Ton Overmars whisky

60 - 01/11/2000 - MALTS & MEALS  -  What's wrong with eating and drinking?
61 - 15/11/2000 - Littlemill 8yo - Glencadam 1987/1997 - Aultmore 11yo 1985 - Ben Nevis 8yo 1990 - ...
62 - 22/11/2000 - Glenesk 1984/1997 - Strathmill 10yo - Tullibardine 10yo - Arran NAS -...
63 - 25/11/2000 - Balvenie 12yo 'Doublewood' - Laphroaig 15yo - Original Mackinlay 21yo
64 - 29/11/2000 - Glenmorangie NAS 'Cellar 13' - Glenmorangie 18yo - Loch Lomond NAS - ...
65 - 02/12/2000 - Tomintoul 12yo - Scapa 1985 - Pittyvaich 18yo 1976 - Old Pulteney 12yo - ...
66 - 08/12/2000 - Glendronach 9yo 1987 - Glendronach 15yo - Ardmore 1981/1995 - Ardbeg 10yo - ...
67 - 09/12/2000 - Caol Ila 1975 - Caol Ila 1981 - Old Fettercairn 10yo - Bowmore Cask Strength - ...
68 - 26/12/2000 - Glenmorangie 18yo - Glenfarclas 12yo - Tobermory NAS - Glen Grant NAS
69 - 29/12/2000 - Macallan 1990 Speymalt - Macallan 10yo - Macallan 100 Proof - Macallan 12yo - ...

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Log Entry # 60  -  November 1, 2000
Topic:  Malts & Meals

Brrrr.... It's getting colder here in Holland. This allows the Islay malts that I love so much to burn even brighter than usual. There's nothing quite like a Lagavulin 16yo or Laphroaig 10yo on a cold winter night. Nevertheless, I usually greet the Islay season with mixed feelings.

Let me explain...
Low temperatures are always good for my appetite. Or rather, they are bad for my appetite in the sense that it tends to grow more and more out of control as temperatures drop. On the usual night of dramming I get all the sustenance I need from the whisky so I don't feel the need to have dinner beforehand or snack during a sampling session. Does this mean my stomach has adapted to my less-than-healthy lifestyle? Hmmm... Be that as it may, this almost Darwinian adaptation to an alcohol diet has turned me into a mediocre host. I've been told that I pour generous drams, but I usually completely forget to offer my guests anything to eat. Especially people who are used to intermediate snacking (and too polite to ask for nibbles) often leave the premises in very high spirits indeed.

Anyway, I digress. Over the last few months lots of people on the mailinglist have been sending me questions about single malts in relation to food. What malts make a good 'apéritif' or 'digestif' next to which courses? What are good meals before a sampling session? What's a good way to neutralise the palate in-between drams? Do you know any recipes that include single malt whisky? I realise I've given these 'solid' topics far less attention than the 'liquid' ones in this log, so I decided to devote this log entry to 'malts & meals'.

So, what's my attitude on eating and drinking?
To put it sweet and simple: I'm ambivalent about it. From a 'pleasure principle' point-of-view I've got nothing against combining single malts and food in any way you can think of. Do you want to use that Macallan 18yo to 'flambé' a chocolate cake? Do you enjoy a cask strength pick-me-up before the soup arrives? Do you want to fill your bathtub with custard, mix in some Springbank 21yo and try to soak up the 'pudding of life' trough your pores?
Go right ahead! Whatever tickles your fancy is fine by me, really.

SERIOUS sampling is an entirely different matter, of course.
I want my senses to be as 'pure' as possible when I investigate a single malt closely. Whenever I have a good nose day (sadly not very often), I make sure not to eat anything two hours before the sampling starts. While I'm nosing and tasting the malts I drink water to quench my thirst and clear my palate. On bad nose days I won't be able to pick up on the finer nuances of a malt anyway, so I happily drink Pepsi Max and smoke a few 'sniggerettes' while I'm dramming. But even on a bad nose day I won't show any malt the indecency of smoking a cigar during the tasting. Afterwards is fine, of course.

Thanks to my mutated stomach, I usually don't feel the need to feed during or after dramming. Note the word 'usually', because now we get to the part why part of me dreads the coming winter. During the cold season, I DO get the urge to feed sometimes and I don't like it. Even when I'm not doing a simultaneous H2H-session, I like to 'compare' the whiskies to one another. When you try one malt directly after another the differences between the two palates are magnified, making it's easier to put your experiences into words. Eating between drams always seems to wipe the memory of my papillae clean. If I can't resist the urge to feed I usually go for plain white bread. It's fairly neutral and doesn't dehydrate my mouth like some crackers.

But then again, cold hard 'analysis' is only part of the fun.
Different people enjoy single malts in different ways and on different occasions.
In the kitchen, for example - and I don't mean dramming while you're cooking. Many people have experimented with whisky (even single malts) in their recipes. I have to admit I've got some misgivings about using a good single malt for cooking; I imagine a blend would work just as well in most cases. Nevertheless, I've received some very interesting recipes that made my mouth water and my stomach rumble. Most were quite elaborate so I haven't tried them yet. I may test some recipes and report about them in a future.
Meanwhile, here are some URL's of websites that feature whisky recipes;
http://homecooking.about.com/library/archive/blalcohol3.htm
http://www.geocities.com/NapaValley/9412/whisky_recipes.html
http://www.recipeweb.com

You don't have to be a kitchen prince or princess to enjoy whisky as an ingredient of a more elaborate experience; you can make up your own 'on-the-run' combinations as well. Janne Suominen from Finland sent me this:
'My favourite taste in the world is the thing that happens in my mouth after I have had a dram of Talisker 10, followed with some cappuccino ice cream with tar-syrup and a Piano-cigarillo (Cuban tobacco hand-rolled in Finland) with 20 minute intervals. The combined after-taste is heaven. A smoke-sauna in heaven with a mellow party going on...'
That sounds like something I really should try some time!

And what about single malts to accompany the courses of a meal?
Like I said, whatever tickles your fancy is fine by me. Personally, I rarely drink whisky before or during a meal. Or wine, for that matter. As it turns out, I have a very expensive taste in wines. I simply don't like most wines (too sour and dry for my tastes) and even the ones I like best (I prefer desert wines) rarely surpass the 50 points mark. Personally, I much rather drink a nice port or plain mineral water next to my meals - although a fresh white wine works with fish as well. But that's just me; lots and lots of people drink wine with their meals and seem to enjoy it thoroughly. This seems to be another one of those things that prove that I'm different from lots and lots of people. Well, 'Vive La Difference', that's what I always say.

Of course, there's one important factor that has got little to do with personal preferences: the simple fact that whisky has an alcohol percentage of at least 40% while most wines come in at around 15%. To me, the numbing effect of the alcohol on my tongue and palate tends to interfere with the taste sensations of the food, especially during later courses. That's the main reason I don't usually drink whisky during a meal.

For me, the time for a single malt (or a cognac) comes during or after the last course.
I've creatively combined icecream, coffee and whisky in different sequences and combinations and enjoyed most of them - except the combo's where I tried to add chocolate to the formula. I love good chocolate, but it tends to overpower all other ingredients and keeps on doing so for an hour afterwards.

And then, it's time for a good cigar.
Now there's a topic! An entirely different topic, actually, worthy of its own log entry.
I'll get back to that subject some time in the future.

Bon appetite!
 

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Log Entry # 61  -  November 15, 2000
Topic:  Yearnings & Cravings

It's been a few weeks since I enjoyed a glass of whisky.
Thus having proven that I'm not a full-time alcoholic (not yet anyway), I felt I could safely succumb to my yearning for a proper dram.

I started the session with a stiff dram of the Bowmore NAS 'Darkest' (43%, OB).
Opened almost three months ago, this bottle keeps puzzling me. After some of the glowing comments I've read on the web, my expectations were pretty high. Sadly, the first few glasses were a major disappointment.
Let's see if it has improved after some breathing.
Nose: More Islay than before, with smoke (burnt caramel). Seemed more complex.
A lot of 'volume' after a few minutes of breathing. With water: More chloride.
Taste: Flat & Harsh, with a nasty chemical sweetness.
Ashes and smoke. Palate is pretty much destroyed with water - too dry.
Preliminary rating: ** (Upper 60's). The nose seemed to show some notable improvement, but the taste was just as bad as before. This must have been a bad cask. And to think you can get a bottle of the (very good) Bowmore 15 for the same price...

