prE-pistle #30:  Christmas Show 2000 / Club Program 2001
Date:  Thu, 18 Jan 2001

The Christmas Show was a wonderful occasion with some fine food and some extremely good if prosaic malts and I doubt if anyone left insatiate on either account. It takes a line up like we had just to reinforce what a solid whisky the Glenfarclas 15 really is , and in an extremely competitive market just what exceptional value is offered by Talisker 10 and Lagavulin 16. I'd happily sit down to these three a few times a year and not feel short-changed.

However, the big surprise (pleasant) was the Aberlour 10. Didn't taste like the 10's of old, but had a rounded toffee palate and a long soft finish that more than made up for the lack of warm bread and maraschino cherries that used to be the aroma markers for A10. A less impressive debut was made by the Old Pulteney 12; it wasn't nasty but surely wasn't as nice as it could have been. I think we were spoiled by the G&M bottlings that were around about 4 or 5 years ago as the G&M 8 40% and the G&M 8 57% and the 15 at 40% were all superior to this official 12. Shame really as I've had some superior distillery bottlings, admittedly at 15 years and cask strength and at a significant price premium, however one can but live in hope of a modestly priced malt being better than the price suggests, witness the Aberlour range.

Club Program 2001 - Kicks Off on 24 January 2001

- 24th January: Laird's Choice (Exotica)
Arran Malt, Scapa 1989, Bowmore Claret
- 28th February: Ne'er Tried Before (New Releases)
Glen Scotia 14, Ledaig 1990, Glen Grant 10
- 28th March: Competition Practice Night
Cragganmore 12, Highland Park 12, Glenfiddich 15, Glenturret 12
- 2nd May: Super 18s
Glenmorangie, Highland Park and Macallan 18's
- 30th May: Islay Night
Port Ellen 19 1981, Laphroaig 10 and Lagavulin 16
- 27th June: OP Oldies
Dufftown-Glenlivet 21, Glenury Royal 23, Teaninich 23
- 25th July: Drop of the Irish
Tyrconnell, Connemara, Bushmills 16
- 22nd August: Mystery Malts
Selections from Private Collections
- 26th September: Tag Team Wrestling
Longmorn 12 & 15 vs Macallan 12 & 15
- 24th October: Speyside Debutante Ball
Macduff 17, Tamnavulin 17, Glenfarclas 17
- 28th November: Christmas Show

Cheers, Happy New Year, Slainte, etc, etc


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prE-pistle #31:  A Malt Oddyssey
Date:  Thu, 18 Jan 2001

Hi Everyone,

It's a long time since I've put the two trusty fingers to keyboard but here's the latest club missive. We don't often have a January Meeting, but the brains trust got organized and put together the programme and the Laird got enthused about the range of new stuff that has come into the country over the last 6 months so we've managed an early start in 2001.

I would like to stress that the first meeting of the year is an especially auspicious occasion as the Laird gets his chance to get really extreme, engage his intellect and exercise his penchant for interesting (not to say intriguing)  oddities and everybody else needs to get off their backsides and get out and show some solidarity with the guys who set up and run these things.  Given the time of year we've tried to get Lennox to get there a bit earlier just to make sure the A/C is up and running, when the anticipated hordes arrive. Of course, being the Treasurer, my self-interest in a solid turn-out is self-evident, nevertheless the line-up prepared by Bob is a ripper and I wouldn't miss it for quids.

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Next Meeting: 24 January 2001  'Laird's Choice' - 'Xtreme & Xotic'

This is the traditional kick-off, when and where the Laird gets free rein. And he has come up with an intriguing bunch!

Arran Sherry malt - In the general scheme of things (where some distilleries trace their histories to 1770 and earlier), Arran is a veritable babe in arms, being conceived, constructed and commissioned between 1992 and 1995. Thus by definition this Arran malt has to be fairly young. I'd hate to have money on it but 4 years would be my guess, but don't automatically think that young whisky lacks flavour or subtlety. Anyone who has tasted the very youthful Cradle Mountain or young lowlands will recognise an immediate similarity; stripped pine, icing sugar and fairy floss, yet the Arran has more malty depths than either Cradle Mountain or Littlemill. A fascinating glimpse of a work in progress.

Scapa 1989 - We had a Scapa 12 last year. This is a fraction younger, but should be in the same mould; light, fresh and clean, but there is many a gentle pleasure to be had from understated island malts. Should be gentle and friendly.

Bowmore Claret - I've been lucky enough to have experienced this before and while I don't want to give too much away, this is one of those whiskies that makes belonging to a malt club worthwhile. The traditionalists probably don't like it, but it is a hint of where the industry might think it's heading and you don't have to shell out mega-bucks to find out whether you like it. I think it's better than OK but wouldn't oft forgo a dram of Bowmore 17 or 21 in favour of the Claret. I can say a few things with my hand on my heart; it is interesting, exotic in the extreme, rare and expensive.

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prE-pistle #32:  Latest Notes
Date:  Tue, 20 Feb 2001

I had a little tasting at home to road test samples of two malts from Ardbeggeddon 2 sent to me by Mark Kaplan.  I also had a chance to submit the Tomintoul-Glenlivet 12 to a second inspection for inclusion in MMM.  The truly reliable benchmarker was Glenlivet 12 ;  I am always surprised at the quality of the recent bottlings of The Glenlivet 12 at 40%.  It's a lovely clean whisky, with floral and linen notes early and then yeast and malt notes build in the background.  Never becomes funky or disintegrates and this time I scored it CD78 (MMM 79). The QPR is quite good and at 79MMM points can be included in my 'Recommended Buy' category.  In Australia we can get it for AUD50 per litre and it boosts a cheap blend into the 'deluxe' category very rapidly, especially if you add a tiny bit of a good sherry malt (Aberlour a'bunadh or Macallan 12 do the trick).  My recipe for a grand long drink (over ice and water) is 50% Clan Campbell (or Teachers or Langs Supreme 5) with 40% Glenlivet 12 and 10% Macallan 12.  This is the kind of drink that gets me through our summers (regularly 10 days over 30degC and sometimes 8-10 days over 35degC) hence the need for a long drink.

The Tomintoul-Glenlivet 12 43% has been opened a while and was my second trip (for MMM rating purposes).  The first time I subjected it to serious analysis, it was amongst some heavily sherried malts and seemed spiritty with obvious and astringent oak, but a pretty typical Speysider with a bit of an unwelcome bite in the palate and finish. First pass score CD76-78. Second time it was very malty with some obvious bourbon wood. The slightly astringent wood was still there (with a pronounced spirit prickle right at the top of the nose). The nose developed some rich yeast cake and sour fruit notes and became increasingly unbalanced with souring wood and a funky yeastiness which I don't particularly like. The yeast and sour notes were also obvious on the palate. The mouthfeel was good although the finish was a bit hot and sour.
Not as nice or acceptable as first time around nor anywhere near as solid a whisky as the 'old' 8 year old, which was lighter and cleaner than this 12.  Second score CD 74-76.  Final  MMM score 75.  It's OK but while it has character, it also has a few negative points. I'd drink it but wouldn't buy another bottle, especially as it cost me US$38 (with taxes) and that works out at around AUD70 for a 750ml bottle.

Bunnahabhain Family Silver 1968 40% (First pass - not scored for MMM yet)
Nose; soft and slightly sweet, clean and refined. Gets some honey,cream and caramel toffee notes.
Stays impeccably clean. Has a light summer feel to it, not as bright as Dalwhinnie or Scapa but in that general style.
Palate and mouthfeel; lovely mouthfeel, exceptionally smooth with some lovely cream biscuitty notes in tail.
Soft and sophisticated - could well have been a Bruichladdich. CD score 83-84

Glenfarclas Christmas Malt 1971 53.1% (First pass - not scored for MMM yet)
Nose; Big sherry nose of recently waxed floorboards, floor polish and wax. After a short while gets that big mint toffee and dutch chocolate icecream nose of Glenfarclas and Macallan 25s, with a faint hint of rancio. Seems a bit heftier than either of the 25's but may be due entirely to the extra proof.
Palate and Mouthfeel; very good legs, big sherry palate-fruitcake, brandied fruit, bitter herbs-drying finish - strong creamy notes in the reprise. Gets cherries and flowers, a faint hint of peat and much creamier with addition of a little water. Seriously good whisky - score CD87-89.

The Bunny was nice (and scored a lot like the Bruichladdich 15, which it closely resembled) but the GF was in a class of its own.  The Bunny didn't have any detectable sherry wood and I suspect that it is a mix of first and second fill bourbon wood exclusively.  I also didn't find any classic markers like  'sea-air or flowers' but that could've been because the Glenlivet is so floral that it hid it in the Bunny.  The stuff in the glass didn't give any clues it was Islay either as I didn't get any peat and if I'd had to guess I would've said Bruichladdich or Scapa as I have no other experience with unsherried and unpeated Bunny. I'm actually a bit surprised that such a soft, sophisticated and low-impact malt scored so high at A2 - it wouldn't have made my top ten at A1.  The Glenfarclas OTOH, was certainly one out of the box - in the same class as Macallan 25 and any of those Adelphi Glen Grants and with the higher proof, much more impressive.  Also takes to water better than any Adelphi and the proof probably nudges the score up higher than the Mac 25.

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prE-pistle #33:  EoZ January 2001 Report / Selection of Blinds
Date:  Fri, 23 Feb 2001

Greetings to all fellow malt lovers,

This month's Newsletter is a bumper issue as I've decided to reveal my methodolgy for selecting Blind Lists to make for a fair and challenging test of malt scholarship.  I'd appreciate any feedback on the methodology, particularly from anyone O/S if they belong to clubs and have masked or blind malts as part of their meeting ritual.

Anyway, I hope it is a diverting read and I acknowledge the heavy reliance on David Wishart and Charles Maclean in the prepartion of the paper attached to
the Roundup.

January 24, 2001 -  Report Card
"Laird's Choice"

Arran Malt - At first waft the Arran reminded me powerfully of Cradle Mountain, the Tasmanian single some of the Earls road tested in December 1999. The Arran was similar but better. I'm beginning to suspect that all young malt whisky has that nougat, marshmallow and icing sugar nose. While the label quite clearly mentions sherry casks, both times I've had a taste I've noted lots of bourbon wood type flavours of sawmill and pine forest floor, which doesn't say sherry to me. If it was matured in sherry wood my bet it is that it was third refill wood. A long and considered inspection on this occasion revealed nougat and pine with marshmallow, peanuts, malt and dough in the palate, a kick of pepper and nutmeg in the tail along with a cream pastry note. Developed some sweet & sour (acetone & acetic acid) notes like youngish Glengoyne or Tullibardine. I'd be very surprised if the malt was peated as I didn't get any smoke or earth/fudge notes at all, which sort of reinforced the Glengoyne/Tullibardine analogy. Palate was obviously youthful and a bit bitey, but the spiciness made it much more complex than the nose suggested. I'd certainly like to try it at 10 yo. To bottle it at 4yo is bordering on infanticide. Score 7.0

Scapa 1989 (G&M) - The Scapa provided the biggest note of controversy on the night and was easily the most contentious among the assembled tasters. Some thought it the best whisky in the line-up but I was on the side of the naysayers as I thought it rather strange with some wood faults. There was something I found unpleasant in the nose. The wood was more than a bit funky; like scorched meranti (like the smoke that comes off a worn & wet drill bit) rather than clean pine or oak and there was a strong suggestion of bourbon mash rather than malt. The palate was OK to good; gentle and faintly gingery and the overall score was rescued by the mouthfeel which was very good; it had a plushness and roundness that was close to luxurious. A pleasure to swill and swallow but I really thought there was something amiss with the nose. Score 7.2

Bowmore Claret 56% - third trip to this particular well and I still think this stuff is overrated and overpriced. Surprisingly the in-house tasting notes are close to the mark. I agree with roses and sea salt however I also got some attractive dusty tar and old rope, but I guess that hot macadam & worn hemp don't quite make it in the painfully positive world of liner notes. Yet all these nice traits sit under an increasingly cloying sweetness that eventually bashes everything else into submission. The palate and finish are good, especially the finish. While it's interesting it is streets short of greatness; no way known I would kick the Bowmore 17 or 21 out of bed to get to the Claret. Bob brought a sample of the Bowmore Dusk along for comparison purposes and it was very similar if toned down a couple of notches, which in this case was a plus. The Claret is improved by the addition of a dash of water that brings out a most attractive dark chocolate note. My scores have bounced around since I first tasted this whisky, so maybe I just don't like the 'experiment'. Still better than a lot of others. Score 8.2

The Blind – Gillies Club Bowmore Legend 58% - The blind was another cask strength Bowmore, (which I got right) - but it's not one that many of us will ever get to stumble across again, being a Gillies Club-Australia bottling of Bowmore Legend bottled January 1994 at 58%. First off I got a big, bourbon wood O/P nose with lots of peat. Armed with those clues I had it narrowed down to 5 pretty quickly and eventually decided it had too much peat to be Clynelish 12 (my second choice), far too much to be Bruichladdich 1965 or Highland Park 1955 OP and nowhere near enough smoke to be Ardbeg 1972 13. Pretty good, if young, Bowmore with very typical Bowmore traits of lifted sweet lavender and antiseptic ointment. Much, much better than any commercial release of the Legend at 40 or 43%. The high proof gives it added oomph! Score 8.0

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Next Meeting: 28 February 2001
"Ne'er tried Before" / "Solid distilleries; new releases"

One of the most enduring and important functions of a malt club is to provide opportunities to taste whiskies that are available but as a collective we have not subjected to our particular version of the inquisition. To this end the brains trust went out and looked at the retail shelves and chose some that might prove to be worthy additions to one's top shelf. Of the three on the agenda for this month, Ledaig and Glen Scotia have some similarities both as distilleries and as whiskies. Both are in intermittent production with periods where the stills are silent and ownership changes hands pretty frequently. The whisky they produce is also similar; definitely robustly west coast in style with a dry bourbon woodiness, subtle yet readily discernible peat and a marine character that is described as 'a hint of the sea'.

