Entry #327 - 21/03/2008; Bruichladdich vs the SWA (Mark Reynier ignited a little whisky riot.)
Entry #328 - 25/03/2008; An Open Consultation
(We'd like to share our opinions in the consultation.)
Entry #329 - 13/04/2008; Baby Steps (I've managed to update the mAlmanac & Distillery Data section.)
Entry #330 - 18/04/2008; No Comment
(Apparently, 75% of whisky consumers reject 'blended malts'.)
Entry #331 - 30/04/2008; Walpurgis Session 2008 (it's high time to look at a few 'deviant drams'.)
Entry #332 - 19/05/2008; First Single & Single (The first bottling of a brand new independent bottler.)
Entry #333 - 25/05/2008; I Almost Feel Like a 'Friend of Laphroaig'... (A Laphroaig tasting report.)
Entry #334 - 30/05/2008; Leeches & Suckers! (New on Malt
Madness: a sponsored link for gifts.)
Entry #335 - 03/06/2008; Technical Issues - Part I (I needed to perform a risky software upgrade.)
Entry #336 - 05/06/2008; Technical Issues - Part II (The upgrade to NetObjects 11.0 went fairly well.)
Entry #337 - 12/06/2008; Wake Up & Smell The Whisky...
(Highland Park's massive PR bubble.)
Entry #338 - 15/06/2008; Walpurgis Session - Post Script (A second look at single grain whiskies.)
Entry #339 - 17/06/2008; The Water of Life is getting murkier... (A Mixed Messages exclusive...)
Spring 2008 Dram Diary - By the end of Spring there were circa 2450 malts on my Track Record.
Entry #327 - Bruichladdich versus the SWA
March 21, 2008 - We're having odd virtual weather
lately. This Spring certainly started with a shitstorm
when I forwarded a press release from Bruichladdich's
Mark Reynier to the members of the MM Mailinglist.
In the press release, Mark 'paraphrased' a number
of proposals from the SWA, which lead me to believe
that the new rules could herald the end of the whisky
world as we know it. However, as it turns out I may
have jumped to conclusions just a tad too soon...
More about the fine print and finer points in the SWA
draft proposal and Mark's press release later on in
this log entry; first it's time for some fresh tasting
notes. After all, it has been 3 months since my last
tasting report and some readers are getting antsy...
I didn't need to browse through my stack of samples for very long, actually.
As soon as I noticed three forgotten samples of Bruichladdich at the back I knew I found the perfect malts to
entertain me while I tried to make heads or tales of the legal lingo of the ongoing debate on the new SWA regulations - and wrap up the refurbishment of the Bruichladdich distillery profile in the DD section.
Here are my notes on three expressions that were bottled a few years ago;
Bruichladdich 16yo 1979/1995 (43%, Signatory, C#834-35)
Nose: Clean and grassy, sweetening out. Balanced. Grassy notes evolve to 'veggy' notes. String beans?
Growing complexity with notes of dust and freshly sawn dry wood. More alcoholic over time. Rubber?
Taste: Quite sharp with a very satisfying after burn in the throat. Trace of peat, but not much.
78 points - although it might have reached the 80's based on the nose alone.
Bruichladdich 1990/2003 'Valinch Flora McBabe' (55.2%, OB, C#3666, 700 Bts., D. 09/'90 Btl. 12/'03)
Nose: Whiff of smoke and organics; a lot of 'balls' for a Bunny. Then more perfumy notes emerge.
Some artificial blackberry candy fruits. Cassis? Was this wine finished? Later more chalk and clay.
Taste: Easily drinkable at cask strength. Smooth with a solid after burn. Faint dry, slightly peaty finish.
Score: 82 points - which is once again a few points below those awarded by other maniacs.
It started out in the mid 80's for me, but lost steam after a few minutes. Light tannins, flat finish.
Bruichladdich 1989/2004 (57.9%, G&M Reserve, C#1957, 275 Bts.)
Nose: Polished with quite some wood. Raisins & other fruits in the background - my kind of profile.
Growing complexity. Possibly more cask influence than distillery influence but I like it a lot.
Taste: Loads of smoke - hardly recognisable as a Bruichladdich! Quite some wood too.
Nice fruity tannins and anthracite in the finish. Wonderful mouth feel; powerful yet smooth at c/s.
Score: 89 points - which makes it one of the very best Laddies I've ever tried.
So, with some Bruichladdich in my stomach I was inspired to delve into the debate again...
You can find the full texts of the exchange on the Malt Maniacs & Friends group on Facebook, but I've collected
some of the highlights in this log entry. The debate really took off when Campbell Evand of the SWA officially respond to my message to members of the MM Mailinglist which included Mark's press release.
It started friendly and innocent enough...
"Johannes, I understand that you have been writing to fellow whisky lovers and circulating copies of Mark Reynier's
paper 'Recipe for Confusion'. If I may, I should like to offer the following observations on Mark's claims, and hope that
having read these comments you may feel that not all is as troubling as Mark has made out; whilst Mark acknowledges
much of the proposed legislation brought forward by DEFRA is worthwhile, he suggests 'some feel it's a smokescreen
to further enhance the commercial interests of a self-regulated industry'. The whole point of legislation is that it is not self-regulation, but law."
Ah, that's where my brain first stumbled...
As a slightly cynical skeptic with a twisted sense of humour I can (on occasion) enjoy PR and legal language.
In this modern day and age copywriters, politicians and lawyers have perfected the fine art of sophistry and it
seems some of the most gifted artists are working in Scotland. If the industry writes the 'draft' for a law which basically only needs to be signed off by a legislator, that would seem pretty self-regulated to me...
<snip> "Mark 'paraphrases' the new Regulations in his note to editors. What this means in reality is that he has
selectively missed out important provisions which contradict his argument."
Erm, yes..., well...
I agree Mark's paraphrasing was a bit misleading, but isn't this a case of the pot calling the kettle black?
The SWA (Scotch Whisky Association) tries to 'sell' their proposed legal definitions of various categories by quoting 'market research' that they are 'not at liberty to divulge'. And there seem to be some 'smoke screen'
tactics going on as well... Most of the 'maniacs' I've talked to were not too concerned about most of the proposed regulations - it was the pushing of the new phrase 'blended malt' over the old phrase '
vatted malt' that caused the most concern. This part of the discussion is often conveniently circumvented.
<snip> "Mark is concerned about customer confusion, so it is strange that he is selling a product distilled and matured
at Bruichladdich, but labelled Port Charlotte at the same time as talking up the reopening of a separate distillery to be called Port Charlotte, also to sell a product called Port Charlotte."
Ah - I would say Campbell DOES make a good point there.
Mark's own activities at Bruichladdich haven't always helped making the whisky world less confusing...
But perhaps it would be best to let Mark respond himself;
"Likeable fellow that he is, Campbell is being disingenuous here – as his role inevitably necessitates. I think from the
SWA's reaction, here and elsewhere, it is clear that I have touched a raw nerve, perhaps a subject that they had
hoped in 5 days time would have slipped by with out any one noticing. The usual tactic of the SWA when faced with the
impertinence of any one daring to criticise them, is to immediately discredit/patronise the critic, and exert their power
over the media and influential parties, in a realpolitik way. Par for the course I am afraid along with the usual sniping
from the cowardly picadors on the sidelines. My interest in this issue is not only as a distiller, but as an observer (the
only person it would appear) of the SWA and it's mighty paymasters, and what they get up to. Scotch Whisky does not belong to the SWA."
