Malt Maniacs #001
My Purely Personal Top 10 for 1997
The Worst Whiskies in the World
Public Whisky Warnings
Malt Madness, Glenmorangie & Scapa
My Thoughts on Glenmorangie
Your Top 10
My Top 10 Explained
About Bad Whisky
Earls of Zetland 1997 Roundup
The Water of Life (Part 1)
Closing Comments for 1997
Malt Maniacs #001 - December 31, 1997
Ah yes... this is some old-fashioned 'rewriting of history'...
The first 'proper' issue of the Malt Maniacs E-zine actually wasn't published until after the year 2000 - and the maniacally laughing Luc in the picture wasn't a certified maniac at the time yet.
However, our international collective of 'anoraks' had been developing 'organically' around the Malt Madness website since 1996 when I published the first 'E-pistles' from other whisky lovers in the 'Vox Populi' forum on Malt Madness. When our team had grown to a dozen maniacs in 2001 we decided it was time to publish our very own E-zine. And so we did....
For a few years the website just kept growing and growing.
All was well until 2006 (we had grown to 24 maniacs by then), when the old site crashed. The website had been running and growing continuously since 1996 and finally it started to fall apart. So, I needed to get to work on a major reconstruction of the website - or rather websites.
When I published the first pages of the website in 1995 I was still a 'beginner' in the wonderful world of single malts but a decade later I had learned quite a lot and had become interested in other topics than the ones I liked to discuss in the 1990's. However, I imagine that discussions about the influence of the shape of the still on the distilled spirit or the history of a long lost distillery might not be the most useful information for other 'beginners' in the world of single malts. So, I decided to split the original site...
The MALT MADNESS segment will be geared more towards the relative 'novices' in maltland with items like a 'Beginner's Guide' to single malt Scotch whisky, a Distillery Data section with all the data on active (and recently closed) distilleries in Scotland, etcetera.
The MALT MANIACS site is devoted to our international group of 24 malt lovers - and probably not that interesting if you've just discovered the wonderful world of malts. I think most maniacs would be offended if you called them 'experts', but we're driven by the desire to learn everything we can about single malt whisky.
The WHISKYFUN website (by fellow malt maniac Serge Valentin from France) completed our trio of whisky websites in 2004. As the name suggests, it's less 'serious' than MMADNESS and MMANIACS and looks at the lighter side of the whisky world. I guess that's the ultimate website for the real freaks who need their daily dose of information and opinions about (single malt) whisky.
Johannes van den Heuvel
Editor Malt Madness / Malt Maniacs
Hurray! A new season has safely arrived...
With the rain and chills of autumn ahead of us in Holland, that also means it's 'whisky season' again...
Reason enough to refresh my (purely personal) Top 10 on Malt Madness, I thought... I know the year isn't over yet, but since I'll probably won't buy any more bottles this year (I now have more than 40 opened bottles - and I'm running short on cash) I might as well refresh my Top 10. Hardly surprising, my beloved Lagavulin 16yo still reigns supreme - although with more and more single malts becoming available here in Holland, chances are that I will find an even better malt whisky one day...
But I haven't yet, so here's my purely personal Top 10 at the moment;
01 - Lagavulin 16yo - Et In Arcadia Ego; this bottle was responsible for my 'amazing discovery' of single malt whisky in 1991.
02 - Talisker 10yo - This one might make your eyes water... Certainly not a peat monster, but this has a lovely peppery punch.
03 - Ardbeg 17yo - A symphony in salt, sweet & sour. A very recent expansion of the available Islay malts here in Holland.
04 - Macallan 18yo - Powerful smoothness in perfect balance, and until now the very best sherried whisky I've encountered.
05 - Ardbeg 1974 'Connoisseurs Choice' (40%, G&M) - Eldorado Ouverture. It might have scored higher with a higher proof.
06 - Macallan 10yo 100 Proof (57%, OB) - Concentrated volatility! The great thing is that you can add a few drops at a time.
07 - Macallan 12yo - A true 'liquid poem'. Not quite as fabulous as the 18yo or 10yo 100 Proof, but a great value sherry monster.
08 - Highland Park 12yo - From the most Northern distillery of Scotland comes a malt that offers lots of power AND balance.
09 - Balvenie 12yo 'Doublewood' - The best of two worlds. The extra sherry aging lifts it above the 10yo and 15yo in my book.
10 - Glenmorangie NAS 'Port Wood Finish' - The most Cognac-like whisky I know; something quite unique and different.
Actually, my complete 'best to worst' list is quite a bit longer...
The list of other 'recommendable' single malts that I've discovered so far (that's whiskies scoring at least 80 points) includes - among other things - Balvenie 15yo 'Single Barrel' (50.4%), Laphroaig 10yo, Glenmorangie 10yo, Balvenie 10yo, Bowmore 12yo, Cragganmore 12yo, Longmorn 15yo, Bunnahabhain 12yo, Glen Ord 12yo, Dalmore 12yo, Singleton of Auchroisk 1981 and Aberlour 10yo. The last four whiskies scored 80 points in my book - that means 'recommendable'... And then there's the 'average' territory between 70 and 80 points - still very good whiskies (especially compared to most blends), but they just lack that little but of extra 'oomph' to actively recommend them.
And then there are a bunch of single malts scoring below 70 points.
Again, these are still good whiskies in my book (especially compared to most blends, bourbons and the like), but with so many excellent single malts available these days I probably won't invest my precious guilders in another bottle any time soon. Some single malts in this category are Isle of Jura 10yo, Glenturret 12yo, Auchentoshan 10yo, Tormore 12yo, Glenkinchie 10yo, Glen Deveron 12yo and Glenfiddich 'Special Old Reserve'. Please note that all those still scored above 50 points - the point where I stop 'liking' a whisky and start 'hating' it.
Of course, my Top 10 is a 'purely personal' list.
If you don't like peaty or sherried whiskies, your Top 10 will probably look very different.
Please don't hesitate to send me your list Top 10 list and I'll publish it on these pages, so that other visitors of Malt Madness can compare the opinions of a few different people and try to find the one who's tastes most closely resemble their own. Keep in mind that I still have a LOT to learn (I've only been dramming seriously for a few years so far) and slowly more and more different whiskies become available in Holland.
prE-pistle #1997/02 - The Worst Whiskies in the World
Submitted on 01/11/1997 by Johannes van den Heuvel, Holland
Yes, there are many fabulous single malt whiskies available these days - and they're growing ever more popular. That's a good thing, really... As the picture of "yours truly" at the right proves, many years of drinking inferior whiskies can have a profound effect on a person. As the absence of hair and the senseless look in my eyes clearly illustrate, consuming large quantities of the stuff is not advisible.
Back in my student-days, I had neither the sense nor the dough to get drunk in style.
Although I had experienced the occasional glass of Glenfiddich and Glenlivet, my alcohol consumption consisted mainly of blended whiskies and Malibu. For New Year's Eve and other special occasions I splashed out on the incidental bottle of Cognac or Armagnac, but at the end of the month, when my scholarship-payments were due, I had to make some hard choices. When I visited my liquorist my choice was usually governed more by the weight of my wallet than by deliberations of taste.
During those years I have discovered that, contrary to popular belief, it is technically impossible to legally purchase a bottle of good whisky for less then 20 guilders ($10,-). And heaven knows I've tried. Quite
Frankly, it's amazing I'm able to taste anything these days, considering the toxic waste I threw down my throat in those days. There were some positive sides to it, though.
First of all, I've had a chance to explore the murky depths at the bottom of the blended whisky market. Not a thing one would ordinarily choose to do. On top of that I've become a dab hand at mixing cocktails, after years and years of combining inferior drinks in the hope the result would be better than the sum of its parts. It often wasn't...
Anyway, enough with the chit-chat. Just make sure to stay clear of...
The 10 Worst Whiskies in the World
(according to Johannes)
(These whiskies should be avoided at all costs. Sick women, children & elderly people should not be exposed to these liquids.
These liquids may exhale hazardous fumes. They should be consumed for research-purposes only. Liquids may be flammable.
Make sure medical assistance is standing by when you subject parts of your body to these liquids.)
1 Distilled Old Maltky - I don't think this is available outside Holland - Which is a good thing, really. Technically speaking, it isn't even whisky at 35%. Very cheap, though... About the only way to get completely pissed for less than $ 7.-, I would imagine. Still not worth it.
2 Big Blend - Quite frankly, I'm not sure why they call it "Big". The words I would personally use to describe it would be "Filthy Blend", but I guess that wouldn't look to good on the label.
3 The Claymore - The label goes on and on about the huge Scottish swords; not a word is wasted on the
liquid contained inside the bottle. The whisky, like it's namesake, isn't very subtle - to put it mildly.
Just a few drops of this stuff can ruin a perfectly good glass of Coke.
4 King Robert II Scotch - According to the label it was "a whisky of top quality which is renowned throughout the world".
I've discovered that at least one of these claims is definitely false.
