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After investigating four single distilleries during our 2002
JOLTing (
Laphroaig, Aberlour, Macallan and Springbank),
we decided to kick off 2003 with a Double-Blind JOLT.
Serge and I have already written about the first shipments
of 'The Pandora Project' in E-pistles
#05/03 and #05/04 and
now it's time to tackle the second batch of blind bottles.

Pandora II JOLT 001 - 20/02/2003 - 12:05 GMT - Johannes

So, what's the plan for this JOLT? Well, like I told you before I composed two identical Pandora packages.
Each 'Pandora's Box' contained four blind 125ml samples. One package found its way to Australia, the other one ended up in France. Craig and Serge decided to have a go at their blinds this weekend.

The Theme:  Overproofs from All Over 
The Clue:  Four Overproof SMSW's from all over Scotland - Lowlands, Highlands, Islands and Speyside
The Task:  Identify the region (2 points) and the Top 3 'likely candidates' (3/2/1 points)

While Serge and Craig ponder the origins of these malts and the meaning of life in general I'll copy & paste a 'live' transcript of the proceedings together. To keep myself entertained, I will try to make heads or tails of four other (blind) sample Craig sent me a while ago. I'm suffering from yet another bad nose day but curiosity got the better of me.
It's still a bit early for me but I'll sample one or two drams around teatime.

To Craig & Serge: Good luck!

Johannes
 

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Pandora II JOLT 002 - 20/02/2003 - 12:45 GMT - Serge

Hi Johannes,

I couldn't help sending you my preliminary 'FIRST NOSING' notes (directly from the bottles).

Pandora 2A - Powerful. Beeswax, wood, flowery (rose). A Speysider?
Maybe, but not a very sherried one. The rose makes me think of Linkwood…

Pandora 2B - Powerful but quite balanced. Peat, yeast and beer – seaweed as well.
If this isn't a south shore Islay, it's a great carbon copy.
Ardbeg or Lagavulin, but an unsherried version (or with very few sherry).
Or maybe Talisker, because it's quite peppery. Yes, it could well be Talisker…

Pandora 2C ­ Sharp! Flowery/fruity and yes, citrus. Really Rosebankish… Or Bladnoch.
Yeah, perhaps Bladnoch (slightly less fruity than Rosebank)

Pandora 2D ­ Very woody. Relatively bland apart of that.
I would say it might be a Highlander. But which one? No sea influence that I can nose...
Maybe Central Highlands, or Glenmorangie but it can't be an IB, so that's not a real option.

Please don't give me further clues. I'll keep on working on that after lunch.
I need to eat something before I begin to nose (and drink) deeply....

Santé

Serge
 

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Pandora II JOLT 003 - 20/02/2003 - 13:05 GMT - Craig

Adelaide, Thursday 20 February 2003, 10:05PM

First Pandora Impressions

Hi, Johannes,

Serge has asked me not to send these notes to him as to not influence his cogitating/decision making process - which is fair enough. Assuming that you haven't been duplicitous and there really are 1 Speyside, 1 Lowland, 1 Island and 1 Highland and haven't been naughty I'm prepared to have a go, but I'll reserve my final thoughts for tomorrow and Saturday.
As I said previously I had a real problem with B, C & D as I got lemon in all of them.
Rosemary went out and bought Thai takeaway so it might have been the food - I'll check again tomorrow.

Pandora 2A is probably the Highland or the Island, but could be a Speyside
Pandora 2B is probably the Lowland, but might be a Highland or a Speyside
Pandora 2C is probably the Speyside but might well be the Lowland or could be a light Island
Pandora 2D is the probably the Island, but might be the Highland  - don't think it is the Lowland or the Speyside.

I'm probably way off the track, but as to what I thought of them - B is probably the youngest, A is the most traditional in terms of style and peating, C was too overtly woody and D started very weird but got better.  I think A might have been the oldest.  As to whether I liked them - I liked B and D because they were different, I didn't like C very much and A was a good solid whisky with lots of class.  A was probably the classiest of the group.  None of them were poor by any means but I could live without C.
I'll try and score them tomorrow and Saturday.

I think all of them were between 7 and 12 years old, but won't be surprised if they were all 10 - 15 years old. I find age hard to guess especially with cask strength malts. I tend to think they're younger than they actually are. I'll go back to them tomorrow - I'll change the approach and nose them against each other - the first pass was nosing them one after the other without going backwards.
The total exercise took over two hours.  I have good nosing notes which might be worth sharing when the exercise is over.

Cheers

Craig
 

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Pandora II JOLT 004 - 20/02/2003 - 15:15 GMT - Johannes

Wow, this is interesting...

We're only a few hours into our first Pandora JOLT and already the French-Australian Nosing Coalition seems to be falling apart... Craig thinks Pandora 2A is the Highlander or Islander, but Serge wonders if it might be the Speysider. Craig has Pandora 2B pegged for the Lowlander, but Serge puts his money on Talisker or a South shore Islay malt. Well, there's an interesting difference of opinion... When it comes to Pandora 2C Serge seems pretty convinced this is a Bladnoch or Rosebank while Craig goes for Speyside. Finally, we have Pandora 2D - Serge looks at the Highlands for this one, while Craig is torn between Higland and Island. Well, I have to admit I'm happy their opinions dont match (yet?). At first I was afraid teaming up these two 'noses' would make things too easy but now it seems they may lead eachother astray rather than guide themselves towards the correct answer ;-)

Meanwhile, I've been busy with my own set of blinds. Craig already provided data about the region and proof of the blinds, as well as their 'pedigree' - OB or IB. That means there's not very much left Bad nose day

Sample Craig #1 was an independent Speyside malt bottled at 40%.
Nose: Opens with a whiff of soft fruits. Overtones of shoe polish. Pine? Lemon drops after a while. Soap?
Malty. Smooth and elegant - a Speysider in the 'Connoisseurs Choice' school of middle-of-the-road malts.
Pleasant but it seems to lack substance. Notable improvement after 15 minutes: Pepper & spices.
Taste: Pine? Sweetish start. Smooth. A quick, toffeeish burn grows into a chocolate bitterness.
The sherried finish doesn't last very long. A little dry. Just a tad too bittersweet in the finish for me.
Score: 78 points . Seems like your average, run-of-the-mill single malt.
Could it be an independent Macallan? Nah, I can't remember finding chocolate in a Mac before.
My first guesses: 1) Aultmore, 2) Ardmore, 3) Craigellachie, 4) Glenallachie and 5) Linkwood.

According to Craig's disclosed data Sample Craig #2 was a Highland malt - an official bottling at 43%.
Nose: Much fresher than Craig's first sample. Spicy, dusty and slightly oily. Picks up some (citrus?) fruit along the way.
Polished. A little bland. Nutty. The oily component seems to grow stronger with time, before taking a sweeter direction.
Paint thinner. Then the spices return, joined by a whiff of pepper. Maggi. Much more interesting after 20 minutes.
Taste: Whoof... Starts sweetish and woody. Malty. Tannins. Some soap in the (dry) finish?
I have to say I found the finish sourish and rather overbearing. Not my kind of malt on the palate.
Score: 70 points . I haven't got the faintest clue what it is.
My first guesses: 1) Royal Lochnagar, 2) Deanston, 3) Glenturret, 4) Tullibardine and 5) the Old (tall) Edradour 10yo.

Hmmm... On that slightly disappointing note, let's wait a few hours with my other two blinds.

Sweet drams,

Johannes
 

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Pandora II JOLT 005 - 20/02/2003 - 15:45 GMT - Serge

OK - here are my 'second impressions';

Our first task being to find out about each blind's region, let's just remember their main characteristics:
Lowlands: fruity and cereally, quite light (I usually get some citrus notes, except in some St Magdalene an Littlemill)
Highlands: hum, could be anything, but let's hope Johannes didn't pour us a malt with another region's characteristics, like, say Brora.
Islands: heavy coastal character, often peaty but not always
Speyside: quite sherried usually, but not always, sweet, smooth and rounded

This is going to be tough, I guess. It's often easier to get a 40 or 43% OB's name when tasted blind, because these are crafted to meet a standard distillery's profile. But "overproofs" are often single cask malts, or special vattings like the Rare Malts. These are more often "designed" to be good malt in its own, rather than to reflect a distillery's style.
But okay, enough precautions, let's have another go at these four…

SECOND NOSING:

Pandora 2A – Quite fresh. Now some fruity notes arise.
That's quite confusing, because after all, that one could be the Lowlander as well.
Whiffs of smoke, a little grassy… A little St Magdalenish…

Pandora 2B – Yes, peat and pepper. More and more Talisker-like, and less and less Islayish.