Glen Grant is the odd one out. It is one of the pillars of the industry, being consistently in the top three of total world sales of single malt whisky and shifting an awful lot of product in Europe and the Far East. However we've only ever had one 'official' bottling and that was the no-age stated, which is at best a beginner's malt in the same mould as Glenfiddich Special Reserve and Tamdhu NA. Maybe not programming "beginner's" malts is not that all that surprising as we've never programmed the ubiquitous Glenfiddich, probably because of the howls of rage and massive tonnage of scorn that would be heaped upon the perpetrators.

However I have it on good authority that the Glen Grant 10 is a class above the no age, in much the same way that the Glenfiddich Solera 15 and Cask Strength 15 are superior to the Special Reserve. Glen Grant reminds me a lot of Glenlivet, not just because of the dominant market position but because their whiskies perform similarly. As I have remarked before, I never understood the fuss that industry insiders and whisky writers made about Glenlivet until I tasted older bottlings. If you try hard enough, you can catch glimpses of the swan that is Glenlivet at 20 years plus in the 'cygnet' Glenlivet 12. Hopefully the Glen Grant 10 will afford the same sort of window on Glen Grant at 21 years, when it really starts to hit its straps as a great whisky.

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Oh and as I was the first to correctly identify the blind in January, I get to bring one this month. A lot of people, when confronted with this task for the first time always ask me two questions. Firstly what are the rules for choosing the blind and secondly how do you make it a fair test? To this end I have included my thoughts on these two matters of import.


The rule for choosing the blind is fairly straightforward. The Club must have tasted the exact same whisky on at least one occasion in the last three years, but for ease of calculation, we stretch that to the last 36 meetings. Now there is the odd occasion when the blind bringer doesn't adhere to this Rule and someone invariably gets it right but at the philosophical heart of the rule is fairness; the members should have a chance based on previous experience in the club environs. To get a list of all the malts the club had tasted you can contact Bob for an up to date list or I have one that is current to January 2001. Now if we take the last 36 meetings including blinds and including the Christmas shows (back to 27 August 1997) this gives us a total of 140 spirits (not all of the stuff we have drunk in the last three years (6 in fact) has been Single Malt Whisky) to choose from. Some of these may not be obtainable due to rarity or being bought in from O/S (roughly 18) and some will have been tasted more than once (18 duplicates accounting for 42 out of the 140) but it leaves a solid working list of about 80.

The blind can be any one of the spirits on that list of 80. Now the list you prepare to try and make working out the blind a true test of malt scholarship should but doesn't have to follow the same rule, but the list should include only those whiskies that the club has tasted somewhere in its history.
How do you make it a fair test, not too easy and not too hard? You can do it any way you like, but for what it's worth this is my way. My method owes a little to multiple choice questionnaires and a little to David Wishart's Clustan Cluster Analysis. I've reproduced the guts of this analysis in a separate paper attached to this Newsletter. Now there are some omissions and a couple of glaring 'clangers' in his groupings, relying on 'expert' tasting notes as he does, but it is interesting how few I would take serious issue with. Anyway, I find it much more useful than Michael Jackson or Charles MacLean to compose my Blind Lists.

OK to use an example that complies with all the information above say the blind you have chosen is Strathisla 12 (tasted four other times since being a blind in October 1997). How would I come up with a fair list? Firstly (using the modified multiple choice methodology you want 2 obviously wrong answers, three unlikely answers and 3 strong possibilities, one of which is correct). Going to Dr Wishart's cluster analysis, Strathisla sits in Group G with 9 other malts (Glen Keith, Aultmore, Glenmorangie, Old Fettercairn, Auchentoshan, Bladnoch, Glen Garioch, Tobermory and Inchmurrin). Now of these, the club has tried Glenmorangie Sherry 12 and Tobermory in the last 3 years and Aultmore 12 and Glen Keith 1983 in the last 4 years.
Now from experience I reckon that Tobermory and Aultmore are the least like Strathisla so I'd leave them out. So the three strong possibilities are Strathisla, 12, Glenmorangie Sherry 12 and Glen Keith 1983. Now we turn to the definitely not pair. OK this is the easy part. Strathisla has appreciable sherry wood with fruity notes and a hint of earthy peat. So going back to Dr Wishart's tables, let's find some that are the antithesis of sherry, fruit and earthy peat and the two groups that are farthest from Strathisla are Glengoyne at one end and the peat monsters at the other. The club has tasted Glengoyne 10, Talisker 10, Lagavulin 16 and Laphroaig 10 in the last three years so because Lagavulin and Laphroaig are too easy in this group the 'no way known it could be' pair is Glengoyne 10 and Talisker 10. Now for the maybe trio; just about anything from Clusters E, F and H would fit the bill and the ones that are closest without being too like Strathisla 12 (and we have tasted them in the last 3 years) are Royal Brackla 14, An Cnoc 12 and Cragganmore 12. So there's the list to hide Strathisla 12 and to make it a fair test. In alphabetical order the list would be An Cnoc 12, Cragganmore 12, Glengoyne 10, Glen Keith 1983, Glenmorangie 12 Sherrywood, Royal Brackla 14, Strathisla 12 and Talisker 10.

I have followed this methodology to come up with list to hide February's blind.


After reading an article about a scholarly paper entitled "Classifying Single Malt Whiskies Using Cluster Analysis", read to the British Classification Society Annual Conference by Dr David Wishart including the groupings he ended up with I decided that his classification provided an excellent tool for putting together the list of possibles for a blind malt to be presented at Club meetings and that his classification could be used to good effect by experienced as well as novice tasters. His tool, being based on similarities across vectors such as sweetness, fruitiness, peatiness throws up some interesting clusters, but is ultimately more sophisticated (and useful from identification purposes), than classification systems based primarily on geographical areas.

The following owes a lot to Dr Wishart and Charles MacLean, the majority of the content being extracted from the Scotch Malt Whisky Society of America Summer 98 Edition.

Traditional Classification & the push for more meaningful sub divisions.

Classification was not a problem in the old days: the division, for fiscal and other purposes was simply Highland/Lowland (ie distilleries above and below the Highland Line, an imaginary frontier introduced in 1784, which stretched approximately from Dumbarton to Dundee). By the late 19th Century three further 'Whisky Regions' were recognised: Campbeltown, Islay and Glenlivet - the latter approximating to our Speyside. This simple division was all that was required by blenders who divide Highland malts into 'Top', 'First' 'Second' and 'Third Class' for blending purposes - broadly speaking the dozen 'Top Class' malts (all Speysides) being used as 'top dressings' in a blend, and the 'Third Class' malts tending to be considered as useful 'fillers'.

Geographical Classification & Increasing Sophistication in sub-regional groupings

But with the rise in interest in single malts during the 1980s, distillery owners, consumers and writers began to look more closely at regional classifications. Especially they - we - were interested in ways in which individual regions might be considered to bestow regional 'styles' or 'character' to the malts made there. Professor RJS McDowell (The Whiskies of Scotland) had' divided the Highlands into 'The Glenlivets and their like' 'Dufftown', 'Northern' and 'Island' as early as 1968, but it was not until Wallace Milroy (Malt Whisky Almanac, 1986) that sub-division really got underway, quickly brought to geographical sophistication by Michael Jackson (The World Guide to Malt Whisky, 1987). Milroy divided the Highland Region into Northern, Southern, Eastern, Western, Speyside, Islands and Orkney. Jackson followed this, but called the 'Southern Highlands' 'The Midlands', and subclassified Speyside according to its main rivers, viz: the Findhorn, the Lossie, the Upper Spey, the Lower Spey, the Livet, the Fiddich and the Dullan, Strathisla, the Bogie and the Deveron. A simplified version of this classification of Speyside by rivers has long been used by The Society Spey, Lossie, Deveron and Findhorn.

But is it really helpful? As Tim Fiddler says, "... I am not keen on the obsession with river valleys. Process water almost invariably comes from springs, not always adjacent to the distillery". Inter alia he proposes an interesting new classification for Speysides.

A New Classification for Speyside by Tim Fiddler;
"Classification begins with geography; coincidence of characteristics is merely a bonus... It has to be admitted that Speyside has style on its side. It also has numbers, and the trouble is that as a classification it is unwieldy. Even if the malts of the Lossie, Deveron, Findhorn and Nairn valleys are subtracted, that still leaves 36 malts. A closer examination is not as easy as it is in, say Islay, with a sensible eight. For the purposes of differentiation and comparison it helps to have groups of moderate, proportionate size. Although 'Greater Speyside' could be considered to extend over a thousand square miles, the distilleries are huddled together in groups. Two reasonably-sized groups can be formed from those on the banks of the Spey; I call these the 'Banffshire Bank' and the 'Morayshire Bank'. The towns in the district provide another four: 'Rothes' 'Dufftown' 'Elgin' and 'Keith'. 'Mere is a group of 'Coastal' distilleries, and a group of 'Up-land' distilleries further inland. The groups vary in size from five to nine, and are therefore in proportion to other regional groupings. I find that this enhances my discernment and appreciation of the wide variety of Speyside malts."

Geography & Familial flavour/style profiles

Prompted by an invitation to a presentation of the 100 whiskies which go into the vatted malt, Chivas Century, Charles Maclean recorded the procedures used in creating the vatting by Chivas Brother's Master Blender, Colin Scott. He arranged his malts geographically as follows: North Speyside (28 malts, including those from Elgin, Keith, Rothes and 'The Coast'), South Speyside (25 malts, including the products of Dufftown, 'The Banffshire' and 'Morayshire Banks' and 'Up-land Speyside'), North Highlands (14 malts, including the North-eastern malts), South Highlands (15 malts, including those from the West, South, South-east and Central Highlands) and 'The Rest' (18 malts from Campbeltown, Lowlands, Islands, Islay. These were actually vatted separately in the creation of Century). Although this arrangement was geographical, it was possible to detect family resemblances, even in broad districts such as the North and South Highlands and Speyside. The Southern Highlanders were marginally heavier, fruitier and more intense than their heathery northern cousins, while the Northern Speysides were firmer, sweeter and more aromatic than the Southern Speyside malts, which we generally found more cereal-like. Clearly, classification by character, style or flavour is more useful to the consumer than mere geographical grouping, and although regional characteristics are familiar to us, we all know how difficult it is to place some malts - especially when they are drawn from a single cask.

Classification by Clustering

The third approach to classification abandons geography altogether, and seeks to group malt whiskies by aroma/flavour alone. Dr Wishart, a designer of statistical software, has used a statistical method known as 'cluster analysis' to classify malt whiskies. Although originally developed for studies in biological taxonomy, cluster analysis can also be used for market analysis. Dr Wishart's classification, which I have attached to this article, is provisional and on-going. He is keen to have your comments on his findings to date, so please let us know your views and we will pass them on to him.

How it works is this. Dr Wishart analysed the descriptive terms used in eight current books to describe 85 readily available single malts in proprietary bottlings at around 10 years old. A vocabulary of some 800 aromatic and taste descriptors was compiled. These words were then bundled into a number of flavour/aroma groups: sweet, peaty, smoky, medicinal, honeyed, spicy, sherried, nutty, cereally, fruity, floral. Each of the 85 malts was 'consensus coded' (2 where a majority of authors agreed, 1 where a minority agreed, 0 otherwise) according to the number of times a descriptor was applied to it. Using his Clustan software, Dr Wishart then classified the 85 malts into "clusters" each having broadly similar taste characteristics. The result is what is called a 'hierarchical classification tree' in which the 85 malts have been ordered and classed into a kind of taxonomy of malt whisky based on their flavours and aromas. Dr Wishart then examined - somewhat arbitrarily - the division of this tree into 10 groups of whiskies plus one singleton (see attached list).

Although you may be surprised to find, for example, Knockando and Glen Grant clustered with The Macallan and Springbank, or Glenkinchie lumped with Highland Park, the methodology is interesting and the findings potentially of great value to the consumer who continually asks: "If I like Clynelish (etc) what others will I like?" But to obtain more meaningful clusters, the language of whisky tasting must be more rigorous, the descriptors more narrowly defined. I wrote to Dr Wishart when I first heard of his research pointing out the variations - even contradictions and inaccuracies - to be found in the tasting notes supplied in the eight books, including my own, which provided him with his vocabulary. I wonder what his clusters would look like if he used the highly imaginative descriptors employed by The Society Nosing Panel?

