Log Entry 150  -  November 1, 2003
Topic:  Dramsterdam Diary (Continued...)

This page contains the sub-reports (150 Q-Z) dealing with my tasting sessions in December 2003.
Click HERE to read the sub-reports (150 A-P) about the events leading up to these sessions.

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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-Q:  Sunday, December 14, 2003
Topic:  Speyside III - No More Cragganmore?

After last night's '13 Drams on December 13' session I wanted to take it a little bit easier tonight. Looking over the remaining samples on my shelves I spotted five different expressions of Cragganmore. Winter hardly seems like the ideal season for sampling Speysiders, but once again I find myself in a situation with far too many open bottles and samples on my shelves. So, without further ado I give you the results of this 'vertical' session.

I've been puzzled by the Cragganmore 12yo (40%, OB, L15T00687045) ever since I tried my first bottle in the early 1990's. Michael Jackson's 'companion' had proven to be a reasonably dependable guide in the confusing world of single malts, but I really couldn't figure out why he felt this was worth 90 points.
Nose: Smooth and a bit spicy. Then it grows maltier. Spices & organics grow stronger. 
Faintly fruity and flowery. Malty. Very light liquorice? A little bit of everything, really.
Taste: Weak, watery start. Dry and pretty flat. Fairly bitter. Oy, that's too bad...
Score: My 76 points for the first dram seems a bit harsh, so I raised it to 78 points. Better than average, but not quite as good as two earlier batches I tried. And they didn't approach the top of my hit list either.

The Cragganmore 1988/2002 Distillers Edition (40%, OB, CggD-6553) has been finished in a 'special' cask, just like the other expressions in UDV's 'Double Matured' range. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't.
Nose: Sherried and very fruity. Apples? Ginger? Strawberries? Much heavier than the 12yo.
A faint hint of peat after five minutes? Beer-like prickle in the back. Good balance.
Taste: Watery and woody. Fruitier towards the centre. Astringent, oaky finish.
Score: 80 points. Once again I'm going to increase my original score by two points. In this case the double maturation has infused the relatively light Cragganmore with some extra weight and wisdom.

Next up was the Cragganmore 12yo 1990/2002 (46%, MMcD, MM 1416, Bourbon).
Nose: Grassy and flowery - like a mountain meadow in Spring. Spicy prickle. Hint of honey?
It starts off smooth and friendly but becomes grainier and oilier. The bourbon takes centre stage.
Taste: Rough start. Flat centre. Hot, woody finish. Beer? Hint of eucalyptus? Too dry, too bad.
Score: 74 points. The nose is very pleasant but the palate drags it down below 'average'.

I didn't quite know what to make of the Cragganmore-Glenlivet 14yo 1989/2003 (46%, Cadenhead's, Sherry) the first time I tried it. My score kept popping in and out of 'recommendable' territory.
Nose:  Smooth. Honey. Heather? Fairly subtle sherry influence. Cookies? Toffee?
Not very expressive at first, but it definitely opens up with time. Faint organics
Taste: Watery, fragmented start. Slightly sweet. Hot and a little soapy. Burning.
Score: 81 points - my initial score of 78 points for the first dram was too conservative. On closer inspection this one showed plenty of redeeming qualities, especially after time. Maybe it's a tad too subtle for me, but if you give it time there's lots of fun to be had. With a matching palate it might even have scored in the upper 80's.

My last dram was the Cragganmore 1976/1993 (53.8%, G&M, Casks 3588-3591) I opened in October.
Nose: Spicy and flowery with a light touch on honey - or maybe nectar? Mighty complex.
Opens up nicely with time. Toffee. Sherry and organics. Peppers? Spicy black Chinese beans.
Taste: Toffee sweetness. Big burn, but drinkable at cask strength. Pleasant mouth feel.
Strong bittersweet centre. Responds well to water, becoming sweeter and smoother.
Score: 85 points - leaning towards 86. This is the best Cragganmore I've ever had.

And that concludes another short and sweet report.

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Dram Diary 14/12/2003  (Only freshly discovered whiskies and revised scores are listed here.) 

78 - Cragganmore 12yo (40%, OB, Bottled +/- 2003)
74 - Cragganmore 12yo 1990/2002 (46%, Murray McDavid, MM1416, Bourbon Cask)
80 - Cragganmore DE 1988/2002 (40%, OB, CggD-6553)
81 - Cragganmore-Glenlivet 14yo 1989/2003 (46%, Cadenhead's, Sherry Cask)
85 - Cragganmore 1976/1993 (53.8%, G&M, Casks 3588-3591, Distilled 21/7/76)

Four of these samples were new to me, putting the number of malts on my Track Record at 544.
 

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150-R:  Wednesday, December 17, 2003
Topic:  Speyside Wrap Up

I'm making fairly good progress in clearing away all excess Speyside samples on my shelves.
For tonights session I emptied all remaining Speyside samples, including a few from fairly 'obscure' distilleries.

I must have sampled the Glenburgie 8yo (40%, Gordon & MacPhail, 5cl) some time before because I've rated it 62 points in the past. However, I can't find any notes in my Liquid Log. I assume I tried it during an undocumented session at De Still. So, Serge's sample comes in very handy for reference purposes.
Nose: Sweet and creamy at first, with surprising smoke, organics and peat after a while.
After yet some more time it becomes distinctly sherried. Pears? Garlic? A very funny whisky.
Taste: Flat start, but it rounds out quite nicely in the center with malty and nutty notes.
Some smoke as well. Rather unique, actually! I wouldn't call it 'good', but I wasn't bored.
Score: 76 points. That's right! Even though this was a partly emptied 5cl sample it's much, much better than 62 points. Sure, it has plenty of flaws, but it packs a surprisingly coastal punch for an 8yo Speysider.  I'm pretty sure my previous dram must have been one of those old, heavily oxidised bottles at De Still, so I guess I should change my score on the matrix. I'll go with my new score of 76 points for the matrix.

I've tried a litre bottling a few years ago, but Serge's sample of the Inchgower 12yo (43%, OB by Bells, 5cl) allowed me to try and find out why the other maniacs that tried it all scored it in the lower 80's.
Nose: Malty and nutty. Pleasant, but relatively flat at first. More spices after a while.
I have to say I'm quite impressed by the nose - this is worth more than the 76 points I gave it.
Taste: Ooh, that's too bad... It starts of fairly soft and weak. Too much breathing?
Grainy mouthfeel. It improves a bit with time but it never matches the pleasant nose.
Score: 78 points - two points more than I gave the litre bottle - I'll crank up my 'official' score.

I've got a big Macallan session planned for next year, but my sample of the latest batch of the standard 10yo bottling was nearly empty and I didn't want it to oxidise too much. I've complained about some 'new' Macallans before and the Macallan 10yo (40%, OB, L0421C, L10 04/06) didn't really tickle my fancy either.
Nose: Sherry & fresh fruits. A little thin. Alcohol. Something creamy. Sweetish. Hint of smoke?
Faint spices & organics. Oilier with time. Seems to improve after some breathing.
Taste: Smooth and sweet at first. Medium body. Hot and a little gritty. Some tannins.
It grows bitter and woody towards the centre. Bitter and a bit woody. Loses points with time.
Score: 76 points seems about right. Another 'Big Mac' on a slippery slope, it seems...

Davin sent me a sample of the Tormore 14yo 1989/2003 (43%, Signatory Vintage, Sherry Butt #909/67, Distilled 2/3/89, Bottled 4/9/03). Great - I've only sampled two batches of the 12yo OB so far.
Nose: Soft fruitiness. Spicy prickly. Nuts? Not as oily as the 12yo OB from the 1990's.
A mellow sweetness. It lacks complexity, but I like it better than the OB's I've tried.
Taste: Hey, where did the sweetness go? Bitter start. Mellows out in the centre.
Smooth. A short, dry finish with a suggestion of fruits and wood. Some bitterness.
Score: 75 points. A decent single malt whisky and the best Tormore I've tried so far.

When I first tasted the Longmorn 13yo 1990/2003 (46%, MMcD, MM 30085, Bourbon) it really rubbed me the wrong way and I gave it a measly 65 points. Time to have another serious go at it.
Nose: Grainy and a bit oily - and it's getting worse... Strangely fruity. A little bourbony.
With time some spices and organics emerge, but it's more interesting than enjoyable.
Taste: Weak start. Turpentine? Rough. Cloying. It feels just like a bourbon - a cool heat.
Sweet. This would do much better in the summetime, I suspect - maybe even with ice...
Score: 71 points - after trying it a second time I have to admit 65 points doesn't do it justice. It's certainly not my type of malt, but it does have its qualities. I had it in the upper fifties at first, but it sort of grew on me. It's nothing like any other Longmorn I ever tried, though - much lighter and more transparent.

The Strathmill 11yo 1988/2000 (50%, Douglas Laing OMC, D10/88, B6/00, 420bt.) was only the third expression from this neighbour of Strathisla I ever tried. And I can't say it was an undivided pleasure.
Nose: Soft start, growing sweetish and malty with 'veggy' overtones. Something nutty?
It reminded me a bit of Glenfiddich 12yo and Balvenie 10yo - a classic, light Speysider.
Grainy. Play-Do. It grows a little more 'coastal' over time. Quite interesting, but not very nice.
Taste: Gritty and dry start. It sweetens up for just a few seconds before growing dry again.
Hot. Coffee beans? Maybe some menthol freshness in the back of my throat. Nothing fancy.
Score: 63 points - which means it scores somewhere inbetween the old Glenfiddich NAS and the latest batches of the new 12yo bottling. This one loses some points in the dry finish. Tastes like dead wood... I'm afraid this stinking little puppy will pull down Douglas Laing's average score on the MMMonitor quite a bit.

