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December 31, 2009 - First of all (and slightly premature), I'd like
to wish all readers of Malt Madness and Malt Maniacs the very
best for 2010 and the decade that lies ahead.
Of course, those wishes are offered to all malt maniacs as well,
including the two brand new team members that became certified
malt maniacs recently, Paul DeJong from Belgium and Serge's
buddy Patrick de Schulthess from Switzerland.
Paul and Patrick join our team at a special moment. After we
published our opinions and knowledge in the form of an E-zine for
almost a decade, we've decided to change the way we share our
experiences with the rest of the whisky loving world in the future.
Starting in 2010 all E-pistles will be published as PDF's.
Sweet drams,
Johannes van den Heuvel
Editor Malt Madness / Malt Maniacs

E-pistle 2009/30 - Tripping Down Memory Lane

Malt whisky is a liquid time machine; when you're enjoying a dram you're
nosing and tasting a product that was produced several years (or decades)
earlier. That's one of the things that makes single malt whisky so interesting;
the gap between the 'crafting' of the product and its consumption. When the
Coca Cola company decided to change the recipe for their soft drink in 1985,
the taste of 'New Coke' didn't appeal to many of their existing customers.
At first Coca Cola secretly started to change the formula of 'The Real Thing'
towards the original product and less than three moths after introducing
'New Coke' they announced that they would bring back 'Coca Cola Classic'.
This was actually different from the original formula, but that's another story...

Although many corporate bigwigs in the whisky industry would love to have a similar level of flexibility, they don't.
The legal minimum period of maturation for Scotch whisky is three years. Although many blends are released at an age of just three years, most single malts still require at least ten to twelve years to become REALLY good - although I have to admit some distilleries have already managed to release notably younger bottlings that I could confidently recommend. So, that means that the effects of many changes at the production end of the whisky industry take many years to 'trickle down' to the shelves of liquorists around the world.
In other words: by the time we notice changes in the product it's usually too late to turn back the clock...

For example, when farmers or distilleries decide to change the strain of barley they use, it takes about a decade to find out how it affects the mature whisky - and the customer's response to it. That would be a problem if the main objective was making a 'better' whisky, but not if the primary reason for the change was lowering production costs or increasing the 'yield'. Similar principles apply to many other changes in the recent past of the whisky industry; wood management, the availability and prices of certain cask types and sizes at a particular moment, the switch from coal heating to indirect heating, types and variety of yeast, the switch from floor maltings to saladin boxes, etc.
To cut a long story short: the whisky world has changed a lot in recent decades - but was this by chance or by design?

When I was 'analysing' the results of this year's Malt Maniacs Awards I noticed that a disproportionate number of gold medal winners were distilled in 1972. This made me realise that the early 70's seemed to be a very good time for malt whiskies; the average 'quality' of the whiskies distilled in the the early 70's (and perhaps 1972 in particular) seemed higher than those from the late 1970's. And then there's a similar 'threshold' around 1983 - which is of course much easier to explain because that's when the entire whisky industry got into a crisis. When I asked the other maniacs about their thoughts about tjis, Davin came up with another interesting question; "And while we're on the subject does anyone else wonder if the ISO movement is genericising malt whisky?". Quite possibly! I've never thought about applying ISO to the Scotch whisky industry before, but I've been involved with a few ISO projects for employers myself. I've found that ISO may be useful for streamlining office procedures at large corporations, but it also is detrimental to creativity and spontaneity in smaller organisations. Craig expressed similar sentiments when he wrote: "My thesis is that the 1970s were the last decade before the number crunchers took over and I guess that means we should search for and secure malt whiskies distilled before 1983-1986 and celebrate the full glory of Single Malt Scotch.".

So, while the introduction of 'New Coke' was a CHANGE that could have been turned back, most of the recent changes in the whisky industry are part of an EVOLUTION. Unlike changes which can work both ways, an evolution generally goes in one direction. Part of this evolution is driven by the sort of choices I've just mentioned, but there are external factors as well that exert their influence; changes in climate, government regulations, the massive drop in sherry consumption that has limited the availability of sherry casks, etc. All of these elements (both internal and external influences) have worked together to create today's whisky world - warts and all.

Anyway - the point is that the whisky world has changed a lot over the years; partly by accident and partly by design.
Malt Maniacs has changed a lot as well since we published our first E-pistles in the 1990's. In 1997 Craig Daniels from Australia, Louis Perlman from the USA and yours truly wrote the first articles for the forum on the 'Malt Madness' website - a section of the website which would later evolve into this 'Malt Maniacs' E-zine. In the years that followed many other malt lovers joined our cause, including Serge Valentin (who built a kick-ass WhiskyFun website) and famous whisky writers like Charlie MacLean, Dave Broom and Martine Nouet. Although we haven't changed as profoundly as the whisky industry itself, we've experienced a few 'fundamental' changes like the introduction of an E-zine format around 2001 and the launch of a separate website in 2006. And now it's time for another, fairly fundamental change in 2010...

When we launched a separate 'Malt Maniacs' website in 2006 I seriously underestimated the amount of extra work that was involved with maintaining a second, separate website. As a result, I haven't been able to maintain and develop both websites as actively as I would have liked over the past few years. In the current set-up, the only way to make some real progress was by 'freezing' other sections of the site for a few time. It took me some time, but I finally accepted that I had to make some changes to the 'format' of Malt Maniacs. That's why this will be the final issue of the Malt Maniacs E-zine in HTML. In the future, our E-pistles will be published as standalone articles in PDF. Members of the MM mailinglist will automatically receive the articles in their mailbox, but they will also be provided on this website.

Hopefully, this next 'evolutionary step' means that I'll need less time editing issues of our E-zine.
This gives me more time to work on Malt Madness and other sections of this Malt Maniacs website. Also, I have high hopes that this new approach will produce slightly 'heavier' E-pistles which are a little more like 'white papers' on a certain whisky related topic and a little less like virtual fireplace chats, however pleasant they may be. Thanks to new developments like Facebook and Twitter there are plenty of alternative platforms nowadays where people can share tasting notes - including Serge Valentin's excellent WhiskyFun website - or have a virtual chat about single malt whisky, From now on we'll be trying to tackle some of the heavier stuff on Malt Maniacs...