The Ben Nevis 8yo 1990/1999 (43%, Signatory Vintage, aged in sherry butt) is the first big bottle of Ben Nevis I've tried. It is an 'unofficial' bottling, so it probably doesn't represent the real distillery 'style'.
Nose: Interesting. Creamy. Slightly oily. Some sherry. Citrus. Rubber?!?
A little more smoke later on, opens up with some water.
Taste: Unbalanced. Not sweet enough at first. Peppermint? Some smoke.
Slightly oily. Strange sensation of salmiak. Dull, dry finish. No soul.
The taste (especially when watered down) is really disappointing after the intriguing nose; the nose would score somewhere in the mid 70's, but the taste drags it down to a final rating of 67 points. It almost seems like they've matured this malt in refill casks where they should've used first fill casks - or just a few more years in this cask.

The Ben Nevis moves to my bottom shelf - but first I've got to make some room. Let's check the last few glasses of the Glen Keith 1983 (43%, OB) to see how it has progressed over the last few months, before I empty the bottle to make way for the Ben Nevis.
Nose: Much more spirity than I remembered. Woodier after 10 minutes.
Not an improvement compared to my previous experiences.
Taste: Still very nice. Sweet and toffeeish. Malty. Ginger. Warming.
A bit like cupcakes. The finish is not very long and lacks complexity.
It seems that either: (A) this malt has suffered quite a lot over the last six months or (B) my original rating of 76 points has been a little generous. Very pleasant, but nothing too spectacular. The rating will be adjusted downwards. New rating: 74 points.

Now there's an empty spot on my middle shelf where the Ben Nevis used to be. I decided to fill it with the fresh Aultmore 11yo 1985/1997 (43%, Signatory Vintage) from my reserve stock.
Decent 'Plop!' when I opened the bottle.
Nose: A bit herbal. A whiff of rotting hay. Spirity at times.
With water: Perfumy. Vanilla? More flowery and fruity. Fresher all around.
Taste: Smooth and a bit peppery at the same time. Sherried; a little oily.
Malty finish, becoming very dry and woody. Big burn in the back of your throat.
This one is hard to pin down. Preliminary rating: *** (Lower to Mid '70's)

Now I have a yearning.
A yearning to open the bottle of Glencadam from my reserve stock. But I can't do that until I've given a final rating to one of the bottles currently on the middle shelf. But I can be creative when push comes to shove.

My eye fell on the bottle of Macleod's 8yo (40%, bastard malt). This is a generic bottling that is rumoured to be nothing less than... my long-time favourite: Lagavulin. Klaus Everding brought it as a gift from Hamburg when he visited three months ago. Now, I usually wait at least six months before I declare a final rating. But the heavy traffic between my shelves over the last few months has left very few bottles on my middle shelf that have been there long enough. The Macleod's won't go into any of my 'official' lists because I'm not completely sure about it's origins. Most likely, it's a Lagavulin, but I still haven't excluded the possibility that it could be a Talisker. The bottle doesn't say, so I can't give it any kind of 'official' status. Let's give it a premature final rating to make room on my middle shelf.
Nose: Light Islay. Slightly peaty. Whiffs of citrus at first. More sherry and smoke later on, but not nearly as heavy and complex as an older Lagavulin (or Talisker for that matter).
Taste: More obviously Islay than the nose. A little sweet.
Salt, peaty finish. Gritty; a bit of a 'rough' mouth feel.
Final rating 76 points, which means it's just as good as other 'low profile' Islays like the Bowmore Legend or Bruichladdich 10. Nevertheless, it falls a little short of the 80 points benchmark that distinguishes good malts from great malts. Rest assured that I will pick up another bottle some day, provided it becomes available in Holland and doesn't cost me more than about 50 guilders.

So now I get to open the fresh bottle of Glencadam 1987/1997 (40%, G&M Connoisseur's Choice) I bought a few weeks back. I've avoided this malt up until now because it scores only 69 points in Michael Jackson's book. The fact that my respect for Michael Jackson's opinion has been diminishing (and I simply have to sample at least one bottle of Glencadam anyway) made me pick up this bottle.
Nose: Aroma flows over the edge of the glass. Sweet. Raisins? A lot of different elements. Disappears after 10 minutes, but comes back with sweet vengeance.
Taste: Sweet. Long and warm, followed by a dry finish.
Preliminary rating: *** (Lower to Mid 70's). Not bad, but it seems to me this malt would have done slightly better at 43 or 46% - or even cask strength for that matter.

And I might as well have a dram from my bottom shelf as well.
I'll have to empty these bottles one day or another anyway...
The Inchmurrin 10yo (40%, OB) is really something else. The first few whiffs seem interesting, but then it just becomes spirity with a lot of menthol and eucalyptus. A little malty. The taste is not too bad but weird. Fish oil? Something found in Chinese (Shezuan) quisine? Smooth and soft sweetness with eucalyptus and malt. Sweeter after a while. Strange. As a drink it's quite nice, but as a single malt it's not very impressive. Nevertheless, it has a character of its own and it has grown on me. Originally, it rated at 63 points - but now I feel it is intriguing and distinctive enough to earn some extra points. New final rating: 66 points. Only a little better than Glenfiddich SR or Johnnie Walker Black Label, but still worth a try sometime - especially in the summertime.

My nose and palate were still fresh. I thought 'What the heck' and used the last remains in the bottle of Inchmurrin 10 in one of my special blends, thus cunningly creating a vacancy on my bottom shelf that enabled me to work out a final rating for the... Dallas Dhu 10yo (40%, Gordon & MacPhail).
Nose: Sweet and (especially) sour apples! Some sherry. Some smoke.
Lovely sweetness. Chocolate? Interesting. Very distinctive.
Taste: Soft & smooth at first, sweeter with more sherry & malt later on.
Toffee and chocolate? Menthol? Long afterburn. Nice development; dry finish.
I have to pass a final verdict about this one, but I'm still not completely sure - even after more than six months. Final (?) rating: 79 points.

And thus I get to open a fresh bottle from my reserve stock.
I was in the mood for something light, so I picked my new bottle of Littlemill 8yo (40%, OB) from the Lowlands. It comes in a no-nonsense bottle with a no-nonsense plastic screwtop. Maybe this isn't the most aesthetically pleasing solution, but it seals the bottle a lot better than the cheap tin screwtops you see a lot these days. From a functional point of view, I actually prefer this over a cork. When I poured myself a dram the colour was a lot darker than I would have expected from a Lowlander this young. I suspect heavy caramel colouring has been used here. Rest assured, I'm not prejudiced.
Nose: Very big for a Lowland. Oily. Sweet and slightly smoky. Butterscotch?
Taste: Soft start. Surprisingly sweet. More smoke after a while.
Watery finish picks up after a while, becoming sweet.
A lot stronger than most Lowlanders, quite a surprise.
Preliminary rating: *** (Lower 70's). Very different from any other Lowlander I've tasted; this could be interesting at an higher age. Too bad the distillery has been closed - just like a lot of other Lowlands distilleries.

By now, my nose and palate were pretty much burnt out.
For the rest of the evening, I limited myself to the Loch Lomond NAS (40%, OB).
It's one of the bottles on my bottom shelf I'd like to finish as soon as possible to make room for better malts. Five generous drams later only one quarter of the bottle could be considered full.

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mAddendum 61A - Second Delivery

I've just picked up the second batch of 'free' bottles from my malt monger in exchange for some work on his website. I got these 10 bottles:

Oh boy - Five of these bottles are from distilleries I have never tried before, and the other ones are unfamiliar versions of familiar malts. A big step forward in my search for the perfect single malt. And let's not forget there are 10 more bottles on their way. I'm already having problems with the storage of my reserve stock and I'm trying to figure out how I could possibly find any room for new bottles. I guess I'll just have to drink a lot over the next few weeks....
 

