Malt Maniacs #006
Te Bheag - The Original Gaelic Whisky
Earls of Zetland January 1999 Report Card
Ardbeg Head-to-Head & Stuff
Souvenirs from Scotland
A Good Glass
Now, these are clever!
The 'House' Adelpi
Those Silly Americans
Malt Maniacs #006 - April 1, 1999
As I've mentioned before, these old issues of MM were actually reconstructed from our earlier discussions via e-mail and on our forum. When I started working on these 'pre-historic' issues I had no idea that rebuilding everything would take so much time.
Compared to our later issues the content may seem just a tad 'light' (and the E-pistles a tad short), but these issues do offer some insight in our evolution since our discovery of SMSW.
That being said, readers that want to learn more about whisky from these pages would probably be better off by skipping forward to 2002 or 2003 when we had evolved into a 'proper' E-zine. When you read this, the information on most of the bottles mentioned here is out-dated - and you probably wouldn't be able to find the 'same' bottlings anyway. For the official bottlings the phenomenon of 'batch variation' plays a major role (some malts become 'better' over time, others 'worse') and most independent bottlings are produced in small numbers (usually a few hundred bottles) so most of those are either drunk by now - or in the hands of collectors who don't want to part with them anyway.
By the way - some of the maniacs do a little collecting themselves, but most would be offended if you called them collectors. For most of us, our 'collections' are merely 'postponed consumptions'.
If you happen to be somebody of the collecting persuasion, please switch to stamps or coins and leave the whisky for those who'd like to use it for its original purpose: drinking...
Johannes van den Heuvel
Editor Malt Madness / Malt Maniacs
Hi Johannes, Thanks for your suggestion to try Laphroaig 10yo.
Wow, it is 'extreme' indeed. I do enjoy the strong iodine, but find this one a bit more like medicine than Talisker.
I tried to get the 15 year old Laphroig as I mentioned before, but had to settle for the 10. The clerk at the liquor store told me people were lined up when the 15 was released, and it all sold within minutes. I'll be passing through several duty frees in the next month and a half, and will look for the 15 or the 10 cask strength there.
I tried following the Laphroaig with a Talisker 10 and found it tasted like water after the Laphroaig.
So much to learn. Obviously order of sampling is important. The liquor store clerk told me another uncommon scotch that sells out very quickly when they get it, is Te Bheag, a Gaelic blend. Apparently it's based on Talisker.
It's not on your list, so I guess you have tried less that 700ml of it. Do you know it?
Found a magazine
today called 'Whisky'.
It's the first issue; edited by the likes of Michael Jackson, Charles MacLean and Jim Murray.
The cover story is about a soccer player (Rob Wainwright) whose favourite drink is Wild Grouse.
Someone should direct him to your site!
Anyway Johannes, I thought I should thank you again for your direction and fill you in on my incursion into Laphroaig territory.
I'll continue to update you on my progress.
Any more suggestions?
prE-pistle #1999/11 - Te Bheag - The Original Gaelic Whisky
Submitted on 06/02/1999 by Johannes van den Heuvel, Holland
Hi again Davin, You asked about Te Bheag...
As a matter of fact, it's on my 'middle shelf' right now - that means not officially rated yet. It's a blend, so it won't show up in the "official" ratings on my site. But I'll publish the results in the Tastings" section of my site in a little while. According to the label it's 'The Original Gaelic Whisky' - whatever that means. Another copywriter that got carried away wrote 'unchillfiltered Connoisseur's Blend' on the label. Nutty and peppery nose with a fairly sharp burn; oranges. Some smoke perhaps, and more citrus later on. Hint of peat. Some sweetness and maltiness too. Fragmented bouquet. Taste starts soft, but opens up into malty notes with a very long, peppery finish. Sweetish. Smoked eel? Very dry finish. Decent balance. A very decent blend with character. Preliminary rating = 49 points.
If I understand the information on the label correctly, it's the only blend from the island Skye.
However, as far as I know there's no grain distillery on Skye, so they might be pulling our leg here...
As far as other suggestions go: Laphroaig is about as extreme
as you can get.
A malt that's almost just as powerful, but with a lot more balance, is Ardbeg. The 17yo is absolutely wonderful.
Or try the Talisker 18yo Cask Strength from Cadenhead's that I wrote about in my Liquid Log... Somehow a lot of people are crazy about Springbank but I'm not that keen myself (some screwed up prices). But Springbank has a lot of fans, so you might like it.
prE-pistle #1999/12 - EoZ January 1999 Report Card
Submitted on 07/02/1999 by Craig Daniels, Australia
Here is the report card for the "Laird's Choice" tasting of the Earls of Zetland in January.
