Night 1 - Mini Marathon:
Ardbeg 10 / Strathisla 12 / Glen Grant 10 / Glen Mhor 1977 / Loch Dhu 10

I've put some music by the McCalmans in my CD player to get in the mood.
Klaus Everding from Hamburg sent it to me, and I like it a lot. Quirky Scottish folk songs - hard to describe. One of the songs on the CD is 'Westering Home', the song on the back of the Bunnahabhain bottle. Me and my brother have sung the song many times - but because we only knew the lyrics we had to invent a melody. Strangely enough, the McCalmans version was very different from ours.
Perhaps it's a twelve inch version or someting....

Anyway - I have tasted quite a lot of the new official Ardbeg 10 yrs. old over the last three months. High time for a 'final' rating, methinks. It is remarkingly light in color for an Islay, but that doesn't bother me. What does bother me is the fact that it has hardly any nose at all for the first few minutes. (Well - for an Ardbeg, that is...)
Fortunately, it starts to open up after a while, becoming smoky and peaty.
And what about the taste? Hmmmm... What a sweet burn... Some salt too. Very well balanced - a relief after the slightly disappointing nose. After the relatively sweet start it becomes more 'Islay' in a few minutes. Nice and sweet at first, with the long Ardbeg explosion in the middle and an impressive finish.
Final rating: 83 points. It's different from the Laphroaig 10 (which gets the same grade), but it's just as good! Then again, the price of 47 Euro's is pretty steep. At a slight premium you can get yourself the greatly superior Ardbeg 17 yrs.

The Strathisla 12 yrs. old had a beautiful, saturated honey color - once it had ecaped from the dark, intimidating bottle. The fact that I noticed it says something...
It was a good thing the color was so interesting, because the nose wasn't. At least not at first... Soft and dry - a bit nutty and oily. Later there were some faint hints of sherry, but little more.  Disappointing - I had expected more from a Speyside malt. Water didn't help very much - just added some chloride notes. The taste wasn't particulary pleasant to my tongue at first, but there's a whole lot of development there. An explosion at first, and a very long finish with a multitude of changes along the way. Gooseberry, chocolate, coffee, toffee and vanilla were amongst the impressions. Not all stages in the development were pleasant, though. To me, this is more of an interesting malt than a nice malt.
Too bad for the Strathisla my rating system is based on my personal preferences.
Just to be sure, I poured a few drops of the Glen Elgin (n.a.s.) in another glass to be able to declare my final rating. The Glen Elgin is another Speyside malt that comes from a distillery not far away. It seemed a bit reserved and almost 'painty' next to the Strathisla at first. It picked up later on, though. Still - the Strathisla was clearly better overall.
Final rating: 74 points. Well - this rating may not be as final as it sounds. I imagined I noticed an improvement in the Strathisla after a few months of breathing. I'll give it a few more months and re-taste it then. Just see if things look up.

Back to tonight's tasting. This bottle definitely needed a little while to break in. After a disappointing start, the nose of the Glen Mhor 1977 (Signatory Vintage bottling) comes alive quite nicely with all kinds of 'farmy' aroma's. Some chemical lemon tones at the end of every whiff. Sherry too. Sweeter and smokier later on.
Taste: Very strange. Slick bummer. A lot of sherry, but no sweetness at all.
Unbalanced. Disappointing.
Preliminary rating: 68 points; embarrassing for a malt this age.

Although I often pick up the 'no age statement' version of Glen Grant as a volume whisky, I've never been able to nose and taste it properly. But last weekend, when I visited our family's house in the woods, I made a stop at the little local liquorist in a small town nearby. The 'ageless' version of Glen Grant is usually the only single malt they have, so imagine my surprise when I saw a bottle of Glen Grant 10 yrs. old on the shelf for the price of the younger version - 34 guilders! Surely a mistake by one of the staff, but my good upbringing prevented me from confronting them with their error when I bought myself a bottle. After all, I wouldn't want to embarrass them...