Sweet drams,


E-pistle 2009/31 - Commotion At The Collecting House

GlenWonka Beatus'Our whisky is for drinking, not for collecting!' the Scottish distillers and
bottlers always scream in unison, though this never prevents them from
explaining how collectable their newest 15, 20 or 30 years old is, be it
lavishly packaged or not. Lack of coherence? Double speak? Plain
dishonesty? Probably a bit of everything.
On one hand, collectors may proportionally 'destroy' (ie drink) less
products than 'pure' drinkers, but it's also the aim of any marketeer to
see as much of his products being sold AND 'destroyed'. On the other
hand, a genuine collector buys dozens, in some cases hundreds, of his
favourite whiskies per year, so this small crowd cannot be sneezed at.
The fact is that whisky collectors represent a small but steadily growing
niche market.
"The number of collectors is increasing. The Yen is strong these days and
the prices of some bottles are still reasonable -- for the Japanese!"
Hideo Yamaoka, who owns a vast collection in Tokyo.
The problem for the distillers is that these 'bloody' collectors almost
never listen! And when they do, it's often with derisive grins and raised
eyebrows. Tell them that this or that new bottling is 'highly collectable'
and they will usually either burst out laughing or dash off. This, by the
way, will not prevent a few of them from discreetly buying the new
wonder, especially when they specialise in one brand and just cannot
bear having a hole in their collection.
In my view, that behaviour borders more and more on masochism, as I've
seen some collectors being thrilled with the news of a new 40yo priced at
£5,000 that they just cannot afford to miss. 'I do however think we are
pretty close to the pain tolerance', says Hans-Henrik Hansen, a Danish
hotelier who owns the largest Glenfiddich collection in the world.
So, have prices risen too high? Most collectors answer 'yes!'.
"Basically, they have doubled in four years" says Olivier Humbrecht MW,
an avid (but selective) Highland Park collector. "Some bottles reached a
peak about fifteen months ago and it seems that there is a slight drop of
10 to 15% since then, but still, it is 100% more than back in 2003/2004.
Some 'ultra-rare' bottles or some high scorers (95pts +) have increased
by 300/400%!"

Geert Bero, a famous Belgian Ardbeg collector, confirms: "There are
plenty of outrageously priced bottles out there that will be still available
in a couple of years. And very young whiskies are being sold at too
expensive prices"
Although, as Yamaoka-san says, the number of collectors is increasing, it's also the case that the heavily specialised collectors who will buy just anything bearing their favourite brand's name (be it crystal decanters in plywood cases, umbrellas, lighters, peat scones or ladies' sweaters) represent a minority. Many of them either quit collecting when some distillers brutally raised their prices two or three years ago, or decided to focus on old bottlings only, the easiest way not to fall into an ongoing sado-masochistic relationship with their favourite brand.

"The flood of small and special, exclusive bottlings at astronomic prices is killing the fun of collecting as the specialised collector knows beforehand that he will have a hard time completing his/her collecting horizon. At least financially!" says Sweden's Ulf Buxrud, who has been collecting whisky since the 1970s. Recent marketing strategies have raised quite some eyebrows too. "Special editions, vintage releases, represent only a small percentage of production, they are often older versions; so higher prices can be normal. However, if distilleries use these special editions to increase reputation and image by marketing them at high prices, consumers may eventually reject them. In the same way, when distilleries release multiples versions, cask numbers, batches and label variations in order to feed the collectors' market with many different versions that could have been vatted together, they also create some resentment and lassitude from the buyers." says Humbrecht.

That said, the vast majority of the new collectors do not specialise at all, or rather specialise in exceptional whiskies only.
Only reputation and word of mouth seem to sell to the 'new collector', even if some reputations may be undeserved. Why? Because they can see, on various auction sites, that only the most excellent whiskies see their value increase or even stay stable. For example, a fabulous single cask Ardbeg distilled in the 1970s can be worth more than £1,000, while a very similar but 'less fabulous' bottling will peak at £300 or 400. Very often, but not always, these much sought-after bottles are 'poorly' packaged, and don't even come in fancy presentation cases, but the whisky inside is brilliant. Let's not forget that's also how the wine market works. Ever seen Lafite, Opus One or Grange in a mahogany box or a velvet pouch? If a new bottling is excellent, it will sell fast.

So, what's the ideal collector's bottle today? Probably a brilliant single malt whisky, not obligatorily old and not obligatorily from a blue chip distillery. "I still believe strongly in bottlings from lost distilleries. These are still sensibly priced compared to their big-name counterparts." says Sukhinder Singh, from The Whisky Exchange, himself a big collector. "Today it is more about the whisky and most true collectors don't give a damn what the bottle looks like. The simpler the better!" In other words, sober and elegant packaging, lots of data on the label (but no codswallop!), and a proper closure. That is to say a closure that's not easy to replace by hand, otherwise faked refills would soon appear on eBay or elsewhere. Don't get me wrong, fancy packaging and 20th century advertising drivel still work, just not among collectors. Ultimately and with the power of the new media, it's the collectors who will decide on what's really collectable or not, not the distillers/bottlers.

Are distillers/bottlers now seen as being too greedy? Govert van Bodegom, who owns a large Longmorn collection, says: "The prices are too high. Everyone in the industry, both distillers and independents, wants to make a profit. Every 'whisky connoisseur' is saying: 'the whisky market will collapse soon'. But it still has to happen."

Will the market collapse? I don't think so.
It'll probably mutate towards a state where true collectors and oligarch types (smart and rich, but not educated in whisky) will diverge more and more. In short, the former may buy more 'the liquid' whilst the latter will buy more 'the packaging', but it is still to be seen if one brand can address both markets at the same time. I'd add, personally, that selling purely to the fickle 'oligarchs' while ignoring whisky-loving collectors is a dangerous strategy, unless you have no choice because you simply don't have great whiskies in your warehouses.

Serge Valentin, France

(A shortened version of this article was published earlier in "Whisky Magazine".)

E-pistle 2009/32 - From Whisky Scorer to Juror: Part 1

I can still remember the first time I was asked to evaluate a test, or write a report card as a first
year teacher.  It was necessarily a heavy task, one which I took very seriously. Assigning a mark to
someone's work, be it a grade 3 poem or an undergraduate essay on soil remediation of polycyclic
aromatic hydrocarbon contamination, has always been an onerous responsibility. So, you can
imagine the pressure I felt when I was asked if I would like to participate on the jury of the Malt
Maniacs Awards for 2009.  Over 206 samples from distillers well known, not so well known, large,
and small,  to judge... blind.
One of the reasons I started scoring whisky is because evaluation is what I am trained to do for a
living.  To the layperson, the amount of training and discussion that goes on within my profession
on the topic of "assessment and evaluation" is simply astounding.  Our employers, the boards of
education, spend a considerable amount of time and money trying to help teachers, new and old, to
understand the new thinking on evaluation. One thing is for sure, rarely do we carry out evaluations
blind!  The rare exception is the standardized testing that the State imposes on our students to
measure their performance.  Most of the time we are scoring eyes-wide-open (EWO), if you will.

Evaluating anything EWO means that you have some sort of idea about what to expect from the producer of the work you are judging.
The usual fare for Little Jimmy's paragraph writing is a few capitals left out, a missing indent, BUT his ideas make perfect sense, his details are well articulated, and he includes a subject and concluding sentence.  I know this, I expect this from Little Jimmy, and I use this historical evidence as a baseline when scoring future work…much like a whisky juror might use his Glenlivet 12 yo as a control dram.  When scoring whisky, knowing what to expect from the distillery also allows us to be on the look out for any flaws, missing notes, or off-notes.

