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E-pistle #09/10 - A Very Malty 2003
Peter Silver, USA 

      As I started to compile the information for this report, I began to realize that, in terms of single malt scotch, 2003 was a very, very good year!  I attended many wonderful tastings, held quite a few tastings at home and was invited to join the Malt Maniacs!  It started in January with my huge haul from my Scotland trip still very evident in Dram Central Station's Malt Vault.  Almost all of the 64 bottles were still unopened and waiting for me.  I realized that even if I opened one new bottle every week (which I wasn't planning to do), I could go for over a year without slowing down!  My mind actually boggled.
Here's a list of what I personally carried back:

Aberlour 15 yr Double Cask 40%
Aberlour Vintage 1990 40%
Aberlour Warehouse #1 Bourbon 56%  (2 Bottles)
Aberlour Warehouse #2 Sherry 56%
Ardbeg  29 yr 51.4% OMC Platinum Label
Ardbeg 21 yr 56.3%
Ardbeg 8 yr 60.4% (SMWS)
Ardbeg Committee Reserve 55.3% (2 Bottles)
Balblair 1969 31 yr 45%
Balmenach 12 yr 43%
Benrinnes 15 yr 43%
Benromach 19 yr 45% Portwood (2 Bottles)
Black Bottle 10 yr 40%
Bond #3 52.6% Cadenhead (2 Bottles)
Braes of Glenlivet 1985 16 yr Signatory
Brora 1972 25 yr 40% G&M Rare Old Series
Brora 1972 29 yo 59.5% Old Malt Cask Platinum Selection
Brora 1981 20 yr 46% Unchillfiltered Collection
Bruichladdich 1970 32 yr 44.2%
Bruichladdich Valinch 1990 60.2% (2 Bottles)
Bunnahabhain Auld Acquaintance 1968 43.8% (2 Bottles)
Caol Ila Cask Strength 55%
Clynelish 1983 18 yr 43% Signatory  Cask 2686
Famous Grouse Port Finish 43%
Glen Grant 30 yr 56.2% (SMWS)
Glen Moray 1971 43%
Glen Moray Chardonnay Finish 40%
Glen Spey 1974 28yr 46% Chieftain's Choice
Glencraig 1975 25 yr 40%
Glenfiddich Caoran Reserve 12 yr 40%
Glenmorangie 3 Wood 12 yr 40%
Glenmorangie Cellar 13 10 yr 43%
Glenrothes 16 yrs 61.6% (SMWS)
Glenturret 18 yr 40% OB
Glenugie 1973 27 yr 54.2% Chieftain's Choice
Imperial 1991 10 yr 40% Cognac Finish
Knockdhu OB 23 yr 57.4%
Ledaig Peated 42%
Loch Fyne blend
Longrow 1989 13 yr 53.2% Sherrywood
Macallan 1841 41.7%
Macallan 1989  10 yr 45.7% Malt of Distinction
Mitchell's 43% Blend
Moidart 30 yr 46% (3 Bottles)
Mortlach 13 yr 1988 43% Dun Bheagan
Mortlach 16 yr 43%
Mortlach 1980 22 yr 63.8%
Pittyvaich 12 yr 43%
Springbank 1965 35 yr 46% Murray McDavid
Springbank 1974 28 yr 46% Chieftain's
Springbank 8 yr James McArthur's Old Masters 60.2% (2 Bottles)
Springbank Bond #3 Edinburgh 12/2002
Strathmill 12 yo 43%
Talkisker Distiller's Edition 45.8%
Tullibardine 30 yr 45% Stillman's Cask

Early January set the tone for the year as it was my first opportunity to flex my PLOWED muscles in 2003 and attend ARDBEGGEDON IV in Las Vegas.  I was very excited to be the first person to purchase the Ardbeg Committee Bottling at the distillery and the only one to be bringing it to ARDBEGGEDON!   There were well over two hundred malts to try!
To learn more about this invitation only event, go to: http://www.smwhisky.com.

Later on in January, I had a little Springbank tasting at Dram Central.
Here's what we had:

Cambeltown Loch 40%  blended
Mitchell's 12 yr 43% blended
Moidart 30 yr 46% vatted
Cadenhead #3 bond 52.6 % vatted
Springbank 9 yr 46% Murray McDavid
Springbank 8 yr 60.2% James McArthur's Old Masters
Springbank 1979 12yr 46% OB
Springbank 12 yr 54.6% OB Rum Cask
Springbank 46% OB C.V.
Springbank 15 yr 46% OB
Springbank 21 yr 46% OB
Springbank 1965 35 yr 46% Murray McDavid
Springbank 1965 37 yr 46% Lombard's Jewels of Scotland
Longrow 10 yr 46% OB bourbon cask
Longrow 10yr 46% OB sherry cask
Longrow 1989 13 yr 53.2% OB Sherrywood  brand new heavier peat

The month finished out with the first of a series of tastings held at a bar in the east village of Manhattan called DBA.  John Hansell of Malt Advocate runs the tastings and brings rare bottles from his personal collection. February found my pal Todd and myself on a train to Philadelphia in search of more malts.  John was having  another rare malt tasting at a bar called Monks Cafe.  We were there early enough to go to another bar called Dicken's Inn, where careful web research suggested we would find malt.  They had four different bar areas and they were gracious enough to open up their "english pub" bar just for the two of us.  We spent about two hours there tasting malts, especially some old Cadenheads, before heading off to dinner and the tasting.  It was a most pleasant surprise.  I imbibed more than I realized and was a little tipsy at dinner.  What was interesting was the sensation of sobering up as I participated in the tasting later that evening. In March I attended a three day dental seminar in Miami, where I was scheduled to run a tasting with a fellow colleague that I have never met in person.  It was fellow PLOWED member Dr. Guy Moorman.  I called it "The Miami Single Malt Tasting and Tales of a Georgia Moonshine Maker".  Dr. Moorman had actually made his own bourbon and single malt and poured samples at the tasting.  It was very interesting!  We did a great job and everyone enjoyed his tales of being hunted by "Revenue Agents".  In addition to sharing his homemade whisky, here's what we poured for the attendees:

Glengoyne 10 year old 40%
Glenkinchie 10 year old 43%
Dalwhinnie 15 years old 43%
Ben Nevis 10 year old 46%
Glenmorangie Madeira Finish 43%
Aberlour A'bundah 59.6%
Talisker 10 year old 45.8%
Laphroig  Murray McDavid as Leapfrog 1999 12 years old 43%

Of course, March meant a St. Patrick's day tasting at home.  Here's what I poured:

Jameson Irish Whisky (blend) 40%
Middleton Very Rare 1996 (Blend) 40%
Greenspot 40%
Redbreast Pure Pot Still 12 yr 40%
Jameson Pure Pot Still 15 yr 40%
Bushmills 10 yr 40%
Bushmills 16 yr 3 wood 40%
Bushmills Millenium Malt Single Cask 1975 Cask 114 43%
Bushmills Distiller's Reserve Single Barrel 58.2%
Connemara Pure Pot Still 40%

April 5th was the date for a tasting at home of malt from Silent Stills.  My guests tasted:

Dallas Dhu 21 yr old 61.9% Rare Malts
Banf 24 yr old 1976 55.4% Vintage Hallmark of St. James
Glenburgie 10 yr old 1983 56.9% SMWS 71.12
Glenglassaugh 25 yr old 1973 40% Family Silver
Imperial 14 yr old 1982 43%  Cooper's choice
Imperial 10 yr old 1991 40% Cognac wood finish
Littlemill 8 yr old 43$
Littlemill 33 yr old 1965 58.9% Scott's Selection
Lochside 19 yr old 1981 60.9% Cadenhead sherrywood
Millburn 12 yr old 1983 57.8% SMWS 87.3%
Port Ellen 22 yr old 1976 57% Scott's Selection
Rosebank 10 yr old 1989 40% CC
Rosebank 11 yr old 1989 43% Montgomerie's Single Cask #904
Tullibardine 32 yr old 1964 48.7% Cadenhead

April was a very busy month, continuing with a Tartan Day Tasting at Dram Central.  This was held as "Taster's Choice"  were everyone picks three or four malts and we all sit down and go at it!  April 7th was a tasting at DBA, then another train ride to Philadelphia for Monk's Café tasting.  Only now,  Dickens Inn changed owners and name to The Black Horse. By any name, it was worth a trip.

