110 - 01/05/2002 - MALTS & MOVIES   -  Cask Strenth Cinemaginations
111 - 03/05/2002 - Auchroisk 11yo 1989 - Mortlach 12yo 1989 - Glen Scotia 14yo - Balvenie 12yo - ...
112 - 09/05/2002 - Benrinnes (2x) - Benromach 19yo 1978 - Braes of Glenlivet 17yo 1979 - ...
113 - 15/05/2002 - Port Ellen 22yo 1978/2000 - Bowmore 15yo - Bowmore Darkest - Bowmore C/S - ...
114 - 20/05/2002 - Balvenie 17yo Islay Cask - Benriach 12yo 1986 - Balblair 10yo - Brackla 6yo 1994 - ...
115 - 25/05/2002 - Glenlivet 12yo French Oak - Glenfiddich 12yo, 15yo Solera & 15yo Cask Strength - ...
116 - 31/05/2002 - Glen Scotia 9yo - Glen Scotia 14yo - Springbank 10yo - MacDuff 11yo 1989 - ...
117 - 01/06/2002 - Convalmore (2x) - Linkwood 12yo 1989 - Balmenach 10yo - Aberlour A'bunadh #7 - ...
118 - 20/06/2002 - Macallan (12x) - Ardbeg 24yo 1975/2000 OMC - Saint Magdalene 19yo 1979 - ...
119 - 31/07/2002 - Glenallachie 8yo 1991/1999 - Dailuaine 16yo - Inchgower 12yo - Talisker 10yo - ...

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Log Entry # 110 - May 1, 2002
Topic:  Malts & Movies

Boy, I'm knackered.
Last night's
Walpurgis session has left me with a slight hangover.
That's the first time that has happened to me in years - maybe these are the first signs of old age setting in? Blurred vision and a distracting headache are especially inconvenient right now, for tonight I had planned a movie marathon with fellow film geeks Ruud, Björn and Arnoud.

As I wrote in the introduction I'm a big cinematophiliac.
Each year, usually around the time of the Cannes film festival, I organise my own miniature film festival; a screening of some classic movies at my place for a very select audience. I don't have too many friends - or my own movie projection system for that matter, but when everybody sits really close to the television set and squints it's just like being in the cinema ;-)

I try to come up with a different theme every year.
Some highlights were 1999's 'Werstern Weekend' (Sergio Leone's Dollar trilogy, Akira Kurosawa's 'Jojimbo' and Walter Hill's 'Last Man Standing') and last year's 'Gore-orgy' (George Romero's Night/Dawn/Day of the Dead trilogy and Sam Raimi's 'Evil Dead' trilogy, topped off by two early gems by Peter Jackson, 'Bad Taste' and 'Braindead'). The movie marathons usually involve a lot of snacking, but not last year... Last year was the first time I didn't have to fire up the frying pan and also the first time somebody became physically sick - we're still not sure if Gertjan's trigger was his 14th cocktail (2pt wodka, 2pt Malibu and 1pt Cointreau if I remember correctly) or the scene in 'Braindead' where two zombies are having it off and produce a hidious zom-baby. Fortunately, Gertjan recovered quickly with a dram of the Lahroaig 10 - wonderful all purpose medicine. At that point, Sophie suggested I should only serve single malts during my screenings to prevent similar upheavals in the future.

Now there's an idea! Strangely enough, it never before occured to me to try and mix my two passions (malts & movies) other than enjoying an occasional quiet dram in a bar, after a visit to the cinema. Sure, I poured the occasional single malt during screenings, but most of the time the movies demanded so much of our attention that I felt single malts would be 'pearls before swine'.
Nevertheless, the loose remark inspired me to try and mix my pleasures this year.

But how?
Well, the first thing that came to mind was selecting a couple of movies around a 'Whisky' theme this year. But I don't know that many movies about whisky. Sure, there are lots of movies where you have a few scenes involving people drinking whisky but that sounds like a pretty thin connection, doesn't it? I know of only one movie dealing specifically with whisky; 'Whisky Galore'. OK, maybe Brian De Palma's 'The Untouchables' could be considered a 'whisk(e)y-movie' too but I think that's it. And how about a 'Scotland' theme? Not too many good candidates either, I guess. 'Braveheart, 'Highlander' trilogy, 'Trainspotting', 'Local Hero' - that's all I could think of.

I abandonded the thought of a 'Scotland' or 'whisky' theme for this year's marathon.
Instead, I decided to go for a non-liquid theme ('Freaky Future Fiction') and try to match each movie with an appropriate single malt. So, what's 'appropriate' you ask? To me, that would be a single malt that suits (and maybe even enhances) the atmosphere of a movie. Since analysis of the whisky wasn't the objective during this exercise, I allowed my emotions guide me. My malt/movie matches were based on my memories of the movies (I usually only pick 'classic' movies I've seen before) and the 'character' of the single malts.

The menu for tonight's 'Freaky Future Fiction Festival':

1 - Starship Troopers (1997, Paul Verhoeven) & Glenlivet 12yo French Oak (40%, OB)
2 - The Matrix (1999, Wachowski Brothers) & Balvenie 12yo Doublewood (43%, OB)
3 - Blade Runner (1982, Ridley Scott) & Lagavulin 16yo (43%, OB)
4 - La Cité des enfants perdus (1997, Caro/Jeunet) & Macallan 18yo 1982 (43%, OB)
5 - Brazil (1985, Terry Gilliam) & Laphroaig 10yo Cask Strength (57.3%, OB)

Most films in tonight's line-up were big American Holywood movies.
The menu of my mini-festivals is usually more varied, but this year I switched from VHS-tape to DVD and Div-X. Sadly, very few European and other international releases are available on DVD yet in Holland. Especially relatively obscure classics like 'The City of Lost Children' or 'Reflecting Skin' are impossible to find. I have to admit I have no big moral problems with enjoying a Div-X pirate copy of a movie I already own on video - especially when they haven't bothered to release it on DVD yet. And when they DO release it the price is often almost twice that of the videotape, even though production costs of a DVD are considerably lower. These kinds of issues (the movie industry ripping off the public, copyrights, etc.) are always great for heavy discussions, so we started our bickering and debating even before I hit the 'Play' button.

1 - Starship Troopers (1997, Paul Verhoeven) & Glenlivet 12yo French Oak (40%, OB)
The movie: A no-brainer from Dutch director Paul Verhoeven, based on a novel by SF writer Robert Heinlein. Just like you shouldn't start off an ordinary tasting session with a cask strength malt you shouldn't start a movie night with a 'heavy' movie. Well, no problems there. The script is wafer thin and the acting is so wooden you could chop it. The CGI's a bit crummy by today's standards as well. But it's all in good fun; the good guys against the bad guys - or in this case 'the bad bugs'. Although the fascist overtones from Heinleins book may seem muffled, they are present and add a sauce of irony that makes the movie palatable.
The malt: Didn't leave a big impression. The finish was pretty dry. Just below average.
The mix: Quite suitable actually. Both the malt and the movie seem to be easily digestable and make you want to go for something more substantial right away. The dry finish of the Glenlivet matches the dry humour and ironic winks in the movie. But both are a little bit shizophrenic - not sure about what they want to be.
The scores: 6.9 for the movie, 7.4 for the malt.

2 - The Matrix (1999, Wachowski Brothers) & Balvenie 12yo Doublewood (43%, OB)
The movie: Wow! The special effect shots are really stunning! Excellent art direction. Very entertaining, but it has one annoying flaw - the people in the cutting room have been overly zealous. It seems like they removed a large chunk of the 'narrative' scenes linking the action together. This disrupts the flow of the story at times. Still, it kept us on the tips of our seats for most of the time. This is the kind of movie where the high resolution and freeze-frame ability of DVD really pay off. Debates about the occurrance of a 'reflection' theme could be settled instantly.
The malt: Yep, this is the good stuff. Sweet, sherried and polished in nose and taste.
More smoke and fruity notes over time. The taste is malty; smooth yet powerful.
The mix: Not so good, I'm afraid. At the end, this film left us with the feeling it didn't read its full potential. The theme offered the opportunity to add all kinds of subtext and meaning to the story, but in the end they passed up these chances and delivered a pretty straightforward action movie lacking in depth. Meanwhile, the Balvenie was about as good as a 12yo Speysider could possibly get. An almost flawless Speysider.
The scores: 8.2 for the movie, 8.5 for the malt.

3 - Blade Runner (1982, Ridley Scott) & Lagavulin 16yo (43%, OB)
The movie: One of my favourite SF writers is Philip K. Dick. His novel 'Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?' was the basis for the screenplay of this 20 years old classic. We watched the 'Director's Cut' without the second-hand footage from 'The Shining' at the end. The movie features a young Harrisson Ford, Rutger Hauer, Sean Young, Darryl Hannah (Woehaah!), Edward James Olmos and M. Emmett Walsh. Unlike the polished fascist society of Starship Troopers, the future we see here is rainy, dark and dirty - an amalgam of oriental and western influences. A timeless classic that manages to touch some deeper layers 'The Matrix' misses.
The malt: Well, I guess I've sung the praise of Lagavulin 16 often enough in the past. The new 'Port Ellen' bottling may score a few points below the old 'White Horse' version, but it's still powerful and smoky with just the right amount of sherry. I malt that stimulates heated debates.
The mix: Excellent. The whisky complements the movie instead of distracting from it.
Both the malt and the movie have a dark and brooding energy and demand attention.
The scores: 9.3 for the movie, 8.8 for the malt.

4 - La Cité des enfants perdus (1997, Caro/Jeunet) & Macallan 18yo 1982 (43%, OB)
The movie: A very, very weird movie, so time to light up a king-size joint. The look of this French movie is spectacular and unique - not like anything I've ever seen before. The story about the search of circus strongman 'One' (Ron Perlman) for his little brother takes a backseat to the amazing backgrounds, Giger-ish technology and visual gags. A parade of weird and wonderful characters comes by, mad dream stealing scientist 'Krank' (Daniel Emilfork) winning first prize as the Santa Claus from Hell. Special awards go to the siamese sisters, the midget and the clones. The limited colour scheme and the music by Angelo 'Twin Peaks' Badalamenti adds to the surreal atmosphere. The pedophiliac overtones concerning the little runaway 'Miette' are slightly disturbing, but other than that it's the perfect 'sit-back-and-be-mesmerised' movie.
'Cité...perdus' works more on an emotional level than on an intellectial one.
The malt: The Lagavulin is a hard act to follow, especially for a relatively soft-spoken Speysider. Well, soft-spoken compared to an Islay malt of course. This has plenty of nose - Sweet and sherried, fruity and woody. The trademark elements of Macallan. The taste is a small symphony on your tongue. My guests are no seasoned maltsters so their comments on the three previous malts had been very brief. But the Mac 18 managed to loosen their tongues. They went a bit beserk about it, actually.
The mix: Quite good, although the Macallan 10yo 100 Proof might have been even better considering this is a very powerful movie - it stays with you for long time. I think we were all silent and flabbergasted for at least two minutes after the credits rolled by. Excellent entertainment.
The scores: 9.0 for the movie, 9.0 for the malt.

5 - Brazil (1985, Terry Gilliam) & Laphroaig 10yo Cask Strength (57.3%, OB)
The movie: Much like the Laphroaig, 'Brazil' is powerful and utterly fantastic.
First off, the set design is absolutely stunning; something like a marriage of Fritz Lang's 'Metropolis' and Giger's design for 'Alien'. Dark and claustrophobic. The movie looks a lot grittier and more single-minded than Gilliam's later efforts like 'The Firsher King' or 'Twelve Monkeys'. The dream sequences are magical. Arnoud thought the fact that is was released in 1985 (one year after 1984, remember Orwell?) was significant. We didn't.
'Brazil' tells the story of one man, Sam Lowry, against the system. Or not.
When we meet him, Sam is nothing more than a cog in a huge, faceless bureuacracy.
He's no happy camper, but he escapes in his dreams. The dream sequences always set off an emotional trigger in me - I even get tears in my eyes every time I hear the theme music. Anyway, everything runs pretty smoothly until there's a seemingly insignificant mix-up between a mr. Buttle and a mr. Tuttle. Here comes in Robert DeNiro in the role of an unlikely hero - a plummer on acid. (Björn thought Robert DeNiro must have been inspired by Mario from the videogame when he selected his wardrobe.) I could go on describing the story, but that would be pointless. This is a movie you have to experience - visually, emotionally and intellectually. Suffice it to say it's one of the most excellent movies I've ever seen. Who could have expected that the guy behind the simple Monty Python animations would end up directing such a masterpiece? The screenplay was nominated for an Acadamy Award. It's mindboggling when you know the movie studio tried to change the wonderful ambiguous ending. It's open to all kinds of interpretations, which guarantees discussions and debates - especially when fuelled by a dram or two...

A movie you don't have to understand to enjoy.
The malt: Well, it kicks ass as usual.
Peat, peat, peat. Brine and tar in the nose, mixed with organic notes.
The taste is strong; sweet and salt at the same time. Burn, baby, burn.
Excellent for cask strength sipping (just sipping mind you!).
The mix: A match made in heaven. Dark & brooding with an occasional fruity ray of light.
Under the right conditions the borders between my senses seem to drop away.
The malt and the movie seem to have the same 'colors' - Dark greys and browns.
The scores: 9.6 for the movie, 9.3 for the malt.

That concluded our night of drinks and discussions.
Were these all 'perfect matches'? Sadly, no. I imagine the Saint Magdalene 19yo UDRM would have worked beautifully with a movie like 'Reflecting Skin', but I had to work with the bottles and DVD's on my shelves. One small remark of advice to finish off: If you want to organise a similar 'malts & movies' sampling make sure you choose whiskies and films you already know, otherwise neither one will get the attention it deserves.

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Log Entry # 111 - May 3, 2002
Topic:  Liquid Logistics

The Walpurgisnacht tasting on April 30 (see log entry #109) moved a couple of highly questionable bottles to my Midsummernight's Stock. Some of these malts are quite rare and fairly interesting from a malt maniac's perspective, but most of them don't score a lot of points on my personal pleasure scale. I shouldn't forget to add some malts to the menu that are more pleasing to the palate.
And with just six weeks to go, I'd better hurry up...

Tonight, I'll move 4 old favorites from my shelves and open 4 fresh bottles.
I started by removing the Macallan 12yo and Macallan 18yo 1982 from my top shelf. They will be sampled during the Malt Maniacs Macallan JOLT on June 20, so I won't have to taste them now. Next, I picked the 'old' Talisker 10yo. I'll have a big Talisker H2H2H2H in a few months (old 10yo OB, new 10yo OB, 1986DE OB and 19yo 1980 OMC), so I can skip sampling this one too.

That leaves just the Oban 14yo (43%, OB) from my middle shelf.
I opened this bottle (my second one ever) on October 15, 2000. (See
log entry #54.)
Nose: Apples. Dry sherry. Nothing really stands out; it's decent but lacks personality.
Pinches of salt and peat. Slightly spirity. A little spicy over time.
Taste: Soft sherry and a faint hint of peat. A little sour, sharp and flat.
All sweetness had disappeared. Bourbonish. Very dry, bitterish finish.
Score: 73 points. This version seems not nearly as good as my first (litre) bottling to begin with, and time hasn't been kind to it. It had almost no character left. I probably won't buy the Oban 14yo again, there are simply to many good alternatives at that price (> 35 Euro's in Holland).

