190 - 01/12/2004 - Malt Maniacs Awards 2004 - My personal highlights of 2004.
191 - 20/12/2004 - Speyside Survey Part 1; Pretty much the full Macallan range.
192 - 21/12/2004 - Speyside Survey Part 2; A selection from Glenfiddich & Balvenie.
193 - 22/12/2004 - Speyside Survey Part 3; Mainstream Speysiders (Glenrothes, Linkwood...)
194 - 23/12/2004 - Speyside Survey Part 4; More 'Mainstreamers' (Aberfeldy, Ardmore...)
195 - 24/12/2004 - Speyside Survey Part 5; Obscure Speysiders (Glenlossie, Imperial...)
196 - 27/12/2004 - Scotland Coast-to-Coast 1; Glen Garioch, Kinclaith, Lochside & Teaninich
197 - 28/12/2004 - Scotland Coast-to-Coast 2; Orkney distilleries - Highland Park & Scapa
198 - 29/12/2004 - Scotland Coast-to-Coast 3; The final stretch - Skye, Mull & Islay
199 - 30/12/2004 - Quantum Leap; a short and sweet report about my 1000th SMSW.
Phew! I've just published the full results of the MM Awards 2004 and I'm still shaking with excitement... Obviously, you should check out the awards page for the full results, but I couldn't resist passing along some of my notes on the malts that made the strongest impression on me this year. Below you can find my notes on a few of the medal winning malts. Remember, the malts were sampled blind. I gave each malt two tries and the difference between my preliminary impression and the final score were sometimes considerable. I won't bore you with my notes on all the medal winners, and notes on some of the winners (like the two gold medal winning Port Ellens or the Wilson & Morgan 'House Malt Born on Islay') can be found in earlier log entries. In today's entry, I'll focus on the biggest other surprises.
Arran 1996/2004 Single Cask
(58.7%, OB, 311 bottles)
Blasted! I accidentilly poured it into a glass filled with quite a lot of water!
Nose: Oily, more organics after a few seconds. Then spices, becoming more 'oriental'.
Not a lot of excitement at first, although it seems to open up slowly. Wet clay?
Taste: Flat and weak. Light and fruity. But is that the water or the malt?
Preliminary impression: Lower 70's. Could it be I added too much water?
Second sampling: Hey, is that a hint of peat in the nose? Hmmm, now it's gone.
But now it shows lots of organics, that's for sure. Spicy and very fruity on the tongue.
Score: 78 points - it has plenty of flaws, but I liked it much better during my 2nd try.
My surprised response: hey, hey - this is by far the best Arran I ever tried!
Note: I didn't personally nominate it for a medal, but ten other maniacs did.
Arran 1996/2004 Single Cask
(59.3%, OB, 250 bottles)
Nose: Another oily one. Maltier, nuttier and sweeter after a while - but not a lot.
Faint hint of distant soap perfume. Lux? Hmm... Nothing really stands out in this one.
Taste: Remarkably sweet at first. Big fruity centre. Very pleasant. Quite a burn.
Preliminary impression: Mid-70's - but given enought time it might reach the upper 70's.
Second sampling: Once again grain and oil in the nose. Soapier on the palate. Aspirin?
Score: 73 points - this one reveals quite some unattractive traits on closer inspection.
My baffled response: Not quite as pleasant as the other one, but still very surprising.
Note: Most other maniacs liked it a lot better; 2 bronze, 4 silver and 1 gold nomination!
So, that was quite a surprise - I've never been much of an Arran fan so far; their malts were just a little too young and 'shrill' for my tastes. But this is much more like it! Both medals were 'only' bronze, but every single maniac agreed these expressions are much better than the 'no age statement' versions released so far.
Edradour 10yo 1993/2004 Burgundy Finish
(57.4%, OB, cask #04/13/3, 458 bottles)
Nose: Wowie! Big and fruity. Mint. Spices and some very mild organics. Cinnamon.
It's quite spectacular, although I can't really identify a lot of the specific aroma's.
Taste: Eugh... Very herbal start. it's not exactly perfumy, but it comes close.
Cinnamon. An aspirin bitterness in the finish. Oh, how it falls from grace. Finished?
Preliminary impression: Lower 80's; I really can't go much higher than that, I'm afraid.
Second sampling: Once again, quite unique. I found 'pepernoten' on the palate.
Score: 82 points - this is a malt you have to work at. Not MOTR, that much is certain...
My surprised response: Ah, the pinkish hue of the whisky should have tipped me off.
Edradour 10yo 1993/2004 Sauternes Finish
(56.8%, OB, cask #04/11/2, 445 bottles)
Nose: Smooth and slightly oily at first, but growing more powerful quickly. Fruits.
Maybe a hint of peat? Rubber (bicycle tires). Then more spices. Cinnamon again.
Taste: Once again a bit of an odd taste. A chemical fruitiness like the last one.
It grows very, very woody in the finish. Extremely dry as well. Relative of the last one?
Preliminary impression: Lower 80's; once again the taste pulls it from the upper 80's.
Second sampling: The nose eems a little harsher and rougher this time. Smoke. Still weird.
Candy on the palate, but not extremely sweet. Dry and woody, hints of smoke abd perfume.
Score: 82 points - this is an experience... but it's probably not to everybody's liking.
My confident response: Great. I thought I noticed a family resemblance with the last one.
Edradour 21yo 1983/2004 Port Finish
(53.6%, OB, cask #03/1041, 776 bottles)
Nose: Quite mellow and malty at first, but quickly some organics emerge.
The organics open up nicely, it grows sweeter and spicier. Oriental dishes.
After tasting it I also got some weird 'Blue Curacao' notes in the nose as well.
Taste: Oy! A strange chemical sweetness, like in Blue Curacao liqueur. Nasty!
It grows woodier and winier towards the finish, which is a good thing, really.
Preliminary impression: Upper 70's; great nose, but a weird palate. Smurf whisky?
Second sampling: Big and spicy in the nose. An odd soapy sweetness on the palate.
Score: 79 points - extremely interesting, but I wouldn't recommend it to anyone.
My surprised response: Hmmm. Here's a cask Andrew couldn't quite 'rescue'.
Wow! Edradour seems to be another distillery that has found the way up again.
The smallest distillery of Scotland used to be quite infamous for batch variation (I tried a 'vomity' batch of the 10yo that was produced some time before Andrew Symington took over), but now they are cunningly turning that weakness into a strength by releasing an amazing range of single cask bottlings, many of them finished in 'special' casks - from the fairly traditional port casks to Burgundy, Sauternes and even Tokay. In the Awards, the Burgundy Finish came closest to winning a silver medal (it got four nominations for gold, one for silver and five for bronze), closely followed by the Sauternes Finish. Peter, Krishna, Mark and myself gave that one the very same score as the Sauternes but Olivier, Klaus and Luc liked it a lot less. The 21yo Port Finish didn't go down quite as well as the younger versions; only Roman preferred the older one.
(43%, OB, Bottled 2004)
Nose: Oily at first with a good deal of sherry, it seems. A bit like Tobermory.
Sweet and nutty. String beans. A whiff of mayonaise? Jura-ish without the cod-oil.
Taste: Yep, a slick and oily start as I expected. Then a little bigger and sweeter.
The centre is quite solid, but it grows much grittier towards the finish, then drier.
Preliminary impression: Upper 70's; not a bad malt but not really my kind of profile.
Second sampling: Very fruity and creamy in the nose next time. Nutty, not as oily.
Sweeter and fruitier on the palate as well - and once again the oil is less obvious.
Score: 84 points - this grows into a big and sweet bodywarmer. Just a little MOTR.
My baffled response: Wow, this is SO much better than the 10yo from the 90's.
Glengoyne 12yo Cask Strength
(57.2%, OB, Bottled 2004)
Nose: Gentle start, followed by a sweet and spicy explosion. Mellows out again.
Some grains, but I get those slowly emerging organics that indicate a sherried past.
Taste: Sweet and medium sherried. Medium dry as well. Woody. Peat? Good mouth feel.
Preliminary impression: Around 90 points; this is a job very well done. It feels sooooo good...
Second sampling: The nose needs a few seconds before it blasts off with coffee and smoke.
Still, it has something oily on the palate that doesn't sit well with me. That costs points...
Score: 88 points - an interesting and expressive malt that grows very lovely in the mouth.
My baffled response: Wowie! Another 'new' Glengoyne that's miles away from the old ones.
Come to think of it; this might very well be a better 'cigar malt' than the Dalmore!
Glengoyne 19yo 1985/2004 'Summer'
(52.6%, OB, Cask #608)
Nose: Wowie! A sherry attack. Sweet, fruity and very woody - an old one?
Mellows out a bit with some more sweetness over time. A raw sherry monster.
Taste: Very big, very fruity. Lovely; like sangria. Very smoky and woody as well.
A little sweeter over time with hints of liquorice. Still very hot with some water.
Preliminary impression: Upper 80's - maybe even lower 90's; but it's quite extreme.
Second sampling: Wow!!! Another massive sherry attack! Coffee and fruits. Wood.
Gunpowder. Lots of exotic spices. A lingering and addictive sweetness as well. Mega!
Extremely woody and fruity on the palate as well. A loud and proud sherry monster.
Score: 91 points - sure, it has some flaws - but it deserves bonus points for bravery.
My baffled response: Wow... Who would have suspected Glengoyne could taste like this.
Well, needless to say Glengoyne caused some commotion among the maniacs as well.
They won two awards (the Highlands Award of Excellence and the Single Starlet Award), two silver medals and one bronze. Glenfarclas did very good as well, but that wasn't really a big surprise; they did very well last year as well. I won't repeat my impressions here; you can find them in entry 189. Which brings us to another one of the big names in Speyside; Glenlivet.
Glenlivet 26yo 1977/2003
(57%, Adelphi, Cask #13120)
Nose: Slicker and a bit more superficial than the last two af first. Quite mellow.
It opens up a little over time, but there seems to be far less sherry here. Pine?
Some more organics emerge after a minute. It loses some complexity over time.
Taste: Quite sherried with a pinch of salt. Sweet centre, winier towards the finish.
Preliminary impression: Mid 80's. It's a very refined, balanced and luxurious malt
Second sampling: Now it seems a little more powerful in the nose. Organics. Sherry.
Big and powerful on the palate as well; at tad winey towards the finish, flattening out.
Score: 86 points - It doesn't quite have the depth and composure I expected here.
My baffled response: That's odd. Some older Glenlivets from sherry casks blew me away.
Maybe this was a bourbon cask (or a re-fill cask). Good stuff, but not extraordinary.
This Glenlivet received 3 nominations for gold and 6 for silver - so silver it was. And silver was what the next malt (a Glen Grant) received as well, although it got 4 votes for gold, 3 for silver and 3 for bronze - and an ever so slightly higher average score than the Glenlivet.
Glen Grant 1969/2004
(46%, Berry Bros, Cask #1773)
Nose: Holy cow! Extreme wood, sherry and organics. Fruit cake sweetness.
Gummi bears? Sucade? Some organics as well. This really is my kind of profile.
It changes over time as well; not radically, but different aspects pop up now and then.
One of the most amazing noses I've encountered so far. let's hope it tastes as good...
Taste: Again, loads of sherry and good wood. Unfortunately, it turns very bitter.
It grows very woody and smoky after a while - maybe too much so for some.
Based on the nose I was inclined to go for the upper 90's, but it lets me down.
Preliminary impression: Lower 90's. The palate is just a tad one-dimensional.
Second sampling: Oh, boy! After some breathing the nose seems even bigger.
Sherry and mahogany. Fruit, Spices and organics. This is just magnificent. A winner!
A wonderful sweet fruitiness dominates the palate, but there's a woody counterpoint.
Score: 92 points - it might have gone even higher if the finish hadn't been as smoky.
My enthusiastic response: Confirmation that older sherried Glen Grants can be stunning.
After a Glenlivet and a Glen Grant, how about a vatting of the two?
The 'Blue Hanger' is a vatted malt by Berry Brothers that boldy participated in a competition dominated by single malts. You'd think it wouldn't stand a chance, but it did - Except for Peter and Roman, everybody agreed this was medal material - Mark was even ready to go for a gold medal.
Blue Hanger 25yo
(45.6%, Berry Bros, Glen Grant/Glenlivet vatting)
Nose: Mellow and fruity start, quickly followed by sweets and organics. Impressive.
Spices and maybe a hint of soap perfume. Solid, but little development over time.
Taste: It's not as big and bold on the palate - and it turns bitter rather quickly.
It shows some faint fruits, but not the deep sweetness that often comes with it.
Preliminary impression: Lower 80's. Once again the palate lets me down after a big nose.
Second sampling: The nose holds back for a few seconds before it bursts open. Nice.
The profile is very accessible, but quite light - and there isn't a lot of development.
It's rather dry on the palate. Hot as well. A little fruity, but altogether quite dry.
Score: 83 points - the nose is polished and accessible, but falls apart in the mouth.
My baffled response: Hey; this could be the best 'vatted malt' I ever tried. Nice...
... but not as nice as the next one, which was a 'bastard malt' that won the Speyside Award of Excellence and came quite close to winning a gold medal. In fact, five maniacs (Serge, Craig, Ho-cheng, Luc and myself) were ready to go for gold here. It may be a 'bastard' malt, but I've heard rumours it's a 50yo Glenfarclas.
The Whisky That Cannot Be Named 1953/2003
(54.3%, Adelphi, Cask #1668, 501 Bottles)
Nose: That's much more like it; a malt with a good dose of sherry. Organics. Salt?
Wow!!! This is realy something. Oriental spices. One of the very best noses so far.
A few drops of water knocked it out for a few seconds, but it came back to life again.
Spicier. I finally got something medicinal in the nose as well; what a knockout whisky!
Taste: Sweet, fruity start. Raspberries? Lovely mouth feel. Drier towards the finish.
I also found a taste I associate with holly, although I can't say I ever tasted that.
This is one of the few malts that rocks my world without taking an extreme direction.
Preliminary impression: Mid-90's. This really is my kind of malt. A very old Springbank?
Second sampling: Quity heavily sherried, yet wonderfully balanced. Wood and organics.
A truly spectacular nose; and it's fabulous on the palate as well. Now I get coconut!
Pineapple, passion fruit and liquorice root. Peat. Brilliant performance on nose AND palate.
Score: 95 points - If I'm not mistaken this is the winner of the competition so far.
My baffled response: Hah! The very best 'bastard' malt I tried in my life, that's for sure!
A superb kick-ass whisky indeed. Too bad a bottle will set you back some 500 pounds....
And there were more surprising winners.
Like the next one, for example - a single grain whisky.
Invergordon 38yo 1965/2004
(51.6%, Peerless, Cask #15537, 254 bottles)
Nose: Furniture polish in the start, flattening out. Extremely faint organics.
It takes a few minutes to open up, but when it does it's extremely pleasant.
Taste: Very sweet and fruity - quite marvelous, actually. Pineapple? Rum? Coconut?
Hey, this is like a high proof version of Malibu! Quite peculiar, to tell you the truth.
I was thinking of a score in the 90's, but this hasn't quite enough 'staying power'.
Preliminary impression: Upper 80's to lower 90's - this has some unique features.
Second sampling: Big, sweet and polished in the nose. Glue. Spices and organics.
Once again it's extremely big, sweet and fruity on the palate. Lots of Malibu again.
Score: 89 points - the nose takes a while, but the palate is magnificent. Lovely!
My delighted response: Hey, hey! Another kick-ass single grain whisky from Peerless.
So, with a vatted malt, a bastard malt and a grain whisky all proving to be medal material, it has become painfully obvious that my sometimes rather dismissive attitude towards these types of whisky is just another example of the magnitude of my ignorance. Some of these whiskies beat the majority of the single malts out there with a stick. That being said, it's time to return to 'proper' single malts now.
