> Entry 275 - January 1, 2006: The Big Sprint
Phew... 2006 is going to be a very busy year indeed....
I have some ambitious new plans for Malt Maniacs but I won't go into
those right now - there are more than enough ambitious plans for the
personal 'Malt Madness' part of the site I'll need to follow up on first.
Like finishing the distillery profiles in the DD section, for example.
I really want to wrap up all remaining profiles by the end of this year.
A mighty task (I'll need to finish an average of at least one distillery
every week), so I decided to motivate myself by challenging the other
maniacs to try and keep up with my alphabetical race through Scotland.
While I cover the active distilleries they will submit profiles on distilleries
that were closed in the last few decades. When I challenged them Ulf
and Michel (who's now officially a malt maniac as well) quickly rose to
the challenge by submitting profiles for Banff and Braeval for MM16.
Serge's distillery profile on Brora (naturally) is expected shortly.
Well, all I can say is: EAT MY DUST, MANIACS!!!
I've already made a head start with the 'A' distilleries well over a year
ago and finished the 'B' profiles in August 2005. And now I've published
profiles on Caol Ila, Cardhu, Clynelish, Cragganmore & Craigellachie too.
Meanwhile, the maniacs are running just a tad behind with Caperdonich
(Lawrence), Coleburn (Thomas) and Convalmore (Luc) not covered yet.
I can't rest comfortably though, the maniacs may catch up when they get to 'D'.
They only have to cover Dallas Dhu while I'll have to write profiles on Dailuaine, Dalmore, Dalwhinnie, Deanston and Dufftown (unless they were to be unexpectedly closed, of course). Aah, a madman's work is never done...
And that's not the only big project I plan to finish this year.
I think it's about time I tried to wrap up phase III of my mission. That mission started in January 1997 when I decided to
approach my search for the perfect single malt whisky as methodically as possible. Phase I ended in November 2001
when I had sampled one or more expressions from each active distillery in Scotland. You can find more details on that first 'milestone' in my search for the perfect malt in Log Entry #100 from 2001. By that time I realised I wasn't going to
be able to say anything useful based on sampling just one expression, so my goal during phase II was pretty much an
extension of my initial goal: sampling three different expressions from each active distillery. That goal was reached after three years in December 2004 and you can read all about it in Log Entry #200. At that point I once again decided to raise the bar a little higher and try to get my senses around six different expressions from each (active) distillery.
Now one year has passed; time to review my progress...
However, first I'd like to share a few old tasting notes I found between last year's clutterings on my desk.
They deal with the last entries I needed to scrape three relatively 'obscure' distilleries from my 'To Do' list.
They are Glencadam and (Old) Putteney; I'll start with my notes on three different Pulteneys.
Old Pulteney 12yo (40%, OB, Bottled +/- 2000)
Nose: Malty and quite sweet. Some subtle organics join the party after a while. A solid profile.
There's nothing too remarkable about the bouquet, but it's a relatively big all-round, all purpose malt.
Taste: Again malty & a little sweet. Solid centre, medium finish. Reminds me a bit of Dalmore & Longmorn.
Score: 81 points
- nothing especially remarkable, but this is a down-to-earth dram I could recommend.
Old Pulteney 12yo (40%, OB, Bottled +/- 2005)
Nose: Dusty and a little farmy. Malty. Rotting milk powder. Quite odd. Not as 'MOTR' as earlier expressions.
After some breathing it seemed much sweeter and maltier in the nose. Polished. Quite nice now, actually.
Taste: Phew.... Seems quite astringent at first. It almost feels like I just swallowed a tube of aspirins.
Again, it improves with time and some air, becoming very drinkable. Arrives just short of recommendable.
Score: 79 points - fairly modest in the nose and not THAT impressive on the palate, but very drinkable.
Old Pulteney 17yo (46%, OB, Bottled +/- 2005)
Nose: Glue - that's all for a long time. Some spices emerge after a few minutes. Malty? MOTR.
It seems slightly more expressive with some time & air. A little sweet and a little malty. Again, MOTR.
Taste: Watery at first. Little character, depth or development. It powers up considerably over time, though.
Score: 80 points - although this one takes very long to become interesting. It really needs time.
With these three expressions and the three I sampled earlier, I can now cross Pulteney from my list.
The next candidate for termination is Glencadam - and as luck would have it I recently sampled a sample.
Glencadam 15yo (40%, OB, Bottled +/- 2005)
Nose: Wow! Something on the outer edges of citrussy. More straightforward lemon later on. Grainy overtones.
Oil? A little grassy? Not a lot of 'definition'. Hint of dishwater. Rubber & cream in the background. Raw rhubarb.
Taste: A little lemony as well, drying out in the centre. A bit weak, but it has a long, solid finish. Very drinkable.
Score: 78 points
- almost reaches the 80's thanks to an interesting nose. Falls a bit short on the palate.
Last but not least: Glen Keith. Or actually, it did turn out to be 'least'...
The Glen Keith 21yo (62.5%, James MacArthur, 5cl) was an old miniature from the early 90's that Richard Vogel sent me
to help me out with my ongoing quest. Richard already warned me that the cap seemed a little loose and there may
have been some oxidation going on. Well, if there had been any change it hadn't been to the proof, apparently. The
nose was very sharp and hot. Woody and maybe a little herbal. Touch of oil? I think I burnt out my nostrils... It's hot and
sharp on the palate as well. A big burn, feels a tad fresh. A bit like drinking 4711 eau de cologne. You really can't taste
the two decades in wood - at least not the positive effect. This tastes more like a 10yo whisky. Still, what it lacked in depth and complexity it made up for in brutal power, so I still think a score of 75 points
is justified. Thanks, Richard - I didn't particulary love the whisky but I love the fact that I can now cross Glen Keith from my list!
So, that takes care of Glencadam, Glen Keith and Old Pulteney.
Since the last time I checked, I can also cross (Royal) Brackla, Glen Ord, Knockdhu (An Cnoc), Littlemill, Speyburn and
Inverleven from my 'To Do List'. On the other hand, I've had to put Allt A Bhainne back on the list because Pernod Ricard
decided to reopen the distillery in May 2005. I've allowed myself to strike some silent stills from my list on August 1, 2005
(see Log Entry #250 for details) but I still want to cover all active distilleries in the distillery data section.
As far as the silent stills are concerned: maybe it's time to re-examine my initial objectives.
Or re-re-re-examine them... In January 2005 I already arrived at the conclusion that I could safely cross seven silent
stills (Allt-A-Bhainne, Ben Wyvis, Coleburn, Glen Flagler / Killyloch, Hillside / Glenesk, Kinclaith and Ladyburn) from my To Do List and in August 2005 I decided to remove seven more from the list; Banff, Glen Albyn, Glencraig, Glenugie, Millburn,
Mosstowie and North Port / Brechin. And as luck would have it, there are exactly seven remaining silent stills on the list;
Convalmore - Closed in 1985; results so far indicate that they produced a very decent malt whisky there.
Dallas Dhu - Closed in 1983; the five bottlings I've tried all scored well above average. Very respectable...
Glenglassaugh - Mothballed in 1986; every one of the four versions I tried scored in the eighties. Good stuff!
Glenlochy - Closed in 1983; except an old Connoisseurs Choice bottling all versions scores in the eighties.
Glenury Royal - Closed in 1985; based on four versions I've tried it earned an average score in the lower 80's.
Pittyvaich - Closed in 1993, three out of the four experssions I've sampled so far scored well into the 80's.
Tamnavulin - Mothballed in 1995; the three bottlings from the 1990's I've tried all scored below average.
Scraping these last seven silent stills from my list isn't as easy as before, because my research so far indicates that they
made some very good whisky at most of these distilleries. Nevertheless, with the majority closed in the 1980's they are
A) hard to find, B) relatively expensive and C) less and less representative of the distillery character as the influence of
the wood of the remaining casks takes over - and therefor not very useful for my 'distillery research'. What's more; I've
already tried at least three expressions from each of these distilleries. That's not statistically ideal, but enough to form
the seed of an opinion. Should I run across an affordable bottle from any of these silent distilleries I may very well invest
in in it, but I won't include them in my list for 'the big sprint' to finish phase III of my mission this year.
That leaves these distilleries on my brand new 'To Do list
2 x Allt-A-Bhainne - Back on the list because it was recently re-opened. (See profile for details.)
1 x Aultmore - An obscure Speyside distillery with only one out of five bottlings surpassing 'average'.
2 x Balmenach - The distillery is active, but somehow I've encountered just four bottlings so far.
1 x Blair Athol - With an average score of +/- 80 points out of five bottlings I need to learn more.
1 x Dalmore - Although Dalmore isn't that 'obscure' at all, I've somehow only tried five expressions.
2 x Dalwhinnie - Like many of the other 'classic malts', Dalwhinnie has a limited range of bottlings.
3 x Deanston - One of the more obscure active distilleries; I'll just have to find three more versions.
3 x Fettercairn - A relatively 'low profile' distillery, but it seems more OB's are becoming available.
2 x Glenallachie - Three young Signatory bottlings were not spectacular, but a Cadenhead's was.
2 x Glenburgie - Just like the 'Glencraig' malt distilled by their (silent) Lomond stills, this is rare stuff.
1 x Glendullan - A 'low profile' distillery, but 3 out of the 5 bottlings I tried scored in the lower 80's.
1 x Glen Spey - Active but bottlings have been quite hard to find. I tried some decent ones though.
2 x Glentauchers - I've sampled only four expressions so far, all of which scored above average.
1 x Knockando - A less 'obscure' distilleries that didn't convince me to go actively looking for bottles.
2 x Loch Lomond - A distillery I loved to hate until I tried the peated Croftengea - very pleasant indeed!
2 x Royal Lochnagar - I've walked around the distillery in 2003 but only tried four bottlings so far.
1 x Miltonduff - With four out of five bottlings I tried scoring in the 80's it deserves further research.
2 x Strathisla - A rather famous name, actually. Still, I've only managed to find four expressions so far.
2 x Strathmill - The slightly less well-known neighbour of Strathisla, and just as elusive it seems.
3 x Tamdhu - Apart from the widely available OB without an age statement bottles are hard to find.
1 x Teaninich - Another relatively obscure distillery. The results so far are mixed; 3 x 70's, 2 x 80's.
2 x Tullibardine - No mixed results here; my highest scoring Tullibardine so far received 65 points.
That's 22 distilleries and 39 different bottlings - tough but doable....
Please feel free to aid me in my quest and let me know if you have an unknown bottle from one the distilleries
mentioned above open on your shelves. I'd be very interested in a sample swap. However, this reminds me that my stock list isn't entirely up to date anymore. I'll try to fix that as soon as possible and report on the developments.