<snip> "It is the SWA that has put forward these proposals to Defra to consult on, as it says in the intro to the
consultation – but there seems precious little consulting going on. I've had two distillery brands call me up saying they
knew nothing of the whole process! All I can get out of Campbell is "we will have to agree to disagree" that there is
even a potential issue here. Firstly, let's be clear that Campbell is commenting on emails we have exchanged, a press
release that I sent to a few interested parties, and various comments here. <snip> The regulation, taken together,
would indicate that Campbell's assertion is not so clear cut: The inference is that I paraphrased the regulation in an
unfair way. However I indicated that I had paraphrased the regulation, and this was for clarity. I also added a
supplementary paragraph about 10 (2) C in the accompanying notes. The relevant text of the regulation is below:
Regulation 10 (2) The name of a distillery must not appear on any labelling or individual packaging of
any blended malt, blended grain, or blended scotch whisky, or be used in connection with any advertisement or promotion of such whiskies, unless -
(a) the reference to the distillery only appears as part of a description of the whisky;
(b) a scotch whisky that has been distilled at a named distillery has been included in the blend making up
the the final blend; and
(c it is clear from the presentation of the product that not all the whisky was distilled at that distillery.
(3) But paragraph (2) shall not prevent -
(a) the use of a name of a distillery that is included in the name of a brand of blended malt, blended grain, or blended scotch whisky mentioned in Part 2 of Schedule being used in relation to that brand;
Now I am no lawyer, but this indicates to me that the name of a distillery CAN appear on a label if a scotch whisky that
has been distilled at a named distillery has been included in the blend making up the the final whisky – and as long as
a reference is made that there are several whiskies in it (obviously blended malt alone does not explain this!) so for
example Bruichladdich Blended Malt could have 99% other malts in it as long as it says "a rare selection of single malt
whiskies from Scotland's finest distilleries"? Or "Malts Galore!", or "Rent a Malt" etc etc.? Is that what it means? We
have the potential situation that the category is 'blended malt' but Glen Other SINGLE MALT is plastered all over it.
Incidentally, in sub clause (a) how do you define the difference between a distillery name as a description of a whisky and a distillery name as a brand?" <snip>
At this point in the discussion it occurred to me that things may have grown a little 'technical' (or perhaps even
boring) for the average reader of Malt Madness. So, for now I'll point you to the Malt Maniacs & Friends group on
facebook for further arguments in the discussion. The next issue of Malt Maniacs will delve a little deeper into the
topic. I'll finish this log entry with Mark's response to a point made by Campbell;
(Campbell) "As regards the description 'Blended Malt Scotch Whisky' and 'Blended Grain Scotch Whisky', Mark's
suggestions for alternatives were 'Pot Still Scotch Whisky' and "Patent Still Scotch Whisky". In addition to the fact that
these descriptions will be meaningless to 99% of consumers worldwide, it appeared to ignore the fact that it did not
distinguish between Single Malts and Blended Malts, and Single Grains and Blended Grains, as Single Malt Scotch
Whisky is also 'Pot Still Scotch Whisky', and Single Grain Scotch Whisky is also 'Patent Still Scotch Whisky'. It is all very
well criticising the description which has been chosen, but Mark has not been able to come up with an appropriate alternative."
(Mark) "Any one who has had the misfortune to wade their way through these regulations is bound to be as
confused by all the blended this and blended that's let alone the consumer. Since the SWA want to introduce 3
new titles, why not go the whole hog and try and choose names that while being visually distinctive and
therefore not open to misinterpretation - either deliberate or subconscious – describe what the whisky is about:
Blended whisky speaks for itself of course. But we have single malt. What's so single about it? the grain or the distillery? And what does malt mean to most consumers anyway?
Let's be honest, I bet if you asked 100 people very few could tell you what 'malt' referred to.
It begs the question what's a double malt? Two types of malted grain – or two types of malted whisky from 2
distilleries? But whatever people think it means, Single Malt as a term has stuck. While 'blended malt' does
indeed describe a selection of malts mixed together, so does Vatted Malt, which was perfectly good explanation
around for some 100 years or more and more importantly, and can not be visually confused with either single or blended, which really is the issue here.
If 'vatted' already existed, why change it?
Unless the ambiguity is deliberate – a confusion of two existing very well known terms blended whisky and single
malt. 'Single Grain' implies something different to 'Single Malt' when in reality it is the distilling procedure that is
different – so why not say so? Pot stills and Patent or column stills are more relevant to the different whiskies
than grain and barley, especially since both use the same anyhow. Since the punter is barely going to notice the
'grain or 'malt' and see/refer to just 'single' should it not be made more clear what they are really getting? There
are a mere handful of 'grain distilleries' there is no need for 'single grain' as a title; patent still scotch whisky and
the distillery name would suffice, while protecting single malt at the same time – unless some sort of 'reflected
glory' is the aim.... Why don't you guys come up with some clearly distinctive, unambiguous terms – you buy the stuff after all. But don't hold your breathe, as Campbell tells me:"
(Campbell) "I suspect we are going to have to agree to disagree on the compulsory sales categories. Our Working
Group, representing a variety of companies in the industry, discussed this issue for months before they reached a view
, and they went over every conceivable option and considered suggestions put up by others. I very much doubt they are going to change their position now."
Indeed - and that's the part that concerns many of the malt maniacs...
So, we'll get a little deeper into this issue in the next issue of Malt Maniacs - expected in a few weeks...
Entry #328 - An Open Consultation
March 25, 2008 - The more we've learned about the
'consultation process' behind the new SWA proposals that
I mentioned in my previous log entry, the more paranoid
we became. As it turns out, Mark Reynier's comments shed
some light on the tip of a massive iceberg. And over the past
Easter weekend we've found that there are several rabbit
holes below the iceberg - and we're only beginning to get
a clue about how deep they really are...
The SWA (Scotch Whisky Association) is a lobby organisation
for the Scotch whisky industry that represents most of the
large whisky producers like Diageo. They claim to have the
consumer's interests at heart, but that's only the case when
those interests are identical to the interests of the whisky
industry. In reality, they often are not - and sometimes they
are even at odds with eachother. This may very well be one
of those times.
Are they trying to 'pull a fast one' and 'sneak one by us'?
The SWA claims to have done 'market research' that shows
that introduction of the phrase '
blended malt' was necessary
to avoid confusion. However, when we asked about the
market research they were 'not at liberty to divulge that
information'. Interestingly enough, when the maniacs first
heard about the weird phrase a while ago we asked around
and NOBODY seemed to think it avoided any confusion.
In fact, there WAS little confusion until they came up with the phrase.
Since nearly everybody we talked to felt it was a dim-witten idea, we felt that the phrase would never catch on
and would disappear again eventually. But it seems they are going to give it another try. During the past week
I've received messages on this topic from well over a hundred people (I'm guessing around 130 or 140, dozens of
them from within the industry) - and the only two people who thought was a good idea were an SWA member and an SWA spokesperson. So, that's a bit of a 'he said, she said' conundrum, isn't it?
It's strange how the results of our 'market research' (over 98% opposed to the phrase 'blended malt') are so
radically different from the SWA's. When we dug a little deeper we found that the phrase originated within a
mysterious 'work group' that's operation mostly behind the scenes. Many whisky lovers working in 'the industry'
have already informed us that the 'extensive consultation process' didn't include them, so this looks more and
more like an effort of the major whisky producers to diffuse the lines between single malts and blends. The SWA invited some maniacs to come to Scotland to discuss the issue after the dust had settled, but as a lobby
organisation they are not in a position to change their position - so I'm not sure what good that would do.
Instead, the maniacs have taken it upon themselves to step forward as representatives of a small part of the
consumers in the world - and offer an alternative classification in five easy to understand categories in the public arena of the world wide web;
Single Malt Whisky
Single Grain Whisky
Easy as pie - at least 98% of our focus group seems to think so ;-)
Granted, one could still use the phrase 'vatted' for options #2 and #4, but strictly speaking that's not even
neccessary. However, IF you want to give mixtures of the same type of whisky from different distilleries a specific
name, use the name that consumers have used happily and unconfused for ages: vatted. Do NOT try to actually
enhance confusion because that would be good for the 'bread & butter' blends (mixtures of different types of whisky).
