Subject: Your Malt Madness site is great!
Date: Sun, 03 Jan 1999

Johannes,  Great site. You must not have been keeping notes when you tried Mortlach (it's greyed out).  It's not that common here in Ottawa, but my wife bought me a Mortlach 9 year old Signatory bottle that ranks right up there (and unfortunately is now empty).  I've heard it described as tasting like a bagpipe bladder.  Mmmm. I'm drinking daily now, on doctor's orders.  Guess I know why my doc is always so busy.  If only I could figure out a way for my health insurance to pay for it.  Keep up the site,  It's fun and informative.
Davin

(Reply by Johannes: A Bagpipe bladder??? Hmmmm. I wish I had a doctor like yours.)

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Subject: Bagpipe Bladder & Chocolate
Date: Tue, 05 Jan 1999

Hi Johannes,

Thanks for the reply. My name is French (Breton), but I'm an anglophone.  The bagpipe bladder reference comes from a book by Bernard Poirier called Whisky With Dinner. He believes that with the assortment of single malts available, there is really no reason to drink wine before, with or after dinner.  He also recommends single malts for cooking and goes on to match up the various brands with assorted meals. Perhaps you know this already. (Reply by Johannes: I don't like wine myself - except port & "dessert wines" - so I think whisky with dinner instead of wine is an excellent idea.)

Scotch whisky has been my preferred drink for many years now, but I only recently started paying atttention to the flavours.  Drank mostly Glenfiddich and Glenlivits, (and Black Label) though I do have a Glenmorangie 10 year old bottle in the basement, but I really don't remember it.  The Mortlach 9 year old Signatory was the source of my amazing discovery.  Bernard Porier also describes it as "musty". You found it a bit too sherried, and that was more my impression of Glemorangie Port Wood Finish, but as I mentioned, my taste buds are far from educated.  Something I really have enjoyed though is to follow the Glenmorangie Port with a Talisker.  Wow does the iodine hit you!! (Reply by Johannes: Talisker and Glenmorangie Port sounds like a great combination. If you like the iodine in Talisker you should try Laphroaig 10 - one of the most extreme malts I know.)

I have read on a few web sites about eating chocolate with single malts. Have you tried this? (Reply by Johannes: No - And I'm not going to!  I like to keep my experiences pure. This means no chocolate! I've never tried it, but the taste of chocolate is so overpowering that I can hardly believe it would improve the tasting experience. If I do need to eat in between, I generally use plain white bread.)

I'll keep watching your page for updates.
All the best,
Davin

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Subject: More ramblings
Date: Thu, 14 Jan 1999

Hi Johannes,

I'm not a wine drinker either, although it is almost 10 years since I visited family in Paris and was served a very unusual wine at dinner.  It was thin, watery, but seemed to have a lot of sediment in it.  I quite enjoyed it and - surprise - no headache.  In school we had a weekly competition (trivia etc.) with the loser buying a bottle of wine to drink Friday afternoons in the lab.  This one joker brought in a bottle of Retsina, which I found quite pleasant in a sort of turpentinish way.  My dad is a painter so I grew up smelling turpentine.  Maybe it was the association.  In any case it's been years now since I had wine and why would I start again having discoverd sms? Same with coffee.  I go for the really strong flavoured stuff like "French Roast".  All this to say I do seem to prefer strong flavours.  Next bottle will be Laphroig as you so kindly recommended.

As for the chocolate, I have read about this in a few web sites. I think the idea is to use the whiskey to make the chocolate penetrate your sinuses and give you a head explosion (rush) of chocolate.  Sounds orgiastic, but so is a good Scotch alone. Have you encountered Torbjorn Olausson in your surfing?  He has quite a few comments on the Scotch.com website. Seems knowledgable and recommends the chocolate business. Any way I'll give it a try some day and let you know. I agree with you though, a good Scotch hardly needs a chocolate enhancement.
Anyway, live and learn.