Glenlivet 12yo - Bob chose The Glenlivet 12 for two reasons. Firstly because it's probably the best value around at the moment and secondly, because over the years it has been neglected by the Club, probably because it along with Glenfiddich is omnipresent in the retail scene and we tend to ignore them both. Started quite pleasant and sweet with toffee and cream. I started to get something floral, like violets but that ended up more like warm sewing machine oil: which reminded me of Tormore. The faint peat was more the highland industrial variety (hot metal & coking coal ala Tomatin & Dalmore) rather than the Islay bonfire variety. It certainly wasn't as bland as I remembered it and represents excellent value at the moment. Did get a wee bit too yeasty & cardboardy after a long time! Score 7.5
Aberlour-Glenlivet 20yo - One of Bob's left field favourites. Never even glimpsed a sherry barrel, this one is the colour of sauvignon blanc and despite being the third time now we have tasted this particular bottling I'm still not really sure what to make of it. The first time was in April 1992 ("vegetative and dusty wood" (score 6.5), the second, September 1996 ("big oaky nose and palate and gets banana/acetone in the nose" (score 7.0), obviously liking it more) and this time, it had a creamy nose, consistent with the casking, with an underlying over-ripe fruitiness (fujoa/lychees/apples) and the palate was quite rounded and smooth. The mouthfeel was quite good, almost buttery. The faintly off cabbage water was there but not as blatant as in 1992. Unlikely ever to get the chance to try it again. Score 8.0
The Blind: Longmorn 15yo - Selected by Bernie Glover and guessed right by Bronte, Bob and me. As Bob has remarked before, the scores we give the blind are probably a closer reflection as to the true worth of a malt. I liked this one. Toffee, cream and a touch of sherry building in the background. Became quite chocolatey over time: robust and distinguished malt. Stayed extremely good in the glass, suggesting reasonable age and good wood. Not as rich as it's 12yo Gordon & MacPhail cousin, but classy nonetheless. Score 8.0
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Never let it be said that Airplane Ground Crews and Engineers lack a sense of humour!!! Here are some actual maintenance complaints generally known as Squawks or problems submitted recently by Qantas Pilots to Maintenace
Engineers to fix prior to the aircraft's next flight. After attending to the Squawks, the Maintenance Crews are required to log the details of action taken as a Solution to the Pilot's Squawks. The following are some
recent Squawks and subsequent responses by Maintenance Crews.
(P) = The problem logged by the Pilot.
(S) = The Solution and action taken by Maintenance Engineers.
(P) Left inside main tire almost needs replacement
(S) Almost replaced left inside main tire
(P) Test flight OK, except autoland very rough
(S) Autoland not installed on this aircraft
(P) #2 Propeller seeping prop fluid
(S) #2 Propeller seepage normal - #1 #3 and #4 propellers lack normal seepage
(P) Something loose in cockpit
(S) Something tightened in cockpit
(P) Evidence of leak on right main landing gear
(S) Evidence removed
(P) DME volume unbelievably loud
(S) Volume set to more believable level
(P) Autopilot in altitude hold mode produces a 200 fpm descent
(S) Cannot reproduce problem on ground
(P) Friction locks cause throttle levers to stick
(S) That's what they're there for!!
(P) Number three engine missing
(S) Engine found on right wing after brief search
(P) Aircraft handles funny
(S) Aircraft warned to straighten up, "fly right" and be serious!!
(P) Target Radar hums
(S) Reprogrammed Target Radar with the words
prE-pistle #1998/13 - Ardbeg Head-to-Head & Stuff
Submitted on 12/02/1999 by Louis Perlman, USA
Once again, much to write about. And the longer I wait, the more stuff piles up.
Senility is creeping up faster than anticipated, because I forgot the main thing I had meant to write about in my last note.
Namely, my long awaited Ardbeg G&M 1974 vs distillery 17 H2H comparison. We had an unusually warm fall (on 12/14 it was 72F, 16C, and on 12/21 it was almost as warm!), and I needed a nice cool weekend evening for the occasion. On the Friday night after Thanksgiving, the weather cooperated, and things were tranquil on the domestic front, so I went ahead. There isn't much that I can add to tasting notes that are already out there, but it seems to me that the 17 is a better summer malt, while the 1974 is bettter suited to cooler seasons. I would probably have to conclude that the 1974 would rate higher, even at only 40%. My wife agreed, and she's not much of an Islay fan. I have a feeling that the 1974 is really special, and that I will miss it when it is gone (see below).
