Special Report - 2006 Festivities
It's party time....
This special report is one in a series of six that's
supposed to wrap up the Liquid Log I've been
keeping between 1997 & 2006. This report deals
with the various meetings, festivals and 'super
tastings' I had to 'endure' during the last nine
months of 2006. Because I missed Feis Ile this
year the highlight for me was probably the
Wigman Super Tasting in Holland.
Here's a list of the five other special reports that
together make up the 300th entry in my log;
300A - Past, Present & Future (Ideas for 2007)
300B - Hamstergeddon 2006 (Our '6 malts mission')
300D - Vox Populi (Some questions from readers)
300E - Beginner's Guide to Amsterdam
300F - The Raveling (Tying up some 'loose ends')
This page contains the following entries;
08/04/2006 - Live Video Connection with Limburg (The maniacs have descended upon Limburg)
15/04/2006 - Attack of the PLOWED People
(After visiting Limburg some Americans visited Amsterdam)
27/04/2006 - Amsterdramming (A report about a visit from Fabio Rossi & the launch of 'Whisky passion')
25/05/2006 - Feis Ile 2006 (Needless to say, a number of maniacs attended the 2006 edition of Feis Ile)
11/06/2006 - Wigman Supertasting (My doubts about a tasting calling itself 'super' were unfounded)
15/08/2006 - Malt Maniacs Awards Filling Party in Alsace (A quick preview of our annual gathering)
April 8, 2006 - Live Video Connection with Limburg
Who forgot to lock the asylum door?
Thanks to the miracles of modern technology Serge was able to send the other maniacs a 'live' picture of the
seven pilgrims that are doing their maniacal work at the Limburg Festival at this very moment. From Left to right
Serge Valentin from France, Luc Timmermans from Belgium, Olivier Humbrecht from France, Charlie MacLean from Scotland, Thomas Lipka from Germany, Michel van Meersbergen from Holland and Ho-cheng Yao from Taiwan.
Expect a report on MM soon...
April 15, 2006 - Attack of the PLOWED People
Like I mentioned earlier, a few PLOWED
ringleaders came to town a few days ago,
right after the Limburg festival.
Due to my brand new job and the ongoing
renovation of my apartment I didn't have as
much time to spend with them as I would have
liked, but we did get the chance to join each
other for a tasting hosted by Holland's main
whisky importer Han van Wees in Amersfoort.
For this tasting Brian McHenry joined the other
ringleaders (Alan Robinson, Rodger Howard,
Tim Bachelder, Tom Borschel) and myself at the
Amserfoort train station for a walk to the Van
Wees store. You'll find a brief report below...
A day later I had the chance to show Alan,
Rodger, Tim and Tom just a little bit of Amsterdam
during a brisk walk along some of the winding canals of Amsterdam (see pic), but I will get back to Amsterdam in
the next log entry. Today I'll focus on our experiences at Van Wees.
After a brisk walk from the station to Van Wees we were welcomed by Mark who tended the store when we arrived. After admiring their extensive collection (I could really kick myself for not dropping by for so many years)
were were taken to the back and upstairs by Mr. Han van Wees himself - the 'eminence grise' of the Dutch whisky
world. And there, in the tasting loft, we were greeted by a massive collection of old, rare and special bottlings.
Han didn't waste a lot of time and started pouring us drams at a breakneck speed - it sometimes felt like there was less than a minute between them!
At first I was simply overwhelmed, so I completely forgot to make notes on most whiskies Han served.
We started with some 'antique' blends that all performed better than the majority of today's 'mainstream' malts.
We enjoyed, among other things, a Bells from the 1960's or 70's (with a bell-shaped piece of cardboard around
the neck instead of a label on the 'body' of the bottle) and a Chivas Regal and VAT 69 from the same period. A
real eye-opener! Each one of these old blends performed 'better' (i.e. I personally liked them better than) that
today's average single malt. Han van Wees thinks that the main reason for the change in character is the switch
from coal firing to direct firing but somehow I don't think that's the full story. Almost all of these old blends
showed more peat / smoke / organics than modern blends, their profile was 'bigger' and the sherry influence was
much stronger. I'm quite sure that the available selection of casks must have been another factor to influence the profile of these whiskies. And let's not forget the effects of 'bottle ageing'...