The weekend of my birthday I celebrated by attending another famous PLOWED event, Whisky Hill Dram Jam, hosted by Tom Borschel near Rochester, New York.  Todd and I drove up, along with PLOWED member Jay Stotsky from Germany.  We met up with fellow malt maniacs Davin and Michael Wade, such malty luminaries as Dave Russo, Alan Robinson and Marty Brunet as well as some other wonderful whisky enthusiasts.  It was another incredible event with over a hundred and fifty spectactular malts available for tasting.
The next month, we had a great tasting at Dram Central called "A Walk in Highland Park"  Here is what we enjoyed:

Highland Park 10yo ????/???? (59.6%, Cadenhead's)
Highland Park 11yo 1989/???? (45%, Blackadder)
Highland Park 12yo 1989/???? (56.8%, Cadenhead's, Bourbon Cask)
Highland Park 12yo (40%, OB)
Highland Park 16yo 1984/???? (50%, Douglas Laing Old Malt Cask)
Highland Park 17yo 1985/???? (55.3%, Adelphi)
Highland Park 18yo (43%, OB)
Highland Park 18yo 1977 'Bicentenary' (43%, OB)
Highland Park 25yo 1975/???? (52%, Scott's Selection)
Highland Park 25yo (53.5%, OB)
Highland Park 27yo ????/???? (60%, Adelphi)

June and July had two more tastings at Dram Central that were Taster's Choice.  Most tastings are held on a Sunday evening,  sometimes with dinner or after.  Attendees range from eight to 15 people.  I am always looking to add new folks to my list.  John Hansell held a rum tasting at DBA in July and I found it very educational as well as tasty.  Then came my trip to Caramoor and hence the epistle When a good foaf goes horribly wrong - if I may reference myself.

August brought another taster's choice tasting with a special guest, Dave Russo from the Boston area.
As usual, his extensive knowledge of malt and sense of humor were greatly appreciated by all.

September brought another John Hansell tasting at DBA and some informal tastings at home.  Somewhere in there I attended the launch of Macallan's Rare and Old Collection which was held at the Rainbow Room.  A very swanky affair with fantastic food and views.  If only the malt had lived up to my expectations.  The one vintage malt they poured was the 1946, which ironically was the only one I had already tried a while ago at the launch of the Macallan Gran Reserva.  I wasn't thrilled by either the 12 or 25 year old that they were pouring quite freely.

Finally, it was time for Whiskyfest on October 21st!  My special guest was Tom Borschel (of Whisky Hill Dram Jam) and we had a great time at whiskyfest, foafing around New York City and tasting many malts.  The day after Whiskyfest I held a tasting for anyone who still had tasting chops left.

November bought another tasting at DBA and later in the month, a most unusual whisky auction in Pennsylvania.  It was a collection of 360 malts, including 99 dumpy Cadenheads of malts collected in the 1950's, 60's, and 70's.  I purchased three shares and took home thirty whiskies!  Here are some of the goodies!

Miltonduff-Glenlivet 12 yo 46%
George & J.G. Smith's Glenlivet 15 yo G&M 50%
Balmenach-Glenlivet 19 yo 1961/1980 dumpy Cadenhead 46%
Bowmore 12 yo OB old dumpy bottle
Millburn 16 yo 1966 CC 40%
Lachlan's 43%
Connvalmore 12 yo 1969 CC 40%
Balblair 10 yo 40% G&M
Strathisla 21 yo 40% G&M
Clynelish 12 yo 50% G&M
Coleburn 14 yo 1968/1983 dumpy Cadenhead  46%
Speyburn-Glenlivet 12 yo 1967/1979 dumpy Cadenhead 46%
Ben Nevis 14 yo 1965/1979 dumpy Cadenhead 46%
Glenturret 17 yo 1965/1982 dumpy Cadenhead 46%
St. Magdalene 14 yo 1969/1979 dumpy Cadenhead 46%
Dalmore 23 yo 1957/1980 dumpy Cadenhead 46%
Dalwhinnie 22 yo 1957/1979 dumpy Cadenhead 46%
Glenburgie-Glenlivet 16 yo 1962/1979 dumpy Cadenhead 46%
Glenfarclas 21 yo 43% OB old square bottle
Knockando 1967/1980 43% OB
Glen Grant 27 yo Prime Malt #27 40%
Ardbeg 14 yo 35% G&M
Old Elgin 8 yo 40% G&M

I will be opening these up at future Ardbeggedons, as well as when I meet up the with some of the senior members of Malt Madness.  When we went to Los Angeles for Thanksgiving I made sure to schedule at least two tastings with the legendary S'tan at the Library, one of the Ringmasters of PLOWED.  Here is what he pulled out on my first day!

Old Pultney Millenium 15 yr 59.8%    Dist 1982  bottle 93 cask 1524
Lochranza Distillery Arran Blackadder Natural Strength  Cask 96040 1996/2001  56.7%
Clyenlish 1982/1995 13 yr sig dumpy 43%
Clynelish Hart Bros 15 yr 54.1% 1984/1999
Clynelish Caledonian selection 29 yr 1972/2002 cask  #14285 56.3%
Springbank Sig dumpy  1969/1995  26 yr old
Aberfeldy The Bottlers 1975/1999 24 yr 55.4%
Royal Brackla 1976/2003  26 yr Afficiandos Club D&M 61.2%
Inchgower Cadenhead 1977/1996 19yr 56.5%
Caperdonich Cadenhead 1977/1992  60.5% 14 yr
Coleburn CC 1972/1993  20 yr G&M 40%
Glen Garioch  OB 1985 59.1%
Glendullan CC 1978/1995 17 yr  43%
Glencadam 11 yr Cadenhead 61.2% 1980/1992
Tormore Blackadder Raw Cask 66.7% 252 bottles 1990/2000
Mortlach 10 yr Blackadder  10yr 1989/2000 186 bottles Cask 5147 sherry
Dufftown Glenlivet 1979/1998  18 yr 58% Cadenhead
Dallas Dhu G&M 40% 10 yo
Highland Park 1979 23 yr 46% 527 of 600 Murray McDavid Mission Series
Ben Nevis 21 yr 50.3% Afficiando Club D&M 1981/2003
Bruichladdich 52% Spirit Safe bottling McNeils Choice 1969/2001 60 of 60
Caol Ila 1975 61.3% Bottle 3361 1975/     21 yr old  Rare Malts
Dalmore 1987/2000 Bourbon cask 264 Bottles 59.9% Cadenhead Authentic Collection
Bowmore 17 yr OB 48.3%
Caledonian Selection MacDuff 51.7%  1973/2000 27 yr old cask 3716
Glenlochy 17 yr old 1977/1997 Cadenhead 56.55
Banf Cadenhead 150th Annniversary Authentic 61.1% 1976/1992
Benrinnes Blackadder Natural Strength 59.13%  283 cask 1351 1980/2001  20 yr old
Glenfiddich 15 yr 51% OB Triangular bottle
Millburn 13 yr 58.8% 1983/1997 Cadenhead
Glen Garioh 1967 OB 51.6% Cask 657 35 yr old
Glen Lochy Cadenhead  19 yr old 1977/1999 56.5%        
Miltonduff 1966/2000  34 yr old Hart Bros 43.6%
Glenlivet Murray McDavid Mission 1974 28yr old 46% 517/600
Royal Brackla 1975 Murray McDavid Mission  27 yr old 46% 599/600
Laphroig 12 yr 59.8%Cadenhead 1984/1997
Laphroig 13 yr Cadenhead 1984/1997  59.8%
Caol Isla 1989/2000 1/192 57.1 Cadenhead 10 yr
Caol Ila G&M Reserve Cask 1117 12 yr old 46% Bottled 2002  Bottled exclusively by Joe C. at Binny's
Coal Ila Adelphi 21 y r 58.1%  1976 cask 8094
Ardmore Cadenhead  150th Anniversary bottling  1978/1992 13 yr 61%
Ardmore Glenhaven 18 yr 1977/1995 59.3%
Glentauchers Glenhaven 63.2% 18yr 1976/1995
Balmenach Hart Bros 30 yr 50.1 % 1972/2002 Port wood

My only major disappointment the whole year was the inability to participate in the 2003 Malt Maniacs Awards, due to shipping problems.  I kept hoping that today would be the day and I would receive a large package full of samples, but that day never came.  The final tasting of the year was held in my home.  After pouring the holiday colors of Redbreast and Greenspot, we got down to head to head paired tastings from the same distillery of some of my all time favorite malts.