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Log Entry # 62  -  November 22, 2000
Topic:  Mega Session

With all the good stuff coming into my reserve stock these days, I find myself drinking a lot more than usual - just to speed up the traffic between my shelves. It's a tough job, but somebody has to do it...

First candidate for a final rating: the surprising Arran NAS (43%, OB); a relatively fresh addition to my middle shelf. If I'm not mistaken, the distillery is the youngest one in Scotland, founded in 1995. The distillery itself is only five years old, so that's also the maximum possible age of this malt. They've been smart enough not to put an age statement on 'the jail bait of single malts' (forgetting the Drumguish 3 for a moment).
Nose: Oily and creamy. A little sweet. Quite interesting.
A little smoke and some nuttiness later on.
Taste: Watery start. Smooth with a malty burn, followed by a light sweetness.
Spoilt by a dry and bitter finish. Disappointing after the surprising nose.
Not too bad, but the impression this malt makes varies from time to time.
A bit better than I'd expected, considering its age.
Final rating: 63 points.

I was on a roll, so I proceeded directly with the Strathmill 10yo (43%, Scottish Wildlife) - my first bottle in this series by Signatory Vintage. This bottling has a raggedy red squirrel on the label that doesn't look particularly appetising. But I'll have a go at it anyway.
Nose: Strange! Some sweetness, some smoke? A lot going on in the background.
Opens up after 15 minutes; sweeter with more citrus tones. Intriguing.
Taste: Dull start, a little sweeter over time. A bit malty.
Orange skin flints. Apples and menthol in the strange, long, dry finish.
Final rating: 67 points. No smoothie, but an interesting nose.

Both bottles are definitely bottom shelf material (meaning I probably won't ever purchase a second bottle), so in addition to opening two new bottles from my reserve stock I will have to finish two of the bottles currently on my bottom shelf to make room for the new ones. I selected the Glenesk and Craigellachie from my reserve stock and the Tullibardine 10 and Glen Elgin from my bottom shelf.

Like many independent bottlings, the Glenesk 1984/1997 (40%, G&M Connoisseurs Choice) had a cheap tin screwcap that would have caused me to avoid it if it hadn't been produced by one of the distilleries from uncharted territory. Now I simply had to pick up a bottle in order to cross one more distillery from my 'Unknown' list.
Nose: Restrained. Lacks character.
Grainy, more like a blend than a single malt at first sight.
Taste: Sweet burn at first, but the sweetness disappears.
Smokier after a while. Chocolate in the finish?
Quite pleasant bit uninteresting; Preliminary rating = ** (Upper 60's)

Moving swiftly along with the Craigellachie 1983/1994 (43%, Vintage Choice).
Nose: Sweet maltiness. Slightly oily and nutty. A hint of rotting hay.
Taste: Hmmm... Malty. Seemed very sweet in the first glass, but I couldn't detect it as strongly in the 2nd glass. Gritty mouth feel. Preliminary rating = ** (Upper 60's).
First results aren't promising, but I'll give the bottle a chance to 'break in'.

OK - That's the 'pioneering' part of the session over with. All that's left to do is finishing off the bottles of Tullibardine and Glen Elgin NAS. The Tullibardine 10yo (40%, OB) comes in a plain, unattractive bottle. A bit like the malt it contains, really.
Nose: Oily. A bit malty. Dull with some grainy characteristics.
Opens up a little after a few minutes.
Taste: Slick and oily; a little sweeter one year after opening the bottle.
Final rating of 61 points stands. Nothing special, but still a lot better than your average blend or vatted malt, which usually score between 20 and 50 points.

Finally, there's the Glen Elgin NAS (43%, OB, 75cl).
Nose: A pleasant sweetness. Soft honey with a hint of citrus.
Some interesting ingredients, but all in all too subdued for my taste.
Taste: More sweetness - Toffee. Smooth burn.
Showed some 'orange' character in the taste and honey in the finish.
Very nice, but nothing more. For me, this is malt offers the minimum amount of enjoyment a 'good' single malt should offer, so the final rating of 70 points stands. Would have scored higher with a bigger nose, but (just about) recommendable nonetheless.

Something occurred to me while was finishing the last few glasses from the bottle of Tullibardine 10. Thanks to the mysterious process of oxidation, there is one distinct advantage we malt aficionados have over wine lovers. After a bottle of fine wine is opened, you have to finish it quickly. The wine geek can enjoy a great bottle of wine for just one night, we malt geeks can go back and back to the same great bottle of single malt whisky for month after month; year after year in some cases.
Not to mention we can get at least twice as drunk in the process!
Am I making any sense here or is it just the booze talking?
 

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Log Entry # 63  -  November 25, 2000
Topic:  Antisocial Session

Some whisky loving ex-colleagues had planned to join me for tasting session at home yesterday, but this plan fell through due to some last minute crises at work. I had been saving two bottles on my top shelf especially for this occasion; The Laphroaig 15 that Davin got me almost a year ago and what must be my tenth bottle of the Balvenie 12 Doublewood. My ex-collegues could not help me finish those nearly empty bottles to make room for some of my more recent acquisitions, so I had to do it all by my lonesome self. I put a little out of each bottle aside in special miniature bottles to share with my brother and a friend in a few days.

I started with the Balvenie 12yo Doublewood (43%, OB).
Nose: Sherry. Big and sweet. Wow! Salt. Some smoke? Musty? Very complex.
A feast for the nose. This malt has a wonderful development over time in the glass.
Taste: Very sherried burn; the sherry now overpowers all the other wonderful elements. Some menthol? After extensive breathing, it has lost a lot of the sweetness of a fresh bottle and has become much saltier after a lot of breathing in an nearly empty bottle.
A very fine malt, and good value too. Please note that this bottle is well over a year old. It seems that as time goes by, the nose gets better and better but the sherry in the taste becomes to pronounced. Better finish this one within six months or so.
Final rating of 85 points stands, confirmed by the two last, very generous drams.
The bottle is now empty but will soon be replaced with a new one.

I was on a roll, so I finished another one of my 'favorite-but-sadly-almost-empty' top shelf malts; the wonderful Laphroaig 15yo (43%, OB). This is a friggin' good dram. I wonder if 86 points do it justice. Time for a final showdown between myself and the older and wiser brother of 'the ultimate peat monster', Laphroaig 10.
Nose: Oh, the peat! But there's more. Lots more. Smoke and even sulphur.
Marzipan? Complex with all kinds of fragrances and nuances. A lot softer than the 10.
Taste: Powerful, but tempered by sherry, oak and a deep sweetness.
An almost cognac-like finish; flooding tongue, throat and palate. Complete.
In the light of the recent slight adjustments in the top of my scale I have no problem whatsoever with raising the final rating to 87 points. Not as extreme as the 10, but a better 'all round' malt.

Two empty bottles on my top shelf already, and it's almost past my bed time.
Tomorrow, I'll try a few suitable replacement malts on my middle and bottom shelf - before I completely exhaust my supply of 'emergency malts' on the top shelf. For now, I decided to finish the last drams of the Original Mackinlay 21yo (40%, blend). After the Chivas Regal Royal Salute, this is my favourite blend. I doubt if they used any grain whisky when they blended this one. I couldn't detect anything grainy. Added benefit: This whisky has a lot of stamina - after more than two years of breathing it hadn't lost its power and character. There were some strange little pieces of... of something strange floating in the bottle. Maybe cork.
Nose: Big with lots of character. Sherried. Sweet, but also peat and leather.
Taste: Sweet, round and very woody - but not unpleasantly so. Great!
This one beats more than half of the single malts I've tasted so far. My prejudice towards blends has caused me to underrate this one. Final rating is increased to 80 points. Amazing value at less than 75 guilders. I can only hope that future blendings are as good as this one. It's hidden gems like these that put the +/- fl. 450,- Johnnie Walker Blue Label (71 points) to shame. One of the very few blends (or vatted malts for that matter) that would be top shelf material if I would allow blends up there.