OK, time to open some fresh bottles.
Starting with.... the Glendronach 15yo 100% Sherry Casks (40%, OB, 100cl), an 'old' favorite that seems to be the perfect big sherried replacement for the Macallan 12yo. The marketing dribble on the box is even more elaborate than usual. 'A sensory experience unique among malt whiskies'. 'Our babbling burn, traditional malting floor, great wooden washbacks, coal-fired copper stills and stone maturation houses help to create an unmistakable malt whisky'. Bla bla bla...
Nose: Heavy. Deep sherry and toffee. Wood. Sweeter with time.
Some salt as well. Great depth, complexity and development.
Taste: Sherry again, with some liquorice in the background.
A bitter explosion, like a liqueur-filled dark chocolate bonbon.
Score: 85 points. I remember finding more sweetness in the 'Dronach 15. This bottle is from the same batch as my first one, so I guess it needs some breathing to reach its full potential.

I think the Glen Scotia 14yo (40%, OB) would be a good replacement for the Talisker 10yo, especially with summer on the way. I find it amazing that this old bottling is still available. I already have 2 bottles in my reserve stock and picked this one up last month. Now I'll find out if this bottle is as good as my first one.
Nose: Flowery and fruity at first, more peat and salt after a minute.
Complex. Nectarines? Very fragrant; seems stronger than the actual 40%.
Taste: Sweet and malty. Some fruits. Very accessible.
Salty center. Lingering, playful finish.
Score: 83 points. Nothing wrong with this. It's from a different batch than my previous bottle, so this malt comes from different casks. So far, they seem to have achieved decent consistency.

Well, not many surprises so far.
Let's open two new bottlings I'm unfamiliar with to spice things up a bit.
The Auchroisk 11yo 1989/2001 Port Wood Finish (43%, Chieftain's), for example. It's one of 1944 bottles from casks #90191 and #90192, distilled September 1989 and bottled June 2001. Looking at these numbers, I suspect the cask selection process didn't take very long...
Nose: Oooh, that's nice... Lots of fruit and a little peat. Some smoke.
Sweet, overwhelming aroma. Deep woody notes. Great finishing job!
The complexity grows over time, gaining more peaty notes.
Taste: Sadly, it doesn't match the great nose. Watery fruits.
Dry, winey center with intruiging fruity episodes. Very woody finish.
Score: 81 points. An upper 80's nose and a lower 70's palate. Overall, it performed remarkably well; better than any Auchroisk I tried before, actually.

Last, but hopefully not least: the Mortlach 12yo 1989/2002 (43%, Coopers Choice), matured in sherry casks. I have a weakness for this Speyside distillery because a lot of bottlings show a peaty personality that is more refined than the big Islay monsters.
Nose: A bit fruity. Faintly oily in the start, with a distinct hint of peat.
Quickly opens up with more sherry and fruity notes - and especially peat!
Some smoke. Powerful and delicate at the same time. Very good.
Taste: Playful sweet start, quickly becoming smoky. A long, dry burn.
Very pleasant, but not nearly as interesting as the nose.
Score: 81 points. Amazingly peaty for a Speyside malt.

You know what? I'm on a roll tonight. There's a slight chance I'll be on antibiotics next week (meaning: no alcohol), so I decided to keep on sampling and shifting for as long as I could. I promised the other Malt Maniacs I would bring the Aberlour 100 Proof (57.1%, OB, 100cl) to the woods in June for the 'Midsummernight's Dram', so I decided to move it to my MSND-stock.
Nose: Overwhelming. Sweet, sherried, woody and some cookies.
Peaty (???) after five minutes. What a nose! With a dash of water more farmy and organic notes emerged, but some unpleassant paint thinner whiffs as well. Strong fruits and molasses.
Taste: Liquorice (root) and wood are the primary impressions. Easily drinkable at 'cask' strength. Very sweet with strong fruity notes. A bit like distilled Spanish sangria. Great!
Score: 86 points. Some breathing since I opened the bottle a month ago has improved the nose considerably!

Moving the Aberlour 100 proof to the MSND-stock made room on my top shelf for the two other Aberlours from my middle shelf, the Antique and the 15yo. Consequently, I get to open another fresh bottle from my reserve stock. I went for an another old favorite, the Balvenie Doublewood.

This bottle of Balvenie 12yo Doublewood (43%, OB, 100cl) has been calling out to me since I bought it; 'Open me, Johannes, you KNOW I'm gonna be good!'. We'll see about that.
Nose: Sweet and nutty start. Some sherry. A little alcoholic.
Fruitier and woodier with time.
Seems more restrained than I remember.
Taste: Fruity sweetness mixed with minty freshness. Intruiging sherry tones.
Very sweet, but different kinds of sweetness appearing one after another.
Great balance and development! Whiffs of soap after 15 minutes.
Score: 85 points. Still a great Bang-for-your-buck malt. The nose seems less expressive than before but the palate more than makes up for it. I really should get some spare bottles for my reserve stock; a couple of recent Balvenie bottlings (like the 17yo Islay Cask) have been seriously overpriced and overhyped. There are no guarantees when it comes to future quality and prices with 'commercial' malts like Balvenie 12.

OK, that does it.
It's 03:05 AM - Time to catch some
Z Zzz.....

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Log Entry # 112 - May 9, 2002
Topic:  B-Bottle Boogie - Part 1

Ascension Day - sounds like a good excuse for a few drams.
I've had an enjoyable tasting with the three Islay B's (Bowmore, Bruichladdich and Bunnahabhain) about six weeks ago and after last month's Walpurgisnacht tasting, I could cross Bladnoch off my list too. Come to think of it, my previous session involved Balvenie, so that one's taken care of as well. This leaves only 8 active 'B' distilleries to go;

  • Balblair
  • Ben Nevis
  • Benriach
  • Benrinnes
  • Benromach
  • Blair Athol
  • Brackla
  • Braes of Glenlivet (Braeval)

Ben Nevis is the only distillery I'm really 'familiar' with - meaning I've sampled several different bottlings. None of them this year though, so I'll have to drop by a whiskybar soon to virtually visit Ben Nevis to fulfill my 'Scotland by Dram' duties. Balblair, Benriach and Blair Athol are not present in my current collection either - and they all need a second chance.

I'll get back to these distilleries in the next session.
Tonight, I'll focus my tasting efforts on the 'B-bottles' I've got in my current collection; Benrinnes, Benromach, (Royal) Brackla and Braes of Glenlivet.

The Benrinnes 15yo (43%, Flora & Fauna, 70cl) was my first ever bottle of Benrinnes and it has lasted me for quite a while. I planned on sampling it tonight before moving it to my MSND-stock so other people could enjoy it too. Those plans were shattered when I tried to pull the cork from the bottle and it suddenly broke into pieces. More than half of the cork was left in the neck of the bottle, which means I can't close the bottle again once I've removed the cork.
I decided to leave the bottle alone until June 21; maybe one of the malt maniacs who'll join me for the 'Midsummernight's Dram' will know a solution.

I proceeded as planned by opening the Benrinnes 1978/1995 (40%, Gordon & MacPhail, 70cl). This 'Centenary Reserve' version was bottled in 1995, but it showed no signs of any illegal breathing in the seven years since it was bottled. The extra tin seal over the screwcap works prefectly. I've had some bad experiences with the cheap tin screwcaps G&M uses in the past. The caps on a couple of G&M bottlings I tried had been damaged, causing the whisky in the bottle to evaporate much faster than usual. This phenomenon has been giving me a lot of grief since I first discovered it. More than it should, I guess. The cork incident with the Benrinnes 15yo wasn't my first one, proving that conventional corks can have their problems too.

Anyway, on to the tasting report.
Nose: Fruity with a whiff of peat. Quite fresh. Soft sweetness.
Oilier after a while. Interesting development but little volume.
Taste: Soft start, with a wonderful toffee sweetness emerging quickly.
Sadly, it disappears again just as quickly. No sweetness left after 5 minutes.
Fresh burn. Bitter in the finish with strong flashes of liquorice.
Score: 77 points. Doesn't seem too impressive at first, so I'll park it on my bottom shelf. The Flora & Fauna 15yo had much more character and balance, if I remember correctly.

OK, time to move a second bottle to the MSND-stock.
I went for the Royal Brackla 20yo 1978/1998 (59.8%, UDRM, 70cl). It's bottle #3887, which makes it a 'not so very rare' malt. It also proves the rumours about the UDRM's being single cask bottlings are false - I've never heard of a +3000 litre cask...
Nose: Wowie! Like a summer stroll in a pine forest.
A lot going on, but hard to describe. More paint thinner after a few minutes.
Taste: A second of resin, followed by a smooth honeyed sweetness.
Fruitier when drunk in bigger sips, with oatmeal in the finish. Nice...
Score: 79 points. A strange malt. It would have been a good one for the Walpurgis tasting. This was my first bottle ever, so I'll have to revisit Royal Brackla later this year.

I chose another UD 'Rare Malt' to replace the Royal Brackla on my middle shelf.
The Benromach 19yo 1978/1998 (63.8%, UDRM, 70cl) was bottle #2036; another 'not so rare' malt - especially since the distillery was re-opened in 1998 by new owners Gordon & MacPhail.
Nose: A deep toffee sweetness came from the bottle itself, but in the glass it seemed very different. Spirity. Rhum. Hard to pin down anything specific, although it takes a distinct fruitier direction after a few minutes. Opens up with a splash of water (sweeter), but just a little.
Taste: Undiluted, it seems rather sweet at first. Quickly drops off.
The resemblance to rhum pops up here as well. Some pine in the center.
More citrus (fruitier throughout) after some time and some water.
Score: 74 points. This was a tough one. It receives some bonus points for sheer strength, but all in all it shows insufficient character and personality. Not the best choice if you're looking for one of the top notch rare malts.

23:45 - Plenty of time for another shelf-switch. I selected the North Port-Brechin 1981 (40%, Gordon & MacPhail, 70cl) for my MSND-stock. Previous tastings indicated that this is no high flyer but the distillery was closed in 1983, which gives it some curiosity value.
Nose: Soft menthol. Clean. Perfumy. Flat and restrained.
Some chemical fruity notes - vanilla and banana, mostly.
Taste: Smooth start. Creamy. Menthol freshness. Burnt caramel.
Some liquorice in the center. A little green and bitter in the finish.
Score: 60 points. Very few redeeming qualities. This may be a nice alternative to a middle-class blend, but quite frankly I think it shouldn't have been bottled as a single malt.

00:15 - Time to open my last bottle.
When I opened
the Braes of Glenlivet 17yo 1979/1997 (58.1%, Signatory Vintage, 70cl) the bottle didn't go 'Plop', it sucked! Weird... I didn't quite know what to expect.
Nose: Holy Moly! A deep and powerful sherry symphony. Starts out with lots of autumn forest notes and keeps developing from there. Amazing complexity. Oriental notes. And that's before I added water. When I did, the nose became fruitier - but I wouldn't say it improved.
Taste: Very sherried burn, with a peppermint counterpoint. Good wood.
Marzipan in the finish. With water, the finish became too woody and dry.
Score: 87 points. Sing Hallelujah! Another amazing discovery. This bottle may have sucked when I opened it, but it didn't suck!  A bit like an Aberlour A'bunadh avant la lettre.
Hold the water on this one - it's almost perfect as it is.

Hmmm... 00:55 AM and only five 'B distilleries left.
A good night's work.
The Braes of Glenlivet 17yo moves to my top shelf, (temporarily) banning the Glen Scotia 14yo to my middle shelf. I'm quite sure it will be able to recover a top shelf position once the peace has returned to my shelves.

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Log Entry # 113 - May 15, 2002
Topic:  Bowmore Revisited

I didn't get the chance to do a proper H2H2H of the three Bowmores in my collection during last month's Islay 'B' Bonaza (see log entry #108), so I decided to give it a go tonight.
On the menu:

- Bowmore Darkest (43%, OB, 70cl)
- Bowmore 15yo Mariner (43%, OB, 70cl)
- Bowmore Cask Strength (56%, OB, 100cl)

Match 1 - Bowmore Darkest vs Bowmore 15yo Mariner
Nose: Both had that typical Bowmore sherry twang and were a bit harsh in the start. The Darkest has more smoke and feints than the Mariner, which finds a balance with sweeter elements quickly. The Darkest remains
extremely sherried throughout, while the 15yo keeps developing. After half an hour, the 15yo seems much oilier than the Darkest, which remained smoky.
Taste: The start of the Darkest hadn't improved in the two years since I opened the bottle; a harsh attack of ashes. It has a decent moment in the center but drops off towards the finish, which is much too woody. The 15yo starts very woody - in a good way - and slowly develops into a sweet center. Fruits, smoke and some wood in the finish.

Match 2 - Bowmore Darkest vs Bowmore Cask Strength
Nose: In this H2H, the Darkest seems relatively sweet at first. Strangely enough, the cask strength version seems a little restrained. Chemical and antiseptic with a pinch of salt. After a few minutes, the Darkest became nuttier with lots of fruit. The CS stayed pretty much the same. The Darkest defeats the CS decisively in the nose-department.
Taste: Ashes and molasses in the Darkest, some menthol in the center with lots of smoke in the finish. A medicinal note as well. The Cask Strength was sweet and strong in the start, quickly switching to a short, bitter finish. Neither one gets high grades for complexity or endurance.

Match 3 - Bowmore 15yo Mariner vs Bowmore Cask Strength
Nose: In this comparison, the 15yo seemed oily and fruity, while the CS showed grey clay and salt. After ten minutes, the CS is sweeter and has much more depth. With some water, the CS had more smoke and phenolic components.
Taste: The 15yo was woody and smoky in the start, becoming softly sweet, fruity, slightly minty and then fizzling out a bit. The CS explodes with a big sweet burn, while the finish seems to last longer than before. Diluted to +/- 45% it finally showed some peat - the first time I found that tonight!

- Bowmore Darkest: 65 points.
- Bowmore 15yo Mariner: 81 points .
- Bowmore Cask Strength: 78 points.

The Bowmore Darkest and Cask Strength move to my MSN Stock, but I'll keep the Bowmore 15yo on my shelves a little longer. And now it's time for my reward: I get to open two fresh bottles from my reserve stock. And not just any bottles!!!

I've had my eye on the Port Ellen 22yo 1978/2000 (60.5%, UDRM, 70cl) ever since Davin and Serge sent raving reports about it. Bottle #2204 was distilled in 1978 and bottled in October 2000. The price is quite steep - 120 Euro's is the cheapest I've seen.
Nose: Wow! Powerful from the start, becoming bigger and complex. Organic. Salted peanuts. Fresh peat. Farmy ammoniak associations. Rubber? After ten minutes, more fruits and some subtle smoky notes - smoked eel rather than burning wood. The development continues. With five drops of water, the nutty component comes to the foreground. And then the smoky peat pops up. Another explosion of complexity after 10 more drops of water. Mint? And it keeps on going... Diluted to +/- 40% percent it became dustier with chemical lemons, aniseed and a hint of oil. Sucrose. After half an hour, organic peat notes become dominant again.
The nose just keeps on going - still great well after one hour...
Taste: Undiluted, the start seems very sweet. With five drops of water, it becomes slightly more transparant with some wood and a pinch of peat in the everlasting sweet finish. With 10 more drops of water, the finish becomes very dry and the subtle smokiness pops up again.
Score: 93 points. Yeah, that's right! After just one dram, I think I've found a new number two malt on my best-to-worst list (number three if you count the old Lagavulin 16yo).

