plenty of recommendable material here.
Now I have to sign off - I have to start packing for my upcoming trip to Italy and Whiskyshiff Zurich. Watch this space for the report. (Well, after I've dealt with the Malt Maniacs Awards, that is...)
 

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Dram Diary # 188 - Wilson & Morgans

Here's an overview of the W&M single malts I've sampled today;

82 - Bowmore 1993/2004 Extra Strength (50%, Wilson & Morgan)
84 - Glendronach 1990/2004 Port Finish (46%, Wilson & Morgan)
84 - Macallan 1991/2004 Extra Strength (50%, Wilson & Morgan)
73 - Macallan 1990/2004 Rum Finish (46%, Wilson & Morgan)
87 - Mortlach 1990/2004 Sherry Wood (46%, Wilson & Morgan)
94 - Port Ellen 23yo 1979/2003 (46%, Wilson & Morgan, Butt #6769)
87 - W&M Born on Islay 1995/2004 (43%, Wilson & Morgan, Cask #655-672)

Four of these malts were new to me (Bowmore, Glendronach, Mortlach and one Macallan).
That means there now are 834 malts on my
Track Record.

 

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Log Entry # 189 - November 30, 2004
Topic:  Eurotripping 2004

Oh boy! I've just returned from an amazing trip through the malty heart of Europe.
A full report (including plenty of pictures) will be published on Malt Maniacs later on, but for administrative purposes (i.e. making sure all potential Track Record malts are counted) I'll list the malts I tried here and add just a few words on some of the highlights. If these brief notes don't satisfy you and you can't wait for the full report: Serge has already published some mouth-watering tasting notes on WhiskyFun.

Before I give you the scores and some first impressions I should stress that;
A) I'm quite a strict scorer; my upper 80's equals the lower 90's of many other maniacs
B) I didn't bring my big fishbowls with me on the trip so I had to use smaller glasses than usual
C) Like so many times before, I suffered from a string of relatively bad nose days during the trip.

Even so, I had lots and lots of liquid fun.
My trip started early on Wednesday morning; off to Antwerp by train. Fresh maniac Luc Timmermans picked me up at the station and before we headed for Alsace to he served me four absolutely smashing malts;
90 - Caol Ila 15yo (57%, Bulloch Lade, 75cl, Orange label)
93 - Aberlour Glenlivet 8yo (50%, OB, 75cl, Square Bottle, Small Cork, Bottled 1950's?)
92 - Glen Garioch 1971/1988 (59.6%, Samaroli, 2280 Bottles)
89 - Brora 22yo 1972 (61.1%, UDRM)

Especially the Aberlour 8yo from the 1950's was a relevation. What a stunner!
Surprisingly enough, the youngest Aberlour I ever tried was also the very best. Simply amazing.
With my belly properly filled, we were off to Alsace for a quick visit to Olivier's wine cellar (I tried some very interesting 'spirits' he's working on), followed by a big Ardbeg session at Serge's lovely home;
78 - Ardbeg 1975 (40%, G&M, Connoisseurs Choice, New Label)
83 - Ardbeg 1975/2001 (43%, OB)
86 - Ardbeg 14yo 2004 (40%, Mandibolari, 120 Bottles)
87 - Ardbeg 14yo 1988/2002 (43%, Mandibolari, Fake ?)
85 - Ardbeg 11yo 1991/2002 (46%, MMcD, MM654, February 1991, November 2002)
91 - Ardbeg 1990/2003 (46%, G&M Symposion, Sherry cask #3133)
91 - Ardbeg 17yo 1974/1992 (43%, SigV, Cask #2026, 2400 Bottles)
69 - Ardbeg 9yo 1991 (45%, Samaroli)
79 - Ardbeg 10yo 1993/2003 (46%, High Spirits, 285 Bottles)
90 - Ardbeg 13yo 1990/2004 (55%, OB, 1140 Bottles for Japan)
89 - Ardbeg 1972/2004 (48,3%, OB, Managers Choice for Oddbins, Bourbon Cask #866, 239 Btl.)
91 - Ardbeg 1976/2004 (51,4%; OB for Feis Isle 2004, Sherry Butt #2398, 504 Bottles)
79 - Longrow 1987/1999 (45%, Samaroli 'Dreams', 967 Bottles)