Springbank 34yo 1969/2003
(54.7%, Signatory Rare Reserve, Butt #262, 408 bottles)
Nose: Light fruits and paint thinner. Mellows out, becoming quite nice over time.
After a few minutes I get organics again, although this one isn't heavily sherried.
It keeps developing over time - after maybe ten minutes it shows dried apples.
Taste: Odd, chemical and slightly oily, then growing much sweeter in the centre.
The finish is surprisingly short and reminds me of some Asian and Australian whiskies.
There's a strange herbal freshness in the aftertaste. Odd, but not unpleasant.
Preliminary impression: Mid-80's, I'd say - maybe a bit higher. Springbank perhaps?
Second sampling: Hey, hey, hey... In another line-up this one did much better.
Big, sweet and complex in the nose. A big whiff of organics a little later on. Great!
Quite magnificent on the palate as well. Sweet, fruity and smoky. Big, mellow burn.
You'll really need to give this one time. After half an hour I even got some peat!
Score: 89 points - just a tad too rough and gritty on the palate to reach higher.
My confident response: Upper 80's seems about right for an old Springer.
This Springer got five votes for gold, three for silver and three for bronze.
Quite impressive - but not really a big surprise considering the age and pedigree.
The next entry was more of a 'dark horse' and caused a noticable bigger stir.
(40%, OB, Bottled +/- 2004)
Nose: Light with a lovely honey sweetness reminding me of Balvenie. Slightly spicy.
This seems like an 'upbeat' whisky - despite some harsh grainy notes in the background.
It turns sour with a cidery prickle after a few minutes, but sweetens out again quickly.
Taste: Hmmm... Not quite as 'solid' as I'd expected, but quite chewy after a minute.
Feels a tad 'winey' on the gums during the long, cool finish. No obvious flaws here.
Preliminary impression: Lower 80's. I can see myself emptying a bottle on a summer night.
Second sampling: Again light and honeyish in the nose. plenty of entertaining stuff.
It feels a little gritty and winey in my mouth but it's pleasurable enough.
Score: 80 points - I like it a lot but it could have done with a higher proof.
My enthusiastic response: Right! I've always been a secret fan of Tomatin.
Mark was feeling especially lavish and nominated the Tomatin for a gold medal.
Roman voted for silver but seven other maniacs felt bronze would be more appropriate.
So, bronze it was - meaning it's a recommendable dram - unlike the 10yo OB from the 1990's.
Every maniac that tried both versions of Tomatin gave the 12yo OB at least 5 points more.
Next up was Brora - just travel north from Tomatin along the coast and you'll get there.
Brora 30yo '2003'
(55.7%, OB, Bottled 2003, 3000 Bottles)
Nose: Hey! Peat and sweat. Funky. Oh, boy; cow stable - and lots of it. Farmy.
Some chicken sh*t as well, it seems. Then peat, growing stronger and stronger.
Now the peat settles down again. Wow; this is a real oddity. Quite spectacular.
Taste: Hmmm. It starts out rather thin and farmy, before it turns into a peat fire.
Definitely sweeter with time. Dry and hot. More and more medicinal. Garlic sausage.
Liquorice and recurring flashes of peat. This is one of those malts with a superior palate.
Preliminary impression: Lower 90's. Unique. A lovable oddity - and a really grand finale.
Second sampling: I'd say it's more or less the same in the nose (very farmy). Unique
On the palate the peat was more obvious from the start, growing stronger over time.
Score: 91 points - the nose is simply amazing, but the palate is just a tad too thin.
My surprised response: Hah! One of the best I've tried so far. Dark and serious.
Well, just like last year Brora managed to earn itself a gold medal - even though it wasn't quite as peaty (and certainly not as sherried) as last's year's 30yo expression. Most of the maniacs are peatheads, so it's no surprise that Caol Ila and Lagavulin did very good as well; here are my notes on five medal winners.
Caol Ila 12yo
(43%, OB, Bottled +/- 2004)
Nose: Hey, this is a peaty one again. Lovely! Light and transparent with organics.
Leather. Brine. There's a fruity sweetness as well. Probably Caol Ila or Kildalton.
Now I get some more spices - really quite lovely. Great development and complexity.
Taste: Oy, not quite as powerful as I'd expected. Watery start, then sweet and peaty.
It becomes much more powerful after a few seconds, but dies out fairly soon as well.
Preliminary impression: Upper 80's, even though it loses a few points on the palate.
Second sampling: Hmmmm. Doesn't seem quite so expressive this time around.
Well, the nose just needs some time. This one opens up quite nicely, actually.
Quite pleasant on the palate as well. A big peaty burn - but just a little too 'flat'.
Score: 84 points - Plenty of fun to be had here, although it's not very 'deep'.
My concerned response: Now I'm quite sure I've underscored the very first batch.
My previous score of 80 was for a small sample from +/- 2002; probably too low
Caol Ila 18yo
(43%, OB, Bottled +/- 2004)
Nose: Much lighter than the previous blinds. Sweet grains. Then hints of oil. Spices.
It really takes some adjusting after the previous Islay malts. Hey, now it opens up.
Yes, I think I finally get some peat - not a lot, though. Another malt that needs time.
Taste: Very weak start, then drier with the faintest hint of liquorice. Then sweeter.
Preliminary impression: Lower 80's; once again it loses some points on the palate.
Second sampling: Once again this appears rather oily in the nose. Faint hint of peat.
Just like before, it starts fairly weak on the palate. Dry and grittier in the centre.
Score: 82 points - a little too dry; not the good sherry drought, but the bourbon kind.
My underwhelmed response: Two points less than the first batches. A tad below par.
Caol Ila NAS 'Cask Strength'
(55%, OB, Bottled +/- 2004)
Nose: Grainy, then paint thinner. Harsh and quite odd. Later more organics emerge.
Something coastal. Is that peat? Yeah, it seems to be. Nothing really sticks out here.
Taste: The obvious high proof gives it substance, but it seems relatively flat and thin.
Preliminary impression: Around 80 points, I guess; I'll need to give this one another try.
Second sampling: More peat, organics and complexity in the nose this time around.
This is definitely worth more than 80 points! Wonderfully sweet and peaty on the palate.
Score: 86 points - it's far from perfect, but there's a lot of fun to be had here.
My surprised response: Haha; another Caol Ila OB that seems on the way up.
Lagavulin 12yo Special Release 2002
(57.8%, OB, Bottled 2002)
Nose: Very odd. Sourish. Very alcoholic. Glue. Too harsh to detect anything pleasant.
Maybe this one would have improved with time but I couldn't be bothered. Too crude.
Taste: It seems very sweet, but maybe that's the alcohol again? Peat maybe? Dry.
Preliminary impression: Mid-70's, perhaps? Another one that's extremely hard to rate.
Second sampling: Wow! Lots of organics in the nose and a peaty punch on the palate.
I seriously misjudged this on my first try. This has both raw power and refinement. Xlnt.
Score: 90 points - without a shadow of a doubt. I was seriously misguided last time.
My confident response: Yes, this is a very nice piece of work you'll have to work at...
Lagavulin 1987/2003 Distiller's Edition
(43%, OB, lgv. 4/491)
Nose: Leafy, then peaty. Not as transparent as the last one. Leather. Polished oak.
Something dangerous lurking beneath the surface, but not quite as expressive as #48.
Well, wait a minute... After a time the organics and 'barny' aroma's grow more powerful.
Here's another malt that really needs some time before the nose reveals its full glory.
Taste: Gentle tea bitterness at first, then a little smokier. It feels uneven on the palate.
Gritty, dry and fairly bitter. A significant disapointment after the impressive nose. Too bad.
Preliminary impression: Mid 80's; a fabulous nose, but the palate pulls it down quite a bit.
Second sampling: Aaah. Lots of lovely organics in the nose. Leather and a hint of smoke.
Amazing complexity when you give it time. Mocca. Peat. Sweat. Surely worthy of 90 points.
Unfortunately, it doesn't perform quite as well on the palate. Smoky, but not well integrated.
Score: 87 points - not quite as much as I expected after the amazing - read 90's - nose.
My confident response: Yeah, this is not too different in style from earlier expressions.
These were my notes on 21 medal winners in the MM Awards 2004.
The list is by no means complete; check out the awards page for the full results.
I would have loved to discuss them all, but this log entry is long enough as it is...
- - -
Dram Diary # 190 - Some 2004 MM Awards Winners
Surprisingly enough, three of the medal winners were not proper single malts at all;
83 - Blue Hanger 25yo (45.6%, Berry Bros, Glen Grant/Glenlivet vatting)
89 - Invergordon 38yo 1965/2004 (51.6%, Peerless, Cask #15537, 254 bottles)
95 - The Whisky That Cannot Be Named 1953/2003 (54.3%, Adelphi, Cask #1668, 501 Bottles)
As you may know, that means I can't count them for my Track Record.
Fortunately I can count the following MM Awards winners;
78 - Arran 1996/2004 Single Cask (58.7%, OB, 311 Bottles)
73 - Arran 1996/2004 Single Cask (59.3%, OB, 250 Bottles)
91 - Brora 30yo '2003' (55.7%, OB, Bottled 2003, 3000 Bottles)
86 - Caol Ila NAS 'Cask Strength' (55%, OB, Bottled +/- 2004)
84 - Caol Ila 12yo (43%, OB, Bottled +/- 2004)
82 - Caol Ila 18yo (43%, OB, Bottled +/- 2004)
82 - Edradour 10yo 1993/2004 Burgundy Finish (57.4%, OB, cask #04/13/3, 458 bottles)
82 - Edradour 10yo 1993/2004 Sauternes Finish (56.8%, OB, cask #04/11/2, 445 bottles)
79 - Edradour 21yo 1983/2004 Port Finish (53.6%, OB, cask #03/1041, 776 bottles)
88 - Glengoyne 12yo Cask Strength (57.2%, OB, Bottled 2004)
84 - Glengoyne 17yo (43%, OB, Bottled 2004)
91 - Glengoyne 19yo 1985/2004 'Summer' (52.6%, OB, Cask #608)
92 - Glen Grant 1969/2004 (46%, Berry Bros, Cask #1773)
86 - Glenlivet 26yo 1977/2003 (57%, Adelphi, Cask #13120)
90 - Lagavulin 12yo Special Release 2002 (57.8%, OB, Bottled 2002)
87 - Lagavulin 1987/2003 Distiller's Edition (43%, OB, lgv. 4/491)
89 - Springbank 34yo 1969/2003 (54.7%, Signatory Rare Reserve, Butt #262, 408 bottles)
80 - Tomatin 12yo (40%, OB, Bottled +/- 2004)
That's 18 malts, bringing the number of malts on my Track Record to 910.
Only 90 malts to go and 30 days left this year - I can still make the 'Mille Malts Challenge'.
With an average of 3 drams a day I should be able to sample my 1000th malt this year. Excellent....
Oh boy... I'm in trouble...
December is almost three weeks old, but I only have 910 malts on my Track Record - I'm behind schedule in the 'Mille Malts Mission'. Fortunately, a big box with samples just arrived from France. Serge provided me with all the ammunition I'll need to make the 1000 malts - now all I need is time and a strong liver...
The Islay weather hasn't really hit Holland yet, so I decided it would be best to start with a big 'Speyside Survey' to boost my numbers. After my first encounter with four expressions of Macallan's new 'Fine Oak' range in September I had the chance to sample almost the full range of 'new' Macallans recently. As I suspected, the friendly atmosphere at the introduction had influenced me quite a bit, scoring the 12yo and 18yo Fine Oak a bit higher than during this second try. Fortunately, some other expressions held up pretty well - although the style of the Fine Oaks is very different from the 'Old School' Macallan.
The youngest dram in the range is the Macallan 10yo 'Fine Oak'
(40%, OB, Bottled 2004). Does that mean they discontinued the 7yo? Well, that could make sense; that expression seemed to have a good dose of sherry, and given the shortage of sherry casks in general (and especially at Macallan) they may want to reserve those for older, more expensive bottlings. Well, let's see if this is a decent replacement.
Nose: Sweet and mellow. Dried barley. Very pleasant and accessible, but not complex.
Lemon drops? Apple? After a minute some smoke emerges, but a splash of water killed it.
The nose starts out very promising, but I'm afraid in the end it just doesn't really deliver.
Taste: Not as sweet as the nose would suggest. Starts out smooth but ends flat and dry.
Adding water didn't help this one - it seems flatter and, strangely enough, even drier.
Score: 72 points. A decent and unoffensive whisky, but a sub-standard single malt.
During this session, the Macallan 12yo 'Fine Oak'
(40%, OB, 2004) seemed quite similar to the 10yo Fine Oak - at least in the final calculation; they both ended up with the same score (72 points).
Nose: This is another light one - clearly from bourbon casks. Hints of mint and menthol.
Again a hint of apple. The nose dies quickly and water doesn't help. However, time does.
After fifteen minutes I got some organics, lifting it into the 70's. Then some very faint spices.
Taste: Oy... Flat and dull at first, growing a little 'mealy' like an old Golden Delicious.
It's light and fruity (and maybe slightly nutty), but ultimately a little too dull for me.
It feels fairly uneven on the palate. A little gritty. Dry, bitter finish. Beer. Aspirin?
Score: 72 points - I had it in the upper 70's for the first five minutes before it fell apart.
Oh boy, I feared I might have underscored the 12yo FO before with 76 points.
As I expected, the Macallan 12yo 'Sherry'
(40%, OB, 2004) was much more to my liking.
Nose: Aaaah! Rich and sherried. Pipe tobacco. Overripe peaches? Curry ketchup?
It skims along the edges of oily and perfumy. Rubber. More organics and spices.
Quite massive. Now I get fried onions. Sweat. Clay? The most entertaining nose so far.
Taste: Ooh, not as big and bold as I suspected - and ever so slightly perfumy.
After a few minutes it appears much, much woodier - and maybe slightly smoky.
Over time it shows a lingering fruity sweetness that finally lifts it into the 80's.
Score: 82 points - there's a lot to enjoy here but the palate disappoints in the end.
Hardly subtle, this one - looking over my notes it could almost be a Bowmore or Edradour.
This puts me in an emotional limbo - I don't know if I should be happy or sad right now;
happy that I like it much than the 12yo FO, or sad that it doesn't match the old 12.
Well, actually, I feel somewhere inbetween sad and happy; let's say I feel 'sappy'...
The Macallan 15yo 'Fine Oak'
(43%, OB, 2004) turned out to be a recommendable dram.
Nose: Hey, interesting. Light and fruity with the faintest hint of oil in the background.
More organics over time. Sweaty socks. Dentist. Drops off rather quickly. Hint of smoke?
After some more breathing I got string beans and mayonaise. Mind and menthol as well.
I didn't like it a lot at first, but I can't deny this has personality. Cool; mid-80's, I'd say.
The nose really becomes quite entertaining - it shows a lot of development over time.
Taste: Strange chemical fruitiness. Gin? Blue Curacao? Rum? No winner on the palate.
Quite dry, hot and flat. Could this be a rum finish? In the end this is just a little too dull.
That being said, it clearly mellows out after some five minutes, lifting it from the 70's.
Score: 80 points - the nose is very endearing, but I can't say the same about the palate.
It's very dry and winy, athough it grows a little friendlier after I put it aside for five minutes.
The Macallan 18yo 'Fine Oak'
(43%, OB, 2004) scored 83 points in September.
Let's check out how it stands up under closer scrutiny - using my own fishbowls this time.
Nose: Sherried with some organics, but a tad lighter than the 15yo. Ah - now it explodes!
