Entry #307 - 21/06/2007 - My Trip to Ireland, Part II (A little more on my Kilbeggan visit.)
Although I'm only halfway with the reconstruction of Malt Madness and Malt Maniacs, I've managed to pick up a fairly steady sampling pace again. That's just as well, because the Malt Maniacs Awards 2007 are coming up. With some luck I should be able to make it to 2500 single malts by the end of the year...
Entry #307 - June 21, 2007; My Trip to Ireland (Part II)
June 21, 2007 - Over a month ago I
I didn't have a chance to visit one of the
I also had the opportunity to chat with Michael Jackson there.
Anyway, I'm afraid that I still haven't found the time to wrap up my Kilbeggan report...
So much for on-line information spreading with the speed of light ;-)
Entry #308 - June 25, 2007; My Trip to Ireland (Part III)
June 25, 2007 - After the Malt Madness site had been 'frozen' for a six months I enthusiastically picked up the work on my Liquid Log again in April 2007. However, as it turned out I simply didn't have the time to submit regular updates next to a full time job. In fact, I recently decided that the only way to keep the sites going (and develop a few plans I'm brooding on) is by taking on a part-time job. I've also started on my very first whisky book - expect more news about my 'professional' future soon.
Meanwhile, my editor at Whisky Etcetera
And don't worry - there's a little bit of 'public' information in this log entry as well...
Expect more public contributions and responses soon...
Entry #309 - August 1, 2007; MM Awards & A Few Drams
August 1, 2007 - After the surprising success of Japanese whiskies at the Malt Maniacs Awards 2006, we decided to invite a number of producers of American whiskey (bourbon, rye whiskey, malt, etc.) to participate in the Malt Maniacs Awards 2007. I guess they're intimidated by the competition, because so far we have received just one measly response from the USA. Understandable, I guess... Over thirty other participants from Scotland and Ireland have already confirmed they will join this year, though.
Meanwhile, a stash of samples has been steadily growing on my shelves - time to dig into the stash...
Imperial 11yo 1994/2006 (46%, Whisky Galore, C#2110, 276 Bts.) - Light and honey sweet in the nose, growing more 'veggy'. Fairly grainy in the palate; bitter finish. After a minute a hint of 'Velpon' glue emerges in the nose. Not exactly my kind of profile, but the evolution of the nose is very interesting. The development in the nose classifies it as 'above average' but the palate keeps it at 77 points.
Speyburn 12yo 1967/1979 (45.7%, Cadenhead's, Dumpy, 75cl) - Ah! Immediate 'antiquity' in the nose.
Highland Park 17yo 1988/2005 (56.7%, Cadenhead's, Bourbon hogshead) - The nose starts with a chemical
fruitiness. Sweet plastic. Seems quite alcoholic on the palate without water at first. The nose is quite sweet.
Maybe a little heathery as well, but that may be because that was one of HP's 'key notes'. Fruits are moving
towards citrus. Appealing complexity. Hint of liquorice on the palate? Yes, and it becomes more obvious with time. Almost peaty in character. Definitely smoky in the finish. Now, let's add some water...
And that's it for this entry - more next week...
Entry #310 - August 8, 2007; MM Statistics
August 8, 2007 - After publishing
For this entry in my scrapbook
Excellent comments from Jake...
I will add a section about this topic to the Advanced Beginner's Guide - when it's done...
Entry #311 - August 11, 2007; Dutch DVD Tasting
August 11, 2007 - Phew.... I've just returned (slightly tipsy) from a recording of a Dutch 'Whisky Tasting' DVD.
The Glenfarclas 15yo (46%, old packaging, bottled +/- 2005) was a nice surprise as well. This bottle came from older trade stocks from late 2005 or early 2006 and still had the old label. I was under the mistaken impression that the quality of the 15yo suddenly jumped up when they introduced the new label in 2006, but now it seems the new & improved Glenfarclas 15 was already in the bottles before they changed the label. I guess the math works out - I think they switched bodegas in 1990 or 1991. The new 8yo official bottling was fairly underwhelming though - as well as the Glenfarclas 21yo. The 8yo, 10yo and 15yo grew increasingly spicy, but that line was broken when we arrived at the 21yo. Could be explained by my 'bodega' theory...
Last but not least; the Johnnie Walker Green Label 15yo - much improved since the last time I tried it. It's still a little 'middle of the road' (so I find it hard to rate), but I'd say it's now on par with many single malts in the same price range - just short of 80 points. The Famous Grouse 12yo Vatted Malt was a shocking disappointment compared to the JW Green. Well, it proves one thing; blending is an art form.
And that's all about the DVD tasting for now. You can find all scores in my Dram Diary below. If you want to know more about the many senseless and sensible discussions (and if you live in Holland), you'll just have to buy the DVD when it's finished...