So, with over three dozen obscure bottles to hunt down and over sixty distillery profiles to finish it would seem my
schedule is full enough for this year - but I have one more little 'project' this year: whisky book reviews. I think this topic
deserves more attention on these pages than it has received so far. Davin has already written a few book reviews for
Malt Maniacs (he covered Raw Spirit by Iain Banks and Scotch Whisky; A Liquid History by our very own Charles MacLean
) but that's about it, I think. I've vented my spleen about some of the scores in Jim Murray's Whisky Bible 2005 but that
was hardly a proper book review. So, this year I'll try to review all the whisky books on my shelves.
And that's it for now... only 364 days left to finish my ambitious plans...
> Entry 276 - January 3, 2006: The Whisky Fair
Carsten Ehrlich from The Whisky Fair was kind enough to send me some
samples a few weeks ago. Due to the christmas madness I hadn't gotten
around to sampling them, but now I've cleared my entire schedule for the
evening to give four of them a close inspection.
Based on what I've heard about Carsten's ability to sniff out good casks
I have some great epectations for tonight. I must admit that I haven't
tried that many of Carsten's bottlings so far - partly because I've never
visited the festival itself. I've heard great things about it though - one
of the very few occasions where malt maniacs of limited means have a
chance to sample some of the oldest and rarest whiskies available.
In fact, a substantial portion of the whiskies poured there are not
available anymore - and some of them haven't been for decades.
I'm tempted to make the trip; the festival is on April 8 and 9, 2006.
Anyway; let's have a look at the four samples I put on the table for tonight.
It was a bunch of very respectible old malts; the youngest a Talisker of 'only' 23 years old. All of these malts are 'coastal' to some extent but I didn't expect any of them to be real peat monsters so I simply ranked them according to their proof
before I started the sampling. When I organised my first tasting sessions over a decade ago I used to rank the bottles
on the table according to their age but I soon found out that this wasn't very smart. By the time I arrived at the last
malts of a session my nose and palate were often already burnt out by younger and/or overproof whiskies.
Highland Park 38yo 1966/2005 (42.4%, Duncan Taylor for The Whisky Fair, 168 Bottles)
Nose: Fermenting fruits. Apples? Lovely sweet bakery aroma's. Faintest hint of mint in the background.
Extremely pleasant and surprisingly refined. Like a very subtle liqueur. Fruit cake with fresh raspberries.
Pickled gherkins? There's a subtle spicy undercurrent as well. Definitely smells like 90's material to me!
Taste: Sweet start, quickly growing fruitier before a peaty presence moves to the foreground. Leather?
Very pleasant, although it does run out of steam just a tad earlier than I would have liked. Bitter finish.
Score: 90 points
- a lovely 'second wind' from the empty glass (organics & mushrooms) convinced me.
Lovely peaty subtlety. If the smoky finish had lasted just a little bit longer it might have gone even higher.
There's a beer-like bitterness in the finish. A touch too much wood? Just a few years 'over the top'?
Springbank 36yo 1969/2005 (45.6, OB for Limburg Whisky Fair, 197 Bottles)
Nose: Whoppa! Big, spicy miny and fruity. The fruity element quickly takes control. Faintest hint of peat?
Clay? A hint of 'Lux' soap? Instead of opening up the nose seems to close with time. That's too bad...
Taste: Big fruity start & centre. Bittersweet like Cointreau with a blob of marmelade. Gritty but very nice.
Score: 87 points - a superb malt but for me it loses just a few points in the relatively short finish.
I was almost inclined to add a point after I got a whiff of maggi or parsley from the empty glass.
Talimbourg 23yo 1982/2005 (49.5%, The Whisky Fair, Bourbon hogshead, 222 Bottles)
Nose: Soft. Water melon. Powering up. Hint of lemon or lime in the background. Vinegar, perhaps?
After a few minutes some organics start to drift in and out of focus. No peat. An old leather wallet.
Taste: Round in the start followed by a quick peaty punch. The peat slowly dissolves into pepper. Hot.
Very 'serious' in the afterteaste, almost like some of those pre-1975 Ardbegs from Douglas Laing.
Score: 89 points - I love the profile and this one came dangerously close to the 90's.
Springbank 35yo 1970/2005 (59.5%, The Whisky Fair, Bourbon Hogshead, 120 Bottles)
Nose: Big, sweet and fruity. Candy. Very complex. Some organics developing in the background.
Hint of dentist? With some time and water the 'candy' quality became even more obvious. Great stuff!
I loved it even more when it showed a slight 'dirty' streak after a few more minutes. GREAT development.
Taste: Sweet. Brillaint chewy centre. Becomes a bit harsh in the finish eventually. Needs some water?
After I added a few drops of water I also got some liquorice on the palate. Very lovely stuff indeed!
91 points - making it one of the very best Springbanks I've ever tried. The 'Janus' malt.
Well, with an average score of almost 90 points for these four bottlings Carsten can be proud.
Had these bottles been submitted to the MM Awards I would have voted for 2 x gold and 2 x silver.
Well, now I'm even more motivated to stomach my aversion to travel and hop over to Limburg in April...
If you would like to know more about the festival, visit the Whisky Fair website.
> Entry 277 - January 7, 2006: Amsterdam Ardbeggeddon
When I write this, the 7th edition of Ardbeggeddon has just kicked off in Las Vegas, Nevada, USA.
This debauchery is organised annually by the American PLOWED society and over the years it has grown
into a legendary event. Fellow malt maniac Davin has made the trip from Canada and I hope that he finds
the time to write an E-pistle about his alcoholic adventures in the upcoming issue of Malt Maniacs.
Not being able to make the long and costly transatlantic flight myself I decided to have my own little
'Ardbeggeddon' session here in Amsterdam. I had plenty of ammunition in the form of a few relatively fresh
bottles on my top shelf and a bunch op samples that Luc & Thomas sent me a little while ago. When I write
this, I've already sampled well over fifty different Ardbegs. So, tasting 9 fresh Ardbegs may not seem like
the most sensible use of my 'good nose time' right now - there are still 22 active distilleries that require
further research on my 'To Do List'. But since I haven't been able to get my hands on any of those
samples yet I might as well take some time to enjoy myself with some top shelf material tonight.
I arranged tonight's session by proof and started with the relatively 'weakling' pictured above.
I bought two bottles of the Ardbeg 21yo 1974/1996 (40%, Samaroli for Giorgio d'Ambrosio) during my first Italian tour with Serge in 2002. I imagine I'm not the only malthead to suffer from 'cognitive dissonance' after a temporary lapse of
reason in a whisky store now and then. And I imagine I'm not the only person who occasionally tries to blame his own
mistakes on others either. In this case I've tried to put the blame on Serge who dragged me to Giorgio's Bar Metro in the
first place and who kept pointing out 'bargains' to me. In the end I spent over 800 Euro's on 11 bottles, some of which I
might not have bought without Serge's whispering encouragingly in my ear - or at least that's what I've been telling myself...
I'm a vindictive little bastard - and a crafty one at that.
After keeping these bottles in my reserve stock for three years I started to worry a little about oxidation through the tin
screwcaps (almost all other bottles in my collection have corks). What's more, I received some reports that this bottling
wasn't exactly the best example of an early 1970's Ardbeg. Shared misery is half the misery, so when it was time to pay this year's 'bill' for the packaging expenses for the Malt Maniacs Awards 2005 I first convinced Serge to accept liquid
payment again this year without mentioning what particular bottle I had mind for him. Serge innocently agreed, so after
repressing a short flash of guilt I presented him with one of these Ardbegs in september in Alsace. I hadn't sampled it
myself at the time, but I opened the remaining bottle shortly afterwards. Since then I've despatched several samples
among the maniacs but I hadn't properly inspected it myself until now. But that's about to change tonight...
#1) Ardbeg 21yo 1974/1996 (40%, Sestante for Giorgio d'Ambrosio, 600 Bottles, Bottle #106)
Nose: Very light in the start. Some farmy notes but hardly any peat. Did the dilution to 40% kill it?
After some breathing I got the faintest hint of galvanised rubber. Some smoke and mint sweets after time.
Taste: Sweet with a faint hint of fruits. Liquorice, but no peat. Medium strong tannins towards the finish.
Not bad at all, but it lacks the peaty punch that I love in most other Ardbegs, even if bottled at 40% too.
Score: 81 points - although I initially had it in the upper 70's. Creeps into the 80's after ten minutes.
#2) Ardbeg 1972/2004 (45,3%, OB for Germany, Bourbon cask #861, 216 Bottles, from Luc)
Nose: Aaah... Lovely peat and organics. Classic early 1970's Ardbeg. Hints of fruit beneath the peat.
Dry salami. Not the most complex Ardbeg I ever tried, but just SO beautifully composed. Characteristic.
After circa twenty minutes the 'organics' side of the spectrum gained some more weight and complexity.
Taste: Oy... Quite bitter in the start. Peatier in the centre, but the bitterness remains present. Smoke?
Gritty. Very dry. Over time it seems to move in a more 'medicinal' direction - but it never quite gets there.
There's no sweetness whatsoever on the palate and towards the finish the tannins pull your cheeks in.
Score: 92 points - but I feel I should add that not everybody might rate this quite this high as I did.
A LIOHI dram; it has an 'austere' kind of peatiness on the palate that doesn't appeal to everybody.
#3) Ardbeg 1996/2005 (46%, G&M for Corman Collins Belgium, Cask #901, from Luc)
Nose: Very light and quite sweet - what a difference with the last one. Then the peat appears. Peanuts?
It's a relatively light hearted peaty character, softened up by sweeter elements. Definitely 'new Ardbeg'.
Taste: Hmmm... Unusually watery at first. More peat in the centre, but it doesn't show a lot of confidence.
It seems to power up after breathing for a while, though. More salty notes - salted liquorice.
85 points - at the bottom end of the 'highly recommendable' range; an excellent dram.
#4) Ardbeg 1977/2001 (46%, OB, from Thomas)
I've already tried this brilliant Islay malt a few months ago (90 points), so I first checked wheteher or not all my
'swapping buddies' had tried it. As it turned out they had, so I could treat myself to a second helping of Ardbeg 1977. No
punishment, I can assure you - I love the 'old school' Ardbegs of the early 70's but the later stuff appeals to me as well.
Nose: Relatively gentle peat. Developing organics. Recognisable as Ardbeg, but it's on the subtle side.
Taste: Sweet, soft peat. Hint of liquorice. A little dry. Faint fruity notes below the surface. Hint of smoke.
Score: 89 points - one point down from my original 90 points. It's great but not really exceptional.
#5) Ardbeg 29yo 1972/2001 'Ardbeggeddon' (48.4%, DL Old Malt Cask for PLOWED, from Luc)
Nose: Distant peat at first, then slowly developing organics. Another classic 'early 1970's' Ardbeg.
Hey; a whiff of peanuts like in the '96/'05 G&M. Extremely pleasant, but once again not terribly complex.
Taste: Soft start, then a slow explosion of liquorice, peat and smoke. Just enough tannins for me.