Ah yes, and my birthday was just two weeks ago. The Glenfarclas 1959 was wonderful. It is hard to believe that this stuff has the same ingredients as what is on your 'Public Warning' page. Then on to the weekend for some serious dramming. The 1978 distilley Ardbeg led off. it is definitely along the lines of the 17yr. It is probably better, but there were three little boys flying around, so I couldn't do any serious comparisons.
Unfortunately, the Signatory 23yo was still in transit due to a series of mishaps (nothing broken, just confused).
So I switched regions to the Springbank 12/92. Excellent stuff. It is right up there with Lagavulin on my list, and somewhat affordable too. Then on to the the Springbank 21. I had overlooked it up to now, since it is quite expensive ($90-100+). But there has been some buzz about how Springbank is running short on their older whiskies, and that the 21 may/will be replaced soon. So I treated myself to a(nother) birthday present on my birthday. Actually, the 21 has a lot in common with the 1959 GF, allowing for regional differences. I offered my wife a sip, and the next thing I knew, she grabbed the Reidel glass back for some more. I have to rate this #1, it is truly special.
And now for some updates on older items.
Balvenie 15yo CS. While I liked it the first time around, it seemed to be a bit harsh from then on. It turns out that just a splash of water does the trick, with the proof still in the nineties. Whittfields Islay. Just like your Black Bottle.
Good for gulping down, the price can't be beat, but that's it.
Talisker 10yo. I do like it, but..... ... it is a victim of being in expensive company.
Strathisla 12yo. I had it when we went out for my birthday, as it was the only thing on the list I hadn't tried (except for 1/2 a miniature). Nothing special here, don't waste your money, which could equally buy a bottle of Lagavulin.
That's covers everything, I think.
The Ardbeg 23 Signatory has by now arrived, so I will try to round up the entire batch.
But I wouldn't be surprised if the 1974 ruins the party for the rest of them.
prE-pistle #1999/14 - Souvenirs from Scotland
Submitted on 14/02/1999 by Craig Daniels, Australia
The last EoZ meeting I did something that I haven't done before or at least not declared my hand so publicly.
I tried to pick the blind before Bernie read out the list of possibles. A smart-arse act and hubris undoubtedly. Suffice to say I was suitably chastened when the list was read out and my "inspired" choices (Balvenie 10 or 12) weren't there. As I was perfectly sober (at this early juncture) and it was such a strong hunch, I'm sure that if Balvenie Doublewood had been on the list that I would've picked it and then "discovered" evidence to support the choice. Then I wondered why Balvenie leapt into my head and pondered if it's not Balvenie then what about it made me think so. The colour (mid amber) and slightly spiritty toffee nose were right and bearing in mind Allan's maxim that "first thoughts are strong thoughts and often not the wrong thoughts" it just had to be a Speyside. OK, I've decide it's a Speyside but which one. Back to the glass for a few more sniffs. As soon as I started getting dark/club chocolate I realised that Balvenie was close but definitely no cigar. Now the whiskies I always get dark/club chocolate in are Old Pulteney, Glenfarclas, Longmorn & Strathisla. I also get it in Macallan and some others but the colour and understated sherry treatment would've ruled it out even if it was on the list. Of the aforementioned group only Longmorn and Glenfarclas were there, so if the train of thought was right thus far it had to be one of them. Now the list had the 'farclas 15 & not the 12. I was pretty sure that it didn't have enough sherry to be the 15yo so that left the Longmorn 15 as the deductive/reductive choice.
Next Meeting - 24 February 1999 - "Craig's Booty" [Souvenirs from Scotland]
Odds & sods lugged (and I mean lugged, I swear my arms were longer after I got back) all the way back from Scotland for the delight and edification of the Club. When I went to Scotland I went armed with a shopping list which included suggestions from maltsters all over the world as well as a shortlist of desirable distilleries and bottlings in the back of my mind. I couldn't bring a lot back so some nice malts had to go uncollected. I was very sad to leave two proprietory Laphroaigs (15 & 30yo) on Islay as I'd already had Cadenheads put two (other) bottles aside. However I managed to bring 7 bottles through customs without telling any porkies. Of these, three were always destined to be the basis of a Club meeting. The only thing I can promise is that the one I've tasted is good and the other two come highly recommended by malt palates I trust. I didn't bring the blind back with me and I don't won't to give too much away, suffice to say I did visit the distillery and have photographic evidence. Mind you I did visit 21 distilleries so I don't figure this to be much help.