Anyway, after a smooth set-up with about half a dozen antique blends we proceeded to the single malts.
Once again the pace was brisk and once again I failed to make notes on most of them. Ah... I guess one gets a
little blasé after sampling 1500 different single malts ;-) In fact, I didn't get to taste all of the malts on the table -
sometimes I was so engrossed by the whisky in the glass that I kindly passed on the next round. Wow... Han van Wees pours a mean dram and those PLOWED folks are real powerdrammers... In fact, it's a miracle I could
make any notes at all...
Here are my notes and scores for just four of the remarkable drams we enjoyed;
Cardhu 1974/2001 (54.1%, Signatory Vintage, Cask #3615, D. 26/4/74, B. 27/8/01, 417 Bottles)
Nose: Fruit sweets ('Rang'), lemon drops, nail polish. Tea. Later it sweetenes out with more organics.
After a while even something resembling 'antiquity' emerges - lovely complexity. We have a winner here.
Taste: Big, smooth and sweet. Excellent, but not quite spectacular enough to reach the 90's.
89 points - making it by far the best Cardhu I ever tried. Good stuff!
Tamdhu 1961/2000 (40%, Gordon & MacPhail's)
Nose: Fruits & dust. Refined and incredibly complex. Only needs a minute to make a lasting impression.
Taste: Smoky, serious and austere. A surprising contract to the nose that enhances the overall appeal.
Score: 90 points - so once again it's the very best expression from this distillery I've tried so far.
And not just that; its also the sixth! That means I can cross one more distillery from my to-do list.
Tobermory 32yo 1972/2005 (49.5%, OB, 1710 Bottles, Brown/Purple Label)
Nose: Surprisingly peaty - peatier than the vast majority of Ledaigs I've tried. Leather.
Taste: Wow! Deep, tannic and smoky. For me, they got the balance just right here. Lovely!
Score: 90 points - the funny thing is that Alan pointed it out to me in the store before we went upstairs.
The pricetag of some 250 Euro's made me doubt it could be worth the money. Well, maybe it is after all.
I guess it all depends on your personal 'price ceiling'. It's a little too rich for my blood, but very special.
Tobermory 32yo 1972/2005 (49.7%, OB, 897 Bottles, Black Label)
Nose: Even more peat than the version with the brown/purple label. And once again lots of leather.
Taste: This one was smokier that the last one, making the overall experience slightly less balanced.
Score: 89 points - it's almost as good as the other version, but a smidgen too unbalanced for the 90's.
I could kick myself for not making any notes on some of the liquid miracles Han served us (especially an old Blair
Athol) but other than that it was a 100% marvelous experience. Too bad I had to rush back to Amsterdam before
I could join the Americans and Han for dinner that night, but I was returning home with some 'spoils of war'. The PLOWED gang had muled over some 'Hamstergeddon' samples from Olivier and at the Van Wees store I picked
up two peated expressions from Loch Lomond at a friendly price; a Craiglodge and an Inchmoan. Previous expressions of Loch Lomond failed to impress me, but as luck would have it I still needed two expressions for my
'To Do' list and my budget allows some malt shopping again.
Expect a review of these peated expressions from Loch Lomond shortly - as well as a report on my diner with the
PLOWED folks at 'Sluizer' restaurant the next day in Amsterdam. For now, I leave you with the news that three brand new E-pistles have been published in Malt Maniacs #17 a few minutes ago;
MM17/22 - Chocolate & Whisky - Wedding or Divorce? (Martine Nouet)
MM17/23 - 1000 Times Trick or Treatin' - Limburg 2006 Report (Michel van Meersbergen)
MM17/24 - An Interview with Martin Green (Ralf Mitchell)
April 27, 2006 - Amsterdramming
Over the past few weeks I had the pleasure of
attending some whisky tastings and celebrations
in the Amsterdam area. Since I'm now completely
focused on my 'to do list' these days, I neglected
to make notes on many of the malts I tried at the
events, but I'll share the tasting notes I made here.
