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Malt Maniacs #5

An interview with Keir Sword 
E-pistle #05/01 - by
Johannes van den Heuvel, Holland
Keir Sword runs one of the most famous whisky stores in the world, Royal Mile Whiskies in Edinburgh, Scotland.

Whisk(e)yfest 2002 Treasures 
E-pistle #05/02 - by
Louis Perlman , USA
American maniac Louis visited the New York Whisk(e)yfest. He managed to sneakily sneak a bunch of spare samples into his goody bag for closer inspection.

A 'Live' Tasting of 8 Blinds
E-pistle #05/03 - by
Serge Valentin, France
Serge kicks off the 'Pandora proceedings' with a report on the 8 blind samples I muled over to France a while ago.

Opening Pandora's Box 
E-pistle #05/04 - by
Johannes van den Heuvel , Holland
After reading Serge's report I couldn't postpone my own confrontation with the blind samples he sent me any longer.

Compass Box Whisky 
E-pistle #05/05 - by
Louis Perlman, USA
The fact that John Glaser uses grain whisky in his 'blends' has kept him off these pages so far but Louis argued that this is no worse than 'vatting' a malt. Good point.

2002 Dram Diary 
E-pistle #05/06 - by
Craig Daniels, Australia
In the chaos surrounding the launch of Malt Maniacs, the steady flow of reports from the Earls of Zetland came to a standstill. Fortunately, this E-pistle covers an entire year.

2002 Review 
E-pistle #05/07 - by
Johannes van den Heuvel, Holland
Inspired by Craig's idea to have a last look at the year that was, I've written a few words on my own highlights of 2002. (Check out the Liquid Log for a dram-by-dram report.)

2002 - The Year in Malts 
E-pistle #05/08 - by
Davin de Kergommeaux , Canada
Davin's flashback to the year that was focuses on two events; the DrAmsterdam maltathon and the Boston Foafathon.

Best Malts of 2002  
E-pistle #05/09 - by
Craig Daniels, Australia
It's easy to get lost in Craig's 2002 Dram Diary. For your convenience, he extracted the Top 10 single malts of 2002.

A Little Fun With Blends 
E-pistle #05/10 - by
Louis Perlman, USA
Louis continues to stretch the limits of our scope - this time with an E-pistle about the stuff we love to hate: blends.

French Still Life
E-pistle #05/11 - by
Serge Valentin , France
Have you ever wondered what it would be like to distil your own whisky? Well, Serge has. What's more, he has actually tried it!  Read all about the secrets of distillation.

JOLT #5 - Pandora Project Phase II
E-pistle #05/12 - by
Johannes van den Heuvel , Holland 
This time around the transcript deals with a double-blind sampling by Serge Valentin and Craig Daniels.

Next Issue of Malt ManiacsPrevious Issue of Malt Maniacs

Malt Maniacs #5  -  February 1, 2003

A very warm welcome to Malt Maniacs #5.
Over the last few weeks we've seen some glorious winter weather here in Holland. Great! You may know that the traditional Dutch winter passtime is skating. And there's nothing quite like the burn of an Islay malt to drive the cold from your body after a day on the ice. That's why my tasting schedule for the first months of 2003 focuses almost exclusively on Islay malts.
Read all about it in my
Liquid Log.

But what about Malt Maniacs, you ask?
As usual, we kick things off with an interview.
We managed to track down a fresh victim for our sharp questions:
Keir Sword, owner of Royal Mile Whiskies in Edinburgh (and London). He offers us a view on the whisky world from a retailer's perspective.

E-pistle #05/01 - An interview with Keir 'Royal Mile' Sword
by
Johannes van den Heuvel, Holland

Keir Sword runs what's arguably the most famous whisky store in Scotland; Royal Mile Whiskies in Edinburgh. After interviewing some 'industry' people for the previous issues of Malt Maniacs we thought it would be interesting to pick the brain of somebody who's involved in the day-to-day distribution of bottles amongst the malt loving public.
The interview is published on a seperate page;
CLICK HERE to read it.
 

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E-pistle #05/02 - New York Whisk(e)yfest 2002 Treasures
by
Louis Perlman, USA

The Malt Advocate's Whisk(e)yfest took place on Wednesday night, 10/15/2002.
It was as good as advertised, and I got to meet Mike Wade as well. Everybody got a goody bag with some brochures, a few miniatures, and even a mouse pad from the Craigellachie hotel. And a Glencairn glass, so you didn't even have to bring your own (and it was for keeps) The event was as good as advertised. I am going to break down my report into the good, the bad, and the 'I would have preferred not to have had to mention'.

First The Good.
Many personalities from the whisk(e)y world, including Jim McEwan (Bruichladdich), Bob Dalgarno (The Macallan), Iain Henderson (Laphroaig), Graham Eunson (Glenmorangie), and Ricky Christie (Scott's Selection/Speyside distillery), and that's just from the Scotch world. There was an incredible selection of scotch, bourbon, Irish whiskey, and other assorted spirits. By the time this issue of MM is published, the entire lineup may still be posted on the Malt Advocate's web site (www.maltadvocate.com).

The Bad.
Nothing really bad, of course. The event started at 6:30 PM, and there were four speaker sessions, starting at 7:00. That didn't leave too much time for sampling. I ended up only catching Jim McEwan at 9:15. I also brought 24 Nalgene 60 ml bottles with me for souvenirs, but pouring into them was not allowed. So I had to make a separate trip to a table for each bottle, and then slink off to a  corner to empty my glass into the bottle. As a result, the bottles were less than half full, especially the ones I filled later on when the good stuff was running low. Oh yes, and then there was the matter of writing legibly on peel and stick labels.

The 'I would have prefered not to have had to mention'.
Well, I got rather inebriated very quickly. And that's despite eating a late lunch and stopping off for dinner right before the event started. So only a fraction of what I sampled will count towards my total, which I hoped would be pushed over 200. Also, I don't remember very much of what Jimmy was talking about, although I do remember enjoying whatever he did say. One reminder about just how drunk I was, for one label, my numerical representation of nineteen seventy one turned out to be '19701'. At least I got home safely, which involved walking to the subway, taking the right train going in the right direction, getting off at the right station, getting on the bus and getting off at the right stop, and walking two blocks home. Several busy streets were also crossed without incident. Getting up at 6:00 AM the next morning was interesting, and it's a good thing that I don't have to drive to work or operate heavy machinery as part of my job.

While I spent most of my time drinking and smuggling, I did manage to pick up a couple of items of interest:

1) The Bruichladdiprefereds run out, and is being replaced by a new XVII (17yo). The person I spoke to at the table seemed to be quite upset that the 20yo is being price gouged at a 50% markup to it's original price. 2) At the Classic malts table, I asked about Talisker's new label, and also if the whisky is any different. The answer was that they switched to a clear bottle to better distinguish Talisker from Lagavulin of the shelf, which neccesitated a new label, and the whisky hasn't changed at all.
3) In my goody bag, I found some information from UDV about Classic Malts Rare Editions. All at cask strength, they include a 12 year bourbon cask Lagavulin, 20 year shery cask Talisker, and 32 year old Bruichladdich. I hope the Lagavulin gets here before the winter passes by. 4) I had a very pleasant conversation with a possible interview candidate - somebody who invented Compass Box whisky.

And now, here is my list of whiskies sampled at the festival.
Notes are included for those samples that I got some sort of impression of.

Macallan 26yo 1973 (50.9%, Scotts Selection)
WOW. This was my first dram. Matured in a plain oak cask, it still has about 80% of the Macallan charactor. Wonderful stuff. When I checked the price on the web, I got sticker shock, as W&L gets $200. Worth the money if you have that much to blow, and it goes right to the top of my lottery winnings wish list.

Mortlach 2?yo 1975 or 1979 (5x%, Scotts Selection)
Not sure which of the 2 SS bottlings, but a nice 'chewy' dram, with good heft.
The same Mortlach character I've tasted in the other 3 of the expressions that I've sampled.

Glenfarclas NAS '105' (60%, OB)
A real brute. Young, not very complex, but what you see is what you get.
Worth the typical $60-something price tag, if that's what you're after.

Linkwood 11yo 1989 (58.8%, Blackadder, sherry cask)
The only Linkwood that I've had to date is what's in the Compass Box Asayla, but I could detect the general profile. Way too much sherry however, but I took a sample home, and maybe it will improve with break-in.

Blairfindy 24yo 1976 (51.1%, Blackadder, Glenfarclas distillery)
About what you'd expect. I lost track and took home 2 samples, so I'll be doing a couple of rounds of GF sampling.

Highland Park 25yo (54.5%, OB)
Typical HP profile, I'll compare my sample with the 1977 and my remaining 25ml of the 1974 from my scotchwhisky.com sampler.

Macallan 28yo 1974 (62.5%, Mackillop's Choice, bottled 'Last week')
Similar to the Scott's Selection. I was so plastered that I drank it straight down without noticing that it was 125 proof!!

Benromach 15yo (40% Gordon & MacPhail)
A typical Speyside.

Samples I wasn't able to make notes on: Balvenie 21yo Port Wood (43%, OB), Chivas Regal 18yo (40%, OB), Compass Box Hedonism (43%, OB), Dalmore 21yo (43%, OB), Dalmore 30yo 'Stillman's Dram' (45%, OB), Glenfarclas 25yo (43%, OB, maybe), Glenfiddich 15yo 'Solera Reserve' (43%, OB) and WL Weller 19 or Eagle Rare 17 (bourbon).

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Fortunately, I managed to smuggle some souvenirs home. Here are the tasting reports.
I am trying to taste them in groups that have some common element, either by price, style, or with bottles that I have at home.

Round 1:
Balvenie 21yo Port Wood (43%, OB)
Dalmore 21yo (43%, OB)

For once, two malts where I'm in entire agreement with Michael Jackson. Somehow, I've missed the Balvenie 21 PW over the years. I did order it once at a restaurant, but what was in the glass wasn't very good, so I don't count that one. This sample was superb. Compared to the 17 Islay Cask, the 21 PW had more body, and the port influence was apparent on the nose and palate, with both having some nice fruity notes. A real winner here, superior to the 17, and cheaper too. At W&L's $62.95 price, it gets my top recommendation for a standard distillery bottle, but the competition is stiffer as the price heads towards the $80 point.
Rating is 88 points.

The Dalmore is a certainly has a strong family resemblance to all of the other expressions that I've tasted.
But the biggest problem here is that all of the life seems to have been chill filtered out of the 21. MJ says 'silky', but I say watery. I'll go one point higher with 81 points for extra complexity over my usual 80 malts, but Dalmore really need to let this whisky show what it is capable of.

Round 2:
Bruichladdich 1984 Legacy (46%, OB)
Bruichladdich 1970 Legacy (46%, OB)

The 1984 has an extra 3 years over the 15, and is 60% bourbon casked and 20% each fino and oloroso sherry, compared to just 20% oloroso for the 15. While these 2 factors might not seem to add up to too much, the 1984 is a couple of steps up from the 15. Just more of everything, while maintaining with the overall style. A very nice dram, and I'll give it 89 points. Unfortunately, the price is about double in the UK, so we're probably looking at close to $100 when the 1984 makes it over to the US.

And then we come to the 1970. I would have imagined that a lighter whisky that spent 32 years in a bourbon cask would be a bit woody, with the flavors having faded a bit. Well it's just the opposite here. This whisky is incredibly alive. I could detect most of what are mentioned in the distillery tasting notes, which is more than a few. And they seem to parade around endlessly on the palate, before we even start talking about finish. My wife was also very impressed. Rating goes way up the scale to 97 points. This is quite simply one of the best whiskies I have ever tasted, and it can proudly hold it's place along with the similarly priced bottles. Speaking of which, the price in England is close to GBP100, so we're talking about probably U$200 over here.
Ouch, but I really hope that I can scrounge up 2 spare C-notes before it's all gone.

Round 3a:
Glenfiddich 15yo Solera Reserve (40%, OB)

While we all share our opinion about the Special Reserve, I've heard enough good things about the 15 to make me curious. And it turned out to be a pleasant surprise. While staying within the GF profile, there was nice depth of flavor, and a surpsisingly firm body for only 40% ABV. I compared it with my Macallan 12 Signatory, which was a bit better and the Mac 15 OB which was better still, but the Solera Reserve is a nice dram, and can justify a $36 price tag. I'll raise Michael Jackson a point to 80 points, and it may be worth having a bottle around for company who refuse to drink anything they haven't heard of, and are to embarrassed to ask about anything else.

Round 3b:
Chivas Regal 18yo (40%, OB)
Kings Crest 25yo (40%, OB)

My original idea was to compare the GF Solera with 2 upscale blends, which cost a little and a lot more.
But both were so watery, that I had to cancel the tasting, and just compare the two the next day.
The Chivas was a recommendation of a friend, and it supposedly has a good bit of Strathisla in it. I'm not sure why that should be strong point, as the standard 12 year old Strathisla is not the stuff that malt fans go head over heels for. While I could detect the influence in the 18, I'm sure happy that I didn't fork over $50 or so for an entire bottle, even if each one has it's own serial number. My rating would struggle to break 70 points.

The King's Crest is distributed by Scott's Selelction, and claims to be 'A big enough whisky to appeal to the single malt drinker, yet delicate and drinkable enough and not too bold, to keep blended scotch drinker satisfied too'.  It claims to have 'aromas of delicate fruit, cocunut, vanilla and toffee, with delicate background oak not! es'. The flavor is said to deliver what the aroma promises. All of this is fairly accurate, and it seems to be a very nice dram, but for $150, there should be more whisky and less water included in the bottle. I'll give it 85 points , but as with the Dalmore 21, I'd love to know what this stuff really tastes like.

That covers the notes on my first batch of samples.
A few weeks later I proceeded with batch #2.
The Macallan 25yo (43%, OB) and Highland Park 25yo (53.5%, OB) were among the crown jewels of my reasures, but they were VERY small samples, and both seem to have oxidized somewhat.
Darn. Next year, go back for doubles, and make sure they go into the right little bottle!!

Glenrothes 20 yo 1979 (43%, OB)
Glenrothes 26yo 1973 (5?%, Scott's Selection)

The 1979 was the original Glenrothes sold in the US as a 16 year old, but I passed it by because it cost $42 back in 1997, too rich for my budget at the time. So I welcomed a chance to try it the second time around. For comparison, I used the 1989. The 1979 had a bit more complexity, and what Michael Jackson noted as touches of dried fruit, which I thought came across as grapefruit. However, the body was not as firm as the 1989, probably more heavily filtered. List price for the 1979 is $80, at which I would pass unless I had a lot of extra cash in the budget. But it can be found for $60, which isn't too bad. Still, the 1989 is more than good enough.

The Scott's Selection was of interest to me, since I always wanted to know what an older GR tasted like. This is bourbon casked, so the profile was a bit lighter than the 1987 and 1989 releases. For comparison, I brought out my 12 year 1985 56.8% Adelphi, also bourbon casked. They were very similar, with the SS showing a bit more comlexity, and also a touch of grapefruit. I wonder if it emerges with age, or was part of the profile back in the seventies. The high proof did however, overpower the whisky a bit, and with a small sample, I wasn't able to experiment with water. My impression is that the 1973 is more of a summer dram. With the remaining bottles going for $120 or higher, you'd better be looking exactly this type of dram to justify that kind of price.

Macallan NAS Cask Strength (58.6%, OB)
Glendarclas NAS 105 (60%, OB)

Small samples here, so not much room to experiment with water. The Mac pretty much tasted like a Macallan, but battling the high proof, I wasn't able to determine much more. The 105 is a real brute as full strength. It tames down a bit with a drop or two of water, but as more is added, it starts to show its youth. Bottom line, you know what you are getting, and that's why you buy it (or pass).

Macallan 26 year 1973 (50.9%, Scott's Selection)

This is a bourbon cask Mac, and it captures about 80% of the distillery profile without the sherry casking. Absolutely wonderful stuff. However, when I compared it to my 16 year 1997 56.5% Glenhaven 'Matured in plain oak wood', the differences were not great. The SS goes for a cool $200, so I can't give it a blanket recommendation, as I think that the Bruichladdich 1979 is a bit better.
But for your second or third $200 bill, worth the money.