The mouth feel is just magnificent - dry, but without the bitterness that often comes with it.
Score: 92 points
- just like the Ardbeg 1972/2004 (45,3%, OB for Germany) I started with.
Ideal for a freezing winter night like tonight - this stuff lights a peat fire in your stomach.
Up until now I didn't really feel the need to add any water; I prefer to drink my malts up to 50% ABV straight. Granted, a
few drops of water usually open up the bouquet, but especially with your average 40% or 43% dram you sometimes
'pay' for it by a fragmented palate. So, it's often a trade-off. When the ABV is above 50%, I usually try the malt undiluted
before I add water. Adding the water preferably takes place in a number of small steps - maybe a dozen drops each time.
#6) Ardbeg 10yo 1993/2004 (50%, Douglas Laing OMC, DL REF1109, 391 Bottles, from Thomas)
Nose: Feisty, peaty start. Not a lot of depth, though. A little sweet. Plain cake in the background?
Hmmmm.... It opens up after a few minutes, growing peatier with more organics. Leather. Meaty.
That being said, it never becomes quite as complex as the 10yo OB - keeping it in the lower 80's.
Taste: Pleasant sweet & peaty palate. Maybe just a tad watery? Bitter towards the finish.
A few drops of water took away some of the bitterness, but it stays in the lower 80's.
Score: 84 points - a very nice malt, but a little simple compared to many siblings.
#7) Ardbeg 1990/2001 (58.4%, G&M for Spirit of Scotland, JA/BHA, Speymalt, from my top shelf)
Nose: Sweet and grainy at first - bakery and grain warehouse aroma's. Developing farmy aroma's.
Diesel? Maybe a hint of rubber. Old cigarette smoke. My kind of profile but could use some more depth.
Taste: Sweet and salty. Lovely peat explosion. Feels great at cask strength with loads of salt liquorice.
Lovely! A big, hot, clean burn. I liked the mouth feel so much that I hesitated to add water.
88 points - this is right up my alley. I'll give the bottle some more time to breathe.
#8) Ardbeg 6yo 1997/2003 'Very Young Exclusive Committee Reserve' (58.9%, OB, from Thomas)
Nose: Feinty start, quickly sweetening out. Hint of (pepper)mint? Tea. And 'lively' peat, of course.
Some organics as well, but not as much as you usually find in the older bottlings. Great nose, though!
Taste: Very odd; this feels utterly drinkable at C/S. Then the trademark delayed explosion of peat.
Smoke. Within 15 seconds it grows from a relative weakling into a hot and dry peat monster. Long finish.
88 points - excellent, and its peaty power almost makes up for the lack of ageing. Almost...
#9) Ardbeg 10yo 1994/2004 (59.9%, SMWS 33.51, from Luc)
Nose: Sweet, almost creamy start. It quickly grows grainier and oilier. Very feinty. Where's the peat?
This is obviously a class or two beneath most expressions I've tried so far today. Nose-wise, that is.
However, it does pick up considerably after a few minutes. With water some more fruity elements emerged.
Taste: Dry sweetish start. Ah, yes - there's the reliable 'slow explosion' of peat in the centre. Meaty.
Maybe something vaguely metallic as well? With water it just became a little more watery...
83 points - Recommendable, but I wouldn't go as high as 'highly'.
With two scores in the 90's and the rest in the 80's I think we can call tonight's session a success.
But does this mean that Ardbeg still is my absolute #1 favourite Islay distillery? Well, yes - but barely...
Laphroaig has been breathing down Ardbeg's neck for a while now and the difference between them on my 'love chart' has diminished even further after last year's MM Awards. Right now the upper echelon of my Hit List still contains much more Ardbegs than Laphroaigs, but that list doesn't take price into consideration like the Bang-For-Your-Buck List does.
Considering that the current official Ardbeg portfolio has no bottlings that can hope to beat the Laphroaig 10yo C/S in
the 'affordable' price range (and Ardbeg is moving on slippery ground with stunts like the 'Serendipity') it's conceivable that Laphroaig will overtake Ardbeg on the list with my Top 10 Favourite Distilleries soon.
And that's it for tonight - time to do some 'maintenance' on the site now.
With the wisdom of hindsight, it might have been better to have done that before sampling nine stiff drams ;-)
> Entry 278 - January 15, 2006: MW Yearbook 2006
I decided to treat myself to some new whisky books for christmas.
I'm ashamed to admit that until recently I owned just five different
books about whisky - six if you count the two different editions of
Michael Jackson's Malt Whisky Companion I've read to shreds now.
Here are the books that were on my shelves last year;
Michael Jackson - Malt Whisky Companion (3d & 4th Edition)
Michael S. Moss & John R. Hume - The Making of Scotch Whisky
Jim Murray - Jim Murray's Whisky Bible 2004
Helen Arthur - Single Malt Whisky
Helen Arthur - Whisky, The Water of Life, Uisge Beatha
The last two were gifts (and rarely opened ones, I have to admit),
but I've found the other whisky books on my list very entertaining or
useful - and sometimes even both. After receiving three new whisky books
recently I decided that I should probably work on building a proper 'liquid library'.
After all, whisky books can be an excellent investment if you think about it.
Most whisky books will cost you less than any halway decent bottle of single malt whisky, but they will probably enhance your enjoyment of every bottle you buy after reading the book. Understanding more of the wonderful world of whisky helps one appreciate the product even more. So, I came up with another ambitious goal for 2005: finding 'the perfect
collection' of a dozen whisky books. The bottom shelf of my drinks cabinet is still empty, so I might as well try to fill it with
some reading material about the contents of the upper shelves. Here are the three new whisky books I received recently - each of them will be reviewed in this liquid log;
- The Malt Whisky Yearbook 2006 (edited by Ingvar Ronde with contributions from various authors)
- Miscallany of Whisky
(by our very own Charlie MacLean and already read back-to back since I got it)
- Peat Smoke & Spirit (by Andrew Jefford; Serge loaned me his copy but it's so good I wanted my own)
I'll get to the other 'fresh blood' in my modest library soon; this first book review deals with the Malt Whisky Yearbook
2006. I received a review copy of the book a few weeks ago and have already found it very useful for checking the
distillery data I need for the distillery profiles elsewhere on this site. However, the book offers much more than
background information on the distilleries of Scotland & Ireland. But I'm getting ahead of myself - maybe it would be better to start at the beginning.
The beginning of the book, that is...
The first 77 pages contain a selection of articles by a variety of writers, including our very own Charlie MacLean and Ulf
Buxrud. Other contributors include Michael Jackson, Helen Arthur, David Stirk and Caroline Dewar. The articles are typically 6-10 pages long and some of them offer a very worthwhile read. Especially Michael Jackson's 'Fear of flavour or
the taste of tomorrow', Charlie's 'Is whisky the same as it ever was?' and 'A practical guide to appreciating Malt Whisky' and David Stirk's 'Old vs Young' deal with topics close to a malt maniac's heart. Unfortunately, some of the other articles are
little more than thinly veiled advertorials that might take away some of the 'authority' of the book in the eyes of some
readers. Speaking of the eyes of the readers: even my non-native eyes stumbled over quite a few typo's along the way
- that's something they could pay a little more attention to for the next edition. On the other hand, your eyes are
treated to some beautiful pictures along the way, so all in all I'd say the first 'red band' section of the book is a bit of a 'mixed bag'.
The heart of the book is the 'blue band' section about the distilleries of Scotland and Ireland.
This is where The Malt Whisky Yearbook 2006 shines; All the essential statistics of the distillery, its history and additional
comments are presented clearly on one or more lavishly illustrated pages. This part of the book is a feast for the eyes,
especially for those who are used to struggling through the medieval print and lay-out of the 'Moss & Hume'. The
yearbook doesn't cover as many 'ancient' distilleries as the Moss & Hume but for all practical purposes it's a better
alternative for those maltheads who are less inclined to dwell on the past - it offers more (and more recent) information
on pretty much any distillery that you might encounter on the shelves of your local liquorist; all active ones and quite a few silent stills as well.
The 'green band' section (pages 242-273) at the end of the yearbook offers a summary of the main events of 2005 (new
official bottlings, opened and closed distilleries, etc.), a chronology of the history of whisky, expectations and events for
2006, an overview of the main independent bottlers, whisky books and magazines, some very interesting general
statistics and a distillery map of Scotland. Just like the 'red band' section at the beginning this is again a 'mixed bag'.
So, is this a book you should invest in? Definitely!
At 12,95 GBP this is cheaper that any decent bottle of single malt whisky and it's both a 'reading' and a 'reference' book.
The central 'blue band' section is worth the price of the book alone - the distillery information is easier to digest and
more up-to-date than the data in the 'Moss & Hume'. It doesn't make the Moss & Hume on my shelves obsolete, but I'm afraid that is the case with Helen Arthur's 'Single Malt Whisky'. My Dutch translation from 2001 was a reprint from the first
edition from 1997 and the information is seriously out-dated. What's more, the tasting notes of 'over 100' malts from the
1990's suggest that my tastes are more similar to those of Michael Jackson and Jim Murray - and they provide scores as
well. I know I've been ranting about some of Jim's 'weird' scores, but I guess some weird scores are better than none at all.
But now I'm getting sidetracked - here's a 'shorthand review' of the Malt Whisky Yearbook.
Malt Whisky Yearbook 2006 (First edition, 273 pages)
Authors: Various authors (including Charles MacLean & Ulf Buxrud), edited by Ingvar Ronde
Publisher: MagDig Media Limited (2005)
Price: 12,95 GBP
(+): Versatile and multi-purpose; works both as a reference book and as 'light reading material'.
(+): An overload of useful data about Scottish and Irish distilleries presented in a very accessible format.
(+): Well illustrated, comprehensive and very up-to-date - as a yearbook should be, I suppose...
(-): Many spelling errors (although I know I shouldn't be one to complain with MM so riddled with typo's).
(-): Some of the contributions in the 'red' and 'green' sections feel more like advertorials than articles.
(-): Paperback (I prefer my whisky books in hard cover, but I admit that's probably a matter of taste).
And I suppose that's about it for this book review.
Reading the yearbook has inspired me to get back to work on the distillery profiles on MM.
> Entry 279 - January 22, 2006: Big Fiddich
While browsing through the 'statistics' section of the Malt Whisky Yearbook 2006 I noticed that
Glenfiddich is actually the distillery with the largest production capacity in Scotland; 10,000,000
litres of pure alcohol per year. And that's not all; their owners William Grant also own Balvenie
(#6 on the list with 5,600,000 litres) and Kininvie (#9 with 4,400,000 litres). That makes William
Grant the third largest malt whisky producer in Scotland, quite a bit behind Diageo and Pernod
Ricard but ahead of the Edrington group (18,440.000 litres produced at five different distilleries)
and Bacardi / John Dewar & Sons (11,800,000 litres, also produced at five different distilleries).