Pandora 2C – Ouch! Toffee, toffee and toffee now, and liquorice as well.
These malts are very difficult to put a name on, as they evolve constantly in the glass, like if they were travelling through whole Scotland within 15 minutes! Now, it's less clear… Is it really a Lowlander? Maybe a little water will tell later…

Pandora 2D – Right, this is some pencil-sharpener juice. Wood, vanilla, tannins, alcohol…
It'll really need some water to let me nose anything else. Oh, maybe a little coastal scents now…
Made me think of Clynelish, just a few seconds… Too late, it vanished…

FIRST MOUTHFEEL

Pandora 2A – Quite a gentle overproof malt. Powerful but not too much – around 50% or slightly more.
Pandora 2B - Powerful, but not overpowering – around 50% again.
Pandora 2C - This is another story! Quite overpowering, certainly around 60% vol.
Pandora 2D - Again, extremely powerful. 60%+, no doubt. This one isn't for little boys.

MOUTH

Pandora 2A – Sweet, quite rounded although sharp at the edges (the acohol). Candy sugar, sweet sherry (maybe)…
Not much happening here. I can't say much more, and the mouth isn't a Lowlander's, finally.
So, I'll stick to Speyside, especially because with a few drops of water, it gets even sweeter.
Pandora 2B – A lot of peat and pepper. Woody notes as well… Anyhow, that's the Island malt.
I'll leave Lagavulin away, and I would definitely go for Talisker or Ardbeg, with a little 'plus' for Talisker.
It can't be Lagavulin (no sherry at all), nor Laphroaig (no sourness), nor Port Ellen (no burnt tyre)…
And if it's Brora, Johannes is a rascal.
Pandora 2C – Yes citrus, tangerine, lemon… A little smoke. I'll stick to Bladnoch, or the Lowlands, at least.
With a little water – and even a lot of water – the citrus just keeps developing.
Pandora 2D – I think this one is the most difficult to get. It's really in the UD Rare Malts' style.
Again, extremely strong. With water, it doesn't reveal much more…
So, I would say it's a Highlander, mostly because I already addressed the three other regions.

Okay, I could go on and on trying to catch more particularities in these 4 malts.
But maybe I would get even more confused. So, let's stop it here.
And oh, by the way, all these malts are quite interesting.
It's too early to rate them fairly, but I would say;

Pandora 2A: 80 to 85 points
Pandora 2B: 85 to 90 points
Pandora 2C: 85 to 90 points
Pandora 2D: 80 to 85 points

Thanks for not having sent me some double-marinated – ooops, sorry, double-matured malts...

Now Johannes, I need further clues!

Serge
 

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Pandora II JOLT 006 - 20/02/2003 - 21:10 GMT - Johannes

Extra clues, Serge? Are you daft?
You've got two more days and the help of one of Australia's finest noses to solve the puzzle!
I'd say it's much too soon to even start thinking about extra clues - except the one I sent you a while ago. Although that particular clue (I had the matrix in mind when I composed most of the flights) was rather ambiguous, it was free - so you can't complain ;-)

I'd say it's time I had a look at Craig's remaining samples - even though my nose is clogged up again..
Sample Craig #3 (an independent Speysider) was bottled at 49.1%.
That's a rather unusual strength, so I know for sure I've never tried this before.
Nose: Light and fruity at first. Water melon? After a minute more complex aroma's emerge. Intruiging...
Organics. Ah, that's nice. Hard to put words to the experience. Dry. Soy sauce. Excellent!
It started out soft like a Glenfiddich or Glenlivet, but then it grew stronger - more like Glenfarclas.
Taste: Sweet start, growing hot and dry quickly. Alcoholic. Nice, but not as spectacular as the nose.
Score: 86 points. With a palate matching the nose it might have scored even higher.
My first guesses: 1) Glenlivet, 2) Glenfiddich, 3) Glen Grant, 4) Cardhu and 5) Glenfarclas.

Tonight's last blind sample was Sample Craig #4 - a Speyside OB bottled at 43%.
Gee, that narrows it down a bit... When I saw the colour my first impression was 'Macallan' but on 2nd thought...
Nose: Whoeaah! Lots of power. Sherry. Wood. Tobacco. Cardboard. Spices in the background.
Wonderful! Smoke. Organics. Maggi? Something faintly metallic. Something new behind every corner.
Taste: Sweet and woody. Fruity and very dry. Hint of smoke. Excellent mouth feel. Playful.
Long finish. Maybe a tad too woody for my taste. Laphroaig 15yo? No, I can't find any peat.
Score: 88 points. Mighty entertaining.
My first guesses: 1) Macallan, 2) Glendronach, 3) Aberlour, 4) Dailuaine and 5) Mortlach.

That's it as far as my preliminary impressions is concerned.
I'll have another go at these malts later on.

Sweet drams,

Johannes
 

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Pandora II JOLT 007 - 21/02/2003 - 00:35 GMT - Craig

Hi guys,

Serge is too impulsive, I haven't even mentioned any distilleries yet!
I'm still cogitating on the regions, but I'm ready to open the discourse with my French co-interlocutor.
My first run through generated a lot of nosing notes - I didn't drink hardly any of them. My notes will be input later today (Friday) and then we can chat. At some stage I'm probably going to have to weaken and ask whether the distilleries are well known or not (of course I'd probably need to define 'well known').

I have a real problem with some Speysides being very Lowlandish and if you chuck in islands like Tobermory, Scapa or Arran and you have a tough task. My problem is that B, C & D could've all been Lowlands but I don't know if the Thai food Rosemary brought home last night corrupted the air. I'll revisit the samples tonight, hopefully sans extraneous smells.

I think I drank more of Pandora 2D than any of the others (but still only 10-20ml).
My nosing notes suggest that I might change my mind about A, but not B. Pandora C and D create the most problems for me. 2C is tricky and if I change my mind on A then I have to move on D as well. It doesn't mean I'm right about A & B but I have some ideas based on experience that I can probably defend. It is good fun, I just hope that Rosemary isn't cooking up a storm when I get home.

Now for the Pandora flight I sent to Johannes.
Sample #1 is a G&M CC - it was included because it's a 'collector' malt. I'm a little surprised that you don't like sample #2, but I have a higher regard for this distillery than you do. This bottling was only meant to be available (at 43%) in the USA, but a few cases made it to Oz and I snaffled my share. Samples #3 and #4 are definitely higher quality malts than the others - sample #3 because it is classy and sample #4 because it a chameleon - it changes character from nosing to nosing.

Johannes, well done on sample #3 - it is indeed a Glenlivet. Unfortunately with Pandora #2 and #4 (4 is a sherried Speyside) you didn't get them in the first five guesses. The thinking was sound, just not the final list. Probably my fault with #2. I think calling #2 a Highland (while it agrees with some writer's classification) is a bit misleading. Some people think it should be classed as a Lowland.
With sample #4 you are in the neighbourhood but not yet on the money.

Cheers

Craig
 

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Pandora II JOLT 008 - 21/02/2003 - 10:25 GMT - Johannes

Now who's being impulsive, Craig?

A story about a pot and a kettle springs to mind ;-)
My 'first guesses' weren't all that serious - with me having another bad nose day and all.
That being said, I'm extremely pleased with the shrapnels of extra information you provided. I was having a very hard time making heads or tails of it all and now I have something to hold on to. I will try the samples again today and will report on them seperately, using the information you provided to guide me towards the answer - or the bottom of the bottle at least. It looks like there's another attack of sinusitus looming beyond the horizon, so it's no use postponing the day of reckoning any longer...

One question, though. If I interpreted your words correctly, I got it right with sample #3 (Glenlivet - I 'just' have to figure out what version) and wrong with my first five guesses for #2 and #4. I noticed you didn't comment too much on #1, though.
Am I to understand that I did include the right candidate in my list of five - but not at no. 1?

Meanwhile, I'm playing my own little game of 'smoke and mirrors' with you guys.
I had a tough time composing the Pandora packages. It's really hard to find the right balance, because I know both of you have frightening noses. It has to be a challenge to make it fun, but I don't want to make it too hard either. That's why I feel I have to add a few more ingredients to the broth that's already beginning to cook;

- When I say 'overproof' I mean 50% or more
- When I say 'Highlands' that includes the Midlands
- When I say 'Islands' that means ALL the islands - Arran, Mull, Jura, Islay, Skye and Orkney
- Two of them are 'official' bottlings - two of them are not

Does that help - or does it just add to the confusion? Good! ;-)
That's all for now - I'll probably start sampling around tea-time.

