Whisky tasting notes & scoresEarlier entriesLater entries

Entry #357 - 19/07/2009; Small Summer Update  (A small update on my recent whisky adventures)
Entry #358 - 24/08/2009; Dun Eideann Update  (Clarification about Dun Eideann as a Signatory brand)
Entry #359 - 30/08/2009; Master of My Domain?  (I found myself entangled in a domain name dispute)
Entry #360 - 06/09/2009; The Interactive Map Is Back!  (After 4 years I published a brand new map)
Entry #361 - 21/09/2009; The Whisky Agency 'Fossils'  (A tasting session with a handful of bottles)
Entry #362 - 01/10/2009; Malt Maniacs Awards 2008 Revisited  (A look back at some medal winners)
Entry #363 - 12/10/2009; Malt Whisky Yearbook 2010 Is Here!  (The fifth edition is great as ever!)
Entry #364 - 15/09/2009; Tasting a £10,000 Whisky  (So, is the whisky really worth that much money?)
Entry #365 - 31/12/2009; Metamorphosis  (It's time to transform this liquid log into a new Google blog) 

Before I proceed with the nine log entries on this page I'd like to point out that this will be the last page of my Liquid Log in the original HTML form. Until now this log has been an integral part of the Malt Madness website, but I recently decided to switch to a Brand New Google Blog because that would save me quite a bit of time. So, once you've finished reading this page you're heartily invited to surf onwards to the new Google blog...
 

Entry #357 - Small Summer Update

Talisker misprint labelJuly 19, 2009 - Interesting...
One of the maniacs sent me this
picture of a funny misprinted label
on a bottle of Talisker malt whisky.
Can you spot the misprint as well?
 
Apart from the misprint, the label
has another interesting feature...
It's from a batch of bottles that was
destined for Germany and Denmark.
Apparently, German laws are more
strict than the rules of the Scotch
Whisky Association), because these
laws require producers to indicate
if any colouring agents ('farbstoff')
have been added to the contents
of the bottle. The SWA represents
the interests of whisky producers.
Most of them would prefer to keep
their customers in the dark about
the fact that loads of caramel are
added to many official bottlings.
 
One of the 'urban myths' spread by
PR companies is that producers add
caramel to their whisky purely for
'costmetic' reasons. As a matter of
fact, it changes the taste as well...
 
Experiences by several malt maniacs indicate that the caramel doesn't just affect the colour of a whisky, it also seems to have an effect on the taste! And, contrary to popular belief, the effect is POSITIVE. However, the myth that has been created around single malt whisky is mostly based on the assumption that Scotch malt whisky is a hand crafted product, and that no artificial flavourings are added like in, for example, Canadian whisky.
But if caramel improves the taste of most whiskies, isn't that an artificial flavouring in itself?

Anyway - expect an E-pistle about this topic from Bert Bruyneel in the next issue of Malt Maniacs.
The tasting session with four different versions of the same whisky (chillfiltered, unchillfiltered, coloured and uncoloured) at Michel van Meersbergen's place was very enjoyable. After the 'work' was done, we turned our attention to a few other samples. I didn't make detailed tasting notes, but managed to come up with scores;

85 - Bruichladdich 22yo 1965 (48.8%, OB for Rinaldi Import, Riserva Veronelli)
88 - Longmorn 32yo 1976/2008 (54.7%, VCWC, C#5895)
86 - North British 45yo 1963/2008 (55.8%, Signatory, C#48762, 294 Bts.)
91 - Caol Ila 17yo 1966/1983 (46%, Cadenhead's, Dumpy) - a sample from Olivier

And that's it for now - now that I've finished my work on the Distillery Data section I'll focus my attention on some improvements to the Malt Maniacs website...  The navigation is a bit of a nightmare at the moment, so I'll try to improve that in the foreseeable future. Up next on Malt Madness: notes on 12 samples from Australia...

Sweet drams,

Johannes
 

Entry #358 - Dun Eideann Update

Dun EideannAugust 24, 2009 - A few weeks ago I've added an overview of the major independent bottlers
to the Distillery Data section. Unfortunately, the more information I add to this site, the higher
the chance that some of that information is incomplete or incorrect. According to Dr. Donato, the
information I posted about Dun Eideann as a Signatory sub-brand could use some 'clarification'.

"Dear Sir, First of all congratulations for your web site ! It is a very complete and exhaustive source
of information for the Single Malt fanatic !Then I take the opportunity to write you few lines about
your web site and about some informations I found on it. It is since very long time that there is a
confusion about the Dun Eideann independent bottling and I wish to clarify this story though it is
very funny I do that after more than 20 years !
 
Almost in every Single Malt documents it is written that this label is from Signatory but this is not totally true.
Instead the trade mark Dun Eideann has been always a registered trade mark property of my Historical Family Company Donato & C srl located in Genova Italy. The mistake in the general information industry notes has been originated by the simple reason that Mr Symington was first bottler of this brand. I met him in Milan mid years eighty during an exhibition when he was working very young at the Prestonfield House. He expressed to me the plan to found a bottling Company (later named Signatory) and from my side I told him that I was very much interested to introduce in the Italian market a range of rare Single Malt Scotch Whisky under a representative trade mark label (at that time in Italy there were almost no brands but only independent and historic names like Samaroli, Sestante, Moon Import).
 