Nose: The 10 seemed a lot like the 'ageless' version at first; fresh and a bit sharp.
After a few minutes, some heavier aroma's emerged. More citrus, less spirit sharpness.
Sweeter and sweeter as time goes by; more malty as well. More interesting alltogether, really. A lot of staying power too. Gee Whizz; a lot better than I expected.
Unfortunately, the taste wasn't as good as the nose had promised. Still noticably better than the younger version without an age statement on the bottle, mind you.
Sweet, glowing - then drier, but with a sweet finish. Dark chocolate?
Preliminary rating: lower 70's . Puts the ageless version to shame by some 10 points.

The Cockburn 6 yrs. old was a strange puppy... Originally intended for the Italian market, this ugly little bottle had somehow managed to find it's way to Holland.
The Italians like their whisky young and spirity (as well as their women, I'm told...)
Nose: Spirity & Sharp; little more. Maybe a bit of a flowery kind of sweetness.
It had a 'dusty' quality, but vanished without a trace within minutes.
Taste: Is this a single malt? A grainy burn on the tongue, with a rather long aftertaste.
Not a good thing, a very unpleasant artificial sweetness dominates. Warm, clean and much too astringent. Definitely not up to single malt standards.
Final rating: 35 points.
The label claims it's a single malt whisky, but I have my doubts.
Very strong ones, in fact, after I couldn't find any information about it - either in my whisky books or on the Internet. I did find a lot of references to Cockburn's Port; a famous name in port, and one of my favorite houses, but that's quite another story.
Well - as long as I'm not sure this really IS a single malt I won't put it in my
black book.

And as long as I'm drinking and rating crap whsikies, I might as well get my final tasting of Loch Dhu 10 yrs. over with. The Loch Dhu is a malt that makes the Drumguish 3 yrs. look like a very pleasant drink. I can see why this is the whisky that has inspired the most public warnings - and why it may be taken off the martket soon. This malt is produced by the Mannochmore distillery as a marketing excersize to 'invent' a single malt whisky for young, successful people. Well - they have failed miserably. I'm relatively young and like to think of myself as successful - but this whisky (and I use the term as loosely as possible) is not for me. In fact I've cancelled my order of two bottles of the 'ordinary' Mannochmore single malt whisky (12 and 22 yrs.) I had ordered just before I found out they were responsible for this freak of a drink.

Nose: I usually like smoke in a malt - but this is waaaay too much. Liquorice and burnt caramel. Medicinal, but not in a good way. A sickening sweetness behind the smoke. It really has the smell of ashes! But the unpleasant nose is not so bad compared to the really awful taste. Someone on the 'Public Warnings' page described it as 'it's like licking an ashtray' and that's pretty much accurate. Ashes and Swiss cough bonbons. It is really filthy stuff that makes a lot of cheap blends look good. And the worst thing is that it just won't go away. It has a filthy aftertaste that stays around for the rest of the evening. Even though I had poured myself a very small dram, I poured half of it down the sink.
It's physically sickening! I'd much rather drink a Johnnie Walker Red! (Score 19 points)
I was lucky to have closed the official part of the evening with this one - any further serious tasting would have been useless after this insult to my tastebuds.
Final rating: 8 points, making it officially and by far
the absolute worst single malt I've ever tasted - and a strong contender for a top 5 position in the overall worst whisky list. Even a stiff glass of the Knockando 1982 couldn't revive my tastebuds.
When you try to clean your glass the water actually starts to foam!

Bugger....  And to think I had to pay over 80 guilders for this crap!
That would have bought me TWO bottles of Black Bottle 10 yrs.; a good vatted malt.

--------------------

Night 2 - Cask Strength Collisions:
Glenkinchie / Caol Ila 21 / Glenfarclas 105 / Macallan 10 / 2 Inchgowers

I thought it would be wise to start off with two regular strength malts, just to get my nose and tongue into an alcoholic mood. And then I thought some more.
Wouldn't it be nice to taste two different 'vintages' of the same malt? I selected the two Inchgowers in my collection, the oldest almost twice as old as the younger one.