Using Clustan Analysis by Dr David Wishart

Cluster A
Medium-sweet unpeated with spicy nutty fruity notes (1 only)

Cluster B
Sweet low-peat with spicy fruity floral main (18 malts)
Speyburn, Miltonduff, Tormore, The Edradour, Balblair, Craigallachie, Deanston, Glentauchers, Glenallachie, Benriach, Glen Moray, Inchgower, Glenlossie, Glenturret, Tomintoul, Glen Deveron, Benromach, Aberlour

Cluster C
Sweet low-peat with smoky spicy sherried nutty fruity floral notes (8 malts)
Glen Spay, Glen Grant, Knockando, The Macallan, Glencadam, Longmorn, Springbank, Scapa

Cluster D
Sweet low-peat. with spicy sherried fruity floral notes (3 malts)
Balvenie, The Glenlivet, Glendullan

Cluster E
Sweet medium-peat with smoky spicy sherried fruity notes (12 malts)
Caperdonich, Tamdhu, Benrinnes, The Singleton, Glen Rothes, Royal Lochnagar, Glenfarclas, Balmenach, Mortlach, Linkwood, Glen Ord, The Dalmore

Cluster F
Sweet medium-peat with smoky honeyed fruity floral notes (6 malts)
Dufftown, Glen Elgin, Dalwhinnie Glenfiddich, Teaninich, Royal Brackla

Cluster G
Medium-sweet medium-peat with smoky fruity floral notes (10 malts)
Glen Keith, Aultmore, Strathisla, Glenmorangie, Old Fettercairn, Auchentoshan, Bladnoch, Glen Garioch, Tobermory, Inchmurrin

Cluster H
Sweet peaty with smoky spicy fruity flora notes (8 malts)
Tomatin, Blair Atholl, Ardmore, Cardhu, Aberfeldy, An Cnoc, Cragganmore, Imperial

Cluster I
Medium-sweet peaty with smoky spicy fruity notes (7 malts)
Ben Nevis, The Glendronach, Loch Dhu, Dailuaine, Oban, Old Pulteney, Clynelish

Cluster J
Dry very peated with smoky spicy floral notes (7 malts)
Bunnahabhain, Bruichladdich, Glenkinchie, Highland Park, Ledaig, Isle of Jura, Bowmore

Cluster K
Dry very peated with smoky spicy medicinal notes (5 malts)
Caol Ila, Talisker, Lagavulin, Laphroaig, Ardbeg

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prE-pistle #34:  EoZ Februari 2001 Report
Date:  Sat, 24 Mar 2001

Things are hotting up on the South Australian malt scene.  Over the next three months we are going to see some events of significance occur in Adelaide that I hope anyone with even a passing interest in our spirit of choice will not miss.  Firstly (apart from the 'normal malt meetings) there is an ultra-special and unique event planned for May 9; the Millennium Malt Convocation, which is the first time the three public malt clubs in Adelaide have ever officially got together to celebrate their mutual regard for their shared passion; single malt scotch whisky.

Secondly, the National Malt Tasting Championship is scheduled for 24 June 2001.  At last count there are only 9 people on the planet who can lay claim to having won one of these and a fair percentage of them will be at the MMC on 9 May 2001.  If any of the PLOWED, Yahoo or Malts-L list crowd want to be part of either event let me know and I'll pass on the organiser's details.  Three months notice is not a lot, but I only found out myself last Wednesday.

Oh please find attached my usual rantings and ravings.

February 28, 2001 - Report Card
"Ne'er tried Before"

Glen Scotia 14 - Lovely clean nose and a nice firm palate. Slightly sea-spray salty in both the nose with a little bit of edible seaweed on the palate. Stays clean and medium dry in the finish. I found it developed something akin to chocolate in the tail, but maybe this was wishful thinking. Overall a firm and assertive dram without any rough edges. Very different to any Speyside. Score 8.2

Ledaig 1990 - malty and yeasty with fat barley and fudge to start. Dries out in the nose, loses some of the flabbiness and develops an astringent woodiness. Palate is drying but the mouthfeel is oily. While there are some woody phenols in the nose, there's no forward peat, but it's quite evident in the palate and finish. Not as dry as most Ledaigs that I recollect, and a little bit too much like the Tobermory we tried in October 2000, which I didn't like much at all. Pleasant enough but nothing to write home about. Score 7.8

Glen Grant 10 - I was hoping this one would be a pleasant 'find'. I wanted to see some embyonic evidence of the greatness glen grant achieves after 18-20 years. Alas it actually reminded me of middle of the road Irish triple-distilled to start with that subdued oak, sandalwood and baby powder nose. If I'd had it blind I might have thought it Irish or a lowlander, which doesn't automatically mean it's not good but it definitely lacked some heart. Deeper delving showed some floral notes and it opened up a little over time. The palate was quite light, quite floral in a recognisably Speyside kind of a way and there was a big creamy and pine wood reprise in the finish. Overly refined. Score 7.3

The Blind – Aberlour a'bunadh - A very big whisky with definite similarities to Springbank 12 100 proof, although with a bigger alcohol kick, more forward mint and much bigger rancio notes in the tail. It is definitely an impact malt and has never failed to impress on the six or seven occasions where I have put it through its paces. I think the fact that so many thought it could be the Springbank 12 100 Proof speaks volumes for the inherent quality. Good stuff. Score 8.3

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Next Meeting: 28 March 2001 - "Four Blind Mice"
"Competition Practice Night"

Some of the new members might feel intimidated about approaching four whiskies blind. All I can say is don't worry, you have a 1 in 24 chance of getting them all right without knowing a thing. Besides the best tasting notes you will ever make are made when the whisky is masked as you can only find what is really there, not what the label might lead you to expect to be there. My advice is; come along, join in the spirit and have some fun. Remember, until the whiskies are finally revealed your choice is as valid as that of anyone else.

It is well and truly apposite that we start thinking about practising for the Malt competition, as the date for the 2001 National Malt Tasting Championship was announced last week. It's going to be on 24 June 2001 and while the Earls of Zetland have a proud record in the National Malt Tasting Championship, the office holders of the EOZ desperately want the Club to remain competitive. We are always on the look out for where the new talent might be coming from as those who have been there before have probably lost the edge along with the lust for the chase.

I don't know exactly how previous winners prepared for the comps that they won (and all our little hints are yet to be collected and published) but my tips can be refined down to three key themes; proper preparation, solid strategy, holding the line tactically and keeping your nerve. I also admit that I worked very, very hard to win in 1995. Of course I'd love to win again, but I'm not as driven as I was in 1995. Then (and for the first and only time in my life to date) I actually understood all the sports psychology terms like 'focus' and 'centring' and 'being in the zone'. It's rewarding but draining as hell too. I don't know how Bronte and Bob felt after winning the competition but I know I didn't train as hard for the competitions in 1996 and 2000, as I'd already climbed Everest and felt I didn't really have anything more to prove.

When I was 'driven', I started practising on sets of six different whiskies about three months out, always two sets a weekend and sometimes three getting the barman to put together random combinations, then building a 'malt marker data base as an aide de memoire. Providing your nose actually functions properly, that level of effort will probably get you into the top six, but the ritual and routine you adopt on the day sorts out the winner. The strategy I chose in my first competition in 1994, of hunting for particular whiskies and trying to find characteristics peculiar to a particular malt, wasn't optimal and by the time I got to the competition in 1995, I'd factored a couple of other tactics into the equation. Namely making sure I tasted and made notes for every whisky on the list, using colour as the first sorting mechanism and "pairing" to line-up and compare whiskies of similar hue. But a lot relies on making the right decisions on the day, holding your nerve and drinking as little of the whisky on the table as you can get away with. It's not easy and it's too easy to get confused, befuddled and lost. There are plenty of talented tasters that have never won a competition, probably because with 12 whiskies in front of you there is a very real danger of information overload, never mind the effect of alcohol on decision-making processes, so starting with four is a good solid and meaningful introduction.

Team selections will happen later, probably around Anzac Day and we'll have 6 blinds to sort out the hopefuls. For those of you who understand the math, 12 masked whiskies is not twice as hard as 6, it's actually 665,280 times harder. Welcome to the arcane world of malt competitions.

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prE-pistle #35:  EoZ March 2001 Report
Date:  Mon, 23 Apr 2001

Greetings to all fellow whisky enthusiasts,

May Is The Most Momentous Month

May is going to be the busiest and most exciting month ever in the history of the club.  Because of Anzac Day falling on the fourth Wednesday of the month, we've moved the April meeting to the 2nd of May.  Having three of the industries most popular 18 year old whiskies on the agenda will be a spectacular start to a magnificent month of malty celebrations, because on the 9th of May we have the Millennium Malt Convocation.  This evening is the culmination of six months planning and unprecedented co-operation between the three public Malt clubs in Adelaide to present a not to be missed event of great whisky, great food and even greater value.  Then on Wednesday 23rd May we are having the Taste-off to select a team for the National Malt Tasting Championship and finally we have probably everyone's favourite theme night; the Islay Night to round off the month on 30 May 2000.  This Islay Night promises to feature a trio of youthful peat monsters par excellence including the exquisite rarities of Ardbeg 10 and Longrow 10 alongside the redoubtable and hairy-chested Laphroaig 10.  They may be pre-adolescent but they pack a punch and all of them (but especially the Ardbeg and Longrow) show depths of complexity well beyond their tender years.

So, almost every Wednesday in May hosts a club function.  A packed diary indeed!  More background information on all of these events is available over the page.

March 28, 2001 - Report Card
"Four Blind Mice"

I wasn't there, having an alternative engagement at the Hyatt, so I've compiled this report on the basis of information provided by Bronte Milde and Steve Graham who deputised for the Laird and Treasurer who were both away.

It's always interesting to get feedback from these nights as everyone thinks telling the difference between Highland Park 12 and Cragganmore 12 is going to be a complete doddle until they're actually put on the spot.  All the literature and all your previous experience tells you that these whiskies are exemplars of particular styles, the 'Island' and the 'Speyside' and these styles are quite distinctive.  Makes you wonder when 8 out of 13 tasters collect them into the right pair but only 4 get these ever so distinctive whiskies the right way round.  Does it mean that the tasters' noses are less than exact instruments or that the literature is claiming variance where there is little or none?  A little bit of the former and a big whack of the latter would be my conclusion.

Now they were the easy pair.  Sorting the less well known but remarkably similar pair of Glenturret 12 and Glenfiddich 15 was a taller order, but once again 8 got them into the correct pair and once again 4 got them the right way around.  I think that was a good effort.  Well done to Steve Graham who was the only taster to get them all right, but reflecting on the score sheet, the following got very close and can take as much heart as they like from the following comments.  Geoff Lamont, Bernie Glover and Allan May got Cragganmore and Highland Park the right way round and missed Glenfiddich and Glenturret.  From a 'team coach' nosing perspective that was the more acceptable/forgivable mistake to make.  Craig Morton, Bob Reid and Martin Brackman-Shaw got them all into the correct pairs and got the Glenfiddich and Glenturret, which was definitely the harder pair, but missing the easier ones is what costs you in a serious malt competition, so you only get a bronze medal.  Not to put too fine a point on it, the rest need much more practice.

Anyway, I hope those that were there enjoyed themselves, regarded the whiskies on their merits and maybe learned something.  Reflecting on the score sheet, and the whiskies I chose, I swear I didn't try and make it too hard.  Choosing two pale whiskies and a slightly more amber pair, was to attempt to demonstrate the importance of colour in malt identification.  If I wanted to make it purely a matter of luck then I could've put Glenfarclas 10, Balvenie 10, Benriach 10 and Aberlour 10 on the table.  Now there's a ball breaking, ego destroying set if ever there was one!

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Next Meeting: 2 May 2001
"Super 18s - Horizontal from Great Distilleries"

A little while ago, in late 1999, in response to a ranking published on the site by James Thompson, I was asked by an American malt acquaintance to contribute to an 'enthusiasts' list to be posted alongside the 'expert' list. Both lists can be found on the net at the following addresses;
"Experts" -
"Amateurs" -

The idea behind both lists was for people with extensive knowledge to rank distilleries in terms of the quality of the product and consistency across time as one possible way to decide which was the 'best' distillery.  The most interesting thing about both lists is that the experts rated Highland Park top (equal with Lagavulin) Macallan at number 3 and Glenmorangie at 8.  The non-industry enthusiastic amateurs ranked Macallan at 1, Highland Park at 3 and Glenmorangie at 10.  I guess it doesn't really matter to anyone other than a marketer who sees some slight commercial advantage in being number 1, but the whiskies we have chosen for our Super 18 Night come from distilleries that both ranked in their respective top 10's.