Sweet drams,

Johannes
 

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Pandora II JOLT 009 - 21/02/2003 - 11:05 GMT - Craig

Hi, Johannes,

No - you didn't get Sample #1 in the first five either - you got very close.
It is a Speyside but it's not a mainstream malt. Its from a mainstream distillery but it's an experiment - can't give you anymore clues. I've revisited the first 3 samples and have combined the notes from last night and tonight.
Here goes;

Pandora 2A - Colour: mid Gold
Nose Snifter 2" - Slightly sweet, quite malty, clean & fragrant
Nose Balloon 2" - Deeper and saltier - peanuts, maybe a waft of peat, but not a lot
Nose Snifter 10" - Nice wood, 100% bourbon but very classy
Nose Balloon 10" - More fragrant like flax/linen/ waxy flowers
Nose Snifter 20" - Peanuts & spirit more obvious, then cane furniture, woody, fragrant, a bit soapy
Nose Balloon 20" - Still deeper, still nutty and slightly peaty.
Comments: In the snifter I'd pick it as a Speyside, but in the balloon I think it might be more likely to be a coastal Highland or Island. As it develops I don't think it is a lowland, however it is very good.  It has a lot of coastal and speyside characters, but includes everything I get in Scapa, Bruichladdich, Glen Elgin and Clynelish.
Palate & Finish: flax/linen, nuts, biscuits are there, along with malt & bitter metal notes.
I don't want to reveal my final conclusion but my first guess is: TA RA TA RA - RAH...
Island & Bruichladdich - how's that for a big gamble?  Very nice whisky.
Score: 86 points. Bring this one to ScotLand in May (:-)

Pandora 2B - Colour: pale Gold
Nose Snifter 2" - Lemon essence, melon, very fresh
Nose Balloon 2" - Lively, zesty, fresh, maybe lemon sherbet - lemon and butter
Nose Snifter 10" - Still lemon & fresh pine - maybe meringue & piney notes (school rulers)
Nose Balloon 10" - Still lemon butter and a hint of very dry peat, but stays floral/citric & not rubbery
Nose Snifter 20" - Lemon , sandalwood, pine, coriander
Nose Balloon 20" - Sprit prickle, lemon, bitters, maybe quinine, tonic water.
Comments: In the snifter and balloon I'd pick it as a Lowlander.
While there is a little bit of peat it isn't enough to be Ardbeg - which is the only likely Islay candidate.
As it continues to develop I think it most probably a Lowland, but I've got Cooley's Connemara wrong before.
Palate & Finish: slightly oily, slightly peaty (but not enough to be an Islay), slightly bitter, the echoes of tonic water are significant. Lovely clean whisky, but quite young. Score: 84 points.
I'm pretty sure it's a Lowland & I think it might be Rosebank????

I don't really have any f*cken clue about Pandora 2C, but here's my pathetic take on it;

Pandora 2C - Colour: white wine/riesling - very pale
Nose Snifter 2" - Woody, creamy, spirit prickle, sweet - solvent/acetone
Nose Balloon 2" - Woody, yeasty, nutty, peaty with roasted peanut character.
Nose Snifter 10" - Lots of oaky wood and some butterscotch/honeycomb.
Nose Balloon 10" - Overly woody, with lemon pith bitterness
Nose Snifter 20" - Spirit & lemon, gets better - definite citrus
Nose Balloon 20" - Spirit prickle, bitter.
Comments: In the snifter and balloon the wood was very dominant and it might be the Lowland or the Speyside. It gets more and more lemony the longer it is left. My problem is it might be the Lowland, but I've already got Pandora B pegged as the Lowland.
Palate & Finish: Lots of spirit, lots of lifted citrus zest, lots of citrus pith.
Too woody and too bitter and quite young. Score: 80 points.
I'm buggered because it might be a Lowland but I think it's a Speyside - but which one???
I'll be totally left field and say Imperial??

Cheers

Craig
 

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Pandora II JOLT 010 - 21/02/2003 - 12:05 GMT - Johannes

Hiya, Craig,

And what about Pandora 2D?
Did you fall asleep on the keyboard again? Wake up!

Anyway, I've checked my shelves and I should be able to bring a hefty second sample of Pandora 2A to Scotland this summer. It's funny to hear you ask for a second filling - I was pretty sure you were going to like this puppy. It seems you and Serge haven't come to terms on the pedigree of Pandora 2B - not yet, anyway. As for Pandora 2C: Have another sniff - you might find that there's more than meets the eye there. It may not be as young as you think.

Greetz,

Johannes
 

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Pandora II JOLT 011 - 21/02/2003 - 13:45 GMT - Serge

Hi Craig and Johannes,

It's 1:30 p.m. here, just had lunch, and I'm reading all your e-mails you sent from yesterday evening on.
JOAHNNES, are you REALLY sure you didn't f*ck up when STICKING THE LABELS on Craig's or my samples???
And yes, Craig, I'm always extremely impulsive... Sorry for that, but I just can't help! This may come from my work in advertising... "Everything, right now!" is one of my mottos. Hum, maybe a little too Latin for you guys?
Anyway, yeah, this is fun, and now I'm going to comment on Craig's last impressions...

Pandora 2A

Agreed on the colour! Okay, that was the easy part...
Nose: I must say I get almost no coastal notes at all. The Scapas I had were more honeyed whereas the Laddies had more melon and peach. I still get some fragrant flowery notes, and a lot of sweetness. Agreed with Craig about the Bourbon wood.
Palate & Finish: Craig wrote 'Bring this one to ScotLand in May' . Agreed with Craig again on that matter ;-).
If it were an Islander, I would say Highland Park. But I'll stick to Speyside because of the sweetness...
But an unsherried Speysider and a normal Highlander are sort of the same thing, aren't they, Johannes?
Unless the Highlander is coastal, sure, but what is a coastal Highlander? It's a malt MATURED near the sea, not just distilled. So, please don't tell me all Glenmroangie's output is coastal. Hum, why am I talking about that right know? Sorry, I'm digressing...

Pandora 2B

How funny! I really get much more peat than you do, Craig.
I really think it may be a Kidalton-style Ardbeg or a Talisker.
Many batches from Ardbeg aren't that peaty, especially some OMC bottlings.
Hey, isn't it an OMC bottling?

Pandora 2C

Craig, you wote about the colour: 'white wine/riesling - very pale'.
Thanks, my village produces one of the best Rieslings in the world (Grand Cru Brand de Turckheim).
I agree the nose is very woody. Makes it difficult to identify the malt.
Palate & Finish: Absolutely, citrus! That's why I thought it's Rosebank or Bladnoch.
I never tasted some Speyside showing that much citrus. But I didn't taste that many unsherried Speysiders, so I may be completely wrong... BtW, Johannes, are you considering the UDRM series as OBs?
Please, please, answer to that question, and don't just say "you should know". ;-)

Pandora 2D

Okay, no further notes from Craig's at this moment about Pandora II-D, except. this:
'Pandora 2D is the probably the Island, but might be the Highland  - don't think it is the Lowland or the Speyside'.
I think it could be anything, just because the very high alcohol level and the fact that watering it down to get some details doesn't really work (again, water and alcohol that stay appart). But I think Johannes wouldn't have sent us a malt that's usually very specific, and which isn't in this case. So, A being the Speysider IMO (sweetness), B the Islander (peat), C the Lowlander (citrus), D can't be anything but the Highlander...

But now, as Johannes just said I don't deserve any further clue, just because Australia's greatest nose is here to help... I guess Craig's on better tracks than mine... Or is it just another trick from our nasty flying Dutchman?
Next step is this evening, my 'official' region and distillery guesses.

Santé

Serge
 

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Pandora II JOLT 012 - 21/02/2003 - 15:55 GMT - Johannes

Yes, Serge - I'm quite sure I stuck the right labels on the right bottles ;-)
And yes, for the purposes of this JOLT I consider UDRM bottlings as 'official' ones.
As far as motto's go, I don't think 'Everything, right now!' is too Latin - I'd even say it seems positively reasonable compared to my own personal motto (Ego Non Plus Ultra). But another 'Latin' trait managed to hide itself between the lines of your message. I was highly amused to see your Pavlovian reaction when Craig happened no mention the world 'Riesling' ;-)
If Frenchness were an olympic sport you'd be a gold medal finalist...
BTW - isn't the word 'Riesling' German ;-)

All this jolly banter is all well and good, but what about my own set of blind samples?
Well, today is turning out to be even worse than yesterday, nose-wise. To make sure I would be able to smell as much as possible I submitted myself to several herbal steambaths, using camphor, menthol and eucalyptus oil to burn open my sinusses. I'm quite sure this kind of chemical warfare isn't the best way to prepare for a nosing but I fear my nosing abilities will only go downhill in the next few days. Time for harsh measures. I will have a final go at Craig's samples a little later and try to come up with some meaningful notes.

Catch you later,

Johannes
 

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Pandora II JOLT 013 - 21/02/2003 - 16:15 GMT - Serge

Hi, Johannes,

As for the Rare Malts, I'm considering they are IBs, just because it's not the people at the distillery who deal with it (sure, most are closed). But you're right, it belongs to Diageo... Anyway, I took notice of the fact that you consider the RMs to be OBs. Good news for me, especially for C and D (mostly D).