However, the EWO approach also introduces some bias into the measurement. Sometimes, you might think that you are sensing something because it's presence has been suggested so many times that you might think it is actually there. One needs to always be mindful of these phantom notes, and with discipline and practice, one can focus exclusively on the dram in front of you. As a rule, I try NOT to read anybody else's taste notes prior to nosing and tasting. Another obvious 800 pound gorilla in the room is of course the age statement.  This type of bias is a testament to the marketing savoir-faire of the salesmen peddling malt whisky to the four corners of the globe.  We now feel hesitant to give poor marks to an old whisky relative to a young one. We feel far more comfortable second-guessing our own sensory abilities than we do a venerable old 25 yo malt!  Well, this is by far the most important reason that the Malt Maniacs conduct their official scoring blind.
In my next E-pistle, I will be putting my organ to the test by evaluating this year's array blind.

Now I DON'T want to get into a discussion about evaluation - or scoring - this  has been done many a time on your favourite whisky forum, but I will give you my perspective on some alternatives. As a teacher I have encountered many types of evaluation scales. As a university instructor, numerical grades based on the number of correct answers is still commonplace. In the public school system, rubrics are now in vogue. A rubric is a two dimensional grid with one axis containing the levels 1-4 (4 being the best), and on the other axis the various criteria that are being assessed. Theoretically, the achievement level most often observed is assigned to the work. Most teachers often complain that rubrics are cumbersome to use and often produce mono-disperse data (the same results over and over again), so I can't really recommend this approach for whisky evaluation.

Checklists are also a method that is used to assess work. However, one must have some idea of what you are looking for in the first place.   For instance, in order to apply  this to whisky scoring, one would need to generate a list of aromas / notes that one might expect from a malt, then check them off.  One could also generate a list of off-notes that one would not want to sense. Obviously, checklists would also be cumbersome to use and would be difficult to summarize into an evaluation that is accessible to the layperson. Of course we might also consider the current "cause celebre" in the education world, allowing the students to evaluate their own work... Yeah like THAT's going to work with whisky producers!  At the end of the day I will say this: "numerical scoring is like democracy, it is the worst form of assessment and the best form of assessment".  Yes, you can quote Winston and me on that!

Having said all of this, here are a few drams that I have scored EWO. I have used my own experience and tastes to come up with a quality statement that is described on a scale of 0-100. What the hell, I'm a teacher, I'm going to give each one a letter grade too! AFTER having done your own nosing and tasting, why don't you have a look to see if our palates are similar. In a future e-pistle, I will be scoring the Malt Maniac Awards samples BLIND... I'll give you my impressions of that experience in contrast to this EWO tasting.

Laphroaig NAS 'Quarter Cask' (48%, OB, Bottled 2008, 750 ml)
Colour:  Gold  Nose:  Initially powerful hit of peat. Iodine a la hot tub sanitizer! A bonfire! Later fades to bread dough rising in a proofer.  Sweetness of ripe fruit come through alongside the oak vanillin. Palate: Substantial oiliness and depth. Sweetness balanced the peat which fades with time. Sweet pear and vanilla. A little sourness from the yeasty cereal notes come through as well. Finish: A hint of mint, fresh cigarette ashes & sweet peat. Comments: a cost saving maturation technique that yields a quality product. Always enjoyable. 85 points. B+.

Talisker 10yo (45,8%, OB, Bottled 2009)
Colour: gold-amber hues  Nose: sherry, nuts, smoke is subdued. Sweet smoked bacon. Saltiness or maritime air. Some mineral or chalkiness.  Palate:  Sweeter than usual.  A sherried nuttiness.  Peat smoke packs a bigger punch on the palate.  Fades quickly and combines with the sweet notes and medicinal notes.  VERY peppery as expected.  great balance.  Finish:  long on smoke and new bandages (now I know what Serge means by this).  Comments:  The only off note was the chalkiness which I didn't enjoy on the nose. 87 points.  A-.

Glengoyne 10yo (43%, OB, 750 ml, Bottled 2009)
Colour: Gold  Nose:  sherry nuttiness, porridge, ripe fruit, and vanilla. Palate: Honeycrisp apples followed by vanilla.  Some decent oak spice towards the front of the palate, a little in the middle.  Sweet apple juice and a malt cereal aroma  Finish:  on nutty sherry, vanilla, and lager beer.  Comments:  definitely a lighter malt.  At first I wasn't impressed. Subsequent tasting won me over on the palate and the nose to rate it 79 points.  B.

Clynelish 14yo (45%, OB, Bottled 2008)
Colour: Bright gold, sweet white wine  Nose: Nuts and sherry. Flowers or perfume with a very subtle bed of heathery smoke. A hint of orange peel. The signature bee's wax is very faint but seems to round out the nose.  Palate: Slightly oily, lending good weight. Coats the entire palate with a good dose of spice. Ripe tree fruit, nuts, and a nice dose of salt balance this out nicely. The waxiness is also present on the palate, similar to eating honey from the comb.  Finish: Surprisingly long on lemony peat smoke, nuts, and beeswax.  Comments: This is simply beautiful. The smoke is a surprise that you don't expect from the nose. However, it's the balance and interesting combination of aromas that makes this one so distinctive. I will definitely replace this when it's gone. 85 points. B+.

Oban 14yo (43%, OB, Bottled 2007)
Colour: Light amber  Nose: Sweet, honeyed, sherry. Some hint of heather and maybe some VERY gentle smoke. A real pleasure to nose, though it isn't extremely complex. Palate: the attack is at the front of the palate and the sides. Very sweet. Honey and sherry come through. Not complex at all. Some raisins followed by very subtle sweet burning heather.  Finish: Chewey smokiness. Shortish. The sweetness of this dram really overpowers everything else.  114 $ CDN/bottle?!  77 pts B.

Bruichladdich 1989 Full Strength (57.1%, OB, First Edition)
Colour: gold  Nose: Starts of a little grainy and spirity. Proceeds to display some pronounced vanilla and bourbon aromas. Some organics emerge. With water: Some  melon, but with some ash as well. The cereal presents itself like a fresh kneaded dough. A distinct sulfur note, like a lit match just put out, sweetish, appetizing. Palate: Nicely balanced! Not too sweet despite the bourbon ageing. The traditional melon and aniseed are evident. Even a slight hint of peat at the very end. The mouthfeel is slightly oily, but light in nature. The vanilla is there, but not too overpowering. Finishes on a bit of aniseed, sulfur, a little drying. A slightly bitter note at the end.  Comments: Some feel that Laddies are just blend fodder... I beg to differ. 83 pts B+.

