Every year the white-bearded character in a red bishops-robe and a big pointy hat (Sinterklaas himself) arrives from Spain on a steamboat with an enirely "black" crew. They are called the "Pieten" and are the assistants of Sinterklaas, much like the elves that assist the internationally more famous Santa Claus. After being greeted by the burgermeister of the town he is visiting he gets on his white horse and orders his black "Pieten" to put all the children that have been bad into jute bags and take them to Spain. And this is probably the explanation for Holland's low population growth. The "Pieten" aren't all bad, because sometimes they throw candy on the streets and the kids can pick it up.

Sinterklaas has got a huge red book, I which he can look up whether a particular child has been good or bad. (As a child, this gave me a slight case of paranoia, the same feeling I got from reading "1984" by George Orwell.) Last year in Amsterdam a prankster climbed on top of a government building dressed as Sinterklaas to pour some complaint-letters into the chimney and fell off the icy roof. The idiot broke both his legs.
I'm sorry, but I laughed my head off....

A nyway - I'm getting side-tracked here. Part of the tradition is the exchange of gifts. Every present has got a poem attached to it, the traditional "Sinterklaasgedicht", which mocks one's mistakes in the previous year. I recieved a bottle of Black Bottle 10 yrs. from some ex-collegues, and decided it was high time for another tasting session.
The Black Bottle is a 'blend' containing single malts from all seven Islay distilleries.
The aroma appeared sweet, a little oily and smokey. Not as much sweetness in its taste. Some Laphroaig iodine, but less salty. Something like a marriage of Laphroaig and Bunnahabhain, with grainy elements and a hint of sherry. The grain was more obvious in the body and palate. The wonderful development and long aftertaste make this a worthwile investment; it's only 40 guilders here in Holland.
Rating: 59 points - good value.

Highlight of the evening: Final judgement on Macallan 18 yrs. 1976, which was long overdue. Overwhelming sweetness. Oaky with hints of currants. Just enough sherry. The aroma grows even sweeter after a while. Wonderful! Strangeley enough, its character is more like the 10 yrs. 100 Proof than the 12 yrs. 43%. A perfect palate, round and well balanced. Powerful smoothness and real "body". The very long aftertaste starts with a somewhat bitter arpeggio and slowly grows into the sweetest adagio. 88 points makes it official: I prefer the Macallan 18 over the 12 - if only by a mere two points.

T he less said about the last glass of Tormore 12 in the bottle the better. Contrary to popular belief, I'm NOT an alcoholic, which means some bottles are on my shelves for quite a long time before they're empty. Some malts improve wirh time, but the Tormore certainly isn't one of them. In the course of  8 months it had lost 5 or 6 points on the original 71.

I finished with the Glengoyne 12 yrs. What a fruity nose! First I smelled dried apples, then some ripe bananas, and then green apples. Some chloride. Very rich aroma.
The taste lacked balance, but was nice nonetheless. Somewhat "dusty" at first, dry finish. 73 points.

Sinterklaas Tasting

December 5, 1998

Those of you unfamiliar with Dutch folklore may be unaware that December 5th is the date of the traditional "Sinterklaas" festival. It's celebrated the night before the birthday of Saint Nicholas, patron-saint of sailors.

Macallan 18 1976
Black Bottle 10
Glengoyne 12
Tormore 12

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