I gave the Mortlach 12yo 1990/2002 (46%, MMcD, MM3748, Sherry) 'only' 80 points when I first tried it but every time I revisited this malt it seemed to improve a little more. A great puzzle for the nose.
Nose: Rather restrained at first - alcoholic and a little sour. Something veggy. Hint of oil?
Much more organics over time. Great development - this opens up quite nicely. Stock cubes?
Taste: Sweet start with a wonderful fruity centre. A tad too dry and hot in the finish.
Score: 83 points. It loses some points in the dry, winey finish (a tad too bitter for me), but my initial score of 80 points clearly doesn't do it justice. I can really get lost in the nose. Good, clean fun.

Next: the Braes of Glenlivet 8yo 1987/1995 (62.7%, Cadenhead's, D06/87, B07/95, 5cl)
Nose: Ah! Smooth and complex with whiffs of gooseberry. Organics. Polished. Wowie!
Over time it becomes very intriguing with plenty of old sherry and tobacco. Subtle sweetness.
This smells like an old men's club where they have been smoking good cigars for many years.
Taste: Aahh... Sweet and powerful at cask strength, with sherry and smoke. Hint of peat?
It has a few traits that keep it from reaching the 90's - something oily and sandy on the palate.
Score: 87 points. This is another great Braeval but after a while the palate betrays its age.
Still a mighty fine dram, mind you - if you can find any. But then again I haven't had a bad one yet.
I really can't fathom why they mothballed this distillery. Let's take a little break and think about that...

The Convalmore-Glenlivet 26yo 1977/2003 (46%, Candenhead's, Sherry) was the last Speyside sample on my shelves - and the last single malt of the evening. I've tried two other independent expressions from this closed distillery but neither one made me shed many tears about the demise of Convalmore.
Nose: Sweet and creamy in the front of the nose, more alcoholic in the back. Subtle.
Something grainy. Paint thinner. Hint of smoke. Developing spices and organics. Nice!
The nose grows sweeter and more complex over time but it remains soft-spoken.
Taste: Subtle fruits, growing more prominent. Gooseberries? Orange skins? Cointreau?
It has an interesting profile, but it's not nearly as good as the nose. Pulls off some points.
Score: 85 points - two points up from my initial score of 83 points. A very fine malt.

I just wrote that the Convalmore was the last Speyside sample on my shelves.
Well, that's not completely true. There still was one 'Speyside' sampe I've been dreading to open for the last few weeks. When I met Lex Kraaijeveld at the last The Hague Festival he was virtually hopping up and down with excitement because he had just received word about a new whisky that was about to hit shelves of liquorists worldwide; the Cú Dhub (40%, OB). It's a new single malt from the infamous Speyside distillery. Lex told me that this was an attempt to recreate the equally infamous Loch Dhu single malt from the Mannochmore distillery. That's when I became afraid - very afraid... My fear grew even stronger when the postman rang my doorbell (twice) and handed me a conspicious package. Inside was the dreaded sample of Cu Dhub Lex had threatened to send me. Fortunately, the cap of the bottle had been damaged during transport so part of the contents had already been soaked up by the cardboard. Ah. that meant there was less for me to sample. I managed to diminish the contents of the bottle further by filling a sample to send to our freaky French friends.
That left me with +/- 3cl of the black liquid for my own personal consumption.

OK, then - there's no point in delaying the inevitable any longer...
I've been putting off finishing the sample for weeks; it's time to face the music.
Nose: Smoky. Slightly sherried. Far more subtle than I expected. No complexity, though.
Fairly restrained. The smoke grows stronger, but then it drops dead after a few minutes.
Taste: Sweet start. A little smoky, but not nearly as thick and overwhelming as the Loch Dhu.
Buysman - burnt caramel. It becomes extremely dry quickly. No real development over time.
Score: 50 points. That's right. There's not much to like, but it's not the 'aqua crematoria' I feared either. If they tried to recreate the infamous Loch Dhu with this illbegotten experiment, they failed miserably. But perhaps the world will be a better place for it... A bit like Dr. Frankenstein failing to bring his monster back to life...

Perhaps I shouldn't have been surprised by this outcome.
The Speyside distillery failed when they tried to recreate a decent malt whisky with their Drumguish, so maybe we should have expected them to fail with this one as well. Well, fortunately failure IS an option for them...

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Dram Diary 17/12/2003  (Only freshly discovered whiskies and revised scores are listed here.) 

87 - Braes of Glenlivet 8yo 1987/1995 (62.7%, Cadenhead's, D06/87, B07/95, 5cl)
85 - Convalmore-Glenlivet 26yo 1977/2003 (46%, Cadenhead's, Sherry)
50 - Cu Dhub (40%, OB, Speyside Distillery)
76 - Glenburgie 8yo (40%, Gordon & MacPhail, 5cl)
78 - Inchgower 12yo (43%, OB, Bell's, 5cl)
71 - Longmorn 13yo 1990/2003 (46%, Murray McDavid, MM30085, Bourbon)
76 - Macallan 10yo (40%, OB, Bottled +/- 2003)
83 - Mortlach 12yo 1990/2002 (46%, Murray McDavid, MM3748, Sherry)
63 - Strathmill 11yo 1988/2000 (50%, Douglas Laing OMC, Distilled 10/88, Bottled 6/2000, 420 Bottles)
75 - Tormore 14yo 1989/2003 (43%, Signatory Vintage, Distilled 2/3/89, Bottled 4/9/03, Sherry Butt #909/67)

With the exception of the Inchgower all these malts were fresh discoveries - even the Glenburgie.
That puts the number of malts on my Track Record at 553 - Not bad for a night's work...

 

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150-S:  Friday, December 19, 2003
Topic:  Hasty Highlands Session

Phew - I've spent quite enough time in Speyside this year, I'd say.
Time to broaden my horizons and have a quick look beyond the borders of Speyside. The session started with a sample I received from Rogier Prins. This Deanston 17yo (40%, OB, 70cl) came from a short, fat bottle (7156 97/0331 L16 15:53) and I suspect it was bottled in the 1990's - but I'm not sure. This is going to be the second Deanston I've ever tried and based on my experiences with my first bottle I'm a bit sceptical.
Nose: Strong & sweet at first, malty & spirity later on. Veggy whiffs. Intruiging suggestion of fruit.
Taste: Not very sweet. A bit of mint and menthol. Fairly MOTR with little distinguishing elements.
More pine and resin after I added some water. Falls apart. Unpleasant bitter twang in the finish.
Score: 68 points. That's much better than my 57 points for the 12yo OB but nothing to boast about.

The Lochside 1991/2003 (43%, G&M CC, JC/FG) was the second expression I tried from this distillery as well. Macnab's 10yo OB scored just 65 points, so this new G&M bottling should be able to easily top that.
Nose: Oily start with hints of citrus. The sparkly sweetness of early fruits. Paint thinner.
Maybe not, it becomes maltier with time with more organics. Quite complex. Dusty. Spices.
I got all kinds of strange impressions - like eucalyptus and blue grape skins. Violets?
Taste: Weak, gritty start. Grows more powerful quickly - into a dusty, fruity explosion.
Dry. Powdered milk. It remains rough and gritty on the palate until the end of the finish.
Score: 82 points. Not really my type of malt, but very interesting - especially after a while.

I'm not quite sure how the sample of the Glen Garioch 16yo 1986 (54.4%, OB, Sherry Butt #3065) ended up on my shelves, but it's here now. And now it will have to succumb to my sampling superpowers...
Nose: Phew... Soap and smoke at first - it reminded me of Edradour and Bowmore Darkest.
Carnival candy. Very interesting and complex, but I fear what the palate might be like...
Taste: Waaah, just as I feared, It has the same lethal combination of smoke and soap perfume I find so utterly disturbing in the Edradour 10yo and Bowmore Darkest. It's not quite in Loch Dhu territory, but...
Score: 60 points. I have to say I'm not quite sure what to think about this one - the nose is rather fabulous, actually. Nevertheless, most fun is undone by my allergic reaction to the soap & smoke combo on the palate.

OK; time for a little intermezzo.
I tried the 'Cú Dhub' from the Speyside distillery two days ago and my memories are still fresh.
This would be a great opportunity to re-evaluate my scores for three other 'soap & smoke' whiskies I've had the misfortune of encountering in the past. I need some more 'benchmarks' at the bottom end of my Hit List and the following whiskies will be perfect for that; Bowmore Darkest (43%, OB, Bottled +/- 1999), Edradour 10yo (40%, OB, Bottled +/- 2001) and the aforementioned Loch Dhu. I gave the Bowmore Darkest 65 points because, just like the Glen Garioch, the nose actually has a lot to offer. That being said, the nose of the Glen Garioch I just sampled was far more complex than that of the Bowmore. Still, the palate of the Glen Garioch managed to eradicate most of my enjoyment, explaining the final score of 60 points. That's only 10 points above the 'neutral' score of 50 points that forms the wathershed between me liking and disliking a whisky. After weighing the pro's and con's I ended up 'liking' the Bowmore - but just barely and certainly not as much as the Glen Garioch.
So, I'll drop my score for the Bowmore Darkest (43%, OB) to 55 points.

That brings us to Edradour. The 10yo OB's from the 1990's were hardly spectacular, but they were certainly not bad and the price was quite friendly. Sometime around 2001 a new 10yo OB hit the shelves; the packaging had improved dramatically - but the profile had changed quite dramatically as well. I have to admit that once again I quite liked the nose - although it doesn't play in the same league as the Bowmore and Glen Garioch. However, the soap and smoke (or was it burnt caramel?) on the palate once again ruined the party for me - in a big way. I'll drop my score for the Edradour 10yo (43%, OB) from 42 to 40 points - a sorry excuse for a benchmark...

And then we have the infamous Loch Dhu 10yo (40%, OB).
I've actually tried two different versions; a 70cl bottling that scored 11 points and a 20cl bottle from the USA that scored 'much better' with 14 points. I'm actually hoping to avoid sampling any other whiskies at this particular end of the scale, so I won't anjust these scores for benchmarking.