Highland Park 25yo (50.7%, OB, 333 ml, Bottled +/- 2005)
Colour: Amber  Nose: Peppermint, herbal essence, dandelion, burnt and fresh grass.  Oily/organics, coffeish, and cumin.  Palate: Peppery, minty, cinnamon, coffee/chocolate.  Slightly sweet, mouthwarming.  Eucalyptus.  Finish: On mint, sherry-nuttiness, brown Christmas spices  Comments: This is only my second time scoring a whisky so high (first time was a 22 yo Brora 93 points).  I just love the unconventional combination of aromas.  A pleasurable departure from the HP "norm". 91 pts. A.

Nabil Mailloux, Canada

E-pistle 2009/33 - Stunning Wines, Stupendous Whiskies

The hills around TurckheimAnother year to fetch the Malt Maniacs Awards samples, and just like in the
past, I have decided to go personally to get them than to risk with Indian
customs. But this time I have two friends to accompany me. Rama Rao and
Bhaskar Reddy - my old buddies from Bombay.
Olivier suggested that the best way to come to Turckheim would be via Basel
as Turckheim is only half an hour drive from there. Now that Switzerland has
become a Schengen country, entry from Switzerland to other European cities
also would not be a problem. As usual, Davin, my permanent room partner
agreed to join me at Paris. We shall be together for three days.
Off you go- journey via Hyderabad- Bangalore, Paris and finally Basel started
on October 01, 2009 by KLM
Day 1

After an uneventful journey, and picking up Davin from Paris who had
already arrived there an hour before, we finally arrived in Turckheim and
checked into Hotel Du Clefs in the center of ancient Turckheim.

Without wasting any time we headed towards Olivier's place. As many of you know, Olivier's place is a short walk of 15 minutes from the center of Turckheim. The full harvest of grapes was not yet over and bunches of juicy grapes were still hanging from the road side vines and it was a feast to my friends' eyes who have never witnessed such a spectacle. What should have been a 15 minutes' walk took more than 40 minutes; on the way we indulged in stealing grapes from vineyards and plucking over ripe plums, figs and almond hanging out of back yard of Olivier's garden. Never had I tasted such sweet, luscious plums and figs in my life!

Finally we were at Olivier's place to announce our arrival to Olivier's secretary.  It was peak working time of the year as we could see from Olivier's get up when he came out of his office. With muddy trousers and dirt laden, large working shoes, Olivier looked more like a seasoned farm hand than one of the finest wine makers in the world.  With usual fashion Olivier greeted us with all his warmth.

It appeared that Vintage 2009 (odd years are usually good vintages) has been very good which kept Olivier very busy till late September and the Awards samples which me and Davin planned to pick up from Olivier were not ready. Added to the problem was that the Belgian exporter who usually sends sample bottles had not yet sent them. At once Davin and me were crestfallen and thought that our whole journey was a waste.  Olivier calmed us down by saying that there were enough bottles for me and Davin to take our samples back. We were relieved to hear the news and Olivier fixed the filling party for the guests for next day.

We were on our way back to hotel and just when we were trying to steal some more fruits on the road, Serge suddenly appeared from nowhere in his huge Mercedes. It was such a pleasant surprise and I was extremely happy to meet him after three years. He took us directly to his home and into his cellar. Serge's cellar is directly below his garage where he routinely makes the yearly moonshine from the left over Gewürztraminers.

Serge's whisky cellarWhat an excellent cellar Serge has! Also this is the den from where
Serge operates his  My two Indian friends were
spell bound as they had never witnessed an assembly of such fine
whiskies. Serge threw open his cellar and announced "guys, you can
drink anything from any bottle that is opened".

Serge has very interesting collection; actually you need a good part of
day to go through them. Eventually Davin and yours truly settled for
some interesting Diageo samples to get them on to the monitor.
The samples were:

1. Oban 2000/2009 Manager's Choice (58.7%, OB, Sherry C# 1186)
(They made 534 bottles, my score was 90 points)
2. Glen Elgin 1998/2009 'Managers' Choice' (61.1%, OB, cask #3678)
(They made 534 bottles of this one as well, my score was 88 points)
3. Mortlach 1997/2009 Manager's Choice ( 57.1%, OB, , C # 6802)
(They used Bourbon American Oak for 240 bottles, score is 86 points)
4. Linkwood 1996/2009 'Managers' Choice' (58.2%, OB, cask #10552)
(They produced 480 bottles and my score was 86 points)
5. Teaninich 1996/2009 'Managers' Choice' (55.3%, OB, cask #9802)
(They made 246 bottles and my score was core 87 points)
6. Cardhu 1997/2009 'Managers' Choice' (57.3%, OB, cask #3362)
(Diageo produced 252 bottles and I gave a score of 90 points)
7. Longmorn 28yo 1964 (50%, Chieftain's  Choice / SID, Taiwan)
(From Scottish Independent Distillers, bottled +/- 1992, Score 87)

Davin also scored more or less in similar fashion. It was a brilliant tasting session in Serge's cellar. Thanks a million, Serge.
Well, not exactly though, there was more to come as he invited us for a taste of local cuisine in the evening along with his friends and family. It was at Francois Baur, an ancient restaurant having it own wine in the center of Turckheim. I had Pig knuckles with sauerkraut which was exceedingly delicious and was washed down with generous amounts of gewürztraminer house specialty.

Day 2

It is filling day at DZH. The labourers began work just before 10 a.m.
The work begins with opening of Solan No1, a blended whisky yours
truly brought as a surprise gift for the Malt maniacs of the filling party.
The skepticism shown initially by the experts (Olivier, Serge and Davin)
suddenly vanished when the IMFL (Indian made Foreign Liquor) was
tasted which gradually turned into sincere appreciation. When the
price of the bottle was announced by me (Less than a Euro for 350 ml)
everybody went gaga over the stuff. Olivier went even to the extent of
calling the company in India (there is a telephone number on the bottle),
but there was no answer from the Company. Since there are 4 scorers,
the ratings for the bottle would be put shortly on the matrix.

The 206 Awards participants soon were trollied down by Olivier in to
his large filling hall and immediately, the work began. At the same
Olivier brought several bottles of HPs from his favorite collection and
two stunning Red wines from Volnay village in Burgundy (more of it
later) dating back to 1976! Well, that is Olivier for you.

88 - Highland Park 1973/2001 (45.4%, OB, C#11151 20/500 Bts.)
92 - Highland Park, The Dragon Dist 1973 (56.4% Robertson Group)
93 - Highland Park, Dun Eideann 18yo, Dist 23.11.1972 Bottled 1991
95 - Highland Park 21 yo, Oct 1972/ July 1994 (56.5%, Cadenhead's )

The four HPs were of highest class as you can see from the scores.