What really puzzles me is that 'peat' issue on blind B.
How is it possible that I get quite a lot of peat while Craig gets almost none? That really brings the issue we discussed formerly to the front: what is really 'peat', how different people smell different things (and perhaps, the influence of smoking...)

And here's a question that may keep your mind busy for a while:
"Is a Murmac bottling of Bruichladdich an OB or an IB? ;-) Or a SigVint bottling of Edradour? Or a Spinger from Cadenhead's?" Hehehe... Funny, uh? Please consider that Murmac is a subsidiary of the Bruichladdich Company nowadays...
Anyway, I won't ask for more clues, I swear (and spit on the floor while crossing my fingers behind my back).

Santé,

Serge

PS: 40 ml of C/S whisky make me almost drunk (okay, slightly 'happy') when sipped in day-time.
 

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Pandora II JOLT 014 - 21/02/2003 - 17:35 GMT - Johannes

Waaargh! You're killing me here, Serge!

I think this MurMac issue is your third 'very last question ;-)
But because it's such a good one I can't avoid answering it, I guess. To tell you the truth, I didn't know MurMac was owned by Bruichladdich - as far as I knew they were seperate companies, although they shared (part of?) the same ownership. Up until this moment I've always considered MurMacs to be 'independent' bottlings because... well... MurMac is an 'independent' bottler. But you make a very good point - I have to admit I didn't really think that one trough...
Let's discuss this issue with the other maniacs after we're done JOLTing.

The different impressions of 'peat' in Pandora 2B is very interesting as well.
Won't Scotland 2003 be a wonderful opportunity to synchronise our palates?

Meanwhile, I think this transcript is progressing quite nicely - it reads like a detective novel...

OK - That's it for now - I'm off to start my own session here in Amsterdam.

Sweet drams,

Johannes

PS: NO MORE CLUES!
 

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Pandora II JOLT 015 - 21/02/2003 - 19:05 GMT - Serge

A little philosophical interlude, just to put the fateful moment off...

Alright, we're approaching the crucial point, where I'll have to declare which region and distilleries each malt should come from. I know this may mean a lot of gibe to come... But who cares? What really puzzles me is the fact that our Australian friend has got some significantly different impressions than mine. How come could I ask him for help, then? Can you imagine a Frenchman saying: "Oh yeah, right, it's not an Islayer, it's a Lowlander! Wot? Oh yeah, right, it's a young one! Pardon? You mean that one isn't a Speysider? You tell me it's a coastal Highlander! Of course, you're right, I must have lost my mind, it's a coastal Highlander...
What? There's no peat in that one? Yeah, sure, I'm crazy... etc."

And I can't even imagine to "negotiate" our mutual impressions with Craig, just because he hasn't got the same nose and mouth as mine, obviously. Which may be good news, in a certain sense, as he lives 15,000 kilometres away from my home...

Don't get me wrong, the guy who said "Our head has been made round to allow our ideas to change direction" lived in France (Picabia, dada painter). And Craig's much more skilled at tasting whisky than I am, no doubt. So, what am I going to do now? Am I going to be selfish and stick to my first impressions? Am I really labouring under some misapprehensions? Should I ask for help? Frederique doesn't drink whisky (great for driving me home after an evening at friend's), my children are my children, and the cat, well...

Oh yes, I know what I'm going to do now:
I'll call myself for help! In other words, I'm going to taste the blinds blind. Yes, no mistyping here. I'll ask my daughter to pour each malt into a different glass, write a number on each glass, and keep a record of which blind is in which glass. We'll see if I get the same impressions twice... Yeah, let's start it again from scratch!
I should be finished within one hour...

Serge
 

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Pandora II JOLT 016 - 21/02/2003 - 19:30 GMT - Johannes

Are you starting to get nervous, Serge?

Well, you should remember that drinking has never solved anything!

Johannes

PS: tick-tock, tick-tock, tick-tock...
 

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Pandora II JOLT 017 - 21/02/2003 - 19:55 GMT - Craig

Hi Serge,

When it comes to these sort of exercises you can't be sure about anything.
This is a much harder task than the Australian National Malt Tasting Competition and there we get to try a work out 8 whiskies from 9 names.  We at least get to train on the whiskies that are going to go in the competition.  No one has ever got them all right and there are a finite number of possibilities.  So sending us these four with no other clues than they come from Lowland, Speyside, Highland and Island is a major trial.

We all nose differently and, more importantly, we all use different descriptors for the same aroma.
Secondly because I've been put to the sword many a time at Malt Competitions and club tastings (some whiskies elude me almost all the time - Oban 14 is my nemesis) , but in the heat of battle and with the fug of alcohol fumes weighing on the brain you can make some dumb decisions - I had everything nailed in the 2002 malt comp except it came down to decsision between Highland Park 12 and Glengoyne 17 for the final malt and I went the wrong way.  Now anybody would think that that was a dumb mistake to make and it was but you're under pressure and you've made a hundred decisions in 45 minutes before so fatigue sets in.

Being proven fallible so often means that I've very little hubris about my tasting talents.  I know I've lots of experience and a methodology developed over 12 years now that helps eliminate mistakes but you've got to go on your own gut feeling in the end.  This sort of decision making is a lonely business. I wouldn't seek to influence you and anyway, I think there is a certain amount of schadenfreude available to the observer if we come a complete cropper and are shown to be 'emperors without clothes'.
In my experience it is just as likely to happen to me as it is to you.
So, don't feel bad, stick to your guns, revisit your notes and go by the malt markers you find there.

I don't really have any idea about C and D and my thoughts about A and B could be well wide of the mark.  I don't happen to think they are, but it's only my opinion and that's only worth as much as the next guy's. BtW I agree about your question about region and distillery picks - for me A has to be either the Island, (Coastal) Highland or a Speyside, but it the disitlleries that are interesting because I get more in common between Bruichladdich, Scapa, Clynelish, Glenmorangie and Glen Elgin than I do between Bruichladdich and Bunnahabhain for instance.

Here's my notes on Pandora 2D: Colour - pale gold
Nose Snifter 2" - Weird, woody, straw very piney
Nose  Balloon 2" - Hot, woody, cedar sour meranti, some burnt notes.
Nose: Snifter 10" - Gets better, definite citrus cream and sour wood
Nose  Balloon 10" - Hot woody, bitter lemon, burnt notes
Nose: Snifter 20" - Still woody, but cleaner, maybe fudge and some icing sugar?
Nose  Balloon 20" - Woody but fruitier, sour fruit and sour wood
Comments: don't think D is the lowlander, but it could be the highland or island.
The wood is a bit dominant and I've come across that funky sour burnt wood note somewhere before but I can't recall how often.  The real problem is I've found that character in Glencadam, Scapa 1989 and Edradour.
Palate & Finish: woody, warm fresh melon fruit, nice and creamy.
Finishes quite dry some long burnt woody notes - might be peat but probably wood phenols. Score: 83 points .
I'm not very confident but I think this is the Highland and might be buggered because it might be the Island.
I can't make up my mind yet.

Lots of fun and a worthy test. I also think the process which is being recorded in all its fumblings,rationalistions and alcohol befuddled glory is going to be the legacy of this exercise and not whether we manage to nail any of the whiskies.

Cheers

Craig
 

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Pandora II JOLT 018 - 21/02/2003 - 20:15 GMT - Serge

Friday - Final Session
Right, just tasted the four blinds blind.
Did that lead me to enlightenment? We'll see. Here're my (short) notes:

#1 / Nose: Lots of wood. Paint thinner, a little flowery (lilac), cooked apple
Mouth: Overly woody, liquorice stick, drying
I really can't put a region's name on that one.
It must be a not-so-famous distillery, like Glen Dontwonderwhytheyclosedthatone.
Could be the Highlander.

#2 / Nose: Wood, butter, yeast, fruit, sweetness
Mouth: Cake, hazelnuts, créme dessert, wood, vanilla, lavender ice cream (you should taste that once in your life)
Uh? Not coastal, not sherried, not peated, not really fruity... Must be an unsherried Speysider or a Midlander...

#3 / Nose: Okay, peat. Iodine, blah-blah, smoke blah-blah, yeast... You know that song
Mouth: Yeah, same song...
Again, Ardbeggish...

#4 / Nose: Wood, vanilla, fruit, pear, citrus, dry white wine
Mouth: Very woody, roasted peanuts, lemon, apple
Yeah, "my" Lowlander...

