> Entry 250 - August 1, 2005: A Look Ahead - Part III
After a little break I felt it was time to finish the big review of my 'To Do List'.
On July 15 and July 21 I had the opportunity to fill some of the holes on the list,
but my work is far from finished - I estimate there are +/- 100 bottles left to try.
Before my research continues I'll need to make a fresh inventory of all distilleries
that require more 'virtual visits'. You can find the 'administrative' details about my
mission below, but I'll start with some tasting notes on the single malts I tried.
For this reasonably momentous occasion, I decided to pull out some of the best
bottles on my top shelf. Fiendishly combining duty and pleasure, I picked bottles
that were almost empty, starting with the Mortlach 16yo (43%, Flora & Fauna).
Nose: Polished. Very sherried with a hint of smoke. Raisins. A real sherry monster.
Over time organics (sellery?) appear, but the focus remains on the sherried side.
Taste: Big, sweet start. Possibly even bigger in the fruity centre. Feels quite hot.
Excellent mouth feel - almost perfect. Black currants. Prune jam. Smoky. Great!
Score: 87 points - an almost perfect substitute for the 'old school' Macallans.
I imagine this could be just a tad too fruity for some - but I have to admit I love it.
The next top shelf candidate was the Aberlour NAS 'A'bunadh' Batch #9 (60.0%, OB, 2002).
Nose: Tea. Sweet. Big. Summer fruits. Some smoke. Something nutty? It's so beautifully composed.
Taste: Fruit sweets. Liquorice. Wood. Hint of soap, maybe? Not terribly complex but very, very pleasant.
It feels very good throughout with a bold sweet centre and strong tannins in the ultra-dry, hot finish.
Score: 87 points - a highly recommendable dram but I personally prefer batches #6, #7 and #11.
And the first batch(es) without a batch number remains my favourite so far, of course...
OK; now, let's have a look at my 'To Do List', shall we?
After my '2005' trip to Scotland my malt mileage was exactly 1163.
During the trip I've made some excellent progress with the more 'obscure' distilleries in Scotland.
After sampling six or more expressions I could strike Benrinnes, Caperdonich, Dailuaine, Dufftown, Glen Mhor, Glenturret,
Inchgower, Oban and Tomatin off my list altogether. On Islay (and in the weeks after I returned home) I also made
some considerable progress with Auchroisk, Balblair, Blair Athol, (Royal) Brackla, Cardhu, Coleburn, Dallas Dhu, Dalmore,
Dalwhinnie, Glenburgie, Glencadam, Glencraig, Glendullan, Glen Keith, Glenlochy, Glenlossie, Glen Ord, Glen Spey, Glenury
Royal, Kinclaith, Littlemill, Millburn, Miltonduff, Speyburn, Tormore and Tullibardine. What is that, you say? Madness? That's right!
Yes, I know this may seem a little bit like compulsive behaviour. Serge made some comments about the maniacal behaviour of Davin and myself when it comes to tasting for the matrix - we try to hunt down the most obscure bottles
(even if we almost know for certain that they're not going to be very good) in our efforts to try to get at least six
expressions from each distillery on the matrix. Yeah, Serge has a point - that is a little bit mad... But it's a good kind of
madness that's supposed to benefit the entire malt drinking community - with six different expressions on the matrix
visitors of the site might be able to make a good guess about the chances of a bottle of Ladyburn or Glen Spey actually being any good.
The only reason I've hunted down bottles of Allt-A-Bhainne or Glen Albyn is because I want to get at least six bottlings
from each distillery on the matrix; they have no chance of ever making it to my Top 10 of Favourite Distilleries. So, from this 'personal' POV I'm not in any rush to try my next Glenugie or Tullibardine. If our experiences on Islay have taught me
anything it is that even the most obscure bottling ends up in the hands of a malt maniac sooner or later. So, I'm pretty
confident we will reach our goal for the matrix eventually and until we do my goal as a malt maniac will remain the same: striving for those six entries for each distillery on the matrix.
However, the 'To Do List' is part of my very PERSONAL quest to find 'the perfect single malt whisky'.
I've already discovered that 'the perfect single malt' is a fluid concept and that the best one can hope for is finding a few
single malts that approach the 'ideal' as closely as possible. And for me, the ideal single malt doesn't only have to be
very good, it has to be A) affordable and B) available as well. No matter how wonderful a malt is, if I can't find it anywhere or can't afford to buy a bottle now and then, it's hardly 'perfect' for me...
With that in mind, I've started to think of my 'To Do List' a little differently.
On January 30 I already decided that I could strike seven silent distilleries from my 'To Do List'.
Allt-A-Bhainne, Ben Wyvis, Coleburn, Glen Flagler / Killyloch, Hillside / Glenesk, Kinclaith and Ladyburn were removed from
the list on account of either average quality and/or extremely limited availability. After six more months of frantic
searching and sampling, I think I can safely strike some more 'obscure' (silent) distilleries from my list.
Let's take a moment to review the remaining silent distilleries;
4 x Banff - This Speyside distillery was demolished in 1983 and bottlings are very hard to find.
2 x Convalmore - Closed in 1985, this Speyside distillery seems to have produced an above average malt.
1 x Dallas Dhu - Owners DCL closed this Speyside distillery in 1983. Current average +/- 80 points.
4 x Glen Albyn - Bottlings from this Northern Highland distillery (closed in 1983) are rarely seen.
4 x Glencraig - The Lomond stills that produced 'Glencraig' at Glenburgie were removed in the 1980's.
3 x Glenglassaugh - This neighbour of Banff was mothballed in 1986. Average score well into the 80's.
2 x Glen Keith - The distillery was mothballed in 1999. All expressions I've tried so far scored in the 70's.
2 x Glenlochy - Glenlochy was closed in 1983, but three of the four versions I tried scored in the 80's.
4 x Glenugie - Closed in 1983 as well. I can't say anything useful yet based on the two bottlings I tried.
2 x Glenury Royal - This Highland distillery was closed in 1985 and receives an average score in the 80's.
1 x Inverleven - One of the silent Lowland stills that was closed most recently. It was mothballed 1991.
2 x Littlemill - The distillery was mothballed in 1994, three years after its fellow Lowlander Inverleven.
2 x Millburn - Millburn was closed in 1985 and none of the four bottlings I tried reached above average.
2 x Mosstowie - The Lomond Stills that produced Mosstowie malt at Miltonduff were removed in 1981.
3 x North Port / Brechin - The distillery was closed 1983 and the results so far have been mixed.
2 x Pittyvaich - Closed as recently as 1993 and with three out of four bottlings scoring in the 80's.
3 x Tamnavulin - Mothballed in 1995, so still easy to find. However, it got 3 scores below average.
Now, let's try to remember what the purpose of my mission was...
Objective; finding 'the perfect single malt' that would have to be (among other things) available, affordable and
replaceable. Well, I think it's safe to say that these qualities won't be found in those single malts that were produced in
the 1970's or early 1980's at distilleries that were closed shortly afterwards. For one thing, these malts would be at
least twenty years old by now, meaning you'd have to pay a 'price premium' for the age alone. What's more, after two
decades in the cask, the influence of the wood would usually mask any remaining 'distillery character' - rendering the
whisky useless as far as my 'distillery research' is concerned. Keeping that in mind, I think I can cross seven more distilleries from the list;
1) Banff (Demolished in 1983) - Bottlings of Banff simply are too rare for their own good...
2) Glen Albyn (Closed in 1983) - Another distillery that's so obscure that it's not funny anymore...
3) Glencraig (Stills removed in the 1980's) - Bottles are 'irreplaceable', so I'm not that interested.
4) Glenugie (Closed in 1983) - Another distillery closed over twenty years ago. An 'academic' issue.
5) Millburn (Closed in 1985) - None of the four bottlings I tried reached above average. Drop it...
6) Mosstowie (Stills removed in 1981) - Another rare 'Lomond Stills' variety. Good scores, though!
7) North Port / Brechin (Closed in 1983) - The mixed results so far drive North Port from the list.
Excellent, that leaves 'just' 37 distilleries; 27 of them active and 10 silent.
These are the remaining distilleries I'll need to focus on in the forseeable future.
So, without further ado, I hereby give you... my brand new 'To Do list';
2 x Aultmore - I think we can safely call this Speyside distillery 'obscure' - bottles are hard to find.
3 x Balmenach - The distillery is active, but somehow I've encountered just three bottlings so far.
1 x Blair Athol - It earns an average score of +/- 80 points based on the five bottlings I've tried.
1 x (Royal) Brackla - This Highland distillery shows a lot of potential; average score +/- 82 points.
2 x Convalmore - Closed in 1985, but results so far indicate that they produced a good malt whisky.
1 x Dallas Dhu - Closed in 1983, the current average score of +/- 80 points keeps it on the list for now.
1 x Dalmore - Although Dalmore isn't an 'obscure' distillery at all, I've only tried five expressions so far.
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.
3 x Glenallachie - I've only tried three young Signatory bottlings so far - all of them scored in the 70's.
3 x Glenburgie - Just like the 'Glencraig' malt distilled by their Lomond stills, this is pretty rare stuff.
1 x Glencadam - The distillery, mothballed in 2000, was revived again by Angus Dundee in 2003. Why?
1 x Glendullan - A 'low profile' distillery, but 3 out of the 5 bottlings I tried scored in the lower 80's.
3 x Glenglassaugh - Mothballed in 1986, but stays on the list thanks to an average score in the 80's.