Then there was also a stunning Parker's Port Ellen brought by one of Olivier's assistants from Scotland.
The Port Ellen 1982/2007 (56.8%, Parker's Whisky, 140/220 Bts) scored 93 points. We had lunch prepared from Olivier's house and the two red wines from Volnay were consumed liberally. Towards late afternoon, the filling was over and Davin and me had the 206 samples distributed securely in to three packages for each one to carry back home.

The celebrations never end during weekends in Turckheim, especially when there are overseas guests.
Serge had a Bordeaux wine tasting session at his house where he invited his local friends and asked us to join. The game is that each one brings a Bordeaux with the bottle covered in tin foil and all have to taste and rate them to declare the winner of the evening.  I am not much of a wine taster, but who cares? You have come to France to enjoy the best time of your year! The evening seemed to go on forever with uninterrupted food, wine and lots of French conversation.

Day 3

After two days of unrelenting partying we decided not to disturb Olivier and Serge and instead planned to explore Turckheim and the neighborhood on our own. So we set out into the surrounding hills of Turckheim sprawled with undulating wine yards owned entirely by the locals. The best of the wine yards face south to quench the thirst of sunlight and needless to say, Olivier's Grand Cru/s are situated in some of the most strategic sunny slopes surrounding Turckheim. Afterwards we had a small trek towards Niedermorschwhir- a picturesque village of about 500 inhabitants and just when we were reaching Turckheim Serge caught us again. He insisted that he we should see more of the local villages around and set out in his Merc. First we visited a company called Gilbert Miclo which makes distillates out of local fruits, but unfortunately it was closed and all we did was to take few pictures from outside.  Then we headed to a small museum "Musee Eaux De Vie" in the village of Lapourtroie where some interesting gathering of vintage stills and all and sundry equipments related to distillation were displayed. The sightseeing ended with a short visit to Colmar.

Day 4 to 7 - Bountiful Burgundy

On Monday we departed. Davin headed back home while we headed towards
Dijon for a small wine exploratory tour of Burgundy.

Since childhood I was fascinated by Burgundy.
With idyllic scenery of forests, crystal clear streams, rolling hills and sleepy villages,
Burgundy has it all. Since time was short we settled down to explore a small streak
of land between Dijon and Beaunne- well, very small streak by area, but the most
expensive piece of land on earth, for here you find about 6000 finest wine growers
in the world some owning as much as 200 acres and others a few square yards.

The pick of the wine yards is Romanee Conti, having mere four and half acres of
land but producing the rarest of wines in the world. Word has it that one has to
book a case years in advance with astronomical price.

Then we headed to Beaunne, the capital of the wine country but on the way we
passed the Close de Vougeot, the famous castle of 12th Century which is now a
cooperative of 80 owners each producing as little as 1000 bottles of Grand Cru in
the region surrounding the castle.

We hired bicycles in Beaunne to explore more and headed towards the villages of Meursualt and Volnay.
This was not because we wanted to visit these places in particular, but because these were at shortest distances from Beaunne and we had no confidence on our biking ability. As we entered Volnay, we came across a vine farm selling its wine. We called the house lady and bought a bottle, which happened to be the same brand of wine Olivier treated us with on the filling day.  I opened the bottle and asked the lady to point out the direction of Close de Vougeot. She pointed. I turned myself towards the direction, kneeling down I took the bottle in both hands and had a sumptuous swig.

Krishna Nukala, India

E-pistle 2009/34 - Book Review: Whisky & Philosophy

Whiskey & Philosophy: A Small Batch of Spirited Ideas (Fritz Allhoff & Marcus P. Adams, eds.)
John Wiley & Sons Inc., Hoboken, 2009; 366 pages.

Whiskey & Philosophy is the first of its kind among whisky books, though one among many in
Fritz Allhoff's Philosophy & Something Else series.  The books in this series, better known as
Philosophy For Everyone, include 18 to 20, 4500-word essays on a particular topic ranging from
serial killers to running.  This book, written 50% by philosophers, 25% by other academics and
25% by non-academics, joins two earlier Allhoff epicurean outings that explored food and wine. 
Although the accessibility of the essays varies somewhat, all bring new perspectives on whisky.
For those who like to ponder whisky, Whiskey and Philosophy provides lots of material to keep
those brain cells busy all winter.
Chris Bunting, for example, explaining the skyrocketing popularity of Japanese whisky, posits
that "By so tightly defining what it means to be an authentic Scotch-style whisky: specifying the
ingredients it must contain, focusing the attention of consumers on specific locations (rather
than on the much vaguer and more defensible blended Scotch brand names that the Japanese
were vainly trying to imitate in 1918), and, most important, by allowing a priesthood of experts
to be built around this complex idea of what is authentic, the Scots may have made top-quality
Scotch whisky production portable.  The consumer, taught to focus not on a familiar brand but
on a highly codified set of criteria for authenticity (e.g., malted barley only, a single distillery,
long aging, and so on) and to listen to experts extolling certain abstracted qualities in the
whisky, can be forgiven for concluding that it hardly matters whether the whisky was made in
Hokkaido or Speyside."

It's an odd mix of contributors:  whisky writers who, for the most part, joust but timidly with philosophical concepts, and academics whose naïve connoisseurship many readers will take for knowledge.  Yet it works well as each brings something new and enlightening to a whisky conversation that the editors skillfully synthesize into a cohesive and thought-provoking unit.

Jerry O. Dalton, a former bourbon distiller with a PhD in chemistry, and an eastern philosophical bent, talks about the uncertainties of tasting whisky.  "Are some whiskies better than others?" he asks.  To Dalton it all boils down to what you get used to.  "To a person accustomed to Scotch, bourbon might seem too sweet or grainy."  One thing is certain though; we should not trust the experts.  "Given that experts apply their own standards (and biases!) to evaluation, it makes it all the more important that we taste for ourselves, thus applying our own standards (and biases!)."  The best whiskies, he suggests, are those for which consumers cast their votes with money by buying them.  Hmmm, so to Dalton it's quality, not price, advertising, or familiarity that leads consumers to make their selections.

Ian J. Dove picks up the topic in an essay entitled What Do Tasting Notes Tell Us? 
In deciding whether or not to trust an expert Dove suggests we answer the following critical questions:

1.     Does the person have special training or knowledge that qualifies him or her as an expert on the topic of whisky?
2.     Is the expert consistent?
3.     Is the claim recent?
4.     Is the expert objective?
5.     Do other experts agree with the claim of this expert?

Other essays explore whether whisky makes people immoral; whisky and wild living; women and whisky and the right to have orgasms (strongly influenced by a certain American sit-com one would guess); whether the person who over-enjoys the whisky is the self-same soul who under-enjoys the morning after (written by Buddhist & philosopher Steven F. Geisz); preserving distilleries and distilling methods for their intrinsic values; and a fascinating essay by Tom Polger on whether whisky is a "natural kind."  This essay provides a clear opening to address the blurring of the fortified wine/whisky boundary as more and more Scottish malt distillers use wine to flavour their whisky - a practice known euphemistically as finishing - but Polder, a philosopher, is not up on the latest whisky controversies.

