Malt Maniacs #003
The Water of Life (Part IV)
Good Glenlivets, By George!
Amsterdramming 1998 - Part 1
Malt News from Australia
Amsterdramming 1998 - Part 2
Rugby & My Visit to Amsterdam
Saint Thomas Adventures
Grappa & Stuff
These were not the only prE-pistles in MM003!
Malt Maniacs #003 - September 21, 1998
Phew... Here's the third 'reconstructed' issue of Malt Maniacs.
As you can see, Louis, Craig and yours truly are still the only three proto-maniacs writing for our little forum - and a proper E-zine about single malt whisky was still just a glint in our eyes...
As a result, these prE-pistles are hardly 'reference material'.
However, they still have a purpose - as I pointed out in the introduction to the previous issue our notes do offer a historical perspective. For one thing, you can compare our opinions about certain whiskies, distilleries and independent bottlers with our opinions in, let's say, 2004 or 2005. More likely than not, those opinions will have evolved considerably over the years...
Oh yes - I should probably add a 'retraction' here as well.
The discussions between Craig and me wandered from whisky to local cuisine to national stereotypes. I'm afraid that I've made some harsh remarks about the French. I'd like to point out that those comments were made before I got to know Serge, and then a little later Olivier & Martine. I've learned that they are among the friendliest and most generous people I know. So, there...
And that's just one of the many things I've learned over the years. Rereading some of my shortsighted comments from the 1990's made me cringe on numerous occasions, but I didn't want to edit them out. Many people that discover our website browse around for a bit and then 'start at the beginning' - the archive.
By keeping the old prE-pistles 'warts & all' on-line, new readers can join us on our voyage of discovery in the wonderful world of single malts and (hopefully) learn from our mistakes.
We've suffered - so you don't have to ;-)
Johannes van den Heuvel
Editor Malt Madness / Malt Maniacs
Hi, Johannes & Craig - & readers of the forum,
My only recent purchase was some new Cask Strength Bowmore. No age given, ABV indicated at 56%, although I think that the angels took a little extra. It only cost $35, the same as I pay for the Bowmore 12. There is iodine
on the nose, my wife could smell it as soon as I opened the bottle. It was a bad allergy night, so I can't make much judgment (I only suffer from mild allergies, but I couldn't smell the garlic in the chicken that night
either). Body is slightly oilier than the 12, and the taste a bit 'opaque'. It's a good value for the money, and a fair tradeoff with the 12. My only reservation is that is just might be undiluted Legend, which
would make it less of a bargain.
Still, nice to have around when needed.
I also picked up a bottle of Edradour. It is supposed to be a good summer malt. It isn't always around, since the distillery only has three or four employees, so I bought it on sight. The bottle had some dust on it,
so I suspect that it isn't a big seller, and probably would not have been reordered. It is a nice warm weather malt. Sort of like a non-chocolate cake that my wife baked last week. This may not be the best description, but
I only had a little, and it may benefit from break-in. I'll give you an update if things change.
I may also be getting a few interesting bottles, but I don't want to say anything until that happens.
One other newsworthy item. My first bottle of Lagavulin is down to it's last once.
It isn't going to make it to the six month mark, an all time SMS record for me. The Bowmore 12 and Highland Park are getting down there, but are 18 months old by now. I guess the Big 'L' goes to the top of the list by default.
Only six weeks to St. Thomas!!!!
prE-pistle #1998/16 - Booming Bowmore
Submitted on 15/05/1998 by Johannes van den Heuvel, Holland
Interesting you mentioned Bowmore - so did Craig recently...
A few people have sent me messages about a perceived change in the profile of Bowmore during the last two or three years.
I did buy a few bottles of the 12yo and the 'Surf' during the early 1990's (yeah, I'm a sucker for nicely designed bottles) but didn't keep notes, so I can't really comment on that. However, I DO remember that I haven't found iodine in Bowmore so far - to me, that's a typical Laphroaig trait. For me, the typical things that stand out in Bowmore are smoke (rather than peat) and something floral...
The last bottle I bought was a Bowmore 12yo OB and my tasting notes go something like this;
Nose: Seems almost "shy" about it's Islay heritage at first. Sherry, spicy saltiness. Light smokiness. Very characteristic bouquet.
Taste: Very sherried, perhaps even a bit too much for an Islay. Very nice complexity, though.
I've had a soft spot for Bowmore for a long time, but these days I'm not quite as enthusiastic anymore.
Bowmore has been flooding the market with all kinds of "special" versions here in Holland lately - many of them not quite as special as they'd like you to believe. Most are somewhat cheaper than the regular 12yo, but for me that one stays the winner. Strangely enough, I've never tasted a cask strength Bowmore, but your description sounds appetising - even if I might not find the iodine you mentioned.
I haven't tried any of the older Bowmores 'by the bottle' yet either, but I fear they might be 'Donald Trump whiskies' anyway.
That's the name my friends and I use for the overly expensive bottles (usually way past their prime) that are aimed at customers with too much money to worry about the price and not enough taste to recognise a crap whisky when they drink it. Until last year's Asian economic crisis a lot of these bottles (usually blends) were sold in Asia to businessmen trying to impress their clients or competitors, but that market seems to have largely evaporated. Let's hope that we don't see to many of that type of single malts in the future...
Anyway, you may have seen my 'Bang-For-Your-Buck-List' on the site - it deals with the topic of 'value'.