Light fruits. Still, not extremely expressive, but it feels natural and well integrated.
Taste: Again, a light and fairly subtle sherry character. Nice, but all-in-all a tad MOTR.
It grows fruitier towards the finish - and increasingly dry. It loses some points here.
Not very sweet. However, just like the 15yo this grows easier on the palate with time.
Score: 81 points - Nice, but for a long time I couldn't find a real reason to recommend it.
Some elements reminded me of Springbank but the palate leaves me underwhelmed.
I'm afraid the Macallan 18yo 1986 & Earlier 'Sherry'
(43%, OB, 2004) was a real disappointment. The score of 81 points for the 18yo 'Fine Oak' may be not that impressive as the scores in the upper 80's and lower 90's for older, sherried expressions of the 18yo Macallan, but at least the Fine Oak has the excuse that it's a very different type of whisky. This 'sherry' version is a far cry from the 'old' 18yo.
Nose: Well, that's something else! Soy sauce? Hot milk? Cake? Very peculiar.
Very slick and polished in the nose, slowly sweetening out. Is this a Macallan?
Restrained. Warm milk. I still find it a weird whisky, but I like it much more this time.
Taste: Oooh. Oily start. Very weak. Watery. Sweetish. Fruity. Winey towards the finish.
This really reminds me of Jura or Tobermory. It feels out of balance somehow. Too freaky.
It needs time (at least ten minutes) to open up. Big difference between nose and taste.
Score: 79 points - great development in the nose, but the palate really lets me down.
It's definitely a very big departure from the 'old' sherried Macallan 18's from the 1990's.
This drop in quality proves that they have serious sherry stock problems at 'Big Mac'.
For me personally, the Macallan 21yo 'Fine Oak'
(43%, OB, 2004) didn't do much better.
Nose: Light and a little grainy - good grains. Malted barley? Veggy. Just a tad restrained.
Some intriguing developing organics lift it into the 70's after a while - but just barely.
Hm, wait... It grows on me over time. Maybe a score in the upper-70's is in order?
Taste: Oy. This one starts off shaky and deteriorates along the way. Not my cup of tea.
A tannin dryness in the finish - but none of the fruit or sherry that usually comes with it.
Over time it grows more appealing on the palate - but enough to call it recommendable?
Score: 80 points - after a while the nose had grown on me; but the palate is just too flat.
If this is the best Macallan can do after 21 years they are in big trouble, I'd say...
The Macallan 25yo 'Fine Oak'
(43%, OB, 2004) was the first in this range of new Macs that really made my heart beat faster. Wonderful complexity - even thought it's definitely not a sherry monster.
Nose: Sweet and polished with a good deal of sherry, it seems. Smoke and organics.
Ah, now I get some fruits in the background. More 'bakery aroma's and 'good grain' later.
A lovely rich fruit cake sweetness fills the room. Next: leather and meat. Quite spectacular.
Then the organics reappear in full force - a nice surprise. Spices. That means extra points.
Taste: Not quite as big and sweet as I expected. Light, dry and ever so slightly fruity.
The palate doesn't really match the nose and I'm afraid it loses one or two points here.
Score: 85 points - I had it in de lower eighties until the nose caught a second wind.
Phew, finally a 'Fine Oak' expression that's sort of up to the 'old' quality standards.
The last new Mac was the Macallan 30yo 'Fine Oak'
(43%, OB, 2004).
Just like the 25yo, the 30yo isn't particulary big and expressive in the nose.
Nose: Lighter than the 25yo, but quite complex as well. Sweet organics here.
Some faint sherry too, if I'm not mistaken. Yeah, Wonderful developement. A fun malt.
It needs some more time than the last one, but in the end there seem to be similarities.
Taste: Much more sherried than the nose suggests. Dry and woody - pretty good wood.
Aspririn? Unfortunately, the palate is a little bit too gritty, especially towards the finish.
Score: 86 points - the nose is really great (although a bit subtle), but not the taste.
At almost 300 pounds (that's almost 500 Euro's in real money) it's quite disappointing.
So, 2004 is obviously a watershed year for Macallan.
When I discovered 'Big Mac' in the early 1990's it already had a solid 'fan base', and I guess they fell in love with it for the same reason I did: when you bought a Macallan you knew you were getting a good to great, heavily sherried whisky. This may have been the reason why Macallan was one of the few really established single malt 'brands' in the early 90's, together with Glenfiddich, Glenlivet, Glenfarclas and just a few others. I have to admit that I never really was into the older, more expensive Macs; the 'normal' 10yo 100 Proof and 12yo bottlings were much more affordable and quite excellent enough for me. So, I spent a big part of the 1990's enjoying fine Macallans obtained at a fine price. However, things started to change around 2000.
The first signs of trouble were visible in changing profiles of the 10yo and 18yo around the turn of the millennium. Then came the underwhelming 'Traveller's Edition's' and the 'replica's' (which turned out to be replica's of fakes). Although they seemed to be able to keep the quality of 'basic' bottlings like the 12yo and 10yo cask strength at a relatively constant level, Macallan's position as the ultimate sherried Speysider started to wobble. More and more of my malt friends started to express doubts.
In a way it is commendable that Macallan chose for a forward flight; instead of ignoring the profile changes caused by a growing shortage of sherry casks they decided to re-invent themselves. It remains to be seen if the 'new' Mac will be embraced by its former fans. I wouldn't be surprised if the sherry freaks among them will turn their attention to more affordable (and still sherried) alternatives offered by the likes of Aberlour and Glenfarclas. The success of Macallan will depend on the ability of the 'Fine Oak' range to find a new audience; preferably of the younger, richer and prettier variety. Well, it's obvious that's exactly what they are aiming for in their marketing campaign. A bold gamble; I wish them the best of luck.
As for myself - if I'm going to invest any more money in Macallan, it's going to be in Macallans from the previous millennium. I sampled a Macallan 1947 (80 proof, OB, Rinaldi Bologna) last month at Giuseppe Begnoni's 'Whisky Paradise' in Bologna. I didn't rate it, but if I had it would have ended up in the mid 90's, somewhere in the top 10 on my Hit List. However, prices at that level are rather prohibitive, so I'll be trying to find some more younger OB's and IB's. I'll probably sink any money I can into the Wilson & Morgan 12yo C/S Macallan still available on Malt Market - that has a great BFYB ratio. If I were a collector, I would probably focus on OB's more than on IB's, but I'm a drinker...
Well, not a very heavy drinker...
After tonight there are 915 malts on my Track Record - still 85 more to go this year.
- - -
Dram Diary # 191 - Macallan Fine Oak Range
72 - Macallan 10yo 'Fine Oak' (40%, OB, Bottled 2004)
72 - Macallan 12yo 'Fine Oak' (40%, OB, Bottled 2004)
82 - Macallan 12yo 'Sherry' (40%, OB, Bottled 2004)
80 - Macallan 15yo 'Fine Oak' (43%, OB, Bottled 2004)
81 - Macallan 18yo 'Fine Oak' (43%, OB, Bottled 2004)
79 - Macallan 18yo 1986 & Earlier 'Sherry' (43%, OB, Bottled 2004)
80 - Macallan 21yo 'Fine Oak' (43%, OB, Bottled 2004)
85 - Macallan 25yo 'Fine Oak' (43%, OB, Bottled 2004)
86 - Macallan 30yo 'Fine Oak' (43%, OB, Bottled 2004)
I've already tried the 12yo, 18yo, 25yo and 30yo at the official 'Fine Oak' introduction in Holland a few months ago, so I can only add five fresh malts to my Track
Record this time, bringing the total number to 915 single malts.
After last night's 'Big Mac' investigation tonight's session looks at two of the other big Speyside names; Glenfiddich and Balvenie. They are either slowly improving the recipe of Glenfiddich or my palate becomes more accustomed to subtle flavours - whatever the cause, Big Fiddich scores a lot higher in my book than it used to in the late 1990's. My initial research indicates that Balvenie doesn't show the same constant improvement over the last years - at least not in its big seller the 12yo Doublewood.
The Glenfiddich 12yo Special Reserve
(40%, OB, Bottled +/- 2004) replaced the 'NAS' version a few years ago and I like it better with every bottle I try. This latest batch was just slightly below average.
Nose: Ah, solid, sweet and nutty, growing fruitier quickly. Maybe a hint of smoke.
Quite fragrant - I like that. Hints of vegetables (string beans?). Slightly grainy.
Some organics as well. Hey, over time it grows more in the direction of warm milk!
It never becomes terribly complex, but it's just mighty entertaining in the nose.
Taste: Sourish, fairly weak start. Firms up in the centre. A very long, creamy finish.
After a while the finish grows mildly 'winey' - nice, but not enough for an 80's score.
It grows just a little to weak and bitter on the palate, pulling it from the upper 70's.
Score: 73 points - it falls apart fairly soon (within ten minutes), so drink up quickly!
The Glenfiddich 15yo Solera Reserve
(40%, OB, Bottled +/- 2004) seems on the way up as well. All earlier batches I tried ended up below average, but this one had no such problems. Interesting.
Nose: Slicker & oilier than the last one. Hints of vegetables and organics. Strange.
Unique. Rotting fruits and vegetables behind a cow stable - at a farm at the coast?
Sherry and a hint of organics. Quite peculiar - not really my 'type' but very interesting.
Taste: Smooth start, growing maltier and grittier - then bitter and much more 'winey'.
Hey, that's funny; in the far back of the finish I have a nice 'dried apples' aftertaste.
Unlike the 12yo, my score for this one kept creeping upwards with every single sip.
Score: 77 points - just because this is such a unique experience. Jungle juice.
Hey, hey, hey... Four points up from last year's release. Off the beaten path.
The Glenfiddich 18yo 'Ancient Reserve'
(40%, OB, Bottled +/- 2004) didn't do so well.
In comparison with the 15yo, it just seemed a little woody and tired on the palate to me.
Nose: Ah, Oak and tobacco. Heavy sherry and rotting grapes. Very expressive.
Hey, hey, what a fun nose. That being said, it feels slightly 'designed'. Perfume?
There are organics in the background as well, but they are sort of overwhelmed.
Pickled gherkins? Cream cheese? I got some more 'farmy' notes after a few minutes.
The nose opens up nicely and seems a little sweeter and fruitier over time.
Taste: Oy; a little weaker than I expected - and certainly not as sweet. Some smoke.
Very dry and quite woody too. This reminded me a lot of the Auchentoshan 'Three Wood'.
Score: 76 points - the nose is very nice but I can't really go higher with such a palate.
That being said, it's a few points up from last year as well.
The last 'Fiddich was the Glenfiddich 21yo Gran Reserva
(40%, OB, Bottled +/- 2004).
Nose: This has some fruits & sherry, but it remains fairly subtle. Very faint organics too.
A well balanced malt, but not very expressive one way or the other. Too tame for me.
Some more organics emerge in the end - and maybe fruit and liquorice - but it's too late.
Taste: Sweetish, malty and a little nutty. Not complex but entertaining nonetheless.
Over time the profile changes. After ten minutes it grows woodier. Bitter. Hint of smoke?
Score: 79 points - it's an 'above average' malt with a slight personality deficit.
Very interesting at times but it changes over time. It could do with a higher proof.
So, all around good news for Glenfiddich.
None of these bottlings managed to receive 'recommendable' status just yet, but they're certainly moving in the right direction. Keeping in mind that I'm a fairly strict scorer, three out of four bottlings scoring 'above average' is quite impressive. Now, let's see how its sister brand is doing...
The Balvenie 12yo DoubleWood
(40%, OB, Bottled +/- 2004) is an old favourite.
Nose: Smooth, polished and slightly sherried. Hint of sculptor's clay? Quite light.
Much more fruits and organics in the nose after a little while. Smoke? Polished.
Raspberry. Chalk or clay? Spices. Nice enough, but it drops off a bit along the way.
Taste: Light on the palate as well. A solid, malty centre. Faint fruits. Slightly bitter finish.
It sweetens out after a few minutes with more fruity notes, lifting it just above average.
Score: 82 points - plenty of enjoyable stuff in the nose, so it finally makes it into the 80's.
The nose is great. Unfortunately, it feels a little flat and dry on the palate for most of the time.
A decent, middle-of-the-road malt, scoring a few points below previous batches of the DW.
An earlier batch of the Balvenie 1989 PortWood
(40%, OB, Bottled +/- 2004) scored 83 points on my Hit List. That's not too shabby, but a few points short of the wonderful 21yo PortWood.
Nose: A splash of paint thinner in the start, quickly developing into mellow organics.
Then it takes a fruitier turn. Quite polished. Yeah, this is much more to my liking!
Hey, now I get 'speculaas' spices in the nose. Sherry and fruit. Organics as well. Nice.
Taste: A sharp start, but it quickly mellows out into a fruity direction. Winey centre.
It remains winey in the finish. Not very complex and slightly too bitter for my tastes.
It has a nice peppery prickly. I imagine this is easily drinkable 'by the bottle', so to speak.
Score: 81 points - I like the nose a lot, but it lacks sweetness and substance in the taste.
It's still a little too thin on the palate for my tastes, but this deserves a spot in the 80's.
The Balvenie 21yo PortWood
(40%, OB, Bottled +/- 2004) is clearly a different class of malt.
Nose: Rich and polished. Fruity and sherried. A fruity feast for the nose. Mint?
Tobacco and some spices. Then some 'horse stable' organics emerge. Wow...
Quite spectacular and utterly enjoyable. Gooseberry. Cream cheese pie with tangerine.
The nose is extremely enjoyable - so much so that I forgot to make any more notes.
Taste: Soft start, growing sweeter, fruitier and woodier. Fabulous centre, long finish.
Maybe a hint of smoke? Yes, but after ten minutes the smoke grows a tad too strong.
Score: 87 points - the nose alone would warrant a score in the 90's. Savour this one...
Too bad it just feels slightly thin on the palate - well, at least for the first few minutes.
I finished this session with the Balvenie 15yo Single Barrel 1989/2004
(47.8%, OB, Cask #7581). I've tried three earlier version of this 'single cask' bottling and all scored between 80 and 84 points.
Nose: Smooth and a little oily. Fruits and sweets. Furtinure polish. Nougat? Spices?
Later on I got some woodier and smokier notes. Some grains. Whiff of paint thinner.
Oak. After I tasted it, I got bubblegum in the nose as well. Quite spectacular.
Taste: Oy... Not nearly as sweet as I'd expected at first. Hey... Pink bubblegum!
Based on the nose I was thinking upper 80's, but it lets me down on the palate.
Score: 82 points - not a spectacular malt by any means, but it has some funny features.
Quite sweet in the nose, but not really on the palate. The bubblegum is funny, though.
While Glenfiddich shows progress along the entire range, some expressions of Balvenie (the 12yo Doublewood and the 1989 PortWood) seem to be slipping. It would be very interesting to see what caused this phenomenon - growing demand for Balvenie compared to Glenfiddich? Anyway, since these were all rather fresh batches this offers an interesting 'snapshot' of the situation in 2004 - if I revisit these bottles in the future I will be able to make an informed comparison.
- - -
Dram Diary # 192 - Glenfiddich & Balvenie
82 - Balvenie 12yo DoubleWood (40%, OB, Bottled +/- 2004)
82 - Balvenie 15yo Single Barrel 1989/2004 (47.8%, OB, Cask #7581)
81 - Balvenie 1989 PortWood (40%, OB, Bottled +/- 2004)
87 - Balvenie 21yo PortWood (40%, OB, Bottled +/- 2004)
73 - Glenfiddich 12yo Special Reserve (40%, OB, Bottled +/- 2004)
77 - Glenfiddich 15yo Solera Reserve (40%, OB, Bottled +/- 2004)
76 - Glenfiddich 18yo 'Ancient Reserve' (40%, OB, Bottled +/- 2004)
79 - Glenfiddich 21yo Gran Reserva (40%, OB, Bottled +/- 2004)
All eight fresh batches were new to me, which means there are now 923 malts on my Track Record.