Very seriously he contacted me when he was ready to start with his new venture and he suggested to me the name Dun Eideann. I agreed and after having finalized  the label logo and registration in Italy we started the bottling. We worked together with mutual satisfaction while in the meantime he wished to have from me the permission to sell my Brand in other Countries, in addition to his own Signatory Brand, paying me due royalties. I think that this situation originated all misunderstandings about Dun Eideann story. For unknown reasons he never told the truth about the property of Dun Eideann and from my side I never wrote a line to clarify the real background of this Single Malt Independent Bottling Label. During early years ninenty our co-operation ceased. Effectively he won a very large popularity with his Brands and after few years he reached his life's dream buying the Edradour Distillery.
 
From that date we continued bottling organizing production on our own in Scotland and buying directly Single Malt casks with cooperation of local partners. We introduced Dun Eideann in other market including Japan and still the Dun Eideann name is widely mentioned on the Internet related sources and many bottles are sold at auctions.
 
Due to changes occured in my Company early 2000 I have practically stopped Distribution at that time granting the import agreement to other Italian Company which distributed Dun Eideann till 2006-07. Actually situation is on hold though I think that still some bottles with a rather different label and logo are sold in France through Dugas Company former Auxil (CWL Group). It is important to know that since 2004 all trade mark rights have been transferred from my Company to me personally. Everybody can check this data consulting the trade mark UK Patent Office and other sources. I don't have right now clear plans about future possible bottlings and new launch due also to the fact that the very unfavourable general economic and world market situation doesn't stimulate ventures in this directions. Nevertheless it is my will to find a renewed spirit for a reintroduction in the markets.
 
This is the summary of the story which I think it is worth to know to everybody involved in the industry in order to give the more accurate informations to the reader.
 
Many thanks for your patience !
 
Best Regards
 
Dr. Antonino Donato
Firma Donato S.p.A. Genova - Italy
www.firmadonato.it ...
"
 

Needless to say, I asked Andrew Symington for a response to verify these claims.
Unfortunately, I never received a response. Anyway - I wanted to pass on the comments of Dr. Donato to the 'public domain' so people researching the topic can find it thanks to the almighty Google... I've also updated the information on the pages about brands and bottlers in the DD section.

Last but not least: Last weekend I opened two bottles at an open air dramming session in the woods.
One bottle of Aberlour NAS '100 Proof' (57.1%, OB, +/-1997) from my reserve stock (sort of the predecessor of the Aberlour A'bunadh - I decided I needed to revise my score for this expression from 85 to 86 points at least) and a fairly fresh bottle of my beloved Lagavulin 16yo 'Port Ellen' (43%, OB, +/-2007) that I earned last year when I helped a friend with some heavy lifting. My score for this batch: 88 points - great as ever...

That's it for now - I'll probably be tasting some samples from Australia for my next report.

Sweet drams,

Johannes
 

Entry #359 - Gap Generation; Master of My Domain?

August 30, 2009 - The members of our
little 'Malt Maniacs & Friends' group on
Facebook (almost 1500 members now)
may have noticed that my comments
have been a tad sharper than usual in
recent posts. This was particularly the
case in relation to two very recent news
stories; 1) the large corporation Diageo
has decided to fire hundreds of their
Scottish employees despite reporting
record profits of 2.5 billion pounds, and
2) some agitated Americans are trying to
get a boycott of Scottish products off the
ground. Why did that make me so mad?
 
Well, a few days ago I received a huge
pack of paper via UPS. It turned out to
be a complaint to the WIPO - the World
Intellectual Property Organization. Part
of their responsibility is solving disputes
about domain names. As it turns out, the
American chain of clothing stores with
the name 'The Gap Inc.' issued a
complaint about a domain I registered
2 years ago; www.gapgeneration.com.
They claim I've registered it in bad faith.
 
I registered the domain circa two years ago because I wanted to build a website on a specific topic for a specific audience; the small minority of people that don't really belong to any specific generation because they don't behave like they are supposed to in their phase of life. In a sense, they have 'fallen into the generation gap'.
Unfortunately, with the ongoing reconstruction of Malt Madness and Malt Maniacs I still hadn't gotten around to building the site yet. I had actually planned that for this autumn...

Anyway, because I felt being persecuted by a large corporation from America myself, I may have argued my points a but sharper than usual on Facebook... ;-)  Now, instead of dramming away the weekend with a bunch of fresh samples from Australia and Germany, I'm forced to spend my free time writing a Response to the WIPO in order to defend myself against the complaint of the lawyers of The Gap. Because English isn't my mother tongue working my way through the more than 1000 pages will be hard enough - and a lot of it is legal lingo to boot. So , I probably should be sober when I'm composing my Response to ICANN. However, that can wait until tomorrow; I had to do some serious research first - and I can combine that with a little tasting session...
As luck would have it; I've just received a dozen fresh samples from Craig Daniels.

So, I poured myself a single malt that was made when Diageo was just
born; Talisker 1987/2000 'Distillers Edition' (45.8%, OB, Oloroso finish).
Nose: Smoky. Tertiary fruits. Gradually opens up over time. Lovely.
Some leather in the foreground, spices in the background. Sweet.
Taste: Sweet and fruity with a surprisingly peaty attack after a second.
Feels thinck and heavy - there's still a pinch of pepper, but it's subdued.
Later on I picked up distinct traces of smoke and tar as well.
Score: 87 points - not quite as stellar as the 1986, but still very good.
I'd say this 'nerfed' version of the old Talisker is bolder than the new 10.
 