2 x Glen Keith - Mothballed as recently as 1999, it should be quite easy to find some other bottlings.
2 x Glenlochy - Glenlochy was closed in 1983, but three of the four versions I tried scored in the 80's.
1 x Glen Ord - One of the least 'obscure' distilleries on the list; just one more bottling to try for me.
3 x Glen Spey - Active but bottlings are quite hard to find. Any good? Results so far are inconclusive.
3 x Glentauchers - I've sampled only three expressions so far, all of which scored above average.
2 x Glenury Royal - Closed in 1985, the average score in the 80's keeps it on my To Do List for now.
1 x Inverleven - This Lowland distillery was mothballed in 1991 - only one more expression to go.
2 x Knockando - A less 'obscure' distilleries that didn't convince me enough to go looking for bottles.
2 x Knockdhu / An Cnoc - Another relatively 'mainstream' distillery that didn't inspire a lot of curiosity.
2 x Littlemill - Mothballed as recently as 1994, I imagine I should still be able to find some more bottles.
2 x Loch Lomond - A distillery I loved to hate until I tried the peated Croftengea - very pleasant.
3 x Royal Lochnagar - I've walked around the distillery in 2003 but only tried three bottlings so far.
2 x Miltonduff - With three out of four bottlings I tried scoring in the 80's it deserves further research.
3 x Old Pulteney - Another elusive 'mainstream' distillery; I'll need to sample three more expressions.
2 x Pittyvaich - Closed in 1993, three out of four bottlings scored in the 80's. Investigation required.
1 x Speyburn - So far the product of this generically named Speysider has generated mixed results.
2 x Strathisla - A rather famous name, actually. Still, I've only managed to find four expressions so far.
3 x Strathmill - The slightly less well-known neighbour of Strathisla, even more elusive it seems.
3 x Tamdhu - Apart from the widely available OB without an age statement bottles are hard to find.
3 x Tamnavulin - Mothballed in 1995 (so relatively easy to find) but with three scores below average.
3 x Teaninich - Another obscure distillery. The results so far are mixed; 70, 74 and 86 points.
2 x Tullibardine - No mixed results here; the highest scoring Tullibardine received 65 points (!).
That's 79 bottles, if I'm not mistaken - not quite as much as I expected, actually.
I suppose that should be doable before December 31 next year. Well, provided I manage to find some fresh free lance
projects or a steady job in the forseeable future, that is. I should be able to find at least half of the bottles I need at
Amsterdam's major liquorists (in fact, a single trip to Andries might suffice), giving me enough 'ammunition' for sample
swaps to acquire the remaining expressions. I imagine that finishing this phase of my mission would involve a total
'investment' of +/- 3,000 Euro's; not so insane if you look at the amounts of money I spent before my 'Big Ban' a few years ago.
So, you'll probably see fewer updates of this log in the next few weeks.
I'll be out looking for work so I can 'fuel' my ongoing research...
PS: The counter on Malt Madness stopped at 17,214 unique visitors on July 31, 23:59.
More than 17,000 visitors in one month - a new record! Let's see if we can break 20,000 this year...
> Entry 251 - August 7, 2005: Belgian Bottles
Well, it seems I have a new 'project' on my hands...
Luc Timmermans and I will both be traveling to Alsace next month and
I really want to pass a bunch of samples back to him after receiving a
lovely packet of samples from Belgium last month. However, I'm all out
of those little sample bottles, so I'll have to empty all of Luc's sample
bottles so I can re-use them for the 'return shipment' next month.
Looking over Luc's list I found five interesting samples that I was
particularly curious about. None of them are from distilleries that are
especially obscure, although Aberfeldy and Caperdonich are hardly
household names either. However, I've heard good things about the
Glenmorangie 'Artisan Cask' and a young, heavily peated Jura.
One sample came from Thomas Lipka; the Bowmore 'Dawn'.
#1) Glenmorangie NAS 'Artisan Cask' (46%, OB, 2004).
Nose: Wow! Very expressive. Fruity with vanilla and a hint of dust.
Then some glue elements - this reminds me a lot of a rye whisky!
Clean. Some peculiar sour notes in the background. Vinegar? Sorrel?
Then sweeter with honey. Not complex at first, but very pleasant.
Taste: A slick, smooth sweetness develops into a rough centre.
Short, dry finish. Again, not unlike a good rye whisky or bourbon.
I also got a hint of blueberries and 'fruits de bois' on the palate.
80 points - for me it loses quite a few points in the finish.
Well, I guess 'Artisan cask' sounds fancier than 'bourbon cask'.
Please note that all the other maniacs that tried it scored it higher.
OK, with one dram down I've got five more to go - let's get on with it....
#2) Ardmore 18yo '500 years of Scotch Whisky' (51.4%, James MacArthur, Bottled 1994).
Nose: Very rich with coffee and tobacco. Quite alcoholic, though - and it loses steam quickly.
Taste: Hey, it's peaty on the palate! Salty, meaty and smoky - like a dry smoked sausage. Great!
Sweet. There's a fruity undercurrent. What a lovely palate - it earns itself extra bonus points here.
90 points - the nose starts out great but drops off to soon. Fortunately, the palate saves the day.
#3) Aberfeldy 1975/2001 (57%, Cadenhead Bond Reserve, Sherry Hogshead, 228 Bottles).
Nose: Extremely rich. Summer fruits. Very sweet, almost like 'appelstroop' (thick apple syrup).
Taste: Distinguished. Again, very sweet and fruity in the start, but then organics and tannins join the party.
Hurray. I just love the 'chewy' feel that you get from a malt with just the right amount of tannins. Great.
Hey, wait a minute.... This tastes familiar. Let's check my notes... Yes, I think I've already tried this one.
I'm pretty sure it's the same as the 'Aberfeldy 25yo 1975 (57%, Cadenhead's)' I tried in November 2004.
Score: 92 points - two points more than I gave it in November 2004 when I tried it with Davin.
Wow - just three malts down and already two scoring in the 90's.
Luc certainly knows how to pick his samples! The remaining three are going to have a hard time topping this...
#4) Caperdonich 36yo 1967/2004 (57,9%, Douglas Laing Platinum, 167 Bottles).
The proof seems nusually high for a bottle this old - or for a Douglas Laing 'Platinum' for that matter.
Nose: Very rich and sherried at first, settling down after a few seconds. Very nice but not terribly complex.
Adding water didn't seem to work very well, but after a minute the original profile returned - but nothing more.
Taste: Fruity start, followed by a fairly mellow centre. Berries. Growing tannins (grape skins) in the finish.
Just like the nose, it doesn't seem terribly complex - and maybe just a tad too bitter in the end for me.
Score: 86 points - I had it in the very upper 80's for a while, but after a while it starts to fall apart.
After approximately five minutes the harsh woody notes had taken over the palate completely.
#5) Isle of Jura 5yo 1999/2004 (61,3%, OB, Cask #144 for The Whisky Fair 2005, Peated).
Nose: First the trademark 'Jura oil' with a hint of smoke, then a very 'veggy' sort of peat emerges.
Powerful, but it somehow feels rather superficial and not very well integrated. However, it develops.
After a few minutes everything seemed to come together with some organics and a twist of lemon.
Something vaguely metallic? This has some very endearing aspects but some weak points as well.
Taste: Smooth start, even at C/S. Grittier, then smoother and sweeter in the centre. Then peatier.
Surprisingly long, sweet and peaty finish, with a hint of liquorice. The peat keeps growing stronger.
86 points - but it needed quite some time to get there. Not quite as good as the 3yo for Japan.
OK; time for the last dram of the evening.
I've been trying to 'build the session by proof', meaning I went from the low to the high ABV's.
However, the final dram of the evening had a lower ABV than the previous one. How come? Well, that last dram was a Bowmore and if it would have any of the dreaded 'FWP' it could spoil all drams I tried afterwards. So, I put it at the end of the session and just took a break of hlf an hour to allow my palate to settle down again.
Then I was ready for...
#6) the Bowmore NAS 'Dawn' (51.5%, OB, Finished in Port Casks) that was sent by Thomas Lipka.
Nose: Coffee and strange organics. Smoke. And yes, there it is - a whiff of perfume. Potpourri.
It's not overwhelming here, though. It hardly shows any Islay traits, though. Or consistency.
Many malts show development over time, but they seem to have a 'goal. This evolves erratically.
Taste: Ooofff... Yes, there is some perfume in the start, but it quickly dissipates. Bubblegum.
Sweet. Dry. Quite hot. There's a lingering smoky sweetness that reminded me of cough syrup.
Score: 77 points - I enjoyed it but it has too many 'flaws' for me to recommend it to anybody.
Underneath the bravado of the Port Finish hides a young and rather insecure spirit, it seems.
And that's the end of my report on this session.
However, there's one more single malt I can add to my Track Record;
I tasted the Littlemill 11yo 1989/2000
(61.6%, Cadenhead's, Bourbon Hogshead, 246 Bottles) a few days ago when I met Rado Klemencic and his charming girlfriend from Slovenia for a quick dram at De Still. Rado went for a Mortlach 16yo
Flora & Fauna - good choice. As it turned out, I would have liked it better than this Littlemill, but I've only tried four
expressions so far, so the distillery is still on my 'To Do List'. The nose was fairly grainy and I didn't get the oil I got in
some other Littlemills at first. It slowly opens op, showing more 'veggy' elements. The profile didn't seem to change
much at first, but after a while some metallic notes and a whiff of peat drifted to the surface. More and more organics
appear as well - given enough time, I really started to like it. On the palate it was bitter and veggy; not really anything else.
