> Entry 240 - June 5, 2005:  Feis Ile 2005

Hallelujah - praise the lord... I'm BACK!
I've just arrived back safe and sound from Islay.
Well, hang on... Maybe not. Somehow I feel a bit odd...
It's hard to pin down, but something seems to be wrong.
I wondering what it could be...

Ah, wait a minute, I know...
I don't feel like drinking whisky...
That's certainly an unusual state of affairs for me.
But when you know that I've sampled over 100 brand new
malts during the past week on Islay (not to mention almost
100 other malts & cask samples that weren't even recorded)
you'll understand why I'll give dramming a rest for a few days.
If I hadn't (temporarily) adopted the French habit of spitting
I'm quite sure I would have developed an alcohol allergy...

But Feis Ile wasn't just about malts...
Even more than the malts, I'll remember the people.
The people of Islay (especially the distillery folk that made
us all feel very welcome indeed) but also the kindred spirits
we encountered - hundreds of maltheads from all over the
world who had gathered on a small island to share their
passion for single malt whisky. What a fabulous event!
Words simply can't describe the experience...

That doesn't mean I won't try, though...
Here's a 'skeleton' report with all malts I seriously scored.
I'll also mention some of the many other highlights of Feis
Ile 2005. If you want to know every single sordid detail
you'll have to wait for the full report in Malt Maniacs.

However, they say that a picture tells more than a thousand words. So, why don't you check out the pictures we've already published in the Vacation Special and the Islay 2005 Picture Book on Whiskyfun? Just multiply the fun splashing from your screen by a factor 10 and you'll get a general idea of how much we enjoyed ourselves.

Like I said I'll only cover some of the highlights in this report.
One highlight I feel I just have to mention right away is putting the 10,000th score on the monitor in the presence of seven other maniacs (Davin, Serge, Olivier, Peter, Luc, Charlie and Martine) and two 'Lindores' fellows from Belgium at the Croft Kitchen in Port Charlotte on Islay. Serge had arranged a very special malt to celebrate this momentous occasion. It was a special bottling done by the Regensburger Whisky Club from Germany to commemorate the 'popification' of Benedict XVI. I'm not catholic (in fact, most maniacs are not) and technically speaking it's a 'bastard malt', but that didn't mean I didn't enjoy this magnificent dram. The 'Habemus Cerevisiam Destillatum' NAS (50%, Regensburger Whisky Club) is an unspecified Islay malt that was finished in a 50 litre blood tub. The nose was 'contemplative' and had an unusual depth. Initially the peat seemed a tad shy, hiding beneath a meaty surface. Kippers. Oily. The slowly developing organics made me enjoy this malt more and more. The taste was appropriately smoky - black and white smoke ;-) It also had lots of lovely tannins that gave it the 'chewy' feel I like so much. I even appreciated the dry humour in the finish. My score: 90 points - but my 'emotional' score would be 10,000 ;-)

But I'm getting ahead of myself - more than a week ahead of myself, actually.
I sampled the 10,000th 'monitor' dram on Thursday June 2nd, but the story begins on...
 

Wednesday, May 25 - First Prelude

... when I left Amsterdam around noon in a state of anxiety.
I had carefully planned my packing for the trip a week in advance.
In fact, the plan involved me packing my bags a week in advance.
If only I had followed my plan...

Instead, I found out that my old overnight bag wasn't up to the challenge
on the evening before I had to fly to Glasgow. Bugger! Time for a quick trip
to the store to find a bigger bag. I had the foresight to lift all the individual
small bags and estimate the total weight of the contents - some 35 kilo's.
I found a weekend bag that said '60 litres' at the local 'Decathlon' - more
than enough for my purposes, it would seem. With a sense of relief and
pride I left the store and returned home with my brand new bag to resume
the packing procedure. It wasn't long before the cursing began...

As some of you may know - but I didn't until recently - 35 kilo's worth of
bottles, clothing and other bare neccessities can take up much more than
35 litres of space in a weekend bag. Bugger! That meant I had to leave
much of my Islay survival kit at home: my beloved balloon glasses, the
bottle of Saint Magdalene 19yo I wanted to bring, a bottle of 'Drop Shot'
liquorice liqueur and dozens and dozens of samples sent by Ho-cheng.

Oh, the joys of 'vacation'...

At the airport my mood wasn't enhanced by being exposed to the paranoid security measures that come with air travel these days. Just an idea: wouldn't it be better to put two smart security officers at a gate instead of four stupid ones? Ah well, I guess that as long as terrorists don't figure out there are alternative means of transportation and/or destruction besides airplanes we'll be safe. Bollocks! I'd like to take a twistcap G&M bottle and shove it up... <SNIP>

... and so I arrived in a drizzly Glasgow a little after noon. In fact, it was raining cats & dogs.
I had a few hours to kill before I would meet Davin, so I decided to get out of the rain and sample the local cuisine. Given my sparse budget I opted for an 'Angus Burger' at one of the many, many Burger King outlets in Scotland. Well, that's certainly a mouthfull. I find that the window seats at the various Burger King outlets around the world often provide an excellent vantage point to soak up the local atmosphere and observe the behaviour of the indiginous population in their natural habitat without disturbing them too much. The Angus Burger kept me entertained for well over an hour and soon it was time to make my way to the 'Coopers' pub at the station to meet up with Davin. Having just set foor on Scottish soil for the second time in my life I felt like having a dram while I waited. The fact that the bar only seemed to offer blends didn't stop me; I went for a bottle I remember seeing a lot in the 1980's; the Bells NAS (40 %, Blend, Bottled +/- 2004). The nose was quite sweetish and not as sharp and grainy as some other blends. It had a smooth start on the palate, but quickly grows too bitter for my tastes. Still, not at all bad for an affordable blend - I gave it 45 points which means I almost liked it.
It won't convert me to drinking blends, though...

And then some homeless person swaggered into the bar.
And he was walking towards my table! Don't you hate it when that
happens? I was preparing to ignore him when I recognosed a familiar
maniacal glint in his eyes. Wait a minute: this was not any ordinary
homeless person: this was out very own Canadian maniac Davin!
I hadn't regonised him because of the wild beard he had grown.
The beard makes him look like a mad professor, don't you think?
 
Whenever two or more maniacs are gathered in the name of malts,
serious dramming is certain to occur. We didn't waste much time
at the bar and headed straight to the Travelodge Hotel to share
a few samples we brought. Well, of course we visited a few whisky
shops on the way, but I didn't buy anything - although a bottle of
the 'Quarter Cask' Laphroaig at Oddbins was tempting indeed.

We briefly met up with Peter and the other PLOWED people but when
they left for a session at Douglas Laing HQ Davin and I decided to do
some serious 'matrix' dramming. Because Serge and Olivier would arrive
on thursday we selected a few samples that they had already tried or
would probably try later. We managed to sample eight new malts for
the matrix before we were struck by a minor case of jet lag.
 

We started with three special samples from Bruichladdich provided by Ho-cheng.
The nose of the Bruichladdich NAS 3D 'The Peat Proposal' (46%, OB, Bottled 2004) started off with sour organics (I like those) and some beer notes (I'm not crazy about those). Adding water brought more of the same. The peat didn't seem all that obvious in the nose to me. I did find some on the palate, together with a hint of dust. It desintegrates quickly though, pulling the score from the 80's to 79 points - which means it's almost recommendable in my book.
I'm afraid that, like many Laddies, this 'Peat Proposal' is just a tad too subtle for a peat freak like me.

The Bruichladdich 35yo 1968/2004 'Legacy III' (40.7%, OB) wasn't a peat monster either, but this time there were a lot of other things to enjoy. The nose is very light but fragrant. Complex and accessible at the same time. Sweet with a distinct 'antique' character that also identifies malts that have 'aged in the bottle'. Maggi. Really something else. It's fruity on the palate - it actually feels just a tad thin after the amazing nose. There's some faint peat in the finish. I think this is by far my favourite Bruichladdich EVER; I settled on 89 points - a wonderful dram just short of eternal glory.
I'm afraid the Bruichladdich 20yo 'Flirtation' (46%, OB, Second Edition, Bottled 2004) could have suffered a bit from the 'death seat' position right after the magnificent Legacy III. The nose was very sweet (flirtation indeed) with a hint of olive oil. Grainy with some sour notes. Organics, but no peat. It seems simple and doesn't show a lot of development. This one redeems itself on the palate, though. Fruity with lots of lovely tannins playing with your gums. Over time the tannins become a tad overpowering. The finish is dry with a bitterness that reminded me of cold tea. Score: 84 points.

So, a very decent Laddie performance this time; 1 x above average, 1x recommendable and 1 x 'highly recommendable'. The next flight could be divided into one average, one recommendable and one highly recommendable whisky as well. The average malt (in fact, a tad below average) in this trio was the Ben Nevis 11yo 1992/2003 (59.6%, Blackadder, Cask #687, Bourbon hogshead) that Ho-cheng sent us. The nose seemed sharp and grainy with some cardboard overtones. A little sour and altogether fairly dull. After a minute some organics emerged. No apparent change with water - maybe just a tad veggier. At cask strength it started our rather sweetish on the palate, followed by fruitier notes. Gradually the sweetness disappears. Vaguely interesting. I finally decided on a score of 73 points for this Ben Nevis.
The Springbank 10yo 100 Proof (57%, OB, Bottled +/- 2004) was next; a sample provided by American PLOWED personality Dave Russo. This one definitely needed some time, even though the organics come forward quite quickly in the nose. Vague fruits and a faint hint of peat. Over time, more organics and peat emerge - as well as some tea. It's quite a pleasure on the palate; salami and some dust. A hint of peat? The performance wasn't consistent, though and the finish became very bitter after I added a few drops of water. Let's go with a score of 84 points this time.
The winner of this trio was the Macallan 10yo Cask Strength (57.2%, OB, 1 Litre Bottle, Taiwan, Bottled +/-2004) sent by Ho-cheng. The ABV is slightly different from the 58.8% version we get in Holland. The nose of this Taiwanese bottling showed toffee, tobacco and chocolate - all lovely things. Buttery. After a while distinct notes of clove, maggi & organics. It opens up over time but overall it seems less fruity and a little more restrained than recent European bottlings (pre - Fine Oak). It was sweet, sherried and woody on the palate - much more in the traditional Macallan vein. Lovely tannins and a dry finish. The contrast with the nose was quite amazing. A score of 86 points puts it two points below the most recent European bottling I tried, but above any of the 'Fine Oak' teenagers I've sampled.

By now the strain of travel started to manifest itself; I could hardly keep my eyes open.
Fortunately, the fish & ships vendor across the street had some 'cask strength' Coca Cola imported from Poland available, which allowed me to join Davin in sampling three more drams on our first day on Scottish soil. Out of the big bag of samples that Ho-cheng sent to Amsterdam I pulled the Clynelish 13yo 1990 (59.3%, Blackadder Raw Cask, Cask#3593, Sherry Finish). The nose had peat - and lots of it. In fact, this could very well be the peatiest Clynelish I've tried so far. Sweetness and organics. Sweaty. Roasted coffee beans. Simply fabulous, although it loses some of it impact over time. The taste was surprisingly potent as well; a punch of peat followed by an ultra dry finish. Score: 90 points!
I tried the Brora 24yo 1977/2001 (56.1%, UDRM, bottled October 2001) earlier at Serge's home.
The nose showed a subtle fruitiness with some organics and peat. Altogether quite 'natural' in style. It was salt & sweet on the palate with a pleasant liquorice note. It feels lovely, although it's slightly 'flat' as well. I forgot to add water, so I may have missed some of the finer nuances of this lovely 'blast from the past'. I'll keep my score at 87 points.
The Brora 22yo 1981/2004 (60.8%, Peerless, Cask#1426, 251 Bottles) also came from Ho-cheng.
The nose enchanted me from the start; full and sweet, but balanced with a surprising minty freshness.
Rich and mellow after a while. Honey? Cider? It was sweet and peaty on the palate - then saltier and fruitier. Interesting developing contrasts. A highly enjoyable (and recommendable) dram that scored no less than 89 points.

So, let's look at the progress I've made today, shall we?

Dram Diary for Wednesday May 25;

73 - Ben Nevis 11yo 1992/2003 (59.6%, Blackadder, Cask #687, Bourbon hogshead)
89 - Brora 22yo 1981/2004 (60.8%, Peerless, Cask#1426, 251 Bottles)
79 - Bruichladdich NAS 3D 'The Peat Proposal' (46%, OB, Bottled 2004)
84 - Bruichladdich 20yo 'Flirtation' (46%, OB, Second Edition, Bottled 2004)
89 - Bruichladdich 35yo 1968/2004 'Legacy III' (40.7%, OB)
90 - Clynelish 13yo 1990 (59.3%, Blackadder Raw Cask, Cask#3593, Sherry Finish)
86 - Macallan 10yo Cask Strength (57.2%, OB, 1 Litre Bottle, Taiwan, Bottled +/- 2004)
84 - Springbank 10yo 100 Proof (57%, OB, Bottled 2004)

That's 8 fresh entries for my Track Record on day 1 of my second visit to Scotland.
That brings the malt mileage from 1032 to exactly 1040. Not too bad for a day's 'work'.

My 'Dram of the Day' was the Clynelish 13yo 1990 (59.3%, Blackadder Raw Cask, Cask#3593, Sherry Finish) that was sent from Taiwan by Ho-Cheng. Quite a surprise because I'm not one of the biggest Clynelish fans on the team and there haven't been many Blackadder bottlings that really impressed me either. Closely behind were the Brora 22yo 1981/2004 (60.8%, Peerless, Cask#1426, 251 Bottles) - no big surprise there - and Bruichladdich 35yo 1968/2004 'Legacy III' (40.7%, OB). That last one WAS quite a surprise; my nose isn't very refined so I'm not always able to appreciate the more subtle expressions from this distillery that is known for producing the 'lightest' of the peated Islay malts. (Bunnahabhain is the only distillery on the island that doesn't use peated malt at all for their whiskies.) However, this was one Laddie that simply blew me away. And I suspect it might have made the 90's if I had brought my big fishbowls with me - they always help me find so much more to enjoy in a 'subtle' whisky.

Anyway, suitably inebriated we called it a night.
We managed to get a few hours of sleep to get ready for...
 

Thursday, May 26 - Second Prelude

... when Davin and I joined the PLOWED
crew for a quick breakfast before sharing
a taxi with them to Glengoyne. This beautiful
distillery is located in the stunning Scottish
countryside but can be reached within just
half an hour by car.

As you can see in the picture at the right,
Peter had been wise enough to arrange a
special mode of transportation to enable him
to haul all the whisky he was going to buy
back to the US. Just kidding - but Peter (and
the rest of those crazy PLOWED people)
certainly acted like true malt maniacs in
every other sense of the word. They proved to be the perfect 'ersatz' maniacs until Davin and I would meet up with Serge and Olivier at Glasgow airport later in the day.

The Glengoyne tour itself at was a brilliant
start of a range of absolutely brilliant distillery visits. Stuart Hendry and Robbie Hughes gave us a splendid tour that was a highlight of Islay '05. We were taken up to the waterfall that feeds the distillery to inaugurate the recently built 'open air bar' for a stiff morning dram before we were taken around the distillery and the warehouses where we tried some great cask samples, including a stunning 7yo from an Oloroso cask that knocked my socks off.
Just magnificent...