5 Old Scotsman Whisky - Not a very nice whisky. I certainly hope genuine old Scotsmen are nicer than their liquid namesake.
A friend described it as "Piss of the Devil" and I can sympathize with his assessment.
6 Gold Label Old Whisky - This is "a whisky for special occasions", according to the label.
Like when your having guests and you want to get rid of them as soon as possible, perhaps.
7 Mansion House - This is a whisky I'll never forget - And not only for the mind-boggling stupidity of it's name.
This blend is the only whisky that was (partly) responsible for the one and only time in my life when I have been literally sick after subjecting myself to a large variety of drinks. On my birthday nonetheless. (Don't paint yourself a mental picture here, It ain't a pretty sight...)
8 MacArthur Whisky - After the first glass I diluted the rest with half a bottle of Amaretto Liqueur to make it somewhat drinkable.
9 Red Tartan Whisky - Acid. The stuff seemed to slowly dissolve my tongue.
I rarely suffer from a hangover, but only three glasses of this stuff managed to spoil an entire morning in my life.
10 Old Smuggler's - Actually, the bottle should be warning enough - The guy that designed the bottle must've had a few glasses before he went to work. I wonder why anybody would want to smuggle this one
When any of the above-mentioned whiskies is offered to you in a bar or by your liquorist you can sue the proprietor of the establishment for crimes against humanity. I guess there must be some hidden sadomasochistic tendencies in my character, because even nowadays I derive a sick pleasure from buying a "bottom shelf" whisky every once in a while. The whiskies listed above are mostly "oddities", and may be a bit hard to find at your local liquorist (and why would you even want to try and find them?), but there are also a lot of more famous blenders and distillers out there that seem to conspire against whisky-lovers worldwide by filling the shelves of our liquorists with inferior material.
So here's a list of 10 "I-cannot-believe-they-sell-so-much-of-the-stuff" whiskies....
Fortunately, most of the liquids mentioned above are not widely available. But that doesn't mean it's safe to go into a bar or liquorist and order any whisky you like. During my journeys through whisky-land I've encountered quite a few pretty awful whiskies. The liquids below may not be as terrible as the ones mentioned before, but I still rate them as...
'10 Rather Popular Whiskies That Shouldn't Be'
VAT 69 - Apparently it's the favorite whisky of Freddy Heineken himself.
You should think he would be able to afford something better. This whisky is best used as either a pain- or party-killer.
MacAllister 8yo "Pure Malt" - A so-called 'vatted malt' (a blend of malt whiskies from different distilleries) that combines the worst of several single malts. Not a nice experience altogether. This gives malt whisky a bad name.
Ballantine's - Widely available, and that's about the only positive quality of this whisky. I had to drink it during my skiing-trip to France last winter because it was the only thing on offer apart from some conspicuous looking green liqueurs.
Glen Talloch (Blend, No age statement) - Another disappointment, especially compared to their rather nice 8yo vatted malt.
As I understand it, Glen Talloch is made especially for the Dutch market - and they sell loads of the stuff.
BlackBarrel - a single grain whisky from W. Grant & Sons - the people that bring us Grant's and Glenfiddich.
I should have known better. Perfect for cocktails, though, because you won't even know it's there.
Johnnie Walker Red Label - How can they sell so much of the stuff? It boggles my mind every time I doubt myself and decide to give it another good tasting on the reasoning that millions of people can't be wrong. Or can they?
Bell's (No age statement) - The less said the better - with bells on!
Famous Grouse - This is real nasty stuff, especially so considering the blend is said to contain Bunnahabhain and Highland Park.
Even people I personally know seem to like it, though.... I really wonder why, because it's quite 'rough & ready'.
Perhaps the company should concentrate on producing crockery instead of distillation?
William Lawson's - This whisky tastes just as bad as it's TV-commercial looks stupid.
I only use it to "spice up" a glass of Bailey's liqueur on a cold winter night.
Grant's - Never trust anything in a triangular bottle... The malty taste overpowers everything else. No balance whatsoever.
I'm ashamed to admit it was one of my favorites in the "early days", before I discovered Teacher's and single malts.
Don't let these sad reports get you down, however. There are some nice blends available, even for people with limited assets.
Teacher's and Clan Campbell are nice and affordable blends. If you've got a little extra cash to spare, Teacher's "60" and 12yo are great, as well as Chivas Regal and Johnnie Walker Black Label. And besides, these rantings just reflect my own personal opinion. You might disagree, and you're quite welcome to do so .
After all, what fun would discussions about whisky be if we all agreed Lagavulin 16yo is the best whisky in this galaxy?
prE-pistle #1997/03 - Public Whisky Warnings
Submitted on 15/11/1997 by Johannes van den Heuvel, Holland
Phew... It seems I've only scratched the surface of the bottom of the barrel...
It seems I'm not alone in my concern about the quality of some of the poison that is sold (perfectly legally, I might add) by liquorists all over the world. A lot of visitors have kindly informed me of some other TRULY TERRIBLE WHISKIES that are clogging up precious shelf-space at assorted liquorists. Wouldn't it be a shame if the suffering of those brave souls who have subjected themselves to these horrible liquids had been in vain? Yes it would. That's why I decided to add their experiences in the form of these 'Public Whisky Warnings'.
1492 (Submitted by: Flyboy Jones)
Your destroying your liver just fine! 'The water of life' restores it though! I certainly can relate to your experience, in my young and poor days, I too got to sample some truly vile substances that called themselves whisky. The most unpleasant of these was a blended (?) whiskey (note spelling, I don't buy whiskey anymore that is spelled with the 'e') dubiously named: 1492. The bottle advertised it: like having a whole liquor cabinet in one bottle. Now, that actually may be true advertising, I have never mixed everything in a liquor cabinet and then tasted it, but I can imagine it tasting as disgusting as this stuff.
Alastairs Gold Label (Submitted by: Bosse Axelson)
I find more and more that the amount and quality of taste is proportionally inverse to the amount of gold on the label.
This is truly a Gold label!
Angus McKay (Submitted by: J. House)
This one should be avoided: Angus McKay. The label has a lot of nonsense about "original blend", "from the heart of Scotland" and "the full body and mellow smoothness of this exceptional product from the highland and islands of scotland. The logo has a thistle on it, and that's appropriate, given it's taste. It's original concentrated and distilled thistle-juice, I think.
(Yep, I know this one - we nicknamed it Anus McKay. It's bloody awful - Johannes)
Black & White (Submitted by: Ed Blom)
To be used in chemical warfare. This must be Saddam's favorite. A real throat- stomach-, bellyburner as well as a true liver destroyer.
Bruichladdich (Submitted by: Cristophe Point)
I drunk last saturday a Bruichladdich ten or twelves years old. Somebody said it was a Islay whisky. I think it was a "pipi de chat".
Thanks for your web (twice). (Christophe comes from France - where they drink more whisky than cognac, incidentally. I very much agree Bruichladdich is the worst (or least good) Islay - but the 'worst' Islay is still beats most of the best blends - Johannes)
Clan McGregor (Submitted by: Jason 'S')
About the Loch Dhu, there are far worse. still I'll admit that the whiskey is uneven, but only because it starts getting quite good as you get to the bottom... As for bad whiskey's try Clan MacGreggor, better yet try another Clan.
Cutty Sark (Submitted by: Jean-Marc Evrard)
Cuty Sark is amazing. We find it a lot in France. It's bottled in a dark bottle, so you can't see it's clear as water.
Well, probably because it was aged in a metal barrel. Never mind, it's a must to taste, 'cause after this you'll be able again to drink like other people, ie J&B and William Lawson .... Thanks, Cuty Stark. Oh, by the way: don't drop it on your carpet.
Drumguish (Submitted by: Werner Vogel)
I saw you mentioned the Drumguish 3 on your top 10 worst whiskies page.
You can never warn people enough for this gutter-stuff. It really gives single malts a bad name (and a bad taste).
Edradour (Submitted by: Thomas Probst)
The worst single malt I've ever tasted is Edradour from a very small distillery near Glenlivet. But you can get a quite funny guided tour through the distillery and you may also get offered a dram of their whisky. It tastes more like a single grain than a single malt. Just burns down your throat leaving nothing back than the impression how whisky should NOT be.
Four Roses (Submitted by: Louis Perlman)
I hope that you don't have any of this is The Netherlands. (Unfortunately, we do... - Johannes)
American Whiskey is the roadkill of alchoholic beverages, consisting of rubbing alchohol, recycled antifreeze, and anything else that is laying around. Perhaps an overstatement, but you get the idea. It is cheap, and it's adherents cant' tell the difference and never will.