1 - Inchgower 12 yrs. - Inchgower 19 yrs. 1977

Strange..... The 'official' 12 is a lot darker than the very light '77. The color of the 1977 sugggests a bourbon wood treatment, the color of the 12 either sherry or heavy caramel coloring. The 1977 was one of the blind 'industry' samples my liquorist surprised me with recently, so I don't know who bottled it.
The nose of the 12 is spicy and sweet - it has improved quite a bit since I first opened the bottle two months ago. The '77 was much oilier and saltier, with the sweet spicyness coming forward later on. The 12 is exactly reverse, revealing salty sea notes only after a while. Weird.... The 77 also had a quality I can only describe as 'farmy'
Taste: The 12 starts sweet after a few seconds 'delay', ending in a long, dry finish.
The 77 has a lot more power; an explosion after a few seconds, dying out rather quick.
Not a very pleasant finish, though....

Preliminary ratings:
Inchgower 12 yrs. - 75 points
Inchgower 19 yrs. 1977 - 70 points

Seems like in this case, young beats old pretty decisively.
OK - and now it's time for the big boys to come out and play....

2 - Glenkinchie 17 yrs. 1978 60.8% - Caol Ila 21 yrs. 1979 Rare Malts 61.3%

Not really a fair match, so I won't give the Glenkinchie a final rating yet - nor the Caol Ila for that matter. The Caol Ila starts to exhale from the start; the Glenkinchie needs a minute. The Caol Ila showed a lot of very interesting layers around a heart of Islay. Peaty and fresh at the same time. The Glenkinchie started to get interesting as well; spicy, becoming greasier and more aromatic alltogether. Oranges?
Still, the Caol Ila has a lot more depth and range.
Taste neat: Caol Ila very sweet start, then switching between sweetness and Islay.
Glenkinchie: A bit sweet and grassy; good start but dropping off rather quickly.

Adding about 1/4 of water brought the Islay nose in Caol Ila forward, smoke and citrus tones in Glenkinchie became more obvious. The taste of the Caol Ila became rounder; sweeter and saltier at the same time. The Glenkinchie got sweeter at first, with more chloride in the finish later on; still very nice, but vanished too soon.
The 'kinchie will do quite nicely in the summertime, but the Caol Ila is the real surprise.
One of the rare Islay malts that performs just as well when it's hot outside.
And both are cask strengths at that!

Preliminary ratings:
Caol Ila 1979 - 87 points
Glenkinchie 1978 - 80 points

The Glenkinchie performed quite well, actually. I'm not too crazy about the standard 10 yrs. distillery bottling, but this version manages to hold its own.

3 - Glenfarclas 105 (60%) - Macallan 10 yrs. 100 Proof (57%)

Over the last few weeks, I've done a few HTH's of a fresh bottle of Glenfarclas 105 against an forgotten old litre bottle that's nearly three quarters empty almost three years after opening. The fresh bottle clearly was a lot better; the tastings were definite proof that some malts deteriorate after a longer period in an opened bottle. On the other hand, quite a few malts need a couple of weeks to 'break in', as Louis puts it. And then there are just a few malts that seem to get better and better, no matter how long you take to empty the bottle...

But the Glenfarclas 105 clearly isn't one of those. Nevertheless, a fresh bottle provides amazing value. As long as you make sure to finish it within 6 months to a year, it's hard to beat this one in the 'bang for your bucks' area. The 'final' rating of 76 points has to be revised; I only need one more HTH with another C/S to determine how much points will be added for the 'fresh' rating. The Macallan 100 Proof (Score: 87) is that malt.

Both malts have big noses; a lot of 'volume'. Next to the Macallan, the GF seemed almost spirity and oily, with lots of (artificial) sweets. The Macallan had a more refined and balanced sweetness. More wood, too.
Taste neat: GF 105 seems almost drinkable at first - but then the burn starts. Numbing.
The Macallan starts off much drier, but ends in a wonderful developing finish with woody and sherry tones. Also shows a delayed burn, this time deep in your throat.
Nose, after about 1/4 dillution:
The GF became even more spirity; fresh and almost grassy. Great. No sherry.
The Mac' developed some deeper sherry and salty notes. Very complex.
The GF died out after about 15 minutes, the Mac' kept exhaling.
Taste duilluted:
GF still very strong with a powerful burn; Mac' a lot more accessible - and more woody.