The Glenfiddich distillery alone produces more than 'groups' like Whyte & Mackay (3 distilleries),
Moët Hennessy (3 distilleries) Morrisson Bowmore (3 distilleries) and Inver House (5 distilleries).
So, it's clear that Glenfiddich is still the #1 malt whisky in terms of production.
And assuming that not many people throw the contents of their bottles down the sink (not more
than usual, anyway), that would mean Glenfiddich is also the #1 whisky in terms of consumption.
I used to love the few Glenfiddichs I sampled in the 1980's because they stood head and shoulder
above the cheap blends that I used to drink in those days. I didn't pay much attention to the nose
and palate in my early drinking years, but even without paying attention I noticed that this stuff was
notably smoother and bigger than the 'paintstripper' blends my very limited budget allowed me to buy.
After I discovered other single malts in the early 1990's I was drawn towards the more heavily flavoured
material and only sampled the occasional Glenfiddich. And the ones that I did try didn't score very high.
Don't get me wrong, they were still good whiskies that offered a far better alternative than blends, but within the single
malt category I soon became used to whisky with more expressiveness, character and personality. I don't know if my
senses have grown more acute over the years or if the product itself has changed, but after a decade of looking down
on Glenfiddich my feelings slowly started to change a few years ago. I started to like Glenfiddich a bit more, a feeling
that pretty much stretched along their entire range. None of them was in any danger of wandering into my personal top
10 but many bottlings that were classified as 'sub standard material' in the 1990's now reached 'average' territory without too much effort. With that in mind, let's have a look at the latest 'harvest' of Glenfiddichs;
Glenfiddich 12yo 'Special Reserve' (40%, OB, Bottled +/- 2005)
Nose: Light and sweet. Malty? Not a lot going on, it seems. A decent malt that almost makes it to 'average'.
Taste: A tad watery. Uneven. Faint hint of liquorice? Dry and a little gritty. Sweeter and more solid with time.
Score: 73 points
- this is very drinkable, but due to lack of personality I'd still have to put it below average.
Glenfiddich 12yo 'Caoran Reserve' (40%, OB, Bottled +/- 2005)
Nose: Light & grainy. Melon? Some faint spices, perhaps. Not very expressive. Bad nose day today? Tea?
Taste: Very light. Smooth. Soft. Fruity. Rough and uneven in the centre. Winey finish. Dry aftertaste.
Score: 71 points - I'm in a good mood today but I still wouldn't put it above average.
Glenfiddich 15yo 'Solera Reserve' (40%, OB)
Nose: Malty and spicy. That's about all there is to tell. A tad grainy. Then sweeter notes emerged. Malty.
A very decent malt that lacks some personality. This one needs a little bit of time to blossom, it seems.
Taste: Soft and smooth. Once again there isn't much more to tell. Decidedly average, but good whisky.
Score: 75 points - MOTR. The most remarkable thing I can mention is that it's so unremarkable...
Glenfiddich 21yo 'Gran Reserva' (40%, OB, Bottled +/- 2005)
Nose: Latex paint? Some faint fruits. Maybe a hint of something organic after five minutes. Quite nice.
This golden oldie seems a tad richer in the nose with time. Especially after five to ten minutes it blossoms.
Taste: Watery. Some tannins. Grows very dry in the finish. Pine on the palate? Feels a bit bourbony.
Score: 78 points - Not bad at all, but right now nothing stands out. Note that this one needs some time!
Glenfiddich 30yo (40%, OB, Bottled +/- 2005)
Nose: Sweet with a good dose of sherry. Some spices. Roasted pig. Polished. Quite subtle but lovely.
Taste: Sweet and fruity. Lovely tannins. Drying out towards the finish. This is just so utterly drinkable.
Score: 84 points - it took me some time to make up my mind, but the palate keeps it in the lower 80's.
And that's it for this report - I've got to get back to work on MM#17, expected shortly.
Meanwhile, if you haven't flicked through the virtual pages of Malt Maniacs in a while, I would like to point out an
excellent E-pistle that was submitted by Ho-cheng recently - his Whisky Luncheon piece really made my mouth water!
> Entry 280 - January 25, 2006: A Bunch of Balvenies
A few readers have recently asked me whatever
happened to those eight privately owned casks
of Balvenie 1973 that we tried at Kilchoman on
June 1, 2005. (Click HERE for the tasting notes.)
Well, I'm afraid they still ended up in the hands
of the distillery after all. A few private buyers
were interested in buying a few of the highest
scoring casks but Linda (the owner) preferred
to sell all the casks at once. She did manage
to arrange 12 bottles from the highest scoring
cask (#1986) for herself though - lucky lady...
So, it looks like casks #1979 through #1986 will
be bottled as OB's - either single cask bottlings
or as part of one or more vattings. Too bad this
very rare chance for an independent bottling of
Balvenie (there are virtually none) was missed.
And speaking of Balvenie...
Like I mentioned a few days ago, it's Glenfiddich's 'little sister'.
Well, not so little, actually... With a total annual production capacity of 5,600,000 litres of pure alcohol they can make more whisky than Suntory / Morrisson Bowmore's three distilleries combined (with a paltry total of 4,750,000 litres). The only other distilleries with a comparable output are Glenrothes (exactly the same capacity), Glen Grant, Glenlivet and
Macallan (slightly higher) and Miltonduff (slightly less with 5,240,000 litres - still an impressive #8 on the overall list).
Anyway, the questions about Linda's casks inspired me to have a go at a few Balvenie samples on my shelves. Among
other things, I received a 15yo OB (which was actually a 20yo) from Ho-cheng and two 25yo OB's from Michel. Here are my notes;
Balvenie 1991 'PortWood' (40%, OB, Bottled 2004)
Nose: Rich & very fruity. More sweetness after a few seconds. Lovely sherried - well, fruity - nose.
Taste: Oooh, that's a bit disappointing. Much weaker than I expected. Fruity centre. Faint hint of liquorice?
Score: 83 points
- I adore the nose and even with a slightly unsatisfactory palate it makes it into the 80's.
Balvenie 25yo 1974/2002 (46.9%, OB, Cask #13282, Distilled 8/10/74, Bottled 6/8/02)
Nose: Sweetish & malty. Some faint vegetal notes as well after I added some water. Quite introvert.
Well, after some time & water there was a suggestion of spices and organics, but not too much, I'm afraid.
Taste: Sweet & malty as well. Vanilla. Smooth. Woody in the finish. Must have been a bourbon cask.
There's a lovely tannic side to it but it's just a tad too harsh for me towards the finish. That's too bad.
Score: 83 points - Nice tannins towards the finish, but it's not quite complex enough in the nose.
That being said, the last whiff from the empty glass inspired me to go from 82 to 83 points.
Balvenie 25yo 1974/2002 (46.9%, OB, Cask #13285, Distilled 8/10/74, Bottled 23/9/02)
Nose: Seems much fruitier than Cask #13282 - blasted, I should have tasted these two malts H2H...
Like the previous one, it doesn't seem too expressive. Grows a little 'dirtier' with some water.
Taste: Big, sweet and fruity. The sweetness slowly gives way to more woody notes. Quite hot.
A touch of dust? The tannins don't feel quite as pleasant here. Fresh wood - an exhausted cask?
Score: 82 points - in this case I decreased my score from 83 to 82 at the last moment.
Balvenie 15yo 1978/1999 (50.4%, OB, Cask #4712, Distilled 25/4/78, Bottled 24/3/1999)
Nose: Hot, light and grainy. Faintest hint of strawberry or water melon. Then something 'dirty' emerges.
Quite sharp on the nose. Not too complex, I would say. Or maybe just a tad too subtle for my tastes?
Taste: Light and just a tad fruity at cask strength. Hotter and grittier in the centre. Fresh 'green' wood.
It grew drier and hotter after I added some water. Maybe some herbal notes as well. Very dry finish.
Score: 81 points - the label says 15yo, it's actually 20yo but it feels like a 10yo on the palate.
I had it at 80 for a long time but after ten minutes it opened up just enough for an extra point.
That's a funny thing about ratings and comparing them; many maniacs use many different systems but still our ratings
are quite comparable in general. My way of rating a whisky is really 'backwards engineering' - I don't arrive at a
'scientific' score by rating different aspects of a whisky as objectively as possible as Luc does; I simply ask myself if I
would recommend this whisky to anyone or not to put the whisky in the 'class' I feel it belongs in and work my way to a
final score from there by comparing the whisky in my glass with my memories of other whiskies that scored in the same
region. The final score just reflects my love for a particular bottle in relation to all the other whiskies I've tried. The higher
the score, the higher the likelihood of me trying to save that bottle if the dykes broke and I would have to flee to higher ground, if you will...
And yes, that's already 'it' for this report - I've got to get back to work on the distillery profiles.
> Entry 281 - January 27, 2006: Virus...
I've been infected with a nasty virus....
Or rather: my rackety old PC has been infected....
And it's an evil virus as well; it shuts down all my protective
programs like ZoneAlarm firewall and Avast Antivirus one by one.
I've had to restart my PC in safe mode to be able to get some
basic functionalities back up but a quick look 'under the bonnet'
made it clear (even to my non-technical eyes) that my Windows
environment was seriously screwed up - possibly beyond repair.
Well, I guess that serves me right for choosing BillySoft...
Yes, fate has farted in my face once more...
I was starting to worry about the 'body' of my old Dell PC that's
over five years old now (but state-of-the-art at the time), but
now it would seem like its 'mind' could be the first to go.
Anyway, I have a problem...
I made this update to my log by hard-coding the HTML, which took me quite some time because I've grown used to the advantages of a WYSIWYG (What You See Is What You Get) webeditor - simply indispensible for a website this large...
However, the webeditor I use (NetObjects Fusion 4.0) wasn't really designed for maintaining sites of over 250 pages,
and up until now I haven't found a way to transfer it to another programme or computer without damaging a significant
part of the HTML code - meaning I would have to spend many months on 'repairs'. Many months I'd much rather spend on writing and conversing about new single malts - or drinking them for that matter.
Anyway, as a result of this viral attack I may not be able to update the site in a while...
And e-mailing could be a bit of a problem as well - replies could be even slower than usual ;-)
Worst case scenario; I'll have to build a new site from scratch from a new PC - let's hope it doesn't come to that... But
just as a precaution, I'll make an 'emergency' backup of the entire website (almost 40 MegaBytes these days!) which I
should be able to save on a CD. If I don't manage to repair my PC (right now the problems seems to be getting worse
every time I start the PC or connect to the web) this could be the last update of this liquid log (and this version of the website). In that case, you could be looking at an 'archive' and the new site can be found at www.maltmadness.com.
Please help me feel better by kicking the arse of the next hacker or scriptkiddie you see...
> Entry 282 - February 1, 2006: Can of Worms
Phew... Ignorance is bliss....
For a long time I thought I was driving pretty safely along the electronic superhighway.