(Don't get me started on American Whiskey ;-) - Johannes)
Glen Eden (Submitted by: Dwight Gergens)
ALERT! DANGER, BAD SCOTCH! I have the best wife, and in her effort to make me happy spotted a bottle of Scotch at the store that I didn't have and bought it. It says single malt scotch whisky on it. It says distilled and aged in Scotland, although there is no age statement. It says the purveyors of this fine pure malt scotch whisky is an independent family company now in its 4th generation. The sole US dist is L&L Corp, imported and bottled for Glen Eden. And that's what it's called. GLEN EDEN. It tastes like Witch Hazel. You've been warned.
Glen Eden (Second warning submitted by: Mike Avery)
Someone already commented upon Glen Eden, but it's hard too say too much about that puppy. One of my favorite liquor stores is Twin Liquors in Austin, Texas. They have about 250 different single malts at last count, and the count keeps growing. They have decent prices, and are friendly too. A nice shop. One time when I was in there, I noticed they had put their own review under the bottles of Glen Eden. It reads "BLAHGH! This is without a doubt the worst liquor I have ever tasted. If it were a person it would be a redheaded stepchild you'd have to beat... it's that bad. Flavors of rust, medicine, lymph, wet dog, mirth, deceit, and honey!
Great gifts for mothers-in-law, IRS agents. Also handy for stripping metal. It's highly allocated, only 12 bottles, so grab one while they last." The bottles they have are labeled as being 12 years old. I had bought a bottle elsewhere before I'd seen it there. I thought, "12 years old, single malt, only $15.00 - how bad can it be?" I found out. Their review is actually fairly complimentary.
(This is what I call a Public Warning! I laughed my head off when I got it - Johannes)
Glen Parker (Submitted by: Bosse Axelson)
Buying this Pure Malt for a reasonable price duty-free on the ferry between Denmark and Germany, I thought I had made a bargain. The pungent odour that hit my sensitive nose when opening the bottle, made me change my mind. The smell was more that of moon-shine than that of a good scotch whisky. The taste? Well - I guess you could help it a little with some Coke or 7-up.
House of Stuart (Submitted by: Robert Montgomery)
At the bottom of my list is "House of Stuart" (given to me by supposed "friends" on my birthday) which comes in a large plastic mouth-wash bottle. If there is any single malt in this it must be from spoiled casks! The best thing that I can say about this one is that the bottle is recylcable. (Whisky in a plastic bottle??? What will they think of next... - Johannes)
Isle of Jura (Submitted by: Simon Godfrey)
My personal used bath water gripe is Isle of Jura, which I wouldn't even use to power the lawn mower.
(Yep, a relative bummer; especially considering it's an "Island" malt - Johannes)
Isle of Jura (Second Warning submitted by: John DiMarco)
My whiskey warning is for Isle of Jura -- quite disappointing. It starts off well -- a mild nose with a touch of peat; then a surprisingly complex though understated initial impact that's suggestive of flowers, perhaps. But then everything falls apart -- a strong, unpleasant aftertaste that overwhelms the senses. Better with ice (not a compliment for a single malt) to help tame the dominant aftertaste.
Even better avoided altogether.
J&B (Submitted by: Louis Perlman)
A truly vile drink is J&B. I don't know why anybody thinks it is worth having around.
It makes Red Label taste like Lagavulin, and I am not saying this as an exaggeration.
Loch Dhu (Submitted by: Iain Russell)
Loch Dhu is a "black whisky", which tastes of cough medicine. It is sticky (try leaving a drop in a glass and look at what's left there in the morning - better still, leave it all in a glass and drink something else!). Also known as Loch Goo. Or Loch Doo Doo. Or Loch "Phew!" It makes me feel sick!" Rumours abound that it stains your teeth.
Loch Dhu (Second warning submitted by: Wendy Morgenstern)
"The black whisky". Thoroughly nasty stuff. Apparently (or so the bottle claims), they CHAR the inside of the barrels before casking to increase the smoky taste. Don't get me wrong - I LOVE peaty malts - but there is a BIG difference between peaty and smoky. This stuff is like licking an ashtray. Took me a tube of toothpaste and a couple hours to get the taste of dead ashes out of my mouth. Despite my temptation to pour the wretched stuff down the sink, I kept the bottle to display as a warning to others - and because I believe I could use it to stain wood. (I usually use a glass of Glenlivet or Balvenie instead of toothpaste to recover from the occasional foul whisky - Johannes)
Loch Dhu (Third warning submitted by: Mats-Ola Ekberg)
Another warning about the Loch Dhu ... it contains so much caramel coloring it's scary. Put your finger in it - or better still drop some of it on a white cloth - and you'll see how much it "rubs off". I would not even recommend it to my worst enemy... it's that nasty.
Loch Dhu (Fourth warning submitted by: Melissa Mabee)
Is there room for one more observation regarding Loch Dhu?
Stuck with a bottle of the Black Nasty I was never going to finish, I took it over to a friend's house one night. He drank it like water - loves the stuff, he does. Perhaps I ought to add that he is a professional chimney sweep, and smokes three packs of cigarettes a day...
Loch Dhu (Fifth warning submitted by: Julie & Doug Powers)
I hate to beat a dead horse, but my particular Loch Dhu story is worth relating, I think.
I have a friend--ostensibly a fellow scotch drinker, who brought a bottle to my house, thinking we might enjoy it. I didn't, but he actually did. Before the evening was out he was making - I'm not kidding - scotch floats with Loch Dhu and some Starbucks chocolate chip coffee ice cream. If you think this concoction itself is revolting, you should have seen what it did to my lead crystal rocks glasses. I didn't think the syrupy caramel residue was EVER going to come off of them. So while I have no personal experience with the earlier claim that the stuff can etch and stain your teeth, it wouldn't surprise me in the slightest.
Loch Dhu (Sixth warning submitted by: David Means)
Having sampled a variety of single-malts over the past few years, I would like to warn fellow aficionados away from Loch Dhu.
I was at a hotel bar while vacationing in Scotland several years ago and ordered a glass of Loch Dhu on a whim. As soon as I nosed it I knew I had made a mistake, and asked for a water chaser. The bartender said "That's right, Sir. It needs a spoonful or two of water to bring out the peat." What it really needed was to be poured down the nearest sink, but none was handy. Loch Dhu was the roughest, most unpleasant whisky I ever sampled. Even though I had paid five pounds sterling (about US$8) I gave up after half a dozen sips and tried to rinse my mouth with the water. Sometimes, when I am downwind of an oil refinery working on some high-sulfur crude, it takes me back to my first whiff of LD. That stuff caused me to restrict myself to Highland and Lowland malts that are at or above the age of consent (i.e. 16 years old -- 14 in Arkansas or Kentucky).
Mc Lellands (Submitted by: Brian Griffin)
Mc Lellands Highland Single Malt. A "generic" single that reminds one that blends aren't so bad after all. Resembles sickeningly sweetened paint thinner. I once poured a full glass down the sink, despite a firm belief in the Irish legend that on the Day of Judgement you will be suspended head down in a barrel containing all the whisky you have ever spilled; and if you drown, then to Hell with you.....
Mekong (Submitted by: W. Reid Ripley)
Back when I was bucketing about the world's oceans with the U.S. Navy, I ran across something pretty ferocious in a Bangkok hotel bar: Mekong Whisk/e/y -- I do not recall which spelling they used. I learned a life lesson from this experience: never drink anything that only gets a lukewarm recommendation from an Australian infantryman! Mekong is burner fuel that's spent no time in a cask. Its raw nature suggests that some time in oak might help. If one is in a hurry, one might try micro waving the oak -- I've heard well -nuked oak speeds the aging process up enormously. Said infantryman recommended taking it with Coca-Cola, which *does* help. A hip flask of the stuff cost, in Thai baht, the eqivalent of thirty-five cents U.S. It is whiskey-colored, but we all know what caramel coloring can do. Can't attest to its hangover properties -- I quit before I went that far. The infantryman didn't, I don't think....
Old Inverness (Submitted by: Peter Bier)
NEVER, NEVER buy or drink Old Inverness. I bought it a couple of years ago in Scotland in a small supermarket, but it was surely a waste of money. I even like Drumguish and Loch Dhu more than this bottle of blended horse-p*ss. Luckily I wasn't the only one with this view, all my friends agreed it was the worst whisky they'd ever tasted. We tried to mix it with cola, but even that was totally awful to drink.
I don't know if it's available outside Scotland but avoid it at all cost!
Queen Margot (Submitted by: Ana Gonzalez)
This was a present from Margot Morris, a good friend of mine (at least I thougth so).
Not even she likes it. (I'm affraid I've never heard of any queen called Margot. What country was Queen Margot queening and what has she got to do with whisky? ;-) Johannes)
Rob Roy (Submitted by: Victor Baars)
A text on the label; "The whiskies that form this particularly fine blend have their own individuality and character, not unlike Rob Roy himself. A superb scotch blend to satisfy the demands of the most discriminating of connoisseurs." NOT!
Sheep Dip (Submitted by: Bill Buchan)
And to think you missed out "Sheep Dip" - the sole English whisky. Sheep Dip by name, sheep dip by nature... Yeuchh..