Today is the last day to send feedback about the proposals to the SWA.
In an earlier e-conversation about this Campbell Evans of the SWA wrote (and I quote): 'I can assure you that the category description Blended Malt Scotch Whisky only emerged after considerable discussion within the working group
drawn from companies of all types and sizes across the industry. The working group considered a broad and numerous
variety of descriptions over several months, so it was not a case of saying this is what we want to do and having any
hidden agenda to achieve it. (...) One final thought. A number of companies have, in advance of the legislation, already
launched Blended Malt bottlings. My understanding is that these are doing very well, and thus far there have been no adverse comments of confusion to come our way.'
As I said, I've actually received many 'adverse comments of confusion' myself.
I've informed the SWA's Campbell Evans of that very fact and would like to encourage everybody that agrees with us that the phrase 'blended malt' is nonsensical to contact the SWA and/or DEFRA.
There are numerous other interesting points for debate in the proposed legislation, but for now this is the issue
that has ignited the largest controversy and debate amongst the certified malt maniacs...
So, you can expect some more on this in the next issue of Malt Maniacs.
Entry #329 - Baby Steps...
April 13, 2008 - The reconstruction
process of Malt Madness proceeds
slow and unsteady, but at least I've
made SOME progress lately. For one
thing, I've updated the Hit List in the
mAlmanac. I've also added a brand new
list that focuses on the most recent
releases; the Hot List. It contains a
selection of the most noteworthy
recent releases - all IMHO of course.
I've also added two fresh distillery
profiles to the 'Distillery Data section;
one on Caol Ila (because I had planned
to do a tasting but got a cold), and one
on Glenallachie (because it's such a
rare malt that there really wasn't much
to tell - so I could wrap it up quickly... ;-)
Other news: the Braeval (a.k.a. Braes
of Glenlivet) distillery will be re-opened
in July 2008. Braeval was mothballed
by Chivas Brothers in August 2002.
Also: a new Hanyu distillery in Japan.
Yet more 'news': the results of last year's Malt Maniacs Awards are still trickling through the cracks of the
international whisky world. Our Taiwanese maniac Ho-cheng sent us this picture of a six page article in a
Taiwanese whisky magazine. I can't actually read it, but I'm enjoying it nonetheless... Meanwhile, Serge has just published a fresh version of the matrix and the monitor on WhiskyFun. There are now more that 10,000 different whiskies on the monitor! Serge also played around with some statistics. By now well over a dozen maniacs have
crossed the 1000 malts mark on our individual 'track records'. It seems that the average malt maniac (well, at least Davin, Ho-cheng, Michel and myself) samples an average of exactly 33 new malt whiskies each month.
In fact, if we're talking 'collectively', we have hundreds of years of whisky drinking experience.
Hmmm.... If we used the same leaps of faith and 'transfer of property' that the PR agencies of some distilleries
use to track their own lineage back to the 18th century, we could turn that fact into an interesting claim.
One could argue that the malt maniacs have been drinking whisky since before it was invented ;-)
Anyway - that was the 'news' for now...
Here are my tasting notes for a few 'standard' malts fellow maniac Michel and I enjoyed at a tasting for the Dutch
'Whisky Etcetera' magazine in the town of Uithoorn. Apart from the whiskies below, we enjoyed some local delicacies, like smoked sausages and the 'beer cheese' produced by the brewer that hosted the tasting.
Highly enjoyable! As for the malts...
An Cnoc 12yo (40%, OB, Bottled +/- 2007) - an affordable malt whisky for less than 30 Euro's.
Nose: Glue. 'Slime' - the chemical play stuff from the 1970's. Chemical banana (Cardhu?) later on.
Taste: Nothing offensive, but nothing too remarkable either - at least not during a busy 'social' session...
Score: 70 points - still an enjoyable malt whisky, but it has slipped a little down the scale since the 1990's.
Benriach 12yo (40%, OB, Bottled +/- 2007) - my favourite of the day, but not everybody agreed.
Nose: Spicy. Wet dog. Sweet and sweaty. Quite complex and expressive. Some rough edges though.
Taste: A powerful presence with a whiff of smoke. However, it lacks the complexity of the nose.
Score: 79 points
- just a smidgen too rough on the palate to reach the 80's.
Fettercairn 12yo (40%, OB, Bottled +/- 2007) - quite a drop down from the 'Old' Fettercairn.
Nose: Grainy and quite sharp. Not very expressive or complex though. Sweetens out after breathing.
Taste: A flat profile with a rough and sharp mouth feel. Quite bitter, especially in the finish.
61 points - a significant drop down from some 1990's batches that scored in the lower 70's.
Glen Moray 12yo (40%, OB, Bottled +/- 2007) - used to be an affordable 'benchmark' malt.
Nose: Prickly. Chloride. Some subtle fruits (kiwi) emerges after a while. Not as 'round' as it used to be.
Taste: Chalk and yoghurt - I'm afraid that's all my notes say. So, not too expressive I guess.
70 points - this old favourite has now ended up at the bottom of the 'average' bracket.
Tamdhu NAS (40%, OB, Bottled +/- 2007) - the most affordable good malt in our local cornershop.
Nose: Starts off fruity, followed by grain attick and dust. Fresh dough. A beautiful round profile.
Taste: Fairly weak start, needs some time. A little chalky. Nice, solid centre - but weaker in the finish.
Score: 75 points - this expression has remained affordable for over a decade and just got better.
Tamnavulin 12yo (40%, OB, Bottled +/- 2007) - admittedly, this was never a real favourite of mine...
Nose: Dusty & grassy with herbs in the back of the nose. String beans. Flowery & sweeter after breathing.
Taste: It feels quite rough on the palate. Some bitterness - although not quite as much as the Fettercairn.
Score: 71 points - but it needs some time to get there...
And that's it for now - I'll cover a few more 'exotic' drams in my next log entry...
Entry #330 - No Comment...
No further comments...
Well, wait... I had no comments when I first posted this screenshot - around 11:00 PM...
13:30 Update - About an hour after I had posted the screenshot, I refreshed the page with the poll results and
the percentage of 'no' votes had suddenly dropped to 64%! That was extremely weird to say the least. I had received a message about the poll yesterday and forwarded it to the other malt maniacs after casting my own
vote - a heartfelt 'no', of course... Some of the other maniacs cast their votes as well, and over the past day or so
the percentage of 'no' votes has hovered around the 75% mark (see the screenshot.) It seems that Robin Tucek
was right when he suggested possible 'shenanigans' from the SWA and/or 'big whisky' to manipulate the results of the poll. So, I quickly sent a message to the members of the MM Mailinglist and asked them to submit their votes as well. Just in time too - within half an hour after I sent the message the poll closed.
Fortunately, the 'no' votes had crawled back up to 75% - and I've already received complaints from mailing list
members that were too late to cast their 'no' votes. Interestingly enough, the number of 'don't know' votes had dropped from 8% around 11:00 PM to just 3% by the time the poll was over. The number of 'yes' votes had
grown from 15% to 20% during the same time. That means that around half of the votes in the poll on this issue (which lasted a week) were cast in the last two hours - and there's 2% of the votes unaccounted for ;-)
Meanwhile, I've added three fresh profiles to the Distillery Data section; Balblair, Balmenach and Balvenie.
Entry #331 - Walpurgis Spring Session 2008
April 30, 2008 - So, it's that time
of the year again... It's the day of
institutional nationalist madness in
Holland; our old queen's birthday...
Especially Amsterdam is a place to
avoid for sociophobes like myself.
The streets and canals are packed
with people and it takes hours to
get anywhere. It's the one day in
the year when many Dutchmen and
-women allow themselves to act
silly, and in most cases it's painfully
obvious that we usually just lack
the talent for it...