Sure, my firewall warned me about strange programs trying to access the web now and
then, but I just denied them access and that was that, I thought. And the virus definitions
of my scanner hadn't been updated in a while, but I imagined my ZoneAlarm firewall would
take care of most of the new stuff. And sure, I hadn't updated my Windows version in a
while, but that was just because I never could seem to get through to their update site.
Because I never opened any suspicious attachments or visited any 'naughty' site I didn't
have to worry too much about virusses - especially because I had a pop-up blocker and
I change my e-mail address regularly and manage to stay mostly spam free that way.
Well, as it turns out I've been grossly negligent...
After I noticed the odd problems I mentioned in my previous log entry I sniffed around a bit.
My sniffing around on my PC and the web soon made me aware of the stench of infection; I didn't have just one virus - I had several. In fact, my research opened up a 'whole new can of worms' - and not just worms. There were dozens of
Trojan horses and spyware as well. Bugger... Time for hard measures. Or so I thought... Obviously my current antivirus
programme was seriously outdated, so I needed a new one. With my ongoing limited cashflow in mind, preferably a free
one. Well, it seemed I was in luck; plenty of free, basic on-line checks are offered by companies like Symantec, McAfee
and PandaSoft. Just in case you have your own problems or suspicions, here are a few URLS you could try;
- http://www.symantec.com/avcenter/global/index.html (scroll down and select 'security check')
Unfortunately, one of the pieces of 'malware' on my PC screwed up all on-line virus checks I tried.
What's more, I HAD to be on-line for the virus checks, but that made me feel even more vulnerable and paranoid than
normal. Every now and then one of the suspect pieces of software kicked in and opened all sorts of unwanted windows.
And there was one especially mailignant and aggressive virus that started shutting down my firewall and virus scanners
all by itself. In desperation I finally pulled the plug of my internet connection - literally - and called a 'webwizard' friend of mine.
The fact that you're reading this proves that I've written it.
That means I finally managed to get my PC up and running again - or at least 'up and stumbling'...
I'll tell you how in my next entry - I've learned some valuable lessons I'd like to share with the world.
PS: Nothing to do this weekend?
Why not drop by the Lindores WhiskyFest in Belgium?
A bunch of maniacs is going to be present, including the host Luc as well as Serge, Olivier and Michel.
> Entry 283 - February 3, 2006: Maggots
Aren't those virus and worm builders a bunch of maggots?
Think about it - it's possibly the most cowardly form of vandalism
imaginable. It has taken me almost a week to get my PC close to
its usual friendly self - time I could have used in far better ways.
Malt Maniacs #17 for example; I did manage to publish
the first six E-pistles but I had to wrap everything up quickly.
I'm not complaining though; at least I'm back on-line safely.
I'll get back to my regular reporting soon, but since the readers
of this website are all computer users as well I thought I'd share
a few of the useful things I've learned from this viral experience.
When I asked around for advice after my PC started to show the
symptoms of infection I received an avalanche of I-Told-You-So's
from people using Macintosh or Linux operating systems. Yawn...
Yes, I KNOW that both Mac and Linux are arguably superior to the
hacking heaven that's Windows XP, but the only way I've been able
to maintain MM with minimal investments is by making as much use
as possible from the huge amounts of free- and shareware for PC's.
Besides, telling me that I shouldn't have bought a PC doesn't really solve my problem.
Fortunately, a friend of mine (Rene) has a passion for PC's and he was happy to help me through the first few 'emergency' steps that were needed to slowly regain some form of control of my PC. If you should find yourself in a
similar situation, the following (and very basic) 'Step-by-step PC Virus Repair Guide For Dummies Like Me' might
come in handy. There are far better sources for this type of information on the web, but if you're struck without warning
like I was you may find your access to that information could be restricted at best. So, here's what I did to get back on
-line safely after I noticed I probably was infected. (I'm working with Windows XP, with only service pack 1 installed at the time of infection.)
1) Disconnect from the internet a.s.a.p
Very important because your PC is probably wide open to unfriendly visitors. Best to literally 'unplug'.
In my case that was easy; I'm paranoid enough to have the actual cable on hand to be physically unplugged.
If you have a 'soft' firewall running you might be able to close off all internet activity quickly first.
2) Close all running programs
Well, except for any firewall(s), virus scanner or any other prophylactic software you might have.
At least for now - some virusses specifically target security software but chances are against it.
3) Press CTRL+ALT+DEL (for Windows XP, that is!) - This opens the 'Task Manager'.
Check the first tab on the left ('Applications') to see if there are any 'hidden' applications running.
Terminate applications that are suspicious or inresponsive by right-clicking and choosing 'End Task'.
Next, go to the second tab ('Processes') to check for suspicious processes. Be very careful here; many of the processes
listed here are genuine system processes and terminating them could destabilise or crash the system. Make a list of all the names of the processes ('Image Name') that look suspicious.
4) Make Backups of your essential files
If your PC is still responding to your commands, it would be wise to make backups of essential files.
True, if you're infected with an agressive piece of malware it might copy itself to the backup location, but you can always
run a virus scanner / cleaner over the backups later on. After you've made the backup you could have your current virus
scanner check the system - assuming you have one - but if it was working properly you probably wouldn't have been infected in the first place. So, it would probably be just as well to proceed to the next step.
5) Go to Start > Run and type 'msconfig'
This opens the 'System Configuration Utility'. Go to the last tab at the right; 'Startup'.
Here you can see a list of all the programs that will start automatically on the next system restart.
Uncheck all startup items you're not 100% sure about and add their names to the list you made earlier.
Next, go to the tab 'BOOT.INI' and scheck the box in front of the first option: '/SAFEBOOT'. Click OK.
Now the system will ask you to restart the computer - it will do so in 'safe mode'.
6) Restart your PC in Safe Mode
After the restart your desktop may look quite different - do not be alarmed.
Also, some features or your mouse may act differently because you've disabled some autostart functions.
Go to Start > Run > msconfig again and check the 'Startup' tab. Have any changes been made?
Some virusses make sure to put themselves back in the startup folder before each shutdown.
Does everything look just like you left it? If so, good news - but don't re-check any boxes yet.
Instead, go to the tab 'BOOT.INI' and unscheck the '/SAFEBOOT' box. Click OK.
Windows will prompt you for a restart and will do so in 'normal' mode.
7) Normal System Check
Did your PC start up OK? Remember some legitimate 'autostart' functions may still be disabled.
Do one more check of the startup tab via Start > Run > msconfig > Startup. No sudden changes?
So far so good. If a program keeps putting itself back on the list that means you may be in trouble.
No reason to panic just yet, though - there are probably tools to fix the problem anyway.
Tools like 'Hijack This' - but if you don't have it on your PC yet that's of no help right now.
Now it's time to do some research on those suspect processes and startup items on your list.
You could decide to live life on the edge by going on-line and search for those terms on Google but it would be safer to
try and protect your computer first. If you have access to another computer, check the web for references to the names
of potentially suspect processes. Ask a friend to check for you if you don't have access to another computer. If the
names of the processes are those of known viruses, you should be able to find links to specific repair tools for that virus
on respectable websites. You could load these from another computer onto yours via a USB stick or on a CD, for example
. Running these tools should solve any major infections you might have - although there's still the prickly subject of the
virusses that are smart enough to install themselves with a random filename or change their name after each reboot.
9) Get Protection
Even if your research didn't find any obvious infections there could be nasties hidden on your PC.
First, make sure you have the latest service pack(s) and updates for Windows XP installed - it might help.
Don't count on it, though... So, the next logical step would be to install a proper virus scanner.
Alternatively, you could use one of the on-line virus scanners mentioned in my previous entry.
Getting a 'proper' virus scanner and installing it on you PC would probably be better, though...
Some (like Norton) also have a built-in firewall that seems to be better than the XP firewall.
There are many different products available, some of them for free. Some options are:
- AVG Antivirus (www.grisoft.com)
- Norton Antivirus (www.symantec.com)
- McAfee Antivurus (www.mcafee.com)
- Panda Antivirus (www.pandasoftware.com)
- Avast Antivirus (www.avast.com)
Install your new antivirus software and get the latest updates, then run a full system scan.
This might take some time - and it's quite likely the scanner finds some suspect code somewhere.
Most modern programs are very user friendly, adaptable and advise you what to do 'step by step'.
What's more, they are often able to repair the infected parts of your system automatically.
Now you can return to the 'msconfig' screen and set your old software back to 'autostart'.
So, are you done now? Well, that depends on exactly how safe you want to feel...
10) Get Better Protection
It's entirely possible your virus scanner has missed something dubious and some don't look for spyware.
Instead of running numerous different programs, I can heartily recommend HitMan Pro, made by a fellow Dutchman.
Interestingly enough, I was involved with a different product called 'HitMan' in the 1990's, but that was a search engine
marketing tool. This is a multi-purpose cleaner of spyware and virusses on your system that automatically installs and
runs a number of 'cleansers' on your PC; CWShredder, Ad-Aware, Spybot Search & Destroy, Spy Sweeper, Spyware
Doctor, Trend Micro Sysclean and McAfee Virus Scan. It might take a few hours to run everything, but it's a marvel to see
all the windows open and close automatically and have one little program direct an orchastra of other programs.
You can find the program at http://www.hitmanpro.nl.
Was that it?
Almost...There's one more handy little piece of software I'd like to mention.
'Hijack This' is a tool that shows you all running processes on your PC and produce a log file of those. If you still have
doubts about some processes you can send the log file (a simple, small .txt file) to an IT savvy friend who could check it out for you. If he (or she) should find anything suspicious you can use Hijack This to fix the suspected problem.
Finally, there's a little addition from Louis Perlman : 'One more suggestion for the Windows crowd, use XP Professional and
run as a non-administrator. Most of the bad stuff can't install itself with ordinary user privileges. Create a local administrator
account for yourself and only use it to install software that requires it. XP Pro is a bit pricey ($200) as an upgrade, but only
costs a few dollars more on a new machine. But also use the full blown virus scan/firewall/anti-spyware stuff, whether
acquired as best-of-breed or as a suite. Last year, I bought two new PC's for my kids and locked them down under XP Pro, and even my 14 year old junior geek hasn't had any problems.'
So, there you have it - I have nothing else to add on this topic.
I'll return to my regular reporting in my next liquid log entry, I promise.
Well, not so regular, I have a private 'Brorathon' planned to commemorate my birthday.
> Entry 284 - February 5, 2006: Brorathon
Oh boy.... I really need a good kick in the bollocks...
Oh no, wait a minute - I mean a swift kick in the butt...
I've turned 40 years old today and I STILL haven't decided
what I want to do with my life when I grow up. In fact, I may
have to face the very real possibility that I may never really
grow up at all. Well, not mentally anyway. My physical growth
stunted at less than imposing 175 cm about two decades ago
but I'm still hoping for a miraculous unexpected growth spurt.
Still, I've made it through another year without incident.