(Well - They DID come up with quite a funny name, wouldn't you say so? - Johannes)
Sheep Dip - REBUKE (Submitted by John DiMarco)
The warning about "sheep dip" isn't warranted. Yes, it's a silly name. But clearly Mr. Buchan didn't even get close enough to a bottle to actually read what it said (no, "Sheep Dip" is not "the sole English whisky", it's a vatted highland malt that happens to be sponsored or patronized by a village in England; one would have thought that "Distilled and bottled in Scotland" would have given him a clue). As for how it tastes, it's actually quite good, given that it's only an eight-year old, though you'd never think so from the name. It's got a mild nose and a pleasant taste with a hint of plum, maybe. Not overly charactered, and the aftertaste is a bit spirity, but that's not surprising given its age. Not an outstanding whisky but it's not at all unpleasant.
Speyburn 10yo (Submitted by: Keith Bourgeois)
This is one nasty whiskey. The smell of turpentine and the taste of shoe polish. Not enjoyable at all. The plastic cork should have tipped me off. Avoid this one gents! (Admittedly, the Speyburn is no top malt, but personally I didn't think it was the worst one I ever tasted - Johannes)
Sullivan's Cove (Submitted by: Craig Daniels)
I concur with the posting of Loch Dhu, not because its particularly revolting but because the greedy sods want $A100 for this advertising driven junk. I haven't tried Drumguish (and am not in any hurry to do so) but my nomination for the PUBLIC WARNING: SERIOUSLY BAD SINGLE MALT (and it pains my basically chauvinistic heart) is the new Aussie offering "Sullivan's Cove". It is bottled at somewhere between 2 & 3 years old and its yucky. Maybe it will be OK with 5 to 10 years in oak but I won't be paying to find out. I wonder if the owners know the damage they inflict on their own reputation with serious connoisseurs when they release aqua ordinaire at a premium price.
No palate, no integrity or simply cashflow problems. Take your pick.
Tobermory (Submitted by: Sarah Godfrey)
While Tobermory may be a fine name for a womble, as a whisky it should be avoided at all costs.
Tobermory - REBUKE (Submitted by: David Strother)
This very drinkable middle-of-the-road 'Tobermory' whisky does not deserve a place on a list of whiskys to be avoided, let alone "at all costs". Save that opprobrium for anything named McClelland! Tobermory is a pleasant, slightly peaty dram, suitable as an introduction to the path that leads upwards to the joys of Oban, Talisker, and Lagavulin
Tullibardine 10yo (Submitted by Christos Sigalas)
Try it (if you haven't yet). It's like licking Wembley's Arena green grass. Good only for drunk hooligans.
Also: FIVE LORDS Blended. Oh! Lord! Just another one of many cheap (both in price and quality) blends that exist.
And that concludes the sermon for the day...
I've tasted only a few of the blends and malts mentioned here, but if you want to know which whiskies are at the bottom of personal rating list you can check my Best-to-Worst List on the Malt Madness site. Please bear in mind that only one single malt I've tasted so far (Loch Dhu 10yo) rates below your average low-to-mid-priced blended whisky. So, as a rule of thumb malt whiskies are usually a 'safe bet'.
prE-pistle #1997/04 - Malt Madness, Glenmorangie & Scapa
Submitted on 26/11/1997 by Louis Perlman, USA
Let me just say that you have a wonderful site, and are doing a great service to the world by maintaining it.
Just a thought on the Glenmorangie 18 . I have been drinking the 10 for quite a few years, and have been looking forward to trying the wood versions. We went out for our anniversary a few weeks ago, and I was hoping to try one then, but all they had was the 18. I find it to be a wonderful drink. Very smooth and refined. I would rate in equal to the Macallan 18, which is very different.
The PLOWED folks love it, but I think they give extra points to sweeter scotches with a 'big' flavor.
In recent years, I have begun to appreciate things that are more subtle.
We have our First Amendment over here, which seems to give everybody the right to flame people in person , in the press, and on the Internet. yet, I know some truly great people who never even raise their voice. The same thing with scotch. Scapa is another scotch that seems to get under appreciated. I think that people who go for the Mac 18 or stronger Islay's may overlook it. So then, I find GM 18 to be well up there. Of course, I still have to try the Port edition, and I have a bottle of Ardberg 1974 waiting for my birthday in just two months, so my views may change.
prE-pistle #1997/05 - My thoughts on Glenmorangie
Submitted on 27/11/1997 by Johannes van den Heuvel, Holland
Thanks for your kind comments, Louis...
I also liked the few glasses of Glenmorangie 18 I tried a lot, but I'll have to buy a big bottle before I can give it a definite rating.
Some people might think I'm a bit 'anal retentive' for wanting to try at least a whole big bottle of the stuff, but I find that a malt whisky can really appear quite different on different occasions, depending on the meal I enjoyed before, my mood of the moment, etc. Based on the few glasses I've tried I'd say that the 18yo is a great dram, although I'm not sure it's worth the extra money compared to the 10yo.
Both whiskies seem fairly similar in style - fairly light and not nearly as 'coastal' as I would have imagined.
(Glenmorangie is located right along the coast in Northern Scotland.)
By the way, Glenmorangie's Port & Madeira wood finishes are VERY different whiskies (I haven't tried the sherry wood yet).
You should certainly try them if you get the chance. I think these two are malts you either love or hate - see the October 1997 Liquid Log entry on Malt Madness for details. You are absolutely right in your comments concerning subtlety. I like to be overwhelmed by a malt, and most malts in my top 10 can hardly be described as 'subtle'.
For the same reason, most Lowland malts are pretty much wasted on me as well; just a matter of taste, I guess.
However, I should add that so far I've only tried relatively young versions so far. Those wood finishes from Glenmorangie have shown me that the type of casks that were used to mature the whisky could have just as much effect on the personality of a whisky as the distillery where the whisky was born. I've been told that many of the well known 'official bottlings' or 'distillery bottlings' are actually blends of different types of casks, usually ex-bourbon casks and ex-sherry casks. That sort of makes sense - when you know that the 'typical' cask of whisky only holds a few hundred liters, they'll need a lot of casks for a bottling that's going to be sold all across the world.
Anyway, here are my notes for the Glenmorangie wood finishes I've tried so far;
Glenmorangie Madeira Wood Finish (43%, OB, No age statement but back label says 12 years old, Glenmorangie Distillery)
Nose: Unique and pretty amazing. It's round and full; a little nutty and oily with some smoke and citrus. Weird spices.
A lot of malts can be described in terms of 'A bit like...', but not this one. I've never tried madeira wines, but now I want to.
Taste: Fruity start, developing into a "summer fruit" sweetness. Ends peppery & tannin dry (in a pleasant way...).
Glenmorangie Port Wood Finish (43%, OB, No age statement but back label says 12 years old, Glenmorangie Distillery)
Nose: A truly remarkable sweetness; reminiscent of Cognac and Tawny Port. Grapes. Lovely 'heavy' fruity notes.
Taste: Much bolder and "rounder" than the 10 yrs. old. Very easy on the tongue, with a definite "woody" port character.
This malt has an almost Cognac-like quality; after adding water the "spicy" character of the Glenmorangie 10 yrs. old becomes more pronounced. It also revealed something toffee-ish. I personally prefer the 'Madeira' for its weirdness, but this is 'better'.
I haven't tried Scapa yet, but because I love Highland Park (the other distillery on the Orkney islands) it's on my 'To Do List'.
prE-pistle #1997/06 - Your Top 10
Submitted on 10/12/1997 by Louis Perlman, USA
I went back and looked at your Top 10, and our tastes actually have a lot in common.
Lagavulin 16 - A major oversight on my part, since rectified.
After only one time around I am not going to rank it yet, but my opinion is closer to yours than to PLOWED's.
Talisker 10 - On my want list, but I also picked up some 12yo 100 Proof Springbank.
After leaving $100 behind, Talisker will have to wait.
Highland Park 12 - I have a bottle. The first time around, it was the greatest thing I ever tasted, but it was only my third SMS.
It's been harder to re-create the magic since then, but it was pretty good just last week.
Ardberg 1974. Funny you should mention it. It is way out of my price range, but a local store had a 15% off everything sale last summer, so I borrowed against my year end bonus, and bought myself a bottle for my birthday, which is at the end of January.
The Macallans - It is interesting that you prefer the 12 to the 18.
Ed Goldstein (a former coworker of mine), who wrote a major post on the PLOWED page, does too and so do I.
They are indeed very different. The 12 is like a BMW 328, while the 18 is like an American 7 Series or a Jaguar. I think that the 18 is too syrupy. As for the 10 yr 57%, it isn't available over here as far as I can tell , but I do have a Cadenhead's 13yr Miltonduff. Crisp and fruity, but after just a few sips, I was in orbit.
The Balvenies - The 12 DW is a very elegant scotch. My wife enjoys it, even though like many women, she 'doesn't like scotch'.