All the best,

Davin

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Subject: You were right!
Date: Sun, 17 Jan 1999

Johannes,

Why didn't I listen to you?
I just killed a large glass of Glenmorangie Port Wood by eating chocolate with it.  Actually, I enjoyed the first few sips virgin, but once the chocolate was introduced the whisky became bitter.  I didn't get the chocolate head rush, although the Glenmorangie began to taste decidedly more of alcohol.  Eventually I rinsed my mouth out with water after which the whisky became very salty.  Continued to drink Glenmorangie PW until the flavour returned to normal, then treated myself to a Talisker explosion.

You recommended the Laphroaig 10 to me. Have you tried the 15? In the part of Canada where I live, all liquor is sold through a government owned retailer.  Unexpectedly, they have excellent service and knowledgable staff.  In any case they told me they have the Laphroig 15 on order for delivery in the next week or so. Should I wait for it or just go for the 10? (Reply by Johannes: Try both! I haven't tried the Laphroaig 15 yet, so I can't say much about it. But given the character of the 10, I certainly think another 5 years in wood would be good for it's balance. I expect a more harmonious result, perhaps a bit more like a Lagavulin or Ardbeg. Give it a chance, I'd say...)

You rate the Talisker 18 cask strength as a potential number 2 on your list (making Talisker 10 number 3?). In taste, how does it compare with the Talisker 10 which I love so dearly? (Reply by Johannes: The 18 C/S has the power of the 10 combined with an almost Macallan-like complexity and balance. I love the 10 for it's individuality and character, but when an island whisky like Talisker or Lagavulin spend some more time in the barrels the seaweed, smoke and peat are joined with sweeter, more woody tones. This generally makes for a better balanced and harmonious malt. Most island whiskies I've tasted so far were at their best at 16 - 18 years. The few older ones I've tasted had gotten too bitter and woody for my tastes. Sadly, I haven't been able to find a full bottle yet.)

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Subject: Laphriog Mmmm...
Date: Sat, 23 Jan 1999

Hi Johannes,

Thanks for your suggestion to try Laphroaig 10. Wow, it is 'extreme'.  I do enjoy the strong iodine, but find this one a bit more like medicine than Talisker.  I tried to get the 15 year old Laphroig as I mentioned before, but had to settle for the 10.  The clerk at the liquor store told me people were lined up when the 15 was released, and it all sold within minutes.  I'll be passing through several duty frees in the next month and a half, and will look for the 15 or the 10 cask strength there.

I tried following the Laphroig with a Talisker 10 and found it tasted like water after the Laphroig.  So much to learn.  Obviously order of sampling is important.  The liquor clerk told me another uncommon scotch that sells out very quickly when they get it, is Te Bheag, a Gaelic blend.  Apparantly it's based on Talisker.  It's not on your list, so I guess you have tried less that 700ml of it.  Do you know it? (Reply by Johannes: It's on my 'middle shelf' right now - that means not officially rated yet. It's a blend, so it won't show up in the "official" ratings on my site. But I'll publish the results in the Tastings" section of my site in a while. It should be interesting, because it's the only blend from skye.)

Found a magazine today called Whisky.  It's the first issue; edited by the likes of Michael Jackson, Charles MacLean and Jim Murray.  The cover story is about a soccer player (Rob Wainwright) whose favourite drink is Wild Grouse. Someone should direct him to your page! Anyway Johannes, I thought I should thank you again for your direction and fill you in on my incursion into Laphroig territory.  I'll continue to update you on my progress.  Any more suggestions? (Reply by Johannes: As far as suggestions go: laphroaig is about as extreme as you can get. A malt that's just as powerful, but with a lot more balance, is Ardbeg. The 17 yrs. is absolutelu wonderful. Or try the Talisker 18 yrs. Cask Strength.)

