> Entry 215 - February 1, 2005:  A Wonderful Opportunity

OK, please allow me to bother you with my problems for a moment.
The free lance market in Holland is still suffering from the Internet crash
a few years ago, so my ongoing cashflow crisis hasn't been resolved yet.
So far that hasn't impacted my dramming significantly, but by now most
of my reserves have evaporated and I'll be forced to start nibbling at my
'untouchable' Reserve Stock soon. That's still not a real problem when it
comes to my dramming; I like to see myself as a 'drinker', not a 'collector',
so I don't want to keep those bottles gathering dust anyway.

However, if I want to make it to this year's Islay festival as planned,
I'll desparately need to earn myself a little cash to pay for my expenses.
So, let's review the situation;
What I have: Time & some skills
What I don't have: cash

All I need to do to solve my problem is exchange some of what I have
(my time and my skills) for some of what I don't have (cash). Of course,
I could try to join the navy, but I'm afraid they may have kept the records
of my previous militairy service - there were some 'incidents' that involved
the destruction of several Land Rovers, so they may not be too keen...

So, I'll need to find another way of improving my solvability.
And that's where you come in... Yeah, that's right, I mean YOU...
Do you need a website - or do you know somebody that needs a site?
I can build an entire website or focus on any particular element of the site.
Please help me make it to the Islay festival this year and drop me a note.

This is actually a wonderful opportunity for you; I really want to Islay this year and I'm willing to work for extra friendly rates in order to earn my passage. In fact, I've just thought of another emergency cash cow. Since my trip to Islay will eventually benefit the readers of this site (5,000+ and counting!) in the form of a massive report, I might even be persuaded to put some advertising on the site for those who are willing to sponsor my trip.
Please contact me if you like the idea.

Meanwhile, I don't have to travel hundreds of miles to enjoy the Islay spirit.
My top shelf is still stocked with a bunch of Ardbegs and Laphroaigs and looking at the blanket of snow outside I'd say these are perfect conditions for a few Islay drams. Not too much, though - the flu still hasn't completely vacated my nose so I'm not in top nosing condition. Nevertheless, I decided to get to work on a little bottle that has been taunting me ever since Davin left it on my shelves in October 2004. It's a small 'Nalgene' bottle; an ultra-light plastic that's very popular among American malt lovers. I always wondered if these bottles are suited for long term storage of whisky and now, three months later, I'm trying to find out. The 60ml Nalgene bottle containing Ardbeg Uigeadail (54.2%, OB) from the USA was only 1/3 full, so any differences with the big bottle on my shelf (2/3 full, opened in December 2003 with Krishna & Mark) could be caused by a number of reasons - like oxidation or differences between European and American batches.

But that doesn't keep me from performing this head-to-head analysis.
From both bottles I got fruits first, then peat. Both are fruity and peaty from the glass as well.
At first sight there don't seem to be any significant differences, both show a very similar profile.
Organics start to develop in both malts about the same time, although the big bottle opens up more.
Then I got smoke in both of them. However, my nose clearly was in bad shape so I'm not too sure...
After about five minutes i found some 'smoked sausage' notes in the big bottle. Maybe imaginary?
Both performed admirably on the palate. Quite gentle at first, followed by a powerful peaty punch.
Score: 89 points for both - although I was leaning towards 88 because the nose is a tad simple.
I gave the 10yo and 17yo OB's 89 points as well, but both seem notably more complex in the nose.
In fact, to me personally these malts somehow seem more 'upbeat' than this fairly 'somber' Uigeadail.
But in the end the Uigeadail is redeemed by a solid, powerful palate. It doesn't need a drop of water!
A fine malt - but not quite fine enough to dethrone the Laphroaig 10yo CS as top value peat monster.

And how about any possible ill effects of prolonged storage in a Nalgene bottle?
Well, today my nose isn't acute enough to make any solid claims about the suitability of Nalgene bottles for long term storage of whisky, but at first sight three months didn't seem to have had any significant ill effects. And even though the bottle was less than 1/3 full, there were no obvious signs of oxidation either. That's interesting because Michel van Meersbergen and I recently discussed the possible 'preservative' effect of peat (and sherry) on a malt.

But that's a topic for another discussion...