I've been looking at some of the 'big Speysiders' lately; Balvenie, Glenfiddich & Macallan.
But Speyside is home to dozens of distilleries - not all of them quite as renowned as the former three. Tonight's tasting session involved a dozen different samples from a few slightly less prolific distilleries from the Speyside area; mostly Benromach, Glenrothes and Linkwood this time.
The Benromach NAS 'Traditional' (40%, OB, Bottled +/- 2004) is a relatively new bottling from one of the distilleries we visited last summer. Earlier
tastings indicated that this is a very gentle dram.
Nose: Light - smooth at first but growing a little grainier after a few seconds. Creamy. Oil?
Maybe a hint of Granny Smith? Quite restrained for a while, but then it opens up. Spicy.
It sweetens out and even gets a hint of faint organics - but it remains mostly superficial.
That being said, given enough time it shows flashes of nuts and fruits. More organics.
I even thought I detected some whiffs of menthol, but this one changes a lot over time.
Taste: Weak start, becoming sweeter and a little nutty on the palate. Gone too soon.
Smooth and slick on the palate as well. Over time I got apples, mint, smoke and liquorice.
It's quite dry, and when I added just a drop of water I even imagined some burnt peat.
Loses points here. It's quite slick (and improves with time), but for me it's a tad too 'MOTR'.
Score: 75 points - in the end it's just a little too dry, woody and simple on the palate.
If it wasn't for the fact that the nose kept surprising me it would have ended up in the 60's.
The Benromach 14yo 1968
(40%, G&M CC Old Brown Label) was much older than the NAS.
In fact, this was bottled over two decades ago - years before I even tried my very first whisky.
Nose: Very fruity from a distance. Rich and sherried on closer inspection. Hint of mint.
Quite lovely! Much more character than the Connoisseurs Choice bottlings of the 90's.
After a few minutes organics join the party. Oriental spices. A whiff of smoke, perhaps?
Five minutes later I even thought I found some peat. No 'MOTR' malt, that much is certain.
Lots of development too. After a while I got pickled onions. Quite a nasal adventure.
Taste: Hmmm, A tad thinner on the palate at first. Grape skins and other fruity notes.
More serious in the centre; quite dry and woody. Smoky. No sweetness, but I like it.
Score: 87 points - the nose almost pushes it into the 90's, but the palate holds it back.
The nose is really quite spectacular - not unlike a heavily sherried Ardmore or Longmorn.
My first impression of the Benromach 15yo
(40%, G&M, Bottled +/- 2000) seemed to suggest that the 'house style' of Benromach has changed considerably during the last two decades.
Nose: Sweet and mellow. Much 'grainier' than the 14yo I just tried. Light fruits.
It threatens to wander off in an oilier, veggier direction. Maybe a hint of smoke?
After some time some faint spices and organics. Not bad at all, this Benromach.
Taste: Oy.... Something artificial and perfumy. Dry. Winey. It loses many points here.
Score: 67 points - a pleasant nose, but I really don't like the gritty taste of this malt.
The uneven, dry and bitter taste (aspirin) prohibits me from really enjoying this one.
We also visited the birthplace of the Glenrothes 1992/2004
(43%, OB) last year.
Nose: Hey, very fragrant with oriental spices. Cow stable. Quite interesting.
Again I find something like clay. Dead crabs on the beach? Is that a hint of oil?
Water melon. Nice, but it fizzles out too soon after a very promising start.
Taste: Sweet, solid and fruity. A hint of liquorice. Lemon? Nothing outspoken.
Woody, thin and a tad too 'winey' in the finish for me. Dries out very rapidly.
Score: 77 points - There's plenty of fun to be had but it's just too dry in the finish.
Hmmm, maybe a tad underwhelming for a 12yo Glenrothes?
In comparison, the Glenrothes 1987/2002
(43%, OB) provided much more fun.
Nose: Mellow, malty and very sweet. Heather honey. Lovely! A bit like Balvenie 12?
Something fruity as well - but very subtle. This grows much more powerful with time.
Wonderfully balanced. Some intriguing organics in the back of the nose. Maggi! Tea?
Taste: Sweet, but fairly superficial in start and centre. More and more smoke over time.
Not unlike a peatless Bowmore. After a few minutes it seemed to grow more powerful.
There's a lot to love here, but it dries out - it grows very hot and dry over time.
Score: 84 points - but please note that it needs some time to reach its full potential.
Especially the empty glass is lovely - and quite unique. This dram left me utterly satisfied.
I have to admit this one performs considerably better than the 1987/2000 release!
That one scored 78 points in my book. Wow - what a difference 2 years makes...
The Glenrothes 12yo
(43%, 'OB' by Berry Bros & Rudd, Bottled +/- 1990) from Serge provided a very interesting look into the past. This bottling pre-dates the current 'bulky' OB's by quite a few years.
Nose: Mellow and malty against a serious backdrop of spices and organics.
It smells 'antique' - the character of a malt that has been in a bottle for many years.
That's very different from the 'oxidation' effect, mind you. Odd fruits. Tea. Tobacco.
Taste: Nice, sweet and very chewy. Wonderful fruits in the centre, then it dries out.
Slightly thin in the finish. A bit 'winey' as well, but not disturbingly so. Then bitter.
Score: 82 points - this is quite interesting, but it falls apart much to quickly.
The Aberlour 14yo 1989
(46%, Helen Arthur Single Cask, Unchill-filtered) was a bit of a rarity; you don't see many independent bottlings of Aberlour. Two recent bottlings (the Aberlour-Glenlivet 15yo 1987/2003 at 62.1% from Cadenhead and the Aberlour 15yo 1988/2003 at 50% from Douglas Laing) both received an average score of 85 on the matrix - which can be translated as 'highly recommendable'.
Nose: Light and grainy, sweetening out. Whiffs of grass and herbs. No sherry.
Paint. Dusty and a little sour. Whiff of sorrel? More spices and smoke with time.
This clearly came from a bourbon cask - and quite a feisty one it seems.
Not really my profile, but it's more expressive than some other 'bourboned' malts.
Taste: Oy... Flat and dull. Pine. Hotter and metallic in the centre, then sweet fruits.
Score: 71 points - at first, I was ready to give the nose the benefit of the doubt.
The bouquet is quite interesting. Unfortunately, it loses all credibility on the palate.
I'd have to classify this as a sub-standard malt. A bit like a young 'Fine Oak' Mac.
The Cragganmore 29yo 1973/2003
(52.5%, OB, Special Edition, 6000 Bottles) is a much more 'conventional' whisky, although it has some odd features too. First of all; the proof is still pretty high for a whisky this old, I'd say. Second of all, they must have had an awful lot of casks from 1973 lying around - if these were (mostly) bourbon casks and the angels have taken their usual share, I would be surprised if they got more than 200 bottles from a cask. That means this vatting contains at least two dozen casks.
Nose: Sweet and malty in the start, with just a hint of organics after a while. Grains.
It grows stronger & spicier, and then I get a hint of liquorice. Salami? It grew on me.
Smells a little 'milkier' with water. The first time I actually found 'hot milk' in a malt.
Taste: Hint of lemon? Sweet and solid. Quite pleasant, but nothing really stands out.
Unfortunately it turns very dry later on, though. I'm afriad it's a little too dull for me.
Score: 79 points - This one doesn't have enough 'staying power' and loses some points.
I can't find any major flaws, but this just lacks personality. Similar to the normal 12yo.
A special edition that turns out to be not that 'special' after all...
That's eight malts down - time for a small break.
Many people have tried to convince me Linkwood a 'hidden gem'.
Well, over half of the bottlings I've tried so far scored in the 80's, so they definitely know how to make a good malt there. I've tried 9 different expressions so far and after tonight I can add 4 more to the list.
I started the last flight with the Linkwood 11yo 1984/1996 (43%, Signatory Vintage, Butt #5458). A sister cask I tried in 1998 (12yo '84/'96, sherry cask #4031) scored 81 points - not too bad.
Nose: Mellow and slightly grainy. Warm milk with a dash of aniseed? Peaches.
Definitely not from a fresh sherry butt, but it's quite pleasant and accessible.
More and more organics with time - and maybe a hint of smoke? A little bit simple
Taste: Fruity and slightly dusty with a very faint hint of perfume. A little bitter.
It doesn't take very long to grow drier, flatter and smokier. Loses points here.
Score: 79 points - Not terribly complex and the palate keeps it from the 80's.
The Linkwood 12yo 1990/2003
(46%, Hart Bros, Sherry cask) did much better.
Nose: Aaaah. Old, dry, good sherry. Amontillado? Leans very much towards 'farmy'.
Complex organics. An absolutely smashing nose - this one really takes no prisoners.
That being said, it seems to run out of steam after fifteen minutes. Something metallic?
Taste: Very sherried. Winey & woody. Tannins. Very extreme - a tad too much so?
Smokier over time. Very dry. No sweetness at all. Not quite as enjoyable as the nose.
Score: 86 points - it's not often that I encounter a malt that's too sherried for me.
I adore the profile of the nose (especially the 'farmy' twist) but it's a bit too much...
Let's see if the Linkwood 1989/2004
(43%, The Spirit Safe, 385 Bottles) from French independent bottler Jean Donnay can match its siblings. I must admit the first whiff was very promising indeed.
Nose: Light and grainy. Vaguely fruity. Prickly in the top of my nose. A bit weak.
It opens up a little after a minute. Much, much more character after a while.
Barley and other 'good grains'. Some light fruity notes as well. Pears and plums.
Over time it showed lots of unique organics, almost lifting it into the upper 80's.
Taste: Fairly weak start followed my a perfumy phase. A fleeting flash of sweetness.
It's not quite sweet enough for my tastes and grows a tad uneven towards the finish.
Score: 83 points - it had some strange personality deficits, but lots of character.
Still not too impressive on the palate, but I can live with that because of the nose.
I saved the Linkwood 12yo 1989/2002
(59.2%, Blackadder Raw Cask, C#5624) for last.
At almost 60%, any bottle I would have tried after this would have suffered from its 'shadow'.
Nose: Very rich and spicy. Mocca? Then more developing organics. Clay? Chalk?
Rotting fruits - something 'fermenty'. Complex, but it seems deceptively simple.
Very interesting and quite complex, but it shows hardly any development over time.
With water it mellowed out a bit. The Mocca and coffee notes were brought forward.
Wait, now it opens up. maggi and oriental spices. This one earns an extra point here.
Taste: Sweet and powerful. Fruity. A great mouth feel, but few lasting impressions.
Adding water didn't improve the palate - it turned dry and quite bitter. Too bad.
Score: 86 points - quite an amazing drams that shows just a few 'flaws'.
And that's it for tonight.
There are now 935 Scotch single malts on my Track Record.
What's more, I've tried at least three different expressions from almost every active distillery in Scotland; only Glenlossie, Glen Spey and Teaninich are not properly represented on my Track Record yet. That means I'm almost finished with phase II of my mission - excellent progress. When I started my mission I decided to ignore inactive distilleries because bottles from these 'silent stills' are increasingly rare and expensive. However, if I were to include the distilleries that were closed since the 1980's there are only ten inactive distilleries left on my 'To Do' list; Banff, Caperdonich, Coleburn, Glen Albyn, Glencadam, Glenlochy, Glenugie, Glenury (Royal), Millburn and North Port (Brechin). Prices for bottles from distilleries that closed in the 1970's (Kinclaith, Ladyburn) are prohibitive, so I'll ignore those - unless I stumble across them, of course...
- - -
Dram Diary # 193 - Mainstream Speysiders
71 - Aberlour 14yo 1989 (46%, Helen Arthur Single Cask, Unchill-filtered)
75 - Benromach NAS 'Traditional' (40%, OB, Bottled +/- 2004)
87 - Benromach 14yo 1968 (40%, G&M CC Old Brown Label)
67 - Benromach 15yo (40%, G&M, Bottled +/- 2000)
79 - Cragganmore 29yo 1973/2003 (52.5%, OB, Special Edition, 6000 Bottles)
82 - Glenrothes 12yo (43%, OB Berry Bros & Rudd, Bottled +/- 1990)
77 - Glenrothes 1992/2004 (43%, OB)
84 - Glenrothes 1987/2002 (43%, OB)
79 - Linkwood 11yo 1984/1996 (43%, Signatory Vintage, Butt #5458)
86 - Linkwood 12yo 1990/2003 (46%, Hart Brothers, Sherry cask)
86 - Linkwood 12yo 1989/2002 (59.2%, Blackadder Raw Cask, C#5624)
83 - Linkwood 1989/2004 (43%, The Spirit Safe, 385 bottles)
If I'm not mistaken, that makes 935 malts on my Track Record - only 65 more to go.
With 935 malts on my Track Record, I still have 65 to go for the 'Mille Malts Mission'.
That's all the excuse I needed to attack some more Speyside samples - mostly from Serge.
I didn't need a pocket calculator to figure out I needed to sample 15 malts to reach 950.
Just to speed up the process, I started with three Midlanders (Aberfeldies) this time.
So, let's stop wasting time and start the sampling...
Malt #1: the Aberfeldy 13yo 1978/1992
(43%, Master of Malt, Casks #7786-7787).
Nose: Light and grainy. Restrained. Dry. A little bit dusty. Mellows out a bit with time.
There really isn't much going on here. Were these a bunch of tired bourbon casks?
Taste: Oomph... Very bitter in the start. It sweetens out, before growing very dry.
Score: 59 points - very little character; it's hard to say anything about this malt.
This proves that sub-standard bottlings are not just a recent phenomenon.
The Aberfeldy 1978/1997
(40%, G&M Connoisseur's Choice) did a little better.
Nose: Smooth, malty and very mildly sherried. The famous CC 'house style'.
Very subtle fruity and bakery aroma's in the background. Some light organics.
Taste: Hmmm, dry and rather flat. Bitter. No sweetness at all. It loses points here.
Score: 69 points - the taste decisively pulls this one out of 'average' territory.
Obviously, I'm not a big fan of 'the CC style', but I like it better than the MoM.
The Aberfeldy 16yo 1966
(40%, G&M Connoisseur's Choice, Old brown label) was the clear winner among this trio, as far as I'm concerned. I fell in love with the bouquet as soon as I opened the bottle.
Nose: Aah... That's much better. This is a sherry monster. Fruits and wood.
Very complex. A hint of smoke and maybe even something medicinal? Excellent!
A bit like Ardmore. Based on the nose, this could very well end up in the 90's.
Taste: Oh, that's too bad. Dry, smoky and even something perfumy. Buysman.
I have to say this tastes a little bit like some 'funky' Edradours or Bowmores.
Score: 84 points - and it gets there purely based on the magnificent nose.
Definitely a malt for nosing, not for drinking. A bottle could last you years!
That concludes my investigation of three expressions of Aberfeldy - a Midlander that's considered an 'honorary Speysider for now. My scores for the six other versions I tried so far varied from 70 to 90 points, so I guess on average tonight's results are a bit below par. That being said, the nose of the 1966 G&M bottling was spectacular. With these Aberlours out of the way, I could focus on my next target: Mortlach. Based on previous experiences, it should do a little better than Aberfeldy during tonight's session.
The Mortlach 12yo 1988
(43%, Signatory Vintage, Butt #2636, 930 Bottles?) came from Serge. A bottling date wasn't stated on the sample, but it should have been around the year 2000.
Nose: Lots of organics here. Something 'veggy' and grassy in the background.