So, wasn't there anything useful
I could be doing while avoiding the
royalist mobs? Yes, there was...
I locked myself in my room for a
little 'walpurgis' session with some
exotic whiskies on my shelves. Most
of these came from Dr. Kraaijeveld,
our professor of xenomaltology.
The first single malt on my list came from the Glenora distillery in Nova Scotia, Canada.
Just like many Scots, the Canadians use lightly peated (Scottish) barley for the 'wash', a pair of pot stills for the
spirit and maturation in ex-bourbon casks to turn that spirit into whisky. So, here are my notes...
Glen Breton 10yo (40%, OB, Bottled +/- 2007, Canada)
Neus: Eucalyptus and the aroma's of an old candy store. More organics after some breathing.
Smaak: Dry and perfumy - and slightly soapy on my palate. This combination doesn't really work for me.
Score: 52 points
- the Canadians can still learn a few tricks from the Scots - or the Irish for that matter...
So, at the moment I'm not really charmed yet by this Canadian product.
Single malt whisky is still the category where you can find the very best whiskies (IMHO), but in this case I can
think of quite a few grain whiskies and even blends I'd rather drink than this Glen Breton 10yo.
So - let's see what happens when they mix Canadian whisky with bourbon...
Phillips Union (40%, OB, Bottled +/- 2006, Blend of Kentucky Bourbon & Canadian Whisky)
Nose: Starts incredibly sweet with a faint touch of apple. Alcohol in the background. Almond liqueur?
Not complex. Over time the grainy elements become more pronounced. Fairly simple, but quite enjoyable.
Taste: Mocca. Very sweet as well; reminds me a bit of Italian Galliano liqueur. Nutty overtones - coconut?
Smooth start and centre, but the mouth feel becomes hotter and gritty towards the bitterish finish.
Score: 55 points - almost like a liqueur. Quite different from a Scotch malt whisky but enjoyable.
I actually had it at 59 points for a long time, but the rough finish pulls off a few points.
That was most certainly not boring - and more to my liking than most of the bourbons and Canadian whiskies I've
tried so far. But it has such strong aroma's and flavours that I'm wondering if they perhaps added some 'secret
ingredients' - which is allowed in Canadian whisky. So let's move South for three purely American products...
Bernheim NAS 'Original' (45%, OB, Kentucky Straight Wheat Whisky, USA)
Nose: Very sweet but little complexity. Very much like a bourbon, actually. Enjoyable but simple.
After ten minutes of breathing it opened up a bit - but not enough to make my heart grow fonder.
Taste: Bourbony. Hot and smooth, but just like the nose it offers very little complexity.
Score: 47 points
- based on my very limited experience so far, rye whiskey seems to offer more potential.
That being said; I imagine this wheat whiskey wasn't matured in very good casks for very long...
Stranahan's Colorado Whiskey 2001 (47%, OB, Bottled +/- 2006, USA)
Nose: Fruity, expressive and quite chemical. The fruits become ever more dominant over time.
Quite exquisite and surprisingly complex. Black currants, cassis, some raspberries, 'fruits de bois'.
Taste: Ough.... Here the chemicals have overpowered the fruits. They return in the finish though...
68 points - still a little rough around the edges, but interesting and quite enjoyable.
Old Portrero 11yo (50%, OB, Bottled +/- 2006, USA)
Nose: Whooh... Paint thinner at first. Sweet. Then 'older' fruity notes emerge. Like 'Asbach Uralt' brandy.
It lacks complexity compared to Scotch whisky, but I enjoy it more than most bourbons like Jim Beam.
After about half an hour the nose finally opened up a bit more, with some dust perhaps water melon.
Taste: Again, some chemical paint thinner in the start. More like a bourbon here than in the nose.
Sweet. Very smooth mouth feel with an evaporating finish, just like most bourbon whiskeys I've tried.
54 points - to tell you the truth I had expected more after some people raved about it.
Still, plenty of interesting stuff going on in the America's at the moment, it would seem.
And what about the rest of the world? Well, so far I've only tasted a fraction of the 'exotic' whiskies that are
available in the world. One of the blank area's on my map of the whisky world was Pakistan, but thanks to a package from Lex that will now change. One wouldn't expect a whisky distillery in this hotbed of muslimism, but
the Rawalpindi distillery was actually established over a century ago. In 1899 Pakistan was still part of the British
colonial empire. Rawalpindi distillery is owned by the Murree Brewery Company, who later changed the name of
the distillery to Murree. According to Lex Kraaijeveld, the distillery still has floor maltings, a Saladin box, four large
stainless steel wash stills and two large copper spirit stills. Maturation takes place in barrels and vats which are stored in underground cellars. So - enough 'theory' for now - let's move on to the whisky...
Murree 8yo 'Malt Whisky Classic' (43%, OB, Pakistan, Bottled +/- 2006)
Nose: Mostly paint thinner at first. Later sweeter notes emerge, but more 'molasses' than 'grains'.
Nutty, oily, buttery. I have a bit of a sweet tooth, so I don't mind sweetness - but there's little complexity.
Hey, wait... After 15 minutes there IS some development and it opens up a bit. I kind of like it...
Taste: Weak start, then a fairly long prickling centre. Depressing finish that takes a bitter turn in the end.
Score: 43 points
- the nose isn't that unpleasant actually, but there's no fun to be had on the palate.
Murree 12yo 'Millennium Reserve' (43%, OB, Pakistan, Bottled +/- 2006)
Nose: Nutty start. More complex than the 8yo with more fruity notes. Passion fruits. Hint of dust.
Fruits take over from nuts and passion fruit remains the dominant element. Slightly metallic?
Hey, and unlike the 8yo, this one shows quite some development. Still, the passion fruit remains.
Taste: A little perfumy in the start. More fruits later on - passion fruits again. Dusty finish.
Score: 62 points - but once again the finish pulls it down. The nose alone reaches the upper 60's.
With the profile of some recent Scottish releases like the Fettercairn dropping (I scored the most recent batch I tried at 61 points) it seems they suddenly have serious competition from Pakistan - of all places...
So, I preferred the 12yo Murree over the 8yo by quite a wide margin.
Oddly enough, Lex felt very differently when he tried them; he preferred the 8yo and considered the 12yo almost
too weird to be considered 'whisky'. So, a perfect example that beauty is in the eye of the beholder; which whisky is the 'best' depends on your purely personal preferences...
And that's it for this tasting report. Tasting these exotic whiskies briefly inspired me to get back to work on the refurbishment of the 'deviant drams' section - but then I remembered that I still have some 75 Scottish distillery
profiles to finish for the distillery data section. So, I'll get back to work on the profiles for Glencadam (because a
bottle of the new independent bottler Single & Single is 'en route' for review) and Laphroaig (because I've just received the excellent book by Marcel van Gils on the distillery).
Watch this space for the reviews as they arrive...
Entry #332 - First Single & Single
May 11, 2008 - As if the whisky world wasn't in enough turmoil as it is (with the 'blended malt' debate, new distilleries
being built and mothballed distilleries being resurrected), now a brand new independent bottler steps onto the stage. It's 'Single & Single', a 'boutique' bottler run by Yossi Schwartz.
Bottling whisky is a hobby and 'for friends', Yossi's day job is chairman of the Young & Rubicam Group in South Africa.
Well, the arrival of 'Single & Single' isn't some megalomaniacal
attack on the businesses of Gordon & MacPhail, Douglas Laing or Duncan Taylor. So far, S&S have only released one single bottling; a Glencadam 16yo from 1991 that was bottled in
December 2007. Unlike the name suggests, they don't do single casks bottlings - at least not yet. Their first release came from 14 casks that were obtained from Dewar Rattray.
The first bottling isn't chill filtered and Yossi claims they will aim to avoid this in the future too - as well as artificial colouring.