Next to a dozen Ardbegs (mostly highly recommendable, some fabulous and only one real 'dud') Serge poured me another glass of the Longrow 1987/1999 (45%, Samaroli 'Dreams', 967 Bottles). I gave it 71 points last time I tried a sample, but that score was really deviant from those of the other maniacs who all put it in the 90's. I did like it quite a bit better this time, but I still can't recommend it - too 'subtle' for me. So, it sticks at 79 points. Together with the four drams I sampled at Luc's, I could add 16 fresh malts to my Track Record. Not bad for a day's 'work'. After spending a short but revitalising night in the beautiful medieval centre of Turckheim, we were 'en route' to Italy quickly. Traveling together with three other maniacs made the traveling experience much more pleasurable than usual and we arrived in Bologna before we knew it. Pretty much the entire afternoon was spent at Giuseppe Begnoni's 'Whisky Paradise' in Bologna. His showroom and warehouse are simply amazing - the biggest collection of ancient bottlings I've ever seen. My nose was in awful shape during the afternoon, so I tried only very little of some of the stunning malts that Giuseppe poured us, including a Macallan 1947 (46%, OB, Bottled + 1962/1963) and a Highland Park 1902 (39,8%; Berry Brothers & Rudd, Bottled circa 1952/1953). I managed to spend enough time with the Highland Park to give it a fairly solid score (90 points), but I didn't try enough of the other ancient elixers to give them a reliable rating. However, from what I could tell in the mesmerising showroom, all of them were 90's material. You will be able to find tasting notes in the upcoming full report on Malt Maniacs.

After having been in paradise, where can you go?
Well, to a restaurant to enjoy some white truffle, according to the French maniacs.
Unfortunately, they didn't have my beloved 'Funghi Trifolati' on the menu and the salmon turned out to be 'out of stock' as well. So, I decided to play it safe with a local specialty... Tagliatelle Bolognese. The other maniacs enjoyed their truffled risotto and the wine they chose to go with it was actually one of the very few wines I've liked so far. The restaurant's selection of single malts wasn't quite as impressive as we've been lead to belive, so we finished the meal with two fairly mundane malts; the Macallan 7yo (40%, OB, Giovinetti & Figli) that blows some of the new 'Fine Oaks' out of the water at 82 points, and a Caol Ila 1994/2003 (40%, G&M for Meregali) that performed a little below par with only 78 points. Still, a highly enjoyable dining experience.

We continued the dramming at our hotel, where we commandeered a conference lounge for our purpose. Luc had brought over a bunch of very interesting Bowmores, most of which even convinced a 'Bowmore sceptic' like myself. It doesn't come as a big surprise that my personal favourite came from an Oloroso cask.
74 - Bowmore 15yo 1989/2004 (58%, SSMC, Cask #6185)
87 - Bowmore 32yo 1968 'Anniversary' (45,5%; OB, 1860 Bottles)
91 - Bowmore 38yo 1964 (42,9%, OB, Oloroso cask, 300 Bottles)
83 - Bowmore 38yo 1964 (43.2%, OB, Bourbon cask, 300 Bottles)
88 - Bowmore 37yo 1964 (49,6%; OB, Fino sherry cask, 300 Bottles)
89 - Bowmore 'Black' 1964/1995 (49%, OB Final [3d?] Edition)