I'll write a little more (a lot more, actually) about our 'Glengoyning' in Malt Maniacs.
For the purposes of this log entry I'll stick to my rudimentary tasting notes and personal scores.
Near the waterfall they poured us the Glengoyne 12yo Cask Strength (57.2%, OB, Bottled +/- 2005).
This was the second release; the first one managed to surprise us so much at the 2004 MM Awards that it snagged a silver medal and the 'Single Starlet Award' for the most exciting new release of the year. This time my nose didn't get to have quite as much fun, but the fairly odd 'tumblery' glasses they used at the bar might have had something to do with that. It felt just fine on the palate though, despite a growing bitterness towards the finish. The sweetness in the centre seems to be washed away when you add some water. I'd have to go with 82 points for now, but it's feasible I'll find more to appreciate once I've tried it from the type of 'booster' glasses I'm used to - like a sherry copita or the 'Glencairn' glass. Fortunately we switched to this type of glassware during our little pillaging trip of the warehouses just across the road.

After raiding the warehouses and enjoying some cask samples from bourbon, sherry and port casks we returned to Glengoyne's 'recreation room' overlooking a lovely pond for some lunch and the Glengoyne 15yo Scottish Oak (43%, OB, Bottle #3007, Bottled +/- 2005). An earlier 'Scottish Oak' bottling released at 16yo didn't really work for me, but this one went down much easier. The nose was quite gentle with various apple overtones. It was smooth and chewy on the palate. A beautifully balanced dram that earned a score of 84 points in my book. Another recommendable Glengoyne.

The Glengoyne 31yo 1972/2004 (57.9%, OB, Cask #2968) was my personal favourite among the bottlings they poured at the distillery. Once again I found plenty of apple notes (mostly the skin of Granny Smiths) but over time the complexity grows and this is a dram that keeps teasing you with lots of subtle surprises. The taste was dominated by fruity notes but I also found some chocolate in there. All in all a very satisfying dram: 88 points .
A fine finish to a fine morning at Glengoyne (more details to follow).

We would have loved to hang around a little longer, but other engagements beckoned.
The PLOWED folks had to return to Douglas Laing HQ for yet more tasting (a punishment, I'm sure) while Davin and I had to pick up Serge and Olivier at the airport. Davin and I arrived half an hour early, giving Davin just enough time to remodel his beard into the 'musketeer' style made so fashionable by Serge, Charlie and Dave.

In fact, it's catching on like crazy with whisky people around the world.
Here's a picture from one deranged whisky fan that was reported as popping
up now and then on the island, ranting about buying stupendous amounts of
whisky and starting his own distillery. Apparently this mysterious fellow has
even claimed to be a certified malt maniac on several occasions. Parbleu!
It seems unbelievable, but most maniacs admit to seeing this shadowy
figure lurking in the shadows somewhere - only Serge and Peter couldn't
confirm or deny our sightings because they were always somewhere else
when this mysterious fellow appeared. Maybe a new legend is born?

Anyway, here's a picture to prove that this guy really exists.
And unlike the blurry pictures of Nessie, we have him in focus too!
It was shot by Olivier with his special device that allows him to record
stuff that most people can't see - but more about that later. As you can
see from the picture, even this guy was trying to grow a 'maniacal' beard.
Not very successfully, apparently, but you get the general idea.

I'm ashamed to admit that I had given up on growing a 'maniacal' beard myself.
After a week of trying it started to itch and I shaved it off again - mainly because
I thought none of the maniacs would actually go through with it. Can you imagine my
embarrassment when Davin returned from the bathroom at the airport, sporting a full and perfectly trimmed goatee? Pictures will follow, but let me assure you that he looked like the offspring of Frank Zappa and Colonel Sanders of KFC. As an act of penance I've decided to try and grow a 'Feis Ile' beard after all. I won't shave it off until I've finished this report and I will publish a picture as proof of my ordeal afterwards. And pictures don't lie, do they?

But more about beards later. After saying our hello's we were picked up at the airport in a roomy red van that took us to the Arnold Clarke car rental agency where we assumed a luxurious limousine would be waiting for us. Well, maybe not... The car they wanted to give us was roomy enough at the passenger end, but only had room in the trunk for the equivalent of three or four sheep - not nearly enough for our luggage (especialy because most maniacs wanted to do some serious bottle hunting on Islay). A long line of alternatives was presented to us, but in the end we decided that only the red van that had picked us up at the airport had enough luggage space for our needs. The people at Arnold Clarke seemed to have dealt with our kind of peat pilgrims before and generously offered us an upgrade to the van for free. Excellent!
We christened it the ManiacMobile and set off to the north for Inveraray.

I'll tell you a little more about Inveraray and the trip along Loch Fyne in MM#15.
Here I'll limit myself to my scores and 'steno notes'. We tried these seven new malts during the evening;

#1: Benrinnes 1968 (40%, G&M Connoisseur's Choice, Old Brown Label) - 79 points
Nose: Sweet & floral. Some nutty elements. Organics. Orange. Fat York Ham. Peaty over time.
Taste: Not very well defined. Tea? Short finish. Just a tad too bitter for my tastes.

#2: Ledaig 1972 (40%, G&M Connoisseurs Choice, Old Brown Label) - 86 points 
Nose: Serious and softly medicinal. Some peat. Eucalyptus. 'DAS Pronto' kid's clay. Good stuff.
Taste: A full, round start quickly turns into a full peaty centre. Slightly bitter finish.

#3: Macallan 10yo (70 Proof, G&M 'Official Label', 4cl, Bottled 1970's) - 85 points
Nose: Spicy, slowly moving in the direction of organics. Lots of sweetness, but a tad restrained.
Taste: Much more sherried than the nose, but not much else. A little herbal. Hint of salt and peat.

#4: Macallan-Glenlivet 15yo (43%, G&M, Italian Import, Bottled 1970's) - 88 points
Nose: Quite 'compact' with lots of spices and organics. Soy sauce. A very good dram!
Taste: Very sherried and fruity. A tad 'sombre' in tone. Nice and chewy; just the way I like it.

#5: Glen Mhor 8yo (70 Proof, G&M, Bottled 1970's) - 80 points
Nose: Coffee and mocca. A hint of oil. Not a lot of other elements that stand out.
Taste: Flat and tired at first, but it improves after a while. It grows chewy and a tad winey.

#6: Glen Mhor 8yo (100 Proof, G&M, Bottled 1970's) - 83 points
Nose: Organics. Sweet and sherried. Mash tun. More character than the 70 Proof variety.
Taste: Sherried, woody and quite dry. A tad bitter in the finish but still a better dram than the '70 Proof'.

#7: Brora 1971/2001 (50%, DL Old Malt Cask, June 1971 / April 2001, 258 Bottles) - 90 points
Nose: Peaty. Sour and sweet organics. Babi pangang. A tad dusty. Metallic? Horse stable.
Taste: Peat! Pepper! Ultra dry. What a brilliant malt to end the second day of the prelude...

The Benrinnes was the 'weakest' of the flight, but it still scored above average.
So far I've just samped one malt that scored below average during the first days of our trip; the Ben Nevis that Davin and I tried in Glasgow. And even that one scored just below average. That's not a bad result so far... My vote for the 'Dram of the Day' would have to be for the Brora 1971/2001 (50%, DL Old Malt Cask, June 1971 / April 2001, 258 Bottles) that was selected and brought by resident Brora freak Serge. I should add that a cask sample from a Glengoyne that had spent just seven years in a (supposedly fresh) Oloroso cask might have snatched the title if I counted cask samples.
Magnificent!

Hmmmm.... another good day; 10 fresh entries for my Track Record today;
 

Dram Diary for Thursday May 26;

79 - Benrinnes 1968 (40%, G&M Connoisseur's Choice, Old Brown Label)
90 - Brora 1971/2001 (50%, DL Old Malt Cask, June 1971 / April 2001, 258 Bottles)
82 - Glengoyne 12yo Cask Strength (57.2%, OB, Bottled +/- 2005)
84 - Glengoyne 15yo Scottish Oak (43%, OB, Bottle #3007, Bottled +/- 2005)
88 - Glengoyne 31yo 1972/2004 (57.9%, OB, Cask #2968)
80 - Glen Mhor 8yo (70 Proof, G&M, Bottled 1970's)
83 - Glen Mhor 8yo (100 Proof, G&M, Bottled 1970's)
86 - Ledaig 1972 (40%, G&M Connoisseurs Choice, Old Brown Label)
85 - Macallan 10yo (70 Proof, G&M 'Official Label', 4cl, Bottled 1970's)
88 - Macallan-Glenlivet 15yo (43%, G&M, Italian Import, Bottled 1970's)

That puts the total on the track record at exactly 1050 single malts.
And by now I've started to make some progress w.r.t. the relatively obscure distilleries on my 'to do' list as well. Benrinnes may not seem all that 'obscure', but so far I've only tried five other expressions. Glen Mhor needed some further research as well with only four expressions sampled by yours truly.

So, excellent progress so far - and we hadn't even arrived on Islay yet!
And we wouldn't for another day, because on...
 

Friday, May 27 - Third Prelude

... we woke up in 'The George' in Inveraray, just across
the street from 'Loch Fyne Whiskies' - one of the most
famous whisky stores in the world, I think. Here's the
view from the window of my room on the second floor.
Oh, what torture.... The store was already closed when
we arrived yesterday and this morning we had to leave
Inveraray early to make our 9:30 AM Oban appointment.
So, we missed Loch Fyne Whiskies on our first 'leg'. But
don't worry, we would pass Inveraray on the way back.
But that would be more than a week from now...

Meanwhile, I can heartily recommend 'The George' as
an excellent stop on any Scottish trip; it has a nice
'local' atmosphere, the rooms are comfortable and the
rates are very reasonable indeed. You can eat in the
hotel, but there's an excellent seafood restaurant
nearby as well - as well as a 'family butcher', as we
found out during a digestive stroll. Apparently, we
can add 'cannibalism' to the list of Scottish vices ;-)

But we didn't have time to join any 'Wicker Man' rituals.
Around 7:30 AM we had to fire up the ManiacMobile for
a trip north.

We had an appointment with Willie MacDougall at the Oban distillery we didn't want to miss. Well, we didn't - and we had a great time during the tour that took us up to the roof of the distillery and the tasting that followed. I'll write some more about the details in MM#15 soon; here I'll just list the three new malts I've tried with their notes and scores.

#1: Oban 20yo Natural Cask Strength (57.9%, OB, Bourbon, 1260 Bottles, Bottled 2004) - 86 points
Nose: Spicy with a hint of glue. Quite natural. A similar 'profile' to the 14yo from the 90's but more depth.
Taste: Again spicy, this time with some peppers. Once again a relatively 'natural' whisky but I liked it.

#2: Oban 32yo 1969/2002 (55.1%, OB, from 13 European Casks, 6000 Bottles) - 90 points
Nose: Rich and sweet with a distant hint of oil. Growing complexity. More and more organics.
Taste: Sweet and fruity. Smooth. The pleasureable effect of wood tannins without a 'woody' feeling.

#3: Oban 14yo (43%, OB, Bottled +/- 2005) - 76 points
Nose: Spicy and grassy. Hints of peat and dust. Flawless but lacks some personality.
Taste: Campbeltown characteristics? Seems not too powerful after the two oldies.

Strange as it may seem; Oban was an 'obscure' distillery to me for many years.
Until today, I had only sampled four different Obans seriously. Now I've tried three more, allowing me to make some first , broad and general observations. The standard 14yo has always been a decent dram, but personally I've never been a particular fan. Maybe that's because it is a relatively 'natural' single malt. Some people (including the right honourable Mr . M. Jackson) claimed to find a particular 'coastal' character in Oban, but compared to the two other powerhouse malts in the 'Classic Malts' range (I'm speaking, of course, of Talisker and Lagavulin) that never seemed that obvious to me. Perhaps they spoke of the 'spicy' characteristic I've found a lot today? Could be... Anyway, the standard 14yo doesn't move me to tears. The two older limited releases are a different story, though... The 20yo was a beautiful example of a clean, straightforward malt whisky with lots of pleasures to find for those willing to look. You didn't have to look too hard for the pleasures in the 32yo from 1969 though - they jumped right at you from the glass.
As highly recommendable as they come...

At this point I feel I should stress once more that I'm very 'stingy' with my points.
Especially compared to the more generous French maniacs, 'JH points' are a rock hard currency.
A single malt has to be really exceptional to reach the eternal glory that comes with a score in the 90's. When I say that malts with scores between 80 and 84 are 'recommendable' and those between 85 and 89 are 'highly recommendable' I really mean it. I would be proud to serve these drams to even the most discriminating of whisky connoisseurs. Which reminds me; on the airplane I compared some of my own scores with those of Michael Jackson and Jim Murray. It may not surprise you to learn that there were some significant differences. Which reminds me about a wonderful quote I heard on Islay from a source I probably couldn't even reveal if I remembered him; 'I guess you have to be a professional whisky writer to truly appreciate Macallan's new Fine Oak range.' But more about that in Malt Maniacs #15 in a few days.
Back to the report now;

We didn't want to leave Oban, but we had an appointment at Springbank to make.
Or at least we thought we had. After a death defying race through storm and rain to the southern tip of the 'Kintyre' peninsula we discovered that there had been some kind of mix-up and there was no record of our appointment. As a result, we had to wait outside in the rain for over half an hour until a busload of tourists arrived for the next tour. Springbank doesn't seem to have a visitor centre like many other distilleries - fairly odd considering Springbank is such a prestigious distillery - so by the time the tour started we were soaked.

Being the maniacs that we are we made the most of
it and did some exploring on our own. Well, that didn't
do much to enhance my first impression of Springbank.

The courtyard (or should I say junkyard?) was a mess
of soaked casks, rotting staves and rusty cask hoops.
Campbeltown isn't the neatest, tidiest town to begin
with (quite a contrast with Inverary where we woke
up this morning) but Springbank distillery is dirty even
by Campbeltown standards. People who visited my
humble abode in Amsterdam know I'm no stranger to
dirt, but then again I don't distill whisky at my place.

For a moment I even thought there was a homeless
person rummaging through the junkyard at Springbank
but as it turned out it was just Davin, trying to find
out more about the casks that might very well hold
the next generation of Springbanks.

Finally, I think it was 15:30, the tour started.
I probably would have been very excited by the whole
experience if I had been a tourist that had never seen
a distillery from the inside. But I'm a malt maniac...

The fact that we didn't hear anything that we didn't already know didn't bother me so much; it was the avalanche of misinformation that was poured out over us. Not only were the 'facts' presented by the tour guide often incomplete, they were sometimes complete nonsense. So, the maniacs ended the tour none wiser than they already were - but a lot thirstier. So, you would expect the drams that were poured to go down very well, wouldn't you? Well, I can't speak for the other maniacs, but I couldn't find a recommendable dram in the trio they poured for us. I might have if I would have had the time to investigate the drams in detail, but we were rushed through the samples at such a break-neck speed that none of the drams got the time to really develop. So, I won't bore you with my tasting notes for these three 'average' Springers;

71 - Springbank 25yo 1975 (46%, OB, C#1377, 157 Bottles, 'Frank McHardy 40 Years Jubilee')
74 - Springbank 15yo (46%, OB, Bottled +/- 2004)
79 - Springbank 8yo 1995/2004 Springbank Society (56%, OB, 306 Bottles)

So, is a visit to Springbank worth a 100 mile detour? Not quite, if you ask me.
By the end of the tasting I wasn't in the brightest of moods - not to mention still soaking wet.
And by now the weather had turned from 'wet & gloomy' to a positive storm with gale force winds.
So, while Davin, Serge and Olivier went out and braved the elements to find the PLOWED people that were in town as well I retreated to our hotel for a long warm soak in the bath tub. Despite the fact that 'lukewarm' seemed to be the best that the pipes could deliver I had managed to bring my core temperature back to comfortable levels by the time the other maniacs returned from their dinner with the PLOWED folks. Time for some serious dramming...