It says 'limited release' on the label, but that's relative.
Independent bottlers like Cadenhead's or Douglas Laing
bottle mostly single casks, which are limited to just a few
hundred bottles by definition. With a release of a bottling
of 3800 bottles from over a dozen casks, Single & Single
almost plays in the same distribution league as some of
the smaller distilleries and their official bottlings.
Because the first bottling will only be available in the UK,
Europe and South Africa, it should be relatively easy to
find. Check out the bottler's website to enquire about
Two last bits of trivia; the name was inspired by a book
by John le Carré from 1999 and they plan to bottle a
Bowmore 8yo and Bunnahabhain 32yo next...
Glencadam 16yo 1991/2007 (46%, Single & Single, 75cl, Bottle #3790)
Nose: Light, sweet and 'grainy' - in a good way. Clean. Old fashioned honey sweets? Accessible.
Some apple notes emerge after a while. Not a very 'broad' spectrum, but nice development over time.
Hint of peat? No wait, it's chloride. This one really needs time to reveal all its subtleties & complexities.
Taste: Sweet, gentle start, solidifying in the middle. Smooth until the finish with a touch of bitterness.
The apple traits I found in the nose returned on the palate - together with some young 'sappy' wood.
I have to admit that over time the harsh 'bourbony' wood in the finish isn't something I enjoy a lot.
Adding a few drops of water didn't improve the nose, but it brought forward some fruits in the finish.
80 points - it makes it into the 80's on complexity, but it's one for the 'bourbon cask' type crowd.
For my personal tastes, I really need some fruits and/or tannins in the finish to balance out the wood.
So, that was one dram down - an inspiration to finish the Glencadam distillery profile today.
But there were some other samples on my shelves that were in dire need of sampling;
Benriach 15yo 1991/2006 'Tawny Port Wood' (53%, OB, C#6921, Port hogshead for Taiwan)
Nose: Very aromatic start. Wonderful, but drops off quickly. The harsher notes remain. Let's add some water...
Not much change in the profile with water; perhaps a hint of rubber... Could be better integrated.
Taste: Sweet with a clear port influence. Even sweeter in the middle, turning a tad smoky in the finish.
83 points - although I could have put it in the upper 80's after the first few whiffs.
Cragganmore 1993/2006 Distillers Edition (40%, OB, Port Wood Finish)
Nose: Strong fruits, but there's something slightly chemical about it... Definitely some rubber as well.
Rubber usually goes along with other sulphury smells like gunpowder, but not here it seems.
Taste: Very weak start, powering up with fruits and liquorice. Touch of rubber? A little bit weird...
Liquorice returns in the tannic finish. It arguably has some flaws, but at least it's not boring.
Score: 81 points - which means that I like it a lot more than the regular expression these days.
Deanston 18yo 1977/1996 (54.7%, Cadenhead's, Distilled November 1977, Bottled January 1996)
Nose: Strong late summer fruits. None of the usual 'farmy' notes that I get in Deanston. At least...
There is some dust and rotting milk powder far in the background. More cask than country...
Taste: Very hot - I needed to add some water right away. With a few drops it really opens up.
Still powerful at slightly below 50%, but much better. Excellent mouth feel with smoke in the finish.
Score: 87 points - which makes it my new favourite Deanston expression, beating the Deanston NAS (40%, OB,
"100% Highland", Late 1970's) at 83 points, Deanston 25yo (40%, OB, Burn Stewart, Decanter with silver cork,
Bottled +/-2000) at 82 points and Deanston 25yo 1977/2003 (50.3%, Cadenhead's, Bourbon HH, 198 Bts.) at 81 points. All other expressions I've tried scored below 80 points.
So.... Reason enough to wrap up the refurbished Deanston distillery profile in the DD section as well...
Check it out - it's a fairly obscure distillery, so you might learn something new. ;-)
Entry #333 - I Almost Feel Like a 'Friend of Laphroaig'...
May 25, 2008 - Over the past few weeks I've been busy
tracking the information about some of the new distillation
projects in Scotland. I found out that the old 'new projects'
page in the Distillery Data section was in dire need of an
update. There were just half a dozen profiles on the old site,
but when I started digging around I found data on a dozen
others. The new list now features new entries for Ailsa Bay,
Annandale, Daftmill, Huntley, Loch Ewe and Roseisle while
I've updated the profiles for Blackwood, Glengyle, Kilchoman,
Kininvie and Ladybank. I haven't found enough data on all
new projects to warrant a full entry; I'm waiting for news
and/or confirmation from Barra, Falkirk, Ladybank, Lindores,
Mellerstain, Parkmore, Red River Valley and Stal Thorabhaig.
As you can see, a lot is happening in Scotland...
Meanwhile, not much seems to be happening at Laphroaig.
Don't worry, that's a good thing - that's what made it my #1!
When I read the excellent 'The Legend of Laphroaig' by Dutch writers Marcel van Gils and Hans Offringa I became
inspired to wrap up the Laphroaig distillery profile in the DD section. It's an excellent book that looks in a lot of
detail into the history of Laphroaig - so I've (sort of) reviewed the book as part of the distillery profile.
Although temperatures are rising here in Holland, it's not officially summer yet.
So, while nobody was watching I quickly snuck a few last Islay malts into my tasting schedule - three bottlings from Laphroaig to be precise. I really need to get on with the DD section, so without further ado...
Laphroaig 12yo 1994/2007 (46%, TWE Single Malts of Scotland, C#6380-6589, 705 Bts.)
Nose: Clean, fresh peat with some fruits. Starts off surprisingly complex, but then settles down.
It's fairly young in character in the nose. A good Islay malt, but not good enough for the upper 80's.
Taste: I wasn't overly impressed with the nose, but it works wonders on the palate. Strong peat.
This has everything a peat lover wants, although discerning connoisseurs might look for more.
Score: 82 points - reminds me a bit of the very affordable 'Finlaggan' bottlings of the 1990's.
Laphroaig 16yo 1988/2004 (46%, Signatory UCF, C#3614)
Nose: Woohaah! Sweet & peaty attack. Fairly similar in profile to the 12yo from TWF. Quite clean.
This seems to lack the organics and diesel I find in the 10yo Cask Strength. More like Caol Ila initially.
Over time, more fruits emerge. There's a hint of chloride behind the peat - usually mutually exclusive smells.
Taste: Big, round and peaty. Salty. A brief dry episode before a long, sweeter middle. Dry, peaty finish.
Score: 81 points - in the end the finish becomes very rough, so it loses a point here.
Laphroaig 17yo 1989/2007 (50.3%, OB, 4000 Bts., Feis Isle 2007)
Nose: Clean peat with fruits and tobacco in the background. Leather and organics. Woohaah!
I almost didn't dare to add water. When I did, the last drops of whisky became minty and gentle. Odd...
Taste: Leather, liquorice, smoke and Lapsang Souchong tea. Wonderful complexity on the palate.
Quite unique - and not as 'clean' as the nose would suggest. Just as well, I like my peat 'dirty'...
Some sweetness as well that brings balance to the peat and smoke. Liquorice in the finish.
Score: 90 points
- definitely a worthy bottling for Feis Ile, I'd say. A nice deviation from the 'Phroaig profile.
In fact, drinking this makes me feel like a friend of Laphroaig - although I never officially became a member.
Well, I'm usually quite particular about who I call my friends myself - but if they ever launch the 'Close Personal Acquaintances of Laphroaig' I might actually join... ;-)
Anyway, let's hope the visitor's of this year's Islay Festival (going on right now) will be as lucky.
If they release around 4000 bottlings again at least they won't run out before the actual distillation day, like they
did a few years ago. Last time I checked, some of the bottles would be available through www.laphroaig.com.
That's it - enjoy the rest of Spring while it lasts...
Entry #334 - Leeches & Suckers!