After a big Ardbeg session yesterday and a long 'trip to paradise' six heavy duty drams were quite enough for us, so we decided to call it a day around 02:00 AM. We had to get up early in the morning for a trip to world famous whisky collector Valentino Zagatti, together with Italian malthead Giovani Giuliani. For me, this was one of the highlights of the trip, and I think Serge, Olivier and Luc would agree. Here are the malts I tried;
89 - Pure Highland Malt from Speyside 12yo (70° proof, G&M for Harrods, Dist. Late 60's)
87 - Highland Park 8yo (43%, OB, sea label, 1960's Distillation, Ferreratto Import)
84 - Oban 12yo OB (43%, 75cl, Baroque Bottle, Bottled 1960's)
60 - Glenesk 12yo (40%, OB, Silver import Italy, 1980's) - Tired Bottle?

Back at the hotel Olivier managed to recover our mysteriously vanished nosing glasses from the bar and we took posession of the conference lounge once more for another session with mostly Bowmores;
60 - Dunglass 5yo (40%, OB, Produced at Littlemill, Bottled 1970's, 5cl, No ABV?)
85 - Alloa Grain 40yo 1964/2004 (42,3%, Jack Wiebers WW Old Train Line, 114 Btl.)
86 - Bowmore 14yo 1989/2003 (58,9%, SMWS, Cask 3.88)
81 - Bowmore 15yo 1989/2004 La Préceptorie Finish (46%, SigV for LMW Paris, Cask #6186)
60 - Bowmore 'Vintage' 1984 (58,8%; OB)
84 - Bowmore 17yo 1976/1994 (52,9%; SMWS, cask 3,18)
88 - Bowmore 16yo 1972 (43%, The Prestonfield, Sherry casks #1036-1039)
92 - Bowmore 22yo 1965 (43%, The Prestonfield, Sherry cask #47)

Once again Luc's selection managed to improve my opinion of the distillery.
Interestingly enough, all independent bottlings scored 'recommendable' or higher. The only OB in tonight's line-up (the 1984 'Vintage') scored only 60 points. All maniacs agreed this was sub-standard material. Once again I had my fill after 8 Bowmores, but the other maniacs continued for a little while longer. I needed my sleep because Saturday we had to present ourselves in Zurich, Switzerland for the 'Whiskyshiff' festival. You can find all the details of our adventures in the upcoming full report, but here are the malts I sampled;
93 - Ardbeg 28yo 1972/2001 (49,5%, Douglas Laing OMC, 222 Bottles)
89 - Clynelish 32yo 1971 (55,5%, JW Auld Distillers Collection, Cask #2704, 102 Bottles)
78 - Glen Grant 1970/2003 (43%, MacKillop's Choice, Distilled 16/2/1970, Bottled November 2003)
92 - Longmorn 1971/1999 (57,8%, Scott's Selection)
75 - Convalmore 24yo 1978/2003 (59.4%, UD Rare Malts)
82 - Royal Lochnagar 30yo 1974/2004 (56.2%, UD Rare Malts)
82 - Saint Magdalene 21yo 1982/2003 (56.5%, Hart Brothers, D. 09/82, B. 11/2003)
85 - Old Pulteney 12yo 1990/2002 (55.6%, Hart Brothers, Distilled 1990, Bottled 2002)
89 - Laphroaig 11yo 'Highgrove Edition' (43%, OB, Bottled ????)
65 - Bunnahabhain 1981 (57.8%, MacKillop's Choice, C#2273, D. 27/11/81, B. October 2002)
83 - Dallas Dhu 22yo 1978/2000 (50%, OMC, Sherry, 408 Bottles, July 1981 / July 2003)

I tried a few other malts at Whiskyshiff as well, but my notes and impressions are too vague to warrant 'solid' scores. Serge, Olivier and Luc ended up trying many more malts than I did, so once again I recommend you check out the full report when it's done. My own notes end with my impressions of two malts we tried at Olvier's home after we returned to Alsace; a Glen Mhor 10yo (43%, OB for Moccia Ferrara, rotation 1972 bottled) that scored 79 points in my book but was 'upper 80's material' for the other maniacs and a Highland Park 19yo 1959 (43%, OB, Black Label, Ferraretto import Milan) which I gave 90 points. All other maniacs put that one in the 90's too, so that was a fitting finale to a memorable trip.