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mAddition 63A - Final 'Free Malts' Delivery

A few days ago, Ton Overmars dropped by to drop off the last batch of free bottles he promised me in exchange for building his website. Sadly, some whiskies on my original wish list (Like Ardbeg 1975, Longrow 1987 and The Macallan 1874) were not available anymore. Meanwhile, some other interesting bottles had come in, so after some creative wheeling and dealing (and the exchange of around 1000 guilders in cash) these eighteen bottles were added to my collection:

Bugger me with a fish fork!
I just discovered something. If Michael Jackson's books are anything to go by, I'm making very good progress in my search for the perfect single malt. There are only 3 active distilleries left in Scotland that can be considered 'Terra Incognita' - at least to me. They are Aberfeldy, Braeval (Braes of Glenlivet) and Kininvie. Malts from the other 87 active distilleries in Scotland are either tasted & rated, or part of my collection.

I already know what my new year's resolution for 2001 will be: Finding bottles from these three remaining distilleries and tasting them, along with the undiscovered malts in my collection. After tasting and rating at least one bottling from each active distillery, I will shift my focus towards 'parallel bottlings' like Longrow and Old Roshdu and closed or mothballed distilleries like Balmenach, Glen Albyn, Glen Flagler, Glenglassaugh, Kinclaith, Ladyburn and Millburn. And with the way my career is going lately, I might also be able to afford a few older and overpriced bottlings from some of my favourite distilleries as well.
 

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Log Entry # 64  -  November 29, 2000
Topic:  Second Opinion Tasting

Oh, boy. Tonight, my brother Franc and 'Alcoholic Par Excellence' Eric came over to assist me in advancing the emptiness of some of the bottles in my collection. I had the foresight to save small tasting quantities of the Balvenie 12yo Doublewood (43%, OB) and Laphroaig 15yo (43%, OB) in a few tiny 'blanco' bottles I keep especially for blind tastings. Tonight, they were used for the preparation of our palates.

Comments:
Franc on Balvenie 12: Very salty. One of the great ones. 80 pts.
Eric on Balvenie 12: Promising & complex nose, taste too flat. Like cognac. 76 pts.
Franc on Laphroaig 15: Ammoniac. More balanced than 10yo. 82 pts.
Eric on Laphroaig 15: Peat! Bitter aftertaste. Sherry Port-like woodiness. 82 pts.
As far as my own comments are concerned: see log entry 63.

If we want to open a bottle from my reserve stock, we will first have to declare a final rating on a bottle from my middle shelf. Let's go for the Bowmore NAS 'Darkest' (43%, OB) that has thoroughly disappointed me so far, but seems to be revered by some other malt lovers. I've seen a lot of glowing recommendations on the web, so I was curious about some 'beginners' perspectives on this Bowmore.
Franc: Disappointing nose, especially after the two previous ones. Lacks sweetness.
Someone pissed in it? The worst he tasted in quite a while. 65 points.
Eric: Smooth; caramel candy (Wherter's Echte). Burnt caramel. Too burnt.
Grassy / hay. Matured in charred casks that previously contained fish? 68 points.

As far as my own comments are concerned: The nose has obviously grown in complexity over the last few months. Sadly, most of the interesting nuances (sherry, caramel, sour sweets?) were overpowered by the strong, overly smoky character that again reminded me of 'Buysman'; burnt caramel some people use in their coffee here in Holland. After fifteen minutes, the nose gets sweeter. While the nose had improved, the taste hadn't changed one bit. A lot of heavy smoke and tar, not balanced by any other tastes. Some sweetness or freshness would have really helped here. Now the taste is strictly one dimensional - and not very pleasant at that. The finish sucks ass too.

Final rating for the Bowmore Darkest: 65 points - and that's just because the nose has become quite interesting over the last few months. Based on just the taste, it would have scored below Glenfiddich Special Reserve. Now it barely matches the score of Glen Grant (no age statement) - a malt that costs about a quarter of this heavily overpriced and over hyped Bowmore Darkest. Eric agreed on my observations and suggested this malt would be better suited in some kind of 'potpourri' setting - Good for nosing, bad for drinking. Please note that Bowmore Darkest is a single cask malt, so bottlings from other casks may be better - or even worse for that matter. I'm not planning on finding out anytime soon.

The difference between nose and taste in this malt started a discussion about the very nature of my ratings. For malts like the Bowmore Darkest it could be useful to keep separate ratings for nose and taste. In this case, 65 points is the result of something like a 77 points nose and a 53 points taste.

Anyway - the Bowmore Darkest moves to the back of my bottom shelf, making room for a fresh bottle from my reserve stock. Franc and Eric chose the Glenmorangie NAS 'Cellar 13' (43%, OB, 100cl). Both are fans of the movie 'Highlander' and remembered that Glenmorangie is Connor Macleod's preferred malt. While Franc and Eric engaged in a vague discussion about when Connor Macleod drunk his very first whisky I poured them and myself a stiff dram from the litre bottle and did some checking on its background. This particular malt has matured for 10 years in first fill, American mountain oak in one of Glenmorangie's 14 cellars - cellar #13 to be precise... This is the one closest to the coast.

Our findings:
Franc: Fresh nose. Taste: citrus, peppery, longer and sweeter than the 10. 81 pts.
Eric: Very sweet. Mint. Metallic. Taste peaty and salty - not very special. 78 pts.
Me: A very peculiar sweetness in the nose. Vanilla and Marzipan, with some citrus and mint. Some pepper as well - a trademark of the younger Glenmorangies. After a while the sweetness dies out, leaving more greasy / fatty impressions. Taste: Sweet. Avocado? Long finish with a strange mix of salt and nutrasweetness. At first sight, it's different from the 10 (sweeter) but not significantly better. Maybe just one point's worth, which puts it in the **** (lower 80's) range.

Let's not forget we have to empty a bottle from my bottom shelf as well.
The Loch Lomond NAS (40%, OB) was the perfect candidate - almost empty and a bottle I wanted to get rid of as soon as possible anyway.
Franc: It stinks. 58 points.
Eric: Cod-oil and hay in the nose; marzipan and salt in the taste. 65 points.
Me: Very oily. Cod oil. Schnapps & salt. Nothing much, rating of 55 points stands.
Franc & Eric understood why I used the last few glasses for my 'special blend'.

I felt creative and went for a diversified approach. For Franc, who likes the heavily peated malts, I poured a dram of the Caol Ila 1981/1995 (40%, G&M Connoisseur's Choice). Eric, who is blessed with sissier sensibilities, received the Littlemill 8yo (40%, OB) and I decided to join him.
Franc on Caol Ila 1981: Real heavy shit. 'The Gimp' of whiskies. 85 pts.
Eric on Littlemill: Fishy nose; fruit cocktail. Citrus and honey in the taste. 73 pts.
Me on Littlemill: Peaches, melons and smoke in the nose. Taste sweet. ***

For our final dram of the evening, we picked my new bottle of Glenmorangie 18yo (43%, OB, 'Maltman's Special Reserve'), which wasn't actually a bottle at all. The Glenmorangie Maltman's Special Reserve 18yo. old (to give it it's full name) comes in a beautiful ceramic decanter. The decanters are even individually numbered - I got number 4465 - and come with a separate cork with a ceramic top. Sadly, all this pump and circumstance backfired when I tried to remove the (temporary) cork from the bottle. The corkscrew tore the cork to shreds and the only way to reach the liquor was to push the broken cork into the bottle and to pour the contents through a filter a few times to separate the whisky from the little pieces of cork. I can't believe this treatment is good for the whisky - it comes into contact with air much more than it ordinarily would, so I suspect oxidation will take a bigger toll than usual. I guess I will have to finish this bottle a lot quicker than I had planned.

Nose: Some sherry, some mint. More creamy and nutty after a while.
Taste: Minty start, then sweeter. After a few minutes the famous pepper emerges.
Preliminary conclusion: We all felt it wasn't all that different from the Glenmorangie 10 and Cellar 13. In fact, if I had to choose right now I'd probably go for the Cellar 13. Certainly not worth the higher price. I will have myself a proper tasting session soon.