Entry #312 - August 19, 2007; Bunnahabhain & Port Ellen
August 19, 2007 - Next week, fellow
Browsing through the chaos I found
So, let's try some recent expressions
Bunnahabhain has long been the only distillery on Islay to use unpeated malt for their whisky, but one of the Bunny samples on my shelves proved that they have been experimenting with peat as early as 1997 - just when malt whiskies started to take off. It's interesting that their neighbor Caol Ila, known for its peated whiskies, also produces a lesser known unpeated variety. Anyway, here are my notes on three Bunnies...
Bunnahabhain 1997/2005 (57.8%, Scotch Single Malt Circle, C#5665, 309 Bts.) - The label says 'heavily peated'; this was the 'Bill & Maggie Miller' edition, distilled 11/97 and bottled 11/05. Fresh and quite peaty in the nose indeed. Smells fairly young and thin, though... MUCH more peat on the palate, strange it doesn't shine through in the nose. Nice interplay of salt and sweet. Salt liquorice. Too bad the finish drags a little bit. Perfect for those that are looking for a heavy punch on the palate. Not quite the complexity that can be found in the Laphroaig Quarter Cask or 10yo official bottlings at first, but certainly boxing in the same class. The nose opens up after some breathing, gradually lifting the score from 82 to 85 points - definitely worth picking up if you're looking for a heavily peated malt (on the palate at least). A peat monster in disguise and something one wouldn't expect from the gentle Bunnahabhain distillery.
So, now I had a problem... I started with the Bunny because I wanted to start this session nice and easy.
Bunnahabhain 27yo 1979/2007 (46%, The Single Malts of Scotland, Bottled June 2007) - The nose starts off
sweet and surprisingly light, almost citrussy. Quite fruity on the palate as well, followed by a long and sustained
sweetness that reminded me of some fruity candy from my childhood. Chewing gum perhaps? Quite unique. After
a few minutes a few faint organics emerge in the nose. Spices too - those often go side by side. On the palate it
performs quite well, a smooth sweetness rounding out some of the harsh woody undercurrent. A very long finish. Unlike the 29yo from The Whisky Fair that I tried alongside it, the nose has a lot of 'staying power'.
Bunnahabhain 29yo 1977/2007 (53%, The Whisky Fair, Bourbon Hogshead) - Wow! Very intriguing nose with candy, coconut and spices. Very special indeed - not unlike a Springbank from the good old days. Not quite as appealing on the palate, but overall it's still a very entertaining package. After a few minutes the nose fell flat, so I decided to add some water. A few drops unleashed a soapy flash in the nose, followed by some veggy notes. The first nose came close to 90, but it finally arrived at an overall score of 87 points.
To tell you the truth I didn't feel quite satisfied after three Bunnies - event though they were all highly recommendable. So I proceeded with a bunch of Port Ellens that have been piling up on my shelves...
Port Ellen 23yo 1983/2007 (56.7%, DL Platinum for Whisky Fair, Bourbon HH, 150 Bts.) - Whoah!
Port Ellen 25yo 1982/2007 (59.6%, The Whisky Fair, Sherry Wood) - A brief whiff of oil before growing saltier.
Quite austere without much apparent sherry influence. Subtle organics creeping to the foreground. Slowly
growing complexity in the nose. It starts off quite sweet and pleasant on the palate but the finish is a tad gritty
and somber. Let's add a few drops of water and wait a minute... The water brought forth some minty notes in the nose, but not much else. No, wait, now there's something sweet and citrussy. Some more solid peat on the
palate with the added water, but I still can't go any higher than 87 points for this one. In my book Islay malts
have to be either peat monsters or very complex to score in the 90's; this one offers a little bit of both.
Port Ellen 21yo 1982/2004 (61%, DL Platinum / WCOA, 302 Bts., Potstill 2004). I don't usually pay much attention to the colour of a whisky, but this one was unusually dark. Loads of fruits and sherry sweetness in the nose - right up my alley. An amazing richness in the nose. Smoke and something that could be sulfur. Hint of chalk in the background? Very surprising on the palate as well; all the fruity sweetness was there, but some wood and loads of smoke as well. Beautiful combination, nicely balanced. Austere finish. The nose keeps evolving, so I didn't dare to add water at first. When I did, I wasn't disappointed and it eventually arrived at a very solid 92 points - a 'early 70's Kildalton style' Port Ellen. Brilliant combination of sweetness & smoke in the finish. These high scores are specially surprising because not all Port Ellens from the early 1980's were staggering.
That was a tough act to follow, but according to the data on the Monitor the next one should be good too.
Last but not least; Port Ellen 23yo 1976/2000 (58%, Signatory, dumpy, C#4762, 258 Bts.) - bottled on January 13, 2000. The nose didn't really 'speak to me' after the previous four. Some gentle grainy notes and perhaps some citrus. Tired cask or tired sample? Nah, probably just a subtle 'bourbon' style malt. Fairly sharp and woody on the palate - can't go higher than 86 points here.
And that's it for this entry...
Entry #313 - August 30, 2007; Michael Jackson (RIP)
August 30, 2007 - I've just received some sad news.