Auchentoshen 10 yo 43% OB
Auchentoshan 31 yr old 1965 55.1%  OB
Glenmorangie 10 year 40% OB
Glenmorangie Cote du Nuits  25 year old 43% OB
Aberlour 10 yr old     43%    OB
Aberlour A'bunadh   59.6%  OB
Bunnahabhain 12 yr old 40% OB
Bunnahabhain "Auld Acquaintance" 1968 33 yr old 43.8% OB
Talisker 10 year old 45.8% OB
Talisker 1975   25 yr old      59.9%  OB
Ardbeg 17 yr old OB
Ardbeg Provenance 23 yo 54.7% OB

Resolutions for 2004?  Besides making sure I get my samples for the Malt Maniacs Awards, I would like to hold many more tastings at Dram Central Station.  I have way more whisky than I can drink in ten lifetimes, I need folks to come over and help me drink it!


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E-pistle #09/11 - No 2003 Review...
Mark Adams, USA

But here are the data bits for malts I tasted at Johannes' place and L & B when I was in Amsterdam in January 2004;

Brora 20yo 50% OMC 570 bottles (No Sherry designation, but likely second-fill Sherry cask)
This one was a real treat! Super smokey and really sweet too, this was right down my alley, and a great malt to begin my evening with Leon at The L & B Whisky Bar. Aside from the Islayish smoke and peat this malt offered some floral notes as well. Very nice, this one gets 93 points.

Ledaig NAS 42% OB (Not stated on bottle, but Leon thinks this one was ~7yo)
This malt was more in the Tobermory style, with barely any smoke or peat, and nicely crafted. At 7yo, if that info can be trusted, this one is a real stunner. I am convinced, though, that this youngster has been rounded out with some older brothers, because it is really nice. The candy and vanilla notes in abundance shout bourbon barrel, but since it's a NAS vatting almost any kind of cask could have been used. Regardless, this one gets a respectable 87 points.

Pittyvaich 12yo 43% Sherry Cask
Typical sherry spiced candy notes, and good mouthfeel. This one was an easy drinker, whose unique character was just below its whiskiness. This is a nice whisky, easily recommendable, and scoring well, but not as high as it might with more balance between nose/palate/finish. Nothing wrong here, but not quite incredible either -- 83 points.

Caol Ila 13yo 58.7% "53.66" from SMWS Apr90/May03
Leon had been bending my ear all night about his favorite whisky his bar carries -- the Caol Ila from Signatory described below. During our malty blether I figured out that Leon was not really a cask strength maniac, and he told me that this Caol Ila casker was still a cracker, though not as good as his favorite. Well, I disagree completely, since when everything is otherwise equal, the added body and flavor hits I get with a cask strength malt really clang my bell. This bacony, chewy, smokey, yummy Islay won the evening for me, and clocked a track record of 95 points. You who love water will enjoy taking this one through its aqueous paces, but I rather enjoy its full throttle, max g-force acceleration. No water in this one for me, please!

Caol Ila 43% 1989 Signatory
Well, in Leon's defense, this is a great malt. This one is right up there with the standard issues from Laphroaig and Lagavulin, and like those, a real stunner for it's low-proof a.b.v. of 43%. I really prefer higher-proof malts, yet this one still manages to  impress with less heat. I would guess that both of tonight's Caol Ilas will rank highly with most malt lovers, and the favorite will be decided by proof level, and full-faced punches of smokey peat, versus a lighter, more subtle face-slapping. I rate this Caol Ila at a pride-worthy 92 points.

Whiskies Tasted at BijlmerWhiskyJungle, Jan2004;

Strathmill 11yo 50% OMC Oct88/Jun00 420 Bottles
This was our palate tune-up for the evening, and not a bad way to begin a tasting. I found an overlying 'potstill' quality to this whisky which I frequently find in Lowland malts and Irish whiskeys too. I dislike that element as much as I dislike similarities to rye -- just not at all appealing to me for some reason. Along with the taste on the palate I also get a general mouthfeel that is harsh and unfinished somehow -- crude, and unpleasant. Otherwise, this whisky would surely score quite high in my book, since it had a lovely nose, some good lemony custard and cotton candy, and was an 'easy drinker'. But, with the off-note I can only give this one 75 points. Not bad, but not recommendable at its price-point.

At this point we shifted gears, not tasting willy-nilly, but specifically tasting 7 samples sent with me to Amsterdam by a US Importer, called CVI Brands, Inc. They import Hart Brothers Cask Strength malts, and Caledonian Selection to the US -- two Independent Bottlers not yet well-represented on our Matrix. Further charging our excitement for this tasting was the fact that none of these malts were on our Monitor or Matrix yet, and two of them were from distilleries not yet even *listed* on our Matrix. That proved to be a rather fortunate stroke of luck or crazy synaptic short circuitry, because when I selected these malts from CVI's stock I had not brought along a copy of the Matrix or the Monitor, and was foolishly flying blind, so to speak. So, with this tasting we accomplished two things off the bat: (1) met and received samples to be rated from a 'new' importer/distributor, and (2) added 7 malts and 2 distilleries to our Matrix. It remains to be seen if CVI will participate in our Awards Tasting 2004, but we hope that they will. They have some decent bottlings of rarer distillery malts, and import only cask-strength whiskies. I should mention that Johannes and I are the only Maniacs to rate these malts so far, and the remainder of the liquid in these sample bottles from CVI will be transferred to smaller bottles (less air) and given to Serge Valentin and Olivier Humbrecht for further ratings. After all, a malt will only be added to the Matrix after a minimum of 3 Malt Maniacs have rated it. So, watch future reports from the Frenchmen to read what they think of these rarities.

***  Note: one of these whiskies from CVI was similar to a whisky in Johannes' stock, and the Balmenach and Glen Grant begged to be tasted together, so we tasted two pairings head-to-head. Also, CVI realized that the levels in some of the bottles I had selected were quite low, so they filled our sample bottles from freshly opened full bottles. That was very kind of them, but some of these malts may have benefitted from a bit of air to round them out a bit, or open their blooms easier.

CVI Brands Matrix Tasting

Miltonduff 34yo 1966 43.6% Hart Brothers (HB) Cask Strength
Wow! Quite a heavy hit of sweet cherry on the nose. It develops on the palate like a cherry Luden's cough drop. Weirdly, I also picked up the clear scent of unagi (smoked eel) sushi. This is probably the lowest strength cask strength whisky I have run across, and it is really delightful. It is as old as Johannes and I are, and quite a surprise -- the nose and palate elements really smack you the way that they do in cask strengthers, even though it's really not that powerful, alcohol-wise. I would love to get my hands on a full bottle of this, and maybe with time and love the score would come up a bit -- it surely is interesting. Nonetheless, its score will settle at 84 points, which is very respectable, after all.

Inchgower 26yo 49.9% HB
Johannes and I really liked this one. It can sometimes be a bit disappointing to taste a 'new' or unfamiliar malt, and I think that we always want to give malts a great rating, but sometimes malts just don't live up to their expectation. Well, this one did. I got some great notes of big (red? summery?) fruit on the nose, and (contrarily?) an earthy, peaty palate. With more tasting these tastes became briney, and very malty, tending toward sour but not overly so. The aftertaste seemed to be very salty to me, even though I know there was no salt there. Just the impression of it was there. The body was substantial. Another one that might climb in points with time in my stock, tonight this malt rates a quite recommendable 85 points.

Glenturret 10yo 55.5% HB
Paint thinner from a distance of 3 feet -- now, this might get interesting! Sweet vanilla candies (bourbon wood?), then unmistakable cinnamon pastry with caramel and nuts. What a nose -- and quite Speysidey. WOW!!! The palate! Sweet ... yet, dry. Very chewy. Malty. Earthy, but dried grass, not green. With the fewest drops of water, butter creme chews, and cinnamon again, in candy form. The earthiness and spices keep on comin', and somehow get a touch of saltiness by the time the finish comes. I want more of this one! Quick -- rush out and buy me a bottle or two, so I can get this beauty into the 90-points bracket! Yummy stuff. Am I a sucker for a sherried Speysider, or what? 89 points for this youngster.