And this is where I stopped making notes. The rest of the evening is pretty vague, but I remained sober enough to limit the rest of our drinking to Connemara, Johnnie Walker Green and Chivas Century of Malts.
 

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Log Entry # 65  -  December 2, 2000
Topic:  Balancing Session

A few nights ago, I emptied the bottles of Laphroaig 15 and Balvenie 12 on my top shelf. Ah... Sweet memories. Time to replace them with the best bottles from my bottom shelf. That would be the Tomintoul 12yo and the Scapa 1985/1995, I guess. With the introduction of my new stock system, every bottle of single malt that is rated, emptied, promoted or demoted causes traffic between my shelves. If you don't understand the logic behind my system you'll just have to take my word for it: I will have to fill the empty spots on my bottom shelf by declaring a final rating on two malts from my middle shelf. And they can't be top shelf candidates either. Furthermore, I get to open two bottles from my reserve stock that will consequently be moved to my middle shelf with unrated malts. Geddit?

The first candidate for a final rating is the Oban 14yo (43%, OB). I usually wait at least six months before giving a final rating, but given the fact that this is my third bottle (I tasted the other bottles before I started taking serious notes) I think I can safely pass judgement on it after three months and around a dozen drams.
Nose: Shellfish? Salty, but restrained. A pinch of peat and some short sweet bursts. The aroma reminded me of something on a farm - couldn't remember what it was.
Taste: Smooth, soft start develops into a smoky burn. Good mouth feel.
Well balanced with sweet and salty episodes. Sweeter with time. Dry finish.
Final rating: 77 points. A very decent dram, but no top shelf material.
Previous bottles scored around 80 points.

And then there's the Lochside 10 (40%, MacNab, 75cl); on my shelves for about 6 months now.
The bottle and label look alarmingly cheap, but I'll give it a fair chance.
Nose: A little sweet. Raisins. Slightly grassy and oily. Hmmmm.
A hint of smoked nuts after a while.
Tongue: Very warm, but not sweet at first. Very malty start.
Sweeter after a while. Bitter; dry finish with a rough mouth feel.
Final rating: 68 points.  No reason to buy another bottle in the future.

Two vacancies on my middle shelf.
The first bottle to move from my reserve stock was the Pittyvaich 18yo 1976/1995 (43%, Signatory Vintage, distilled 22/6/1976, bottled 2/95, matured in oak casks #8633/34, bottle #222 of 630)
Nose: Fresh, sparkly. Spirity. Whiffs of smoke. Interesting.
Light citrus/fruity character. Sweeter with time.
Taste: Surprisingly sweet and long. Very nice. Seems stronger than the actual 43%.
Preliminary rating: *** (Mid 70's) The first tasting reminded me of the more potent Lowlanders, but it is in fact a Speyside malt.

The other bottle that gets 'promoted' to my middle shelf is the Old Pulteney 12yo (43%, OB). This bottling is quite widely available, but it still has managed to elude my greedy little hands - up until now, that is.
Nose: Not much at first. Dry, with a little peat after a while.
Taste: Oily at first, becoming honey sweet after a few seconds.
The strong sweetness turns into a long, salty finish. Cold burn.
Preliminary rating: *** (Mid 70's). The taste seems better than the nose.

The content of my shelves is balanced once more; I can go to sleep now.
 

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Log Entry # 66  -  December 8, 2000
Topic:  Just Another Session

Last week's session offered only slight relief for my current stocking problem.
Ah - the troubles I have... Let's have a glass of the wonderful Ardbeg 10yo (46%, OB) from my top shelf while I think about a possible solution and prepare my nose and palate for some serious nosing and tasting.
Nose: Smoke and brine, balanced by a nice sweetness.
Peat and iodine later on. Deceptively complex.
Taste: Light start followed by a long, sweet burn. Melons? Then a miniature version of the Ardbeg explosion that turns into a long, smoky finish.
The rating of 83 is increased to 84 points. A rugged malt with a sweet heart.

I feel ready for a final rating. The Ardmore 1981/1995 (40%, Gordon & MacPhail) comes in a classic bottle with a very nice label. Shame about the tin screwcap.
Nose: Nice! Deep sherry with something I can't put my finger on.
A hint of oranges and soap perfume. Something 'sparkly' as well.
Taste: Very nice. Smooth and sweet like whipped cream.
A decent malty burn, followed by a relatively short, dry finish.
Final rating 78 points; not at all bad but still 'bottom shelf' material for now. Just barely, so it might very well get promoted to the top shelf in the future.

Who has to move from my bottle shelf?
How about the Glendronach 9yo 1987 (43%, Signatory Vintage, matured in sherry butt)?
And how about opening the Glendronach 15yo 100% Sherry Casks (40%, OB, 100cl) from my reserve stock to take the place of the Ardmore on my middle shelf? That way, I will have a chance to taste them against each other in a proper H2H-session. The colour of the distillery 15 is much darker than the SigVint and has a distinctive deep reddish hue. Probably caramel.
Distillery 15yo nose: Great! Big & fruity. Sherried and sweet, with hints of smoke and peat.
SigVint 1987 nose: Quite flat. Sherry. Oilier than the 15. 'Grainier' in character.
Distillery 15yo taste: Very sherried and too woody at the start. Oak. Long sweet finish.
SigVint 1987 taste: Nice sweetness. Sherry burn. Liquorice in the taste. Oak. Long.

The official 15 beats the nose of the SigVint 9 decisively, but on the taste front the difference in quality isn't as obvious - although the 15 is slightly better. Both palates are just too darned sherried and woody for my personal taste. The nose of the official 15 is great, though. Lot's of interesting development. And when you give it time, the taste shows some interesting sides as well. Based on this first dram, the preliminary rating of the 15 is *** (Upper 70's). If the taste improves over the next few months it might even reach the lower 80's. The final rating of 71 points for the SigVint 1987 stands.

I finished the evening with the last drams from the Signatory Vintage bottle of Glendronach 1987 - one more casualty in my quest for the prefect single malt.
 

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Log Entry # 67  -  December 9, 2000
Topic:  Midnight Mayhem

It's 23:55 and I've just finished work on the Malt Maniacs Matrix. It's an overview of the ratings on almost 100 different 'commercial' single malts by the Malt Maniacs. I decided I deserved a few honest drams after an honest day's work. To prepare my nose and palate I started with the Old Fettercairn 10yo (40%, OB) from my middle shelf.
Too early to give a final rating yet, but good for the pre-rating phase.
Nose: A bit restrained. Oily start; sweeter over time.
Slightly nutty. Just a hint of peat and smoke.
Taste: Soft and smooth, with a gentle sweetness.
Sticky in the mouth. Dry & sweet finish.
Preliminary rating: *** (Lower 70's). Nice, but not spectacular.

To determine the final rating of the Caol Ila 1981/1995 (40%, G&M Connoisseur's Choice, on my shelves for half a year now), I tasted it in a H2H-session against the fabulous Caol Ila 21yo 1975/1997 (61.3%, UD Rare Malts) from my top shelf. I've been leaning towards increasing the current rating of 87 points for a while now; this is as good a time as any to verify my sentiments and suspicions.

CC81 Nose: Peaty with a hint of sherry. Relatively restrained, but interesting.
RM75 Nose: Much stronger than the CC. Salty with amazing development.
CC81 Taste: Surprisingly smooth and sweet over a peaty base.
RM75 Taste: Fresh and salty; a long sweet finish with lots of development. Aniseed!
Then I diluted the RM to around 40% and compared them once more.
CC81 Nose: Seemed oilier now. Raw beans? Sweeter after a while.
RM75 Nose: Very salty, with some peat as well. A lot going on beneath the surface.
CC81 Taste: Sweet. Still very nice, but less development than the RM.
RM75 Taste: Complex. Finish remains very long. Great stuff!

No contest, really. Both are very good malts, but the 'Rare Malts' 1975 just has more personality and 'ooomph'. And it's a cask strength to boot, something which increases my enjoyment of a single malt considerably. The final rating of the Connoisseur's Choice 1981 is 82 points, while the UD Rare Malts Caol Ila 1975 jumps to a whopping 88 points. It may not respond to water as well as the Macallan 10 100 Proof, but it tastes surprisingly good at cask strength. A terrific single malt that shows new facets every time.