The other really interesting aspect to the whole horizontal aspect of the theme is that they are the same age and roughly the same price, so it gives everyone the perfect opportunity to assess each of them against the others and work out which one they like best.  I'm going to do some analysis on the scores but my suspicion is that the scores will line up pretty much in the same order as the 'amateurs' panel ranked the distilleries, as I still think that most people regard Macallan 18 as a stand-out Speyside whisky.  I'm less convinced by the Highland Park 18, finding something lacking in the overall package, but have never benchmarked it against two other 18s.  I acknowledge the pre-eminence of Macallan 18, but find Glenmorangie 18 much more refined and complex; I love the tropical fruit and grape vines that come out over time.  So my personal rating (before putting the three in a line-up) would be Glenmorangie 18, Macallan 18 and Highland Park 18, but I'll be happy to be proven mistaken and to report on the consensus ranking of the meeting.

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prE-pistle #36:  EoZ May 2001 Report - 1
Date:  Sun 27 May, 2001

Greetings to all fellow whisky enthusiasts,

May Is Still an Awesome Month!
May has been absolutely huge and it still has one Wednesday to go.
May is Islay Month and tops off the biggest month in the history of the Club, with the Horizontal 18s on 2 May, the Millennium Malt Convocation on the 9th and the Taste-Off trials on 17 and 23 May 2001.
The EOZ teams for the NMTC are Martin Brackman-Shaw and Bob Perry and Craig Daniels and Paul Rasmussen.  We don't want to alert the opposition but on disclosed form, our newbies have a seriously good chance and having an old stager in each team lends balance (and ballast) to the combination.

This roundup is going to be (mercifully) brief on post mortems as I have two rather than the usual one Report card to get through.

May 2, 2001 - Report Card
"Super 18s"  (Horizontal from Great Distilleries)

Shame there were only 12 there to share in the bounty. They were all better than good, including the blind and the one which I personally found disappointing in distillery verticals (as the Highland Park 25 makes the 18 seem hollow), really hit its straps and performed much better in the Horizontal. Just goes to show; its important to benchmark material against direct competition in the correct price bracket rather than against malts that cost nearly double.

Glenmorangie 18 - Started very light in the nose.  Took a while to get much of anything other than a light fruitiness that developed into a fruit salad but without the tropical notes, which used to be a classic malt marker.  The palate was very good and more refined than I remembered.  Seemed to struggle to make a statement in the company, but both the palate and finish were classy.  The kind of malt that rewards patience as it definitely improved in the glass.  Score 8.3

Highland Park 18 - Was the pleasant surprise of the night. The nose was bitey and spiritty to start but the nose got a lot better as some of the volatiles dissipated.  There was lots of toffee and hints of butterscotch and the whole package hung around better than I recall.  The palate was rich and slightly unctuous. The finish, (ah the finish) was superb and was always the big selling point on every occasion I have ever tasted this malt.  The finish is truly excellent with a slight smoky reprise.  Tastes more and more like a highland coastal to me every year, but defintely a good 'un. Score 8.6

Macallan 18 1982 - I know I'm not going to win any friends but initially, this 18 doesn't even smell like a Macallan, as there's honey, treacle and toffee but the big oloroso sherry is AWOL early.  Nevertheless, once the sherry puts in an appearance it becomes a true Macallan.  The sherry was more obvious on the palate and in the finish but being so timid in the nose was a surprise.  The finish was true, with the classic honeycomb & floor wax appearing to delight.  Score 8.5

The Blind: Bowmore Darkest - Paul Rasmussen chose the blind and gave everyone at least a sporting chance by putting 2 sherried Islays on his list.  Unfortunately, I chose the wrong sherried Islay and those that found the classic lavender/california poppy sweetness picked it as Bowmore.  My tasting notes say it all;  lots of sweet smoky notes - very smooth with lots of dusty lantana and smoking grape vines. Too smoky to be a Highland or from Campbeltown.  Definitely an Islay, probably Lagavulin 16.  Whoops wrong but it was seriously good.  Score 8.6

May 9, 2001 - Report Card

It's been and gone and I still can't quite believe that it went so well, nor have I got my head around writing the full story.  Suffice to say here, that despite Geoff Holden's kind words, it was very far from a one-man band and a list of sincere acknowledgements will be forthcoming.  The scary thing was that the logistics were way beyond anything we've even dreamt of before, and I still think it's a minor miracle that we came out in front at all.  I was happy with the whiskies and how they complemented each other and the whole event on the night.

Clynelish 1972 24 61.3% UD Rare Malts -  Probably my favourite on the night, certainly the one I went back to for a top up at the end, mainly as it was so easy to drink.  Nice clean bourbon nose with lots of creamy notes in the palate, then developed a distinct flavour/aroma of shelled, unsalted peanuts.  A dash of water liberated the creamy notes and it was remarkably smooth for an OP.  There was a faint hint of hot metal and coal fires in the finish, but none of the Islay peat that you get in some Broras and some others from Clynelish.  If it was made from peated malt the phenol was less than 8ppm.  Reinforced its standing as ranking in the top trio of the Rare Malts.  Score 8.3

Highland Park 12 - Steve Matthews was eloquent in its defence.  Sticking a standard commercial 12 up against the other exotica was bound to appear unfair, so how did the HP12 really fare.  Pairing it with the big bourbon OP reinforced the relative refined gentility of the Highland Park.  Lot of toffee and faint hint of fudge and a distinct sense of fresh stone fruit (peach or apricot) that I've never got before.  I also got butterscotch, which I've found in the 18 but never in the HP12.  I find it hard to find any peat in the latest versions, which is a problem come the Malt Competition.  Score 8.0

Aberlour a'bunadh - I know I wasn't the only one on the committee that thought the a'bunadh worthy of inclusion on the malt agenda for the MMC, but I was a bit worried that it would suffer in comparison to the much more serious and sonorous Macallan 25.  I think by any objective assessment the a'bunadh stood up pretty well.  It has a lifted sweetness that's part floral and part fruity, but ever so clean that possesses a certain constancy as long as it sits in the glass.  Remarkably friendly ( I know that's a dumb term to use but I can't come up with one more apt) and maybe its lack of forest floor depths and deep sherry resonance were exposed, but hey not every sherry malt has to be a Mahler or a Wagner.  The a'bunadh evinced fine coloratura against the booming bass foil of the Macallan.  Score 8.5

Macallan 1975 25 54% Laird's Club Private Bottling Number 2 - Like a lot of other people in the room, I was awaiting the Macallan with heightened anticipation.  This Macallan was singing in a deeper register than any OB, yet it possessed a fruity vitality that belies its age and it doesn't have as much of the forest floor and floor wax that you get in old sherry wood speysides from Glenfarclas and Dailuaine.  If I was to pick a Macallan that it most closely resembles, the 1967 18 is the one and as the 1967 Macallan 18 is the third best Macallan I've ever tasted.  I rank this one in front of everything except the 1874 and the 1972 25 and the equal of the OB 1975, although it shows darker and deeper sherry than the OB.  Serious stuff, with a lot of dark and brooding depths. A malt at the height of its powers, but with lifted fruity grace notes that bespoke a lightness of touch.  David did warn that the sherry s perhaps overly prominent, but for those of us that welcome extreme malts this one was grand. Lovely stuff and well worth the asking.   Score 8.8

Lagavulin 16 - Placing the Lagavulin in the last Act of the MMC was probably a big ask, given the other exotica on offer, but it was a salutary reminder of just how good the Lagavulin 16 truly is. Smooth with lots of dusty lantana and smoking grape vines and the sweet and sour notes of good sherry wood.  Along with the Aberlour a'bunadh it ranks amongst the best value for money malts going around and never fails to impress.  Some of the people who came along were relative malt neophytes and didn't understand the fascination that many of us have with the Peat Monsters.  Lagavulin garnered some more converts on the night. A must for any serious malt drinker's top shelf.  Score 8.6

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Next Meeting: 30 May 2001

Superior malts from the West Coast, form Caol Ila, Laphroaig and including the rare and expensive Longrow 10.  Longrow is included as an honorary Islay as its peating levels approach the serious levels between Bowmore and Laphroaig.  Actually if you liked the Clynelish 24 and can imagine a marriage of the Clynelish and Laphroaig, you've got the profile of the Longrow tagged pretty well.

The Islay night is always popular and rightly so as they are the whiskies that provide the essential distinction between Scotch and other spirits. Come along and see why Islays hold so many of us enthralled or if you are already acquainted with the tarry intensities of Islays, come along and get re-acquainted.

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prE-pistle #37:  EoZ May 2001 Report - 2
Date:  Thu, 21 Jun 2001

Greetings to all fellow whisky enthusiasts,

May was a mighty BIG month with the two club meetings and the Millennium Malt Convocation thrown in.  The Islay Night on 30 May was another beauty.  For those of you who trust my judgement, the G&M CC Caol Ila 1984 16 is well worth chasing down, especially if you like your Islays with a touch of cherry/sherry and almost Speyside 'candy' refinement.

We've been practising hard for the National Malt tasting Competition 2001 on 24 June 2001 in Earls Tavern.  Based on what we've discovered in the last few weeks, there are some extremely good whiskies out there, representing excellent value for money, in the $50-65 range.  Tasting whiskies masked when you're not sure what they are sure helps sort the interesting and acceptable from the boring, bland and overrated.  Longmorn 15, Glendronach 15, Bunnahabhain 12 and Cragganmore 12 are very impressive and Glenfarclas 10 and Cardhu 12 are better than they used to be.

BTW tried the Bowmore 30 Sea Dragon for the first time last night. The colour was a bright, lambent and limpid orange with gold highlights. Lots of sherry over the tropical fruit and the vine leaf sappiness, but the smoke and passionfruit shine through after 10".  there's a lemonade spritzig in the nose that's enchanting.  Sweeter than the 17, more intense than the 21 and less bubblegum fruity than the 25.
Yum, yum, yum, yummmmmm!

May 30, 2001 - Report Card

May was huge and the (Almost) All Islay Night was a fitting send-off to a BIG malt month.  Islay malts are the Comfort Food of the Single Malt world: warm and hearty and smelling of autumn leaves and the sea and are thus regularly mandated on the club's malt agenda.  This meeting was very well attended with 19 showing up and what's more the whiskies lived up to the collective anticipation.  It was another night where I rated them all at 8.0 or better.  The Blind was tricky because Bob Reid was very naughty and broke all the rules; not only hadn't we tried that particular whisky in the last three years, additionally we hadn't tried anything from that distillery (as a club) in the last 8 years.  We've only ever had anything from Ardbeg on 6 occasions and the last of them was in 1993). Bob, all is forgiven as any Ardbeg is an adventure, although I must admit that approaching it without knowing its identity that it had a lot more in common with Bowmore and Bruichladdich than anything from the seriously hairy-chested brigade.  Of course he couldn't fool everybody:  Bob Perry got it right!

Longrow 10 -  My affection for this whisky grows with every re-acquaintance. There's something approachable about it that is endearing.  The nose is very clean with fresh sawn pine and sandalwood notes, then the sterile bandages and a faint hint of peanuts and peanut brittle.  The gauze and bandages get stronger in the nose over time and there's a faint hint of hot plastic as well.  Overall impression is of good bourbon wood and a healthy amount of peat.  In April I opined that the flavour profile was "a marriage of Clynelish and Laphroaig", but the more I nose it the more it comes across as a melding of Caol Ila & Clynelish.  How do you tell a pretend Islay from the real thing? It's like that Brora that was made from malt kilned at Caol Ila.  I suspect that very few people on the planet would pick it as anything but an Islay.  Really is a good, clean and gutsy whisky.  Score 8.3

Laphroaig 10 - There's something dark and brooding about the 'froig.  It's from murkier climes than the Longrow  with dank, dark forest floor, mouldering leaves, smudge pots and roasting flesh, then burning leaves, tar and old hemp.  The palate is true to the nose with the garden bonfires reprising throughout.  There's something comforting and reassuring about the dark smouldering resonances in the Laphroaig  Score 8.5

Caol Ila 1984 16 G&M CC - A wonderful surprise and easily my favourite on the night.  This one reinforces my regard for the people from Gordon & MacPhail who choose the barrels from Caol Ila.  I've never had a bad Caol Ila from G&M and this one is top shelf.  Lovely sweet nose with cherries and turkish delight, a hint of sappy leaves and a whiff of smoke and big burning leaves in the palate.  The best traits of all the Islays nicely melded in one dram.  The smokiness hangs around and it even develops a hint of gunpowder in the tail.  The cherries and rosewater suggest a touch of sherrywood but I might be mistaken.  Seriously good.  Score 8.8

The Blind: Ardbeg 1978 22 G&M CC 40% - Bob ("Tricky") Reid brought the blind.  For a long time I struggled to find any peat at all, but it came out after 20 + minutes.  Of the ones on the list that I'd tasted before, I knew it didn't have enough peat (or spirit) to be either Bowmore 18 or Talisker 19 and I knew it had too much of the island bourbon character to be Strathisla 12 or Oban 14.  That elimination process left Ardbeg 1978, Bruichladdich 10 and Old Pulteney 14.  Didn't have any bitter herbs so that dispatched Pulteney, so I went for the Bruichladdich 10 as I did find some light fudge & honey biscuits and some slight plastic and play dough notes.   In the finish it could've been Ardbeg, but I couldn't find enough peat to be true to type.  Score 8.0

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Next Meeting: 27 June 2001 - "Cask Strength Vintage Highland Malts"
"Trio of United Distillers' Rare Malts"

There are some regular gigs on our malt agenda and the OP night is one of these.  With the alcohol levels nudging and exceeding 60% we probably get a tad more unruly than usual but good quality Cask Strength Malts repay a decorous approach with one of the truly unique whisky experiences.  My advice is; pour yourself a moderate dram, nose and taste them neat then add a little water (3-5 drops recommended) and watch a whole new flavour profile develop.  Two whisky experiences for the price of one.