That concludes the 'European' part of my report - extremely short and sweet...
Much more colourful details will be available in our upcoming 'full report' for Malt Maniacs.
(Attention; I've also published a more detailed review in Log Entry #200 later on.)

However, my own report isn't quite finshed yet.
Olivier handed me a bunch of samples just before Luc and I started our trip back to the north and I tried them in the days leading up to the finale of the 2004 MM Awards. Two samples that I was most curious about were from a relatively obscure distillery; Graigellachie. What a wonderful opportunity - Thanks Olivier!

The label of the Craigellachie 1987 (40%, G&M Connoisseurs Choice, 5cl, JJ/AB Mirrored) looked very similar to its 1988 sibling, but there were some differences - a 'bolder' font for example. Could this indicate that they were bottled more than a year apart like one might initially assume? I wouldn't know - the fact that G&M didn't include the bottling date on these miniatures takes some of the 'Sherlock Holmes' fun out of it.
Nose: Oily. Dentist. Herbal. Rust? Quite interesting - reminds me a bit of Hillside or Glenesk.
It grows very grassy over time - like a freshly mown lawn. The first time I ever found that!
More cooked vegetables with time. Maybe a faint hint of smoke? Maybe even menthol?
Not really my kind of profile, but it wears its heart on its sleeve, which is commendable.
Over time it sweetens out and I have to admit I actually quite liked the nose in the end.
Taste: Oy... An oiliness I don't like too much - but it's livened up by a peppery punch.
It's cool on the palate. It loses a few points right away and time isn't very kind to it.
Score: 79 points - which doesn't really reflect how I've grown to like the unique nose.
In fact, it's an average between a fresh (mid-80's) nose and a tired (mid-70's) palate.

The Craigellachie 1988 (40%, G&M Connoisseurs Choice, 5cl, JC/AJA Mirrored) seemed quite different immediately after I poured it; a fat creamy fruitiness filled the room. Is this from the same distillery?
Nose: Creamy and much sweeter than the 1987. Spicier as well. Sweet menthol & mint.
Then liquorice root. Fresher and more 'optimistic' than the '87 - very different altogether.
After a few minutes I got a very faint perfumy note. Shandy? Water melon? Is that marzipan?
Some more breathing produces some more fruity and 'earthy' tones and I even got some peat.
Taste: Hey, no sweetness at first. It quickly emerges though - subtle like flower nectar.
It slowly fades away again, leveling out. Not mid-80's material like the nose suggests.
Score: 80 points - if it hadn't been for a few weak spots it might have made 82 or 83.
In the end it gets almost the same score as the 1987, but it's a very different malt.

Excellent! Craigellachie is an active distillery I'm not too familiar with - in fact it just got wiped off my 'to do' list a month ago during the Amsterdamming with Davin - just like Pittyvaich and Glendullan. And as a result of our little euro-trip I could cross Old Pulteney and Royal Lochnagar from the list as well. I'll have to check my notes, but if I'm not mistaken that leaves just two distilleries on my 'to do list'; Glen Spey and Teaninich. But I guess I'll have to worry about that later - three Lowland samples on my table demanded my more immediate attention...

Could the Auchentoshan 1983/2004 (46%, Berry Bros, Cask #513) be the first 'normal' Auchentoshan to make it into the 'recommendable' area of my Hit List? So far, only the 'Three Wood' managed to do that.
Nose: Light, sweet and nutty. And then spicier. Dirty dishwater. Glue. Quite odd.
It has an odd chemical sweetness. Play-Doh. Linoleum? Oh, boy, this is a strange one.
Hey, after a minute the organics come rushing forward. And then smoke. Wow...
This needs some time, but it becomes very entertaining eventually. Quite unique.
Taste: Oy, that's a shame. It starts out fairly flat, although it powers up with time.
Extremely unusual, it receives some bonus points for that. Sweet start, bitter finish.
Lots of character for an Auchentoshan. It's quite unique, but I'm not sure I like the finish.
Score: 79 points - but I can't go any higher than that. It's quite unique, though.