Let's face it, the Glenturret 19yo 1978/1998 (43%, Ultimate) doesn't really deserve a place on my top shelf, even though it was a Christmas 1999 present from my former employer.
Nose: Lemon. Grape juice. Soft sweetness, becoming stronger with time.
Taste: Nice. Sweet lemons. Juniper in the very dry finish.
The rating of 75 points stands. A nice summer malt; considerably better than the distillery 12yo., especially in the nose. The Caol Ila 1981 moves to my top shelf and replaces the Glenturret, which I will try to finish completely later tonight.

Now I get to open a bottle from my reserve stock. The Bowmore NAS 'Cask Strength' (56%, OB, 100cl) is the lucky one; let's find out how it compares to the other bottlings in the wide Bowmore range.
Nose: Seems like the 'Islayest' Bowmore at first. A lot of peat, smoke and salt.
Taste: A big, dry burn with sweet episodes. Nutty. Drinkable at C/S.
Then I diluted the Bowmore to around 40% and examined it once more.
Nose: Decreased intensity, with more sherry and sweetness.
Taste: Smoky and peaty. Some sherry. Lacks balance.
Preliminary rating: *** or **** (Around 80 points).
Okay, that wasn't at all bad. After the Bowmore Darkest disaster I feared the worst, but this is actually a pretty decent dram. It isn't very refined, but it packs enough Islay heat for these cold winter nights. The character seems like a magnified version of the 'Legend' and 'Surf' bottlings, so I suspect this malt to be around the same age - around 8 years.

I finished the evening with the last drams from the bottle of Glenturret 1978 that got pushed off my top shelf. No punishment drinking a little too much of this...

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mAddendum 67A - More Malts

This morning, I visited one of my other liquorists (Menno Boorsma) to pick up another six bottles for my quickly expanding reserve stock:

Allt A' Bhainne 1989/1999 (50%, John Milroy Millennium Selection, fl. 90,00)
Dalmore 12yo (43%, OB, 100cl, fl. 65,95)
Glen Albyn 22yo 1977/1999 (43%, Signatory Vintage, fl. 107,50)
Glenrothes 1987/2000 (43%, OB, fl. 76,95)
Scapa 12yo (40%, OB, 100cl, fl. 79,95)
Tomintoul 10yo (40%, OB, fl. 49,95)

The Allt A' Bhainne and Glen Albyn were obtained compulsively; I haven't tasted anything from Glen Albyn before and Allt A' Bhainne is very rare here in Holland. I just HAD to buy these bottles. With the Aberfeldy and Breas of Glenlivet on order from Klaus, I'm on the verge of completing phase 1 of my search for the perfect single malt. If all goes according to plan, I will have tasted the product of every active distillery in Scotland by the end of 2001. After the 'scouting' phase 1 is complete, I can focus my search on the regions and distilleries that have the greatest 'potential' (of producing the best single malt in the world) during phase 2 of my voyage of discovery.

But then again, it may very well be that I've already stumbled upon the greatest whisky in the world in the form of Lagavulin 16. If that would be the case, there's absolutely no point in spending more than 80 guilders (a little over 30 U$ Dollars) for a bottle of single malt whisky. With that in mind, I selected the rest of my purchase based on my 'bang-for-my-buck' expectations. If this bottling of Dalmore 12 is as good as the previous ones, it'll move to my top shelf as soon as a spot becomes available. Based on Louis's reports and my experiences with the 1985, I expect the Glenrothes 1987 to do well also. And the Tomintoul 10 doesn't have to be nearly as good as the 12 (76 points) to achieve a reasonable position on my 'bang-for-your-buck' list. I bought the Scapa 12 so I could add my own rating to the Malt Madness Matrix soon.
All bottles go straight into my reserve stock.
 

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Log Entry # 68  -  December 26, 2000
Topic:  Christmas Tasting

Yesterday, I prepared my traditional Christmas feast for my family, back in the woods. My brother had bought a bottle of Lagavulin 16 for the occasion. We we're quite alarmed when we discovered that the nose of this particular bottle was much more reserved than we had grown to expect. Less complexity in nose and taste as well. Still a nice whisky, but it wouldn't have scored over 85 points. I hope that this isn't a trend! Could there be some truth to the rumours that the quality of the Lagavulin 16 is dropping?

Well, I'll have to investigate this later.
Today, I'm enjoying some peace and quiet in the comfort of my own home. After a relatively dry period of a week or two, I felt my liver needed some practice.

I started with the Glenmorangie 18yo (43%, OB, ceramic); a bottle I have been tasting intensively over the last month. I found that I quite like it, but I wonder if I would have liked it quite so much if this hadn't been a free bottle. The price is quite steep while it doesn't seem to perform significantly better than the ordinary 10yo. old version.
Nose: Sherried and nutty. A soft layer around the different fragrances.
Taste: A bit malty. Weak start quickly turns into a long sweetness. Sherry dry finish.
Preliminary rating: **** (Lower 80's). I will try to give a final rating within a few days, perhaps after a H2H with the Glenmorangie Cellar 13.

I proceeded with a close examination of the Tobermory NAS (40%, OB). The first thing that meets the eye is the bulky, green bottle. It's a thin line between distinctive and ugly. Seems good for whacking people over the head with, though...
Nose: Very restrained. Flat. A bit oily with a very faint hint of peat.
Cod oil. Notably sweeter with time, with impressions of mint and candy.
Taste: A bit sweet and malty, with some distant peat. Milk powder?
Lacks balance and complexity. Sweet, salt and bitter take turns in the finish.
Final rating: 55 points. This is really nothing spectacular. There are a lot of better malts (and even blends!) available in this price segment.

But now I have to finish a bottle from my bottom shelf to make room for the Tobermory. I chose the Glen Grant NAS (40%, OB). Not a lot better than the Tobermory (it scores 65 points), but at a price of less than 30 guilders I don't have a problem with that. I'll spare you the details of the tasting; nothing much had changed since my previous reports.

I'm feeling great! Great enough to open the Glenfarclas 12yo (43%, OB, 100cl) from my reserve stock. This particular bottle seems to come from Germany, given the text 'mit farbstoff - zuckerkulor' on the label. Well, this was pretty obvious from the deep, almost reddish colour.
Nose: A lot of it. Sweet and sherried. A little smoke. Like fruit cake.
Fruitier tones emerge after fifteen minutes.
Taste: Not nearly as sweet as I expected from the nose - at first.
Very smoky. Oaky. Liquorice / Aniseed? Long, sweet finish with a lot of wood.
Preliminary rating: *** (Upper 70's). At first sight it isn't very different from the 10yo. old version - perhaps a bit drier and woodier. I'm not sure if it's an improvement. Well, I'll have plenty of time to find out later.

Right now, I call it a night.
 

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Log Entry # 69  -  December 29, 2000
Topic:  The Eye of the Storm Session

After a few busy weeks and a few more busy weeks to come, I feel like I'm in 'the eye of the storm' - so to speak. A great opportunity to dip into my collection for some Yuletide tasting experiences.

To prepare my nose and palate for some serious nosing and tasting, I poured myself a stiff dram of the Ardbeg 17yo (40%, OB). After all, the fact that this is almost the last night of the year 2000 qualifies as a special occasion that deserves a special malt.
Nose: Salt & sulphur. Some peat, some brine and some sweetness as well.
Lemon sweets. Wonderful character and complexity. Grows sweeter with time.
Taste: Relatively sweet start, followed by a big pepper & peat explosion.
Great development into a big, multi-layered finish. Rating of 90 points stands.
This is one of those single malts that show new sides every time you try a dram.

I proceeded with the final rating of Royal Lochnagar 12yo (40%, OB) - a pretty 'standard' malt in a pretty 'standard' bottle with a label that must have been designed before WWII.
Nose: Oily, but not unpleasantly so. Liquorice. Faint sherry and fruit.
Some smoke. Drops off after 15 minutes.
Taste: Dry and smoky start. A very distant echo of fresh fruit.
Long, sweet, malty finish. Not much depth, but quite pleasant.
Final rating: 74 points. Nice, but not complex enough for my sophisticated taste.