Macduff (Glen Deveron) 27yo 51.7% Caledonian Selection (CalSel)
Macduff 11yo 90/02 43% Cooper's Choice (from Johannes' stock)
This looks easy now, right? Some really tasty malts so far, and here we have two from the same distillery. The first nose of each confirms their parentage, but one of these is an evil sibling, I am convinced. Both of these 'Duffers bring a bio-rich squished-bug death-musk odor to the nose, and with little warning! I recall several malts in the 2003 Awards Tasting which had that squished-bug smell, and I had a hard time liking it much. I guess I'll tackle the younger one first, and clear its evil from my system, and reward myself with the much pleasanter 27yo. The 11yo is watery. Sweetness comes out, but thinly. This one really has a salty sourness, and that bio-death smell never develops into anything else. It is unique, and uniquely I score it an unpleasant 65 points, which for me is quite low. Thanks to Johannes and his sponteneity and fearlessness we have two Macduffs which aside from that bug element couldn't be further apart. I really relish moments that so clearly distill in the mind what impact wood, age and water can have on a malt's final guise. The 27yo Macduff was really a different experience for me. This malt had those bio-organics, but they quickly developed (air?) into black licorice, huge malty sweetness, a very sweet initial palate that gave way to a pleasant peatiness. This really became something. And, for that it gets 85 points, and a mark in my book to be wary of, but be on the lookout for, Macduffs!

Balmenach 30yo 50.1% Port Wood HB
Glen Grant 29yo 53.6% Sherry Wood HB
Uh-oh ... squished bugs again ... on the Balmenach. Yikes! No -- I *had* rinsed my glass, so ... bugs. Most bugs don't stink that bad, but the kind that do really like to hide out in whisky. The bio-organics here give way to savory smells, and after 10-15 minutes and some water the bug smell disappeared altogether. I was expecting some candies or baked breads and spices here, but no luck. The palate was slighty edgy after several minutes, but otherwise, this Port matured whisky is really enjoyable, and has earned 83 points. If the price is right, buy it, but otherwise, split a bottle amongst friends. The pairing here may be a bit unfair. I think that the Balmenach may have scored better if it was tasted with the two Macduffs earlier, but here we have its unfair partner, the 29yo Glen Grant. There is nary a bad note on this malt! Really superb. The candies and spices just waft into the nostrils, and pour out onto the palate. Sherried whiskies don't get much better than this. The balance of maltiness against sherry's spices and dessert licks really jams. Ladies and gentlemen, on dessert spices we present Cinnamon and Clove! Well, I was happy to end the night here, and screw Serge and Olivier -- I wanted the rest of this Glen Grant for myself! From me it gets 91 points.

Blind Malt-- supplied by Johannes' Malt Mate, Alexander, a formidable taster/FoaFer
Bruichladdich 11yo 59.6% CalSel
Alexander told us that the blind was an Islay, but he devilishly left the rest up to us. I won't go into the gory details of our every guess as to which distillery this blind hailed from, but I incorrectly guessed both Ardbeg and Port Ellen, and later included Lagavulin because the tasty palate was so heavy feeling, and I really like that about the Lagavulin 16yo OB WH. Well .. I never saw one in Amsterdam, but here I was in Bijlmer eating crow! This rather tasty and cruelly deceptive blind was none other than the Caol Ila 11yo 43% from Signatory. I really am unlucky for having my first Caol Ila come from the Cooper's Choice 14yo bottling. It really wasn't the best way to start out with this great distillery. The CIs I have tasted on this trip prove that. The blind Caol Ila 11yo gave up great quantities of sweet smoked bacon and clods and shovelsful of peat. It consistently feels much stronger than it 43% a.b.v. I highly recommend this malt, and score it 92 points. How now, to go to the Bruichladdich, which is hardly known as a heavy hitting Islay? Well, just go! ... And ... wha?! This couldn't be any better for either whisky in this pairing. The 'Laddie comes in breathing sweet huffs of creamy desserts, and a first for me -- smoked fruit! Yummy stuff here! As expected, the peat and smoke are quite refined and subdued, but even in small amounts smoke and peat will stand out against so much fruit. This is really a super delicious find. I remember seeing these around somewhere for something like $110 US. I would comfortably pay around a hundred bucks for a whisky this good. Find it -- buy it -- share it -- and love it, 90 points-worth, easily. BTW, depending on taste preferences, I think this one may score higher against other 'Laddies.

End of CVI Brands Matrix Tasting

3 Miscellaneous Whiskies, just to close the night
Head-to-Head: Caol Ila 10yo 43% HB vs Dun Eideann 46%.
After I shared with the other malt partiers that my tutorial for Caol Ila was rather thin Johannes offered up another malt from the Hart Brothers, the CI 10yo. But, this one didn't match the others I'd tasted this trip, and really was a second level malt, not really recommendable at all. It was sour, musty, had an interesting wheat grass juice element, was interesting to the mid-palate, then just fell apart. Also interesting that I didn't pick up much in the way of smoke and peat here. Hmmm ... an old bottle, perhaps? I think it was getting down there ... Gotta give this one 75 points. Why was this tasted H2H against the Dun Eideann? I have no freakin' idea! Maybe it was late ... maybe ... well, why not? This malt with the great name began with some fruity perfume, and was not unpleasant at all, but it never really went anywhere. If I bought this one I would share it for the experience, then relegate it to use in cooking and long drinks in the summer heat, or wintery hot toddies. It's not *bad*, but this Dun Eideann, my first, only rates 73 points.

And ... The Goodbye Dram
Glen Ord 23yo 60.8% Rare Malts
Near Silicon Valley and the San Francisco Bay Area we have another coastal town named Monterey. There used to be a USDept of Defense Language School there, and all of the secret service and special forces honed their foreign language skills at that historical site. The town now has two great language schools which germinated from that military school at Fort Ord, which is now closed. So, Glen Ord is similarly interesting to me, and this was my first time to try it. I learned from the web that this distillery is an integral component of Dewar's blended whiskies, and that the earth notes I was picking up on the palate might be blamed on actual peated malt. I love peat, and would like to see more distilleries drying their barley in peat-fired kilns. At John Butler's great website John mentions that "there is a maltings with its open-sided peat-barns visible from the road, at the distillery." Now, I don't know that Glen Ord is peated, but it seems likely. I will happily look for peatier variations of this malt which otherwise has a typical Lowland style (citrus, grass, etc), is malty and not very hot for its strength. It has a pleasant aftertaste, but is otherwise not very captivating, so I rate it 73 points. Bring on the peat from those barns and I'll give it another go!


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Back to MM#9

E-pistle #09/09 - Santa Klaus Day in Alsace
Klaus Everding, Germany 

I had volunteered to write an epistle about the distillation day on december 6 2003 in the Alsace. When I started my work I soon discovered how difficult that was. Serge had already written an excellent epistle about the event in 2002. What to do then? I decided to write this epistle in the form of a small theatre piece. A bad idea, I think. You will encounter some of the worst dialogues here. But my girl friend and Johannes encouraged me to go on. Maybe they simply want to torture you, dear readers.

Don't say I didn't warn you,



Act 1 – The Morning

EXT - SERGE'S GARDEN - MORNING: It's cold: the temperature is just a few degrees above freezing point. A copper still is steaming in front of a small shack. Serge's house and garden are surrounded by a hedge, shielding it from curious glances from Turckheimers passing on the road nearby. Klaus enters the garden.

Choir of 4 Alsacian distillers: We distill here the Marc. We distill here the Marc.
We work the whole day, even if it gets dark.
Maltmaniac Klaus: Hi Serge, bonjour Messieurs.
Maltmaniac Serge: Hi Klaus. Have you slept well and where are the others?
Maltmaniac Klaus:  Everything ok. Marlou stole all the blankets.
I had to be satisfied will a light wool blanket.
Maltmaniac Serge: Yeah, I know.
It is useless to argue with our ladies in these cases.
Maltmaniac Klaus: And considering the others I think some are still in their beds.
We really had our share yesterday at Olivier's place.
But I hope they will pop up here sooner or later.
Choir of 4 Alsacian distillers: Working at the still is such fun.
But let me tell the adventure's just begun.
Maltmaniac Serge: Do you want to have a coffee?
Maltmaniac Klaus: Thanks. – Slurt – Hmm, nice stuff.