As for Edradour
- isn't that the smallest distillery in Scotland?
I haven't tried any expressions yet, but I've seen a few bottles of the 10yo standard bottling at my liquorist (butt ugly label, by the way) so I may give it a try soon. Ah... So many bottles, so little time ;-)
prE-pistle #1998/17 - Good Glenlivets, By George!
Submitted on 27/05/1998 by Craig Daniels, Australia
I've always been mystified by the infatuation of serious malt writers and historians with "The Glenlivet" as an exemplar of Speyside as the offerings I've tasted since I started this caper have been clean, lightly peated and nondescript to the point of boredom. Half the reason I belong to a malt club is that I want to be excited by the individuality of single malts and The Glenlivet, like Cardhu and Glenfiddich, might be considered fine drinks (in some quarters) but most would stop short of describing them as exciting. Come along and check out my conception of what Glenlivet could and should be!
In the early phases of my induction into the arcane world of malt appreciation, I kept wondering why over 20 distilleries in Speyside bothered to try and ride on the coat tails of G & JG Smiths' "The Glenlivet" and why history books and even relatively recent literature made such a big deal about the definite article as I'd always found the Seagram's 12 year old pretty nondescript, insipid and boring.
Obviously the real answers to the first question lie in commercial imperatives, but one wonders what The Glenlivet 12 was like 4 or 5 decades ago to gain such a fantastic reputation. I began to get an inkling of what a superior Glenlivet might taste like when I came across a nicely sherried Miltonduff 14 from Gordon & MacPhail and a couple of really nice older Glen Grants. But, I hear you cry, Glen Grant and Miltonduff aren't Glenlivet! That's true, but there is a family similarity amongst a lot of those Speyside distilleries. The final proof really came with the first sniff and sip of the G&M Glenlivet 15. Seriously good stuff and what the definite article must have tasted like back when it deserved a fabulous reputation. That's my story and I'm sticking to it. The Tormore and Longmorn are in the line up because I think they display similarities and consistency of style that can be classed as "Glenlivet".
What's more, Johannes: I'm going to be in Amsterdam on 29 & 30 August 1998 and wondered if we could meet.
Keep in touch!
prE-pistle #1998/18 - Amsterdramming 1998 - Part 1
Submitted on 28/05/1998 by Johannes van den Heuvel, Holland
Dropping by in Amsterdam? Great Idea, Craig!
I checked my agenda and I'm free on the 30th of August, so I can show you some of the best kept secrets in Amsterdam.
I'm afraid I have to admit a lot of the city has turned into a foul-smelling tourist-trap, but you can still have some decent fun - and most of it is perfectly legal! Are you coming over on business or just for the fun of it? Speaking of business: My free lance internet business is still going strong; as we say in Holland "We zien wel waar het schip strandt". (Which means something like: We're sailing blindly ahead and fate will determine where our ship will be wrecked. Due to the Dutch naval past a lot of of our sayings and expressions have got some vague connection with the sea... See, You're learning about Holland already! ;-)
When you visit Amsterdam you really should take a trip by boat through the canals - You get to sea a totally different side of Amsterdam, of course you could go on one of the touristic "150 people in a glass boat" trips, but the most fun is of course renting your own boat and explore the canals on your own accord. Water-bikes are also a lot of fun, especially because some bars have terraces at the water where you can 'park' your water bike and have a nice malt (or two) before you pedal along in perfect happiness. Especially on a long summer-evening, this is a magical experience. (And you don't have to worry about causing any accidents ;-)
As far as restaurants are concerned: Culinary speaking, Amsterdam is a megapolis. That's a good thing too - the Dutch kitchen isn't very interesting... We have over 100 different national and regional 'cuisines' here - from
traditionally French to Schezuan, from Bulgarian to Thai. Perhaps we can discuss your culinary preferences when we meet in Amsterdam, so I can advise you to the best of my abilities.
I'll share three vital Dutch sentences you should learn by heart to make the most of your stay in Amsterdam:
1 - Mijn fiets is gestolen (My bicycle has been stolen)
2 - Verkoopt u ook drugs? (Do you sell drugs? - And can I have some?)
3 - Pardon, maar wilt u even aan mijn neus voelen? (... You'll find out...)
And here's another idea: When you visit Amsterdam I could of course organize a little tasting-session at my place.
I have a collection of around 40 different malts right now, so there may be some things here that even you haven't tasted yet.
prE-pistle #1998/19 - Malt News from Australia
Submitted on 18/06/1998 by Craig Daniels, Australia
I had a Streah Malt Tasters club meeting last night and I had to bring the blind (Glenfarclas 15).
The disclosed line-up was:
Bowmore Legend - not as nasty as when I first tasted it back in 1996.
At about $45-50 an acceptable dram, but still not one I'd recommend (7.6 points).
Port Ellen 1980 Gordon & MacPhail - superior dram. Nice candied citrus & scone dough yeast in the nose with nice clean peat building in the background - (8.5 points)
Lagavulin 16 - couldn't believe it was a Lagavulin - didn't have the trademark 'garden bonfires'/aromatic hydrocarbons in the nose. Barely had any more obvious peat than the Port Ellen, which is strange and I would've thought it was just me except that about four other guys noted the same lack of grunt. Might have been a "sport" coz I'd hate to think that UD are mucking around with an awful lot of people's very favourite malt. Anyway - still identifiably an Islay but more in the mould of Caol Ila or Port Ellen than the "old" Lagavulin (8.2 points).