> Entry 216 - February 4, 2005:  Kilchoman

Well, finally there's some 'solid' news from Kilchoman.
Kilchoman is the project from Anthony Willis who plans to build
the smallest and most traditional distillery of Scotland on Islay.
Well, that's a very exciting project that deserves our support,
wouldn't you agree? Unfortunately, the intitial phase of the
project didn't appear to progress too smoothly, but recently
I've been receiving more and more encouraging news;
the 'farm distillery' on Islay is approaching completion.

Our French 'maniacette' Martine Nouet is the proud owner
of a house on Islay and receives the local 'Ileach' newspaper.
She sent us the snippet at the right about some recent and very
significant progress made at Kilchoman. The picture may not seem
all that romantic, but it shows the arrival of the washbacks at the
distillery site. According to the article the mash tun and the stills
(a 2,000 litre wash still and a 3,000 litre spirit still) should arrive
within days as well, which means the day Anthony can actually
start to produce the first whisky is drawing closer and closer.

One thing is certain, by starting a brand new distillery Anthony
didn't make it easy on himself. Islay already has seven distilleries
and it seems Bruichladdich is also targeting the 'Anoraks' side of
the malt market. For me and quite a few other Dutch and German
peatheads their 'normal' output isn't quite what we're looking for
in an Islay malt, but when Octomore and Port Charlotte (heavily
peated varieties) become available that could very well change.

I'm not sure how heavily peated the Kilchoman malts will be, but
let's hope the current public taste for peated malts hasn't been
saturated by the time Kilchoman malts appear on the shelves.

Anyway, the progress at Kilchoman is reason for a small celebration.
It will be at least a few more years (the plan is to first release it as an 8yo) before any of the Kilchoman whiskies will be available for tasting, so I'll have to go for another Islay malt. My nose still isn't in shape, so I'll stay away from the row of fresh samples and focus on one of the 'old' bottles on my middle shelf. Let's see... I guess a Bruichladdich would be most appropriate as another innovative project, but I don't have any bottles on my shelves at the moment.

So, I went for the Caol Ila NAS Cask Strength (55%, OB, Bottled +/- 2002) on my middle shelf instead.
Nose: Fragrant but not agressive. Peat (but not a lot) and some 'veggy' notes. Intriguing organics as well.
Taste: Hot and peaty. Quite smooth, considering it's bottled at 55%, although it grows hotter and grittier.
Score: 85 points seems about right. However, looking at the matrix, most maniacs score it a bit higher.
Not me, though - this early batch is just a little too 'rough & ready' for me to approach a score in the 90's.
A more recent batch submitted for the 2004 MM Awards seemed slightly more complex and earned 86 points.

All in all, I'm glad Diageo decided to introduce an 'official' range of Caol Ila a few years ago.
The 12yo, 18yo and C/S have their own style and offer a worthy addition to the pantheon of Islay malts.
That being said, I have to admit I still prefer the 'murkier' and 'richer' style of the Kildalton distilleries myself.
Ardbeg, Lagavulin and Laphroaig usually have more to offer than the clean, transparent peatiness of Caol Ila.

And that's it for this session - I'll need to get back to work on the credentials section of Malt Maniacs...
The personal profiles of all the fresh malt maniacs have now been added to the site. I'm still waiting for some details, but the profiles of Ulf Buxrud and Luca Chichizola are now pretty much finished. Stay tuned for more fresh profiles.

> Entry 217 - February 5, 2005:  The Big Stretch

Phew, I've finally double checked all my data for Report #200.
I've now definitely sampled and scored 1000 Scotch single malts,
which is as good an excuse as any to have a long, hard look at my
range of scores. Compared to some of the other maniacs my scores
can sometimes be quite 'severe', but that doesn't bother me at all.
The phrase that comes to mind is 'noblesse oblige'; I've learnt how
magnificent a single malt can be (even at a relatively tender age)
so a malt that's merely 'adequate' won't earn a score in the eighties
or nineties. However, until now the highest score I ever awarded to
a malt is 96 points. I've always optimistically kept some 'room' at
the top of my scale for those really spectacular single malts.

Now, after sampling 1000 malts, it's time to 'tweak' the top end of my scale.
I imagine I should have a pretty good idea about the maximum 'potential' of a single malt by now.
However, I'm not quite ready to start using the very top of the scale (98 and 99 points) just yet; there must be tens of thousands of different bottlings and I've still tried only a fraction of them. And that's just the 'recent' bottlings. I'm slowly starting to discover that they also bottled some amazing malts in the 1960's, 1970's and 1980's. A few of these old bottles are still available at specialised outlets and if I get the chance to sample some more of these oldies I may very well discover some more magnificent malts from the past. For now, I think a maximum score of 97 points will suffice.