EXT - SERGE'S GARDEN - MORNING: Klaus inspects the still.

Maltmaniac Klaus: So this is the famous still. It doesn't look so impressive.
I had expected something more like the big single malt stills in Scotland. But this looks more or less like a copper oven.
Maltmaniac Serge: Right you are, it is no beauty. But it produces excellent spirits. You remember the Marc Chateau Osama from 2002 which I brought to Johannes in Amsterdam? Shall I explain how it works?
Maltmaniac Klaus: Sure!
Maltmaniac Serge:   You see these large plastic barrels. They contain grape skins. We use them to distillate the spirit fom it.  On the bottom of the still is an oven. We fire it with wood. It is from an old cask from Olivier by the way. The oven heats a water bath. This makes it easier for us to control the temperature.  And now come with me to the other side, I think the first drops are are coming out.

EXT - SERGE'S GARDEN - MORNING: On the back side of the still next to the shack is an outflow.
Small amounts of a clear liquid drops into a bucket.

Maltmaniac Serge: You can smell at it. But I would advise that you don't taste it.
Choir of 4 Alsacian Distillers: We distill, we distill, but what curently comes out of the still surely would make you ill.
Maltmaniac Klaus: Yes I think this is true. But I think it might be useful for rubbing when you have hurt your muscles.
Maltmaniac Serge: Exactly. That is what we use it for.
Choir of 4 Alsacian Distillers: We distill, we distill. Working with spirits is really a thrill.

Klaus walks around in the garden.
Serge gets replacement cups of coffee.
The Alsacian still men are very friendly.
The still is softly steaming.
Maltmaniac Oliviers appear in the garden.
As a wine maker he offers some supplies for the still.
He brings at least one big cask full of grape skins.

Maltmaniac Olivier: Bonjour Messieurs!
Maltmaniac Serge: Bonjour.
Maltmaniac Klaus: Hi Olivier.
Choir of 4 Alsacian Distillers: Fresh food for the still! Fresh food for the still!
Now the amount of our supplies really makes up a hill.

Around 10 o'clock a bottle of delicious white wine comes into play. Coffee cups in the hands of the people are replaced by wine glasses. Now the Alsacian Stillmen leave their device and move to table which is standing in the garden. They miraculously produce a large box which contains oysters. One of them gets out a knife and opens the seafood.

Choir of 4 Alsacian Distillers: Fresh oysters from the sea, just harvested yesterday in Brittany.
Oh man, this will be our breakfast food - delicious and salty. It tastes really good.

EXT - SERGE'S GARDEN - MORNING: Michael enters Serge's garden and inspects the still. As a chemist he has some knowledge. He examines the outflow where a hydrometer which measures the density of the distillate is swimming.

Maltminion in Charge Michael: Bonjour Messieurs. Good Morning Serge.
Maltmaniac Serge: Hi Michael. Everything ok ?
Maltminion in Charge Michael: Sure! So this is the famous still. But looking at this liquid I would not recommend drinking it.
Maltmaniac Serge: Ok, ok, but we have just begun. Wait 'til we get the middle cut. Some coffee? Some oysters? Maybe some wine. We have a bunch of very good Rieslings: Riesling Grand Cru Rangen de Thann Zind-Humbrecht, Riesling Cuvée Frédéric-Emile Trimbach, Riesling Letzenberg Thomann and some others.
Maltminion in Charge Michael: Agreed.

INT - SERGE'S OFFICE - MORNING: Serge leaves the house and returns to the garden, where additionally to the Alsacian distillation crew a lot of other Frenchmen have arrived to celebrate the event.

Maltmaniac Klaus: Seems that this is a nice group of beauties from Islay.
Let us try them.
Maltminion in Charge Michael: Yep, - fill the glasses.

EXT - SERGE'S GARDEN - MORNING: Simultanously Michael sips coffee and trys wine.
Then he moves to the table with the oysters.

Choir of 4 Alsacian Distillers: We can't give our time to enjoyment, until
– all the oysters are gone. We return to the still.
Maltminion in Charge Michael: Slurt ... delicious.
Serge, these oysters are really good. I could get used to it.
Maltmaniac Serge: Enjoy them. Do you want to have another glass of wine?
Klaus, - you don't like the oysters that much?
Maltmaniac Klaus: No. I don't like it that much.
Can't understand why James Bond is so keen about it. For me it is just salty slime.

EXT - SERGE'S GARDEN - MORNING: Maltmaniacs Krishna and Mark enter the garden.

Maltmaniac Mark: Hi Serge, bonjour Messieurs.
Maltmaniac Krishna: Hi Serge, bonjour Messieurs.
Maltmaniacs Mark and Krishna together: So here we are together again.
Great! D-day has begun. But wait, - Davin is still missing.
Maltmaniac Klaus: And my lady Marlou also seems to dream in her bed ...
Maltmaniac Serge: Enjoy the oysters and the wine, I think we all will have a good time.

The maniacs are walking around in the garden. Looking here and there.
Chatting this and that. The still is silently steaming and pale liquid flows into a bucket.
The Alsacian Stillmen murmur their spells. Finally also Marlou has arrived.
She inspects the still and the christmas decoration in Serge's garden.

Maltmaniac Klaus' Lady Marlou: Bonjour mes amis. Everything fine here?
Maltmaniac Krishna: Sure.
Maltmaniac Mark: Okie doakie.
Maltminion in Charge Michael: Yep.
Maltmaniac Serge: I heard you stole the blankets from Klaus?
Maltmaniac Klaus' Lady Marlou: Yes, it is true. I need them for a good slumber.
Choir of 4 Alsacian Distillers: We distill, we distill.
One blanket for Marlou only gives her a chill.

Interlude: The A.W.E.S.O.M.E. Tasting

INT - SERGE'S OFFICE - MORNING: Just walking around in the garden gets boring
with some time. Additionally the temperatures are not that pleasant. So the
Maltmaniacs decide to have several drams of single malt. They go into the house
and up the stairs to Serge's bureau. This room is the dream of every malt afficionado.
Shelves to left and right carrying the heavy weight of whisky bottles. The maniacs
inspect the whiskies and shoot photos. Serge takes 8 sample bottles labelled
"A.W.E.S.O.M.E".  And off the maniacs go the the main room on the ground level
of the house. (If you want to read serious tasting notes, then read Serge's piece
where he tried the malts together with Olivier)

Maltmaniac Mark: Serge, can you explain what A.W.E.S.O.M.E. means?
Maltmaniac Serge: A.W.E.S.O.M.E. is the name of my whisky club.
It's short for "Alsacian Whiskyfans' Extraordinary Society Of Malty Explorations".

Port Ellen 23yo 1979/2002 (43%, Signatory, cask#5151) is poured into the glasses. - Silence - Sniffing procedure …

Maltmaniac Klaus: Rather pale this malt, isn't it. I love these pale Islays. Sniff - Sniff
Maltminion in Charge Michael:   But with an age of 23 years ...? – Sniff
Maltmaniac Mark: Ahh, typical Islay! Maybe it is a bourbon cask, an old oak cask or simply a third fill sherry cask.
Maltmaniac Klaus: But there is also a very fresh and grassy note accompanying the medicine.
Maltmaniac Krishna: Snif - sniff – slurt
Maltmaniac Klaus: This is the real stuff when there is heavy snow outside.
Also some pleasant sweetness. But nothing to drive me crazy.
Maltmaniac Mark: Hm, hm, - pretty good dram

Sniff – Sniff – Slurt. Results: Klaus - 82, Mark – 87, Michael - 86.

Port Ellen 23yo 1978/2002 (54.3%, Signatory, cask#5344) is poured into the glasses - Silence -

Maltmaniac Klaus: Ah, - a golden dram this time. Sniff – sniff – Hmm...
Maltminion in Charge Michael:   (trumpeting like an elephant into a handkerchief) Must clean my nose. ...
Although this malt is powerful enough, I would not need it. Smells like smoked ham from the Black Wood.
Maltmaniac Krishna: But I can also sense sherry.
Maltmaniac Klaus: Yes, it is the potentially deadly combination of peat and sherry. But this time I like it.
Maltmaniac Mark: Sip – oh my, there is quite a lot of peat and smoke.
Maltmaniac Klaus:   Is it really that powerful? ( – slurt - ) Indeed, this is a peat monster. REALLY DELICOUS.
Maltminion in Charge Michael: Yeah, yeah, - this is Islay medicine.