Glenfarclas 15 - Just yummy. When guessing what it was, most people plumped for the Balvenie 12 Doublewood and a couple thought it might be Macallan 18, so they thought it pretty good. It's funny but I think the serious sherrywood treatment in this malt was more obvious and shown to advantage in the company of Islays rather than up against a trio of sherried Speysides. A hell of a nice dram and well worth seeking out (8.5 points) My advice is if you see the Glenfarclas 15 anywhere for $65-70 that you buy a bottle or three. The best ever price I've seen it for was $63 back in 1996.
And Johannes, Great idea about the tasting session!
When you say tasting, would it be a social event, ie will you have friends there? If you're interested I can tell you how I set everything up for my little events, both at the club and at private functions. Anyway I'd love to be a part of it, ( I can always pretend to play the part of malt expert) all in the interests of good international relations of course! I'm still waiting for you to tell me which bottle you want me to bring! If you don't specify (I can't get the Balvenie 21 Port Wood by the way), I'll bring a Longmorn 1963. By the way, I e-mailed a guy in Scotland on 17 June where I opined that Holland had a real good chance of winning the World Cup. I don't expect you to believe it, but I picked them to win! Are you a soccer fan? I'm more into Aussie rules and cricket, but the World Cup is just fantastic.
prE-pistle #1998/20 - Amsterdramming 1998 - Part II
Submitted on 19/06/1998 by Johannes van den Heuvel, Holland
I'm one of the three or four Dutchmen that don't like soccer
- I personally think it's a game for retards.
But I'll be the first to admit that sentiment could partly be explained by the fact that I was never any good at it ;-)
That's not the only reason, though... In Holland (as in many other countries, I guess) certain sports are popular in certain social classes and soccer is sort of the lowest common denominator. I'm afraid that the average IQ in the stalls during a game is well below 100.
(Union and League) is my sport, partly because it involves true sportsmanship.
I don't know too much about Australian Football, but from what I've seen it's a lot more fun than soccer - nearer to rugby than to soccer, perhaps. Union Rugby is my favorite version - and it's the only version played in Holland anyway. Rugby is a very small sport in Holland - less than 10,000 active players. Due to a tricky shoulder I haven't played this year, I might pick it up again in September.
Depending on our adversaries I play either the 'hooker' or 'wing' position.
At the moment, I'm still working at the Dutch Yellow Pages - I start at my new job as Internet Specialist / Marketing Consultant at IQ3 on August 1. Just before that, I'm off to the woods of "De Veluwe" to make arrangements for our annual forest-party there, so I'll be out of contact for a while. Indeed, I was planning to invite a few whisky-enthusiasts over. The Longmorn 1963 will be brilliant - I like the 15 a lot, so I'm curious as how a version twice as old tastes - We could even have a head-to-head session of the 15 against the '63 - and I may even be able to pick up a third version in the next two months. Every once in a while I organize a "tasting", but the main object of those evenings is FUN. I usually reserve the more serious tasting and rating for my private sessions where I don't have to concentrate on "hostmanship". The presence of a true malt expert will be greatly appreciated - You can always check on my site for malts that are perhaps not available down under - so I make sure not to empty them before the end of August.
BTW: I'm sipping from the last glass of Laphroaig 10 - It's almost 'officially' summertime for us northern hemisphere-people, and Laphroaig is - for me - strictly a winter malt. To prepare for the coming season I stocked up on Balvenie 10, Glenmorangie Port and Macallan 12. And I'm on the lookout for a Balvenie 21yo Port Wood Finish I've heard good things about.
Anyway, here are my tasting notes for that Laphroaig 10yo OB;
Nose: Overwhelming! Very medicinal smell. Lots of Iodine with some sourness.
Salt and brine. This whisky responds very well to water. Every drop seems to change the aroma.
Very subtle! (When you look beyond the initial blast in your face...)
Taste: Mighty dry and salty; more "Islay" than Islay itself. A bit harsh even for my taste.
This malt is certainly not for everybody, but I fell in love with at the first sip. One of the most extreme malts I know.
And that was all the news from these parts up until now...
prE-pistle #1998/21 - Rugby & My Visit to Amsterdam
Submitted on 21/06/1998 by Craig Daniels, Australia
I'm not a big soccer fan but like watching any sport played at the very elite level.
Loved watching Roger Milla from the Cameroons in 1990, now there was an enormous talent, especially considering he was 38 at the time. I live in an Aussie Rules state. In Australia for winter codes, the Australian Capital Territory, New South Wales and Queensland are rugby states (league is professional here) and Victoria, South Australia, Tasmania, Western Australia and Northern Territories are AFL states.
One of the more memorable quotable quotes on rugby (I don't know who made it) is in the form of a definition; "Rugby Union - a game designed for thugs and played by gentleman, Rugby League - a game designed for gentleman and played by thugs".
I must admit I much prefer Union. League is a bit too much like mobile unarmed combat for me.
29 August is the day I'll be in Amsterdam.
I'm getting quite excited about the big adventure and meeting various e-correspondents. I, my wife and the Longmorn await the meeting! Re the malts for tasting - I've had a look at your web site and if you've got any left I'd like to sample the Ardbegs, the Macallan 10 57% and the Miltonduff 12, mainly because I've not spotted them in Oz at all and I have a soft spot for Miltonduff.
prE-pistle #1998/22 - Saint Thomas Adventures
Submitted on 02/07/1998 by Louis Perlman, USA
Hello Johannes, I'm back a week already, but I am still happy.