When some of the maniacs visited Italy in November 2004 Serge brought up an interesting concept.
Apart from a strictly 'organoleptic' score, there's also something like an 'emotional' score. I usually try to give a score that's as 'straight' as possible, but when it comes to scores in the 90's there might be room for some 'emotion'. After all, every single malt that scores in the 90's is magnificent by definition; even exceeding the 'highly recommendable' qualification that comes with a score in the upper 80's. Any score in the 90's is reason enough for hunting a malt down, so there is some room to incorporate some non-material values in the scores at the upper end of my scale.
So, let's have a look at the top of my new Hit List shall we?

First, there's the Saint Magdalene 19yo 1979/1998 (63.8%, UD Rare Malts).
Ever since I first discovered this beauty the score has been 'shimmering' around 96 points. For a while the Ardbeg 25yo 1975/2000 (50%, Douglas Laing OMC, 702 Bottles) took its position at the top of my Hit List, but the more I think about it, the more I feel that if any malt deserves the #1 spot on my list it's this one. If you give the Saint Magdalene enough time, it shows you pretty much everything that Scotch single malts have to offer. It's 'the ultimate malt'. So, I decided to increase the 'final' score to a whopping 97 points, restoring it to its rightful place at the top of the list.

The Ardbeg 25yo 1975/2000 (50%, Douglas Laing OMC, 702 Bottles) at 96 points seems about right, but if I allow a little bit of emotion to creep into my scores for the Bowmore 1965 Full Strength (50%, OB, Bottled 1980's, the one Serge found in a pizzeria in Italy) and the Glendronach 25yo 1968/1993 (43%, OB, 100% Sherry, simply unique) I would have to put these at 96 points as well. Magnificent examples of just how great a single malt can be. At an equally impressive 95 points we find the legendary Ardbeg 1976/2002 'Feis Ile' (55.6%, OB, Bottled for 2002 Islay Festival, up from 94 points), the simply amazing Ardbeg 29yo 1973/2002 (51.4%, Douglas Laing Platinum, 137 Bottles, stationary at 95 points), the stunning surprise that was the Glen Garioch 29yo 1968/1997 (57.7%, OB, Cask #7, up from 94 points) and the best Port Ellen I've tried so far, the Port Ellen 21yo 1982/2004 (50%, OMC, DL 414, 420 bottles, Full sherry, stationary at 95). And then there's my first love, of course; the Lagavulin 16yo 'White Horse' (43%, OB, 100cl, Bottled early 1990's).

Anyway, check out the revised Hit List or my 'Dram Diary' below for all the revised scores.

> Entry 218 - February 8, 2005:  Ads Race

Pffft... You may have noticed Serge's transparent
advertising trick to lure more people to WhiskyFun.
Some time ago he started to publish a series of
increasingly saucy whisky ads. The highlight so
far was the scantily clad Chivas Regal beach girl
from Serge's February 7 report. Well, well, well.
When Serge started WF I suggested that he
should have called his site about malts, music
and motorcycles 'Toys for Boys' - but I never
imagined he would stoop as low as exploiting
the female form, preying on lower instincts...
So, Mr. Valentin wants to use 'dirty tricks' to
lure people (read: men) to WF - people that
could obviously spend their time much better
doing some 'serious' whisky research on MM?
OK - that calls for an arms race - or rather
an 'ads race'. Let's see if I can draw some
people back with even saucier advertising.
How about this one, for example - it's for
'Guess' jeans - although the jeans seem
to have gotten lost somewhere....

Meanwhile, there's a lot more that you can feast your eyes on; MM#13 is on-line!
Malt Maniacs #13 starts with a fresh entry in our 'ask an anorak' series. Ho-cheng discovered that at least two distilleries in Scotland claim that they are the only one still using direct firing to heat the stills; Glenfarclas and Macallan. Well, they can't both be the only one, right? So, we had a short and sweet discussion about the topic until Charlie surprised us with an authoritative article on the topic of 'Direct Firing of Stills'. Then there's Luc's Ardbeg Masterclass in Oostende E-pistle, German maniac Klaus' Caramel Research Prelude about the upcoming maniacal research into the effects of caramel on whisky and Alexander's 'Tipsy' E-pistle about the 'Alexander The Great' tasting session described in log entry 205.