The 10yr I haven't tried yet, but I would like to get the 15yr single casket. Unfortunately, the price just went up by 20%.
Laphroaig 10 - Aware of it's reputation, I had some back in September.
Someone else was paying, and it was the cheapest one on the place and I didn't know what my host was comfortable spending.
For better or for worse, I forgot to ask for it straight, so I don't know if the ice made it better or worse.
The iodine by itself didn't bother me.
As for Glenmorangie 10, my father received a bottle many years ago as a gift, and I helped him take care of it (actually, he really didn't have to do very much). I am on my second bottle of my own since then. Because I can only afford one of the upscale bottles, I am waiting for the sampler pack to show up again locally, and I will make up my mind. Glenmorangie themselves seem to be most proud of the Madiera, at least that's what it seems on their web page.
prE-pistle #1997/07 - My Top 10 Explained
Submitted on 10/12/1997 by Johannes van den Heuvel, Holland
Hi again, Louis,
Yep, I agree on the Lagavulin 16yo - which means you must be a person with good taste in malts ;-)
I respect the opinion of the PLOWED people, but after drinking 7 or 8 bottles of this nectar of the gods over the years I stand by my personal score of 96 points - for now. The only reason I didn't rate it as a 100 pointer is that there might be an even better malt whisky around. I haven't found it yet, though. That being said, I wouldn't want to drink ONLY Lagavulin anymore. The great thing about single malts is that you can try various distilleries on an evening and the differences seem even more pronounced. The first glass of Lagavulin after, for example, a Balvenie and a Macallan, seems even rowdier than the third on a row of Lagavulins - or the third whisky from Islay for that matter.
If you liked the Lagavulin you should definitely try the Talisker 10 as well.
It's a tad cheaper than the Lagavulin at most stores (well, that makes sense, it's much younger) and not quite as 'monstrous', but it also has a wonderful combination of power (pepper rather than peat?) and sweetness. And the slightly higher proof (45.8% versus 40 or 43%) could play a role as well. It just seems to 'roll off the tongue' a little easier than many 40% or 43% malts, but it doesn't burn your throat or require water like the higher proofs - like that Macallan 100 Proof.
I've experienced the same as you have with Highland Park 12 - I was completely overwhelmed the first few times I tried it.
A few bottles later it's still extremely nice but, like you say, some of the "magic" seems to have evaporated.
It's still very secure in my top 10, though.
And could you tell me which version of the Ardbeg 1974 is that? I personally prefer the Cadenhead's independent bottling over the Connoisseurs Choice (could have been due to the higher proof), but I think you will find either one well worth the money. I haven't seen any Ardbegs in Amsterdam for a few years but suddenly they are appearing on the shelves now, official and independent bottlings.
And now a little correction w.r.t. Macallan - I actually prefer the Macallan 18 over the 12 - but only by two or three points.
The 12 is the real winner when it comes to value, though. The Macallan 18 (70cl) costs more than twice what I have to shell out for a liter bottle of the 12yo, so I'm quite happy to get my 'sherry fix' from the 12yo - or the 10yo 100 Proof for that matter.
Looking at the Balvenie range, the 12yo Doublewood is by far my favorite.
The bottles for the 10yo and 15yo are just as beautiful (yes, I have to admit I'm a sucker for nice packaging ) but I guess the extra sherry influence gives it a little push in my book. None of the Glenfiddichs I've tried recently really impressed me, but the Balvenie 12yo really is an almost perfect whisky that suits almost every moment. So, your wife has excellent taste as well ;-) (And your observation is correct - I've tried to spread the gospel of single malts amongst some female colleagues, but with little success so far.)
Finally, about ice ruining the Laphroaig - I would imagine that could very well be the case. In my experience ice completely destroys the more subtle aroma's and tastes of a malt. Some distilled water might do wonders in opening up the nose, though... (By the way - I'm having a Singleton of Auchroisk 1981 right now which isn't at all bad... You should try it when you find it - it's better than the 10yo.)
Anyway, keep in mind that I'm just at the beginning of a long voyage of discovery.
There are more than 100 distilleries in Scotland (around 80 of them currently active) and so far I've only sampled the product of some 40 distilleries - and I certainly haven't tried all expressions from those distilleries. So, I still have a long 'research' phase ahead of me.
prE-pistle #1997/08 - Bad Whisky
Submitted on 11/12/1997 by Louis Perlman, USA
It seems to me that you are a little harsh on Johnny Walker Red label on your 'Worst Whiskies' list.
After all, 8 year old blended scotches aren't supposed to be very good. In my pre-SMS days, I was a Black Label man.
I am actually happier when I am somewhere and all they have is Red Label or (especially) Dewar's instead of Black label or Chivas, both of which I can barely tolerate anymore. I will give Teachers a try if the situation ever presents itself.
On the other hand, a truly vile drink is J&B. I don't know why anybody thinks it is worth having around.
It makes Red Label taste like Lagavulin, and I am not saying this as an exaggeration. And finally, we come to American Whiskey, the most popular brand being Four Roses. I hope that you don't have any of this is The Netherlands. American Whiskey is the roadkill of alcoholic beverages, consisting of rubbing alcohol, recycled antifreeze, and anything else that is laying around. Perhaps an overstatement, but you get the idea. It is cheap, and it's adherents cant' tell the difference and never will.
One point to note. In New York City, drinking by the glass is expensive, since the rent and good help cost the same for everything.
I therefore prefer to buy by the bottle, so I get to drink more of fewer malts. Still, I am approaching 20, and running out of room to put them all. By the way, one thing I like about the SMS world is that it possible to enjoy lots of different scotches. Most of us can drive only one car at a time, you are either pro or anti Microsoft, Unix, OS/2 or whatever, and being a sports fan usually involves hating certain teams. On the other hand, we can all enjoy Scapa, Macallan and Lagavulin. And the PLOWED page is a lot friendlier than the Stereophile Letters to the Editor.
prE-pistle #1997/09 - About Bad Whisky
Submitted on 11/12/1997 by Johannes van den Heuvel, Holland
Alas, Four Roses IS available in Holland, Louis (as well as J&B) and I happen to agree both are crap.
I have to admit I don't like most Bourbons (I haven't tried any Rye whiskeys yet), but I DO enjoy the occasional glass of Jack Daniels on a hot summer night. But no more than one glass, mind you - and in this case I prefer to add loads of ice. I guess I may have been a bit overreacting towards the Johnnie Walker Red Label, but how anyone can prefer it over the Black Label is beyond me, to be honest ;-)
But that's one of the great things about whisky - different whiskies appeal to different people.
Of course, a lot of preferences of 'the average consumer' are shaped by advertising and force of habit.
To me, the differences between blends like Johnnie Walker Red Label, Vat 69, Grant's and William Lawson's are fairly minimal.
In fact, none of them rank more than 50 points on my personal enjoyment scale - which means I actively dislike all of them. I bought quite a few bottles over the years, though - but that was just because of the relatively friendly prices and a few friends indicated that Johnnie Walker or J&B were 'their brands'. Since I had these bottles on my shelves anyway I decided to do a little experiment recently. I poured two friends of mine who claimed a strong preference for a certain 'brand' blend four different glasses of whisky. I poured those four glasses 'blind' (three blends and one 'Blairmhor' vatted malt whisky) and indeed, neither one managed to identify 'their' brand. Better yet, both chose the vatted malt as their favorite whisky! When I revealed the results, Eric was 'converted' and he's trying more single and vatted malts now.
Boudewijn wasn't quite as impressed though - and prefers to drink Johnnie Walker Red to this day.
It seems some people rather trust advertising than their own noses ;-)
I sometimes buy miniatures, but I feel it takes at least one big bottle to really get to know a malt whisky.
And yeah, I know about the storage problem, Louis. Every malt whisky in my Little Black Book represents a bottle on my shelves, and there are some 30 more that haven't been rated yet. Because I also indulge myself in the occasional Cognac, Armagnac or Calvados my apartment is getting somewhat cramped... I hope my nose and palate will develop enough over the next few years to allow me to come up with a 'final' score for a whisky based on just one or two glasses of the stuff. That would certainly alleviate my storage problems ;-)
And last but not least, regarding your comments on the universal appeal of single malts...
You're SO right it's frightening; 'Vive la difference'... I've always been puzzled by what you call sports fans though... I certainly understand why people enjoy PLAYING certain sports, but I never understood the appeal of sinking one's lardy ass on a couch or a stadium seat to just watch a game. And if people are only interested in 'their' team winning a game, I guess you should call them 'team fans' rather than sports fans. After all, the 'goodness' of a game shouldn't be determined by who wins it, should it?
prE-pistle #1997/10 - Earls of Zetland 1997 Roundup
Submitted on 30/12/1997 by Craig Daniels, Australia
I love your pages, your obvious enthusiasm and your willingness to be delighted.
I think your comments are much closer to my impressions of malts than most, (Jackson, Malt Whisky File etc.)