I will have a complete St. Thomas write-up when I get a chance. meanwhile, I am sure that you will approve of my 10 bottle duty free allowance. Three bottles of Lagavulin, 2 each of Balvenie 15 SC and Macallan 12, and one each of Talisker, Glenmorangie Port, and a 23 year Glen Ord Cadenhead's. There was no Bowmore, Springbank, HP, or Ardbeg. Prices were 20-30% of the best NYC proces, and no sales tax of course. The Glen Ord was $50. There were only a handful of Cadenhead's to chose from.
But now for even more SMS news. I got back to work to discover that I had finally received the rather nice (by today's standards) raise that I had been trying to extort from my employer. Since I wasn't counting on it and it was the end of the month already, I decided to divert some of the first months extra cash toward some quality bottles. So on the way from W&L in California are, get ready for this....... A bottle of the 1959 35yr W&W Glenfarclas, the Springbank 12/100 extra dark, and the 17 year Ardbeg. That is why I am happy, and will try to stay that way for a while. I still have more acquisitions planned, and will keep you updated as they happen. The GF will be opened on my birthday next January, when I will no longer be able to truthfully start my age with a '3', while the scotch can, even though we were both born in the same year.
Someone posted a note about The Whiskey House
(www.thewhiskeyhouse.com), over in Belgium.
Check out the features on the Macallan Gran Reserva and the Murray McDavid bottlings. Prices look competitive with the best US prices. If you would like to read more about interesting bottles, check out the D&M (in San Francisco) site (www.dandm.com). I keep it permanently loaded in my browser's cache at work, and am getting tempted to place an order from them too. As far as the Ardbeg is concerned, I will most definitely open it right away.
In the meantime, I tried the Glenmorangie Port and Balvenie 15 SC
(cask 1487, bottle 100).
I was especially curious to see how they would compare with their respective 10yr old siblings, both of which I am fond of. The GMP definitely had the nose that it is famous for, which really opened up with just a drop or two of water. The body also had the extra polish. I am not sure about the taste though. Gone was the peaty twang of the 10yr, which I like. I will let it break in for a few weeks, and see what happens. The Balvenie was another story. Lighter in color that the 10yr old, but with a great family resemblance. The extra proof was apparent on the nose, and tastewise, it kept the honey and orange peels firmly in submission. It was like going from 205/60-15 tires to 245/45-17's!!
I love it, although perhaps not every time (which is what Lagavulin is for).
prE-pistle #1998/23 - Grappa & Stuff
Submitted on 03/07/1998 by Johannes van den Heuvel, Holland
Thanx for the URL's, Louis - I'll check them out a.s.a.p.
About the Glenmorangie - You talked about the "peaty twang" of Glenmorangie.
This sort of proves an earlier point I made about 'personal' taste and aroma associations. The enjoyment of single malts is a purely personal experience, because where you might detect something you recognise as peaty, I might find something 'peppery', 'smoky' or something. After all, our nose associations are based on former experiences. I think I may have never smelled actual peat - but after tasting many Islay whiskies I've learned to identify it - or at least I think I may have... I plan to write an article about the phenomenon soon...
My brother Franc and I organised our annual forest-party last week, and all the hours spent on MM proved worthwhile.
Some of the guests had checked my pages for my favorite, so I received two bottles of Lagavulin 16, a Highland park 12 an a miniature of Black Bottle. That last bottling hasn't been available in Holland up until now - It seems to be a vatted malt from Islay whiskies, so it's quite intriguing. I'll open it tonight.
Let's see, what else? Oh yes, I'd like to write a few words about grappa...
When I last visited a liquorist nearby to add some new malts to collection, a fresh clerk told me that I, being a malt and armagnac lover, might enjoy grappa. So I thought: 'Let's go crazy' - and bought myself a bottle. Well... That was a bummer! To be honest, I'd never heard of the stuff, but from the way the guy described the production-process, it sounded like something like the afterbirth of cognac. Nevertheless, I foolishly went where I had never gone before - and paid the price. Paid the price - Geddit? My nostrils and taste buds first encountered grappa that very same evening and it wasn't a pleasant experience, to put it mildly. When will I learn to discard the idiotic suggestions of my liquorist? After all, this was the same place (Ton Overmars) where they advised me to try the Black Barrel. My senses had to be calmed down - and what better way to do that than with a Singleton of Auchroisk 1981 - Not a real top malt, but I've grown quite fond of it over the last few months. This one is instantly recognisable because of it's liquorice-aroma. At 80 points it has become one of my "touchstone' malts.
I've had quite a few comments from people that disagreed with my judgments on Johnnie Walker Red Label and Famous Grouse. I try to stay open-minded at all times, so I purchased these two bottles last week to give both blends a fair second chance. After the Singleton, I decided I could put my taste buds in jeopardy once more, and I poured myself a Johnnie Walker Red Label. Big Mistake. The bouquet (and I use the term lightly) was extremely sharp and petrol-like. The taste was plain filthy and it lacked character. It clocked at 20 points in my personal rating system, which means I have tasted very few whiskies that I thought were worse. I didn't have the stomach to try the Famous Grouse that evening, so I decided to go for a bottle I had neglected for a couple of months. The Original Mackinlay 21yo was a real "I cannot believe it's a blend" blend. A nice and round aroma - amazingly complex for a blend. It clocked in at 76 points, much better than Johnnie Walker Black and even better than some single malts like Glenfiddich or Isle of Jura. A real winner.