Now, let's check whether I changed my minds.
1 is D, yep
2 is A, right
3 is B, okay
4 is C, great

Alright, nothing new under the sun, nor on the western front.
Perhaps I'm wrong, but I'm perseverant, at least.
So, here are my 'official' answers (no fear, no violence, no hate):

Pandora 2A: Speyside - 82 points
1. Glenfiddich / 2. Macallan (weird almost unsherried version?) / 3. Banff (but I could have said anything else)

Pandora 2B: Islands - 89 points
1. Ardbeg / 2. Talisker / 3. Port Ellen (not a traditional burnt-tyre one?)

Pandora 2C: Lowlands - 87 points
1. Bladnoch / 2. Rosebank / 3. Saint Magdalene (but not the RM)

Pandora 2D: Highlands - 81 points
1. Clynelish (but could be anything else) / 2. Ord (but could be anything else) / 3. Blair Atholl (but could be anything else)

Okay, some of the distilleries' names were chosen almost randomly - I would have needed 3 days to browse my docs...

Should I go and hang myself?

Serge
 

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Pandora II JOLT 018 - 21/02/2003 - 20:55 GMT - Johannes

(Obviously, this message wasn't sent to Craig until after he finished his final sampling.)
 

Yes, Serge, I think you should go hang yourself!

It simply isn't fair! Not only do you live in a far more beautiful country than you and your fellow Frenchmen deserve, but as it turns out your sampling skills are something to be very jealous about. Simply impeccable. Get this: You got all of the regions nailed down and two of your '#1 suspects' (A & C) were spot on as well. And in the two cases where you failed to get it right the first time you managed to revanche yourself with your second choice. You've earned yourself 18 points - really great work!
Here are the full details on this Pandora flight; your #2 was

Pandora 2A - Glenfiddich 15yo Cask Strength (51%, OB, Speyside)
Pandora 2B - Talisker 19yo 1980/2000 'Tactical' (50%, Douglas Laing OMC, Islands)
Pandora 2C - Bladnoch 1992/2002 (58.5%, James McArthur Old Master's C/S selection, Lowlands)
Pandora 2D - Glen Ord 23yo 1974/1998 (60.8%, UDRM, Highlands)

Chapeau! Your tasting skills are simply amazing.
Now, let's see what Craig makes of it when he attacks them with some friends tomorrow...

Congrats,

Johannes
 

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Pandora II JOLT 019 - 22/02/2003 - 00:55 GMT - Serge

(Obviously, this message wasn't sent to Craig until after he finished his final sampling.)
 

Hi Johannes, you are too kind!

All that is bad for my ego... Honestly, I had B and C's distilleries at the first sniff from the bottle, if I remember correctly. I had A and D's regions as well, but finding out about the distilleries needed a little more thinking (and nosing/tasting with water).
Now, a little explanation about how I did it. And let's try to be modest (but not overly modest).

First, I must admit the way you composed the flight was highly skilful.
Extremely well done, easy but not too much, difficult but not too much...
Just what I was expecting, and that made it easier.

As for Pandora A, the tricky part was to make a difference between A's region and D's region.
The fact that A was really smooth, I would even say "commercial", did let me decide for Speyside at first go.
Choosing Glennfiddich was quite a bet, as I haven't got any on my shelves. But, again, the fact that it was quite commercial and indefinite made me decide for it. I knew it was a real bet, because there's no Glennfiddich IB... You wouldn't have put a cask sample, so there was only one possible bottling, the official C/S. As I thought it was a 50% bottling, I checked whether the GF C/S had approx. 50% alcohol: bingo! So, I said to myself it had to be that one. I wasn't 100% sure, as I was sure Pandora B was a 50% vol. OMC Ardbeg or Talisker, and I feared that you would have classed the malts from the lighter to the heavier. But then, I remembered that you are a Dutchman, and I said to myself: "Hey, that's another little trick from Johannes'".
And I went for the Glennfiddich C/S.

But as for Pandora B , why did I go back to Ardbeg, f*****g shit! That's my only regret...
It was your 'not too easy' remark that made me shift. But after all, only 1 pt lost... But I was sure it was an OMC. And Talisker was so obvious... So I thought you had played another little trick of yours, and that you had put a "Kidalton-style" Ardbeg. Frankly, my nose and tastebuds told me it was Talisker... But my brain said Ardbeg as the first option.
Hey, always believe your senses!

I was absolutely sure about Pandora C, but I thought it was an UDRM!
But hey, you didn't ask for the bottler's name, did you? I think Bladnoch is easy to identify.
You may just take it for Rosebank from time to time...

As for Pandora D, I tasted Glen Ord UDRM six months ago at a friend's place, and that's pure luck.
But why did I put Clynelish on the 1st place rather than Glen Ord? Maybe because I thought you would have served a malt that's more emblematic than Ord, despite the fact that my senses told me it was Glen Ord UDRM. That was a mistake as well... BtW, I was sure it was an UDRM (very characteristic of a huge C/S vatting and a high level of alcohol)

Anyway, I was really lucky this time, I must admit.
18 pts is great news, I was expecting only 10 to 15 points.
Oh, just read Craig's latest email... He doesn't know of my findings and my results, and tells me to stick to my guns.
Yeah, that's what I did. But shouldn't I tell Craig he should change his mind about some of the malts? Remaining silent until Craig sends his final results will be tough... I'd really like to insist on the peat in B and the citrus in C, and that may unlock his whole session's paradigm...  I can't imagine there's not one guy in his gang who will tell him B is an heavily peated malt. But how will they come up with a common answer? Anyway, I'm pretty sure they'll get B and C. A and D are another story, and I was really lucky...  As for Craig's "old or young" remarks, I'm very bad at that when we're dealing with C/S whiskies, and I really won't put one penny on that.

The good news is that my results may make it evident that a distillery's got a real style, that isn't just related to cask and maturing management, as many stupid people tell the world. I always thought that was nonsense! As soon as a malt's characteristics aren't completely masked by a specific type of cask (heavy sherry, port etc.), whisky behaves just like wine, showing specific markers etc. And that's just great!

And oh, by the way, I listened to some Natalie Merchant and 10,000 Maniacs music while tasting. Beautiful and most inspiring. Especially "Just Can't Last" by Natalie Merchant (an appropriate title from an ex 10,000 Maniacs singer).
Beautiful song, I urge you to listen to it if you like folk pop music, and she was a Maniac like we are...

Anyway, that flight was nicely composed, indeed. Thanks for the fun, Johannes!

Santé‚

Serge
 

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Pandora II JOLT 020 - 22/02/2003 - 09:05 GMT - Johannes

(Obviously, this message wasn't sent to Craig until after he finished his final sampling.)
 

Hi, guys,

Click. Pruttle... Pruttle... PGHHHHT! Gloo, gloo, gloo... <sip>  Aaaaahhh....
My morning cup of espresso - one of life's little pleasures. And a bare neccessity to kick-start the day. I'm going to keep further comments about the Pandora blinds to myself until we've heard from Craig & his gang. Meanwhile, here's my final review of the four blinds Craig sent me in return for the first Pandora flight a while ago.

Sample Craig #1 (40%, IB, Speyside)

What have we learnt so far? None of my first five wild guesses were right, but Craig admitted that this was a G&M bottling like I suspected. I think that very much proves a point I made earlier about the G&M style overwhelming the actual distillery character. What else? Craig also told me that it's a 'collector' malt and that I got very close with my first set of guesses: Aultmore, Ardmore, Craigellachie, Glenallachie and Linkwood. Given the fact that more than half of all distilleries in Scotland are located in the Speyside region and that some of them are quite similar in character that doesn't help me very much, I'm afraid. But Craig also emphasised that it's not a mainstream malt but an 'experiment' from a mainstream distillery - maybe that will help me out a bit.

The first sampling produced a score of 78 points and showed these 'markers':
Nose: Smooth and elegant. Soft fruits. Shoe polish. Malty. Lemon drops after a while. Soap? Pine? Pepper & spices.
Taste: Sweetish start. Smooth. Pine? Toffee. Chocolate bitterness. Dry. Sherried finish - doesn't last very long.

My second nosing didn't produce many new insights. Maybe a hint of toffee in the nose? A little flipping through my little black book at lightning speed produced some other Speysiders that showed toffee: Convalmore, Dallas Dhu, Dalwhinnie, Glendronach, Glenfarclas, Linkwood, Macallan (hm...), Miltonduff, Royal Brackla and Strathisla. A search for the chocolate I found earlier produced Balvenie (hey!), Dallas Dhu again (that one showed some toffee as well), Inchgower, Macallan (hmmmmm!), Mortlach and Strathisla again. Strangely enough, another malt that popped up with both searches (toffee and chocolate) was Ben Nevis - but that's is a Western Highland malt, not a Speysider. Highland Park and Balblair were other malts with a similar profile. A search for 'soap' only produced 1 Speysider: Linkwood again. So, I guess it's understandable why I added that one to my list.
Now I'm not so sure why I picked the other 4 candidates, though...