I doubt I would ever have found the confidence to publish my musings
Unfortunately, I only met Michael a few times in real life. The last time I saw him was in May at the re-opening of the Kilbeggan distillery in Ireland. It was clear that he wasn't in perfect health, but he told me he enjoyed himself tremendously inside the old and unique distillery buildings.
I guess that is what made Michael Jackson a 'guru' for many malt maniacs - the passion for single malt whisky we shared. Serge has temporarily replaced the main page on WhiskyFun to allow other malt lovers to share their 'tributes' and comments.
I will crack open a very special bottle from my 'reserve stock' tonight and think some spiritual thoughts...
Entry #314 - September 15, 2007; Istanbul
September 15, 2007
- Last week I had to fly
Too bad, because I could have used a decent
Even though Turkey is a secular state, the majority of the population is of the muslim persuasion. That means that you won't find many liquorists in the streets. I had hoped to score a bottle of 'Ankara' (the only Turkish single malt whisky) but couldn't find any. There were some questionable blends in bars, but nothing that really tickled my fancy.
So, I was looking forward to a few drams on the flight home.
Ardbeg 13yo 1991/2004 (55.1%, Acorn, Japan, D. 02/'91 Btl. 12/'04) - The nose starts with a lovely subtle sweetness. No peat apparent at first, but there's loads on the palate. A little meaty too. Sweet, smooth finish. Woody undercurrent. Meanwhile, some organics and chloride are emerging in the nose - and then some dust. If memory serves the nose of the 10yo OB was more complex, even at 'just' 46%. At the same time, this works great on the palate, so adding water was a risk. Well, it might have opened up the nose a little bit, but also fractured the mouth feel. Bonus: faintest hint of liquorice. Hard to come up with a score - let's say 87 points.
Ardbeg 1991/2005 (57.1%, JWWW The Cross Hill, 270 Bts.) - The nose starts fairly flat. Some development, but very subtle. Sweet and slightly veggy on the palate before growing peatier. Touches of wood. Fairly pleasant on the palate with a salty sweetness. Towards the finish a bitter undercurrent becomes more obvious. I'd put it at the bottom of the 'highly recommendable bracket with 86 points.
Ardbeg 15yo 1991/2007 (54.4%, The Whisky Fair, 327 Bts.) - Comparatively oily start in the nose, sweetening out. Then it becomes more serious, chalky and salty. Meaty notes and organics after a few minutes - lovely... Quite pleasant on the palate as well. At first not a lot of 'definition', but maybe that's because of the bourbon cask. After some more breathing I got some vague metallic notes in the nose, and then a slowly evolving parade of other aroma's. String beans? Really interesting; this one shows different sides of itself at different times. This is a malt you can spend time with - 89 points (earned mostly by the slowly unfolding nose).
So, all of them are overproof Ardbegs from 1991, yet the differences are considerable.
OK, let's have just one bonus dram, the Laphroaig 13yo 1988/2001 (46%, Murray McDavid, Bourbon, MM2109).
The nose was quite clean with veggy overtones. Then some yoghurt and passion fruit, followed by cardboard. On
the palate I got a flash of cod oil, then dust, then peat. Interesting... It feels a little thin on the palate though - especially after the overproof Ardbegs. Still, I think it's a highly recommendable malt.
Meanwhile, there has been heavy debate amongst the maniacs about the insane raises in malt whisky prices lately. Serge's anger has heated up his creative juices and you can expect some fresh and funny perspectives on the topic of price gauging later on on WhiskyFun . I would love to vent my spleen as well, but as long as the sites are under reconstruction I have other priorities. For one thing, the old 'Bang-For-You-Buck' formula has become obsolete by now... In the late 1990's I used to qualify a price (in Euro's) that was half of the score as 'fair'. These days the relation between price and quality has changed dramatically. I'm afraid that anything that costs less (in Euro's) than it scores could be considered 'fairly priced' these days.
And that's it for now. However, the good news is that I'm now almost finished with the reconstruction of my Liquid Log - I still have so wrap up log entry #300 properly, but you can also browse around the reconstructed section for a bit if you like. Please let me know if you encounter any broken links - or other problems...
87 - Ardbeg 13yo 1991/2004 (55.1%, Acorn, Japan, D. 02/'91 Btl. 12/'04) - very little peat in the nose.
This is my second 'new style' Dram Diary. From now on I start working on a fresh dram diary as soon as Serge has finished a new version of the Malt Maniacs Monitor and Malt Maniacs Matrix - tens of thousands of scores for thousands of whiskies. We'll try to publish a new version of the MM matrix and MM monitor every two or three months. The brand new 'Specials' section on Malt Maniacs offers tasting notes for a few dozen recently released single malts. As far as my personal 'Track Record' is concerned; the last time I checked the total tally on my virtual Track Record was +/- 2150 single malt Scotch whiskies seriously sampled & scored...
If you're not bored
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you could take a
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Allt A' Bhainne
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Last but not least:
my Liquid Log will
continue as my...