I am a serious maltster living in Adelaide South Australia. I belong to two Malt Clubs here which meet every third and fourth Wednesday of each month. My favourite commercial Speysides are Tamdhu 15, Glenfarclas 21, Macallan 18, Tormore 10 and Glen Elgin 12, but my FAVOURITE MALTS are Caol Ila 17, Port Ellen 16, Bowmore 17, Lagavulin 16, Laphroaig 15, Talisker 10 and Ledaig (when I can find any). I also like Bruichladdich 15 and Bunnahabhain 12 a lot. I think the latter is actually a better balanced malt than the Highland Park, although most would damn this heresy. I am spoilt in Adelaide with 4 malt whisky clubs. For a city of less than 750,000 this may appear overkill but it reflects strong Scottish heritage. I belong to two and put the theme tasting programme together for one, which I genuinely enjoy doing. It's a challenge to come up with ideas that are going to excite the seriously analytical maltster (like me) as well as the yuppies and dilettantes.
For your reading pleasure, here's a roundup of the Earls of Zetland tastings in 1997;
January 29th 1997 "Laird's Choice" - Report Card
Glen Mhor 8 - For most present, the pick of the night. A quality, smooth malt which develops a nice woody complexity.
The nose is fruity, with some sherry and the distinctive dry mintiness of good oak. The palate is fruity and creamy and the finish is surprisingly long and smooth. David LeCornu made the interesting and intriguing observation that it tastes too good to be made of only 8 year old malt and it probably has some older material in it. This is a possibility because after David Grant's visit last year we know that Glenfiddich has some 12 year old plain wood matured malt in its composition. Whatever the contrivance, a very classy result. Score 7.9
Old Pulteney 8 - This was definitely lighter than the "old" bottling, with lots of candied citrus peel dominating both nose and palate. The orange & lemons tended to become more citronella like with a thinning palate. The palate and finish fell away slightly. Considering its youth, an interesting and likeable malt. Better suited as an aperitif than its darker & bigger predecessor. Score 7.6
Isle of Jura 10 - Lots of honey, toffee and biscuits in the nose at first.
Caramel becomes stronger and the palate develops more earthy fudge characters.
Seemed to hold together OK but did not excite many of those assembled. Overall, a middle ranking highland. Score 7.4
The Blind - Bunnahabhain 12 - Selected by Bob Perry and guessed right by a few, including his Dad and me.
There was a little sherry initially with a distinct & pleasant whiff of brine. The colour and the hint of the seaside helped narrow it down to about three possibilities and the fact that it held together with an increasingly toffee nose suggested Bunnahabhain rather than the Oban 14, which is a bit lighter, more variable over time and not quite as salty. Most people ranked this one either first or second on the night, which is a pretty fair assessment of its claims in the company. A lovely, well balanced malt, despite the fact that its flavour profile suggests a coastal highland rather than exhibiting classic Islay traits. Score 8.2
February 26th 1997 - "Old Versus New" - Report Card
Balvenie 10 (New Version) - Quite spiritty with a bit of citrus early on, develops some nice toffee and a clean maltiness.
Smooth palate with quite a soft, fading finish. Pleasant, undemanding and hangs together pretty well. An adequate quaffer. Score 7.9
Balvenie 10 (Old Version) - Again, quite spiritty to start, with more honey than citrus.
Citrus notes became stronger over time and this one showed a bit more complexity with good wood coming through after a while.
Palate thinned out after a long time. Score 8.3
Aberlour 10 (Old Version) - Most of us have had a more or less intimate acquaintance with the 10 year old Aberlour over the last 6 to 7 years and I don't recall any of them tasting like this one. The most distinctive aroma was a faint "shitty wood" note : a less than gallant simile was "like someone farted through Adelaide water" and some dried apricot sulphur and sour fruit in the nose accompanied by a bit of yeastiness and an appreciable peat treatment. Quite a complex malt with sherry and old wood, but not like any recent bottlings. This one, although inferior, had more in common with the Aberlour 12 (which had to have been in the bottle for at least nine years) that we had last year with some broad similarities to Glenfarclas and Glendronach. I dont think any of us would have guessed it as a commercial release Aberlour if it was the blind at a normal club night. Score 7.2
Aberlour 10 (New Version) - A mainstream malt particularly after the older "sport".
Sweet & fruity nose, sweet clean palate although not as sweet as either of the Balvenies. Over time there is a hint of mint and some sour fruit develops in the tail. No warm bread which used to be the give-away trait of Aberlour. A good, well balanced quaffing malt. Score 7.8
March 26th 1997 "Old Favourites" (Mull & Campbeltown) - Report Card
Tobermory - A very pleasant surprise, being markedly more attractive than I remember it.
I now know why it was a club favourite back in the mid-80's. The style of the whisky in the glass reminded me most of a youngish Bowmore with very good fruity wood. There were hints of citrus and candied peel, a bit of spirit and tropical fruit punch. Peat is there but quite shy and takes a long time to emerge. The flavour profile lies somewhere between Bowmore and Isle of Jura and I think a "Fruity Island" night is in order to test the thesis. Score 7.8
Ledaig 1974 18 - While the rare releases of Ledaig are eagerly awaited, this one lacked the peaty punch of the Gordon & Macphail 11 year old and the smoothness that 18 years in wood should produce. It had a dry fruity nose, with some chewy wood. The palate was initially quite dry and the characteristic dry smoke was there with a peppery catch in the back palate. The spirit prickle increased over time and there was a bit of bite in the palate and finish. A firm dry whisky with a few too many rough edges to justify the price. Score 7.6
Springbank 21 - Well, well, well. What can one say? The first sniff was bliss and the malt didn't look back.
I only score good whiskies at 8.5 or better and this one made the grade. To start the nose had the lovely lifted minty notes of great wood. This particular 21 had more sherry accents than the one we tasted last year, yet the creamy coconut still shone through. Gradually the sherry dries out in the nose but never quite develops the chutney & dried apricots of Speyside sherries like Glenfarclas & Tamdhu 15. The other thing that impressed most assembled was the length of the finish. Amazingly long and up there with the great Islays like Bowmore 17. Encore! Score 8.6
The Blind - Selected by Tom Perry and guessed right by Geoff Jarrett, who used the impeccable logic that if it tastes like the Tamdhu 10 he's got at home then it probably is the Tamdhu 10. This is one of the pre
-European Union bottlings which means that it has been in the bottle since 1991 at least and is not the current release. This is a shame because based on a lot of responses around the table a few shopping
expeditions are in order. Very nice toffee nose with some citrus. Lovely sweet palate with some sour fruit and bitter marmalade. I narrowed it down to four (including the Tamdhu), was pretty sure it wasn't the
Highland Park (not enough peat) or the Oban (not enough salt), settled on the Dalmore 12 and was wrong. In the words of Joseph Furphy & Ned Kelly "Such is Life." Score 7.9
April 23rd 1997 - Finos of the Malt World - Report Card
Aultmore 12 - This was an interesting malt, yet unlikely to become a club favourite.
Many dismissed it as thin and watery, but I found a lively lemon and green apple note in the nose which developed into something that another taster described as apple cider. The palate was indeed a bit thin and the finish had a touch of orange blossom, cream & citronella. Quite nice but a bit light. Score 7.6
Glendronach 12 "Original" - Sometimes I agree with Michael Jackson's tasting notes, but this is not one of those occasions. This malt turned out to be a lot more sherried than the literature would have us believe. Forward sherry initially, which became less obvious as the creamy vanilla of bourbon oak developed in the background. The palate was quite firm and there was some grip. Overall, quite a classy malt with excellent balance. I, for one think it a shame that this malt has been consigned to the dustbin of history. Score 7.8
Glengoyne 17 - A nice whisky. Starts with a lively mint nose. This develops more fruit character and the fruitiness grows over time. The fruity character continues through the palate and finish. Smooth with very good wood and a drying finish. Score 8.3
The Blind - Selected by Geoff & guessed right by Steve Graham and Tom Perry. It was the Glenfarclas 10.
I don't know if the club has tried it before but I have had it on four or five occasions in the past and the thing I remember most, ironically, was that it didn't seem to have any identifying individuality and lacked
the sherry of other older Glenfarclas. After 30" I had narrowed the choice down to the Benriach and the
Glenfarclas and gone the wrong way (again!!!) Lots of caramel early on with typical Speyside sweetness and a faint creamy taste. Overtime the nose shifted around a little too much and became a little
unbalanced, suggesting youth. Not great but not bad either. Score 7.5
May 28th 1997 - "Ne'er Trod Roads" (New Speysides) - Report Card
Tormore-Glenlivet 5 - Light & slightly floral, bit of smoke up front and a wee touch of peat in the front palate.