That's it - all samples sampled.

Louis
 

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E-pistle #05/03 - A Live Tasting of 8 Blinds from Johannes
by
Serge Valentin, France

(Or why the Dutch are sneaky people ;-)

Did you ever wonder how you could rate a blue-chip-malt way under your average ratings? Hum, not very difficult! Just taste it blind! And yes, that's just what I did at the end of last year… Read on, and you'll find out which heavy hitter has been destroyed by a presumptuous French self-styled connoisseur : myself. By the way, 'connoisseur' is an old French word, that nobody uses anymore in France since… the Auld Alliance between the Scots and the French, at least. The correct spelling is 'connaisseur', but okay, G&M, we'll not fight for the sake of a bloody little 'o'.

Back to October 2002... Johannes just told me I should concentrate on the eight blind samples he brought to me two months ago, rather than propose 'creative' new ideas for the website that are almost undoable. So, as a dutiful little soldier, I took his eight little bottles, my favourite bohemian-made nosing glass… And en route for a very special tasting session!

As you may know, the French are famous for their accurate sense of logic (and their poor English).
That's why I decided to taste these eight samples from #1 to #8.  Thanks God, I didn't need too much energy to give birth to this brilliant idea. Because I need a lot of energy to go through all these marvellous little bottles right now. My idea is to taste all eight malts, then send my notes to Johannes, wait for further clues, and then taste the malts again.
No need to say this is going to be a perilous adventure. Usually, when I taste wine blind, the purpose is to get the wine's characteristics without being influenced by the label, not to find out about which wine it is… Anyway, let's go, and try not to be too ridiculous…  I've added Johannes reply emails, including the clues and hints he gave me quite generously, and sometimes trickily. I hope you'll get this live feeling – because it was "live" all the way! Well, sort of.

BLIND 1 / Nose: spirity, malty, liquorice, hints of root and grass, celery, quite woody
Mouthfeel:  medium bodied
Palate: burnt wood, dry, a little grassy, liquorice stick?  A little austere. This one isn't unpleasant, but not very special.
It makes me think of an Independent Ben Nevis, or a Balmenach, or a malt from South-Highlands.
Certainly not an original bottling, maybe a Signatory Vintage.
72 points. (nose: ok; palate: ok)

Johannes' Clue for bottle#1 - This is a multi-wood malt
Serge's answer: Don't tell me it's Aberlour or Balvenie double-wood!
Answer by Johannes: Yes, it was the Balvenie 12yo Doublewood (43%, OB)! Very good! An official bottling.
And just 72 points!  My rating is 85. That could hardly be explained by the label effect'.
Serge's last word: Oh, I see! We, humble maltmaniacs, are not allowed to rate a malt differently from you, Johannes… I can see maltmaniacs is no democracy ;-). Look, you know I don't like 'wine finished' whiskies, and it's not a matter of label, as you can see. Anyway, let's skip on that one, and taste Blind #2. I hope it's no Californian claret finished obscure malt…

BLIND 2 / Nose: smoky, heather, honey, pear drops, malty, pecan pie.
Fern and liquorice develop after a while. Nice, quite original.
Mouthfeel: medium power
Palate: quite sweet, oaky, black chocolate, with a lot of tannins from the wood. It dries the tongue.
The nose is much better than the palate, which is very dry and marked by the wood. It could be a whisky matured into a new oak cask. But which one? The wood's that strong that I really can't figure out. Perhaps in the same range as blind #1
68 points. (nose: good; palate: bad)

Johannes' Clue for bottle#2 - This is a multi-wood malt as well
Serge's answer: Alright! The fresh wood notes are that heavy, that it must have been matured or finished in some plain oak cask. Maybe Glenlivet 'French Oak Finish'.
Answer by Johannes: Close, but no cigar. But you were quite right with your in the same range as Blind #1' remark.
It's Glenmorangie Port Wood Finish (43%, OB). Once again, the score surprises me to tell you the truth.
Serge's last word: Bloody hell! You sneaky Dutchman! When I want to drink some port, I buy a bottle of port, period. But what did they do to this spirit? What will blind #3 be? I'm scared…

BLIND 3 / Nose: fresh, spirity, citrus, herbal, hints of wood. Could be a Lowlander.
Mouthfeel:  medium
Palate: quite bitter and austere again. Burnt wood, burnt cake, tannins. I don't like it very much. Very dry. It isn't a lowlander!
Again, it mustn't be an OB, as it isn't very seductive. I would say a rather young Highlander. Maybe the alcohol level's 40%, which leads to G&M. It makes me think of a Dallas Dhu, but then it couldn't be a young malt, unless it's an old bottling.
70 points. (nose: ok; palate: bad)

Johannes' Clue for bottle#3 - It IS an Highlander, but it's not young
Serge's answer: I have to give up. I don't know… Maybe something like Balblair or Aberfeldy… Bah…
Answer by Johannes: Glenfarclas 21yo (43%, OB). Now THIS is interesting. 70 points for the Glenfarclas 21.
Klaus and Michael sampled from the same bottle and rated it in the same vicinity as myself - around 83-85 points.
So, no batch variations' here. Explain yourself, Serge!
Serge strikes back: Hum... Since when Glenfarclas is a Highlander? GRRRRRRRRR....
Johannes gets angry: Well, Speyside is part of the Highlands, isn't it? It's in the MIDDLE of it, for crying out loud!
Serge grows even more angry: BRRRRRRRR! Ì thought Speyside was a region on its own...
BRRRRRR! I mean if we talk about whisky (not about vanilla fudge) BRRRRRRR!
I'm sure ev'rybody will love to learn Macallan is a Highlander... BRRRRRRR!  OK, enough joking.
Johannes calms down: You're right - sorry. Blame it on the fact that I've been very busy with MM.
Serge's last word: Alright, I understand… But I must say I have to taste that one again in the near future.
Maybe the two quickly aromatized malts I tasted prior to that one did influence my rating too much.
I promise, I'll do my very best when rating blind #4…

BLIND 4 / Nose: oh, this is much better. Seems that Johannes did class the samples!
Quite clean, but warming, with a little sharpness. Very nice indeed.
Toasted bread, dried fruit, apple crumble, heather, hints of sherry.
Mouthfeel: very smooth.
Palate: yes, I like it! Very fresh. Turkish delight, fresh tangerine, orange zest,
Toulouse violet candies, cinnamon, hints of salt and even pepper.
The finish is long, and develops some burnt cake aromas over time. This is the kind of stuff I like. Maybe an Highland Park…
85 points. (nose: great; palate: good)

Johannes' Clue for bottle#4 - Pataphysically speaking, this is a Highland malt as well - or is it?
Serge's answer: Ahem... a malt off the limits? Borderline, somehow? Could it be a Springbank?
Answer by Johannes: No, you were right the first time you insane ostrich!  Highland Park!
Outside / Above the Scottish mainland and HIGHLAND Park... Geddit? Blind 4 is Highland Park 18yo (43%, OB)
Serge answers again: Johannes, I had #4! You didn't say I was right, that's why I changed to Springbank... Grrrrr...
PS: For sale, a bottle of Glenfarclas 21yo. Price on offer (any will do)
Johannes admits: Yeah, I'm a sneaky bastard! Who said I had to say you were right?
Serge's last word: U-oh… Yep, nobody said that. But yes, 'sneaky' is the word.
Now, let's be diplomatic: onto blind #5…

BLIND 5 / Nose: spirit and burnt wood, that's all. Rather tingling. Not very enjoyable, I must say.
Hints of grilled bananas and after a few minutes, it becomes mostly cereally and nutty.
Mouthfeel:  medium bodied.
Palate: rather nice, but a little one-dimensional. Toffee, burnt cake, and just a hint of mixed Provence herbs.
A little later, the woody elements get the upper hand. This one seems to be more 'crafted' than Nr 1, 2, 3, meaning it should be an official bottling. But I think its lack of character just makes it impossible (to me, at least) to find out about the name of the distillery.
73 points. (nose: ok; palate: ok)

Johannes' Clue for bottle#5 - It is NOT an OB.
Serge's answer: Then I give up. I can't feel anything special in that one.
Or yes, perhaps a little peat in the background, and perhaps more pepper than previously.
I don't know, it may be a Clynelish, or perhaps Bunahabbain (were's this f... 'h' again?).
Answer by Johannes: Yes, Excellent! Bunnahabhain! It's the Bunnahabhain 12yo 1989/2001 Sherry Finish (43%, Chieftain's).
Serge's last word: Hurray! Let's celebrate with blind #6…

BLIND 6 / Nose: this one is more special again. All sorts of tea or dried herbs, faded roses, and a lot of lavender.
The more you wait, the more it gets perfumy – but in a very enjoyable way. How great!
Mouthfeel: smooth and balanced.
Palate: nice. Cake, grilled nuts, vanilla and a little wood. Less rich than the nose.
In short, the nose is rather spectacular, but the mouth is more or less ordinary.
But there's no doubt it's good whisky. It could be a Seysider.
78 points. (nose: good; palate: ok)

Johannes' Clue for bottle#6 - It is NOT a Speysider
Serge's answer: Highland Park?
Answer by Johannes: No, sorry. It's Glen Scotia 14yo (40%, OB).
Serge's last word: I see, I f…d up. By the way, it's strange to see that many bottles of unknown bastard brands selling some Glen Scotia in the French supermarkets. I can tell you, these are ugly, whereas the 14yo OB is good whisky, obviously.
Let's taste blind #7 now…

BLIND 7 / Nose: yes, nose. A little warming and malty, some toasted bread and just a few tiny little winey notes.
Mouthfeel: medium bodied, a little warming.
Palate: clean, regular malty mouth. Nothing special here. Not bad, of course, but really nothing special.
Makes me think of Tamnavulin. Ok, that's a good malt whisky, with no serious flaw. But no thrill either.
75 points . (nose: ok; palate: ok)

Johannes' Clue for bottle#7 - You visited the distillery.
Serge's answer: Alright, alright… Bruichladdich, but the older bottlings. Maybe the 15yo.
Please note that I visited several distilleries in my life!
Answer by Johannes: Yes, yes, Excellent! The old Bruichladdich 15yo (40%, OB). Your rating is close to mine on this one.
Serge's last word: Hey, I'm getting better at the end of the session!
Let's see whether I'll find out about the last one now…

BLIND 8 / Nose: finally, some peat! Yes, smoke, pepper, and some heavy eucalyptus notes.
Chinese balm. Very, very original. Some fine winey notes make me think it could be a wine-finished Islayer. I'd go for Caol Ila.
Mouthfeel: smooth
Palate: some heavy perfume notes make me think it could be Bowmore as well.
Well, in fact, I think it must be a Bowmore. In short, I like this one.
If it's Bowmore, it's one of the best I've had recently, just because these 'perfumy' notes are well here, but aren't overwhelming.
86 points . (nose: great; mouth: good)

Johannes' Clue for bottle#8 - Correct, again - very good. It IS a Bowmore - but which one?
Serge's answer: Hum, could have been the 12yo, but this one is a little older, a little less spirity.
Maybe the 15yo 'Mariner'? But it still could be the 12yo. Anyway, Bowmore batches are said to vary a lot.
Answer by Johannes: Yes, very good once again! It's the Bowmore 15yo Mariner (43%, OB).
Serge's last word: Yessss! Okay, let's try not to be too immodest.

Final comment by Serge to Johannes: you sneaky Flying Dutchman…
I need my revenge now… To come soon! We'll see what we'll see when you're in front of my own 8 blinds.
Anyway, thanks for that funny and interesting – but cruel – experience!

Yes, tasting a malt – or any other spirit, wine or beer – blind is a very interesting experience, obviously.
But is drinking whisky only an organoleptic adventure? I don't think so! Whisky is also a cultural product, and knowing of its name, its age, its vintage, the countryside around the distillery, the number of rodents the cat caught last year, and the master distiller's younger daughter's boyfriend's name are also part of the product, I think.
And its 'story' is important as well, even if not always 100% true…

I admit it: I'm a label drinker, aren't you?

Santé,

Serge
 

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E-pistle #05/04 - Opening Pandora's Box
by
Johannes van den Heuvel, Holland 

I wrote about 'The Pandora Project' in mAddendum 124 A-C in my Liquid Log.
For those of you who've just tuned in: When I travelled to France to visit fellow malt maniac
Serge Valentin in September 2002 I brough 8 'blind' samples with me for him to try and identify. You can find an account of his experiences in Epistle #05/03. About a month ago the mailman dropped off Serge's answer: his 'revenge' package of eight 'blind' samples.
I have waited for a good nose day to come by ever since - with no luck.

Instead of waiting any longer I decided to just go ahead and see where it would lead me.
Here's how it worked; I did a first round of sampling in November 2002, sent my sensory input and 'associations' to Serge and asked him to provide me with clues before I gave the samples another try. I sent the results for my second round of samples back to Serge and awaited with the answers with sweaty palms and a heavy heart. My feelings of dread proved justified when I received the results: I had identified only one of the malts correctly. It took me a while to revive my ego but tonight I've mustered up enough courage for a 'revisionist tasting'. Just to put things in perspective...

Here's a full transcript of the proceedings;

Blind 1 / Nose: Ooh. Very oily. Olive oil and vegetables. Hint of smoke - growing stronger.
Something faintly medicinal - nothing like an Islay, though. Sweeter with time.
Nutty. After five minutes the coastal elements (salt and smoke) grow stronger.
Taste: Weak and watery. Creamy with an increasing sweetness over time.
Oily. Gritty and peppery later on. Dry and a little astringent in the finish.
Score: 67 points. Guesses: 1 - Tobermory / Ledaig, 2 - Isle of Jura, 3 - Littlemill, 4 - Auchentoshan, 5 - Bladnoch
Hint: Well, this distillery is not coastal, and I would even say it's far from all the seas.
Your nose is in a good shape, coz yes, you got the malt's main characteristics. It's an OB
.
On second thought: Hmmm. Far from all the seas? I'm quite sure about the fact that I don't like this one so which distilleries I don't care for are located 'far from the seas'? Deanston, Drumguish and Glenturret were the first ones to catch my eye when I checked the map. Another sampling didn't produce any new insights other than my rating has to be lowered to 64 points.
The answer: Okay, you gave 64 points to a Tullibardine 10yo (40%, OB, Batch #6337g696, bottled 1996).
Good news, because your 'usual' rating is 61 points, right? Yep, olive oil and vegetables...
Perhaps you should read Malt Madness more often... ;-)
My baffled reaction: Hmmm, I guess I should have worked a little harder on this one.

The revisionist sampling: Now that I know what it is it makes perfect sense.
When I checked my old notes in my little black book I found that the Tullibardine 10 reminded me of the Isle of Jura 10 - my second guess. The overwhelming oily character was what made me scoff at Tullibardine in the first place. Not much fun in the nose and the taste is rather flat and bland as well. I did find some salt in the taste this time. This batch is more powerful in the nose and sweeter on the palate than my big bottle, if I remember correctly. I stand by my 'final' rating of 64 points for this batch.