It's also an excuse to share some more pictures of
my beloved home town of Amsterdam. This time two
snapshots of the Red Light District around 9:00 AM.
Early in the morning is the only time of day when the
narrow streets aren't crawling with tourists and shifty
types trying to pass off baking soda as cocaine and
aspirin as XTC to those very same hapless tourists.
The only people you'll see this early in the morning
are the cleaning crews that have to get rid of the
evidence of last night's debauchery (see picture).
Is that enough 'colour locale' for you? ;-)
Yes, I thought so - let's move on to malts....
First of all, just two notes from a tasting for the
Dutch magazine 'Whisky Etcetera' at the tasting
room of 'The Whisky Talker' (what's in a name) in
the town of Lisse. Lisse is famous for its colourful
flower fields and when we arrived and stepped out
of the car our noses were almost knocked out by
the hyacinth aroma flowing in from the fields.
Before I discovered the pleasures of nosing single
malts this probably wouldn't have been registred by
the conscious part of my mind, but when you spend
a lot of time sniffing whisky you become much more
aware of the different aroma's that surround you in
the real world. Most of these fragrances are usually
only registred at a subsconscious level, but the more
you 'nose', the more pops up from below the surface.
Anyway, here are the notes I made for two malts during a tasting for Whisky Etcetera in Lisse;
Glen Garioch 10yo (46%, OB, Bottled +/- 2005)
Nose: Fruity - seems like a typical 'new style' GG that reminded me of the 15yo OB I tried a while ago.
Metallic. Faint hint of Granny Smith. Bakery aroma's. Pleasant enough, especially if given enough time.
Taste: Slightly gritty in the start. A tad thin in the centre. This obviously lacks some 'body'. Too bad.
It remains flat and gritty throughout and becomes a tad bitter in the finish. It loses a few points here.
Score: 68 points - but that's just because it loses some point on the palate. The nose is quite OK.
Isle of Jura NAS 'Superstition' (45%, OB, Bottled +/- 2005)
Nose: Veggy. String beans. Hint of oil. Sulphur. Some peat slowly creeping to the forground.
Taste: Rough and gritty. Sorry, but I just can't get myself to like these 'lightly peated' west coasters.
Score: 61 points - a full five points below an earlier batch I've tried, released in or around 2003.
A very decent whisky in itself, but as single malts go I'd have to put this in or near the bottom 10%.
I've recently tried all the other whiskies on the table (including the Compass Box 'Spice Tree' & a 'Peat Monster')
so I didn't bother to make notes on those. The latest expression of the Peat Monster did seem a little tame, though... That's all about that session for now - let's move forward to a session at the new Cadenhead's store with Wilson & Morgan's Fabio Rossi, Andries Visser, André van der Zwet, our very own Michel van Meersbergen and his girlfriend Christel.
Ayrshire (Ladyburn) 1975/2005 (48.9%, Wilson & Morgan, Cask #3376, Bottled November 2005)
Nose: Rich & sweet. Loads of sherry and a hint of menthol / eucalyptus. Ozone (thanks to Christel).
My sparse notes don't reflect the wide spectrum of fragrances - a bit like the Magda '79 in that respect.
As it so often happens, we were so busy discussing our impressions that I only made a few short notes.
Taste: Fruity - surprisingly so for a malt this age. Excellent, but the nose is the real charmer here...
Score: 90 points - although I should probably point out that this is a fairly preliminary score.
Most of Fabio's range focuses on value for money, but every now and then he bottles a piece of art.
Glenmorangie 10yo 1983/1993 C/S 'Ross-shire' (57.2%, OB)
Nose: Very rich (not as 'clean' as later expressions). Wet pipe tobacco. Blueberries. Bakery aroma's.