Let's have another flip through my book to search for Speysiders that show pepper and/or spices.
Aultmore, Balvenie, Balblair, Ben Nevis, Dufftown, Glenallachie, Glendronach, Glenfarclas, Glenfiddich, Glen Grant, Glen Moray, Glenrothes, Inchgower, Knockando, Linkwood (again!), Longmorn (Hey!) and Tomatin. A search for the 'malty' element produced Ardmore, Convalmore, Dailuaine (Hey!), Dalwhinnie, Dufftown, Glenburgie, Glendronach, Glenfarclas, Glen Grant, Glenlivet, Imperial, Inchgower, Linkwood (AGAIN!), Longmorn, Strathmill, Tamdhu and Tomintoul.

Man, I could go on like this forever.
Let's pour the last dram from the bottle and decide on my 'definitive' score and Top 5 candidates.
Wait a minute - is that a hint of liquorice in the nose? That would make Glendronach, Glenfarclas, Glenrothes, Linkwood (AGAIN!!!!), and Macallan the most likely candidates. A final whiff of marzipan decided things for me in favour of Glenfarclas.
In all of his 'impulsiveness' Craig quickly responded to my 'wild' guesses last night. To tell you the truth, that wasn't really the plan, so in this case I'm going to try and pretend that nothing happened. Looking at these 'serious' notes there's absolutely no doubt Linkwood would have been the usual suspect so I'll put that at #1. The entire line up looks like this;

1) Linkwood
2) Glenfarclas
3) Longmorn
4) Glendronach
5) Glenrothes

Macallan, Balvenie, Glenlivet and Glen Grant would come right after that.
I'll keep the score at 78 points - The nose is nice but
the taste still didn't manage to arouse me.
It starts OK but shows weakness in the winey finish. At the end of the day I wouldn't pour this dram.
OK - One down; three more to go...

Sample Craig #2 (43%, OB, Highland)

What have we learnt so far?
Well, for one thing that it's the only Highland malt in the flight - all the others are Speysiders.
Furthermore, that it's from a distillery Craig has a higher regard for than I do and that this bottling was only meant to be available in the USA. My first five wild guesses (Royal Lochnagar, Deanston, Glenturret, Tullibardine and Edradour) were wrong, although Craig thought the reasoning was sound. His last clue ( 'I think calling #2 a Highland is a bit misleading. Some people think it's a Lowland.') may be the one most helpful for finding the solution. Or maybe not... Who could confuse a Lowland for a Highland?

Here's what I found during the first sampling: Score 70 points.
Nose: Fresh. Spicy & dusty. Some (citrus?) fruit. Nutty & oily. Pepper? Maggi. Paint thinner. Sweeter with time.
Taste: Sweetish and woody. Malty. Tannins. Soapy, dry finish. Sourish and a little 'winey'.

On second nosing it started out remarkably spicy with organic overtones. Dust. Lighter fruity elements as well.
Very faint citrus. I like it
a smidgen better this time. Still, there's something grainy or bourbony that bugs me.
The taste was a little oily - too dry and bitter in the finish for me. Very woody. Flat and uninspired. A little dusty.

Wait a minute! Dusty? That's one of the markers I've found in Glengoyne in the past. And given the fact the distillery is located in the far South of the Midlands it's very, very close to the border between the Highlands and the Lowlands. That seems like a very likely candidate for the #1 guess, especially because three of my 'wild guesses' (Deanston, Glenturret and Tullibardine) are the closest 'Highland' neighbours of Glengoyne, while Edradour is a Southern Highland malt as well. If it actually turns out to be Glengoyne this would an interesting development. Just when I've consciously begun to question the influence of 'regional' influences in a malt my subconscious will have found something to locate this one South of Speyside and North of the Lowlands.
I'm pretty sure Loch Lomond isn't an option - I didn't feel sick afterwards ;-)

So, without further ado, here's my 'final' list of usual suspects;

1) Glengoyne (Although I didn't find the 'trademark' apple and cider notes I've found in other OB's.)
2) Glencadam (A distant second - I also found dust, pepper and paint thinner in that one.)
3) Glenesk (Paint thinner in the nose and a gritty finish.)
4) Lochside (The oil, the oil...)
5) Old Fettercairn (Not likely...)

No reason to change the score of 70 points for Blind #2 as far as I'm concerned. Lousy finish.
Looking at this list, I seem to find paint thinner in most Eastern Highland malts.
I'll have to investigate this phenomenon further in the future...

Sample Craig #3 (49.1%, IB, Speyside)

What have we learnt so far? Well, that it's a Glenlivet and that Craig thinks it's 'classy'.
Not bad, especially because my 'wild guesses' weren't all that serious. But will I be able to find out more from the last dram - like what independent bottler might have put it on the market or how old it is? Not very likely, but I'll give it a go.

The first tasting produced a score of 86 points and these 'markers':
Nose: Light and fruity. Water melon? Organics. Dry. Soy sauce. More complex after a minute. Excellent!
Taste: Sweet start, growing hot and dry quickly. Alcoholic. Nice, but not as spectacular as the nose.

Time for a second sampling:
Nose: Creamy and fleet-footed. Melon & assorted other fruits. Honey. Something flowery? Great balance.
Lovely spicy notes appear after a while.  Maybe even a hint of peat. This has to be at least 20 years old!
Taste: Doesn't really burn like an overproof malt at first. Remarkably soft and smooth in the start. Lilac?
A long, fruity center slowly fades away. The finish is quite woody. Dry and not sweet enough for me.
Cookies? Sadly, the palate isn't very well defined - it lacks personality. Maybe not the best of casks?
How about a splash of water? Hmmm... that pretty much killed it. It loses points here.
I have to say my original rating of 86 points seems a tad generous - let's go with 84 points.

So, any more clues about the identity? Not really. I'm pretty sure it isn't a Gordon & MacPhail bottling (it's too transparent) but other than that it would be pure speculation. Well, it's no Douglas Laing bottling either, that's for sure. This doesn't strike me as the type of malt they'd bottle. It doesn't seem like a work by Murray McDavid either. Most likely this is either a Signatory Vintage, James McArthur or Chieftain's bottling. (Could be Cadenhead's, but I've tasted very few of those so I can't really say.)
And I'm guessing it comes from a bourbon cask (or a re-re-re-filled sherry cask).

Sample Craig #4 (43%, OB, Speyside)

What have we learnt so far? First of all that this is my favourite sample in this flight.
Second of all that
Craig feels it's a chameleon and that this sherried Speysider isn't distilled at Macallan, Glendronach, Aberlour, Dailuaine and Mortlach. According to Craig 'the thinking was sound, just not the final list. You are in the neighbourhood but not yet on the money'. Hmmm... My first tasting produced a score of 88 points and these 'markers':
Nose: Sherry. Wood. Tobacco. Cardboard. Spices. Smoke. Organics. Maggi? Something faintly metallic.
Taste: Sweet and woody. Fruity and very dry. Hint of smoke. Excellent mouth feel. Playful.

Let's do a quick search of my little black book to see which distilleries show the characteristics I found.
How about the tobacco? That would be Balvenie, Glendronach, Glenrothes and Linkwood. The strong wood could indicate Aberlour, Balvenie, Caperdonich, Dailuaine, Glendronach, Glenfarclas (Hmmm...), Glenrothes, Linkwood (Hmm...), Longmorn, Macallan (obviously), and Mortlach. Looking at my old notes and chucking out the 'wild guesses' Craig exterminated, that leaves us with this final list;

1) Glenfarclas
2) Linkwood
3) Glenrothes
4) Longmorn
5) Balvenie

I'll stick with my score of 88 points for Blind #4. Mighty pleasant stuff! Just because it's so mighty pleasant, I didn't empty the sample completely. I want to have another crack at it after Craig has divulged its identity. All in all, this was a tricky flight with three Speysiders that seemed alarmingly similar in style and a very a-typical Highlander.

That's it from me for now - all that's left to do now is await Craig's answers and his take on the Pandora II flight.

Sweet drams,

Johannes
 

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Pandora II JOLT 021 - 22/02/2003 - 10:45 GMT - Craig

Hi Johannes & Serge,

The brain's trust has assembled (the ones who weren't smart enough to get out of town) and I finally found peat in B.
OK - we are going for the region first;

Pandora A is the Highland
Pandora B is the Island
Pandora C is the Speyside
Pandora D is the Lowland

Can we have feedback before we choose the distilleries?

