Log Entry 150  -  November 1, 2003
Topic:  Dramsterdam 2003 Diary

The next six weeks are going to be one big malt marathon.
First of all, I've got some heavy dramming ahead of me if I want to reach the 'rank' of malt magus before the package with samples for the Malt Maniacs Awards arrives from France. And that's not the only reason I'm working hard to get that promotion - halfway through November Davin will drop in from Canada to fetch his package of Awards malts and I'd like to greet him as a higher ranking maniac. In the third weekend of November we have the Den Haag Whiskyfestival and the week after that I plan to do my investigations for the 2003 MM Awards.

On November 29 things will be turned up a notch when Mark and Krishna arrive in Amsterdam for a week of heavy dramming in potentially good Islay conditions - probably windy and wet, hopefully cold and clear. Next, we'll drive to Alsace, France where we'll meet up with four other maniacs; Serge, Olivier, Klaus and Davin. If all goes well, that would put seven malt maniacs in one room at the same time - a new record! And to celebrate that wonderful event, our French hosts have lined up some great events to keep us properly buzzed; a big Brora tasting, an Islay breakfast, a visit to domaine Zind Humbrecht and (last but not least) the 'live' distillation of some 'aqua vitae' in Serge's garden. (Read Serge's 'French Still Life' E-pistle for an eyewitness account of last year's distillation.)

Instead of writing a few dozen different log entries that would take me until the summer of 2004 to finish, I'll try to collect the highlights of my adventures in one big-ass report. I wouldn't want the esteemed visitors of MM to die of boredom while they were reading yet another set of tasting notes, so those will be a bit shorter than usual. Here's an overview of the sub-reports featured in this log entry;

01/11/2003 - (A)  Withdrawal Symptoms
08/11/2003 - (B)  Lunar Eclipse
11/11/2003 - (C)  Armistice Day = Ascension Day
15/11/2003 - (D)  Davin Flies In
16/11/2003 - (E)  The Cadenhead's Challenge
17/11/2003 - (F)  Virtual Coastal Explorations
21/11/2003 - (G)  Den Haag WhiskyFestival  (Special Report in Dutch)
01/12/2003 - (H)  Manic Monday - Malt Maniacs Awards
02/12/2003 - (I)  Freestyle Dramming
03/12/2003 - (J)  Light Regime
04/12/2003 - (K)  Mental Meltdown
07/12/2003 - (L)  Alsacian Afterparty
08/12/2003 - (M)  Another Manic Monday
09/12/2003 - (N)  The Big Sleep
12/12/2003 - (O)  Re-tracing our Speyside Steps
13/12/2003 - (P)  Big Speysiders Vertical
14/12/2003 - (Q)  No More Cragganmore?
17/12/2003 - (R)  Speyside Wrap Up
19/12/2003 - (S)  Hasty Highlands Session
20/12/2003 - (T)  Coastal Trip
21/12/2003 - (U)  Talisker Showdown
24/12/2003 - (V)  Bunnies & Laddies
27/12/2003 - (W)  Caol Ila Clash
28/12/2003 - (X)  Kildalton Day
29/12/2003 - (Y)  Brorathon / Brorageddon
30/12/2003 - (Z)  2003 Wrap Up
 

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150-A:  Saturday, November 1, 2003
Topic:  Withdrawal Symptoms

Over the last few years I've been building a reserve stock to help me through possible 'rainy days' in the future. Well, as they say in a movie I can't remember: 'The Future Is Now'. The comfortable situation of my shopping exceeding my drinking ended around the same time the internet bubble collapsed and since then web business has been virtually virtual. Sample swapping has eased the pain a bit so far, but now the time has come to loot my reserve stock and make some 'withdrawals' to refresh and expand the collection of bottles I can offer the other maniacs while they are staying in Amsterdam. I'll be focusing on my malt mileage, there's no real 'theme' here.

I started with a strange puppy; the Glen Grant 10yo (40%, OB, Batch LM30391).
There has been a fierce debate in the press about Diageo's recent move to replace the Cardhu single malt with a Cardhu vatted malt in a nearly identical package. If I'm not mistaken, Chivas / Seagram did the very same thing with the Glen Grant 10yo. The label on a bottle I bought in the late 1990's is very similar to that of the NAS version with the ribbon 'pure malt' at the top and the two Scotsmen dramming next to a few casks. However, unlike the label on the NAS version the label of the old 10yo claimed the whisky in the bottle was a single malt. However, the label on the new bottle shows a guy with a silly moustache an all references to it actually being a single malt whisky have disappeared. That would lead one to assume it's a vatted malt.
Nose: Light and fruity - becoming distinctly citrussy. Quite pleasant, actually.
Faint spices and organics appearing after a minute. It becomes oilier and nuttier.
Taste: Rather weak start. Sweetish. Smooth, becoming dry and grittier towards the finish.
Bourbony. Immature wood. Not a real winner on the palate, I'm afraid. Forgettable.
Score: 69 points. Quite a good nose, but the palate lacks depth and substance. The bottling I tried in the late 1990's (a true single malt?) didn't score above average either, but at least it made it into the seventies (72).

I picked up a few bottles of the Macallan 1990/1999 (50%, John Milroy Golden Strength, Millennium Selection) a few years ago under the assumption that this might be comparable to the wonderful 10yo 100 Proof OB. Since then I've learned that the casks of Macallan that are sold to independent bottlers are not always the best ones. What's more, most independent bottlings offer Macallans aged in bourbon casks, while the 'house style' you'd expect comes mostly from the first-fill sherry casks used for the official bottlings.
Nose: Malty. Toffee. Not nearly as sherried as the OB's. Spicy - and growing spicier.
Very different from the OB 'house style', but the best independent Mac I've tried so far.
Sadly enough it doesn't respond very well to water - I got more dust and chloride.
Taste: Very soft start - hardly seems like 50%. Then it sweetens up. Fruity. Breaks apart.
More similar to the OB's than the nose, but the woody elements are lighter. Dry. Short finish.
Score: 79 points. I'd guess this could come from a re-fill sherry cask - the nose is quite good and wonderfully balanced (especially for the first few minutes) but the palate doesn't meet the standards set by the OB's. Doesn't respond well to H2O. We'll have to see how it develops after some breathing - many malts improve after some extra oxygen. Right now I'd say this is a dram that should be finished within five minutes - and hold the water.

The Balvenie 15yo 1985/2002 'Single Barrel' (50.4%, OB, cask #286) is actually 17 years old.
Nose: Honey sweet. Spicy. Surprisingly light and fruity. Tangerines?  Organics as well.
Grows more complex after some breathing. Smoked ham? Raw string beans? Lavender?
Taste: Sweet and fruity - like fruit cake. Full bodied in the centre. Good mouth feel.
Pleasant prickly. Long, woody finish - maybe just a tad too woody for my tastes.
Score: 83 points. Recommendable, but not quite as smooth and spicy as the 1980/1996 bottling from cask #15986. But obviously that's the 'risk' with single cask bottlings. This will do just fine, thank you...

I've got a very small sample of the Dalmore 21yo (43%, OB) from Rogier Prins. I'm not completely sure, but I suspect this was bottled around 2000. I'm a big fan of the 12yo OB because it's good and affordable, but somehow I've never gotten around to sampling the more expensive varieties like the 'Cigar Malt' or this 21yo. The nose was polished, round and sweet - but not very powerful. If memory serves, it's fairly similar to the profile of the 12yo, but a tad more sherried and refined. The palate was malty and just a tad bitter. The finish didn't last very long. Reflecting on the experience, I'd go with 81 points. Not worth the price difference with the 12yo, IMHO.

After my (tee-total) guests left it was time to open some young Caol Ila's. I've got loads of them in my reserve stock but I've found that many of them are quite similar in style. That sounds more self-evident than it actually is; in fact many people argue that the cask in which a malt is matured has more effect on the end result than the distillery itself. From that perspective, it's good to see more information about the 'wood history' of a whisky appearing on labels of IB's and OB's these days. Another reason for opening them is that I won't be able to stock up on any amazing discoveries I find anyway. My wallet is ultra-light at the moment and many of the bottles that were released more than a few years ago will have vanished from the shelves of most liquorists anyway.

The Caol Ila 9yo 1992/2002 (43%, Coopers Choice) comes in the plainest bottle of tonight's Caol Ila quartet, but since the prices of these 'Coopers' malts are usually quite reasonbale I'm willing to overlook the plain looks.
Nose: Plenty of salt and some peat as well. Smoke. Chalk? Maybe a hint of chloride?
There's a sweet undercurrent as well, but overall it remains a serious, transparent malt.
Taste: Salt and sweet - and then peat, lots of it. Great mouth feel. A wonderful palate!
The start and center of this malt are great for a 9yo but the finish lacks depth. Too bitter.
Score: 82 points. A pleasant surprise, especially considering the fact that the colour was unusually light. This is not overly complex but I like it. If it wasn't for the flaws in the finish it even might have made 85 points.

The Caol Ila 10yo 1988/1999 (43%, Hart Brothers, Distilled December 1988) came from Italy, so it had one of those paper tax strips across the cork. At first sight it seems like a classy package - a distinguished cardboard tube with a 'parchment' with tasting notes and bottling details. However, on closer inspection a lot of the 'information' turns out to be utter bogus. I quote: 'Caol Ila has a very small production, almost exclusively used for blending and vatted malts. The Caol Ila is one of the top malts produced on the island and is fairly difficult to source as a single malt'. Yeah, right... This might have been the case a decade ago, but I wouldn't be surprised if Caol Ila had the widest variety of Islay IB's available on the shelves of liquorists around the world these days.
Nose: Organics - not as salty and peaty as the Coopers Choice. A hint of pepper?
Smoke, peat and sweet liquorice after a minute. Leather? Lapsang Souchong tea?
Taste: Soft for one or two seconds, then smoke, peat, salt and stock cubes. Liquorice.
After a few seconds a fabulous toffee sweetness emerges. Some fruits as well. Dry finish.
Score: 84 points. Not as transparent as the Coopers choice, but the palate is just fabulous!

I picked up the Caol Ila 10yo 1989/1999 (46%, Dun Eideann, Casks #1577-1581, Bottle #597, Distilled April 1989, Bottled August 1999) at Giorgio's in Milan as well.  I haven't seen any 'Dun Eideanns' in Holland yet so I'm quite curious about this one. The fact that they bottled four casks in a row doesn't bode well...
Nose: Dull and dusty. Raw and briny start, growing fruitier with time. Lacks depth.
It picks up after a few minutes, showing off more organics. Remains dusty.
Taste: Rather weak. Dusty. Sticky. Fruity. Winey finish that grows hotter with time.
Score: 74 points. The first Caol Ila I ever tried that scored below average.
Clearly a class or two below the two other versions I sampled tonight.

If I'm not mistaken the Caol Ila 12yo 1990/2002 'Winter/Winter' (43%, McGibbon's Provenance) came from some Dutch shelf but I'm not sure. It comes last in today's flight simply because it's the oldest Caol Ila.
Nose: Creamy, oily start - that's odd. Smells more like a Tobermory or Isle of Jura at first.
Strangely salty and meaty - like pepperoni pizza from Pizza Hut. Unpleasant nose prickle.
Taste: Dry and gritty. Not much definition and depth. Didn't leave a real impression.
Score: 73 points. Another disappointment - at least at first sight.

And that's it for the first session of November - no time for lucid observations tonight.

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Dram Diary 01/11/2003  (Only freshly discovered whiskies and revised scores are listed here.) 

83 - Balvenie 15yo 1985/2002 (50.4%, OB, Cask #286)
82 - Caol Ila 9yo 1992/2002 (43%, Coopers Choice)
84 - Caol Ila 10yo 1988/1999 (43%, Hart Brothers, Distilled December 1988)
74 - Caol Ila 10yo 1989/1999 (46%, Dun Eideann, Casks #1577-1581)
73 - Caol Ila 12yo 1990/2002 (43%, McGibbon's Provenance, Winter Distillation, Winter bottling)
81 - Dalmore 21yo (43%, OB)
69 - Glen Grant 10yo (40%, OB, vatted malt)
79 - Macallan 1990/1999 (50%, John Milroy Golden Strength, Millennium Selection)

I've sampled eight new whiskies tonight, seven of which were 'proper' single malts.
There used to be a measly 483 malts on my Track Record, now there's a comfortable 490.
Great - only 10 more malts to go before I'm a malt magus.

 

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150-B:  Saturday, November 8, 2003
Topic:  Lunar Eclipse

I know I should have been drinking last week, but I just didn't get the chance.
That may sound strange coming from a malt maniac like me, but I've got tons of unmalted matters to take care of before the malt mayhem starts in full force next weekend. At the same time I want to hit the 500 mark before Davin's visit to Amsterdam next week, so tonight I'll have to do some dramming, whether I like it or not. Well, it's a good night for it; tonight Amsterdam will see the first (and last) lunar eclipse in quite some time.

I think I've got enough bottles on my shelves to keep Davin entertained during his visit, but just to be on the safe side I dropped by Ton Overmars in the afternoon to see what he had to offer. I was quite pleased to see Ton had recently doubled the shelf space allocated to whiskies. Good call, because up until now he had to use every nook and cranny of the store to stash his single malts. Ton invited me to his big Springbank tasting next week but when I heard 120 people were going to attend I kindly declined - I may be a crowd pleaser but I don't like crowds... Besides, I would have the opportunity to meet up with his guest of honour (Springbanks Kate Wright) during a session at the new Cadenhead's store next weekend anyway. After letting Ton cry on my shoulder for a bit about the recent Dutch tax increase I picked up my shoppings (an unchillfiltered Arran, a Tobermory 10yo and two spare Glendronach 15yo's) and left the store. I managed to resist my urge to clear out Ton's remaining stocks of Lagavulin 16yo at their old, friendly prices. Knowing myself as I do, I'll probably be back in a few days...

On my way home I swung by Martijn Boogaert's place to discuss a television-project we're involved in. I was surprised to find a small whisky collection in Martijn's studio. We had been working together for over a month and somehow the topic of whisky never came up. (People who know me will appreciate how unusual that is ;-)

There were many deluxe blends in the cupboard, but a few single malts as well.
One thing I got particularly excited about was the sight of two different versions of Glen Keith. Ordinarily there would be little reason for excitement because I found the 1983 bottling to perform below average, but Glen Keith was mothballed in 1999 and it happens to be one of the 'missing' distilleries on the matrix. As it turns out it's the favourite 'brand' of a producer that Martijn frequently works with so he always buys a bottle when he spots one. The two bottles in the cupboard (the 1983 OB I tried a few years ago and a 10yo OB I'd never seen before) were almost empty but I could convince Martijn to crack open two 50ml miniatures of Dimple so I could use them as containers to bring two samples of Glen Keith back home. I left Martijn's place as a slightly happier maniac.

The sample of the Glen Keith 10yo (40%, OB) was only half filled, so I decided to try that one right away, before it could oxidise any more than it probably already had. I was actually in the mood for something 'coastal' tonight but I'll get to that later on. Right now it's time to try my second Glen Keith ever.
Nose: Quite grainy. Oily. Sweetish with something citrussy in the background. Ginger?
Something woody; raw pine rather than polished oak. Pleasant but not very complex.
Taste: Fairly weak. Sweet and toffeeish at first. Malty. Some fruits. Quite flat in the centre.
Too much air, perhaps? Or maybe this is one of those malts that just need a higher proof.
Score: 70 points. I actually felt like scoring it in the upper 60's, but I can imagine this could have performed better if the bottle had been reasonably fresh. Still, this is no bottle to search for on a whisky hunt and I won't shed any tears over the timely demise of the Glen Keith distillery - survival of the fittest and all...