May 30, 2008
- In the past I may or may not have referred to some individuals
and/or companies in and around the whisky world as leeches and/or suckers.
Well, it seems I'll have to either apologise to those leeches and suckers, or
start hating myself even more than I already do. Or perhaps a little of both?
You know what that means, don't you? It's time to start leeching back!
In other words: I've allowed the first paid advertisement on Malt Madness.
Yeah, I know - that might not be quite as spectacular a scoop as the headline
of this entry suggested, especially because you probably hadn't even noticed
the modest 'sponsored link' before I mentioned it. What's more, we've had a
few different hosting sponsors since the 1990's that received a small ad at the
bottom of each page on the Malt Madness site in exchange for their troubles.
Having a hosting sponsor allowed me to focus on building the best website
I could and not worry about having to pay a penalty if I got too much traffic.
But time flies, especially when you're having fun...
As the massive website crash in 2006 proved, the software I've been using
since the 1990's to maintain Malt Madness (and now Malt Maniacs) isn't too stable.
What's more, I'd love to be able to update the site even if I'm not sitting at home behind (and sometimes even in
front of) my computer. So, after buying my own hard- and software for a decade I felt I that I should offer the
esteemed visitors of Malt Madness the opportunity to express their gratitude for all this free whisky wit & wisdom
by making an indirect financial contribution. That's the sort of contribution where you don't actually have to draw your wallet; the kind people of SilverGroves
have drawn theirs for you. That means all you'll have to do is manfully (or womanfully) withstand the suffering that comes with having to look at a sponsored link...
Well, actually, you don't actually HAVE to look at it; it's theoretically possible to look away...
And if you REALLY can't stand the pain and agony, remember there's nothing like a gift to cheer you up.
A whisky gift from those friendly people at SilverGroves for example - in most countries it's still legal to buy gifts
for yourself, you know ;-) And speaking of 'legal' matters; I guess it would be theoretically possible for an
innocent teenager (or even one of those aforementioned suckers) to be led on the road to ruin via a pair of harmless looking whisky tumblers, purchased through a link on this site. So, just to be on the safe side I've
added an unmissable disclaimer to the home page with some (very) fine print - if I may say so myself...
These were the 'administrative issues', but I also have some fresh tasting notes for you...
They are notes for five independent Caol Ila's from 'maverick' bottlers; two oldies from Signatory's Andrew Symington and three more recent expressions from TWF's Carsten Ehrlich. The calendar mafia tries to convince
me it's almost summer, but during the last few days it feels more like winter - so Islay malts are still permitted.
Caol Ila 7yo 1989/1997 (43%, Signatory, C#4516)
Nose: Hmmmm.... Where's the peat? Some oily and veggy notes instead. Cardboard. Cold dishwater.
Fairly dull and dusty - it has none of the 'clean' qualities I usually enjoy so much in Caol Ila. Weird.
Taste: Fairly watery start, although it picks up in the middle. Becomes quite hot & peppery in the finish.
Score: 73 points - not a bad whisky, but certainly not what I'd expect from a Caol Ila.
Caol Ila 11yo 1991/2003 (46%, Signatory, Port finish)
Nose: Fairly sharp and spirity at first. Not very complex apart from some fruity weirdness in the background.
Taste: Sweet with a hint of smoke. Peatier and hotter in the middle. Smooth, dry finish. Weird again.
Score: 79 points - the metallic weirdness in the finish finally pulled it out of the 80's for me.
Caol Ila 13yo 1991/2005 (54.2%, The Whisky Fair, C#4734, 359 Bts.)
Nose: Sweet and much mellower than I expected. Then more chloride emerges. Barley. Some smoke.
Quite different from the usually 'clean' Caol Ila's - I like the diversion. It's certainly not boring...
Taste: Quite a sharp alcoholic bite before the peat rises to the surface to soften it up. Long centre.
The middle lasts forever before gently transforming into the finish. A tad metallic perhaps?
Score: 82 points - and if it hadn't had such a sharp palate attack it might have reached the upper 80's.
That's a significant jump up from my previous score of 79 points - that was just a tad too low.
Caol Ila 22yo 1984/2007 (55.9%, The Whisky Fair, Sherry, 287 Bts.)
Nose: Very rich, with interesting old fruity notes. Becomes extremely rich and complex after a while.
Definitely not a 'clean' Caol Ila according to the house style, but all the more to my liking for it.
Shows a gentler side after some more breathing - some faint fruity and candy notes. Menthol?
Taste: Tobacco. Rich fruits. Leather. Some salt at the bottom. Then the smoke is released. Beautiful.
Score: 90 points - a beautiful marriage of smoke and sherry; of the spirit and the cask.
In a blind tasting I could have misinterpreted this as a Kildalton whisky...
Caol Ila 23yo 1984/2007 (55.9%, The Whisky Fair, Bourbon)
Nose: Much cleaner and sharper than the previous two; chloride with some early fruits in the back.
Sweetens out after a minute, but sacrifices some complexity along with it. This is a straight shooter.
Taste: Light fruits quickly give way to the peat. Sweet and salty centre. Grows very dry in the finish.
Score: 82 points - like we needed any proof that I prefer sherry over bourbon casks...
Well, maybe it's not really fair to compare Signatory Vintage and The Whisky Fair based on these malts (the Signatories were much younger and cheaper), but in this round TWF wins on points. I had actually planned this
session weeks ago, so the Caol Ila Distillery Profile is already finished.
And that's it for now - expect my tasting notes for some more 'summery' malts next time...
Entry #335 - Technical Issues - Part I
June 3, 2008
- Well, here's a very brief log entry this time...
And it's not even about whisky... I have to perform a fairly crucial software
update. I've been using NetObjects Fusion to build and maintain this site
since version 2 of the program in the late 1990's. The program happens to
be perfectly suited to my 'skill set', but it's also unstable as hell.
Hence the big crash of the old website in 2006...
I actually wouldn't mind switching to an 'open source' tool like Joomla,
but if I did that, rebuilding the entire massive site would take many more
years. But they've just released version 11 and if it turns out to be less
buggy than the previous version there are some potential benefits, so
I've decided to take the gamble. Because the malt maniacs now have
their own cosy little Malt Maniacs & Friends group on Facebook, there
will be at least one 'channel' left open to the public of Malt Madness
and Malt Maniacs, even if I happen to run into unforeseen problems.
Besides, there's always the good old 'Mixed Messages Mailinglist'.
I'll send out an alert if and when the situation requires it...
If all goes well, you should find a fresh entry here again soon. If all doesn't go well...
Well, all the more reason to join the mailinglist or our MM&F group on Facebook, isn't there?
After all, with all the new technical developments old-fashioned HTML pages seem almost obsolete ;-)
Oh, and one more thing - whisky-related this time.
Misako Udo informed us that the Braeval distillery (a.k.a. Braes of Glenlivet) will be re-opened shortly.
I've inquired about this at owners Chivas / Pernod but haven't received a response yet. Well, that means I won't have to add the distillery profile yet, so I can worry about my software update now.
Keep your fingers crossed!
Entry #336 - Technical Issues - Part II
June 5, 2008
- Hurray! I'm not shouting that at the top of my lungs, but the
upgrade to the new NetObjects version went better than expected. So, I've just
uploaded a fresh version of the entire site so I can test if everything works as
it's supposed to work. From what I've seen so far, everything looks quite a bit
better in FireFox and just a little worse in Internet Explorer.
Please let me know if you encounter any technical problems on these pages.
Meanwhile, it has been over a month since I've had a good rant.
However, I'll have to bottle up my ire and wrath for a few more days - watch this space...
The latest I've heard about my previous pet peeve (the 'open consultation' of the UK government about entering the phrase 'blended malt
' into the lawbooks) was that there will probably be another round of consultation.
So, more about my latest reason for irrational anger and despair in my next entry.