We all felt like finishing the evening on a 'Campbeltown' note with some 'local' whiskies.
Glen Scotia is sometimes perceived as the 'ugly duckling' brother of Springbank, but out of the six expressions I've tried so far four managed to reach the 80's - although none came as far as the 'highly recommendable upper 80's. I'm afraid I have to report that the Glen Scotia 5yo (Unknown ABV, OB, Bottled 1970's) we sampled to kick off our session didn't even reach the lower 80's - or the 70's for that matter. The nose was light and grassy with hints of grapefruit and apple. A little spicy as well, but altogether relatively restrained. A pinch of salt perhaps? Maybe in the nose, but I didn't find any on the palate. The taste was bitter and restrained, pulling the score down to a less than impressive 71 points for this golden oldie. Apparently not all 'antique' malts are superior to the whiskies that are available today.
The Glen Scotia 8yo (Unknown ABV, OB, Green Label, Bottled 1980's) did quite a bit better than the 5yo but still got stuck in 'below average' territory with a 73 points end score. The nose was more expressive than that of the 5yo with a faint hint of peat. Some organics as well, but somehow it remains 'undefined'. It starts off rather dull and bitter on the palate, but sweetens out with time. Not a bad dram, but hardly worth hunting down.

Next, we opened the Springbank 'Private Bottling for Visitors 2005' (Unknown ABV, OB) we received at the distillery. To me the nose seemed quite oily; it reminded me of a salad. When I mentioned this Serge put me on the track of oil and vinegar. Some intruiging sour smells. Washback aroma's as well. It was surprisingly peaty on the palate - what a nice surprise! Some rubber as well but that doesn't bother me... A score of 77 points puts it in the 'above average' category. That puts it in the same league as our next dram, the Springbank 12yo (46%, OB, Black Label, Clear bottle, 5cl) that received a final score of 75 points for its troubles. The colour of this whisky was very light - and so was the profile of the nose. It was sweet and spicy but I couldn't find very much else. It appeared thin and quite sharp on the palate, despite some nice organics. Again I found a trace of peat. This doesn't have the mellow feel of some other 12yo's I've tried.If it hadn't been for the Springbank 35yo 1969/2004 (58.5%, Adelphi, Cask #149) the whole Campbeltown adventure might have ended on a low note, but I'm happy to report we finally found a malt that showed just how great a good Springbank can be. The nose was sweet, round, big and fruity. Polished and quite mellow with hints of apricots and 'mirabellen' (small cherries). More farmy elements and other organics appear over time. It makes a distinguished, noble impression on the palate as well. Once again I thought I found a trace of peat - the dry kind as opposed to the moist, freshly cut variety. It's the first recommendable Springbank I've tried all day with a score of 88 points.

It seemed to make sense to end the session at this high note.
Excellent; 11 fresh entries for my Track Record today;
 

Dram Diary for Friday May 27;

76 - Oban 14yo (43%, OB, Bottled +/- 2005)
86 - Oban 20yo Natural Cask Strength (57.9%, OB, Bourbon Cask, 1260 Bottles, Bottled 2004)
90 - Oban 32yo 1969/2002 (55.1%, OB, from 13 European Casks matured on site, 6000 Bottles)
71 - Glen Scotia 5yo (Unknown ABV, OB, Bottled 1970's)
73 - Glen Scotia 8yo (Unknown ABV, OB, Green Label, Bottled 1980's)
77 - Springbank NAS 'Private Bottling for Visitors 2005' (Unknown ABV, OB, Bottled 2005)
79 - Springbank 8yo 1995/2004 Springbank Society (56%, OB, 306 Bottles)
75 - Springbank 12yo (46%, OB, Black Label, Clear bottle, 5cl)
74 - Springbank 15yo (46%, OB, Bottled +/- 2004)
71 - Springbank 25yo 1975 (46%, OB, C#1377, 157 Bottles, 'Frank McHardy 40 Years Jubilee')
88 - Springbank 35yo 1969/2004 (58.5%, Adelphi, Cask #149)

That's 1061 single malt Scoch whiskies for on my Track Record before I set foot on Islay soil.
Dram of the Day: The Oban 32yo (55.1%, OB, from 13 European Casks matured on site) poured especially for the malt maniacs at the distillery after a tour of Oban that took us up to the roof of the distillery. A great experience! As you may have gathered from my write-up, the Springbank experience wasn't quite what I expected, but I'll just consider the hours spent at the distillery and with the drams as 'training' for...
 

Saturday, May 28 - Feis Ile (Day 1)

... when we finally made our way to Islay.
Once again we had to get up early in the morning.
The ferry at Kennacraig was scheduled to depart
for Islay at 9:00 AM sharp and we were told that
we had to be there well in advance. Needless to
say, we ended up waiting for almost an hour, but
we decided to put this little hole in our schedule
to properly adorn the ManiacMobile with lettering.
Olivier released the artist within him and managed
to come up with the bold yet obvious statement in
the picture at the right. Wow, with sport striping
like this the ManiacMobile looks a bit like the van
from the 'A-Team', doesn't it? Ah, sing it with me:
Tatataa, rattata. Tatatatatataaah, rattattatataa!

Later the phrases 'Rides: 1 Dram' & 'Drambulance'
would be added on the other sides, but we didn't
manage to lure any paying customers into our van
and the only accident we were involved in was
the one where the maniacs drove into a ditch...

But I'll tell you more about those incidents in the reports in Malt Maniacs.
For the purposes of this personal account I'll just continue with the three skalks we enjoyed on the ferry;

Skalk #1: Longrow 8yo 1987/1995 (43%, Signatory Vintage, C# 136-138) - 83 points
Nose: Hint of citrus, then peat. Organics. Sweaty. Coastal. Radish (after Serge mentioned it).
Taste: Dry and a little bitter at first, then the peat emerges, followed by a peppery twang.

Skalk #2: Longrow 16yo 1974 (46%, OB) - 90 points
Nose: Sweet, round and polished. Fruit cake. My kind of profile, just the way I like it...
Taste: A big contrast with the nose. Peaty. Medicinal. Liquorice. Aniseed. Sweet. Camphor.

Skalk #3: Longrow NAS 1973 (46%, OB, Small Caps Label) - 90 points
Nose: Big, sweet and sherried. Raisins. Hint of smoke. Spices. Red cabbage. Faintly medicinal. XLNT!
Taste: Sweet with a pinch of salt. Chewy. Peaty. Very satisfying, but not quite as stellar as the '74.
This was a difficult one to rate; I preferred the '73 nose but the '74 palate.

So, some redemption for the bad experiences at Springbank yesterday. Unfortunately, by this time two elderly ladies joined us at our table to
enjoy their breakfasts. These old ladies were obviously from Scotland;
they looked frail and innocent but their must have been at least a kilo
of food on their plates; a hamburger, black pudding, some fried and/or
smoked fish (could it be those dreaded kippers again?), beans in tomato
sauce, etc. That's breakfast! As you can imagine, the greasy aroma's
of the food quickly overpowered the bouquet of the delicate whiskies
we were sampling, so we finished the session after our third skalk.
In all fairness, I think I should add that the little old ladies were
just as astonished by our dramming in the morning (see picture)
as we were about their unusually copious breakfasts...
 
If the old ladies hadn't stopped our dramming the waves would have.
The weather wasn't very favourable for off-shore dramming to begin
with and when we reached the open ocean the ride got more than a
little bit rough.

Half of our little contingent of maniacs enjoyed the spectacle, but the other half started to feel a bit queezy and turned green. Fortunately the ordeal didn't last for too long; a little before noon we arrived in the Port Ellen harbour. We didn't waste any time and headed straight for Lagavulin for a tour, a tasting and some oysters. The tour (by the manager of the Port Ellen maltings) was the best I ever had, the tasting was both interesting and entertaining and the oysters weren't half bad either. That's all I can tell you right now about our visit to Lagavulin; much more in Malt Maniacs in a few days.

After soaking up as much of the atmosphere as we could at Lagavulin (and running into that crazy PLOWED gang again) we headed straight for our cottage in Port Charlotte. When we entered a warm coal fire was blazing in the fireplace - yet another example of that wonderful islay hospitality. We didn't waste a lot of time unpacking and settled down for a little serious 'matrix' sampling - this time we focused on three samples from Longrow.

Longrow 1973/1988 (50%, Samaroli Fragments of Scotland) - 84 points
Nose: Deep and round. Fudge. Nice, but very compact and not very expressive.
Taste: Malty with a bitter finish. At first no peat like I found in the OB's this morning.

Longrow 1987/2002 (50%, Samaroli, Cask #115) - 89 points
Nose: Much sweeter than the '73 'Fragments'. Organics moving forward. A tad oily. Salty - oysters!
Taste: A pinch of peat, evolving into a slightly bitter finish. It doesn't really 'support the nose'.

We finished our Campbeltown adventures with a 'Longrow New Filling Malt' (57%, Samaroli Fragments of Scotland) that I can't put on my Track Record because it's not officially whisky - supposedly it hasn't been matured for the required minimum of three years. In the nose it appeared oily with a hint of grappa, just like you would expect from a new make spirit. However, although it's not terribly expressive in the start more and more peat emerges over time. On the palate it was very peaty. Fishy, salty and dry. Lovely tannins. Possibly the best 'new make' I ever tried - if it is indeed new make. I finally decided on a score of 80 points - very impressive indeed for a freshly distilled spirit.
However, given the Italian background I'm a bit suspicious...

Next, we made our way to the Port Charlotte Hotel nearby,
where we met the friendly folks from Bruichladdich distillery.
Even though the weather was still ghastly when we arrived,
they assured us that they had reserved perfect weather for
the official 'Bruichladdich SUNday' tomorrow and we shouldn't
worry. Apparently they made a special arrangement with the
angels or something. There weren't that many people around,
which gave us the chance to talk at length with Mark Reynier,
Jim McEwan and lots of other interesting and enthusiastic
people involved in the recent resurrection of Bruichladdich.

All went very well until Serge had the audacity to bring up
the touchy topic of 'FWP' with Jim Mc Ewan - who had at one
point in his illustrious carreer been the manager at Bowmore.
As you may imagine, a heated debate (or lecture?) followed.

Not to worry though - we all left in high spirits for some more dramming at 'home'.
We finished the first evening on Islay in our cottage by the fire with three great Lagavulins;

First Laggie: Lagavulin 12yo (43%, OB, Bottled Early 1980's) - 91 points
Nose: Very powerful. peaty and sweaty. Quite similar in style to the present 12yo C/S, in fact.
Taste: Serious. Smoke. Liquorice in the finish. Once again a profile akin to the current 12yo C/S.

Second Laggie: Lagavulin 1979 Distillers Edition (43%, OB, No Neck Label, Taiwan) - 91 points
Nose: Sombre. Not very expressive at first, but it opens up. Sweaty. organics. Meaty notes.
Taste: Peaty. Dry. No obvious effects of sherry here. Different from the '79 I know, but also great.

Third Laggie: Lagavulin 1988 (56%, Samaroli, 324 Botles) - 88 points
Nose: Mostly organics. My kind of profile, but there's not a lot of development.
Taste: Peat and salty. It feels quite rough but once again it's my kind of malt.

And that settles my 'personal' account of our first day on Islay.
I can add eight fresh entries to my Track Record (not counting the cask samples at Lagavulin);
 

Dram Diary for Saturday May 28;

91 - Lagavulin 12yo (43%, OB, Bottled Early 1980's)
88 - Lagavulin 1988 (56%, Samaroli, 324 Botles)
91 - Lagavulin 1979 Distillers Edition (43%, OB, No Neck Label, Taiwan)
90 - Longrow NAS 1973 (46%, OB, Small Caps Label)
83 - Longrow 8yo 1987/1995 (43%, Signatory Vintage, C# 136-138)
84 - Longrow 1973/1988 (50%, Samaroli Fragments of Scotland)
89 - Longrow 1987/2002 (50%, Samaroli, C# 115)
90 - Longrow 16yo 1974 (46%, OB)

Hurray, I can congratulate myself with a malt mileage of 1069.
Dram of the Day: The Lagavulin 1979 Distillers Edition (43%, OB, No Neck Label, Taiwan); once again Ho-cheng managed to surprise us with the 'catch of the day'. He sent us the sample because he was afraid something might be 'funky' about this bottle because it didn't have a neck label, but as far as I could say it was absolutely fine. This Lagavulin had some fierce competition from a sister Lagavulin and two Longrows though. After a long internal struggle I increased my score of the 12yo from the early 1980's from The first day on Islay didn't increase my malt mileage a lot (six cask samples tasted at Lagavulin don't count because they are not bottled yet) but I could add four new bottlings to the very top of my Hit List with scores in the 90's. I think I'm starting to love Longrow...
 

Sunday, May 29 - Feis Ile (Day 2)

Would you believe it?
Like the Bruichladdies predicted, the weather is beautiful!
Just take a look at the postcard picture at the right; it's the
view from our window with the sun rising over Loch Indaal.
Incredible, isn't it?! This glorious morning makes up for all
the bad weather we've had so far. Really inspirational...

And whenever the maniacs become inspired, they dram.
Since the festivities at Bruichladdich wouldn't start until
early in the afternoon we decided to take advantage of
the weather and do some dramming along the seashore.

By this time we had already gotten used to the aroma
of peat that's present everywhere on the island, but
we needed some more time to adjust to the new
'seaweedy' and 'fishy' smells along the sea shore.
Still, some samples might appear a bit 'coastal' ;-)

Finally, Davin and I convinced Serge and Olivier to sample some of the 'obscure' samples we brought.
We started with the Aberfeldy 1974 (40%, G&M Connoisseurs Choice, Old Map Label, IB/HC). The nose was sweet and polished with a touch of sherry. Honey. The faintest hint of soap or perfume? Quite mellow - and more 'open' than many other Connoisseurs Choice bottlings I've tried. It seems notably more sherried on the palate. Tea leaves. Not terribly complex but I really like the mouth feel. Score: 80 points . We didn't waste any time (we still had 200+ samples to try) and proceeded immediately with the Craigellachie 1974 (40%, G&M Connoisseurs Choice). It started off quite sharp in the nose, but after a while more sherry notes emerge that soften it up a little bit. Over time it grows a little spicier and nuttier, but it remains 'MOTR'. It was distinctly 'middle of the road' on the palate as well. A little woody, not much more to tell - an average malt. So, let's go with that most 'average' of scores: 75 points.