Maybe it's not too surprising that the Rosebank 13yo 1990/2004 (46%, Whisky Galore) reminded me of the Bladnoch 12yo 1991/2003 (46%, DL McGibbons Provenance, Autumn/Winter) I tried recently. They are both teenage Lowlanders - although I usually prefer Bladnoch over Rosebank. Let's look closer...
Nose: Very similar to the McGibbons Bladnoch; grainy and oily but not as sour and sharp.
Not quite as powerful either. Sweetish. Leafy. Menthol? Nutmeg? A little too flat and faint.
That being said, the nose grows bigger and sweeter with time, earning it some extra points.
Taste: Sweetish start, growing rather gritty towards the centre. Oily. Mocca? Coffee?
In this case I like the taste more than the nose, even though it gets very woody eventually.
Score: 74 points - it improves with time but I'd still have to classify this as 'sub-standard'.

I'm not sure how 'limted' the Glenkinchie 12yo (58.7%, OB, Limited Edition) actually is, but my first impression was that I liked it much better than the 1990's bottlings of the standard 10yo bottling.
Nose: Sweet and smoky. Nicely balanced, but not very expressive at first.
A little grainy. Malty too, with what seems like a very subtle sherry influence.
No fruits. Instead, organics appear after a while. Hey wait, now I get melon.
Very pleasant, but it doesn't choose sides. A little too middle-of-the-road for me.
Taste: Big, hot and sweet start. It remains very hot - this is a real afterburner.
You can really 'feel' the higher proof in this one. Bitter towards the finish.
It does quite well on the palate - big and quite sweet at first, growing drier.
Score: 83 points - it's not complex enough to reach the upper 80's but I like it.
However, I should mention that it needs quite a while to get into the lower 80's.

And now it's time to turn my attention northwards to Speyside - Glenfarclas to be precise.
Olivier handed me a few samples from the 1990's and I had some recent samples in stock as well.
The Glenfarclas 15yo (46%, OB, Bottled +/- 1997, L7273BB 1 15 27, 5cl) surprised me right away because it had the sort of 'antique' character I found a lot during the tastings of much older bottlings in Italy.
Nose: Hey, this smells a little 'antique'. Something organical in the direction of leather.
Oriental spices. Furniture polish. A whiff of dust. Sweetens out a bit with time. Nice!
After a while it takes a nuttier direction. Never a dull moment with this Glenfarclas.
Not as sweet and fruity as the Glenfarclas 15yo of today, but very interesting.
This shows a lot of development over time. I had it at 80 at first but it kept climbing up.
Taste: Ah, it's much sweeter on the palate than in the nose. Solid. Fruity. Very nice.
It remains very nice for a long time, but after some 20 minutes bitter notes take over.
Score: 83 points - this is a solid Speysider with a very intriguing spicy twist.
I'd prefer the sweeter, fruitier 15yo of today, but arguably this is more interesting.

In comparison to the mid-1990's bottling, the Glenfarclas 15yo (46%, OB, Bottled 2004) had a profile that suits my sweet tooth better, but it's not nearly as unique and interesting as that of its predecessor.
Nose: Fruity and sherried with a hint of smoke. Very rich. Furniture polish. Rum.
Second nosing: Apart from the sherry and fruit I got some string beans in the nose.
Taste: Woody at first, growing more sherried and fruity in the centre. Feels good.
It seems a little woody and weak on the palate first, but it powers up very quickly.
The subdued sweetness takes quite some time to emerge. Extremely long finish.
Score: 86 points - another kick-ass Glenfarclas. Have I underestimated it in the past?