Meanwhile, the answers to my Pandora Challenge for you are;
I - Mosstowie 12yo 1970 (40%, G&M)
II - Glengoyne 16yo Scottish Oak Finish (43%, OB)
III - Glenlivet 28yo 1968/1996 (49.1%, Signatory Vintage)
IV - Glenfarclas 22yo Millennium Malt (43%, OB)

Craig, Tim and Marty
 

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Pandora II JOLT 022 - 22/02/2003 - 11:05 GMT - Johannes

Hiya, Craig (& gang),

Good to know you're not fast asleep in your bed anymore...
The bad news is that my fiendish composing skills have lead you astray.
You correctly identified Pandora 2B - it's an Islander. The other ones are not what they seem.
Have another go at the rest, I'd say.

Good luck!

Johannes
 

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Pandora II JOLT 023 - 22/02/2003 - 11:20 GMT - Craig

OK, here's take 2;

Pandora A = Speyside
Pandora B = Island
Pandora C = Lowland
Pandora D = Highland

How many right now?

Team Australia
 

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Pandora II JOLT 024 - 22/02/2003 - 11:25 GMT - Johannes

Right-o gang,

You nailed them all this time. Now for their identity... Happy hunting!

Johannes
 

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Pandora II JOLT 025 - 22/02/2003 - 11:40 GMT - Craig

Hi Johannes,

For Pandora 2A we need more time
For Pandora 2B we go for Ardbeg, Port Ellen and Bruichladdich
For Pandora 2C we go for Rosebank, Bladnoch and Auchentoshan
For Pandora 2D we need more time

Can you let us know whehter we got 2B and 2C in the group of three?

Craig

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Pandora II JOLT 026 - 22/02/2003 - 11:45 GMT - Johannes

Hiya, Craig, Tim & Marty

Pandora 2B: Sorry, no dice.
Pandora 2C: You nailed it with your second guess, it's a Bladnoch. Congratulations.

Furthermore, I can tell you that the Bladnoch was the youngest bottling in the flight.
And here are a few extra pointers Serge wanted me to relay to you 'wallabies';

- Concentrate on each malt's main marker, and forget about the other ones .
- Don't try to identify the Highlander. Concentrate on Speyside and Lowlands, the third one will be the Highlander.

Hope this helps,

Johannes
 

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Pandora II JOLT 027 - 22/02/2003 - 11:45 GMT - Craig

OK,

Pandora 2A - Glenlivet, Benromach, Linkwood
Pandora 2D - Glencadam, Blair Athol, Balblair

We'll have to think about B some more.

craig

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Pandora II JOLT 028 - 22/02/2003 - 12:10 GMT - Johannes

Greetings to all down-under,

Pandora 2A: Close, but no cigar. I guess the Glenlivet comes closest.
Pandora 2D: Close, but no cigar. I think your best shot so far was Balblair. Look in that direction, I'd say.

I made a bit of a boo-boo with relaying those latest pointers by Serge - you guys already identified the distilleries.
To make amends, here's another set of clues from Serge and yours truly.

- 2C is the youngest of all, followed by A and B. Pandora 2D is the oldest.
- 2A is an OB, almost never found as an IB
- 2B is an IB, OB's may be even more peaty generally
- 2C is an IB but really has its region's markers
- 2D is an 'OB' and comes from the Northern Highlands

That should get you underway!

Sweet drams,

Johannes
 

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Pandora II JOLT 029 - 22/02/2003 - 12:55 GMT - Johannes

Hi, guys,

While Craig & his gang are undoubtedly growing more and more frustrated down under, their search for the truth is becoming slightly academic - at least when it comes to the virtual sampling medals that will be awarded for this second Pandora flight. With an amazing score of 18 points out of 20 Serge receives the gold medal and a standing ovation. Superbe! The fight for the silver and bronze medal will have to be decided by the jury, I'm afraid. One the one end we have team Australia with 2 points for picking the Islander correctly from the batch and 2 more points for putting the Bladnoch on the list as their second choice for Pandora C.
Just to recap - here's an overview of their first answers;

Pandora 2A - Highland / Glenlivet, Benromach, Linkwood
Pandora 2B - Island / Ardbeg, Port Ellen and Bruichladdich
Pandora 2C - Speyside / Rosebank, Bladnoch and Auchentoshan
Pandora 2D - Lowland / Glencadam, Blair Athol, Balblair

Meanwhile, on the other end, we have my own poor performance. Even though my 'first guesses' for Craig's set of blinds weren't all that serious he interpreted them as such. I guess that's fair, and because I managed to identify the Glenlivet (mostly by accident) you won't hear me complain about it, because that would mean I would have earned myself 5 points - i.e. the silver medal.

Sweet drams,

Johannes
 

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Pandora II JOLT 030 - 23/02/2003 - 00:55 GMT - Craig

Hi Johannes,

We had another go at Pandora 2A and there are simply too many alternatives to Glenlivet.
We finally came up with Glenfarclas, Glen Elgin and Benrinnes, but we don't really have any firm reasons.

We didn't really find any evidence of distillery character in Pandora 2B.
We finally settled on Caol Ila, Lagavulin and Talisker, but it's not like any Talisker I've tasted.

Pandora 2D - again no reason, because we couldn't get past the spirit and the wood.
We finally settled on Clynelish, Teaninich or Glenmorangie.

I think we all suffered 'options' fatigue at the end.

Craig
 

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Pandora II JOLT 031 - 23/02/2003 - 13:45 GMT - Johannes

Okidikie Craig,

Here are the final answers - and my rationale for the composition;

Pandora 2A - Glenfiddich 15yo Cask Strength (51%, OB, Speyside)
Pandora 2B - Talisker 19yo 1980/2000 'Tactical' (50%, Douglas Laing OMC, Islands)
Pandora 2C - Bladnoch 1992/2002 (58.5%, James McArthur Old Master's C/S selection, Lowlands)
Pandora 2D - Glen Ord 23yo 1974/1998 (60.8%, UDRM, Highlands)

First a few words about the overall composition of the flight.
I tried very much to make it a fair challenge - not too easy and not too hard. Serge seems to think I've succeeded, but maybe we shouldn't take the words of the person who's just scored 18 points with this game too seriously on this matter ;-)  I tried to assemble a set of malts that showed at least some of their 'classic' regional characteristics. But it's no use calling it a 'challenge' without adding at least some challenging elements to the mix. After all, the fact that I picked overproof malts narrowed down the number of options considerably. That's why I tried to
pick malts 'with a twist' - something that set them apart from their siblings.

One of the reasons for including the Glenfiddich 15yo Cask Strength (Pandora 2A) in the flight was the fact that, according to the matrix, you sampled it before. I wanted to put at least one malt into the flight that one of you was familiar with (Pandora D was the one Serge should have known). I chose this one partly because your matrix rating for this bottling is 80 points, while you have the 15yo 'Solera Reserve' version at a neighbourly 79 point. To me, the difference in 'class' is much more than a mere point. You know I've never been a huge fan of Glenfiddich but I quite like this 15yo Cask Strength. It's my favourite Glenfiddich by far - maybe because the slightly higher proof compensates for some elements in the Glenfiddich style I perceive as weaknesses.
My 'original' rating of 77 points (for a freshly opened bottle) seemed to be a tad on the conservative side, maybe due to 'the label effect'. After filling a spare sample for later inspection I poured the last dram from the bottle and agreed this is worth a lot more than 77 points. This is a single malt everybody can enjoy, but it has enough personality to keep more discriminating consumers entertained as well. So, I jacked up my score to 81 points.

So, I was very curious to see what you made of it when you sampled it blindly.
Of course, there's always batch variation to consider. This batch may be quite different from the one you sampled. Fortunately, we know for sure that this one is the same as the one Serge had. It was his first encounter with this bottling and he gave it 82 points. It seems your little helpers didn't help very much last night, because your first instincts were correct.
Check this out: 'Could be a Speyside ... the most traditional in terms of style and peating.'
(BTW: I've heard rumours this bottling will be taken off the market. Any info on that?)

I put the Talisker / Tactical 19yo 1980/2000 (Pandora 2B) in the package because I really like it.
I have it at 86 points right now and that's after just two drams from a freshly opened bottle. I wouldn't be surprised if the score rises as the level of the whisky in the bottle drops. Serge got it almost right; Talisker was his second guess after Ardbeg. He thought of an OMC bottling pretty early on in the game and eventually gave it 89 points. When you got it right after a round of second-guessing you wrote 'It's not like any Talisker I've tasted'. Right, I completely agree! I wasn't surprised you didn't find any peat in it at first, it took me a while as well. Like Serge said the OMC bottlings usually don't wear their peat on their sleeves.
I was a bit surprised neither of you followed the pepper trail, though... 

The Bladnoch 1992/2002 (Pandora 2C) made it into this flight because I needed a Lowlander anyway and the two bottlings we have on the matrix at the moment are both G&M Connoisseur's Choice bottlings. Like I said before, I feel they don't always reflect the true distillery character. I personally think this bottling does a better job on this issue, although both of you figured it could have been a Rosebank as well. Serge got it right with his first try and you had this one at #2. I first tried this at the whisky festival in The Hague last year and liked it so much I immediately bought a bottle. I'm not sure it will ever reach Serge's 87 points on my Hit List but just like the other bottlings in this flight my current score of 82 points is based on the first drams from the bottle.