Score: 79 points - a nice enough dram but I can't really recommend it...
And that's it for now.
With two out of seven bottlings ending up in the 90's (and not a single one below average) I think it's safe to say that this was a good session. There are now 1191
malts on my Track Record and I can strike one Littlemill from the 'To Do List'.
> Entry 252 - August 9, 2005: Google Earth
I discovered a brilliant little program a few days ago.
With Google Earth (+/- 10MB) you can fly around the world
and zoom in on any city or geographical feauture you like.
The view is based on satellite images, but you can choose
from a wide range of 'layers' to be projected on top of the
image; roads, railroads, borders, hostels, bars & restaurants,
grocery stores, pharmacies, contributions by users, etc.
Especially that last part is very exciting; if they manage to
create a 'snowball effect' like Wikipedia did, the amount of
available information will grow rapidly. At the moment most
of the detailed information concerns the USA, but there's
also quite a lot of data on western Europe, including the UK.
The screenshot at the right shows part of Islay. You can
zoom in much further than this - with some luck you may
even be able to make out Martine Nouet's house in Nerabus ;-)
All you need is a broadband connection; the Google Earth software is free.
If you try it I think you'll agree this is a real 'cyberspace' experience. I've wasted away quite a few hours already, although some of that time was actually spent useful by collecting some maps of Scotland for the Malt Map section. It will
be quite some time before that site section is updated, though - my first priority at the moment is finishing some more of the +/- 70 distillery profiles that still have to be added to the 'distillery data' section. I hope to have all 'B' distilleries
done by the end of this month and if all goes according to plan I should be able to start on the 'Glens' in December.
Meanwhile, I've managed to sample a few more samples from Luc's pleasure package.
Here are my notes on three 'slightly coastal' samples I tried last night;
#1) - Bruichladdich 1970/2001 (47,3%, OB, Valinch, Cask #5085, 250 Bottles)
This was released in celebration of the first distillation of the reopening (?) of bruichladdich.
Nose: Light and quite fruity. Some grainy elements, but the rough edges are polished off.
At first I classified it as 'good but not great', but after I tasted it things just fell into place.
Not a lot of development over time, but as an amplification of the palate it works just fine.
A hint of chloride after five minutes, but not nearly enough to mask the lovely sweetness.
Hey, wait a minute; after ten minutes I got some very faint organics. No peat, though.
Adding a few drops of water brought back the chloride, together with some metallic notes.
Taste: Surprisingly soft start, followed by an evern more surprising sweet and solid centre.
It's so soft - like freshly whipped cream that's not quite solid yet. What a lovely mouth feel!
Only at the end of the finish it breaks up a little bit, becoming grittier and a little bitter.
Adding water isn't such a good idea; it does little for the nose and breaks up the palate.
Score: 87 points
- but I had it around 90 for a long time. Time and some water drag it down.
However, I'm quite sure most members of 'the wine brigade' would go for 90 points or more.
#2) - Clynelish 28yo 1976/2004 (46%, Murray McDavid Mission IV, 600 bottles)
Nose: Hey, surprisingly peaty! No wait, it quickly becomes smokier. Very powerful in the nose.
Smoke and diesel over a fruity undercurrent. Hint of leather? Nicely polished. Peanuts? Hubba Bubba?
Don't finish your glass too quickly, though - after fifteen minutes it grows notably more complex. Nice...
Taste: Some smoke in the start. More smoke in the centre, followed by wood and fruits. Smoky finish.
Every now and then the smoke is driven into the background by brief flashes of peat. Faint liquorice.
90 points - one of the most potent Clynelishes I've tried so far. A real smoke monster.
Bonus points for character. In a blind test I would probably guessed this was an old Glen Garioch.
Make sure to sniff your empty glass - that's quite a treat as well.
#3) - Clynelish 32yo 1971/2002 (54.2%, Premier Malts, Cask #2704)
Nose: Sweet, soft and polished with some spices in the background. Attick of a grain warehouse.
The start was very promising, but it drops dead very quickly. It makes a coastal comeback after a while.
Taste: Again, soft and sweet. Solid centre; excellent mouth feel. Not a lot of character, though.
Something vagualy 'coastal' as well - quite subtle. Woody. It loses a few points in the gritty, bitter finish.
Score: 83 points
- good, but this is the type of 'natural' malt that I can't get very excited about.
Maybe it suffered a bit from the 'shadow' of that wonderful 28yo Murray McDavid Mission bottling.
Hey, wait a minute.... Checking my notes I discovered that I already tried another 'Cask #2704'.
That was the Clynelish 32yo 1971 (55,5%, JW Auld Distillers Collection, Cask #2704, 102 Bottles) that I tried in Italy last year with the other maniacs. And here's the odd thing; the tasting notes I made on that bottle suggest it could have
been an entirely different cask - all the more so because the ABV is different as well. Looking at the matrix, the maniacs
that tried it gave them different scores as well. So, this could be a case of 'mislabeling' or something even more fishy...
Just to be on the safe side, I removed these two bottlings from my Track Record and the matrix.
> Entry 253 - August 14, 2005: 'B' Profiles
I'm happy to report that I've finally finished the 'B'
segment of the distillery profiles in the 'DD' section.
Here's an overview of all the 'B' profiles;
After finishing the Bunny profile I felt victorious for at least five seconds.
Then a sobering epiphany hit me. With most of the distillery alphabet still uncharted, I'm starting to realise that the distillery where a single malt was bottled isn't always the best indication for the quality of the malt in question.
Especially after two decades or more the type and quality of the cask often becomes more important than the distillery
where a malt was born. Thinking a little further along these lines, the real issue here is cask selection - either at the
'starting point' where the casks were bought and filled or at 'the end' where somebody decides which casks should be
bottled; either as a single cask single malt or as part of a vatting or blend. The cask selection that occurred at the
beginning of the maturation process is more or less a given and could be condidered part of the 'distillery' influence.
However, at some point a casks is released and the bottled whisky finds its way towards unsuspecting consumers like you and me. And that's where things get tricky...
First of all, there's the 'official' path of casks owned by the distilleries and their parent companies.
They can either use a cask for one of their own blends or vatted malts, use it together with other casks for one of their
own 'standard' single malts or release it as a single cask bottling. Since these decisions are made by (employees of) the
current owners of the distillery, all this can still be considered part of the 'distillery' influence.
But many casks are sold to blenders, brokers or independent bottlers - and that's a different story.
I won't go into blends right now (although this reminds me the Deviant Drams section desperately needs an update) and vatted malts aren't that interesting from a 'research' perspective. That leaves the independent bottlers. I've written
two E-pistles on the topic for Malt Maniacs #6 (titled Independents Day I and Independents Day II - clever, huh?) but by
now the information is hopelessly outdated. For one thing, my malt mileage has doubled since then. Since the spring of 2003 I've encountered many previously unknown independent bottlers like Adelphi and Duncan Taylor - and learned
much more about some bottlers I already knew. I definitely should add some 'Bottler Profiles' with up-o-date information to the site.
However, after reconstructing the site for the umpteenth time a few months ago and finally finding a more or less logical
structure (as far as its possible to organise 'madness' in a logical fashion) I'm hard pressed to find a suitable spot for these bottler profiles. Should I build a brand new site section or add them to chapter 6 of the Beginner's Guide about bottling? Or maybe I should write a series of E-pistles for Malt Maniacs dedicated to specific bottlers? Or maybe the mAlmanac could be expanded with a new section about independent bottlers? Well, I'll have myself a long hard think
about that in the next few days. First things first, though - after I've finished my report on a recent session in Haarlem I
really should wrap up MM#15 and my Feis Ile 2005 reports. I've already received a few interesting E-pistles for the next issue of our E-zine, scheduled for September 1.
> Entry 254 - August 15, 2005: Haarlem Session
I feel like I'm suffering from 'foot-in-mouth disease'...
When oh when will I learn to keep my big mouth shut?
Just a few entries ago I crossed Banff from my To Do
List because my experiences with the two versions I
tried (75 and 76 points) hadn't really convinced me.
So, I branded Banff 'too rare to investigate further'.
Sure enough, I received a message from Michel van
Meersbergen shortly afterwards that there were no
less than two bottles of Banff in his malt collection,
as well as some other single malts on my 'To Do List'.
Michel invited me to Haarlem for a little session and
you'll understand that I was most happy to oblige.
So, last week I jumped on the train to Haarlem.
Haarlem is just 15 minutes by train from Amsterdam's Central Station.
It is a lovely old town and the city centre a relative oasis of rest compared to Amsterdam in the summer. The train station from 1905 is quite a sight for sore eyes as well - it's the only remaining station in Holland buit in the 'Art
Nouveau' style. As soon as you exit the station you'll find yourself in a rather ghastly part of Haarlem with architecture
that hurts your eyes, but as you make your way to the 'Grote Markt' with the gothic Sint Bavo church from 1520 things
improve considerably. Michel and his charming girlfriend Christel live in a monumental building in the city centre that
dates back to 1684. They are currently renovating the place but it's easy to imagine what a brilliant home it will be when
it's finished; all the lovely period details like the stained glass windows and the huge carved doors give the place a very special atmosphere.
OK, enough about the scenery - on to the malts.