The Auchroisk 1975 (40%, OB) was another
obscure malt; so far we only have 2 versions
on the matrix. It's an interesting bottle from
the perspective of my own Track Record as
well; so far I've tried only three other
expressions from Auchroisk. I'm afraid this particular bottling didn't really inspire me to
hunt down more Auchroisks. The nose started
off quite sharp with mint and hints of sherry.
Paint thinner. Sweetish. Spicy. At first the
taste reminded me of stale beer.

Over time it improves a little - especially after
some odd sherry notes joined the party - but
I still couldn't go higher than 69 points here.

If you ask me, one of the most 'obscure' active
Scottish distilleries would have to be Glen Spey.
We have just one version on the matrix and
I've only tried one expression myself as well.

That was a long time ago, but I'm quite sure it wasn't the same as the Glen Spey 21yo 1970 (55.4%, James McArthur, 5cl) that we tried next. One difference was that we tried a 5cl miniature 'in mint condition' on the beach while my pevious experience was with a dusty big bottle that had been 'sun kissed' in the window of a store - possibly for many years. This bottling must have been released around 1991 and I bought it in 1999, so it could have been in there for almost a decade. If I remember correctly, my 70cl bottle didn't have a '1970' vintage but I may have missed that. Given the extreme rarity of Glen Spey, I'm happy to count these as two seperate expressions, especially since the difference in scores was significant. The big bottle came in at a depressing 61 points because it was very bland and pretty much devoid of character. The nose of this mini was sweet and spicy. Flowery. Grassy and just a little herbal. Lemon. Not a powerhouse malt, but certainly more expressive than the big bottle I tried more than five years ago. I got beer on the palate; sour with a pinch of salt. Peat? Menthol. Pine resin. Liquorice. Not really my type but interesting enough: 74 points - just a smidgen below average.

We proceeded with the Glen Spey-Glenlivet NAS (56.5%, Cadenhead's, 5cl).
Unfortunately, Cadenhead's doesn't provide a distillation or bottling year on the mini's in this range.
Nose: Sweet and polished. Sweetened cereals. Grain. Barley. It becomes spicier after adding water.
Taste: 'Middle of the road' and not very expressive. Some nice liquorice notes but not much else.
Let's go with a score of 75 points for this one; we're still in 'average' territory.

As it turned out, the Kinclaith 26yo 1975 (52.3%, James McArthur) was an excellent choice to finish our first session at the beach. The nose was sweet, sherried and polished. Very rich, it reminded me of a tangerine liqueur like Grand Marnier. Turkish delight. It grew spicier over time. I found lots of tangerine on the palate as well. Marmelade; a highly enjoyable interplay of bitter and sweet. Let's go with 88 points - a highly satisfying experience.

By now noon had arrived - almost 'Bruichladdich Time'.
The plain 'beautiful' weather had developed into 'glorious'
and we decided to have ourselves a traditional Islay lunch;
hamburgers. It seems they had a stand at every distillery,
so each visitor was able to closely balance his intake of
solid and liquid calories during the festival. Another staple
food on Islay seemed to be oysters; they were served at
most distilleries and restaurants as well.

I enjoyed a few oysters during Feis Ile 2005, but didn't indulge
myself quite as much as Serge, Olivier and Davin who stuffed
them away by the dozens. Imagine the priceless look on
Davin's face when Serge told him on the last day of our
journey that all the oysters he had eaten during the trip had
in fact been either alive or very recently deceased at best...

Anyway, back to Bruichladdich...

We parked the ManiacMobile and quickly ran into Peter
in the courtyard, soon followed by our German malt maniac
Thomas Lipka who was also on the island - with his family.
You can find Thomas in the picture at the right - he was
the only one actually wearing his Malt Madness t-shirt.
We met Martine Nouet at Bruichaddich as well, but by
then most maniacs had already disappeared into the
shop to buy their special 'bloodtub' bottlings.

Around 14:00 the courtyard was filled up with hundreds
of people celebrating the spirit of Bruichladdich. You may
know that I'm not too fond of crowds, but the wonderful
weather and friendly atmosphere made it all quite bearable.
That changed radically when a full bagpipe band marched
onto the scene, piping like it was going out of fashion...

In the past I've dedicated plenty of rants to my allergy to the 'music' produced by bagpipes.
To me, bagpiping is one of the more offensive part of Scottish folklore. If you don't like whisky you don't have to drink it and if you're offended by men wearing skirts you can simply look away. There's no escaping the haunting howls of the bagpipe, though - and it can torture your eardrums from half a mile away! The combination of a large crowd and bagpipes managed to drain my social battery within a matter of minutes, so I decided to skip the masterclass and go on a small photo expedition along the coast instead. I met up with Davin, Serge and Olivier again at our cottage early in the evening and they had been kind enough to bring over samples of the malts that were poured at the masterclass. (Thanks guys - and thanks for letting us use those nalgenes, Jay). I will sample the 6 masterclass malts blind once my nose has cleared up.

One sample they brought wasn't 'officially' whisky, so I decided to try it there and then.
The Bruichladdich 4 months old spirit from local barley smelled surprisingly mature. Sweet barley aroma's and organics. None of the usual 'grappa' oiliness in the nose - this shows a lot of potential. And it did do quite well on the palate too - even after just four months in the cask. Impressive - but I couldn't really come up with a specific score.

The end of our second day on Islay
was one of the biggest highlights of
our tour of duty. After sous-chef Peter
Silver had wrestled a few of the local
lobsters into submission Martine Noet
prepared a meal that really knocked
us out of our socks...

We enjoyed our food in martine's Islay
residence, Nerabus. The view is stunning,
as you can see from the picture at the
right - at least you would be able to see
it if some maniacs weren't blocking it...

Just writing about the meal will probably
take me a day, so I'll leave that for the
big report in Malt Maniacs #15. Here I'll
focus on the malts that Martine poured
us with every course. We started with
a Nikka 10yo (63%, OB, Cask OJE30C).
Nice and mellow in the nose. Flowery.
Quite noble. Taste: Sweet and fruity.
Score: 80 points - a nice 'appetiser'.

After the midges forced us indoors we quickly started with the 'real' appetiser; salmon and asparagus.
It was served with the Bruichladdich 10yo (46%, OB, Bottled +/- 2005) which was quite a bit different from what I've come to expect. It was a little bit 'funky' in the nose. Quite light, but it seemed more 'sherried' than other 10yo's I've tried. Very faint organics. It doesn't seem sure what direction to take. It definitely appeared sherried on the palate. Bitter. Some off-notes. I'll go with a relatively 'easy' 73 points - Martine thought something was wrong with this bottle.

The next courses were accompanied by a Caol Ila 12yo (43%, OB, Bottled +/- 2005, 83 points this time, wonderful combination with the lobster and scallops) and a Glenlivet 16yo Ndura (48%, OB, Bourbon, Bottled +/- 2005, 80 points). Just before our second desert Norma Munro joined us for a small recital at Martine's place. She sang some Gaelic songs while we enjoyed an Ardbeg NAS 'Committee' (55.3%, OB, 16/01/03) that promted me to increase my initial score of 88 points for a sample from Olivier to 91 points for this big bottle. What a brilliant dram - and what a brilliant musical experience! We finished things with the Port Ellen 22yo 1982/2004 (61.1%, DL OMC for PLOWED Society, C#740, 240 Bottles) - a special PLOWED bottling that Peter brought. What a magnificent dram - they certainly picked a beauty! I had it at 93 points for a long time and only dropped to 92 points after I added water - maybe a little too much. But then again I tried it from a tiny tasting glass, so when I try it again for the MM Awards from my 'proper' glasses it may do even better. After saying our goodbyes to Norma and Martine we dropped off Peter at the Glaggan House - the PLOWED HQ for Feis Ile 2005. We did sample some drams there as well, but by now I was in 'fun mode' so I didn't make any notes.
What a wonderful day!
 

Dram Diary for Sunday May 29;

80 - Aberfeldy 1974 (40%, G&M Connoisseurs Choice, Old Map Label, IB/HC)
69 - Auchroisk 1975 (40%, OB, Singleton of Auchroisk)
73 - Bruichladdich 10yo (46%, OB, Bottled +/- 2005)
83 - Caol Ila 12yo (43%, OB, +/- 2005)
75 - Craigellachie 1974 (40%, G&M Connoisseurs Choice)
80 - Glenlivet 16yo Ndura (48%, OB, Bourbon, +/- 2005)
75 - Glen Spey-Glenlivet NAS (56.5%, Cadenhead's)
74 - Glen Spey 21yo 1970 (55.4%, James McArthur, 5cl)
88 - Kinclaith 26yo 1975 (52.3%, James McArthur)
92 - Port Ellen 22yo 1982/2004 (61.1%, DL OMC for PLOWED Society, Cask #740, 240 Bottles)

I can't count the Bruichladdich spirit from local barley (it's not whisky yet), nor the Ardbeg NAS 'Committee' (55.3%, OB, 16/01/03, I already tried it) or the Nikka 10yo (63%, OB, Cask OJE30C, it's made in Japan), which leaves exactly 10 new entries for my Track Record If I'm not mistaken. (I'm counting the 1970 Glen Spey mini as well - it was notably different from the big bottle I tried many years ago.) That puts my malt mileage at precisely 1079.

Dram of the Day: Without a shadow of a doubt I'd have to go for the Port Ellen 22yo 1982/2004 (61.1%, DL OMC for PLOWED Society, Cask #740, 240 Bottles) that Peter brought to Martine's house for us to taste. Much more details and opinions about that bottling in the report that will be published in MM#15. The Kinclaith was quite a surprise as well; there's often a reason why ultra-rare malts are ultra-rare, but this was a beauty... There were no other outspoken highlights, but the Caol Ila was solid as ever and the Aberfeldy and Glenlivet Nadura managed to reach recommendable territory. The other malts scored a bit lower, but I won't complain: we made some great progress w.r.t. the 'obscure' distilleries on the matrix. Bottlings of Auchroisk, Craigellachie and Glen Spey (not to mention Kinclaith) are hard to find.
 

Monday, May 30 - Feis Ile (Day 3)

By now the gruelling dramming schedule started to take its toll.

We had planned to visit the open day at Caol Ila this morning, but after
experiencing the insane malt mania at PLOWED HQ last night we overslept.
After checking our schedule we discovered that we wouldn't be able to get
to the other side of the island in time - especially because we would have
to drive back again before noon for a guided tour of the Port Ellen maltings.
We decided to use the free time in our schedule for more seaside dramming.

We started with the Inchgower 12yo 'De Luxe' (70 Proof, OB) - 48 points
As it turned out, it was the perfect malt to cleanse our palates with.
Nose: Spirity, bland and unexpressive. A failed attempt at whisky.
Taste: Very bitter; the nose lacks character, the taste has too much.

Next: Bruichladdich NAS (75 Proof, OB, Cream label, 1970's) - 71 points
The label certainly didn't change much between early 70's and late 90's.
Nose: Mellow with the faintest hint of peat. Not as good as current OB's.
Taste: Bland. No obvious flaws, but little reason for excitement either.

Next: The Bruichladdich 10yo (40%, OB, Red/Cream Label) - 72 points
We suspect this was bottled in the early 1990's - the 'bad old days'...
Nose: Slightly more expressive than the NAS from the 70's, but still bland.
Taste: Once again much like the NAS in character, A tad bitter in the finish.

This quite interesting; even though some maniacs believed that the Laddie 10yo we tried at Martine's last night wasn't quite right, it still earned a higher score than these two bottlings released under previous owners. Quite amazing, especially if you realise that the new owners still mostly rely on stocks laid down by the previous owners. A perfect example of the importance of cask selection! The good news is that casks of the Laddies that were actually distilled my Mark, Jim & their crew will be ready for bottling in the next few years - not to mention Port Charlotte and Octomore!

But first, let's have a look at a cask they presumably selected from the old stocks.
I think the Bruichladdich 15yo 1986/2001 'Country Life' (46%, OB, cask #356) was released in some kind of combined promotion with 'Country Life' magazine. Lucky subscribers - this was a mighty fine dram. I found cigar box, sherry, celery and sulphur in the nose (I don't mind a little bit of sulphur, actually) and it was full and sweet on the palate with just the right amount of wood. My score: 86 points - highly recommendable. Next was the Bruichladdich 1986/2000 (56.6%, Scott's Selection). The nose was mellow with peaches and pear. On the palate I found liquorice and a little peat. Quite delicate and quite bitter. A dry, satisfying finish, making me decide on 83 points as its final score. I'm ashamed to admit that I got so distracted during the sampling of the Bruichladdich 12yo 1991/2003 (58.7%, James McArthur) that I didn't make any tasting notes. The lighthearted banter that spiced up our little 'liquid picnic' along the coast almost made me forget we had 'work' to do. By the time Serge finishes a particulary funny story I can't repeat here I noticed that my glass was empty and I had the last sip in my mouth. Just enough to come up with a score of 81 points for this Laddie. We had saved the best Bruichladdich of the morning for last; the Bruichladdich 14yo 1989 (57.9%, G&M Cask Strength, C#1961). I got sherry, marmelade and some very subtle perfumy notes on the nose. Lots of sherry on the palate as well - and marmelade again. This isn't for everybody (and it hardly shows the distillery character) but my score of 87 points proves I really liked it.

Davin and I finally convinced Serge and Olivier that we probably should shift our attention from Bruichladdich to some more 'obscure' stuff in our ever continuing project to get as many different malts as possible on the matrix. We rummaged around in our plastic bag a bit and came up with the Glenlochy 27yo 1974/2002 (53.3%, Signatory Vintage, 29/11/1974, 11/11/2002, C#4459). The nose was sweet and polished with some sherry - but not too much. It was just delightful on my tongue; sweet and creamy. Lovely stuff! With 87 points this is a highly recommendable dram. That would have been a great finale of our liquid picnic, but because we still had some time Davin and I pushed our luck by fishing a second obscure bottling from our plastic bag; the Coleburn 30yo 1970/2000 (57%, Signatory Vintage, 13/1/70, 7/9/02, C#100, 302 Bottles). The nose was fairly neutral with a hint of smoke. It was very light and sweet on the palate, despite the high proof. Personally, I couldn't go any higher than 75 points but I should add that Serge, Olivier and Davin all had it in the mid 80's. I just declared the Coleburn distillery as 'not worth hunting down' a few months ago on account of it being either too rare or not any good. That'll teach me to keep my big mouth shut...
Well, maybe not ;-)

Even with an average score in the 80's the Coleburn wasn't the highlight we were looking for to finish our session at the beach, so we rummaged around in our bag some more and came up with something even better; an intriguing 'premiere' for the matrix; the Port Charlotte 2001/2004 (67.3%, Private Bottling, Cask #286, 336 bottles). The nose was just fabulous, even after just three years; peat organics and sweat. A real 'in your face' malt - in a good way. It showed primarily peat and liquorice on the palate - not the most complex profile I encountered, but hugely enjoyable.
Score: 90 points - a knockout malt after just three years.

By now noon had arrived and it was time to make our way to the Port Ellen maltings, where we enjoyed an interesting tour, many generously poured drams and some lovely food prepared by the spouses of the distillery workers. We could add one more great experience to our Islay trip. Next, we made our way to the Ardbeg distillery; not for a tour, mind you - just to pick up some special 'festival' bottlings before they would be sold out. You can find much more details of our adventures at Port Ellen and Ardbeg in Malt Maniacs #15.

