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Malt Maniacs E-zine

Malt Maniacs #007

My Latest Adventures & Queries
prE-pistle #1999/20 by Davin de Kergommeaux, Canada

Fresh Canadian maniac Davin is getting more and more into whisky. But there are many other 'types' of drinks available - like rum.

Ho-ho-ho & A Bottle of Rum
prE-pistle #1999/21 by Johannes v/d Heuvel, Holland

A short and sweet reply to Davin's questions.

Eau de Mer
prE-pistle #1999/22 by Craig Daniels, Australia 

On the Malts-L discussion list there's a debate about salt in whisky. This inspired the Earls of Zetland in Australia to have a session with some 'coastal' malts. Does the sea spray get into the casks?

Thoughts on Scores
prE-pistle #1999/23 by Johannes v/d Heuvel, Holland

I think all four 'maniacs' started their voyage of discovery with Michael Jackson's Malt Whisky Companion in one hand and a glass in the other. That all gave us a taste for scoring whiskies,

Duty Free / Dallas Dhu
prE-pistle #1999/24 by Davin de Kergommeaux, Canada

Davin has been complaining about the government controlled liquor market in Canada (are they the Sweden of the Americas?) but now discovered that the LCBO actually keeps the prices fairly low.

The Time Factor
prE-pistle #1999/25 by Johannes v/d Heuvel, Holland

Time is one of the main ingredients of whisky...

Old Versus New
prE-pistle #1999/26 by Craig Daniels, Australia

I was glad to read that I'm not the only one who is paranoid enough to do H2H (Head-to-Head) sessions with old and new versions of a certain whisky to check if there are differences. Craig Daniels reports...

Old & New
prE-pistle #1999/27 by Johannes v/d Heuvel, Holland

Craig's E-pistle drove me to a flight of fancy.
What is the future of Malt Maniacs?

More Fun
prE-pistle #1999/28 by Craig Daniels, Australia

Granted, it's off-topic - but laughter is a rare commodity these days and I was struggling to fill a fresh issue of our E-zine.

Glen Bogus - Queen's Day in Holland
prE-pistle #1999/29 by Johannes v/d Heuvel, Holland

Phew... I managed to fill a fresh issue of MM by digging around in my 'Liquid Log' for some recent single malt experiences.

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Malt Maniacs #007 - May 1, 1999
 

Ah, isn't the internet a wonderful invention?
Not only has it allowed me to find a really nice job as 'web consultant' last year, it allowed me to share my passion for single malt whisky with like minded people all over the world.

When I published my first words about malt whisky in 1995, it was still a fairly obscure whisky variety in Holland and plenty of liquorists had only Glenfiddich and Balvenie on stock. Things have improved considerably since then - but I still haven't found a nice 'local' whisky community on the web.

Fortunately, single malts are growing world wide.
I'm not surprised - in a world that is growing ever more artificial, people look for authenticity, and that's something that can still be found in single malts. You have to pay attention, mind you. Even though the volumes in the single malt market are so low that the marketeers and advertising men focus most of their energy on the 'blends' category, you have to remain a little cynical about some of the charming stories. Do Islay malts REALLY taste salty because they are stored along the coast and the sea washes over them?

Anyway...
During the latter half of the 1990's I've focused most of my energy on Weird Planet Magazine and Malt Madness, but I plan to wrap those up by the end of this year (at least temporary) so I can spend more time on 'Malt Maniacs' and try to find some more people in other parts of the world to join our on-line community.

I hope that we can cover news and opinions about single malt whisky from all parts of the world some day...

Sweet drams,

Johannes van den Heuvel
Editor Malt Madness / Malt Maniacs

prE-pistle #1999/20 - My Latest Adventures & Queries
Submitted on 15/03/1999 by Davin de Kergommeaux, Canada

I had a great experience a few weeks back in progressive drinking.
It began with a couple of glasses of  Highland Park 12yo followed by a Glenmorangie 10yo, then a Glenmorangie Port Wood, each one benefiting from the taste of its predecessor. Then I switched to Te Bheag (just loved it), then on to Talisker 10yo and finished off the evening with Laphroaig 10 year old. What a crescendo!!  The Te Bheag was so delicious, I went straight to it the next evening, but somehow it just wasn't the same without the build up.