The Rare Malts have been around for a while and we've managed to try a few.  They have ranged from excellent to acceptable with some gems amongst them such as the Caol Ila 21 1975, the Clynelish 24 1972 and the Glenury-Royal 23 1971.
The Glenury-Royal is a 'chocoholics' delight with a big leafy and slightly bitter, dark chocolate palate.  Teaninich is rare, not being marketed as a single, but I expect that the 1973 23 will be a robust if prosaic highland coming from a distillery about 1 kilometre west of Dalmore in the town of Alness adjacent to the Moray Firth.  The corporate tasting notes for the Teaninich 23 go "glorious bright gold-displaying characteristic herbal, leafy aromas which lead into a firm, full bodied, almost leathery malt with a robust warming finish; an ideal restorative".  Leafy and leathery describes most of the bigger Highlands well.
Dufftown-Glenlivet distillery is much better known (as part of the Arthur Bell group, before being swallowed by UDV (also included Blair Atholl and Inchgower)) and the Dufftown -Glenlivet 8, while nothing startling, was a bit more interesting than a lot of the comparable 'beginner' level malts like Glenfiddich, Glenmorangie and Glen Grant.  Light, creamy and malty pretty well sums up most D-G output.  The Dufftown-Glenlivet 21 is described as: 'this creamy 21 year old shows a fresh green-gold colour and honeyed nose, which together introduce firm bodied flavours of treacle toffee and fudge, finishing in ginger and sweet smokiness." Sounds true to type -a 100% bourbon wood Speysider.

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prE-pistle #38: Glenfiddich Australian National Malt Tasting Championships
Date: Sun, 24 Jun 2001

Hi everybody,

It's 4.15PM local time (GMT +9.30) and the malt whiskuy championship is over for another year. The SERIOUSLY good news is that the Earls of Zetland Malt Tasting Club took out all the individual and team prizes. Paul Rasmussen won the individual competition with 8 out of 8, I came second (after two taste-offs) where I managed to identify Bunnahabhain 12 and Aberlour 10 and Bronte Milde. Vice Laird of the Earls came third. This means that the Earls of Zetland have both the Individual Winner and two runners- up and the team winner as well.  This is the best result for the club ever.

For those of you who want to invest some time and money into making yourselves into serious malt tasters, you could do worse than signing up to the Earls of Zetland & Clan Drummond Academy of Malt. This august institution boasts two winners and three top place-getters in the last 6 years.
Enrolments will be accepted April 2002.

BTW The difference between Paul Rasmussen (All Hail to the New Champ) and myself is that I got Cardhu 12 and Glenfarclas 15 wrong and he didn't.
Oh well - more great news for the Earls.



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prE-pistle #39:  EoZ June 2001 Report
Date:  Sun, 22 Jul 2001


Firstly, I apologise for the lateness of this Round-up as June was a big month, following on from the epic May. For those of you who have been away or out of contact and don't know the latest news, the Club Teams in the National Malt Tasting Competition did the Club proud. We ended up with five members across three teams and we managed to fill the first three placings, Paul Rasmussen was a clear winner with Bronte Milde losing to me in a taste-off. Paul and I won the teams as well. Bob Perry came equal fifth.

June 27, 2001 - Report Card
"United Distillers Rare Malts OP Trio"

Dufftown-Glenlivet 21 54.8% - Colour was medium bright gold, with bronze highlights. The nose started creamy as expected, then developed some fruity, roasted malt and nuttiness with a faint hint of passionfruit. The nose became slightly sweet and sour over time with sour cream and a whiff of pine needles, disinfectant and stripped wood. Was fairly smooth considering the proof. Had a typical Speyside trait of bitter aspirin in the tail. Nothing startling, but perfectly serviceable and recognisably Speyside. Score 7.6

Glenury-Royal 23 61.3% - Dark clear amber with umber highlights. The nose starts with rich toffee and walnut praline, then it develops a dark chocolate note with lots of roasted nuts. The burnt notes follow through into the palate. I found the chocolate, but thought it more in the background than on other occasions and the overall effect was more refined and genteel than in some of its more wanton predecessors. Given that I usually think this whisky worth 8.5, I must have been having a spleen-venting and tough marking night. Score 8.2

Teaninich 21 57.1% - Bright pale gold with straw yellow highlights. Pretty straightforward, uncomplicated and well made malt. Clean nose, with hints of hay bales and wheat fields, with leather and sour cream. Gets more interesting in the glass with honey and butter. I didn't detect any sherry, so I expect 100% bourbon wood. Butteriness gets stronger and a bit too dominant, then gets some chocolate and bitter metal in the tail. The fatty aspects and the bitter herbs/metallic notes straddle both Highland and Speyside styles and this whisky could pass for either. I liked it and it probably deserves a less critical review. Score 7.9

The Blind: Bowmore 18 54.8% (Cadenhead Authentic Collection) - I failed miserably in my attempt to identify this one. All my scores were low tonight so I suspect that my critical malt faculties were a victim of over training and I was being hypercritical, but I wasn't the only one to think this didn't nose like an Islay and that it may have wood faults. The really distressing thing is that I didn't want to hurt Bob's feelings as he brought it along. The other really scary thing is that it is from the same batch as a Bowmore 18 that I have raved about. Paul and I even resorted to going back to my place and trying the open bottle at my place. Verdict; definitely not the same whisky. The nose started with cream and candy, with a faint hint of liniment and gauze, but no obvious peat or lavender/violets perfume. It developed a faint hint of dry peppermint that evolved into menthol and camphor. There was some mint toffee and then the dusty chalk and stripped pine of napthalene came to the fore. The only other malt I've ever got napthalene in was an Imperial and I suspect that it means that over-extracted wood lies at the root cause. I couldn't extract any peat at all as I couldn't get past the chalk, driftwood and camphor. My tasting notes were brutal; "wood is feral and bizarre". Score 6.8

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Next Meeting: 25 July 2001
 "A Drop of the Irish "  /  "Trio of Irish Single Malt Whiskies"

As a Club we focus on Scotch Single malts (quite properly as they are the pinnacle of the single malt world) however we aren't exclusionists to the extent that we disdain the offerings from other nations. Indeed have been known to sample product from Japan, New Zealand, Tasmania and Ireland. As a club we owe it to ourselves to explore other potentially greener fields, but with the notion in the back of our minds that we are unlikely to find anything to knock single malt scotch off its pedestal.

Ireland is well known for pot still whiskies which are different from blended scotch in the sense that scotch is a mixture of malt whisky made in pot-stills from 100% malted barley and grain whisky made from 10% malted barley and a mixture of unmalted grains (usually barley but not exclusively) distilled in column stills. Your standard Irish whisky (such as Jamesons or Paddys or Powers) is made from a mixture of malted and unmalted barley, but all distilled in the same stills. Thus Irish Single malts are made in the same pot-stills as the standard Irish Whiskies but from 100% malted barley. In this way, the production process is almost identical to that for single malt scotch. There are differences in that the Irish pot stills are much larger (commonly 5-10 times bigger than scotch spirit stills, ie 10-30,000 litres) and like the standard Irish whisky and some lowland scotches they tend to be triple distilled. However, the range of product on the market has exploded recently. Since Cooleys (largely as an outcome of anti-trust, pro-competition legal decisions) commenced operations they have led the charge for Irish Single Malts.

Of the three on the agenda for July, both Tyrconnell and Connemara are results of the Cooley experiment. Despite the attempts on the Tyrconnell label to make you believe otherwise, both are made at the same distillery (Riverstown, Dundalk, County Louth) in the same stills. However, they are made from very different malt stock. Tyrconnell is a truly traditional Irish (100% unpeated barley, triple-distilled and then matured in 100% American oak). If you think the Connemara tastes a lot like scotch, then you're right as Connemara gets a treatment that is more recognisable as island or Islay, made from peated Scottish barley and only double distilled, then matured in bourbon oak.

The Bushmills is made in a distillery in County Antrim, (about 40 mile north of Louth and across the border in Northern Ireland) in the oldest licensed distillery in the world. Bushmills is much closer to Tyrconnell in flavour profile and at 10 years of age is comfortably more aged than Tyrconnell. Both Bushmills and Tyrconnell are representative of the traditional Irish style and the Connemara is much closer to Ledaig or Clynelish than other Irish.

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prE-pistle #40:  EoZ July 2001 Report
Date:  Sun, 19 August 2001

Hi to all malt aficionados,

Our slight diversion across the Irish Sea was instructive, in as much as that it gave ample evidence of what good value your average single malt really represents.  The Tyrconnell at $70 was interesting, but not good value. The Connemara at $70 was easily the most impressive (by popular acclaim) on the night and the Bushmills 10 at $53 was the cheapest but also the lesser of the three.  Bushmills is more distinctive than the others but with offensive characteristics that anything labelled as a single malt shouldn't really display no matter the country of origin.

July 25, 2001 - Report Card
"A Drop of the Irish / Trio of Irish Single Malt Whiskies"

Tyrconnell (40%) - Colour was light straw gold, with honey highlights.  The nose started creamy as expected with freshly sawn pine.  Then there was a grassy note with the wintergreen of rubbing alcohol and a really strong hint of raw peanuts.  The palate was a bit rough and on the thin side with a slightly sour tail, but the creaminess hangs around.  Not too bad, but the nose is better than the palate and its youth is too obvious in the finish.  Michael Jackson says it 'grainy' which is a term usually associated with blended whisky, but maybe my wintergreen and rough edges equates to his grainy. Certainly not the worst Irish around.  Score 6.8

Connemara (40%) - Medium dark amber.  The nose starts with roasted nuts then some antiseptic ointment (like some of the lighter Caol Ilas) then a hint of the hot astringent bite of peppermint, which is a bit reminiscent of a dry menthol chalkiness in some older Ardbegs.  The ointment notes hang around and it does resemble a faux Islay in lots of ways.  The palate is very sweet and it lacks some of the more interesting nooks and crannies of the genuine article, but would fool many a maltster.  I'm biased as I spent a few days around Berwick in Scotland nursing a Connemara and liked its rustic charms very much and at 13 punt at Dublin duty free it was a cheap and cheerful travelling companion.   Score 7.7

Bushmills 10 (40%) - Medium dark amber, with olive highlights.  The nose has a slight whiff of sherry with strong hint of wintergreen, much more obvious than in the Tyrconnell.  Over time the package gets less integrated with over-extracted wood and other sweet and sour notes diverging.  It has a hint of something vaguely fruity - like fujoa and then the unmistakable aroma of stale kitty litter cuts in.  Palate is better than the nose, more rounded and obviously sherried than the nose and does show the benefits of time in wood, but there is a faintly vinegary note in the tail.  I don't like this whisky.  I'd rather drink Black Bush or Jamesons even though they're blends.  I don't like bourbons either but I'd rather face the sickly sweet corn of Evan Williams before this cat's piss any day. This is MY candidate for the worst Irish around.  Score 6.4

The Blind – Glen Scotia 14 - I'd convinced myself early on that it came from Speyside so to cut a long story short, I started in the wrong neighbourhood and never got back on track in my endeavour to identify this one.  My olfactory memory was obviously astray as the last Glen Scotia I recall had obvious phenols and a dry, austere and aristocratic flintiness in the finish but this one had mint toffee, caramel and a wee dollop of peat in the medium sweet tail.  I didn't like this bottle as much as the previous one.  Score 7.5

The Club Program 2001 continues on 22 August 2001 with "Mystery Malts - Rare Oddities from Private Collections". We have to inject the odd bit of mystery into the agenda.  Not quite pot-luck but come along and find out what the Laird and Treasurer have retrieved from the back of their whisky cabinets for you to try.

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Next Meeting:  22 August 2001
"Mystery Malts from Private Collections / Oddities, Rarities and Antiquities"

When the officeholders sit down to sketch out the Club programme, we usually run out of ideas with a couple of meetings left and sometimes we fudge a little by having a mystery night.  Up until July, not even I knew exactly what we would have.  These programming lapses present the opportunity to try whiskies that individually few of us would have the wherewithal or courage to lash out on the off chance that they might be stellar.  So Mystery Malt Nights permit us to do two things, try expensive whiskies and ones we've never tried before and allow us to carve more notches on the personal "distilleries drammed" list.

The Rarity - Rosebank 1991 9yo 61.3% - (Adelphi)
Rosebank is one of those elusive distilleries where the product was known about in Europe (especially in Italy) but none of it ever made it downunder, so the Club has never tried any from this classic lowland distillery before.  For those who want to dram something from every distillery operating since WW2, this represents one time to notch up a rare one on the quest as Rosebank closed in 1993 and unlike Bladnoch is unlikely to re-open.  Rosebank is a lowland distillery and most of these tend to have soft fruit, hints of lemon zest and cotton candy or fairy floss.  This one was brought back from a trip to Europe courtesy of Bob Perry.  Lowlands tend to produce fairly gentle, fast maturing malts, so the age might not be all that obvious.