When the maniacs had finished their Ardbeg shopping spree
we found that we had a few hours to spare and decided to
use them for a little 'safari' to a part of the island we hadn't
visited before. We pointed the ManiacMobile south-west and
made our way to 'The Oa' - the southernmost tip of Islay.

Our trip took us across increasingly narrow and unkept roads
and we passed quite a few abandoned hovels and villages
along the way. We experienced a surreal 'Dr. Who' moment
when we passed a red telephone booth, located in the middle
of nowhere. By now the road had devolved into a cattle track
and eventually that ended as well at a remote farmhouse.

The old lady working in the garden seemed quite alarmed at
the sight of four suspicious types wandering across this part
of the island, but once Davin had managed to convince her
we had no ill intentions she was more than happy to direct us
to a nice secluded beach nearby. And tell us the complete
history of the area, including famines, smuggler caves, etc.

And then give us some more directions to the beach again.
And then once more, just to be on the safe side.
Like I said, it was a remote farmhouse...

Anyway, to cut a long story short, when we finally reached
the beach the sun was already setting, but the old lady had
not lied about this great hidden treasure at 'Lower Killeyan'.
There was a cave, a waterfall, a little stream, the beach...
What a lovely location for some more dramming!

Not a lot, though, we had to be at the Port Charlotte hotel in less than two hours for dinner.
There wasn't quite enough left in the sample of the Caol Ila 1991/2002 'Flagon Collection' (43%, Signatory Vintage) for me to make any detailed tasting notes, but in the end I managed to give it a fairly solid rating of 79 points - just short of recommendable. Davin agreed with 79 points, but Serge (85) and Olivier (81) liked it a little better. The opinions about the next dram were more 'in synch'; the Caol Ila 15yo 1969 (40%, Connoisseurs Choice, Old Map Label) was wonderful. The nose was very rich with lots of organics. When I mentioned that I probably would have mistaken it for an Ardbeg in a blind test Serge pointed out that this was an 'old' Caol Ila, produced before the distillery was reconstructed in the early 70's when the number of stills was expanded from two to six. Hmmm. Had we gone on the tour this morning I might have known that ;-)  Anyway, it performed excellent on the palate as well; Very powerful with just that hint of bitterness in the finish that makes you long for one more dram. My score of 89 points was the same as Olivier's and close to Serge's (90) and Davin's (91). This second dram was also our last at the Lower Killeyan beach - we had to climb up the cliff again because we had cross half the island in order to reach the Port Charlotte Hotel in time for dinner.

We did make it to the hotel in time and even had time to change clothes.
For some reason - I don't quite remember why - we had decided to go with
an 'Hawaian' dress code for the occasion, but with the arrival of the evening
a chilly breeze started to blow from the Atlantic. Hardly 'Hawaiian weather.
This forced us to add some more traditional pieces of clothing to our outfits.
As you can see to the right, the combination is both casual and provocative.
Let's call it 'Hawaiian Bum Chic' - I'm sure it will become fashion eventually...

It seems the Port Charlotte Hotel is the 'home away from home' for many
whisky people during Feis Ile and tonight we met Nick Morgan (you may have
read his great concert reviews on WhiskyFun) and his lovely lady Kate there.
We enjoyed a fine dinner together, as well as some drams and discussions on
a wide variety of topics ranging from the European integration to the wildlife
on Islay and from (of course) music to (what else) single malt Scotch whisky.

None of the maniacs were really 'analysing' their drams tonight (we had been
'working' all day and given the heavy schedule ahead we were in the mood to
relax a little) but I couldn't resist scribbling down my scores for the two drams
I tried after dinner. The Laphroaig 15yo (43%, OB, Bottled +/- 2004) was just
a tad more 'restrained' in the nose than I remembered it (but maybe the small
glasses had something to do with that) and it didn't seem all that as robust on
the palate either. I settled on a score of 86 points for this fairly recent batch.

The Laphroaig 10yo Cask Strength Red Stripe (57,3%, OB, Bottled +/-2004)
must have been a fairly recent batch as well. Someone at the table called the
Laphroaig C/S 'diesel', but I love the stuff. That being said, just like the 15yo it
appeared distinctly less powerful than earlier batches - quite a big difference.

I'll go with a score of 89 points for now and try to sample it again a.s.a.p.

After another fun night at the Port Charlotte Hotel we spent the last of our energy on our walk home.
It was a stroll (or rather a swagger) of just half a mile, but after a very active day we were ready to call it a night as soon as we returned to our cottage in the outskirts of town. So, this is where today's report ends.
 

Dram Diary for Monday May 30;

71 - Bruichladdich NAS (75 Proof, OB, Cream label, Bottled 1970's, 1 2/3 fl. oz., F. Bucher & Co.)
72 - The Bruichladdich 10yo (40%, OB, Red on Cream Label, Bottled early 1990's)
81 - Bruichladdich 12yo 1991/2003 (58.7%, James McArthur)
83 - Bruichladdich 1986/2000 (56.6%, Scott's Selection)
87 - Bruichladdich 14yo 1989 (57.9%, G&M Cask Strength, C#1961)
86 - Bruichladdich 15yo 1986/2001 'Country Life' (46%, OB, cask #356)
79 - Caol Ila 1991/2002 'Flagon Collection' (43%, Signatory Vintage)
89 - Caol Ila 15yo 1969 (40%, Connoisseurs Choice, Old Map Label)
75 - Coleburn 30yo 1970/2000 (57%, Signatory Vintage, 13/1/70, 7/9/02, C#100, 302 Bottles)
87 - Glenlochy 27yo 1974/2002 (53.3%, Signatory Vintage, 29/11/1974, 11/11/2002, C#4459)
48 - Inchgower 12yo 'De Luxe' (70 Proof, OB)
89 - Laphroaig 10yo Cask Strength Red Stripe (57,3%, OB, Bottled +/-2004)
86 - Laphroaig 15yo (43%, OB, Bottled +/- 2004)
90 - Port Charlotte 2001/2004 (67.3%, Private Bottling, cask #286, 336 bottles)

The last time I checked my malt mileage was 1079 - with 14 more malts it's now at 1093.
Dram of the Day: That would be the Port Charlotte 2001/2004 (67.3%, Private Bottling, Cask #286, 336 bottles) - quite a surprise considering this whisky is 'barely legal' it just three years. In fact, it is by far and in every sense of the word the youngest whisky we tried all day. Simply stunning stuff, and if the casks that the Bruichladdies have in their own warehouses is just as good they probably could release it this year! My 'problem' with Bruichladdich used to be that most bottles released in the 1990's (and, as it now turns out, some of those released earlier as well) were quite bland and not very peaty at all. Much of the blandness already disappeared when Mark, Jim and the gang took over the reigns at Bruichladdich; careful cask selection ensured that most of the bottles released under the new ownership scored in the 80's. And now it seems they have a peaty trump card up their sleeve as well with Port Charlotte (and, later on, Octomore of course).

Let's hope they made enough of it to be able to bottle it at a nice price - and soon...
 

Tuesday, May 31 - Feis Ile (Day 4)

Tuesday - another glorious day on Islay.
Our schedule said we were expected at Laphroaig
at 9:30 sharp for a quick tour of the distillery before
we had to leave for a hike to Laphroaig's water source.

We were shown around the distillery by Jack Danaway,
a retired distillery employee who entertained us with
many tall tales from 'the olden days'. You'll be able to
find more information about the things we've learnt
in Malt Maniacs #15, but here's a little interesting
nugget about Laphroaig's 'Quarter Cask' bottlings.

Apparently, the Quarter Cask scheme came from the
mind of Robert Hicks. As we found out, 'QC' bottlings
are not matured exclusively in these 'quarter casks'.

Instead, they start their maturation in normal 200
litre ex-bourbon casks, just like every other whisky
at Laphroaig these days. However, after a number
of years (around five years if I remember correctly)
the whisky is transferred into these 'quarter casks'
(actually more like 'half casks' at circa 100 litres)
for further, 'accelerated' maturation of no more
than a year. So, these Laphroaig 'Quarter Cask'
bottlings are actually just around six years old!

Another interesting piece of background information;
The quarter casks are made especially for Laphroaig
and assembled on the mainland from ordinairy staves.
They just use less staves, so the casks are 'slimmer'.
Once assembled they are then shipped to Islay where
they are used - only once - for the Laphroaig QC.

After the tour of the distillery we joined a bunch of other visitors for a hike up to the water source of Laphroaig. Through the fields and up the hill we went. The people at Laphroaig had warned us to wear good shoes and that was good advice; the whole island seems to have a drainage problem and it's virtually impossible to walk 'in the wild' on Islay for any prolonged period of time without getting your feet soaking wet.
 
 
While we were blundering through the fields we
finally had a chance to catch up with fellow malt
maniac Luc Timmermans who had just arrived on
the island together with some Belgian friends from
the 'Lindores' whisky club. It wasn't a very long
walk and we reached Laphroaig's water source
within 15 minutes. Given the temperature that
approached tropical levels we didn't really mind.

As soon as the 'official' proceedings were over
(drinking some 'Laphroaig water directly from the
source and a Laphroaig 15yo OB they brought up)
the maniacs selected a vantage point and shared
a Laphroaig 10yo 'Unblended' (43%, OB) that
was bottled in the late 1970's. Excellent! It was
clearly a Laphroaig in the nose, but milder than
the current 10yo's with a whiff of honey. On the
palate I found mostly fruit and peat, with a touch
of bitterness in the finish. My score: 90 points.
All other maniacs had it in the 90's as well.

Oh boy, oh boy, another highlight of Feis Ile 2005!

We would have loved to hang around a little longer to soak up the view some more, but we were expected at Ardbeg for a lunch and blind tasting organised by Gordon Homer of 'Spirit of Islay'. So, we strutted downhill at a brisk pace and jumped in the ManiacMobile for a quick drive to Ardbeg - just a few miles further along the coast. There, we enjoyed a very enjoyable lunch at the distillery restaurant - one of the better 'culinary' venues on the island, as far as I could tell.

Most of the attendees were PLOWED folk, but the maniacs were invited as well.
Even before everybody's food had arrived Gordon served us our first - very generous - dram.
I found lots and lots of peat in the nose, along with smoke and some meaty notes (salami?).
This was definitely a straight shooter in the nose - and almost certainly from a 'Kildalton' distillery.
On the palate it started off quite sharp. Later on I found mostly liquorice and rubber. Very nice.
It started out with a sccore of 88 points but gradually krept upwards until it reached the 90's.
Score: 90 points - Guesses: 1) Laphroaig, 2) Ardbeg, 3) Lagavulin.
It was: Ardbeg 26yo 1974/2001 (50%, DL OMC, Distilled 09/1974, Bottled 02/2001, 252 Btl.).
My unphased response: Well, 'old school' Ardbegs from the early 70's are often a bit 'Phroaigish...

We proceeded to a tasting room upstairs where Gordon poured us our second (generous) dram.
As soon as I put my nose in the glass it was obvious that this was a malt from another calibre.
The nose was heavy, sweet and farmy. It showed petrol, oil, sherry, marsala, honey, liquorice root.
It was extremely sweet on the palate as well. Fruity. Toffee. Molasses. Herbal. Even a tad perfumy?
Based on the wonderful nose I had it at 86 points at first, but the palate dragged the score down.
Score: 83 points - Guesses: 1) Bowmore, 2) Bunnahabhain, 3) Bruichladdich.
It was: Bunnahabhain 6yo 1997/2003 (59.4%, SMSW 10.56, April 1997, October 2003).
My embarrassed response: Oops - I guess the lack of peat should have tipped me off.
Even more embarrassing: I gave it 86 points when I tried a sample from Serge earlier.
I guess the smaller glasses at Ardbeg really highlight other aspects of some malts.

I wrote down my first guess for blind #3 within three seconds: Ardbeg.
The nose sort of reminded me of the 'Uigedail' - a 'narrow' profile with peat and organics.
A little bit 'sombre', yet light and transparent at the same time. A malt that contradicts itself.
The taste was very peaty and, again, 'sombre'. Peat, peat, peat. A straight shooter.
Score: 89 points - Guesses: 1) Ardbeg, 2) Laphroaig, 3) Lagavulin.
It was: Ardbeg 10yo 1994/2004 (59.1%, SMWS 33.54, May 1994, October 2004).
My confident response: Right! This was a relatively easy one, I guess.

After a little break with some local cheeses (good call, Gordon!) we proceeded with blind #4.
The nose immediately gave away that we had another peaty one on our hands. Quite light, though.
The profile of number 4 was extremely 'narrow' and there's actually little going on besides the peat.
The taste was peaty and bitter. Hot, hot, hot. It grows positively astringent towards the finish.
At first I was thinking of rating it below average (74), but it managed to creep a little higher.
Score: 77 points - Guesses: 1) Caol Ila, 2) Laphroaig, 3) Lagavulin.
It was: Laphroaig 10yo 1991/2002 (58.8%, SMSW 29.24, October 1991, January 2002)
My baffled response: Hmmm... I wonder why they selected this for a single cask bottling.

Our fifth blind was yet again a peat monster in the nose - softened up a bit by organics.
It was salty and peaty on the palate, but after four generous c/s Islay malts things became blurry.
Score: 85 points - Guesses: 1) Caol Ila, 2) Ardbeg, 3) Laphroaig.
It was: Caol Ila 7yo 1993/2000 (62.1%, SMWS 53.50, October 1993, October 2000).
My relieved response: Phew! I'm glad I could chalk up one more correctly identified malt.
A lucky shot; I have to admit that by now it was becoming hard to concentrate.

Gordon had set up six blinds, but after dram #5 the maniacs had to excuse themselves.
We had to meet Luc and the Lindores gang again at Laphroaig. But before we left somebody (I think it may have been one of the PLOWED people) handed me a glass with some divine nectar that turned out to be the 'dram of the day'. And not just that, as I'm transcribing the scribbles in my little black book I've also found out that this was my 1100th dram as well. I'm talking about the Ardbeg 30yo 1967 (50.3%, 100.6 Proof, Signatory Vintage), a magnificent 'antique' sherry monster that came in at a whopping 93 points and left me completely stunned.
So stunned that I completely forgot to make any tasting notes...

At Laphroaig we missed our rendez-vous with Luc, so
we decided to visit the nearby 'Kildalton Cross' instead.
We parked the ManiacMobile and enjoyed the peace and
quiet at the beautiful cemetery for a few minutes, until a
few carloads of PLOWEDsters arrived at the crime scene.
As you may have gathered from earlier hints in my report,
these PLOWED folks are anything but a demure bunch of
anoraks like us maniacs. So much for peace and quiet ;-)
 
In the picture, from left to right we have in the top row
the malt maniacs Olivier, Serge and Davin, followed by
PLOWEDsters Rodger Howard (aliasless), Alan Robinson
(alias Port Alan) and his wife Gail. In the bottom row we
have yours truly, Tom Borschel (alias Uisgetom) and last
but not least Frank Christ (alias FX). Nomen Est Omen;
if I'm not mistaken there's a picture circulating of Frank,
ceremoniously pinned to the Kildalton cross.

Md...