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Subject: Glasses & Stuff
Date: Thu, 11 Feb 1999

Hi Johannes,
I'm still here.  Have been experimenting lately with glasses.  I tried a brandy snifter, then settled on wine tasting glasses which really did help focus the taste. Then about a week ago my wife came home with a glass that was much like the wine taster, but with the lip curved out.  This is great as it gives the same focussed flavour, but lets the whisky flow easily onto your tongue.
(Reply by Johannes: The "wine glass with the lip curved out" is an "official" malt tasting glass. It's the best glass for tasting and nosing I've found so far, although a large enough cognac snifter (300 ML or more) works just as well for me. Wine or port glasses hide too much of the aroma.)

I think I am graduating from the first level of my whisky education.  I just posted a note on whiskyweb (http://www.whiskyweb.com/howff/) advising someone else on tasting whisky. That's why I am writing you, as the first thing I told him was to check out your Malt Madness site.  Hope you don't mind.  I still visit your site regularly for updates. (I also mentioned you site in a letter to Whisky Magazine.)  My current whisky is Springbank 12 year old.  Nice bottle!!  Have purchased refills of Talisker and Glenmorangie 10 year old and will probably do the same when my Laphroig is finished.  Also bought the Te Bheag but haven't tried it yet.  Let me know when you've tasted yours so we can compare notes. I travel from time to time with my job and will be in Washington (then South America) in a few weeks so am hoping to get some more exotic malts at the duty free shops. Anyway, thanks again for speeding up my education.  I'll keep you posted on my progress.

(Reply by Johannes: Glad you're promoting my site. The more visitors the merrier.

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Subject: My latest adventures and queries.
Date: Mon, 15 Mar 1999

I had a great experience a few weeks back in progressive drinking. It began with a couple of glasses of  Highland Park 12 year old followed by a Glenmorangie 10, then a Glenmorangie Port Wood, each one benefiting from the taste of its predecessor. Then I switched to Te Bheag (just loved it), then on to Talisker and finished off the evening with Laphroig 10 year old. What a crescendo!!  The Te Bheag was so delicious, I went straight to it the next evening, but somehow it just wasn't the same without the build up.

My recent trip was a bit disappointing Scotch-wise.  Now I can appreciate Canadian Scotch prices and availability.  In Canada most Scotches are less expensive than the duty free prices in USA or Barbados.  In Guyana, bar price for the only single malt, Tormore 10 year old, was $16.50 US while Johnny Walker Blue was $22.00 and both had been sitting in the sun for who knows how long.  In Canada a whole bottle of JW blue costs only $199.00 Canadian or about $134.00 US, compared to the $200.00  you list it as in Amsterdam.  On the other hand, a bottle of rum could be had for just over $4.00.  So, I tried most of the Guyanese and Barbadan rums.  Now I know why I like Scotch.
Even a 15 year old Demerrara rum, said to be equivalent to cognac, tasted like coca cola. There was just no complexity to the nose or taste at all. Normally I travel about twice a year with my job, but this year it looks like more than that as I am leaving again on Friday for a tour of central Europe. I'll be missing Amsterdam, unfortunately, or I'd recruit you for a tutoured tasting session.  I hope to come back with some bottles that are unavailable here in Canada.
(Reply by Johannes: Wow - That's a LOT of money for the Tormore 10 - a mediocre malt at best. I too have tried some "farmer" rums after enthousiastic comments from some people with otherwise noteworthy opinions, but I haven't found anything worthwile yet.)

My current whisky is Macallan 12 year old which you rate only one point lower than the 18 year old.  That's good information as the price differential is huge.  Have you tried the Glenmorangie 18 year old?  It has just become available here, and I expect will sell out soon.  It is just a dollar shy of being twice the price of the 10 year old.  Also, Balblair, Glenburgie and Glentauchers are all currently on sale at about 40% off.  I think they are dumping their stock and these whiskies will soon be unavailable in Canada.  These are not common names; have you tried any of them? Anyhow, I do go on.  Really I just wanted to keep in touch and encourage you to keep working on your site.