OK, enough plodding through the murky bottom of my Hit List - let's try to have some fun.
The Ben Nevis 15yo 1977/1993 (60.9%, Cadenhead's, D12/77, B10/93, 5cl) was one of a bunch of dusty old Cadenhead's and James McArthur miniatures from the 1990's. Krishna & mark muled them from Alsace a few weeks ago when they returned from the Alsacian Festivities. This is a great chance to look into the past.
Nose: Aaah... Lovely. Round and sweet with just enough fruits. Melon? Then organics emerge.
Whiffs of chloride and dust. The organics keep developing - this must have been a sherry cask.
A splash of water rejuvenates the nose, bringing all kinds of oriental spices to the foreground.
Taste: Surprisingly smooth and drinkable at c/s. It becomes chewy with a few drops of water.
It feels a bit 'tickly'. Dry and slightly 'winey'. It loses just one or two points in the flat, bitter finish.
Score: 87 points. I really love the fabulous nose, but the palate falls a bit short of the mark.

And that's it for tonight. The bad news is that I've sampled only four new malts on one evening.
The good news is that 50% of the malts I tasted tonight were recommendable. I've done worse...

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Dram Diary 19/12/2003  (Only freshly discovered whiskies and revised scores are listed here.) 

87 - Ben Nevis 15yo 1977/1993 (60.9%, Cadenhead's, Distilled 12/77, Bottled 10/93, 5cl)
55 - Bowmore 'Darkest' (43%, OB, Bottled +/- 1999)
68 - Deanston 17yo (40%, OB, Bottled 1990's)
40 - Edradour 10yo (43%, OB, Bottled +/- 2001)
60 - Glen Garioch 16yo 1986 (54.4%, OB, Sherry Butt #3065)
82 - Lochside 1991/2003 (43%, G&M Connoisseur's Choice, JC/FG)

Great! The four malts I actually tasted tonight were all new to me - 557 single malts on my Track Record.
 

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150-T:  Saturday, December 20, 2003
Topic:  Coastal Trip

The number of small samples and big bottles on my shelves is steadily decreasing.
Ordinarily, that would be enough to push any malt lover into an instant state of depression.
However, in this case I'm not getting too emotional about it. To tell you the truth, having more than 150 different single malts 'making sheep's eyes at you' from your shelves can be quite unsettling, especially if you're frantically waiting for a good nose day to come by. My nose was in reasonably good shape tonight, so I decided to have myself a virtual stroll along the coast of Scotland.

The Brechin 26yo 1976/2003 (50%, DL OMC, cask 3351, 282 bottles, 6 months sherry finish) comes from the eastern coast of Scotland. So far I haven't been able to find any obvious 'markers' for this region.
Nose: Polished - flat and sweet at first. Paint thinner. Almost smells like a bourbon at first!?!
Then more 'veggy' and fruity elements emerge. Melon. Dry. A subdued sweetness.
Oatmeal? Faint organics. Opens up a little with time, but it never really touches me.
Taste: Hot and flat. Dry, boring centre. Tannins in the numbing finish. What a bummer.
Score: 70 points. Smells and tastes like old, tired wood. Interesting nose, though.
When I sampled it again later I liked the nose even better, but the taste kept it at 70 points.

Moving north along the coast we leave the Eastern Highlands and pass the Speyside region. After crossing the Moray Forth we arrive at the birthplace of the Clynelish 14yo 1989/2003 (50%, DL OMC, cask 3850, 312 bottles, 6 months rum finish). Serge is a huge fan of Clynelish but I'm not convinced yet.
Nose: This is a peculiar one. Smells mostly alcoholic. Not much more. Faintly coastal.
With some time and a few drops of water it became a little malty, nothing else.
Even from my big cognac bowls I couldn't get any defining characteristics.
Taste: Weak, smooth start but it picks up a bit. Dry and quite woody. Bourbon cask?
Score: 68 points. Questionable - it's a decent whisky but it simply lacks character.

I could have done an interesting H2H with the Clynelish 14yo OB, but I decided to press on instead. On the northern tip of Scotland we find the Orkney islands, home to Highland Park and Scapa. HP has the higher profile of the two and based on my research so far that's justified - all Scapa's I've tried so far scored in the 70's while HP's generally seem top feel more at home in the upper 80's. The sample of the Scapa 1989/2000 (40%, G&M) that Davin sent me from Canada seemed to fit in this pattern when I first tried it.
Nose: Deep sweetness with a hint of liquorice in the back of the nose. I quite like it!
Something 'veggy' in the background. Faint toffee notes? Interesting development.
Taste: Yuck! Soapy start. Dusty, sweetish centre. Maybe menthol or eucalyptus?
Herbal - surprisingly different from the nose. Rather flat. A tad astringent in the finish.
Score: 69 points - with a less disappointing palate it might have reached the upper 70's.

The sample of a recent bottling of the Highland Park 12yo (43%, OB, Bottled +/- 2003, L0548C L1122:07) would give me the opportunity to check if the rumours about a changing profile for this old favourite are true.
Nose: Very fruity. Nutty, sweetening out in the middle. Light. Something perfumy.
Spicy prickle. Hint of peat? Organics. Relatively flat and malty with a hint of beer.
Taste: Flat and thin start. Hotter centre. Alcoholic and not as sweet as its predecessor.
Faintly bitter. Dry. Short finish. Quite disappointing after the pleasant nose.
Score: 77 points. Yep, to me this latest HP seems different from previous bottlings - lighter and maybe less sherried? The HP 12yo always had something that reminded me of the old Mac 12yo. It still scores above average, but it doesn't quite hit the spot like it used to. Let's hope this is just batch variation and not a trend.

Davin sent me a sample of the Highland Park 18yo (43%, OB, Bottled +/- 2003). A bottle from the 1990's (tube package) I had on my shelves a few years ago started out in the mid 80's when I opened it but gradually worked its way up to 89 points. Davin sent me a sample of the latest bottling, packed in a box.
Nose: Deep smoky sweetness with a dash of sherry. Organics in the background.
Very rich. Spicier and fruitier elements grow stronger after a minute. Tea leaves?
Taste: Dry and sherried. The centre grows very bitter - a tad too bitter for my tastes.
Quite spicy; more 'coastal' than I remembered. A tad fragmented. Hot, long, fruity finish.
Score: 86 points. Could it be that all Highland Park OB's are on the way down? Looking at the matrix, opinions are divided on the topic, so it would be best not to draw any quick conclusions just yet.

The Highland Park 19yo 1984/2003 (50%, DL OMC, cask DL REF 406, 636 bottles, sherry) certainly proved that they still must have some excellent casks lying around on Orkney, although this particular cask seemed very different from the house style of the OB's. Maybe that's why they sold it to an independent bottler?
Nose: Wow!!! Salt liquorice! If it would have had any peat this could be an Islay malt.
Heavy organics. Something fruity as well. But this is really beautiful! Remarkable.
Taste: Heavy and smoky start. Medicinal overtones. Sweet. Dry. Wood. Fabulous...
Score: 88 points - two points up from my initial score of 86. Really odd, but an interesting malt.

OK, Time to continue our trek along the coast. Moving west we ignore Skye for now (I'll have myself a special Talisker session tomorrow) and turn south again. Without stopping on Mull or Islay we arrive at the final stop of our little coastal trip; Campbeltown. The Springbank 10yo (46%, OB, Bottled +/- 2003, no batch ref) is the current 'basic' expression in the official range. I've heard that batch variation is strong in this whisky.
Nose: Heavy fruitiness. Passion fruit. Organics too. Fabulous - even with that hint of chloride.
Remarkably powerful and alcoholic. Dentist? I can't find the 'trademark' coconut, though.
Taste: Watery start. Hot and fairly gritty. Bittersweet centre. Coffee? Winey finish.
Fairly disappointing after the great nose. Not nearly as smooth on the tongue as earlier batches.
Score: 78 points. With a palate to match the nose it would have easily made it into the 80's.

The Springbank 15yo (46%, OB, Bottled +/- 2003, no batch ref) is a serious step up from the 10yo OB - or from one of the batches of the 15yo released around 2001 for that matter. I've always felt that Springbank OB's, just like those from Bowmore, are a risky investment. You might find a stellar one, but then again you might not...
Nose: Aaaah.... Sherry and fruits. Passion fruit again? Good wood as well. Peppermint? 
Powerful but polished. A feast for the nose. Faint hint of smoke in the background?
Taste: Very woody with a thin layer of fruits at first. Very hot. Then it sweetens out.
Great centre with fruity sweet and sour elements playing off eachother. Great fun.
It doesn't last, though. After 20 seconds it breaks apart. I found the finish a tad too woody.
Score: 82 points. Might even have made the upper 80's with a better balanced palate.

The last dram of the evening was the Longrow 10yo 1993 (46%, OB, no batch ref).
Nose: Dry and sweet. Beautiful profile. Then smoke and other coastal elements emerge.
Rice crackers? Organics. Hey, that's odd - now it becomes a little fruitier. Interesting.
Taste: Soft and dry at first, then it grows peatier. Yeah, that's right - there's plenty of peat.
It really opens up with time. Long, salty finish with a subtle twist at the end.
Score: 83 points - just like I scored it at the The Hague whisky Festival.
This one might have scored a little bit higher at a higher proof.

Oh boy, such a long trip really takes it out of you - even if it's only a virtual one.
Time to get some sleep; I've got a big Talisker session planned for tomorrow.

- - -

Dram Diary 20/12/2003  (Only freshly discovered whiskies and revised scores are listed here.) 