Blind 2 / Nose: Wow! Lots of volume. Very strange start. Sweet and sour.
Chemical fruits. Banana? Lemon drops. Fruits drift in and out of focus. Hint of oil as well.
Flattens out. Whiff of soap. A little nondescript. KFC??? Leather?
Taste: Weak start. Fragmented and dry. Very little character. Maybe a hint of fruits.
Unbalanced. Something nutty. Sweetish. Quite dry and flat in the finish.
Score: 64 points. Guesses: 1 - Bladnoch, 2 - Rosebank, 3 - Auchentoshan, 4 - Cardhu, 5 - Glen Deveron
Hint: Ha ha ha, no, it's North of Bladnoch ;-). It's not a Lowlander, and it's an OB.
On second thought: North of Bladnoch, now there's a useful tip. That leaves just... well, all other distilleries in Scotland, really. The only other distilleries that sprung to mind when I tried it again were Arran, Dalwhinnie, Glernfiddich, Tobermory and maybe Lochside. But it may prove to be a grain whisky just as well. Not my cup of tea, that's for sure.
The answer: Ha ha ha. Last time you saw the label, you gave 81 pts, if I remember correctly.
Yes, Mr Johannes Jackson, it's Glenmorangie 10yo (40%, OB, Batch #00257 04 20).
Not your cup of tea? But it is *tea*! I always thought GM sucks, and I'm happy to see you agreeing.
My baffled reaction: Amazing! I tried my last bottle of the 'Morangie 10yo over 5 years ago and I'm absolutely positive it was much better than this batch. Of course, that was a litre bottle at 43% - I've often found that these bottlings tend to score slightly higher on my
Hit List. The 'Cellar 13' I had on my shelves about 2 years ago was fine as well (Klaus can testify) but when I ordered a 'Morangie 10 in café 'De Jaren' last year I was absolutely convinced they had poured me something else.
With the wisdom of hindsight, maybe I was wrong.

The revisionist sampling: Yes, this is quite different from the 'Morangie 10 (43%) I knew and loved. It has the nasal transparancy I remember but much of the character is gone. Too oily. The taste is quite OK (fruity, sweet and strong with a peppery burn and a dry finish) but the nose didn't arouse me. I guess I will buy myself a big bottle soon to find out if today's bottlings in Holland are as bad as Serge's sample. If it proves to be similar, I think the drop in quality for this bottling is far bigger than that of the Macallan 12.
What's going on here? Could Glenmorangie be going the way of Macallan?
The rating for this batch is increased to 65 points due to the intriguing fruit and pepper on the palate.

Blind 3 / Nose: Ah, yes, that's more like it! An interesting mixture of fruit, wood and sherry.
Very rich. Smoke. Something oriental as well. Hint of soap perfume. Intriguing.
Nothing wrong here. Macallan or Aberlour would be my first guess - until I tasted it...
Taste: Phew! Awful! Pure soap. Flat. Metallic. Ashes. Sour and dry in the finish.
Score: 25 points. Guesses: 1 - Loch Dhu 10yo, 2 - Bowmore Darkest, 3 - Edradour 10yo, 4 - Macallan, 5 - Glendronach
Hint: OK, you got it. But which one is it? It is an OB.
On second thought:  I'm quite sure it's one of the first three, but which one? Well, I had just decided on Edradour (it was even worse than Bowmore Darkest and slightly better than Loch Dhu) when I received confirmation from Serge that I was right - it was the Edradour 10yo. I like the nose just fine but the taste has something that just drives me up the wall. Davin felt the same when I served it to him in June. So, this was the only one out of eight samples where one of the five distilleries I mentioned as my first 'guesses' actually was correct. Very poor results so far, if I may say so myself...
The answer: Yep, you got that one. It's Edradour 10yo 'Distillery Edition' (not 'Distiller's Edition').
This bottling was sold only at the distillery. Now, I feel like a tourist...
My baffled reaction: Well, that was a big disappointment.
It seems the bottle I opened this spring wasn't just from a bad batch - this must really be the current Edradour style. Were they hoping to fill the 'gap' left by Loch Dhu? I can only hope and pray the new ownership takes Edradour in another direction.

The revisionist sampling: It's amazing how a malt with such a wonderful nose can taste so bad. When I tried it again the only negative things I could find in the nose were the occasional hints of vomit and soap perfume. Other than that it was quite fabulous with lots of fruit sweets, smoke and wood. I have to admit the taste has some redeeming qualities as well - it's sweet and has a long cool finish. It's just too smoky - something I never thought I'd say. But then again: maybe I'm just becoming too narrow minded as to how a whisky 'should' taste. With the wisdom of hindsight 25 points seems a little bit harsh, so after finishing the sample I had a go at the Bowmore Darkest to compare the two. The Bowmore was the winner on the palate but I have to say the nose of the Edradour is actually much more interesting than that of the Bowmore. Reason enough to crank the score up to 35 points. Incidentally, this brings the rating more 'in line' with the 40 points I gave to my own bottle of the 'new' Edradour 10. How's that for revisionism, eh?

Blind 4 / Nose: Soft and mellow. Sweet. Chemical fruitiness. Flower honey.
Heather. Milk powder. Nuttier after a while. Hint of sulphur. Pleasant.
Taste: Not too strong. Nutty. A little gritty? Sour. Fragmented.
Dry and winey in the finish. Could it be some special finished malt?
Score: 73 points. Guesses: 1 - Glen Moray Chardonnay, 2 - Glenmorangie Sherry, 3 - Glenlivet 12 FOF, 4 - Springbank 10
Hint: Oh, this is very interesting - I mean the rating. And it'll make me even more chauvinistic ;-)
On second thought: Chauvinistic? Does that mean this a French concoction? I was expecting Scotch single malts here. I did find milk powder and fruit in the German Slyrs 3yo but the Glenroc and Clonmel I tried seemed very different - and not quite as good. When I tried it again I found some paint thinner in the nose but not a great deal more. The taste still seemed fragmented and very dry. I sampled the blinds in reverse order this time and under these conditions (meaning: not after the Edradour 10yo) the rating of 73 seems a bit rich. 70 points seems more sensible. As for identification: I'll have to give up on this one.
The answer: More and more interesting. If I'd say it's a blend, would you believe me?
It's a Clan Campbell NAS 40%. I guess there's a lot of Aberlour in there, because it's a Pernod-Ricard brand, pre-Seagram's buyout. It's one of the best selling whiskies in France.
My baffled reaction: I'm suitably surprised. In hindsight I guess I should have identified it as a blend - paint thinner and a fragmented palate usually indicate grain whisky for me. Clan Campbell isn't available at my ususal liquorists but I seem to remember drinking quite a lot of Glen Campbell in the late 1980's - a bottling with a nice label with mountain ranges in shades of gray. Would that be the same bottling? Of course, todays style could be very different from that of the 80's. That being said, I like this a lot! Better than Teacher's or JW Black and almost as nice as the Black Bottle. I'll make sure to pick up a bottle if I see one. Of course, it's not sure the recipe for the 'Dutch' Clan Campbell is the same as for the French bottling. I wouldn't be surprised if those darned Frenchies kept all the good stuff to themselves ;-)

The revisionist sampling: Now I know it's a blend the taste seems rather weak.
The nose is still nutty but I can't find most of the things I picked up last time.
Don't get me wrong, I still like it a lot - just not quite 70 points worth. Strange.... Could that be 'the label effect'?
Anyway, I stick with my score of 70 points for this bottling. It's a bit rich but not extravagant.

Blind 5 / Nose: Hmmm. Powerful. Sweet, heavy and fruity. Sherry. Rotting fruit? Dried apples.
Something coastal? Nutty. Organics and spices in the background growing stronger.
Taste: Weaker. Fruity. Sweet and sour. Honeyed sweetness after 15 minutes.
Cool and dry center. Hint of pepper. Tannins in the finish. Not as good as the nose.
A tough one to identify. The apple could indicate Glen Deveron or Dalwhinnie, but...
Score: 78 points. Guesses: 1 - Highland Park, 2 - Glenfarclas, 3 - Dalmore,  4 - Aberlour, 5 - Springbank
Hint: The closest guess is Highland Park...
On second thought: What - a Scapa you mean? Let's check my notes while I give it another try.
Seemed a little oilier at first but other than my tasting notes for the 12yo OB pretty match up to what I'm getting right now. But then again so do the notes for the Old Pulteney 12yo which is located just a little to the south. It seems too fruity to be a Glen Ord 12yo so I'm guessing it would have to be (A) Scapa or (B) Old Pulteney. I really wouldn't know what else it could be.
The answer: Bingo! Well done Johannes, it's Scapa 12yo.
But not seeing the label leads you to rate it 3 points higher than before.
My baffled reaction: Well, 3 points could be easily explained away by batch variation, changes in personal taste or seasonal influences. In fact, I liked most independent Scapa's I tried more than my 12yo OB so I'm guessing that wasn't the best batch they ever released.

The revisionist sampling: Well, nothing much to add at this point.
It seemed less sweet and a little maltier on the palate than before but other than that it seems pretty much the same as before.
So, no reason to change the rating of 78 points for this batch as far as I'm concerned.
My original 4th and 5th guess seem quite ridiculous now I taste it again.

Blind 6 / Nose: Strange... When I opened the sample it seemed quite powerful.
Dry and medicinal with some fruits. On second nosing it seemed much weaker.
Still dry and briny but no obvious peat. More organics after ten minutes.
Taste: Not much power at first. Onion and coffee? Seems quite youthful.
The burn starts after you've swallowed it. Very dry with a pinch of salt.
Hard to rate this one. Lots of power but little complexity.
Score: 79 points. Guesses: 1 - Clynelish / Brora, 2 - Caol Ila, 3 - Laphroaig, 4 - Ardbeg, 5 - Bruichladdich
Hint: Yes it's young, and yes it's coastal... But it's never been described as a 'peat monster'.
On second thought: Yeah, so...? That still doesn't give me much to go by, does it? I nosed it again and once again it started out rather weak. Over time the nose grows stronger but the taste remains relatively flat and dry, although I detected some nice fruity elements on the palate this time. It was nice enough, but 79 points seems to generous - let's make that 78. As for the identity... A young Bowmore perhaps? Batch variation is strong in Bowmore so that would be my best guess, even though I didn't make a 'positive identification'.
The answer: This time, it's Highland Park 8yo (40%, MacPhails Collection).
If you'd seen the twist cap, I'm sure you would have rated it 5 points lower....
My baffled reaction: I really didn't have a clue here. A really tricky choice by Serge.

The revisionist sampling: Hmmm... Despite the screwcap I like this. I found a very faint hint of peat in the nose this time. I stick to my score of 78 points for this one. It doesn't have a lot of personality but it's nice enough and it appears more powerful on the palate than a 40% malt should be. It's good enough, but I think a few more years could have made it great - like it's official older brother. To me, the 'style' of this malt seems very different from that of the OB's. No wonder I couldn't identify it, eh? In my defense I have to say that bottlings by Gordon & MacPhail don't always allow the distillery character to shine through. In some cases that's no disaster, I think the MacPhails Collection Glenrother 8yo is quite wonderful, for example.

Blind 7 / Nose: Powerful sherry and fruity overtones. Turkish delight. Fruit cake.
Smoke and peat in the background? Spices. Reminded me a little of Blind #5.
Seemed drier with some water, while spices and organics came to the foreground.
Very, very nice - absolutely the best nose so far.
Taste: Ooh! This seems like an overproof malt to me. Marzipan! Chewy.
Whiffs of fruit as well. Yoghurt? A hint of coffee. Very interesting. Dry finish.
After adding water the fruity elements became stonger. Cool burn, ultra dry finish.
This would be the undisputed winner of the evening for me.
Score: 88 points. Guesses: 1 - Aberlour A'bunadh, 2 - Macallan OP, 3 - old Spingbank, 4 - Mortlach, 5 - Linkwood
Hint: I love it as well... It's an IB... And it's an Italian bottling!
On second thought: Hmm... The only Italian IB I ever tried was the Mortlach 21yo from Sestante and that was quite similar in style, but not nearly as powerful. When I sampled the blind again I thought for a moment I found some peat inbetween the sherry but a moment later it was gone. An excellent nose matched by a great palate.
I really love this (rating increased to 89) but I wouldn't have a clue about what it is.
The answer: Heaven, I'm in heaven! This one comes from my favourite distillery.
It's a Brora 1982/2001 (50%, Silver Seal). Peat inbetween sherry? Johannes, you're a master.
That's exactly what it is made of! But I'm afraid that Brora is very difficult to put your hands on.
I bought this one at Giorgio's, when we were in Milano together. Too bad, the bottle is almost empty.
My baffled reaction: That's very interesting! I didn't recognise it as a Brora because the peat seemed nowhere near as strong as in most of the Brora's we sampled in
September. Looking back at the notes the 1982/2001 Chieftain's came closest, which makes sense - I've heard the Brora's of the 80's were much less peated than those of tyhe 70's and before.

The revisionist sampling: Ooh yes, this is nice. The organics hit me on the first whiff. Leather and spices.
Well defined sherry. The taste showed marzipan and Turkish delight again. Toffee. Mocha and coffee.
Powerful creamy smoothness followed by an endless dry finish. The nose is very nice but here the palate triumphs.
Yes, this is a very excellent dram, fully deserving the 89 points I gave it on second sight.
In fact, I think I will have to go as far as 90 points. This one approaches perfection.

Blind 8 / Nose: Light and flowery. Sweetish. Dry and fruity. Faint oiliness.
Hints of smoke, salt and maybe even some peat in the background.
Chloride? The sweetness grows deeper and stronger over time.
Taste: Not very powerful in the start. Drier and more serious after a few seconds.
Big burn after a few seconds. This delayed taste development suggests it's an Ardbeg.
The finish lasts very long. It has plenty of coastal elements but seems very young.
Score: 83 points. Guesses: 1 - Bruichladdich, 2 - Ardbeg, 3 - Laphroaig, 4 - Talisker, 5 - Caol Ila
Hint: Yep, it's coastal, and yes it's peated.
On second thought: Well the only other peated coastal malt I know (outside Islay) is Brora/Clynelish. When I gave it another try that didn't seem like a very plausible option; I didn't find any of the things I found on recent tastings. It doesn't seem old and 'mature' enough to be a Brora from the 70's and I have to say I don't find it all that peaty either. The things that struck me about Clynelish were absent as well. It's extremely dry, but other than that... Scapa passed through my mind as well but I didn't find any of those markers either. And then I thought of another peated coastal malt; Ledaig. Basically, I don't have a clue. Purely based on the hint, my final guess would be Ledaig. I did find my rating a but on the lavish side after trying it again, though. New rating is 81 points.
The answer: Bull's eye! It is Ledaig NAS (42%, OB) - the un-sherried version.
So, never, ever underestimate Ledaig. It's not bad at all... as long as you don't see the label.
My baffled reaction: Hmmm... This is MUCH better than the sherried version I have on my bottom shelf.
I disliked that one so much that I never bothered to pick up this version. But I have to say I stopped underestimating Ledaig (distilled at Tobermory) as soon as I opened the 20yo version a while ago. That's a pretty fine dram to get lost in.

The revisionist sampling: Actually, the actual revisionist sampling for this one will have to wait for a few weeks.
I have three other Ledaig's in my collection and I want to do a H2H sampling of all four.
I did have a tiny sip, however, to confirm the 'final' rating: 81 points. More to follow after the H2H's.

Bollocks! It's a good thing Serge lives all the way over in France...
If he had lived nearby I might have gotten on my bike to pay him a visit and kick his tricky French ass.
He really composed a fiendish list of blinds - he even included a blend to throw me off the scent!

If I didn't know any better I would almost start to suspect I'm not perfect after all...
I usually manage to keep my fragile ego out of harm's way, but this time it has taken a severe beating.
I really suck at this! As long as I'm served blind samples from my own three shelves I'm doing quite OK, but when I receive the samples completely blind my identification skills leave a lot to be desired. In the end I only identified one malt correctly during the first round, and that one wasn't even my first guess. That'll teach me to open Pandora's Box on a bad nose day...
(Serge did much better than me - read all about that in the
previous E-pistle if you haven't already.)

It wasn't all bad, though. I may have had a hard time identifying the malts, but my scores were pretty much in line with previous encounters with siblings and similar bottlings. Even so, I'm afraid I can't claim to be impervious to 'The Label Effect'. As hard as I try not to let the 'pedigree' of a bottle influence my judgement I'm afraid it does. The only way to find out for certain is by facing more samples blind. Fortunately, I already received a set of four fresh Pandora samples from Australian maniac Craig Daniels.
You will be able to read al about it in my next E-pistle; 'Perceptions & Reality'. Don't hold your breath, though.
If this experience has taught me anything, it's that I should wait for a good nose day to come along.
As soon as it does, the horror will continue...