Which gives me an idea. I need to open another fresh bottle anyway, so why not go for one of my 'new' Lagavulin 16's? When I say 'new', I mean the 'Port Ellen' bottling with the little boat I wrote about in Log Entry #107. And why not make it a H2H of Lagavulin 16 yo (43%, OB, 70cl) and the UDRM Port Ellen 22yo I just opened to see if the rating of 93 points is really warranted?
Nose: Both are peaty and organic, but the Lagavulin shows more sherry. Both are smoky, but the Lagavulin has a deep, autumn, burning leaves aroma while the PE shows a more subtle smokiness of smokes eel or salmon. The PE is definitely more complex and balanced, with nutty notes and a fruity fiddle in the background. It keeps developing further over time, especially with water.
Taste: The Lagavulin starts sweet and smoky. The finish is long and smoky with the bittersweet twang of burnt caramel. Straight up, the PE is sweet and extremely powerful. The fruity center is followed by a slightly woody finish that seems to go on forever. At +/- 50%, the PE showed more smoke and peat - especially in the dry finish. More grassy & perfumy at +/- 40%.
Conclusion: 93 points for the PE and 88 points for the new Lagavulin seems about right.

Hurray! - I've just made another amazing discovery...

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Log Entry # 114 - May 20, 2002
Topic:  B-Bottle Boogie - Part 2

The sun is shining...
The birds are chirping...
Perfect conditions for a trip to 'De Still' for a closer inspection of the five remaining 'B' distilleries, Balblair, Ben Nevis, Benriach, Blair Athol and (Royal) Brackla. I won't bore you with peripherical details and just give you the quick-'n-dirty notes on the 'Bees' I sampled today.

The first distillery on my list was Balblair, but when I spotted the Balvenie 17yo Islay Cask (43%, OB, 70cl, 94 casks) I just HAD to give it a try. I sampled my first dram at last year's whiskyfestival in The Hague and wasn't particalary impressed. Time for another shot.
Nose: Soft and sweet. Honey. Toffee. Something doesn't fit right. It seems a bit restrained and falls apart quickly. The Islay part doesn't show itself for a few minutes.
Taste: Rough. Unbalanced. Little depth. Very dry, especially in the finish.
Conclusion: 76 points . I see no reason to pay 100 Euro's for a big bottle.

OK - on to the five distilleries I'm required to visit tonight...
Starting with the Balblair 10yo (40%, Gordon & MacPhail, 70cl). From the looks of it, this bottle had been on the shelves of De Still for at least ten years. Still gave it a try, though.
Nose: Furniture polish? Intruiging fruity notes.
Lots of character, but it drops off quickly.
Taste: Soft, smooth and sweet. Toffeeish. Slightly bitter.
Dark chocolate in the finish. Not a lot of individuality, but very nice.
Conclusion: 77 points. If I'm not mistaken, this bottle showed some tell-tale signs of excessive breathing. I somehow suspect it performed better in its prime. This was confirmed by the bartender, who ventilated some strong opinions about the old Gordon & MacPhail philosophy of 'blending' and 'standardizing' their malts to achieve some uniformity of character. I think he made a good point; a lot of the older G&M bottles taste more or less the same.

I proceeded with the Ben Nevis 8yo 1990/1999 (43%, Signatory Vintage, 70cl); bottle #603 of 948, distilled on 14/12/1990, matured in sherry butt #1379 and bottled on 21/7/1999.
Nose: Grainy and a little grassy. Spirity. Faint wax? Some salt.
A hint of smoke. No sweetness at all. A simple and plain character.
Taste: Soft & sweetish at first. Maltier after a minute with a bitter finish.
A little oily, a little smoky, but ultimately uninspired.
Conclusion: 66 points. I actually had a very similar Signatory Vintage bottling in my own collection in the summer of 2000, from sister cask #1376 (see log entries #34, #60 and #76). The character was quite different, but it received a similar rating of 67 points.

Next up: the Benriach 12yo 1986/1998 (43%, Signatory Vintage, 70cl). This was bottle #172 of 420, distilled 19/05/1986, matured in oak casks #4804 & 4805 and bottled in June 1998.
Nose: Peculiar. A lot of development. Sweeter with time.
Grainier and more chloride with a splash of water.
Taste: Malty. Sweetish wint a hint of pine. Plywood? Sticky.
Toffee smotthness after adding some water. Bitterish finish.
Conclusion: 73 points . A decent 'middle-of-the-road' malt.

Next on the alphabetical list was Bladnoch. I opened my second bottle last month on 'Walpurgisnacht', so I could pass it by this time. Not that I wanted to (Bladnochs can be quite good!), but my imbibing capacity is limted.

So, on to the Blair Athol 11yo 1989/2000 (58.1%, Cadenhead's Authentic Collection, 70cl). It's one in a series of 324 bottles, matured in a Bourbon hogshead and bottled in September 2000.
Nose: Transparant and dry. Hint of peat? Not nearly as powerful as I expected.
Explosion of character with 5 drops of water, but 10 more drops effectively kill it.
Taste: Easily drinkable at 58.1%. Very pleasant complexity.
A fruity sweetness that remains entertaining for a long time.
Conclusion: 82 points. Good stuff - very nice! Sadly enough, Cadenhead bottlings are very rare in Holland. The bartender had some interesting background info about that. It seems the relation between Cadenhead's and the Dutch agent they had at the time went sour about ten years ago and they haven't actively promoted Cadenheads in Holland ever since. A bloody shame.

The Royal Brackla 20yo 1978/1998 (59.8%, UDRM, 70cl) I sampled on May 9 was my very first bottle, so I'll need to sample another version tonight for the 'Second Chance Challege'.
I went for the Brackla 6yo 1994/2000 (43%, McGibbon's Provenance, 70cl), distilled in the winter of 1994 and bottled in the winter of 2000. Interestingly enough, they've dropped the 'Royal' part of the name for this bottling. A bit too young to call it 'Royal', perhaps?
Nose: Phew! Oily and grainy. Clean. Hint of peat?
Nice enough, but not a lot of character.
Taste: Flat and mostly devoid of character. Hint of peat in the finish.
Conclusion: 70 points - not bad for such a young malt, but no high flyer either. They should have left this cask alone for a while longer.

OK, that settles it - I've now finished my duties as far as my 'Scotland by Dram' tour is concerned. But I had spotted one last bottle I REALLY wanted to try again. I couldn't help myself and went back to the Braes of Glenlivet 1977/2000 Madeira Cask (43%, Montgomerie's Single Cask Collection, 70cl) I tasted for the first time in March 2001 (see log entry #81). This was another bottle of course (#57), but it came from the same cask; #100763, distilled on 19/10/1979 and bottled in October 2000.
Nose: Soft, sweet and creamy. Fruity. Sherried and a little perfumy. It really needs a minute, but then it opens up big time. Amazing richness. Turkish delight. Marzipan & walnuts. Soy sauce.
Taste: Fruit sweets. Toffees and cookies. Very well-balanced. Dry, woody finish.
Conclusion: 85 points. If it wasn't for the soapy episodes in the nose and taste it would have scored one or two points higher. Very good stuff.

Slightly more familiar with the 'B' part of Scotland's liquid landscape I left De Still. After I got home, I opened my fresh bottle of Balblair 'Elements' (40%, OB, 70cl) to soothe my senses while writing the 'Shorthand Still Reviews' of the B distilleries. I picked up the bottle this afternoon (see added note) for just 25 Euro's at Gall & Gall Exclusief.
Nose: Oily with a fair dash of peat. Some smoke, chloride and dust. 'Coastal'.
Licorice root. Strawberries? Good balance. Interplay of sweet and salt.
Taste: Clean. Sweetish, malty and a little smoky. Bitter in the finish.
Score: 77 points. A nice surprise! A Highlander with some Campbeltown and Islay characteristics. I actually like this cheap version slightly better than the G&M 10yo I sampled at the Still today and the 16yo OB that passed through my collection last year.

Anyway, by the time I had finished the 'Shorthand Still Reviews (see below) the Balblair Elements was 1/3 empty (or 2/3 full, however you look at it) and it needed a spot on my shelves. A perfect excuse to move the Aberlour A'bunadh Batch #6 (59.9%) to my MSND-stock and return the Glenfarclas 21 to my top shelf where it belongs.
Nose: Deep, overwhelming sweetness. Sherry, oak and smoke.
Smoked almonds? Distinctly 'gamy' - like wild boar in cranberry/wine-sauce.
Diluted to +/- 50%, some oriental tones emerged. At +/- 40%, it's still very powerful.
Taste: Whoof! Like a bunsenburner at cask strength. A long, sustained burn with very strong fruity and sherry notes in the center. Fruit and marzipan in the finish. The start is fruitier and the finish is a lot oakier at 50% - maybe a tad too much so. Fish??? No sweetness.
Score: 88 points. Seriously good. 'The Fruity Formula'. Not as balanced as the previous version, but a winner nonetheless. Should go very well with game, if you like malts with your dinner.

Status Scotland by Dram / Second Chance Challenge:
[52/35] distilleries left.

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Shorthand Still Reviews - Part B:

Balblair (Highlands) - I've discovered this Northern Highlander relatively late, because Balblair used to be practically unavailable in Holland. Fortunately, that changed recently. I think this is the first distillery owned by Inver House I have warm feelings for - well, together with its fellow Northern Highlander Old Pulteney maybe. Bottlings of Balmenach, Knockdhu and Speyburn didn't manage to excite me a whole lot - and I've never tried Glen Flagler. In the past, Craig Daniels and Jim Murray have made some observations about Balblair performing best at younger ages and (based on the evidence so far) I find myself in agreement.
Still Score:

Balvenie (Speyside) - I've been a long-time fan of Balvenie - even though it was founded (in 1892) by William Grant, just like Glenfiddich. The Balvenie 12yo Doublewood is simply one of the best all-round 'Bang-for-your-Buck' malts available and the 15yo Single Barrel and 21yo Port Wood Finish (1997) were not bad either. Until I sampled the 17yo Islay Cask last year, every Balvenie I tried scored over 80 points - but the Islay Cask may be the herald of a range of more expensive, less 'intensive' Balvenies. If it hadn't been for the 10yo Founder's Reserve and 17yo Islay Cask, the still score for Balvenie would have been five glittering stars.
Still Score:

Ben Nevis (Highlands) - The distillery lies at the foot of Ben Nevis, Scotland's highest mountain, and uses the water that flows down for their malts. It was built in 1825 by 'Long John' MacDonald. In 1955 Joseph Hobbs bought the place and installed a Coffey-still, which made Ben Nevis the only distillery at the time to produce both malt and grain whisky. I've sampled three different bottlings; the standard official bottling (10 years old) was the winner by far. Two young sister bottlings by Signatory Vintage (eight years old, distilled in 1991, sherry casks #1376 and 1379) were nasty, but the 10yo OB (78 points) keeps the score at 3 stars.
Still Score:

Benriach (Speyside) - The Benriach distillery was built in 1898 by John Duff, one of the people who founded the nearby Longmorn distillery just four years earlier. After 1900, Benriach was silent for most of the twentieth century, although its maltings were used by Longmorn. Today, both distilleries still have the same owner; Chivas / Seagram. The best Benriach I ever tried (12yo 1986, Signatory Vintage, 43%) scored 73 measly points and wasn't even an official bottling, so I can't really justify a still score of more than two stars.
Still Score:

Benrinnes (Speyside) - Founded in 1835 by John Innes under the name 'Lyne of Ruthrie', the distillery has had a long history with many different owners. A 15yo Flora & Fauna version performed very well (83 points), but the 1978 G&M bottling I opened a few weeks ago scored only little above average. Benrinnes plays in the upper echelons of the 3-stars division; maybe sampling a third version will convince me to add another star.
Still Score:

Benromach (Speyside) - Another distillery with a chequered past. It was built by Duncan McCallum and F. W. Brickman in 1898 and was closed again soon afterwards. Duncan McCallum re-opened the distillery in 1907 under the name 'Forres'. It had some success after WWI, but was silent again from 1931 to 1936. Finally, the distillery was closed in 1983 by the previous owners, United Distillers. Gordon & MacPhail acquired Benromach in 1992, which was officially re-opened again by Prince Charles in 1998 - excactly 100 years after it was founded.
Still Score:

Bladnoch (Lowlands) - Now here's an interesting distillery with a story behind it. First of all, it is located somewhat off the beaten track - in the far south of the Lowlands, near the English border. The only other distillery in the vicinity is (or rather was) Ladyburn; Lowland distilleries like Auchentoshan and Glenkinchie lie more than 100 kilometers to the north. Bladnoch was founded in 1817 by Thomas McLelland and it remained in the family until 1938 when it was closed down for the first time. The distillery has had several different owners until United Distillers 'mothballed' the place in 1993. Bladnoch was revitalized by Raymond Armstrong in 1999. I've sampled several excellent Bladnochs (especially Ultimate bottlings) in the past, so I have no problems awarding four stars to Bladnoch.
Still Score:

Blair Athol (Midlands) - A relatively obscure distillery that hasn't let me down yet. The distillery was founded in 1798 by John Stewart and Robert Robertson. I've only 'seriously' sampled two versions (a Flora & Fauna 12yo and tonight's Cadenhead 11yo) but both scored around 80 points. A couple of older versions I tried 'off the record' performed above average as well.
Worthy of further investigation.
Still Score:

Bowmore (Islay) - One of the big names; for many people Bowmore is their first Islay experience. Arguably, they have the best marketing of all Islay distilleries - at least until recently, when Ardbeg and Bruichladdich were re-introduced with pump and circumstance by the new owners. Founded in 1779, the distillery has a rich history. In 1963 it was acquired by Stanley P. Morrison - hence the name on the labels; Morrison Bowmore. See log entries #108 and #112 (or Patrick Whaley's interview with Derek Gilchrist on Malt Maniacs) for more details.
Still Score:

(Royal) Brackla (Speyside) - The (Royal) Brackla distillery was founded in 1812 by captain William Fraser. In 1935, it was the first distillery to receive a royal warrant from King William IV - hence the old slogan 'The King's Own Whisky'. Brackla is currently owned by Dewar's. I've only sampled two different versions so far; an UDRM 20yo 1978 59.8% and today's McGibbon's 6yo 1994 - scores 79 and 70 points, respectively. The choice for 3 stars is obvious.
Still Score:

Braes of Glenlivet / Braeval (Speyside) - Now here's a hidden gem! The distillery is one of the younger ones in Scotland, built in 1973/74. Owner Seagram changed the name from 'Braes of Glenlivet' to 'Braeval' recently to avoid confusion with their other single malt, 'The Glenlivet'. Braeval is an important component of Seagram's Chivas Regal blends, which seems like a bit of a missed opportunity, really. All the bottlings I tried so far scored well above average, so I'd like to see more of the stuff bottled as a single malt. A well-deserved four stars for Braes of Glenlivet.
Still Score:

Bruichladdich (Islay) - I wasn't to keen on the old Bruichladdich bottlings (they all seemed a bit 'plastered shut'), but the new Bruichladdich range that was introduced last year by the new owners was notably better - especially the 15yo. Very promising for the future! Check out the Malt Maniacs interview with Mark Reynier for more background info on Bruichladdich.
Still Score:

Bunnahabhain (Islay) - Bunnahabhain is Gaelic for 'mouth of the river'. Until very recently, I sampled only one version of Bunnahabhain, the standard 12yo official bottling. Well, I sampled different incarnations of it, but they all were quite similar and scored at least 80 points. Until I tasted the Chieftain's Bunnahabhain 12yo, I always regarded Bunnahabhain as a bit of a 'reliable but slightly dull' distillery, but that has changed. Independent bottlings remain hard to find.
Still Score:

That's it. All active 'A' and 'B' distilleries are covered.
Only 24 more letters to go...