70 - Brechin 26yo 1976/2003 Sherry Finish (50%, Douglas Laing OMC, Cask 3351, 282 Bottles)
68 - Clynelish 14yo 1989/2003 Rum Finish (50%, Douglas Laing OMC, Cask 3850, 312 Bottles)
77 - Highland Park 12yo (43%, OB, Bottled +/- 2003)
86 - Highland Park 18yo (43%, OB, Bottled +/- 2003)
88 - Highland Park 19yo 1984/2003 (50%, Douglas Laing OMC, Sherry Cask, REF 406, 636 Bottles)
69 - Scapa 1989/2000 (40%, Gordon & MacPhail)
78 - Springbank 10yo (46%, OB, Bottled +/- 2003)
82 - Springbank 15yo (46%, OB, Bottled +/- 2003)

My malt-o-meter makes a big leap forward; all these malts were brand new to me.
That means there are now 565 single malts on my Track Record. Great.

 

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150-U:  Sunday, December 21, 2003
Topic:  Talisker Showdown

I ignored Talisker during yesterday's 'coastal trip' - an oversight that will be rectified today with an investigation of eight different bottlings from the best distillery on Skye (which is in fact the only distillery on Skye). Talisker has been one of my favourite distilleries for more than a decade. And for most of that decade, the fabulous standard 10yo OB carried all the weight; I didn't 'officially' try any other versions during the 1990's, simply because other expressions and independent bottlings were very hard to come by here in Holland.

So, let's start this session with an 'old' version of the Talisker 10yo (45.8%, OB).
Well, not THAT old; it was one of the last batches in the classic 90's packaging; a cream box and a smoky green bottle with a map of Skye on the label. The batch number is L15N01183495 and I suspect it was bottled in 1999.
Nose: Wow! Smoke and organics, lifted by a subtle sherry influence in the background.
Brooding and sinister. Swampy. Some subtle spices below the surface. Hint of mint?
Amazing complexity - I think this batch of the 10yo has the best nose of any batch.
Taste: Surprisingly fruity start, growing hot, peppery and smoky towards the centre.
Drier and more 'winey' towards the finish. Interesting development, but it lacks body.
Score: 90 points. The nose is just as good as that of earlier batches, if not better. Unfortunately, the palate isn't quite as stellar. I had the score at 89 points for a long time, but the final sniffs from the glass before I had my last sip convinced met that this one deserves a score in the 90's, despite the weaker body. Give it time!

I proceeded with a more recent batch of the Talisker 10yo (45.8%, OB, Bottled +/- 2003, L15T01047290). I've heard some complaints about the 'decline' of Talisker 10 and it's time to find out for myself if they are true.
Nose:  Peaty with a hint of citrus. Pepper? Liquorice? Clay? Aaaah... I've struck gold here.
Something dry and medicinal - more like Laphroaig? Oh boy, this is just great!!!
Taste: Hot, peppery start. Develops into a full, sweet centre before growing very dry.
Not nearly as overwhelming as the nose, though - it loses some serious points here.
Score: 88 points. At first I thought this could be a 90's malt as well, but the palate convinced me otherwise. That being said, it does improve considerably after a few months of breathing in the bottle.

After comparing two versions of the heartwrenching 10yo OB I turned my teary eyes towards two other official expressions in the Classic Malts double matured 'Distillers Edition' range. The Talisker 1986 Distillers Edition (45.8%, OB, TD-S: 5AM) certainly pleased me on our first encounter, but didn't blow me away.
Nose: Sherried start, deeper and fruitier than the 1989 DE. Powerful and complex.
Complex woody tones. Hint of smoke. Then organics emerge - stock cubes? Great.
Taste: Subtle smoke at first, growing sweeter and fruitier, then hotter. Likeable.
Yeah, there's the pepper - and lots of it. Long, satisfying finish, slightly winey.
Score: 89 points - three points up from my initial score of 86 points for my first dram.
When you give it time this is a fabulous malt - just don't expect the character of a 'normal' 10yo.

I compared the 1986 DE to the Talisker 1989/2002 Distillers Edition (45.8%, OB, TD-S: 5DP).
Nose: Complex. Wood, sherry and coffee. Lighter and spicier than the 1986.
Some peat in the background. Very entertaining and surprisingly accessible.
Subtle fruits on the surface but something evil lurks at the bottom of the pond.
Palate: Ouch - this is a tad disappointing. Very dry. Minty fresh. Peppery prickle.
Woody finish. The nose can compete with the 1986 DE, but the palate surely can't.
Score: 85 points. I had it in the upper 80's before I tasted it. Not really my style.
I have to say these two versions are very different from eachother. So much for 'house style', I guess. But then again, the're a distinct difference between the 'old' 10yo and DE and the 'new' batches; in both cases the noses of the latest bottlings performed within the Talisker parameters while the palate fell a bit short.

After four OB's it was time to tackle the Tactical - an independent bottling by Douglas Laing.
I went through my bottle of the Talisker 19yo 1980/2000 'Tactical' (50%, DL OMC, 348 Bottles) pretty quickly, but fortunately I've still got a sample left - not to mention two bottles in my reserve stock.
Nose: Clean, complex and grainy - which doesn't really describe how wonderful this is.
Subtle fruits and marzipan. At first it reminds me of the Saint Magdalene 19yo 1979 UDRM.
Then a barrage of salt, smoke and organics emerges. Peat. Pink bubblegum. Amazing.
Taste: Hot with an herbal twang at first. Dry and salty. Liquorice. Not a lot of depth.
Score: 90 points and nothing less. Different from the 'house style' but fabulous.
Especially the nose - if you finish this within fifteen minutes you'll miss a lot of fun.

The Talisker 14yo 1979/1993 (64.3%, Cadenhead's, D07/79, B10/93, 5cl) must be the 'strongest' single malt I've ever tried with a whopping alcohol percentage of nearly 65%. Now there's a challenge. Let's try to find out how much of the remaining 35% is made up of character and how much is just plain old H2O, shall we?.
Nose: Oh, boy - this is another beauty. Smoke and organics. Turkish peppers and fruits.
Then it picks up some distinct medicinal elements. Serrano Ham. Spices. A straight shooter.
Taste: Definitely some peat on the palate. Salt and smoke as well. Dry. Serious. Simply fabulous.
Score: 91 points. A real beauty. This could have easily been an Islay malt - like an OMC Ardbeg.

After a little break to give my tastebuds a rest I proceeded with a sample of the overall winner of the 2003 edition of the MM Awards; the Talisker 20yo 1981/2002 (62%, OB, Sherry, 9000 Bottles).
Nose: Coffee. Tia Maria? Ah, now it opens up into rich sherry and fruits. Fabulous!
Very complex organics. Hint of peat in the background. Good wood - like an old Macallan.
Palate: Sweet and smoky. Great wood. Long finish. An overproof malt, but I hardly noticed it.
Score: 93 points. Interestingly enough, it almost smells like an old Macallan to me.
The very best Talisker I've had so far; a work of art.

The last malt of the evening was the Talisker 20yo 1982/2003 (58.8%, OB, Bourbon, 12000 Bottles).
Nose: Sweet and smooth. Very faint organics in the background, slowly moving to the front.
A little metallic. Peat? Quite pleasant, but not nearly as complex or expressive as the 81/02.
Palate: Sweet and smooth with a peppery prickle in the dry centre. Malty. Grows hotter.
Chewy. Something fruity - water melon? Dry, peaty and very salty after five minutes.
Score: 80 points. It seems we're back on earth... This is a very decent dram, but it doesn't even come close to any of the other Taliskers I tried tonight - in fact it's the 'worst' Talisker I ever had. I'm sorry I didn't pick up a few spare bottles of the 81/02 Sherry, but I'm glad I didn't waste more than 100 Euro's on this one.

OK, what have we learned tonight?

A) The Talisker 10yo is still a bloody great dram - just not quite as great as it used to be.
B) Some of the recent, older cask strength OB's are simply stunning, while others are not.
C) There are some amazing independent bottlings of Talisker out there. Try some!

And that concludes tonight's sermon - go forth and multiply...

- - -

Dram Diary 21/12/2003  (Only freshly discovered whiskies and revised scores are listed here.) 

90 - Talisker 10yo (45.8%, OB, Bottled +/- 1999, Code L15N01183495)
88 - Talisker 10yo (45.8%, OB, Bottled +/- 2003, Code L15T01047290)
89 - Talisker 1986 DE Double Matured (45.8%, OB, Bottled +/- 1998, TD-S: 5AM)
85 - Talisker 1989 DE Double Matured (45.8%, OB, Bottled +/- 2002, TD-S: 5DP)
91 - Talisker 14yo 1979/1993 (64.3%, Cadenhead's, Distilled 07/79, Bottled 10/93, 5cl)
90 - Talisker 19yo 1981/2002 (50%, Douglas Laing OMC, 348 Bottles)
93 - Talisker 20yo 1981/2002 (62%, OB, Sherry, 9000 Bottles)
80 - Talisker 20yo 1982/2003 (58.8%, OB, Bourbon, 12000 Bottles)

The 1986 DE, Tactical 19yo and 20yo Sherry casked OB's are already on my Track Record.
The five other Taliskers are fresh additions, bringing the grand total to 570 single malts.

 

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150-V:  Wednesday, December 24, 2003
Topic:  Bunnies & Laddies

Well, well, well... It seems I'm making fairly good progress in eliminating the excess samples on my shelves. For tonight's session I turned my blurry gaze towards two Islay distilleries; Bruichladdich and Bunnahabhain. With Christmas around the corner I have no time for extensive reflections on tonight's tasting.
So, here's another short and sweet report;

My first dram of the evening was the Bruichladdich 15yo (46%, OB, Bottled +/- 2003 on Islay). They boast about the fact that this was bottled on Islay, but that hardly seems like a meaningful innovation, does it?
Nose: Softly sweet. Cookies. Hint of coconut? Then subtle sherry notes emerge.
A few minutes later it gains more coastal notes. Organics. Yes, definite improvement!
Taste: Hmmm. Rough. Sweet & sour burn. Coffee? Hint of smoke? Dry. gritty. Hot.
While the nose was improving the palate was deteriorating. Eucalyptus? Fruity finish.
Score: 77 points. That's two points more than my initial score of 75. Breathing really helps to unlock the organics in the aroma. It's much more powerful than the 'old' 15yo OB's. That's usually a good thing, but in this case I prefer the subtleties of the 'old' new Bruichladdichs that were bottled in 2001 and 2002. Strange....