The Glenfarclas 30yo (43%, OB, Bottled +/- 1997, L7274BB 1 15 38, 5cl) was another sample from last decade, a blast from the not-too-distant past. At first it didn't smells as 'antique' as the 15yo from '97.
Nose: After a fleeting whiff of fruits I got lots of organics. Then it sweetens out. Nice...
Toffee. A hint of smoke perhaps? Accessible yet complex. Rich but hardly 'challenging'.
After five minutes I got some more of the 'aged' character I also found in the 15yo.
Taste: Oy, a whiff of perfume pulls it from the 90's. Fatter and fruitier after a while.
Pink bubblegum. Faint smokiness. It has some flaws but they don't really bother me.
Score: 88 points - I can't really explain why, but I really love this. Good stuff.

With the Glenfarclas 30yo (43%, OB, Bottled 2004) I had another chance to compare a present bottling with the stuff they moved across the counter almost a decade ago. So far it seems Glenfarclas has maintained (or even improved) its hight quality standards when some other of the big names are dropping off.
Nose: Wow!!! We have a winner! Rich and sweet like a luxurious fruit cake.
Then smoke, wood and organics. Sweaty socks. More 'port' than 'sherry'.
An extremely entertaining nose, even though it does have something 'artificial'.
Taste: Sherried and a little woody. Fresher and fruitier towards the centre.
It appears just a little 'thin' compared to the 'thick' nose; that's too bad.
After a few minutes I got much more smoke on the palate. Some lingering fruits.
Hey, is that the faintest hint of liquorice in the finish? A mightly pleasant malt.
A magnificent malt, although in the end, it's just a tad too winey in the finish.
Score: 90 points - had it been as 'meaty' on the palate, it would have gone higher.
So, this scores four more points than an earlier batch sampled at the distillery last year.

Unlike the other Glenfarcli in this report, the Glenfarclas 1991/2004 (46%, OB for LMW, Oloroso Cask #5620) isn't widely available everywhere. It's an exclusive bottling for La Maison du Whisky in Paris and once again they prove that they know how to select their casks. For me, it almost beat the latest 30yo OB.
Nose: Distinguished; polished oak and pipe tobacco. The faintest hint of soap perfume.
Sherry, wood and tobacco. Almost perfect; maybe even just a little too perfect.
And yes, once again some organics emerge after a while. Stinging nettle? Salmiak?
This feels like a 'luxurious' malt. Speculaas spices. Rotting leaves. Mushrooms. Brilliant.
Taste: Sweet and solid. A fabulous fruity explosion in the centre - what a knockout malt.
Wood, smoke and salmiak become more dominant over time, while it flattens out a bit.
Lots of smoke on the palate - it seems much more dominant than in other official bottlings
Score: 89 points - in the end the palate is just a bit too woody and smoky for the 90's.
A very nice surprise indeed - and confirmation that I'm indeed an Oloroso fan.

The latest batch of the Glenfarclas 105 (60%, OB, Bottled 2004) already received raving reviews from Serge a few weeks ago on WhiskyFun and I have to agree with Serge: Even better than earlier batches.
Nose: Sweet and nutty. Big and complex. We have another winner, it seems.
After a while some smoke as well, followed but more and more organics. Prune jam?
Taste: Very similar to the nose; big, sweet and a little nutty. Then more fruits.
After a while the sherry becomes much more obvious - and a tad overpowering.
Second sampling: Just as big and powerful in the nose as the first time. Lovely.
Sherry. Amazing power, although it doesn't seem quite as complex as the first time.
It has organics and spices, but it's not very 'deep'. Very pleasant on the palate.
Once I got used to the powerful I got lots of fruit and maybe a hint of smoke too?
Score: 88 points - this is one impressive whisky that packs quite a punch. Interesting. Could Michael Jackson have been right all along? Previous batches scored in the lower 80's, but this seems much, much better.