Not in the picture - but just as mad - are our very own
double agent Peter Silver (alias Dr. B. L. Zeebub), Todd
(alias 'Just Todd'), Jay Stotzky (alias Mr. Maltster), Tim
Bachelder (alias Dr. Entropy) and his lovely lady Mercer
(alias Sister Haggis), Dave Russo (alias Loco Barley) and
Lavinia Turnbull (alias Livvy). I'm not sure if Gordon Homer,
his wife Mel, Keith and his wife Ali are full fledged PLOWED
members, but they certainly are like-minded spirits...
Thanks, PLOWED people, just for being on Islay!

We were quite content to just 'shoot the breeze' with the PLOWEDsters for a while.
The weather was still quite glorious and we wanted to make the most of it while it lasted.
However, eventually Davin and I became restless: we had a fresh bag of obscure 5cl miniatures in the back of the ManiacMobile and we didn't want Serge and Olivier (who, strangely enough, prefer nice malts over obscure ones) to avoid their duty to the matrix. We said goodbye to the PLOWED guys (but arranged to meet again on Thursday evening) and set out north on an increasingly narrow track. We had to stop every hundred meters to wait for snooty cows and sheep or to admire the local wildlife; on this short trip of maybe fifteen minutes we spotted deer, grouse, pheasant and seal.

When we arrived at Claggain Bay we were greeted by a spectacular view.
The boulders along the beach looked quite comfortable, so we wasted little time, each picked a boulder and unpacked the bag with 'historical' 5cl miniatures. We didn't expect to find many hidden gems in this lot, but these malts were mostly produced at distilleries that needed some 'fleshing out' on the matrix. Take Tormore, for example - at the moment we have just three versions on the matrix. Well, the Tormore-Glenlivet NAS (NAP, OB, Bottled 1980's) makes four. It was sweetish and a little malty in the nose, altogether a little nondescript. Surprisingly enough, it packs quite a punch - the alcohol percentage isn't specified, but this could well be over 40%. My score of 74 points means it performed just below average. More or less the same was true for the Cardhu 12yo (86 Proof, OB, Ivory Label, 100% Unblended Pot Still Scotch Whisky, New York Import). The nose was light and a little grainy. Maybe some faint honey notes? On the palate it started quite sharp, mellowing out in the centre and becoming quite bitter in the finish. My score of 72 points puts me in the same camp as Davin (73) but Serge (80) and Olivier (78) liked it better. Both Davin and I scored a more recent bottling from the 1990's in the lower 70's as well. The downward spiral continued with the Tullibardine 10yo (40%, OB, Silver & bronze label) that was bottled in the 1980's - aproximately. The nose was grassy and sherried with perhaps a hint of oil. Not unpleasant at all, but as soon as I took my first sip an awful soapy taste spread through my mouth. Yuck! This pulls a malt with enough potential in the nose to reach the 80's down to a measly 65 points - very questionable. It may have some silver and bronze on the label, but it would never win a bronze or silver medal at the MM Awards, that much is certain...

By now Serge and Olivier were starting to become a bit bored, so Davin and I tried to steer the tasting towards safer ground with the Caol Ila 1981/1996 (40%, Connoisseurs Choice, Old Map Label). To me the nose seemed spicy and a little oily. Washback. Grainy and malty later on. It appeared peaty and a tad grassy on the palate with hints of beer. The overall combination didn't really worke for me, hence the score of 70 points - but I should add that Serge, Olivier and Davin all put it at 79. We were even more divided on the Glen Keith 21yo 1973 (50.9%, James McArthur). The nose started out quite 'coastal' but it mecame more restrained over time. Some perfumy notes that didn't agree with mee. At first I thought I found some peat on the palate, but it was gradually replaced by bitter and soapy elements. Quite dry. The three other maniacs had it in the mid-80's but I felt I couldn't go higher than 78 points for this puppy; above average.

Did I mention that the boulders on the beach looked quite comfortable?
Well they did - but they weren't really. After dramming 'in the wild' for almost an hour the boulders started to feel like their rock-hard selves and our discomfort increased when some loud Germans arrived on the beach as well. It seems that the group behaviour of Germans abroad is the same everywhere... Anyway, that was our queue to wrap things up with two Glendullans. The Glendullan 25yo 1965/1990 (50.1%, Cadenhead's, Black Label) was a very pleasant surprise. I found sherry, mocca, spices and mustard in the nose. And cow shit - which in this case isn't a bad thing. It was sweet and sherried on the palate with some herbal overtones; 84 points for me and scores in the upper 80's from the other maniacs. A hard act to follow for the Glendullan 1981/1998 (58.7%, Scott's Selection). I found the nose sweetish with very faint organics. A little harsh, which isn't surprising when you look at the proof. It was very 'alcoholic' on the palate as well and when I detected soap my score immediately dropped to 60 points - and stayed there until my glass was empty.

That was the end of our tasting at Claggain Bay, but I feel I should add something.
I usually am a little stricter in my scores than Serge and Olivier, but this time the differences in scores were much more pronounced than usual. Maybe the tiny nosing glasses played a role, maybe my nose was burnt out by the cask strength malts at Ardbeg or maybe I just wasn't very good at speed-dramming at five minutes per malt. And then again, maybe the fact that I was starting to suffer from sleep deprivation played a role. That's why I decided to turn in early in the evening while the other maniacs went out to feed on lobster and other culinary treasures from the area.
I slept sound until morning in the knowledge that I had passed the 1100 malts mark.
 

Dram Diary for Tuesday May 31;

89 - Ardbeg 10yo 1994/2004 (59.1%, SMWS 33.54, May 1994, October 2004)
90 - Ardbeg 26yo 1974/2001 (50%, DL OMC, Distilled September 1974, Bottled February 2001, 252 Btl.)
93 - Ardbeg 30yo 1967 (50.3%, 100.6 Proof, Signatory Vintage)
83 - Bunnahabhain 6yo 1997/2003 (59.4%, SMSW 10.56, April 1997, October 2003)
85 - Caol Ila 7yo 1993/2000 (62.1%, SMWS 53.50, October 1993, October 2000)
70 - Caol Ila 1981/1996 (40%, Connoisseurs Choice, Old Map Label)
72 - Cardhu 12yo (86 Proof, OB, Ivory Label, 100% Unblended Pot Still Scotch Whisky, New York Import)
90 - Laphroaig 10yo 'Unblended' (43%, OB, Bottled Late 1970's)
77 - Laphroaig 10yo 1991/2002 (58.8%, SMSW 29.24, October 1991, January 2002)
60 - Glendullan 1981/1998 (58.7%, Scott's Selection)
84 - Glendullan 25yo 1965/1990 (50.1%, Cadenhead's, Black Label)
78 - Glen Keith 21yo 1973 (50.9%, James McArthur)
74 - Tormore-Glenlivet NAS (NAP, OB, Bottled 1980's)
65 - Tullibardine 10yo (40%, OB, Silver & Bronze label, Bottled 1980's)

With 13 new single malts (and a new score for the Bunny) my malt mileage is now 1106.
Dram of the Day: The Ardbeg 30yo 1967 (50.3%, 100.6 Proof, Signatory Vintage), of course.
What a beauty!!! An oddity too - it's one of the few bottles I've seen with an ABV in both 'proof' and 'percentage'.
 

Wednesday, June 1 - Feis Ile (Day 5)

Finaly, June had decided to come to Islay.
Unfortunately, she brought bad weather with her.
The contrast with the last few glorious and sunny
days was quite astonishing. What's more, today
was Bowmore's open day, but we never received
a response to our attempts to book a tour there.

To tell you the truth, I wasn't all that eager to
visit Bowmore - as you can read in Davin's report
about Feis Ile 2004 the tour at Bowmore was the
weakest of the trip and I'm no big fan anyway.
The others felt more or less the same, so we
found ourselves with some time on our hands.
A session on the beach was out of the question
in this weather, so we decided to stay indoors
while we would attack some of the remaining
'obscure' samples that we had lined up in the
kitchen. I'm guessing that at this point there
were still +/- 150 untried samples left 'to do'.

Olivier had just managed to get a nice fire going when Serge's mobile phone rang.
It was fellow malt maniac Charlie MacLean who had finally made it to the island as well.
And he had brought with him a box with samples from eight casks of Balvenie from 1973 he had picked up earlier at the distillery. The unique thing about these casks is that they are privately owned - something quite unique when it comes to the product of Balvenie and Glenfiddich. The current owner of the casks isn't really familiar with the whisky world and didn't quite know what to do with these eight barrels that found their way into her posession. So, she contacted the malt maniacs and asked us what to do. Well, you can imagine our response: let us have a try! Balvenies from the period are usually excellent malts and if the whisky turned out to be up to specifications it would be excellent to have a try before they are bottled - either by W. Grant & Sons if they buy the casks back or by an independent bottler that manages to get his hands on one or more of these casks. But I'm afraid you'll have to wait a little longer for all the details...

I'd love to give you all the sordid details of our special Balvenie session at Kilchoman but by now I'm quickly starting to run out of space on this page. The software I use to maintain MM doesn't support pages 'higher' than 30,000 pixels (the equivalent of hitting 'page down' around 50 times) and as you may have noticed while scrolling down this page the bottom of the page is coming closer and closer. Our 'maniacal' report will stretch across several pages, but I'll need to fit this personal report on one page. So, the rest of this report will just list the malts I seriously sampled and scored during this trip. The full details will be published in Malt Maniavs in a few weeks time.

Just to sum up our activities for July 1; we sampled a dozen Balvenies at Kilchoman after receiving a tour of the distillery before it was even officially opened, we visited the ruins and graveyards of Kilchoman church and hiked across the fields to the beach so Olivier could play with his frisbee. And oh yeah... we tasted some more malts too. In fact, on the 8th day of my trip I sampled a grand total of 17 new single malts and I'm not even counting the Balvenie cask samples!
That puts my malt mileage after eight days in Scotland at 1123 single malt whiskies.

Dram of the Day: Well, I'd have to go for the Balvenie 32yo 1968/2000 Vintage Cask (50.8%, OB, Cask #7294, 180 Bottles), even though the Highland Park NAS (70 Proof, G&M Licensed Bottling, Saint Patrick Label) received the same score. I guess finding a truly exceptional cask of Balvenie is slightly more 'special' than would be the case with for example Brora, Macallan or Highland Park...
 

Dram Diary for Wednesday June 1;

71 - Balvenie 8yo (70 proof, OB, Gold on black label, Bottled early 70's)
77 - Balvenie 10yo 'Founder's Reserve' (40%, OB, Cognac Bottle, Bottled 1980's)
85 - Balvenie 30yo 1970/2001 Vintage Cask (44.6%, OB, Cask #12524, 320 Bottles)
91 - Balvenie 32yo 1968/2000 Vintage Cask (50.8%, OB, Cask #7294, 180 Bottles)
78 - Bruichladdich 19yo WMD 1984/2003 (46%, OB, 440b.)
78 - Bunnahabhain 12yo Port Finish (53.3%, OB, 766 Bottles)
91 - Highland Park NAS (70 Proof, G&M Licensed Bottling, Saint Patrick Label)
87 - Highland Park 12yo (40%, OB, Clear Plastic Bottle; Late 1970's or Early 1980's)
78 - Highland Park 12yo (40%, OB, Ornamental First Letter, for UK, 70 Proof)
83 - Port Ellen 18yo 1981/1999 (40%, G&M)
88 - Port Ellen 20yo 1982/2003 (61.2%, SSMC, 'Dark Sherry')
86 - Port Ellen 21yo 1979/2001 (50%, DL OMC, 618 Bottles, Sherry Cask)
81 - Port Ellen 21yo 1979/2001 (50%, DL OMC, 636 Bottles)
78 - Talisker NAS (70 Proof, G&M, Red on Black Label, Bottled 1970's)
84 - Talisker NAS (100 Proof, G&M, Red on Black Label, Bottled 1970's)
87 - Talisker 8yo (45.8, OB, Johnnie Walker Label, Bottled 1970's)
85 - Talisker 10yo (45.8%, OB, Bottled +/- 2005)
 

Thursday, June 2 - Feis Ile (Day 6)

Today was the open day at Jura distillery, located
on the island of the same name just east of Islay.
Unfortunately, the weather was even shittier than
yesterday, so the maniacs that were endowed with
relatively weak stomachs didn't really look forward to
a ferry crossing today. So, we looked at alternatives.

Serge, Olivier and Davin decided to visit the brewery
on Islay while I stayed inside to catch up on some
sampling - I sometimes simply couldn't keep up with
these three powerdrammers, so there were plenty
of forgotten samples left for me to try.

I should have known better...
Without my wisdom and guidance, the other guys are
obviously lost and out of control, so pretty soon they
managed to drive our trusted 'Drambulance' into a
ditch on their way to the brewery. Oh, those maniacs!
Fortunately, they managed to contact Mark Reynier
who in turn directed a local farmer with a tractor to
the crime scene to pull the maniacs out of trouble.

I'm happy to report that the ManiacMobile was none the worse for wear - quite unlike the Ford Mondeo that didn't survive the maniacal trip to Speyside in 2003, I should add. After the other maniacs had returned to our home base and I had properly scolded them we stoked up the fireplace and did some dramming - before we headed to the Croft kitchen for dinner and some dramming (including the 'Habemus Cerevisiam Destillatum' NAS from the Regensburger Whisky Club I mentioned at the beginning of this report, our 10,000th score) and then on to PLOWED HQ for some more dramming. The briefness of this report doesn't reflect the greatness of the day!
Much, much more details will be published in Malt Maniacs shortly.

At the end of the day, I had sampled 23 new single malts; bringing my malt mileage up to 1146!
Dram of the Day: Interestingly enough, I can't count the 'Habemus Cerevisiam Destillatum' NAS (50%, Regensburger Whisky Club) for my Track Record because it's a 'bastard' malt. That means the Highland Park 1980/2004 (58%, OB for Park Avenue Liquors New York, C#7366, 75cl) earns the title of 'daily dram' this time. But the 'Black' Bowmore 1964/1993 (50%, OB) came pretty close as well. Yes people - there ARE some magnificent Bowmores around...
Anyway, here's my 'dram diary' for our sixth day on Islay;
 

Dram Diary for Thursday June 2;

84 - Benriach 10yo 1994/2005 (46%, Signatory Vintage Unchillfiltered, C#2026, 402 Bottles)
70 - Bowmore 15yo (40%, OB for Glasgow Garden Festival)
93 - Bowmore 'Black 1964/1993' (50%, OB)
85 - Bruichladdich 30yo 1970 'The Great Whisky Swindle' (52%, MWBH, 161 bottles)
73 - Caperdonich 1968 (40%, Connoisseurs Choice, Old Brown Label)
65 - Caperdonich 1968 (40%, Connoisseurs Choice, Old Map Label)
71 - Dufftown-Glenlivet NAS (70 Proof, OB, Black & Red Label, Bottled Late 1970's)
73 - Dufftown-Glenlivet 8yo (70 Proof, 40%, OB, Black & Red Label, Bottled Early 1980's)
87 - Glenburgie 1948-1961/1981 'Special Vatting' (40%, Gordon & MacPhail)
90 - Glenlivet 29yo 1963/1992 (52.8%, Signatory Vintage, Cask#s 269-270)
80 - Glenlochy 24yo 1980 (58.6%, SMWS, 6.211)
71 - Glenlossie 10yo 1993/2004 (46%, MmcD, MM0415, Bourbon Cask)
77 - Glen Ord 12yo (43%, OB, Square Bottle, Bottled +/- 2004)
88 - Glenury Royal 23yo 1971 (61.3%, UDRM)
82 - Highland Park NAS 'Capella' (40%, OB, UK Only, 5400 Bottles)
90 - Highland Park 1974/1998 'Online Tasting' (52.6%, OB, 228 Bottles)
93 - Highland Park 1980/2004 (58%, OB for Park Avenue Liquors New York, C#7366, 75cl)
85 - Highland Park 26yo (54.6%, Adelphi, C#3900)
88 - Linkwood 19yo 1985/2005 (60.6%, Dewar Rattray, C#4543, 233 Bottles, Bourbon Cask)
45 - Millburn 1974/1998 (40%, G&M Connoisseurs Choice)
63 - Millburn 1971/???? (40%, G&M Connoisseurs Choice, IE/F)
89 - Port Ellen 21yo 1982/2004 (50%, DL OMC for The Islay Whisky Shop, DLREF 477, 182 Bottles)
85 - Royal Brackla 27yo 1975/2003 (46%, MmcD Mission II)
 

Friday, June 3 - Feis Ile (Day 7)

Oh boy, our last 'full' day on Islay has arrived.
Much too soon for my tastes - it seems time
does indeed fly when you're having fun. The
weather started to clear up a bit while we
frantically raced across the island to catch as
much of the Feis Ile spirit as we could.