The Bruichladdich 1970/2002 (44.2%, OB) was submitted for the MM Awards and caused quite a bit of controversy. Some maniacs scored it well into the 90's (for some it even was the overall winner) while others scored it in the mid- and upper 70's - not even worthy of a medal. That being said, a score above 75 points is still better than average, so this isn't a proper 'love-it-or-hate-it' dram. More like a 'love-it-or-like-it' dram...
Nose:  Fruity, malty, fairly MOTR. Something nutty and toffeeish after a while. Yoghurt?
Opens up after a while with some more organics. Spices grow more intense. Very interesting.
Oh boy, you're missing out on A LOT if you finish your glass within ten minutes. Give it time!
Taste: Smooth and very fruity. Fairly short, woody finish. Hint of pine, growing stronger.
Hint of soap? A decent malt, but over time the palate grows too woody and piney for me.
Oddly enough, I couldn't find a pinch of peat in this one. Definitely no trademark Islay malt.
Score: 82 points. The nose is mighty interesting, but not very powerful - especially at first.
I gave it 79 points when I first tried it, but when you give it time this one offers a small nasal adventure. Despite the 'faults' (i.e. things I don't like a lot) on the palate I think it's a recommendable dram.

The Bunnahab(h)ain 20yo 1979/1999 (56.7%, Signatory Vintage, Cask #3184) was a sample sent to me from France by Serge a while ago. My first try wasn't a big success; I arrived at a score of 71 points.
Nose: Quite light and sweet at first. Toffee. Organics. Some sherry. No peat. Tobacco?
Lapsang Souchong? Hardly any Islay character, though. Some fruits too. A bit bourbony.
Quite odd. It's rather interesting, actually - just not what you'd expect from an Islay malt.
Taste: Sweet, smooth start. Malty, bitter centre. Feels softer than the high proof suggests.
Easily drinkable at C/S. I have to say I quite liked it until the bitter, woody finish took over.
After a few minutes the palate turns nasty and extremely bitter. Water doesn't help. Bummer.
Score: 68 points. In this case my initial score of 71 points was too generous. It's utterly disappointing for an Islay malt this old. The palate doesn't warrant a score in the 70's. Serge agreed with 65 points.

Let's hope the Bunnahabhain 20yo 1980 (54.8%, Prestonfield, Cask #9063) performs better.
Nose: Wood, smoke and sherry. Something extremely sour like raw rhubarb. Vinegar?
Developing organics. Old fruits. Dust in the background. Unique, but no real Islay power.
Taste: Fairly flat start, growing quite fruity towards the centre. Winey, tannin dryness.
It has a wonderful candy fruitiness that slowly fizzles out into a dry, beer-like finish.
Score: 83 points. This is a unique whisky, but it doesn't have what I look for in an Islay malt.

Hmm... I've sampled only four Islay malts so far.
I had an appetite for just a few more, so I turned to what was left of two 'sister' samples of Port Ellen that Serge sent me from France last year. I opened them in October and now it's time for the final judgement. The first one of the siblings was the Port Ellen 23yo 1979/2002 (43%, Signatory Vintage, Cask #5151).
The colour of this sample was disturbingly light - possibly an overaged bourbon cask?
Nose: Early fruits - apples and pears. Faint hints of peat and rubber in the distance.
Nothing much at first, but as times goes by it picks up a bit. Smoked ham. Organics.
Taste: Rather thin. Flat and bitter before the peat emerges. Grows sweeter with time.
Beer? I have to say the palate kind of grows on me, but it remains plain and tired.
Score: 77 points. No reason to change my initial score, as far as I'm concerned. Fairly underwhelming, even though the palate showed some nice liquorice. Pleasant enough, but hardly better than 'average', I'd say.

You may think that 77 points is an unusually low score for a Port Ellen - and it is.
However, the Port Ellen 23yo 1978/2002 (54.3%, Signatory Vintage, Cask #5344) scored even lower when I first tried it. It's a slightly older sibling of the previous Port Ellen, also provided by Serge.
Nose: Wow! Seems much more powerful after some breathing. Sweet. Malty. Nutty.
Very fruity after a minute, but nothing really coastal. Maybe some leather? Dusty.
Hardly any traces of Islay character at first - apart from some 'wet dog' associations.
Taste: Weak, watery start. Bittersweet centre. Coffee? Salty sausages. Woody finish.
Seemed much more powerful and sherried on my second try. I even found a trace of peat.
Score: 80 points. That's no less than six points up from my initial score of 74 points. It's still one of the 'worst' Port Ellens I've tried, but (unlike Cask #5151) it seems to have improved considerably through oxidation. That makes me wonder; assuming that cask #5151 was a bourbon cask and cask #5344 was a sherry cask, could you draw the conclusion that sherry matured malts respond better to oxidation than bourbon matured malts? Or does that only apply to Islay malts? Or to malts of a particular age? Or maybe even only to Port Ellens? Or maybe I'm just stark raving mad? I guess there's another interesting research topic for my 'To Do' list.

OK - Six malts down, that's enough for tonight.
Time to call it a night and hang up my stockings ;-).

- - -

Dram Diary 24/12/2003  (Only freshly discovered whiskies and revised scores are listed here.) 

77 - Bruichladdich 15yo (46%, OB, Bottled +/- 2003 on Islay)
82 - Bruichladdich 1970/2002 (44.2%, OB)
68 - Bunnahab(h)ain 20yo 1979/1999 (56.7%, Signatory Vintage, Cask #3184)
83 - Bunnahabhain 20yo 1980 (54.8%, Prestonfield, Cask #9063)
77 - Port Ellen 23yo 1979/2002 (43%, Signatory Vintage, Cask #5151)
80 - Port Ellen 23yo 1978/2002 (54.3%, Signatory Vintage, Cask #5344)

No big progress as far as my Track Record is concerned.
The two Laddies are the only two fresh discoveries, bringing the grand total to 572 single malts.

 

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150-W:  Saturday, December 27, 2003
Topic:  Caol Ila Clash

Ah.... Christmas with the entire family....
It's just great - but it might be even greater if it lasted just one day instead of two. Most of my relatives in the same generation have produced offspring by now and all the sugary snacks the kids can get their hands on is transferred into mayhem and destruction almost instantly. It's great to be their favourite uncle for one or two hours, but exposure to the whole pack of them for two whole days in just nervewrecking...
Waah, the humanity of it all...

Anyway, when I got back to Amsterdam I desperately needed to spend some quality time with myself. Well, maybe with just one or two drams to keep me company while I try to recover from the Christmas ordeal. Drooling over my collection in anticipation, I noticed that I had no less than seven big bottles of Caol Ila on my shelves. I'd say that's a bit much, considering my entire drinking collection consists of only 36 bottles.
Time to find out which bottles get to stay and which ones have to go.

I started with the Caol Ila 9yo 1992/2002 (43%, Coopers Choice). I wasn't overly impressed by the first dram from the bottle, but small sips over the last few months have convinced me this malt has more to offer than its light straw hue and tender years would suggest. Too bad it comes in such a plain bottle.
Nose: Transparent. Salt and peat. Smoke. Faint organics. 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. Bitter towards the finish. Great mouth feel.
The start and center of this malt are great for a 9yo but the finish lacks depth. Too bitter.
Score: 85 points - three more points than my initial score of 82. This is a tad too bitter in the finish for me, but it's still a top shelf material. The nose offers a complexity you don't often get from a malt this age - or from a Coopers Choice bottling for that matter. This goes to my top shelf and will be mostly sniffed in the future.

Davin sent me a sample of the Islay Malt 9yo Canongate Reserve (51.5%, Cadenhead's). He told me that this is said to be a vatting of 9yo Caol Ila with a 32yo Ardbeg. Hmmm... Sounds like a potential waste of a good old Ardbeg if you ask me, even though there's likely to be a little more Caol Ila than Ardbeg in the vatting.
Nose: A tad dusty, quickly growing fruitier and more complex. Mint? Cake icing?
Chipolata pudding. Wow! Subtle organics in the background. Amazing complexity.
No peat monster, but very good. Possibly the best nose on any vatted malt I ever tried!
Taste: Oooh... Is that soap? Herbal. Hot and salty - but not a lot of peat. Too bad.
Hmmm... It improves with time but the soapy start spells bad news. I'm almost allergic.
Score: 81 points - but that's just because the soap on the palate turned me off.
The nose is excellent and would be worth a score in the upper 80's by itself.

I picked up the Caol Ila 10yo 1989/1999 (46%, Dun Eideann, Casks #1577-1581, Bottle #597, Distilled April 1989, Bottled August 1999) last year at Giorgio's in Milan. They simply bottled four casks in a row for this one, which usually isn't a very good sign. Let's find out if my initial score of 74 points was coorect..
Nose: Dull and dusty. Raw and briny start, growing strangely fruity with time. Rubber! Odd.
Lacks depth. It picks up after a few minutes, showing off more organics. Remains dusty.
Taste: Dusty. Cork? Rather weak. Sticky. Fruity. Winey finish, growing hotter with time.
Score: 73 points - my initial score of 74 was a tad generous. Right after I opened it this turned out to be the first Caol Ila I've ever scored below average, and time hasn't been very kind to it. Maybe the dustiest whisky I ever tried. I filled a sample for future reference and poured the rest into my 'Special Islay Vatting'. Maybe mixing it with some other islay malts will take care of that dust problem - or maybe it will just spoil the whole vatting.