Miltonduff – Glenlivet 23yo (Hart Bros) - A Speyside distillery located just outside of Elgin owned and operated by Allied Distillers and usually marketing a malt at 12 y.o. Sadly, when I visited the Miltonduff distillery I was told that it won't be available as a single any longer. Corporate marketing decisions again, apparently. Often considered to be a feminine whisky, the proprietory offering is typical of the lighter Glenlivet style best represented by Glen Elgin and The Glenlivet. This bottling is at a significantly greater age. Older Glenlivets tend to be refined and aristocratic drams. I suspect the colour indicates 100% bourbon wood. A chance to try something refined and venerable and not likely to be seen again.
Signatory Islay (Lagavulin 7yo) - Companies like Signatory often get their hands on barrels from popular distilleries, but as the brand owners don't always want the whisky label confirming the origin, the industry often plays twee "nudge nudge" games. I visited the Cairngorm Whisky Centre and Frank Clark let me try the Knockdhu 21 and this one.. Frank challenged me to identify the distillery. The Knockdhu was rich, smooth and very expensive, but the masked malt showed full on peat unmoderated by sherry (more like Ardbeg, Laphroaig or Caol Ila), remarkably clean and not in the wallet crippling category and it was FUN. I thought it probably from Caol Ila, so we'll see if you reckon it has Lagavulin traits. More of a cheery peasant rather than an elegant courtesan a'la Miltonduff.
Dailuaine 1980 (UD F&F OP) - There are an awful lot of perfectly serviceable (and occasionally great) malts that never get the market exposure they deserve. While this distillery is in the UD stable and they have released proprietory bottlings, UD in their wisdom don't send them to Oz. They'd much rather flog you Cardhu, Glen Ord and the Classic 6 than allow the antipodean aficionado access to more obscure material. Now, the internet is a wondrous thing and when an e-mail acquaintance with good malt credentials (Dr Jeff Daniels of Big Sky Montana) starts raving about the best Speyside he's ever tasted then I listen and act. I strongly suspect this one will be great, because the standard strength F&F 16 y.o. Dailuaine was one of my nicest malt discoveries in Scotland (along with Macallan 10. It's such a shame we don't get it here). The Club is a perfect venue to analyse and dissect any malt, so here it is for your edification and delight.
Blind - I try to make picking the blind a fair test of the palate.
I generally hide the blind in a group of three similar whiskies, with three not so similar and one or two obvious ring-ins.
No other hints other than I'll tell you on the night which three (I consider) were the close ones.
prE-pistle #1999/15 - Glassware Experiments
Submitted on 15/02/1999 by Davin de Kergommeaux, Canada
Hi Johannes, I'm still here - have been experimenting lately with glasses.
I tried a brandy snifter, then settled on wine tasting glasses which really did help focus the taste.
Then about a week ago my wife came home with a glass that was much like the wine taster, but with the lip curved out.
This is great as it gives the same focussed flavour, but lets the whisky flow easily onto your tongue.
I think I am graduating from the first level of my whisky education.
I just posted a note on whiskyweb (http://www.whiskyweb.com/howff/) advising someone else on tasting whisky.
That's why I am writing you, as the first thing I told him was to check out your Malt Madness site. Hope you don't mind.
I still visit your site regularly for updates. (I also mentioned you site in a letter to Whisky Magazine.)
My current whisky is Springbank 12 year old. Nice bottle!! Have purchased refills of Talisker and Glenmorangie 10 year old and will probably do the same when my Laphroaig is finished. Also bought the Te Bheag but haven't tried it yet. Let me know when you've tasted yours so we can compare notes. I travel from time to time with my job and will be in Washington (then South America) in a few weeks so am hoping to get some more exotic malts at the duty free shops.
Anyway, thanks again for speeding up my education. I'll keep you posted on my progress.
prE-pistle #1999/16 - A Good Glass
Submitted on 17/02/1999 by Johannes van den Heuvel, Holland
The "wine glass with the lip curved out" is an "official" malt tasting glass, Davin - at least that's what they told me.
It's among the best glasses for tasting and nosing I've found so far, although a large enough cognac snifter (300cl or more) works just as well for me. Wine or port glasses hide a little too much of the aroma for me, although those with well developed noses might find them suitable. I plan to write a report on a big 'glassware test' with 4 or 6 different glasses, but haven't found the time yet.
And I'm glad to hear you're promoting Malt Madness - the more visitors the merrier.
So, I don't mind - 'au contraire mon ami' ;-)
By the way, Louis: I agree on your season-remarks regarding the Ardbeg.
The 17 is altogether more balanced, but for a cold and stormy winter night there are few malts that beat the power of the Ardbeg 1974. More peat than the 17. If you ever get the chance, pick up the Cadenhead's 1972 C/S - absolutely the best Ardbeg I ever tasted.