Just a quick question, Craig: Do you have the Balvenie 21yo Port 'down under'?
I know we discussed this malt, but I can't remember if it was available in Australia.
I just saw it at a shop, and if you don't know it, it would be nice to get for August 29th.
That's it for now - time to call it a night...
prE-pistle #1998/24 - Black Bottle
Submitted on 20/07/1998 by Louis Perlman, USA
I picked up a couple more upscale bottles, a 22yr Bowmore Signatory, and 17yr Aberfeldy and Tomatin Cadenheads.
I've only had the Aberfeldy 17 so far, and it seems like a good summer malt. It needed to be watered down to 100 proof or so, but it was very pleasant at that strength. Also, the Glenmorangie Port is coming along nicely. It has acquired a nice fullness to the taste. I'll give it a little more time, by now I realize that I can't always trust first impressions.
When you get a chance, you really should check out The Whiskey House.
There are some great things under the News section, especially the Murray McDavid page, Now there is something you might have around for Craig Daniels when he visits Amsterdam in a Month. They are only moderately expensive. There is a miniature pack available, which I will pick up if it is not too expensive. They also have their inventory available listed by date, so you can easily find a bottle that you share a birthday with! Park Ave's summer sale is downright miserly, 15% off their rather high prices on 12 or more bottles! That I can do without, so I am about done for now. Maybe one or two more depending on other things. I will keep you posted as always.
By the way, the Black Bottle has gotten some good ink on the PLOWED page. I haven't seen it yet, but at about $20, I'll pick it up on sight. You can read more about it on the Islay home page. I have opened my 17 yr Aberfeldy Cadenhead and 20yr Bowmore Signatory. Both are pretty much as described on the D&M page. Interestingly enough, both needed some water, down to 90-100 proof. The Bowmore is not intense at all, somewhat laid back, like the Ardbeg's. Both are also a good match for warmer weather.
After a major disaster at work which broke on Thursday afternoon, I needed to acquire something.
The Highland Park 18 had been on my list, and was easily obtainable, so I went for it. Even got a 5% discount for signing up to the stores mailing list, so it came to just over $50. THIS IS GREAT STUFF!!!! Everything that we all like about the 12, but more of it. This is one item worth spending a few more dollars/guilders on over Lagavulin. My wife liked it too, after I played it up to her, she actually asked for some! Do pick some up when you get a chance.
That's all for now. Your visit from Craig is coming up, and I can't wait to hear what transpires, whisky wise.
prE-pistle #1998/25 - Unraveling Future
Submitted on 31/07/1998 by Craig Daniels, Australia
Gidday, Back from communing with the Forest?
Sounds fascinating and slightly risque; faintly sinful. You must tell me what you actually get up to!
Anyway, the time to leave for foreign shores looms rapidly from the scudding mists of the unraveling future. Thought I'd drop you a line just to see if you're still around and whether the Evening of the 29th is still OK. I'm really looking forward to seeing your fair land and catching up. Getting all nervous and excited at the same time. The Longmorn 1963 33yo is packed and ready. Tell me what's on the menu for the 29th so I can bring any relevant tasting notes with me. Always happy to share my thoughts with fellow Maltsters.
Are there any Whisky Clubs in Amsterdam? (I know there is at least one in Stockholm).
Regarding the Balvenie 21yo: No, and I don't know whether and when it will turn up down here.
Based on what you tell me about the Dutch tax system, the Balvenie 21 must be over the odds (price wise) for you. I also think there may be other reasons for not outlaying a big wad of cash on this particular malt. I have a theory about the capacity of malt to carry wood aging based on the relative heaviness of the original distillate. I quite like Balvenie, but wonder whether it has the weight to carry such wood age. I also suspect the motives of William Grant & Sons, in that I think they are probably cashing in on the twin fads of "different" wood finishes and the price premium associated with extra age. I suspect a bigger (higher specific gravity) malt like Glenfarclas or Macallan might perform better given the same treatment. If you do get a chance to try the 21, put it up against something you know and like, for benchmarking purposes. If it doesn't seem significantly better than the Doublewood or the Macallan 12, don't buy it.
Our next Club meeting is on 26 August 1998, right before Craig and Rosemary jet O/S, bound for more congenial climes and the lands of the Celts, hopefully with a list of contact names and a list of malts to hunt and retrieve for any interested Club members. On the Agenda for this month is a trio of Speyside 15 year olds along with the usual mystery blind. The disclosed trio are : Knockando 15, Cragganmore 15 and Glenfarclas 15. Based on my recollection of them that seems like the most appropriate tasting order as well. I've always thought the Knockando 1979 is a nice, light malt with a prototypical creamy bourbon wood treatment, almost an exemplar of the type along with Glenmorangie and Glenturret. If you want to know what bourbon wood smells like, try any of these. The Cragganmore 15 is a Gordon & MacPhail Connoisseurs Choice (distilled 1970, bottled 1985) that the Club picked up at THE Auction in 1995. It's a rare one, but if my memory serves me right, it's rounder, more sherried and less peaty than the commercial 12 yo. The Glenfarclas 15 - It's amazing just how nice and well balanced this one is. Should show its true colours in this company.
prE-pistle #1998/26 - My Parties
Submitted on 01/08/1998 by Johannes van den Heuvel, Holland
The forest party
was a big success Craig - what I can remember from it, that is ;-)
However, I have to admit that for most guests the focus often is: getting as inebriated as possible. We usually have a few single malts on the menu, but loads of blends, cognacs, liqueurs etc. as well. And my sick little brother always tries to compose the most horrendous cocktails at these parties to test the mettle of the guests. Usually one or two of our friends get overly confident and have to pay the price shortly afterwards. Ah well... The soil is quite poor in our part of the woods so we're happy with the extra 'organics' on the ground ;-)
We're still on for the 29th of August, by the way...