The Caol Ila 10yo 1988/1999 (43%, Hart Brothers, Distilled 12/1988) came from Italy as well.
Nose: Organics and some peat, but not a lot of salt. A hint of pepper? Mint? Complex.
Smoke and sweet liquorice after a minute. Entertaining. Leather? Lapsang Souchong tea? 
Taste: Soft for one or two seconds, then smoke, peat, salt and stock cubes. Liquorice. Dust.
After a few seconds a fabulous toffee sweetness emerges. Some fruits as well. Dry finish.
Score: 87 points - three points up from my initial score of 84 points. Long live oxygen!
The palate is just fabulous and the nose isn't half bad either! Top shelf material, that's for sure.

With three big bottles of Caol Ila checked, two of them already made it to my top shelf.
That means there's only one top shelf position left for the four remaining bottles.

I bought the Caol Ila 11yo 1990/2001 Rum Finish (43%, Chieftain's, Casks #90201/90205, 1540 bottles) two years ago and opened it in September. At first sight I still like it a tad better than its 1990/2002 successor.
Nose: Clean. Starts deceptively light and fruity, then the coastal organics hit hard.
Something medicinal. However, it loses some steam within a few minutes. Bourbony?
Taste: Smooth & sweet start, growing drier. Then a peaty undercurrent appears.
It has a sweet side as well. Nice, but it lacks substance and refinement. A little simple.
Score: 80 points seems about right - my initial score of 81 points was a tad too generous.
Not quite good enough for my top shelf, but I'll park it on my middle shelf for now.

The Caol Ila 11yo 1991/2002 Port Finish (46%, Signatory Vintage Unchillfiltered, Cask #02/472, 1132 bottles, finished in a re-fill Port pipe) made a pretty solid impression when I opened it three months ago. It's definitely a bit off the beaten track, but very interesting. No 'Middle-of-the-Road' malt, that's for sure.
Nose: Quite restrained - dry, fruity and sweetish. It opens up a bit after a minute.
Definitely grows more coastal. Soft organics and spices. Chloride?
Taste: Ah, that's nice. Powerful burn, you can really taste the port influence.
Peat. Salty centre, long dry finish. A little 'winey'. Great mouth feel - succulent.
Score: 82 points. Yeah, in this case the special finish works for me. Very interesting at least.
But is it a top shelf malt? Not with a score of just 82 points it ain't! So, it's off to my middle shelf. Well, at least for now. The fact that I poured myself a second dram proves that the score might go up in the future.

The Caol Ila 12yo 1990/2002 'Winter/Winter' (43%, McGibbon's Provenance) didn't make a very big impression when I first tried; it scored just 73 points. Let's see how it performs after some breathing.
Nose: Intruiging organics. Transparant with smoke, salt, peat and oil. Numbing.
Something strangely meaty. Interesting, but it lacks balance and complexity. Hmmm...
Taste: Apple, then peat - lots of it. Menthol freshness towards the dry, bitter finish.
Good mouth feel at first, but it becomes very bitter. It lacks elements to balance the peat.
Score: 75 points. The nose grew on me but the palate is just too bitter for me. This may be just a tad too one-dimensional. Some sweet fruity notes on the palate might have made a difference. As it is, this is another single malt that will end its life in my special Islay vatting.

The Caol Ila 12yo 1990/2003 (46%, Whisky Galore) was next.
Nose: Wow! Seriously peaty with a touch of sweetness. Transparent and straightforward.
Gentle organics, growing stronger. Impressions of leather and horse stable. Nice development.
Taste: Sweet and peaty in the start and centre. Something nutty and malty as well. Hot.
Salty, bitter and dry towards the centre. It's not extremely complex but has a nice body.
Score: 85 points. I really like the style, but I'd love to see a little more complexity.
Still, a (highly) recommendable dram. Some aspects reminded me of the Ardbeg 10yo.

My last dram of the evening was the Caol Ila NAS Cask Strength (55%, OB). Most other maniacs scored it in the upper 80's, so I'll have to check if my initial score of 81 points for the fresh bottle needs revision.
Nose: Restrained at first, but powerful after a few seconds. Fruity and a little sour.
Coastal, transparent with organics and some grainy overtones. Growing complexity.
Especially the 'organics' part comes to the front. Yeah, worth more than 81 points.
Oh, boy. Now I get smoke, but something 'veggy' as well. Changes with water. Mint?
Taste: Sweet start, followed by a excellent peaty centre. Exactly bitter enough.
Smoky towards the finish. Great mout feel. Mind you, all this is at cask strength.
Still quite good after I added a small splash of water, but it became very gritty.
Score: Let's make that 85 points, shall we? Hold the water, though.

The Caol Ila Cask Strength takes the last empty spot on my top shelf.
That seems like a proper conclusion to an evening well spent.

Goodnight!

- - -

Dram Diary 27/12/2003  (Only freshly discovered whiskies and revised scores are listed here.) 

85 - Caol Ila NAS Cask Strength (55%, OB)
85 - Caol Ila 9yo 1992/2002 (43%, Coopers Choice)
87 - Caol Ila 10yo 1988/1999 (43%, Hart Brothers, Distilled December 1988)
73 - Caol Ila 10yo 1989/1999 (46%, Dun Eideann, Casks #1577-1581)
80 - Caol Ila 11yo 1990/2001 Rum Finish (43%, Chieftain's, Casks #90201/90205, 1540 bottles)
82 - Caol Ila 11yo 1991/2002 Port Finish (46%, Signatory Vintage Unchillfiltered, Cask #02/472, 1132 bottles)
75 - Caol Ila 12yo 1990/2002 (43%, McGibbon's Provenance, Winter Distillation, Winter bottling)
85 - Caol Ila 12yo 1990/2003 (46%, Whisky Galore)

Hmmm.... Only two of tonight's whiskies were new to me - and one of them was a vatting.
That brings the number of malts on my Track Record to 573.

 

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150-X:  Sunday, December 28, 2003
Topic:  Kildalton Day

I started this session unusually early because I had a lot of ground (or rather peat ;-) to cover. Tonight's line-up would warm the heart of any Islay lover like a smouldering peat fire; three Laphroaigs, four Lagavulins and no less than ten different Ardbegs! Oh joy! Is it possible to become seriously ill from an overdose of Kildalton peat?

Davin sent me a sample of the Laphroaig 10yo (40%, OB, Bottled +/- 2000) because I've only sampled (43%) litre bottlings so far. They usually offer better value than the standard 70 or 75cl bottlings at 40%.
Nose: Aaah... Lots of peat and leather. Fabulous and at least as good as the 43% version.
Tea leaves. Then more medicinal notes emerge. A nose worthy of a score in the 90's. Great.
Taste: Oops! I got a very disturbing whiff of soap in the start - then the peat takes over.
It feels grittier than the 43% 10yo litre bottling and the finish doesn't last nearly as long.
Score: 82 points. The soap on the palate really spoils a big chunk of the fun for me.
That's too bad - if memory serves the nose of this batch would beat any 43% 10yo I've tried.
It seems to be the old trade-off between nose and taste again.

The Laphroaig 15yo (43%, OB, Bottled +/- 2000) was next.
Nose: Quite amazing. Coffee, tea, polished wood and old walnuts. And peat, of course.
But this is no peat monster like the Caol Ila's I sampled yesterday - it's very subtle.
More complex over time. Veggy? Leather. Cake icing? My nose is having a little party!
Taste: Hmm.. Tea again. And a subtle sherry influence. Hot and minty. Dry. Smoky finish.
Maggi? Could the character of this malt have changed now that the bottle's nearly empty?
Score: 88 points seems about right. But I liked the expression bottled around 1998 slightly better so I'll have to increase the score for that version from 88 to 89 points. I'll nickname this one 'The Coffee & Tea Malt'.

The Laphroaig 16yo 1987/2003 (50%, DL OMC, Cask DL REF 814, 276 bottles) was one of the lastest releases from Douglas Laing. They used the name 'Laudable' for a long time but now their bottlings are clearly labeled as Laphroaig. A 14yo 1989/2003 sister bottling I tried in The Hague (Cask Reference 971) scored 84 points.
Nose: Sweet, light, malty and grainy. Something coastal and briny - like a fish auction.
it opens up after a while, more coastal elements, liquorice and peat. Iodine. Ooaah!
A few drops of water unleashed a wave of chloride, oil and vanilla. Spices. Muy Bien.
Taste: Hmm... Rather flat. Dry. Wait a minute - is that peat? Yes! Opens up with time.
I like the profile but it could do with some more complexity. Will go down with peat lovers.
Score: 85 points. I started at 80 but it kept creeping upwards thanks to the fabulous nose.
You could have a lot of fun by serving this blind to a lover of peat monsters. Tricky nose.

OK - Any new insights in Laphroaig? Well, I did find a lot of 'tea leaves' in the OB's. Could that be a 'marker' for Laphroaig? Maybe. At any rate, with the exception of a 1983/1999 MacKillop's Choice bottling every Laphroaig I've ever tried comfortably scored in the 80's and 90's. No wonder it's officially my second favourite distillery.

Throughout most of the 1990's my number one distillery has been Lagavulin.
It's high rank on my Distillery Hit List was based exclusively on the various batches of the 16yo OB 'White Horse' I tried over the years. The only other serious contender was Laphroaig, bottles of Ardbeg were very hard to come by until relatively recently. But not long after Lagavulin introduced the 'Double Matured' version Ardbeg reinvented itself and a growing number of independent bottlings from other Islay distilleries became available as well. It wasn't long before Lagavulin started slipping down my list of favourites. After the introduction of the 10yo OB Ardbeg soon replaced Lagavulin as my number one distillery and when Laphroaig introduced the 10yo Cask Strength the Lagavulin dropped to 3d place. Tonight is a wonderful opportunity to verify the status quo.

I started with the Lagavulin 8yo (43%, Dun Bheagan) that Davin sent me from Canada.
Nose: A little musty in the start, then the peat drifts to the surface. Boiled eggs? Organics.
Very pleasant, but it lacks the depth and complexity of the 16yo OB that's twice as old. Soap?
Taste: Peat! Just solid peat with a hint of fruits. A disturbing whiff of soap pops up now and then.
The profile on the palate resembles the 16yo OB. Smoke. Hint of coffee bitterness in the finish.
Score: 83 points. Yeah! Despite the faint whiffs of soap this is one of the best under age Lagavulins I've tried so far; peatier with more substance than the younger bastard bottlings under the 'Vintage' label.

