> Entry 290 - March 1, 2006: Keeping Stock
Free... Free at last!!!
Yesterday was the last day of my contract as interim marketing manager.
It really feels like I was just released from prison - I think it's safe to say that my
unusual 'skill set' doesn't make me the ideal candidate for a 9-5 desk jockey job.
Sure, the regular pay check was a very nice change of pace, but otherwise the
last 6 months have been an ordeal. Fortunately malt madness kept me sane ;-)
The good news is that I've managed to build up some financial reserves again,
so as long as I don't go malt mad and blow it all on bottles and whisky trips this
gives me some time to make heads or tails of the uncertain future staring me in
the face. I prefer to do my thinking with a 'clean' head (not necessarily with a
clear head, mind you), so over the next few weeks I'll try to resolve some of the
many issues that keep some of my brain cells occupied with relative trivialities.
One of the things that kept popping in the back of my mind was the mAlmanac.
I didn't gave the time to update the pages in a while, but I've now added all of
my recent scores to the Hit List and the Shit List and added some fresh data to
the Bang-For-Your-Buck List. And I'm very pleased to report that I've finally dove
into my reserve stock to replenish a few bottles on my top and middle shelf.
After bringing the number of bottles in my drinking collection back to 24 (the third shelf with 12 more bottles will be filled
once my cash-flow improves again) I checked which bottles I hadn't reported on in this log. I found three; all Macallans.
All other bottles in my current drinking stock have either been sampled before or are freshly opened bottles of old
favourits. I'll get back to these three Macallans in my next log entry (bad nose day today); I'll finish today's entry with a
fresh overview of the number of remaining expressions on my 'To Do List'. I don't want to bore you with monthly lists of the distilleries I still have to cover, but with the state my memory is in I really need this Liquid Log and my Track Record to stay on course.
If my calculations are correct, I'm still short on Allt A Bhainne (2), Aultmore (1), Balmenach (2), Blair Athol (1), Dalmore (1),
Dalwhinnie (1), Deanston (2), Old Fettercairn (3), Glenallachie (2), Glenburgie (2), Glen Spey (1), Glentauchers (1),
Knockando (1), Loch Lomond (2), Royal Lochnagar (2), Strathisla (2), Strathmill (2), Tamdhu (2), Teaninich (1) and
Tullibardine (2). These are the distilleries I still HAVE to do more research on, but it would be nice to try some more
expressions of Banff, Coleburn, Convalmore, Dallas Dhu, Glen Albyn, Glencraig, Glenglassaugh, Glenlochy, Glenugie,
Glenury Royal, Hillside / Glenesk, Kinclaith, Ladyburn, Millburn, Mosstowie, North Port / Brechin, Pittyvaich and Tamnavulin as well.
Well, things are looking up in that respect...
Davin has come up with a great name for the 'maniacal' project that has been running alongside my own obsessive hunt
for six expressions from each active (or recently closed) distilleries: trying to get six expressions on the matrix as well.
The project is now officially named HAMSTERGEDDON and we'll try to collect as many samples as possible from the
distilleries that still need 'fleshing out' on the matrix. Davin has been hunting for obscure miniatures on the web and a
few packages have already arrived in the woods. I'll report in more detail on the project in an E-pistle as soon as I've
checked the contents of Davin's packages. On my end I've already collected samples from Aultmore, Auchroisk, Balblair,
Convalmore, Dufftown, Glen Albyn, Glenesk, Glenlossie, Glenury Royal, Inchmurrin, Knockando, Teaninich & Tullibardine.
That's it for now.
> Entry 291 - March 10, 2006: Bourbon & Sulphur
Yes, I know I've been sloppy with updating this liquid log recently...
And I'm afraid my next tasting notes will have to wait a little bit longer.
I'm still plagued my a seemingly unending string of bad nose days - especially
frustrating with well over a hundred samples acting seductively on my shelves.
But maybe that's my overactive imagination and they're not acting at all...
And speaking of overactive imaginations: Serge is at it again on WhiskyFun.
After hiding in the brushes for many months I made another 'guerilla' attack in
the smouldering 'ads race' on February 24, and as expected Serge has gone all
'Napoleonetic' again, launching a massive barrage of funny whisky ads to pummel
me into submission. In fact, my spies in the field tell me that another massive
campaign will be launched soon by 'le general'... Well, bring it on... While Serge's
'esprit de corps' prevents him from uncivilised behaviour I have no such qualms.
So, here's a misogynistic little bourbon ad that might offend French sensibilities.
And speaking of the French... The maniacs have been discussing the touchy topic
of sulphur and sherry casks and I wanted to share a nugget of wisdom from Olivier;
'As I mentioned a couple times in the past, wine casks are ALWAYS - almost immediately after being emptied – treated with
sulphur. If you want I can show you pictures. We take pure sulphur pills of 5, 10 or 25g at a ratio of 2g/hl of volume (so 5g
per hogshead for example), attach them on a little hook, set fire to them and introduce them in the cask fom the top bond,
hanging on a wire. The cask is then sealed while the pills are burning, so the sulphur smoke stays inside and sterilize the
casks. The next day, the wires and remaining of the pills (ashes) are taken out quickly so the cask is only open for a few
seconds. This has to be done every 2 months regularly. Before reintroducing wine in the cask, the cask has to be thoroughly
rinced with continuous water for a very long time in order to extract all the sulphur from the wood. After that there is still
sulphurs components that would remain in the wood, but as wine naturally contain it, if it is a small proportion it isn' an
olfactory problem. I think for alcohol it is. Especially, I think that casks are not rinced as they are received by distilleries. I
suspect that they are directly filled with spirit. After a few months, the sulphur notes are not that obvious if you smell the
cask, but if you put a spirit into it, it will extract it from the wood and give that sulfury, rotten eggs character… With sherry, I
am not convinced that every casks are necessarily sulphured, as it is a higher alcohol wine, already oxydized, where producers
try o keep a certain yeast population in the cask (Oloroso for example). So burning sulphur would not be good. I will inquire on that. I consider high sulfury notes to be a fault.'