Whiskey & Philosophy is divided into five sections:  The history and culture of whiskey, the beauty and experience of whiskey, the metaphysics and epistemology of whiskey, ethics and whiskey, and whiskey and a sense of place.  The editors suggest reading the first and fifth sections as units, but browsing randomly through the others.  This is probably good advice for the first reading, but the book will without doubt draw the reader back for a less organized re-read.  The essays are interesting the first time through, and many bear contemplation and reflection.

So, whether they're curled up by the fireplace with a favourite dram or sprawled in a chaise lounge with a rye and ginger, this is a book whisky lovers will go back to time and again both for amusement and for intellectual stimulation.

Davin de Kergommeaux, Canada

E-pistle 2009/35 - Black, White & Gold Bowmores

In July of 2008, I was tasting the White Bowmore with Andrew Rankin, the chief blender for Morrison Bowmore. During the tasting, he mentioned that there would be a third release in what Bowmore was referring to as the Trilogy Series sometime in 2009... without giving any details. That third release turned out to be the Gold Bowmore.

A bit of history here... Historians will recall the original Black Bowmore releases between 1993 and 1995s. The spirit was some of the first produced in 1964 after the Morrison family bought Bowmore and revamped the distillery, and was aged in black walnut Oloroso sherry casks. What we didn't know at the time was that Bowmore still had casks of that same spirit ageing in Warehouse #1 at the distillery.

In 2007, Bowmore released several casks of that 42-year-old spirit under the Black Bowmore label, with just 827 bottles produced, and a suggested price of $4,500 (US). The following year, the White Bowmore was released - same spirit, but aged instead in ex-bourbon casks with a lighter color and flavor. Those casks yielded 732 bottles of 43 year-old whisky at a suggested price of $6,000. That left just four casks of the 1964 spirit: three ex-bourbon and one ex-sherry cask.  Andrew Rankin and the Bowmore team vatted them together to create 701 bottles of 44-year-old Gold Bowmore, with a price tag of $6,250. That brings us to the equation mentioned above: 3+1=98; three barrels of ex-bourbon White Bowmore plus one barrel of ex-sherry Black Bowmore equals 98 - the highest score I have ever given a whisky.

Nosing the Gold Bowmore reveals the fruitiness often found in older Bowmores.
For some reason, the peat tends to fade in Bowmores after 20 years or so in cask, and notes of tropical fruits take over. In this case, I found notes of passion fruit, mango, and pineapple, along with subtle hints of pomegranate and peaches and not a hint of oak or peat. The taste starts off with a grapefruit-like tartness that fills the mouth, then fades to reveal the passion fruit and mango notes from the nose. The mouth tingles with a slight mintiness and there's a hint of hazelnut in the back of the throat. The citrussy sweetness sticks to the tip of the tongue and lingers, while the rest of the finish has a white wine dryness.

This is an amazingly smooth and complex dram, and to be honest, I expected nothing less.
The Black and White Bowmores had each received among the highest scores I've given in the past, and putting them together created a whisky that will be sought after for years to come.  (42.4% ABV)

BLACK BOWMORE TASTING NOTES (Tasted February 2008, 40.5% ABV)
Nose: Mangoes and other tropical fruits, dusty and musty like the aroma of a warehouse, with an understated brininess.
Taste: An explosion of fruits that becomes tart on the top of the tongue with lingering citrus notes.
At 40.5% ABV, no water is needed for this dram.
Finish: Sweet and clean.

Nose: Mango and pomegranate notes, vanilla, and a hint of orange peel and lemon.
Taste: Light and fruity with ripe mango, banana, and passion fruit notes.
A slight hint of figs underneath. Full of life, even after 43 years in cask.
Finish: Crisp and clean.

Mark Gillespie, USA

E-pistle 2009/36 - South Africa's First Single Grain

Distell has released South Africa's first single grain whisky produced at the James Sedgwick distillery in Wellington which is situated on the banks of the Berg River which in turn runs in the foothills of the picturesque Bains Kloof Pass, opened in 1853 and named in honour of James Geddes Bain the creative mind behind its construction. This pass is today a national monument.

The whisky is called Bain's Cape Mountain Whisky and is of course named after the above Mr Bain. The advertising blurb states "Our Master Distiller skillfully crafts this elegant single grain whisky using Cape Mountain water that flows over 850 million year old sandstone and indigenous fynbos." The Master Distiller is none other than Andy Watts (of Three Ships fame) and when I was interviewing him a couple of years ago he mentioned he would like one day to bring out a single grain for public release although they have been making them for many years for internal use and he is firmly of the opinion that single grains are making a long overdue comeback.

Bain's is made from maize as the base product and is laid down in American bourbon casks and double matured, after three years the whisky is released from the cask and then revatted for another two years in first-fill casks. It is sold in a rectangular 750ml bottle at 43% abv. Above the name label is a crest depicting two leopards. These represent the Cape Mountain leopards which have roamed this area for hundreds of years and whilst the numbers of these endangered cats have been substantially reduced rare sightings are occasionally reported.

I asked Andy for some comments and he replied: "...after tasting an excellent North British SG back in the 80's I developed an appreciation for the qualities of a good grain and I started working on the Bain's project in 2000. Although my personal preference is towards the bold Islay's I accept that this is an acquired taste and not to everyone's fancy. We therefore set about something light and estery with vanilla, spice and sweet undertones and which should, theoretically, reach out to a much wider audience i.e. from drinkers wanting to try whisky for the first time through to established whisky lovers who wanted to try something new and different. The extra time, money and effort behind the maturation plan for Bain's has also added value. I believe that the release of South Africa's first single grain just further highlights the amazing world of whisky and it appears our Scottish counterparts agree as they are also now re-visiting their grain whiskies and giving them some of the recognition they deserve. In answer to your question regarding our other whiskies and their grains I can honestly say that we have been producing exceptional grain spirit for many years now and this along with a good wood policy has enabled our grain whiskey to replace and reduce our reliance on imported grains in our total whisky portfolio. The restricting factor then became our production capabilities and that has also now been addressed with a massive expansion project which is currently taking place at the distillery."

My impressions of the whisky?
Biscuity, malty molasses flavor with an underlying floral sweetness that could remind one of the indigenous fynbos for which the Cape is famous. I would rate it 84, perhaps 85. I like it but then I have nothing to compare it with as I cannot find a UK single grain here.

However for me one little mystery remains. The words "single grain whisky" only appear on the top of the cap and on the leopard crest and then only in tiny print. My question to Andy was, why almost ignore the product type, why not call it openly Bain's Cape Mountain Single Grain Whisky thereby prompting questions from and contributing to the further education of our whisky lovers very few of whom have even the faintest idea of what a single grain is or why it exists? His answer was to the effect that while he thankfully had responsibility for the important part of the process (the making!) his head office marketing gurus handled that side of things and of course that's exactly how it happens in the corporate world.