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mAddendum 114A - Gall & Gall Exclusief & Assorted Acquisitions

I made a (reluctant) stop at the Gall&Gall Exclusief (near Dam Square) when I found out they offered a couple of 'Cooper's Choice' bottlings at fairly reasonable prices. I went for;

  • Balblair 'Elements' (40%, OB, 70cl) - 25 Euro's
  • Caol Ila 9yo 1992 / 2002 Oak Cask (43%, Coopers Choice, 70cl) - 40 Euro's
  • Linkwood 12yo 1989/2002 Oak Cask (43%, Coopers Choice, 70cl) - 36 Euro's (2x)
  • MacDuff 11yo 1990/2002 Oak Cask (43%, Coopers Choice, 70cl) - 40 Euro's (2x)
  • Mortlach 12yo 1989/2002 Sherry Cask (43%, Coopers Choice, 70cl) - 40 Euro's (3x)

With the possible exception of the MacDuff, I imagined all malts would offer decent 'bang for my buck'. But when I checked my calculations outside the store, I discovered that the transfer from guilders to Euro's this year had once again tricked me into spending more than I actually wanted. The solution: buy a few more bottles at Menno Boorsma, where I KNOW the prices are reasonable. My acquisitions:

  • Campbeltown 10yo (40%, Signatory Vintage Bastard, 70cl) - 19 Euro's
  • Clynelish 12yo 1989/2002 (43%, Signatory Vintage, 70cl) - 30 Euro's
  • Drumguish NAS (40%, OB, 70cl) - 16 Euro's
  • Glenallachie 8yo 1991/1999 (43%, Signatory Vintage, 70cl) - 29 Euro's
  • Macallan 1990/1999 (50%, John Milroy Millennium Selection, 70cl) - 36 Euro's (2x)

When I arrived home and checked my finances, I discovered that I could permit myself a few extra special bottles, as long as I made sure to find the cheapest on-line supplier - in this case Ton Overmars.
My selection included:

  • Aberlour A'bunadh Batch #7 (59.9%, OB, 70cl) - 69 Euro's
  • Ardbeg 24yo 1975 (50%, Douglas Laing OMC, 70cl) - 96 Euro's (3x)
  • Braes of Glenlivet 1977/2000 Madeira (43%, Montgomerie's, 70 cl) - 65 Euro's

That's it for this shopping spree. The next batch that will reach my shelves will be muled in by fellow malt maniacs Serge and Klaus in June. And that should be the last acquisition in a long time. I'll have to be a little more careful when it comes to liquidising my assets in the forseeable future.

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Log Entry # 115 - May 25, 2002
Topic:  Glenvestigations - Part 1

I guess I should be getting on with my 'Scotland by Dram' project (alphabetically, I mean), but before I turn to the 'C' distilleries I want to move a couple of mundane malts to my 'Midsummernight's Dram' stock. Tonight's menu includes:

- Glenlivet 12yo French Oak Finish (40%, OB, 70cl)
- Glenfiddich 12yo Special Reserve (40%, OB, 70cl)
- Glenfiddich 15yo Solera Reserve (40%, OB, 70cl)
- Glenfiddich 15yo Cask Strength (51%, OB, 100cl)

When I opened the Glenlivet 12yo French Oak Finish (40%, OB, 70cl), the cork smelled 'winey'. I don't know if this is a bad sign or just the result of finishing in French Limousin oak casks.
Nose: More volume than the standard 12yo. Nutty and a little sherried.
Whiffs of soap perfume after a minute. Water melon. It has legs, but not much depth.
Taste: A flat start, a sweet center and a toffeeish finish.
At first, the finish seems quite short but it gains stamina after some breathing.
The finish is woody and slightly smoky, but ends on an unpleasant bitter note.
Score: 74 points. I actually prefer the standard 12yo to the FOF. The nose makes a good first impression but turns out to be quite shallow on closer inspection. The soap perfume in the nose and the bitter tail of the finish nibble away a few points as well.

The Glenfiddich 12yo Special Reserve (40%, OB, 70cl) isn't one of my favorite malts (to put it mildly), but it's a little better than its 'NAS' predecessor. It's the most widely available single malt, so it should be part of the MSND-stock for reference purposes.
Nose: Spirity with spring fruits - green apples and cider. Grainy and a little dusty.
Faint sweetness. Hint of peat (!) after 10 minutes. More depth after half an hour.
Taste: Thin, flat start - seems slightly off. Maltier with time.
Bitter, short finish. Utterly devoid of personality.
Score: 62 points. Nuff said. The 'blend' among malts.

The Glenfiddich 15yo Solera Reserve (40%, OB, 70cl) performed much better than the 12yo Special Reserve on previous occasions. Not very much, though, with a score around 70 points.
Nose: A little sherried. Not very expressive, but smooth and well-balanced.
Picks up after 5 minutes, showing a wider spectrum (peat again) and more detail.
Taste: Licorice! Wow - I didn't notice that before. Malty. Sherry and plywood.
Fresh episodes. Sweetish and a little dusty. A bitter dissonant in the finish.
Score: 75 points. This seems to be one of those malts that benefits considerably from some breathing in the bottle. Especially the sherry components need some time to develop.

When I opened the Glenfiddich 15yo Cask Strength (51%, OB, 100cl) I noticed that it had a plastic screwtop, just like the 12yo. But the 15yo Solera Reserve has a cork. Strange... And you know what else is weird? The bottle says it's 'partially chill-filtered'. What does that mean?
Nose: Nondescript start, but it quickly picks up. A lot of volume after a few minutes. Slightly nutty. Smooth, sweet and ever so slightly oily. Yes, some peat! A lot of development, even before I added water. When I did, it didn't seem to have much effect.
Taste: Mostly malty at cask strength. Long bitterness & smoke in the finish.
With a little water the bitterness starts earlier and is much stronger.
Score: 77 points. The best Glenfiddich I ever tasted. In my memory, it was even better - but hey, when I sampled it for the first time in 1997 (see log entry #3) I had little experience with cask strength malts. But then again, 51% hardly qualifies as a cask strength, now does it? Maybe it'll improve with some breathing like the 15yo Solera. For now, it moves to my bottom shelf.

This was the first time I noticed a hint of peat in Glenfiddichs.
Am I hallucinating? Maybe not, because I've heard some people report peat before. I thought they were crazy, but now I'm thinking maybe they weren't. Or maybe I'm just becoming crazy myself...

Let's verify my findings;

In a quick H2H of Glenlivet 12yo FOF vs Glenfiddich 12yo SR the Glenlivet was notably sweeter in the nose. Fruitier too, after a minute. All in all, the Glenlivet showed much more character. The Glenfiddich showed an unpleasant oiliness after five minutes - and yes, a very faint whiff of light peat. The taste of the Glenlivet was very smooth; bitter first, then sweet, and then bitter again in the finish. The Glenfiddich was feistier on the palate but dropped off sooner. It seems very flat and thin compared to the Glenlivet. No reason to change my ratings; the >10 points difference is warranted.

The H2H of Glenfiddich 15yo Solera Reserve vs Glenfiddich 15yo Cask Strength proved my first impression; the nose of the Solera has much more volume than the C/S at first, even though that one has a higher proof. The Solera is full and sherried (with a hint of peat), the C/S seems lighter and grainier. But then it starts to develop, and I started to appreciate the transparancy more. It's like a deeper, more complex version of the 12yo Special Reserve. After +/- five minutes the tables are turned completely, and the C/S wins the complexity contest.
Drunken in small sips, there's little difference in character, although the C/S lasts much longer. The Solera seemed sweet, almost cool on the palate with a pinch of peat, while the watered down C/S became very sweet and delivered a sustained burn that seemed to last forever. Phew! More water for the C/S. Still very sweet, but now a yeasty bitterness emerges.
Same distillery, same age, but two very different malts.
The ratings stand (75 and 77 points, respectively).

OK - Four malts down and it's just 23:30.
Why not have some more Glen fun? I moved the Glenfiddich 12yo Special Reserve and 15yo Solera Reserve to my MSND-stock as planned. Then I put the freshly opened Glenfiddich 15yo Cask Strength on my bottom shelf. I was about to do the same with the Glenlivet 12yo FOF when I hesitated and realised that this wasn't a bottle I really needed on my shelves. I figured it would be a perfect 'philistine bottle' for June 21, so I moved it to my MSND-stock.

This means I get to open one more fresh bottle from my reserve stock.
My freshest bottle was the Glenmorangie Port Wood Finish (43%, OB, 100cl) my collegue Twan picked up at a tax free shop in Switzerland for less than 40 Euro's.
Nose: Very complex! Subtle, yet expressive. Sherryish and fruity. Great!
Dried apples. Coffee beans? Strong perfumy episodes. Smokier over time.
Taste: Hmmm... Seems much 'flatter' than my previous bottle. Fruity sweetness. Fresh episodes; eucalyptus in the finish. Nothing very special, to tell you the truth.
Score: 81 points. Great nose, average palate. Not quite as 'porty' as my first bottle, it seems. The 'Morangie Port moves to middle shelf, pushing the Cragganmore 12 to my bottom shelf.

That's it - sleepy time.

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Log Entry # 116 - May 31, 2002
Topic:  Glenvestigations - Part 2

The 'Midsummernight's Dram' is just three weeks away and I'm still not entirely happy with the variety of bottles I will be able to offer my guests. Some of these guests are fellow malt maniacs who are traveling great distances to participate in the event. Of course, I want to offer them some interesting choices. So, once again I forget about my 'Scotland by Dram' project for a moment and try to channel some more interesting stuff to my MSND-Stock. Just like last week (see log entry #115 ), I'll look at some 'Glens'.

The first 'Glen' was the Glenallachie 8yo 1991/1999 (43%, Signatory Vintage, 70cl). Oh, how I love all the details on these SigVint bottlings - this bottle #442 of 780 was distilled on 5/3/1991, matured in sherry butt #1340 and bottled on 10/3/1999. It was a recent acquisition; very nicely priced at less than 30 Euro's and personally recommended by Klaus.
Nose: A bit bashful in the beginning. A little malty. Opens up after two or three minutes. Oh boy... It becomes very powerful quickly. And then is softens up again just as fast.
Taste: Nice, strong start. Malty and sweety. Then a distinct pause.
And then it picks up again, becoming sherried and dry. Some wood.
Very good taste development for a malt this young. Very long finish.
Score: 78 points. The nose isn't very special, but the taste is bloody nice! Especially the development over time is mighty interesting. Good value.

You know the drill by now: one other bottle on my shelves has to go to make room for the Glenallachie. I went for the Glen Scotia 9yo 1991/2001 (43%, Signatory Vintage, 70cl). This bottle (#266 of 722, distilled 11/02/1991, bottled 29/01/2001, matured in Bourbon casks #222/223) was opened during last month's 'Walpurgisnacht' tasting.
I wasn't too crazy about it then and awarded it 75 points.
Nose: Changed notably since last time. Soft, oily/grassy start, then a strong odeur of paint thinner, intertwined with strong ginger notes and some sweetness. Slightly medicinal. Mellows out after a few minutes, but it remains more interesting than pleasant for a long while. But after ten more minutes there's a nice surprise of fruit, nuts and even some peat. Strange, but nice.
Taste: Bourbonish and a little sparkly. Eucalyptus. Some peat. Salt in the finish.
Band aids? About the same time the nose improved, the taste picked up as well.
Score: 81 points - the 'Fifteen Minute Malt'. It really needs some time and close inspection, but this malt has a lot of layers and aspects. Put in the effort and you will be rewarded. It's a bit like an 'Islay Light' that should do very well in the summer.

AFAIK, this SigVint is one of the first clearly labeled Glen Scotia's that have been bottled since the distillery reopened a while ago. This gave me an idea. I opened my second bottle of Glen Scotia 14yo (40%, OB, 70cl) a few weeks ago (see log entry #110), so can try that one too.
Nose: Hmmm - has it lost its magic in the two weeks since I opened the bottle? Weak start. Vegetables? Furniture wax. Then some fruitier notes emerge, followed by peat and a pinch of salt. Ah, it just needed a minute. The volume picks up soon - and so does the complexity.
Taste: Smooth and accessible. Sweet. Some fruity notes. Smoked ham?
Strong, malty center with some sherry characteristics. String beans?
Quite subtle and elegant. Very good mouth-feel. Long finish.
Score: 83 points. Like the SigVint 1991, it definitely needed some time. I've never noticed this before - but then again I've never tasted any other versions of Glen Scotia before.

This gave me another idea. The Vintage Campbeltown 10yo (40%, Signatory Vintage, 70cl) is a new bastard bottling, replacing the 8yo bastard I tried in January 2001. I can't really believe casks of Springbank are sold to SigVint for generic bottlings when slapping a 'Springbank' label on the bottle could triple the market value. Given the fact that Glen Scotia did produce whisky about ten years ago (the SigVint 1991 is proof of that) I'll put my money on Glen Scotia.
Nose: Ooh! Light peat and some oriental notes I usually pick up in older Islays.
Oily. Dry sweetness. Briny. Mighty interesting. Becomes more medicinal over time.
Taste: Dusty. Slightly oily. Mellow, sweet centre, with chalky overtones.
Italian salami - salt and slightly greasy with the mouth feel of flour.
Supple and accessible with a decent burn. String beans? Very dry finish.
Score: 79 points. A cheap thrill - in the best possible sense of the word. Not quite as good as the 'official' Signatory Vintage Glen Scotia 1991, although this one has had some more time to mature. This indicated the people at Signatory Vintago know what they are doing when they select their casks. But I'm happy to settle for this if it means I only have to pay half. It has the same interesting development over time as the 1991 at a very reasonable price of 19 Euro's. Maybe the timebomb-effect is a characteristic of the 'new' Glen Scotia's?

And what if this bastard IS actually a Springbank?
Coincidentally, I had the chance to find out because
skiing-buddy Rene has recently surprised me with a bottle of Springbank 10yo (46%, OB, 70cl). This is a great opportunity to open it.
Nose: Some citrus in the start, becoming sweeter. Toffee. Hint of oil. Spicy.
Complex. Fresh. The fruity components grow stronger over time. Easy on the nose.
Taste: Very smooth and sweet start, becoming cool in the center.
Fruit sweets. Excellent mouth feel; intruiging development over time.
Score: 80 points. Fresh and frolicky with a serious undertone. I'm pretty sure the Campbeltown 10yo bastard is a Glen Scotia; the Springbank is more refined. Sadly, this comes at a high price.