Interesting, but you have to work at it to bring everything to the surface. Smoke?
Taste: A flat start followed by a chewy centre. Cookies and bubblegum. An odd one.
A little smoky. Sadly, it grows drier and drier towards the finish. Quite unusual.
Score: 80 points - just because it's so unique. I can't say I really like the palate.
The glass of Mortlach 12yo 1990/2003
(46%, Hart Brothers, Sherry cask, Distilled May 1990) started to exhale sherried fumes immediately after I poured it, virtually lighting up the room.
Nose: Lovely! Sweet and sherried, just the way I like it. Then spices and organics.
A hint of smoke. Bakery aroma's. Dried apples? Very big and round - a classic profile.
Over time the organics grow ever more complex, but the nose doesn't 'jump at you'.
Taste: Hmmm. Quite dry and smoky in the start - a little too much so for my tastes.
A tad winey with lots of tannins in the finish. Another one that loses points here.
Score: 86 points - but based on the nose alone I was ready to go for the 90's.
An earlier encounter with the Mortlach 1990/2004
(43%, The Spirit Safe, 415 Bottles) showed that this one is quite different from the rich and sherried character I'd come to expect from Mortlach.
Nose: Light and a little grainy. Apple. Lemon. Maltier over time. Almost Lowlandish.
Sweet. This is pleasant enough, but in the end it shows little depth or development.
Taste: Smooth start, growing hotter and sweeter in the centre. This is a throat burner.
It remains quite powerful for quite some time, but grows grittier. No real depth here.
A little woody and winey in the finish, but not too much. Pretty well balanced, actually.
Score: 76 points - not very challenging, but perhaps that not always neccessary.
The Mortlach 14yo 1988/2003
(43%, Signatory, Sherry Butt #4724) was my second Signatory Mortlach of the evening and unlike its 12yo sibling it didn't manage to meet 'recommendable' status.
Nose: Not very sherried, it seems - only the organics stand out. Creamy.
Quite subtle. Maybe a faint hint of smoke? This wasn't a fresh cask, I'd say.
Taste: Dry and a little bitter in the start. Faint hint of smoke or peat, perhaps?
A beer-like prickle towards the finish. I like the nose but it tastes below average.
Score: 76 points - the nose is quite interesting, but I couldn't really recommend it.
The Mortlach 13yo 1989/2002
(59.4%, Blackadder Raw Cask, Sherry Butt #5149) was bottled at cask strength and that usually gives a malt an 'edge'. I just like the 'mouth feel' better at higher proof.
Nose: Quite sharp - but that's not surprising. Sherried and malty beneath the alcohol.
Late summer fruits. Mon chery - cherry liqueur filled chocolates? Growing complexity.
Toffee and a hint of smoke. Then some faint spices and organics. Very pleasant!
Taste: Sweet and fruity, growing smokier towards the finish. A little flat in the tail.
A generous dash of water brought lots of liquorice to the surface. Still quite strong.
Score: 87 points - it loses just one or two points on the palate - nice but dim.
The Mortlach 13yo 1990/2003
(58.6%, SMWS) came from Serge as well.
Nose: Aaah. Old sherry and complex organics. Is that a hint of smoke, perhaps?
Yes, I think it is. There are obvious similarities with the last one, but this is harsher.
At first I thought about a score in the upper 80's but this one lacks some definition.
Taste: Sweet and fruity. Smoky. Oaky. Tannins. It seems sweeter with time. Great.
With some water it turns a bit dry and slightly dry in the finish. Best enjoyed neat.
Score: 84 points - this twin bottling doesn't seem quite as complex as the last one.
That's no less than nine malts down - but I'm not quite finished yet...
My investigations led me to a powerhouse Speyside distillery I hold in high regard.
The Longmorn 10yo 1994 (46%, Helen Arthur Single Cask, C#38381, Unchill-filtered) was the first of a bunch of samples from the 'Helen Arthur Collection'. Hmmm... Interesting. A range of malts selected and or designed by a woman. Unfortunately, most of my female friends seem to prefer 'subtler' malts.
Nose: Quite big, but a little mellower than the OB's I tried. Sweet & creamy. Bubblegum.
A soft fruitiness. Something vagualy sourish - raspberries? It's surprisingly expressive.
I'd say this came from a bourbon cask and it feels rather young - almost like a grain whisky.
It opens up quite nicely, though - it reminds me a lot of the 'Greenore' Irish single grain.
Taste: Oy... A strange chemical sweetness. Pine. Quite big, but it feels a bit unrefined.
Score: 73 points - it's not really my 'type' of malt, but it's really quite expressive.
It's remarkably similar to a young grain whisky, but has a little more complexity.
Dram #11 was the Longmorn 35yo 1967/2002
(57.1%, James MacArthur, Cask Strength selection). Apparently, the oldest Longmorn I've ever tried has lost very little alcohol to the angels.
Nose: Aaaah. Very stylish. Polished oak with old cigar smoke in the background.
Sherry and some fruits - but not a lot. Reminds me of the '71 Scott's Selection.
Unfortunately, it doesn't have the same staying power as that sherry monster.
Taste: Smoky start, growing sherried and more and more fruity in the centre.
Not quite as impressive as the nose I'm afraid, but it still makes my heart flutter.
Score: 88 points - my kind of profile; very sherried, sweet, fruity and smoky.
This makes my Top 3 of favourite Longmorns without even breaking a sweat.
On to #12: the Longmorn 25yo 1978/2003
(58.1%, Peerless, Bourbon cask #5556).
Nose: Quite similar to the last one at first, but not nearly as expressive, it seems.
After a few second the differences become clear; this is sweeter and creamier.
A tad dusty as well. On closer inspection, it shows little depth or complexity.
Taste: Ooh. It's fruity and quite 'chewy', but not quite as satisfying as the 35yo.
After a few minutes of breathing it seems to loosen up, but it remains very hot.
Score: 79 points - not bad at all, but I'm afraid I can't really recommend this one.
That's 12 malts down - I decided to finish this session with 3 Ardmores.
First on the list was the Ardmore 1985/2000 (40%, G&M OB) from Serge.
Nose: Sweetish, creamy and slightly oily at first. An old, dried out Golden Delicious.
Very faint spices in the background, developing into organics. Holly? Petrol? Peat?
The peaty component grows stronger with time, although it never reaches Islay levels.
Taste: Yeah, there's definitely a pinch of peat in here - but not much and it doesn't last.
Smoky. Pleasant, but rather flat. That being said, it packs quite a punch at just 40%.
Score: 80 points - I had it a few points higher until the watery finish dragged it down.
The Ardmore 22yo 1977/1999
(43%, Signatory, Cask #1184) left me unimpressed.
Nose: Polished and refined. Dried apples? Pleasant but not very expressive at first.
Cold tea? It opens up a bit after a minute, but the profile remains quite 'narrow'.
Taste: A little fruity, that's it. Just like the nose, it's a little bit 'middle-of-the-road'.
Score: 76 points - Nothing wrong here - but nothing to get excited about either.
OK - one more Ardmore...
I expected the Ardmore 1987/2003 (45%, G&M for La Maison du Whisky) to do pretty well; I'm not as big an Ardmore fan as some other maniacs but I haven't sampled a bad LMdW bottling yet.
Nose: Hey, that's different... Once again, furniture polish - but quite subdued.
There appears to be a hint of oil, but it's good olive oil instead of cod oil. Clay?
Malted barley. Peculiar aroma's under the layer of grainy sweetness in the nose.
Peppermint. Organics. It's a bit of a 'dichotomic' malt with a dark side to it.
Spices and organics. Wet dog in the background. Hey, is that a hint of peat?
Taste: Smooth and balanced. Slowly dries out. This has a fabulous mouth feel.
Smooth and pleasant on the palate, before turning much drier. Smokier as well?
At times I thought I found traces of smoke and peat, but I wasn't quite sure.
After five minutes I was finally sure; there is some peat in here - but not a lot.
Score: 84 points - this packs quite a punch, but without the peaty burn of an Islay malt.
Hurray, this is one of the first Ardmores I got really excited about. Great stuff.
And that's the end of another thrilling evening.
The result? 950 malts on my Track Record - I'm making very decent progress...
- - -
Dram Diary # 194 - More 'Mainstreamers'
59 - Aberfeldy 13yo 1978/1992 (43%, Master of Malt, Casks #7786-7787)
84 - Aberfeldy 16yo 1966 (40%, G&M Connoisseur's Choice, Old brown label)
69 - Aberfeldy 1978/1997 (40%, G&M Connoisseur's Choice)
84 - Ardmore 1987/2003 (45%, G&M for La Maison du Whisky)
80 - Ardmore 1985/2000 (40%, G&M 'OB')
76 - Ardmore 22yo 1977/1999 (43%, Signatory Vintage, Cask #1184)
73 - Longmorn 10yo 1994 (46%, Helen Arthur Single Cask, C#38381, Unchill-filtered)
79 - Longmorn 25yo 1978/2003 (58.1%, Peerless, Bourbon cask #5556)
88 - Longmorn 35yo 1967/2002 (57.1%, James MacArthur, Cask Strength Selection)
80 - Mortlach 12yo 1988 (43%, Signatory, Butt #2636, 930 Bottles?)
86 - Mortlach 12yo 1990/2003 (46%, Hart Brothers, Sherry cask, Distilled May 1990)
87 - Mortlach 13yo 1989/2002 (59.4%, Blackadder Raw Cask, Sherry butt #5149)
84 - Mortlach 13yo 1990/2003 (58.6%, SMWS)
76 - Mortlach 14yo 1988/2003 (43%, Signatory Vintage, Sherry butt #4724)
76 - Mortlach 1990/2004 (43%, The Spirit Safe, 415 bottles)
That makes exactly 950 malts on my Track Record - 'only' 50 more to go.
Well, that's a relief...
I managed to make it to 950 malts before Christmas.
All I have to do to complete my 'Mille Malts Mission' is sample 50 more malts this week.
I started the last leg of my mission with fifteen relatively obscure Speysiders.
The Craigellachie 1982/1996
(40%, Connoisseur's Choice, Old map label) turned out to be the perfect start of this session; with the averagest of scores it turned out to be the ideal benchmark.
Nose: Mild and malty. Hint of apple. The familiar CC 'middle of the road' profile.
Hints of spices and oil - and something faintly 'veggy' or grassy I can't specify.
It grows a tad smokier over time, but it never really develops a personality.
To bad I can't really add water at this strength - it'll ruin the palate for me.
Taste: Smooth, sweetish. Just a tad too bitter, dry and dusty in the finish.
Score: 75 points - not bad, but not very good either. So, that would be 'average'...
The odd thing about the Caperdonich 16yo 1972/1988
(40%, Signatory Vintage, C#7130-7132) is the alcohol percentage of 40% - didn't Signatory Vintage almost always bottle at 40%?
Nose: Wow!!! Lots of organics, beautifully combined with sherry. Then fruits.
Lovely, lovely, lovely! Something perfumy, but this time it doesn't offend me.
Gentler, sweeter aroma's emerge with time; like a bakery at christmas time.
Taste: Hmmmm... Not bad, but a little watery compared to the amazing nose.
Smoke, growing stronger. And yeah, also something perfumy, pulling it from the 90's.
Score: 88 points - but with a palate to match the nose it would have scored higher.
The funny thing is that I didn't find the 'antique' twist I've found in many other old bottles.
The Glenlossie 1993/2003
(43%, The Spirit Safe, 374 Bottles) came from Jean Donnay in France and it got me really excited; I've only tried one other expression of Glenlossie so far. Based on my experiences with that one (a 10yo 1989/2000 from McGibbon's Provenance, 68 points) I wasn't expecting very much.
Nose: Fruity and a little oily. String beans. Rhubarb? Chalk? Citrus? Very odd.
A little restrained and water didn't seem to help much. Then it grows more mellow.
After that, more spices emerge. Unfortunately, it has the 'cod oil' I'm kind of allergic to.
Intriguing development; it grows fruitier and maltier over time and it really needs a while.
Taste: Fairly flat and weak start. Gritty and quite dry towards the hotter finish.
There's plenty of sweet liquorice in the start, developing into salt liquorice later on.
After a while it seems sweeter in the centre, but the finish still has a beer-like bitterness.
Score: 79 points - it improves with some time and air, but I still can't recommend it.
I had a hard time rating this one. An odd puppy, but the best Glenlossie I ever tried!
But then again, it was only my second...
The Glenlossie 1993/2004 (46%, Murray McDavid, Bourbon cask, MM 0413) would be my third and with both others scoring below 80 points it had a fair chance of dethroning Jean Donnay's bottling.
Nose: Sweet and creamy - almost oily. It grows oilier - is that a Glenlossie characteristic?
Still, this remains on the gentle side - not a 'cod oil' monstrosity like the Isle of Jura 10yo.
Spices and organics. Based on the nose I could go for the 80's - but it's a bourbon cask,,,
Taste: Just as I feared - prickly and quite harsh. A beer-like bitterness in the finish.
This just isn't my kind of malt - too much like a blend or grain whisky for me... Wait...
It mellows out a bit over time, but just as the palate grows on me the nose drops off.
Score: 75 points - the endearing nose is all that keeps it from dropping below average.
Only four drams down and I've already made some excellent progress.
I've only tried two Caperdonichs and one Glenlossie before and now I can cross both from my 'to do' list. Let's see if I can find any more obscure Speysiders on my shelves...
Granted, the Benrinnes 1972/1995
(40%, G&M Connoisseurs Choice) isn't as obscure as Craigellachie or Caperdonich, but it was part of Serge's package and I've only tried four versions so far - not counting the (pretty enjoyable) 'Stronachie' bogus bastard replica - pardon my French....
Nose: Oh boy!!! Extremely rich and sherried - not your average 'MOTR' CC.
Quickly grassy elements and organics join the party. Spices. Salmiak. Brilliant.
Something veggy. Whiff of smoke. It also sweetens out after a little while.
Taste: It starts very odd as well - but not is such a good way as the nose.
Fortunately, it sweetens out and becomes very big and chewy on the palate.
Nice - but then it dries out again in the finish, leaving a coffee-like bitterness.
Score: 86 points - a great malt, but I don't like the palate enough to go higher.
This certainly doesn't have an 'identity crisis' like some other CC's from the 90's.
The Imperial 1991/2001 Port Wood Finish
(40%, G&M Private Collection, C#99/48 1.2, 2600 Bottles) came from another distillery I'm not too familiar with; I've only tried three other bottlings so far.
Nose: Aaah. Lovely! Sherry and fruits. Pipe tobacco. Polished and wonderfully balanced.
Varnish. Very rich and complex, almost worthy of a score in the 90's - at least for a while.
Unfortunately, the 'volume' of this malt disappears rather quickly. Eau de Cologne?
I had it in the upper 80's for the first few minutes, before it loses steam (to soon).
Taste: Woody and smoke at first. It seems a bit flat but blossoms after a few seconds.
Very nice but not quite enough 'oomph' - it might have done better at 50% or higher.
Score: 84 points - there's a distant hint of soap perfume keeping it from the upper 80's.
Still, this is the very best Imperial I ever tried...
Well, maybe that will change as soon as the Imperial 1993/2004
(45%, G&M for La Maison du Whisky) has been rated. Interestingly enough, Imperial used to be quite rare until a few years ago, but it seems Gordon and MacPhail have large stocks of this malt and they are bottling more and more of it.
Nose: Polished, sweet and sherried with a hint of lemon. A classic profile. Great.
Yes, now some organics emerge - with the slightest hint of vomit in the background?
Unfortunately, it loses steam after five minutes, Well, it loses points here, of course.