That tasting will take place in Amsterdam (the woods are located on 'De Veluwe', some 80 kilometers from Amsterdam), but I hope to be able to organise a ' pure malt party' with just malt whiskies for sustenance at some point in the future. Many of our friends now enjoy single malt whiskies, but they're not as crazy about them as my brother and me, so for most of them it would be 'pearls before swine'. Once I've gotten to know enough other 'malt maniacs' who know how to appreciate a fine malt I'd like to throw a big 'pure malt party'...
I realise that 'the wild' isn't all that rare in Australia, but in overpopulated Holland 'De Veluwe' is something special.
I was born on De Veluwe and I still feel at home in the area. It is a ridge of hills and forests in the central 'Gelderland' province, mostly a large glacial till from the Pleistocene. It's not the highest part of Holland (that would be just along the border with Germany and Belgium) but since most of Holland is at or below sea level, our home (elevation +/- 50 meters) could still be considered a relative 'mountain chalet'. Our house is located smack in the middle of the (pine & leaf) woods, but we have sand drifts, lakes and heather fields nearby as well.
Inhabitants (mostly the older generations) speak a Low Saxon dialect somewhere in-between Dutch and German.
The wildlife probably isn't as 'wild' as in many other countries, but we have rabbits, hares, foxes, badgers, pine martens, deer, mouflons, vipers, lizards, loads of frogs and toads, many different birds, etcetera. There are plenty of wild boar as well - a little too much for my tastes actually. They can be quite aggressive when they have piglets and they've destroyed many young trees I've planted over the years. Our part of the woods (just a few hectares) is fenced off, but they don't seem to care very much about that. So, I love nature but I hate wild boar. And buzzards too. My dear old mother keeps a dozen free range chickens for fun and eggs, but the buzzards (and falcons) pick off a few each year. Free range is healthier and more fun for us, but not always for the chickens ;-)
Anyway, now I'm drifting way off topic...
I don't know of any whisky clubs, but there are two whisky bars in Amsterdam, 'De Still' and 'L&B's'.
L&B's is difficult to find and closed most of the time, but 'De Still' is located centrally ('Het Spui') and I suggest we drop by when you're in Amsterdam. I don't have a car (I sold mine last one years ago because it's a nuisance rather than a comfort in Amsterdam) but we can take the subway or a taxi to the central station and I could show you some canals and nice architecture along the way. By the way: I picked up a bottle of Longmorn 1989 yesterday - So we can compare it to your 1963 bottling and the 15yo I've got already on my shelf.
Oh, what fun we're gonna have....
As for Balvenie: Come to think of it - I liked the Doublewood better than the 15yo Single Barrel - which could suggest that Balvenie doesn't age very well. (Or wait - the sort of casks they use could play a role as well...) Still - the 21yo was 'only' about U$ 70,- (which is quite cheap given it's age, I think). I'll put it on the "reserve' list. As a matter of fact, I received a bottle of Doublewood from one of my colleagues as a going-away present - as well as some nice bottles of Vintage Port wine. Which was very nice...
Sweet drams - see you within a month!
prE-pistle #1998/27 - Balvenie & Other Stuff
Submitted on 03/08/1998 by Craig Daniels, Australia
I didn't mean to turn you away from the Balvenie, just to advise caution. I'm a great believer in trying the local cuisine wherever I go, particularly in Western countries, because I figure only a very timid gastronaut or rampant chauvinist would insist on eating continental, Chinese or French or Italian in a Scandinavian country. Anyway I kind of like Northern European food anyway. (I make a Scandinavian inspired salad of smoked barracouta, light sour cream, dill and capers which goes down well at white wine tastings) and if you came to Australia you would be most suprised to see the range and quality of international foods available and get to try an awesome array of modified cuisines and some great fusion dishes, like local meats with Asian treatments (kangaroo and plum sauce) and local seafood with middle eastern influences (Tommy ruffs (local herring) stuffed with fennel and orange). There's a couple of great restaurants in Adelaide, which sort of belies the reputation of Aussies as culinary primitives.
There's a deep seated national predisposition to experimentation and innovation in Australia in a lot of spheres, but especially food and wine which (I contend) can be rooted home to the youth of the country, the rapid
influx of many cultural groups and a lack of cant and arrogance in the national psyche. The lack of arrogance is the flip side of the cultural cringe. We don't believe we're better than the English or the
Americans, we are more likely to believe we are not as good. This leave us striving to prove we're as good as anyone else and hence looking for continuous improvement in all things, hence why we're soooo competitive at
sports. (Go the Wallabies! Did you know that the latest test victory over the All-Blacks is the first time in 49 years that the All-Blacks have lost three tests in a row. This is probably the only country in the world
where a statistic like that would be known, let alone cared about!) The opposite to us, I think are the French
(not the Americans, who are more similar than both nationalities would care to admit), who know they're perfect and thus have no reason to improve!