Three different Glen Scotia's on the table at the same time presents me with a sort of historic occasion - a H2H2H of three versions should be mighty interesting. For a moment, I considered abandoning my original schedule for the evening. But only for a moment; the Midsummernight's Dram is just around the corner and I should stick to the plan if I ever want to get a decent collection together. And then I figured some of the other maniacs might be interested to do this H2H2H as well, so I moved all three Glen Scotia's and the Springbank to my MSND-Stock.

This makes room for another fresh bottle on my shelves.
I went for another 'Glen', the MacDuff 11yo 1990/2002 (43%, Cooper's Choice, 70cl). This may not sound like a Glen, but it's a Glen allright - a Glen Deveron, to be precise. Signatory must have thought putting the quaint name on the bottle could improve collector-appeal. It worked for me...
Nose: Fresh. Grainy with a hint of green lemons. Unimaginitive. Green apples?
Sparkly and stale at the same time. Very interesting, but not really my style.
Taste: Flat start, becoming smoother, stronger and sweeter. Apples?
Other fruits too. Gingerbread! Strange, beerish burn in the finish - hop?
Score: 72 points. At first sight, this is a slightly disappointing single malt. But on second sight, the nose is quite unique - certainly much better than the Glen Deveron 12yo I tried a few years ago. I guess it is of particular interest only to collectors, so I moved my spare bottle to my trading stock. The opened bottle moves to my bottom shelf for now.

By now the clock had reached 24:00 and I had reached boiling point.
I could have left it at that, but I wanted to get the Drumguish NAS (40%, OB, 70cl) out of my sight as soon as possible. It's produced at the 'Speyside' distillery - one of the few I despise.
Nose: Restrained - could easily have been mistaken for a blend.
Ever so slightly malty. Sweetish. Faint coffee notes.
Taste: Chemical sweetness. Metallic. Fatty. Clogged up. Cool finish.
The good thing is that the taste vanishes completely within fifteen seconds.
Score: 44 points . Actually, this is not quite as bad as the bottling I had about 5 years ago. Nevertheless, it doesn't deserve a place on my shelves. The Drumguish NAS moves directly to my MSND-Stock as a special 'torture' bottle. The price of 16 Euro's was pleasant enough, but this stuff makes the Glenfiddich 12yo look like a fountain of complexity.

Why did I buy this again? Ah, well... I had no choice, really. I was obliged to sample at least one glass from the 'Speyside' distillery this year for my 'Scotland by Dram' tour, while Glenallachie and Glen Deveron (MacDuff) both needed a second chance. Let's take a look at the board:

Status Scotland by Dram / Second Chance Challenge:
[40/25] distilleries left.

I'll get back to the other 'Glen' Distilleries in due time.

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Log Entry # 117 - June 1, 2002
Topic:  Status Report & Stuff

Five months after I've started my virtual tour of Scotland, I've only completely covered the 'A' and 'B' distilleries. Things are not as grim as they seem, though. Over the past few months, I've sampled incarnations of Caol Ila, Dailuaine, Dalmore, Glendronach, Glenfiddich, Glenlivet, Glenmorangie, Glenrothes, Glenturret, Highland Park, Lagavulin, Laphroaig, Longmorn, Macallan, Mannochmore, Mortlach, Oban, Old Fettercairn, Speyside, Springbank, Talisker, Tobermory/Ledaig and Tomintoul as well.

These 23 distilleries are all (relatively) 'familiar' ones; I've sampled at least two different bottlings from each one in the past. That means they were not on the list of my 'Second Chances Challenge'. But Edradour, Glenallachie, Glen Deveron and Glen Scotia were, so I guess I can consider myself relatively 'familiar' with these distilleries from now on.
This leaves us with the following
'To Do List':

  1. Caperdonich
  2. Cardhu
  3. Clynelish
  4. Cragganmore
  5. Craigellachie
  6. Dalwhinnie
  7. Deanston
  8. Dufftown
  9. Glenburgie
  10. Glencadam
  11. Glendullan
  12. Glen Elgin
  13. Glenfarclas
  14. Glen Garioch
  15. Glengoyne
  16. Glen Grant
  17. Glen Keith
  18. Glenkinchie
  19. Glenlossie
  20. Glen Moray
  21. Glen Ord
  22. Glen Spey
  23. Glentauchers
  24. Inchgower
  25. Isle of Jura
  26. Knockando
  27. Knockdhu / An Cnoc
  28. Linkwood
  29. Loch Lomond
  30. (Royal) Lochnagar
  31. Miltonduff
  32. (Old) Pulteney
  33. Scapa
  34. Speyburn
  35. Strathisla
  36. Strathmill
  37. Tamdhu
  38. Teaninich
  39. Tomatin
  40. Tormore

That means there are exactly [40/25] distilleries left to investigate.
The 25 distilleries that still need a second chance are boldly printed.
Not bad, if I may say so myself...

In fact, I think this allows me to slow down a bit to properly prepare for the exciting Malt Maniacs events that lie ahead. And boy, do we have some exciting events lying ahead! First of all, there will be the 'Malt Maniacs Macallan JOLT' on Thursday June 20. Five Malt Maniacs (from Canada, France, Germany, Israel and Holland) will be sampling sixteen different versions of Macallan 'Live' in Amsterdam, while other maniacs all over the world participate via the www. The second event is the 'Midsummernight's Dram' on Friday June 21; an open-air tasting in the woods to celebrate the longest day of the year. We will finish the festivities on Saturday June 22 with an 'Overproof Extravaganza'.

See log entry #118 for details on these events.

Meanwhile, I decided to have some fun while I figured out the liquid logistics for our little 2002 whisky-festival. I started with a H2H of the two Convalmores in my collection. The Convalmore 15yo 1983 (43%, Chieftain's Choice, 70cl) on my middle shelf was opened in October 2000 and was +/- 1/3 full; the Convalmore 16yo 1981/1997 (43%, Ultimate, 70cl) was a fresh bottle from my reserve stock. The color of the Ultimate bottling is much lighter, which suggests caramel colouring in the Chieftain's Choice.
Nose: The 15 starts stronger and more alcoholic than the 16. The 15 seems a tad more sherried, while the 16 gave more citrus & apple and was more transparant overall. Over time, they drifted further apart. The 15 dropped off after 5 minutes, with a few glimpses of wood and ammoniak now and then. Meanwhile, the 16 had developed a very subtle sweetness beneath the citrus surface. Unfortunately, it became very 'fishy' after fifteen minutes. Best finished quickly.
Taste: Phew - the 15 seems to have suffered a little from oxidation - especially in the start. Very sherried and winey in the center, with strong fruity episodes. The 16 was very similar, but softer and slightly dusty in the start. The same sourish sherry / wine character, with a woody finish. The 'volume' of the 16 is considerably higher, and it lasts longer too. Too bitter in the finish.
Conclusion: The Chieftain's Choice 15yo certainly didn't live up to the original 80 points. This is an excellent example of a bottle crippled by oxidation - right now it would score around 75 points. But as far as I'm concerned, anything that happens more than one year after opening doesn't count. The Ultimate 16yo did pretty well at first, but lost it after fifteen minutes - 77 points.

It's a shame about the Convalmore 15yo; it used to be so good.
while ago I had a discussion with fellow malt maniac Serge Valentin about the problem of oxidation, a problem that increases with the size of your drinking collection. Maybe 48 open bottles is just too much and I need to find a smaller cabinet or something. I'm thinking about 'de-commissioning' one of my three shelves, which would shrink my collection of open bottles to 32. But then again, there ARE some bottles that just grow better and better over time - like Ardbeg 10yo and Saint Magdalene 19yo. I'll have to do some serious thinking about this - later.

But enough about that for now, let's do some more dramming.
I decided to move both Convalmores to my MSND-stock, which allowed me to open another fresh bottle from my reserve stock. The Linkwood 12yo 1989/2002 (43%, Coopers Choice, 70cl) has been eying me ever since I bought it, so I didn't hesitate and deflowered it at the spot.
Nose: Soft, sweet and a little malty. Citrussy notes with a pinch of peat. The fruity components become stronger after a minute.
The 'volume' ebbs and floods. Mighty pleasant.
Taste: Just like the nose at first - soft, sweet and malty. Smooth, pleasant center develops into a long finish with a pinch of salt. Some fresher episodes as well. More citrus and a hint of wood and late fruits after ten minutes. Peppermint in the center slowly evolves into dry wood.
Score: 82 points. A very good single malt whisky - maybe a bit too smooth and balanced for its own good. Its biggest flaw is that it doesn't seem to have any big ones. I'm wondering if such an 'easy beauty' presents enough of a challenge to please the other maniacs in two weeks...

And then, quite unexpectedly, I was struck by an epiphany.
I have been going about this all wrong!
Since I started my pious preparations for the June festivities about three months ago, hardly any bottles have been emptied. As a result, there now are more than 80 opened bottles cluttering my appartment. But the original plan (getting together on midsummernight, June 21, for a night of casual dramming) has been changed - and how!

Instead of an easy evening filled with fluid conversation and solid snacks, we're looking at a high impact three-day malt mayhem schedule that will put our livers to the test. I think we can officially declare it Holland's smallest International Whisky Festival.
Aaah... I can hardly wait.

Anyway, because two out of three nights will take place in Amsterdam I don't have to drag all the special bottles in my collection to the woods to allow my fellow maniacs to sample them. In effect, I can now re-shuffle my entire collection and build a MSND-Stock from scratch. I figured the four Campbeltown malts (3 Glen Scotia's and a Springbank) that moved to my MSND-stock yesterday would be perfect reference material for the Springbank JOLT in October. So I put them aside and kind of took it from there. Finally, I was left with 24 bottles from 24 different distilleries that should be adequate for malt maniacs and philistines alike.
See log entry #118 for the list.

Here's a quick review of the single malts I gave a final inspection;

Starting with the Dailuaine 16yo (43%, Flora & Fauna, 70cl). Just like the F&F Benrinnes 15yo, the cork started to fall apart. A problem all F&Fs share?
Nose: Strong fruity aroma's emerging from the glass. Sherry. Furniture polish.
Peanutty oiliness emerges after a few minutes and grows stronger.
Taste: Oooh - Quite excellent! Sweet and smooth. A very good burn.
Great balance. Hot on the tongue and cold in the back of the throat.
Score: 81 points . Given the excellent performance 18 months after opening the bottle I feel this malt deserves an extra point, so I've increased the original score of 80 points.

The Balblair NAS 'Elements' (40%, OB, 70cl) arrived on my shelves just weeks ago. It's nice (and nicely priced too!) but I'm affraid it's time to say goodbye - at least until June 21.
Nose: Light sweetness - citrussy and malty. The character becomes more 'coastal' after a few seconds, but the fruity/sweet undertone remains. Raspberries! Hint of salt and peat.
Taste: Ooh - that's a pitty. Not as good as the nose. Clean with a hint of smoke.
A tad too bitter in the finish; slightly metallic. Slightly below average.
Score: 77 points. A malt for nosing, not tasting. Well, no, let me rephrase that. Excellent nose, decent palate. The nose alone is certainly worth the 25 Euro's. A Highlander with some Campbeltown and Islay characteristics. Sadly, batch consistancy between these official NAS bottlings isn't too good. On the other hand, they might be able to solve the taste 'problem' in future batches, in which case they will have a surefire winner in their hands. I imagine a port or madeira finish of a few months would work wonders for the taste, but the consequences for the delicate nose could be disastrous.

Up next: the Balmenach 10yo (43%, Scottish Wildlife, 70cl). The distillery has been mothballed in 1993 and based on my first few drams you won't see me crying about it.
Nose: Very restrained - even in my biggest glass. No individuality. Like a blend.
Taste: Malty and chewy. Becomes flat and bitter quickly.
Score: 67 points. This malt seems to have detoriated considerably since I opened it just two months ago. I originally rated it at 71 points, but that's much too much...

Next: the Tamnavulin 12yo (40%, OB, 70cl).
Nose: Oily - too much so. Picks up after a minute. Hint of smoke.
Taste: Very oily at first. Smooth. Soft bitter tingling on the tongue. Nondescript.
Score: 66 points. Nothing special here. No further comments.

Next: the Inchgower 12yo (43%, OB, 100cl).
Nose: Citrussy in the start. Sherry sweetness. Nice, but a little flat.
Taste: Sweet, malty and mellow. Smooth and soft. Some cherry tones.
Score: 74 points. It has lost a few points since I opened it over two years ago - no shame there. I don't think a bottle can be expected to perform at its peak more than one year after opening, so the original score of 76 points stands as far as I'm concerned.

I proceeded with the Pittyvaich 18yo 1976/1995 (43%, Signatory Vintage, 70cl). Pittyvaich was mothballed in 1994, so 'technically' it isn't a malt I have to sample this year.
log entry #102 for previous tasting results.)
Nose: Sparkly, fresh and slightly grainy. Oily. Beer and hop. Apple.
Vegetables? Notable improvement after fifteen minutes with oriental spices.
Taste: Pleasant light sweetness. Apple. Bourbony. Unremarkable.
Score: 73 points . No high flyer, but it still performs OK 18 months after opening.

And let's have another taste of the Glenfarclas 21yo (43%, OB, 70cl).
Nose: Subtle fruity notes. More oily and organic notes after a minute.
Hint of smoke. Good balance, but nothing really pops out. A little generic.
After +/- ten minutes, the aroma deepens and the malt shows its age.
Taste: Very good balance and mouth feel. Menthol. Develops into a dry finish.
Liquorice sensation in the back of the throat. Pops up elsewhere as well.
Score: 82 points. I've had it at 83 points for a while, but I think the label must've influenced me a little there. Fair and square, 82 points expresses my personal feelings best. A fine malt, no obvious flaws - just not enough character and personality to keep me interested for long.

The Port Ellen 18yo 1981/2000 (43%, McGibbon's, 70cl) wasn't one to miss. I'm very curious about the opinion of the other malt maniacs when we try it. When Klaus and Michael sampled it in January they scored it around 90 points, while I thought 84 points was quite enough.
Nose: Peaty, but not too strong. There's room for lots of other nuances as well.
Slightly medicinal - like a Laphroaig accross the room. Some fruity overtones.
Taste: Dry and smoky. The smoke grows stronger, but just when you think it's finished there's a sweet interlude before it moves on to drier pastures. More wood and some sherry.
Score: 86 points. On closer inspection, it's much more subtle than I first realised. My original score of 84 points doesn't express my enjoyment adequately.

Oh my, look at the time - 04:55 AM.
Time to finish the evening with the Aberlour A'bunadh Batch #7 (59.9%, OB, 70cl)
Nose: Ooh, sherry. Lots of it, actually. After a minute, this one seems to go back in the direction of the unnumbered version - slightly maltier and nuttier, more balanced than the #6, which was extremely sherried. Smoke and fruits. Opens up even further with 10 drops of water. More organic notes and a hint of marzipan. Amazing. when diluted.
Taste: Drinkable and very sweet at C/S, when taken in tiny sips. When I accidentally took a big gulp, diluting it in my mouth with water prevented the worst damage, but it still shut down most of the receptors on my tongue. It seemed sweet and smoky at +/- 45%, with a cool afterburn. Marzipan and sherry in the finish.
Score: 89 points. A truly great malt. Too bad the prices are sky-rocketing.