Taste: Fruity. Solid with maybe a very faint hint of smoke. A pleasant mouth feel.
Hot. Rich, sweet and fruity on the palate. Liquorice. Pinches of pepper and smoke.
Score: 84 points - a fairy classic Speysider that perhaps lacks some refinement.
Hey, hey, hey... Another young surprise from this silent distillery.
Let's see how the Imperial 16yo
(43%, Scottish Wildlife) compares...
Nose: Sweet and creamy - and apparently not as sherried as the previous two.
It has something faintly coastal with a whiff of smoke and a pinch of salt - or iodine?
Liquorice, perhaps? It's all very faint, but it's there. And yes, now I get some peat!
Yes, and organics like in the last one. Given time, it really grew on me. Interesting
Taste: Unfortunately, it's a tad flat and uninspired on the palate. Rather bitter finish.
Score: 75 points - this has the same 'palate problem' as the MurMac Glenlossie.
It's just too flat on the palate for me; this has none of the 'chewy' quality I love.
At first sight the Inchgower 14yo 1989/2004 Port Finish
(46%, Helen Arthur Single Cask) seemed much less expressive and defiantly fruity than some other port finished malts I've tried so far.
Nose: Rich and creamy. Sweet. Nutty. Reminded me a bit of Glenmorangie 'Cellar 13'.
Then some soft spices emerge - quite nice. Hint of oil. Fatter and fruitier with time.
The nose is quite lovely - the port finish is fairly subtle, adding spice and liveliness.
Taste: Oy... Pine. A little herbal, leaning towards perfumy. Sweeter in the centre.
Minty fresh. A little sourish. Nagging tannins. Something fishy - like smoked herring.
Score: 80 points - but based on the nose alone it would have been mid-80's.
A recommendable dram, even though the port finish is fairly subtle here.
The Glen Moray 13yo 1980/1993
(43%, Master of Malt, Cask #80/81) may not appear all that 'obscure' either, but I've only tried official bottlings before (five of them) - this will be my very first IB.
Nose: Grainy and a little oily - but altogether not very expressive. Something dusty?
Much lighter than any of the OB's I've tried - it has none of the 'malty' character.
Taste: Oy! A little soapy at first. Then sweeter and fruitier, followed by smoke.
Hmmm, despite a weak start it grows on me very quickly. Very pleasant mouth feel.
Score: 72 points - not a bad malt, but it loses points in the nose AND on the palate.
The nose has none of the warm and fuzzy maltiness I found in the old OB's of the 1990's.
Technically speaking, the Mannochmore 16yo 1984/2001
(43%, Signatory, Butt #4576) will be the fifth single malt distilled at Mannochmore I've ever tried, but that's only if you count the unholy abomination that was Loch Dhu. Let's forget about that one as soon as possible and give this one a try.
Nose: Grainy start, quickly growing creamier and sweeter. Not very expressive.
After a few minutes some gentle organics appear that make things more interesting.
Taste: Weak start. Faint honey sweetness. No obvious flaws, but it lacks personality.
Score: 70 points - lack of character keeps it at at the lower end of the 'average' range.
Next: dram #12, the Mannochmore 1984/2002
(40%, G&M Connoisseur's Choice).
Nose: Serious - with a serious amount of sherry. Some serious organics too. Maggi.
Rotting fruits, but very little of the fruity sweetness that usually comes with it.
Taste: It IS sweet on the palate. Fruity as well, growing maltier. Yep, very nice.
Smokier towards the finish. It's not overly complex but the finish lasts very long.
Score: 80 points - just a little too many rough edges to make it far into the 80's.
I guess the fact that I'm a sherry freak helps this one a lot - it has some flaws.
The Mannochmore 19yo 1984 Sherry Finish
(46%, Helen Arthur Single Cask, C#4582, Unchill-filtered) turned out to be my favourite bottling among the three - and the best I ever tried, in fact.
Nose: Wow! Big, sweet and sherried - you could have fooled me it's 100% sherry.
Well, a re-fill cask perhaps. Still, this is my favourite 'Helen Arthur' bottling so far.
Spicier over time with some subtle organics growing stronger. Something 'veggy' too.
On closer inspection, it becomes clear that the 'finish' is draped over a plain whisky.
This malt has undergone plastic surgery and from a distance it's easy on the senses.
If you look closer, some things seem a bit 'unnatural', but you can still have a lot of fun.
Taste: Quite smoky for a moment, before turning fruitier, then dry. Not a lot of 'depth' here.
In fact, the bitter smoky notes on the palate do remind me ever so slightly of Loch Dhu.
Score: 84 points - the nose is a bit odd and artificial, but very, very interesting indeed.
The simple palate pulls it from the upper 80's. It's a bit like an unpeated Bowmore.
Nevertheless, this is an example of a succesful finishing job - I like it!
All in all, Mannochmore didn't do too bad for a distillery with a shaky reputation.
Let's see if the Speyside 10yo 1993/2003 (46%, Hart Bros, Sherry cask) is able to improve my opinion about this rogue distillery (the owners are the makers of the awful 'Drumguish') as well.
Nose: Oooh. Sharp, piney and oily. Overcooked vegetables, then some odd organics.
Vinegar? Yeah - the cheap, sour kind. Not my kind of profile at all, I have to say.
It sweetens out after a few minutes, but grows a little metallic at the same time.
Taste: A little oily in the start, and just when you expect a centre it's dead.
Well, after it had breathed for a bit it grew a tad sweeter. Still pretty weak, though.
Score: 60 points - oil and vinegar; I guess this one would go well with a green salad...
Only the fact that it's quite unique keeps it from falling below the 50 points barrier.
The funny things is that many people consider the distillery to be located in the Highlands, not Speyside.
The Tomintoul 37yo 1966/2003 Rum Finish
(52.8%, DL Platinum, 201 Bottles) did much better and amazed me by its powerful peaty character. Was this really 'just' a Tomintoul?
Nose: Whaat? Is this Tomintoul? But I get peat! Lots and lots of it, in fact.
Organics as well - reminding me of some OMC Ardbegs distilled in the early 70's.
Horse stable. Ammoniak. Leather. Still, there's a lighthearted undercurrent.
This is simply flabbergasting! I can hardly believe this isn't an Islay malt.
Taste: Plenty of peat on the palate as well. Liquorice. Smoke. Just lovely.
Brilliant mouth feel. Smooth, yet powerful. I can't detect the rum finish here.
Score: 92 points - quite amazing; I'll have to check with Serge if there could have been a mix-up. This is heavily peated, but when we tasted another Tomintoul from 1966 last year in Scotland (that was the Tomintoul-Glenlivet 30yo 1966/1996 by Signatory Vintage, Cask #709) I found no peat. Strange...
And on that uplifting note I'll close this liquid log for the evening.
No ambitious closing statements this time - I'm on a mission...
- - -
Dram Diary # 195 - Obscure Speysiders
86 - Benrinnes 1972/1995 (40%, G&M Connoisseurs Choice)
88 - Caperdonich 16yo 1972/1988 (40%, Signatory Vintage, Casks #7130-7132)
75 - Craigellachie 1982/1996 (40%, Connoisseur's Choice, Old map label)
79 - Glenlossie 1993/2003 (43%, The Spirit Safe, 374 bottles)
75 - Glenlossie 1993/2004 (46%, Murray McDavid, Bourbon cask, MM 0413)
72 - Glen Moray 13yo 1980/1993 (43%, Master of Malt, Cask #80/81)
84 - Imperial 1991/2001 Port Wood Finish (40%, G&M Private Collection, C#99/48 1.2, 2600 Bottles)
84 - Imperial 1993/2004 (45%, G&M for LMW)
75 - Imperial 16yo (43%, Scottish Wildlife)
80 - Inchgower 14yo 1989/2004 Port Finish (46%, Helen Arthur Single Cask)
70 - Mannochmore 16yo 1984/2001 (43%, Signatory, Butt # 4576)
80 - Mannochmore 1984/2002 (40%, G&M Connoisseur's Choice)
84 - Mannochmore 19yo 1984 Sherry Finish (46%, Helen Arthur Single Cask, C#4582, Unchill-filtered)
60 - Speyside 10yo 1993/2003 (46%, Hart Bros, Sherry cask)
92 - Tomintoul 37yo 1966/2003 Rum Finish (52.8%, DL Platinum, 201 Bottles)
That's 965 malts on my Track Record - only 35 more to go this year. XLNT!
And the extra good news is that there were two Glenlossies among these bottles; I've only tried one other version so far. I can now strike it from my 'To Do' list. Caperdonich, Imperial, Inchgower and Mannochmore are distilleries I'm not too familiar with either. So, it's safe to say that I've made some excellent progress tonight...
I can take it a little easier now and get ready for christmas.
For tonight I've planned a little trip along the Scottisch coast.
Not a real trip, mind you - a 'virtual' one. I will be 'travelling by glass', if you will.
I've traveled along the virtual coastline on my shelves many times before, and each time I was confronted with the same problem; there are just too many interesting places to 'stop' on the way. So, I decided to divide my virtual journey into three segements. By midnight I should arrive on Orkney...
The Rosebank 13yo 1990
(46%, Helen Arthur, C#486) might not strike you as a 'coastal' whisky, but it's actually located very close to the Firth of Forth, some 30 kilometres west of Edinburgh. In fact, all Lowland distilleries (except Glen Flagler) are or were situated within 10 miles of the coastline.
Nose: Flat & grainy at first. Paint thinner. A sharp nose tingle, but very little else.
Dusty. Boring. Something creamy pops up now and then but never really takes hold.
Spirity. Something vaguely grassy, at some points even leaning towards herbal.
Pine? If you wait long enough it even gets some very faint smoky and spicy notes.
Taste: Apple. Pear. Very fresh with early fruits. Could be nice in the summertime.
Surprisingly potent at 46%. I have to admit I like it much better on the palate.
Well, at first - after a while it got a sharp 'battery acid' feeling to it. That's too bad.
Score: 66 points - I can't go any higher than that - and it took 30 minutes to get there.
This is yet another bland young Rosebank that probably should have aged some more.
It seems that Rosebank primarily used mediocre casks in the late 80's and early 90's.
I'm not sure when the Glenkinchie 17yo
(46%, Cadenhead, Old dumpy bottle) was bottled (it was a sample from Serge), but given that it's an 'old dumpy bottle' I'd say it must have been in the 1980's.
Nose: Grainy and creamy - much 'mellower' than the 10yo OB I remember from the 1990's.
Some faint fruits and spices. Hint of smoke or peat? Italian sausages? Hint of chloride?
More and more organics emerge over time, eventually lifting it from the 70's into the lower 80's.
Taste: Sweetish start, growing fruitier in the centre. Winegums. Feels a little gritty, though.
Score: 80 points - and once again this is a malt that needs some time to reach its peak.
The Auchentoshan 21yo 1970
(43%, OB) must have been bottled around 1991.
Nose: Very heavily sherried - a bit like a much more refined version of the 'three wood'.
Lovely fruityness. Antiquity. Big and polished with spices, organics and just a hint of glue.
The nose is extremely entertaining and never becomes boring. Rich and beautifully composed.
Taste: Fruity, sherried and woody on the palate as well. Coconut. What a lovely mouth feel.
It grows drier and smokier towards the relatively short finish - keeping it from a score in the 90's.
Score: 89 points - making it officially the very best Auchentoshan I've tried in my life.
Great stuff. Actually, some traits reminded me of a '2000' batch of the Springer 21yo...
This is by far the very best Auchentoshan I ever tried - thanks, Serge!
Traveling north from the Lowlands, through the Midlands along Scotland's east coast, we arrive in Montrose, some 60 miles north of Edinburgh. The area used to be home to three distilleries, Hillside (Glenesk), North Port (Brechin)
and Lochside. Hillside and North Port were closed in the 1980's and I haven't heard anybody complain about that too loudly. My research so far indicates that the quality of their output was hardly spectacular. Lochside (closed in
'92) on the other hand, seems to have a loyal following.
Well, let's see how the Lochside 1991/2004 (46%, G&M for LMW, C#15189) performs.
Nose: Light, grainy and fairly sharp. Not a lot of definition, although it opens up.
A very faint fruity sweetness. No obvious flaws, just a little bit dull for my tastes.
Taste: Very sweet with a bitter undercurrent. Burnt caramel? Something fruity.
Just like the nose, it's very light. After a while I found some liquorice on the tongue.
Score: 71 points - it wasn't too interesting to begin with and became quite bitter.
This seems to be one Lochside that doesn't live up to the reputation.
Fortunately, the Lochside 1981/2004
(46%, Berry Bros, Casks #610/613) would give me an opportunity to verify if the fairly low score for the '91/'04 bottling was indicitave of Lochide's 'quality level'.
Nose: Very light with maybe a hint of oil. Opens up a bit, but not much. Spices.
I added a few drops of water but all that did was turn it a little sweeter. Nutty. Oil?
Smoother and creamier over time. Now I get something coastal and almost peaty.
Taste: Soft, sweetish start, growing fruitier and woodier in the centre. Quite bold.
It's a tad bitter towards the finish, but not unpleasantly so. Chocolat? A little winey.
Score: 84 points - some emerging organics in the nose finally lifted it into the lower 80's.
This seems much more entertaining than the 1991/2004 from LMW. What's more, it confirms that this seems to be the only distillery in the area that managed to produce some good malts in its time. Two Connoisseurs Choice bottlings I've tried before managed to earn a score in the 80's as well. Unfortunately, the distillery was closed in 1992, but I imagine there are still quite a few casks lying around.
OK; time to travel further north (some 50 miles along the coast) before we turn west to pay a quick visit to Glen Garioch. I know it's not really a 'coastal' malt, but the distillery is located less than 15 miles from the coast and
especially the older versions have a big, smoky character that's as much 'Highlands' as 'coastal'. Which brings us to the first GG; the Glengarioch 15yo 1988/2003
(46%, Whisky Galore).
Nose: Smooth, fruity and quite mellow. Veggy. Big, but not really expressive.
There's something vaguely dusty between the fruits. Hint of oil, perhaps?
After some five minutes I got something like molten candle wax. That's odd...
Taste: Sweet and fruity. Hint of smoke; big and sweet in the centre too.
Pleasant, although it grows bitter in the finish. It's hard to get a handle on this one.
Score: 83 points - this is another malt that slowly but surely grew on me over time.
I'm not sure when the Glen Garioch 1984 (55%, OB) was bottled, but I assume it must have been somewhere around the turn of the millennium. (Please let me know if I'm mistaken.)
Nose: Spicy with a hint of apple at first, grainier after a few seconds. Very nice.
With a splash of water some more and more organics drifted to the surface. Smoke?
Taste: Very sweet, growing fruitier and maltier in the centre. What a lovely mouth feel.
After a few minutes I got some 'pine' - too bad. It seems to grow grittier as well
Score: 84 points - not especially complex at first, but very pleasant on the tongue.
The Glen Garioch 29yo 1968/1997
(57.7%, OB, Cask #7) proved to be a BIG WHOPPER!
Nose: Wow!!! Another sherry monster - woody, fruity and wonderfully complex. Tea. Baklava?
Spices and organics too. Smoke. All sorts of subtle and seductive action in the background.
Salami with garlic? Rubber? An exceptional profile, although it doesn't seem all that 'old'.
The organics grow ever more complex - what a ride! Should I add water? I could spoil it...
When I finally dared to add a few drops of water, it seemed to release more smoky notes.
Simply flabbergasting - this could very well be the best heavily sherried malt I ever tried.
Taste: Hey, that's funny. I get some 'antiquity' on the palate. Smoke. Winey, fruity and chewy.
Almost perfect on the palate as well. With a stronger start it might have reached the upper 90's.