Another sample that needed to be scored and judged was the new Tormore 12yo (40%, OB, +/- 2003). The Tormore used to come in a clear clumsy bottle with some vague drawings of an impressionistic kid on the label, but the new package is much more appealing - cobalt blue tube and cobalt blue label. Simple but effective.
Nose: Sweet and malty - not as oily as its predecessor. Tea leaves and spices.
Unfortunately, the oil from the 1990's bottling I tried returns after a minute.
Taste: Sweet for the first few seconds, then it falls apart and becomes nutty and oily.
Towards the end it evolves into a bitter burn that's just a tad to prominent for me.
Score: 69 points. A little more complex than the 1990's bottling, I think - especially the start.

OK, now it's time to have a look at some big bottles on my shelves.
I started alphabetically with the Arran NAS 'Non-chillfiltered' (46%, OB). For a long time the 'standard' NAS bottling at 40 or 43 percent was the only single malt available from one of the youngest distilleries in Scotland - well, apart from a few very limited releases. But now there are two new expressions available, one of them this unchillfiltered version. Could this be the handywork of Euan Mitchell, who transferred from Springbank to Arran recently? Probably not, because it takes quite a while to bring an idea conceived at the distillery to life on the shelves of liquorists around the world. Whoever initiated the expansion of the range: it's about bloody time!
Nose: Nutty. Sweet and malty at first - light and very pleasant. Oatmeal? Quite accessible.
Wait a minute - now it's growing oilier and grainier. The complexity vanishes after a while.
Taste: Starts off rather weak, uneven and bitter. Sweeter centre - not altogether unpleasant.
Unfortunately, the finish is dry and very bitter. Bad wood? It loses quite a few points there.
Score: 67 points. I had my first dram at 71 points but my second opinion was not quite as positive. I like it better than the normal NAS version but after a few minutes I still found it a tad boring. The whisky shows potential but in the end it's just too neutral for me. However, the slightly higher proof works, so maybe they should come up with other ways to spice it up some more. I imagine this could work even better at 50% or even cask strength. And investing in a few fresh Oloroso casks might be a good idea as well. Or how about increasing the PPM - that seems to work for the Ledaigs distilled at Tobermory. Speaking of which...

I picked up the Tobermory 10yo (40%, OB) because the distillery isn't on the matrix yet. I want to serve a few Tobermories and Ledaigs to the other maniacs when they get to Amsterdam in a few weeks.
Nose: Oily. Not very expressive at first. Hint of pine? Eucalyptus? Maggi?
Taste: Oily as well. Hot and gritty in the centre. Just not my type of malt.
Score: 54 points. No significant improvement on the NAS I tried a few years ago - in fact, I think I like this even less. But just like the other fresh bottled that are opened tonight it might improve after some breathing.

Next, I felt it was time to turn up the coastal element a notch or two.
The Clynelish 11yo 1989/2000 'Summer/Autumn' (43%, McGibbon's Provenance) fits the bill - at least if the other versions I've tried so far are anything to go by. Some of them are almost like 'Caol Ila Light'.
Nose: Very oily and a hint of smoke. Nothing else, even from my big cognac bowls.
It improves a little after some breathing, but the overall impression is fleeting.
Taste: Smooth, weak start. Fragmented. Bitter and gritty in the centre. Fizzles out.
Score: 55 points. As a whisky it's adequate (it scores a tad higher than the Teacher's blend), as a single malt it's a complete failure. I've suspected for a while now that Douglas Laing uses only their best casks for the OMC bottlings while their 'mediocre' casks go into the McGibbon's range. Now it seems they don't even sell the bad casks to blenders like most IB's claim they do - they slap a McGibbon's label on them and sell them to the public.

Let's hope the Clynelish 11yo 1990/2001 (45%, Blackadder, Distilled 11/05/1990, Bottled 09/2001, Oak Puncheon #3953) manages to break tonight's cascade of mediocre scores. Looking at the scores, you'd think this year's 'Walpurgis' session has already started, but I'm still tasting Scottish single malts here...
Nose: Sweet spices. Dusty & musty. Well balanced but not expressive at first.
Taste: Fairly bitter start. Bitter, woody centre as well. Flat. Hot. Beer? Dry finish.
Score: 61 points. Another disappointment, I'm afraid. I'm on a losing streak tonight.

What's happening here? Bad karma?
None of the six malts I sampled so far managed to score above average. Maybe I should re-calibrate my nose and palate with an old favourite while I step outside on the balcony to watch the lunar eclipse? Sounds like a plan! I poured myself a generous helping of an old 'coastal favourite; the Talisker 10yo (45.8%, OB). The nose was peppery and smoky just like I remembered. Spices and organics. Great development. The palate had salt and pepper, but a subdued sweet fruitiness in the centre as well. The finish is long, hot, peppery and smoky. My kind of medicine - I'll stick with my score of 88 points for the last batch in the dark 'old design' bottle.

I marveled at the lunar eclipse until my glass was empty.
By that time it was close to 2:00 AM so I decided it was time to get some sleep.
Once again I have no profound conclusions for you to neatly wrap things up...

So, here you go - and there you are...

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Dram Diary 08/11/2003  (Only freshly discovered whiskies and revised scores are listed here.) 

67 - Arran NAS Non-Chillfiltered (46%, OB, X1059/X1060, L3183BB 1240)
55 - Clynelish 11yo 1989/2000 (43%, McGibbon's Provenance, Distilled Summer 1989, Bottled Autumn 2000)
61 - Clynelish 11yo 1990/2001 (45%, Blackadder, Oak Puncheon #3953)
70 - Glen Keith 10yo (40%, OB, sample)
54 - Tobermory 10yo (40%, OB, L16 03/0082 3063 14:16)
69 - Tormore 12yo (40%, OB, Blue Label, Bottled +/- 2003)

Great - with tonight's six fresh malts my Track Record now has 496 single malts on it.
 

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150-C:  Tuesday, November 11, 2003
Topic:  Armistice Day = Ascension Day

According to my Track Record I only have to sample four more malt before I ascend to the rank of malt magus. Like the sad little freak that I am I've been planning my sessions so that I would earn myself a little promotion before the malt mayhem starts with the arrival of Davin in a few days. Not only that, I made sure that the date of my ascension would be on Armistice Day. Exactly two years ago I could proudly declare that I had sampled the product from every active distillery in Scotland. This year, I will have 'seriously' sampled 500 different malts.

After the bad karma of the 'Lunar Eclipse' session
a few days ago (only one malt out of seven made
it into the seventies - just barely) I felt the spirits
were smiling on me when the postman delivered an
unexpected surprise; the first issue of 'Whisky Etc.'.
That's the brand new Dutch whisky magazine I did
the Texel Tasting for, and guess which fat egghead
is on the cover of issue #1? That's right, yours truly!
 
And that was just the start of many signs that the
cosmic scale of karma was swinging in my direction
again. The weather that accompanied me to a big
business meeting in Groningen was simply stunning.
Little sheep clouds drifted accross a deep blue sky
and the autumn colours of the trees seemed more
vibrant than ever before. I arrived at the meeting
completely refreshed and at the peak of my powers.
Needless to say, I dazzled my clients and secured
myself a nice little assignment that would fatten
up my depressingly flat wallet a bit. Good karma!

I returned home earlier than expected and felt more than ready to sample my last drams as a 'Malt Mogul'. In good spirits I opened the first sample of the evening, the Glendronach 12yo 'Original' (43%, OB). This bottle was available in the 1990's and has since been replaced by the 12yo 'Traditional'.
Nose: Malty. Much easier on the fruits than the Traditional or even the 15yo. Grassy.
Hardly any sherry first - then it picks op with raisins, wood, and maybe some sulphur?
It's a nicely composed whisky, but I miss the expressiveness of the other versions.
Taste: Smooth and lightly sherried. Woody. Subtle fruity elements as well. Tangerine?
Once again I have to say this is a good malt - just not quite sweet enough for me.
Score: 79 points . This is a good single malt, but it's much more 'middel-of-the-road' than the 12yo 'Traditional'. Given the wide variety of single malts available, I personally prefer my malts to show a little more spunk...

I've got two bottles of the Glenmorangie NAS 'Traditional 100 Proof' (57.2%, OB, 100cl) in my reserve stock, but when I set up a sample swap with Wouter Klok to get my hands on the Glendronach Original I had to get a sample of this 'Traditional' as well - just to see how it compares to its predecessor I sampled on October 25.
Nose: Creamy and sweetish with a pinch of salt in the background. Light and transparent.
Taste: Starts off quite hot and sparkly. Lighter, malty and a little sweet in the centre.
Score: 79 points. It seems the Glenmorangie 10yo isn't the only bottling in the 'Morangie range that suffers from a changing profile. If I'm not mistaken the 10yo '100 proof' that preceeded this version had a little more body.

I think the Talisker 1986 'Distillers Edition' Double Matured (45.8%, OB, Jerez Amoroso Finish, TD-S:5AM) is the only one of the 'double matured' classic malts I haven't tried yet. I've heard both good and bad things about it and I guess I was just a little scared to find things out for myself. Well, it's time to face my fears.
Nose: Lots of great sherry - that must be the Amoroso. Autumn in the woods. Groovy stuff.
Very rich and polished, but the peppery prickle is smothered by sherry and wood.
Taste: Very woody in the start, opening up into marmelade fruitiness. Quite sweet.
The wood doesn't mix very well with the salt and pepper of the Talisker malt. Smoky finish.
Score: 86 points - which seems only fair for a malt from '86. This one has a really beautiful nose, but the richness and depth provided by the Amoroso finish comes at a price. Part of he power and brashness that attracted me to Talisker in the first place had to make way for subtler, fruitier elements - much like the effect of the Ximenez finish on the Double Matured Lagavulin. I think the double maturation did good things for the subtler classic malts like Glenkinchie and Dalwinnie, but I have to say I personally prefer the powerhouse malts 'au naturel'.

With three fresh drams under my belt, my Track Record showed 499 single malts.
Malt #500 is the Laphroaig 13yo 1988/2001 (46%, Murray McDavid, MM2108, Bourbon cask, Distilled July 1988, Bottled December 2001). If I'm not mistaken, it was the first MurMac bottling to carry the Laphroaig name after they had been forced to use the 'Leapfrog' moniker for many years. I wonder if Douglas Laing will reach a similar understanding so they can drop the (barely) secret identity of their 'Laudable' as well...
Nose: Clean. Peat. Liquorice & lemon drops. Developing organics. Liquorice. Fabulous!
It really opens up with time showing lots of complexity and depth. Sweeter with time.
Taste: Peaty and surprisingly sweet and fruity. Reminded me of the OMC 15yo 'Laudable'.
It's not nearly as good as the nose though - especially the finish. Still highly recommendable.
Score: 87 points. Right up my alley. This is a winner; it might even have reached a score in the 90's if the finish didn't break apart so bitterly in the end. We'll have to see how it develops after some breathing, but for now I'm a very happy camper indeed. So happy, in fact, that I could sing and dance with glee.
So, I came up with an alternative chorus for the Proclaimers song '500 Miles';

And I would drink 500 malts
And I would drink 500 more
Just to be the man who drank a thousand malts
And fell down at the bar

OK, so it doesn't rhyme - but it conveniently brings up the topic of 'a thousand malts'.
That will be the next target on my quest for the perfect single malt, because 'Malt Magus' isn't the highest rank in our little malt mad universe. No sir, that would be the coveted title of 'Malt Master', a title that is bestowed on those who have sampled a thousand different single malts. Right now Craig Daniels and I are the only 'malt magi' on the team and it has taken us about a decade to get there, so I suspect we won't have a Malt Master in our ranks for a few more years - even with Peter Silver and Serge Valentin breathing down our necks...

Speaking about Serge; now that my Track Record shows 500 single malts I can take a breather from my hunt for fresh entries and take a closer look at two fabulous Islay malts; an Ardbeg and a Bunnahabhain. I already sampled these two on October 31 but looking at the scores in the matrix I've underscored them a bit.

The Bunnahabhain 34yo 1968/2002 'Auld Acquaintance' (43.8%, OB) scored 89 points two weeks ago but all the other maniacs scored it in the 90's. The nose was heavily sherried with loads of organics and some subtle smoky notes. Polished oak. Mint & liquorice. Simply fabulous - although something perfumy popped up in the back that I didn't care for. The taste had loads of smoke and wood in the start (a little too much if you ask me) and after a fabulous fruity, minty centre the finish is long and satisfying. OK, I'm convinced - let's go with 90 points for this one. The nose is up there with the best I've ever encountered and the taste isn't bad either.
The other sample I wanted to give another chance was the Ardbeg 1974 'Provenance' (55.6%, OB). I felt it was worth 91 points last time, but since it came right after the stunning 2002 Feis Ile bottling it might even do a little better tonight. Well, the nose is just stunning, that's for sure. A sweet start before the whole Islay train pulls into the station; smoke, peat and organics. Horse stable. Dry with a whiff of chloride. The palate is very powerful, but sweet and drinkable at cask strength. Pleasant fruits. And this time I found some medicinal elements in the centre (iondine and bandages) that I usually associate with Laphroaig. Woody, lengthy finish. Great development. That does it; I'll increase my score to 93 points. This is a work of art.

When the clock struck midnight the hour of fools arrived and I said goodbye to the noble world of Scotch single malts. The next 'Walpurgisnacht' is still six months away and there were some non-Scottish and/or non-single and/or non-malt 'abominations' I needed to get off my shelves before the other maniacs arrived.

Well, the Lammerlaw 10yo (48.2%, Cadenhead's World Whiskies, Bourbon barrel, Bottled June 2003, 240 blt.) wasn't an abomination. Sadly enough this distillery from new Zealand is now closed, but I've tried some versions that were pretty good for single malts that were not born and bred on Scottish soil.
Nose: Grainy and quite sweet. Fruits and organics. Great development over time.
Taste: Quite smooth for a malt at this strength. Lively and fruity. Pretty good.
Score: 74 points. The best Lammerlaw bottling I've tried so far - it beats the OB's.

Davin brought samples of the Forty Creek 'Three Grain' (40%, OB) to Scotland. This is something very interesting - it's a blend of three types of grain whisky (distilled from malted barley, rye and maize) We didn't get to sample it in Scotland but Davin gave me a sample to try in the comfort of my own home.
Nose: Aaaah... That's nice! Sweet and malty. Toffee and fudge. Nutty. A great nose!
By far the 'maltiest' Canadian I ever tried - and it's a grain whisky. That's odd...
Taste: Weak, sweetish start. Watery. Coffee and candy. Sticky. Cloying. Brrrr...
Not nearly as good as the nose, but overall I think it beats the other Canadians I tried.
Score: 66 points . That's right - with a nose like this it rivals some Scotch single malts.

There was still a little Whisky de Bretagne NAS (41%, OB, single grain) left after a Pandora session a few months ago. Tonight will be the perfect opportunity to decide on a final rating for this French grain whisky.
Nose: Extremely citrussy - orange peel, tangerines and lemons. Herbal. Maggi? Mint?
This smells more like Cointreau than like whisky - but I like it... Sherry and smoke?
Other fruits emerge over time. Furniture polish. Organics. Hint of liquorice. Aniseed?
Taste: Yuck. Flat, sourish and bitter - not unlike stale beer. Dry, no sweetness.
Gritty like bourbon. Orange peel. Bitter citrus elements grow stronger and stronger.
Fruity, sherried aftertaste. Fragmented. Deconstructed. It loses lots of points here.
Score: 54 points . I really don't care for the taste, but the nose is very entertaining - especially for the first ten minutes. It drops off after a while, but it still gives me more pleasure than the average blended Scotch.