First, I'll have to check the site for errors...
Entry #337 - Wake Up & Smell The Whisky...
June 12, 2008 - As you may have noticed I can get annoyed more easily than
most normal people. In fact, if getting annoyed were an Olympic sport I would
have to show up in China in a few weeks to defend my title... Fortunately,
very much like is the case with exciting sports like dwarf tossing, there just
are too few people getting annoyed at a semi-professional level to elevate it
from a hobby to an Olympic sport. That left me with loads of unspent spunk
to unload on the BIG Partnership in London, Edrington Group's PR agency.
One of the things that attracted me to single malt whisky in the first place
was the fact that it's a (relatively) authentic product in today's 'corporate'
society that mostly revolves around mass media and mass consumption.
When single malts only made up some 2% of the total whisky market in
the 1990's it was a real 'niche'. Most of the attention of the rubber desk
johnny's at the corporate headquarters went to their big brands, almost
invariably blends. Mass market tactics worked beautifully for these - and
you can find some fine examples of whisky advertising on WhiskyFun.
But over the last decade demand for single malt whisky has exploded.
For a long time malt whiskies and the distilleries that made them were
almost an afterthought; it was a necessary ingredient of the blended
whiskies that were the 'bread & butter' of the whisky industry. Even
after most distilleries and blenders had been gobbled up (or turned
into) large conglomerates and corporations, most of the money was
made with blends - so that's where the focus of the management
and shareholders was as well. But with the value of the segment
growing rapidly, the drive for further 'professionalisation' of the
approach of this former 'niche' market was strong.
Unfortunately, a more professional approach can be a pretty bad thing...
One of the distilleries that has embraced this new phase of professionalism in the malt whisky industry most
enthusiastically is Highland Park on the Orkney islands in the North of Scotland. Prices have exploded over the
last few years - the new 40yo bottling depicted here will set you back almost 1000 pounds. If they invested the
extra money that's pouring in right now in stuff like sherry casks so they can maintain the old 'house style' I could
live with that, but instead they spend it on things like a continuous stream of mostly meaningless press releases.
Most of the time those simply annoy the hell out of me, but sometimes they DO come in handy.
I recently came accross a sample from Olivier that just said 'HP 18 Lunar'. That didn't ring any bells, so I searched
my inbox for clues. Sure enough, this press release popped up;
Highland Park Honours the First 21st Century Lunar Nutation - 28/09/2006
Highland Park has created a limited edition 18 3/5 year old Lunar Bottling in honour of the first Lunar Nutation of the
21st century. This exceptional bottling celebrates the completion of the Moon's full cycle, a celestial phenomenon which
only happens every 18 3/5 years and is best observed from Orkney's Ring of Brodgar, one of the finest stone circles in
the world. This month is the latest turning point in the Moon's full cycle and it will not return to this point again until
2025. There are only 500 of these exclusive bottlings available (RRP £69.99) at this very distinct age profile, making
this a rare and collectable whisky, said Jason Craig, global controller, adding: "This limited edition is voluptuous, like our 18yo, only more so."
Matured using over 40 per cent first fill sherry oak casks and bottled at 45.1% abv, Highland Park Lunar is seductive
and full-bodied. It is a uniquely smooth and balanced single malt, with the Orcadian hallmarks of a toffee sweetness and mouthwatering smokey finish.
Gerry Tosh, brand ambassador, commented: "At Highland Park, just like the early inhabitants of Orkney, we have a
fascination with the mystical nature of things such as the solar system or the nature of whisky maturation. For many
years our award winning 18 year old has featured the Ring of Brodgar on our label as we believe in the craftsmanship
spent behind creating the perfect circle. Those fortunate enough to experience Highland Park's Lunar bottling will surely
appreciate the skill, craftsmanship and patience required to create this single malt. As there won't be another Lunar
Nutation until 2025 this is sure to become a collectors item." (...) Obviously, stocks will be very limited and demand is
expected to be high – we are informed that it will come in a special wooden presentation box with an explanatory leaflet so you will need to act quickly if you want to buy one.
Well, Olivier DID buy one and was good enough to share a sample with me.
So, let's see if this whisky indeed has magical properties...
Highland Park 18 3/5 yo 'Lunar Bottling' (45.1%, OB, Bottled 2006)
Nose: Sharpish for a second, then quieting down. Smooth and sweet with woody overtones.
It doesn't seem very expressive, but there are a lot of subtleties to enjoy. Smells older than 18 years.
This one really needs time! After fifteen minutes fruits, spices and organics jumped to the foreground.
Taste: A bit confused for a few seconds, then taking a sweet and fruity direction. Great mouth feel.
Well, at least at first - after a smoky centre it became a smidgen too harsh in the finish for my tastes.
88 points - Serge, Olivier and Konstantin all scored it in the 90's, but I wouldn't go quite that far.
Well - that WAS pretty good whisky, I have to admit.
Perhaps that was why the whisky that was actually DISTILLED during the previous Lunar Nutation (i.e. the 12yo
that was still readily available for chump change in the late 1990's) tasted roughly just as good ;-)
So, that got me inspired to rummage around my shelves for some other Highland Parks;
Highland Park 16yo 1990/2007 (46%, The Whisky Exchange, C#7059, 347 Bts.)
Nose: Fresh and sparkly, like a freshly cut apple. More of the 'wash' and beer aroma's later on. Some smoke?
A whiff of rotting grass and cattle feed. A tad metallic in the background. A 'natural' whisky. Puffy sweets.
Subtle development over time. In fact, this is surprisingly subtle for a (probably) sherry casked whisky.
Taste: A solid whisky with a faint touch of peat in the finish. Surprisingly ballsy (i.e. peaty) for a recent HP.
A tad grassy. Excellent mouth feel with a long, rough but fairly neutral finish. Beer traits here as well.
Score: 81 points - it's a good, solid malt whisky, but lacks the fruits I love in the OB's.
Highland Park 19yo 1988/2007 (55.7%, The Whisky Fair, bourbon hogshead)
Nose: Big, rich and sweet. Echo's of the organics and farmy notes in the 16yo TWE bottling, but more complex.
Sweeter too, with lovely bakery aroma's. Faintest hint of rubber and something oily, but not disturbing.
Taste: Quite a bit of power, just like the 16yo from TWE. Perfectly drinkable at cask strength. Touch of peat.
An excellent mouth feel; a solid sweet start evolves into a rougher, smokier centre and a long finish.
Score: 89 points - it really touches the 90's ceiling, but is just a smidgen too 'natural' for that.
That 89 points is really an average; over the course of half an hour it swung between 87 and 91 points.
Highland Park 20yo 1984 (57.9%, OB, C#45, 528 Bts., Germany)
Nose: Old tea. Subtle smoke. Deviant organics and some sourish balsamico overtones. Quite unique.
What an excellent malt; the base tone keeps shifting slowly and the various organics keep it interesting.
Taste: Chewy start; perfect mouth feel at cask strength. Smoky finish. Then an aged fruits interlude.
Perfect tannins in the finish. What a miracle on the palate; showcases the blessings of a good sherry cask.
Score: 90 points - those lucky German buggers! One of the last HP OB's for a reasonable price?
It dropped off a bit at the end (sulphur?), but until then it's a major thrill ride...
Woohaah.... I could have ended the session on a high note, but wanted just one more dram.
I picked another one from Orkney...
Scapa 13yo 1993/2006 (50%, DL OMC, REF3341, D. 09/'93, Btl. 11/'06)
Nose: Sweet, smooth and spicy - lovely start. The grainy origins shine through, but not disturbingly so.
Taste: Smooth start as well, but then it becomes feistier - and flatter, unfortunately. Hint of soap?
Unlike the nose, it's actually quite sharp on the palate, especially in the gritty, bone-dry finish.
81 points - but I was inclined to go with a score in the mid-80's based on the wonderful nose.