More peaty AND more balanced and complex than any of the other versions I've tasted.
And I Like the funny messages, Craig!
Sometimes the whisky world is a little too serious for its own good ;-)
More jokes, Craig?
prE-pistle #1999/17 - Now, these are clever!
Submitted on 25/02/1999 by Craig Daniels, Australia
Here's some more: If you don't like getting this stuff, blame yourselves, not me, as all I need is a sniff of positive feedback.
(Cackle, cackle, hack, wheez, wheeeeeeeeeeez).
Can't help myself. I was tidying up my mail box and found these gems, sent to me by Mike Padlipsky in LA. He got 'em from a New York magazine competition where they asked competitors to change one letter in a familiar
non-English phrase and redefine it.
Unfortunately I don't know the name of the originating source.
Harlez-vous francais? (Can you drive a French motorcycle?)
Idios amigos (We're wild and crazy guys!)
Veni, VIPi, Vici (I came; I'm a very important person; I conquered)
J'y suis, J'y pestes (I can stay for the weekend)
Cogito Eggo sum (I think; therefore, I am a waffle)
Rigor Morris (The cat is dead)
Respondez s'il vous plaid (Honk if you're Scots)
Que sera, serf (Life is feudal)
Le roi est mort. Jive le roi (The King is dead. No kidding.)
Posh mortem (Death styles of the rich and famous)
Pro Bozo publico (Support your local clown)
Monage a trois (I am three years old)
Felix navidad (Our cat has a boat)
Haste cuisine (Fast French food)
Veni, vidi, vice (I came, I saw, I partied)
Quip pro quo (A fast retort)
Mazel ton! (Lots of luck)
Apres Moe, le deluge (Larry and Curly get wet)
Porte-Kochere (Sacramental wine)
Fui generis (What's mine is mine)
VISA la France (Don't leave chateau without it)
Ca va sans dirt (And that's not gossip)
Merci rien (Thanks for nothin')
Amicus puriae (Platonic friend)
L'etat, c'est moo (I'm bossy around here)
L'etat, c'est Moe (All the world's a stooge)
prE-pistle #1999/18 - The 'House' Adelphi
Submitted on 11/03/1999 by Louis Perlman, USA
To celebrate setting the closing date of my house, I picked up an Adelphi 12 year Glen Rothes.
This is very pleasant dram. Not as much alchohol apparent as with a few of my Cadenhead's. At 112 proof, there is plenty of heat, which is tamed with a bit of water. The nose has a nice bouquet, and the taste is 'crisp and fruity'.
There are quite a few new Adelphi's here in the USA, I also have an Aultmore on order.
They rarely use sherry casks, I am told.
Speaking of which, someone graciously sent me a miniature's worth of the new double matured Lagavulin.
It has spent some extra time in a special cask, and is not generally available in the US. This bottle was ordered from one of the German stores on the web that ships internationally. I had a sip, and it is a very refined version of the original. There isn't any/very much extra sherrying, which I mean as a compliment. The price tag is roughly double, but I think that you would not be disappointed.
prE-pistle #1999/19 - Those Silly Americans
Submitted on 16/03/1999 by Johannes van den Heuvel, Holland
What a coincidence, Louis - I've recently received a question about the Adelphi distillery.
It's not mentioned in Michael Jackson's 'companion', so I was puzzled. As it turns out, it's not a distillery, but an independent bottler.
I haven't tried any bottles yet (haven't seen any in Holland, in fact), but I'm happy to report that more and more IB's are becoming available here now. Holland used to be an 'underdeveloped country' in malt whisky terms, but that seems to be slowly changing...
That being said, I don't think that American stuff like 'Whyte & Whyte' or 'Binnies' (often mentioned on the American PLOWED pages) will ever make it here. As you may know, the Dutch are infamous for their penny-pinching and it seems that a few typically 'American' bottlings are aimed at a 'nouveau riche' audience that is more interested in the price of a bottle than its quality. For those people a higher price seems to make the bottling more attractive - just like on the 'Asian Brag Bar' market that has mostly disappeared after the economic crash there.
As for the 'proof' system... Here in Europe the 'strength' of a whisky is indicated in an ABV (Alcohol By Volume) percentage.
So, I'm not very familiar with the 'proof' system - all the more so because as I understand it the UK and the USA use different systems. The good news is that I'm currently working on an all new website in dynamic HTML where I can build a nifty 'translation table' that could show the corresponding UK and USA 'proofs' to a certain 'ABV' percentage as a 'mouse over'.
More about this later...
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