Meanwhile, I've already done some deep thinking on the domain issue...
I figured that if the name of the company is 'The Gap Inc.', they should
register 'www.thegapgeneration.com' instead of worry about my domain.
 
Oh wait.... as it turns out, they did in fact register that domain name.
However, as the screenshots I've included show, they did so a little over two months ago.
I've registered my domain two years ago, in 2007. So, they didn't bother to register their domain until two months ago, and now they have the balls to have their lawyers issue a complaint against me with ICANN like I'm some kind of cybersquatter? Perhaps I need another drink to help me understand their logic...

Benrinnes 21yo 1974/1995 (43%, Signatory Vintage, Sherry butt, C#2579, 695 Bts.)
Nose: Reasonably sherried with some sulphur and a lot of spices. Cinnamon. Furniture polish too...
Taste: Smooth start, blossoming into a solid centre with sherry, fruits, wood and some smoke.
Not really sweet enough for my tastes. Pretty good mouth feel though... Definitely recommendable.
Score: 83 points - although I had it at 82 points for a long time. This one hangs together very well.

That was a very nice malt - but reading a little further in the complaint the lawyers of The Gap has left a dirty taste in my mouth. They claim they sent me a warning about my use of their trademark on June 17, but I never received such a warning. However, the interesting point is that the warning was supposedly sent just a week after they registered the domain 'thegapgeneration.com' themselves. Perhaps they are planning an advertising campaign around the idea of 'The Gap Generation' but rather than trying to buy the domain they want to bully the owner of the domain into giving up the domain? And interestingly enough, the domain 'generationgap.com' is still for sale at this moment. Apparently they don't consider that an infringement on their copyright, or at least they don't want to pay for that domain.

Waaah... trying to follow legal reasoning can give you an headache; time for another dram!

Dallas Dhu 12yo 1968 (40%, G&M Connoisseurs Choice, Old Brown Label, Bottled +/-1980)
Nose: A little MOTR like many CC bottlings, but this leans in a farmy direction. Perhaps a little oily?
After some ten minutes of breathing I got some 'old bottle effect' after I found it in the taste too.
Taste: Toffee with some pine in the background. Butterscotch? A reasonable dose of sherry.
Solid mouth feel. After a few minutes of breathing I got a little bit of 'Old Bottle Effect' on the palate.
Score: 86 points - this malt is very nice to begin with, but benefits greatly if you give it some time...
One of the striking things was the excellent mouth feel at 40% - which is usually too weak for my tastes.

It's a good thing that Dallas Dhu tasted so good, because steam is almost coming out of my ears...
The lawyers of The Gap Inc. claim that, after they received a message that their mail was undeliverable, they passed the message along to the domain registrar NameSecure - instead of simply checking on my website what the correct e-mail address was or sending a message to my postal address! The correct e-mail address is mentioned on every page of this website, so it's easy enough to find, wouldn't you think? So, they just assumed that NameSecure would have better luck using the same old e-mail address they used? Even worse, they KNEW the e-mail address they used was wrong, but they still put that address in their complaint... They claim that "The Domain Name was registered and is being used in bad faith." - but it would seem to me they are the ones acting 'in bad faith'... Did they hope I wouldn't learn about their complaint so I couldn't oppose their claims? Also, immediately after I learned about their complaint I sent a message to their lawyers. Several days have passed, but I've yet to hear back from them. Waaah, time for another dram to calm my nerves - a very rare one!

Glen Albyn 20yo 1963/1984 (46%, Cadenhead's, Dumpy)
Nose: Haha! Some old bottle effect here as well. Nice! Eh, excuse my French, but is that horse dung?
Very interesting. It doesn't seem very accessible at first, but it has a lot to offer. Opens op brilliantly.
Old fashioned menthol sweets? Sweetening out into a  kaleidoscope of fragrances. Very pleasant indeed.
Taste: Leather with hints of liquorice and smoke in the background. Feels a tad thin and gritty.
The finish is chewy and very solid though... Also, the taste improves significantly with some breathing.
Score: 86 points - which makes it the very best bottling of Glen Albyn I've ever had! Two others came very close though; the Glen Albyn 33yo 1974/2008 (58.9%, Clydesdale) and a 26yo Rare Malts from 2002.
A very rare treat - thanks a lot, Craig!

Meanwhile, I'm still struggling with the 'avelanche of paper' approach that the Gap lawyers chose.
I've stumbled across another insane argument. They argue: "GAPGENERATION.COM Domain Name merely combines Complainant's world-famous GAP trademark with the descriptive/generic term "generation." So, the word 'gap' isn't descriptive or generic? I've checked the web and it appears there is also a corporation by the name of 'Generation'. I haven't received a complaint from them yet about me combining their 'world famous trademark' (which I as an inhabitant of that world had never heard of by the way) with the generic word 'gap' ;-)
The domain www.gapgeneration.com has nothing whatsoever to do with 'The Gap'. It has to do with the world famous 'generation gap' - a concept that, if I'm not mistaken, was invented even before 'The Gap' existed!

Anyway, repeating all their nonsensical arguments here would take up precious time I need to formulate my response to the WIPO, due in a few days. So, I'll start writing my response to the WIPO now and will keep you updated on the progress...  To be continued?