First, it was off to Kilchoman for the official
opening performed by our very own Charlie
MacLean. Next, we crossed the entire island
just to enjoy the famous 'Bunnie Burgers' and
a pretty good distillery tour - at Bunnahabhain.
 
Did you know that Bunny has the largest
potential output of all Islay distilleries? Caol Ila
does produce more spirit these days, but it
seems Bunnahabhain could make more whisky
than Caol Ila if they tried. That was news to me.
 
Anyway, more about the opening of Kilchoman,
the tour at Bunnahabhain and our last sampling
sessions of Feis Ile 2005 in Malt Maniacs #15.

Here, I'll have to limit myself to my dram diary.
After a week of heavy duty dramming I was quite content with 'just' 14 new malts today.
That brings the total number of malts on my Track Record to well over 1050 single malt whiskies.
Dram of the Day: The Mortlach 50yo 1936/1986 (40%, Gordon & MacPhail) of course, what do you think? Serge brought a set of three 50yo Mortlachs for the occasion - just one of the many, many highlights of the Feis Ile 2005 trip...
 

Dram Diary for Friday June 3;

81 - Balblair NAS (70 Proof, Gordon & MacPhail, Bottled 1970's)
70 - Balblair 10yo (40%, Gordon & MacPhail, Bottled 1980's)
64 - Dailuaine 1971 (40%, G&M Connoisseurs Choice, Old Map Label) - updated score
60 - Dailuaine 14yo 1979 'Friars Carse' (59.7%, Arthur Bell / TWC Robert Burns Collection, C#8965)
81 - Dallas Dhu 1969 (40%, G&M Connoisseurs Choice, Old Brown Label)
50 - Glencraig 1968 (40%, G&M Connoisseurs Choice, Old Map Label)
84 - Glen Grant 1948-1961/1981 'Royal Marriage', (40%, Gordon & MacPhail)
20 - Glen Mhor 15yo (40%, Gordon & MacPhail, IG/DGE)
66 - Glen Mhor 8yo (40%, Gordon & MacPhail, IE/AAF)
91 - Mortlach 50yo 1936/1986 (40%, Gordon & MacPhail)
89 - Mortlach 50yo 1938/1988 (40%, Gordon & MacPhail)
89 - Mortlach 50yo 1939/1989 (40%, Gordon & MacPhail)
87 - Mortlach 22yo (45.8%, 80 Proof, Cadenhead's, Bottled 1970's)
78 - Speyburn Glenlivet 15yo 1975/1991 (60.1%, Cadenhead's, Black Label)
60 - Speyburn 12yo (63.1%, James McArthur, C# 3337, Bottled September 1992)
 

Saturday, June 4 - The Aftermath

4:45 AM - Back to life, back to reality...
We had to get up at this unholy hour to make it to the ferry in
Port Askaig on time. Well, we did - and the ferry left for the real
world at 7:00 AM sharp. One the boat we ran into Charlie again.
This presented us with the opportunity for yet another maniacal
sampling session 'on the high seas', but this time it was just too
early in the day for dramming - even for us maniacs.

After we arrived on the mainland we said our goodbyes to Charlie
and pointed our trusted ManiacMobile in the direction of Glasgow.
It's hard to quit the good Islay life 'cold turkey', so we dropped
by Inverary on the way home to feast our eyes on the whiskies
at Loch Fyne whiskies (I saw a hilarious 'Inebriated Newt' label)
and have some oysters (in Serge's case a dozen - and he seemed
more than ready for a second helping) at the nearby oyster bar.

Next, it was time to remove our 'sport striping' of the ManiacMobile and head for Glasgow.
Needless to say, we wanted to deliver the ManiacMobile in tip top shape to the friendly people at Arnold Clarke's rental agency, but it took us at least half an hour of brushing in the pouring rain (I had to sacrifice my toothbrush for the job) before the last signs of malt mania had been removed from the van. Next, Serge and Olivier dropped off Davin and me in a gloomy city centre and proceeded to the airport to fly back to France. The flights of Davin and myself wouldn't leave until early the next morning, which gave us the opportunity to have one last dramming session in Scotland.

After the 'traditional' meal of fish and chips Davin and I retreated to our hotel for a last session.
Like I said, we didn't get to try half of all the samples we brought to Islay with us, so we had plenty of samples to choose from. One sample that had caught my eye on several occasions was the Aberlour 'Over 9yo' (70 Proof, OB, Square Bottle, Bottled 1970's). It looked quite similar to the fantabulous 'Over 8yo' expression that Luc poured me in Antwerp last year, so I was eager to try it. The nose was light but rich. Malty and a little spicy. Some clay emerges over time. Not bad, but nowhere near the sherried perfection of the 8yo. It was woody and quite bitter on the palate - no sweetness whatsoever. This dragged the score down to 72 points - quite a contrast with my 94 points for the 8yo expression from the same era. Davin wasn't overly impressed either with a score of 73 points. A bit of a disappointment here...

We proceeded with a Glenturret 10yo (40%, OB, Bottled +/- 2005) that we hadn't been able to force upon Serge and Olivier while on Islay. I found lemon, oil and fish in the nose, which was quite sweet. It started smooth on the palate but grew quite gritty and dry over time. Some wood and spices. With 70 points it's precariously close to a 'questionable' status. Davin more or less agreed with 72 points. That means we still haven't found a Glenturret OB yet we could recommend to anybody. Still, we were happy with the chance to try it - so far we only have three expressions on the matrix. Blair Athol is another relatively 'obscure' distillery, so the Blair Athol 'Over 8yo' (70 Proof, Bells OB, Black Label, Bottled Early 1980's) was next. The nose was rich and fruity. Lemon? Developing spices. Organics. A faint hint of peat. Sadly, it drops dead after a minute. It felt a tad gritty on the palate with maybe a faint trace of peat. Quite potent with gentle tannins and a dry finish. Quite a step up from the previous two, hence my score of 79 points for this one. Davin went with 78 points. We continued our upwards spiral with the Blair Athol 18yo 1977 (50.4%, James McArthur). The nose was light, sweet and spicy. Mocca. It opens up further over time, developing some herbal and oily notes. It had a spicy bite on the palate and feels quite 'hot' at 50%. Woody and chewy (tannins) with some liquorice - I love that. Maybe just a tad dry and bitter in the finish. I think that a score of 82 points is just right, but Davin opted for 81 instead. A recommendable dram.

Time to see if we could find anything even better in our bags.
Yes we could: the Caperdonich 30yo 1972/2003 (50.1%, Hart Brothers Finest Collection, 11/72, 05/03).
The nose was quite unique with wassabi and vinegar. Next, organics join the party - and the wassabi impression I got earlier now automatically leads me to soy sauce - Kikkoman? Later on I got lemon as well, before it sweetens out. Nice! With a palate to match the nose it might have made the 90's, but to me it didn't entirely live up to my expectations. It started off quite dry, grew sweeter in the centre and then turned a little bit dry again in the finish. I went with 88 points but Davin liked it a little better and put it at 90 points exactly. Well, we can agree this is a very fine dram indeed.

Where to go from here?
Well, since I had only tried five expressions of Tomatin before I selfishly suggested we'd open the Tomatin I 'accidentally' pulled from the bag and Davin agreed. Well, the Tomatin 1968 (40%, G&M Connoisseurs Choice, Old Map Label) wasn't the best of choices, I'm afraid. The nose was pleasant enough - big, sweet and sherried with a hint of tea - but it showed no development whatsoever. I could have lived with that if the taste hadn't been flat, MOTR and undefined. Quite bitter with perhaps a very faint hint of smoke. The nose kept it at 71 points for me - Davin was more impressed with 78 points. We proceeded with a stiff dram of the Dufftown-Glenlivet 'Over 8yo' (80 Proof, Bells OB, Black Label). The nose was creamy and well rounded. Coffee? A little sellery. Smoke. Nice, but not very expressive. It seemed quite 'veggy' on the palate. A little bitter, but not unpleasantly so. Some wood and tannins, drying out towards the finish.
My score: 76 points - Davin went for 75 points.

By now we were on our last legs - a week and a half of dramming (not to mention the shell shock of moving from Islay with its 3000 Ileachs to a busy, bustling city like Glasgow) started to take its toll. 11:30 PM - time for just two more drams before we had to call it a night; we both had to be on the airport early in the morning to fly back to our normal lives.

The Rosebank 8yo 'Unblended Single Malt' (40%, OB, The Distillers Agency, Bottled 1980's) wasn't a bad choice at all. The nose started creamy with a hint of peat in the background. Later some farmy notes emerge, followed more organics, fudge and maybe even a hint of oil. On the palate it felt quite potent at just 40% - sweet and solid. Scores: 82 points from the both of us. Which brings me to our final dram in Scotland; the Royal Brackla NAS 1983 (57.5%, The Whisky Connoisseur). An excellent choice, because the nose had an unexpected surprise for us: peat! And lots of it. That's really odd - I didn't know they produced peat monsters at Royal Brackla. The nose was very, very nice; meaty and salty with organics and some smoke. It was very 'phenolic' on the palate as well - especially in the start. Not quite as well crafted as the nose, but still very pleasant. I went with 86 points - Davin was slightly less impressed with his 83 points. The profile was so different from what we had expected that we wondered if this could be a mislabeled - or even fake? - bottling.

We may never know - so we didn't spend a lot of time pondering the question.
Instead, we called it a night - utterly satisfied at the end of our 'Scotland 2005' tour.
Davin would have been even more satisfied if he had known at the time that the Caperdonich 30yo 1972/2003 (50.1%, Hart Brothers) he had tried so hard to let us taste on Islay eventually turned out to be his 1000th dram. That means that Davin earned his promotion to 'Malt Master' on Scottish soil without even realising it!
What a great 'finale' of our last day of dramming together.

It would seem that's 'only' 9 drams after our last session in Scotland this year.
And that brings the 'grand total' of Scotch single malts on my Track Record to 1169.
From the 170 new malts I tried since I hit #1000 by the end of last year, more than 80% was sampled during this trip. It wasn't that long ago that I was proud to have sampled 52 new malts in a year - now I've sampled three times as much within just two weeks. It seems that you can stuff three years of dramming at a 'beginners' level into one 'Feis Ile' trip!

Last 'Dram of the Day': The Caperdonich 30yo 1972/2003 (50.1%, Hart Brothers, 11/72, 05/03) that Davin had been peddling to us all week. For some reason we opted for other malts eacht time, and now it turned out to be his 1000th single malt. I'm very glad I got the chance to sample it with Davin after all, before I had to return to Amsterdam.
 

Dram Diary for Saturday June 4;

72 - Aberlour 'Over 9yo' (70 Proof, OB, Square Bottle, Bottled 1970's)
79 - Blair Athol 'Over 8yo' (70 Proof, Bells OB, Black Label, Bottled Early 1980's)
82 - Blair Athol 18yo 1977 (50.4%, James McArthur)
88 - Caperdonich 30yo 1972/2003 (50.1%, Hart Brothers Finest Collection, 11/72, 05/03)
76 - Dufftown-Glenlivet 'Over 8yo' (80 Proof, Bells OB, Black Label)
70 - Glenturret 10yo (40%, OB, Bottled +/- 2005)
82 - Rosebank 8yo 'Unblended Single Malt' (40%, OB, The Distillers Agency, Bottled 1980's)
86 - Royal Brackla 1983 (57.5%, The Whisky Connoisseur)
71 - Tomatin 1968 (40%, G&M Connoisseurs Choice, Old Map Label)

- - -

And that's where my 'personal' Feis Ile 2005 report has to end, I'm afraid.
On this page there's room for my 'dram diary' for this trip (138 entries), but that's it.
Over the next few weeks much more tall tales and pretty pictures will be published in MM#15.
Meanwhile, you can already find some other highlights (as well as some pictures) in the Vacation Special (our 'live' report) that's still on-line and the Islay 2005 Picture Book that Serge has set up afterwards on Whiskyfun.

And that's, as they say, 'it' for now.
Much more to follow in the next few weeks...