Score: 94 points - definitely the very best sherry monster I ever tried. The stuff of legends.
And once again this knockout malt was selected and shipped by 'supernose' Serge.
Well, maybe it's time to give Glen Garioch a spot on my 'Top 10 Distilleries' list?
I've tried 14 different bottlings so far; 4 of them scored in the 90's and 4 in the 80's.
The only 'problem' is that only the older bottlings did so well; bottlings that had aged for less than fifteen years managed to impress me far less. So, it seems Glen Garioch needs some time to mature. Or maybe there was a change in production somewhere in the 70's or 80's, just like what happened at Ardbeg? Yes, as it turns out that was the case; they switched from peated to unpeated malt around 1985.
Anyway, there's plenty of time to investigate Glen Garioch later.
Now it's time to travel ever further north until we reach the northen coast of Speyside.
There we find a small group of distilleries; Glenglassaugh (closed), Banff (closed) and Glen Deveron. The last one is still active and produces malt whisky under two names; Glen Deveron and MacDuff.
The Macduff 17yo 1978/1996
(43%, Signatory, Sherry butt #6673) was the first of a pair of samples I received (once again) from Serge. Initial sniffings didn't produce any conclusive results.
Nose: Sweet with some leather in the background. Polished. Antique. Organics.
Nothing very expressive here, but I like the 'austere' and 'antique' character.
It evolves very slowly; after ten minutes some smoke drifted into view.
Taste: Hey, not sweetness at all at first. Nothing at all, really. Then smoke.
It very slowly grows fruitier in the centre - this malt develops in slow motion!
After a few minutes of doubt I was finally sure: this has a pinch of peat as well.
Score: 80 points - despite the watery start and the slow development. Intriguing.
Serge's other sample was the Macduff 1975/1993
(40%, G&M CC Old Map Label).
Nose: Smooth and creamy with lots of subtle fruits, growing maltier and spicier.
A classic profile with a little more 'definition' than usual. A faint hint of smoke?
The spices slowly evolve into subtle organics. Then it drops off after 5 minutes.
Taste: Ooh... Quite flat in the start. It powers up quickly, though... Solid centre.
Gooseberries? Burnt caramel? Dry. Gritty. Not quite as interesting as the nose.
Score: 79 points - The nose starts out great but most of the fun is over in 5 minutes.
From the Glen Deveron distillery I traveled west along the Speyside coastline.
West to Inverness, then north again until I reached Alness, home to Dalmore and...
Teaninich! It's an active distillery, but somehow I've only tried one expression so far.
That one (a 1982 Connoisseurs Choice bottling) didn't impress me much.
Nevertheless, I was overjoyed when Victor Baars sent me a Teaninich 10yo
(43%, Flora & Fauna) with his latest shipment of samples; and even more so when another sample arrived a few weeks later from France. Tonight my experience with Teaninich would increase by exactly 200%. Excellent news!
Nose: Hmmm. Rather weak start. Malty. A tad towards the oily side. Some pine?
I could use the terms creamy and grassy, but it's all very subtle. Some organics.
Maybe it's 'tired'? Victor told me that he opened this bottle over two years ago.
Taste: Sweetish and a little grainy. Grittier in the centre. Short, dry finish.
Score: 74 points - this one might have suffered from oxidation, so I'll be mild.
The Teaninich 21yo 1983/2004
(50.8%, Cadenhead, 96 Bottles) arrived from France just a few weeks after I received Victor's sample. It's twice as old as the 10yo F&F, but will it be twice as good?
Nose: Powerful - grassy with subtle organics. Hint of peat? Slowly more fruity notes emerge.
Much more expressive than the 10yo F&F. More fruit, organics and oriental spices over time.
Taste: Much lighter and fruitier than the nose suggests, drying out towards the finish. Solid.
After the first few investigatory sips this quickly grew on me - just like the nose grew on me.
Score: 85 points - another malt that needs quite some time to reach its full potential.
Well, I'm basking in the glow of my own big smile right now...
I've now sampled 3 versions of Teaninich, which means I can cross it off my 'To Do' list.
And THAT means that there's now only one more active distillery on that list; Glen Spey.
Smart-arses among you might ask: 'And what about Kininvie'? Well, that one doesn't count.
Kininvie is used exclusively for blending purposes and has never been bottled as a single malt.
So, besides making good progress for my 'mille malts mission', I've almost finished 'phase II'.
With a happy heart I continued my journey - north, always north... Leaving the men of Tain to their finishing business we finally arrive at the home of the legendary Brora distillery - right next door to its ugly younger brother Clynelish. The Clynelish 10yo 1989/2001
(43%, Hedges & Butler, Cask #3242) was a 'sister bottling' to the Clynelish 10yo 1989/2000 (43%, Cask #5859) I tried in 2002 together with Serge.
Nose: Grainy and a little sour. Cheap vinegar. Farmy, but not in a pleasant way.
It mellows out a bit after a minute. Yeah, that's a little better. But it doesn't last...
Taste: Weak start. Grittier and dustier towards the centre. Is that milk powder?
Salmiak? Dry and bitter in the finish - a classic example of weak bourbon wood.
Score: 68 points - I'm afraid I'd have to classify this as sub-standard.
The Clynelish 13yo 1989/2002
(56.7%, Adelphi, C#3281) showed an obvious family resemblance to the Hedges & Butler bottlings I just tried, but it seems the extra years hadn't been completely wasted.
Nose: Grains and paint thinner at first. Creamy. Rotten peanut? Not much else.
Taste: Sweet, then smokier with some organics. I usually don't find that in the taste.
Coffee. Oily. Gritty with hints of smoke and wood. Sickly sweetness. Interesting, though.
Woodier, winier and more uneven towards the finish. Harsh. Extreme tannins. Ultra dry.
Score: 72 points - I'll have to put it below average. Just not enough redeeming qualities.
And that takes care of Clynelish; time to finish day one just a little further north.
Until recently, Old Pulteney (the northernmost distillery on the mainland) was relatively unknown to me. As it turns out, I already sampled the Old Pulteney 12yo 1990/2002 (55.6%, Hart Brothers) just over a month ago at Whiskyshiff Zurich - so this is a great oportunity to verify my initial score of 85 points.
Nose: Sweet and creamy, malty and fruity. Balanced and quite complex. Mocca? Marzipan?
Cold Earl Grey tea. Salmiak? A little dusty. Oh boy, this malt is extremely kind to my nose!
Taste: Tea, then fruits. A little smoke as well. Solid in the centre. Yeah, I like it a lot.
It shows neither the complexity nor development of the nose on the palate but I like it.
Score: 86 points - I'd have to put this in the 'highly recommendable' category.
Well, that's 10 out of 16 malts that scored 'recommendable' or higher.
Not too bad at all! And with Orkney, Skye and Islay on the way the next two days should be very entertaining as well. Click HERE to join me on the rest of my trip...
- - -
Dram Diary # 196 - Scotland Coast-to-Coast (Part I)
While checking which distilleries I still had to wipe off my hitlist, I also discovered a 'missing sheep' amongst the bottles I tried. I tried the Glencadam 29yo 1971 (50%, DL OMC) in January but neglected to include it in my Track Record.
89 - Auchentoshan 21yo 1970 (43%, OB, 1991)
68 - Clynelish 10yo 1989/2001 (43%, Hedges & Butler, Cask #3242)
72 - Clynelish 13yo 1989/2002 (56.7%, Adelphi, Cask #3281)
83 - Glencadam 29yo 1971 (50%, DL Old Malt Cask)
83 - Glengarioch 15yo 1988/2003 (46%, Whisky Galore)
84 - Glen Garioch 1984 (55%, OB)
94 - Glen Garioch 29yo 1968/1997 (57.7%, OB, Cask #7)
80 - Glenkinchie 17yo (46%, Cadenhead, Old dumpy bottle)
71 - Lochside 1991/2004 (46%, G&M for LMW, Cask #15189)
84 - Lochside 1981/2004 (46%, Berry Bros, Casks #610/613)
80 - Macduff 17yo 1978/1996 (43%, Signatory, Sherry butt #6673)
79 - Macduff 1975/1993 (40%, G&M Connoisseurs Choice Old Map Label)
86 - Old Pulteney 12yo 1990/2002 (55.6%, Hart Brothers)
66 - Rosebank 13yo 1990 (46%, Helen Arthur Single Cask, Unchillfiltered, C#486)
74 - Teaninich 10yo (43%, Flora & Fauna, Bottled 1990's)
85 - Teaninich 21yo 1983/2004 (50.8%, Cadenhead, 96 Bottles)
Out of these 16 single malts, the Hart Brothers Old Pulteney was the only one I've tried before.
With 15 fresh drams under my belt, there are now 980 malts on my Track Record - almost there....
Aaah... After a virtually sleepless night I'm ready to resume my virtual coastal trip.
We gotten as far as Old Pulteney last night and now we hop across the Pentland Firth to Orkney, home to two distilleries; Scapa and Highland Park. Two distilleries on a group of islands about the same size as Islay (which has 7 active distilleries) may not seem all that impressive, but I had no problem to find nine different samples on my shelves; seven Highland Parks and two Scapa's.
I kicked off with the Highland Park 10yo 1993
(46%, Helen Arthur Single Cask).
Nose: Light and creamy - like other Helen Arthur bottlings, but a little smoother.
Quite powerful, but not a very wide 'spectrum' of fragrances. Another summer malt?
After a few minutes faint spices emerge, growing stronger. Something fruity as well.
Actually, if you give it a chance and some time the nose becomes quite entertaining.
Taste: Smooth and quite soft at first, powering up with more smoke quickly. Nice.
Unfortunately, it breaks apart fairly quickly. Dry, uneven and bitter finish. Too bad.
Score: 79 points - I had it in the lower 80's for a while but the palate drags it down.
The Highland Park 12yo
(40%, OB, Bottled +/- 2004) was the last in a long line of different batches I've sampled over the years. A batch I tried last year wasn't nearly as good as those from the 1990's.
Nose: Big, malty and nutty in the nose at first. Hint of oil? Sweeter over time.
A little more organics over time. No, wait - now it flattens out again. Some apple?
Taste: Smooth and slightly oily on the palate as well. Sweetish, malty. Very nice!
It grows sweeter quickly. Only grows bitter (and very much so) after 15 minutes.
This batch reminds me a bit of Longmorn 15yo. I like the sweet, smooth taste.
Score: 79 points - it becomes quite nice over time, but I can't really recommend it.
Next: the Highland Park 1988/2002
(46%, Murray McDavid, MM 75852).
Nose: Light and quite creamy at first. Not very expressive. Much lighter than the OB's.
Maybe a hint of spices? Hmmm, I'm not quite sure - this is so subtle it's almost like a blend.
Finally, after ten to fifteen minutes it opened up a bit, showing some organics and smoke.
Taste: A little flat and harsh at first, quickly evolving into bitterness. Not much fun to be had.
Score: 74 points - and that's just because it did finally open up a bit after ten minutes.
It's not really my style, I'm afraid - another MurMac that's just too subtle for my tastes.
The Highland Park 14yo 1978/1993
(55.2%, Cadenhead's, Distilled November) was just as old (or young) as the MurMac bottling, but much more expressive. It 'jumped out of the glass', so to speak.
Nose: A wonderful combination of fruits and organics. Hot butter? Smoke? Clay? Holly?
Something medicinal? This really is quite unique, although it needs a few minutes to open up.
After a little while longer, I even thought I detected some peat. Wait, now it's gone again.
With some water some more perfumy elements emerged. Passion fruit? Strange 'farmy' organics.
Taste: Easily drinkable at cask strength. Fruity and woody, growing smokier by the second.
Score: 87 points - you have to work at it, but the nose holds some great surprises.
However, the performance isn't constant enough to warrant a score in the 90's.
What happens when you leave a 14 years old HP in a cask for four more years?
That's right! You get the Highland Park 18yo (43%, OB, 2004). This one had seriously heavy 'legs' when I poured my glass and swirled it around as part of my ritual. That's usually a very good sign!
Nose: Wow! Much richer than the last one! A little fruitier with more sherry notes. Spices.
I like it, although this one can't be accused of extremism either. Just a very good whisky.
Upper 80's, I'd say; this is an excellent piece of work. Not extreme, just good work.
Taste: More sherry than the last one on the palate as well. Big, sweet, fruity and woody.
And after a few minutes I seem to get some smoke as well; as well as some more tannins.
Score: 87 points - this starts out at a recommendable level and grows ever more complex.
Interesting... In the 1990's the difference between the 12yo and 18yo was really minimal.
They've certainly fixed that 'problem'! Unfortunately, they did it by dumbing down the 12.
Next: The Highland Park 18yo 1985/2003
(53.9%, Signatory for LMW, Cask #2915).
What a great opportunity to see how an IB compares to the 'standard' set by the OB.
Nose: It seems interesting enough, but I couldn't get a lot of specifics. Sweet organics.
Maybe some smoke and peat after a while? Definitely more spices. Opens up with time.
Taste: Fairly flat at first; a tad malty and fruity. Grows bigger and drier in the centre.
Extremely pleasant on the palate. Sweet. Mocca and marzipan? This is just fabulous.
After some five minutes it seemed to grow smokier and I even thought I got some peat.
Score: 87 points - given enough time, this becomes extremely big and satisfying.
Surprisingly enough, I've never tried the Highland Park 25yo
(50.7%, OB, Bottled +/- 2004) before. But then again maybe it's not that surprising - the price difference with the 18yo is considerable.
Nose: Wow!!! Very big and sherried with lots of furniture polish. Sweet and a tad nutty.
Oh boy, this is an extremely pleasant nose. Very rich. Salty salmiak and liquorice root.
Taste: Hmmm. Here the wood plays the first violin as well, at least at... erm... first.
Then sweeter and fruitier with more tannins towards the finish. Peat? Doesn't last long.
Big, sherried, fruity and woody. It just loses a few points because of the short finish.
Score: 89 points - a highly recommendable malt, but it lacks the 'x-factor' for the 90's.
OK, that's enough Highland Parks for now.
Four out of seven bottlings scored in the upper 80's, so I think it's safe to say they haven't quite lost their touch on Orkney quite yet. Well, at least as far as HP is concerned. How about Scapa?
Olivier sent me the Scapa 9yo 1988/1997
(43%, Signatory, Distilled 25/01/1988, Bottled 9/1997). Based on my research so far I wasn't expecting a lot - so far the only young Scapa to reach 'recommendable' status was the 8yo OB bottled in the 1980's. None of the recent young bottlings tickled my fancy.
Nose: Very mellow at first, growing spicier. Hey, now I get lots of liquorice root. Dusty.
Slightly 'farmy' with mild organics. Quite restrained, but I have to admit I still like it!
Taste: Soft and sweet. More powerful and a little gritty in the centre. Medium finish.
It doesn't perform too bad on the palate, but it's not worthy of a 'recommendable' score.
Score: 78 points - but based on the fun nose I could have gone for the lower 80's.
I finished with the Scapa 23yo 1979/2003 (55.6%, Chieftain's, Sherry Butt #663, 564 bottles) that was submitted to this year's MM Awards - to much acclaim, I might add. It won a silver medal.
Nose: Very rich, very sweet with sherry and wood. Pipe tobacco & cigar smoke. Tea.
Lemon? Then more spices and oriental organics - another classic sherry monster.
Very expressive and everything hangs together rather well. Serious stuff...
Taste: Ah, yes. Big and sweet with lots of substance. Lighter and fruitier later.
Very smooth and sweet. Malty and chewy. Liquorice root. This is just lovely!
Oh yes, this is extremely pleasant, especially later on. Extremely likeable.
Score: 88 points - my kind of malt; big, sweet, smoky and chewy. Lovely.