Sweet drams,

Johannes
 

<Ed: Ehrrmmm.... Here's an update on the 'Gap' situation... It took some time before the lawyers of The Gap understood my reasoning, but after almost two months of swapping civilised arguments they agreed to purchase the domain for a modest sum. If they would have simply made me an offer for the domain in the first place, all these hassles could have been easily avoided. Anyway - we've solved it amicably now; back to whisky...>
 
 

Entry #360 - The Interactive Map is Back (Sort of...)

September 6, 2009 - Those of you that have been following MM
for a few years may remember that there used to be a (primitive)
interactive map of Scotland on this site. After an update of 'Internet
Explorer' (the dominant browser at the time), the map didn't work
properly anymore - so I decided to remove it from MM at the time.

The more I learned about the way malt whisky is produced these
days, the more I started questioning the significance of 'terroir' in
the production of malt whisky. Nevertheless, I eagerly jumped at the
opportunity when my brother Franc offered to help me build a brand
new version of the interactive map. The location of a distillery may
not be as important for the character of the output as it once was,
but we felt an interactive map of Scotland could still come in useful.

For one thing, such a map might be inspirational for people planning
a trip through Scotland. If you think about visiting a few distilleries,
the map will show you where they are, so you can set out a route.
What's more, the interactive map provides an alternative interface
to browse through the distillery profiles in the Distillery Data section.
The map isn't yet working quite like we'd like it to work, but we felt
it was ready as a 0.95 Beta version of what we're trying to realise.
There are some issues we need to solve at some point (like the fact
that it still works very clunky in Internet Explorer), but the current
version works like a charm in FireFox and Safari, so we went for it.

So, the new interactive map of Scotland is now ready for some serious beta testing...
We're hoping that the readers of Malt Madness can help us iron out the last problems, so please feel free to play around with the map to your heart's desire. You can click on a distillery in the distillery navigation menu in the upper left corner (toggle with the 'D' key) to reveal it's location on the map. Selecting a distillery will make the focus of the map 'fly' to its location. Alternatively, you can use the minimap in the upper right corner (toggle with the 'M' key). The rectangular selector on the minimap indicates the part of the map that is currently visible in your browser screen; simply drag around the selector to explore the area of Scotland you'd like to see. Last but not least, you can toggle some useful help instructions with the 'H' key.

You can move around the map with your mouse, but you can use keyboard controls as well.
The arrow keys allow you to move the map up, down, to the left or to the right. Moving the mouse over a distillery label on the map will reveal some basic details about that distillery. Clicking on a label opens the corresponding distillery profile in the Distillery Data section on Malt Madness. Just keep in mind that the map uses a background image of more than a megabyte, so loading might take a while. Also, that means it's not meant for mobile devices. Feedback via e-mail or the 'Malt Maniacs & Friends' group on Facebook is more than welcome.

Sweet drams,

Johannes
 

Entry #361 - The Whisky Agency 'Fossils'

September 21, 2009 - Autumn is officially here, so that
means that 'dramming season' has started in earnest
again - at least in this part of the world. Here in Holland
we don't have exactly the same climate as in Scotland,
but on a global scale it's pretty similar. As soon as the
leaves are starting to show autumn colours again, you
know that the conditions will be favourable for dramming
until the trees turn green again. Excellent, because I've
got quite a few samples to 'work' my way through before
I have to take a lengthy break from recreational drinking.
Within a few weeks the samples for the MM Awards will
arrive on my doorstep. I'll be stressing out just like in
previous years because the blind tasting adds pressure.

Anyway - more about the MM Awards in my next liquid log entry...
In this report I'd like to focus on some fresh samples from 'The Whisky Agency' - sort of the successors of 'The Whisky Fair' (a.k.a. MARA) from Germany if I'm not mistaken. They've already released two distinct series not too long ago; 'Butterflies' and 'Sharks'. Their latest series is called 'Fossils' . Hmmm.... There could be an interesting story there - I think I'll ask Carsten (the proprietor) if he's interested in doing an interview for Malt Maniacs to explain. Meanwhile, let's see if he hasn't lost his touch when it comes to selecting casks...

Coleburn 26yo 1983/2009 (49.5%, The Whisky Agency, Ex Bourbon Hogshead, 120 Bottles)
Nose: Subtle grainy notes with a whiff of citrus. A slightly farmy base with fruity overtones.
Grows a little more metallic after some breathing. A little dusty too with honeysuckle in the background.
This is one that requires a lot of time and attention - it's best to take at least an hour with this one.
Taste: Smooth start with a tiny pinch of smoke, quickly growing herbal right after swallowing it. Beer?
The smoke returns at the start of the very dry, herbal finish. Whiff of camphor or menthol? Intriguing.
Score: 83 points - the nose is interesting, but extremely subtle. You really have to work on it.
It makes the 80's because it's a nicely developing 'puzzle' malt, although it's not really my type...
So, this is a very 'personal' score - I liked it a lot, but others might adore it even more than I did.