05:15 AM - Time to hit the sack.
Most malts I sampled tonight were either produced at inactive distilleries or had been crossed off my list earlier this year, but Glenfarclas, Inchgower and Linkwood weren't.
Status Scotland by Dram / Second Chance Challenge:
[37/25] distilleries to go.

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Log Entry # 118 - June 20 - 22, 2002
Topic:  DrAmsterdam Maltathon 2002

'Malt Maniacs' is a mostly virtual collective.
In our relatively short history, there have never been more than two certified malt maniacs in the same room at the same time. In June 2002, we were in serious danger of exceeding critical malt mass - no less than five malt maniacs from three different continents gathered 'live' in Amsterdam for a few nights of serious dramming.

Day 0
Wednesday June 19;  Matrix-Day

Before the DrAmsterdam Maltathon officially kicked off on Thursday June 20 I enjoyed a quiet little tasting session with Davin de Kergommeaux from Canada. He arrived in Holland a day earlier than the rest of the team, which gave us the opportunity to exercise our wrists and livers for the big events to come. At the same time, we could plug a few holes in the Malt Maniacs Matrix.

We started off relatively soft and easy with a H2H of Bunnahabhain 12yo (40%, OB) and Bunnahabhain 12yo 1989/2001 Sherry Finish (43%, Chieftain's). Nasally speaking, the OB was the winner at first; much more volume with unsuspected hints of marzipan. Both have the relatively soft, Islay sherry character Bunnahabhain is famour for. This was a strange experience; on previous tastings the Chieftain's was the winner but this time the OB seemd slightly better. Ah, wait... After circa ten minutes the Chieftain's picks up, showing its subtlety. After a dash of water, the Chieftains became more oily and grainy. Some peat after fifteen minutes. When we got to the tasting part, Davin suggested I try tasting it while sucking in a lot of air at the same time. Ah, that's interesting. The OB showed a hint of fruit now. Like before, I found the finish of the official 'Bunny' too bitter to score it above 80 points. Overall, the palate of the Chieftain's was slightly more balanced.

After a beer (Chimay Blue) and a sandwich we felt ready for the stronger stuff; a H2H of Laphroaig 15yo (43%, OB) and Laphroaig 15yo 1985/2000 (50%, Douglas Laing Old Malt Cask, 318 bottles). I found unusual amounts of leather and brine in the OB, while Davin detected 'kippers'. When we explored this nasal avenue further we finally arrived at something quite similar to 'rotten fish'. I guess this doesn't sound too appetizing but let me assure you that, within the palette of odeurs, it worked quite well. Over time, the nose became a little too oily for me, but a splash of water brought back the smoke. Meanwhile, the Douglas Laing OMC just had it all - wonderful complexity around a heart of peat, salt and smoke. It is surprisingly fruity on the palate.
We both preferred the OMC over the OB by about 3 points.

Finally, we opened a bottle of the Saint Magdalene 19yo 1979/1998 (63.8%, UDRM) to compare it with another bottle in the 'rare malts' series, the Port Ellen 22yo 1978/2000 (60.5%, UDRM). By now, our discussions on all things Scottish became so distracting (in a good way, let me assure you) that I forgot to make proper notes. One of the malts showed 'Maggi' and appeared a little dusty - I'm just not sure which one. Davin detected flax in the Saint Magdalene.

That's where my notes end.
The night's scores:

Bunnahabhain 12yo OB - DK=76, JH=78
Bunnahabhain 12yo Chieftain's - DK=74, JH=79
Laphroaig 15yo OB - DK=87, JH=86
Laphroaig 15yo OMC - DK=90, JH=90
Port Ellen 22yo 1978 - DK=93, JH=92
Saint Magdalene 19yo 1979 - DK=91, JH=93

We were ready for the DrAmsterdam Maltathon 2002.

- - -

Day 1
Thursday June 20;  Macallan JOLT

This JOLT should provide a International perspective on Macallan; we had maniacs from Canada (Davin de Kergommeaux), France (Serge Valentin), Germany (Klaus Everding, assisted for the occasion by Michael Fornalczyk), Israel (Roman Parparov) and Holland (yours truly, with assistance from Maaike and Alexander). Our collective noses and the sixteen (!) Macallans on the table should allow us to form an informed opinion. And if that wasn't enough, the five maniacs in Amsterdam received virtual assistance from a number of maniacs that joined us on-line. Perfect conditions for an intensive investigation of Macallan - the self-proclaimed 'Rolls-Royce among single malt whiskies'.

Here's the original Amsterdam menu:

  • Macallan 7yo (40%, OB, 70cl, 2001 bottling, unopened, Johannes)
  • Macallan 1991/2001 'Speymalt' (40%, G&M, 70cl, unopened, Serge)
  • Macallan 1990/1999 (50%, 'John Millroy Millennium Selection', 70cl, unopened, Johannes)
  • Macallan 1990/2000 'Dun Eideann' (46%, Dun Eideann, 70cl, unopened, Serge)
  • Macallan 10yo (40%, OB, 70cl, unopened, Johannes)
  • Macallan 10yo '100 Proof' (57%, OB, 70cl, open, Klaus)
  • Macallan 10yo 'Cask Strength' (58.8%, OB, 100cl, unopened, Johannes)
  • Macallan 12yo (40%, OB, 70cl, 2001 bottling, unopened, Johannes)
  • Macallan 12yo (43%, OB, 100cl, 1999 bottling, open, Johannes)
  • Macallan 15yo 1984 (43%, OB, 70cl, unopened, Johannes)
  • Macallan 18yo 1982 (43%, OB, 70cl, open, Johannes)
  • Macallan 1974/1994 '24.28' (55.8%, SMWS, ??cl, open, Serge)
  • Macallan Travellers Edition 'Fifties' (40.0%, OB, 50cl, unopened, Serge)
  • Macallan Travellers Edition 'Forties' (40.0%, OB, 50cl, unopened, Serge)
  • Macallan Travellers Edition 'Thirties' (40.0%, OB, 50cl, unopened, Serge)
  • Macallan Travellers Edition 'Twenties' (40.0%, OB, 50cl, unopened, Serge)

I originally planned to open the Macallan 1988/2000 'As We Get It' and the Macallan 1979 'Gran Reserva' as well, but then I figured sixteen different bottlings would be quite enough for one JOLT. To keep things managable, we decided to divide the proceedings into eight H2H-sessions. But even then our research field is huge. So, we divided things even further to allow our senses and livers to recover from the ordeal.
We planned a Standards / Specials / Independents set-up.

The Standards

Macallan 7yo (40%, OB) vs Macallan 10yo (40%, OB)
Macallan 12yo 'New' (40%, OB, 70cl) vs Macallan 12yo 'Old' (43%, OB, 100cl)
Macallan 15yo 1984 (43%, OB) vs Macallan 18yo 1982 (43%, OB)


The Specials

Macallan Travellers Edition 20's vs Travellers Edition 30's
Macallan Travellers Edition 50's vs Travellers Edition 40's
Macallan 10yo '100 Proof' vs Macallan 10yo 'Cask Strength'


The Independents

Macallan 1990/2000 (46%, 'Dun Eideann') vs Macallan 1990/1999 (50%, 'John Millroy')
Macallan 1991/2001 'Speymalt' (40%, G&M) vs Macallan 1974/1994 (55.8%, SMWS)

<Drunken singing and all-round cameraderie>

Is this a fantastic line-up or what?

Well, as it turned out, all my careful planning had been in vain.
Things started to go 'wrong' on the very first day of what Mark Adams so eloquently called the 'Dramsterdam Maltathon' - if you consider an chaotic evening with too much fun to absorb it all something 'wrong'. At the end of the day, we didn't get around to sampling the last four independent bottlings. No matter; the H2H's of the twelve official bottlings gave us plenty of food for thought - even though I was sufferering from a particularly bad nose day. Here's a quick recap of the ratings we found;

07yo (40.0%) SV=59, RP=68, DK=70, KE=70, JH=65 (new, international bottling)
10yo (40.0%) SV=75, RP=76, DK=75, KE=85, JH=74 (new, international bottling)
12yo (40.0%) SV=82, RP=80, DK=78, KE=86, JH=80 (new, 70cl)
12yo (43.0%) SV=84, RP=82, DK=82, KE=88, JH=86 (old, 100cl)
15yo (43.0%) SV=88, RP=87, DK=86, KE=92, JH=89 (1984)
18yo (43.0%) SV=88, RP=85, DK=87, KE=91, JH=89 (1982)
TE 20's (40%) SV=75, RP=75, DK=74, KE=82, JH=74 (new, 50cl bottle)
TE 30's (40%) SV=77, RP=82, DK=78, KE=85, JH=82 (new, 50cl bottle)
TE 40's (40%) SV=73, RP=73, DK=75, KE=73, JH=72 (new, 50cl bottle)
TE 50's (40%) SV=78, RP=77, DK=77, KE=78, JH=77 (new, 50cl bottle)
10yo (57.0%) SV=89, RP=XX, DK=XX, KE=92, JH=89 (old, 100 Proof)
10yo (58.8%) SV=87, RP=XX, DK=XX, KE=92, JH=88 (new, Cask Strength)

These were just the ratings.
You'll find a full report of the Mac-JOLT in the next issue of Malt Maniacs.

In this log entry, I'll try to do a write-up of the non-Macallan events that took place on or around the day of the JOLT. Like the whiskies we sampled before we went ahead with the actual JOLT, for example. Around 19:00 PM Klaus, Michael F. and Roman had arrived and we felt more than ready for a dram or two to calibrate our senses.

We started with an Aberlour NAS 'Antique' (43%, OB, 70cl), a duty-free bottling that had pleasantly surprised me during the previous JOLT. The nose didn't stray very far from the familiar Aberlour house style; lots of sherry with some sour notes. Chloride? Notable improvement after five minutes, becoming sweeter. The taste started malty, fruity and a little dry. The finish was quite bitter, not unlike beer. Hop?
Score: 81 points. It didn't seem quite as mellow as the last time I tried it and the finish is a bit too bitter for me. Klaus (75), Michael (73) and Roman (74) were not impressed.

Then Klaus proposed we should try the Glen Moray NAS 'Chardonnay' (40%, OB, 70cl) he brought over from Germany as a gift. Good idea. This is part of the new 'mellowed' range Glen Moray introduced a while ago. Because of my bad nose day I couldn't pick up a lot. The nose had a champagne-like prickle to it. A little malty. Soft citrus after adding a lot of water. A hint of peat, a hint of oil. The taste was malty with a winey twang - that must be the Chardonnay! Sourish and a little bitter. It became quite smooth after I added lots of water. The wine is obviously there, especially in the finish. Problem: I don't like wine.
Score: 73 points. My guests were more enthusiastic; Klaus=80, Michael=75 and Roman=77.

This malt inspired Roman to come up with an interesting thought. He suggested that a big H2H session of some 'finished' single malts with their 'finish' counterparts might be reveiling. For example, sampling a Glenmorangie Port Wood Finish against a glass of port, taste this Glen Moray against a glass of Chardonnay, etc. That's quite an original thought - although I'm not sure if it would work. Nosing them next to eachoter is one thing, but the difference in mouth feel, structure and strength between completely different drinks might be too much of a shock to allow for serious comparison. Still worth a try some time, though...

By now we figured we should start our peparations for the JOLT.
A full stomach is one prerequisite for serious dramming, so we ordered
a few Kantonese and Indonesian meals. Just when the food arrived Serge did so as well, accompanied by Maaike and Alexander. After some chaotic chewing and chatting we continued with a glass of the Dailuaine 16yo (43%, Flora & Fauna) while we waited for Davin to get back from a conference he had to attend. The nose of the Dailuaine had lots of sherry. Fruits and furniture polish. Peanuts? The taste was very pleasing to my palate. Strong, sweet and smooth.
Tonight's rating: 80 points. The loss of a point may have been caused by the pieces of cork.
Serge had it at 81 points, Roman at 80, Klaus at 77 Michael at 79, Maaike at 79 and Alexander at 80.

By the time we had finished our glasses Davin had arrived as well, so we were ready to proceed with the Macallan JOLT. Check out the next issue of Malt Maniacs for the sordid details.

About half-way through the JOLT, Serge came up with a little chemist's bottle containing a mystery malt. Everybody took part in the blind test. Becasuse I was suffering from a very bad nose day I had a hard time detecting anything beneath the surface. I got furniture wax and very soft smoke and peat in the nose. A light honey/nutty sweetness. Some faint fruity notes as well. It was quite subtle and really opened up after a minute, displaying more of the 'organic' character I often find in older Islay malts. And yes, finally, it showed some peat. Sour notes too - sauerkraut? I was now quite sure this was an Islay malt, but almost certainly not one I sampled before. Quite amazing - the aroma keeps developing and improving. I had it at no more than 80 points at first nosing, but now I'm thinking more like 86 or 87.

Serge told us it was a cask strength malt, but the taste didn't advertise this fact. No sweetness at all at first. More later, with the faintest suggestion of peat and smoke. In the end, I put my money on one of the weaker Islay malts - Bowmore, Bunnahabhain or Bruichladdich. The nose was amazing, but I wasn't to crazy about the taste. I arrived at a final rating of 84 points.
As it turned out, Serge had surprised us with a Bruichladdich 1986 'Cask 00/190/9'. The sample was quite unique - it was distilled on November 26, 1986, taken from cask 00/190/9 by Invergordon and sent to Mark Reynier to convince him they had good whiskies lying in the distillery's warehouse before he bought it. That cask has now been vatted into the official 10yo or 15yo bottling.

On that special note I'd like to close tonight's notes.
Read on if you want to know about the eventful evenings that followed.

- - -

Day 2
Friday June 21;  A Midsummernight's Dram

Warning: Due to an overdose of fun these notes are extremely sketchy.

Every year my brother Franc and I organize a 'Midsummernight's Dream' party in the woods on or around June 21, the longest day of the year. This year we had to shift the big party to a later date because of the unpredictable weather conditions. The weather remained questionable until that very afternoon, but at the last moment things cleared up so the maniacs decided to head over to the woods for an 'Open-air Overproof Extravaganza'.

Sadly enough, I didn't make any proper tasting notes during the session.
Here are a dozen bottles I KNOW I tasted;

- Aberfeldy 1978/1996 (59.3%, Scott's Selection, 70cl)
- Aberlour A'bunadh No batch # (59.6%, OB, 70cl, Serge's bottle)
- Aberlour A'bunadh Batch #6 (59.6%, OB, 70cl)
- Aberlour A'bunadh Batch #7 (59.6%, OB, 70cl)
- Ardbeg 24yo 1975/2000 (50%, Douglas Laing Old Malt Cask, 70cl, 713 bottles)
- Benromach 19yo 1978/1998 (63.8%, UD Rare Malts Selection, 70cl)
- Laphroaig 'Laudable' 15yo 1985/2000 (50%, Douglas Laing Old Malt Cask, 70cl, 318 bottles)
- Macallan 1974/1994 (55.8%, SMSW, 70cl, Serge's bottle)
- Mannochmore 22yo 1974/1997 (60.1%, UD Rare Malts Selection, 70cl)
- Port Ellen 22yo 1978/2000 (60.5%, UD Rare Malts Selection, 70cl)
- Royal Brackla 20yo 1978/1998 (59.8%, UD Rare Malts Selection, 70cl)
- Saint Magdalene 19yo 1979/1998 (63.8%, UD Rare Malts Selection, 70cl)

Out of competition:
- Marc de Gewürztraminer 'Osama' 2001 (55%, Serge Valentin Private bottling, 70cl)
- McCormick Platte Valley 100% Straight Corn Whiskey (40%, OB, 75cl)

Before we could get to the tasting, I had to put up a tent so Davin would have at least some kind of roof over his head during the night. It all looked so simple in the manual.... Eventually, it took five people and the military expertise of Dutch guest Esmeralda to finish the construction.
Ready for action!