Well, maybe it's too early to draw any conclusions about Scapa just yet.
Even a mediocre malt can become a piece of art if you put it in a good sherry cask just long enough. Looking at the results so far Scapa is one of the distilleries that doesn't produce a spirit that stands well 'on its own'. But then again, I've only tried nine versions so far, so maybe I should reserve my judgement until later.
And that's it for now. Next stop: Skye (then Mull, then Islay).
- - -
Dram Diary # 197 - Scotland Coast-to-Coast (Part II)
So, let's review the Orkney malts we tried tonight, shall we?
79 - Highland Park 10yo 1993 (46%, Helen Arthur Single Cask, Unchill-filtered)
79 - Highland Park 12yo (40%, OB, Bottled +/- 2004)
74 - Highland Park 1988/2002 (46%, Murray McDavid, MM 75852)
87 - Highland Park 14yo 1978/1993 (55.2%, Cadenhead's, Distilled November)
87 - Highland Park 18yo (43%, OB, Bottled +/- 2004)
87 - Highland Park 18yo 1985/2003 (53.9%, Signatory for LMW, Cask #2915)
89 - Highland Park 25yo (50.7%, OB, Bottled +/- 2004)
78 - Scapa 9yo 1988/1997 (43%, Signatory, Distilled 25/01/1988, Bottled 9/1997)
88 - Scapa 23yo 1979/2003 (55.6%, Chieftain's, Sherry Butt #663, 564 Bottles)
That's a total of 9 drams - meaning there are now 989 malts on my Track Record - only 11 more to go.
Phew... Time for the last 'leg' of the coast-to-coast race and the 'mille malts mission'.
If we leave Orkney and proceed along the coast of Scotland in a counter-clockwise manner we eventually arrive at Mallaig, where we can hop to the island Skye, home of Talisker.
The Talisker 18yo
(45.8%, OB, Bottled +/- 2004) is a relatively new expression.
Nose: Round and sweet with a hint of paint thinner. Then some more organics emerge.
Leathery and meaty. Bigger and bolder. It settles down again rather quickly, though...
However, when you give it enough time, it grows saltier and spicier again - stock cubes!
Sweet coffee. It starts nice and grows even nicer with time - just the way I like it.
Taste: Hey, is that some peat behind the sweetness? Yes it is! That's very pleasant.
Big and spicy on the palate too. Lots of sweet liquorice after some time as well.
After a few minutes the character changes quite radically, growing extremely smoky.
Score: 87 points - extremely pleasant and complex, especially if you give it time.
I'm not quite sure if the Talisker 20yo 1982/2003 'Refill Casks'
(58.8%, OB, 12000 Bottles) is different from the 'Bourbon Casks' version submitted to last year's MM Awards. Time to check. Ooops! When I poured my glass there was still quite a bit of water in it. I hope this hasn't destroyed it completely.
Nose: Whisky. White sculptor's clay. Nothing else, I'm afraid. Maybe some peat?
When I poured just a little bit more in a fresh glass it was much bigger richer.
This time I got lots and lots of organics. Very, very nice - and much, much better.
Taste: Very weak, obviosuly this is now far below 40%. Nothing noteworthy.
After some five minutes I definitely got some sweet peat on the palate.
Second sampling: Without the water overload, there was only a little more nose.
It's a lot stronger on the palate, that's for sure - but not more complex, it seems.
Score: 80 points - there's a lot to enjoy here, but it has quite some flaws as well.
And that settles it as far as Talisker is concerned.
Time so move further south, to the island of Mull, to be precise.
That's where the Tobermory distillery produces an unpeated malt whisky under the same name, together with a peated variety under the name 'Ledaig' (pronounced something like 'lutsjik'). It should come as no surprise that a peathead like myself tends to favour the peated variety, so I've only tried two Tobermories as opposed to seven different Ledaigs. The Ledaig 29yo 1974/2004 (50%, Dun Bheaghan, Cask #5477-5478, 396 bottles) would be number eight - let's hope it's the first to reach 'recommendable' status.
Nose: Slightly oily at first, then more organics. Later on a suggestion of peat? Menthol?
Nutty. It evolves into an odd direction. Quite expressive, but not really my style of malt.
Seems a tad sweeter in the nose on closer inspection. Oily and malty. More organics.
Taste: Fairly fruity at first. Dusty in the centre. Sourish, uneven finish. Still dusty.
Based on the palate alone I'd say mid-70's; too dusty and not quite sweet enough.
Score: 82 points - the nose becomes quite lovely, but it's firewood on the palate.
Well, at first - once I gave it time the score kept creeping up and up and up...
Lower 80's is not bad at all for a bottling from the infamous Tobermory stills.
The Ledaig 31yo 1973/2004
(54.8%, Chieftains, Sherry hogshead #1710, 114 Bottles) from Serge was even older than the last one; they did an excellent job in selecting this for a single cask bottling.
Nose: Aaah... Classy, polished and refined. Sherry, wood and furniture polish.
Sweeter and fruitier after a while. Then spices and organics. Very traditional.
Fairly predictable, but in this case that's good. Continued development for a long time.
Taste: Fruits sweets in the start, followed by smoke. Wonderful mouth feel.
Easily drinkable at this strength - but no weakling! The smoke becomes dominant.
Score: 90 points - without a shadow of a doubt the very best Ledaig I ever tried.
In fact, after the Dun Bheagan it's only the second Ledaig to reach 'recommendable' status.
So, it seems that even Tobermory can produce some malts I can enjoy.
The only problem is that they have to mature for at least two decades before they reach a state of recommendability. That wouldn't be an issue, if it wasn't for the fact that you'll have to pay much more to obtain an old bottle. It's a sobering thought to realise that Queen Elizabeth's government, as well as your own, are enjoying every dram you pour with you. And let's not forget those pesky angels - their 'share' eventually comes out of your pocket - with interest! So, if I can find a younger (i.e. cheaper) malt that performs just as well as an older one I'm all for it.
Well, the Glen Scotia 1992/2003
(62.1%, G&M Cask Strength, Cask #89.92, refill sherry hogshead) could fit that description. The distillery can be found south of Mull, on the Campbeltown peninsula. Unlike bottlings from its more famous Springbank neighbor, young Glen Scotia's can be good AND affordable.
Nose: Rich and spicy with the sherry becoming more obvious quickly. Polished. Smoke.
Very nice, but not terribly complex. Some more organics after a minute. Clay? Stock?
Taste: Big and sweet, fruity and sherried. What a fabulous palate! Nice woody notes.
It grows a tad dry, dusty and noticably flatter towards the finish, but feels very good.
Very hot. It became a tad fruitier after I added water. A nice dram that proves my point.
Score: 84 points - on closer inspection it's not quite as spectacular as I first thought.
Which brings us to the final stop on our little virtual trip: Islay.
The Bunnahabhain 12yo (40%, OB, Bottled +/- 2004) has always been sort of the 'ugly duckling' from Islay; it's the only one of the 'standard' Islay malts that isn't peated. Well, I did find traces of peat in some bottlings, but it's not comparable to any of its Islay neighbours, not even relative 'weaklings' like Bowmore and Bruichladdich. However, just like a baby swan it performs very well on its own terms.
Nose: After a 'delay' it opens up. Gentle, fruity start followed by some organics.
It's quite mellow at first. Growing power but little definition. Pear? Tea leaves?
After a few minutes more organics appear - and more sherry notes, it seems.
Taste: Hmmm... Malty. Pleasant mouth feel. Grows fairly bitter towards the finish.
Fairly mellow on the palate, although it has a dryness that gives it some backbone.
I also got some sweet spices on the palate - cinnamon and other 'speculaas' spices.
Score: 81 points - a good malt but just a little too 'middle-of-the-road' for my tastes.
The Bunnahabhain 36yo 1967/2003
(40.1%, Peerless, Cask #3327, 203 Bottles) showed more complexity right from the start, but that isn't surprising considering it's three times as old as the 12yo.
Nose: Light, malty, grainy and very sweet. Some chocolate - M&M's? Fruits as well.
Melon? Toffee? Paint thinner. Now some organics join the party - followed by more spices.
My second glass: Hey, the nose seems a lot bigger now - some breathing did it good!
Sweet and malty with fruits and organics. The organics gradually grow more prominent.
Taste: Watery start, then drier (grape skins?). Light and a little bit fruity. Underwhelming.
Very fruity on the palate as well - almost like young fruit distillate. Grappa roughness.
Extremely dry in the relatively short finish. Feels very pleasant, though - just a little light.
Score: 86 points - it has a certain unidentifiable quality to it and really grew on me.
OK, time to look at another one of the 'weaklings' from Islay; Bowmore.
I've actually tried the Bowmore 10yo (40%, OB, Bottled 1990's) that Serge sent me before - or at least another batch - but that was before I started taking notes. Time to refresh my memory.
Nose: Spicy and a tad metallic. No peat. Farmy with a faint hint of smoke.
Hint of vomit, growing stronger. It fades away again, making room for organics.
It hardly seems like an Islay malt, but the development over time is entertaining.
Taste: Oh yeah, there it is - the perfumy 'violets' taste I don't like. Flat. Smoky.
It took some time, but the perfumy layer finally disappeared, unveiling some peat.
Score: 76 points - it's not as vile as the Bowmore Darkest and improves with time.
It is finally (partially) redeemed when pleasant organics take over after ten minutes.
The Bowmore 10 was a bit odd, but the Bowmore 1989/2004
(53.2%, Berry Bros, C#1968/1969) was even weirder - my nose was attacked by all kinds of odd aroma's as soon as I poured the glass.
Nose: Another odd one - really funky, it seems (or I'm off course). Genepy?
Chemical lemon aroma's. Aniseed? This one doesn't smell like a whisky at all.
Taste: Yugh! Flat and dull. Can't really detect anything familiar. Really odd stuff.
Weird, fruity, hot and gritty. This is completely different from any whisky I know.
Score: 75 points - and that's just because it's so unique. Really not my kind of malt.
The Caol Ila 10yo 1991/2001
(43%, Signatory Vintage, Cask #10788, D 13/8/91, B 7/9/2001, 5cl) was a sample I received from Olivier. The first whiffs from the glass warmed the room up in no time.
Nose: Peat with a faint hint of beer in the background. Smoke. Serious. Lovely profile.
Sweet but much 'darker' than your average Caol Ila, a bit like the old OMC Ardbegs.
More smoke. Then I got some distinct rubbery notes - the soft inner tubes for bicycles.
Taste: Hmmm. A bit weak in the start. More peaty power in the centre. Intriguing.
A little metallic. Battery acid? I love the profile of the nose, but it feels uneven.
Something fishy? Over time a bitter off-note grows more and more prominent.
Score: 84 points - the palate slowly but surely pulls it from the upper 80's..
Erm... OK, those were all the samples I put on the table tonight.
If I'm not mistaken, that's 10 malts, bringing the total to 999 malts.
So, all I'd need is find one more undiscovered dram on my shelves to hit 1000.
Let's wait with that one until tomorrow so I can pour it with some ceremony...
- - -
Dram Diary # 198 - Scotland Coast-to-Coast (Part III)
I could have hit thousand if I wanted to, but I'll stick to 10 malts tonight.
I'll need to start planning the next phase of my mission as soon as I've completed this phase.
76 - Bowmore 10yo (40%, OB, Bottled 1990's)
75 - Bowmore 1989/2004 (53.2%, Berry Bros, Casks #1968/1969)
81 - Bunnahabhain 12yo (40%, OB, 2004)
86 - Bunnahabhain 36yo 1967/2003 (40.1%, Peerless, Cask #3327, 203 Bottles)
84 - Caol Ila 10yo 1991/2001 (43%, Signatory Vintage, Cask #10788, D 13/8/91, B 7/9/2001, 5cl)
84 - Glen Scotia 1992/2003 (62.1%, G&M Cask Strength, Cask #89.92, refill sherry hogshead)
82 - Ledaig 29yo 1974/2004 (50%, Dun Bheaghan, Cask #5477-5478, 396 bottles)
90 - Ledaig 31yo 1973/2004 (54.8%, Chieftains, Sherry hogshead #1710, 114 bottles)
87 - Talisker 18yo (45.8%, OB, 2004)
80 - Talisker 20yo 1982/2003 'Refill Casks' (58.8%, OB, 12000 Bottles)
Yes, that's a grand total of 10 malts - bringing the number of malts on my Track Record to 999 - GREAT!
Well, malt mania is obviously a progressive disease...
It was only 3 years ago that I finished phase I of my mission.
In Log Entry #100 (published on 31/12/2001) I was blowing my
own trumpet because I had sampled exactly 200 different single
malts, but three mad years later the counter on my Track Record
says 999. Oh boy, I'll have to install a bigger counter!
This means that over the last few years I've sampled an average
of almost one new Scotch single malt whisky every day. Obviously,
this wouldn't have been possible if I had to purchase every bottle
on the list myself. Thanks to heavy sample swapping among the
maniacs (not to mention the Awards sponsors), I didn't have to.
I managed to boost my 'malt mileage' considerably despite the
fact that my 'drinking collection' shrunk from 48 to 36 bottles.
Anyway, tonight's report will be one of the shortest ever on MM.
I intend to start some serious reflecting as soon as I'm done with
malt #1000, a sample provided (as so often before) by Serge.
And let me tell you that that 1000th malt was something very special indeed.
First of all, it was distilled in 1966 - an exceptionally good year, if I may say so...
The Kinclaith distillery closed in 1975 and bottlings are very rare - and therefor very expensive.
I've only tried one bottling so far, but Serge sent me the Kinclaith 1966 (40%, G&M CC old map label, 5cl) in his latest package, given me another chance to taste a little piece of history. Once again: thanks, Serge.
Nose: A little creamy, quite sweet and the faintest hint of oil. Then more organics emerge.
Growing complexity over time. Mint. Toffee. Subtle - it's hard to describe the other aroma's.
Taste: Oooh... Flat, bitter and a little soapy at first, growing fruitier in the centre. Metallic.
After some time the taste grew on me as well, although the finish is a tad too winey for me.
Score: 81 points - but please note that this one definitely needs some time to get there. The funny thing is that, after I sent Serge my score for the Kinclaith, he told me this had been his 1000th whisky (not exclusively single malts) as well. I didn't know that, but I complement him on his choice.
So, that means I now have notes and scores on 1000 different Scotch single malts.
That's right.... Feast your eyes on that, all you lesser beings;
1000 Scotch single malts!
Oh boy... That means I've successfully completed the 'mille malts mission'.
However, that was only an intermediate sprint in a more important 'marathon'.
After finishing phase one of the main mission (sampling at least one big bottle from each active distillery) I have now pretty much finished phase two, which involved sampling at least three different expressions from every active distillery in Scotland. The only active distillery I haven't tried three versions of is Glen Spey, but bottlings from that distillery are extremely rare - so rare that it might as well be closed. (In fact, bottlings from many distilleries that closed in the '80's or '90's are much more easily available.)
So, for the purposes of my mission (finding 'the best malt') Glen Spey is 'inactive'.
Even if I managed to find a bottle, I wouldn't be able to replace it if it was any good.
So, on that slightly squeaky note I can now declare phase two of my mission officially over.
But... how to proceed from here?
Well, I'm going to sit in my easy chair and do some serious thinking about that.
Join the mailinglist if you want to know when I've finished thinking...
Seasoned greetings & best wishes for 2005!
- - -
Dram Diary # 199 - Quantum Leap
Well, as you can see I've only sampled one dram tonight;
81 - Kinclaith 1966 (40%, G&M Connoisseurs Choice, Old map label, 5cl)
That's right - that makes exactly 1000 malts on my Track Record by the end of 2004. Hurray!
- - - - -
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