And that's it for this report. I'll look abroad again in my next entry - at Ireland to be precise.
Entry #338 - Walpurgis Session - Post Script
June 15, 2008 - Time flies when you're having fun...
It has already been six weeks since I had to wrap up my latest
'Walpurgis' session with whiskies that were not distilled in Scotland.
Since a whisky can't choose where it wants to be distilled I thought
it would be only fair to review some non-Scottisch whiskies and
whiskeys every now and then. I didn't get to sample all the exotic
stuff on my shelves during the last 'Walpurgis' session on April 30,
so here's a little 'post script' about four different whiskies and/or
whiskeys - two Irish whiskeys and three grain whisk... eh.. ieys?
Confused already? Well, I am. Canadian malt maniac Davin de
Kergommeaux opened the latest issue of Malt Maniacs with a great
E-pistle about the various spellings of the word 'whisky'. According
to Davin the 'rule' that the Scotch, Canadian and Japanese whisky
makers use the traditional spelling while Irishmen and Americans
always add the superfluous 'e' isn't etched in stone.
To add to the confusion, one of the candidates of tonight's session
is both a GRAIN and an IRISH WHISKEY. That's quite rare, because
most Irish whiskeys are pot still whiskeys. To produce the Greenore
Cooley uses a mash of IP maize (The IP refers to identity preserved,
meaning that this maize isn't genetically modified) and malted barley.
Cooley needs the enzymes in the malt to convert the starch in the
maize to sugar, as there are no enzymes present in the maize. To
produce a maize only product they would have to use commercial
enzymes only or "malt" the maize. They used between 5 and 10%
malt for the Greenore, which is distilled using two column stills (also
known as Coffey stills or patent stills). According to Cooley, maize
also produces a sweeter whiskey than wheat or other cereals.
So, in this case 'single grain' means the grain whiskey is produced by
a single distillery, not that it is produced from only one cereal or grain.
I suggest you check out the Beginner's Guide to Single Malt Whisky if you want to know more about the
difference between the production of Scotch whisky and Irish whiskey. I've been quite curious about this new 15yo release ever since it was announced. When the regular 8yo was released a few years ago it opened my
eyes to the potential of young grain whisk(e)y. A score of 72 points may not seem much compared to the average
malt whisky (theoretical average = 75 points), but quite a few single malts like Glen Moray and Fettercairn have now dropped below that.
Greenore 15yo Limited Edition (43%, OB, Cooley, Grain whiskey, Ireland, 5000 Bottles)
Nose: Clearly a grain whisky at first with an 'acetone' attack. Sweetens out quickly, settling down.
Clean with some faint vegetal notes in the background. Light in style with an evolving complexity.
After some 10 minutes it starts to really open up with bakery aroma's joining the grain attic bouquet.
Then the faintest hint of sulphur - gunpowder - and other organics. Smoke. Wow! A brief 'peacock's tail'.
Taste: Extremely smooth on the palate, almost like a bourbon. Big centre, hint of smoke in the dry finish?
Some malty notes, oddly enough. After some breathing the centre became a little nuttier. Roasted almonds?
Score: 78 points
- the perfect cross-over whiskey for bourbon lovers looking for some more complexity.
So, this is indeed a significant step up from the regular Greenore that's only half as old at 8yo.
With a score of 72 points the regular 8yo doesn't threaten most single malts from Scotland yet, but with a very
friendly price it offers a nice opportunity to try an altogether different style of whisky. For a long time, the only
Scottish single grain whisky on the mass market (that I knew of) was Blackbarrel - and that was a pretty foul dram. However, a few years ago some fabulous single grains from independent bottlers like Duncan Taylor cured
me of my prejudices. So, let's put two Scotch single grains against the Greenore now...
North British 25yo 1964/1990 (46%, SigV, C#10451-10454, 1300Bts., 75cl)
Nose: Clearly grain whisky, like the Greenore - but more metallic. medicinal - not in a good way.
Sourish - something must have gone wrong here... Like an old wet dirty cloth. Well, at least it has character...
Taste: Very weird start. Metallic again. Dust. Aspirin bitterness. Yuck! This drained all my sympathy quickly.
Score: 30 points
- the only reason I rank this above the Johnnie Walker Red is the (sort of) interesting nose.
One of the skeletons in Andrew Symington's closet I guess ;-)
Invergordon 40yo 1964/2005 (48.1%, Dewar Rattray, C#57633, 105 Bts.)
Nose: Starts with sweetness and an acetone attack. Faint tropical fruits. Not a lot of development.
Taste: Chewing gum balls. Hot centre. Strong tannins. Dry, tannic, medium long finish. A tad bitter.
It has an incredibly peppery twist at the end of the finish - like the Absolut Pepper Vodka of the 1980's.
Score: 74 points - but some maniacs put it in the 90's. Well, there's no accounting for poor taste I guess ;-)
Well, I've never been a huge fan of the average grain whisky - although I've tried a handful of brilliant exceptions
from Scottish distilleries like Invergordon and Carsebridge. As far as I'm concerned, these last two were not among them. That makes the 'better than average' score of 78 points for the Greenore 15yo even more
impressive. So, that inspired me to pull one more Irish whiskey from the bar;
Cooley 15yo 1992/2007 (56.4%, The Whisky Fair, Bourbon, 312 Bts.)
Nose: Fresh and vegetal. Also a hint of something metallic here. Sourish. Rhubarb. Apple.
It receives bonus points for complexity, that's for sure. A mellow fruitiness; a perfect summer whiskey.
Taste: The bourbon cask has a very dominant presence. Strong tannins in the middle and the finish.
Quite hot, even after I added a few generous drops of water. It feels younger than 15 years though.
The 'plywood' tannins really are a tad too harsh for my tastes - not the best cask Carsten ever chose.
That being said - it does have charms. After a LOT of time and some water tropical fruits emerged in the finish.
Score: 77 points
- a very nice nose but too woody on the palate for me to actively recommend it.
Well, to be honest I had expected a little bit more from a The Whisky Fair bottling at cask strength.
In fact, if I understand the production process of Irish whiskey correctly this was made with at least some malted
barley - as opposed to the unmalted barley (and/or other grains) that was supposedly used for the Greenore OB from Cooley. Oddly enough, I preferred the 'grain' variety under today's circumstances...
Entry #339 - The Water of Life is getting murkier...
June 17, 2008 - Well, I had actually planned a 'Haarlem Nocturne' tasting session with fellow malt maniac Michel
van Meersbergen today, but after a painful visit to the pedicure this morning I could hardly walk. I had never
been to a pedicure before, so I don't know if that's normal - but for now I'll assume she knows what she's doing.
Anyway, I was in no condition to walk to Michel's home in the old inner city of Haarlem, so we decided to move the planned tasting session to next week.
That gave me the opportunity to write up
some of my thoughts about a failry recent
development in a case that I got quite
excited about a few months ago. The
newly proposed whisky categories of
the SWA (Scotch Whisky Association)
specifically specify that a malt whisky
has to be distilled in a pot still. I have
to admit that I initially didn't give this a
second thought, but then I received the
news of protests at Loch Lomond distillery.
Anyway - I'll get into more details about that matter in my message to the Mixed Messages Mailinglist.
No fresh tasting notes here this time - but I've got a whisky-filled (and whisky-fueled ;-) weekend ahead with a little 'Midsummer Night
' open air dramming in the woods at my family's home on Friday night, the infamous Michiel Wigman Super Tasting on Saturday night (I'll be bringing a bottle of my beloved 'UD Rare Malts' Saint
Magdalene 19yo 1979), the 'Whisky In The Church' event on Sunday and finally some quiet 'afterdramming' on
Monday when we say goodbye to Serge and Olivier at the airport. The time you'll have to wait for my report on those events depends partly on the recovery time that my brain and liver will need after that...