An excellent expplanation in a nutshell about the use of sulpur in the wine & whisky world.
We'll try to shed some more light on the topic in an upcoming 'Ask an Anorak' E-pistle.
More in a few days...
> Entry 292 - March 12, 2006: Southern Comfort
Bugger.... I have to admit Serge's response to my latest
attack in our little 'ads race' was pretty brilliant: check
out WhiskyFun for three very saucy 'Claudia Sniffer' ads.
I guess the fact that Serge is already stooping to such
titilating material means that I've already managed to
corrupt his values and standards - just a little bit ;-)
So, let's see if we can provoke Serge a little further.
A misogynistic ad for 'Southern Comfort' liqueur now.
Liqueur? Yes, that's right. Many of my friends (at least
here in Holland) seem to be under the mistaken impression
that Southern Comfort is a whiskey instead of a liqueur.
Well, it's actually a peach flavoured liqueur at 40%, and
once again I must admit that I quite like it - with lots of
ice in the summertime. Does that make me a philistine?
Quite probably - but the mere fact that I'm a philistine
allows me to be relatively philosophical about that...
Come to think of it, I've discussed this very same topic
with Michel van Meersbergen in Groningen four weeks ago.
There are some occupations, traits and interests that are
more common among malt maniacs than among a random
selection from any population you could possibly think of.
A disproportionate number of maniacs have IT jobs and
popular hobbies include bird watching, cooking, reading,
writing, chess, gastronomy, British humour and cinema.
And most maniacs are passionate about music as well...
In fact, we currently have at least three accomplished musicians on the team.
Mark Adams is a professional opera singer, Peter Silver - a.k.a. The Jazzdentist - runs a Big Band and Serge Valentin
composes his own music. Many of the other maniacs may not be as active on the 'production' end of the musical
spectrum but some are just as mad about music as about malts. And just like many different tastes in malts are
represented among the maniacs, so are many different musical tastes. Serge has been sharing his own favourits almost daily on WhiskyFun and it's clear that he appreciates subtlety and complexity in music as much as he does in malts. Me, I
tend to go for either simpler material I can enjoy 'in the background' or the more extreme stuff that demands some struggle. When it comes to heavily sherried malts, for example, I often enjoy 'out there' malts that might be described as 'faulty' by others.
Which reminds me of that 'maniacal' discussion about sulphur and whisky I've got to transcribe.
So, I'd better get on with it... I'll get more into the 'musical' stuff in an upcoming log entry; for now I'd like to pass on a tip about a brilliant little free program I discovered recently: MediaMonkey
. I guess Apple's I-tunes has some of the same features, but now there's an even niftier alternative for PC users. The virus attack has left my 100+ Gigabytes mp3
collection in disorder and this program is very useful in bringing back order to chaos. For example, it allows you to search
for songs, artists and albums based on criteria like words in the title of year of release. When I found the advertisement
above I KNEW I had a song about Southern Comfort on my hard disk as well - but I just couldn't remember the artist.
Well, thanks to MediaMonkey I found it in a jiffy - 'Sweet Southern Comfort' by Buddy Jewell.
I used to hate country music, but via the bluegrass music in the magnificent Coen brothers movie
'O Brother Where Art Thou' I've recently started to warm up to the country genre. You won't see
me line-dancing any time soon, but if you click on the icon at the left you can enjoy (or not) the
aforementioned song by Buddy Jewell. I think it will get you in the mood for a Southern Comfort...
Due to 'technical' reasons I can only offer one music file on MM at a time, so enjoy it while it lasts.
As soon as I publish another 'Ear Candy' entry the current song will be replaced by another.
And that's it for now - the third log entry in a row without any actual tasting notes.
Next entry, I promise.....
> Entry 293 - March 16, 2006: St. Clynelish Day
OK... Serge has complained that the advertisments
I've used in our little 'ads race' are fairly well known.
Well, I wouldn't know - they were new to me - but
after today I'll try to come up with some material
that's hopefully more in the line of Serge's 'Glen Close'
ads from a while ago. Meanwhile, here's an ad that
should appeal to our fearless French Clynelish fan.
The ad at the right isn't for Clynelish though.
It's for Johnnie Walker Red Label. I'm not a big fan
of the blend, but I think the story is very funny.
The style reminded me of the old British 'Punch'
magazine from the late 70's or early 80's, but as
it turns out is was made much later than that in
New York - and it was never actually used...
You would probably expect that this ad inspired
me to have a little Clynelish session, but I don't
have any big bottles open at the moment and the
samples on my shelves are reserved for the next
maniacal meeting. So, I went for a distillery I've
always considered a sister distillery of Clynelish;
This may seam odd at first, but given the
fact that they are both owned by Diageo, they're
comparable in size and they are both located on
the north-east shore (Clynelish on the mainland,
Caol Ila on Islay) the comparison may not seem
that illogical after all. What's more, they both
produce a malt whisky that, to me, seems just
a little bit lighter and more transparant than the
whisky produced by its neighbours. So, with that
in mind I give you these four Caol Ilas...
Caol Ila 1980/1994 (43%, Vintage Choice)
Nose: Dirty peat. Organics. Sweaty socks. Coal. Antracite. A moist cellar. A hint of antiquity.
These may not sound like 'attractive' aroma's, but I do actually love these slightly 'stinky' malts!
Taste: Very austere on the palate. A little meaty. Salmiak? 'Black & White' candy. Lovely!
87 points - but that could be just a tad on the conservative side.
Caol 25yo 1979/2004 (50%, Douglas Laing OMC, DL1357, 385 Bottles)
Nose: Paint & peat. Latex and rubber. Diesel fuel? At first it feels quite 'chemical' (in a nice way).
After +/- two minutes I noticed more and more organics creeping out from under the chemical smells.