At first I was inclined to go for a 'nasal' score in the upper 80's, but it drops off after a while.
Taste: A very decent malt on the palate as well, but just a little too gritty for the upper 80's.
84 points - showing that, just like with 'Fiddich, the 'Morangie style used to be bolder.
Longmorn 1990/2006 Demerara Rum Finish (51.7%, Wilson & Morgan)
Nose: Very rich and spicy. A distinctly peppery note as well. Complex enough to reach the upper 80's.
I have to admit I'm usually not too keen on your average rum finish, but here it works remarkably well.
Taste: Sweet and very pleasant. Perhaps the rum influence is just a tad too dominant here for me.
83 points - I like Longmorn and the rum finish has given this one an unusual twist.
Speyburn 21yo 1979/2002 (60.2%, OB, Cask #422)
Nose: Starts out very restrained. Sandy. Turns veggier - sake and string beans. But it changes...
This is one of those malts that really needs its time - at least fifteen minutes. It keeps developing.
Taste: Once again this one doesn't quite live up to its promise on the palate - like many other malts.
84 points - making it the best Speyburn I've tried so far. Thanks a lot, Andries!
After closing up shop the six of us wandered through town for a while looking for a restaurant that could seat us
(I foolishly neglected to make reservations on a saturday night) and we finally ended up stuffed like sardines in a
tin at restaurant 'De Knijp' near the Rijksmuseum before proceeding to the launch of 'Whisky Passion' (a new Dutch whisky magazine) at café 'Wildschut'. I'm not quite sure if there's enough 'room on the market' for yet
another whisky magazine here in Holland, especially because the content and lay-out seemed quite similar to 'Whisky Etcetera'. To me it would seem to make more sense to have one magazine aimed at the 'casual' drammer
and lover of all things Scottish and another one for the 'freaks' among us who want to know the exact reflux
percentage of the small spirit still they used at Glen Flagler when Odd Wille McDufus was working there. But then again, that's just me - we'll see how things develop around Whisky Passion.
One thing my cynical eye couldn't fail but notice was a quote in an interview the editor did with Jim McEwan. If I'm
translating the translation correctly, under the heading 'Wannabees' Jim spoke a few words about something that supposedly annoyed him a great deal. Jim said something along the lines of 'Unfortunately the success of a
product or a market always attracts profiteers who are only in it for the money.' Hmmm... Is it just the way my warped mind works or could that be a 'stab under water' at the editor who published magazines about
construction and the Italian kitchen before Whisky Passion?
Anyway, the launch party had the usual speech, champagne and bagpipe and offered a nice opportunity to talk
to a few fellow 'whisky people'. I didn't bother to make any notes on the malts on offer (once again I've already
tried most) but there was one interesting new bottling that Fabio pointed out to me. The new Glenfarclas 15yo comes in a freshly designed bottle and label that oddly enough look more dated than the previous design. The
new design looks more like something from the 70's or 80's but I like it. And I liked the whisky as well. No tasting
notes or score, but it seems they are moving in a more sherried direction, perhaps trying to take over the throne
of sherryland that was vacated by Macallan? Heavily sherried single cask bottlings of Glenfarclas have been
available in Germany (a very big market for Glenfarclas) for quite some time now, but the middle of the 'standard' range (12yo, 15yo, 17yo, 21yo) never seemed particulary heavily sherried to me.
If this 15yo is the harbinger of a more sherried 'house style', I'd be very happy indeed!
After the launch party we (Fabio, Michel, Christel and myself) said goodbye to Andries and André and strolled to
'De Still' for a nightcap. My mind wasn't really on my 'to do list'. but when I asked Bastiaan (the owner) if he had
any Deanston bottlings he confirmed that he did, so I decided to take another small step towards the completion of my mission;
Deanston 12yo (40%, OB, Bottled +/- 2005)
Nose: Cheese! Toe-cheese might be more accurate. More fruits with time, but it remains a weird one.