We started with a Green Spot NAS (40%, Irish Whiskey) that I already tried in September 2004 at the Cadenhead's
store in Amsterdam. I gave it 74 points at the time, but Michel felt it deserved a higher score and wanted me to try it again. The nose started with rice crackers and a hint of oil. It becomes richer than most Irish whiskeys I know. Tea. Yeah, this is quite complex. On the palate I got rice crackers as well, but it grows quite bitter, keeping it at 79 points and out
of the 80's. Still, that's a full 'class' up from a 'below average' 74 points (which is actually 'above average' for an Irish
whiskey) to a score that can be translated as 'well above average; falls just short of recommendable'. I'm quite sure the
fact that I tried it from a big balloon glass this time helped me find more to love this time - the small 'Glencairn' type
glasses at the Cadenhead's store may be fine for cask strength malts, but for a whisky at 40% I really need a balloon glass - my 'nasal prosthetic', if it were.
After I had to agree with Michel that I underscored the Green Spot it was time to pour him a blind.
Apart from a dozen disclosed samples Michel could try later I brough an extra blind and it was strangely appropriate after the Green Spot. I enjoyed seeing Michel struggle and guess his way through the
Connemara NAS Cask Strength (60%, Ireland, Bottled +/- 2004). I think this whiskey sometimes gets underscored because people tend to think it's
'just' an Irish whiskey. Christel amazed me by very quickly identifying this as an Irish whiskey when Michel handed her
the glass for a moment - I had to work very hard to keep a straight face so I wouldn't make Michel any wiser. I gave this
recent version in the bulky bottle 82 points and after trying it blind Michel even went for 84 points...
Time for a quick 'powermunch' on Begian fries (our preferred 'stomach bottom' before a session) before we proceeded with the 'obscure' stuff, starting with the Littlemill 13yo 1990/2004
(43%, Signatory, Casks #2977 & 2778). The nose was oily and grassy. Endive. Cod oil. Grainy with some faint spices. More organics with time. It was smooth on the palate
and didn't show a lot of 'definition'. Flat and rather unimaginative, hence my score of 64 points - below par for a single
malt. Here's another example that suggests that these days Signatory Vintage bottles its casks without even sampling
them. Despite the 64 points I finished my glass in high spirits; with this 6th Littlemill under my belt I could cross it from
my 'To Do List'. I won't be hunting down any more bottles; many expressions have an oily character I'm not crazy about.
Next: the MacDuff 1988/2002 (40%, Connoisseurs Choice).
I've already met my quotum as far as this distillery goes (I've sampled five independent MacDuffs and two official
bottlings under the name 'Glen Deveron') but I won't pass up this opportunity to learn a little more about the distillery.
The nose was very sweet and reminded me of Southern Comfort liqueur. Minerals and a hint of peat. Quite expressive to
begin with and over time it opens up even further when organics join the party. A very complex nose worthy of a score
in the 80's. Unfortunately, it was not nearly as impressive on the palate; dry and boring with a hint of beer in the finish. In spite of the lovable nose I couldn't go any higher than an overall 77 points
- with a palate like this I can't really recommend it.
The Teaninich 1983/2003 (46%, Connoisseurs Choice) was an unusual bottling; these CC bottlings from Gordon &
MacPhail used to be all bottled at an uniform 40%, but here they chose for an ABV of 46%. The nose starts off with
sherry and organics. Balsamico salad dressing. A deep sweetness with some faint smoke. Smoked sausage and shoe
polish. A very impressive nose that's worthy of a score well into the 80's. Unfortunately, the palate didn't match the nose
. No sweetness whatsoever. A hint of peat? Old dried chives. Dry and bitter, pulling the score down to 77 points - quite
a disappointment after the impressive nose. The good news is that there are only two more bottles of Teaninich left to
go; I've now tried four different expressions. Three ended up in the 70's, only a 21yo Cadenhead bottling from 1983 reached the upper 80's.
The Speyburn 10yo 1990/2000 (50%, DL OMC, Distilled 01/1990, Bottled 07/2000, 450 Btl.) was another excellent
choice from Michel, I've tried five expressions so far (two scoring in the 60's, two in the 70's and one in the 80's), so
after this 10yo from Douglas Laing I can cross Speyburn off my list as well. The nose was fresh and spunky. light with a
touch of eucalyptus. Hint of peat? Salmiak. Sulphur. Just a little oil, perhaps? Nectar later on - like honeysuckle. Lots of
development, ending on a very pleasant 'organic' note. Another 80's nose. And once again it didn't quite come through
on the palate, although it definitely felt better than the two CC bottlings we tried before this one. Smooth, sweet and
solid with hint a hint of yellow plums. Not special enough to reach the 80's, but it gets very nearly there with 79 points -
not bad at all considering this is a relatively young bottling - e very nice summer malt, I'd say.
So, with four brand new malts under my belt my malt mileage was now 1198 exactly.
Time for the highlight of the session; two different bottlings of Banff. I recently called Banff 'too rare for its own good',
but Michel (a Banff fan himself) told me he met a German collector at the Limburg Festival that only collected Banffs. I
would imagine a collector of Banff would be finished collecting rather quickly, but according to Michel that's not the case.
We started with the Banff 24yo 1977/2002 (50%, Silver Seal, Distilled 12/1977, Bottled 01/2002).
Nose: Rubber. Bittersweet like orange zest, growing sweeter. A tad coastal. Organics. Maggi. Ginger.
Taste: Sweet. Liquorice. Fruity. Lovely tannins. Again, this one makes a slightly 'coastal' impression.
Great mouth feel, but there's a slight drop-off towards the finish, keeping it from a score in the 90's.
Score: 87 points - which should teach me to keep my big mouth shut... A lovely dram.
The Banff 36yo 1966/2003 (50.2%, Jack Wiebers Premier Malts, Cask #3440) was my 1200th dram.
Hurray! And as luck would have it, it turned out to be the best malt in today's flight as well. Excellent.
Nose: Sweet and sherried. Big and rich. Organics, cedar wood and smoke. A classic sherry monster.
Taste: Big, sweet and sherried as well. Some sulphur, but it works here. A super sherry monster.
Score: 89 points - I had it at 90 during most of the time, but it's just a tad too one-dimensional.
After my 1200th malt it was time to relax a little with a 'sister' of the Connemara Michel tried earlier.
The Cooley 12yo 'Peated'
(60%, Cadenhead's World Whiskies, Bourbon Barrel, April 2004, 234 Bottles) was surprisingly medicinal in the nose. Meaty with loads of lovely organics. This beats the 'official' Connemara in the nose, but then again
I assume the official bottling is a little younger than this Cadenhead's bottling. It was peaty on the palate, and a little
bit medicinal as well. Hot. Actually, it feels hotter than the OB, even though that's bottled at 60% ABV as well. I tried it
last year at the Cadenhead's store from a small glass and gave it 80 provisional points then. However, upon closer inspection I like this even better than the OB, so I went with a final score of 84 points
- as recommendable as they come.
We finished the session with a Tomintoul 'Ballantruan' 2001/2005 (62.1%, MacKillop's Choice, Distilled 17/12/2001,
Bottled June 2005, Cask #14339) that seemed like a 'bastard malt' at first because the name 'Ballantruan' stands out on
the label. However, the small print on the label identifies it as a Tomintoul, so it counts for my Track Record. The nose
was very grainy; hardly a surprise at such a tender age. Peat. Werthers Echte. Organics. Unfortunately, some 'grappa'
notes emerge as well. The nose isn't bad at all, but it was too immature and grappa-ish on the palate. It tastes very young and unrefined but thanks to some surprisingly mature complexity in the nose it still got
65 points - not to shabby...
By now the session came to a rather abrupt end because I had to hurry back to the train station to catch the midnight
train to Amsterdam. Ah, Haarlem's 'Art Nouveau' station looked even more picturesque through my slightly blurry eyes
after over half a dozen drams. So, that was a very useful session - not to mention an enjoyable one. As far as Banff is
concerned I've made no progress for the To Do List (I already crossed it from the list recently, which doesn't mean I
wasn't very happy that I could try some, mind you!), but after my sixth Littlemill and Speyburn tonight I could cross these
two distilleries off my list. I also made some progress with Teaninich; only two more expressions to go.
And that's all I have to report on for now.
> Entry 255 - August 21, 2005: Eye Candy
I'm not a frequent visitor of museums and galeries, but when I
heard there was an exhibition on the work of Dutch graphic artist
Maurits Cornelis Escher (1898-1972) in Amsterdam I couldn't help
myself. I've always been a huge fan of Escher's work - both the
so-called 'impossible structures' that he's famous for as well as his
earlier work like 'Hand with Reflecting Sphere' (1935) at the right.
One of the things that keeps amazing me about Escher's work is
the sheer variety; from realistic, almost 'photographic' drawings
and woodcut prints (just look at the detail in the hand at the right)
to the truly fantastic and almost bizarre work of his later years.
I've always been drawn to surrealist artists like René Magritte and
Salvador Dali for the combination of fantasy and humour that can
be found in many of their works. For me, Escher is up there with
these more famous contemporaries, even though Escher thought
of himself as a craftsman rather than an artist.
You can find some Escher material on www.mcescher.com.
The picture gallery on the site shows much of Escher's work.
Some of my personal favourites are 'Ascending & Descending',
'Castrovalva', 'Reptiles', 'Relativity' and 'Drawing Hands'.