Reason for some sort of celebration, wouldn't you agree?
Well, as luck would have it I still had a bunch of little Brora
samples on my shelves that would be just perfect for the
occasion. The results could be especially interesting because
Serge's Brora profile brought some facts to light that I didn't
know about yet - like the changing peating levels over time.
So, let's start the sampling...
#1) - Brora 1972/1992 (40%, G&M Connoisseur's Choice, Old map label, screwcap) from Luc.
Nose: Veggy start. String beans. Sharp. Oy, oy, oy.... This is not my cup of tea at all, I'm afraid...
Taste: Fruity. Slick. Hint of soap perfume? Liquorice root in the finish. Soft salmiak? Smoke. Lovely.
It's not remarkable in the start and centre but the finish lifts it above average. Very, very nice.
77 points - I loved the finish, but most other aspects of this malt are below par for Brora.
Next, we have something interesting; two consecutive casks of Brora; #576 and #577.
Even more interesting; one sample made it to Amsterdam via Germany, the other via Taiwan.
It tried the previous cask #575 as well; Klaus sent me a blind sample in 2002 that scored 78 points.
#2) - Brora 20yo 1981/2001 (43%, Signatory, Cask #576, 380 Bottles) from Thomas.
Nose: Light with a distant pinch of salt. Not expressive, but it opens up just a little over time.
Taste: Watery and dry at the same time. Surprisingly sweet in the centre. No real finish to speak of.
No wait a minute... After the finish has dies out there seems to be a faint echo of peat. Plywood?
72 points - easily drinkable, but it scores below average on both the nose and palate.
At the same time, I didn't find anything really offensive like some other maniacs apparently did.
As a Brora it's very disappointing, but as a single malt it's not all that bad, I think.
#3) - Brora 20yo 1981/2001 (43%, Signatory, Cask #577, 403 Bottles) from Ho-cheng.
Nose: More expressive than cask #576 with a little oil. It walks a thin line between 'veggy' and 'organic'.
Growing complexity over time, but it never reaches 'recommendable' levels. Hardly any peat in the nose.
Taste: A watery start like the previous one, but it's peatier in the centre. Metallic & woody in the finish.
Score: 73 points - I had it in the upper 70's for a while but in the end the woody finish pulls it below average.
These last two bottles indicate that in 1981 the usual peating levels were much lower than in the mid-70's.
#4) - Brora 26yo 1978/2004 (57.2%, SMWS 61.22)
Nose: Sweetish and a little nondescript. An old garden shed. Some odd organics with time.
Quite light in the nose with lots of interesting but very subtle stuff going on in the background.
Hint of oil? Quite alcoholic. With a few drops of water it became even more prickly in the nose.
Taste: Nondescript in the start as well, growing sweeter and bigger in the centre. Dry burn.
Woody. Straight, it's quite bland. Bigger and hotter in the centre. Sweeter too. Liquorice.
Score: 75 points
- not very expressive but very drinkable. Might go well with a spicy curry.
What's this? Four Brora's in a row scoring in the 70's?
Has somebody been fiddling with my nose while I wasn't looking?
There's only one way to find out: sampling a malt that I've already tried before.
As luck would have it, there was still some left of the 'Platinum' Brora that Michel brought recently.
#5) - Brora 31yo 1972/2003 (49.3%, Douglas Laing Platinum, 221 Bottles) - it scored 94 points last time.
Nose: Lots of organics with a hint of coffee. Turkish delight. Old dry fruits. Sun-dried tomatoes? Leather.
Tobacco. Then it starts to show a gentler side as well; mint and furniture polish. Very complex. Exquisite.
Taste: Dry, smoky and peaty. Cassis? Tea. The smoky component becomes more dominant over time.
The mouth feel is just so magnificent. A little sweetness to complement the peat. Liquorice. Perfect.
95 points - one point up from my initial score of 94. This is the best Brora I've tried so far.
This is good whisky - after fifteen years of dramming this moves me like that first Lagavulin did.
So, I think we've established that my nose is fine. Or at least not worse than usual...
No reason not to throw myself on the four remaining samples on my desk, then.
#6) - Brora 29yo 1971/2000 (50%, Douglas Laing OMC, 274 Bottles, D 02/71, B 04/00) from Ho-cheng.
Nose: Not as expressive as the last one at first. Grainier as well. Hardly any peat, it seems. Too bad...
Adding a little water didn't do too much for the nose. A hint of peanuts? Doesn't seem like 90's material.
Taste: Liquorice. Dry. Hot centre. The mouth feel is just great, but it doesn't have a lot of 'definition'.
Score: 87 points - it feels great on the palate, but the nose doesn't warrant a score in the 90's.
#7) - Brora 23yo 1981/2005 (61%, Duncan Taylor, Cask 1425, 542 Btl., Sample bottled 9/5/05, DTC-5/104)
Nose: Sour and surprisingly sherried. Hint of sulphur? Furniture polish and old cigar smoke. Hint of mint?
Sweetening out over time. Very 'upper class'. Interesting organics and oriental spices as well.
Taste: Heavy, sweet and sherried. Salty pinch in the centre. Smoke. Very hot at cask strength.
Oh boy - I forgot to check the proof. Let's add some water quickly... A little smoother now.
Score: 90 points - Lovely lingering smoky sweetness with a fruity base far below the surface.
#8) - Brora 30yo '2004' (56.6%, OB, Bottled 2004) from Luc.
Nose: Surprisingly subtle at first. Ever so slightly veggy. Very slowly developing organics.
Growing complexity, but you really have to take your time with this one. Now, let's add some water.
No, not a lot of improvement, it seems. Maybe some metallic notes became a little more pronounced?
No wait, now I definitely get more depth and detail on the 'organics' side of the spectrum. Excellent.
Taste: Blimey! What an excellent mouth feel. Peat. Full and sweet with hints of laurel liquorice. Fruity.
Perfectly drinkable at cask strength. In fact, it felt so amazing that I was very afraid to add water.
I needn't have worried; this one can stand quite some water - in fact, it might even open up more.
94 points - one of the very few malts that makes it well into the 90's mainly on the palate.
#9) - Brora 22yo 1972/1995 (58.7%, Rare Malts) from Luc.
Nose: Aaaah.... Rich and complex. Lovely organics. Oriental herbs and spices. Simply magnificent.
A generous splash of water didn't seem to have a lot of impact - the usual 'pause', but not much more.
Oh wait, yes, now I do notice a change: there's something medicinal in there as well now. Wonderful.
Taste: Sweet and peaty. Once again a lovely mouth feel. Still lovely after adding some water. Smoke.
Score: 94 points - too bad I got so distracted by enjoying myself; I made just a few tasting notes...
So, have I learned anything new?
Yes - for one thing Brora's from the (early) 1970's do indeed seem more heavily peated than those of the 1980's.
Whether that's an improvement or not depends on your personal tastes I guess. In this case my preference for the
more heavily peated varieties is hardly surprising... So, my scores for '1970s' Brora's tend to be higher than for '1980s'
Brora's. The only exception is the Duncan Taylor bottling that made up for lack of peat by all the goodness of sherry. Lovely!
I couldn't have wished for better 'birthday drams'. Thanks a lot, Luc, Michel, Ho-cheng and Thomas!
Last bit of news: It looks like I'll be able to make it to the Whisky Festival Noord Nederland in Groningen next week.
Michel offered me a ride so I really couldn't say no to this opportunity to share drams with Charlie and Thomas again.
Expect a full report on these pages shortly - and let me know if you'll be there as well so we can smash some glasses together...
> Entry 285 - February 10, 2006: Charlie's Whisky
Yes, it's decided...
I will join Michel and Christel for a trip to Groningen tomorrow.
If all goes according to plan we'll meet Charlie and Thomas Lipka there,
along with a bunch of other whisky freaks and industry personalities.
Like I've stated on these pages before I'm not a 'festival person' but
I couldn't pass up this opportunity to meet some foreign maniacs and
sample a few drams - especially now that I've committed myself to
striking all remaining distilleries from my 'to do' list this year.
I'll only be in Groningen on saturday, but there's another private 'festival'
in 'Het Kompas' on the northern Dutch island of Texel on monday. Charlie
will be there as well, which could be the perfect opportunity to present
him with a bottle I recently discovered: 'MacLean Blended Scotch Whisky'.
When I asked him about it earlier Charlie denied having any knowledge of
the existice of a bottling bearing his name, so I picked up an extra bottle.
At 7,99 Euro's it will be one of the cheapest bottles I ever gave away ;-)
If Charlie ever samples it I doubt he'll publish the tasting notes, so here
are my own notes for the Mac Lean Blended Scotch Whisky
Nose: Clean. Wodka & tonic with a hint of lime. Spirity but not too sharp.
Taste: Smooth start with a distant hint of menthol in the background.
Grows grittier and grainier quickly. Feels rough and fairly immature.
Score: 32 points - which really isn't too bad considering the price.
Hmmmm.... I can only hope Charlie will be as open-minded as I am ;-)
And these were the only tasting notes you'll find in this report I'm afraid.
I've got some serious logistics to take care of for my upcoming sample swap with Michel and Thomas tomorrow. And this is another reminder that I'll need to get my stock list updated soon. In a few months I'm expecting some international
guests and it might be nice if I could expand my drinking collection from 24 to 36 bottles by that time again. So, I will be opening a few bottles from my reserve stock shortly - and publish my notes here, of course.
That's it for now - expect my first impressions from Groningen in my next report.
> Entry 286 - February 15, 2006: Whisky PC
Yeah, yeah, I know...
I promised that this log entry would be about the
Groningen festival - and a little 'afterparty' on Texel.
However, I've caught a cold right after the festival and
didn't have the time or energy to make a transcript of my
notes yet. However, Lawrence sent the maniacs a link to
a funny website that I wanted to share with you.
At the Groningen whisky festival I was just discussing a
strange 'maniacal' phenomenon with some people; there
seem to be a disproportionate number of IT professionals,
bird watchers and Frank Zappa fans among the maniacs,
and to some extent among whisky lovers in general too.
Apparently, one of the many 'whiskynerds' found a novel
way to combine two hobbies by inventing 'the whisky PC'.
A working PC built within a bottle of Ballantines 'Finest'!
The link: http://www.metku.net/index.html?sect=view&n=1&path=mods/whiskypc/index_eng3.
Luc wrote: 'Fantastic......he should market this....but not in that bottle though.....
In an empty Bowmore Bouquet....;-) the new MM-designed computer, impressive...
But hé, I already tasted this one - the Ballantines Finest NA (43%, OB, Blend, PC-finish)
Nose : Starts quite electric, some notes of bits, a touch of bytes, some USB aroma's.
Quite sharp on the edges, vga (veggie), quite serial too, nice.
Taste : Again quite bit-ing, and celeron'ig with a touch of intel and sharp notes of ram, nice.
Finish : Long and lingering sweet malty metallic, bytes a bit.