Sniff – Sniff – Slurt. Results: Klaus - 91, Mark – 89, Michael - 88.

Bunnahabhain 20yo 1980 (54.8%, Prestonfield, sherry, >1999) is poured into the glasses - Silence -

Maltmaniac Krishna: Sniff
Maltmaniac Mark: Sniff – Sniff
Maltmaniac Klaus: not very intensive
Maltminion in Charge Michael: Toffee and caramel with a hint of sherry.
Maltmaniac Mark: Wait a few minutes 'til the aroma unfolds.
Maltmaniac Klaus: Slurt – It burns.
Maltminion in Charge Michael: Always the same with the first dram.
Maltmaniac Krishna: And it is cask strength.
Maltmaniac Mark: There are quite a lot of different aromas to be found there.
Maltminion in Charge Michael:  I taste raisins.
Maltmaniac Mark: And spices
Maltmaniac Klaus: Yeah, - I think it is ginger, - and there are citrus fruits.
Wait, I have just detected a hint of peat.

Sniff – Sniff – Slurt. The procedure goes on on for several minutes. Results: Klaus - 77, Krishna - 79, Mark – 81 , Michael - 79.

Lagavulin 23yo 1979/2002 (46%, Murray McDavid Mission) is poured into the glasses - Silence -

Maltmaniac Krishna: So this is a malt from the famous Murray McDavid Mission series. Let us see how it scores.
Maltmaniac Mark: Rather fresh for a 23yo whisky.
Maltminion in Charge Michael: Rather different from the normal 16yo OB
Maltmaniac Klaus: I like the nose. Fresh, like grass near the sea and a whiff of peat.

The maniacs place glass lids over their whisky glasses to amplify the aroma. After some time they lift the lids.

Maltmaniac Krishna: sniff – Ah, delicious.
Maltmaniac Mark: sniff left nostril, sniff right nostril. Very good indeed.
Maltmaniac Klaus: snifffffff – stellar! This should be used as an aftershave.
Maltminion in Charge Michael: I hope it will go on like this.
Maltmaniac Klaus: Oh, it tastes rather tary. Very high phenol levels.
Maltminion in Charge Michael: But it is also rather sweet and full.
Maltmaniac Mark: A really good dram.
Maltmanaic Krishna: Indeed.

Sniff – Sniff – Slurt. Results: Davin - 84, Klaus - 92, Krishna - 93, Mark – 91, Michael - 90.

Ardbeg 1974 "Provenance" (55.6%, OB, <2000) is poured into the glasses - Silence -

Maltmaniac Krishna: Here comes the beauty number 5.
Maltmaniac Mark: Ah, the first Ardbeg today.
Maltminion in Charge Michael: Interesting nose.
Maltmaniac Klaus: But difficult to describe. There is definitely some smoke, but that is obvious for ans Islay. Spices?
Maltmaniac Krishna: Ney, I think there are nuts.
Maltmaniac Mark: And sherry influence.
Maltmaniac Klaus: sniff – sniff – mumble mumble.
Maltminion in Charge Michael: It tastes like a tar extract.
Maltmaniac Klaus: Yes, very powerful. I think the next big contribution is bergamotte in the finish.
Maltmaniac Mark:  Sherry, sherry and some toffee.
Maltmaniac Krishna: There is quite a lot to be found in this malt. Let us enjoy it. I think this malt is rather famous.
Maltmaniac Klaus: Famous or not, I would not count this among the real stars in the malt universe.

Sniff – Sniff – Slurt. Result: Klaus - 86, Krishna - 88, Mark – 90, Michael - 86.

Ardbeg 1976/2002 (53.1%, OB, single cask for Feis Isle) is poured into the glasses - Silence -

Maltmaniac Klaus: Here we have Ardbeg  No. 2 this day and sample No. 6.
Maltmaniac Krishna: Sniff – sniff
Maltminion in Charge Michael: (mumbling) Islay ...
Maltmaniac Klaus: I sense dark fruits...
Maltmaniac Mark: Again a peat monster!
Maltmaniac Krishna: Yes the peat, smoke and tar seems to last an eternity.
Maltmaniac Klaus: Ideed! But, ooh – what is this? So bitter. This means score reduction.
Maltmaniac Mark and Krishna: Fool! I like it very much.

Sniff – Sniff – Slurt. Result: Davin - 95, Klaus - 82, Krishna - 93, Mark – 93, Michael - 91

INT - SERGE'S OFFICE - MORNING: Meanwhile, Serge comes in again from the garden.

Maltmaniac Serge: How are you doing gentlemen?
Maltminion in Charge Michael: Fine. There are really some beauties among these malts.
Maltmaniac Klaus: Yes, one Port Ellen was really stellar. But I think none of these malts is below par.
Maltmaniac Serge: I see the next malt on your list is the Bowmore. This is the bottle Johannes and I found in a pizzeria in Italy. I think you all have read
the story . Johannes was so kind to let me have the bottle. ... But you will see it yourself.

Bowmore 1965 Full Strength (50%, OB, 1980's) is poured into the glasses - Silence -

Maltmaniac Klaus: I am very curious whether Johannes made a big mistake.
When I look at the malts we had before I am quite sure that Johannes will regret it.
Maltminion in Charge Michael: sniff – sniff, ... sniff - sniff – sniff
Maltmaniac Mark: Hey folks, - this is really an interesting nose.
Maltmaniac Krishna: Orange marmelade.
Maltminion in Charge Michael: And coffee.
Maltmaniac Mark: And sherry and peat.
Maltmaniac Klaus: The combination which usually smells like an old fart. But this time it does not annoy me.
Maltmaniac Mark: Can there be blueberries?
Maltmaniac Klaus: Yes, correct. And it smells slightly sour. How can this be.
"Sour" is one of the main taste impressions but you can't smell it.
Maltminion in Charge Michael: (slurt) There is coffee. Strong coffee, mocca.
Maltmaniac Mark: In combination with toffee.
Maltmaniac Klaus: And blueberries with liquorice and marzipan.
Maltmaniac Krishna: We should not forget the peat.
Maltmaniacs Klaus, Krishna and Mark and Maltminion in Charge Michael: Very interesting stuff!

Sniff – Sniff – Slurt. Result:  Davin - 95, Klaus - 93, Krishna - 93, Mark – 94, Michael - 92

Bunnahabhain 34yo 1968/2002 Auld acquaintance (43.8%, OB) is poured into the glasses - Silence -

Maltmaniac Klaus: So this is the last one.
Maltminion in Charge Michael: An old bunny.
Maltmaniac Krishna: Sniff – spices and herbs
Maltmaniac Mark: I think it is curry.
Maltminion in Charge Michael: There is marzipan.
Maltmaniac Klaus: I can't help. Maybe I had an overload of good malts. But I cannot fall in love with this nose.
SLURT! Marzipan, herbs and glow wine (which means oranges and cloves).
Maltmaniacs Krishna and Mark: You are ignorant. This is such a wonderful malt.
You should enjoy it and give it more time. There is so much more to say about it.

Sniff – Sniff – Slurt. Result:  Davin - 91, Klaus - 84, Krishna - 91, Mark – 91, Michael - 91

However, - this single malt tasting interlude is now finished. Back to the work of distilling Marc de Gewurztraminer.

Act 2 – The Day

EXT - SERGE'S GARDEN - AFTERNOON: During the whole tasting session, Marlou had been silent. Well, - most of the time. She was busy nosing the malts of Klaus and sipping a few microliters from each sample. Now she is at the window, looking into the garden.

Maltmaniac Klaus' Lady Marlou: Look there. Look down at the still. Something ist terribly steaming.

The maltmaniacs gang rushes to the window and looks down with amazement.

Choir of 4 Alsacian Distillers: We distill, we distill.
You may have your whiskies, but we have buckets to fill.

The distillation crew has opened the still. The grape skins are steaming.
The maniacs grab their clothes and rush into the garden.