Sweet drams,

Johannes
 

Later Liquid Log entriesEarlier Liquid Log entries

DRAM DIARY - JUNE/JULY 2005
(The Latest Additions to my Track Record)
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

My Track Record is usually updated once a month with my latest scores.
The latest update was on May 23, 2005 - there were exactly 1032 single malts on the list.
Since then, I've sampled and scored the following Scotch single malt whiskies;

80 - Aberfeldy 1974 (40%, G&M Connoisseurs Choice, Old Map Label, IB/HC)
72 - Aberlour 'Over 9yo' (70 Proof, OB, Square Bottle, Bottled 1970's)
89 - Ardbeg 10yo 1994/2004 (59.1%, SMWS 33.54, May 1994, October 2004)
90 - Ardbeg 26yo 1974/2001 (50%, DL OMC, Distilled September 1974, Bottled February 2001, 252 Btl.)
93 - Ardbeg 30yo 1967 (50.3%, 100.6 Proof, Signatory Vintage)
69 - Auchroisk 1975 (40%, OB, Singleton of Auchroisk)
81 - Balblair NAS (70 Proof, Gordon & MacPhail, Bottled 1970's)
70 - Balblair 10yo (40%, Gordon & MacPhail, Bottled 1980's)
71 - Balvenie 8yo (70 proof, OB, Gold on black label, Bottled early 70's)
77 - Balvenie 10yo 'Founder's Reserve' (40%, OB, Cognac Bottle, Bottled 1980's)
85 - Balvenie 30yo 1970/2001 Vintage Cask (44.6%, OB, Cask #12524, 320 Bottles)
91 - Balvenie 32yo 1968/2000 Vintage Cask (50.8%, OB, Cask #7294, 180 Bottles)
73 - Ben Nevis 11yo 1992/2003 (59.6%, Blackadder, Cask #687, Bourbon hogshead)
84 - Benriach 10yo 1994/2005 (46%, Signatory Vintage Unchillfiltered, C#2026, 402 Bottles)
79 - Benrinnes 1968 (40%, G&M Connoisseur's Choice, Old Brown Label)
79 - Blair Athol 'Over 8yo' (70 Proof, Bells OB, Black Label, Bottled Early 1980's)

82 - Blair Athol 18yo 1977 (50.4%, James McArthur)
70 - Bowmore 15yo (40%, OB for Glasgow Garden Festival)
93 - Bowmore 'Black 1964/1993' (50%, OB)
86 - (Royal) Brackla 1983 (57.5%, The Whisky Connoisseur)
85 - (Royal) Brackla 27yo 1975/2003 (46%, Muray McDavid Mission II)
89 - Brora 22yo 1981/2004 (60.8%, Peerless, Cask#1426, 251 Bottles)
90 - Brora 29yo 1971/2001 (50%, DL Old Malt Cask, June 1971 / April 2001, 258 Bottles)
71 - Bruichladdich NAS (75 Proof, OB, Cream label, Bottled 1970's, 1 2/3 fl. oz., F. Bucher & Co.)
79 - Bruichladdich NAS 3D 'The Peat Proposal' (46%, OB, Bottled 2004)
72 - The Bruichladdich 10yo (40%, OB, Red on Cream Label, Bottled early 1990's)
73 - Bruichladdich 10yo (46%, OB, Bottled +/- 2005)

81 - Bruichladdich 12yo 1991/2003 (58.7%, James McArthur)
83 - Bruichladdich 1986/2000 (56.6%, Scott's Selection)
87 - Bruichladdich 14yo 1989 (57.9%, G&M Cask Strength, C#1961))
86 - Bruichladdich 15yo 1986/2001 'Country Life' (46%, OB, cask #356)
78 - Bruichladdich 19yo WMD 1984/2003 (46%, OB, 440 Bottles)
84 - Bruichladdich 20yo 'Flirtation' (46%, OB, Second Edition, Bottled 2004)
85 - Bruichladdich 30yo 1970 'The Great Whisky Swindle' (52%, MWBH, 161 bottles)
89 - Bruichladdich 35yo 1968/2004 'Legacy III' (40.7%, OB)

83 - Bunnahabhain 6yo 1997/2003 (59.4%, SMSW 10.56, April 1997, October 2003)
78 - Bunnahabhain 12yo Port Finish (53.3%, OB, 766 Bottles)
85 - Caol Ila 7yo 1993/2000 (62.1%, SMWS 53.50, October 1993, October 2000)
79 - Caol Ila 1991/2002 'Flagon Collection' (43%, Signatory Vintage)
83 - Caol Ila 12yo (43%, OB, +/- 2005)
70 - Caol Ila 1981 (40%, Connoisseurs Choice, Old Map Label)
89 - Caol Ila 15yo 1969 (40%, Connoisseurs Choice, Old Map Label)
73 - Caperdonich 1968 (40%, Connoisseurs Choice, Old Brown Label)
65 - Caperdonich 1968 (40%, Connoisseurs Choice, Old Map Label)
88 - Caperdonich 30yo 1972/2003 (50.1%, Hart Brothers Finest Collection, 11/72, 05/03)
72 - Cardhu 12yo (86 Proof, OB, Ivory Label, 100% Unblended Pot Still Scotch Whisky, New York Import)
90 - Clynelish 13yo 1990 (59.3%, Blackadder Raw Cask, Cask#3593, Sherry Finish)
75 - Coleburn 30yo 1970/2000 (57%, Signatory Vintage, 13/1/70, 7/9/02, C#100, 302 Bottles)
75 - Craigellachie 1974 (40%, G&M Connoisseurs Choice)
64 - Dailuaine 1971 (40%, G&M Connoisseurs Choice, Old Map Label)
60 - Dailuaine 14yo 1979 'Friars Carse' (59.7%, Arthur Bell / TWC Robert Burns Collection, C#8965)

81 - Dallas Dhu 1969 (40%, G&M Connoisseurs Choice, Old Brown Label)
71 - Dufftown-Glenlivet NAS (70 Proof, OB, Black & Red Label, Bottled Late 1970's)
73 - Dufftown-Glenlivet 8yo (70 Proof, 40%, OB, Black & Red Label, Bottled Early 1980's)
76 - Dufftown-Glenlivet 'Over 8yo' (80 Proof, Bells OB, Black Label)
87 - Glenburgie 1948-1961/1981 'Special Vatting' (40%, Gordon & MacPhail)
50 - Glencraig 1968 (40%, G&M Connoisseurs Choice, Old Map Label)
60 - Glendullan 1981/1998 (58.7%, Scott's Selection)

84 - Glendullan 25yo 1965/1990 (50.1%, Cadenhead's, Black Label)
82 - Glengoyne 12yo Cask Strength (57.2%, OB, Bottled +/- 2005)
84 - Glengoyne 15yo Scottish Oak (43%, OB, Bottle #3007, Bottled +/- 2005)
88 - Glengoyne 31yo 1972/2004 (57.9%, OB, Cask #2968)
84 - Glen Grant 1948-1961/1981 'Royal Marriage', (40%, Gordon & MacPhail)
78 - Glen Keith 21yo 1973 (50.9%, James McArthur)
80 - Glenlivet 16yo Ndura (48%, OB, Bourbon, +/- 2005)
90 - Glenlivet 29yo 1963/1992 (52.8%, Signatory Vintage, Cask#s 269-270)
80 - Glenlochy 24yo 1980 (58.6%, SMWS, 6.211)
87 - Glenlochy 27yo 1974/2002 (53.3%, Signatory Vintage, 29/11/1974, 11/11/2002, C#4459)
71 - Glenlossie 10yo 1993/2004 (46%, MmcD, MM0415, Bourbon Cask)
80 - Glen Mhor 8yo (70 Proof, Gordon & MacPhail, Bottled 1970's)
83 - Glen Mhor 8yo (100 Proof, Gordon & MacPhail, Bottled 1970's)
66 - Glen Mhor 8yo (40%, Gordon & MacPhail, IE/AAF, Bottled 1990's)
20 - Glen Mhor 15yo (40%, Gordon & MacPhail, IG/DGE)
77 - Glen Ord 12yo (43%, OB, Square Bottle, Bottled +/- 2004)
71 - Glen Scotia 5yo (Unknown ABV, OB, Bottled 1970's)
73 - Glen Scotia 8yo (Unknown ABV, OB, Green Label, Bottled 1980's)
75 - Glen Spey-Glenlivet NAS (56.5%, Cadenhead's)
74 - Glen Spey 21yo 1970 (55.4%, James McArthur, 5cl)
70 - Glenturret 10yo (40%, OB, Bottled +/- 2005)
88 - Glenury Royal 23yo 1971 (61.3%, UDRM)
91 - Highland Park NAS (70 Proof, G&M Licensed Bottling, Saint Patrick Label)
82 - Highland Park NAS 'Capella' (40%, OB, UK Only, 5400 Bottles)
87 - Highland Park 12yo (40%, OB, Clear Plastic Bottle; Late 1970's or Early 1980's)
78 - Highland Park 12yo (40%, OB, Ornamental First Letter, for UK, 70 Proof)
90 - Highland Park 1974/1998 'Online Tasting' (52.6%, OB, 228 Bottles)
93 - Highland Park 1980/2004 (58%, OB for Park Avenue Liquors New York, C#7366, 75cl)
85 - Highland Park 26yo (54.6%, Adelphi, C#3900)
48 - Inchgower 12yo 'De Luxe' (70 Proof, OB, Bottled 1980's?)
88 - Kinclaith 26yo 1975 (52.3%, James McArthur)
91 - Lagavulin 12yo (43%, OB, Bottled Early 1980's)
88 - Lagavulin 1988 (56%, Samaroli, 324 Botles)
91 - Lagavulin 1979 Distillers Edition (43%, OB, No Neck Label, Taiwan)
90 - Laphroaig 10yo 'Unblended' (43%, OB, Bottled Late 1970's)
89 - Laphroaig 10yo Cask Strength Red Stripe (57,3%, OB, Bottled +/-2004)
77 - Laphroaig 10yo 1991/2002 (58.8%, SMSW 29.24, October 1991, January 2002)
86 - Laphroaig 15yo (43%, OB, Bottled +/- 2004)
86 - Ledaig 1972 (40%, G&M Connoisseurs Choice, Old Brown Label)
88 - Linkwood 19yo 1985/2005 (60.6%, Dewar Rattray, C#4543, 233 Bottles, Bourbon Cask)
90 - Longrow NAS 1973 (46%, OB, Small Caps Label)
83 - Longrow 8yo 1987/1995 (43%, Signatory Vintage, C# 136-138)
84 - Longrow 1973/1988 (50%, Samaroli Fragments of Scotland)
89 - Longrow 1987/2002 (50%, Samaroli, C# 115)
90 - Longrow 16yo 1974 (46%, OB)
85 - Macallan 10yo (70 Proof, G&M 'Official Label', 4cl, Bottled 1970's)
86 - Macallan 10yo Cask Strength (57.2%, OB, 1 Litre Bottle, Taiwan, Bottled +/- 2004)
88 - Macallan-Glenlivet 15yo (43%, G&M, Italian Import, Bottled 1970's)
45 - Millburn 1974/1998 (40%, G&M Connoisseurs Choice)
63 - Millburn 1971/???? (40%, G&M Connoisseurs Choice, IE/F)
87 - Mortlach 22yo (45.8%, 80 Proof, Cadenhead's, Bottled 1970's)
91 - Mortlach 50yo 1936/1986 (40%, Gordon & MacPhail)
89 - Mortlach 50yo 1938/1988 (40%, Gordon & MacPhail)
89 - Mortlach 50yo 1939/1989 (40%, Gordon & MacPhail)
76 - Oban 14yo (43%, OB, Bottled +/- 2005)
86 - Oban 20yo Natural Cask Strength (57.9%, OB, Bourbon Cask, 1260 Bottles, Bottled 2004)
90 - Oban 32yo 1969/2002 (55.1%, OB, from 13 European Casks matured on site, 6000 Bottles)
90 - Port Charlotte 2001/2004 (67.3%, Private Bottling, cask #286, 336 bottles)

83 - Port Ellen 18yo 1981/1999 (40%, G&M)
88 - Port Ellen 20yo 1982/2003 (61.2%, SSMC, 'Dark Sherry')
86 - Port Ellen 21yo 1979/2001 (50%, DL OMC, 618 Bottles, Sherry Cask)

81 - Port Ellen 21yo 1979/2001 (50%, DL OMC, 636 Bottles)
89 - Port Ellen 21yo 1982/2004 (50%, DL OMC for The Islay Whisky Shop, DLREF 477, 182 Bottles)
92 - Port Ellen 22yo 1982/2004 (61.1%, DL OMC for PLOWED Society, Cask #740, 240 Bottles)
82 - Rosebank 8yo 'Unblended Single Malt' (40%, OB, The Distillers Agency, Bottled 1980's)
60 - Speyburn 12yo (63.1%, James McArthur, C# 3337, Bottled September 1992)
78 - Speyburn Glenlivet 15yo 1975/1991 (60.1%, Cadenhead's, Black Label)
77 - Springbank NAS 'Private Bottling for Visitors 2005' (Unknown ABV, OB, Bottled 2005)
79 - Springbank 8yo 1995/2004 Springbank Society (56%, OB, 306 Bottles)

84 - Springbank 10yo 100 Proof (57%, OB, Bottled 2004)
75 - Springbank 12yo (46%, OB, Black Label, Clear bottle, 5cl)
74 - Springbank 15yo (46%, OB, Bottled +/- 2004)
71 - Springbank 25yo 1975 (46%, OB, C#1377, 157 Bottles, 'Frank McHardy 40 Years Jubilee')
89 - Springbank 35yo 1969/2004 (58.5%, Adelphi, Cask #149)
78 - Talisker NAS (70 Proof, G&M, Red on Black Label, Bottled 1970's)
84 - Talisker NAS (100 Proof, G&M, Red on Black Label, Bottled 1970's)
87 - Talisker 8yo (45.8, OB, Johnnie Walker Label, Bottled 1970's)
85 - Talisker 10yo (45.8%, OB, Bottled +/- 2005)
71 - Tomatin 1968 (40%, G&M Connoisseurs Choice, Old Map Label)
74 - Tormore-Glenlivet NAS (NAP, OB, Bottled 1980's)
65 - Tullibardine 10yo (40%, OB, Silver & Bronze label, Bottled 1980's)

Malt mileage after my '2005' trip to Scotland: 1163...
That means that I seriosuly sampled almost 150 new single malt whiskies within two weeks.
And I've made some excellent progress when it comes to my research of the more 'obscure' distilleries in Scotland. You may remember that I made a 'to do' list at the beginning of this year to help me complete my quest in an orderly fashion. I'm happy to report that I can now strike Benrinnes, Caperdonich, Dailuaine, Dufftown, Glen Mhor, Glenturret, Inchgower, Oban and Tomatin off my list. Eight distilleries 'down' within just two weeks - hurray! Furthermore, I've made some excellent progress with Auchroisk, Balblair, Blair Athol, (Royal) Brackla, Cardhu, Coleburn, Dallas Dhu, Glenburgie, Glencraig, Glendullan, Glen Keith, Glenlochy, Glenlossie, Glen Ord, Glen Spey, Glenury Royal, Kinclaith, Millburn, Speyburn, Tormore and Tullibardine.
 

StemapEarlier Liquid Log entriesEarlier Liquid Log entries

Laphroaig

Ah, Feis Ile - the festival of malts & music on Islay, that peaty paradise off the Scottisch coast.
Here's my report on my very first visit to the island - I cerainly hope it won't be my last.

25/05/2005 - 1st Prelude - Davin & I arrive in Glasgow and do some dramming.
26/05/2005 - 2nd Prelude - Davin & I visit Glengoyne before joining up with Serge and Olivier.
27/05/2005 - 3d Prelude - The fearsome foursome visits Oban (great) and Springbank (erm...).
28/05/2005 - Feis Ile Day 1 - A sampling 'on the high seas' and a fantastic visit of Lagavulin.
29/05/2005 - Feis Ile Day 2 - Open day at Bruichladdich, followed by dinner at Martine's house.
30/05/2005 - Feis Ile Day 3 - Samplings on various beaches, great dinner at Port Charlotte Hotel.
31/05/2005 - Feis Ile Day 4 - Tour of Laphroaig, hike to watersource, blind tasting at Ardbeg, ...
01/06/2005 - Feis Ile Day 5 - Tour of Kilchoman, Balvenie session, visit the ruins at Kilchoman, ...
02/06/2005 - Feis Ile Day 6 - Putting the 10,000th score on the monitor, visiting PLOWED HQ, ...
03/06/2005 - Feis Ile Day 7 - Opening of Kilchoman, open day at Bunnahabhan. And sampling...
04/06/2005 - Aftermath - The maniacs say goodbye to Islay for another year. But we'll be back!

Please note that Malt Maniacs #15 contains more detailed reports on Feis Ile 2005.
If you're into vacation pictures, check out the Islay 2005 Picture Book on WhiskyFun.

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Special Report: Log Entry #240

Lochnagar 12 years old whisky
Longmorn 16 years old whisky
Macallan 12 years old whisky
Miltonduff Scotch whisky
Oban 14 years old Scotch whisky
Scapa Scotch whisky