Johannes
 

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E-pistle #05/05 - Compass Box Whisky
by
Louis Perlman, USA 

It's no secret that whisky consumption has declined over the last couple of decades.
(I actually think that this is due to social reasons, but that is a topic for another time.)
This has brought about a great deal angst in the industry, accompanied by cries of 'what do we do next' and where do we go from here'. And proving that general cluelessness (as per Dilbert) isn't confined to any one particular industry, the typical solution is to take perfectly mediocre whisky, package it in a fancy looking low-grade wood box, take out advertising in expensive publications such as The New York Times Sunday magazine section, and charge high prices.
Gee, and we wonder why the stuff doesn't sell...

John Glasser is actually doing something useful, by founding Compass Box Whisky, dedicated to 'creating really wonderful, really unusual whiskies, by blending'.  The current line consists of three offerings. Hedonism is a blend of Cambus and Caledonian grain whisky, the Eleuthra is vatted from several Clynelish and Caol Ila casks, and the Asyla is made up of Linkwood and Cragganmore malt whisky blended with Cambus grain whisky. Now wait a minute you say. Is this allowed? After all this is Malt Madness, not Grain Madness. And won't the Whisky Police be coming by any minute to confiscate our Ardbeg and Springbank (not to mention Johannes' beloved St. Magdalene 1979 UDRM) if we keep this stuff around?
Of course not, and let me explain.

OK, so the Hedonism is a bit off-beat for a malt lover.
But no more so than whisky aged in a wine barrel that comes out tasing like sangria, or sherry monsters that taste like wood and sherry and nothing like the whisky that originally went into the cask. As for vatted malts, Macallan and Glenfarclas vat (at least for part of their respective lines), and every Bowmore is vatted from a first fill and refill bourbon and sherry casks. A traditional blend has dozens of whiskies combined to hit a particular flavor profile. In the Asyla, the grain whisky was specifically chosen to compliment the character of the malt whisky. So it's the blend purists might actually have more to be upset about than the malt whisky lovers.
But the bottom line is that the proof is in the drinking. I've acquired all three CBW's, and they are most enjoyable. With all of the complaints from whisky lovers of the supposed deteriration of the standards, these whiskies stand out like a breath of fresh air. And best of all, they are produced by a whisky lover for whisky lovers, with no faceless corporations involved.

Here are a few short notes on the Compass Box whiskies;
There is a whole lot of interesting information on their web site (www.compassboxwhisky.com).

The Compass Box Hedonism (43%, OB) is a blend of older and younger grain whisky from the now closed Cambus and Caledonian distilleries. The Malt Advocate says tropical fruits (cocnut, pineapple, mango). marshmallows and vanilla, starting with the nose, carrying thru on the palate. I can go along with that. The body is light-medium. If I didn't know that this was whisky, i would have thought that it was a lighter rum. While a purist snobs wouldn't want this among the 'serious' malts in his cabinet, the Hedonism is a lot of fun. Price is in the $70-80 range, but you probably would want to try it first if you can only afford one bottle in that price range. My rating is 85. BTW, even though this is a light whisky, is is just fine for the holiday season as long as the heat is on.

The Compass Box Eleuthra (46%, OB) is vatted from two different casks of Clynelish, with Caol Ila supplying the smoky element. And boy does it succeed. Depending on the circumstances, I can detect the character of either being prominent, but they are both there. The body is nice and firm, perfect for this type of whisky. And now for the best part, the price is in the mid to high forties. This is one of the best best bottles I have come across recently. I rate it 89, as this is one of those whiskies that makes you forget about the expensive stuff, at least for a little while. If I was voting somewhere for Whisky of the Year, this is my 2002 choice. One of these days, I must compare it to my Brora 1981 18yo 50% OMC, as they should be pretty close in profile.

The Compass Box Asyla (43%, OB) is vatted Linkwood and Cragganmore malt whiskies, blended with Cambus grain whisky. The Cambus is there to provide a soft, sweet bed for the more assertive malts. The end result is a perfect summer dram. The Linkwood character is easily noticeable, and there is no sherry casking anywhere. The price was a very attractive $32.95, the same as Glenlivet or Chivas Regal 12 go for nowadays. Guess which one I'd rather have?
Rating is 83, it joins the 'Laddies as excellent warm weather drams.

Louis
 

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E-pistle #05/06 - 2002 Dram Diary
by
Craig Daniels, Australia

The Dram Diary concept arose out of the original "52 Challenge" (which was an inspired idea even if I don't recall who came up with it) and became a welcome disciplinary tool for my tasting notes.  I always put my notes on paper first as not all the whiskies are tasted at my place and my computer is stuck away in a room that is not conducive to drinking and transcribe them later.  Of course the longer I leave it, the more likely I am to miss recording for posterity one of the whiskies I've tasted.

Dram Diary 2002 (New malts sampled 1/1 to 31/12/02):

1 - Glenrothes 13yo Rum Finish (43%, ChC) - 76 points
Nose is a bit flat, with some hay or straw, maybe some dried pears, a slight melon fruitiness and a dry maltiness, but gets progressively more cereal packet cardboardy.  Palate is a little dull too, but with a bit of sharpness in the finish indicating some wood astringency but I can't get any overt rum character. Gets a dull metallic, dried pears & damp blotting paper note in the nose after a while; maybe that is the rum influence?  Finish is bit short and a bit sharp.  Doesn't really pack much punch anywhere; nose, palate or finish.4/1/02: different glassware reveals more evident and immediate sweetness - Old Jamaica Rum & Raisin chocolate and a hard candy/demerara sugar sweetness along with the melon noted earlier.  Becomes very sucrose and glucose sweet, but stays curiously flat as well.  Rum detectable in the palate as a hard cane sugar edge.

2 - Glenrothes 26yo 1973 (43%, OB, sampled on 4/1/02) - 84 points
Colour is a medium amber brown with umber autumn leave highlights.  Very shy nose early, which never really becomes lively.  Has the typical burnt nuts aroma, but more refined than the 1989.  The nose is fruity but dry - maybe dried pears comes closest.  Palate is initially toffee sweet but dries out and the burnt nut notes come through in the back palate; something like peanut or almond brittle.  Pretty smooth overall and there's a nice lingering creaminess in the tail.  Refined and definitely classy, however remains on the bland side and was slightly less interesting and generous than expected.  Would most likely appeal to super deluxe blend and cognac fanciers.  I suspect that brandy balloons would show it to better advantage by opening up the nose more quickly and more fully.

3 - Glenmorangie 13yo Fino Sherry Finish (43%, OB, sampled on 4/1/02) - 88 points
Colour is a palish gold with lemon highlights.  Nose is very interesting and shows discernible character development.  Starts with a flinty, almost crusher-dust note of the Fino treatment then shows almonds and some thin honey.  Has an apricot kernel and marzipan note.  The almond nougat & orange blossom creaminess of the base bourbon wood is expressed more strongly over time, but the transition is gradual and seamless and continues delicate and never becomes cloying; almost like an aristocratic beauty disrobing fine vestments to reveal an equally attractive core underneath.  Left in the glass a very long time, the classic gentle citrus creaminess of the bourbon standard 10 year old is all that remains.  The palate is rich and rounded and very good; reminiscent of the 1972 Single Cask and probably slightly superior to recent examples of the 18.  There's also a nice fresh citric acidity, like lemonade sherbet in the back palate that keeps the finish very clean.  Superior in every way to any and all of the 12 year old wood treatments.

4 - Bunnahabhain 17yo 1979 (56%, Signatory Vintage, Butt # 5108, sampled on 4/1/02) - 91 points
4/1/02; Colour is a dark umber brown with an olive green tinge in the meniscus.  Nose starts with a hint of pickling spice, pickled onions, soy sauce and top quality balsamic vinegar, like all the funky gravy notes of the standard 12 but in concentrated and rarefied form.  Rich and meaty yet very dry and slightly sour, bit like hot and sour soup made with a rich clarified & reduced beef stock- not a hint of stewed fruit or brandied pudding anywhere.  Very multi-layered and shows amazing development in the nose over time.  Palate is also quite rich with burnt or roasted meat and strong nutty notes.  The palate becomes both richer and drier, with the dark bitter chocolate and bittering herbs/hops of Old Pulteney, but with more depth.  The aftertaste has a meaty richness.  Much drier and meatier than either Glenfarclas or Macallan but just as triumphantly and impressively put together. 
Very unusual yet rewarding and satisfying experience.

5 - Bruichladdich 10yo (46%, OB, new 2001 bottling, sampled on 4/1/02) - 77 points
Palate recall and malt marker memory has the 'new' one being pretty much identical to the B10s bottled in the late 1980's, early 1990s. It's incredibly similar to the 'old' bottling - I'm pretty sure it must be stuff that was distilled under the Invergordon regime and to the exact same recipe as the ones the Club tasted in the early 1990s. The Earls scores probably sum up the old B10 pretty well. (6.62 in 1990, 6.75 in 1991, 7.0 in 1992. the Earls mark lower than me, my score in 1992 was 7.5. The adjustment factor is pretty consistent (~1.102) so the Earls equivalent range is 7.3-7.7 which I think is fair. The night in 1992 when we last had it at the Club it was the highest scoring amongst Scapa 8 (ugh,) Dufftown 8 (boring) and Old Pulteney 8. The OP came in second, but the OPs from G&M are incredibly varied - some are big chocolatey numbers, others are bland and insipid - which my tasting notes reflect. I certainly wouldn't think it worth more than 7.7. Depending on the price I can't see them moving a lot of it. Its OK but it still smells and tastes like a highland. Actually, if you mixed Scapa, Arran and Balblair together you'd get pretty close to the B10.

6 - Brora 1972/1997 (40%, G&M Connoisseurs Choice, sampled on 26/1/02) - 81 points
Another one where I don't know if it's the identical whisky to one tried in December 1997 but my tasting notes from then are eerily similar, although from the feel of the respective notes I liked the one in 1997 better than the one tasted in 2002. - 17/12/97 - "Lots of clean peat, heaps peaty in the palate, gets better in the glass, sweet but peat hangs around throughout the finish - has liniment building in the background".  26/1/02 - "Big plastic bandaid smell early which dissipates, obvious peat and a sweet edge, then the topical antiseptic ointment becomes more obvious.  Smells very much like an Islay. Peaty in the palate, but the finish is shorter and more highland rather than Islay. The reprise has the industrial charcoal dead coal fire ember aftertaste of Tomatin, Tormore, Dalmore and the single grain Cameron Brig rather than the smouldering autumn leaves and garden bonfires of true Islays. 
The finish is the only thing that reflects its regional identity.

7 - Knockando 1987/2000 (43%, OB, 750ml) - 80 points
Best official release since the 1982.  Equal highest score I've ever given the younger vintage Knockando, but still a bit too sweet for my tastes. Pale to medium gold (4LG ie darker than Glenmorangie 10 but not as dark as Dalwhinnie 15) with a bright, buttercup yellow tint in the meniscus.  It has a strong sense of honey, honeysuckle and heather, some bread dough, but fresh and not cardboardy and a faint hint of that gentle floral crayon smokiness that you can get in Glenlivet, Cragganmore and Cardhu.  The peat hangs around in the tail.  This one has more body and a better mouthfeel than the 1984 12yo. The sweetness becomes slightly cloying in the finish. I'd guess 100% bourbon casking - I can't find any sherry in the nose or the palate. I guess the closest descriptor is a cross between Dalwhinnie and Cragganmore, but less buttery than the former and less refined than the latter.  By no means challenging or stellar, but eminently drinkable.

8 - Poit Dhubh 12yo (40%, OB, sampled on 20/02/02) - 74 points
Curious and slightly weird nose to start, with strong sour (almost balsamic) notes and then nori seaweed. 
That sour and salty attack fades quickly and is replaced by liquorice that grows stronger.  There is a hint of japanese paint stick crayon and a chalky hint of plaster, sterile dressings and mustard cress.  Both the palate and nose are quite sweet to start and they both get progressively drier. The nose gets lighter and becomes very much like Cardhu, Cragganmore or An Cnoc, but with more lifted volatiles than any of them.  There's something vaguely medicinal, but if it's got Talisker in it, it must only be a smidgen or the peating levels were dropped for a private batch run.  Pleasant without being demanding.

9 - Lammerlaw 12yo (43%, OB, sampled on 20/02/02) - 71 points
Quite spiritty initially, slightly grainy and freshly malty.  Not sure but there may be some sherry wood in the regime as there's a hint of sour fruit and cherries underneath the malt. The nose becomes quite flowery with plasticine and a little bit of smokiness.  As the nose develops it becomes very barbershop with lollywater, brilliantine hair oil or california poppy.  There are some slightly dusty and chalky notes and a hint of ethyl acetate.  Reminds me a little of Inchmurrin, Arran and Mosstowie with some hints of Glenlivet as well.   Quite light bodied and quite clean on the palate.  Has some of the airplane dope of the 10yo but the lasting impression is of hair tonic & eau de cologne, rather than the lanolin and sour bread dough that were the other dominant characteristics in the 10 year old.

10 - Inchmurrin 10yo (40%, OB, sampled on 27/02/02) - 73 points
Very dry perfumed nose early with a curious plaster of paris note (maybe that's the eucalyptus that Jackson mentions) and mint, but the freeze dried herbs rather than freshly picked.  Then some slightly fruity notes come out, like guava and bananas, but again unripe and the banana peel or plantain rather than the typical aroma of ripe bananas.  Very light and ethereal and the palate is light too.  Slightly fruity with a hint of menthol and a slightly weird metallic/medicinal finish; not unattractive, just unusual.  There is no grip in the finish at all - almost a ghost scotch.  Not used to something quite as insubstantial.  Interesting.  Would make for a fascinating trio up against Arran and the Cradle Mountain.

11 - Glenfarclas-Glenlivet 17yo (53.2%, Glenhaven, sampled on 16/3/02) - 82 points
Very interesting malt.  I can spot the lineage through the OB 17 and the OB 22 Millennium.
The colour tends to suggest bourbon or refill sherry and the nose didn't have any discernible 'classic' sherry, probably refill barrels, quite creamy with pine and honey.  Also has a hint of butter and peanuts, bit like some older Clynelish.
The palate was good and firm with the impression of buttered popcorn.  Interesting.

12 - Glenfarclas 1961 (43%, OB, sampled on 16/3/02) - 94 points
Nose has sherry, chutney, nutmeg, chocolate and varnish.  Palate is rich and creamier. 
Mouthfeel is magnificent - lots of old sherry character, but it justs hums along, developing but not changing noticeably in the glass. Remarkably constant and very nice. 19/5/02: Has the floorboards of Dailuaine and the meatiness of old Bunnahabhain. An incredibly good mouthfeel, best of any of the whiskies tasted in 2002 so far. Deepest sherry treatment of any whisky I've ever tasted.

13 - Glenfarclas 30yo (43%, OB, sampled on 16/3/02) - 93 points
More refined than the 1961 with less overt oloroso and more cedar/sandalwood of the oak coming through.  It also has a mint toffee character that is delicate and refined. 19/5/02: lots of lifted cedar wood and amazingly fresh considering the age.  Has a hint of sour fruit in the finish. Lovely stuff

14 - Glenfarclas 15yo (40%, OB, bottled circa 1978, sampled on 16/3/02) - 86 points
Colour is a umber brown, with a bronze hint and looks a bit dull & tired, no highlights in the meniscus.  The nose was curiously dusty and much drier than more recent offerings.  It has the aroma of old parchment and a musty edge.  It also has the dry mint toffee aroma of good Glenfarclas.

15 - Macallan 17yo 1984 (62%, MacKillop's Choice, Bottle # 0212, sampled on 27/3/02) - 82 points
Cream and piney nose.  Honey, cornflakes, liniment and butter.  Palate is bitey with lots of woody phenols.
With a splash of water there is definite pine resin, camphor laurel and pine needles - bit like Mosstowie 12 1970 (G&M CC).
Reminds me of lots of the UDRM 100% bourbon malts.  Plenty of grunt but no real distillery character.
I suppose I can say I've tried an unsherried Macallan, but so what?