Anyway that's my take on this case of gross stereotyping.
I'm looking forward to meeting you, settling down to a few congenial drams and chatting about malts, the weather, national stereotypes etc. You said that you don't own a car. Is that usual in Amsterdam? It's certainly not in Australia, as most of our cities tend to suburban sprawl (its cheaper to expand out rather than up as land is not scarce) so our urban culture is pretty tied up with owning cars.
Keep in touch, your missives inspire me to intellectual flights of fancy.
prE-pistle #1998/28 - Cuisine & Culture
Submitted on 15/08/1998 by Johannes van den Heuvel, Holland
Hehehe ;-) Yeah, I'd be curious about that kangaroo with plum sauce, Craig ;-)
Phew, a lot to respond to - but I'd like to start with a response to Louis mentioning the Black Bottle.
I've spent half a day trying to track down a bottle, but it hasn't arrived in Holland yet. It should be here soon, though, and the sample I tasted was really promising - around 70 points, which would make it excellent value for your money.
I'll report back on that once I found a bottle
Ah, yes Craig - the French! As long as we're talking stereotypes, I have to say that from my point of view you're right.
I visited France a dozen times or so, and was impressed every time again by their collective rudeness and ethnocentricity. The only three things I love about France so far are the wonderful skiing slopes, the beautiful landscape and their excellent cuisine. What a waste of a beautiful country ;-) However, I should probably add that the fact that they invaded Holland two centuries ago hasn't helped ;-)
But then again: Germany invaded Holland as well (just half a century ago) and yet I have a few German friends.
By the way: England tried to invade Holland as well in the distant past - but failed...
Does that make us superior to the Scots? ;-)
There is no real 'classic' Dutch cuisine - most of our kitchen is 'inspired' by the French cuisine, probably as a result of the Napoleon occupation at the end of the 18th century. Most of the traditional 'old school' Dutch food (hutspot, balkenbrij, klapstuk, boerenkool met worst, etcetera) makes it painfully obvious that we'll have to acknowledge the French superiority in that respect. Furthermore, there are a lot of influences from Indonesia, which has been a Dutch colony for a long time in the Colonial era. Nevertheless, I think we can find a nice restaurant that serves good 'Dutch-ish' meals. If we go with seafood, we should have some fun. I think smoked eel is delicious and the 'Sluizer' restaurant near Rembrandt square serves a fabulous 'kabeljauw in 't groen' (steamed cod with coastal vegetables).
Next topic: my car
- or lack thereof... In Holland, space is a severely limited commodity. Not owning a car is not considered so unusual when you live in the city. When I lived in the countryside I drove a car, but I'm living only a few hundred meters from the subway-station now, so I don't really need a car. I can reach the centre of Amsterdam by bike or subway within half an hour and I can reach any part of Holland within three hours time by train - which means no parking hassle, which is really a problem in a city like Amsterdam.
And it's a little kinder on the environment too.
I won't have my all new 'Malt Madness' website (including a proper forum for our discussiona) on-line this weekend, so you'll have an exclusive opportunity to see the new site in it's prenatal stage. That way I can also show you some other stuff I've done.
prE-pistle #1998/29 - Scotch Report (from Scotland)
Submitted on 09/09/1998 by Craig Daniels, Australia
Hi, Fellow Maltsters.
Finding an internet cafe has not been easy. Am in Dublin now, just about to head off to chase a feed and then go on a literary pub crawl. I like WB Yeats, Sean O'Casey and FlannO'Brienn but couldn't ever get into James Joyce. I must be one of the few people who did an arts degree and never read Ulysses!
A few days ago Johannes and I met up and found out we had some other interests in common, (like cinema) and sat down to three Longmorns, one of which I carried all the way from Oz with me. We tasted an Ultimate 1989, the distillery 15 yo and the G&M 1963 33yo I brought. The first one was pure plain wood and not very good wood at that, with a really fiery finish, not real good (68 points). The Distillery offering was quite nice, better than I remember it with toffee and malt and a little sherry shining through (79 points) and the old one had a really great nose but the palate was a big disappointment. Didn't match the nose and finished quite short with no particular grunt. Smooth but disappeared too quickly (81 points).
Thanks very much for welcoming us into your home so readily, Johannes. It was nice to meet you and your brother Franc.
Rosemary was a bit leery of the idea of meeting a stranger, when the only contact was over such an unreliable medium as the net, but she enjoyed herself too. Bye for now, Remember to polish off that 1974 Port before it goes off!
Anyway, more from me when I hit Scotland. Bottoms Up!
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Made it to Edinburgh
and have had the time to do some serious searching for whisky.
Rosemary and I have come up with a motto for our Clan Drummond, Celtic World Tour : "Give use bounty not beauty"!
Bit materialistic heh? on the malt front, been to about 5 serious establishments.
(1) The Whisky Heritage Centre
Verdict: Great place to taste (non-smoking tasting area and little tasting slips to fill out), especially new and unfamiliar ones.
BUT: lousy place to buy.
(2) Royal Mile Whiskies
Verdict: Reasonable range, prices a bit on the fancy side, I didn't hang around.