Hints of smoke as well. A very freaky malt, but if you keep an open mind there is a lot to enjoy here.
Taste: Smooth but flat. It really drops dead too soon - too bad. But nothing offensive either, mind you...
Score: 74 points - it's just too flawed to put it above average, but try it some time if you like a challenge.
And that's it for this report. We said our goodbyes and went our seperate ways after a day well spent. I've made
some pretty good progress w.r.t. the obscure distilleries again: Ladyburn, Speyburn and Deanston. Excellent...
Next up: Walpurgisnacht 2006.
May 25, 2006 - Feis Ile 2006
Sadly enough, I could not make it to Feis Ile this year.
A few of the other maniacs couldn't stay away, though.
Davin, Serge and Olivier are already in Scotland and for
some cross country dramming before Feis Ile kicks off.
And just like last year, the maniacs on the island will
keep the other maniacs (and the rest of the world)
updated on their adventures via a special webpage.
Check it out at www.whiskyfun.com/feisile2006.html.
We've already received some questions from readers
who were puzzled by the fact that the maniacs seem
to go to Feis Ile every bloody year but we never visit
the Speyside festival. Hmmm.... Good point... I guess
the fact that we're an international collective makes
it difficult to assemble our forces in Scotland twice in
a short period of time. Also, I have a feeling that the
Speyside festival might be geared a tad more towards
tourists and beginners than Feis Ile. But then again I
could be completely wrong, so if anybody reading this
has visited (or will visit) the Speyside Festival, here's
your chance to be elevated from the humble status of
mere 'reader' of these pages to the much more elevated
position of 'foreign correspondent'. Wouldn't that be cool?
(* Added note 01/06/2006 - Wow, that was quick... Within a day of posting the call for public assistence Bruce Crighton sent us a report about the Spirit of Speyside festival. Excellent...
If only the certified maniacs were that quick ;-)
June 11, 2006 - Wigman Supertasting
I've heard tall tales of the annual 'super
tasting' organised by Dutch collector Michiel
Wigman, so I was pretty chuffed when he
invited me for this year's edition when I
saw him at the whiskyfestival in Groningen
earlier this year. Fellow maniacs Alexander
and Michel were invited as well, so this
would be our chance to add a few rare
and old whiskies to our malt mileages and
perhaps the matrix.
I'm swamped with work at the moment,
so an extensive tasting report will have
to wait. Just a first impression and a list
of the malts we tried this time.
The weather was wonderful, the people in
high spirits and the drams highly enjoyable.
Unfortunately, the pace was a bit much for me and I was having a bad nose day.
That means I don't have notes and scores on all of the malts we tried during the evening.
(And into the wee hours of the morning...)
Here is a list of all the malts I've seriously tried in Zeist - colour coded for easy reference...
(The picture that so beautifully reflects the hallowed atmosphere was shot by WhiskyBay's Joep van Drunen.)
89 - Tamdhu 1961/2000 (40%, Gordon & MacPhail's Rare & Old) - updated score
86 - Caledonian 1963/1994 (48.7%, Cadenhead's, Distilled January 1963, Bottled February 1994, grain)
84 - Banff 31yo 1965/1998 (50%, DL OMC, Distilled November '65, Bottled August '98, 181 Bottles)
89 - Banff 1966/2003 (54%, Blackadder Raw Cask, C#3494)
72 - Mortlach 22yo 1957/1979 (54%, Cadenhead's Dumpy, Distilled January 1957, Bottled April 1979)
89 - Dalmore 30yo 1966/1996 (51,7%, The Bottlers, Cask #6868)
80 - Glen Mhor 35yo 1966/2002 (45%, DL Platinum, 230 Bottles)
87 - Isle of Jura 35yo 1966/2001 (47.8%, Douglas Laing OMC, Distilled April 1966, Bottled May 2001, 204 Btl.)