Anyway, when I returned from the exhibition I felt inspired.
That's always a good excuse for dramming. I rummaged through
Luc's box of samples and found four 'glens' to fuel my creativity;
two Glengoynes and two Glen Garioch's. Here are my notes;
#1) - Glengoyne 8yo (43%, OB, Bottled 1973)
Nose: Very sherried; completely different from the cleaner, lighter profile of the 1990's bottlings.
Polished with a distant hint of soap. Opens up into a sweeter, fruitier direction. Cassis? Quite lovely.
After +/- 10 minutes it grew a tad more serious with faint peat and smoke. And then peaches emerge.
Shortly afterwards the nose started to move into a less pleaseant, piny direction. Resin. Some mint?
Taste: Peachy! I don't often get such specific fruits on the palate; this is remarkably well defined.
Fruity burn. Quite hot at 43%. Very pleasant, although it grows grittier and bitter towards the finish.
Score: 84 points - a very pleasant dram, but not quite complex enough for the upper 80's.
#2) - Glengoyne 31yo 1972/2003 (56%, OB, Cask #2970, 510 Bottles)
Nose: Sweet, rich and sherried - my kind of profile. Quickly some organics emerge. Mint sweets?
Not as fruity as the old 8yo bottle. Rosemary? Coffee? The burnt crust of a freshly baked bread.
It takes around fifteen minutes for some fruity notes to emerge. Improving balance over time.
Taste: Fruity with a burnt, smoky undercurrent. Solid. Nice tannins developing into the finish.
Over time the smoky finish grows a little too bitter for my tastes, like 'Buysman' burnt caramel.
With some sweetness to balance the smoke and tannins it might have made it into the 90's.
Score: 89 points - highly recommendable, even though there's little distillery character left.
#3) - Glen Garioch 1966/1997 (43%, Samaroli, Casks #1309 & 1299, 420 Bottles)
Nose: Soft start. Faintly smoky, but apart from that not very expressive. Hint of mint?
Taste: Whoah! Dusty and soapy in the start. Teeters on the brink of 'FWP' for me at first.
It quickly grows smokier and very, very dry. It feels quite flat and superficial at first.
Hey, wait, now it turns into a much more entertaining 'medicinal' direction. That's better....
Score: 77 points - a far cry from some of the other old Glen Gariochs I've tried.
#4) - Glen Garioch 36yo 1967/2003 (55.5%, Douglas Laing Platinum)
Nose: Intriguing nose at first; hard to define. Opens up with smoke, fruits and furniture polish.
Taste: Big and fruity, followed by a fabulous smoky explosion in the centre, followed by hops.
Returns to fruits and smoke towards the long finish. What a magnificent mouth feel! Amazing!
I was very hesitant to add water but as it turned out the palate kept going strong.
Score: 91 points - one of the few malts to reach the 90's maily on the palate.
Merci bien, Luc! Once again one of your samples reached the top of my Hit List.
And that's it for this report - I desperately need to wrap up my Feis Ile reports for MM#15 now.
> Entry 256 - September 1, 2005: Glenfar Class
Hurray! I finally finished the Final Feis Ile 2005 report for Malt Maniacs and the
first articles of Malt Maniacs #16 are on-line. And that's not all; I've done some
much needed work on the Track Record (I've split it into two different pages)
and the mAlmanac. I still need to do some work on the new, leaner and meaner
Bang-For-Your-Buck List bit the Hit List, Shit List and Stock List are done.
And that's not all the good news...
Just a few days ago I've signed a contract for a job as marketing manager
at a small Dutch IT company. I loved the freedom that freelancing provided
me, but I most certainly didn't love the financial insecurity that comes with it.
The good news is that my ongoing cashflow crisis has come to an end and as
soon as I've received my first paycheck I'll splash out and buy myself some
fresh bottles. That's probably the best time to open some bottles from my
reserve stock as well. For tonight I've selected some 'celebratory material'
from the package that 'Mr. Glenfarclas' Luc Timmermans sent me a while ago.
There were some Ardbegs and Brora's in the package, but today is too hot for those now.
So, I selected five different samples of Glenfarclas. I've always found it difficult to identify bottlings of Glenfarclas in a blind test. Most of their bottlings are quite sherried, but (with the exception of some special releases) not so much that you can easily put them in the 'sherry monster' corner together with Aberlour and the 'old school' Macallans. If I study
these five samples closely I might be able to identify some 'markers' that will help me identify Glenfarclas in the future.
So, this is a 'determination class' - but I'll be studying drams instead of dead frogs...
#1) Glenfarclas 5yo (40%, OB, Frattina Import, Bottled +/- 1975)
Nose: Light and fairly grainy with a hint of liquorice in the back of the nose. Quite sweet.
It opens up quickly, expanding on the first impression but never really changing direction.
The faintest hint of 'antiquity' - but not quite enough to add the required 'depth' I'm looking for.
Taste: Sweet and malty mouth feel. Gooseberry? It has a slightly fruity finish - which is unusual
Feels good on the palate. This young Glenfarclas is not especially complex, but very pleasant indeed.
80 points - over time it grows special enough for me to actively recommend it.
Keep in mind this is a 5yo malt - not many 'modern' 5yo's could stand up to it.
#2) Glenfarclas 10yo 1994/2004 (46%, OB, Oloroso, 300 bottles, Dist. Feb. 1994, Bot. Oct 2004)
Nose: Blammo! A sherry whopper right in your face. Lovely! Fruits, mint and polished oak.
Big and sweet. Some smoke. Just my kind of profile - although there isn't a lot of development.
Taste: Coffee. Surprisingly bitter start. Buysman. A tad herbal like some cough syrups. Smoke.
This doesn't have much sweetness. Dry. It tastes a bit like burnt fruits, if that makes any sense.
It takes at least fifteen minutes for some sweetness to emerge - bittersweet like Southern Comfort.
84 points - it lacks some development and the sweetness to balance the woody finish.
Lots of personality. I never thought I'd say this, but this is almost too extreme, even for my tastes.
#3) Glenfarclas 25yo (43%, OB, Frattina Import, Bottled +/- 1979)
Nose: Organics. Antiquity - I definitely would have identified this as an 'antique' bottle in a blind test.
This profile is hard to describe; it's something inbetween herbal, spicy and organics, a bit like sellery.
A distant pinch of salt, perhaps? Rice crackers? Nutty. A tad buttery - on the safe side of oily. Lovely.
Dentist. It's not the most complex malt I ever tried, but it's almost perfect within the limits of the profile.
And it isn't the most expressive malt either - but once again the balance is just about perfect here.
Oh boy! After +/- half an hour a soft but distinct hint of peat joins the party. I'm having so much fun!
Taste: The taste matches the nose before developing into a magnificent sweet and smooth centre.
A soft start, but then it blossoms into perfection. Subtle fruits in the background. Coffee. Wow!!!
Great tannins. There's a bitter tone as well, but here it doesn't disturb me; it's part of the picture.
95 points - a brilliant 'classic' nose that shows off its age combined with a nearly perfect palate.
This Glenfarclas has the strength to make it into my Islay dominated Top 10.
#4) Glenfarclas 38yo 1966/2004 'Nectar of the Gods' (42,3%, WMag, Cask #6461, 84 Bottles)
Nose: Sweet and fruity - erm... Fruit sweets. Lemon candy. A lovely 'fat' sweetness. Hint of smoke?
Taste: Fruity as well, but it feels just a tad 'thinner' than I expected. Firms up in the centre. Nougat.
This has a wonderful sweetness that lingers in the glass for hours after you finished it. Great stuff.
Score: 92 points - nectar of the gods indeed; this is one of the sweetest malts I ever tasted.
Perhaps they should have called it 'Candy of the Gods'... Fabulous for those with a sweet tooth.
#5) Glenfarclas 1959/2002 (46%, OB, Historic Reserve #1, 240 Bottles)
Nose: Oak & sherry. Faint coffee beans. Slowly sweetening out, but not like the 'nectar' bottling.
After circa ten minutes maggi and some oriental spices emerge. It remains quite subtle, though.
Perfume? There's plenty to enjoy on the surface, but 'below' that are the real treats.
Your nose has to 'dig' a little, but if you make the effort there are great treasures to be found,
Taste: Sweet start that slowly expands on the fruity side. Lovely tannins towards the finish.
A hint of smoke, but the dominant impression remains: fruit. Woody finish, a tad too much so.
Score: 91 points - an exquisite malt; just a tad less individuality than the previous two.
So, what have we learned in this 'Glenfar Class'?
Not much I'm afraid. The recurring elements seem to be 'sweet' and 'fruity'. These elements are not always as obvious in
the very old bottlings, whether they matured mostly in wood or in glass. In these cases other aromas and flavours take
centre stage. It seems the sweet and fruity 'markers' are mostly present in the relatively younger bottlings. That's hardly
surprising; it actually confirms my theory that as a whisky matures longer (in the cask, but to some extent in the bottle
as well), the original distillery character of the spirit takes a back seat to the influence of wood (and sometimes glass).
That being said, my perspective of Glenfarclas has changed a little.
During the 1990's the official bottlings of Glenfarclas I tried didn't strike me as especially sherried.
But those were the days that the Glendronach 15yo '100% Sherry' and 'old school' Macallans were still available. Maybe
it is time to redefine the borders of 'heavily sherried' to include Glenfarclas? Of course, most of the standard OB's are
vattings that include a certain percentage of sherry casks; as such, they'll never become the 'sherry monsters' that are
sometimes released as single cask bottlings. But those are the extremes of the spectrum; if you're looking for affordable
sherried malts that you can keep replacing as soon as the bottle is empty, it seems Aberlour and Glenfarclas are your drams.