I picked up the Cameron Brig NAS (40%, blend) on sight at a megastore this summer because I've heard a lot about the single grain whisky by the same name and I wanted to introduce some friends to a grain whisky to illustrate the difference between different 'types' of whisky. But after I opened the bottle and poured everybody their drams, I noticed that this smelled much more like a blend than like a single grain. Closer inspection of the label showed that this could be a blend as well as a grain whisky; all the label said was 'Specially Selected Choice Old Scotch Whisky'. I was pretty sure it was a blend, so I stashed it to the back of a cabinet until now.
Nose: Restrained and pretty flat. Sweetish, malty and grainy. Dish soap. Very MOTR.
Taste: Surprisingly sweet and fruity at first. Strong centre. Not bad at all, it seems.
It starts off remarkably pleasant, but drops off quickly. Shallow, superficial finish.
It loses points in the finish. It lasts for quite a while but leaves your tongue numb.
Score: 39 points . Well, I'm quite sure this is actually the blend produced by the Cameron Brig (Cameronbridge) distillery. The founder mentioned on the label (John Haig) and the area (Kingdom of Fife) match up. A quick search on the web proved that my bottle looks a lot like the the single grain, except for some minor details.

OK, it's 1:30AM and it's time for my last 'dram' of the evening.
I picked up a miniature of the Maker's Mark NAS (45%, OB, 7/28/94, Bourbon) in Scotland because I've heard good things about this bourbon. Well, I'm sceptical but hey - anything for a giggle...
Nose: Extremely sweet - a bit like Jack Daniels. Paint thinner. Glue. Not my cup of tea.
It does open up a little with time, though. Peanuts? Quite different from malt whisky.
Taste: Flat start, growing deeper and sweeter in the centre. Pleasant but superficial.
Score: 48 points - at least for now. I've never been a big bourbon fan and obviously the Maker's Mark is not going to change that. However, I did find some elements in there that appealed to me.

Phew... Enough S&M action for one night...
I'm a Malt Magus now and I deserve my sleep.

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Dram Diary 11/11/2003  (Only freshly discovered whiskies and revised scores are listed here.) 

93 - Ardbeg 1974 'Provenance' (55.6%, OB)
90 - Bunnahabhain 34yo 1968/2002 'Auld Acquaintance' (43.8%, OB)
39 - Cameron Brig (40%, Blend, Cameronbridge Distillery)
66 - Forty Creek NAS 'Three Grain' (40%, OB, blend of grain whiskies from Kittling Ridge Distillery, Canada)
79 - Glendronach 12yo 'Original' (43%, OB, Bottled 1990's)
79 - Glenmorangie NAS 'Traditional 100 Proof' (57.2%, OB, Cardboard Box, 100cl)
74 - Lammerlaw 10yo (48.2%, Cadenhead's World Whiskies, Bourbon Barrel, Bottled June 2003, 240 Bottles)
87 - Laphroaig 13yo 1988/2001 (46%, Murray McDavid, MM2108, Bourbon Cask, Distilled July 1988, Bottled December 2001)
86 - Talisker 1986 DE Double Matured (45.8%, OB, TD-S:5AM)
54 - Whisky de Bretagne (41%, OB, Grain whisky from France)

Five of the whiskies I sampled tonight were single malts I had not tried before.
My Track Record now has 501 different single malts on it and I can take it a little easier...

 

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150-D:  Saturday, November 15, 2003
Topic:  Davin Flies In

Day 1 of Davin's visit to Amsterdam officially started when we met up at Amsterdam Central Station a little before noon. After a slow coffee and a quick lunch at 'Van Dobben' we headed to my place to start the dramming. Davin was very motivated to get some serious work done for the matrix, so he was extremely eager to start the dramming as soon as possible. Obviously, I was most happy to oblige.

We started the session with a Balvenie 15yo 1985/2002 (50.4%, OB, cask #286).
Another cask of 15yo Balvenie has been submitted for the 2003 Malt Maniacs Awards but since these are all single cask bottlings there's no telling how it will compare to this one. The nose of cask #286 was spicy and it somehow seemed a tad more complex than when I first opened it last week. Lavender? With a little water the nose showed some more organics and wood, after some more water it turned sweeter. The palate was a little bitter and it somehow reminded me of unmalted barley. I'll stick with 83 points for cask #286 - Davin scored it the same.

We proceeded with a quick dram of the Auchroisk 11yo 1989/2001 Port Finish (43%, Chieftains). The nose was a little creamy in the start and showed some wood and some smoke - and maybe some light peat as well. More spices & organics later. The palate showed some nice fresh wood and fruits, but if I'm not mistaken it wasn't quite as complex as the nose. No real competition for the Port wood finishes from Glenmorangie or Balvenie, but a very nice whisky for the price. I'll stick with my score of 81 points while Davin scored it at 78 points.

Our discussions turned towards the recent controversy about the transformation of Cardhu into a vatted malt. A great excuse to do a H2H of the old single malt Glen Grant 10yo (40%, OB) and the new version I suspect of being a vatted malt. Both noses seemed quite citrussy this time but after a few minutes the citrus had vanished from the old single malt version. Meanwhile, the vatting seemed to become oilier and slightly nuttier. Davin agreed with my score of 72 points for the old single malt version but scored the vatting a generous point higher than my own 69 points; he gave it 70 points on his personal enjoyment scale.

I didn't make many notes on our next dram, the Imperial 18yo 1982 (43%, Chieftain's). The nose was light and faintly spicy. Spirity, oily and a little flowery. Pine? Over time it grew more complex and it managed to climb above average. Sadly enough, the taste pulled it back down again - flat and faintly woody. A displeasing hint of machine oil as well. No reason to increase my score of 73 points - it didn't learn a lot in eighteen years.
Looking at his score of 71 points Davin liked it even less. Still, he kept smiling...

Maybe that was because this was his very first sample of the Imperial distillery ever.
That was also the case with the Convalmore 16yo 1981/1997 (43%, Ultimate). It's from a pretty obscure distillery so the fun factor is pretty high, but I can't really recommend it to anyone based on its own merits. After finishing the last dram from the bottle, I decided to decrease my score to 75 points for this one. Davin liked it even less and gave it only 68 points. Not worth hunting down, that's for sure.

Davin's a francophone, so I thought he might know the Belgian chansonnier Jacques Brel.
As it turns out he did, so we enjoyed some masterful melancholic music while we enjoyed the rest of our matrix drams. The Balmenach 11yo 1990/2001 (43%, Chieftain's, Casks #5414-5417, 1800 bottles). I still liked it better than average, but I felt I had to decrease my score from 79 to 77 points. Davin gave it 74 points.

Next, we turned our attention to two siblings, the Mortlach 12yo 1989/2002 (43%, Coopers Choice, Sherry cask) and the Mortlach 21yo (40%, Sestante). The nose of the Coopers Choice was nice, polished and surprisingly complex. Sweet and very, very pleasant. After maybe five minutes it shows some delightful organics and peat. For a moment I played with the thought of increasing my score from 84 to 86 but in the end I conservatively went with 85 points. Davin liked it even better at 87 points. It needs some time, though. Considering its age and its price I was slightly underwhelmed by the performance of the 21yo Sestante bottling I picked up in Italy when I first opened it, but I have to say it grew on me over the last year. I'll stick with my score of 84 points for this one, even though Davin only liked it 82 points worth.

By this time we really needed some more food in our stomachs, so it was a good thing there's a Chinese restaurant nearby. We gave my favourite Chinaman a call and within half an hour we could replenish our energy. Davin was pleasantly surprised by the size of the eggrolls we get here in Holland (about 500 grams each - pretty much a meal all by itself), so after the 'entrees' we were ready to resume our session with the Aberfeldy 12yo (43%, OB). We were making good progress for the matrix, because this was our tenth dram of the evening. I didn't find anything in there I didn't find before so I'll stick with 78 points for this one. Davn went with 78 points as well.

Time for another H2H, this time of the Glenglassaugh 1986/1998 (40%, MacPhail's Collection) against its older sibling, the Glenglassaugh 1973 (40%, Family Silver). The 1986 was a fairly 'momentous' dram; it was distilled in the same year the distillery was mothballed. I found dust, cream and powdered milk in the nose; it reminded me a lot of an old milk powder factory I used to visit. My score of 72 points for the first dram from the bottle was clearly idiotic, so I'll increase it to 80 points . Davin liked it even better than me, judging by his score of 82 points. The Glenglassaugh 1973 performed as before and received 86 points from me and 85 points from Davin. Unlike Glenesk, Glenlochy or Glenugie, this is one of those distilleries that really didn't deserve to perish.

We had ourselves another break, after which things became increasingly silly.
We did a H2H tasting of the Knockdhu 12yo (43%, OB) against the Knockando 1986/1998 (43%, OB) just because Davin thought they 'sounded the same'. I found the nose of the Knockdhu (successor to 'An Cnoc') a little bit too oily and gave it 72 points . Davin wasn't thrilled either and went with 69 points. The nose of the Knockando was more sherried and fruity and really came alive after a few minutes. Davin's score was 74 points, mine was 75 points . A decent average single malt if you ask me. Craig scored this one at 79 points while Klaus only gave it at 70 points. It all evens out at an 'average' score, so the maniacs seem to share my feelings.

Dram #15 of the day was the Royal Brackla 16yo 1984/2001 (43#, Coopers Choice). The nose was rich and polished with a fleeting sweetness. The palate was hot and fruity. Davin and I both went with 77 points. Another dram that needed another score for the matrix was the Tamdhu-Glenlivet 10yo (58.9%, Cadenhead, 18.75cl). This time I found the nose of the Tamdhu citrussy, soapy and perfumy, growing sweeter with time. The taste seemed quite sweet as well. After some more breathing I even thought I found some traces of peat and other coastal elements in the nose. I decided to increase my score to 78 points while Davin scored it at 80 points.

By now we had switched to overproof whiskies. I was really starting to feel it, but Davin was still going strong. I didn't make any notes on the Cragganmore 1976/1993 (53.8%, G&M) this time but if memory serves it might have performed even better than before but I decided to stick with my score of 85 points while Davin gave it 86. As it turned out, Davin had never tried a Mannochmore before (except for the Loch Dhu I poured him last year), so we proceedced with the Mannochmore 22yo 1974/1997 (60.1%, UDRM). I found the nose smokier than I remembered but that's no reason to change my score of 77 points for this one - and that was how Davin scored it as well. Not a great whisky, but proof that they can actually distill something decent at Mannochmore.

We finished the evening with a H2H of two of my top shelf treasures.
I bought the Braes of Glenlivet 12yo 1989/2001 (62.1%, Cadenhead's) on sight because my experiences with the Braes of Glenlivet 17yo 1979/1997 (58.1%, SigV) had convinced me that this distillery has produced some very fine whisky in its time. I still can't understand why they closed it down last year. Maybe the drams I enjoyed prior to this duo affected my judgement, but I decided to increase my score to 88 points for both of them.
Davin went with 87 points for the 12yo Cadenhead's and 84 points for the 17yo Signatory Vintage.

With 20 malts under his belt for the evening, Davin had broken a personal record.
Time to call it a night - we had two more days of heavy dramming ahead of us.

- - -

Dram Diary 15/11/2003  (Only freshly discovered whiskies and revised scores are listed here.) 

77 - Balmenach 11yo 1990 (43%, Chieftain's)
88 - Braes of Glenlivet 12yo 1989/2001 (62.1%, Cadenhead's)
88 - Braes of Glenlivet 17yo 1979/1997 (58.1%, Signatory Vintage)
75 - Convalmore 16yo 1981 (43%, Ultimate)
80 - Glenglassaugh 1986/1998 (40%, MacPhail's Collection)
72 - Glen Grant 10yo (40%, OB, single malt, 1990's)
75 - Knockando 1986/1998 (43%, OB)
85 - Mortlach 12yo 1989/2002 (43%, Coopers Choice, Sherry cask)
78 - Tamdhu-Glenlivet 10yo (58.9%, Cadenhead)

With the exception of the Knockando 1986/1998 all these were familiar bottles.
There are now 502 different single malts on my Track Record.

 

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150-E:  Sunday, November 16, 2003
Topic:  The Cadenhead's Challenge

The second day of Davin's visit started with a few drams in the morning.
If I'm not mistaken this was the first time in my life I've ever drank alcohol before noon, but Serge's got an 'Islay Fruhstuck' with half a dozen Islay malts planned in December. That means I need all the training I can get. Well, by the time we finished our 5th (small) morning dram I was already feeling woozy, so that Islay fruhstuck is probably going to be quite an interesting experience...

But once again I'm getting ahead of myself. I realise this big-ass report may already be growing tedious (and I'm not even half-way yet), but this log is as much for my own 'alcoholic administration' as it is for public amusement. I've made it a point of transferring as much of my notes as possible to this log to help me keep track of my malt mileage and my discoveries along the way. So, here are the notes I made on my first 'skalks' ever.

We kicked off with the Linlithgow 18yo 1982/2001 (43%, Signatory Vintage).
I selected this soft Lowlander because I was in no hurry to upset my stomach at 9:30AM.
The nose was a little grainy, grassy and oily with a hint of smoke. No lemon. Faint hint of leather? Spicier with time, growing deeper and more complex. Really needs fifteen minutes or more. The taste had no sweetness whatsoever. It was dry, oily and woody - growing maltier in the centre. Cider? Far too woody in the finish for me. This is actually the lowest scoring bottling of Saint Magdalene / Linlithgow on the matrix. In the cold hard light of the morning I became convinced that I've overrated this one in the past. In fact, I wouldn't even call it reccommendable. I think Davin's score of 75 points was a tad on the harsh side, because the nose improves after a while. Nevertheless, I decided to decrease my own score to 79 points for this one. I never thought I'd write this, but paying about twice as much for the 19yo 1979 UDRM (one year older, cask strength) is worth it.

The Arran NAS Non-Chillfiltered (46%, OB) is one of the new expressions I wrote about earlier in this log entry. Right after I opened the bottle it scored a fairly underwhelming 67 points but after just one week of breathing it seems to have opened up a bit. The nose was sweet and malty at first, growing grainier. I got a distinct oatmeal impression this time. After a while it became oilier, which pretty much spoilt the party for me. The palate was just as weak, uneven and bitter as last week, so I'll stick with my 'questionable' score of 67 points for this one. Davin scored it just within 'average' territory with 71 points. That leaves plenty of room for improvement.

I can't really remember why we picked the Glenrothes 1987/2000 (43%, OB) as our next dram; we both sampled a generous supply of Glenrothes 'vintages' at the distillery on June 2 and Glenrothes also submitted three or four OB's for the Malt Maniacs Awards. Anyway, for one reason or another we did pick it, Davin gave it 79 points and I didn't feel like changing my own score of 78 points for this one. Not one of the best expressions I've tried.
The Glen Moray 12yo 'Classic' (43%, OB) we sampled next was a 'historic' bottling; it's the standard version of Glen Moray that was available in the 1990's, before they released their wine finishes. .  was

The sample of Glen Scotia 12yo 'Full Proof' (54%, OB, Bottled 1980's) that Alberto Righi sent me a while ago wasn't empty yet, which gave me the opportunity to serve the last bit to Davin. Davin wasn't too thrilled about it, judging by his score of 74 points. The other maniacs that tried it (Serge, Olivier, Krishna, Mark and myself) liked it a lot better and all scored it in the 80's. I kept my own score at 81 points for this one.

After five drams it was noon; time to head into town to get some breakfast. We had ourselves an 'uitsmijter' and coffee at cafe 'De Staalmeesters' before we headed to the new Cadenhead's store here in Amsterdam for a nice little tasting session. I issued a challenge to Andries Visser (one of the proprietors) a few weeks ago; I would bring samples from three of my personal favourits to the table and Andries had to try and match them with bottlings in the Cadenhead's range. We started off with four tasters (Andries, Davin, Alexander van der Veer and me) around 14:00 and were joined a little later by Springbank's charming ambassador Kate Wright.