Now there's an opening on my middle shelf. The Macallan 10yo (40%, OB) from my reserve stock seems to fit that opening perfectly, so I opened the bottle, and compared it to three different Macallans in a 'Triple Head-to-Head' session. The other contestants were the Macallan 10yo 100 Proof (57%, OB) and Macallan 12yo (43%, OB, 100cl) from my top shelf and the last drams of the Macallan 1990 'Speymalt' (40%, Gordon & MacPhail) I found in a cupboard I hadn't opened in at least six months. Foreign correspondents Craig Daniels and Klaus Everding did something similar a while back with their Macallan 'Horizontal' tastings.

Macallan 10yo vs Macallan 10yo 100 Proof:

Obviously, the cask strength version had a much more concentrated nose. Both have a distinctive sherry character, but it's more apparent in the c/s. The c/s seems sweeter, too. On the other hand, due to its relatively restrained nose, the 'normal' 10 initially shows a lot more more different components over a malty, nutty base. The taste of the normal 10 starts off very sherried, but opens up into a long sweetness. The c/s is sweet from the start, with more obvious wood tones. Both have a very long finish.
After diluting the c/s to around 40%, I compared them once more.
This time, the nose of the ordinary 10 reminded me of fresh baked bread. The c/s still appeared more sherried - more smoke and power too. Both seem sweeter in the nose now. On the other hand, the c/s had lost a lot of sweetness in the taste after dilution, becoming smoky. Next to the c/s, the ordinary 10 almost seems like a subtle malt. Very interesting, both of them. The c/s would rate a few points higher because it represents different malts in one and keeps developing in the glass longer than the ordinary 10 does.

Macallan 10yo vs Macallan 12yo:

Can this be right? At first sight, the 10 seems to have more nose than the 12! After a little while, the 12 grows in 'volume', while the 10 grows in complexity. It isn't long before the 12 has overtaken the 10. After a few minutes, both noses seem to grow towards each other. The taste profiles are quite similar as well; sherried with a long, sweet finish. At first sight, the difference may be no more than a point's worth.

Macallan 10yo vs Macallan 1990 'Speymalt':

Phew! After the previous tastings, the Speymalt is hardly recognisable as a Macallan. What a disaster. The Macallan 10 is sherried, sweet, complex and stylish; the Speymalt is... not. The less said the better. I used the last three or four drams of the bottle of Speymalt for my 'special blend'. The fact that I found this old bottle seems to be kind of a mixed blessing. Why on earth did they decide to release this bottling? As a whisky it's very nice, as a single malt it's acceptable but as a Macallan it's substandard.

Conclusion:
Macallan 10yo: **** (Mid 80's)  Amazing value at less than 60 guilders
Macallan 10yo 100 Proof: 89 points (increased from 88 points)
Macallan 12yo: 86 points (rating remains unaltered)
Macallan 1990 Speymalt: 71 points (decreased from 74 points)

The new 'sissy stregth' Macallan 10 moves to my middle shelf, where the Royal Lochnagar used to be. The Lochnagar takes the place of the Glentromie 12yo (40%, OB) on my bottom shelf, which is nearly empty anyway. Let's finish the job.
Nose: Relatively flat and thin. Citrus. Sweetish. Sparkly.
Taste: Very sweet, like cake. A bit malty. Pretty long finish. Dry.
Over the last few months of breathing in the bottle, it seems to have improved considerably - especially the taste. The final rating is increased to 59 points.

For the 'Grand Finale' of tonight, I pulled out the Glenmorangie 18yo (43%, OB). The Maltman's Special Reserve, to be precise, with little pieces of cork. I poured a glass of the Glenmorangie Cellar 13 next to it for comparison. Almost 20 tastings after the cork incident I find myself with a bottle that's nearly empty. Because of special procedure next few months - see bottom of this report for more info. See 'Bypass operation' -
Nose: Not as powerful as I've come to expect from 'Morangie.
Sweet tangerines. Honeyish.
Taste: Smooth start. Peppery burn, softened by a big honey sweetness.
Touch of mint? Mocha? Slowly dissolving honeyed finish, livened up by pepper.
Final rating: 82 points. Because this malt has been contaminated with cork, this rating shouldn't be taken too seriously. Besides, it's feasible that the 'ordinary' bottling of Glenmorangie 18 is different from this ceramic curiosity. I may buy another bottle in the future to find out; drinking this stuff is no punishment.

I will use the rest of the bottle on new year's eve for the decadent purpose of warming me on my traditional 'New Year's Eve Midnight Woodwalk'. After last year's disaster, I will make sure to bring a flashlight. My night vision isn't what it used to be and I'm all out of carrots.

That's it for this year, folks.
Well - almost. Here are a few added notes to keep you updated on what you can expect in future log entries.

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MAddendum 69A - Introduction Euro

As you may know, the countries in the European Union are switching to a common currency in January 2002. After a lot of creative thinking, they came up with name 'Euro'. This means the Dutch guilder (+/- 0.45 Euro's; +/- 0.40 U$ Dollars right now) will disappear soon. That's why I will start listing all the prices on Malt Madness in Euro's from now on. Check the Universal Currency Converter for the value of the Euro translated into your own currency.

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MAddendum 69B - Bypass Operation

I'd like to inform you that the coming months will be particularly interesting. You may know that at any given time there are 48 open bottles in my collection - distributed over three different shelves. With the enormous number of new bottles that have been coming in lately, my middle shelf (freshly opened, unrated malts) is filled with 16 relatively fresh bottles, the most of which are at least 3/4 full. I usually wait for a minimum of six months before I decide on a final rating, because (contrary to popular belief) some single malts do change after the bottle has been opened. Some need a few weeks to 'break in', while others lose or gain some specific characteristics after a longer period of time. For the most part, these changes are minor, but I still like to wait a while to determine if a particular malt can stand the test of time.

At the same time, there are now almost 50 unopened bottles in my 'Reserve Stock'.
But not all of them are genuine 'Reserve' bottles like Macallan 10 100 Proof, Glenmorangie Madeira or Singleton of Auchroisk 1981; my cherished 'old favorites' that I want to keep for opening on a special occasion - maybe years into the future. Apart from those genuine 'Reserve' bottles I have a lot of rare or rather expensive bottles I haven't tried before - like Talisker 1986 Double Matured, Macallan 18 Gran Reserva and Springbank 30yo. Those bottles will probably be opened some time next year, when the mood strikes me and the occasion and/or company seems special enough.

And then there's a number of more 'mundane' malts I'm especially curious about. In most cases, this curiosity stems from the fact that I've never tasted any product from that particular distillery yet. Over the next three to four months, I plan to do intensive and extensive research on the following single malts currently in my reserve stock:

Ardnave 10yo ('Malts of Distinction')
Benrinnes 15yo (Flora & Fauna)
Ben Wyvis 10yo ('Malts of Distinction')
Bruichladdich 15yo (OB)
Caperdonich 1980 (Connoisseur's Choice)
Dailuaine 16yo (Flora & Fauna)
Glen Albyn 22yo 1977/1999 (Signatory Vintage)
Glenfiddich 12yo Special Reserve (new official bottling, with age statement)
Glenlossie 10yo (McGibbons Provenance)
Glen Moray 12yo (old bottling without wine maturation)
Glen Moray 12yo (new, chenin blanc bottling)
Glentauchers 1979 (Gordon & MacPhail)
Knockdhu 12yo (OB)
Ledaig 20yo (OB)
Teaninich 1982 (Connoisseur's Choice)

Of course, I will still be sampling the occasional malt from my top, middle or bottom shelf (especially when I'm entertaining visitors), but right now I plan on concentrating my research on these, soon to be opened bottles. The rest of the bottles in my 'Reserve Stock' will remain unopened for at least a few months.
Watch this site for tasting reports on my new acquisitions.