And we picked up the discussion we started with the Fake Signs E-pistle as well.
We may have found our 8th Fake Alert candidate in the form of an Ardbeg 1892 that's currently offered on eBay. There are some aspects about this bottle that earmark it as a potential fake. Read all about the latest developments.

So, that's further evidence that the fakes problem is bigger than we ever imagined. Bad news...
Fortunately, there's some good news as well: Serge just informed us that we have our 9,000th score on the monitor and my February 1 plea already has landed me a one month webgig, starting next week. It's on location, so I may not be able to make frequent updates to this log for a while, but it's all for the good cause: getting to Islay in May.

> Entry 219 - February 11, 2005:  Casanova

Oh, boy... Serge just sent me the picture at the right.
Please try to focus your foggy eyes on the label. That looks familiar, eh?
Yeah, I still had an empty bottle of Chivas Regal on my shelves somewhere
and the label is remarkably similar. But this is hardly one for our 'Fake Alert'
page; the bottle - and especially the contents - show little resemblance.

So, this is probably just a matter of a lazy and/or uninspired designer...
But when I visited the site (http://casanova.bioveta.cz/mlecne_e.htm)
I had the chance to familiarise myself with the amazing qualities of
this czechoslowakian 'milk liqueur with Japanese partridge eggs'.

'CASANOVA - This superb milk liqueur made from eggs of Japanese
partridge, from original 3yo whiskey, and from Czech cream named
after our distillery has been a gem of our whole assortment of liqueurs.
You would not find a similar liqueur throughout Europe. Partridge eggs
had already been used as a cure in oriental medicine. They contain high
levels of essential amino acids, vitamins, calcium, magnesium, iron, and
zinc. Their composition has a positive effect on human status immune,
and they also work to improve potency.'

Well, well, well... A potency enhancing milk liqueur called 'Casanova'...
Sounds great - I haven't personally verified the alleged potency enhancing qualities of 'Casanova' yet, but at 20% Alc. Vol. it's probably half as potency diminishing as strong liquor like whisky, vodka or rum. Any positive effects of the Japanese partridge eggs would be just a bonus. I can tell you from experience that a little alcohol goes a long way during a night on the town while a lot usually gets you nowhere... So, even if the Japanese partridge eggs (apparently better than Chechoslowakian partridge eggs?) don't have the desired effect, at least you're only half as likely to be too soused to take advantage of any sexual opportunities that might present themselves. Of course, it remains highly doubtful that somebody sipping from such a girlie drink in public would attract much female attention...

Anyway, this 'Casanova' doesn't qualify as a 'fake', but the Macallan 1954 does.
As it turns out, 'display' bottles of the Macallan vintage range filled with 3yo whisky (not even Macallan) were offered on eBay. That's right - Macallan provides assorted retailers with 'fake' bottles. That's worrying. The good news is that they took swift action as soon as they were informed about the offer on eBay. Read E-pistle #13/07 for all the details.

And that's all I have for you today. No tasting reports - I'm still suffering from bad nose days...
As far as the 'ads race' is concerned: Serge lifted the friendly competition to a whole new level by designing two great new 'ads' for Malt Maniacs. I'm sure he'll publish them on WF shortly. I'll try to come up with something this weekend as well.

> Entry 220 - February 12, 2005:  Group Thinking

The 'ads race' I mentioned in entry #218 evolved
into something constructive before it turned ugly.
Serge and I agreed to channel our excess energy
into a bunch of banners, ads and postcards for MM.
In the forseeable future we'll collect some of them
on a 'goodies' page, but in the mean time we'll just
publish some of our promotional stuff in our logs.

Do you appreciate single malt Scotch whiskies?
Do you feel that Malt Madness / Malt Maniacs has
helped you to appreciate single malts even more?
If so, why don't you help us spread the good word?
Spread our promotional material among your circle
of gin-, wodka- and bourbon guzzling friends and
help them learn the difference between boozing
and single malt appreciation. In the end you may
end up just as drunk, but serious dramming should
put your brain cells to work. This effectively 'trains'
the brain cells, making them healthier and better
able to withstand some of the ill effects of alcohol.