Finally, there's the Glen Ord 23yo 1974/1998 (Pandora 2D). You came pretty close with Balblair, Glenmorangie and Teaninich. All these distilleries are located in the neighbourhood of Glen Ord. That's pretty snazzy considering the Highlands stretch accross the biggest part of Scotland. But not quite as snazzy as Serge; he got it right with his second guess. You also mentioned Clynelish. That's funny because I originally planned on adding the new Clynelish 14yo OB to the mix instead of the Glend Ord. But at 46% I wasn't quite sure if it would qualify as an 'overproof' whisky. I had no other overproof Highlanders on my shelves so I had to turn to my reserve stock where I found this lonely bottle of Glen Ord. I haven't tried it myself but will do so soon.

All this puts you and your team at 4 points out of 20. Now, get this: Serge got... 18 points!
That's right! We have an 'Über-Nase' within our ranks. Like I said before, you probably should have followed your own advice about going with your own instincts. Serge did and look where it got him... What were your ratings for these malts?

Sweet drams,

Johannes
 

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Pandora II JOLT 032 - 23/02/2003 - 22:30 GMT - Craig

Hi Johannes,

Pandora A   - on some of my malt markers it could have been Glenfiddich, but I thought it was probably too good.
The Score was 86 points - I liked it.  It was pretty classy and I'll stick by that.

Pandora B - I've only ever had two cask strength independent bottlings of Talisker, one from Cadenhead and one from Gordon & MacPhail. Both were a lot different to this one.  The lemon fooled me, but the freshness and the cleanliness are winners. I thought it was pretty young. Score = 84 points - might be worth more than that but I won't move it upwards, just because I like the distillery.

Pandora C - again no experience of cask strength Bladnoch and only ever tasted three others.
The 8yo OB, the G&M 1987 and a James MacArthur 10yo. This one had more Glenfiddich character than Pandora A and was the lesser of the flight. As I said I could happily live without it. Score 80 points - and is probably generous.

Pandora D - not having tasted it or anything from Glen Ord before (other than the Dewar's Glenordie 12yo and the UD Glen Ord 12yo 43%) I didn't have any markers.  There was reason to think it was probably one of the UDRM stable - it shares indifferent wood and lots of spirit with lots of them - score 83 points - extra points for some weirdness.

My Pandora Challenge for you was;

Craig I - Mosstowie 12yo 1970 (40%, G&M)
Craig II - Glengoyne 16yo Scottish Oak Finish (43%, OB)
Craig III - Glenlivet 28yo 1968/1996 (49.1%, Signatory Vintage)
Craig IV - Glenfarclas 22yo Millennium Malt (43%, OB)

Craig
 

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Pandora II JOLT 033 - 23/02/2003 - 23:55 GMT - Johannes

OK, thanks Craig,

Now I have all the data I need for the matrix - and some final words of reflection.
And that's about time as well, because the three of us have managed to gather at least as much data as half a dozen maniacs have during our previous JOLTs. I'll try to formulate some thoughts on your set of blinds before I review the overall results of this session.

My first blind was the Mosstowie 12yo 1970 (40%, G&M). Wow, that's a young oldie. Wasn't that distilled at Miltonduff? Let's check the facts in Michael Jackson's guide. Yep - the name Mosstowie is reserved for the malt produced by a Lomond still that used to be operational at Miltonduff. According to MJ it's heavier, oilier and smokier than the 'normal' Miltonduff malt. Is that so? I've tasted one Miltonduff and one Mosstowie before; let's check my own notes. The Miltonduff 12yo (43%, OB) was light and clean and had a lot of flowery freshness in the nose. I found toffee on the palate and scored it at 74 points.
I sampled the Mosstowie 1979/1999 (40%, G&M Connoisseur's Choice) in May 2001 in De Still (see
Log Entry 81 for details). The nose of that one was very big and reminded me of rum and cognac. It was sweet and fruity, but a little uni-dimensional. The taste was powerful with burnt toffee, woody and sherry. Great, but (like the nose) a bit one-dimensional. Score = 81 points.

So, what did I find when I sampled the blind?
During the first run I found none of the 'nasal markers' but the toffee in the taste should have put me on the right track. I immediately recognised it as a G&M bottling, though. I don't know what it is but they have a distinct style of their own. My first wild guesses were Aultmore, Ardmore, Craigellachie, Glenallachie and Linkwood. No points there. During the second nosing I found toffee again and actually considered Miltonduff as one of the options. But I followed the chocolate trail and ended up with Linkwood, Glenfarclas, Longmorn, Glendronach and Glenrothes as my 'final' list of usual suspects. My score for this bottling was 78 points . When I checked
Craig's Malt Mileage I found that he gave this bottling 80 points so my score seems pretty reasonable.
(Of course, you could argue about this being an IB or an OB - I think G&M are the exclusive bottlers.)

This was an interesting blast from the past. It's no use adding it to the matrix, though. The last time this bottle could be found on the shelf of your average malt monger was almost two decades ago. Now the only (slim) chance you'll have of obtaining a bottle is at an auction. And it's not likely that other bottlings of Mosstowie will be flooding the market either - it seems the Lomond still at Miltonduff was dismantled a while ago. Too bad, because based on my experiences so far I'd have to say I prefer this sample over the 'normal' Miltonduff 12yo that was bottled at a similar age as this one.

Blind #2 was the Glengoyne 16yo Scottish Oak Finish (43%, OB). I noticed Craig gave it a whopping 86 points!
Sadly, I can't say I liked it quite as much - I only gave it 70 points. This may seem off the mark until you check my
Track Record for the other Glengoyne bottlings I've tried. The 10yo OB received 72 points and the 12yo OB 73 points - both scored a little below average. I think the 'Scottish Oak' finish dragged my score for this 16yo OB down a bit - it was too sour and woody for my taste. My first impression took me in the direction of the Southern Highlands with Royal Lochnagar, Deanston, Glenturret, Tullibardine and Edradour 10yo as the usual suspects. After a few extra clues by Craig I had little trouble tracing the dust back to Glengoyne.
I feel a bit bad about my score because Craig obviously intened me to have fun with this one.

I have to admit my identifying Blind #3 as the Glenlivet 28yo 1968/1996 (49.1%, Signatory Vintage, Cask# 1578) was mostly luck. Something about it just rung a bell - it was very soft and fruity. Other than that I had very little hard evidence about its identity. Craig's score was 87 points while I gave it 86 points. So, no argument there - this is the best (and oldest) Glenlivet I ever tried.

Finally, we have Blind #4 - the Glenfarclas 22yo Millennium Malt (43%, OB, released +/- 2000). This was my personal favourite of the flight. I'll stick with my 'final' rating of 88 points for this one - a very fine piece of work. The main markers were sherry and wood, which explains my first wild guesses; Macallan, Glendronach, Aberlour, Dailuaine and Mortlach. Craig informed me I was barking up the wrong tree, so I had another go at it. Closer inspection of the malt and consultation of my little black book indicated that this was most likely a Glenfrarclas or a Linkwood. (Isn't it funny how the same names keep popping up?)  I knew Craig is very fond of Glenfarclas so I put that at #1. Quite appropriate for my #1 malt of this Pandora session - also the best Glenfarclas I ever had.

So, all that's left for me to do is assemble the scores;

- Bladnoch 1992/2002 (58.5%, James McArthur)                     CD = 80, JH = 82, SV = 87
- Glenfarclas 22yo Millennium Malt (43%, OB)                         CD = 88, JH = 88
- Glenfiddich 15yo Cask Strength (51%, OB)                          CD = 86, JH = 81, SV = 82
- Glengoyne 16yo Scottish Oak Finish (43%, OB)                    CD = 86, JH = 70 
- Glenlivet 28yo 1968/1996 (49.1%, Signatory Vintage)           CD = 87, JH = 86
- Glen Ord 23yo 1974/1998 (60.8%, UDRM)                           CD = 83, JH = 81, SV = 81
- Mosstowie 12yo 1970 (40%, G&M)                                    CD = 80, JH = 78
- Talisker 19yo 1980/2000 (50%, Douglas Laing OMC)             CD = 84, JH = 86, SV = 89

That's it from me - I've got to get busy with Malt Maniacs #6.

Sweet drams,

Johannes
 

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Surf to Scotchwhisky.comDrop me a note... 

I sent Craig Daniels and Serge Valentin two identical flights of
blind samples. All they had to help them identify and score the
malts were some meagre clues and eachother's noses and palates.

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E-pistle #05/12 - Pandora II JOLT
Transcript by
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