Conclusion: The Macallan is the definite winner; the GF is outclassed and outstyled in evey possible aspect. Still, the GF is a powerful malt with a lot of personality. And at 70 guilders a litre it's hard to beat in the value department.
Final new rating Glenfarclas 105: 80 points (for a fresh bottle)

Ooh! I just took a good look at the cover of the CD of 'The Corrs' that's playing right now. Lovely looking lasses, the three of them. Hamma.... hammmana... Wowieee!
Nice music too. You know what? The celtic interludes have inspired me; how about...

4 - Connemara - Tyrconnell

Something special; two Irish single malts go head to head.
Irish single malts????
Yes! The boost in Scotch single malts has inspired some Irish distilleries
to start producing Irish malts the Scottish way. And the results are quite promising.

The Irish seem to be shy about their age - both bottles proudly announce that they're 'pure pot still' single malt whiskey, but not a clue is given as to the age of the whiskey.
Both have wonderful noses; the Tyrconnell seems a little more oily and salty at first next to an almost Speyside like sweetness in the Connemara. This one became unpleasantly soapy after a few minutes, but picked up a while later with a surprisingly strong peatyness. Meanwhile the Tyrconnell kept developing into a lemony Lowlandlike sweetness. It took a good 15 minutes before it lost some of it's complexity.
What a surprise! These are both noses worth almost 80 points.
It's a shame the palate of these malts isn't at the same level. The Connemara would rate around 65 points on the tonguescale, the Tyrconnell only slightly higher.
Nevertheless, I think I've made some new Amazing Discoveries - Right now these malts decisively beat my the Jameson 12 yrs. old - up untill now my favorite Irish whisky.
Too soon for even a preliminary rating, though....

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OK, the time for serious tasting is over. Just a wee dram of the Balvenie 15 to finish off.
After
almost two years on my shelves, a lot of the nose has gone, but the taste is still great! Uh..... Well..... That's about it for now. The next tasting report will take a little longer to finish, because I made an interesting deal with my liquorist. In exchange for building a website for his liquor store I will receive 26 bottles of single malt whisky I've never tasted before! Building the site will take up most of my free time for the next two months, but with the help of a few glasses of single malt the time just flies by...
Check out the list:

  1. Ardbeg 1978
  2. Auchentoshan 3 wood
  3. Bowmore Cask Strength
  4. Brora 1977
  5. Bruichladdich 17 yrs.
  6. Clynelish 24 yrs. 61,3%
  7. Cragganmore '76 Cask Strength
  8. Craigellachie 1983
  9. Dailuaine 1971
  10. Glenesk 1984 - Connoisseurs Choice
  11. Glenfarclas 21 yrs.
  12. Glenmorangie 100 proof
  13. Glenmorangie 18 yrs.
  14. Glen Ord 1974 60.8%
  15. Highland Park 18 yrs.
  16. Knockdu 12 yrs.
  17. Lagavulin 1984 - Murray MCDavid
  18. Laphroaig 10 yrs. - 100 Proof
  19. Ledaig 1974
  20. Littlemill 8 yrs.
  21. Longrow 1987 - Signatory Vintage
  22. Macallan 1874
  23. Old Pulteney 12 yrs.
  24. Pittyvaich 21 yrs. 1976
  25. Springbank 1969 - Signatory Vintage
  26. St. Magdalene 19 yrs. 1979

Are you green with envy yet?
There are over 10 malts on the list from distilleries that are 'officially' new to me, and the other ones are unfamiliar versions of familiar malts.
This deal means a major leap forward in my search for the perfect single malt!
I will have to restrain myself though - I've got some 60 opened bottles in my collection right now, and quite a few are starting to suffer from oxidation. (See the
'Forum' page in the 'Web' section for a little discussion on this subject.)

That's it for now, folks. Watch this site for tasting reports on my new acquisitions.
Check out the
E-Reports or Old Session Reports section for more tasting notes.

July 1 & 2, 2000

It's starting to get summery here in Holland. Before it gets really hot I decided to enjoy a few last winterwarmers and springsurprises - as well as some of the relatively new bottles in my collection.

Ardbeg 10, Glenkinchie 1978,
Strathisla 12, Glen Mhor 1977,
Glen Grant 10, Glenfarclas 105,
Loch Dhu 10, Cockburn 6,

 Pre Summer Marathon

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