Well, I think I've mentioned the Lagavulin 16yo (43%, OB, Bottled +/- 2003, L15T01632982) once or twice before on this site, so there's no need for lengthy introductions. It reigned supreme for a decade.
Nose: Gently sherried. Then some peat. Aaah... More peat. Fabulous organics as well.
This needs a few seconds. Wow! I love it, I love it. Amazing complexity with time.
Taste: Not as powerful as the nose. In fact, it starts out rather weak. Smoky. Sherry. Salt.
Then the peat comes marching to the front, together with wood and something medicinal.
Score: 88 points. The same old story; based on the nose I'd go for a score in the 90's. Unfortunately, it loses just a few points on the palate. Too bad, but it's still a killer malt. Even more important, the 'slide' of Lagavulin seems to have stopped. Not the stellar malt it once was, but solid competition for the Laphroaig 15yo.

I've always scored the double matured 'Distillers Edition' releases a few points below the 'ordinary' Lagavulin 16yo available at the time. The Lagavulin 1986/2002 Distillers Edition (43%, OB, lgv.4/490) was no exception.
Nose: Another lovely nose. Tobacco. Peat. Heavy late summer fruits. Sweetish.
Taste: Sweet start, then peat and smoke emerge. Mint? Smoke. Hot and fresh.
Hints of sweet fruits. Ripe raspberries? Mint? A tad too woody in the finish for me.
Score: 86 points. Loses just one or two points on the palate. Highly entertaining.

The Lagavulin 12yo Special Release (58%, OB, bottled 2002) was the last Lagavulin of the evening.
Nose: Oooaaah. Another peat monster. Opens up nicely. Grainy overtones. Amazing complexity.
Peat, smoke and organics with some Hungarian sausages in the background. Garlic? Grey clay?
Palate: Phew.. I just burnt out my palate. Peaty & sweet. Hot, hot, hot. Dry, bitter finish.
A real knock-out malt with a fabulous mouth feel. Lagavulin back up again? Could very well be.
Score: 90 points. Even the empty glass smells stunning. But is this serious competition for the Laphroaig 10yo Cask Strength? Not quite, at least not in my book. The 'Phroaig has the same raw peaty power, but it has something else to offer too: the incredible depth and complexity I found in the old Lagavulin 16yo 'White Horse'. But this Lagavulin ain't half bad either - I only hope they put a less 'special' price on future releases.

OK - 18:35 - Seven powerhouse malts down - Time for a little break...
And maybe it's time for some food as well to help me fight the effects of the alcohol. Given the coastal theme of the evening I decided to treat myself to a simple dinner of fennel soup followed by marsh samphire (a salty coastal vegetable) and smoked trout. A nice combination that groomed my palate for the Ardbegs that were to come. I felt inspired and decided to let some of tonight's Ardbegs compete head-to-head.

H2H#1: Ardbeg 10yo (46%, OB) vs Ardbeg 10yo 1990/2000 (43%, McGibbon's, Autumn/Winter). This sample of McGibbon's came from Davin and was the successor of the 9yo 1990/2000 I tried before. The nose of the OB started much feistier than the McGibbon's with more salt and peat. The McGibbon's made a dustier, oilier and milkier impression but had peat and peanuts as well. After a few minutes the OB seems fresher and more floral; the profile of the McGibbon's didn't seem to chance all that much. Actually, the style seemed more like a Caol Ila than an Ardbeg to me. The OB started very light and soft on the palate, after which the trademark 'explosion' of peat, salt and liquorice appeared. The McGibbons was medicinal, dry and very bitter on the palate.
Scores: 89 points for the OB, 81 points for the McGibbon's.

H2H#2: Ardbeg 17yo (40%, OB, Europe) vs Ardbeg 17yo (43%, OB, Canada). The latter was another sample sent to Amsterdam by Davin. Excellent - I've only sampled 40% expressions of the 17yo so far. I was completely flabbergasted when I first sniffed them H2H. Incredible. Like two completely different whiskies! The 40% seemed light, grassy and floral next to the 43% that had lots of smoke, clay and rubber. The 40% has some peat, but it's very subtle and in the background. Wow!!! The 43% completely blows the 40% away - a nose worthy of a score in the 90's. Not for the faint of heart, but if you're looking for the darker side of Islay you'll find it here. After ten minutes the styles seem to converge. The 40% started out very soft on the palate as well, before unleashing a complex explosion of peat and salt. Unfortunately, I found a trace of soap on the palate of the 43% again, which dragged the score down to 88 points - one point below the 89 points for the 40% European bottling.

H2H#3: Ardbeg 1974 Provenance (55.6%, OB) vs Ardbeg 1976 Feis Ile (53.1%, OB). Both samples were sent to Holland by Serge, both were opened in October for the 'Northern Overexposure' session and both scored well into the 90's. I had the foresight to save half of each sample for further analysis. The nose of the '74 started out more coastal with more organics than the '76, which appeared more sherried at first. Both noses are big and complex, but quite different. The '74 grows sweeter with time while the '76 produces much more organics and leather after a minute. After a few more minutes the tables had turned completely; now the '76 seems like the biggest peat monster of the two. And now I got some fruity elements in both malts. After +/- fifteen minutes I got toffee and grainy elements in the nose of the '74 and soy sauce and shoe polish in the '76. The palate of the '74 Provenance started off very woody, before growing fruitier and (especially) peatier. Solid toffee sweetness hidden in the background. Wow! Quite extreme, but perfectly drinkable at C/S. The '76 started off much saltier and smokier than the '74 before growing very peaty and bitter. Both are absolutely fabulous malts; no reason to change my scores of 93 points for the 1974 Provenance and 94 points for the 1976 Feis Ile.
Two genuine works of distillation art; both can stand a few drops of water.

H2H#4: Ardbeg 10yo (58.6%, Cadenhead's) vs Ardbeg 11yo 1991/2002 (62.2%, Cadenhead's). I was really disappointed when I saw the new white label for Cadenhead's 'Bond Reserve' range. The old labels gave in-depth information about bottling year, distillation year, cask type and the number of bottlings but the new labels just state the distillery and the age. Since the age on a bottle only indicates the youngest whisky in the bottle and the 'single cask' claim has disappeared they could pretty much put any Ardbeg they want into this bottling. That gave me a bad taste in my mouth right from the start. The nose of the 11yo starts off much more salty, peaty and coastal than the 10yo, which appeared grainy and slightly fruity from the start. After a minute the 10yo appeared creamy and 'buttery'. The 11yo had more 'volume' than the 10yo and, quite frankly, was much more of an Islay malt. The nose of the 10yo was distinctly odd and appeared particularly weak and uninspired next to the 11yo. Could almost have been a grain whisky. Meanwhile, both were hard to swallow at cask strength. Even with water both remained relatively flat and dry. The 10yo had soap. Not quite up to Ardbeg standards, I'd say.
Scores: 81 points for the 10yo (58.6%), 89 points for the 11yo (62.2%).

I'm a lean, mean sampling machine! Fifteen malts down and the best is yet to come.
The last two Ardbegs of the evening were both brand new to me, so I felt I needed to inspect them by themselves. My first single Ardbeg sample was the Ardbeg 21yo 1980/2001 'Committee' (56.3%, OB).
Nose: Peat! Organics. Salt & brine. Salmiak. Rubber. Wow! Amazing complexity. Great fun.
Sweetier and woodier elements emerge over time. Never a dull moment, that's for sure.
Taste: Peat and smoke. No sweetness at first. Trademark explosion in slow motion. Fabulous!
A prime example of an Islay malt. More like an old OMC in character than like the 17yo OB.
Score: 92 points. Another Ardbeg in its twenties makes the top of my Hit List.

OK - time for the 'grand finale' of the evening, a stellar malt I haven't reported on yet.
When I saw the Ardbeg 25yo 1975/2000 (50%, Douglas Laing OMC, D 10/1975, B 10/2000, 702 Bottles) on the shelves of Ton Overmars about a year ago I checked my Stock List and discovered that I already had two bottles of four other old OMC Ardbeg expressions. At the time that seemed like enough, so I didn't pick up a bottle. However, when I heard through the grapevine that it featered as Jim Murray 'Non Plus Ultra' malt in his upcoming Whisky Bible I quickly ordered a few bottles at La Maison du Whisky through Serge.
Nose: Soft, almost grainy start, evolving into an odd combination of salt and sweet notes.
Then fruits, spices and salt emerge. Not peaty as some other old OMC's I've tried at first.
Slowly grows drier, peatier and more serious. Some faint medicinal elements pop up.
A slideshow of fragrances; white pepper, tobacco - then horse stable and old leather.
Taste: Peaty from the start, but balanced by a gentle sweetness. Dry prickle. Smoke.
Soft delayed explosion that seems to last forever. Great mouth feel. Medicinal.
Not the most complex palate I've ever tasted, but an Islay malt pur sang.
Doesn't really need water but it can stand a few drops. More salt, chalk and dust.
Score: 96 points - that's right mama, we have a new number one malt!
Give this one at least one hour or you'll miss a lot of fun!!!

Hmmm.....
I'm quite sure this one deserves 96 points, but if memory serves the two other old OMC's I tried came very close to this. I had samples from both expressions on my sample-shelves, so I was able to try a few drops of each to verify if they deserved to have their scores upgraded. They did; I'll add one point to each;
93 points - Ardbeg 24yo 1975/2000 (50%, DL OMC, D 10/1975, B 05/2000, 713 Bottles)
94 points - Ardbeg 27yo 1973/2000 (50%, DL OMC, D 03/1975, B 10/2000, 240 Bottles)

Long live Kildalton! I'll dream peaty dreams of peaty drams tonight...