PS: The MM counter registred 20,486 unique visitors to Malt Madness in August. Hurray!
> Entry 257 - September 5, 2005: Three Grains
I'm sometimes accused of being short-sighted - and not just by my optician.
Well, I have to admit there might be some truth to some of those accusations...
For many years I've been preaching the gospel of malts, mostly ignoring 'common' blends and
single grain whiskies in the process. Fortunately, some people at independent bottler Duncan
Taylor were confident that some of their single grains could 'make the grade' as well, so they
sent me a couple of samples of their latest releases. Obviously, that's greatly appreciated!
#1) Cameronbridge 1979/2005 (59.9%, Duncan Taylor, DTC-5/013, Bottled 8/3/05)
Nose: Smells like a very old, light rum at first. Molasses and coconut. Lovely sweetness.
A beautiful profile. Not a lot of complexity or development, though. Hint of smoke? Thai food?
Ten drops of water brought a nuttier side to the foreground. Then some faint otiental spices.
Taste: Very sweet start, followed by a beautiful bold and fruity centre. Liquorice all sorts.
It drops down for just a moment after +/- 15 seconds but makes a short comeback again.
Score: 84 points
- recommendable, but not as well composed as some old DT Invergordons.
#2) North British 1978/2005 (55.1%, Duncan Taylor, DTC-5/015, Bottled 6/4/05)
Nose: Again, it reminded me a bit of an old rum - Jamaican? Smooth and sweet. Hint of dust.
Once again I like the profile, but there's little development over time to keep me interested.
After adding some water it grew a little nuttier, just like the Cameronbridge.
Taste: Sweet, soft start. A big, round sweetness fills your mouth. A tad dry in the finish.
In many malts the sweetness is a 'bonus' on top of certain specific fruity or vanilla notes.
Here the sweetness stands on its own. And it keeps standing on its own; no development.
Score: 77 points - a very decent whisky, but not quite as special as the Cameronbridge.
#3) Port Dundas 1973/2005 (59.3%, Duncan Taylor, DTC-5/0044-45, Bottled 6/4/05)
Nose: Wow! Just like the colour suggests, this has more character than the other two.
Woody and sherried notes. Coffee and roasted nuts. Organics. Not very 'specific, but
Not as rum-like as the other two, but if it were it most resembles a rich, dark Demarara.
Wait - after fifteen minutes it had grown even more complex. Lard. Sorrel. Oriental spices.
Taste: Oy... There's a hint of soap in the start. Once you get past that, it's really lovely.
Rich and sweet with a decent burn. Raspberries? Roasted coffee beans. Some nice tannins.
Score: 89 points - hightly recommendable! This one really earned a few more points with time.
Ah, the name Port Dundas always cracks me up... In the dialect of the part of Holland where I'm from ('De Veluwe') the word 'dundas' means something like 'slick badger - an unrealiable, shifty
character'. But there three single grain whiskies are anything but unreliable... In fact, each of them scored above the 75
'average' score for single malts. Granted, they are a little bit older that the average malt I've tried, but that just proves
my theory about the influence of the wood becoming more important to the end result as time goes by. I imagine you
can't generalise to much, but I suppose that after two decades we can definitely say that the wood takes over control.
I imagine the North British has the most 'typical' grain whisky profile with the least wood influence. Even though the cask
obviously wasn't very active anymore, it still managed to take away the 'rough edges' I disliked so much in the younger
grain whiskies like the 'Blackbarrel'. The other two are recommendable and (if it had been up to me) would have won a
medal had they been submitted to the Malt Maniacs Awards - bronze for the Cameronbridge and silver for the Port Dundas.
And that's it for this report - I've got a 9-5 job again and I need to prepare for a meeting.
More about Duncan Taylor's 'Big Smoke' bottlings soon.
> Entry 258 - September 9, 2005: Eye Candy
Scottisch maniac Charlie pointed me towards a great section on the
website of the Scotch Malt Whisky Society. Check out the '26 Malts'
project for some serious 'eye candy' as well as a few good laughs.
I quote from their site; 'These 26 labels are from 26 unique Society
bottlings and the result of 26 Malts, a creative partnership between
the Scotch Malt Whisky Society and 26
, a national organisation that
champions the imaginative use of language in business.'
The SMWS website explains further; 'The project paired 26 writers
with 26 designers to create the unique identities and labels for 26
Society malts. 26 Malts illustrates the power of words and images
working creatively together, and maintains the long association of
whisky with literature and language.' There's an exhibition of the
labels at 19 Grenville Street in London until October 1st.
I think I would drop by if I lived in the area, but as it is the SMWS
site offers a pretty good alternative, showing the labels in glorious
detail. Make sure to check it out.
Some personal favourits include cask 3.105 ('Anticipation', a Bowmore),
cask 77.11 (very basic and colourful, Glen Ord), cask 53.92 (cheap
industrial cooking whisky as shown at the right, Caol Ila), cask 41.34
(a 'classic' poster design, Dailuaine), cask 37.26 (Emerald Straw,
Cragganmore), cask 55.15 ('the chattering glass', Royal Brackla),
cask 3.110 (Whit Yoos Want, another Bowmore with tasting notes
courtesy of our own Charlie), cask 26.42 (one more inspired by the
classics, contains Clynelish), and cask 45.16 (a naughty label for a
Dallas Dhu that might have suited Bowmore better...
And the good news is that these bottles are actually for sale.
I imagine they could become quite collectible over time - if you're
into that sort of thing, that is...
While I was reading the fine print on the 'Whit Yoos Want' label for
a SMWS Bowmore I noticed something interesting in Charlie's notes.
Some of the impressions were 'cottage kitchen', 'very soapy hot water',
'artificial air freshener' and 'spirituous cleaning fluid'. Hmmm, Interesting...
Some of these phrases sound very familiar after Dave's Lavender Lament E-pistle and the 'Ask an Anorak' E-pistles that followed. Could it be that 'FWP' (or something in the same corner of the spectrum) surfaces in independent bottlings as
well? If so, it seems the people at the distillery or at Suntory HQ aren't the only ones to 'blame'.
Anyway... While I'm at it I might as well share a few loose notes I couldn't put anywhere else.
I had the opportunity to taste a bunch of recent batches from Glenfiddich. If you're a faithful reader of this log you'll
know that I'm hardly the world's biggest Glenfiddich fan but I've already found out that bottlings from the 70's and 80's
can be very good and now it seems that recent bottlings are improving as well. Maybe Big Fiddich was in a bit of a slump in the 90's?
Glenfiddich 12yo 'Special Reserve' (40%, OB, Bottled +/- 2005)
Nose: Light, sweet & malty. Grainy. Not a lot going on. A decent malt that almost makes it to 'average'.
Taste: A tad watery. Uneven. Faint hint of liquorice? Dry & 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. Tea? Not very expressive. Bad nose day today?
Taste: Very light. Smooth. Soft. Fruity. Uneven. Feels a tad rough in the centre. Winey finish. Dry aftertaste.
Score: 71 points - I wouldn't put this one above average - it seems to lack cohesion and power.
Glenfiddich 15yo 'Solera Reserve' (40%, OB)
Nose: Malty, grainy & spicy. That's about all there is to tell. A decent malt that lacks some personality.
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.
Taste: Watery. Some tannins. Grows very dry in the finish. Not bad at all, but right now nothing stands out.
Score: 78 points
- but it only reached the upper 70's after I'd given it plenty of time. This one takes time.
Seems a tad richer in the nose after some breathing. Pine on the palate? Feels a bit bourbony as well.
Glenfiddich 30yo (40%, OB, Bottled +/- 2005)
Nose: Polished. Sweet with a good dose of sherry. Some spices. Roasted pig. Quite subtle but lovely.
Taste: Sweet and fruity. Lovely tannins. Drying out towards the finish. This is just so utterly drinkable.
Score: 84 points
- but it almost smells like upper 80's material. A great nose but it 'feels' a tad weak.
Wow... even the two 12yo's made it into the 70's this time - a notable improvement.
And the 30yo was a real surprise; if it had been bottled at 43% or 46% it might have made the upper 80's. So, it looks
like Glenfiddich is starting to become interesting to 'connoisseurs' again by bucking the trend; while the product of quite
a few distilleries has been slipping over the last decade (arguably the result of much more bourbon casks being used
these days) Glenfiddich has shown considerable improvement. Or is it just that I'm starting to appreciate subtlety more?
Well, that's something I'll think about next year when I'm a little older and wiser...
> Entry 259 - September 21, 2005: Alsace
Aaaaah... I've just returned from Alsace, France.
I've spent some of my time there 'productively'
shooting pictures of the vinyards for a client, but that
wasn't the only excuse to visit France again this year.
During the past two years Serge (and his offspring)
had taken care of the logistics for the MM Awards but
when the list of sponsors grew longer and longer he
started to panic - and rightly so.
Can you imagine how much work is involved in pouring
the contents of well over a hundred big bottles that
were sent by our sponsors into twelve 60ml sample
bottles each, stick numbered labels on them, wrap
them and finally pack them in protective boxes and
send them off to the various corners of the world?
Do you have a mental picture? Well, double that and
you'll start to get an idea... So, this year a few other
maniacs responded to Serge's plea for help.