We started with H2H of my Linlithgow 1982/2000 (61.6%, Scott's Selection) against an opponent from the Cadenhead's stable; the Littlemill 14yo 1989/2003 (61.9%, Cadenhead's Authentic Collection, 294 bottles). The nose of the Linlithgow started off grainier and oilier than the Littmill. Vanilla? The palate was chewy and spicy.  The Littlemill showed much more sweetness in the nose. Polished and very rich. Malty. Creamy. Coffee. Peanuts. The palate didn't seem to have any sweetness at first, but given time it becomes very sweet with lemon drops in the background. For me, the Littlemill was the winner with 83 points (Linlithgow stays at 82 points) but all other tasters preferred the Linlithgow over the Littlemill.

Andries argued that he deserved a second chance, so we had another Lowlander by its lonesome self. not only good lowlander so The nose of the Bladnoch 14yo 1989/2003 (53.6%, Cadenhead's Authentic Collection, Bourbon barrel, 210 bottles) was very distinctive. I was quite sure I smelled yoghurt in there and the others agreed . Then I  got milk. It was a bit malty as well, growing sweeter with time. I also got some wonderful organics after ten minutes. What a fabulous nose! Unfortunately, the taste wasn't quite as complex and appealing as the nose. I got soap and a bitterness that drops off after five minutes. After time, it has a beautiful body. Nice and chewy. We decided to nickname this 'The Dairy Malt'. I ended up with a score of 84 points for this puppy. Davin liked it even better and gave it 86 points. Yeah, I'd say the fabulous nose alone justifies the investment.

Our next H2H put my sample of the Macallan 10yo Cask Strength (58.8%, OB) against an opponent from the Cadenhead's stable, the Macallan 12yo 1989/2001 (60.2%, Cadenhead's Authentic Collection, Bottled October 2001, Sherry Butt). Well, the nose of Cadenhead's had plenty of sherry, just like the OB's. In fact, it was more subtle and balanced in this one than in the latest 12yo OB I tried. It had some nice spices as well. I didn't make any notes on the taste, but my score was 87 points. Davin gave it 84 points. I haven't been overly excited by most independent Macallans I've tried so far, but maybe that's because most of them were matured in bourbon casks. I liked this sherry casked Cadenhead's almost as much as the 10yo C/S OB which received 88 points.

Next, we turned our attention to two interesting bottles that were brought by Alexander.
When he put them on the table I first thought he had brought a few Blackadder bottles, but they turned out to be from a Blackadder sub-brand called 'Aberdeen Distillers'. To the naked eye, the labels are nearly indistinguishable from those of Blackadder. The Aberlour 11yo 1989/2001 (43% Aberdeen Distillers, Distilled October 1989, Matured in an oak hogshead #11039, Bottled September 2001) earned itself 80 points with a round palate that showed a pleasant hint of peat. The Highland Park 12yo 1989/2001 (43% Aberdeen Distillers, Distilled March 1989, Matured in oak butt #3011, Bottled September 2001) did even better with 84 points. The nose was fruitier than that of the latest 12yo OB I tried, with some nice organics that give it some weight. The palate was smooth but ultimately rather weak. At first sight, it seems these (unchillfiltered and uncoloured) IB's give the OB's a run for their money. I guess if I were standing in front of the shelves of a liquorist my choice would be dictated by price.

Our last H2H at Cadenhead's was my sample of the Port Ellen 22yo 1978/2000 (60.5%, UDRM) against another Islay malt, the Bunnahabhain 24yo 1979/2003 (45.7%, Cadenhead's Authentic Collection, Bottled July 2003, 156 Bottles). The nose of the PE had all the peat and brine I remembered and I stand by my score of 93 points. The nose of the Bunny showed salmiak, liquorice and aniseed. Lemon and a hint of oil as well. The palate was fruity and a little bit dusty. It felt weaker than its 45.7%, but I still thought is was worth 87 points.

So, how did the Cadenhead's bottlings perform in this 'challenge'?
Quite well, I'd have to say. Although not all the tasters would agree, I personally think the Cadenhead's Lowlanders were more than a match for the Scott's Selection bottling of Linlithgow I brought and their Macallan was almost as good as my sample of the 10yo Cask Strength OB. However, the Port Ellen I saved for the last round of the H2H challenge proved a little too tough for the relatively soft spoken Bunnahabhain. Especially Alexander was crazy about the Port Ellen - he quickly reserved the last bottle in my trading stock. Andries had to admit my samples had beaten his selection this time, but he was eager for a re-match next year.

We finished the Cadenhead's session with an oddity; the Dark Whisky 3yo (40%, OB, Poland).
Alexander spends a lot of time in Poland and brought this one over as a little surprise. Well, this was really freaky stuff that reminded me a lot of Japanese sake and rice crackers. It wasn't nearly as awful as I'd expected and I finally went with a score of 49 points - just 1 point short of being enjoyable. Interesting stuff, though.

It was hard to get back to our matrix duties when we got home in the evening, but we managed to successfully attack six different bottlings from the Tobermory/Ledaig distillery. This distillery on the island Mull was one of the last active distilleries that were not featured on the matrix yet. Well, that little problem was solved after Davin and I had finished and scored the following expressions;
 
DK - JH - Malt:
60 - 55 - Tobermory NAS (40%, OB,)
63 - 54 - Tobermory 10yo (40%, OB)
72 - 70 - Ledaig NAS 'Peated' (42%, OB, Sherried)
68 - 78 - Ledaig NAS 'Peated' (42%, OB, Un-sherried)
75 - 77 - Ledaig 7yo 'Peated' (43%, OB)
77 - 79 - Ledaig 20yo (43%, OB)

As you can see, there's a good reason most maniacs have avoided this distillery so far.
None of these six different expressions managed to earn a score in 'recommendable' territory.
Yeah, it's a dirty job - but somebody has to do it...

To reward ourselves we finished the evening with a H2H of two expressions from a more reputable distillery. We turned our attention to Alberto Righi's sample of Glenfarclas 15yo (46%, OB, Italy) and my own big bottle of the Glenfarclas 1983/2001 Family Reserve #4 (46%, OB). The 15yo made a better impression than when I first tried it. The nose was very fruity with toffee and sherry. Soft organics. The palate was chewy, fruity and woody. In this case, I actually like the palate better than the nose. I increased my initial score to 80 points while Davin even thought it was worth 87 points. I found the nose of the Family Reserve polished and much more refined than that of the 15yo. More smoke an organics too - stock cubes. The taste was dry and fruity with plenty of good wood. A little winey. It takes things further where the 15yo stops. It's just a tad too dry and dusty in the end to reach 90 points but I'll happily increase my score to 89 points. Davin went with 89 points as well.

And that concludes this report - but just keep scrolling down for more...

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Dram Diary 16/11/2003  (Only freshly discovered whiskies and revised scores are listed here.) 

80 - Aberlour 11yo 1989/2001 (43% Aberdeen Distillers, Distilled 10/1989, Bottled 09/2001, Oak Hogshead #11039)
84 - Bladnoch 14yo 1989/2003 (53.6%, Cadenhead's Authentic Collection, Bottled July 2003, Bourbon Barrel)
87 - Bunnahabhain 24yo 1979/2003 (45.7% Cadenhead's Authentic Collection, Bottled July 2003, Bourbon Hogshead)
80 - Glenfarclas 15yo (46%, OB)
89 - Glenfarclas 1983/2001 Family Reserve #4 (46%, OB)
84 - Highland Park 12yo 1989/2001 (43% Aberdeen Distillers, Distilled 03/1989, Bottled 09/2001, Oak Butt #3011)
79 - Linlithgow 18yo 1982/2001 (43%, Signatory Vintage, Distilled 15/12/1982, Bottled 14/8/2001, Oak Cask #2003)
83 - Littlemill 14yo 1989/2003 (61.9%, Cadenhead's Authentic Collection, Bottled July 2003, Bourbon Hogshead, 294 bottles)
87 - Macallan 12yo 1989/2001 (60.2%, Cadenhead's Authentic Collection, Bottled October 2001, Sherry Butt)
54 - Tobermory 10yo (40%, OB)

All the 'Aberdeen' and 'Cadenhead's' bottlings I sampled today were fresh discoveries.
That means I can add six fresh malts to my Track Record, bringing the grand total to 508 single malts.

 

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150-F:  Monday, November 17, 2003
Topic:  Virtual Coastal Explorations

I'd love to write a huge report about the third day of Davin's visit, but I simply don't have the time. Things are getting ever more hectic with the 2003 MM Awards tastings and the visit of Krishna and Mark coming closer. So, this report will only skim the surface of our alcoholic adventures on the last day of Davin's visit. It was a mighty interesting session, though. Our trek to the north of Scotland this summer ended in Inverness before we headed back into Speyside, so we decided to 'virtually' explore an alternative route. This route would have taken us north to Orkney before following the coastline westwards to Skye and then south to the holy island of Islay.

We started with a H2H of two malts distilled at now defunct distilleries near Inverness; Glen Albyn and Glen Mhor. Michael Jackson classifies them both as 'Speyside' distilleries in his 'Malt Whisky Companion' but some time ago Serge Valentin argued that they should be considered Northern Highland distilleries. Davin and I looked for typical characteristics that could put them in any of these categories but couldn't really find anything decisive. In fact, I found a good deal of lemon in both noses, which is supposed to be a Lowland marker.

The Glen Mhor 12yo (40%, G&M) was bottled in the early 1990's. The nose was malty with a very distinctive aroma of walnut shells - besides the lemon. It was oilier than the Glen Albyn. The palate was a tad sherried, but too weak and dusty for my tastes - a typical 'old school' G&M bottling that shows little distillery character. Meanwhile, the Glen Albyn 22yo 1977/1999 (43%, Signatory Vintage, Cask #1952) was quite sweet and transparent in the nose, apart from the lemony notes I mentioned earlier. It showed some nice liquorice and salmiak notes later on. I guess you could see those as coastal traits, classifying this as a Northern Highlander. The palate was sourish with a malty centre. It grew dry, bitter and very woody towards the finish. Not good wood - plywood... I went with 76 points for the Glen Mhor and 79 points for the Glen Albyn. Davin rated them 74/75.

Our next H2H took us a little bit further north.
We tried the new Clynelish 14yo (46, OB) against the Glen Ord 23yo 1974/1998 (60.8%, UDRM). The nose of the Clynelish had a peppery prickle that proved we had definitely left Speyside for more coastal pastures. It also showed plenty of spicy notes - it reminded me a lot of curry powder. Later on I got fudge - very nice. The palate didn't quite convince me, but in the end I still arrived at a recommendable 80 points. Davin even went with 84. The nose of the Glen Ord started out very alcoholic with lots of paint thinner. Fortunately, it settles down quickly. The alcoholic feints develop into complex spices and organics, after which I got some nice sweet liquorice notes like in liquorice all sorts. It softens up further with some water, becoming creamier. The taste was quite sweet with a lovely mouth feel. Toffee with a hint of smoke. I arrived at a score of 81 points after sampling a few drams from the freshly opened bottle, but it's definitely one of those malts that improve after oxidation. This is a keeper; I increased my score to 85 points for this one. That's sort of an average for the whole bottle, because I might have scored this particular dram closer to Davin's 88 points. Pretty great stuff - but there are better UDRM's.

Orkney is as far north on the distillery trail as you can go - well, until the new Blackwood distillery on the Shetlands is up and running anyway. And on Orkney you'll find only two distilleries; Scapa and Highland Park. Tonight's H2H focussed on the latter. Davin had never tried the Highland Park 18yo (43%, OB) on my top shelf before, so that was an obvious choice. And this was as good an excuse as any to open an independent bottling of HP to compare it with. We went for the Highland Park 22yo 1977/2000 (43%, Signatory Vintage, C#96/7009). The colour of the OB was much darker than that of the IB; Davin thought the colour of the Signatory spelled bad news. The noses started out nearly identical; sweet and fruity. The OB grows heavier and more sherried quickly. Toffee, rich organics, pipe tobacco and shoe polish. It's more sherried than I remembered. The palate was quite woody and not as sweet as I expected. Meanwhile, the nose of the 22yo IB drops off quickly. It's much 'lighter' and more transparent than the OB. Veggy and grassy. Then I got hay, both dry hay in summer and rotting hay in winter. The palate starts off sweet, growing hotter. Woody, but a tas shallow as well. Liquorice. My score for the 18yo OB was 89 points while the 22yo ended up barely on the good side of average with 78 points.
Davin scored them both a point higher with 90/79 points. Good clean fun.

Time to turn our sights westwards for the rugged island of Skye.
We did another H2H of an IB against an OB; the Talisker 19yo 1980/2000 'Tactical' (50%, OMC, 348 bottles) versus the Talisker 20yo 1981/2002 (62%, OB, Sherry Casks, 9000 Bottles) I decided to open for the occasion. I traded this particular bottle for a Lagavulin 12yo C/S with two other Canadians (Charles & Johanna) last year and if you've read log entry #127 you'll know that it seemed like not such a great deal at the time. When Johanna and I sampled the Talisker from a small nosing glass at the 2002 The Hague Whiskyfestival I scored if in the lower 80's while the Lagavulin 12 ended up around 90 points. That doesn't seem like the perfect swap, does it?

Well, when I sniffed it again (from one of my fiendish 666ml cognac bowls this time), I quickly realised that I may have been on the better end of the deal after all. The nose was very richly sherried with plenty of wonderful organics. Dry roasted almonds. More like a Macallan 18yo than a Talisker 10yo OB. A fabulous experience. The taste was very sherried as well, with plenty of excellent wood. A real sherry monster that goes on and on and on. This is the battery bunny of single malts. I'd have to say this beats any Macallan 18yo or 25yo I've had so far. That's especially impressive when you consider that the bottle was freshly opened. I gave it 92 points while Davin liked it even better with 94 points. And the good news is that UDV submitted this one for the 2003 MM Awards, together with the 1982/2003 successor matured in Bourbon Barrels. I can hardly wait! Being the nasty bastard that I am I gave Davin a sample to bring home to Canada so Johanna could taste what she so carelessly swapped.

But wait, in all the excitement I almost forgot about the 19yo Douglas Laing 'Tactical'.
That turned out to be an excellent malt in its own right. Oddly enough, it seemed sweeter than the OB at first. Then more organics emerged. Sweat. French herbs? Next to the OB, the palate seemed quite 'bourbony'. Wood, smoke and a hint of liquorice. And pepper, of course. Quite sweet, but it needs some time to fully develop. It's a fine dram but not quite as stellar as the 20yo OB. I went with 87 points while Davin gave it 'only' 90 points.

Time to continue our virtual trip along the coast of Scotland - south to Islay this time.
The first H2H brought two versions of Port Ellen together; the Port Ellen 19yo 1982/2001 (43%, McGibbon's Provenance, Spring Distillation) and the Port Ellen 22yo 1979/2001 First Annual Release (56.2%, OB). Both noses were peaty and 'serious'. The nose of the McGibbon's Provenance (another brand of Douglas Laing) showed peat, coffee and just a hint of oil. It mellows out after a while, becoming maltier. String beans? The palate was relatively disappointing with coffee and burnt caramel. Shallow with cheap wood - plywood. Nevertheless, it managed to score 85 points on my personal enjoyment scale. Davin liked it slightly better with 87 points. Meanwhile, the nose of the 'Annual Release' OB presented us with a hint of lemon over a bed of peat. Menthol? It remains peaty and powerful for a long time. I didn't make any notes on the palate but gave it 87 points. Once again Davin scored it a bit higher than me with a score in the 90's: 91 points.