After another Chinese meal to lay a foundation we proceeded with a thorough tasting of three different versions of the Aberlour A'bunadh - the early version without a batch number, batch #6 and batch #7. My number one was the version without a batch number (best balance), even though it was from a bottle that might have done a little too much breathing. The results were mixed as to the winner of the three, but the maniacs agreed that all A'bunads scored anywhere between 85 and 90 points.
The marketing around it may be slightly corny, but it's just a fabulous malt.

I think things started to become crazy and chaotic at a very early stage in the evening.
Some people tried the Macallan 10yo 100 Proof (57%, OB) Klaus brought over, some tried my new bottle of Macallan 10yo Cask Strength (58.8%, OB) and some tried both.

Everybody tried the Macallan 1974/1994 (55.8%, SMSW #24.28) Serge brought over.
The thing that struck me most about this bottling that it had no sherry character whatsoever.
The huge differences between 'official' Macallans and independent bottlings keep surprising me.
The Mac house style is easily recognisable - this is something completely different.

Serge generously left the bottle with a few samples behind so I could have a second go at it. When I did so about a week later (I didn't want to wait too long to prevent oxidation taking too much of a toll), I could at least make some rudimentary tasting notes. The bottle gave a huge plop when I opened it again. The first nosing confirmed my initial impression: this almost seems like an Islay malt at first. Man, there's lots of peat! Very alcoholic too. String beans? Then fruitier notes emerged - but it's a 'lighter' kind of fruit than the heavy 'late summer' fruits found in the official Macallans. Nice and polished aroma's - it becomes better and better over time. After +/- half an hour, it's bloody excellent!

The taste, on the other hand, was a bit of a shock to me. Smoky (which is nice), but no sweetness at all (which is not so nice - at least not to my palate). Pine? Eucalyptus? Menthol? Then some faint fruity notes and some heather honey sweetness fly by. Moves into a nuttier direction later on.
The palate has some very nice elements, but it lacks cohesion.
After about fifteen minutes, the Islay characteristics in the nose became dominant again - with a marmelade sweetness in the background. Farmy notes in the nose, salt in the finish. A few drops of water seemed to frustrate any further nasal development and the taste turned too bitter in the finish. So, although it is bottled at 55.8%, I think this one is best drank straight. As far as a rating is concerned: I would have to go with 83 points. The nose is excellent and has some elements I find really appealing, but the 'Eucalyptical' notes (I also found them in the taste of malts like Glenallachie 11yo and Inchmurrin 10yo) don't make me happy.

Anyway, back to the events of the Midsummernight's Dram.
If memory serves, it started to become chilly around sunset (+/- 23:00 PM), so we moved into the ruined horse-stable we use for our protection against the elements over in the woods. The stable isn't heated, so we went for an islay malt to warm us; the Ardbeg 24yo 1975/2000 (50%, Douglas Laing OMC). Serge's eyes lit up when we plopped the cork and filled our glasses. 'This smells exactly like the distillery!', he cried. That sounds like all the more reason I should finally get my lazy arse over to Islay soon, because I found it absolutely stunning. Pretty soon, the aroma had filled the entire stable. Roman wasn't crazy about it (81 points), but the other maniacs were properly enthusiastic. This malt has lots of subtleties and finesse, without denying its Islay heritage.

Like I said, I didn't take any notes on Friday. That's why I sampled it again a couple of days later to celebrate my succesful recovery from (minor) surgery. I was just as gobsmacked as when we first opened the bottle. The nose seemed almost mellow at first, but I could sense the power beneath the surface. The nose showed light fruits, sourish notes (yeast?) and some subtle smoke at first. Quite clean. A little grainy too. Then the peat comes to the foreground, followed by leather, salt and brine. It just has so much depth and perspective - much more transparent than most OB's I tried. The taste is smashing as well. Mellow peat, smoke and a long dry finish that seems to go on forever. But there is sweetness too. Faint hints of iodine and licorice in the finish. The mouth-feel of this malt is simply amazing - perfectly drinkable at 50%! I'll have to investigate further after it has had some time to breathe; for now I'll give a score of 91 points. Although it's completely different from the first batch of Ardbeg 17yo (40%, bottled +/- 1997, score 92 points), I like it almost just as much. And I actually prefer this stuff to the latest batch of the 17yo I tried (score: 90) - the OMC has no sherry at all and is much more transparant. I wouldn't be surprised if the nose of the OMC improves even further over time; a lot of other Ardbegs on my shelves gained quite a few points after they broke in.

Let's see, what else did we sample during the Midsummernight's Dram?
Well - I certainly remember sampling the Laphroaig 'Laudable' 15yo 1985/2000 (50%, Douglas Laing Old Malt Cask, 318 bottles, see
log entry #116). Of course, we also sampled the Saint Magdalene 19yo 1979/1998 (63.8%, UDRM) I opened two nights ago to celebrate Davin's safe arrival. Davin originally rated it at 91 points, but tonight he asked me to increase his score to 94 points. I couldn't agree more. The general consensus could be described as 'this malt just has it all'. Well, what did you expect? Anything that kicks Lagavulin 16yo from the pole position in my Top 10 after more than ten years has to be pretty special. I guess I've sung anough songs about the Saint Magdalene, so I won't bore you with them this time around. And then there was the Port Ellen 22yo 1978/2000 (60.5%, UD Rare Malts Selection, 70cl), opened a little over a month ago. That seemed to fall pretty well too - everybody scored it in the lower-to-middle nineties.

Around midnight, Serge (and his lovely wife Fréderique who've had to put up with a bunch of drunken maniacs all night) had to leave due to parental responsibilities. It was sad to see them go, but I'm quite sure we'll meet again soon. Before he left, I got the chance to hand Serge (and the other maniacs) the Malt Maniacs Basic Survival Kit , consisting of two 'proper' crystal nosing glasses (66cl Cognac bowls) and a blank Black Book.

Now limited in numbers, the four remaining maniacs bravely pressed on to cover more Scottish ground. Or rather conquer it - by this time we were in high spirits and we felt like we could take on the whole world. Unfortunately, there was no real 'plan of attack', so the chaos became even more chaotic.
I'm not sure about who sampled what, when and why.
If memory serves, I kept myself entertained with four 'overproofs', the Aberfeldy 1978/1996 (59.3%, Scott's Selection), Benromach 19yo 1978/1998 (63.8%, UD Rare Malts Selection), Mannochmore 22yo 1974/1997 (60.1%, UD Rare Malts Selection) and Royal Brackla 20yo 1978/1998 (59.8%, UD Rare Malts Selection). No notes on these, but we didn't empty the bottles so I'll be able to write some 'final notes' later.

The real fun started when we decided to go for a moonlight stroll to one of the neolithic grave sites in the forest. Although De Veluwe is now one of the least populated area's of Holland, it was one of the few inhabited area's about 4,000 years ago when most of the land was still swamp or sea. The people that lived there at the time were called 'the clock-cup people', after the shape of their crockery. Well, I guess they weren't called clock-cup people at the time...

Anyway. The walk to the site was an easy one - we didn't stray from the paths and arrived at the field in good spirits about fifteen minutes later. For a while, we enjoyed the silence while some of us replenished our energy with the McCormick Platte Valley 100% Straight Corn Whiskey (40%, OB) and the Marc de Gewürztraminer 'Osama' 2001 (55%, Serge Valentin Private bottling) and thought deep thoughts. All liquored up, I enthusiastically proposed we could take a shortcut through the forest on our way back. Unwisely, nobody objected. It became a real cross-country trek; climbing over fallen trees, stumbling into holes, dodging branches and thorns. And all that in the dark of night of course; the only light we had came from my miner's headgear. In my enthousiasm, I had forgotten that my guests - including 'old man Davin' - might have less experience with midnight trekking than me. Klaus complained in deep sighs and colourful phrases about the harsh conditions, but Roman and Esmeralda certainly seemed to enjoy themselves.

Alcohol always interferes with my internal clock; I couldn't tell if it took us an hour to return to the stable or just half that time. When we finally arrived Davin and Esmeralda were pretty much exhausted, so they went for their tents. Roman, Klaus, Michael and myself decided to keep on dramming till dawn, so we went back to the bottles we had left behind. I don't remember which bottles I sampled, but I DO remember that our discussions became loftier and more filosophical with every dram we drank. Pretty soon, we were up to our armpits in quotes and thoughs from Nietzsche, Schoppenhauer, Kant, Marx and Engels. At one point things became just too much for Roman & his famous Russian stomach, but there were no further incidents - at least not as far as I can remember.

By the time dawn arrived - around 4:30 AM, I guess - we had agreed on the meaning of life (42) and were ready to get some much needed sleep. One final big day tomorrow....

- - -

Day 3
Saturday June 22;  The Aftermath

Phew! - The morning after the night before.
The conditions in the woods are very primitive, so I couldn't offer my guests coffee, breakfast or a shower. We broke up camp and managed to squeeze five people into Michael's car to travel back to civilisation. After a quick tea-time lunch and some shopping at Ton Overmars (see the mAddendum) we returned to my apartment for one last night of dramming. Roman had to leave in the afternoon, so it was just Davin, Klaus, Michael and me for the last session of the drAmsterdam Maltathon. We decided to try and add at least a few new distilleries to the Malt Maniacs Matrix.

Our first bottle was the Macallan 9yo 1990/1999 (43%, Signatory Vintage, distilled 26/4/90, aged in sherry butt #10038, bottled 23/8/99, bottle #109 of 935) Michael brought over from Germany. We didn't get to the independent Macs on Thursday, so we were rather curious about this one. The nose was sparkly with an apple fizz. Sherry, but completely different from the familiar 'Mac' sherry. It seems to move into the direction of its official brothers after some breathing, though. The taste had no sweetness. Flat. No wood at all. Loads of sour notes though - I experienced some vomit & stomach acid associations.
Bitter finish - like good 'hop' used in Belgian beer.
Conclusions: DK = 76 / KE = 78 / MF = 77 / JH = 70.
We all rated this malt between the 7yo OB and 10yo OB we sampled on Thursday. Davin liked it because this IB lacks the metallic taste he found in some offical bottlings.

We proceeded with the last drams from my bottle of Nort Port-Brechin 1981/1998 (40%, Connoisseurs Choice). The fact that I scored this malt around 60 points at earlier tastings shows we were prepared to 'suffer' a little for the greater good. I found apple and some oil in the nose. Chemical fruity notes. No real highlights. Sweeter with time. The taste was smooth and creamy. Quite nice, actually. Good dry finish. The palate desintegrates quickly. Best when finished within ten minutes - becomes bitter and 'veggy' after that. My rating for tonight is two points higher than last year's score. I don't care much for the nose, but the taste is pleasantly smooth in the start and pleasantly dry in the finish. 'Final' rating jumps to 62 points.
Conclusions: DK = 67 / KE = 68 / MF = 60 / JH = 62.

Next up: the Benrinnes 15yo (43%, Flora & Fauna). The nose was sweet and sherried. Fruity with a hint of smoke. Maggi? Organic. Furniture wax. Wood (wet, dead oak burning in the autumn). With a drop of water the nose improves even further, becoming sweeter. I found leather in the taste.
Very nice, althought the finish is too bitter for my liking.
Conclusions: DK = 84 / KE = 84 / MF = 80 / JH = 83.

The Balblair NAS 'Elements' (40%, OB) showed toffee and spices in the nose.
Heather honey. A little spirity with very soft sherry overtones. A suggestion of peat. I like it.
The taste wasn't spectacular, though. Sweet and rough at the same time, with strong pear notes.
A hint of peat; gritty with a tingle on the tongue.
Conclusions: DK = 71 / KE = 65 / MF = 72 / JH = 76.

On to the Bladnoch 1987/1999 (40%, Connoisseurs Choice).
The nose seemed moldy, almost rotten in the start. There's something 'tired' about it. Some fruit and wax. Dry toasted bread? I found the taste disappointing as well. Slightly malty with very little sweetness.
Chinese chicken soup? I've sampled a few very nice Bladnochs in the past - this wasn't one of them.
Conclusions: DK = 68 / KE = 70 / MF = 70 / JH = 66.

My notes on the Bunnahabhain 12yo 1989/2001 Sherry Finish (43%, Chieftain's) are even sketchier than tonight's other writings. See Wednesday's report for more details. Weird - my score was only 78 points this time around. I may have to adjust my earlier rating of 83 points. Klaus made an interesting observation about how we seem to have a tendency to overrate our own 'Bang-For-Your-Buck' discoveries. My Balblair Elements and Sherry Bunny didn't really get the audience off their chairs and Klaus's Glen Moray didn't excite a lot of the tasters on Wednesday either. An interesting phenomenon.
Conclusions: DK = 74 / KE = 72 / MF = 76 / JH = 78.

After three relatively unremarkable malts, I felt it was time to move on to some of the better stuff. In this case, the 'better stuff' was the Glenfarclas 21yo (43%, OB). With a score of 83 points, it didn't really rock my world on previous tastings. I liked it, no question about that, but Craig Daniels rates it at 89 points in The MMMatrix and Louis Perlman at 88.
Tonight was a great opportunity to find out if I had been too stingy with my score.
Personally, I still found the nose a little too restrained for a malt this old. Great perspective, but not a lot of volume. Soft sherry & smoke. Hint of peat? Weird - I seem to detect traces of peat in a lot of Speyside malts these days. Does my 'equipment' require recalibration? The taste was fruity with great development and mouthfeel. Sweet and sour notes fight for the front seat. Nice afterplay.
Conclusions: DK = 84 / KE = 84 / MF = 86 / JH = 82.
I'm afraid that's as far as I'm willing to go today.

The nose of t he Linkwood 12yo 1989/2002 (43%, Coopers Choice, 70cl) started out metallic, but after a moment it became sweeter and rounder with notes of toffee and light hints of peat and salt. Kiwi fruit; the part near the skin where you find the combination of sweet, sour and bitter.
The taste had liquorice and rough sea salt.
Conclusions: DK = 80 / KE = 78 / MF = 79 / JH = 82.

At this point in the session (it must have been well past midnight) I stopped making notes completely. I was now in full 'Whééé' mode. Davin proved his courage and worthiness to be a Certified Malt Maniac by sampling 'The Two Terrible Tenners' - both the Edradour 10yo (40%, OB) and the Loch Dhu 10yo (40%, OB, 20cl). A big 'thumbs up' to Davin - the oldest malt maniac on the team; after four days of steady dramming, a nighttime trek through the woods and spending a night on the forest floor, he still had the guts to turn to these bottom shelf malts. Therefor, Davin will henceforth be known as Davin 'Braveheart' de Kergommeaux.