Meanwhile, the 'postcard' above reminded me about a recent e-mail from Victor Baars.
He had noticed that American maniac Peter Silver had briefly vanished from the matrix only to reappear again at the end of January 2005 - with some of his lowest scores notably higher this time. He wondered if the maniacs were the victim of some form of 'group thinking'. Well, if we were we probably wouldn't know, would we? Nevertheless, I think there's a perfectly rational explanation. I actually applaud the fact that Peter is a very 'strict' scorer (some maniacs are a tad generous for my tastes), but at some point his scores started to have a 'drag' effect on the average matrix score of most malts he tried. This gave the malts that Peter didn't try an unfair advantage. So, I wielded my dictatorial powers and temporarily pulled Peter's column from the matrix. I asked him to 'tweak' his range of scores. After some hard thinking, we came up with a conversion formula that made Peter's scores more comparable with those of the other maniacs.
Reason enough to restore Peter's column on the matrix...

What's more, I recently added a new feature to the matrix - a useful one I hope.
For each malt with a 'solid' average (i.e. the ones sampled by at least 6 maniacs) I've indicated both the highest and the lowest score (in green and red), making it easier to quickly determine the 'bandwidth' of a malt. I'll have to do some thinking about new 'official' extracts from the matrix and the monitor, but in the 'Strange Bits' section of WhiskyFun Serge has already  published some interesting statistics about our favourite bottlers and distilleries so far.
Check it out...

> Entry 221 - February 13, 2005:  Collecting

Well, the 'ads race' is on - and I just received the very funny
submission at the right from Serge. I'm note sure 'adoption' is
the correct analogy here, though. I'm not familar with customs
in France, but here in Holland screwing the heads off adopted
'children' and drinking from their necks is frowned upon ;-)

Actually, this picture was taken in Italy, in the warehouse of
Mr. Giuseppi Begnoni - one of the most famous collectors in the
world. His personal collection is awesome and I was personally
even more impressed by the quantity and variety of his 'trade'
stock in the warehouse. I didn't end up 'adopting' this innocent
little Lagavulin - or any other bottles for that matter - because
the prices were often just as impressive as the collection itself.

Nevertheless, I was tempted on many occasions - I really don't
see myself as a 'collector', but I can certainly understand the
passion of somebody who wants to own such a piece of history.
Especially if we are talking about bottles like the Aberlour 8yo
or Glen Garioch 1971 from Samaroli that Luc poured me.
Mr. Begnoni had dozens of bottles left...

So, my perspective is slowly changing...
In the past I've often expressed doubts about the sanity of
collectors that collect more bottles than they could possibly
drink themselves in their lifetime, but have to admit I'm slowly
starting to appreciate the 'collecting' side of things a bit more.

I haven't bought any new bottles for a long time and it's getting
harder and harder to bring myself to open one of the bottles in
my slowly shrinking Reserve Stock. Some are precious to me...
Of course I DO want to open and enjoy them - just not yet.
I imagine that with a bigger collection, it's far easier to open
a special bottle now and then without a guilty conscience.
And hey, maybe it even tastes better because of that...

Anyway, all this reminds me that I still have to make a transcript of my Italian tasting notes...
Since I'll be working on location for the next few weeks I may have little time to update this log, but I'll try to find some time to add my Italian tasting notes to the site. And I guess I'll have to get busy producing some 'ads' and banners for the upcoming 'MM Goodies' page as well.

> Entry 222 - February 18, 2005:  Ardbeg H2H

After publishing The Fake Factor Part I and The Fake Factor Part II I've
just received information about a new 'suspect' bottling from Ho-cheng.
Read all about it in The Fake Factor Part III - freshly added to MM#13.
I'm still waiting for confirmation on some facts, but right now it looks like
one of the bottles I sampled in Italy last year could 'technically' be a fake.

And that would 'technically' mean I'm back at 999 genuine single malts.
I've been taking it very easy since the end of last year and I haven't
sampled any new discoveries since I've hit the 1000 malts mark.
Now I just have to. I know, I know - compulsive behaviour...

Anyway, one bottle that could be fake (more about that in a few days)
is an Ardbeg, and as luck would have it there also was an Ardbeg among
the row of samples Serge sent me last year. And if the scores of Serge
and Olivier (95 and 96) are anything to go by, this should be a whopper.

Meanwhile, Serge and I have already produced quite a few 'postcards'
and 'posters' for Malt Maniacs. I'll try to collect the highlight on a special
page as soon as possible, but I have plenty of other stuff to finish as well.
It's high time I added some fresh distillery profiles, I need to polish the new
Global Malt Lex-icon, I still have to add my Italian tasting notes to my log,
the Hit List, Malt Map and Deviant Drams need some polishing, etcetera.
Until all that has been taken care of, I'm afraid I won't be able to update
this Liquid (B)Log on a daily basis. Tough noogies...