Klaus, Krishna, Mark, Michael & Marlou: Hey, what is happening here? 
Has something terrible happened?
Maltmaniac Serge: Nothing unusual. We just have finished  a distillation step.
The steaming grape skins you see there are worn out.
We will take them out of the still and put fresh ones into it.

Davin appears. He is in a rather good shape.

Maltmaniac Serge:  Hi Davin, have you slept enough?
He – he – he. You have missed quite a lot.
Maltmaniac Davin: Typical case of jet lag.
Olivier gave me a room with tight sealed window shutters.
The room was totally dark, even when the sun was already shining.
Additionally it was very quiet. And so I slept the whole morning.
Maltmaniac Klaus: Then you will have a lot of energy.
There are eight beauties from Islay waiting inside the house.
We others have already tasted them.
Maltmaniac Davin: Sure, but first I want to greet the people here.
Maltmaniac Serge: This is our distilliation crew.
Maltmaniac Davin: Bonjour Messieurs. I am Davin from Canada.
Choir of 4 Alsacian Distillers:   We distill, we distill,
Do you doubt that we 'll drink it? We swear that we will.
Maltmaniac Serge: The other people here are just friends.
They come to visit. Some the whole day, others just for few hours.

For about an hour the maniacs hang around in the garden. French people who admire Krishna, the Indian Maniac, Mark and Davin, who have come from America. All so far away, just to enjoy this event in Turckheim on Santa Claus Day. They are also quite astonished that they can understand the German of Marlou, Klaus and Michael. German from the northern parts of Germany does not seem to be so different from the idiom they talk just across the border.

Choir of 4 Alsacian Distillers:   Into the wheelbarrow with the worn out grape.
We need fresh ones, they 're in better shape.
Maltmaniac Serge: You want to try the distillate? I think this year we will do just fine. The grapeskins are really thick this year. The great heat was very good from the viewpoint of Marc de Gewurztraminer.
Maltmaniac Krishna: (putting his finger into the fresh distilled spirit and licking it) Hmm, very nice.
Maltmaniac Mark: Yeah, – great. And it smells rather good.
Maltmaniac  Serge: And remember this is only the first step. We will distill the spirit a second time.
Maltmaniac Klaus: Look who comes there ...

It is about 2 p.m. The maniacs are getting hungry. Time for the French ladies to show thier first masterpiece.
Chauvinism, you say. No, that is not true. It really seams that the world is in order in the Alsace ;-) . The ladies chatting in the warm house the whole day (and preparing food). The men hanging around near the still, smoking and drinking and getting cold. And not to forget, the children being well bred and greeting all visitors with a handshake or a kiss on the cheek.

There is a large table in Serge's house. Everybody sits down.

Maltmaniac Klaus: Nobody should say that the Alsacians don't know how to live.
This table looks magnificent as always.
Maltmaniac Klaus' Lady Marlou: Mmff - this meat pie is really delicious.
Maltmaniac Mark: Anybody here who also wants to have another load of salad?
Maltmaniac Krishna: Thanks, it is really good.
Maltmaniac Klaus: No thanks, but I would prefer to have another piece of meat pie.

As always there are plates of cheese moving around the table. Dessert is available
at a small table next to the kitchen. But we should not forget that we are in France.
The number of open wine bottles increases dramatically. Château Talbot, Saint-Julien,
Château Cos d'Estournel, Saint-Estèphe, Château La Gaffelière, Saint-Emilion for example.
A lot of them are magnum size.

Maltminion in Charge Michael: I can't believe it. This wine is really phantastic. How can they hold this high level? 
The wine that Serge served when we arrived on Thursday was a miracle. And now these ones. All state of art.
Maltmaniac Klaus: Yes, they are excellent, although I am really no wine expert.

Slowly the people rise and go into the garden. Time for the maniacs to follow and watch the distillation process.
There is nothing new to be seen in the garden, except that the number of French people has increased.

Choir of 4 Alsacian Distillers: Distilling again, distilling again, - but we need a glass of wine every now and then.
Frenchman 1: Du vin rouge encore?
Frenchman 2: Mais oui. C 'est bon.
Frenchman 3: D'ou est cette vin?
Frenchman 1: Château Canon-La-Gaffelière, Saint-Emilion.
Frenchman 3: Excellent
Maltmaniac Mark: Bonjour Messieurs, I am Mark.
Frenchman 1: You are a malt, aren't  you?
Maltmaniac Mark: Yes I enjoy single malts but I also love wine.
Frenchman 1: Where do you come from?
Maltmaniac Mark: California.
Frenchman 2: California? Have you come all the way across the atlantic ocean just to be here?
Maltmaniac Mark: No. I have been Amsterdam before together with Krishna.
We have visited Johannes, the founder of the maltmaniacs. ...
Maltmaniac Davin:  How much spirit has already been distilled?
Alsacian Distiller 1: Look there into the big plastic cask. It is already rather full.
Alsacian Distiller 2: And we get more and more. Look at the bucket next to the still.
Alsacian Distiller 3: This stuff here has an abv of 30 -  40%.
Alsacian Distiller 4: So we need a second distillation step. Then we get 70% abv and more.
Maltmaniac Olivier: Of cause we dilute it then to drinking strength which is somewhere in the region between 40 and 50%.
Choir of 4 Alsacian Distillers: We distill every hour – be there sun or a shower.
Frenchman 4: How long did you drive by car from Hamburg to Turkheim?
Maltminion in Charge Michael: When there is no traffic jam you need 7-8 hours.
Frenchman 4: And do you like it here?
Maltminion in Charge Michael: It is great! And the Alsacian hospitality is unsurpased. ...

Everybody is having fun. Drinking wine. Chatting. Only Klaus, who is the least communicative maltmaniac just walks around, sips his wine and gets a little bit bored. Marlou has already left the community and explored the small village Turckheim.

Maltmaniac Klaus' Lady Marlou: This town is simply beautiful. The old city core. The ancient buildings.
And the christmas decoration. I could walk there the whole day.
Maltmaniac Klaus: Would you like to take another stroll. This time I would accompany you.
Maltmaniac Klaus' Lady Marlou: Yes, sure. Let's go.

Klaus and Marlou explore the town. Soon they go through a gate into the city core.

Marlou: Isn't that lovely. Look at the lights. All the christmas decorations at the windows. So beautiful and no way commercial.
Klaus: Nice.
Marlou: And look at these narrow lanes. The old houses ...
Klaus: Nice.
Marlou: Look at the plaza, the church. When I was here alone they just perfomed a christmas play.
Don't you want to stay and look at it a little bit longer? ... This is really a place where I would like to live.
Klaus: Hmmf, - nice.

The architecture in Turckheim may be nice, and Klaus agrees that christmas decoration is really very good.
But all these things are no match for a stellar Ardbeg or a wonderful Brora.

After about half an hour Marlou and Klaus come back to Serge's place.
Serge now wears the cap of sovietsky submariner.  He now looks like "Comrade Serge".

Maltmaniac Serge: Hi Marlou and Klaus. Back again from town?
We a very good port wine open here, do you want to have a glass?
Maltmaniac Klaus: Gluck – gluck gluck. Hey, this port is really good. Although this means nothing.
I understand even less of port then of other wine.
Maltmaniac Davin: But you can trust me, this is really an excellent port, Taylor's 1977.
Port wine is very popular in Canada.
Maltminion in Charge Michael: And the sediment in bottle is proof enough that is really good stuff.
Maltmaniac Klaus: Na denn, Prost! Aehh, cheers or salut!

When the bottle is finished, the dinner awaits us.

Act 3 – The Evening

How is this possible. The Alsacians have surpassed them selfselves again.
Now I understand the German proverb "Living like god in France". 
The table is full of all kind of delicacies, and wine bottles, man, wine bottles.
I think there are several dozen of them. Meanwhile Mark is hanging around
with a bunch of young french ladies.

French Girl 1: Serge has told us that you are an opera singer. 
Maltmaniac Mark: Yes, I am a singer. That's one of the reasons why I am in Europe.
It is difficult to find a good job in the bay-area.  On the other hand, here in Europe
they search for new talents. Maybe they think I am one of the rising stars.
French Girl 1: Will you sing for us tonight?
Maltmaniac Mark: I don't think so.
French Girl 2: Oh please, please ...
French Girl 1: S'il vous plait, cheri ...
Maltmaniac Mark: Oh must I ...
French Girl 2: Oui, oui, oui, - the people here love the opera. Is it a promise?
Maltmaniac Mark: We will see ...