Davin had been keeping track of his expanding malt mileage during the past few days and as it turned out he now had sampled 51 new malts on this extended whisky weekend. He decided to do one final Amsterdam H2H this year to bring the total number to 53 - more new malts than he had tried in the entire year 2001. To end our whisky weekend on a high note we reached for the remainder of two samples sent to me by Serge; the treasure trove bottling of Bowmore 1965 'Full Strength (50%, OB, bottled somewhere in the late 1980's) and the slightly underwhelming Lagavulin 23yo 1979/2002 (46%, Murray McDavid Mission II). The nose of the Bowmore was as fabulous and complex as ever and showed some very nice mocha accents this time. I was so busy enjoying myself that I forgot to make any notes on the taste - see log entry #149 for the full report. In fact, I enjoyed it even more than last time after some breathing, so I happily increased my score from 92 to 95 points just like Davin.

The Lagavulin seemed like a bit of a let-down compared to Bowmore's blast from the past.
I didn't make any tasting notes because I was focused on getting the 'right' score. I had it at 84 points for a long time, but as time went by it just seemed to shrink away compared to the stupendous Bowmore. I finally decided on a score of 82 points while Davin gave it 84 points. I should mention, however, that Davin and I were the only ones to score this top-shelf bottling in the lower 80's. Serge, Olivier and Peter all gave it 89 points while Klaus, Krishna and Mark even scored it in the 90's. Maybe our sample was a bit off the mark somehow? Whatever the reason, it still scored comfortable into 'recommendable' territory.

And thus Davin's malt mileage for this weekend ends up at 53 single malts.
I'd love to reflect on our samplings for a bit longer but I've got many more reports to finish.
 

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Dram Diary 17/11/2003  (Only freshly discovered whiskies and revised scores are listed here.) 

95 - Bowmore 1965 (50%, OB, Bottled 1980's)
80 - Clynelish 14yo (46%, OB)
79 - Glen Albyn 22yo 1977/1999 (43%, Signatory Vintage, Cask #1952)
76 - Glen Mhor 12yo (40%, G&M)
85 - Glen Ord 23yo 1974/1998 (60.8%, UDRM)
89 - Highland Park 18yo (43%, OB)
78 - Highland Park 22yo 1977/2000 (43%, Signatory Vintage, Cask #96/7009)
82 - Lagavulin 23yo 1979/2002 (46%, Murray McDavid Mission II)
87 - Port Ellen 22yo 1979/2001 First Annual Release (56.2%, OB)
87 - Talisker 19yo 1980/2000 'Tactical' (50%, OMC, 348 bottles)
92 - Talisker 20yo 1981/2002 (62%, OB, Sherry Casks, 9000 Bottles)

Well, the Signatory HP 22yo was the only fresh 'discovery' today, so that puts exactly 509 single malts on my Track Record.
 

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150-G:  Friday, November 21, 2003
Topic:  Den Haag Whisky Festival 2003

Short note for Non-Dutch readers: Don't panic, there's nothing wrong with your browser and I haven't suddenly lost my mind either. The gibberish you'll find in the next few paragraphs is just Dutch. By popular demand I've decided to write a report in my mother tongue for a change. Check out the Dram Diary below for the results - or buy yourself a Dutch -English Dictionary and use this report as your first step towards mastering one of the most throat-torturing languages in the world ;-)

Waarde landgenoten,

Hottentottententententoonstelling en paashaasschaamhaarverzamelaar zijn slechts twee van de woorden die ik al sinds geruime tijd op MM heb willen gebruiken teneinde anderstalige lezers te verbijsteren met de rijkheid van onze wonderschone taal. En ziehier - die droom is eindelijk verwezenlijkt ;-)

Wellicht bent u verrast hier plotseling een verslag in uw moerstaal aan te treffen. Ik voelde mij genoopt af te wijken van mijn normale routine nadat enkele whiskyliefhebbers die ik tijdens de 2003 editie van het 'International Malt Whisky Festival' tegen het lijf liep (of liever gezegd tegen het lijf zwalkte) nogal verbaasd reageerden toen ik 'gewoon' Nederlands bleek te spreken. Jawel, ik ben een gewone Hollandse kaaskop - vermoedelijk net als zo'n beetje iedereen die dit dit stukje kan volgen, behoudens misschien een enkele verdwaalde Belg of Zuid-Afrikaan ;-)

Trouwe lezers van deze site hebben kunnen lezen dat ik de twee voorgaande edities van het festival in de Oude Kerk in Den Haag met gemengde gevoelens verliet. Ik ben van huis uit al niet zo'n liefhebber van grote mensenmassa's en de prominente aanwezigheid van diverse vis- en sigarenboeren deden mijn bezwaard gemoed ook al geen goed. Ik was dan ook aangenaam verrast met het ontbreken van walmende verkopers op de 2003 editie van het festival. Dit zorgde ervoor dat ik me dit keer met minder dan normale tegenzin in de drinkende nensenmassa begaf. Het feit dat de entreekaarten voor het festival me ditmaal niets kosten speelde ongetwijfeld ook een rol, evenals de feeŽrieke harpmuziek die de sfeervolle kerk bij tijd en wijle vulde. De doedelende zakken die af en toe ook werden ingezet om de feestvreugde te verhogen konden me aanmerkelijk minder bekoren, maar na een paar goeie (of zelfs enkele minder goeie ;-) single malts wordt zelfs dat op den duur draaglijk...

Nu wilde het toeval dat ik op deze bijzondere dag niet bijzonder goed 'bij neus' was.
Welbeschouwd is dat trouwens niet zo toevallig, als ik drie 'good nose days' per maand heb is het veel. Desalniettemin zat de sfeer er al snel in, vooral nadat ik 'our man overseas' Lex Kraaijeveld eindelijk eens in levende lijve kon ontmoeten. Onze discussie verliep al snel zo geanimeerd dat ik geheel vergat om aantekeningen te maken van mijn eerste paar whiskies. Geen onoverkomelijk probleem, aangezien ik beide whiskies (de Lammerlaw 10yo, 48.2%, Cadenhead's World Whiskies, Bottled June 2003, 240 bottles en de nieuwe 'blue label' Tormore 12yo) onlangs al heb geproefd en beschreven. Ik zag geen aanleiding om mijn eerdere scores (74 en 69 punten respectievelijk) te wijzigen. Die 74 punten voor de Lammerlaw zijn behoorlijk indrukwekkend als je bedenkt dat de oudere single malt uit Schotland het hier aflegt tegen een relatief 'jonkie' uit Nieuw Zeeland.

Na enkele opwarmertjes was mijn eerste 'serieuze' malt de Longrow 10yo 1993 (46%, OB, Sherry & Bourbon). Hij werd geschonken door Springbank's Kate Wright die ik een week eerder tijdens de 'Cadenhead's Challenge' al tegen het bevallige lijf was gelopen. Er ontwikkelde zich al snel een uiterst geanimeerd gesprek - hetgeen wellicht de beknopte aard van mijn notities verklaart... De neus van de Longrow verried een licht turfachtig verleden; ruiger en meer 'ballen' dan de typische Springbank. Meer 'organics' ook. Toch kreeg ik de indruk dat deze whisky - althans de neus - gebaat zou zijn bij een paar jaar meer in het vat. Die indruk werd bevestigd op de tong. Beduidend ruiger dan de gemiddelde Springbank. De score van 83 punten is onvoldoende om de forse prijs te rechtvaardigen.

De documentatie van een groot deel van mijn omzwervingen door de kerk in Den Haag schijnt te ontbreken, maar volgens mijn aantekeningen belandde ik na verloop van tijd bij de kraam van Bresser & Timmer. Ik had het bedenkelijke genoegen tegelijk met Hans Bresser (bekend van Bresser & Timmer) mijn militaire dienstplicht te vervullen in het pittoreske Apeldoorn. Achteraf bezien is het maar goed dat 'de russen' niet zijn gekomen - de Nederlandse whiskywereld zou er waarschijnlijk heel anders hebben uitgezien ;-)

Enfin, ik dwaal weer eens af - iets dat me wel vaker overkomt...
Allereerst schonk Hans me een Linkwood 13yo 1989/2003 Rum Finish (50%, OMC, Cask #7298, 294 Btl.).
Neus: Stoffig. Bier. Beduidend meer organische tonen nadat de whisky een tijdje geademd heeft.
Smaak: Erg levendig gedurende de eerste minuut, maar behoorlijk bitter na verloop van tijd.
Cijfers: 76 punten lijkt me wel genoeg. Weer een voorbeeld van een reddingspoging met rum?

Vervolgens vergastte Hans me op een Glenturret 12yo 1990/2002 Sherry Finish (43%, Chieftain's, Distilled July 1990, Bottled December 2002, Casks 9076-9077, 1584 Flessen). Mijn notities betreffende de neus zijn erg beknopt; 'zeer vreemd'. Ik kan niet met een gerust gemoed zeggen dat ik het erg lekker vond, maar dit is zonder twijfel een uiterst interessante whisky. In de smaak vond ik een aantal elementen die me op een of andere manier aan groenten deden denken. Na rijp beraad besloot ik dat een score van 70 punten gepast zou zijn.

De Laphroaig 14yo 1989/2003 (50%, OMC, Cask Reference 971, Distlled March 1989, Bottled September 2003, 300 Flessen) was van een heel ander kaliber. De neus was verrassend subtiel en deed me denken aan de 15yo 1985/2000 'Laudable' van enkele jaren geleden - voodat OMC de naam Laphroaig mocht gebruiken. De smaak was droog en rokerig zoals vanouds. Deze whisky voelt fantastisch in de mond. Mijn score: 84 punten.

Na nog een rondje door de kerk raakte ik in gesprek met John Glaser van Compass Box Whisky.
Hoewel een aantal van zijn gedachten over whisky op zijn zachts gezegd controversieel zijn te noemen waren we het over een ding hartgrondig eens; het belang van hout. Hij schonk me twee recente creaties in, beginnende met de Compass Box Juvenile (44%, OB), gebottled voor de Parijse bar met dezelfde naam. De neus is bepaald uniek te noemen - extreem fruitig met de geur van passievruchten. Op de tong is de Juvenile ook erg fruitig - hoewel de overheersende indruk hier vooral die van mandarijnen is. De Compass Box Monster (54.9%, OB) ging vergezeld van een interessante test; John daagde me uit om te achterhalen van welke Islay distilleerderij het grootste deel van deze vatting afkomstig is. (Het is een vatting van Ardmore en een Islay malt.) In eerste instantie dacht ik aan Caol Ila, maar na verloop van tijd vond ik steeds meer Ardbeg elementen in de neus - allerlei 'organics' die me deden denken aan een koeien- of paardenstal. De neus had ook de verstraagde ontwikkeling die veel Ardbegs kenmerkt, maar deze manifesteert zich doorgaans in de mond. Toen ik deze whisky proefde vond ik dit 'slow motion' effect niet. In plaats daarvan vond ik zout en pekel en de lichte, bijna frisse turfachtigheid die ik vaak in Caol Ila (en in sommige Laphroaig's) vind. Ik zette daarom uiteindelijk mijn geld op Caol Ila en dat bleek inderdaad het juiste antwoord te zijn. Welnu, ik moet eerlijk toegeven dat dit een van de beste onafhankelijke bottelingen van Caol Ila is die ik tot nu toe heb geproefd - zelfs nadat ze er een Speysider doorheen hebben gegooid.
Mijn score voor de 'Monster' was 86 punten, de 'Juvenile' krijgt 84 punten.

Normaliter zou ik nog diverse rondjes door de kerk hebben gemaakt om zoveel mogelijk nieuw spul te ontdekken maar in dit geval gaf ik de voorkeur aan het voortzetten van mijn gesprekken met John Glaser en Lex Kraaijeveld. Na zo'n dozijn verschillende whiskies (waarvan ruwweg de helft helaas ongedocumenteerd) had mijn brein de slijtageslag met mijn neus en tong dit keer gewonnen. Mijn honger naar alternatieve inzichten over whisky was groter dan naar mijn honger naar de whiskies zelf - ditmaal althans...

Voordat ik dit beknopte verslag afsluit wil ik echter niet nalaten u een waarschuwing mee te geven. Lex vertelde me dat de stuntelende knuppels van de Speyside distilleerderij zojuist een nieuwe potentiŽle ramp de weg op hebben gestuurd: Cķ Dhub (40%, OB). Totdat ik de Loch Dhu 10yo van de Mannochmore distilleerderij ontdekte waren de Drumguish en Glentromie (beiden afkomstig van de voornoemde Speyside distilleerderij) de laagst scorende malt whiskies op mijn Track Record. Blijkbaar warende mensen van Speyside verbolgen over het feit dat de Loch Dhu hun 'kontpositie' op mijn Hit List had overgenomen, want het gerucht wil dat men met de 'Cķ Dhub' heeft geprobeerd een whisky in de stijl van Loch Dhu te recreŽren. De vooruitzichten zijn allerminst veelbelovend, maar ik zal mijn oordeel opschorten totdat ik het miniatuurflesje dat Lex me beloofde ontvangen heb.
Ik zal proberen mijn verlangen tot die tijd te bedwingen ;-)

Proost!

Johannes de Wankelmoedige
 

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Dram Diary 21/11/2003  (Only freshly discovered whiskies and revised scores are listed here.)

OK, back to plain English now. I won't repeat all my notes in English because you should be able to find most of them elsewhere on this site in due time. So, I'll just stick to the highlights here. The most noteworthy discoveries on the festival were:
1) The free goodybag every visitor receives at the Den Haag Whiskyfestival becomes nicer every year!
2) Douglas Laing has started to include cask numbers (or at least cask references) on their labels. Excellent!
3) John Glaser proved that vatting might not be such a bad idea after all. Compass Box deserves the attention it gets.
4) The great minds behind the Speyside distillery have decided to try and recreate the sadly missed Loch Dhu ;-)
I forgot to rate most malts I tried, but here are the four new discoveries I managed to score;

84 - Compass Box 'Juvenile' (44%, OB, Vatting)
86 - Compass Box 'Monster' (54.9%, OB, vatting of Ardmore and Caol Ila)
70 - Glenturret 12yo 1990/2002 Sherry Finish (43%, Chieftain's, Distilled 7/1990, Bottled 12/2002, Casks 9076-9077)
84 - Laphroaig 14yo 1989/2003 (50%, Douglas Laing OMC, Cask Reference 971, 300 Bottles)
76 - Linkwood 13yo 1989/2003 Rum Finish (50%, Douglas Laing OMC, Cask #7298, 294 Bottles)
83 - Longrow 10yo 1993 (46%, OB, Vatting of sherry & bourbon casks)

That puts the number of malts on my Track Record at 513. (I can't count the 'Compass Box' vatted malts.)
 

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150-H:  Monday, December 1, 2003
Topic:  Manic Monday

Phew... When I started writing this special report I had planned on reporting on every single day of dramming (especially the tastings concerning the MM Awards) but due to my hectic schedule during the past few months I'm afraid I'll have to change my plans. Please check out Malt Maniacs Issue #9 and the 2003 Awards Addendum for more detailed reports about the 2003 MM Awards. On these pages I'll have to stick to a few of the highlights.

Obviously, finishing the MM Awards tastings with Krishna and Mark on December 1 was one of the highlights. They flew in two days ago especially for the awards and today we finished the last samples - about two dozen of them. After three days of heavy dramming we were getting used to the strict regime, so Krishna and Mark felt ready to end the evening with some matrix duty. Impressive - I was quite content with calling it a night.

I suggested a H2H comparison between the Braes of Glenlivet 12yo 1989/2001 (62.1%, Cadenhead's) and its older sibling, the Braes of Glenlivet 17yo 1979/1997 (58.1%, Signatory Vintage). Both of them preferred the Cadenhead's bottling, but the difference was marginal. Mark went with 89 points for the 12yo Cadenhead's and 87 points for the 17yo Signatory Vintage, Krishna with 87 and 85 points respectively. That's pretty much in the same area as the score of 88 points for both bottlings I arrived at when I sampled them with Davin two weeks ago. We poured ourselves another dram while we tried to figure out why Pernod Ricard mothballed this distillery last year.