17 - Balblair 10yo (40%, G&M, bottled circa 1980, sampled on 24/4/02) - 83 points
Starts with obvious vanilla then crushed nut skins (peanuts and almonds), gets a fruity candied orange peel note, then apple pie and cinnamon.  Palate is fruity with vanilla and dark chocolate. Has a hint of angostura bitters/dark unsweetened chocolate and dried herbs (thyme, peppermint, rosemary) in the tail.  The nose develops quite a bit considering the age.   The whole package is amazingly complex for the age.

18 - Old Pulteney 8yo (57%, G&M, bottled circa 1976, sampled on 24/4/02) - 81 points
Starts fruity and nutty with chocolate and nuts.  Gets a strong hint of 'green apples' after a while.  Proof is obvious on the palate and there's a definite spirit bite. Lots of chocolate in the finish. With water it gets woodier with fresh cedar and sandalwood.  Bit hot but lots of character.

19 - Old Pulteney 18yo Sherry Cask (58.8%, OB, sampled on 24/4/02) - 84 points
Has the phenacitin and phenalinine of Pulteney 12 and the dark chocolate and dried herbs.  Also has a very nice ginger and acetone note with a lot of dried fennel seed in the mix.  Fresh and clean and the proof isn't obvious.  Certainly doesn't nose or taste that high - more like 50% rather than 58.8%.  Pretty interesting, but not so good on the QPR. Score might be a bit low.

20 - Glen Grant 30yo 1965/1995 (40%, G&M, sampled on 19/5/02) - 87 points
Lovely vine sap nose, lots of dried leaves then butter and resin.  The palate is fruity and creamy.  Nice but a bit ordinary after the nose.  The cream and fruit hang around in the finish.  Gets a real floorwax note in the nose after 20 minutes and the sherry is more forward.  Very good but would be better at 50%.

21 - Glen Grant 21yo (40%, G&M, bottled circa 1990, sampled on 19/5/02) - 83 points
Light and slightly icing sugar nose - lots of melon and ginger. Then popcorn and woody phenols.
The woodiness is more obvious in the palate and a bit excessive.  Has the classic Speyside aspirin in the tail.
Good but ordinary in comparison to the 30yo.  Maybe the score is too low.
15/6/02: Resin, vine sap, lychees and more obvious sherry this time round.  Score revised upwards

22 - Ardbeg 29yo 1972 "The Ardbeggeddon" (48.4%, Douglas Laing, sampled on 26/5/02) - 87 points
The whisky of PLOWED fame. The comments in Whisky Magazine were very interesting.  I think what we can extract from the Michael Jackson/Dave Broom divergence (92.5/77.5) is the classic division between nosers who reward impact and those who value complexity and subtlety, with Jackson on the first side of the fence and Broom on the other. I also would discount Jackson's notes as only Broom remarked on INTENSITY, which I think (along with the staying power and the expression of 'carbolic soap' and 'bicycle tire repair kit') was the dominant characteristic for me.  Can't say I loved it - more in awe of it. Really starts pumping out the phenols after 4 or 5 minutes exposed to air.  Very dry and classic coal tar - then gets the hospital theatre smells of gauze and sterile dressings and band-aids, then a strong hint of lanolin.  Quite strange, but the lanolin is really evident on the palate.  The dryness of the nose is counterpoised against a very oily palate and an impression of hot boot polish.  Remarkably intense and the phenols become insistent - at the end, probably too much - started to smell like the clay powder you get when you open a bicycle repair kit.
It stood up well in stellar company - hence the relatively high score.  Bizarre, but fascinating.

23 - Port Ellen 18yo 1976/1995 (58.8%, Signatory Vintage, distilled 9/76, bottled 8/95, sampled on 26/5/02) - 88 points
Beautifully crafted Islay whisky.  Would have scored higher in different company I'm sure as the nose seemed shy against the UDRM Caol Ila 21 1975 and the Ardbeggeddon, yet it wasn't overpowered, just took a while to reveal its manifest charms - had the best mouthfeel of the flight.  Nose was shy to start with soft fruits and smoked applewood cheese - very savoury and appetising, but low impact, especially considering the proof.  The palate was slightly sweet and definitely fruity, then the smoky notes came out.  The palate is ultra-smooth and the finish is immaculate.  Low impact but incredibly well crafted whisky.

24 - Longrow 21yo 1974 (46%, OB, cask #1549, bottle #5 of 350, sampled on 26/5/02) - 84 points
Faintly disappointing.  A bit overwhelmed in the company, but it might have been palate fatigue as it was sampled after the OP's including the Ardbeggeddon. However having said that, I still think the Longrows from 1973 and 1974 bottled at 13 and 14 years reside at the apex of what bourbon wood Longrow is capable.  This one had a hint of the tarry rope, a little honey and it was super smooth.  The finish seemed a bit short but see earlier remark.  Probably have to taste it in a flight with other 43-46% drams of similar vintage to do it justice. 10/8/02 - third trip to bat and still faintly disappointing - has a sulphur, spent match note in the nose after a while and a lemonade sweetness, then some peanut brittle and the honey found previously. Still impeccably well behaved in the palate and a tad short in the finish.  Nice but nothing outstanding.

25 - Auchentoshan NAS Three Wood (43%, OB, sampled on 28/5/02) - 82 points
Probably couldn't do this one justice as was sampled in less than ideal conditions.  Thought it OK but not all that good - the Pedro Ximenez seemed to float over the top of the other woods and was a bit too insistent.  If I get another chance to sample, I might offer an amended score.  26/10/02 - Tasted it again and blind and original thoughts stand.  The Valdespino aromas are immediately evident and there's a meaty gravy type note reminiscent of Bunnahabhain and Glenfarclas but in the palate it's far too thin and short.  As a blind it scored 81, thus a MMM score of 82 is fair.

26 - Bladnoch 1987/2000 (40%, G&M Connoisseurs Choice, sampled on 15/6/02) - 80 points
Slight hint of melon and hay in the nose, becomes slightly nutty and increasingly creamy - very pleasant fresh and clean nose.  Palate is decidely creamy, maybe a hint of orange.  Light in body and a fairly light clean finish.  Pleasant and inoffensive.

27 - Saint Magdalene 1981/1999 (40%, G&M Connoisseurs Choice, sampled on 15/6/02) - 83 points
Slightly subdued, initially chalky with plaster-of-paris, some definite lemon zest and some dried fruit (dried pears).
Palate was dry and fruity, some bitterness and the finish was quite tannic - bit like an oaked chardonnay. 
The nose is clean and fruity with a stone dust and slightly off fruit note. Leathery and peppery in the palate.
Can't believe this could be the same malt that Michael Jackson gave 67 points.

28 - Benromach 15yo (40%, OB, sampled on 15/6/02) - 78 points
Hugely (and overly) sweet initially, toffee, scotch tablet, honey and caramel.  Some flax and linen and some aniseed or liquorice underneath but the sweetness blankets everything.  Had good legs in the glass, only place the age really showed.  Palate is quite grippy, shows more alcohol than the proof suggests and the finish shows honey and nuts.  Lacked the delicacy and elegance of the 12yo tasted in 1999, but is definitely a more robust and bigger bodied whisky - like Knockando on steroids.  Not good on the QPR

29 - Brora 1982/1999 (40%, G&M Connoisseurs Choice, sampled on 15/6/02) - 77 points
There are Broras and Broras.  Some are highly peated and interesting (1972) and some are not. 
This was one of the latter.  Malt, cream and raw peanuts: little or no smoke to speak of. 
Brora without the peat is just boring and bland - an undistinguished highland with naught more to recommend it.

30 - Braes of Glenlivet 1979/1997 (58.1%, Signatory V., Cask #6082, Bottle #358 of 370, sampled on 15/6/02) - 86 points
Big sherry cask - first fill oloroso if I'm not mistaken.  Is a lot drier than Macallan or Aberlour and more in the 'roasting pan' of Glenfarclas or Bunnahabhain mold.  Has some of the sulphury notes of Glendronach and has a few rough edges.  It's a bit lightweight under the big sherry overcoat, but it gets extra points for the uncompromising sherry attack. 
Definitely mild mannered underneath the flash clobber.

31 - Balvenie 17yo Islay Cask (43%, OB, sampled on 15/6/02) - 85 points
Glad I put it in a flight with Brora 1972 and Balvenie Doublewood 12 as this was useful in working out how much smoke I could smell, given the Brora is a highland peated to around 30ppm and the B12 is as near unpeated as not to matter.  Can you smell the smoke - yes.  Can you taste it - not really.  This is an interesting phenomenon as with most Island whiskies peating is more obvious on the palate than the nose.  The peat smoke is not that integrated either, seems to float above the typical honey and bread dough of Balvenie.  The whisky underneath is pretty good though.  Interesting experiment but nothing more.

32 - Lark NAS Single Cask Whisky (40%, OB, sampled on 15/6/02) - 70 points
Has bubblegum and candy cane, then a big hit of green apple air freshener and then lots of vanilla and pine wood notes.  Not all that integrated but could easily be mistaken for a 5 or 6 year old highland. The young fresh wood notes are almost certainly cask extracts.  The body is light and the finish pretty short.  Doesn't leave much of an impression.  All the attractive bits are in the nose and front palate.   Be very interesting to put it up against Cradle Mountain and Arran.  That would establish a pecking order.

33 - Aberfeldy 12yo (43%, OB, sampled on 18/6/02) - 77 points
Nose is nicer than the palate - lots of cereal notes, malty and lacking complexity.  Also has some burnt toffee and peanut brittle which carry through to the palate.  Palate is a little hot with burnt toffee notes and a creamy finish. The burnt notes hang around in the tail.  More honey than the Benromach 15 but appears very similar.  Pleasant but nothing special.

34 - Tomintoul 30yo 1966 (52.7%, Signatory Vintage, sampled on 4/1/02) - 89 points
Pretty damned good - reminds me most of the  Glenlivet 22yo 1973 (56%, Signatory), although there are some distinctive (and quite tart), fruit acid and asian herb notes that emerge after 20 minutes.  Nose is initially very fresh and woody - freshly ironed linen, sandalwood, gauze and some stone fruit - maybe pear, kumquat and lychee.  Definitely 100% first fill bourbon cask.  The fruitiness becomes more prominent and it also gets mixed spice and something quite tart- someone said tamarind pulp - which was very, very close to the mark.  Lots of asian herbs and spices and quite unusual, but very attractive.  Recognizable as generic Glenlivet in style, but with a gentle fruit acid and hot and sour soup bite and no worse for that.

35 - Bruichladdich 25yo 1965/1991 (54%, G&M, sampled on 17/7/02) - 85 points
Colour is a reddish brown with raw copper highlights. Nose has evident spirit then sherry, almonds, toffee, fresh wood and a bedrock of stewed fruit, coconut and praline - echoes of Springbank and Glengoyne. Palate has lots of sherrywood and pine needles - Springbank meets Mosstowie. This is a whisky where the base spirit lacks the robustness to carry the big sherry treatment. Nice but not great.

36 - Benrinnes 21yo 1974 (60.4%, UDRM, sampled on 24/7/02) - 73 points
Another in the UDRM stable.  Starts with an estery sugariness, candy cane, then fresh pine and cane furniture.  The palate is sweet to start with an evident spirit bite and a woody astringency.  There's a metallic bite in the finish and a few rough notes.
It also develops a slight saltiness like salt taffee.  The metallic bite is prominent in the aftertaste.
Disappointing and nowhere near as good as the F&F 15yo 43%.

37 - Springbank 10yo (46%, OB, sampled on 10/8/02) - 77 points
New release in Oz.  I really can't say I like the nose.  Very sweet with something almost like saccharine: near, but not the same as the unguent and ointment of Longrow or Ardbeg (for instance). Quite strange and faintly disconcerting, the overtly sweet nose suggests a mix of Tobermory (fudge), Glen Mhor (scotch tablet) and young Bowmore (green apple air freshener).  Something like gauze and candy follows through onto the palate.  26/10/02 - Has a strawberry aroma and slightly funky wood and a hint of salt.  That faintly artificial sweetener aroma is definitely there along with some ordinary wood.  Really can't say I liked it much. 
Even less impressive than the unlamented CV.  I really couldn't recommend it.

38 - Springbank 31yo 1967/1998 (46%, MMcD, sampled on 10/8/02) - 93 points
Lovely nose - almost no sherry, must be refill sherry if any at all. Lots of stewed fruit, but with fresh fruit acid notes, redcurrant and a lemonade fruit note.  Lots of cream underneath. Remarkably lively for the age. Best Springbank since the PLOWED Murray McDavid 32.

39 - Springbank 26yo 1969/1995 (52%, Signatory Vintage, 90, sampled on 10/8/02) - 90 points
Lots of sherry - chocolate and fruitcake.  Develops in the glass.
Still very impressive after 25 minutes, but not quite as enchanting as the 31yo.

40 - Springbank 25yo (46%, OB, sampled on 10/8/02) - 88 points
Nose is woody and fruity - has more sandalwood and cedar than both the independent bottlings.  Fruit notes have more of the bubblegum than the older two.  Has more of the sweet coconut cream notes than the others with a nice underpinning of bourbon vanillans and cream.  It was interesting but was less lively than the Murray McDavid and not quite as impressive.

41 - Glengoyne 21yo (43%, OB, sampled on 10/8/02) - 84 points
Nose starts creamy with honey on toast, and a bit of coconut.  Then fruit, caramel and obvious bourbon wood notes.  The creamy notes develop and the fruit turns into raisins.  There's also a dusting of freshly milled pepper, some tart fruit (raspberries or loganberries), then the nice woody phenols of vine sap, some leafy aldehydes and a strong impression of honeycomb and beeswax. - the palate has lots of honey and burnt caramel.  The finish is a bit burnt and a little woody.  Not quite as smooth as a 21 year old whisky should be. Interesting and classy without being great.  Good value on the QPR.

42 - Highland Park 1975 (52%, Signatory Vintage, Bottle #50 of 212, sampled on 12/8/02) - 82 points
Very pale - almost white wine. Colour is indicative of refill bourbon and nose confirms diagnosis.  Has a creamed wheat note and definite vanilla with a long pine creamy note.  Nose is flat and shy considering the proof. Underwhelming - reminds me a little of the Longrow 21 but without as much discernible peat.  Also reminded me of the UDRM Clynelish but not as good.

43 - Bunnahabhain 14yo 1977/1992 (52.6%, JM, sampled on 22/9/02) - 83 points
Honey, cream, cut stone and a little bit of spirit prickle and a trailing hint of peat.  Peat is more apparent on the palate but quite dry with a charcoal edge.  Finish is all dry charcoal, fire embers and dry sherry.  Much drier than the standard 12 and more like Clynelish, Bruichladdich and Scapa.

44 - Dailuaine 12yo 1977/1993 (62.2%, JM, sampled on 22/9/02) - 76 points
All bourbon wood and quite assertive both in the wood and spirit.  Acetone, cedar and pine resin, a hint of peat and a growing impression of paper.  Palate is all bitey alcohol and astringent wood.  Starts dry and stays that way.  A little bit of peat comes out in the finish.  Very uncompromising whisky & just too woody.

45 - Caol Ila 14yo 1977/1992 (60.2%, JM, sampled on 22/9/02) - 87 points
Nice nose, peaches and other stone fruits, good Islay garden bonfire smoke which builds over time.
Palate shows consistency and growing depth.  Lots of smoke and burning leaves.  Finish is long and warming.
Very nice.  Caol Ila's seem to reach their peak between 14 and 17 years in good bourbon wood.

46 - Great Outback 15yo (40%, OB, sampled on 25/9/02) - 78 points
Very sweet and chemically volatile nose - hair oil, eucalyptus and mint toffee, then pine oil and white pepper.  Palate is on the oily side but lacks grip - very soft and fades fast.  Reminds me most of a combination of Inchmurrin, Lammerlaw and Yamazaki.  Nose is interesting. The finish is short and wraithlike.