Meanwhile, I had some sampling to do - a return to my personal #1 distillery.
To check if my nose was in reasonable working order, I started with the Ardbeg 10yo (46%, OB).
This bottle has been on my top shelf for well over a year now, but it's still 4/5 full. Don't I like it?
Of course I do - but I've been sipping from this bottle (and its 17yo older brother) very carefully.
Nose: Fruit and peat, with the peat growing stronger quickly. Check... Some smoke? Rubber?
Then evolving organics. Leather. Musty. Sweaty socks. Locker room. Peat. Serrano ham?
Still, the fruits remain present. A hint of water melon perhaps? Is that coconut? Dentist?
Taste: Sweet, surprisingly gentle start - then it grows hotter and hotter and hotter...
Liquorice. The sweetness eventually disappears completely. Smoke in the finish. Dry.
Score: 89 points - but please note that I bought this bottle some years ago.
Current batches could be different in character - but not a lot, I imagine.

Well, my nose isn't in top condition but I decidced to take the plunge...
The Ardbeg 28yo 1972/2000 (50.1%, DL for Alambic Germany, 234 bottles) needed to be judged.
Nose: Wooaah. Fruit and organics, but in many more layers than in the 10yo. Mocca? Tobacco?
Very complex but surprisingly subtle at the same time. There's a constant peaty undertone here.
The organics take some time to emerge. Leather. With a few drops of water I got rubber & dentist.
Hey, wait a minute - after some twenty minutes I finally got some faint fruity notes as well.
Taste: Very soft start (not as fruity as the 10yo), followed by peat, smoke and rubber. Dry.
It's relatively simple on the palate, I have to say. Extremely hot and dry. No sweetness.
Score: 93 points - although I had it at 92 points for the first ten to fifteen minutes.
In the end it seems just a tad more subtle than some other old OMC Ardbegs.
It doesn't 'jump at you' like some of its siblings do - which I personally regret.
But that's my only reservation - and something entirely personal.

I could have poured myself another dram, but that Ardbeg would be a hard act to follow.
So, instead I preferred to simply enjoy the aftertaste, which lastes for many hours.
By the time I wrapped things up, it still felt 'chewy' in my mouth. Great stuff...

> Entry 223 - February 22, 2005:  Islay Medicine

It's COLD here in Amsterdam right now.
We usually benefit from our location near the sea,
(relatively warm in winter, relatively cool in summer)
but when there's a stiff northeastern wind blowing
in from Russia and Scandinavia like today it can be
bloody cold. As you may have noticed on pictures
on this site there's not too much hair left on my
scalp and today I was reckless enough to wander
outside without my hat. That means my brain had
little defence against the onslaught of cold air from
the north. This, in turn, puts yours truly in danger
of developing a nasty cold. And we don't want that.

So, there are two good reasons for having a few
Islay drams tonight; they may act as some form of
pre-emptive medicin and cure the coming cold before
it takes hold. And just in case they don't keep out the
cold, at least I'll be able to enjoy them while I'm still
in command of most of my faculties. So, I focused my
peat-thirsty eyes on four Islay samples that Serge
sent from France a few months ago.

I started with the Bowmore 22yo 'Seagull' (43%, OB, Blue Ceramic).
Nose: Quite aromatic at first. Spicy. Sherry. Then some peat emerges, growing stronger.
It has some of the 'trademark' Bowmore traits, but more complexity than the 12, 15 or 17.
Not quite as much smoke, it seems - instead, there are some sweet fruity and bakery aroma's.
Even something 'veggy' after a few minutes. More development than most recent Bowmores.
Taste: Quite soft in the start and there is a quick flash of perfume shortly afterwards.
Apart from that perfumy moment right after swallowing, there's not a lot that stands out.
Score: 84 points - I like the profile of the nose a lot; it shows just that little bit of extra depth.
However, there IS some perfume on the palate that keeps it from reaching the upper 80's.

The Bunnahabhain 1997/2003 (59.4%, SMWS 10.56)
Nose: Hey! Something oily, but here it doesn't offend me. Then it grows 'farmier'.
Quite odd, but I like it - this has personality. A fresh, grappa fruitiness. Smells young.
Some more sour notes after I added some water. Something metallic as well. Very odd.
In fact, if I had tried this in a blind test I would have guessed it was a finished malt.
But then again I might have guessed it was a Bowmore - I thought I found some smoke.
Taste: Very fruity start - once again it reminded me of grappa or an herbal liqueur.
Coffee, perhaps? Dry, bitter and once again a little herbal in the finish. Flattens out.
Score: 86 points - although I imagine this is not for everybody. Quite unique.