Quite lovely - it's really good to see a distillery 'row against the stream'...
And that wraps it up for me - I've got to publish the results of the Malt Maniacs Awards tomorrow and Alexander just submitted the last raw data we need. That means, we'll have to do some complex calculations to translate the abstract numbers into 'solid' awards and medals. From the looks of it, this year's big winners will be Port Ellen (2 gold medals), Brora (1 gold medal), Caol Ila (4 silver medals) and - indeed - Glenfarclas (4 silver medals). Glengoyne, Macallan and Lagavulin managed to pick up two silver medals each and Arran and Edradour did surprisingly well too. Anyway, why don't you check out the final results for yourself?
 

- - -

Dram Diary # 189 - Eurotripping

Here's an A-Z overview of the malts I tried during the last week.
(Check out
REPORT #200 for my tasting notes)

93 - Aberlour Glenlivet 8yo (50%, OB, 75cl, Square bottle, small cork, Bottled 1950's?)
69 - Ardbeg 9yo 1991 (45%, Samaroli)
79 - Ardbeg 10yo 1993/2003 (46%, High Spirits, 285 Bottles)
85 - Ardbeg 11yo 1991/2002 (46%, MMcD, MM654, February 1991, November 2002)
91 - Ardbeg 1990/2003 (46%, G&M Symposion, Sherry cask #3133)
90 - Ardbeg 13yo 1990/2004 (55%, OB, 1140 Bottles for Japan)
86 - Ardbeg 15yo 1989/2004 (40%, Mandibolari, 120 Bottles)
87 - Ardbeg 14yo 1988/2002 (43%, Mandibolari, Fake ?)
91 - Ardbeg 17yo 1974/1992 (43%, SigV, Cask #2026, 2400 Bottles)
78 - Ardbeg 1975 (40%, G&M, Connoisseurs Choice, New label)
83 - Ardbeg 1975/2001 (43%, OB)
91 - Ardbeg 1976/2004 (51,4%; OB for Feis Isle 2004, Sherry Butt #2398, 504 Bottles)
93 - Ardbeg 28yo 1972/2001 (49,5%, Douglas Laing OMC, 222 Bottles)
89 - Ardbeg 1972/2004 (48,3%, OB, Managers Choice for Oddbins, Bourbon Cask #866, 239 Btl.)
79 - Auchentoshan 1983/2004 (46%, Berry Brothers, Cask #513)
60 - Bowmore 'Vintage' 1984 (58,8%; OB)
86 - Bowmore 14yo 1989/2003 (58,9%, SMWS, Cask 3.88)
81 - Bowmore 15yo 1989/2004 La Préceptorie Finish (46%, SigV for LMW Paris, Cask #6186)
74 - Bowmore 15yo 1989/2004 (58%, SSMC, Cask #6185)
84 - Bowmore 17yo 1976/1994 (52,9%; SMWS, cask 3,18)
88 - Bowmore 16yo 1972 (43%, The Prestonfield, Sherry casks #1036-1039)
92 - Bowmore 22yo 1965 (43%, The Prestonfield, Sherry cask #47)
89 - Bowmore 'Black' 1964/1995 (49%, OB Final [3d?] Edition)
87 - Bowmore 32yo 1968 'Anniversary' (45,5%; OB, 1860 Bottles)
88 - Bowmore 37yo 1964 (49,6%; OB, Fino sherry cask, 300 Bottles)
91 - Bowmore 38yo 1964 (42,9%, OB, Oloroso cask, 300 Bottles)
83 - Bowmore 38yo 1964 (43.2%, OB, Bourbon cask, 300 Bottles)
89 - Brora 22yo 1972 (61.1%, UDRM)
65 - Bunnahabhain 1981 (57.8%, MacKillop's Choice, C#2273, D 27/11/81, B October 2002)
78 - Caol Ila 1994/2003 (40%, G&M for Meregali)
90 - Caol Ila 15yo (57%, Bulloch Lade, 75cl, Orange label)