Taste: Woody and dry with a hint of nutmeg. Austere - some might even say simple. I love it, though.
88 points - the style reminds me of the legendary Ardbeg 25yo '702' from Douglas Laing.
This one doesn't have quite the same complexity, though. Still, highly recommendable!
Caol Ila 13yo 1991/2005 (54.2%, The Whisky Fair, Bourbon hogshead #4734, 359 Bottles)
Nose: Sweet & creamy. Nothing else, I'm afraid. Maybe I've raced through the previous malts too quickly?
Still not too expressive in the nose after a while, although it became sweeter and sweatier with time.
Taste: Sweet & peaty. Hint of something herbal. Very dry - even more so towards the finish.
At the moment nothing really stands out. Remains hot, sweet and peaty on the palate.
Score: 79 points
- but I think I may have rushed through the previous malts too fast.
Caol Ila 26yo 1979/2005 (57.2%, The Whisky Fair, 212 Bottles)
Nose: Aaah... Lovely 'dirty' peat. Not as 'clean' as most younger Caol Ila's, but that's a good thing.
With some water it shows an unexpected gentle side with some very faint fruits - water melon?
Taste: Hot with a delayed flash of peat. Benefits hugely from a splash of water, growing smoother.
Quite sweet after I added some water, with the smoke growing more pronounced. A lovely profile!
Score: 89 points - Caol Ila seems to be able to distill a malt that does well at all ages. Chapeau!
So, that's it for today - three out of four Caol Ilas scoring 'highly recommendable'.
I think that proves that Caol Ila plays in the same league as the 'big names' like Ardbeg now.
On another issue: I finally managed to publish some fresh E-pistles in Malt Maniacs #17 yesterday.
Here are the four latest additions to our lates issue;
MM17/11 - Double Dutch (Martin Diekmann's first impressions on the Groningen Whisky Festival)
MM17/12 - Martini & Whisky (Michel van Meersbergen takes a closer look at the festival in Groningen)
MM17/13 - Convalmore Profile (Another profile on a silent distillery; a 'quickie' by Luc Timmermans)
MM17/14 - Ask an Anorak: Bottle Storage (What is the best way to store the bottles in your collection?)
I guess that should keep you entertained for a while longer...
Meanwhile, I'll get to work on another batch of unpublished E-pistles - please bear with me...
> Entry 294 - March 20, 2006: Still Swapping
Last week Dave Broom informed us that Pernod Ricard has completed the 'disposal'
of Glen Grant, Old Smuggler and Braemar to Campari. The press release reads thus:
'As announced on 22 December 2005, Pernod Ricard has today sold Glen Grant (brands,
inventory, distillery and other associated assets) as well as Old Smuggler and Braemar
(brands and inventories) to Campari for Euro 115 million and Euro 15 million respectively.'
Wow.... I must admit that all this still swapping makes me a bit dizzy...
If I remember correctly, Pernod Ricard had to sell Glen Grant because their take-over
of Allied Domecq (owners of Allied Distillers, owners of, among other things, Laphroaig),
brought them in conflict with some anti-trust laws. Well, they certainly made a major
leap forward with their purchase of Allied Domecq. Through their subsidiary Chivas
Brothers, Pernod Ricard already owned no less than 6 active distilleries (Aberlour,
Allt-A-Bhainne, Glenallachie, Glenlivet, Longmorn and Strathisla) as well as quite
some 'reserve capacity with the likes of Braes of Glenlivet (mothballed in 2002),
Caperdonich (mothballed in 2002 as well) and Glen Keith (mothballed in 1999).
If the information on the Distillery Data page is correct, Pernod Ricard has doubled
the number of active distilleries in its portfolio with the six from Allied; Glenburgie,
Glendronach, Glentauchers, Miltonduff, Scapa and Tormore. They have also added
some more reserve capacity in the form of the silent distilleries Imperial (mothballed
in 1998), Inverleven (mothballed in 1991) and Lochside (mothballed in 1992).
Quite a bold move, instantly making Pernod Ricard the #2 in production of single malts.
I don't have much insight in the blends segment of the whisky world, but based on my
experiences with Old Smuggler in the early 1990's (when the bottle still had a 'handle') it
was a good thing that Pernod Ricard got rid of the brand - it came in at #10 on the list of
the Worst Whiskies in the World in 1998. Since my last project ended on March 1 my cash
flow is reduced to a trickle again - so I find myself looking at the bottom shelves of liquorists with fresh interest.
Should I run into a bottle of Old Smuggler again (I couldn't find it at Gall & Gall this afternoon) I'll make sure to pick up a
bottle so I can write some fresh tasting notes. I'm sure that it will be more expensive than the MacLean Blend (fairly
awful whisky but relatively good 'hobo value' at 7,99 Euro's) but I don't expect the purchase to 'break the bank'.
That's it for now - but expect an entry with some fresh tasting notes tomorrow...
> Entry 295 - March 21, 2006: Springtime
Spring is in the air!
When I was walking along the Amsterdam harbours a few
days ago I suddenly noticed a few crocus flowers bravely
fighting the chilly winds of March. The appearance of these
lovely little flowers usually indicates that Spring might be just
around the corner, but sometimes they prove to be just a tad
too optimistic and winter turns around to give us some more
chills before finally surrendering to the approaching Spring.
This morning the second 'proof of Spring' arrived.
I awoke to the sound of the birds who were singing their little
hearts out for the first time in many months. Lovely. I'm not a
bird watcher like some of the other maniacs (well, at least as
far as the 'flying' variety is concerned ;-) but I do enjoy the
sights and sound of most birds. There's one major exception,
though: the Amsterdam pigeons - a.k.a. 'the rats of the sky'.
They are the dumbest, fattest and horniest birds around.
And speaking of dumb, fat, horny birds...
I've just received a picture from a friend that would be perfect for a devastating attack in 'the ads race' with Serge, but
I'm wondering if it might be too risqué even for Malt Madness - especially on a lovely day like this. Being in a civilised mood, I decided to go with a picture of some innocent little flowers instead.