Fettercairn 34yo 1975/2009 (57%, The Whisky Agency, Ex Bourbon Hogshead, 132 Bottles)
Nose: Whoah! Something else entirely! Shoe polish? Rubber? Clay? Odd - but extremely interesting.
Oddly enough the nose shows none of the fruity elements I found on the palate. Well, not at first...
Taste: Strong tertiary fruits, milk powder, speculaas. I'd have picked this as a sherry casked whisky.
The fruits are really nice. Towards the finish it stayed chewy and moved in the direction of pine and resin.
Score: 87 points - and I should add that bourbon casked malts don't often get that high on my scale...
Like the Coleburn, I'd say it takes some malt whisky experience to fully appreciate its complexities.
I wouldn't put it in the 90's myself, but I can see how some other people might. Very special...
Two young expressions by Signatory that were distilled in 1980 scored in the upper 80's too...

Strathisla 42yo 1967/2009 (44.5%, The Whisky Agency, Refill Sherry Wood, 120 Bottles)
Nose: Oooaah! A classic combination of wood, fruits and some spices. Beautiful sherry profile.
It almost stumbles into 'aceton' territory but stays on the right side of the line for most of the time.
Musty peanuts? Whiff of citrus later on. Almost like rum filled chocolates. A little dusty behind the fruit.
Another one that really needs time to really open up. More oranges - almost like Southern Comfort.
Taste: Dry with a touch of smoke. None of the fruits I found in the nose - that's too bad. Menthol? Pine?
A fairly tannic finish. A pleasant mouth feel, but for me it could have been a tad fruitier and sweeter.
Score: 91 points - but once again this is a very personal score; others might find some 'faults'.
It almost seems like a cask that Jack Wiebers could have selected...

Caol Ila 27yo 1982/2009 (50%, The Whisky Agency, Rum Wood Finish, 115 Bottles)
Nose: Phew, that's different... Sourish, almost like new make spirit. Phenolic but not really peaty.
Now some odd fruits emerge. Various 'farmy' aroma's. Sorry, this is definitely not my cup of tea.
Taste: Watery start, followed by a harsh, dry burn. Beer? A decent mouth feel after a fairly weak start.
Score: 74 points - a failed attempt to resuscitate a dead cask with an emergency rum finish?
If it hadn't been for the interesting development over time it would have ended up in the sixties.

Hmmm.... I'm afraid that that tasting of the 'Fossils' range ended on a low note - but fortunately Carsten sent along a few other samples. The navigation of the Whisky Agency website is a little bit confusing, but if I'm not mistaken the next three drams were in the "Perfect Dram" series - one from 2008 and two from 2009.

Bunnahabhain 34yo 1974/2008 (59.3%, The Perfect Dram, oloroso, 300 bottles)
Nose: Oooh! La! La! That's more like it... Wood and smoke. Chocolate. Freshly burnt coffee beans.
Mocca. Roasted nuts. Prune, lychee and loads of other fruits. What an excellent nose...
A lot of development over time, but chocolate remains the dominant factor - chocolate soufflé...
Taste: Extremely concentrated fruits. Excellent mouth feel. Liquorice. Smokier and woodier over time.
Brilliant mouth feel. Big, road and smoky with a fair amount of tannins in the finish. Great work...
Score: 93 points - wow, but once again not everybody might agree. I didn't dare to add water.
A really spectacular whisky that stays with you for a long time...

Clynelish 27yo 1982/2009 (53.9%, The Perfect Dram, Ex-Bourbon Hogshead, 240 Bottles)
Nose: Starts unusually heavy and meaty for a Clynelish. Sorrel. Maybe something metallic?
Drops off within a few minutes. After circa fifteen minutes it makes a fruity comeback - sort of.
Taste: Rougher and harsher in the start that I expected, but it gradually softens up and spreads out.
The centre is brilliant with different coffee and mocca flavours before drying out and dumbing down.
Score: 81 points - this is most definitely not a boring malt and it lands just inside the 'love' range.

Caol Ila 27yo 1982/2009 (62.4%, The Perfect Dram, Ex-Bourbon Hogshead, 108 Bottles)
Nose: Fresh wood. Drops off quickly like the last one. Let's add some water and see if that helps.
Oh, yes it does! I initially found only clean peat, but now I get some of the 'dirty' Kildalton style peat.
Taste: Punchy peat right from the start. Not much else without water, so I added a few drops.
Hmmm.... Still noth a lot of flavour here. Dry plywood; the typical 'bourbon' profile I'm not crazy about.
Score: 79 points - could this be the other half of that Rum Wood Finished cask in the 'Fossils' series?

And that's already 'it' for this report - I've got to wrap things up for now to work on the MM Awards.

Sweet drams,

Johannes
 

Entry #362 - Malt Maniacs Awards 2008 Revisited

October 1, 2009 - The arrival of the package for the Malt Maniacs Awards 2009
is just around the corner; Olivier, Serge, Davin, Krishna and their little helpers
will be filling the miniature samples this weekend in France. That means that I
have to create some shelf space to store the fresh sample bottles. After last
year's MM Awards there were a few dozen miniatures that were still half full.
 
Sometimes half-filled samples don't survive a year of breathing, but it seems
that most whiskies that were entered into last year's competition were solid
enough to stay in shape for almost an entire year. Here are my tasting notes
on a selection of releases that are worth hunting down for different reasons.
If my first impressions are anything to go by, it seems that most bottlings in the
competition can stand oxidation (exposure to air) very well.