OK, time to try some stronger medicine; two old Laphroaig OB's. Oh jolly!
The Laphroaig 10yo 'Unblended' (43%, OB, Cinzano Italy, Bottled +/- 1985)
Nose: Aaaah! Peat, smoke and fruits all emerging at the same time. Tea. Wonderful.
Mango. No, peach! Or perhaps nectarines. Very distinctive - and it overpowers the peat.
Taste: Hmmm... A tad watery in the start, but then it grows more solid and smoky.
Medicinal as well, growing saltier towards the finish - a bit like salted fish. Hot finish.
Still, it doesn't seem to have quite the impact that the 'Phroaig 10 had in the early 90's.
Score: 84 points - it's just a tad thin on the palate but the nose is very intriguing.

The last of Serge's Islay samples was the Laphroaig 10yo (43%, OB, Hiram Walker, France).
According to Serge's notes, it was bottled around 1990 and indeed it resembled the 'old' 10yo.
Nose: Aaah again... The profile seems quite similar to that of the 'Cinzano' bottling.
Well, it's a little sweeter and there are some more organics. It's 'farmier' too. Dust?
Rotting hay. Cow stable. Washbacks. Smoked sausages. What a lovely profile.
Taste: Hmmm. Chloride. Sweeter and fruiter in the centre. Then the peat emerges.
Smoke. Oh, this tastes just great - it shows more peat than the Italian bottle.
Score: 88 points - more of a 'peat' monster than the 'unblended' version.

The four Islay malts on tonight's menu all scored well into the 80's.
Once again Serge proves he has an excellent nose for sniffing out excellent malts.
And apart from sampling four great drams, I've learned something as well. Or several somethings, in fact.
First of all, that not all 'modern' Bowmore OB's are hampered by an overdose of perfume. Second of all, that some casks of Bunnhabhain can put some of their Islay neigbours to shame at an age of only six or seven years - even without the peat. And third of all, that I wasn't imagining things when my analysis revealed a slow but steady decline of the Laphroaig since the early 1990's. Erm... did I write 'decline'? Sorry, what I should have written was 'change in character'. Looking at the monitor, it would seem Serge and Olivier prefer the 'subtler' style of later expressions of the Laphroaig 10 . Well, at least the 'Hiram Walker' bottling fits neatly in this theory. Maybe the 'Unblended' expression from Italy doesn't - but maybe that's because it was selected or vatted with more 'southern' palates in mind? Or maybe oxidation took its toll? But isn't peat supposed to work as some kind of 'preservative'?

Ah... isn't it amazing how everything you learn about malts leads to new questions?

> Entry 224 - February 25, 2005:  Italian Notes

Well, well... Isn't this an interesting brand: 'Gay Highlander'...
Serge shot this picture in Giuseppe Begnoni's 'Whisky Paradise' in Bologna.
The bottle was quite dusty and the design of the label would suggest this
bottle was released at least three decades ago. I haven't seen this brand
anywhere during my drinking years, so I imagine the brand doesn't exist
anymore. Well, that's hardly surprising, is it? They may have had a very
loyal customer base of actual gay Highlanders in Scotland, but I expect
the brand appeal outside this core audience must have been limited...
Let's face it; it's a rather de-masculating name for a whisky, isn't it?
I can't really imagine a straight guy ordering it with a straight face.

And within this context, the Scottish skirt on the label starts to look
a little bit suspicious as well. Kilts are really just skirts for men, right?
And how about the blowing on a big pipe or the fondling of a big sack?
Oh, boy - I never really realised it but the entire Scottish culture is
saturated with subtle references to the gay lifestyle. And now that
I think about it some more, the emancipation of gay people in our
society seems to have progressed remarkably similar to the rising
popularity of Scotch whisky. Yeah - and didn't prohibition put an
end to the 'gay twenties'? Wow, this seems like a conspiracy!
Is Scotland a gay Disneyland to covertly promote gayness?

Pfft... Maybe I should stop now before I'm declared 'persona non grata' in Scotland.