I'll keep the other picture for 'emergencies'...
And there's more good news; there's a good chance I'll have a steady job again next month.
The contract hasn't quite been drawn up yet, but I should know for sure by the end of next week.
To celebrate a little prematurely I decided to pour myself some of the samples that Bert Bruyneel brought from Belgium
three weeks ago. I've put most of them on the 'Hamstergeddon' shelf but a few of the samples that were either too
small to share with other maniacs or there were already six or more expressions listed on the matrix. Looking at the
many dozens of samples still waiting to be judged by the next group of maniacs to visit Amsterdam, I can easily finish
some of Bert's less 'urgent' samples - we won't have time to incorporate them into the 'Hamstergeddon' schedule anyway. So, here are three relatively 'obscure' samples from Bert Bruyneel;
Dalmore 20yo (43%, Duncan McBeth, Bottled 1971, 75cl)
Nose: Fruity and slightly dusty. My grandmother's dried apples. Honey. Elegant and quite lovely.
Faint touch of dry heather after weeks without rain. A very subtle hint of antiquity. Coffee? Lovely!
That being said, it doesn't show a lot of development, depth or complexity. Great but not stellar.
Taste: Whoaah! Sweet with much more obvious 'antiquity' - and could that be a hint of peat?
Here's the honey again. Smooth on the surface but with a serious bite at the back of the throat.
Maybe a touch of leather? It feels just a tad thin at first - and a little too gritty in the finish for me.
Score: 89 points - great and extremely pleasant, but not quite enough 'depth' for a score in the 90's.
Finally! I've sampled my 6th expression of Dalmore - one more distillery kicked off the 'To Do' list.
And it was quite a great Dalmore too - merci, Bert! Still, I personally enjoyed the Dalmore 12yo (43%, OB, Bottled +/- 1977) that Luc sent me last year even better. That one remains my personal favourite expression of Dalmore so far. As
far as North Port - Brechin is concerned: I've tried four expressions so far, so the next will be my fifth;
North Port-Brechin 20yo 1979/1999 (61%, UD Rare Malts)
Nose: Fruity start, quickly followed by herball off-notes. This falls apart very quickly at cask strength.
Opens up a little bit with a few drops of water, but not much. Clay? Cardboard? Like a young spirit.
Taste: Surprisingly watery start at more than 60%. Sweet, hot centre. Fairly long burn. Herbal again?
Just like the nose, it falls apart completely on the palate - especially with some water. Feels young.
Score: 68 points - it's amazing how immature the spirit still feels at this strength. Dead cask?
That being said, it benefits from some breathing; I had it in the lower 60's for the first ten minutes.
And last but not least: Tamdhu. There are seven expressions on the matrix (so we don't have to worry about Tamdhu
for our little 'Hamstergeddon' project) but I've personally only sampled four different bottlings. Here's number five...
Tamdhu 1988/1997 (60.8%, Gordon & MacPhail, D. 14/12/1988, B. 06/1997)
Nose: Humh.... Feels young and a bit herbal too, just like the North Port. That's too bad...
I like to think I'm open-minded, but I just can't make myself like this oily / eucalyptus style.
Taste: Again, quite similar to the North Port. Oil? Mainly herbal with an odd, cloying sweetness.
And while the North Port showed some improvement after a long time, this one didn't. Bugger...
Score: 54 points - once again, it's definitely not my type of whisky. I'd go for the NAS OB myself...
And that's it for today, I'm afraid - I have to get to work on a piece of translating work.
You might not be able to tell from the scores of the last two malts, but I thoroughly enjoyed sampling these samples.
I've just made a fairly significant leap forward w.r.t. the distilleries on my 'To Do' list.
PS: I've just published a fairly brilliant E-pistle from Olivier about corks and other bottle seals.
Very informative - find out what TCA smells like, what the industry thinks about corks and which type of seals offer the
best protection from oxidation; natural corks, synthetic corks, screw caps, crown seals or glass stoppers.
> Entry 296 - March 24, 2006: Blind Laddies; Part 1
If you've read my personal Feis Ile 2005 report you may
remember that I missed the Masterclass at the Bruichladdich
distillery on Sunday May 29 due to a sudden urge to explore
the coastline of the island. Fortunately, PLOWED ringleader
Jay Stotzky had brought a bunch of small Nalgene (extremely
lightweight plastic) bottles with him, so he could fill samples
of the six drams that were poured during the masterclass.
I finally decided to try some samples tonight - 100% blind.
But before I get to the results of tonight's tasting session
I'd like to share a Bruichladdich press release from 2005;
'When we released the Bruichladdich 20 year old (Second
Edition) "Flirtation" last autumn there was quite a hoo-hah.
It seemed to divide the whisky community down the middle;
there were those that huffed and puffed, wondering what the
hell we were up to, how dare we play around with tradition,
the end of the world as we know it etc. And then there were
the more enlightened that applauded our innovation (...).'
Well, I have to say I'm in the camp of Mark Reynier and his gang here.
I know some 'purists' find the entire concept of finishing appaling, but I say: if it works, go for it! I gave the Flirtation 84
points and most maniacs scored it even higher, so I think it's safe to say that, 'collectively', we like the Flirtation - even those who don't like the concept of finishing.
However, the press release continued: 'It is therefore with great pleasure that we announce the IWSC Gold Medal "Best in
Class" in the Islay 20 year old category for Bruichladdich 20 year old "Flirtation" - the only competition that it was entered for.
Gloating? Certainly not. But guess what we have done this time for the Bruichladdich 20 year old (Third Edition) nicknamed
"Atlantic Islands". This will be released in September. Expect more gnashing of teeth.'
Hmmm.... the '20yo Islay category', eh?
I wonder how many competition there was in that category...
Let's see, which other Islay distilleries have a 20yo expression that could have been beaten by the Laddie. Ardbeg?