But I for one think they missed a golden opportunity to improve the knowledge of South African whisky drinkers.
Maybe though they don't want to, perhaps it is better marketing strategy to keep quiet rather than stir up a hornets nest.

Joe Barry, Southy Africa


E-pistle 2009/37 - The Colouring & Filtering Experiment


Everybody knows the marketing-related talks of people from the Whisky Industry about chill filtration and / or colouring. This is something much ink and words have been spilled over. On the other hand: nobody has exactly been able to tell the exact differences that are caused by chill filtration and/or colouring by the simple reason that it was almost impossible to check this. The only way of finding this out, would be to find the same batch of whisky, worked out in 4 different ways: chill filtered and coloured, un-chillfiltered and uncoloured, chillfiltered and uncoloured, and finally un-chillfiltered and coloured.

I have been wrestling with this idea for quite some time, but never found anyone who was able to supply what was needed for this experiment: the 4 different types of whisky from one batch. When we started organising our Wild West Whisky Fest, we wanted to do something special, that wouldn't have been shown on any other festival before. Soon the idea for an 'experiments-stand' came out. One of the experiments would be: tasting these four different types of whisky from one batch.

Only one week before the festival, the bottles arrived. I didn't taste them at the festival, but asked some friends if they would be interested in tasting this 'experiment' at ease, in small company, and (important) completely blind … somewhere early July. We eventually planned the tasting in Haarlem at Michel's place. The company was: Paul Dejong, Michel van Meersbergen, Johannes van den Heuvel, and yours truly.

We immediately made the following remark: all our conclusions would be correct for this particular whisky, but could in no circumstances be generalised. Every whisky will react differently on filtration / colouring, as whisky always remains a natural product. We could see some general lines in this experiment, but no so-called standard rule.

For having the tasting completely blind, we tasted out of our professional blue, hand-blown tasting glasses.
These wouldn't reveal the slightest hint of colour, so no influence what so ever. The glasses were individually numbered (number towards the table), than one person poured the whiskies into the glasses and wrote down what whisky was in what glass. Another person put the glasses in a random line-up before the tasters.

It got silent, we were all four nosing and tasting the 4 drams. Johannes had a cold, so his nose was closed.
Because of that, he wasn't able to give much relevant information. The other conclusions were the following:

For Paul:

In the first place, Paul thought the uncoloured versions were very similar: very young with an overflow of green bananas, grassy, weetabix, some liquorice, some mineral and dry. The unchillfiltered version had some more complexity, and seemed to contain less alcohol, although both were 43% ABV. Both not my taste however: modern, young, and middle of the road Speyside whisky.

Also both coloured versions were similar, with approximately the same basic differences. Both were on the other hand sweeter in the nose with (might be weird) some more bitter touches in the mouth, that seemed to give more body and depth to the product. Paul's longest doubt was which of both coloured versions would be chillfiltered or unchillfiltered, but eventually, the one that was coloured and chillfiltered had a mouth feel that was more pleasant with a finish that was a bit longer. This made the coloured and unchillfiltered version my favourite.
Paul also remarked that:

1) at 43%, the difference between chillfiltered of unchillfiltered is minimal.

2) Caramel does give a clear and present difference in taste and nose, and not necessarily worse. My point remains however: caramel has nothing to do with distilling and is no basic ingredient to whisky, so it doesn't belong in a single malt whisky. There's only a small step left to 'Canadian circumstances', and it's only a question of where to put the edge. In a blend, this is a lesser problem because a blend is more an artificial, consumer-oriented product. If it takes caramel to adjust the taste, it could perhaps be better to make changes in your production process before the spirits enters the cask. This might seem a very anorak-ish point of view, but I like an 'honest' product. The industry should try to deliver the best possible quality in every step of the process, and I'm afraid this will be difficult if they don't want to do any admission concerning higher yield barley, shorter fermentation times, quicker (hotter) distillation, bigger middle-cut, …

3) This experiment was very interesting.
We learned a lot with it, but the conclusions are only valid for this whisky, and not necessarily applicable on other whiskies. 

For Michel:

A well-succeeded experiment, with an outcome of which he had a slight suspicion...

The unchillfiltered and uncoloured was very 'bold' and unpronounced.
A middle of the road Speysider with lots of vanilla, some banana, floral notes, and some leather in the nose. In the mouth, there was some mineral, hot copper, banana, vanilla and a rather greasy and organic feeling. 

The chillfiltered and uncoloured, had the same character, but with less organic tones, an additional herbalness, and a slight sharpness. Overall a bit more accessible and the sharpness gives it some more 'bite'.

The unchillfilterd en coloured again, was the bolder version with again some more sharpness and a bit more spiritty. Also some coffee tones. On the palate, we get some additional tones of drop, leather, burnt wood, and the organical tones of the 'bold' version.

The chillfiltered and coloured seems a bit flat in the nose, some banana and some alcohol.
On the palate, it gets a bit sharp with coffee tones, vanilla, drop, and Buisman. From the four, this one has the most of 'grip'

We may however not lose sight on the fact that we only tested one malt, and that the outcome only concerns this malt.
In this very case, as a bottler, Michel would choose for chill filtration and colouring.

Although the charm disappears partially, he still thinks this version would please me most in the end. It's the most complete dram 'with no worries'. As a good second, Michel would put the chillfiltered / uncoloured. Especially the fact that the organic tones seem to disappear because of filtration, is a good thing to this whisky, and gets it out of the corner of a 'modern' Speyside whisky and makes it a middle of the road whisky. This is a positive point in this particular case.

What can be concluded after this test is the following, according to Michel:
About colouring: he isn't an opponent of colouring, when it is used correctly. The same goes for chillfiltration. In certain cases, it just makes a whisky 'perform' better. The only problem is that this would have to be checked cask per cask, and this would make it practically impossible, unless we would be accepting to pay a higher price. Still, in this market of (sometimes unnecessary) single casks, a return to the (e.g.) old Gordon & MacPhail Connoisseurs Choice with bigger batches with colouring and chill filtration wouldn't be a bad thing. Perhaps not so romantic, but the bigger average would profit from this, and as a nice addendum: the single casks would get more real again. 