47 - Linlithgow 9yo 1981/1991 (62.6%, WC) - 81 points
Big spirit nose, lots of bourbon character - citrus blossom, citronella, then chocolate - citrus palate, fruit acid - lemon zest.  Lively palate - more citrus notes, finishes warm and very clean.  Interesting malt and a lot of fun.

48 - Glen Elgin 12yo (43%, Flora & Fauna) - 78 points
Nose is creamy but with definite dry wood and a dusty/stony note, bit like cellulose shirt boxes and rubble.
The palate is malty and has a discernible peaty/coal ember note.  Has the steam train smoky finish of Tormore and Tomatin.  Has more obvious peat than the older DCL version, but of equivalent quality.

49 - Deanston 12yo (40%, OB) - 74 points
Nose starts very grassy then popcorn and a hint of butterscotch, then it gets fudge and strawberry and cream. The palate is initially fruity (tinned peach syrup?) yet fairly dry and the finish has a hint of charcoal.  Quite light overall and the strawberry reminds me of the new Springbank 10, although this is definitely a lighter style.  The nose is better than the palate and the finish has a bit of the coal fire embers of highlands like Brora and Dalmore.

50 - Bowmore NAS Cask Strength (56.0%, OB, sampled on 26/10/02) - 83 points
Nose has sweet ointment and a hint of pickling vinegar.  There's also a sweet Islay candy and ointment. 
The Palate is sweet and peaty and there's tobacco and leather in the finish.  Nice but lacks a certain refinement. 
Thought it might be from Lagavulin or Laphroaig.  I didn't find the tropical fruit I usually find in Bowmore and it appeared more heavily peated than the usual Bowmore offering.

51 - Connemara NAS Cask Strength (59.0%, OB, sampled on 26/10/02) - 75 points
Has a lemon peel and popcorn note in the nose.  A whiff of peat but not much.  A bit of dry charcoal and a hint of liquorice.  Palate is a little simple and a bit rough.  I thought it might be a very lightly peated Island - (Scapa, Bruichladdich, Tobermory or Arran).  I got Limerick (a Cooley malt bottled by Adelphi) identified as an Arran once before, so the fact that it was Irish wasn't too big a surprise.

52 - Port Ellen 22yo 1978/2000 (60.5%, UDRM, sampled on 26/10/02) - 89 points
Excellent nose with evidently good wood and obvious age. Nice fresh cedar and a fruit acid note of fresh nectarines, then a slightly sour fruit note.  The palate has lots of coal fire peat and sweetish fruit but not altogether convincingly Islay - I thought it was Caol Ila or Highland Park.  Very, very good and gets better in the glass.

53 - Laphroaig 10yo Cask Strength (57.3%, OB, sampled on 26/10/02) - 91 points
Best of the unknown flight for me although both the Port Ellen and Laphroaig were a class above the others.  The nose was lovely with lots of sweet Islay ointment and the classic 'garden bonfire' smokiness.  The plate was very peaty but with an understory of vines and moss. Has a pepperiness and a slight bit of aspirin in the tail thus I thought it might be Port Ellen or Talisker, but thought it was most likely an Islay.  Thought it was too classy to be Laphroaig.  Very, very good.

54 - Bruichladdich 20yo (43%, OB, sampled on 26/10/02) - 81 points
This was part of a mystery malt night where 6 whiskies were tasted blind and we had to try and guess the distillery.  This was also the first time I'd ever tried this one, so it was a good if stern test.  I found this malt very elusive and very hard to describe.  It has a range of aromas in the aniseed, orange peel, cereal and malt range and is quite subdued.  It definitely gets better in the glass but I just didn't think it was particularly good.  I thought it might be a bourbon Springbank or even Glenturret.  I didn't have Bruichladdich in any of my five guesses.  To me Bruichladdich has a honey biscuit note and I didn't find it in this one, although the mashy, cereal character is in the same family.  The 'old' 15 (bottled 1985-1990) is much better.

55 - Ardbeg 27yo 1973/2000 (50%, Douglas Laing Old Malt Cask, sampled on 20/11/02) - 89 points
Colour: pale gold with honey/putty hue. Nose: Immediate hit of lemon zest and ointment, then screaming, moaning Islay peat: tarry ropes, old rigging and fishing piers . No way this isn't an Islay - and the liniment and lemon combination says Ardbeg. Leave it for 20 minutes and then the classic rubber bike tyre repair kit and chalk smell emerges- this is a close cousin to the Ardbeggeddon.  Palate: The palate is brutal and takes your breath away - the creosote and tar is huge - bigger than any Laphroaig ever made.  Original assessment of Ardbeg confirmed by palate. The back palate is super dry.  Finish: Hangs around a long time - with a mix of carbolic and bandages reprising - medicine cabinet and bicycle tyre repair kit.  Probably not as brutal and slightly better balanced than the Ardbeggeddon and a better whisky.

56 - Saint Magdalene 19yo 1979/1998 (63.8%, UDRM, sampled on 5/12/02) - 86 points
Nose; quite hot, then citrus peel, cashews, buttered popcorn, a hint of hot metal and plaster/chalk, rainwater, cucumber, some creamy notes (maybe dessicated coconut). Gets some nice light syruppy notes and more of the cashews and buttered popcorn after 20 minutes. Palate; again hot, a bit metallic with some burnt nuts in the front palate and quite dry. Mouthfeel is good, nice and viscous with bitter cucumber in the back palate and metal in the tail. Finish is long and warming with fresh rainwater and bitter cucumber and a creamy citrus note.  Interesting nose, but the spirit is overheated and too insistent.

57 - Macallan 10yo 1961 (40%, OB, sampled on 18/12/02) - 89 points
Lovely apricot nose and some barbequed pineapple, then chocolate covered apricot and creamy malt and fresh linen, some charred fruit and candied orange peel. Palate has some burnt nuts, then a stone fruit note then toffee, chutney and peat.  The finish has burnt fruit, good oak lactones and a whack of peat.  More like the 1874 replica and doesn't taste anything like the oversherried 12's and 18s on recent offer and much better for it.

58 - Macallan NAS "Twenties" Replica (40%, OB, sampled on 18/12/02) - 83 points
18/12/02 - Lots of sherry in the nose with floor polish, beeswax, dates and christmas pudding.  The waxiness gets stronger and a chocolate note emerges after 20 minutes.  The palate is quite rich and round, with burnt toffee and roasted nuts and some lingering leafy notes.  Finish is long with burnt toffee and warming - much more generous and satisfying than the 1930's.  Still had some rough edges - not the usual polished package.

59 - Macallan NAS "Thirties" Replica (40%, OB, sampled on 18/12/02) - 80 points
Nose is very waxy, like wax covered cardboard fruit cartons, then tropical fruit and varnish. Left longer it gets bitter notes of bitter marmalade, tobacco leaf and more waxed cardboard.  Palate is fruity with wax and bitter herbs. The finish has burnt and bitter notes.  Reminds me of an ordinary version of Glenmorangie 18. Didn't think it was particularly good or worth the coin.

60 - Macallan NAS "1861" Replica (42.7%, OB, sampled on 18/12/02) - 87 points
Much nicer, richer and rounder than either of The Travellers - the nose has brandied fruit and cocoa/coffee, burnt nuts and a hint of gunpowder.  After 20 minutes there is shellac and balsamic vinegar and some swampy, boggy and forest floor notes. Palate has sour fruit, burnt nuts, lots of woody phenols and a touch of aspirin. The finish is long with burnt nuts and varnish notes.  No obvious peat.

Anyway, the Dram Diary has become indispensable in helping me keep track of the bottling details and individual notes for each different expression. It's a great format to keep a journal of your adventures in Maltland, and results in a nice historico-chronological record

Craig
 

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E-pistle #05/07 - 2002 Review
by
Johannes van den Heuvel, Holland 

After the chaos of 2002 things are finally returning to normal on the site.
I've added a couple of fresh entries to the
Liquid Log, including a report on my visit to the 2002 Whisky Festival in The Hague and an investigation of four Lowland distilleries, Auchentoshan, Bladnoch, Rosebank and Saint Magdalene. I'd like to finish 2002 in style with a small review of this year's most amazing discoveries, starting with a Top 3 of my new official (and affordable) bottlings.

My Personal Favourite Introductions of 2002

At number one we have the amazing Laphroaig 10yo Cask Strength (57.3%, OB).
A litre of fine Islay whisky (93 points on my Hit List) for less than 50 Euro's - enough to make my mouth water just writing about it...  I started to worry a bit about wheteher or not the latest bottlings of the standard 10yo were being dumbed down but this release turned all that into an academic discussion - this is peatier and more powerful than the normal 10yo ever was and it is much more complex as well. The standard bottling offers lots of value at less than 40 Euro's a litre but in this case an extra tenner would be very well spent. Amazing stuff - it made my heart sing. Without a doubt the best (affordable) introduction of 2002 here in Holland.

Second place is for the new Lagavulin 12yo 'Special Release' 2002 (58.0%, OB).
It has plenty of the power that was so sorely missed in the latest 'Port Ellen' batches of the 16yo version but it lacks some of the depth and balance I adored in the old 'White Horse' 16yo. The initial 2002 release may be 'special', but I wouldn't be surprised if we see more of it on our shelves in the future. This may be UDV's answer to the Laphroaig 10yo C/S. Well, a first tasting put it at 'only' 89 points. With a price of +/- 55 Euro's for a 0.7 litre bottle it loses the match with the 'Frogger' on points, I'm afraid. But it's still a jolly fine dram and I wouldn't be surprised if the score increased after some breathing. Should the prices drop in the future it's entirely possible Lagavulin will reclaim the pole position of my Hit List with this release.

Fortunately it wasn't all about Islay in 2002. Third place was for the Macallan 10yo Cask Strength (58.8%, OB). With some notable slipping in the character of many of the latest 'Big Mac' releases (7yo, 10yo, 12yo, 'Traveller's Editions') it's nice to see they still have some good casks left at Macallan. This is the Mac I love - big, sherried, woody and fruity. I may have liked the old '100 Proof' version just a tad better but on the other hand this is a litre bottle which makes for good value. In fact, this would probably have been number two if they hadn't just jacked up the price to 60 Euro's here in Holland. Please note that this is a bottling for Europe and Japan - the reports I've heard about the 'no age statement' Mac C/S that's available in the USA weren't all that positive. I haven't tasted that version myself but the 10yo C/S is serious competition for the Aberlour A'bunadh.

Yes, all the malts in the 2002 Top 3 are cask strength bottlings. The funny thing is that just when some 'standards' from all these reputable distilleries seemed to be well on their way down 'Dumb Down Lane' they manage to release a bottling that delights and surprises me. If you're going to buy just three new malts this year, makes sure it's these three. But hey - at these prices you can probably afford more than three bottles, even in these days of economic bad weather ;-)

Just outside my top 3 we find Bruichladdich. They have been doing some very good work at the distillery since the new ownership took charge. Bruichladdich has always been 'The Gimp of Islay' to me but their new bottlings are much better than the old ones. The new 10yo didn't really blow my socks off but it was much more interesting than its predecessor. The 20yo was very nice and the 15yo approached 'highly reccommendable' status. The 1983 'Ceramic' I opened a few weeks ago (see the Liquid Log for details) was quite spectacular and I've heard some awesome reports about the new 1970 release.

Of course, I'm talking about official bottlings here.
Batch variation may rear its ugly head and next year's Top 3 may look completely different.
The good thing about 'independent' and 'single cask' bottlings is that we know the next batch won't be disappointing - because there will never be 'a next batch' exactly like it. Before I sign off I'd like to mention a few malts that are a bit harder to find (and pay) than the ones in my Top 3, but certainly worth a little detour.

First of all, there's the amazing Saint Magdalene 19yo 1979/1998 (63.8%, UDRM). It may not be a real 'independent' bottling but it's good enough to sneak its way into this list. Everybody I've served it to (except Craig Daniels) thought it was worth a score in the 90's and somehow the 8 bottles I've got stacked away in my reserve stock don't seem quite enough.
To me, this is 'The Ultimate Single Malt'.
It simply has everything - which may be its one and only flaw, as far as I'm concerned.
And if the Magdalene can sneak in, so can the Port Ellen 22yo 1978/2000 (60.5%, UDRM).
A mighty fine dram and a lot better than the insanely overpriced 24yo OB '2nd Release' they introduced recently.

Of course, the fact that a distillery is closed will generally crank up the price a few notches. I usually don't get very excited about this phenomenon because usually there's a good reason a distillery was closed. You won't see me crying about the demise of distilleries like Banff, Littlemill or Lochside, but when it comes to Brora I'm almost in tears. Even though I've heard many positive things about it in the past I never got curious enough to buy myself a bottle. I finally discovered Brora's in September at Serge Valentin's place and some of them turned out to be among the best malts I've ever tasted. Peaty with a difference - hard to believe it's a Highlander.
Especially the Brora 28yo 1971/1999 (50.0%, Douglas Laing OMC, 283 bottles) and the Brora 29yo 1972/2002 (59.5%, Douglas Laing Platinum Edition, 2nd batch, 240 bottles) were fabulous.
Sadly, prices have skyrocketed and these days it's hard to find any bottling under 100 Euro's.

Douglas Laing bottlings usually are relatively affordable and can be stunning.
Two of the best I ever had were the Ardbeg 24yo 1975/2000 (50%, Douglas Laing OMC, 713 bottles) and the Ardbeg 27yo 1973/2000 (50%, Douglas Laing OMC, 240 bottles). Especially the 27yo was simply amazing. Every new Ardbeg I try shows me different sides of the distillery. Waah.... Browsing through my list I stubled across two last bottles I'd like to mention; the Aberfeldy 1978/1996 (59.3%, Scott's Selection) and the Braes of Glenlivet 17yo 1979/1997 (58.1%, Signatory Vintage).
Not quite as spectacular but fine examples of two generally underrated distilleries.

At the bottom end of my personal enjoyment scale we find some rather underwhelming introductions.
They include the Balvenie 17yo Islay Cask (no integration) and the new Springbank 15yo (not enough sherry for me). The 'new' Edradour 10yo in the nice 'chemist' bottle nearly made me throw up, but I have to add that it was composed under the previous ownership. After Andrew Symington (from Sigantory) took over we will hopefully see an upswing like the one at Bruichladdich. I can't really comment on Bladnoch just yet, but they seem to be heading in the right direction as well.

And that sort of wraps it up for me.

Johannes
 

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E-pistle #05/08 - 2002; The Year In Malts
by
Davin de Kergommeaux, Canada

It was an odd year, 2002. Coming off my 52-Challenge the year began optimistically with a 22 malt safari in Africa, followed a few months later by DrAmsterdam and then the Boston Foafathon, each of which brought my palate to new levels as serious maltsters turned me loose among their most prized bottles. Thanks to Johannes (of course), Klaus, Michael, Roman, Serge, Frederique, Alexander and Maaike for some wonderful times and truly outstanding new drams in Amsterdam.
And to Dave Russo, Marty Brunet and
Michael Wade for raising it to a whole new level in Boston.
Tasting notes on some spectacular and off-the-wall malts follow, including a Malt Maniacs scoop.
The scoop: probably one of the first posted tastings of the new Port Charlotte - and it's a humdinger!
But first: let's have a look at the year that was.

2002 found me in a new job and no longer doing much international travel. Instead it's shorter jaunts within Canada. This has significantly changed my malt consumption patterns, for precious little above average whisky ever makes its way into Canada. We have the government monopoly system here, and bureaucrats do for the wholesale whisky purchasing process what accountants do for the whisky making process. They generify it and everyone gets equal access to mediocre products.

Visiting liquor stores in Newfoundland, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Manitoba, Alberta, Quebec and British Columbia yielded no happy surprises. The Ardbeg 1977 is available at SAQ in Quebec, and New Brunswick still has a supply of Highland Park 18yo in the old bottles but nothing really knocked my socks off. To be fair, I visited only one shop in the unregulated Alberta market, and found some independent offerings, but none of any real interest, and prices were still inflated.
"They've just gone up" the clerk told me, "We used to sell whisky for less than they do in Scotland."
"Not surprising," I mused, "It's more expensive in Great Britain than it is in Ontario and there's an enormous tax burden imposed by the LCBO over and above the shipping."