Sweetish throughout and a bit rough around the edges. There is a curious oily/estery effect with a hint of perfume and something anisettish in the finish. Middle of the road malt, shows its youth. OK for a five year old but I wouldn't go out of my way to try it again. Score 7.0
Glen Keith 1983 - I have tried this malt about 6 times in the last year, (twice as a blind) and my initial impression hasn't changed. Occasionally quite spiritty, always lots of yeasty notes, with "scone dough" there in spades. Develops a big toffee & fairyfloss sweetness, gets quite syrupy. On the plus side it does have a good mouthfeel. Too sweet for my taste. Score 6.6
Mannochmore 10 - Very unusual nose early on. Sweet & sour notes with salt & vinegar & gravy? There was a impression of scorched nuts and something like burnt honeycomb which indicated some sherry wood but not particularly high quality. Seems to hang together pretty well. The weirdness subsides and the medium sweet palate is quite smooth. Certainly has character., but the consensus on the night was that it had to be an independent offering as it was too left field for a commercial release. Intriguing if a little bizarre. Score 7.4
The Blind - Not being absolutely sure what was arranged for the blind, I decided to play safe and take one
along just in case. Being tricky to the point of duplicity, you can bet I was going to make it tough. As the
list included 6 Islays and two peaty islands, I was gratified that all but two people thought that it was an Islay as it confirms my belief that the Earls actually know something about malts. Those that are aware
that I have a particular fondness for Bowmore 17 & Caol Ila 17 may have been influenced but only Bob Perry guessed it was the Port Ellen 16, even though he thought there wasn't any left. And the whisky? - in a
word - beautiful. And I have another two bottles at home! Lucky me. Score 8.5
June 25th 1997 - "Treasures from the Vault" - Report Card
Balblair 10 - I think the general consensus was that this was a nice malt.
Plenty of aromatics in the nose with a bit of estery paint thinners to start which became a nice creamy (almost herby) perfume after a while. The palate had a touch of fruit & nuts, virtually no peat & a bit of cinnamon, nutmeg type spice and a little sherry in the background. Reminded me most of cognac. Hung together very well for a 10 year old. I think G&M still bottle it so we might have to hassle David to get some newer examples in for us. Score 8.0
Glencraig 16 - An approachable malt, considering none of us had any idea what it would be like. The nose was quite subdued & light considering its age. Started with straw and something like musty wood. It seemed to have some curious flat spots in both the nose and palate which got appreciably thinner and a bit watery but didn't turn nasty at any stage. Not great, but worthwhile for the curiosity value. Score 7.5
Talisker 12 - Hooly-dooly, a big mutha. Pretty typical Talisker with a bigger punch than the 10 year old. The smokey bacon and almonds much more forward than in the ten year old. Was drier, smoother and rounder than I remembered. Yum! Yum! Score 8.6
The Blind - It was the Glenordie 12 which has been reincarnated as United Distillers' new price point malt
Glen Ord which represents the best value Highland around. John O'Flaherty was the first to get it right (and wasn't he chuffed?) This particular bottle has so much dust on the top of the box that it must have been
sitting on the bottle shop shelf for at least a decade. A deep, complex nose with lots of rich toffee, some
dark burnt notes and a bit of salt. I thought the best description was "solid". Those who thought it might
be the Inchgower 12 or Glenury-Royal 12 got close. Those who picked the others need more practice. Score 7.8
July 23rd 1997 - OP Night - Report Card
Springbank 12 (57% ABV) - Hoo-ee! The nose really takes your breath away. Very forward and spiritty.
Digging past the spirit, there is lots of sherrywood with some attractive menthol, eucalyptus and alpine forest scents early on. Hangs together pretty well although it becomes sourer and more earthy after 30 minutes.
David likened it to an out of tune V8: lots of grunt, no particular finesse. Score 8.0
Clynelish 12 (57% ABV) - Very subdued nose compared to the Springbank. Some musty hay/ straw early on and a fair bit drier than my recollection or my competition notes suggested, but the quality wood shows through. Very good balance between the spirit, the salt and the peat. Bit flat in the company, lacking a bit of zing, yet pretty classy for an overproof. Score 7.9
Macallan-Glenlivet 19 - (56.1% ABV) - Again a fairly nondescript nose early (the Springbank overpowered all but the blind). There was quite a bit of sherry in the palate and it eventually began to emerge in the nose. I expected it to be more emphatic, so I was a tad disappointed. Got some attractive nuts and beeswax. Other company would probably show it to better advantage. Score 8.3
The Blind - John O'Flaherty had a lot of fun going through the Earl's list of Overproofs and chose the
Glenfarclas 105. Yours truly was one of the few who got it right. One of the few commercially released and marketed overproofs, it has deservedly developed a bit of a cult following, yet funnily enough it doesn't
show its true colours in a Glenfarclas vertical, mainly because the older standard strengths are quite sherried: the youth of the 105 means that the sherry treatment is less pronounced. The nose starts off
with lots of toffee, develops some honey notes which evolve into golden syrup and demerara sugar, even butterscotch. For me this is the dead give away. If it is medium amber, sweet & spiritty and shows rum
butterscotch toffee then it's the 105. Score 8.2
August 27th 1997 - Four Blinds - Competition Malts - Report Card
Royal Brackla 10 - Very light colour, pale yellow/white wine. Lots of hay/straw, not too sweet.
Bit of spirit in palate. Not too bad, bit smoother than the Linkwood, but somewhat non-descript.
Not dissimilar to Glen Moray or Glengoyne. Score 6.6
Linkwood 12 - Light colour. Pale gold. Light nose with lots of perfume. The volatile esters & eau de cologne really obvious to me, light palate - not much guts. Okay but I'd much rather drink Knockando or Glenmorangie. Score 7.0
Bunnahabhain 12 - Medium amber brown. Nice toffee notes & touch of salt. The salty toffee was really obvious for me and quality sherrywood was revealed in growing depth of honey & toffee. Very nice malt indeed. Score 8.0
Highland Park 12 - Medium amber gold. Sweet, well balanced with some obvious peat. Long clean finish,
with lingering peaty tail. Didn't appear to have the citrus as much as my notes suggested. This time I got ginger (a first). Easy drinking. Score 7.8
September 24th 1997 - Smok'n - Seaweed & Peat Monsters - Report Card
Signatory Caol Ila 21 - Lightish golden colour, no sherry evident there or in the nose.
Nice dry nose - lot drier than any of the others. Not hugely peaty early on but something like smoked bacon & liniment.
Definite spirit prickle and I detected the tobacco leaf that I identified the only other time I tasted this one. Smokiness more obvious in palate & finish. Some dry wood, pretty clean, long smoky & very dry tail. Still reminds me of Ledaig. Interesting and pretty good value at around $73. John O'Flaherty loved it. Score 8.0
Laphroaig 15 - Medium/Dark amber - colour of OP rum. It pains me to admit it but even marketers occasionally get it right. Don't know about the holy grail of Islay malts but pretty damn impressive anyway and I can see what the fuss is all about. Lovely, well balanced malt, initially very smoky with a faint hint of pastel bon-bons or at least something slightly floral (like Jen Kirkwood's Japanese paint stick). Lovely rich, smooth palate. Excellent mouthfeel, almost unctuous. Obviously the extra time in wood has smoothed the rougher edges and tamed the wilder peaty excesses evident in the 10yo. Very worthy competition for the Lagavulin, but the price premium may scare away the more parsimonious among us. Nice for a special occasion but! Score 8.9
Lagavulin 16 - It has all been said before. Didn't lose any fans despite the quality of the opposition. Lots of tar, seaweed and leather up front. After about 30 minutes the nose reveals something like irish moss cough lollies and dry herby/floral notes (lantana?). Generous malt with lots of flavour, great depth and layers of complexity. It also has a very good sherry treatment & great balance. Very long classy finish with characteristic garden bonfires lingering in the tail. Not quite as smooth as the Laphroaig, bit more idiosyncratic. Score 8.8
Blind - Talisker 12 - Tom Perry was supposed to bring the blind, but told Bob he wasn't intending to turn up, so Bob did the honours, however Tom was enticed by the promise of the Laphroaig. Only Allan May got
it exactly correct, but I claim a minor moral victory in that I thought it was most likely a Talisker but not the 10 yo and I didn't think that anyone could track down another bottle of the 12 yo. Given the almost
mythical status of the competition on the night, this particular malt performed exceptionally well. Smoke & sherry early on - nice toffee in rich, smooth palate with strong suggestion of smoked almonds - palate quite
sweet and a bit peppery (trademark Talisker). While the Talisker 10 can become a bit cloying after 30-50",
this one didn't which suggested an older malt. Very nice and the smoked almonds really hung around. I promise to include one of my Talisker 12s on next years programme. Score 8.5
October 22nd 1997 - "Ah! Sherrywood" Back to Basics - Report Card
Strathisla 12 - A tad disappointing in the company. Lacked any of the BIG characteristics of the others, so seemed a bit bland.