- - -

MAddendum 69C - System Refit

Sometimes you encounter a drink that redefines your perceptions of good and bad. At a birthday party I encountered the infamous 'Toreador Tequila' - a drink that's EVIL compared to the plain 'revolting' drinks that occupy the bottom of my ratings list. Since my rating system encompasses all the alcoholic drinks I have tasted in my life, this has affected some ratings at the bottom of my scale, including the Loch Dhu 10 which rises to a new rating of 11 points. Still a 'whisky' that makes your tongue hurt and your nose cry, mind you...

After the recent recalibrations at the top end of my ratings scale, it seems I may have to make some small adjustments in the middle part of my scale as well. This is the area between 40 and 60 points, where the 'worst' single malts meet the better blends and vatted malts. The first single malts I ever tasted (Lagavulin 16, Talisker 10, Highland Park 12, Macallan 12) were VERY good, so I may have had the tendency to score blends in the middle segment relatively low. Over the years, I've come to taste more bad single malts and more good blends and vatted malts. While I was filling the huge gap between good single malts and mediocre blends, I discovered that a single malt isn't better than a blend or vatted malt by definition. The Original Mackinlay 21 years old blend, for example, even beats very decent single malts like Glen Garioch 15 or Glen Moray 12.

In my slightly recalibrated rating scale some 'medium' benchmarks are:
70 - Great blend / Decent single malt (Glen Grant 10yo, Edradour 10)
60 - Good blend / Disappointing single malt (Johnnie Walker Black, Glenfiddich SR)
50 - Decent blend / Poor single malt (Teacher's / Loch Lomond))
40 - Acceptable blend / Bad single malt (Dimple / Drumguish 3yo)

The revised rating of 50 points for the ordinary Teacher's blend makes it easier for me to rate whiskies in the middle segment. This is a very decent and consistent blend, so all I have to do to come up with a final rating is determine how much I like it more or less than the Teacher's blend. Nevertheless, I like the average single malt a lot better than the average blend. It may very well be that I just have a dislike for grain whisky.
(See my 'other ratings' for details about my personal preferences.)

- - -

MAddendum 69D - Preliminary Ratings

My first impression of a malt isn't always accurate.
For one thing, some malts need some 'breaking in' before they fully expose themselves. The fact of the matter is that some single malts DO change after a certain period of breathing. And then there are the whiskies that only share certain facets of their personality in a single tasting. That's why I decided to abandon the 'preliminary ratings' I used to shell out to freshly opened bottles, and test a system of 'first impressions' for a few months. The preliminary classifications are:

***** = Amazing (90 points and above)
**** = Very Good (80 - 89 points)
*** = Good (70 - 79 points)
** = Questionable (60 - 69 points)
* = Disappointing (50 - 59 points)
- = Too bad (Below 50 points)

And as long as I'm refitting my system, I might as well start an experiment with ratings that take the 'price/value' factor into account. Let's start by dividing the prices I'm willing to pay (at the moment) into six layers;

***** = Cheap (< 25 Euro's)
**** = Attractive (25 - 34 Euro's)
*** = Reasonable (35 - 44 Euro's)
** = Expensive (45 - 59 Euro's)
* = Daylight robbery (60 - 75 Euro's)
- = Unacceptable (> 75 Euro's)

Because this is still an experiment, there may be some discrepancies with my 'Bang-for-your-Buck'-List. I'm the first to admit that my serious case of malt madness may grow even more serious in the future, forcing me to pay more than I actually want to satisfy my insatiable lust for new discoveries. Using these temporary benchmarks for now, my personal Q/V indicators for some high profile single malts would look something like:

Lagavulin 16   *********
Laphroaig 10   ********
Glenlivet 12    *******
Glen Grant ?   *******
Macallan 18    ******
Springbank CV *****
Loch Lomond ? *****

- - -

MAddendum 69E - Assorted Lost Notes

During the last year I've had quite a few undocumented tasting sessions. Well, not all of them were not entirely undocumented, but I'm not sure the 'documents' I have would stand up to scientific scrutiny. I'm talking about vague notes scribbeld on the backs of coasters, receipts and movie tickets. Nevertheless, I thought I should include them in my log just in case.

Benriach 10yo (43%, OB, Bottled +/- 2000, 100cl) - 70 points
Nose: Flat and oily. Faint sweetness. It grows creamier and nuttier over time but remains rather shallow.
Taste: Very restrained at first. Then it becomes sweeter, growing a little sour and bitter in the centre. Short finish.

Bowmore 12yo (43%, OB, Bottled +/- 1999, 100cl) - 80 points
Nose: The first impression seems quite fruity. Sherried and woody. A little smoky and spicy.
Taste: Wood and sherry - something very individualistic. Trademark Bowmore. A little gritty, though.

Bowmore 17yo (43%, OB, Bottled +/- 1999, no code, 70cl) - 84 points
Nose: Not as honest about its Islay heritage as younger versions. Smoke. Quite light and clean. Some menthol after a while.
Taste: Ah - there's the Islay peaty burn! The taste is much like that of the 12yo - but more refined and balanced.

Bowmore 21yo (43%, OB, Bottled +/- 1998, 70cl) - 86 points
Nose: Slightly oily, 'oriental' and spicy. Heavy, unique sourness. Maggi? Soy sauce?
Fabulous. Not a lot of Islay character, though.
Taste: Much woodier and more sherried than the younger OB's.
A bit too much maybe, for my tastes. Oh, but that wonderful nose.

Deanston 12yo (40%, OB, Bottled +/- 1999, 70cl) - 57 points
Nose: A little sweet and oily, with a hint of chloride. Quite pleasant at first, but the bouquet vanishes quickly.
Taste: A bit disappointing. Nutty (hazelnuts/almonds) after a while. Clean, with a malty finish, becoming very bitter with water.

Edradour 10yo (40%, OB, Bottled +/- 1998, Campbell, 70cl) - 70 points
Nose: Soft and malty. Nothing offensive in the nose, but nothing to fall in love with either.
Taste: Malty and smooth. It reminded me a bit of the Dufftown 10yo OB. A tad below average.

Glenburgie 8yo (40%, Gordon & MacPhail, Bottled +/- 1997, 70cl) - 62 points
Nose: Oily start, with some fragrant fruit; more oily after a while. After more breathing a faint malty nuttiness. Flat, no complexity.
Taste: A bit malty and very dry. Not very much else there. There seems to be a greasy layer around the taste.

Imperial 1979/1995 (40%, Gordon & MacPhail, 70cl) - 75 points
Nose: Rich and oily. A heavy sweetness with more peat after some breathing.
Taste: Malty and sherried at first, sweeter after a while. A lot of development, but it loses some points in the finish.

Inverleven 1984 (40%, Gordon & MacPhail, Bottled +/- 1995, 70cl) - 74 points
Nose: Very soft, some grassy sweetness. Light, with some sherry. Becomes oilier after a while, and lasts for quite a while.
Taste: Very warm; becomes extremely oily after a few seconds, especially in 'mouth feel'. A long, sweet finish ends on a dry note.

Kinclaith 20yo (46%, Cadenhead's, Bottled +/- 1992?, 75cl) - 57 points
Nose: Buh. Flat and grainy. Maybe a faint whiff of smoke.
Not at all what I expected from a malt at this age and strength.
Taste: Flat as well; spirity and very dry. No obvious character. It might have been a blend just as well.
What a waste...

Mortlach 1969/1996 (40%, Gordon & MacPhail, 70cl) - 82 points
Nose: A lot of flowery notes. Big, sweet and sherried. Wood. Something 'oriental' as well, interspersed with sour whiffs. Not unlike Macallan. The taste was dusty, smooth and sweet. Woody, with pleasant chocolate notes.
Very nice.

Port Ellen 23yo 1975/1999 (43%, Signatory Vintage, Distilled 8/4/75, Bottled 25/3/99) - 83 points
Nose: A Lot of it; Islay, but with a hint of sweetness from the start. Salt.
Grows peatier after a minute, and after that a whole lot of unidentifiable nuances emerge.
Taste: Fits the nose; Islay on top, but with a little sweet undercurrent. Dry and salty.
Peppery afterburn that lasts for quite a while, ending in a dry finish. Great!
 

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Liquid Log Entries - November, December 2000

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