Not everybody agreed on the Glenlivet 1971/2007 (46%, Berry Brothers, C#6450); Serge and Krishna voted for gold, four jurors voted for silver and four voted for bronze. Davin and Pit didn't even feel it deserved a medal. Nose: Well-rounded and a little sweet. Something floral? Hmmmm, not terribly expressive and complex. A very solid profile though that hangs together very well. Some organics emerge after a few minutes. This definitely needs time; it slowly climbed from the lower 80's to 85 points. Taste: Seems quite big at first, but gradually flattens out. It reminds me of rum. Remains smooth throughout, though… Smoky finish, fairly gritty. Just like the nose, it really requires some breathing to reveal its full potential. Lovely passion fruits in the finish.
Score: 85 points - which was the average score as well...

The Glen Grant 38yo 1969/2008 (51.7%, Duncan Taylor Lonach) had a lot of fans amongst the MM Awards jury last year; eight jurors voted for silver and two even for gold! The nose had loads of polished wood and fruits, really a classic profile. It showed faint hints of heather and something floral which made me guess it was a Highland Park during the blind tasting. Chocolate? The fruits keep developing over time; wonderful rich fruit cake. Excellent, even after the whisky had spent almost a year in a half empty sample bottle. Taste: Powerful and fruity with a strong woody undercurrent. Maybe a touch of something medicinal? Settles down after a few minutes with a brilliant sweetness. The mouth feel is just excellent. If we hadn't agreed not to change our scores after the MM Awards I might have lifted its rating into the 90's - but as it is I'll keep my score at 89 points .
An excellent dram that can stand a lot of time in the bottle...

Opinions were divided about the Carsebridge 29yo 1979/2008 (56%, Duncan Taylor Rare Auld, C#33032, 175 Bts.), a grain whisky that received six nominations for silver but didn't convince Michel, Pit and myself that it deserved a medal at all. Let's see if time has been kind to this whisky. Almost a year ago the nose was fragrant, but fairly MOTR. More grainy notes over time, sweetening out. After a lot of breathing the nose had grown sweeter, heavier and altogether more complex. The taste hadn't really changed; clearly a grain whisky but frankly too bitter for my tastes. Smooth but simple. The harsh, bourbony finish keeps the score at 78 points for me.

The nose of the Glengoyne 19yo 1988/2007 (58.3%, OB, Pedro Ximenez butt, C#718) showed heavy treacle aroma's. Loads of wood with some organics in the background. The profile grows bigger and more complex after breathing. Subtle fruity sweetness in the background. Definitely improves after some 30 minutes; climbs from 85 to 88 points eventually. The taste was woody and powerful with evolved fruits in the centre. A strong finish with a hint of smoke. Another one that stood the test of time; 88 points is very well deserved.

Quite a few different batches of the Talisker 25yo (58.1%, OB, 6894 Bts., 2007) have been submitted to the Malt Maniacs Awards. Nose: Polished but not very expressive at first. Chloride? Slowly some organics emerge, but it remains subdued. After a few minutes some gentle fruits pop up. Oh wait - it exploded with fruits after I added a few drops of water. Taste: Feels more solid than I had expected - and again the peat came as a surprise. Liquorice. Great wood in the finish - and a decent dose of sweetness too until it grows very dry in the end. Water doesn't hurt the mouth feel one bit. Tannis remain strong in the finish. The average score of 86 points was a bit lower than my own 88 points and three votes for gold from Serge, Olivier and Luca. Only Mark didn't feel it deserved a medal. Could it be that this whisky is particularly popular amongst wine lovers?

Hey, that reminds me... We had at least one other 25yo official bottling from an island distillery...

Highland Park 25yo (48.1%, OB, Bottled +/- 2008)
Nose: Polished with subtle fruits and a hint of spices. Settles down after a minute, losing some complexity.
Sandalwood? Something very vaguely fishy in the far background - fish and chips rather than smoked salmon.
I had it at 84 points for a long time, but it crawls into the upper 80's eventually thanks to emerging subtleties.
Taste: Powerful, solid, woody. Very pleasant, although it grows a tad harsh in the finish. Feels quite hot.
A little bit like dark toffee. Smoky too - but not peaty. The sweetness is just a little cloying. Feels very solid.
Hey, wait - now I get a touch of something medicinal, earning it another point. The tannins grew on me.
Score: 87 points - there's a very slight astringency in the finish that keeps it from climbing any further.

The Karuizawa 1992/2007 (61.5%, OB for The Number One Drinks Company, American oak/Sherry Butt, C#3330, 430 Bts.) was just one of many different bottles from the Japanese Karuizawa distillery that were submitted in 2008. The nose was big, smoky & powerful. Fruity notes and a whiff of rice crackers. Gunpowder. Lovely leathery notes after a few minutes of breathing. Taste: Big, sweet & full. Fruity tannins in the finish. Quite a lot of smoke. My score of 85 points was identical to the average of all jurors - but seems conservative in hindsight. People that loved the old smoky Glan Gariochs from the 1970's will love this one...

That's it for now, but I plan to have another review of the entries for the 2008 Awards in a few weeks.
Meanwhile, there may or may not have been some movement in the 'The Gap' dispute...

Sweet drams,

Johannes
 

Entry #363 - MWY2010 Is Here!