We finished this manic monday with an old favourite of mine; the Ardbeg 17yo (40%, OB, Bottled +/- 2000). Once again the minds of the maniacs were pretty much in synch; Mark agreed with my score of 89 points while Krishna went slightly lower with 85 points. Crag Daniels is the only maniac to score the Ardbeg 17yo even lower with 84 points - all other maniacs put it in the upper eighties or lower nineties.

And that's all I have to report. No new malts for me, so no Dram Diary this time.
 

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150-I:  Tuesday, December 2, 2003
Topic:  Freestyle Dramming

With the MM Awards samples out of the way, we could kick back and relax a little.
I had invited some Dutch malt lovers over for the occasion and the session was focused more on conversation and enjoyment than serious analysis. Once again I'm going to rush through this report at lightning speed. It may not show from these notes but we had lots and lots of fun with the publication of the MM Awards behind us.

For this report I'm simply going to list the malts we sampled and the scores of the certified malt maniacs in a special MiniMatrix. Davin akso sampled these bottlings when he came over two weeks ago. Well, there was one rather special bottling among them that Davin didn't get to try. Alexander van der Veer had already donated the Aberdeen bottlings of Aberlour and Highland Park when we met for the Cadenhead's Challenge two weeks ago. I also invited him over for tonight and we used the opportunity to swap some bottles. In exchange for a bottle of the stupendous UDRM Port Ellen 1978/2000 and an OMC 'Laudable' I received a few other bottles, including the new Ardbeg Uigeadail and an interesting bottling from a Speyside distillery that was closed in 1993; Pittyvaich.

The Pittyvaich 21yo 1976/1998 (43%, Signatory Vintage, Sherry Butt #12241, Bottle #116 of 420) was the only new single malt I tried tonight, so it's the only whisky I'll include the tasting notes of.
Nose: Wowie! Extremely sherried. Old fruits. Wood. Pipe tobacco. Mint? Rubber? Unique.
Simply fabulous. Complex organics. Amazing complexity, worthy of a score in the 90's.
Taste: Rather woody at first, but still smooth. Develops into a subdued rum or coffee heat.
With time it becomes just a tad too bitter and shallow to warrant a score in the 90's.
Score: 88 points . It's quite extreme, though - you have to love sherry monsters.
I wouldn't be surprised if some people didn't like this one as much - it's just too extreme.

And I'm afraid that's it as far as tonight's tasting notes are concerned.
Here's an overview of tonight's malt mileage;

JH KN MA - 02/12/2003 MiniMatrix Malts:
78 75 75  - Aberfeldy 12yo (43%, OB)
80 72 73  - Aberlour 11yo 1989 (43%, Aberdeen Distillers)
81 81 89  - Bladnoch 14yo 1989/2003 (53.6%, Cadenhead's)
85 92 90  - Cragganmore 1976/1993 (53.8%, G&M)
80 83 89  - Glenfarclas 15yo (46%, OB)
89 85 89  - Glenfarclas 1983/2001 Family Reserve Edition #4 (46%, OB)
84 83 81  - Highland Park 12yo 1989 (43%, Aberdeen Distillers)
89 89 91  - Highland Park 18yo (43%, OB)
83 89 85  - Littlemill 14yo 1989/2003 (61.9%, Cadenhead's)
88 84 89  - Pittyvaich 21yo 1976/1998 (43%, Signatory Vintage)

That's it for this report - once again no Dram Diary.
Just check the MiniMatrix for our scores - or have a look at the real matrix for the big picture.
 

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150-J:  Wednesday, December 3, 2003
Topic:  Light Regime

Wednesday was our fifth day of dramming, so our livers could do with a light regime for a change. Not our stomachs, though - Krishna collected some exotic spices and ingredients on the oriental market nearby and prepared a wonderful spicy Indian dish for us. Well - I thought it was spicy; he told us he made it extra mild to suit our western palates. Go figure... Anyway; here are the malts we tried this evening (in blind H2H's);

JH KN MA - 03/12/2003 MiniMatrix Malts:
67 80 72  - Arran NAS Non-Chillfiltered (46%, OB, Bottled +/- 2003)
75 78 76  - Banff 18yo 1980 (43%, Chieftains Choice)
82 83 79  - Blair Athol 13yo 1989/2002 (58.8%, Cadenhead's, Bourbon Hogshead)
78 80 83  - Glenglassaugh 1986 (40%, G&M)
74 80 79  - Glen Keith NAS 1983 (43%, OB)
79 00 81  - Genmorangie NAS Traditional 100 Proof (57.2%, OB)
82 86 85  - Genmorangie 10yo 100 Proof (57.2%, OB)
85 89 85  - Port Ellen 19yo 1982/2001 (43%, McGibbon's Provenance)

I didn't feel the need to change any of my scores, except for that for the Banff.
When I brought a sample of the Banff 18yo 1980 (43%, Chieftains Choice) to Scotland this summer I was surprised the other maniacs all scored in in the 80's. Personally, I found the nose restrained, sweetish and rather unremarkable - worth a score in 'average' territory at best. If that's the best they can do after eighteen years I'm not in any rush to buy myself another bottle. It was kind of reassuring that Krishna and Mark scored it in the seventies as well. That gave me the confidence to lower my score from 77 to 75 points.
 
This is one closed distillery I'm not shedding any tears over - at least not yet.

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

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150-K:  Thursday, December 4, 2003
Topic:  Mental Meltdown

And this is where things started to go horribly wrong.
Before I continue, however, I should explain that by this time I was in a pretty sorry state. Having two maniacs over for the MM Awards tastings was a great experience, but during the last few days I've had very little sleep. I'm a very light sleeper and the presence of a heavily snoring opera singer in my small apartment made sure I only got a few hours of sleep each night. Combine that with the frustrations of a few rather tedious free-lance assignments that seemed almost impossible to wrap up and you'll understand that my social battery was nearly depleted by the time we had to leave Amsterdam for the festivities Serge had organised in Alsace.

The plan was that Krishna, Mark and I would simply drive to Alsace in a car I rented for the occasion. Turckheim is located some 750 kilometers from Amsterdam and (theoretically) the route is fairly easy; all you have to do is follow the river Rhine south-east and make a sharp right turn just before you enter Switserland. Despite some delays things went pretty much according to plan until we reached the 'autobahn' in the German Ruhrgebiet just across the border. Everybody that has ever tried to navigate his way through this hidious area knows that it's easy to lose your way there - so that's what I did. That's happened to me before, but this time several detours, traffic jams and a completely overcast sky conspired to keep us from finding our way out of the maze.

When we were still cruising the Ruhrgebiet around 16:00 I realised we would never make it to Alsace in time. That was enough to make me lose whatever was left of my mojo. I'm no great driver to begin with and as my frustration grew my driving became ever more erratic. It became increasingly dangerous for K&M to be in the same car as me so I decided to head back to Amsterdam to try and find an alternative mode of transportation to Alsace for K&M. We were back where we started a little before 20:00 and managed to find a night-train to Strassbourg that would put K&M in Strassbourg the next morning. I felt extremely bad about missing this year's Alsacian adventures but I had completely lost my mojo and needed a few days of peace and quiet - and lots of sleep.

Before we left for the train station we decided to open a bottle and have a 'bon voyage' dram.
We picked the new Ardbeg Uigeadail (54.2%, OB) I acquired from Alexander a few days ago.
Nose: Deep and brooding, but not as powerful as I expected at first. Then it opens up.
Organics and swampy aroma's. Seems not quite as peaty as the 10yo and even the 17yo.
A hint of sweetness as well, but not as fruity as the 17yo. Really needs a few minutes.
With a dash of water the peat jumps to the foreground. More smoke and dust as well.
Taste: At C/S there's plenty of peat. Af a short 'delay' it becomes very salty and smoke.
There's a sour undercurrent as well, which slowly takes over and becomes dry and woody.
It's a bloody great dram, but I wouldn't score it as high on the palate as on the nose.
Score: 89 points for now, but if this bottle behaves anything like the other Ardbeg OB's I've tried it will improve with time, meaning it could easily reach the lower 90's in due time. That being said, I don't quite think this is a match for the Laphroaig 10yo Cask Strength 'Green Stripe' (I haven't tried the new 'red stripe' yet.)

No time for any more drams - we had to rush to get Mark & Krishna on their train in time.
I was in no mood to drive, so we took the subway to Amsterdam central station and arrived just in time to pick up the tickets before the office closed. It was only then that the clerk told us that the 'night-train' K&M booked included a stop-over of nearly four hours at the Venlo train station. The weather was unusually warm for the time of year, but as the picture in MM#9 proves it was quite cold enough for Krishna. Fortunately, I had the foresight to give them half a bottle of Lagavulin 16yo to keep warm on their trip. That was the good news, but when we waited for the train we analysed today's events and found out that the devil farted in our faces several times today. First of all the route of the night train to Strassbourg included Dusseldorf and Venlo; two places we visited during the disastrous day trip. If I had put them on the train there, they would have made it to Alsace the very same night. And we missed the last train from Amsterdam that would have put them in Strassbourg the same night because we wanted to check out the cuisine of a Mc-Drive. Oh, the humanity of it all...

I returned home as soon as Krishna and Mark were safely on their way to Alsace.
My need for sleep was much bigger than my need for malts, so I went straight to bed.
And that concludes my report on the day of the big mental meltdown.
 

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150-L:  Sunday, December 7, 2003
Topic:  Alsacian Afterparty

While Krishna and Mark were dramming in Alsace I used my time to catch up on some work and some sleep.
After three days without a single glass of whisky, I was in a great dramming mood when K&M returned from Alsace on Sunday evening. They were in great spirits and, better yet, brought samples of many great spirits with them. While they shared their tall stories from Alsace we sampled a few samples Serge had prepared for us.

We started with a Port Ellen 23yo 1979/2003 (46%, Wilson & Morgan Barrel Selection, Butt #6769). This was one of the bottlings submitted by Fabio Rossi for the Malt Maniacs Awards 2003 but because he submitted a small bottle of this top shelf whisky there simply wasn't enough to send out to all the maniacs. That meant it couldn't compete in the official awards competition, but now we still would be able to rate it for the matrix.
Nose: Wow! Plenty of heavy sherry! Wonderful complex fruity and woody notes.
Cough syrup. Pipe tobacco. Fruit sweets. Soy Sauce. Mint? No peat, though...
It keeps growing in complexity - now I get oriental spices. Smoke. Wet dog.
Fabulous. This reminds me a bit of the Talisker 20yo Sherry that won a gold medal.
Taste: Smoke and sherry - a dangerous combination. Cool and dry. Coffee. A little bit 'winey'.
Fruity. A tad too woody towards the finish. Top malt, but not quite as impressive on the palate.
Score: I'd have to go with 91 points for this one. The nose is absolutely AMAZING and based on the nose alone this could have ended up in the upper 90's. Sadly enough, the palate isn't nearly as complex. In fact, it's a tad too woody for my tastes. Nevertheless, the stunning nose keeps it comfortably in the 90's. Most other maniacs scored this one in the 90's as well, but Krishna was slightly less impressed with 88 points. Mark is the only one with a radically different opinion; he gave it just 75 points.

Oh, boy - that Port Ellen certainly is a hard act to follow.
Still, we gave it an honest try with the Dailuaine 22yo 1973 (61.8%, UDRM).
Nose: Ooh, very pleasant. Sweet and slightly dusty. Spicy with a suggestion of fruits.
Light organics. Hint of vegetables. Cake. Rum. Not terribly complex, but very attractive.
Faint smoke. Hint of peat? A splash of water didn't really seem to change the aroma.
Taste: Sweet and fruity at cask strength. Smooth start. Apple? Good body. Cake?
Becomes hotter and flatter with water, it seems. Gritty and bitter with time. Too bad.
This one reminds me of last month's Glen Ord 23yo 1974/1998 (60.8%, UD Rare Malts).
Score: 85 points - exactly the same as the UDRM Gl'Ord. Mark and Krishna were slightly less thrilled with scores in the lower 80's - just like all the other maniacs that tried it, actually. We all seem to agree this is a recommendable whisky. I'd just recommend it with a little more persistence and tenacity than most other maniacs ;-)

Another one of the treasures from France was the Glendullan 23yo 1972 (62.43%, UDRM).
Nose: Sweet. Cow stable. Growing more complex, but nothing really distinguishable.
I had it at 80 points until some playful spices and organics appeared in the nose. Sorrel?
Taste: Ultra-sweet start. Then it grows dry, hot and herbal. Feels a bit like oatmeal. Nice.
More sherried and fruitier towards the finish. My kind of malt, but I like it more than I should.
Score: 83 points - but I have to admit that might be just a tad on the generous side.
I can't say it's really complex, but I'm just a sucker for these sweet cask strenght UDRM's.

Sadly enough I missed this year's Big Brorathon in Alsace.
To my delight, one of Serge's consolation samples was the Brora 20yo 1975/1996 (60.75%, UDRM).
Nose: Sure, there's some peat right from the start - growing stronger. Wet dog.
Not unlike vegetable stock at first, more like ox tail soup later on. Farmy notes.
Taste: Salt & sweet. Wonderful balance. Perfectly drinkable at cask strength.
Score: 88 points for now. That might be a bit on the conservative side, but I'll try it again for the big alternative Brorathon I've got planned for the end of December. For now I guess this will just have to do.

After four samples provided by Serge we turned our attention to my own shelves again.
We sampled the Tamdhu-Glenlivet 10yo (58.9%, Cadenhead's), the two latest batches of the Aberlour A'bunadh and the Talisker 19yo 1980/2000 'Tactical' (50%, OMC). I've reported on all these malts before, so if you're interested in my tasting notes you can simply follow the links on my Track Record.

Well - there's one exception. It has taken me almost the entire bottle, but after tasting it again with Krishna and Mark I agreed that the Talisker 19yo 1980/2000 'Tactical' (50%, DL OMC, 348 Bottles) deserved more credit than I've given it so far. I've increased the score to 91 points for now and will try it again in a few weeks.

JH KN MA - 07/12/2003 MiniMatrix Malts:
87 90 90  - Aberlour NAS A'bunadh (60.2%, OB, Batch# 8)
88 90 91  - Aberlour NAS A'bunadh (60.0%, OB, Batch# 9)
88 90 90  - Brora 20yo 1975/1996 (60.75%, UDRM, 20cl, LLXJ00000174)
85 84 81  - Dailuaine 22yo 1973 (61.8%, UDRM, 20cl, LLXJ00000176)
83 83 82  - Glendullan 23yo 1972 (62.43%, UDRM, 20cl, LLXJ00000160)
91 88 75  - Port Ellen 23yo 1979/2003 (46%, Wilson & Morgan Barrel Selection, Butt #6769)
91 89 91  - Talisker 19yo 1980/2000 'Tactical' (50%, Douglas Laing OMC, 348 Bottles)
82 83 89  - Tamdhu-Glenlivet 10yo (58.9%, Cadenhead's)

And that's it for this report - no time for loitering...

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Dram Diary 07/12/2003  (Only freshly discovered whiskies and revised scores are listed here.) 

88 - Brora 20yo 1975/1996 (60.75%, UD Rare Malts)
85 - Dailuaine 22yo 1973 (61.8%, UD Rare Malts)
83 - Glendullan 23yo 1972 (62.43%, UD Rare Malts)
91 - Port Ellen 23yo 1979/2003 (46%, Wilson & Morgan Barrel Selection, Butt #6769)
90 - Talisker 19yo 1980/2000 'Tactical' (50%, Douglas Laing OMC, 348 Bottles)

Great - four new malts on my Track Record and a score in the 90's for a bottling I've got in my Reserve Stock.
Together with the Signatory Vintage Pittyvaich 21yo 1976 I tried on Tuesday and the new Ardbeg Uigeadail I sampled on Thursday, there are now 519 single malts on my
Track Record. Only 481 more malts before my next 'promotion' on the matrix...