Erm, no; as far as I know they only have 10yo and 17yo OB at the time. Bowmore? They have a 21yo, but no 20yo. Bunnahabhain? No 20yo expression either - and the same goes for Caol Ila, Lagavulin and Laphroaig, as far as I know.
And needless to say, there's not a 20yo Kilchoman around yet. So, that would mean that the Bruichladdich had... no
competition at all... Well, that's hardly a 'competition' then, is it? Bruichladdich has a very well oiled PR machine, but maybe this time they were running that machine just a little too fast, producing mostly hot air?
I was reminded of this press release when Bruichladdich spread the news about their 'Usquebaugh-baul' a few weeks
ago. This is a quadruple distilled whisky that is supposed to become 'the world's most alcoholic single malt ever made'.
This latest PR bomb from Bruichladdich caused quite some commotion among the industry and whisky lovers alike. But I'll
get into some of the details of that issue in a future log entry; here are my notes on my first four blind Laddies.
Blind#1 - Nose: Ultra-light, grainy and a little dusty. A tad veggy as well. Sweet in the background.
This can't be very old, although it doesn't have the 'grappa' character of fresh spirit. Organics?
Yeah, it grows more complex after a few minutes. Quite woody, but none of the 'sherry' tannins.
Wait, is that something nutty? Something similar to some smells in the oily spectrum anyway.
Taste: Flat start, becoming surprisingly peaty in the centre, dropping off again into a dry finish.
I hint of something oily in the aftertaste. Once again I get the impression of a young whisky.
Score: 70 points
- not quite up to single malt standards, but it has a lot of interesting features.
I often have an allergic reaction to oily malts, but this one was versatile enough to keep me entertained.
Bruichladdich NAS 'Rocks' (46%, OB, Banyuls Finish, Bottled 2005) - a fairly recent release.
My baffled response: Wow! My score is definitely 'off the chart' compared to the other maniacs.
Serge, Olivier, Davin and Thomas all gave it 83 points, while Peter even went with 86 points.
It's clear that my opinion about this expression reflects a minority standpoint...
Blind#2 - Nose: Grainy as well - but a little sweeter than #1. It quickly opens up with faint fruits.
A little 'Irish' in character. Fairly simple, lacking development. Whiff of glue? Not very interesting.
Unfortunately, it drops dead again just as quickly, losing pretty much all definition. That's too bad.
Taste: Nondescript at first, growing peatier towards the centre, then sweeter. Dry & 'chewy' finish.
Woody. Oily. Cardboard. Sake. Flat and simple; almost tastes like a blend. Not really my type of dram.
It falls apart within minutes, leaving a rather unpleasant aftertaste. Definitely not my cup of tea.
Harsh. Hey wait - now I know what's 'wrong' with it - it tastes far too much like a bourbon for me.
Score: 72 points - although I had it in the lower 60's for quite a while. Hardly a constant performer.
Only an relatively interesting start and a comeback afer 10 minutes keept it out of 'avoidable' territory.
It was: Bruichladdich Fifteen 'Second Edition' (50%, OB, Chateau d'Yquem finish, Bottled 2005).
My baffled response: Oh boy.... This time I wasn't the only maniac who wasn't too crazy about it.
Luc (63 points) and Klaus (65 points) were even less thrilled. That being said, six maniacs went for the 80's.
Blind#3 - Nose: Grainy start, but more organics quickly move to the foreground. Quite expressive.
Then some pleasant peaty notes join the party - before disappearing again into the distance.
Farmy. The main impression reverts to 'organics' again - nice, but not very complex or 'layered'.
Taste: Sweet and peaty in the start, developing very nicely into a serious peaty centre.
Some subtle smoke and liquorice notes. The sweetness gradually vanishes over time, though.
Is this a Bruichladdich? Nah, must be a Port Charlotte or Octomore - it's a relative peat monster!
Score: 84 points
- mainly earned on the palate. The nose isn't terribly deep or complex.
This really grew on me over time - from the upper 70's to the lower 80's and then to 84.
So, make sure to give this one half an hour at least or you'll miss a lot of the fun.
It was: Bruichladdich NAS 3D 'Moine Mhor' (50%, OB, 2nd batch, Bottled 2005)
My baffled response: Wow!!! This time they picked a winner, even by my account.
To me, this has much more of the 'Islay' charcteristics I crave than most Laddies.
Blind#4 - Nose: Wow! Very sherried - I like it! Sweet, fruity, woody, polished and balanced.
Later on it moves in the direction of sweets and Turkish delight. More organics after a while.
Freshened up by whiffs of mint. Is that the faintest hint of smoke? Like an old school Mac.
The nose really is astounding! Right up my alley. Could this be a 90's malt? Let's taste it...
Taste: Hey.... Much, much softer than I imagined at first. Grows bigger and fruitier quickly.
A light, dry smokiness towards the finish. Coffee beans. Still, it remains just a tad watery.
After a few minutes a cloying, molasses sweetness that makes me wonder if this was finished?
Something that reminded me of cough syrup. Sweetness and smoke grow dominant over time.
Score: 88 points
- it loses a few points on the palate but overall I still love it. It's so rich...
It was: Bunnahabhain 1968 Oloroso cask sample (Unknown ABV, MMcD)
My baffled response: Erm.... Wow... Brave of the Laddie people to pour this amongst the Laddies.
The masterclass at the distillery last year had two more samples (I'll get to those in my next log entry) but if they had
finished the session at this point the Bunny would have been the winner for me. Interestingly enough I seem to prefer an unpeated whisky over a lightly peated one tonight. Go figure...
And that's it for today - back to work on the distillery profiles now.
I've just published Lawrence Graham's profile on Dallas Dhu, so the maniacs are taking the lead...
In a few days I'll investigate the other two blinds, as well as some other Laddies.
> Entry 297 - March 26, 2006: Blind Laddies; Part 2
Bugger... I really need to figure out a leaner & meaner format for Malt Madness.