2002 was also the year my friend Johanna launched her new malt whisky publication Single Minded (www.singleminded.ca). Having just toured the country and thinking about writing up the general state of malaise of the whisky stock available in Canada, I arrived home to find Johanna's mag in my mailbox fully chronicling the whole sorry mess. This was also the year of my theory - my theory that malts are not getting worse, our palates are just getting more discriminating. Unfortunately words from long-time malt-heads like Craig tell me it's probably a bit of both.

2002 was also the year of the computer woes. Crash after crash left me yearning for my Centris days. Economics have persuaded me to wait until after Christmas to buy a new computer, and after so many frustrating years of PCs, I am finally switching back to MacIntosh. Unfortunately, having to borrow computer time from my son has severely cut back my contributions to various whisky chats and Malt Madness. And even more unfortunately I fear many of my notes are lost forever.

2003 has now arrived and new resolutions await fulfilling.
To begin, I am going to ease back on the variety and concentrate more on getting to know fewer distilleries, but in more depth. Plans now are to concentrate on one or two distilleries per month and to get a better feel for their output. I am still trying to have a dram every night, and will complement that with book and internet research.
Thus my contributions in 2003 may follow more along distillery lines.

Anyway, here are tasting highlights from my visit to Dave Russo, followed by the best of DrAmsterdam.
The malts came fast and furious and Dave pours a pretty ample dram, so some of the notes are a bit sketchy.
Forgive me - or better yet, envy me.

Boston Foafathon

Location: Dave Russo's house.
Drammers: Dave, Maniac Mike Wade, SAQ's Marty Brunet and me.
The malts (highlights only):

Ardbeg 27yo 1975/2002 sherry cask (50%, Old Malt Cask)
Nose: Licorice smoke, wet cigarette ashes, sherry and cocoa.
Palate: Very nicely balanced sherry and smoke. Very hot and spicy.
Finish: Medium. Both fruit and smoke fading out.
Score: 87 points.

Ardbeg Committee NAS (45.2% OB, single cask, brown label, bottle 171 of 261)
Nose: Peat and sherry.
Palate: Very sweet and sherried, very peaty. Fishy and kippery. Oranges.
Finish: So long and peaty. A true giver of Ardbeg-mouth.
Score: 91 points.

Brora 29yo 1971/2000 (50%, Old Malt Cask, single cask)
Nose: Peat. Very fresh.
Palate: Almost an Islay. Very peaty, very complex with many well-integrated flavours.
Finish: Long and peaty. Wonderful long fade.
You get the feeling it would last forever if you let it but at Dave's place more great malts are always waiting.
Score: 93 points.

Caol Ila 18yo (43%, OB)
Nose: Soft smoke, slight nose tickle, fresh sea breeze, pine pitch, sawed pine wood.
Palate: Very smoky. Starts out quite hot and spicy. Feels like black licorice in your mouth.
Finish: Very long and smoky. Empty glass: Very medicinal.
Score: 92 points.

Caol Ila 12yo (40%, Gordon & MacPhail's Connoisseurs Choice, bottled 1993)
Nose: Buttery, oily, honeydew melon, mild smoke, mild leather. Smokier with a drop of water - becomes medicinal.
Palate: Mild but ever-present smoke. Not much background. Seems dilute, a bit watery.
Score: 78 points.

Glenfarclas 1961 (43%, OB)
Nose: Sweet and sherried.
Palate: Very mild and smooth becoming spicy. Very warm and mouth-filling with a brief astringency.
Finish: Long spice and sherry.
Score: 92 points .

Glen Grant - Glenlivet 36yo 1964/2000 Millennium Bottling (52.6%, Cadenhead's)
Colour: Very black, even in small quantity.
Nose: Highly sherried. Raisins like in the Glendronach Traditional, but not as sweet.
Strong warm estery alcohol. The nose is very warming and strong enough that you can feel it in your mouth.
Palate: Strong, spicy and sherried, but not sweet. Becomes spicy in the middle.
After the fabulous nose the palate seems less complex, but it's still terrific.
Finish: Warm. Candyish without being sweet.
Score: 89 points.

Glenmorangie NAS Fino Sherry Wood Finish (43%, OB, 13 years in American White Oak)
Nose: Citrus, hints of malt and moist brown tobacco leaves. Very fresh and grassy.
Honey. A little bit malty. Grapefruit peel. Very dry. A sudden long-lasting burst
of ginger and citrus zest. Starts slow but has long development. An element of sliced white bread. Lots of nose.
Palate: Sweet, mild, developing spice. Citric flavours, allspice. Hot. Lots of spice. Gets minty after sitting in the glass for half and hour.
Score: 84 points. Note: This malt was the surprise of the weekend.

Linlithgow 1975/1999 c/s (56.3% Scott's Selection)
Nose: Prickly, very full-bodied, leather and citrus.
Palate: Oily, flaxseed, orange peel, and then lemon. Quite spicy. Subtle leather. Very full-bodied.
Finish: Long and sweetish. Passes through many leathery and sweet citric phases.
Score: 93 points.

Longrow 10yo 1991 (46%, OB)
Nose: Piny, fresh smoke. Sweet, fruity, fresh and spicy. Smoky, but not Islay-like. Slightly sour. Spicy, oily, briny, nose-tickling.
Palate: To quote Dave: "A thoroughly smoky whisky." Sweet and sour. A candyish sweetness.
Finish: Long, long, smoky licorice.
Score: 91 points.

Port Charlotte 1yo cask strength spirit (67.1%, Mike Wade cask R43, bonded 10/10/01, drawn 29/05/02)
Nose: Very buttery toffee. Lots of Islay smoke, but the toffee dominates.
Nose ticklish. Dairy barn, powdered milk, hog barn.
Palate: Very fiery. The sweetness of youth. Dry astringent smoke. Very smoky, spicy and burning.
A bitterness in the back of the throat during the middle. Oily.
Finish: Smoky but short.
Score: 55 points. Nominal score only for a malt in progress. But for comparison's sake it's already in the drinkable range.
Note: This well-peated whisky from the Bruichladdich stills is the best 1yo I have tasted.
Probably will mature at a young age as it is already drinkable.
Mike, when you're ready to bottle this please put me down for a couple of bottles.

The first of three 21yo Springers tasted sort of head to head to head: Springbank 21yo (46%, OB, light version)
Colour: light yellow.
Nose: Malty and sweetly sherried. Fruit, but then crayons. Smoke, lots of it. Grass.
Palate: Full-bodied, round and smoky. Spicy and warm with a slight astringency.
Finish: Long, smoke, spice and fading malt.
Score: 85 points.

Springbank 21yo (46%, OB, medium version, scalloped label)
Colour: Medium russett.
Nose: Malty as well, but with fudge and ozone. The spiciest nose of the three.
Palate: A bit thinner than the light version but very spicy. Nice smoke balance.
Finish: Fading malty spice. Perhaps a hair shorter than the lighter version.
Score: 84 points.

Springbank 21yo (46%, OB, dark version, plain label)
Colour: darker, orange, ochre.
Nose: Malty again. Fruity with noticeable leather and smoke. Very fruity and brown sugary. Sherry.
Palate: Chocolate covered cherries. Sweet, sherry. Rich and thickly full-bodied. Alive in the glass with many flavours interacting.
Finish: Long and sweet with malt and smoke.
Score: 88 points.

Springbank 15yo (OB, 46%, old version)
Nose: Malty and sweet with ocean smells. Briny and slightly nose tingling.
Palate: Fruity, spicy, slight hint of ashes, a tiny bit of peat and a little bit grassy. A slight astringency.
Note: Level of palate destruction by this point precluded accurately reviewing the finish and no score was assigned.

Springbank 15yo (OB, 46%, newer version)
Nose: Gunpowder, cigar ash, sherry. Leather, more sherry and a bit of smoke.
Palate: Sweet and fruity. Astringent. Cigar box or tobacco. Spicy and hot.
Note: Level of palate destruction by this point precluded accurately reviewing the finish and no score was assigned.

Springbank NAS #3 Bond (54.4%, Cadenhead's, bottled 24/05/02)
Nose: Fresh and briny. Grassy and warm.
Palate: Fresh, grassy, spicy and just a bit peaty at the end.
Finish: Medium-long. A grassy maltiness develops over time to a mild smokiness.
Score: 91 points.

Springbank 1yo cask strength spirit - Rum finish (abv unknown, Dave Russo's private cask sample)
Nose: Sweet, and yes, spirity but surprisingly malt-like. No hint of rum except in the non-fruity sweetness.
Palate: The sweet eau-de-vie of new make. (Serge, it reminds me of your home-distilled brew we had in the forest and you'll remember how great that was.) Compared to Arran 1yo, this is definitely on its way to being a superior malt. The harshness of the Arran is absent, replaced by a maltiness. Disappointed that the rum is not discernable, but maybe I just don't know what to look for.
There is a malty but not fruity sweetness that could be in part the rum cask. Shows great potential.
Dave, put me down for a couple of bottles when you finally are ready to release it.
Score: 45 points . A work in progress so nominally scored for comparison purposes.

Talisker 25yo c/s (59.9%, OB, bottled in 2001)
Nose: Sharp spice, nose tickle and a whiff of smoke.
Palate: Hot, quickly developing smoke. Earth, mud, ashes. A very smoky Talisker.
Drying on the tongue. Very spicy with lots of burn.
Finish: Long, smoky "honourary Islay" slow fade.
Score: 90 points . Probably would have scored higher in less esteemed company.

Talisker 18yo 1979/1997 c/s (60.8%, Cadenhead's)
Colour: Bright orange.
Nose: Vinegar, ether, paint remover. Lots of nose tickle. Acetic acid. This really is an unbelievable nose.
Palate: Very bitter and astringent - like peach pits. Very warm with only a hint of smoke.
Score: 50 points. This is a real scoring dilemma. I had already given Mike's Port Charlotte a 55, not because it was great, it clearly wasn't, but as a one year old it already tasted like whisky. This Talisker, on the other hand was barely drinkable, but still maltish enough to score, albeit at the bottom, in the malt whisky range.
Note: This is the notorious "Pumpkin Talisker" circulating in Plowed circles.
Two of Scotland's most reputable whisky firms have combined to produce one of the worst malts I've ever tasted. Mike thought it was even worse than Loch Dhu. Although I scored it very low there were others who hated it even worse than I did. When Dave began talking about a tradition of passing the bottle on to others, Marty and I looked the other way and began new conversations. No sense getting hassled at the border over a whisky you can duplicate at any paint store in Canada.

DrAmsterdam

DrAmsterdam, aka Amsterdram, was so much more than a maltathon.
A number of Maniacs and assorted friends descended on Johannes for a truly ethereal experience.
It began (as Klaus described in
E-pistle #03/05) with an evening session in Johannes' living room.
Elsewhere on the site you can find the details of our extensive
MacAllan JOLT.
With five Maniacs in the room the on-line section was kind of lost in the shuffle.

The big disappointment of that evening was the four MacAllan travellers edition malts.
Not a keeper to me, any of them. Below I'll describe three HTHs, but before doing so, the real highlight of the weekend was camping in Johannes' ancestral home near 5000 year old (is that 5000yo?) graves. We sat sipping elegant malts like St. Magdalene and Port Ellen until we realized the pine forest was all we could taste or smell, so the tasting was off, but the consumption continued until we were off ourselves - on a mid-summer's night walk through the forest that is. Down the road, then home across the graves and through the forest, we returned to drop off to sleep, one by one, exhilarated by the drink, the company, the forest and the Dutch mountains, some of which reached nearly 50 meters in height (above sea level that is). In any case here are six of the malts we tasted more or less carefully at Johannes flat in Amsterdam before trucking off to the woods.

Port Ellen 22yo 1978/2000 (60.5%, UDRM Rare Malts)
Nose: Spicy and smoky with lots of nose tingle. There are tropical fruity smells well back. Rich leather and hints of tobacco.
Palate: The peat smoke dominates, but there is a whole range of earthy musty but sweet and rich flavours underneath. Wait and new strange fruits drift across your tongue. Bitter chocolate, but not bitter. Quite sweet with a brief and pleasant hint of perfume. Not the flowery perfume of some good Bowmores, or the cloying FWP of some bad ones, but a delicate refined fragrance. Simply wonderful.
Finish: This is going to finish? Long smoky licorice.
I took a sip after brushing my teeth for bed and woke up with a pleasant reminder come morning.
Score: 92 points.

St. Magdalene 19yo 1979/1997 (63.8%, UDRM Rare Malts)
Nose: Rope, oatmeal, cookies, flax. Freshly sawed hardwood. Tobacco, pipe tobacco. A real rich maltiness.
Nose tingle. Hay and straw. So many essences intertwined. With water, barn smell, lots of dry grain and malt.
Palate: Mouth coating, nutty - chestnuts. Absolutely no off notes. It burns . A mild hint of wood.
Finish: Long, but slowly fading. Sweetish, grainy, fading malt.
Score: 93 points.

Laphroaig 15yo (OB, 43%)
Nose: Sweet, fruity, but powerfully smoky. Not the slap in the face of its 10yo sibling, and slightly out-classed by the 10yo cask strength, but a sweet and fruity-balanced Islay smokiness. Fruity with tobacco and citrus peel. Over time the smoke diminishes to reveal the underlying tones. With water a sweet diluted hard candy scent.
Some orangey citrus notes. Dried candied fruit way in the back and then a slight hint of fish.
Palate: Hot, smoky. A hint of skunk under someone else's car. I found this bottle not nearly as subtle as the one I have at home. With water, an oiliness sneaks into the mouth feel. It burns a bit. The subtle smoke wafts up on exhaling.
Finish: Long. The fruit fades leaving a pleasant, but not too dominant Islay smokiness.
Score: 87 points .

Laphroaig 15yo 1985/2000 'Laudable' (50%, Old Malt Cask)
Nose: Kippers, smoky tar, burning nose tingle. It sits in your nose long after nosing. Feels like menthol. Citrus aromas.
Powerful smoke with lots of recurring nose tingle. Glue stick, fish, leather, pipe tobacco, dried candied fruit.
Palate: Sweet, powerful smoke. Burnt toast. With water it's very sweet then very spicy.
Waxy mouth feel with a sweet malt-based richness.
Finish: Long and very medicinal. Smoky. Very Islay.
Score: 90 points.

Bunnahabhain 12yo (OB, 40%)
Nose: Begins sweet, then a brief spirity sharpness follows. Mellows out into a dry grain maltiness.
Fudge. Much richer than the Chieftains. Long nose development.
With water a hint of sardines emerges, then a bit of smoke. Extra points for the nose development.
Palate: Slightly harsh with a flash of metal, and is that cigarette tobacco? A malty sweetness.
Cigarette smoke, funny, I hate cigarettes in a bar but here it's quite enjoyable. A peppery section.
Tingly, spicy malt. Adding water brings out a more intense heat.
Finish: Medium long and just mild medicinal smoke. Barely there. Is that weak or subtle?
With water the finish fades over a long time from malt to nothingness.
Score: 76 points.

Bunnahabhain 12yo (Chieftains, 43%)
Nose: Much less nose than the OB. Develops a hint of spearmint among the malt notes. Lime or grapefruit skins. Not the fruit, just the skins. A hint of clover blossem. Some nose tingle. Clorox, licorice. With water, fresh with just a suggestion of Islay smoke. Good long nose development. Clorox again, but less intense.
Palate: Not as bitter as the OB though there is some bitterness in the middle. Some spiciness.
Quite hot in the throat. With water, some sweet, some sour and a strong hint of Islay. Nice in the middle - grainy and spicy.
Finish: Long, and the mint re-emerges as peppermint.
Score: 74 points.  So if I have so may more descriptors for this than the OB, why do I like the OB better? Well, the OB is a more complex and integrated malt while the Chieftains is more a cooking student's ad hoc pot pourri than an artists palate.