B/C : Perhaps not the best finish I ever had but quite multi-tasking and hyperthreaded.
Points : 71 Mhz'
Indeed! I only hope that you didn't catch a virus from this bottle. Luc ;-)
> Entry 287 - February 19, 2006: Festival Fever
Well, the festival in Groningen last weekend was a big success.
I was invited by Ronald Wuijster of Wuijster Whisky Import who was
at the festival to introduce some new bottlings on the Dutch market,
including the 'Cross Hill' range from the German bottler Jack Wiebers.
I really don't understand why they picked Groningen as the location
(it's in the far North of Holland, a two hour drive through the flatlands)
but fortunately I could catch a ride with Michel van Meersbergen and
his girlfriend Christel on Saturday. Even though we wandered around
Groningen for a while looking for the venue we arrived early enough
to sneak in and have a look around before the festival kicked off.
That gave us the chance to 'scout the terrain' and have a chat with
fellow maniac Charlie MacLean before he would start with his 'official'
duties at the festival - presiding over masterclasses, introducing some
whiskies and prancing about behind a haggis at the end of the day.
Even after the doors were opened officially it never became really crowded, which pleased me to no end.
At some other festivals you have to fight your way to the various stands and the people serving their whiskies don't have the time for a friendly chat about those whiskies. Groningen was different, there was plenty of time to enjoy the
malts that were poured and to actually discuss them with the people that poured them. That being said, I found that I
actually spent the vast majority of my time at the 'Dutch Connection' stand where Michiel Wigman and Bert Vuik had an enviable collection of hundreds of old and special bottles on display.
And not just on display - all bottles were available for dramming as well.
Each glass cost a few euro's, but the prices were very fair given the fact that all bottles were very rare indeed.
For example, they had a bottle of the Glen Garioch 1971 from Samaroli that knocked me off my feet (92 points) after Luc poured it for me as a 'skalk' at the start of our Eurotripping in 2004. At 12 Euro's a dram that's a steal, I think.
I had my first dram at the DC stand; a Pulteney 34yo 1964/1999 (50%, Douglas Laing OMC, 197 Bottles).
Nose: Salty & creamy. A unique combination. Hint of spicy mint. Slowly growing more 'herbal'. Interesting!
Taste: A strange combination of sweet and herbal. Woody with quite a lot of tannins. Quite special, actually.
Score: 84 points
- I picked this because I thought that Pulteney was still on my 'to do' list, but it wasn't.
I had actually just tried my sixth expression on January 1, making this my seventh Pulteney ever. A nice one.
The Miltonduff 1966/1990 (61.4%, Antica Casa Marclesi Spinola, 75cl) was my sixth expression.
And what a stunner it turned out to be - I'm so happy that Michel Wigman recommended it to me.
Nose: Velpon glue. Heavy sherry. Salty. Chalky. After 15 minutes the 'antiquity' becomes more pronounced.
Rich and complex with loads of organics - this one will be hard to top this one during the festival, I imagine.
Taste: Not very sweet. Not at all what I expected but fantabulous. Too busy enjoying myself to make notes.
Score: 93 points - that's right... A fresh one for the top of my Hit List - eternal glory...
Strangely enough, I spent a few hours with these two malts - mainly because I kept bumping into people.
I met German maniac Thomas Lipka at the 'Dutch Connection' stand, as well two of his German friends (Martin and Hans
-Jürgen) and a buch of other people I only knew from the web, including Jeroen 'Peatfreak' Kloppenburg and Joep
'Whiskybay' van Drunen. Dutch writer Hans Offringa was there as well, but at the time he didn't manage to convince me
to purchase one of his whisky books. I've decided not to buy any new books until I've read and reviewed all the books in my modest 'library' of eight books - and I still have quite a few books to go...
Anyway, when I noticed the afternoon session was almost over I hurried over to a few of the other stands to see if I
could find any other material on my 'To Do' list. Yes I could. First of all, I sniffed around one of several DIAGEO stands and found a bottle of Dalwhinnie 1989 Distillers Edition
(43%, OB, DSL 312). Hurray... This would be my fifth expression.
Nose: Sweet & grainy. Smells like a blend, actually. It moves in an oilier direction for a while.
Give it time, though - it becomes spicier with just a hint of organics after some breathing.
Taste: Relatively gritty and not potent enough to lift the overall score above average.
Score: 75 points
- an 'average' score, but still my favourite expression so far.
And speaking of DIAGEO... The biggest stand on the festival floor was actually the Johnny Walker Black Label stand.
They had rented models from a model agency to teach the visitors 'how to drink Johnnie Walker Black Label. Sounds like a reasonable idea, no? Well, maybe, but not so much if you know that they were male models (who really didn't know
the first thing about whisky) and they were serving the stuff in tumblers. Ah, the folly of mass marketeers...
The next dram I spotted was the Glendullan 14yo 1991/2005 (43%, Ultimate, bottled 23/11/2005) at the small 'Van
Wees' stand. Excellent - I've tried five expressions so far and after this sixth I can strike Glendullan from my 'To Do' list.
Nose: Farmy, Expressive. Fennel & Aniseed. Turns out much more serious than I initially thought.
Taste: Erm.... I'm afraid I forgot to make notes on the taste - things started to become hectic.
80 points - further proof that this distillery actually produces a very decent malt whisky.
Just when I had finished my Glendullan I ran into Victor Baars who surprised me with two samples he had brought to the festival especially for me; a Deanston 21yo 1977/1999
(53,5%, Cadenhead's, Bottled July 1999) that I didn't make notes on but scored 78 points and a Tamdhu 15yo 1989/2004 (57,3%, Adelphi, Cask #8126) that earned 83 points.
In both cases I had sampled just two expressions before, so these brought me closer to my target. Too bad I was too
nusy chatting to make notes. These drams were enjoyed at the end of the afternoon session, so after saying goodbye
to Victor I joined Michel, Kristel, Thomas and the other German fellows at the only dining facility within walking distance
of the festival hall: a grubby cafetaria. At least it allowed us to get some cheap calories in before we proceeded with the
evening session. Or so we thought... As it turns out, the Germans only had tickets for one session and even though they
only had time to stay for another hour the security guard wouldn't let them in to spend some more money at the stands.
A fairly foolish policy if you ask me, because some of the participants clearly would have loved some more paying customers at their stands.
Anyway, I decided to run back in to try and find an interesting goodbye dram for the Germans.
I returned with a Girvan 1989/2004
(60.4%, James McArthur, C# 110636) - a grain whisky distilled at the same distillery that produces the 'Blackbarrel' grain whisky. Interestingly enough, this was also the distillery that housed the
'Ladyburn' malt distillery within its walls between 1968 and 1975). The nose was herbal, spirity and sweet and it wasn't too bad on the palate. I have a feeling that my 74 points
was a tad on the generous side, which made this hardly a suitable 'farewell dram', even if none of us had tried it before. Fortunately, Hans-Jürgen pulled a surprise from his bag;
one of the 702 bottles of the legendary Old Malt Cask Ardbeg 25yo 1975/2000. Now THAT was a suitable dram to say goodbye with...
After the Germans left the premises I returned to the hall and found my way to Ronald Wuijster's stand.
He recommended the Tomatin 1965/2006
(50.7%, Cross Hill, 82 Bottles) and rightly so. What a nose!!!
Nose: Dill. Gravad Lachs. Honey. Mayonaise. Baklava. Caramel pudding. Great stuff - utterly enjoyable.
Taste: Extremely heavily sherried and very winey, pulling it from the 90's. That's really too bad.
Score: 86 points - at the bottom end of the 'highly recommendable' scale. A very special malt.
The nose is absolutely amazing (well in the 90's in my book) but the palate not so much.
I decided on a Craigellachie 15yo (54.2%, Dewar Rattray, C#3882, 315 Bottles) next.
Nose: Clean with the faintest hint of peat. Something sour with a hint of oil. Not much else.
Taste: A bit herbal. Nothing else that really stood out, but this is a solid malt whisky.
Score: 79 points - not quite special enough to warrant a score in the 80's.
By now the end of the evening started to loom on the horizon so I circled back to the 'Dutch Connection' stand where I found Michel and Kristel like they never left. I pulled a
Glenlossie 17yo 1973 (40%, Antica Casa Marchesi) from the table. The nose showed a lot of 'old bottle effect'; sourish with clear 'Maggi' tones and a hint of sulphur. There was a lot of
sherry on the palate but it was a 'fun' malt to taste - I don't know another way to describe it. I gave it 89 points. Which brings me to my last dram of the evening for me; the Tormore 10yo
(43%, OB, 1960's) that smelled like a candy store - especially the little blue 'pearls' on some kind of liquorice all sorts. Mild sorrel notes as well. On the palate I could detect
nothing but a hot burn, which kept the score at a fairly average 78 points for me.
I enjoyed the last drops of the Tormore while the party was slowly breaking up.
My last memorable image of the evening was Charlie's bewildered expression as he was taking a much deserved
breather on the front row of the stage where Sgt. Wilson's Army Band (three quarters of them depicted at the top of this
article) was performing. Three clones of the Andrews Sisters were spewing out swing tunes from the 40's and 50's with
gusto while a 'sergeant' was acting silly for comic relief. The festival hall was quite large, but still it wasn't quite large
enough for this band who played at 'stadium' level. That being said, it was a very welcome relief from those annoying
bagpipes. I like Scots and I like Scotch but I just don't share their musical sensibilities - or their dress sense for that matter...
And that's it for this report on the festival that allowed me to strike two distilleries from my 'To Do' list; Glendullan and Miltonduff. A report from Martin Diekmann will be published in Malt Maniacs shortly.
> Entry 288 - February 24, 2006: Bulking Up
I still owe you a report about my recent Adelphi tasting on Texel
with Charlie, but right now there are two other things at the top
of the blackboard - and I've just thought of a fairly lame 'bridge'
to connect the two. Loyal readers of this liquid log may remember
entry #218 where I foolishly challenged Serge to 'the ads race'.
Well, I obviously should've known better than challenging an
advertising executive for this. My challenge was made almost a
year ago and I think we can safely say that WhiskyFun has won
the first round here. However, I'm not quite ready to give up yet.
I'll try to get some saucy ads together that haven't appeared on
WF yet. I'll probably have to look beyond just 'whisky' though;
Serge already published hundreds of whisky ads on WhiskyFun.
So, here's a saucy poster for Cabo Wabo Tequilas.
Lovely name, isn't it? And quite a lovely picture as well...
The connection to the second part of this E-pistle? Like I said it's
a lame one, but I recently received an e-mail about 'bulking up'
and 'artificial enhancements'. No, no... not THAT kind of e-mail...
Joe Barry from South Africa sent me a question that could have
been the basis for an 'Ask an Anorak' E-pistle, but I fear that
would have been a very short E-pistle because the answer is
actually very simple - well, at least the 'theoretical' part.