The Oddity - Glengoyne 1972 Single Cask No 583 55.9% (Lang Brothers)
Marketers have tried hard to cash in on various trends in malt whisky promotion in an attempt to extract the maximum return from the retail market.  I suspect that Glengoyne aimed their Single Cask Collection (bottled at cask Strength) at the collector or connoisseur/investor sector of the malt appreciating community, but I guess they made a couple of major mistakes.  What works for Bowmore or Macallan, works because not only do they produce whiskies with a distinctive flavour profile but also because both have a strong historical record of producing superior collectible product with a fanatically loyal following amongst collectors and investors.  I expect that this Glengoyne might be a great whisky (and I like the care that the distillery has shown historically with both the barley and wood for the both the 12 and the 17), but $180-200 is too big a gamble for all but the very flush.  It's too big a leap of faith to expect that (a deservedly sceptical) market will consider a malt from a virtually unknown distillery is worth such a big punt.  Targeting the premium afforded old and rare material from 'cult' distilleries won't necessarily work for an obscure distillery with an identity crisis (straddling the highland/lowland divide) with the only point of distinction being that the malt is unpeated.  I got offered a good deal and figured that a Malt club is the only place where we can try the results of such esoteric and risky marketing exercises and where we can make informed decisions about the true worth of malts.

The Antiquity - Longmorn Glenlivet 1963 33yo 40% (Gordon & MacPhail)
I've had this one in my kit bag for a long time.  I first tasted it when I took a bottle to a malt mate in Holland in 1998.  Up until I tasted a malt of such venerable age I never understood the comments in works from lots of old hands about how really aged material noses fantastically well but the palate is hollow and frankly disappointing after the nose.  This Longmorn is a great malt lesson in a bottle.  Beautiful apricot nose with honey and fruit, but it lacks impact in the palate and finish.  The nose of this malt is worth the price of admission, shame the palate and finish is so elusive and fleeting.

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prE-pistle #41:  Edradour 10
Date:  Wed, 22 August 2001

Hi to all,

I notice from the forum that Edradour has a few friends.  Just for the record, I'd like to make the observation that the current offering in the squat bottle that has been around for about a year is a vastly superior dram to the one with the old label in the normal size and shape clear bottle (= the one currently in the matrix). The difference is almost a clear 10 points, the new one is that much better. (81 vs 72).  It has sherry and nuts and a lively and buttery mouthfeel, with a hint of mint toffee that lingers in the finish. Those who berate our scores based on the new release are probably right.  Those who do so against the standard offering available 2 years ago are not.  The weird thing about MJ's score is that it goes back to the Edradour that was available in the mid 1980's which I've heard was better than both the recent offerings.  I suspect that Edradour (being in such short supply) is a victim of serious batch variation and the regard in which it is held depends on whether you get a bottle from a good batch or not so good.

Your faithful correspondent,

Craig Daniels / Adelaide / South Australia

Comment by Johannes: Thanks for the info, Craig. Both bottlings are currently being sold in Holland simultanously. Because some players on the Dutch market import through creative channels, we often see different versions of the same malt on the shelves whenever a 'new' bottling is released. I've tried the 'normal' bottle you've mentioned, which is one of the plainest bottles I've seen so far. The new bottle is much more attractive, but after my experiences with the old bottling I've been apprehensive about trying it. Your message encourages me to give it one more go.

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prE-pistle #42:  E0Z August 2001 Report
Date:  Thu, 20 Sep 2001

Hi to all malt aficionados,

The Mystery Night was full of surprises, some very pleasant, some not so and opinions were incredibly divergent about both the Rosebank and the Longmorn, while the Glengoyne met with almost universal acclaim.

August 22, 2001 - Report Card
"Mystery Malts" / "Oddities, Rarities and Antiquities"

The Rarity - Rosebank 1991 9yo 61.3% - (Adelphi).
Controversial to say the least.  My scoring wobbled around the place like you wouldn't believe.  Started with a very distinct fresh lemon zest with a strong hint of freshly milled pine and a creamy note like custard or crème-bruleé.   Then I got the scent of lemon essence (like dishwashing liquid) and then a big phenolic hit of coal tar and mentholated liniment.  The palate started sweet then the phenols kick in with a hint of astringency both bitter and sour.  I just thought the phenols were way out of whack, indicating some wood faults.  I've since managed to revisit this bottling (thanks to Sandi McOrist & the Streah) and while I still found the lemon, I also found a very recognisable aroma of quinine as in tonic water.  I also found the coal tar but it wasn't anywhere near as forward as in the first bottle.  My opinion of it on the second pass (and assuming the same cask) was much more favourable.  My original rating stands for the purposes of this newsletter, but it does show the value of not making your mind up too quickly.  Given that other trustworthy palates thought it much more meritorious than me, I'm prepared to accept that my score might be unjustifiably low.
Score 7.6

The Oddity - Glengoyne 1972 Single Cask No 583 55.9% (Lang Brothers) - Just a plainly and self-evidently delightful dram.  The sceptic in me is silenced - for this cask of Glengoyne at least.  Mint toffee and a bed of soft pine needles to start, some slightly sour fruit early then gets mocha coffee and coconut sprinkled chocolate, especially in a delicate and slowly fading finish.  The alcohol is not evident or overly insistent at any stage and I wouldn't think most would pick it as an OP, although the Longmorn certainly helped the Glengoyne in expressing that side of its nature.  Some excellent woody phenols hang around in the finish too, balancing out the slightly sweet palate.  Good complex whisky with hints of Macallan, Glendronach, Glenfarclas and older Glenturret, but probably cleaner than all of them.  Significantly lighter in the body than all but Glenturret, yet approachable and softly comforting, like sinking slowly into a nice soft quilt.  The more I taste very old whiskies (greater than 25years in wood) the more I realise that the extra proof helps the balance of the malt.
Score 8.7

The Antiquity - Longmorn Glenlivet 1963 33yo 40% (Gordon & MacPhail) - Another one given a mixed reception.  Some thought it insipid and Bernie really didn't like it at all (gutless sums up the thought if not the exact expression), while others were a bit more positive.  I confess I haven't tasted it since November 1998 and I actually thought that the palate held up better this time around, but the nose wasn't anywhere as near as stellar as in Holland.  A case of 'swings and roundabouts' as I've given it exactly the same score as first time but arrived at it slightly differently.  Initially it is quite fruity with guava and apricots, then vanillans and beeswax become more evident.  The palate is smooth and slightly fruity, with a shortish and slightly oaky lanolin finish.  The flavour development is towards dried apricots and a curious hint of muslin or gauze.  Of course warm linen is a prized aroma in my favourite Speysides so muslin or gauze doesn't necessarily carry negative connotations.  This Longmorn is still a great malt lesson in a bottle, but it would be better at 50% rather than 40%.
Score 8.3

The Blind - Old Pulteney 12 - Glad it was a blind as I thought it more than serviceable, but again when I found the chocolate & aspirin I thought it had to come from Speyside.  It started with sweet toffee and of pastry, then a little whiff of phenylalanine and salicylate and a curious fatty, buttery taste then a bit of chocolate.  I hadn't ruled out OP 12 in reductive deliberations (it was in my last three) but I was pretty sure it came from Speyside.  Anyway, had enough character to be worth consideration for addition to the tasting stock at home.  Bob Perry reckons he can pick Old Pulteney anytime, because he finds 'bullets' in the nose (chocolate covered liquorice). I have to believe him now - he can, he got it right.
Score 7.8

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Next Meeting: 26 September 2001
"Tag Team Wrestling - Macallan vs Longmorn"

A slight variation on a theme as we often have verticals of three whiskies from one distillery or pairs of malts from two different distilleries in Old Vs New nights when we see whether there are noticeable variations across time in the flavour profile of common malts.  The Longmorn vs Macallan night is a combination of these two themes.  In a way it's a little bit counterfeit and contrived as while the two Macallans are distillery offerings, the Longmorn-Glenlivet 12 is an independent bottling from Gordon & MacPhail.  Now who's to say what an official 12 yo from the brand owner would taste like, but I expect that the G&M is probably slightly less 'house style' than the 15.
Having said that, the Longmorn 15 is one of those sneaky good to very good commercial malts that doesn't get the recognition that it deserves.  If I had to weigh up the relative merits of the two distilleries, I couldn't, in all conscience, argue that Longmorn is a better distillery, but I can and do argue that with the Longmorn 15 (and taking into account the price differentials) that it may make the better value for money whisky.  Anyway this month can be as 'testing' as you like or just a pleasant no-brainer revisiting of some pretty good malt whiskies from top echelon distilleries.

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prE-pistle #43:  E0Z September 2001 Report
Date:  Thu, 25 Oct 2001

Hi to all malt aficionados,

The Tag Team Wrestling night was interesting and very well attended, so well attended that we ran out of whisky and some sacrifices were in order. People who have read these newsletters over the last three years know that I hold Macallan in less high regard than many and I have been in the braying pack lamenting slipping standards in the 18 year old. Unfortunately, the 'new' twelve year old hasn't done anything to resurrect the distillery in my eyes. Back in the reasonably recent past (1995 and 1996) as I was trying to build Clan Drummond and present the joy of variety in SMS to the uninitiated I would without hesitation put Macallan 12 in the line-up as a good introduction to big sherry malt.

There was always a hint of mint caramel and sometimes royal dutch chocolate icecream. All those enjoyable and comforting traits are gone and based on the performance of the 'new' twelve, I'd rather use Glendronach 12 or 15 in the line-up to showcase sherry wood malts. Mind you, I wasn't alone in noticing a certain lack of richness or Macallan character in the 40% version, as Paul Rasmussen (all hail to the Champ), pre-empted my thoughts when he said it was thin and a bit sour.

The 15 year old, on the other hand was very nice, but one can't help surmising that some of the 1st fill sherry malt that is going into the 15 is malt that (in previous times) would've gone into the 12. All I know is that I'm going to hunt high and low for an 'old' 12 (pre-1998, and preferably pre-1996) and bang it up against the 'new' 12 at our Macallan night next year. Based on the blind experiment with the three 18's, my gut feeling is that my suspicions will be confirmed.

September 26th Report Card
"Tag Team Wrestling / Macallan vs Longmorn"

I won't go through the usual notes, rather I'll just say I scored the distilleries the same but the score was arrived at differently. I was disappointed in both the 12's with the Longmorn-Glenlivet from G&M scoring 8.2 against 8.4 and 8.5 on previous occasions. I didn't find the rich nuttiness that I found in earlier bottlings.
The Macallan 12 I scored at 7.9 and it probably should've been lower but I doubted my capacity to remain objective after ratcheting down the score to that level. Both the 15's were up to expectations and scored where I usually put them. Altogether Macallan scored 16.3 (M12 7.9, M15 8.4) and Longmorn scored 16.3 (L12 8.2 and L15 8.1 ). The Longmorn 15 and the Macallan 15 both scored well on the Quality Price Ratio with the Longmorn 15 coming out slightly in front, but if you like sherry malts, ignore this as the Longmorn is almost certainly a 100% bourbon malt.

To calculate QPR use the following formula:
QPR = 50 x (alc % by volume) X (score/75)2 X (score/100)2
(USD per 700ml) 40
QPR for Longmorn 15 is: 50/32 x 45/40 x (81/75) 2 x (81/100)2 = 1.34
QPR for Macallan 15 is: 50/40 x 43/40 x (84/75) 2 x (84/100)2 = 1.19

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Next Meeting: 24 October 2001
Debutante Ball in Speyside

We're off searching for Speyside lovelies amongst those with a bit of age and good solid sherry treatments. Sherried Speysides are often at their very best around 17-20 years, before the wood character drowns out everything else. Two of them are particularly lissome, lively and luscious. Another night not to be missed! Martin Brackman-Shaw is bringing the blind and he's been sweating on being 'mean and tricky' for two months now. Expect something taxing in the blind picking department.

I'm really excited by this night. I've always held Glenfarclas in high regard (and with the exception of the latest version of the 15, think that they maintain faith with their fans pretty well) and this bottling comes highly recommended. It's an official bottling but not released in Australia. This bottle has come via the USA, courtesy of Tim Tibbetts. Despite the caning that Tamnavulin gets from some whisky writers (Aflodal for one) I've always had a soft spot for Tamnavulin ever since we cracked that pre-1992 bottling of the 10 in September 1996, when I thought that it was a delightful, uncomplicated and perilously drinkable dram. Certainly better than the Glen Grant 10 or Glenlivet 12 available contemporaneously, although the Glenlivet has certainly smartened up its act in the last 3 years. I thought highly enough of the distillery for a Tamnavulin 22 to be the second most expensive malt that I brought back from America in 2000. I've never had a poor Macduff either, mainly because I've only ever tried 3 including this one and all scored well over 8. Bob brought a ripper 27 yo cask strength along for Laird's Choice in January 1998, and as luck would have it I had a bottling at the same age at the Streah and scored them almost the same (8.4 in 1998 & 8.5 last night). I still don't know whether they were the same bottling, so the score is probably less influenced by label than normal. This Macduff 17 (which I have tried before) has lots more sherry than the 27, but has a sulphury, cordite and rubber bite which might sound unattractive but it takes the edge off the sweetness and rounds it out well.