After properly expressing his dislike (40 and 20 points, respectively) for my torture bottles, Davin had to retire for the night. We (Klaus, Michael and I) were pretty pooped as well, so we decided to enjoy one final quality dram on the balcony before dropping off ourselves. We went for the remains in the bottle of Lagavulin 14yo 1984/1999 (46%, Murray McDavid) and a Cuban cigar to finish a wonderful weekend.
No notes, just enjoying the moonlit moment.

Phew... This must have been the maltiest four days of my life.
I will probably publish some pictures on Malt Maniacs when things are up and running. Meanwhile, Klaus has already put some snapshots on-line at

That kind of concludes my report on the DrAmsterdam Maltathon.
Well, there's one last thing to report about; the abundance of new bottles on my shelves.
See mAddendum 188A for details.

- - -

mAddendum 118A - Shelf Explosion

The luxury problems I whined so much about in earlier log entries (too much 'reserve stock' bottles, too little space) haven't disappeared. In fact, the situation has grown worse after I found myself with almost 40 extra reserve bottles after the DrAmsterdam Maltathon (not to mention the 85 opened ones). Not only did Klaus and Serge mule over a huge load of bottles I ordered from Weinquelle and Maison du Whisky, the maniacs surprised me with a few extra bottles I never tried before as well.

Davin was the first one to arrive, bearing gifts acquired in London.
He presented me with the Macallan 8yo 1989/1997 (61.5%, Milroys of Soho, 70cl) and the Macallan 12yo 1989/2001 (60.3%, Cadenhead's Authentic Collection, 70cl). That's too crazy. I have no proplems (no problems at all!) with accepting a bottle as some kind of hospitality-compensation, but two bottles is a little too much. I hope I restored the cosmic balance with the Macallan 1990/1999 (50%, John Milroy Millenium Selection. I really wouldn't know, because I haven't sampled that one yet.

Then Roman arrived, carrying a Glenmorangie NAS 'Traditional 100 Proof' (57.2, OB) to celebrate our first 'live' meeting. The packaging of this bottling is wonderful. It seems to be from a different batch than the one in my reserve stock - interesting...  The next one to arrive was Klaus, who surprised me with a Glen Moray NAS Chardonnay (40%, OB). He also muled over a hefty order from Germany that made my mouth water. The highlights on my Weinquelle shopping list: Balvenie 15yo 1985/2002 'Single Barrel' (50.4%, OB, actually 17 years old!) and Linlithgow 18yo 1982/2001 (43%, Signatory Vintage, another version of Saint Magdalene).

Finally, Serge completed the team, almost getting a hernia carrying all the bottles I ordered at Maison du Whisky and some rare ones he scouted privately. The bounty included a Macallan 34yo 1966, the predecessor of the Glenmorangie 'Traditional' Roman brought, some Bladnochs 'Straight From The Cask', a Springbank 12yo 1989/2001 Sherry Cask #505, a Bruichladdich 1983 Ceramic (only 600 bottles made) and three (!!!) spare  bottles of my number 1 malt - Saint Magdalene 19yo 1979 (63.8%, UDRM). He increased my delight even further with a nifty gizmo - a wonderful combination of hip flask and cigarette box.
I'm a happy camper...

Happy, but never really satisfied.
Believe it or not, but some maniacs and myself did some shopping in Amsterdam as well. It started on Friday afternoon. We didn't have time to travel to the outskirts of Amsterdam, so we limited ourselves to some of the liquor stores in the centre. Our first stop was Gall & Gall Exclusief, where I picked up an Aberfeldy 12yo, , a Benrinnes 12yo, a Glenrothes 1989/2000, a Royal Brackla 16yo 1984 and a MacNamara blend.
Meanwhile, Serge entertained us with his impression of a hawk - slowly circling the shelves and suddenly striking at his prey. We proceeded to a quaint little shop that had just switched ownership a few weeks ago. The new owner had very little business talent - he didn't understand the concept of haggling. Nevertheless, I left with a Chieftain's bottling of Rosebank. Next stop: flower market, where we found another little liquor store. The owner turned out to be a socially handicapped sociophobe. Too bad - we were ready for some serious shopping but the unfriendly atmosphere quickly drove us back out on the street. The only bottle I bought was a Connemara NAS Cask Strength - something I tried at last year's whiskyfestival. (OK, OK, I have to admit I returned a few days later to pick up a bottle of Glen Albyn 10yo I spotted at a very reasonable price. That must have been a pricing-error; the other malts were quite pricy and bottlings of Glen Albyn are quite rare - and therefor expensive)

Finally, on Saturday, we did some drive-by shopping at Ton Overmars. Roman picked up some 'Bang-for-your-Buck' bottles and I went for a spare bottle of the Braes of Glenlivet 1977 Madeira. And just as we were getting ready to leave I spotted a strange Springbank bottle I had never seen before. That turned out to be the Springbank 12yo 1989/2002 Rum Casks (54.6%, OB). I've heard a lot about this bottling, but never seen it before. It seems Springbank will release a different version each year, from different casks. Ton only received 24 bottles and he had kept them reserved for some of his regular customers - like me. Bad news for Roman, it seemed, but after some whining Ton agreed to sell him a bottle as well.

Anyway; I'm blabbering on again.
Here's the complete list of additions to my reserve stock;

  • Aberfeldy 12yo (40%, OB, 70cl) - 42 Eur.
  • Balvenie 15yo 1985/2002 'Single Barrel' (50.4%, OB, 70cl) - 50 Eur. (2x)
  • Benrinnes 12yo 1989/2002 (43%, Coopers Choice, 70cl)
  • Bladnoch 10yo 1991/2001 (56.9, Signatory Vintage SFTC, 70cl) - 52 Eur. (2x)
  • Braes of Glenlivet 1977/2000 Madeira (43%, Montgomerie's, 70cl) - 65 Eur.
  • Bruichladdich 1983/2000 Ceramic (46%, OB, 70cl) - 51 Eur.
  • Caol Ila 11yo 1991/2002 Port (46%, Signatory Vintage Unchillf., 70cl) - 41 Eur. (2x)
  • Clynelish 11yo 1990/2001 (45%, Blackadder, 70cl) - 41 Eur.
  • Connemara NAS Cask Strength (59%, OB, 70cl) - 42 Eur.
  • Corriemhor NAS 'Cigar Reserve' (40%, vatted malt, 70cl) - 29 Eur.
  • Glen Albyn 10yo (43%, Noord's Wijnhandel, 70cl) - 33 Eur.
  • Glenmorangie NAS 'Traditional' 100 Proof (57.2%, OB, 100cl) - gift
  • Glenmorangie 10yo '100 Proof' (57.2%, OB, 70cl) - 34 Eur.
  • Glen Moray NAS 'Chardonnay' (40%, OB, 70cl) - gift
  • Glenrothes 1989/2000 (43%, OB, 70cl) - +/- 40 Eur.
  • Linlithgow 18yo 1982/2001 (43%, Signatory Vintage, 70cl) - 58 Eur. (2x)
  • Lochindaal 10yo (43%, Bruichladdich OB, 70cl) - 38 Eur.
  • Macallan 7yo International version (40%, OB, 70cl) - 15 Eur.
  • Macallan 8yo 1989/1997 (61.5%, Milroys of Soho, 70cl) - gift
  • Macallan 10yo 100 Proof (57%, OB, 70cl) - 51 Eur.
  • Macallan 12yo 1989/2001 (60.3%, Cadenhead's, 70cl) - gift
  • Macallan 34yo 1966/2000 (51,2%, Signatory Vintage, 70cl) - 206 Eur.
  • MacNamara (40%, 'Gaelic' blend, 70cl) - 19 Eur.
  • Mortlach 13yo 1988/2001 Sherry Butt #2638 (43%, Signatory Vintage, 70cl) - 37 Eur.
  • Mortlach 13yo 1988/2001 Sherry Butt #4270 (43%, Signatory Vintage, 70cl) - 37 Eur.
  • Rosebank 10yo 1991/2001 (43%, Chieftain's, 70cl) - 42 Eur.
  • Royal Brackla 16yo 1984/2001 (43%, Coopers Choice, 70cl) - +/- 40 Eur.
  • Saint Magdalene 19yo 1979/1998 (63.8%, UDRM, 70cl) - 99 Eur. (3x)
  • Sheep Dip 8yo (40%, vatted malt, 70cl) - 27 Eur.
  • Springbank 12yo 1989/2001 Sherry Cask #505 (58,1%, OB, 70cl) - +/- 50 Eur.
  • Springbank 12yo 1989/2002 Rum Casks (54.6%, OB, 70cl) - 66 Eur.

That's a grand total of 40 bottles - a year's supply of whisky!
Combine that with the fact that virtually none of the more than 40 bottles I had put aside for the 'Midsummernight's Dram' actually was emptied and you'll understand the chaos on my shelves is now complete. I know I said this before, but this really should be my last shoppings in a while. I'll hop over to Milan with Serge in September for some shopping, but other than that I should be good till Christmas.

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Log Entry # 119 - July 31, 2002
Topic:  Cleaning Up The Mess - Part 1

After the DrAmsterdam Maltathon (see log entry #118) and the recent shelf explosion (see mAddendum 188A), I was forced to redefine my understanding of the word 'chaos'. First of all, there are now 90 opened bottles scattered accross my apartment, slowly oxidizing away. With room for just 48 bottles on my shelves, I'll have to empty 42 bottles before the natural order of things is restored. That's just the kind of thing to keep a malt maniac up at night... And then there's my 'Reserve Stock', now spread accross dozens of shelves, closets, cupboards and yes, the floor. The bottles have even invaded my bedroom!
Everywhere I look: bottles, bottles, bottles...
This could drive a man to drink!

Things are not as grim as they seem, though.
Fellow malt maniac Serge Valentin from France came up with a brilliant plan that should help solve my stock problem. He suggested that we could significantly increase our 'scope' and 'malt mileage' if we started to share small samples of the malts in our collection with one or two other maniacs. It may sound simple enough, but until now I never had the time (or equipment) to investigate this option properly. After Serge tracked down a supplier that offered good 60ml and 125ml miniature bottles at a reasonable price I ordered some and now I'm in business.

I've sent out my Stock List a few days ago, and already I received 'orders' for more than thirty 125ml samples. Not bad! 31 x 125ml = 3875ml. That's the equivalent of more than 5 big (700ml) bottles! That should help solve my problems. I'll get back to this topic (and the mysterious 'Pandora Project') in a later log entry.

Anyway, let's have a dram.
The more I drink, the quicker the problem is solved.
I had planned to finish the Dailuaine 16yo (43%, Flora & Fauna, 70cl) during the
June festivities. Things turned out differently, and that's just as well. That meant I could send a 125ml sample to Roman and still have a stiff dram myself before the bottle was empty.
Nose: Sherry & fruit; wax & furniture polish. Stronger after a minute. Wonderful.
Taste: Great, great stuff. Sweet and very powerful - almost seems like a cask strength malt. Things are livened up by cool menthol episodes. Great balance; hot and cold. Bitter, woody finish.
Score: 82 points. An excellent Speysider - a wonderful combination of 'Aberlour' and 'Glenfarclas' characteristics. I already pulled up the score by a point last time I sampled it (see
log entry 117), but now another point is added. Too bad it's priced at more than 50 Euro's.

Next up: the Inchgower 12yo (43%, OB, 100cl), a relatively obscure malt.
Serge ordered a sample and now there's just a small dram left. Bottoms up!
Nose: Alcoholic. Soft citrus with a hint of smoke. Apple? Not a lot of volume.
Sweeter and more sherried after a while. Even some peat after ten minutes.
Taste: An alcoholic feeling again. Grainy. Not a lot of personality.
Gritty - a little bit like Dutch 'Vieux' or Austrian Cherry schnapps.
Softer and sweeter later on. Maltier too. Water melon? Definite improvement.
Score: 74 points this time around. The original rating of 76 stands, though.
The bottle is more than a year old, so it's allowed to take it easy now.

Moving swiftly along with the Glenallachie 8yo 1991/1999 (43%, Signatory Vintage, 70cl, distilled on 5/3/1991, matured in sherry butt #1340, bottled on 10/3/1999, bottle #442 of 780). Serge ordered a sample and I put a second 125ml sample aside for a rainy day. Just one stiff dram left. Let's finish it now.
Nose: Soft. A little nondescript at first. Hints of oil & sour fruit. Sweet coffee?
Dried apples. Nuttier and maltier after a minute. It grows more powerful over time.
More sweet and spicy notes after fifteen minutes. Notable improvement!
Taste: Very smooth, put powerful as well. Honeyish sweetness. Big burn.
Long, dry finish. Really good; considerably better than the nose, IMHO.
Score: 78 points. Surprisingly enough, it scores 4 points more than an 11yo 1985/1997 SigVint bottling I tried some time ago. Is Glenallachie one of those malts that perform better at a young age? I guess that would be fitting, considering Glenallachie is a (relatively) young distillery, founded in 1967.

Serge ordered a sample of the Pittyvaich 18yo 1976/1995 (43%, Signatory Vintage, 70cl) as well, so I could finish this bottle as well. About time too - I opened it almost two years ago.
Nose: Sparkly & spicy at first. Spirity. A little grainy. Macaroons? Hint of smoke?
Not overly impressive, to tell you the truth. Oriental spices after adding water.
Taste: Smooth. Very pleasant. Some fruity notes as well. Apple? Hint of oil?
Honeyish. Like clingfoil around your tongue. A bit like bourbon later on. Dry finish.
Score: 73 points. I tend to focus on the nose of a malt most of the time, but in this case the taste is the thing that surprised me the most. Still very decent 20 months after I opened the bottle. Based on the pleasant taste, I was inclined to raise the score by a point - but I didn't.

OK - Let's turn our attention to the closing act of the evening.
The Talisker 10yo (45.8%, OB) has been an old favorite of mine ever since I discovered it. Over the years, I must have emptied about a dozen bottles, but I have to shamefully admit that I only kept serious notes on three batches. The first one (bottled around 1992, I guess) scored 91 points, while a litre bottling bottled around 1995 came in at 92 points. Coming up with a 'final' rating for this latest bottle (nearly empty, last batch with the old packaging) has been difficult. On previous samplings, it scored everything between 85 and 90 points. I hope the last dram from the bottle will provide clarity.
Nose: Peat? That's not usually my first impression of Talisker. Strong & spicy.
Lots & lots of volume. Leather. Organic notes. Soy sauce. Hint of menthol?
Taste: Salt. Lots and lots of salt. Don't get me wrong, I like it, but previous batches showed much more 'definition' in the taste. This time, I couldn't find the pepper that always identified the 'Tal-Ten'.
Score: 88 points. Much like two other 'commercial' long time favourites in my Top 10 (Lagavulin 16yo and Ardbeg 17yo), this latest batch doesn't seem to be up to the standards set a few years ago.
A strange phenomenon. Are these malts really changing - or am I?

On this philosophical note I'd like to close this log entry.
The results of tonight's shenanigans: I've managed to empty the Glenallachie 1991,
Dailuaine 16yo, Inchgower 12yo, Pittyvaich 1976 and Talisker 10yo.
Five bottles down, only 37 more to go before order is restored on my shelves.

Meanwhile, I kind of lost track of my 'Scotland by Dram' progress.
With only five more months to go, maybe it's time to panic?

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