All this was just a very lengthy introduction...
An introduction to the news that I've finally managed to transfer my tasting notes for the Italian adventure in November 2004 to my Liquid Log. I've added an addendum to Log Entry #200 with a slightly more detailed account of the trip of Serge, Olvier, Luc and myself through France, Italy and Switzerland. During the trip I made notes on some sixty single malts - and I've tried quite a few more. The picture above is just one of many we shot on our trip; check out the 'Malt Maniacs Picture Book' on WhiskyFun for more pics. A more extensive report of our adventures should be published on Malt Maniacs in a while.

Sweet drams,


Later Liquid Log entriesEarlier Liquid Log entries

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
(New & Revised Track Record scores)
Fresh additions to my record are printed bold - revised scores aren't.
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

94    Aberlour Glenlivet 8yo (50%, OB, 75cl, Square Bottle, Small Cork, 1950's?)
94    Ardbeg 24yo 1975/2000 (50%, Douglas Laing OMC, 713 Bottles)
95    Ardbeg 1976/2002 'Feis Ile' (55.6%, OB, Bottled for 2002 Islay Festival)
93    Ardbeg 28yo 1972/2000 (50.1%, Douglas Laing for Alambic Germany, 234 bottles)
96    Bowmore 1965 Full Strength (50%, OB, Bottled 1980's, Italy)

84    Bowmore 22yo 'Seagull' (43%, OB, Blue Ceramic)
92    Braes of Glenlivet 15yo 1979/1995 (60%, SigV, Butt #16040, 1200 Bottles)
94    Brora 29yo 1972/2001 PSII (59.6%, Douglas Laing Platinum Selection II)
86    Bunnahabhain 1997/2003 (59.4%, SMWS 10.56)
96    Glendronach 25yo 1968/1993 (43%, OB, 100% Sherry)
93    Glen Garioch 1971/1988 (59.6%, Samaroli, 2280 Bottles)
95    Glen Garioch 29yo 1968/1997 (57.7%, OB, Cask #7)
93    Glen Grant 1969/2004 (46%, Berry Brothers, Cask #1773)

84    Laphroaig 10yo 'Unblended' (43%, OB, Cinzano Italy, Bottled +/- 1985)
88    Laphroaig 10yo (43%, OB, Hiram Walker, France, Bottled +/- 1990)
94    Laphroaig 10yo 'Original Cask Strength' (57.3%, OB, Red Stripe, Bottled +/- 2003)
97    Saint Magdalene 19yo 1979/1998 (63.8%, UD Rare Malts)
93    Tomintoul 37yo 1966/2003 Rum Finish (52.8%, DL Platinum, 201 Bottles)

My Track Record is updated once a month with the latest malt scores.
The last time I checked there were exactly 1006 single malts on the list.

StemapEarlier Liquid Log entriesEarlier Liquid Log entries

Erm... OK, please allow me to make one last sneak attack in the 'Ads Race'...
Here's a 'sexploitation' picture of Anna Nicole Smith (the girl from the old Guess ads), putting the 'PTUOU!' in voluptuous...
  Anna Nicole Smith


During most of February 2005 I was plagued by bad nose days.
As a result, only five fresh single malts were added to my Track Record this month. Well, that was to be
expected; I planned to take it a bit easier after hunting malt #1000. Nevertheless, I've got some useful
'work' done - my Italian Tasting Notes are finally on-line. Furthermore, I've did some hard thinking and
decided it was time to stretch my rating scale a bit. And February 2005 was a busy month for the malt
maniacs as well; we launched MM#13 and discovered three more potentially fake bottles - and a few
more I'm unfortunately not able to report on yet.

215 - 01/02/2005 - A Wonderful Opportunity; I'll need to 'work' my way to Scotland
216 - 04/02/2005 - Kilchoman; finally there's some good news from Islay's youngest distillery
217 - 05/02/2005 - The Big Stretch; I decided I could 'stretch' the top of my Hit List a bit.
218 - 08/02/2005 - The Ads Race; Serge's covert marketing operation demanded a response.
219 - 11/02/2005 - Casanova; it's not a 'fake' (it's not even whisky) but I wanted to share it.
220 - 12/02/2005 - Group thinking; some visitors asked why Peter briefly dropped from the matrix.
221 - 13/02/2005 - Collecting; the 'ads race' turned friendly and Serge's latest try set me thinking.
222 - 18/02/2005 - Ardbeg H2H; after a string of bad nose days the conditions suddenly improved.
223 - 22/02/2005 - Islay Medicine; I dealt a pre-emptive strike against the cold with 4 islay malts.
224 - 25/02/2005 - Italian Notes; I finally managed to make a transcript of my Italian tasting notes.

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