89 - Clynelish 32yo 1971 (55,5%, JW Auld Distillers Collection, Cask #2704, 102 Bottles)
75 - Convalmore 24yo 1978/2003 (59.4%, UD Rare Malts)
79 - Craigellachie 1987 (40%, G&M Connoisseurs Choice, 5cl, JJ/AB Mirrored)
80 - Craigellachie 1988 (40%, G&M Connoisseurs Choice, 5cl, JC/AJA Mirrored)
83 - Dallas Dhu 22yo 1978/2000 (50%, OMC, Sherry, 408 Bottles, July 1981 / July 2003)
60 - Dunglass 5yo (40%, OB, Produced at Littlemill, Bottled 1970's, 5cl, No ABV?)
60 - Glenesk 12yo (40%, OB, Silver import Italy, 1980's) - Tired Bottle?
88 - Glenfarclas NAS '105' (60%, OB, Bottled +/- 2004)
83 - Glenfarclas 15yo (46%, OB, Bottled +/- 1997, L7273BB 1 15 27, 5cl)
86 - Glenfarclas 15yo (46%, OB, Bottled +/- 2004)
89 - Glenfarclas 1991/2004 (46%, OB for LMW, Cask #5620, Oloroso)
88 - Glenfarclas 30yo (43%, OB, Bottled +/- 1997, L7274BB 1 15 38, 5cl)
90 - Glenfarclas 30yo (43%, OB, Bottled +/- 2004)
92 - Glen Garioch 1971/1988 (?) (59.6%, Samaroli, 2280 Bottles)
78 - Glen Grant 1970/2003 (43%, MacKillop's Choice, Distilled 16/2/1970, Bottled November 2003)
83 - Glenkinchie 12yo (58.7%, OB, Limited Edition)
79 - Glen Mhor 10yo (43%, OB for Moccia Ferrara, rotation 1972 bottled)
87 - Highland Park 8yo (43%, OB, sea label, 1960's Distillation, Ferreratto Import)
90 - Highland Park 19yo 1959 (43%, OB, Black Label, Ferraretto Import Milan)
90 - Highland Park 1902 (39,8%, Berry Brothers & Rudd, Bottled circa 1952/1953)
89 - Laphroaig 11yo 'Highgrove Edition' (43%, OB, Bottled ????)
92 - Longmorn 1971/1999 (57,8%, Scott's Selection)
79 - Longrow 1987/1999 (45%, Samaroli 'Dreams', 967 Bottles)
82 - Macallan 7yo (40%, OB, Giovinetti & Figli)
84 - Oban 12yo OB (43%, 75cl, Baroque Bottle, Bottled 1960's)
85 - Old Pulteney 12yo 1990/2002 (55.6%, Hart Brothers, D. '90, B. '02)
74 - Rosebank 13yo 1990/2004 (46%, Whisky Galore)
82 - Royal Lochnagar 30yo 1974/2004 (56.2%, UD Rare Malts)
82 - Saint Magdalene 21yo 1982/2003 (56.5%, Hart Brothers, D. 09/82, B. 11/2003)

That's exactly 60 malts - and if I'm not mistaken, I only tried the Longrow and Longmorn before.
Hurray! This means I can now add 58 new malts to my
Track Record, bringing the total to 892 malts.
Not bad for less than a week's work, is it? Only a little more than a hundred more malts to try this year.
And I'm not even counting these two highly recommendable drams (a vatted malt and a single grain);

89 - Pure Highland Malt from Speyside 12yo (70° proof, G&M for Harrods, Distilled Late 60's)
85 - Alloa Grain 40yo 1964/2004 (42,3%, Jack Wiebers WW Old Train Line, 114 Bottles)

 

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mAlmanac
(shopping tips)
Deviant Drams
(other drinks)
 
Alternatively, you
may want to look
at the whisky map
or check out the
details of one of
these distilleries;