There are many different things happening at the moment I'd like to share with the
rest of the world, but with a web-editor that's almost a decade old the updates to
MM take their sweet time. I'll get back to an interesting little row in Canada in my
next log entry, but for those who want to know what has the maniacal pants in a
twist right now, check out the juicy article on the website of The Toronto Star.
More about that in my next log entry; this time I'll focus on some more samples
from Bruichladdich. Yesterday the NAS 'Rocks' expression and the 15yo Second
Edition didn't make a big impression, but the NAS 3D Moine Mhor went down very
well indeed. So, now it's time to look at the two last samples that were sampled
at the masterclass at the distillery last year and a few other blind 'Laddies'.
Blind#5 - Nose: Nuttier and oilier than the previous ones. Grows very sweet quickly.
String beans. A little saltier and more 'coastal' over time. A bit like Ledaig or Isle of Jura.
A tad metallic perhaps? Not very well integrated. That said, it improves a lot over time.
Taste: Oooh... Yeah, plenty of oil here as well. Which is good - if you like that sort of thing.
Unfortunately, I don't. Not much else, really. Fairly flat and altogether unbalanced at first.
Hey, wait a moment. After some ten minutes it grows fruitier on the palate. That's better!
Score: 84 points
- it managed to make a rather remarkable recovery after 10 minutes.
It was: Bruichladdich 20yo 'Flirtation' (46%, OB, second edition, 2004)
Blind#6 - Nose: Spicy and ever so slightly peaty. Yeah, that's more like it! Melon? Chloride?
Then some faint organics emerge. Like a few of the others, this needed some time to develop.
Taste: Peaty start, followed by a dry episode with some liquorice, then a sweeter centre.
A lot of development in your mouth - it earns extra points here. Very smooth. Fruity finish.
Score: 89 points
- but it needs quite some time to get there. A 'natural' but complex malt.
It was: Bruichladdich 35yo 1968/2004 Legacy III (40.7%, OB)
Well, they certainly finished on a high note with the Bruichladdich masterclass.
Let's hope I won't regret following these with five more blind Laddies;
Blind#7 - Nose: Fairly nondescript. Some faint fruit, some glue. Oh boy, Am I having a bad nose day?
Oily and a little fruity at first. A tad herbal. Not my kind of profile, I'm afraid - but that's personal.
Taste: Herbal in the start, growing bitter before a short, sweet spike. Some liquorice.
Maybe a touch of peat. Hey, this is quite nice... Then it grows bitter again in the finish.
Score: 79 points
- The interesting nose didn't grow on me, but the enjoyable palate almost won me over.
It was: Bruichladdich XVII (46%, OB, Bottled +/- 2005)
Blind#8 - Nose: Sweet & grainy, but a lot of 'oomph'. Big prickle in the back of the nose. Glue? Chloride?
Some organics drift into focus after a few minutes. Enjoyable, but it lacks some substance, it seems.
Taste: Winey and herbal. Powerful tannins in the centre and finish. Dry and maybe a tad metallic.
No sweetness at all on the palate, which makes it a little harder to swallow for a sweeth tooth like me.
Score: 79 points - it has some nice features but it's just a bit too weird on the palate for me.
It was: Bruichladdich 1992/2005 'Extra Strength' (50%, Wilson & Morgan)
Blind#9 - Nose: Deep and sherried; fruit and organics. Lovely profile, but not a lot of depth.
Not much development either, although it seemed more expressive during a second try. Sherry & spices.
Some spices join the party after five minutes. Very enjoyable, but a little too subtle for my tastes.
Taste: Much flatter than the nose would suggest. Coffee? Quite hot. Weak, tired tannins. Liquorice?
84 points - Definitely recommendable. This is quite lovely on the palate - sweet and fruity.
It was: Bruichladdich 'Twenty Third Edition' (46%, OB, Bottled 2005)
Blind#10 - Nose: Rich start with charcoal and burnt caramel. Grows bigger but stays nondescript.
Very nice, though - this one has the presence to make an impression - albeit a fairly vague one.
Taste: Smooth and sweet. Fruity centre. VERY drinkable. Great tannins. A little woody. Dry heat in the finish.
Score: 82 points - not too complex, but the slightly higher proof (?) gives it an extra kick.
It was: Bruichladdich 1986/2005 (46%, OB, La Maison du Whisky 50th Anniversary, Cask #2)
Blind#11 - Nose: Big and fruity. Clay? Hints of smoke and sulphur? A little bit dirty. Some organics. Yeah, I dig this...
Meaty. Nice development - a pleasure cruise for the nose. Horse Stable. Or should I call it 'horse unstable'?
Taste: Hint of perfume? Just a touch of bitterness. Strong tannins. Smoke. Could be a Bowmore or G'garioch?
The taste is not nearly as enjoyable as I imagined at first, but it improves considerably after 5 minutes. Sweeter.
Score: 87 points
- by no means perfect (especially on the palate), but the nose is right up my alley.
It was: Bruichladdich NAS 'Infinity' (55.5%, OB, Bottled 2005) - and it definitely needs time!
Lovely - this 'Infinity' allows me to finish the evening on a high note.
I've mentioned numerous times before that many Bruichladdichs are just a tad too light and subtle for my tastes (they
are much more popular amongst 'the wine brigade') but the number and variety of recent Bruichladdich releases
guarantee that at least a few of those bottlings appeal to a peathead like me. Still, I can't wait for bottlings of Port Charlotte will appear.
And speaking on finishing the tasting on a high note....
I know it's 'theoretically' better to have tasting sessions without music to prevent any 'emotional colouring' of the results,
but that's a concession I'm often not willing to make. In the end, my main purpose in life is maximising my pleasure and I
enjoy tasting sessions just a little bit more with some nice music. And of course, I often go for 'celtic' stuff. Today I'd like
to share a little gem I found on my hard drive when I was cleaning up some of the digital debris that was left after the virus attack. It's a song by Ileach Norma Munro who gave us with a private concert last year after a fabulous dinner at
Martine Nouet's home. I don't think Norma sang this song that evening, but it's sort of special because many malt fans know it.