So, I've decided to respond to Barry's questions in this log.
'Hi Johannes. Firstly my congratulations on an awesome website!
It has to be one of the most comprehensive I have ever seen.' (Thanks Barry, we aim to please) 'How many people are working on the site to put all that info up and drink all that amount of whisky, it just blows my brain ?!!' (The 'Madness' part of the site is all ME ME ME but there are 24 'certified malt maniacs' and a bunch of 'foreign correspondents' writing for our
wild & wacky 'Malt Maniacs' E-zine.) 'We have a whisky club which has been going since 1995 called UISGEBEATHA WHISKY
CLUB and we are in SOUTH AFRICA. Our website is www.whiskysa.co.za and we would like you to add this to your liquid links page.' (Done. I'd like to get as much whisky clubs and societies on the links page as possible.) 'I spent some time last weekend going through your site and was very interested to see you are a rugby fan and played the game. My perception is
that most Europeans are soccer mad but rugby is very big in South Africa and I played for about 19 years in my youth, mainly on the left wing.' (Well, I started out at the far end of the wings as well, but as I grew older and fatter - but not taller - I
was gradually blackmailed into assuming the 'hooker' position in the warm and welcoming heart of the scrum.)
'Would you mind me asking a question, I am intrigued at the malt mileage you all have achieved and am interested in how you
got there. In South Africa it is difficult to obtain the older bottlings as you can see from our tasting log but you must have a
good supply available. Do you score from miniatures or if you just have a drink at a bar to try something new i.e. what
constitutes an" official" tasting? Another thing, do you buy on the internet and if so does the process go smoothly? Cheers, Joe Barry.'
Aha, Joe - now we get to the meaty part....
I actually receive a lot of questions along these lines so here's a perfect opportunity for a comprehensive response...
First of all our 'massive malt mileages'... People who posess vast quantities of money and do a lot of travelling won't
have such a hard time boosting their malt mileage into the triple digits - especially if they visit a lot of well-stocked bars
and restaurants - but it's a lot harder for ordinary consumers like you and me, especially if you live in a relatively remote
area. In fact, many of the malt maniacs had a hard time finding new malts to investigate for most of the 1990's as well.
However, the third millennium brought with it in increased variety of malts and a new phenomenon; whisky festivals.
Depending on the length of the festival, you can try dozens of different whiskies and last year my trip to the one week festival on Islay helped me increase my malt mileage with some 150 new entries. Quite a neat little 'boost', eh?
Obviously, that doesn't mean I drank 150 bottles of whisky in a week - if I could do that I would be fulfilling my life long
dream of touring the world as a one man freak show. No, I had some 150 glasses of whisky (well, quite a bit more,
actually) and I gave a score after tasting just one dram. Arguably, that's far from perfect. In fact, it was well into the
noughties before I started 'rating by the dram' - before that I only gave a final score after drinking (almost) an entire
bottle of the whisky. That's still the best way to do it (this would cancel out any 'side effects' during a particular tasting
session like mood, food, etc. and also take into account possible changes in the whisky over time) but it's simply not
practical if you're interested in sampling as wide a variety of whiskies as possible. Your liver might just go on strike...
That being said, I make sure only to score whiskies on 'good nose days' and from decent glasses.
I think it was mostly Serge who finally convinced me and some other 'ultra orthodox' maniacs that it was OK to rate 'by
the dram' in order to explore as much of maltland as possible. And once that border was crossed, the way to the other
mileage booster of recent years was broken; sample swapping. This really is a magnificent way to sample a number of
different whiskies for the price of one bottle. All you have to do is invest in a bunch of sample bottles (glass or Nalgene)
and some other packaging material. And as long as you don't go 'intercontinental' the postage shouldn't kill you. Of
course, there are the widely available 5cl miniatures as well, but those are relatively expensive and most bottlings
simply don't exist as miniatures. And especially if you're in a club, sample swapping becomes quite easy.
Last but not least: on-line shopping.
You can find some tips on that issue in chapter 7 of the Beginner's Guide.
And that's it for today, I'm afraid - I'll have to try and convert some ongoing explosive discussions between the maniacs
into E-pistles. I've just published an E-pistle about barley to wrap up the first page of MM#17 and will get to work on
some other fresh stuff this weekend - including an interesting piece about how best to store your whisky bottles.
> Entry 289 - February 28, 2006: February Sessions
Bugger... I managed to hit Serge with an unexpected attack in the ads race
but now he retalliated (rather brilliantly, I must say) with some pretty stylish
'Glen Close' ads at a moment when I don't have time for an improper response.
In fact, I've just returned from a tasting at Michel van Meersbergen's place in
Haarlem and it's time to catch some sleep - but there are a few 'loose ends' I
need to tie up. But let's start with a short review of the session at Michel's.
Well, actually, I only took part in the evening session at Michel's but fellow
maniac Alexander van der Veer and 'friend of the maniacs' Bert Bruyneel from
Belgium had already started the dramming with Michel at the Cadenhead's store
in Amsterdam and were already in relatively high spirits by the time I arrived.
They jokingly poured me a Dumbarton 1961/1990 (46%, Signatory Vintage,
Casks 10277-10280) and I made the mistake of actually drinking it - although
the fact that Alexander took out his camera to capture the event should have
warned me. The nose was interesting enough, with cucumber and faint smoke.
Some cardboard too - not unlike a rye whiskey. The taste was disastrous, though.
I actually came very close to spitting it out, hence my score of only 23 points.
That pretty much put me away for the evening, tasting-wise.
I just couldn't get rid of the aftertaste of the Dumbarton so for the rest of the evening I focused on our conversations instead of the malts that were poured. Quite a shame, because Bert had brought over quite a few bottles from Belgium
and Michel pulled some very special stuff from his reserve stock for the occasion. The good news was that Bert brought
some samples for me as well, so I can enjoy those when the next good nose day comes along. And enjoy them I will,
because there are quite a few samples from distilleries I still need to cross from my 'to do' list - Dalmore, Inchmurrin
(Loch Lomond), Knockando and Tamdhu. Suddenly my challenge doesn't seem quite so challenging anymore...
But I'll do another check of my progress w.r.t. the 'to do' list in a few weeks.
Today I'd like to finish with a very short report on my tasting session on Texel about two weeks ago.
The location was 'Het Kompas', the whisky bar at the far end of the civilised world. The distance from Amsterdam is less
than 100 kilometers I think, but since it involves a ferry trip I arrived fashionably late after 21:00 PM. Great, that meant
that I didn't have to warm up to the small crowd inside; they were already warmed up by themselves. Fortunately I
arrived just in time to present Charlie with a bottle of the MacLean Blended Scotch Whisky I mentioned four entries ago before he opened the official part of the session with a guided tasting of an old favourite;
The Whisky that Cannot be Named 1953/2003 (54.3%, Adelphi, C#1668).
This was the winner of the Speyside Award of Excellence at the Malt Maniacs Awards 2004. This time the nose appeared
minty and sweet with organics and oriental spices. In fact, it was very sweet with hints of smoke and 'wet dog' that give
it an edge. It's sweet and quite woody on the palate (green wood) with a hint of pine. Ferns? A big, hot burn. A real
masterpiece of a whisky, probably bottled at its prime. I only had about ten minutes with this malt this time, during which it didn't quite reach the 95 points
I gave it during the repeated and longer blind sessions for the awards (92/93 now) but I'm quite sure it would have reached the same heights again if I had given it more time to develop in the glass.
Speaking of glass....
The evening was sort of hosted by Adelphi and they served all whiskies in a new type of whisky glass with their logo on
it. I'm not sure if they developed it themselves but I'll try to get some more infor about this rather distinguished glass.
It's quite tall, like a slightly slimmer and taller version of a standard wine glass with a 'neck' and a slight outward curve
at the top. It seemed to work quite well and I plan to use it in the upcoming maniacal glassware test.
Anyway, back to the tasting. Obviously there was only one way to go but down after TWTCBN 1953.
In order to 'reset' my palate I proceeded with the biggest contrast imaginable;
Reisetbauer 7yo Whisky from Austria. What a disaster; it was extremely grainy and Charlie and I wondered if it could even contain methanol - the 'bad' alcohol
that gives a whole new meaning to the concept of blind tasting. And the weirdest thing of all was that the overpowering raw grainy character was still there when I had mistakenly diluted it to +/- 5% ABV. So, my
15 points were relatively kind.
The next dram was a 'to do' list malt; the Glentauchers 14yo (58.5%, Adelphi, Cask #14429).
The nose was very subtle at first. It gained some momentum over time but never really reached my heart. Maybe that
was partly because I needed to focus on deciphering the extremely fine print on the labels of these Adelphi bottles.
Granted, the bottles are very attractive but the designer seems to have been more interested in a pretty label than
actual information that a malthead wants to know about. Meanwhile, it performed fairly well on the palate (sweet and hot with a hint of pine), finally bringing it into 'average' territory with a score of 70 points
. A nice whisky that lacks some personality.
If I had brought a copy of the matrix or monitor I would have known that I already tried the Cragganmore 29yo
1973/2003 (52.5%, OB, 6000 Bottles) and wouldn't have bothered - I gave it 79 points last time. Certainly nothing to be
ashamed about, but with just a few hours of tasting time left I needed to 'pick my battles'. Fortunately, my next dram was something to write home about; the Tomintoul 38yo 1967/2005
(49.2%, Adelphi, Cask #4485, 196 bottles). It was sweet and fruity in the nose. Subtle with gradual development towards organics and rubber. The profile becomes
quite unique after fifteen minutes and matched some of the wonderful cheeses that were served perfectly. I might have
gone for a score in the 90's based on the nose alone but on the palate it almost seemed more like a fruit spirit than a malt whisky. Very nice, but not quite up to the standards that apply to the top of my Hit List - but as close as possible with 89 points.
The Inchgower 24yo 1980/2005 (60.4%, Adelphi, Cask #14152) was another beloved winner of the MM Awards; a
wonderful rich sherry monster that doesn't take any prisoners. I would have gone for 93 points this time - 92 at the awards. Which brings us to the last dram of the evening; the Glen Elgin 1978/2005
(47.5%, Adelphi, Cask #4512). I gave it just 79 points after the awards tastings, but after trying it again I'm quite convinced that score didn't do it justice
. In fact, this time I would have gone for a score somewhere in the upper 80's; 87 or 88 points I imagine. So, maybe
Olivier and Davin that scored in the lower 90's at the awards weren't crazy after all and I sort of missed this one. Let's put my 'average' at 84 points.
And that's it... Don't let the briefness of this report fool you into thinking that the Texel session (or the session at
Michel's in Haarlem for that matter) were not interesting or entertaining. Well, I didn't get to try as much new material on
Texel as I would have liked, but it gave me the chance to have a few meaningful discussions - and a few meaningless ones as well I imagine...
So, that's it for February 2006....
My March 1 report could be delayed for one or two days....