Pleasant nose with malt and some sherry. Bit of salty toffee and a hint of sour wood on the palate. Quite acceptable but not as clean as I remember. I think it would fare better amongst the likes of Glen Keith, Glenlivet and Balvenie. OK Score 7.4
Glendronach "Traditional" 12 - Very spiritty to start, but settles down to become quite classy. Solid sherry in the nose with discernible dried fruit in the palate and a bit of Christmas pudding & chocolate after a long while. Good complexity. Score 7.8
Macallan 18 (1977) - Like all the previous vintages this one was ultra-smooth. A lovely enticing nose with honey and beeswax. Nice and clean with lots of lifted minty notes and a suggestion of honey ice cream in the palate. Gets more appealing with each sniff and each sip. Very moreish. Stacks up well against last month's fabulous quartet. Score 8.6.
Blind - Glendronach "Traditional" 12 - Allan May has well and truly cemented his place in the blind bringer's Hall of Fame or maybe it should be Hall of Shame! He insists it was a mistake, nevertheless he managed to fool everybody with the exception of Bernie Glover. Well done Bernie! Your turn to bring the blind to the first meeting next year. I must admit in my own defence that I couldn't detect a lot of difference between number two and the blind, but figured this was because I was a bit tired & emotional and the palate was anaesthetised. Thought it might be the Macallan 12 and although mistaken had plenty of company. I suppose this is a backhanded verification of my contention that the Mac 12 and the Glendronach aren't a long way apart. Score 7.9
prE-pistle #1997/11 - The Water of Life (Part 1)
Submitted on 31/12/1997 by Louis Perlman, USA
Happy New Year, which it is for you as I write this. The last week and a half or so has been rather strange.
First, there was the Springbank business, and the price increase not only for the Balvenie 15, but also for Caol Ila 14 and the Glenrothes 1979 16yr Signture, all of which I had my eye on. Well, the only thing to do was to find a bottle to acquire, so I visited the liquor store on my way home from work on 12/24. There wasn't too much left on the shelves, but I ended up with the Balvenie 10 Founders Reserve that you have on your Top 10 list. Well, it was fantastic!!! Even my wife, who 'doesn't like scotch' liked it. And for a mere $25.
Clearly the best Holiday Cheer that I could have imagined. So all's well that ends well.
By the way, I wonder if your bottle of Balvenie 15 SC might be a victim of cask to cask variation.
As for the Glenfarclas-Macallan comparison, you were right on with your prediction (this is starting to get scary).
The Mac 12 does indeed have a certain something. In fact, Ed Goldstein mentioned to me that he could use it as his everyday scotch, and he is an Islay lover. I would rate it as perhaps the best all around SMS, if not the best outright. I'll need to hit the Lagavulin a few more times to properly resolve this issue.
I have a bottle of Singleton 10yo. It is not bad if the price is not too high (closer to $25 than to $35, the range I have seen it going for). Michael Jackson says it is a dessert scotch, but it goes well WITH dessert too. It is the only thing in my collection that can stand up to a rich chocolate cake or mousse. As for the Springbank , once again I find myself in your camp. True, my bottle probably isn't the 'special edition', but for my $58, it isn't really to my taste. Probably worth the money, but I am not rich and can't afford to play in that league. Anyway, it and the Lagavulin are currently breaking in, I will try them both in a few weeks and see if/how they improve. I will be at my parents next week for the holidays, and reduce my father's supply of Macallan 12. In advance, I will go back to m bottle of Glenfarclas 12 to see how they compare.
prE-pistle #1997/12 - Closing Comments for 1997
Submitted on 31/12/1997 by Johannes van den Heuvel, Holland
Funny you mentioned the Balvenie 10 Louis - I have a strange experience to relate to you.
Me and my brother just finished my second bottle last Tuesday night. The bottle had been nearly empty for over half a year, and we both noticed a big difference between the actual taste and our memories. In such a case it's certainly comes in handy that I take notes. I looked it up, and found out he "trademark" Balvenie "honeyish" character had virtually disappeared. It might have been we both had an off-day. Up until now I've never noticed such a quality loss with malts that had been on my shelves for a longer period of time - some even gotten a little better. It's strange, no? - After three glasses of the Balvenie Single Barrel it seems the DoubleWood is my overall favorite, but like you said - another 15 Single Cask might be better. I'll have another go at the bottle tonight.
I certainly agree with Ed Goldstein and you that Macallan 12 is one of the best all-round malts, together with Balvenie and Highland Park 12, I think - and perhaps the Dalmore 12 and Longmorn 15 after that. I like Ardbeg, Lagavulin and Talisker even better, but those malts are not quite as "accessible". By the way - In an earlier mail you indicated that you thought I preferred the Macallan 18 over the 12. This may not be the case. It's just that I've enjoyed several bottles of the Macallan 10 and 12, but only 3 glasses of the 18 - so at this moment I can't really make an honest comparison. I can only say that they are very different indeed, but I have to wait for the big bottle to say anything final. As a rule, however, I feel that most malts over 12 yrs - with notable exeptions like Longmorn 15 and Lagavulin 16 - are overpriced given the (hard to define) quality-differences. When you look at Macallan and Glenmorangie for example - Here in Holland the 18yo. versions are more than twice the price of the younger ones, but initial tastings "by the glass" indicate that they're certainly not twice as good. Much more "woody", that's for sure!
I also agree with your observations on the Singleton of Auchroisk. It certainly has a dessert quality to it. Especially the liquorice was striking when I first nosed it. Considering your $58 for a Springbank; For that kind of money you can get a Glenmorangie Port or a Balvenie 15yo. Single Barrel here in Holland. As a matter of fact, I just bought me a bottle of the latter one - the 15yo. that is. You mentioned before that prices went up 20% over there, but the price of the Balvenie Doublewood has dropped to a little over $30 here in Holland, which is an absolute steal. Especially considering that my first tasting of the 15yo suggested that it might rate a little below the Doublewood!
As for your upcoming tasting: If the Glenfarclas 12 is anything like the 10yo in my cabinet and your tastes are as similar to me as it seems you might find that the Glenfarclas is very nice indeed, but lacking
something indescribable compared to the Macallan. Complexity... yes, balance... perhaps, but more than that. This puts it just below the 80 points benchmark in my personal rating system, where as the Mac 12 hits a score of 86.
- - -
I'd like to finish this first 'reconstructed' issue of Malt Maniacs with some comments on my personal 'tasting ritual'.
My personal tasting rituals take place in my special, 'virtually antique' smoking chair.
The lights are dimmed, and there's some soothing music (preferably Albinoni or Puccinni) playing in the background. The largest cognac snifter in my collection is already warmed-up (just a little!) and the bottle I'm about to sample is placed before me on the coffee table. I always take my time to carefully check the label for the corny stories that the marketing people have made up. Obviously, this sensory enhancement is completely wasted when drinking dribble like Ballantine's, Johnny Walker Red, or Old Smugglers. In my humble opinion, the blenders of these whiskies should be prosecuted for crimes against humanity in general and my taste-buds in particular...
When I started out tasting single malts, I could hardly distinguish a Talisker from a Lagavulin, but after a while entire universes of complexity opened up to me. A pleasant side-effect of the sharpening of my senses is that it has enhanced my enjoyment of the 'simpler' blends like Teacher's and Bailie Nicol Jarvie. As soon as I became aware of this sensory overdrive I started keeping notes on all the malts I tasted and rated them in my little black book. After a while I was amazed to find that I was sometimes able to roughly determine the origin of a malt just by absorbing it's aroma. On a few occasions I've even managed to recognize a specific label in an "honest blind test". This parlor trick actually won me two bottles of Bowmore 12yo. on a bet this summer. I'm under the distinct impression that the more whiskies you taste, the more you'll be able to appreciate the differences in character, style and complexity. Maybe it's just my overactive imagination, but I even have the notion that my sense of smell and taste have developed considerably as a result of the tasting of many different whiskies. After the last notes of the taste bud symphony have drifted away, I add a teensy weensy splash of water and start nosing again. When I'm feeling particularly wild I might even add some more water.
Ahh...., the gentle "Plop!" of the cork..., the promising "Gloo... gloo... gloo..." of the whisky filling my glass....
Take your time to appreciate a fine single malt. There's no need to empty your glass in a few thirst-quenching gulps. In fact, don't let me catch you guzzling in my presence, or I might slap you around the head a few times - just for educational purposes of course... And then the real fun starts. After sniffing with my nose a few inches above the glass, I put my nose in the glass and take in another big whiff. Then I waltz the glass and nose once more. Finally, I have my first sip and let the taste of the whisky fill my mouth., concentrate on the "structure" and taste development of the malt, which can be an amazing experience.
Depending on the amount of water, the taste & aroma of some malts keeps unfolding, releasing different layers every time.
After I've sniffed the very last drop from the glass I like to smoke a good cigar while making notes in my Little Black Book.
This ritual is my personal equivalent of the Japanese tea-ceremony. I find it just as relaxing and I don't get tea-leaves in my mouth...
Sweet drams - and best wishes for 1998...