Well... At least part of the lyrics - they used to be on the back label of the Bunnahabhain 12yo.
The song is 'Westering Home' and it thoroughly enhanced my enjoyment of the malts on the table.
No Bunnies tonight, I'm afraid, but close enough. So, click on the musical icon at the left to enjoy
some Islay music while you browse around - and maybe drop by Norma's website to buy a few CD's.
I'm no fan of the big record companies but I share Serge's support for small independent artists.
> Entry 298 - March 28, 2006: The Canadian Situation
OK, I promised a little more information about the
little row that is going on in the Canadian whisky
world right now. Johanna, editor of Single Minded,
has been organising the Spirit of Toronto whisky
festival for two years - and quite successfully
according to the positive comments I've recieved.
Johanna's been successful despite lack of cooperation
from the LCBO (Liquor Control Board of Ontario), the
organisation that strictly controls all the wine and spirit
sales in Ontario. The LCBO never bothered to actively
promote single malts in Ontario. According to Davin
there are less than 100 different bottlings available at
any given time; in the UK and mainland Europe even
tiny liquorists have a far wider selection available.
If my information is correct, the LCBO and the Whisky
Live organisation have now planned their own festival
for 2006. Not much wrong there it would seem; an
opportunity to introduce more Ontarians (?) to the
wonderful world of whisky.
Well... not quite it seems...
If the information I received is correct the LCBO people planned the festival ONE WEEK before Johanna's.
(The LCBO festival is scheduled for October 14, according to Johanna she planned her festival for October 21). Of course,
this could be a coincidence, but with a chance of less than one in fifty (1,9230769 percent, to be precise) that doesn't
seem like the most obvious conclusion. That would be the LCBO's timing of the event was chosen primarily to 'take the
wind out of Johanna's sails' (and sales) - not to better promote single malts in Ontario. Those with a paranoid
disposition could even see it as the first move by a big 'industry' party to nip some of the emerging 'grass roots' events
in the bud, which makes the issue of particular importance to maniacs and other anoraks world wide.
However, conclusions are nothing to be jumped at.
The other side of the story is that Johanna's site hasn't been updated in many months now and I couldn't find any
confirmation anywhere of the third edition of the festival actually being 'in the works'. Furthermore, last year's Spirit of
Toronto festival was on October 1, so if Johanna had picked the same 'spot' on this year's calendar the LCBO Festival
would actually have taken place AFTER Johanna's festival. So let's reserve our judgement until we've given all the parties
involved a chance to present their side of the story. As the resident Ontarian (?) maniac, Davin de Kergommeaux is of
course the best person to delve into this issue, so he is busy contacting all the parties involved when I write this. Davin
is trying to set up an interview with the three parties involved to try and get to the bottom of the matter. The results should be published in an upcoming E-pistle on Malt Maniacs; join the mailinglist if you want to know when exactly.
Meanwhile, here in Amsterdam, I've just discovered something...
If I manage to sample a dozen more single malts this week I should be able to try my 1500th single malt whisky on April
1. Since I'm blessed with a slightly anal type of personality (proven by the fact that I keep a track record of my
conquests, I guess), I always try to reach my milestones on nice 'round' dates, so now I find myself faced with a
deadline this Friday. You know what that means, don't you? It's sampling time!!! A quick browse through my sampling
shelves resulted in a fairly disorganised line-up of six Islay malts; three from the south coast and three from the east coast.
Lagavulin 1988 Distiller's Edition (43%, OB, Bottled 2004) from Ho-cheng
Nose: Peat and organics. Slowly developing fruits. Tea. Not particulary expressive at first it seems..
If memorey serves I didn't have to work quite as hard to reveal the secrets of earlier expressions.
That being said, it shows some development with time - but it's mostly happening in the background.
Taste: Lovely sweet peat. Some salt liquorice before a second wave of peat takes over. Feels great.
It's my kind of profile but to be honest it fizzles out just a tad too quickly into a dry, smoky finish.
86 points - a fine Islay whisky, but it seems quite different from its 1987 predecessor.
Laphroaig 15yo 1987/2002 (50%, DL Old Malt Cask, 270 Bottles) from Thomas Lipka.
Nose: A tad sour and farmy with a hint of something metallic. A bit grassy, perhaps? Peat, but not a lot.
It grows a little meatier in the nose over time, but I wouldn't put it in the 80's based on the unusual nose.
I couldn't find a lot of the trademark 'medicianal' character (iodine, ether) that Laphroaig is so famous for.
Taste: Wow! Smooth, almost 'fatty' start, developing into a big sweet and peaty centre. Hint of liquorice.
Score: 82 points
- this one is saved by the palate but it's a bit too 'freaky' to reach the upper eighties.
Port Ellen 27yo 1978/2005 (52.3%, DL for The Whisky Fair, 198 bottles) from Carsten Ehrlich.
Nose: Surprisingly soft with a fruity undercurrent. After some people pointed it out I found a little rubber.
The fruit grows more dominant over time; very subtle for a peated Islay malt. Seems very lightly peated.
Then slowly more organics emerge, further enhancing the complexity. Meaty. Excellent development!
Taste: Ah! Lovely straight peat with just enough sweetness to balance it out. Liquorice. Great mouth feel.
Surprisingly drinkable at this strength. Most of the fun can be had with the nose, though - really excellent.
Score: 90 points
- making it the sixth highest scoring Port Ellen I've tried so far. Only the Port Ellen 19yo 1982/2001 (59
.5%, The Bottlers, Cask #573, 91 points), Port Ellen 22yo 1978/2000 C/S (60.5%, UD Rare Malts, 93 points), Port Ellen
22yo 1982/2004 (61.1%, OMC for PLOWED, C#740, 240 Bottles, 93 points), Port Ellen 23yo 1979/2003 (46%, Wilson &
Morgan, Butt #6769, 94 points) and Port Ellen 21yo 1982/2004 (50%, OMC, DL 414, 420 bottles, Full sherry, 95 points)
earned a higher score. The 20 other expressions I've tried all received ratings in the 70's and 80's. So, that puts this Whisky Fair bottling in rather esteemed and select company at the top of my Hit List.