(on the Royal Mile)
Verdict: great Range & very good prices. Very friendly staff (managed to sample a Dailuaine 1980 (recommended by Jeff Daniels) and a wee drop of the Talisker Double Wood, but really didn't have enough to deliver a solid decision, but am going to go back and buy a couple of the Dailuaine anyway. I figure Jeff's panel's recommendation is worth the outlay.
(on the Royal mile too)
Verdict: Lots of stuff and the Manager was friendly (Craig Clapperton, whose brother Neil just happens to be MD of Springbank so maybe I'll the connection may pay off when I get to Campbeltown. Spent quite a long time in the office, watching him in action (he spent a lot of time boosting the Braes of Glenlivet 10 (which I didn't sample), so I won't offer an opinion on whether he was acting as a salesman or not) but I did taste a Ledaig 23 (very nice), but none left for purchase (shame) and a Glenury 25 (seriously nice but with a price tag to match and a Dailuaine 27 (very brandy-like with a big winey finish - good). Put aside one of those and a Talisker 18 for (Paul Rasmussen) if he wants to part with the ~$140 its going to set him back.
So in the washup - taste at the Whisky Centre, buy at Oddbins and Cadenhead's.
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Tasted 5 new ones since here...
First was the Connemara Irish Peated whisky. Not too foul at all (for non Australians: this means I was quite impressed).
The peatiness was in the nose but especially obvious in the palate. Could easily be mistaken for an Island (ledaig or Talisker) but not an Islay, at least I don't think so. Second was the Tomatin 10, which while around in Oz hasn't been sampled by either of my malt clubs to my knowledge. Nose was sweet hay and peat and the palate was a tad peaty as well. Got a bit of psirit prickle but not too bad, certainly better than a lot of the Glen Nothing whiskies. Dailuaine 16 - fantastic nose with toffe, roses and some sherry, but the palate was very peaty. Nice but! Millburn Cask Strength 18 - OK but too much stripped pine. Old Fettercairn 10 - Much like the 8 yo but with less of the gamey, yeasty characters.
Having a good time, got to go now. Please send mail if you get the chance.
Would love to hear from anyone with secrets of Scotia to share!
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Craig's misadventures in Scotia:
Islay Distilleries: Go to Laphroaig - the tour is free, but you do have to book. Another plus is that the guide knows lots on the technical side and doesn't fudge anything. Laphroaig doesn't use any sherrywood at all. They only use bourbon oak for all their distillery bottlings including the older ones. (From observations of the barrels in the yard, the nomenclature bourbon wood must be applied loosely, as clear as day were Jack Daniel's barrels from Lem Otlows which even I know is a Tennessee Whisky and not a bourbon.) There have been sherried Laphroaigs in the past but only as contracted runs for blenders. Laphroaig was also the only distillery that had distillery product cheaper than Oddbins. The 15yo was £26 at the distillery and £28.99 on special at Oddbins. (the 15 is a personal favourite but they also had a 30yo for sale at £61, which sounds a lot, but if I hadn't loaded up previously I would've invested in a couple.
Ardbeg is worth a look as well. I didn't go on a tour, but they've put their tasting and sales area in the old kiln house. Walk through the door and about 30 years of peat smoke accumulated in the rafters really hits you with an incredibly big and caustic carbolic catch at the back of the nose. They also sell proper nosing glasses (with glass lids) for £1.50 which is incredibly good value as most of the other distilleries charge 3-4 times that. I bought 4 at Ardbeg. They also have their own tartan wool scarves, designed at the Islay Woollen Mill and very good quality and value at £8.95, which is about 3 quid cheaper than the same type of scarf elsewhere. Oh and the malt is not bad either, although the 17 is nowhere near as gutsy as some independent bottlings from the 70's and 80's. Mind you, they are the stuff of legend.
Caol Ila is a MUST. Best view, best pictures and a really knowledgeable old hand on deck called Alistair. He appears to be in his late sixties (but could be older) and he was a maltman there for 20 years. Full of fascinating information including the tip that the UD Cask Strength Flora & Fauna 1981 (I didn't see any in Edinburgh) is better that both the UD 15 and the Rare Malts 22yo. He also revealed that Caol Ila does contract runs for mainland blenders including Hiram Walker (I think) and that for about 5-6 weeks every year they do a Highland and/or a Speyside: ie they mill, mash, ferment and distill a highland/speyside recipe malt using the Caol Ila stills.
was good too. The tour cost but I got to try two malts: the 12yo and the Mariner 15 which I had not tried before. The guide also reckoned that the Surf and the Legend are the same thing. I don't know whether this is true or common knowledge, but may be of interest to the malt trivia buffs. Talisker Long way to drive and while the scenery is occasionally awe-inspiring, not altogether worth it. All the buildings look new and lacks the sense of history of a lot of them. Nice and clean if a bit sterile, but the washbacks had a really strong poached smoked haddock smell. I know I find smoked almonds in the 12yo but never anything fishy. Anyway its a fine dram regardless.
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Alcoholic Miscellany - Best Beers (limited selection):
Asahi Dry Export (Japan) - Fresh & hoppy and clean as a whistle
Kilkenny (Ireland) - cross between Guinness and a bitter
Beamish Red (Ireland) - good quaffing stuff.
Theakston (UK) - less than impressive, but maybe the tap hadn't been used for a while.
Sapphoro (Japan) - came a bad last amongst Asahi, Heineken and Fosters (all sampled at 35,000 feet).
Bye for now...
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