88 - Glenlivet 19yo (80 Proof, Cadenhead's Black Label, 75cl, Bottled 1970's, Sherry)
84 - Auchroisk 12yo 1978/1990 (59.3%, Cadenhead's Dumpy)
91 - Caol Ila 12yo 1978/1990 (65,5%, Cadenhead's Dumpy, Distilled October 1978, Bottled October 1990)
83 - Macallan 34yo 1967 (51.2%, Peerless, Distilled September 1967, Bottled Juni 2002, Cask #7676)
87 - Longmorn 38yo 1968/2006 (49,8%, SMWS 7.35, 'Dense Dark Fruits', D. 2/1968, B. 2/2006, 393 bottles)
87 - Glenfarclas 28yo 1970/1999 Sherrywood (55,9%, Cadenhead's, Bottled August 1999, 180 Bottles)
86 - Benrinnes 1968/1987 (57,1%, Sestante)
51 - Edradour 21yo 1968/1990 (43%, Signatory, D. 27/11/1968, B. 2/1990, Casks #1990-1994, 1300 Btl.)
92 - Tomintoul-Glenlivet 38yo 1966/2004 (52% JWWW Gentle Noses, Cask #5260, D. 9/66, B. 10/04, 120 Btl.)
91 - Highland Park 21yo 1959/1980 (43%, OB, J. Grant Dumpy)
85 - Benriach 1966/1997 (45,7%, Cadenhead's Dumpy)
87 - Rosebank 1967/1988 (46%, Cadenhead's Dumpy, 10.67 / 02.88 'Sherry Wood Matured')
81 - Laphroaig 19yo 1969 (40%, Sestante Sailing ship label)
Not too shabby, eh? Expect the full details of the tasting on these pages in due time...
August 15, 2006 - Malt Maniacs Awards Filling Party in Alsace
Oh, boy.... If you're not reading this liquid log
'chronologically' you may wonder why there's a sudden
gap of two months in this report. Well, 'm afraid there
was an incident in July that left me pretty much
incapacitated for almost a month.
That means that, for one thing, I'll probably won't get
to the more extensive report on the Super Wigman
Tasting I promised last time. I did send a big report
to the members of the mailinglist, but I guess that's
just a little bonus for our loyal fans...
I desperately have to prioritise things now that this
old site is falling to pieces. Maybe the weird weather
we've suffered lately had something to do with that
I've been maintaining this site on my old PC for over
five years and now the heat waves in spring and
constant rain in august seem to take their toll.
So, it's time to wrap up this old site a.s.a.p...
That means that you won't get any reports on the
upcoming 'festivities' of 2006 - at least not on this
page... I may be able to sneak a few micro-reports
about the absolute highlights into Malt Maniacs, but
many of the sessions that are planned over the next
few months (a 'bourbon' tasting for Whisky Etcetera,
a session with some members of 'Het Genietschap', a
Whisky festival in Leiden, a cruise to Texel, etc.) will
probably not be covered - at least not extensively...
I may report through the mailinglist, though...
One thing I'll most definitely go into is 'Alsace 2006' - our annual 'filling party' for the MM Awards.
Well, I say 'annual', but this will actually be only the second 'official' installment. The event last year was already
a huge success, and it looks like this year will be even huger! Not only does it look like we'll have over 200
bottles to pour into over 2500 small sample bottles; it looks like almost half the team will be there fot the
occasion! I expect to see Olivier, Serge, Martine, Davin, Krishna, Ulf, Luc, Michel and Robert there this time. Oh boy.... I can only hope I've managed to recover the old site by then...
As an aside, I'd like to stress that the Super Wigman Tasting in June was a massive succes.
The weather was wonderful, the people in high spirits and the drams mostly excellent. Even a fairly foul Edradour
that Joep van Drunen brought was a nice 'interpunction' of the evening. We also had an interesting 'aftertasting'
in the hotel hall around Luc's room and into our own room later on, during which I got to try no less than two fake Ardbegs!
(Check out Log Entry #300 for an overview of 2006 log entries dealing with other topics.)