Davin flew in from Canada while I joined Luc in Antwerp, Belgium to make the rest of the trip to France together.
Surprisingly enough, Serge doesn't have a forklift - although he DOES own a bicycle.
You'll understand that that was little use to us transporting all the bottles that were submitted. Fortunately, Olivier does have his own forklift at Domaine Zind Humbrecht (not to mention a bottling hall), so that was the location for this year's
MM Awards filling party. The picture above shows the filling team (Olivier, Luc, Serge and Davin in the picture, yours truly
not in the picture because... erm... I was very busy trying to take a picture of four maniacs going out of their mind with
excitement. The 'work' itself took a little over a day (although when I write this a few bottles were still 'en route' to Serge), and was made much more enjoyable because we regularly took a break to do some dramming.
Before I tell you a few words about the fantabulous drams we tried during the weekend, I'd like to stress that Olivier,
Luc, Davin and myself had as little contact as possible with the bottles that were sent in by our sponsors to keep the
competition as 'blind' as possible for as much maniacs as possible. However, it's unavoidable that one maniac had to
know which whisky was in which bottle - otherwise we wouldn't know which malts actually won at the end ;-) Since
Serge had already taken care of most of the invitations and logistics, it made sense that he did al the numbering and
labeling of the sample bottles. And don't worry - he made very sure that nobody peaked at his notes...
So, here are the tasting notes I've made during our Alsatian adventures.
I won't give away too many of the details - Davin will write a full report for Malt Maniacs.
As you can see from the notes below the 'obscure' team of Davin & myself was outnumbered by the 'quality' team of
Serge, Olivier and Luc this weekend . Nevertheless we snuck some obscure stuff into the schedule, like a Glen Spey, a
Glen Albyn and a Banff. But for me, the dramming already started in Antwerp, Belgium where Luc poured me two lovely
drams from his shelves. Even though I was having a pretty bad nose day (or at least morning), they made quite an impression;
Glenlivet 19yo (80 Proof, Cadenhead's Black Label, 26 2/3 Flozs, Bottled 1970's)
Nose: Antiquity. Sweetness. Sellery. Maggi. Organics. Whiff of citrus. A classic example of 'antiquity'.
Taste: Big and sweet. Hint of smoke in the background. Smooth. Just a pinch of peat.
Score: 86 points
- one of the best examples of 'antiquity' I found so far.
Glen Garioch 1957/1977 (80 Proof, Cadenhead's Black Label, 26 2/3 Flozs.)
Nose: Peat. Faint bakery aroma's in the background. Bad nose day, so I couldn't pick up much.
Taste: Sweet start, followed by a peaty burn. Serious and slightly medicinal. Feels great.
Score: 84 points - but it's a fairly 'conservative' score. Might do better on a good nose day.
Next, it was off to Strassbourg to pick up Davin at the airport.
For those of you unfamiliar with the precise geography of Europe and the state of the Belgian roads: that's about six
hours by Mercedes. When we were some five minutes away from the airport we received a phone call that Davin's flight
had been canceled and he would be delayed for at least four hours. Bugger... Well, there was little sense waiting
around at the airport until we would know when Davin would arrive, so we pressed on to Alsace where we arrived just
in time for dinner. Well, first we had to drop our bags at the French 'dependance' of the Norman Bates Motel, but I'll
leave it to Davin to spoil you with the details of the odd little B&B we stayed at during the weekend. While we waited for
Davin we enjoyed some pizza's in the local Italian restaurant. If I remember correctly we hung around at Serge's place
until Davin arrived in Colmar by train, after which we proceeded to Olivier's whisky cellar - a playroom dedicated to whisky - and mostly Highland Park.
We sampled these five whiskies before Davin, Luc and I had to retire to the B&B;
Glen Gordon 15yo (40%, G&M, 75cl, 'Bastard Malt', Bottled Mid 1980's)
Nose: Sweet and fruity with a hint of antiquity. Beeswax. Faint hint of oil. Lots of depth. Quite lovely.
Taste: Dry. Tannins. Quite bitter and astringent in the finish, losing quite a few points. That's too bad.
Score: 77 points - it might have made it to the 80's on the nose alone. Let down by the palate.
Ambassador 25yo (43%, Pedro Domecq, Taylor & Fergusson, Bottled 1970's)
Nose: Antiquity. Fruits. Givenchy. Organics. Wet hay. Sellery. Maggi. Hint of peat?
Taste: Fruits and tannins. A little herbal. Again a hint of peat? Impressive.
Score: 84 points - one of the best blends I've tried so far.
Old Mull NAS (40%, John Hopkins & Co, Essivi Import, Bottled 1960's, 75cl)
Nose: Antiquity. Ripe or even dried apples. Furniture polish. Faint hint of caramac.
Taste: Pinch of peat. Tannins. Harsh. Very dry in the finish.
Score: 75 points - not bad at all for a blend.
John Scott's 35yo Superior Blended' (43%, Duncan Taylor, 675 Bottles)
Nose: Sherry. Fruity. Hint of smoke. Dark chocolate.
Taste: Smoky. Medicinal. Heavy sherry. Salty. Extremely dry.
Score: 85 points - yep, I like it.
Highland Park 1957/1977 (70 Proof, Berry Brothers, 26 Floz.)
Nose: Lovely fruit. Balsamico vinegar. Spices. Very complex. Maggi. Sellery. Excellent!!!
Taste: Antiquity. Smoke. Dry. Not terribly complex, but very enjoyable indeed.
Score: 89 points - comes extremely close to the 90's, but I'm a tough scorer.
The HP was a fitting finish to a session in Olivier's underground shrine for Highland Park.
We called it a night around 2:00 AM to catch somesleep before the bottling work would start.
- - -
After a good night's sleep Davin, Luc and I skipped breakfast at
the B&B and took a little stroll through the vinyards that surround
the lovely old village Turckheim. The harvest would start in one or
two weeks and the grapes were already ripe - and very delicious...
They made an excellent light breakfast before we reconvened on
Saturday morning at Olivier's vinyard to proceed with the actual
bottling. You'd be amazed how much work is involved with the
logistics for the awards and I'm amazed that Serge managed to
do it all himself (well, with a little help of his offspring as well)
for the past two years. A truly manical effort!
Anyway, some of the maniacs on the filling crew were not nearly
as disciplined as Serge, so we decided to have little breaks for
dramming after every two dozen bottles we 'processed'. Good plan!
As usual Davin and I had to twist a few arms to get Serge, Olivier
and Luc to try some obscure stuff for the matrix, but in the end
we reached a fair compromise. We poured them some obscure and
not too imnpressive malts and they poured us some exquisite and
very expensive whiskies in return. A fair deal, eh? ;-)
So, here are my notes on the malts we tried;
Glen Spey 12yo (43%, Flora & Fauna, Bottled +/- 2004)
Nose: Neutral. Light. Clean. Maybe just a little bit herbal. Only the obscurity maskes it appealing.
Taste: Grainy and a little bit bitter... Gritty. Growing bittersweet in te finish. Not too impressive.
Score: 65 points - I guess this explains why Glen Spey is hardly ever bottled as a single malt.
Bunnahabhain 20yo 1979/1999 (57.7%, Signatory Vintage, Butt #9676)
Nose: Organics. Old dried fruits. Old books in a moist cellar. Icing sugar. Honey. Hint of sellery. Great!
Taste: Very sherried. Serious. Tannins. Could use just a little more sweetness as far as I'm concerned.
Score: 89 points - highly recommendable; might have just made it into the 90's in a bigger glass.
Laphroaig 31yo 1974 (49.7%, OB, 910 Bottles, Sherry casks)
Nose: Mama mia! Indeed, lots of sherry. Very serious. Wonderful developing organics. Lovely depth.
Taste: Sherry and peat. No, smoke rather than peat. Medicinal. Burnt. Maybe just a tad too sherried?
Score: 90 points - but this was a very 'conservative' score - must try to find a bottle for myself...
North Port 1974/1993 (40%, G&M Connoisseur's Choice)
Nose: Clean. Grainy. Not very expressive. Closed. Fishy? Those were all my notes. I need bigger glasses.
Taste: Sweetish and watery. Malty perhaps? Once again there wasn't much more to write down.
Score: 70 points - certainly not a bad whisky, but it simply lacks character and personality.
Clynelish 1972/2000 (57.3%, Celtic Legends, Cask #14265)
Nose: Flowery & coastal. Sweet & salty. Wet dog? Melows out with water. Oatmeal. Very nice.
Taste: Faint hint of peat. Not very expressive. Dry and a tad sweet. Bitter finish. Pinch of salt with water.
Score: 83 points
- a very good malt whisky. It's just not really my 'type' - more for 'the wine brigade'.
Glen Albyn 25yo 1979/2005 (56%, DT Rarest of the Rare, C#3958)
Nose: Fresh. Hint of lemon. Sweet. Sunlight soap. It may be very rare, but it's not too expressive...
Taste: Peculiar. Very herbal. Sweet. Weird fruits. Pine. An aspirin astringency in the finish that pulls is down.
Score: 58 points
- Oh joy! Very obscure. I didn't like the malt a lot, but I love the fact that I could try it.
After this compromise between good and obscure stuff I unpacked a few Japanese samples that Ho-cheng sent me last
year; the very decent 'Yamazaki' from Suntory and the exquisite 'Yoichi' from Nikka. An interesting international diversion...