 

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150-M:  Monday, December 8, 2003
Topic:  Another Manic Monday

The last evening of Krishna & Mark's visit to Amsterdam was dedicated to some more matrix dramming. Most of the stuff we sampled was familiar to me, so I'll skip the tasting notes this time. We did get to sample a bunch of interesting Ardbegs (including the Ardbeg 25yo 1975/2000 '702 Bottles' from Douglas Laing that Jim Murray raves about in his bible) but I'll reserve my judgement on those for the big Ardbeg session I've got planned. The other personal highlight of the evening was the Laphroaig 10yo Cask Strength (57.3%, OB, 100cl) - and judging by their scores Mark and Krishna seemed to agree. I felt it was time to increase my score to 94 points.
Here's tonight's 'minimatrix';

JH KN MA - 08/12/2003 MiniMatrix Malts:
00 88 93  - Ardbeg 10yo (Cadenhead's, Funky White Label)
00 85 93  - Ardbeg 11yo 1991/2002 (62.2%, Cadenhead's Bond Reserve)
00 92 93  - Ardbeg 25yo 1975/2000 (50%, Douglas Laing OMC, October/October, 702 Bottled)
80 72 74  - Clynelish 18yo 1983 (46%, Benivor by W. Milroy)
81 85 83  - Glenmorangie NAS Port Wood Finish (43%, OB)
81 83 81  - Glen Scotia 12yo Full Proof (54%, OB, Bottled 1980's)
73 84 83  - Imperial 18yo 1982 (43%, Chieftain's Choice)
72 70 71  - Knockdhu 12yo (43%, OB)
94 94 95  - Laphroaig 10yo Cask Strength (57.3%, OB, 100cl)
87 89 90  - Laphroaig 13yo 1988/2001 (46%, MmcD, MM2108, 'Double D Cup')
85 76 74  - Mortlach 12yo 1989/2002 (43%, Coopers Choice, Sherry Cask)
82 86 85  - Mortlach 21yo (40%, Sestante)
87 90 91  - Port Ellen 22yo 1979 Annual Release #1 (56.2%, OB)
69 68 72  - Tormore 12yo (40%, OB, Blue Label)

I would have loved to report in much more detail on our adventures during Mark and Krishna's visit, but I've still got many more reports to finish. So, I'm afraid the events of November and December 2003 will remain partly undocumented. Be that as it may, I still think it was a success - even though my heart weeps for missing the Alsace festivities this year. We managed to score many malts for the matrix and solved a good deal of my shelf problems in the process. Check out Malt Maniacs #9 for some tall stories by Krishna and Mark.
 

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150-N:  Tuesday, December 9, 2003
Topic:  The Big Sleep

Well, I dropped off Mark and Krishna at the airport this morning and after a quick business meeting in town I headed back home to catch up on some much needed sleep. I slept like a baby throughout the day and woke up again around 18:00 when my body told me it was time for a dram - or two. Hmmm.... It seems my body could get used to a regime of daily dramming very easily. I'm not quite sure that's healthy...

In fact, I'm quite sure it's not healthy but it looks like I'll have to drink almost daily for the next few weeks anyway, whether I like it or not. My shelf problems are not completely over yet (I still have about a dozen more open bottles than I should) and to complicate things even further I've got many samples left to sample this year. The strange result of this situation is that tonight's session saw me confronted with a bunch of Lowlanders. Those of you who've read my E-pistle about the Four Seasons know that during the winter I usually prefer the heat of a peat monster. Well, considering this has been the warmest winter in ages I guess I can afford to be less dogmatic about the weather for a change. Let's throw all sense of decorum out of the window and start the dramming.

My first sample was the Glenkinchie 1989/2002 Distillers Edition (43%, OB, G 276-7-D). I wasn't to crazy about an earlier batch (G/273-7-D, distilled in 1986) but I definitely liked it better than the standard 10yo offering because the Amontillado sherry casks had given this fairly neutral malt more body and character.
Nose: Rubber. Industrial oil. Dust. Bicycle repair shop. Smokier and grainier with time. Peculiar.
A second nosing produced some of the sweet sherry I found in the earlier batch, but not a lot.
Taste: Weird. Dry. Big burn. Grainy. Gritty. Bourbony. Sweeter later on. Hot, winey finish.
Score: 74 points - two points more than the first time I tried it, but still below average.

Next up were four different bottlings of Rosebanks, a Lowland distillery closed in 1993.
I started with the Rosebank 10yo 1991/2001 (43%, Chieftain's, Hogsheads #1646-1648, Distilled 05/1991, Bottled 10/2001). I've tried a slightly older version in July 2003 that was finished in sherry casks. The fact that it scored just 63 points could indicate that it was an attempt to rescue some 'bad' casks. If that's the case, these could be the 'good' casks they selected from the same batch. But then again, looking at the cask numbers there hasn't been a lot of selecting going on - they just bottled the next three casks in the warehouse.
Nose: Soft and slightly floral, then a whiff of citrus. Vanilla? Light. A classic Lowlander.
Taste: Soft, smooth start, quickly growing gritty, hot and bitter towards the centre.
Score: 69 points. I like it a little bit better than the sherry finished version but ultimately it lacks the depth and character to warrant a score in the 70's. But that shouldn't come as a surprise from a confirmed 'hater' of Rosebank. With the exception of the amazing 20yo UDRM bottling all versions scored below average.

It's not likely I'll break that trend with the Rosebank 11yo 1989/2001 (43%, Ultimate, Cask #789, Bottle #445). I've bought this one sort of by mistake; a bottle I bought some two years ago scored just 74 points.
Nose: Short, sweet start, grower prickly and alcoholic quickly. Not unlike a white rum. Smoke?
But then it softens up, becoming sweeter again. Definitely more character than the Chieftain's.
Taste: Starts soft and sweet but becomes harsh and very dry quickly. Astringent flat finish.
Score: the 74 points I gave the previous bottle seems a tad conservative in hindsight, but I'll keep it for now and give this fresh bottle a little while to breathe. Even as it is, it's one of the best young Rosebanks I've tried.

I gave the Rosebank 10yo 1992/2002 (46%, Murray McDavid, MM 1413, Bourbon Casks) 72 points the last time I tried it. Given MurMac's well-deserved reputation I really need to check if my first impression is correct.
Nose: Citrus and paint thinner at first. Orange skins. Sweeter and polished with time.
Something coastal and salty in the background as well with water. Hint of smoke?
Taste: Fairly weak start. Definite citrus. Sweet & sour like lemonade in the hot centre.
Bone dry and a tad winey in the finish. Not a lot of depth or complexity, I'm afraid.
Score: 72 points seems about right. Not that bad for a Rosebank this young, I guess.

The Rosebank 14yo 1989/2003 (46%, Whisky Galore) was bottled at the same strength as the MurMac, but a few years older. Let's find out if the extra years in the cask have helped it escape mediocricy...
Nose: Grainy. A little oily with dusty chaff in the background. Faint hint of citrus?
Faint organics. This is the grainiest, dustiest one yet - could be a young grain whisky...
Taste: Weak and oily with a chemical sweetness. Gritty, hot, bitterish finish.
Score: 70 points. It's not my kind of malt, but it's a decent whisky on itself.

Now it's time to turn our sights to the past. The Inverleven 1989/2003 (45%, G&M, Bulky bottle, bottled for LMdW ) was distilled just a few years before this Lowland distillery was mothballed in 1992. I've only sampled two other bottlings so far, so this is a great chance to expand my horizons. All the more so because this is one of the new bottlings in the new 'ideal proof' G&M range Derek Hancock told us about this summer in Scotland.
Nose: Wow! Fruity and mellow. Liquorice in the back of the nose. Coebergh. Quite unique!
It opens up further with time. Fruity like heart candy or bubblegum. Whiff of soap perfume.
Cavendish pipe tobacco. Organics. Cow stable. I've never tried anything like this! Great!
Taste: Salt liquorice in the start - more obvious than in any other malt I tried so far. Pine?
Very fruity and sherried as well. Not as stupendous as the nose, but quite good enough.
Score: 87 points - two points more than I gave it the first time just because it's so extreme.
Liquid Liquorice - unlike anything I know. Did they use a normal sherry cask for this?

Oh boy, that was a nice surprise. Too bad it's the only Inverleven on tonight's menu. No Auchentoshans or Bladnochs either, for that matter, but there should be plenty of opportunities to try some other expressions from these distilleries because they are still active. Unfortunately, that's not the case with the Saint Magdalene (a.k.a. Linlithgow) distillery. The Saint Magadalene 24yo 1978/2002 (50%, Douglas Laing OMC, 504 bottles) scored no less than 90 points when I first tried it - making it the second best Lowlander I ever tried.
Nose: OOoaah... Very classy. Good sherry, good wood. Fruity sweetness. Tobacco.
Smoke. Gunpowder. Toffee. Mighty complex. This almost seems like a sherried Speysider.
Taste: Fruity. Woody and sherried - almost like a Macallan? Sweet. Hint of liquorice. Lovely.
Smoke? With time (and a dash of water) I even imagined a hint of peat on the palate.
Score: 91 points. That's right! Maybe just a tad too woody, but otherwise almost perfect.
Another Magda makes it into the 90's. Great stuff - try to get a bottle if you can.

The higher proof can't disguise the fact that the Linlithgow 1982/2000 (61.6%, Scott's Selection) is a simpler, more straightforward malt than the OMC. I'm quite sure we can trace the differences back to the wood. If I'm not mistaken the OMC was matured in a sherry cask while the Scott's Selection comes from a bourbon cask.
Nose: Sweet, but slightly grainy and oily in the background. Needs a minute to open up.
Growing complexity. Faint organics. Maybe just a tad fruitier after adding some water.
Taste: Hot and sweet at cask strength. A little bit malty. Grittier and fruitier with water.
After a while (and some more water) it grows drier and even picks up some medicinal traits.
Score: 82 points seems about right. This bottle will always be special to me because I bought it in Scotland and we opened it there as well to pledge the first dram to the Scottish spirits ater surviving 'The Big Crash'.

And that's all for this Lowlands session. Time to catch up on some more sleep...

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Dram Diary 09/12/2003  (Only freshly discovered whiskies and revised scores are listed here.) 

74 - Glenkinchie 1989/2002 Distiller's Edition (43%, OB, G 276-7-D)
87 - Inverleven 1989/2003 (45%, G&M, Bulky bottle, bottled for La Maison du Whisky)
69 - Rosebank 10yo 1991/2001 (43%, Chieftain's, Casks #1646-1648)
72 - Rosebank 10yo 1992/2002 (46%, Murray McDavid, MM 1413, Bourbon)
70 - Rosebank 14yo 1989/2003 (46%, Whisky Galore)
91 - Saint Magadalene 24yo 1978/2002 (50%, DL OMC, 504 bottles, Dec bottling)

Great. Six fresh entries on my Track Record, bringing the grand total to 525 single malts.
 

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150-O:  Friday, December 12, 2003
Topic:  Re-tracing our Speyside Steps

I've been very busy over the last few days, leaving me little time for dramming.
Properly detoxicated I felt more than ready to resume the sampling process tonight.
And once again I'm going to ignore the Islay malts on my shelves in favour of a few Highlanders I usually enjoy most during spring or summer. This time I decided to retrace our steps and have a look at a few samples from distilleries we visited seven months ago in Scotland. I was exposed to an overload of information on our 'tour de force', so I had to review the product of these distilleries once more, this time under controlled circumstances.

We spent most of our time in the Speyside area, so that will be the focus of tonight's session. Nevertheless, I'd like to start with a malt from the Midlands; the Blair Athol 13yo 1989/2002 (58.8%, Cadenhead's, Bourbon Hogshead, Bottled June 2002, 240 Bottles). I found the 12yo Flora & Fauna bottling served at the distillery good but not great; this Cadenhead's did slightly better during earlier tastings. Time to empty the bottle.
Nose: Rich and malty. Sweet and simple. Whiffs of light fruits (apple) and paint thinner.
It remains fairly simple, although some pleasant organics pop up now and then.
Taste: A little fruity. Sweetish start, evolving into a coffee bitter finish. Grows harsher.
Score: 79 points seems about right. The taste drops off after a few minutes (too much menthol, maybe?), pulling it just out of recommendable territory. It's pleasant enough but for 54 Euro's I expect something more.

We also visited Edradour while we were in the Midlands, but the bottle of the 10yo OB that's on my shelves right now is a real disaster and I don't want to spoil my good mood today. Instead, I'll trace our steps north to the Speyside coast. Serge, Davin, Krishna and I met up with Craig and Rosemary at the Benromach distillery, so it seems only fitting that I'd try the Benromach 18yo (40%, OB, J9/3JG) we also sampled at the distillery.
Nose: Soft maltiness with late fruits and organics in the background. Honey? Water melon?
Sweeter with more citrus after a while. This is a strange one - interesting development over time.
Hint of oil. Then a soapy perfume takes centre stage for the rest of the dram. What happened?
After 10 minutes it bounces back again with organics and maybe even a whiff of peat.
Palate: Starts of rather weak, but then a solid sweet and fruity centre livens things up.
Smoke? Doesn't respond well to oxygen, though. It turns quite bitter within a few months.
Score: 78 points . It almost threatens to go into Bowmore Darkest territory like some Edradours, but as far as I'm concerned this manages to stay just on the right side of the line.

After visiting Benromach and the G&M warehouses this summer we proceeded to Glenrothes, where we received a wonderful welcome from Ronnie Cox and Marion Ferguson. So, it was with fond memories that I proceeded with a bunch of OB's from Glenrothes, starting with the Glenrothes 1989/2000 (43%, OB, L0517C L1109).
Nose: Very restrained at first. Something vaguely malty. Spices & organics with time.
Spices grow more prominent over time - like a rich Kantonese dinner. Hint of soap?
Palate: Hesitant start, then a long malty centre develops. Malty bitterness.
Score: 79 points at first. A good malt but not interesting enough to make it 'recommendable'.
When I sampled it a second time, I liked it slightly better. Nice candy sweetness on the palate.
While I still can't get very excited about Glenrothes, it's without a doubt a recommendable dram.
So, I decided to increase the score to 80 points. You simply can't go far wrong with Glenrothes.

The Glenrothes 1979/2002 (43%, OB, L0545B 05:07 12:18 L9) is almost twice as old as the 1989/2000 vintage that I just tried, but earlier tastings indicated that it wasn't exactly twice as good - even though it's almost twice as expensive. But in all fairness, that goes for all malts past 'a certain age'. Simple economics.
Nose: Nutty and polished. Aaah... Organics. Interesting but not very powerful at first.
It opens up quite nicely, though. Becomes ever more interesting. Ivy after a rainstorm?
Some sweet and very subtle sherry notes add just the right amount of 'joie de vivre'.
Palate: Smooth start. Not as sweet as I expected. becomes very fruity. Wood. Nice!
Score: 83 points .  I had it at 80 first but the score just kept creeping upwards.
When I returned to the rest of the sample after almost two months I stuck by my score.
This is a very fine dram - a proof of craftsmanship that won't offend many people.

The Glenrothes 1973/2000 (43%, OB, L1878/L9 30 01) takes us almost another decade further back in time. When I tried it at the distillery I gave it 83 points but in hindsight that might have been a tad generous.
Nose: Sweet (almost grainy) start with a growing sherry chorus. Polished oak. Old coffee.
It a bit restrained at first but after a while it opens up. Complex organics. Perfume.
Palate: Dry, fruity and very woody. Hint of soap? A tad too woody in the finish for me.
It doesn't have the 'gravitas' you usually find in malts of a certain age. No match for the nose.
Score: 81 points . Based on just the nose I'd go a bit higher, but sadly the palate end in a woody grave. I'm not the only malt maniac who actually prefers the 1979/2002 over this 1973/2000 bottling.