(Reply by Johannes: On the Macallan: I do think the price difference between 12 and 18 is way too big, but you should really try the 18 some time. Too expensive for large quantity consumption, but something very different. Or try the Mac 10 yrs. cask Strength - a lot like the 18 in character, but more reasonably priced. It's pretty hard to find, but certainly worth the effort. I haven't tasted the 'Morangie 18 "by the bottle" yet, but you'll find a report on a tasting session with 5 different Glenmorangies on my site. I haven't tried any of the 3 other malts you mentioned yet.

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Subject: Duty Free / Dallas Dhu
Date: Sun, 04 Apr 1999

Hi Johannes,

I did have some new whisky experiences to add to my knowledge. For a start I have confirmed my opinion that duty free does not mean less expensive.  With a few notable exceptions I found duty free prices in Europe about 20% higher that full retail here in Ottawa.  But the selection was unparalleled. After much heart-wrenching turmoil, I bought two bottles of Dallas Dhu . The first, a Signatory 19 years bottling, the second a Rare Malts Selections 21 year old cask strength from  (not duty free).  I was told these are very difficult to find now, but excellent quality so I took a chance.  Now what do I do?  Should I just open them up and start enjoying them, or are these really worth saving for a special occasion?  What do you think?

I was delighted to see that you have added a new tasting session to your Malt Madness pages.  I also checked out your new dynamic prototype pages which are great.  Honestly though, I like what you have already, and being the selfish guy that I am, would rather see you put your time into adding content rather than rebuilding something that is already great.  But... I'll stick with you however it evolves.

Thanks for directing me to your Glenmorangie tasting session.  I've read all your tasting notes, but had forgotten this page.  I had the opportunity to try the Madeira, Sherry and Port Wood versions while away, and agree that the Madeira is very unique.  I still like the 10 year old best, but enjoy them all.

I was working with a Scotsman on this trip, and he introduced me to Famous Grouse (which he claimed was named after his mother-in-law).  I learned to like it rather quickly. The free whisky flowed quickly at the duty frees in Heathrow, so quickly I hardly had time to enjoy the finish.  I tried the Distiller's Editions of Cragganmore, Dalwhinnie and Glenkinchie, which were all wonderful. The Cragganmore especially was excellent, but I'll buy it here in Ottawa and save a good 30% over duty free prices.

All the best,
Davin

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Subject: Tasting report Lagavulin 1979
Date: Thu, 01 Jul 1999

Hi Johannes,

Got in about midnight last night. (Note by Johannes: Davin came over for a tasting session a few days ago.) Thanks very much for your kind hospitality while I was in Amsterdam.  I went back to your Whisky bar and tried Dallas Dhu 16 yo  (disappointingly pleasant/easy) and Ardbeg 17 yo which did not come close to the Ardbeg 17 you gave me.  (Note by Johannes: The secret of the difference between the Ardbeg's could be the time in the bottle. I have noticed that most Ardbegs tend to improve in the months after opening, and my bottle was about 6 months old. So I should say, take your time with your Ardbeg 17.)  Maybe it was the company, maybe the glass, but I did buy a 70 cl Ardbeg and three miniatures to bring home. I checked out your tasting- looks like you feel the same about the Lagavulin DE as I do about the Talisker. Great, but not as great as the original.  The Lagavulin I have is the 1980, while in Amsterdam it's 1979, but I imagine the taste is pretty similar.