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prE-pistle #44:  E0Z October 2001 Report
Date:  Thu, 22 Nov 2001

Hi to all malt aficionados,

The Debutante Ball in Speyside night proved another big draw-card with 19 turning up, so it was just as well that we broke out the measures.  I was looking forward to the Glenfarclas 17 and the Tamnavulin 17 in particular, but the Macduff 17 turned out to be the star, at least for me.  Funnily enough I have tasted both the T & M 17's before (doing some research earlier in the year) and the biggest discrepancy in the scoring was for the Macduff.  It scored much better in the club environs than in the front bar of the Rob Roy Hotel.

Anyway, the Christmas Show is the next meeting, and we've decided to give the elaborate catering a miss and focus on the whiskies this time.  The format will be slightly different, though, in that we'll have five blinds on the table, each whisky chosen by the Earls of Zetland members who competed in the 2001 National Malt Tasting Competition with a pair of names for each whisky.  It's easier than it sounds as each decision is a fifty-fifty proposition and it shouldn't be too hard.  The idea is that we pour a nip of each, take 30 minutes or so to make up our minds and write your answers on the special souvenir place-mat. Then we find out what people thought they were and once everyone's had their punt, we'll reveal the identities, put the balance of the whiskies on the table and people can top up their 'best glasses' as they see fit.  We'll have around 5 litres of whisky in total, so no-one need leave thirsty from this meeting. (5 litres equates to 200ml per person for 25 tasters)

October 24th Report Card
"Debutante Ball in Speyside"

Glenfarclas 17 - I wasn't as impressed as I expected to be from the recommendations advanced for this whisky.  Based on this bottle I'd say Glenfarclas have definitely trimmed the amount of first fill oloroso sherry barrels going into their 15 and 17 year olds.  This 17 suffers from the same malaise as the 'new' 15, but (thankfully) is better than that.  Fruity with hints of cooked pineapple, yeast cake and some mandarin? - gets better in the nose with a nice sweet nuttiness, but not a lot of sherry.  Still reminds me most of the 105 with a few more years in the wood.  Overall package rescued by the mouthfeel which was good and the finish had less of the yeast dough and burnt caramel & dry nuts character of the younger versions. Score 8.0

Tamnavulin 1978 59.6% - I remember this as being better, but maybe the one I tried in January was from a different barrel.  Starts with sherry and obvious alcohol, bit of flowers (maybe daisies) - then hints of lemongrass , spun candy and then a hard musk candy smell.  Diluted a smidgen, the lemongrass intensifies.  Starts bold, becomes a little strange and develops lots of light lifted esters and almost begins to smell more akin to tequila after a while.  Spirit is immediately apparent and a bit too insistent for greatness. Overall it's interesting and intriguing rather than superior.  Score 7.8

Macduff 1978 58.8% - Amazingly the same butt as the one in Jackson's Fourth edition, but my notes are nothing like his and it's a lot better than his score indicates. Sweet, juicy sherry and good oak to start, then furniture polish and dance floor boards, nice mint caramel segueing into crème caramel with some sour woody notes in the back which balance out the sweetness.  After 20 minutes the nose shows nice hard toffee candy smell with burnt notes that follow through into the finish.  Left in the glass a little longer the nose develops cut grass and molasses - very good dram - Score 8.5

The Blind: Glenrothes 1989 - Didn't quite show enough sherry for me to think it was a Glenrothes, which has a tendency to be sneaky good, if you know what I mean. Good stuff & nice without being distinctive. Score 8.2

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Next Meeting: 28 November 2001 - The Christmas Show;


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prE-pistle #45:  Six Laphroaigs
Date:  Mon, 26 Nov 2001

On 17 November I went to a malt friends place (Tim Tibbetts) and we managed to try six different Laphroaigs.  Of these, three were the standard 10, but Tim wanted to do an experiment to test whether oxidation causes discernible changes in malts, so both bottles were from the same bottle run, one was opened on the night the other wasopened two years ago, split into two parts, one half decanted into another bottle and left with air in the bottle, the other covered with a wine preserving gas (mixture of nitrogen and argon) and we got to taste them blind, ie we didn't know which was which.  I got the freshly opened one right (it had some sweet estery notes that the others didn't) , but I got the gas-covered and the oxidised one mixed up.  I liked the oxidised one the most of all, maybe because I like my malts a bit more subdued.  the gas covered one had some funny stale notes-almost like a stagnant water swampiness.  very dark and brooding and not as pleasant as the other two.

The other Laphroaigs we tried were the Murray McDavid Leapfrog 12 (lighter and with much more dry creosote that the OB 10 (in any of its manifestations), the Laphroaig 1976 (just supremely well made whisky - instant top ten material) and the Laphroaig 15 43% OB - (which I still love as much as ever, it's just that the 1976 is better).

So six Laphroaigs at one sitting - anyone top that?

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prE-pistle #46:  To rate or note to rate, that's the question
Date:  Sat, 8 Dec 2001

Malts and Numbers - The Earls of Zetland Scoring system.

I know that some very learned maltsters are positively phobic when it comes to malts and numbers, but for me giving malts a score was just part of malt appreciation. When I first joined the Earls of Zetland Malt Tasting Club in 1991, I didn't really have any idea or any system for scoring malts, however, as the club finished off the tasting events by scoring each whisky tasted out of 10, I sort of fell into the numbers game from the very beginning of my 'malt career'.

Of course being a raw neophyte at the time, there were plenty of crusty old sea dogs with at least 10 years of malt appreciation under their belts that were most forthcoming with advice. The essence of the advice provided to any tenderfoot on how to make decisions on whiskies put before them and work out what a malt is worth numerically was a very rough guide and is offered here for anyone who's interested.

< 5 out of 10 - undrinkable without the addition of Coca-Cola - bad wood, sloppy distilling or other obvious flaws.
5 - 6 - usually bland and boring or too young with no depth or older malts with serious wood faults.
6 - 7 - nothing obviously wrong, just not exciting or for older malts, lack of balance.
7 - 7.5 - good solid spirit; balanced, rounded and well made with no discernible flaws.
Could be served to malt cognoscenti without embarrassment.
7.5 - 8.0 - very good with some distinctive and memorable qualities.
8.0 - 8.5 - excellent - worthy addition to one's top shelf.
> 8.5 - superb and stellar - something worth seeking out - provoking covetousness.
Production of one of these at a malt function gains instant access to the inner circle.

Of course there were differences amongst contemporaneous tasters in the Earls of Zetland as some tended to benchmark whiskies around a fulcrum of 7 while others (including me) gravitated over time towards using 7.5 out of 10. This upwards creep in my scores over the last decade has meant that malts I am very familiar with (Macallan 12, Laphroaig 10 etc.) have moved from 79 & 80 to 83 and 84 respectively. I don't think it is a case of whiskies getting better (as the same thing happened with identical bottlings tasted years apart : Glen Grant 26 Royal Wedding and Royal Lochnagar Selected Reserve both went from 86 to 88 over the two tastings four years apart), I just think that I have become more comfortable with awarding higher marks than I used to be. Thus with growing experience and affection for the world's finest spirit, my benchmark has ridden up from 7.0 to 7.5, which has turned out quite useful for the purposes of the Malt Madness Matrix as it mirrors the reality, if not the original intent of Michael Jackson's scoring spread. Which is not to say that my scores didn't need adjusting, just that it was a reasonably simple matter. My original range of scores was from 60 to 90, with the benchmark at 75, therefore it was simple to adjust my scores for the Malt Madness Matrix.

So basically my rating system is benchmarked at 75, with the whiskies I consider superior starting at 85 and those I consider inferior below 65. Any whisky scoring above 85 is one that excites and delights, so if you sneak a peak at the Malt Madness Matrix, you can see the malts that I hold in high regard.


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prE-pistle #47:  52 Challenge
Date:  Sat, 22 Dec 2001

Hi everyone,

Finally got there with a week to spare.  It was a labour of love though and the 5 whiskies to which I've awarded 5 stars (printed in bold red) are right up there with the greats.  I suppose the only surprise amongst them is the Glencadam from Adelphi.  All the others are from distilleries I hold in high esteem anyway (Bowmore, Glenfarclas and Laphroaig).  I see from Klaus' latest HarLem tasting that his impression of the Laphroaig 15 is rising.  I've always thought the 15 superior to the 10, but didn't want to prosletyse too ardently, more 15 left for me! Given the JOLT choice of Laphroaig I suppose it's fitting that my Best Malt of 2001 was a Laphroaig.

52 Challenge 2001

1 - Balvenie Classic Oldest Selection Founder's Reserve 12 yrs.
(43% - OB - 87 points)
Honey, citrus & toffee in the nose, very smooth and rich and hangs together well over an extended time in the glass, but it's the generous mouthfeel and the unbelievably silky smooth finish that set this one apart.  I can understand the comment from Malt Advocate that aligns this whisky to cognac, although I can't verify the comment about being superior to any cognac.  Very refined yet rich and mellow package.

2 - Bowmore 25 yrs.
(43% - OB - 91 points)
This is amazingly addictive stuff.  It's one that the vertical tastings sponsored by Bowmore have passed by, but I got a 200ml bottle in a sample pack.  I know it's not a full bottle, but I'd hunt it down based on this sample.  I find it incredibly lively, lyrical and fresh with these attractive tropical fruit notes of passionfruit and pineapple over a nice lavender maltiness and the typical briny peat of Bowmore.  For those in the know - not a hint of FWP. Definitely a class act.

3 - Bunnahabhain Family Silver 1968 Vintage Reserve
(40% - OB - 82 points - See prE-pistle #32)

4 - Caol Ila 16 yrs. 1981
(40% - G&M CC - 85 points)
Pretty typical Caol Ila, but not rich enough to score more. Slightly peppery and a bit too prickly in the nose.  Has some stone fruit, yeast dough and candy along with the burning leaves. Some burnt fruit in the finish. The finish is long and smoky/fruity. Lacks the depths and punch of the more impressive 1984.

5 - Glenfarclas Christmas Malt 1971
(53.1% - OB - 93 points - See prE-pistle #32)

6 - Glen Grant 31 yrs. 1969
(53.9% - Adelphi - 88 points)
Big Sherry Monster par excellence. Forward oloroso sherry, Christmas pudding and some macaroon coconut, vine sap in the palate and cream in the tail.  Nose gets progressively more sour (rancio and cherries), that balances the fruitcake sweetness.  Very lively considering the age and it definitely gets better in the glass with a lasting impression of liquorice & cream.  Water kills the sherry and doesn't bring up any other positive traits.  Better at full strength.

7 - Ledaig Vintage 1979
(43% - OB - 77 points)
Has the typical stony malt and slightly astringent wood of Ledaig along with appreciable peat and some cooked vegetables.  Not bad as an overall package, but has some thin woody & metallic sharpness in the nose that loses points.  Acceptable but definitely noses younger than the implied age of 19 and the QPR is poor.  Probably a result of high yield barley combined with tired wood.

8 - Scapa 1989
(40% - G&M - 71 points - See prE-pistle #33)

9 - Glen Grant 10 yrs.
(43% - OB - 73 points - See prE-pistle #34)

10 - Ledaig 10 yrs. (1990)
(40% - G&M CC - 78 points - See prE-pistle #34)

11 - Macallan 18 yrs. (1982)
(43% - OB - 86 points - See prE-pistle #36)

12 - Longrow 10 yrs. Bourbon
(46% - OB - 89 points - See prE-pistle #37)

13 - Talisker 19 yrs. 1979 CS
(?% - WC - 85 points)
Drier than the commercial 10 with no discernible sherry wood.  Has the trademark peppery notes but is a bit fierce and feral in a few nooks and crannies, yet still has the rustic Talisker charm.  On the cusp of greatness.

14 - Macallan 1975
(54% - Private Bottling - 87 points)
Supercharged Macallan (like the 12/100 is supercharged Springbank).  Lots of rich fruity notes and some distinct similarities to bigger Glenfarclas with the floorwax and brandied fruit.  Probably a bit over the top for Macallan purists, but a fine robust dram nonetheless and a curiosity to boot.

15 - Tyrconnell Irish Single Malt
(40% - OB - 69 points - See prE-pistle #40)

16 - Tomintoul-Glenlivet 34 yrs. 1966
(52.1% - Adelphi - 84 points)
Has an unusual locquat, kumquat, fujoa and gooseberry fruit nose and some dry powder/chalkiness in the finish. Palate is true to the nose with fruity notes and nice warming spirit. Finish is long and fruity.  Interesting and intriguing without being stellar.  The powdery notes emerging suggests too long in the wood.  Would be a good Masterclass whisky!