October 12, 2009 - If I would have received a penny for each
time I've told colleagues and clients that they needed to work
SMARTER instead of harder, I would have been able to buy a
bottle of whisky by now. Granted, it would be a bottle of very
cheap whisky (a blend, and not an enjoyable one), but still...
Perhaps it's about time I started to follow my own advice. ;-)
 
During the first years of Malt Madness my particular 'skill set'
has allowed me to poorly mimic the functionality of a content
management system - mostly by simply throwing lots of time
at a problem until it eventually went away. However, I feel
that this approach is starting to severely limit the potential
of Malt Maniacs. Even with some maniacs picking up some
of the work involved with the site (for example Serge and
Luca that have taken care of the MMMonitor recently), I felt
we needed to streamline some processes. Fortunately our
own little egghead Robert from Sweden stepped up to the
plate and we're now working on our very own database.
Join the MMMailinglist if you want to stay updated...
 
Meanwhile, there's some good news for malt whisky lovers
worldwide - the MALT WHISKY YEARBOOK 2010 has just
been published. As a Dutchman, the first thing I checked
was the price. I'm very happy to report that the price hasn't
changed since last year; it's still £12,95 - just like last year.
So, if this year's issue (the fifth edition) is just as good as
last year's, that means that it actually became cheaper, if
we take inflation into account... ;-)
 
So, let's browse through the latest edition, shall we?
Just like last year, the first sixty-or-so pages are dedicated
to a handful of solid articles. The 2010 edition has one by
fellow maniac Charlie MacLean and another article where
fellow maniacs Serge Valentin & Bert Bruyneel are quoted.
Next, we get to the 'meat' of the book; updated profiles for
all the malt distilleries of Scotland and Ireland. There are
two notable differences with last year's edition in this part
of the book. First there are the 'Meet the Manager' pages
with concise interviews with the managers of a couple of
selected distilleries (including Ardmore and Glenglassaugh).
That's an improvement as far as I'm concerned...
 
However, there are 'In Focus' pages as well, sprinkled
throughout the distillery profiles. They provide sort of a
'Beginner's Guide' to the production process for whisky.
This is also a change that enhances the 2010 edition of
the Malt Whisky Yearbook - but I have to admit that I
would have preferred to see that information collected
neatly at the beginning or end of the book, so it would
be easier to look up certain information. The same goes
for a few pages with information about whisky websites
and whisky books - those seem to be put in at random.
That's just a minor quibble though; just like in the four
editions that went before, there's an overload of solid
information about the 'celtic' malt whisky distilleries.

The 'finish' of the Malt Whisky Yearbook 2010 is, once again, solid.
In fact, I think editor Ingvar Ronde managed to further improve this part of the book. It's filled with a lot of information about malt whisky distilleries in the rest of the world, 'the whisky year that was', two pages about independent bottlers (a section that could be expanded a little in further editions), an overview of the new bottlings per distillery, six pages filled with reviews and details of whisky shops throughout the world. Finally, there are lots of interesting statistics and a map of Scotland with the distillery locations. So, it looks like Ingvar did it once again: produce the all round malt whisky book that offers the best value. Great work!

Sweet drams,

Johannes
 

Entry #364 - Tasting a £10,000 Whisky... (?)

October 15, 2009 - There are some 'perks' attached to running a
website that attracts a few thousand visitors each day. One of those
perks arrived in my mailbox yesterday; a sample of a real life version
of 'Glen Wonka' - the Dalmore 1951 'Sirius' (45%, OB, Bottled 2009).
Nose: Heavy wood with a good dash of smoke, like the colour suggests.
A hint of menthol? After some breathing more mocca / coffee character.
Very dark chocolate. Tangerine. Fresh strawberries in the background?
Then more leathery notes emerge. Great balance, good development.
Hey, after maybe half an hour I got gummy bears! It keeps opening up.
Later in the evolution I found some pleasant musty and fishy notes.
Taste: Solid, sweet start. The smoke marches forward in the centre.
'Haagse Hopjes' (a Dutch kind of coffee / caramel candy). Tia Maria?
Powerful. Unfortunately, the smoke grows too dominant eventually.
A solid mouth feel; smooth on the surface but brooding underneath.
I detected traces of light fruits, but they were overpowered by smoke.
The finish is quite dry and doesn't show as much tannins as I expected.
Score: 90 points - which means that this is seriously good whisky...
I was inclined to give an even higher score based on the nose alone,
but on the palate the smoke was a tad too dominant for my tastes.
 
So, while this is great whisky that deserves a spot on my Hit List I'm
not sure about the 'value' - is this whisky really worth £10,000, simply
because that's the price tag they put on it? Hmmm... I guess value is
in the eye of the beholder; a journalist, an investor or a whisky lover.
 
So, let's start by doing some thinking about the first group - journalists.
I guess that my ideas on 'value' as expressed in the Dalmore distillery profile haven't really changed...
That means that the mere fact that they put a £10,000 price tag on a bottle of whisky doesn't automatically convince me that its price and its value are the same. However, many journalists have no idea about the value of a lot of the things they report about - and in their frantic search for fresh content to fill their pages (or airwaves), they're usually more than happy to simply re-print a press release if they think it will infotain their readers. So, press releases about outrageously priced bottles of whisky easily manage to find their way into the mass media. As such, this is a relatively cheap way of advertising - you'll often get more media coverage than what you could possibly generate with your regular advertising budget. And thanks to the limited memory capacity of the collective consciousness, you could repeat this trick again and again...