My own thoughts were the following:

I immediately found the four samples were clearly to devise into two groups: the coloured ones and the uncoloured ones (again, we were tasting from the professional, blue tasting glasses … so we didn't see any colour). The ones that were uncoloured were more clean and mineral. They indeed had this distinctive 'banana' touch, lacked all depth and complexity, and felt like what I always call 'modern whisky'. I put the glasses two by two: coloured together, uncoloured together. Next step would be to find out which ones were chill filtered, and which ones weren't …

The trick to find out, was to take a good sip, make it go around the mouth, and than slide my tongue over the roof of the mouth.
The one feeling the greasiest would be the unchillfiltered one (more oils remaining in the whisky). This way, I could quite easily recognise the four different drams. Three of the four tasters did recognise them blind, but JvdH's cold, with a closed nose as a consequence, was off course a valid excuse. A conclusion that immediately can be taken, is the fact that colouring this whisky made it deeper, more complex and much more pleasant to enjoy. It made me forget about the modern whisky thing. Again, I'm not telling that colouring a whisky is better by definition, but for THIS whisky, it was the best solution.

In my tasting-notes, I always pay quite some attention to the mouth feel, and in this case …
I liked the slightly greasier mouth feel of the chillfiltered version.

Again, the conclusions are only valid for THIS whisky, but still I dare to say that in my continuous quest for stunners (good whisky under 50,- Euro), I encounter always more 'modern whiskies'. This means: whiskies that are clean, mineral, middle of the road. To say it short: boring. This is why I think we will go back to more colouring of whiskies. It just gives a boring whisky something extra.

On the other hand, I have to agree with Paul: caramel isn't a basic ingredient of whisky, so it doesn't belong in it. If the industry feels there is something not perfect about their product, they should indeed change something in their production process, and not to their end-product.

About the filtration, this whisky got a better texture, a better mouth feel when it was unfiltered, so  my winner was the coloured and unchillfiltered version.

The final verdict, our favourites:

Paul: the coloured and unchillfiltered version.
Michel: the coloured and chill filtered version.
Bert: the coloured and unchillfiltered version.

This was indeed a very interesting experiment. As I told in the beginning of my article: this experiment was to be discovered on our Wild West Whisky Fest, but only very few people took this experience. The weird thing was that ALL the people who took the test, liked the uncoloured unchillfiltered version the most. This was according to me a purely psychological reaction: I do have to admit that these people tasted the four samples out of normal tasting glasses, so they could see the colour. This shows that people think they have to like this or another whisky more BEFORE they even tasted it … and shows once more the importance of tasting blind. Example: we tasted entirely blind, and we liked the coloured versions more.

With this, I close this article...
I hope it opened eyes, and that now, you will think twice if you hear people speaking about this or that whisky being better/worse because it is/isn't coloured/chillfiltered. For the people interested: the experiment will be available again on our W.W.W.F. on june 5th and 6th 2010.


Bert Bruyneel, Belgium

E-pistle 2009/38 - Confessions of a Swiss Malt Maniac

A few days ago I received a fantastic Christmas gift, I almost could not believe it.
I got an e-mail from Serge who was asking me if I wanted to join the malt maniacs.
To be honest, at first I could't help thinking of some kind of Alsacian joke, sorry Serge.
For me it was a complete surprise. I happened to know some of the maniacs through
whisky events around Europe; the Whisky Fair in Limburg acts as a magnet ;-) but
I never thought of myself as a 'maniac' before. However, I have hosted many whisky
tasting at home and started to be known as the group "whisky connoisseur".
I guess that now that I am a maniac I have a real reputation to uphold ;-)

I would like to use the opportunity to tell a little bit about myself and how I learned
about malt whisky. I'm Swiss from Geneva, and I'm a accountant, running my little
company. Geneva is in the French part of Switzerland. As you may know there is
four language parts to Switzerland, German, French, Italian and Rumantsch, which
is a mix of Latin, German and Italian. Even if Switzerland is in the middle of Europe,
we liked very much our independence. However, being a small fish make exchanging
with the world all to the more mandatory. I think, that this specific surrounding helped
me a lot, because it's make natural to me to share thing with other people, that is
to say whisky, wine and about everything.

I started as a wine enthusiast but when my wine fridge was full I have to look for
something else. it was in the mid 90's (1995 to be precise), by cheer luck my wine
merchant was a great connoisseur in whisky, so I bought myself a bottle of the
Lagavulin 16yo found it very much up to my taste. At that time I was very rational
and I think to myself, well whisky is a huge world (I didn't know at that time how true
it was) and I decided to concentrate on the Islands thinking that it'll be easier to
come around. So my next purchase was a Talisker 1959 Connoisseurs Choice Black
Label and the final version of the Black Bowmore. I found it really really good and
became an addict to the beverage. One year later I had completed my Island tour
and I though of stopping here.

Then my merchant said that they were a lot of other bottling, so I started to buy
many different bottling from the Islands (please note that till the end of the 90's I
haven't tried a "continental" whisky). And in 2001 I jumped on the continent and
started a frantic journey around whisky. I met many friend and especially two
Alsatians (Serge and Olivier) who embarked me with them for an Islay Festival
 and make me try and take note of an array of wonderful whisky, heartful thanks
to both of you.

It's now five years that I'm very involved in the whisky, reading a lot about it, talking to very knowingly persons.
Living in Geneva is a fantastic way of knowing the world and other human beings, because Geneva is a privileged international city, as we share the UN headquarters with New York, and many internationals organisations have their headquarters here. Even if my name is of German origin I never learned German, I learned Italian instead (at that time, I didn't know how useful it'll be in the whisky world).

Now, some more background information regarding me.
I'm, for the moment single. Some other interests are archaeology (I volunteered three time during my holiday one in France for a Neolithic site and twice in Israel in a place called Tel Yarmuth) all three were fantastic experiments, unfortunately I didn't found the time to do that again. My other interest lay with science in general, I like to read scientific magazines either in French or in English, I think it's important to know a lot about new technologies end there possible side effects.

Now let's talk about whisky again. I've started with the peated one and since that time I remain very attached to that type, but having said that, the more I learned the more I found marvels in the whisky spectrum. I'd like to say that whisky was always part of my life, but it's a fairy tale, It's was pure luck and for a long time I always kept a preeminence for wine (I still continue to follow wine tasting, subscribe to a wine magazine). My discovery with whisky was fortunate to say the least, as my wine merchant was also a whisky freaks, and I followed lot of whisky tasting organized in his shop (I remembered a Cadenhead's tasting because it was the opportunity for me to taste, at that time, many unknown name like Ardbeg and Bowmore). Then I follow suite organizing nice whisky tasting at home, promoting the whisky I liked (e.g. Port Ellen, Bowmore, Ardbeg, Caol Ila to name but few). My interest grew wild and become a passion when I started to participate in whisky events worldwide like Limburg festival, Islay Festival, Whisky Live Belgium and Paris and Lindores Whisky Festival. On this events I met many fascinating people notably the Malt Maniacs and learn a lot with them. As I started to have a small knowledge, I met some distillery manager's like John Campbell Laphroaig distillery manager and some others.

Now, I feel ready to make many more discoveries in the whisky world as a certiefied Malt Maniac.

Patrick De Schulthess, Switzerland

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