OK, now it's time to leave Glenrothes behind and have a quick look at two bottlings from Glenfarclas. The distillery visit was another one of the highlights of our trip and the Glenfarclas 33yo 1970/2003 (46%, OB, Sherry cask #2022, Bottled for LMW) brought back many wonderful memories, even though we didn't try it there.
Nose: Creamy, malty and mellow. Hint of smoke, growing stronger. Very accessible.
Fruit and wood. Water melon? All kinds of fruits, actually - like a bag of mixed fruit sweets.
Gummy bears? Intruiging spices playing around in the background. Hint of peat? Stock cubes?
Palate: Sweet start, growing woody and fruity quickly. Hotter and hotter. Long fruity finish.
Score: 89 points - two points up from my 87 points for my first dram. It's a really excellent dram, but for me it's just a tad too uni-dimensional to make it into the 90's. A great malt after dinner with a chocolate souffle.

We sampled the Glenfarclas '105' (60%, OB) at the distillery but the fresh bottle I just pulled from my reserve stock was bottled one or two years earlier. I wanted to open this bottle because the alcohol level in the bottle had dropped below 'the shoulder', indicating that the tin screwcap might not have sealed it perfectly.
Nose: Deep an sweet start. Fruits. Sharp. Not very refined, but it has lots of character.
Taste: Fruity. Sweet. Hot with lots of power. Big centre. Strange. A bit winey in the finish.
Score: 82 points , one point more than an old bottle from the mid 90's. That could be further proof of oxidation; usually a bottle takes a while to 'break in'. Alternatively, I may just have underscored it in the past.

Those of you who've read my Scotland Report will know that we finished our tour with a visit to Aberlour, but since I have a big Aberlour session planned for January I'll skip that one and call it a night. I need my sleep because I've got a gruelling sampling schedule ahead of me. Read on for the sordid details...

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Dram Diary 12/12/2003  (Only freshly discovered whiskies and revised scores are listed here.) 

78 - Benromach 18yo (40%, OB, G&M, Bottled +/- 2003)
79 - Blair Athol 13yo 1989/2002 (58.8%, Cadenhead's, Bourbon Hogshead, Bottled June 2002, 240 Bottles)
82 - Glenfarclas '105' (60%, OB, Bottled +/- 2000)
89 - Glenfarclas 33yo 1970/2003 (46%, OB, Sherry Cask#2022 for LMW)
80 - Glenrothes 1989/2000 (43%, OB)
83 - Glenrothes 1979/2002 (43%, OB)
81 - Glenrothes 1973/2000 (43%, OB)

With the exception of the new bottling of Benromach 18yo and the Glenfarclas 33yo I've sampled all these bottlings before.
That puts the number of malts on my Track Record at 527, if I'm not mistaken.

 

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150-P:  Saturday, December 13, 2003
Topic:  Big Speysiders 'Vertical'

Yesterday I looked at some of the Speyside distilleries we visited on our first Scotland pildrammage. Tonight I'm going to turn my attention towards three big distilleries we passed by during this trip; Balvenie, Glenfiddich and Glenlivet. In terms of production and consumption, these are arguably the 'biggest' single malts on the market.

It's no secret that I haven't been a fan of the old 'Special Old Reserve' Glenfiddich without an age statement, but the new 12yo Special Reserve they introduced a few years ago marked a first step in the right direction. First tastings of one of the latest expressions of the Glenfiddich 12yo Special Reserve (40%, OB, L31M 1102 703, Bottled +/- 2003 ) indicated that Glenfiddich is boldly moving forward on the chosen path.
Nose: Creamy and nutty. Delicate sweetness. Peanut butter? Faintest hint of peat in the back?
Light. Caramac? It opens up a bit with time but the spectrum remains limited. Nice but dim.
Palate: Flat with a soft nuttiness. Cider? A little oily as well. Gritty. Fragmented. Quite dry.
Score: 67 points. It might have reached the 70's with a palate to match the nose. Nothing too offensive, but no outstanding qualities either. Nevertheless, today's young Glenfiddichs are notably better than those of the mid 1990's, if you ask me. If this (unfahionable) trend continues they'll end up in 'recommendable' territory soon.

Now, this is the perfect opportunity to open an interesting sample Alberto Righi sent me almost a year ago from Italy. The Glenfiddich 'Over 8 Years' Pure Malt (43%, OB) was bottled in the 1960's, long before I started drinking single malts. This bottling was imported into Italy by winemakers 'Fratelli Gancia, Canelli, Asti' and it's a unique opportunity to compare it to the last bit of the latest 12yo bottling of Glenfiddich.
Nose: Wow! Much more organics than the current version. A brooding and sinister character.
Amazing - just completely different. Not nearly as sweet and flowery as the current 12yo.
After a few minutes it mellows out a bit and grows more similar to the new style, though.
Over time it grows deeper and far more complex than the new 12yo. Oriental spices. Unique.
Taste: Ooph... smoother than the new 12yo at first, but the centre is rough and slightly bitter.
With time a soapy element emerges that pushes itself to the foreground and stays there.
Score: 69 points. The differences are amazing. I can't say I'm crazy about this, but it has more 'balls' than the current younger expressions of Glenfiddich - even the 'Caoran Reserve' if you ask me. With a palate to match the nose it might have even reached the upper 70's. An interesting surprise from Italy. It's a bit early for any big conclusions but at first sight it seems the Glenfiddich profile has moved in the direction of Balvenie.

The Glenfiddich 15yo Solera Reserve (40%, OB, L34M 4245 0205, Bottled +/- 2003) is a step up from the 12yo, but not a very big step as far as I'm concerned. I prefer my malts to be a little more expressive.
Nose: Soft fruitiness. Chloride. A little sweeter with time. Faint organics? Very pleasant.
On second nosing (after a lot of breathing) I definitely found more sherry and spices. Nice.
Pineapple? Something nutty as well. Definite improvement after a few weeks of breathing.
Palate: Flat and dull. Woody. Dry. Is this a single malt? Nothing remarkable, even on 2nd tasting.
Score: 70 points on first tasting (just boring) but I raked it up to 73 points after a second nosing.

The Glenfiddich 18yo Ancient Reserve (40%, OB, no batch #, Bottled +/- 2003) is the next step in the range. Once again it's a good malt whisky that would need a slightly bigger voice to reach the upper 70's.
Nose: Fruit with a growing sherry sweetness. Pleasant. Really opens up after a minute.
I wasn't impressed at first but it becomes more complex with time. Give this one time.
Palate: Sweetish. A little dry. Not as complex as the nose. It loses some points here.
Score: 74 points. Most of the other malt maniacs put this expression in the 70's as well.

Things became more interesting with the Glenfiddich 21yo Havana Reserve (40%, OB, L34L 4502 0612, Bottled +/- 2003). I wasn't too crazy about the 12yo 'Caoran' they released last year but this is rather special.
Nose: Restrained at first. Dusty. Clay? Schmink? All kinds of strange organics. Playful.
Then I got cookies, rum and marzipan in the back of the nose. Great development.
Palate: Ooomph... Clay and water at first. Sweetens out in the chewy centre.
Not very complex, but it feels very good in your mouth. Not too bitter in the finish.
Score: 80 points . I'm no big fan of Glenfiddich and I'm no big fan of rum finishes, but in this case they seem to work remarkably well together. After the 15yo Cask Strength (Duty Free) I've found another 'Fiddich to love.

Time to take a little break - both my brain and my buds needed a rest.
After a quick mushroom fondue I resumed the session around 21:00. I decided to keep the malts from Glenfiddichs sister company Balvenie on the shelves for the moment and have a closer look at the other big 'Glen' instead. I've sampled several earlier batches of the Glenlivet 18yo (43%, OB, LN10322, Bottled +/- 2003) and so far it has never let me down. All versions scored comfortably above average and this latest version is no exception.
Nose: Gentle, malty with a whiff of citrus. Other fruits as well. Sweet. Accessible.
Grows more complex with time. Organics in the background. Very classy but fairly MOTR.
Palate: Smooth, but it lacks substance. Hint of sherry in the sweet centre. Grows hot.
Fairly gritty finish with a slightly bitter twang at the end. Clean and not too long.
Score: 80 points. Solid craftsmanship. There's little else I can say about this one.

The Glenlivet French Oak Finish 1983/2003 (46%, OB, 2L7F901, The Glenlivet Cellar Collection) is slightly older than the standard 18yo OB, but most of the maniacs that tried it scored it just a tad lower.
Nose: Slightly oily, growing sweeter. Malty. Hint of smoke. Not very expressive at first.
Maltier and more balanced after some breathing - a classic and classy malt whisky.
Palate: Fairly soft start, growing more powerful. A bit bitter. Very dry, woody finish.
Score: 77 points on first tasting, 78 points after a second investigation.

When it comes to the official bottlings, I'd rank Glenlivet amongst the 'middle shelf' distilleries. I haven't had a bad bottling yet, but generally speaking the Glenlivet OB's have little to offer for the adventurous drammer. Things are very different when it comes to independent bottlings, especially the ones that have matured for 20 years or more in a good sherry cask. The Glenlivet 26yo 1976/2002 (59.7%, Signatory Vintage for La Maison du Whisky, Sherry cask #4309, 794 bottles) is a fine example of the latter category. A gentle sherry monster...
Nose: Aaah... Big, smooth and sherried with a hint of polished oak. Wonderful!
Spices and organics. Smoke? Macallanish. Old rotting fruit - which is a good thing...
Palate: Sweet, fruity and very powerful. Dried apples. Clean and smooth. Pinch of salt?
Hot. With a splash of water the smoke comes to the front. Pleasant dry fruitiness.
Score: 88 points . It might be just a tad too extreme for some, but I love it.

So, now it's time to have a good hard look at the sister of Glenfiddich: Balvenie.
The Balvenie 10yo Founder's Reserve (40%, OB, L6M 7403 1705, Bottled +/- 2003) is the youngest and cheapest bottling in the range. If you like the new young Springers you should give this a try.
Nose: Creamy and sweetish. Spices. Christmas cookies? A narrow spectrum, but pleasant.
Rich. Hint of peat? I had it quite a few points below average at first, but it opens up with time.
Palate: Flat, Gritty start. A little thin. Definitely some brine in the centre. Tongue-coating.
Bittersweet burn. It definitely grows more powerful with time. Sweetish, warm finish.
Score: Intitial conclusion: 75 points. Barely average, and it needs some time to get there.
On second tasting that seemed too harsh - some breaking in definitely did it some good.
Let's crank it up to 77 points - it's pleasant enough. Still, it's not nearly as smooth and sophisticated as I remembered - but then again I've always preferred the more expressive 12yo Doublewood anyway.

And what a coincidence: the Balvenie 12yo DoubleWood (43%, OB, L6M 7303 1505, Bottled +/- 2003) happens to be the next malt on my list. This has been an old favourite of mine since I discovered it in the mid 1990's.
Nose: Aaaah.... Sherry and organics. Marzipan. Furniture polish. Wood. Fruit sweets.
Malty. Something spicy around the corner. Hugely entertaining - never a dull moment.
Palate: Woody start. Sweet, full-bodied centre. Sherried. Spicy finish. I love this stuff.
Score: 86 points. The Doublewood is still going strong. Highly recommendable.

The Balvenie 1989 PortWood (40%, OB, L34M 4087 2104, Bottled +/- 2003) was released recently to offer a 'low budget' alternative to the 21yo PortWood that's been quietly smuggled into the 'deluxe' category.
Nose: Wow! Rich and balanced. Fairly similar to the Doublewood, but not as expressive.
Marzipan. Lemon? Very nice, but I can't say the port had a lasting effect. Too bad, I think.
Palate: Smooth and sweet start. Solid, fruity centre. Coffee? Not very complex, though.
After a while the finish grows slightly winey and woody - maybe that's the port effect?
Score: 83 points . A good malt but it doesn't quite tickle my fancy like the 21yo PortWood used to do. It seems the port hasn't influenced the whisky a lot. I wonder if they used white port casks for this one? In this price range the Glenmorangie Port Wood offers a better example of the effects of port finishing, if you ask me.

Phew - eleven malts down, two more to go.
And the last two single malts were two 'sister' single casks from Balvenie. Obviously, I tried them together in a head-to-head tasting. At first sight the Balvenie 15yo 1983/1999 Single Barrel (50.4%, OB, Cask #1318, D27/4/83, B5/10/99) seemed to have the upper hand but that changed after ten minutes.
Nose: Grainy. Veggy. Flat. Takes some time to open up. More spices after a while.
A little musty. It reminds me a bit of the profile of the old 'Morangie 10yo after a while.
Palate: Smooth start. Softly sweet. Hot. Spicy finish. Rougher and more powerful with time.
Not challenging but very pleasant. As soon as your glass is empty you want a refill.
Score: 80 points . This one earns the 'recommendable' score mainly on the palate.

Meanwhile, the Balvenie 15yo 1985/2002 Single Barrel (50.4%, OB, Cask #286, D1/2/85, B12/02/02) really blossomed with some water and a little time. This is a two-faced whisky that changes character with time.
Nose: Starts off more restrained than the 83/99. Then the spices start coming forward.
More coastal elements and organics over time. Then sweeter. Honey? Creamy and a little grainy.
Taste: Fresh. Sweet & sour fruity start. Great body. Chewy. Plays with your gums.
Responds well to a few drops of water - smoother in the start and hotter in the finish.
Score: 83 points . Yep, in the end this one has a little more staying power than the 83/99.

And that settles the 'official' part of the session.
However, while I was transcribing my notes I enjoyed a fairly mundane whisky with a fairly special story attached to it; the Burn of Speyside (43%, Vatted malt). This vatting of Glenfiddich and Balvenie was supposedly rescued from a ship that sank in a Dutch canal. The whisky itself is quite forgettable (especially this late in the evening after over a dozen single malts), but I felt I should give it a score before the bottle is empty. 65 points.

So, there you have it...

Sweet drams,

Johannes

- - -

Dram Diary 13/12/2003  (Only freshly discovered whiskies and revised scores are listed here.) 

77 - Balvenie 10yo Founder's Reserve (40%, OB, Bottled +/- 2003)
86 - Balvenie 12yo Doublewood (43%, OB, Bottled +/- 2003)
83 - Balvenie 1989 PortWood (40%, OB, Bottled +/- 2003)
80 - Balvenie 15yo 1983/1999 Single Barrel (50.4%, OB, Cask #1318, D 27/4/83, B 5/10/99)
83 - Balvenie 15yo 1985/2002 Single Barrel (50.4%, OB, Cask #286, D 1/2/85, B 12/2/02)
69 - Glenfiddich 'Over 8 Years' Pure Malt (43%, OB, Bottled 1980's)
67 - Glenfiddich 12yo Special Reserve (40%, OB, Bottled +/- 2003)
73 - Glenfiddich 15yo Solera Reserve (40%, OB, Bottled +/- 2003)
74 - Glenfiddich 18yo Ancient Reserve (40%, OB, Bottled +/- 2003)
80 - Glenfiddich 21yo Havana Reserve (40%, OB, Bottled +/- 2003)
80 - Glenlivet 18yo (43%, OB, Bottled +/- 2003)
78 - Glenlivet 1983/2003 French Oak Finish (46%, OB, Cellar Collection)
88 - Glenlivet 26yo 1976/2002 (59.7%, Signatory Vintage for La Maison du Whisky, Sherry Cask #4309)

Great, great, great - With three fresh expressions from Glenlivet, four from Balvenie and five from Glenfiddich I can add 13 new single malts to my Track Record, bringing the grand total to 540 single malts.

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And that's all the information that fits on this page.
But my December 2003 reports go on! Click HERE to read the rest of the sub-reports.
 

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Liquid Log Entry #150 (I)

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