Anyway - after a little break to allow my nose and palate to settle down I proceeded with a Bunnie.
Since Bunnahabhain produces the only unpeated malt whisky on Islay I usually put these at the start of a tasting session, but in this case the Bunny was bottled at 57.1% - far too strong to start a serious session with.
Bunnahabhain 1984/2003 (57.1%, Scott's Selection) from Michel.
Nose: Hey, that's interesting... Light, sweet and fruity. Raspberries followed by black currants.
It feels just a tad fragile in the nose. Then a whiff or Earl Grey tea, followed by spices. Hint of farm.
This Bunnie is very subtle and shows a lot of development - but you have to pay attention constantly.
Pickled gherkins after fifteen minutes and some water - odd but surprisingly pleasant. Faint pine resin.
Taste: Sweet and solid with a smoky undercurrent. A tad too hot for me at cask strength, actually.
Coffee. With ten drops of water it suddenly became much more easily drinkable. Quite smooth now.
Score: 87 points - One of the better Bunnies I've tried so far; highly recommendable.
Caol Ila 11yo 1994/2005 (46%, Signatory UCF, Port Finish, C#05/291/1, 1138 Btl.) from Thomas.
Nose: Surprisingly subtle at first. Then ripe and overripe fruit aroma's emerge. Then the peat comes.
This definitely isn't a peat monster, but I think they've achieved a very nice balance with this one.
Hint of nutmeg. Maybe some warm milk? Unfortunately it loses some steam after a few minutes.
Taste: Smooth with some fairly subtle peaty, meaty and smoky notes. Liquorice later on. Lovely!
A tad salty. Slowly the Islay characteristics take control - before retreating again just as slowly.
It feels incredibly potent for a whisky that was bottled at just 46% - I'd have guessed +/- 55%.
87 points - my initial impression was 88 or 89 points, but it loses a little steam over time.
Sometimes a 'special finish' is used to rescue a lost cask, but in this case it worked wonders.
Caol Ila 9yo 1992/2002 (58,6%, Blackadder Raw Cask, C#10637, 328 Bottles) from Thomas.
Nose: Surprisingly restrained and a tad metallic. Some subtle sweetness too - like honeysuckle nectar.
It powers up considerably after a minute. Some freshly burnt coffee beans. Darkest chocolate. Garlic?
Clean, but growing a little 'dirtier' with time. I don't mind a little dirt - so that's an extra point right there!
Taste: Very drinkable at C/S. Slightly dusty. Sweet, slightly peaty centre. Smoked salami. As expected.
I added some water, but that didn't seem to mix to well with the whisky. No apparent improvement.
82 points - a good, recommendable Islay malt, there's little further to add.
XLNT... If my calculations are correct there are now 1493 single malts on my Track Record.
Thanks Thomas, Michel, Ho-cheng and Carsten for an excellent Islay session. Sample swapping rules!
One more session like this before the weekend and I'll be indeed sampling my 1500th dram on April 1.
And that's it for today's entry - I've gotta prepare for some final job contract negotiations...
> Entry 299 - March 30, 2006: Back In Business!
Oh boy... I really could have used one of these automatic
decision makers during the last few days. In the course of
two days I've received offers for two very different jobs.
One of them pays incredibly well but could turn out to be
another 'slash & burn' job like the one I just left and seems
to have a significant 'management' component - which isn't
my strong suit. The other one pays a lot less but is here in
Amsterdam, seems like much more fun and would likely give
me a lot of freedom (and one day in the week off to boot).
So, now I suddenly found myself spoilt for choice...
Well.... Maybe the decision wasn't that hard after all.
My guts clearly indicated which direction I should choose,
so I went with it. Starting next week, I'll be gainfully
employed again. The only tricky part is that the builders
will start a major, three week renovation of my apartment
on the very same day!
Aaaaaah... the humanity of it all! When it rains it pours...
The worst part of it is that I'll have to put all my whiskies and furniture in safe storage before monday.
So, that means no tasting session tonight - or at least not a big one... I guess that one dram won't hurt.
I decided to go for the Knockando 1990/2002
(43%, OB, L45R03210481, 31002133), a 5cl sample that had been shipped to Amsterdam by Davin some time ago in preparation for the 'Hamstergeddon' finale. As it turned out, Davin had
already sampled this expression, so he gave me permission to open the miniature and sample it. So that's what I did.
Well, after admiring the packaging - the miniature comes in a nice little cardboard tube and the bottle inside is a pretty
exact replica of the big bottle. It even has a plastic wrapping around the cork. That's right - this mini has a mini-cork! The
nose was a little malty and a little fruity. Hint of gooseberry. Pleasant but fairly MOTR. Not very decisive or expressive on
the palate either; malty and a tad sweet at first, growing more bitter in the centre. Long but fairly subdued finish. Good
whisky for drinking, but I personally look maily for individuality, character and diversity in my malts - and I don't find
enough of that here to go for a score in the 80's - which would imply that I think that it is recommendable.
This one is just above average (75 points) but just not quite 'special' enough for the 80's so, it sticks at 76 points
tonight. No wait.... After +/- 15 minutes the nose opened up a little bit more, so I decided to increase my initial score to 77 points in the final moments before my last sip.
Not the best malt I've tried (not even the best Knochando) but my sixth expression from this distillery.
So, another distillery on my 'To Do' list bites the dust... I'll do an 'inventory' of the remaining distilleries on my own 'to do'
list and the Hamstergeddon list in a few days, after I've picked up Davin's new samples in the woods.
Now, if you'll excuse me, I have some serious packing to do...
The story continues in Log Entry #300...