Compared to Canada the shop in Utrecht (Note by Johannes: Davin is talking about the liquor store on Utrecht Central Station - I think it's called Traverse - Good selection and nice offers every once in a while) was amazing, so I absolutely have to get to your shops in Amsterdam.  I found the whisky much better displayed than in Oddbins or Cadenhead's in London.  It was also the first time I had seen Signatory miniatures. In any case, thanks again. Take care,  Davin

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Subject: The water of life
Date: Sun, 08 Aug 1999

Hi Johannes,

I have also been offthe booze pretty much since I got back due to conflicting medication. Will be back at it in a week or so!  I managed to find 2 bottles of Lagavulin 1979 at a small liquor outlet so when I'm up and at it, I'll compare with the 1980 and let you know.  Have found a small group of Balvenie fans here ion Ottawa and will go tasting with them in a few weeks - my first Balvenies.

I read in Whisky Magazine about a bar in Amsterdam called De Still.
Have you tried it?  They highly recommend it.

Take care,  Davin

(Reply by Johannes: At this moment I'm having an unofficial tasting session with (of course) the wonderful Lagavulin 1979 Ximenez... I've had three tastings now, and it should rate around 90 - 91 points. De Still in Amsterdam used to be my favorite malt hang-out - untill I discovered L&B's. Regulars all have their own little malt safe there,
where they can store their favorite bottle. It's located near one of the funnest squares of Amsterdam (Spui), and a good place for a few relaxed malts.
How is your bottle of Ardbeg 17 progressing? This is one of those rare malts that seem to improve after opening. My advice: Open the Ardbeg 17 a.s.a.p - but take your time finishing the bottle. This one clearly improves after it has been openend. Try to take six months or more before you completely finish the bottle, and keep track of the changes.)

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Subject: Beta version Malt Madness in Dynamic HTML
Date: Mon, 23 Aug 1999

Just spent 20 minutes on your site. Will give it a go again tomorrow.
The new site is great. While surfing through the links section, I wondered if you might want to add links to real live drinking places.  When I travel, I often try to use the internet to find whisky stores or whisky bars, but other than England and Scotland there isn't much available.  Why not list (and rate) the better liquor outlets and bars in your neck of the woods?  You could invite some of your fans to contribute their own favourites.  I don't think there is a non-commercial whisky site that lists places to drink or purchase malts so you could start a trend.  My favourite search engine (hotbot) gives nothing useful when I search for Malt and Amsterdam or Whisky and Amsterdam.  How about filling the void? Just a thought.

I re-read your ratings and am glad to see you rate the Macallans above Glenmorangie Port Wood.  I like both, but the Macallan wins by far and is similar enough that I won't buy the PW again. I'm also delighted that the Lagavulin 1979 has turned out to be a hit.  I still haven't tried it, but when I do, I'll compare it to the 1980 and give you the word. I haven't opened the Ardbeg yet either.  Actually I've done very little drinking since I got back.  I tried a Chivas Regal 12 yo a couple of days ago. It's a definite addition to your world's worst whiskies listing.  Started out bitter then faded into bland, alcoholic nothingness.

I joined a Malts Mailing List (http://www.dcs.ed.ac.uk/home/jhb/whisky/announce.html) last week and have two messages, one of which originated right here in Ottawa.
Things are looking up!

(Reply by Johannes: About Glenmorangie Port and Macallans: I like them all a lot, but compared to the Macallans the Glenmorangie just has a little less 'depth' and harmony between the different taste components. Very nice, but it's just too darned expensive. I don't think the Chivas Regal 12 blend is too bad, but for that kind of money you can get a good quality single malt like Glen Ord 12 or Glen Moray 12. Good thinking on the "real live drinking places". I've alrady toyed with a similar idea - Tips for good whisky bars - but my personal geographic location was a problem. I'll keep working on your idea - using guest editors might just prove to be a great solution. I'll get back to you on that one.) 