Yamazaki 12yo Pure Malt (43%, Suntory)
Nose: Pine. Furniture polish. Light. Something meaty. Hint of fish. Faint menthol.
Taste: Sweet and smooth. Fresh oak. Not really a challenge on the palate.
Score: 76 points - today I'd put this just a notch above average.
Nikka 12yo 'Yoichi' (64.8%, Cask #129484, Warehouse #8)
Nose: Rubber. Soft organics. Pizza. Sweet. Toffee. Samson heavy shag. Sweaty. What a brilliant nose!
Taste: Peat. Smoke. Dry tannins. Oak - very woody. Marmelade. Excellent. Wow, this is a 'Godzilla'...
Score: 88 points - one of the very best Japanese whiskies I've tried so far. Excellent stuff.
Further proof that the Japanese have pretty much closed the gap with Scotland by now.
Based on my research so far the art of distillation in Japan even puts other anglo-saxon countries like Ireland and the
USA in the shadow. very impressive - too bad we don't see that many Japanese whiskies here in Europe.
Anyway, our last dram in the bottling hall on Saturday was another Scottish malt;
Ledaig 18yo 1972 (54.4%, James McArthur, 75cl)
Nose: Sweet. Light peat. Sweat. Pinch of salt. Farmy - pig pellets. Yep, this is enjoyable stuff.
Taste: Sweet. Lemon sweets? Growing peat. Dry. Gentle tannins. Not a trace of oil, it seems - good...
Score: 86 points - I'm not a fan of Tobermory, but as soon as they add some peat I often like it.
- - -
After a hard day's work we proceeded to Serge's home.
Serge's lovely wife Frederique had prepared a wonderful
dinner for the filling crew, including a perfect fish cake.
Needless to say, Olivier provided the wines for the meal
and they were greeted enthusiastically. I'm a bit of a
'vinophobe' myself, but even I enjoyed Olivier's wines
a lot. If I'm not mistaken, Davin will write a few words
about the wines we tasted along with our meal in his
upcoming report. I won't even try to describe these
wines; my frame of reference is extremely limited.
All I can say is that I thoroughly enjoyed them.
Good wine, good food - heaven in Alsace!
The only 'problem' was that the richly flowing wine
limited our potential whisky intake for that evening,
but then again the day of hard dramming and hard
work had taken its toll and I was only able to sample
half a dozen whiskies at Serge's place. Here they are;
Glen Brora NAS (40%, Carradale Company, 75cl, Bottled early 70's)
Nose: Faint antiquity. Sellery. Organics. Mushrooms. Vegetable stock. 'Foody'. Brilliant & unique.
Taste: Fruity start, slightly watery centre, dry finish. Very enjoyable, but it pulls it from the 90's.
Score: 88 points - but I was initially inclined to go for 90 points based on the unique nose.
Midleton NAS 'Very Rare' (40%, Bottled 1996)
Nose: Fruity. Gooseberry. Organics in the background. Hazelnut liqueur. Very sweet - in a good way.
The nose shows amazing complexity for an Irish whiskey. But how will it perform on the palate?
Taste: Mellow and a little fruity. Sweet. This may be very rare, but it doesn't taste too remarkable.
81 points - a recommendable whiskey. In fact, one of the best unpeated Irish whiskeys I've tried.
Brora 30yo (56.6%, OB, 2004 Bottling)
Nose: Sweet, fruity peat. Farmy. Spicy. Barnyard. Developing citrus? As expected, a stunner!
Taste: Lovely tannins. Feels very full on the palate. Dry peat. No surprise: a big winner here as well.
Score: 93 points
- the best of the Brora OB's so far, as I'm concerned. Brilliant stuff. I wish I had money.
Banff 34yo 1966/2001 (50.1%, Signatory Silent Stills, Butt #3437)
Nose: Lovely sherry - but not much else. This is right up my alley, but it lacks some 'width'.
Taste: Smoke & sherry. Dry tannins. Marmelade. Quite extreme. Maybe too extreme for some.
Score: 85 points - another Banff that suggests my low opinion of Banff until recently was unfounded.
Longmorn 1974/1985 (60.8%, Samaroli, 600 Bottles)
Nose: Sherry. Buttery. 'Dirty'. Organics. Smoke. Rich. Oriental spices. Rubber. Medicinal!
Taste: Lovely antiquity. Smoke. Gunpowder. When I added water I got some pepper and peat.
Score: 90 points - A beautiful single malt that seems much bigger than your average
Springbank NAS 'House & Tree Label' (46%, OB, Bottled mid 1990's)
Nose: Some antiquity. Organics. Smoke. Meaty. I'm not a real Springbak fan but this is lovely.
Taste: Sherried. mallow. Sweet. Fruity, then salty. What a great mouth feel! As good as the 21yo.
Score: 90 points - now here's a Springbank I would like to have in my reserve stock...
The other maniacs enjoyed a few more drams than I did; to my considerable embarrassment I couldn't really keep up
with these powerdrammers and had to refuse a few rounds to allow my nose and palate - not to mention my brain - to
recover. Fortunately, the guys were kind enough to fill a few samples for me so I could try these malts at my own convenience. I'll try to investigate these four whiskies as soon as the awards sampling is over.
- - -
Early on the sunday morning we returned to the bottling hall.
Our job wasn't completely finished yet, but the biggest chunk of
the work had been done on saturday, so we could take it easier.
The picture at the right shows a nice and tidy bottling hall, just
after we finished filling all the miniature bottles. Things became a
little chaotic again once we started filling the packages, but after
another hour or two all samples were signed, sealed and ready
to be delivered.
If I'm not mistaken, none of the +/- 2,500 malt whisky samples
that were sent for the 2003 and 2004 MM Awards broke during
transport. That means that Serge did a better packing job than
some of our sponsors; a few of the submitted bottles arrived at
Sege's door in soggy, smelly boxes. Let's hope that the other
four maniacs that assisted in the packing this year have the
same knack for it that Serge does...
(Added Note: On October 27 Krishna confirmed that his package
had arrived safe and sound in India - not one single broken bottle.
He was the last of this year's jury of twelve to receive a package
that was perfectly intact, which means that the maniacs have still
a perfect score in our constant struggle with postmen worldwide.
The spirits must be watching over our packages...)
Anyway, we had plenty of time left for dramming on sunday morning.
Well, Serge, Olvier, Davin and I had. Luc would have to drive back to Belgium in the afternoon, which means he couldn't
dram with us. Needless to say, Olivier filled some samples for him. With all of the 'obscure' stuff I had brought to Alsace
out of the way Olivier saw his chance to push some more Highland Parks in our direction. Oh boy... Olivier really turned
into an Highland Park addict after our trip to Italy last year. And just like Serge he's not squeamish when it comes to
opening his bottles for his fellow maniacs. So, thanks to the French generosity I got to sample these four HP's;
Highland Park 1968/2003 (40.1%, Becking Single Cask, C#9535, 106 Bottles)
Nose: Spicy. organics. Sweet. Toffee. Noble. A classic profile. Slightly medicinal. Orkney peat.
Taste: Sherry. Smoke. Dry with a hint of wood. A growing woody presence. Again, a little medicinal.
Score: 87 points - although this one might have scored a few points more in a bigger glass.
Highland Park 37yo 1967/2004 (50.6%, Duncan Taylor for John Scott's, Sherry cask #3131)
Nose: Light and creamy. Sweet. 'Boterbabbelaars'. Honey. Liquorice. Pine. Lint. Balsamico vinegar. Wassabi.
Taste: Herbal start. Pine again. Orkney peat. Very dry and chewy in the finish. Camphor. Loses a few points.
Score: 86 points - and it might have gone a little higher without the 'piney' notes. It's a personal thing.
Highland Park 12yo 'Millennium Edition' (55.7%, OB, Bottled 2000)
Nose: Organics in the start, dropping off very quickly. Remains subtly spicy. Faint aniseed.
Taste: Less character than the previous two, I'd say. Quite harsh in the finish. What's so special?
Score: 85 points - but the others were more impressed, putting it in the 90's.
Highland Park 40yo 1958/1998 (44%, OB)
Nose: Very deep and rich. Organics. Orkney peat. Developing fruits. Quite beautiful - almost upper 90's!
Taste: Smoky. Ultra dry, but beautiful. Great, but it pulls the overall score down to the lower 90's.
Score: 92 points - Olivier certainly knos how to pick his 'farewell drams'...
Hmm, yes.... Very interesting...
This tasting confirmed something I've learnt about Highland Park.
Here's another non-Islay whisky that can show a peaty side. It often strickes me as 'medicinal' and it has already caused
me to identify a HP as a Laphroaig on one or two occasions. It's lighter, though - I'll call it 'Orkney peat' from now on.
And that's it for this report. Luc and I had to travel north again in the afternoon, but Davin remained in France to do his
awards samplings. He spent two weeks in his room at the French version of the Norman Bates Motel, dramming away until he was done with his 2005 Awards samples. Davin will write a full report for Malt Maniacs eventually.
I can't wait. Meanwhile, the next event on the maniacal calendar will be Whisky Live Paris, next weekend.
Lawrence Graham will fly in from Canada to join Davin, Serge, Olivier, Luc, Dave and Martine for the event.
I won't be able to make it myself, but I expect one of the other maniacs will write a report about the highlights.
That's it for now - gotta catch some z's...
Much more about the upcoming awards in Log Entry #260 next week.