Maltmaniac Klaus: mmf, mmf , mmf – ah, great!
Maltmaniac Klaus' Lady Marlou:   mmf – yes – mmf , mmf
Maltmaniac Krishna: Can I have the salad again.
Maltmaniac Mark: Mmmf – here is the bowl  – mmf, mmf, mmf.
French Woman who walks around with a plate: Anybody of the Malmaniacs a piece of pie again?
Maltmaniac Klaus: Yesss!
Maltmaniac Klaus' Lady Marlou: Merci.
Maltminion in Charge Michael: Yes, thank you.
Maltmaniac Krishna: Thank you, but I am all full. I feel like my belly would burst any time.
French Woman who walks around with a plate: But then you will miss the cheese and the dessert ...

Now the friendly French people ignite a firework of wine. One premiere grand cru after another. Just to name a few:
Château Talbot, Saint-Julien - Château Cos d'Estournel, Saint-Estèphe - Château La Gaffelière, Saint-Emilion - Château Canon-La-Gaffelière, Saint-Emilion - Château Troplong-Mondot, Saint-Emilion - Château Brane-Cantenac, Margaux - Château La Nerthe, Châteauneuf-du-Pape - Vosne-Romanée Confuron-Cotetidot - Volnay Dominique Laurent

Maltminion in Charge Michael: I don't know whether the malts we had this day or the wines which are served this evening thrill me more. <He puts his nose deep into the glass and rolls his eyes.> These wines are simply magnificent.

Meanwhile Serge and Mark are arguing about the pros and cons of French style and American style red wine.

Maltmaniac Serge: Anyway, if you prefer the fruity styled wines, – that is OK with me.  We also have such wines in France. 
But now something completely different. I have heard that you want to sing for us.
Maltmaniac Mark: I said "maybe". But now with all these wines. I think this is not a good idea ...
Maltmaniac Serge: Oh come on Mark. You will not disappoint my friends. Just one song.
<Loud and to his guests>: Ladies and gentlemen,  this my friend Mark from California. I think most of you already know that he is an opera singer and I am glad to announce that he will sing for us tonight.
<SFX: Applause – Applause – Applause>
Maltmaniac Mark: I will sing a piece a title from the opera Pagliacci by Leoncavallo. The story is about a lost love. 
"Laugh, Pagliacci, over your shatterd love, laugh at the pain that is poisoning your heart!"
I hope I will find the correct first tone at first trial.
If not, - I beg your pardon. I have had more than my share of malts and wines this day.
Maltmaniac Mark sings: Ri-di Pa-gliac-cio sul tuo a-mo-re in-fra-to! ...
<His voice has the power of a disco sound system at high volume. I think he could even match Pavarotti.
Standing ovations after his first piece and of corse the audience wants an encore.>
Maltmaniac Marc sings: la la la... <a song of a Venecian gondolieri – again about "amore", no wonder>
No second encore after this. So the French people have fun with singing famous opera songs for themselves.
Maltmaniac Klaus: I always connect this song with The Muppets Show ...
Maltminion in Charge Michael: (grin)
Maltmaniac Klaus' Lady Marlou: Kulturbanause! This is "Toreador" from Georg Bizet's Carmen.

Although it is already late on the evening the distillation work is not done. The Alsacian gang is back in the garden.

Choir of 4 Alsacian Distillers:  Only a second distilling, - this job is so thrilling.

Meanwhile in the house

Maltminion in Charge Michael: Hey Klaus, – these French are crazy. I left my glass with the most delicious red wine just for one minute on the table. Guess what the ladies who cleared the table did. They emptied it into a spittoon!
Maltmaniac Klaus: Hey Michael, wipe away your tears. After all it is only "vin rouge", even if it is Château La Nerthe, Châteauneuf-du-Pape . And we came here to drink malts, in first case.
Maltminion in Charge Michael: ... Came here to sample malts ... I don't care about the malts. This wine was a beauty and I will never taste it again. I think a bottle of it will cost 200 euros or more.  Such a shame.
<Silently Michael sobs and takes comfort in a glass of wine almost as good as the one which landed in the spittoon.>
Maltmaniac Klaus' Lady Marlou: The maltmaniacs have gone different ways since midday.
And now it is late at night, almost time to go to bed and then home the next morning.
Maltmaniac Klaus: Yes, it is a shame. I will ask Serge if we could sample one last malt together. Hey Serge, the maltmaniacs are having fun each for himself. That's not bad but alas, tomorrow we' ll leave and then we are scattered all over the world again.
Maltmaniac Serge: Yes, that is the maltmaniacs fate. To be separated as persons but to be united in mind. Preaching the malty gospel to the unbelievers. Holladriho, I think, I shall search for we very special malt and then we will all gather and have a final goodbye malt.

Serge comes back with an ultimate beauty:
Macallan 25yo 1976/2001 (50%, Silver Seal, Single Barrel)

Maltmaniac Davin: Now this malt is really worth to finish that evening with it.
Maltmaniac Olivier: Just look at the colour. Deep amber, mahogany.
Maltmaniac Mark: And even though I have had more then my share of spirits
and wines today, this malt simply beams me into another universe.
Maltminion in Charge Michael: Yes, a real sherry monster.
Maltmaniac Serge: This is Macallan at it's best.
Sherry, late fruits, raisins, honey and christmas spices.
Maltmaniac Klaus: I can also sense some sulphur compounds.
But it is not enough to hurt the nose.

Maltmaniac Krishna (in deep meditation): This is surely one of the best Macallans I ever had.
Maltmaniac Klaus: sip- sip – slurt. It is very creamy.
Maltminion in Charge Michael: slurt – The full basket of typical Macallan aromas.
Maltmaniac Klaus: It easily beats the 10yo European cask strength.
Maltmaniac Mark:  And the American version too!
Maltmaniac Klaus: Maybe I will even rate it one point higher then the 100 proof OB. Sniff- sniff – sip -   ... No, I don't think so. Both malts are beauties on their own.  Interesting however, that the Silverseal, although considerably older, seems to be more agile.
Everybody: Sniff – sniff – slurt – Ah, delicious.

It is too late for the most maniacs to make tasting notes.
But surely this malt will be a guiding star in their malt memory.
Results:  Davin - 92, Klaus - 95, Krishna - 90, Michael - 95, Serge – 90.
The maltmaniacs bring out a toast on a speedy reunion.

The hum and buzz of French speaking people in the background has subsided.
It is quite dark outside, the night is coming on.
From outside, through the open window, a song arises...

Choir of 4 Alsacian Distillers: <ecstatic>
Our trials are over,
Our task is fulfilled,
Our mission accomplished:
The Marc is distilled!

<The curtain falls.>

Klaus Everding

Klaus' E-pistle (or screenplay) deals with this year's distillation day in Alsace.
The picture at the right shows the label of this year's Marc de Gewurztraminer,
called 'WMD'. I haven't had the chance to taste this year's distillate yet, but if
it's anything like last year's product I'm sure it will be explosive...

MM#9 is one of our 'thickest' issues yet.
On the
'front page' of MM#9 you can find
all the maniacal contributions submitted by
Serge, Michael, Davin, Craig, Louis, Olivier,
Krishna and yours truly - nine in total.
This second page contains the latest
E-pistles by Klaus, Peter and Mark.

... of MM Issue #09

Malt Maniacs - Issue 1Malt Maniacs - Issue 2Malt Maniacs - Issue 3Malt Maniacs - Issue 4Malt Maniacs - Issue 5Malt Maniacs - Issue 0 (1998-2001)Malt Maniacs - Issue 6Malt Maniacs - Issue 7Malt Maniacs - Issue 8Malt Maniacs - Issue #10Malt Maniacs - Issue #11Malt Maniacs - Issue #12Malt Maniacs - Issue #13Malt Maniacs - Issue #14Malt Maniacs - Issue #15Malt Maniacs - Issue #16Malt Maniacs - Issue #17Malt Maniacs - Issue #18Malt Maniacs - Issue #19Malt Maniacs
Front page of this issue

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