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Subject: Re: The water of life
Date: Sat, 28 Aug 1999

Hi Johannes,

Just did a bit more surfing and I'm very enthusiastic about your new Malt Madness site.  I love the map.  I like a satellite photo as it shows everything, not just the "important" stuff.  I like being able to relate the areas to each other. Now I know where Speyside is in relation to the others.  Excellent work!  I look forward to more browsing. My favourite site just got better.
As for the tips for good whisky bars (and shops) your geopgraphic location could be an asset.  Who better to provide links for travellers to Amsterdam? I'm forever noting people on bulletin boards asking where to buy or drink whisky in some city or another.  Maybe if you told the local shops and bars about this you could convert mention on your site into a few free drinks.  As long as you don't go commercial and really do recommend just the best of the best.

As I continue to browse your site I'll send more comments, but so far it's better than ever. Thanks for a great site and good luck with your other projects.

Davin

(Reply by Johannes: About your "Bar" idea: I could perhaps use the experiences of external "Foreign Barfly Correspondents" like yourself to cover more ground. I have e-mail contacts all over the globe, so I could invite some people who's judgment I trust to add their favorite watering holes to the list. About "Going commercial". As a matter of fact, I have been thinking of a way to incorporate some kind of advertising in the site. But I only want to do it if it doesn't interfere with the current style and structure of the site - and my very personal opinions. As a matter of fact, I get a lot of requests from whisky shops to add them to my link list, but I won't do that until I've had a chance to test them out - either by visiting the shop or buying one or more malts online.)

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Subject: Is Lagavulin 16 quality changing?
Date: Sun, 14 Nov 1999

Hi Johannes,

Hope you are well and well oiled.  Just surfed through your beginners' section again.  Still stuff there to learn.  Also picked up your special control D secret surprise bookmarks a few weeks ago. Had another birthday, and some new, previously unsampled malts arrived.  It's great to have someone else do the selection.  Otherwise my taste buds would never get off Islay.  Anyway I have gone surprisingly quickly through a 12 yo Tamnavulin .  Quite enjoyable - almost Cragganmorish to my palate.

I noticed that you rank Glen Ord 12 fairly high on your list.  I just discovered Glen Ord in New York a couple of weeks ago and really like it.  It was a pleasant surprise to get home and find it is the least expensive malt available at the LCBO ($35 compared with $65 for Lagavulin 16, $45 for Laphroig 10 or Glenmorangie  10). My next venture will be into the Balvenies, so I was checking out their UK web-site and saw that you're getting even more famous.  I followed their link to your site.  May send them my own tasting notes in a few weeks.  Anyway congratulations on being recognized yet again.

About three months ago, the price of Lagavulin 16 rose from $54.00 to $65.00 Canadian.  At the same time I have heard reports that recent bottles are less extreme in flavour so as to make it more of a mainstream whisky.  Since I don't drink it regularly I thought I'd write to you, the Lag man of Amsterdam.  Have you noticed any changes in flavour?  If so I'll run out and buy a couple of older bottles from the low volume liquor stores.  Hey!  I just found an advantage to the government having the monopoly to sell liquor. They have to serve all communities, so there will be stores in the boonies, with old stock! Looking forward to more Malt Madness, and in the mean time wait for you take on recent Lagavulin 16.

All the best,  Davin

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Subject: Can we share a few more drams?
Date: Fri, 11 Feb 2000

Hi Johannes,

Arrived back from Rome on Wednesday night, but am in major jet-lag. I can't begin to thank you for the tasting session in Amsterdam.  It was amazing and I have notes to prove it!. I'm glad it was as much fun for you as well. When I get back to normal, I'll type out my notes an send you a copy.

Wow, was I ever feeling no pain when I left your apartment, but thanks to a well trained liver I was sober in about two hours.  Remarkable! I'm glad you liked the Pike Creek.  Personally I like it the least of the three, preferring the Gooderham and Worts and also the strangely mossy Lot 40.  None of them, however, are in the Scotch whisky league so your score of 40 compares to my own assessment, although you will find the Gooderham and Worts much more drinkable. Thanks once again for a very enjoyable whisky tour.

Davin

1999 - 2000

Please note: These old E-Reports are listed in chronological order for your convenience; click here for Davin's latest report.

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