Well there you have it, 2002 in review.
It seems only yesterday we were waiting for the Armageddon of Y2K and now here it is a couple of hundred malts later.
New challenges await, so watch this space.

Davin
 

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E-pistle #05/09 - Best Malts of 2002
by
Craig Daniels, Australia 

Good news. I've just compiled my Top Ten malts for 2002 and three of them were Pandora Malts - the Laphroaig 10yo Cask Strength, the Port Ellen 22yo UDRM and the Ardbeg 27yo Old Malt Cask. Not bad considering that my Dram Diary for 2002 contains 60 new malts. Here are my best malts of 2002 - i.e. my Top Ten New Malts sampled from 1/1/2002 to 31/12/2002.
(See E-pistle #05/03 for tasting notes)

1 - Glenfarclas 1961 (43%, OB) - 94 points
2 - Glenfarclas 30yo (43%, OB) - 93 points
3 - Springbank 31yo 1967/1998 (46%, MMcD) - 93 points
4 - Laphroaig 10yo Cask Strength (57.3%, OB, Pandora Blind Malt) - 91 points
5 - Bunnahabhain 17yo 1979 (56%, Signatory Vintage, Butt # 5108) - 91 points
6 - Springbank 26yo 1969/1995 (52%, Signatory Vintage) - 90 points
7 - Port Ellen 22yo 1978/2000 (60.5%, UDRM, Pandora Blind Malt) - 89 points
8 - Macallan 10yo 1961 (40%, OB) - 89 points
9 - Ardbeg 27yo 1973/2000 (50%, Douglas Laing OMC, Pandora Malt) - 89 points
10 - Tomintoul 30yo 1966 (52.7%, Signatory Vintage) - 89 points

Craig
 

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E-pistle #05/10 - A Little Bit of Fun with Blends
by
Louis Perlman, USA

Much as we are all SMS lovers, most of the rest of the world is not similarly enlightened.
So we are all bound to find ourselves in situations where the choice is between blends and mediocre malts, or worse. Finding myself in just that predicament any number of times, I decided to see if there were any diamonds hidden in the proverbial haystack (yes, I know the proverb says needle). While this list is be no means exhaustive, I did manage to sample some blends that would at least be of some interest to malt lovers.

Johnnie Walker Blue Label (40%, OB)
No that's not a misprint, I did manage to taste the vaunted JW Blue. It was being poured from a paper bag, the host having persuaded on of his confidants to give it out only to those worthy enough. Not a bad idea actually, at somewhere between $175 and $225 a bottle. I just happened to be in the right place at the right time, and I managed to snag a dram, and even a partial refill. 'As good as a single malt' opined another voice, but I didn't bother to ask which single malt he was refering to. The circumstances were not very condusive to critical appraisal, as it was dispensed into little plastic shot glasses, and nosing was strictly out of the question as the breath of one of my co-celebrants overpowered anything I might have been able to detect. But if nothing else, the JWB is indeed one of the finest blends around. Body was nice and firm, even at 40% ABV. The taste was honeyed, with a nice dose of fruit in the middle. If the price was in the $80-100 range, I'd give it a strong reommendation, but we all know what we can get for the retail price. Nonetheless, I'm going with a rating of 89 points, at least this isn't a total ripoff or just a marketing ploy.

Johnnie Walker Gold Label (40%, OB)
Shortly after trying the Blue, I also got a shot at the Gold.
I have actually been able to sample it a few times in recent years, finding the Gold to be a sweet, honeyed whisky. This time, I also detected the fruitiness in the middle, similar to the Blue. I'm not sure if this is new, or if I only noticed it after trying the Blue. Either way, the Gold is a very nice whisky, and the body is also nice and firm for 40% ABV.
If I got hold of a decently sized dram, my rating would likely be in the mid eighties.

Grant's NAS (40%, OB)
Another pleasant surprise, this time at the low end.
The William Grant company owns The Balvenie, and you can taste it's influence. Also present is another lighter malt called Kininvie, which has yet to be released as a single malt. Putting everything in perspective, the no age statement Grant's isn't going to knock off any of the standards, but I'd say that it's no worse than the Speyburn 10 or Glen Garrioch 8.
Best of all, it costs about five percent of the JW Blue!!

J&B Select (40%, OB)
The standard J&B has over the years, been my poster boy for bad scotch that pretends to be good.
After someone complaind about my nomination for Johannes' Bad Malts list, I sampled it again (my previous impressions are from my pre-legal years thru 1996), finding that it has actually improved from absolutely vile to simply not worth bothering with. The Selects proudly boasts 'aged is sherry casks' on the label, but the effect is mild, and it has not turned into a sherry monster. But the improvment is no more than minimal, so don't waste your money here, and stick with the Grant's.

Dewars 12yo (40%, OB)
Miniatures of this and the Famous Grouse (see below) were included in the
Whiskyfest goody bag, which was good for me, since I was interested in trying both of them without having to spring for an entire bottle. The Dewars White Label (on the rocks) was my second choice back in my pre-SMS days, after JW Black label, so the prospect of a 12 year old version sounded appealing. Unfortunately, the 12 didn't offer very much. Not offensive mind you, but I can see that this is best consumed on the rocks, where it would probably be fairly smooth. Rating if I was in the mood, would have trouble cracking 70.

Famous Grouse 12yo Gold Reserve (40%, OB)
The Famous Grouse is well known among SMS lovers, as it contains Highland Park, Tamdhu, and Macallan, all owned by Highland Distillers. Of course, these are not quite the same whiskies that are marketed as single malts, but at least it's a good start. The end result is resonably good, being somewhat malty, with a pleasant, mildly fragrant nose (but no FWP). All in all, I rate it 79, the Grouse being no worse than a moderately achieving single malt. Worth having as your token blend.

Conclusion: Blends are essentially a different kind of whisky than single malts, even though they start out life pretty much the same. The biggest difference is that we expect malts to have their own character, while a blend is supposed to taste like whatever it's maker thinks it should. In the excellent book Appreciating Scotch Whisky, Phillip 'Pip' Hills, one of the founders of the Scotch Malt Whisky Society, puts forth the proposition that blends are consumed because the upper middle class norms state that they should be. As such, the things that we value in malts don't really matter, and that's why blends needn't be judged in that way.
Nothing in this admitedly limited survey is going to get me to switch back, but sometimes it is necessary to see how the other side is living to better appreciate our own position.

Louis Perlman
 

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E-pistle #05/11 - French Still Life
by
Serge Valentin, France 

Or: Why making water of life may be more fun than drinking it (and why doing both is even more fun).

Any maniac's dream is to distil his own spirit, don't you agree? I made this dream come true eleven years ago, with some of my best old chaps. You can see on the picture taken in 2002 a part of our still and, from left to right, Philippe, Christophe, Jean-Yves (kneeling), Jean-Michel and yours truly. Thomas is missing on the picture, because it was taken early in the morning, and we had a pre-distillation-day dinner at Thomas' place on the evening before. As always, we drank a lot, and Thomas' beloved wife Joelle asked him, in the morning, to wash up the dozens of glasses before leaving for my place…  Yes, entering matriarchal age, indeed.

By the way, maniacs Johannes and Klaus were invited as well, but they couldn't make it. Too bad! Anyway, "What a fearsome bunch of fellows!" said Mark "Bruichladdich" Reynier when he saw the team. Hum, perhaps he fears that we'll compete with The Laddie one day or the other… But he shouldn't, because we're not considering building a bottling hall in my garden, at this moment…

So, here's the whole story.
Every year since 1992, one day in November or December, I rent that 80 litres and 500 kg copper still that's delivered right to my garden's door by its owner. It's a traditional Alsacian still that must be 50 years old or more, and it works perfectly, I can tell you. 
We distil a different spirit every year.
For example: marc de gewürztraminer, mollein flowers, quince, riesling lees, quetsche, mirabelle etc.
In 2002, we distilled some Williams pear, and I must say the result was quite good, as Johannes will testify once he's tasted the sample I just sent him.

But maybe you'd like a little technical information now.
Okay, let's go, and first, please note that the still isn't a direct-fire one, but one with a water-bath, which is much better and makes it easier to control the heat. So, at the very beginning of the day and after a good triple espresso (because of the night before), we start up the fire under the water-bath. We always use some vine shoots, which give you an excellent and constant heat. Of course, we never forget to pour some water into the bath, and into the huge condenser that's behind the still itself (no, you can't see the condenser on the picture). As soon as the fire is burning, we pour the fermented fruit into the still (yes, we need to put aside and replace the big copper lid to do that). By the way, we're letting the fruit ferment in some white plastic casks for one month or so before the distillation day, and you can see a part of these on the picture's far right side.
Once the bulbous lid's in place, we put the copper 'swan's neck' that goes from the lid to the condenser on…

Then, we wait (and start to taste white wine, in the meanwhile).
It takes a very long time to get the fruit 'sauce' warm enough for evaporation to start…
Maybe one hour and a half later, the first drops of alcohol start to come out the bottom of the condenser.
Take care; the first alcohols to run out of the still are highly toxic! Of course, we put the first litres aside. It will make an excellent medicine to rub our limbs when we'll suffer from rheumatisms, as all the old people here in my village have told us.

The main issue is to control the fire during the whole processing.
Any excessive heat would let the fruit burn in the still, even if we're using a water-bath still, and that would lead to ugly tastes – yes, the same as the ones you get in some bad single malts… Furthermore, it could let the still burst into pieces, and this would be highly dangerous, as you may imagine. Anyway, once the still's output becomes weak and watery, we just remove the swan's neck and the copper lid, causing the process to stop instantly. We swing the whole still down, using the big handle on its right – one man isn't enough to do that, because it's very heavy - and let the liquid pour into some wheelbarrows…
It's almost boiling, so we have to do that with a lot of care. Then, we just flush the liquid away.
I guess the fish and the rats have a nice party then…

Okay, once we're done with the first batch, we start a second, then a third one etc… until all the raw material has been distilled once. Of course, these runs are quite quicker, just because we don't need to let the whole machine run hot again. Anyway, by 17:00 or 18:00 pm, all of the first distillation is completed, and no need to say that we've already had our shares of wine, whisky, oysters, meat, dessert etc. with all the other good friends who come by to say hello (and have a few drams with us) during that very day.

It's time to start the magic of the second distillation.
This is when we'll have the opportunity to taste the fine eau de vie as the first drops will stream down out of the still. But before that, we clean the whole still up, so that the second run's vapours really enter in contact with raw copper, which will allow all the fine aromas to catalyse. And then, we pour all the first run into the still, close the whole thing down, and wait an hour or so before "it" begins to leak. Again, we'll throw the first one or two litres away, just to prevent any vulgar alcohol to make its way into our precious bottles. Then, we'll measure the output's alcohol level constantly, so that it won't drop under approx. 50%. As soon as that alcohol level is reached, we stop the process, by just taking the swan's neck off.

Now, we have several litres of an excellent middle cut (what we call 'le Coeur de chauffe') at approx. 65% vol. Most peasants here will let the second run go down to 30 or 40%, so that they don't loose a drop of alcohol, but we don't, as we don't need a lot of eau de vie… And the 'tail' isn't that good. So, what do we do now? Well, we just add some pure mineral water into the spirit, so that we get something like 47-49% alcohol, and pour it into some nice Alsacian shaped white glass bottles.
We cork each bottle, put a nice and funny label on it, and we're done!
Like cooking, that's the women's work.
Don't get me wrong, we're no old-fashioned machos, but the men are just too drunk at that time of the day to be able to glue a label on a bottle nicely – and not upside-down. The spirit's already highly drinkable, as fruit spirits give much more aromas out than newly made whisky. But it's always better to let white eau de vie age a few months, or even years in its bottle before you drink it, because aging will remove its harshness. The best place to lay your bottles down is your attic, because it's very hot in summer and very cool in winter, and that heavy treatment really softens the spirit.

Now, I perfectly know that you want to ask me two questions:
1 – Is all that legal in France?
2 – Did I ever try to distil whisky?

Both answers are 'yes'. Please let me explain why and how.
Firstly, anybody in France is allowed to distil, as long as you declare the day of operation to the customs office at least eight days before - don't ask me why the customs have to deal with that, where is the legendary French logic?
It's quite expensive: you'll have to pay approx 15 Euros per litre of pure alcohol, and you aren't allowed to distil anything else but the fruit from your own garden or orchard. Of course, the game here is to declare much less than what you actually distil, but we never play that game, no need to say.

Secondly, yes, I tried to distil whisky, which is completely illegal, as nobody will have some barley or any other grain in his garden. But I only produced 4 litres 'whisky', using my little Italian 'pocket' copper still (see the picture). I ask any French customs official who may read these lines for leniency towards that horrible act.
Guys, I really love you all!

That little still on the picture allows me to distil only 3 litres of raw material at a time, but it works perfectly – much better, at least, than any glass or steel system I've seen at various places. But did I cut some barley, malt it and brew it? No, I haven't got the equipment to do that. I simply went at the nearest supermarket, and I bought approx one hundred and fifty 75cl bottles of Pure Malt beer!
Yes, my own single malt may be the most expensive in the world, and maybe the worst as well! So, again, I distilled the beer twice, and did pour the spirit (70% alcohol) into a little 4 litres oak cask in which I had let some late harvest gewürztraminer age for a few months. Now, at this very moment, the 'whisky' is approx. one year old.
All I can tell you, is that the gewürztraminer has already given a very heavy sweet taste to the spirit, so that it's really an oddity. I'm not sure anybody will tell you it smells and tastes like genuine whisky.
But who cares, I did it myself, cock-a-doodle-doo!

Now, if you really consider distilling your own stuff at home, you know a little more about how to do it.
- Don't forget to make sure it's legal in your country, even if some will think it's even more fun when it's illegal,
- don't expect to get a Ardbeg-like spirit at our very first try,
- always control the heat (this could be a general piece of advice for the whole life),
- and never, ever drink the first drops that come out of the still.

And if you need more information (and perhaps a little encouragement) just drop me an email.

A votre santé,

Serge
 

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E- E-pistle #05/12 - JOLT #5 Transcript - Pandora II
by
Johannes van den Heuvel, Holland

After exchanging the first packages of 'The Pandora Project' (see E-pistles #05/03 and #05/04 for details) we wasted little time. Eager to have another go at the wonderful and frustrating game of 'blind swapping' I sent fresh boxes to Craig and Serge. These Pandora packages were (partly) identical. Among other things, each box contained four undisclosed single malts;

The Theme: Overproofs from All Over
The Clue: Four overproof (50% or more) single malts from the Lowlands, Highlands, Islands and Speyside
The Task: Identify the region (2 points) and the Top 3 'likely candidates' (3/2/1 points) for each sample.

All Craig and Serge could rely on were the clue, their keen senses and eachother.
Click
HERE to read the transcript of the proceedings. 

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Meanwhile, Louis Perlman must have been stung by a busy bee or something because he's resposible for 25% of the E-pistles in this issue. Craig and Serge did their bit for the greater good as well; both wrote two articles. Check out the column at the right for the details.

Come to think of it, it would probably be best if I stopped pre-digesting everything you can find on this page altogether. You can use the column at the right to see what's on offer this time or just scroll down to read the entire issue. Join the mailinglist if you want to know when the next E-pistles will be published.

Johannes van den Heuvel
Certified Malt Maniac.

Many of the 'regular' E-pistles in MM#5 deal with the year that was; 2002.
Looking back, it was a pretty decent malt year - at least for the maniacs. We've seen some great new introductions on the shelves of our liquorists (Macallan 10yo C/S and Lagavulin 12yo C/S to name just a few) and the swapping of blind samples amongst the maniacs proved to be a hit.

Some essential credentials of the maniacsThe Matrix - Scores on all major maltsMalt Maniacs - Issue 0Malt Maniacs - Issue 1Malt Maniacs - Issue 2Malt Maniacs - Issue 3Malt Maniacs - Issue 4The Archive - Overview of all issuesMalt Maniacs - Issue 5
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