And what about the value for an investor or collector? Well, for them a £10,000 price tag makes more sense.
Single casks bottlings are relatively rare by defenition (depending on the size of the cask and the proof of the whisky you can usually get somewhere between 100 and 750 bottles from a cask), but in this case they made only 12 decanters. So, the whisky will indeed be extremely rare - at least if we look at this particular packaging. Of course, there was more whisky in the cask, but that might have all been used to fill samples like the one I got, or to spice up some ultra premium blend. Anyway, the RSP is £10,000 and "Sirius will only be available to private buyers and through a limited network of World Duty Free (WDF) stores." The Dalmore's Brand Director, David Robertson added: "Our partnership with World Duty Free allows us to reach an elite group of investors and whisky aficionados across the globe. We will be focusing on key target markets in Taiwan, USA and France." I guess only time will tell if the 'elite group of investors' that fork over ten thousand pounds for a bottle got it right. We'll have to wait for one of those bottles to pop up at an auction to see what value it has on the open market. I know that collectors can go very far in their passion for whisky, so the value might actually increase...

Last but not least: actual whisky lovers - what is the actual value of the Dalmore Sirius to them?
Well, I'd like to think that a lot of them tend to look at the 'intrinsic value' of a whisky; how 'good' is it.
Undeniably, this Dalmore is good whisky - but so are a lot of other whiskies... And as luck would have it, I happen to have a 'forgotten fossil' on my shelf - another very old malt whisky that I forgot about when I tried some bottles in the 'Fossils' range last month. This is a unique opportunity to compare two geriatric malts.
(Incidentally, I can't divulge the identity of this 'bastard' whisky, but it's not Dalmore...)

Speyside Single Malt 39yo 1970/2009 (54.4%, The Perfect Dram, First Fill Oloroso Butt, 240 Bottles)
Nose: Heavy fruits. Polished wood. Some exotic Indonesian spices. Hint of mint? Little development.
I like the profile quite a bit, but I have to admit that the Sirius shows more complexity and evolution.
Taste: Wood and smoke. Very nice, but it feels quite harsh - harsher than the Dalmore Sirius, in fact...
Yes, this is another 'wood & smoke bomb', especially on the palate. Smoke really dominates the finish.
Score: 88 points - highly recommendable, but not quite as spectacular as the Sirius I just enjoyed.
But then again, the price is circa 2% of the price of the Sirius, so it doesn't look too bad ;-)

That's it for now. I reluctantly have to agree that the Dalmore Sirius is actually very good whisky, even though I'm not a fan of these 'Glen Wonka' type bottlings. Fortunately, Whyte & Mackay decided to submit a few more mainstream expressions of Dalmore for the Malt Maniacs Awards 2009 - so we'll be able to rank those soon.

Sweet drams,

Johannes
 

Entry #365 - Metamorphosis

December 31, 2009 - I frequently suffer from feelings
of guilt and shame (among other things...) because I
can't update this (b)log as frequently as I feel I should.
And that's not the only part of the Malt Madness and
Malt Maniacs websites I'm not yet entirely happy with.
So, at the end of 2009 I decided to have myself a long,
hard think about the future of the websites - with a
few generous drams as fuel for my brain, of course...
It's freezing, so I started with a Port Askaig 17yo...
 
The 'Beginner's Guide' is more or less finished, but
every week I receive several messages asking me
about the 'Advanced Beginner's Guide'. I'm afraid it's
still far from finished. I've made a big jump forward
with the Distillery Data section after adding the brand
new map of distilleries in Scotland. I've already started
one final refurbishment of the distillery profiles, adding
an overview of all recent developments around the
distillery in the new millennium. The mAlmanac doesn't
require as much work, but there are still some tweaks
I'd like to make in the foreseeable future. By contrast,
the archive of my Liquid Log is a wreck and I haven't
even started work on the Deviant Drams section.
 
So, there's a LOT of work to do on Malt Madness in
the year that lies ahead. In fact, there's so much work
that I need to rationalise my approach to my liquid log.
This log has been one of the core elements of the site
since 1996, but thanks to the progress of technology
HTML pages are not the most effective medium for
communication on the world wide web anymore. So,
I've now decided to wrap up my log in its current form,
so I can focus on the other sections of Malt Madness
and Malt Maniacs. From now on, fresh tasting notes
will be added to the various distillery profiles in the
Distillery Data section of this site and the new blog.
 
New blog, you ask? Indeed - I'll be switching to a 'Blogger' blog from Google.
That will allow me to update my 'liquid log' from anywhere in the world, which will hopefully mean more frequent articles. It's not my goal to match Serge's (nearly) daily updates on WhiskyFun but I sometimes feel the need to publish quick impressions, ideas or tasting notes. I'll be testing out the Malt Madness Blog in the months that lie ahead, but I'll keep using several other 'platforms' to spread my thoughts and opinions as well...

First and foremost, there is the trustworthy old workhorse of the internet: e-mail.
The Mixed Messages Mailinglist has been keeping whisky lovers around the world informed about noteworthy events and developments around Malt Madness (and later Malt Maniacs) since the 1990's. For the last two years we've also been active in the Malt Maniacs & Friends group on Facebook. Unfortunately, the Facebook people decided to change their interface so Facebook would become more like Twitter. That's a silly move as far as I'm concerned, because we already have our own Malt Maniacs Twitter account for that type of communication.
Last but not least, there will be daily updates from the MM universe on Serge's WhiskyFun site.

So, we'll keep spreading the malt mania - we'll just be using a different set of tools...
Just click HERE to jump to my Google Blog...

Sweet drams,

Johannes
 

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