- - -

Dram Diary 28/12/2003

89 - Ardbeg 10yo (46%, OB, Bottled +/- 1999)
81 - Ardbeg 10yo 1990/2000 Autumn/Winter (43%, McGibbon's Provenance)
81 - Ardbeg 10yo (58.6%, Cadenhead's Bond Reserve, White Label)
89 - Ardbeg 11yo 1991/2002 (62.2%, Cadenhead's Bond Reserve, Bourbon Hogshead, Bottled 10/2000, 306 Bottles)
89 - Ardbeg 17yo (40%, OB, Europe)
88 - Ardbeg 17yo (43%, OB, Canada)
92 - Ardbeg 21yo 1980/2001 'Committee' (56.3%, OB)
93 - Ardbeg 24yo 1975/2000 (50%, Douglas Laing OMC, D 10/1975, B 05/2000, 713 Bottles)
96 - Ardbeg 25yo 1975/2000 (50%, Douglas Laing OMC, D 10/1975, B 10/2000, 702 Bottles)
94 - Ardbeg 1976/2002 'Feis Ile' (55.6%, OB, Bottled for 2002 Islay Festival)
94 - Ardbeg 27yo 1973/2000 (50%, Douglas Laing OMC, D 03/1975, B 10/2000, 240 Bottles)
93 - Ardbeg 1974 "Provenance" (55.6%, OB, Bottled 1990's)
83 - Lagavulin 8yo (43%, Dun Bheagan)
90 - Lagavulin 12yo Special Release (58%, OB, Bottled 2002)
88 - Lagavulin 16yo 'Port Ellen' (43%, OB, Bottled +/- 2003, L15T01632982)
86 - Lagavulin 1986/2002 Distillers Edition (43%, OB, lgv.4/490)
82 - Laphroaig 10yo (40%, OB, Bottled +/- 2000, Canada)
89 - Laphroaig 15yo (43%, OB, Bottled +/- 1998)
88 - Laphroaig 15yo (43%, OB, Bottled +/- 2000)
85 - Laphroaig 16yo 1987/2003 (50%, DL OMC, Cask DL REF 814, 276 bottles)

Well, well, well - Seven malts in the 90's and all others in the 80's - not to mention a new number one malt!
That's not bad at all... And I've considerably increased my malt mileage as well; the McGibbons Ardbeg 10yo, the 'White Label Cadenhead's 10yo, the Canadian Ardbeg 17yo OB, the Ardbeg 21yo Committee, the Ardbeg 25yo 1975/2000 'Jim Murray', the Dun Bheagan Lagavulin 8yo, the 2003 bottling of Lagavulin 16yo, the Lagavulin 1986 DE, the Canadian Laphroaig 10yo OB and the OMC Laphroaig 16yo were all new to me. That's 10 brand new entries, putting the number of single malts on my Track Record at 583 . Cool...

 

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150-Y:  Monday, December 29, 2003
Topic:  The Amsterdam Mini-Brorathon

I sadly missed the Big Brorathon in Alsace this year, but fortunately Serge pitied me and sent me almost two dozen different Brora samples. I originally planned to have my own big brorathon tonight but when I learned there were some more Brora's on the way from France I decided to limit myself to a small selection this time. I picked four different Brora's that were all distilled in 1972 and aged for exactly thirty years;

And who wants to write lengthy introductions with four Brora's on the table?
I certainly don't, so here we go...

#1: Brora 30yo 1972/2002 C/S (46.6%, DL OMC, D 3/72, B 4/02, 204 Bottles)
Nose: Light and fruity with a peaty undercurrent. Developing spices and organics.
Faint hint of rubber in the background? Quite peculiar. Growing stronger and stronger.
Slightly more flowery with ten drops of water. Something slightly metallic and medicinal.
Very subtle; you have to give it time and really work at it. Something fishy after a while.
Taste: Dry start, growing peaty and bittersweet quickly. Fabulous mouth feel!
Maybe a tad smokier with water? Hot fruit and peat. A stunning palate.
Score: 89 points. The palate is fabulous but the nose does relatively little for me for the first fifteen minutes. But like a saucy Scottish lass this Brora becomes more intereresting if you give it some time. Not quite enough to make it to the 90's, though. Another example of an old bourbon matured malt that's a tad too subtle for me?

#2: Brora 30yo 1972/2003 (47.4%, The Whisky Shop, D 3/72, B 2/03, 220 Bottles)
Nose: Ooaah! A sherry monster. Wood, fruits and organics. Could be a very old cognac.
This hits the spot! Growing complexity with more oriental spices after five minutes. Toffee.
Virtually explodes with a few drops of water, but settles down again. Amazing complexity.
Taste: Extremely fruity start, growing woodier and smokier. A little odd but very pleasant.
Liquorice and Swiss herbs. Very dry, woody and winey in the finish. Ooh, I love this...
Score: 90 points. Would have scored even higher if the finish had been less woody.
Clearly an old sherry cask: the nose benefits in a major way but the palate suffers.
I can't find any peat, though - well, maybe a very faint whiff in the finish.

#3: Brora 30yo 1972/2003 'Broraggeddon' (50.8.%, DL OMC, D 3/72, B 2/03, 201 Bottles)
Nose: Sweet and sherried, more balanced than its TWS sister bottling. Toffee. Marzipan?
Soft peat. Tobacco. Peaches? Great development and amazing complexity. Hard to describe.
Rich. Cantaloupe? Not quite as extremely sherried as the TWS, which is a good thing.
Taste: Very sherried start, growing sweeter and fruitier towards the centre. Sangria?
Lemony bitterness towards the finish. Dry, but quite light on the peat if you ask me.
Score: 92 points. That's right baby; a fabulous dram. Tastes a bit like Cointreau...

#4: Brora 30yo 1972/2002 (52.4%, OB, 3000 Bottles)
Nose: Turpentine, peanuts and a hint of oil. Very alcoholic at first. Grain warehouse. Honey?
Oooh, wait a minute. Cookies. Peat and fruit. Even fruitier with some water. Water Melon.
A fine dram. Still, it never becomes quite as complex as the Brorageddon or TWS bottling.
Taste: Smooth with peat and smoke in the back. Light, dry and playful. Nice mouth feel.
Sweet. Then a hot flash. Mint? Wood. The peat remains surprisingly subdued. Dry finish.
Finally, there's another peaty punch at the end of the finish. It goes out with a bang.
Score: 88 points. I had it at 84/85 points at first but after some water the palate is just fabulous!
I'm even leaning towards 89 points for this, but that would be a tad too generous, I think.

Well, that was nice - but I felt four malts was quite enough after last night's Kildalton madness.
So, I wish you goodnight as I retire to dream myself some more peaty dreams...

- - -

Dram Diary 29/12/2003  (Only freshly discovered whiskies and revised scores are listed here.) 

89 - Brora 30yo 1972/2002 C/S (46.6%, DL OMC, Distilled 3/1972, Bottled 4/2002, 204 Bottles)
90 - Brora 30yo 1972/2003 (47.4%, The Whisky Shop, Distilled 3/72, Bottled 2/03, 220 Bottles)
92 - Brora 30yo 1972 'Broraggeddon' (50.8.%, DL OMC, Distilled 3/72, Bottled 2/03, 201 Bottles)
88 - Brora 30yo 1972/2002 (52.4%, OB, 3000 bottles)

Four brand new Brora's on my Track Record, bringing the number of single malts to 587 - Great!
 

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150-Z:  Tuesday, December 30, 2003
Topic:  2003 Wrap Up

Phew... 2003 is nearly over and it's time to wrap up this special report.
I've planned no official sampling session tonight - just some recreational dramming...
While I sipped from my new number one malt (the Ardbeg 25yo 1975/2000 '702 Bottles' from Douglas Laing) I reflected on the the highlights of 2003; my first visit to Scotland, the first edition of the Malt Maniacs Awards and the two months of mayhem described in this special report. What a great year!

But there's not much time for basking in the glow of 2003.
The new year is already lurking around the corner; I should start making plans for 2004...

For one thing, I intend to add a fresh 'Deviant Drams' section to MM.
When I checked and double-checked all entries on my Track Record I found over 600 different malt whiskies. That means I must have missed a few of them in my recent 'Dram Diaries', because the last 'official' number was 587. However, not all of these malts came from Scotland - I've got malts from Ireland, Germany, France, Japan, Australia and New Zealand as well. But the focus of my mission hasn't changed: finding the best single malt whisky in Scotland. At the same time, I want to get a little more serious about the research of other spirits as well. I want to try some more malt whiskies from other countries, but I'm eager to learn more about grain whiskies and blends as well. Also, I think it's time I expanded my horizons a bit to look at some other drinks like cognac, armagnac and calvados again.

That means it's time to start work on a new 'Deviant Drams' section for all drinks that are not;
- whisky
- single malt
- from Scotland

I removed all whiskies that didn't meet all three criteria from my Track Record.
That left me with exactly 571 genuine Scottish single malt whiskies. Not bad either...
All other whiskies will be listed in the 'Deviant Drams' section in the future.

Another change I have in mind concerns my 'Little Black Book'.
Even though I've removed all 'deviant drams' from the page there's no more room for any more tasting notes. Since all entries in the Track Record link to corresponding tasting notes in my Liquid Log (and I'm working on seperate distillery profiles with tasting notes on all expressions from each individual distillery anyway), I've decided to stop maintaining my Little Black Book. From now on you can just find all malts I've 'seriously' sampled through the linked entries on my Track Record in the mAlmanac.

And that's it as far as this 'wrap up' report is concerned.
I'll reveal the rest of my evil masterplan in my next E-pistle.
Excuse me while I pour myself another Ardbeg...

Sweet drams!

Johannes
 
 

PS: Oh, and I'm wrapping up my Little Black Book now that it has notes on 500 single malts.
I'll start an all new 'Track Record' with links to the tasting notes in this Liquid Log.
 
 

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