17 - Limerick 7 yrs.
(61.1% - Adelphi - 85 points)
Much, much more impressive than Tyrconnel or Connemara, and not merely because of the proof.  This is so close to an Island Malt that I thought it must be from Ledaig or Arran. Nose has the pine resin of bourbon wood.  Also has some nice banana & tropical fruit esters, hint of liniment, yeast and smoke.  Really a hybrid Irish Sea whisky as it's made from peated scottish malt and double distilled at Cooleys.

18 - Scapa 1986
(40% - G&M - 80 points)
Can't get excited by any of the official Scapas, including the "authorised" G&M bottlings. OK - quite nice but a bit boring and what appear to be some minor wood faults.

19 - Rosebank 9 yrs. 1992
(61% - Cask# 1447 - Adelphi - 81 points - See prE-pistle #42)

20 - Glengoyne 1972
(55.9% - Cask# 583 - OB - 87 points - See prE-pistle #42)

21 - Glen Elgin 26 yrs. 1974
(57% - Adelphi - 84 points)
Hard to get a handle on - has the creamy fruitiness of 100% bourbon wood and is very smooth, but lacked any defining character.  Pleasant and well crafted yet curiously non-descript. Reminds me most of a super premium 20yo + blend

22 - Bowmore 30 yrs. "Sea Dragon"
(?% - OB - 93 points - See prE-pistle #37)

23 - Caol Ila 16 yrs. 1984
(40% - G&M CC - 89 points - See prE-pistle #37)

24 - Benromach 19 yrs. 1978
(63.8% - UDRM - 79 points)
Creamy with hard candy notes in the nose, a little peat and a noticeable spirit prickle. Not a bad malt by any means but has a few rough edges.

25 - Ardbeg 22 yrs. 1978
(40% - G&M CC - 82 points - See prE-pistle #37)

26 - Glencadam 30 yrs. 1971
(55.1% - Cask# 7691 - Adelphi - 93 points)
Yum, yum, yum!!! Truly excellent. Just about perfect and better than almost any cognac.  Obvious sherrywood, but without any of the rubber or roasting pan that can taint lesser malts.  Highest praise I can give is that it reminds me of all the best bits of Springbank and Glenlivet put together.  Top drop. Vying for Best Malt of 2001.

27 - Clynelish 28 yrs. 1972
(57.3% - Cask# 14264 - Adelphi - 87 points)
Nose is kind of light, subdued and flat to start. Starts with hay bales, then becomes noticeably creamy, with waxed fruit & beeswax, then it gets a pineapple syrup fruitiness.  Flavour development is very gradual, yet nicely integrated.  The palate is clean and creamy.  I don't find much peat.  Reminds me most of the UDRM Clynelish 24, maybe even better.

28 - Highland Park 21 yrs. 1979
(55.4% - Adelphi - 81 points)
Really clean nose, reminded me of the steely, dry peat of Clynelish and the creaminess of Dufftown.  I think Highland Park needs a little sherry wood to round it out.  This one was a bit light on for character, despite the proof.

29 - Highland Park 20 yrs. 1978
(55.2% - Adelphi - 76 points)
Intriguing stuff with very weird nose - discontinuity between sweet and dry aspects.  Definitely smells salty to me, then gets a sweet liniment/ointment over a strong creosol note.  Peat is dry and the bourbon notes float disembodied over medical chemicals.  Palate is dry and very nutty - like salted peanuts.  Interesting - good Masterclass material.

30 - Glenfarclas 21 yrs. 1973
(46% - Whyte & Whyte - 93 points)
Yum, yum, yum! - very, very enticing nose and everything else is just as seductive. Seriously good stuff.  Heavier and earthier than the OB 21, nevertheless, family resemblance is apparent. Has lively mint caramel notes in nose as well as brandy soaked fruit and lovely hints of Christmas fruitcake. Vying for Best Malt of 2001.

31 - Glen Rothes 35 yrs. 1957
(40% - G&M - 82 points)
Custard apple, fruity with something musty and a little skanky in the depths of the nose. Nice rich palate especially considering the age, but very oily in the finish. Oiliness and faintly off fruit skankiness detracts from overall package.

32 - Glenmorangie 21 yrs. 1972 Single Barrel
(46% - Cask# 1797 - Bottle 055 - OB - 89 points)
Definitely more peated than more contemporary offerings.  Both peat and woody phenols develop along with the lively fruit (apricots), creamy oak vanillans and the highly desirable fresh vine stalks.  Stays lovely after 40+ minutes in the glass.  Another one of those great malts that improves as the level drops in the bottle.  Elegant, engaging & imperious.

33 - Glenfarclas 22 yrs. Millennium Malt
(43% - Bottle 1350 - OB - 89 points)
Bit shy when nosed alongside the 1973 and has deeper waxy and woody notes.  Has more sophisticated charms.  More subdued but nice brandied fruit cake with brandy soaked plums comes out after 20 minutes.  Lots of oaky vanillans from the start.  Mouthfeel is superb; beautiful and unctuous with a real glycerol feel, smooth and slippery without being oily.  More restrained than the ebullient Whyte & Whyte, but almost as excellent.

34 - Longmorn 30 yrs. 1969
(56.7% - Cask# 4249 - Adelphi - 81 points)
Colour is a honey gold.  Nose is fruity with custard apple, slightly briny toffee and creamy - lots of oaky notes, some definite dry woody phenols (100% bourbon wood, probably re-fill, reminds me of rum soaked rockmelon(cantaloupe), Traces of ginger, roasted nuts and rum caramel over time.  Palate; burnt notes, more obvious ginger and melon notes, good viscous mouthfeel, has a lingering burnt bite (almost bitter) in the tail.  In a nutshell; slightly fruity to start, gives way to briny notes with a distinct hint of rum in the nose and especially in the palate.  Bitterness in tail gets stronger.

35 - Royal Lochnagar 12 yrs.
(40% - OB - 79 points)
Colour is a light, honey gold.  Nose shows straw; toffee & fudge, then honey, then honey on buttered toast, very distinctly malty.  Palate a bit lacking in depth and not as round and buttery as the nose would suggest.  Finish quite short, fading and a bit metallic. Definitely on the dry side to start, but gets more honeyed.  A remarkably malty malt!

36 - Glen Garioch 15 yrs.
(43% - OB - 81 points)
Colour is a clear honey gold. Nose has lots of confectionery early; mint then spearmint candy-stick and even spearmint gum.  Quite resiny and a bit oily.  Almost a woody perfume/essence. The candy and the woody resins follow through in the palate.  Quite pleasant and certainly has some interesting lifted top-notes.  Not much depth in the finish.

37 - Oban 1980 Distillers Edition (Montilla Fino Finish)
(43% - OB - 85 points)
Colour is light amber with reddish gold highlights. Nose has a curious deep medium dry sherry with malt and gravy or roasting pan; bit like Glenfarclas 12 but drier and richer. Very nice in the mouth, much richer and fuller in body than the Oban 14.  Finish is long and nicely warming.  I feel my score might be on the niggardly side, may revise upwards.

38 - Glenfarclas 25 yrs.
(43% - OB - 89 points)
You would think that for a man with such a professed regard for Glenfarclas, that I would've tried the OB 25 before now, but alas no.  I have tried it twice in 2001, however and found it delightful without being exceptional.  Lovely lifted mint caramel toffee, then fruitcake and raisins.  Lots of oaky vanillans and crushed vine stalk sappiness.  Palate is big and sweet, more fruitcake and brandy soaked fruit, cognac and almond nougat.  Finish is long, warming and smooth.

39 - Glenfarclas 17 yrs.
(43% - OB US Import - 81 points - See prE-pistle #44)

40 - Macduff 17 yrs. 1978
(58.8% - Butt# 4159, Bottle# 370, Bottled 5.96 - Sig - 85 points - See prE-pistle #44)

41 - Tamnavulin 17 yrs. 1978
(59.6% - Butt# 8065, Bottle# 363, Bottled 9.96 - Sig - 80 points - See prE-pistle #44)

42 - Glenrothes 11 yrs. 1989
(43% - OB - 83 points - See prE-pistle #44)

43 - Leapfrog 12 yrs. 1987
(46% - Murray MacDavid - 85 points)
Lighter with more dry phenolics and more creosol than the distillery 10.  Starts with dry bitter herbs but gets the sweet Laphroaig lanolin ointment, leather and saddle soap notes.  Very smoky palate - again lighter, cleaner more chemically and less earthy than the distillery bottlings. Finishes slightly drier and more astringent than the OBs.

44 - Laphroaig 1976
(43% - OB - 94 points)
Ohh wow!!!  Beautiful wood obvious early, lovely earthy nose with coal tar, leather, barnyard stables and caramel notes early, then gets distinct hints of tropical fruit - pineapple, passionfruit, guava.  Reminiscent of Bowmore 25, but earthier and singing in a deeper register.  Lovely balance between the peat, the medicinal characters and the wood.  Lacks the Irish Moss cough lollies and syruppy mouthfeel of the 15.  More sophisticated.  Best Malt of 2001!

45 - Port Ellen 15 yrs. 1980
(40% - G&M CC - 84 points)
Very shy nose to start and nowhere near the same class of the 1979 15 from the same stable.  That whisky was the epitome of Port Ellen for me; deep fruit and ivy smells, some bandages with the lantana/ivy/vine stalks building remorselessly in the background and a big smoky finish with a reprise of spent firecrackers.  This one is very good but not great. Too shy and less character than the 1979.

46 - Island Pure Malt 10 yrs.
(40% - Vintners Choice - 75 points)
More than acceptable.  It has hints of Lagavulin and Caol Ila and maybe Highland Park.  It has a slightly cloying sweetness and tends to disintegrate fairly early.  Better than Bowmore Legend.

47 - Highland Pure Malt 10 yrs.
(40% - Vintners Choice - 76 points)
Has some dryish hard toffee, maybe coffee and the hot metal smokiness of both Dalmore and Tomatin and the slight hint of dark/bitter chocolate of Dalmore and Old Pulteney and some of the Tomatin/Pulteney bitter herbs and a metallic aftertaste.  Doubt the presence of Balblair or Clynelish.  Pretty classy for a vatted malt.

48 - Deanston 12 yrs.
(40% - OB - 78 points)
It's not great but it's another malt that Michael Jackson undersells.  It has a flat dry grassy nose to start, that becomes more hay-like, then it gets some slight minty notes and a stripped wood high note but not phenolic or overly piney.  The woodiness is expressed in a mint toffee/eucalyptus lolly perfume that follows through in the palate.  Pretty light with some honey and toffee in the palate but stays clean.  With water gets some lanolin notes and creamy bitter herbs in the finish.  Almost a cross between the mintiness of Glen Garioch and the maltiness of Lochnagar.

49 - Isle of Jura 8 yrs.
(?% - OB - c1980 - 81 points)
This is a very old bottling that I picked up at auction.  The label is identical to the Isle of Jura label in the Buchanan, Case & Gellert book of 1981, so I suspect that this whisky was bottled pre-1980.  Anyway, whatever the provenance it is a lovely whisky, with much more depth and class than any 8 year old whisky has any right to display, which kind of makes me suspect that there might be some older malt in the mix.  The mouthfeel and finish are much better than more recent bottlings from the distillery.  It has a nice mint toffee aroma and taste and has some very muted peat in the background.  Doesn't taste much like an island or coastal whisky but much more like a highland.  I reckon it tastes like a cross between the Longmorn- Glenlivet 12 and the Glen Garioch 15 and even has some soft fudge/scotch tablet echoes of the G&M bottling of Glen Mhor 8.

50 - St Magdalene 14 yrs. 1980
(?% - G&M Centenary Reserve - 75 points)
Quite an unusual whisky, with an off-fruit note in the nose. The fruitiness is coupled with scorched nuts and burnt wood.   Palate is quite well rounded and the finish is fine with a charred wood note, just that the nose is a little too funky.  Better in the mouth and finish than in the nose.  Vaguely disappointing - I was expecting something a bit better.

51 - Linkwood-Glenlivet 18 yrs.
(46% - WC - D June 1969, B Feb 1988 - 86 points)
Another Auction purchase and a rarity - a big sherry malt from a Speyside known more for bourbon influenced whiskies.  Has an amazing lambent red colour, like melted red shoe polish and has a very sherried nose with lots of maraschino cherries.  Nose is sweet and slightly coconut creamy, along with the cherries.  The palate is full on sherry - brandied fruitcake, yet very smooth and well behaved and without any of the sulphur/cordite that shows up in other 100% oloroso sherry malts..  Lovely whisky and the pure essence of sherry wood aging.  Perfect example to show neophytes the delights of sherry wood.  Great Masterclass material.

52 - Glenlivet 28 yrs. 1968
(49.1% - Sig - D Feb 1968, B Dec 1996 - Cask# 1578 - 87 points)
Another auction purchase opened as a bit of an early Christmas present.  Colour is a nice clear amber with orange highlights.  The nose is remarkably subtle with melon and honey and lots of bourbon creamy vanilla, with lightly poached fruit and a hint of rum and ginger in the background.  Palate is very smooth and the nice fruity notes hang around in the finish.  Another impressive aged Glenlivet from Signatory.


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prE-pistles #30 - #47

Covering: 2001

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