My recent trip was a bit disappointing Scotch-wise.  Now I can appreciate Canadian Scotch prices and availability. 
In Canada most Scotches are less expensive than the duty free prices in USA or Barbados.  In Guyana, bar price for the only single malt, Tormore 10 year old, was $16.50 US while Johnny Walker Blue was $22.00 and both had been sitting in the sun for who knows how long.  In Canada a whole bottle of JW blue costs only $199.00 Canadian or about $134.00 US, compared to the $200.00  you list it as in Amsterdam.  On the other hand, a bottle of rum could be had for just over $4.00.  So, I tried most of the Guyanese and Barbadan rums. 
Now I know why I like Scotch.

Even a 15 year old Demerrara rum, said to be equivalent to cognac, tasted like coca cola.
There was just no complexity to the nose or taste at all. Normally I travel about twice a year with my job, but this year it looks like more than that as I am leaving again on Friday for a tour of central Europe. I'll be missing Amsterdam, unfortunately, or I'd recruit you for a tutoured tasting session.  I hope to come back with some bottles that are unavailable here in Canada.

My current whisky is Macallan 12 year old which you rate only one point lower than the 18 year old.  That's good information as the price differential is huge.  Have you tried the Glenmorangie 18 year old?  It has just become available here, and I expect will sell out soon.  It is just a dollar shy of being twice the price of the 10 year old.  Also, Balblair, Glenburgie and Glentauchers are all currently on sale at about 40% off.  I think they are dumping their stock and these whiskies will soon be unavailable in Canada.  These are not common names; have you tried any of them? Anyhow, I do go on.  Really I just wanted to keep in touch and encourage you to keep working on your site.

Davin de Kergommeaux, Canada
 

prE-pistle #1999/21 - Ho-ho-ho & A Bottle of Rum
Submitted on 15/03/1999 by Johannes van den Heuvel, Holland

Wow, Davin - That's a LOT of money for the Tormore 10yo - a mediocre malt at best, IMHO.
I too have tried some "farmer" rums after enthusiastic comments from some people with otherwise noteworthy opinions.
A few of those were indeed very interesting, but availability is a bit of a problem. Sure, you can get the 'Bacardi' drivel anywhere, but compared to the 'farmer' rums they are a bit like Johnnie Walker Red Label compared to Macallan 12yo or Lagavulin 16yo.
Investigating some 'good' rums is on my to-do list - but so are a lot of other little projects...

On the Macallan: I do think the price difference between 12 and 18 is way too big, but you should really try the 18 some time.
Too expensive for large quantity consumption, but something very different. Or try the Mac 10yo cask Strength - a lot like the 18 in character, but more reasonably priced. It's pretty hard to find, but certainly worth the effort. I haven't tasted the 'Morangie 18 "by the bottle" yet, but you'll find a report on a tasting session with 5 different Glenmorangies on Malt Madness. (Check out my Liquid Log.)
I haven't tried any of the 3 other malts you mentioned yet.

How about giving us some whisky scores as well, Davin?
Craig and I are already enthusiastically rating the whiskies we try and I think Louis is persuadable as well. If we put our own scores in a 'matrix' table and compare them with those of Michael Jackson we could provide the visitors of MM with some different opinions about the whiskies we all tried. I think that such a 'malt maniacs matrix of scores' could be a worthwhile addition to the website.

Sweet drams,

Johannes
 

prE-pistle #1999/22 - Eau de Mer
Submitted on 24/03/1999 by Craig Daniels, Australia

24 March 1999 – Coastal Malts – "Eau de mer" - Oh, I do Love to be beside the Seaside...

I belong to an internet malt list run out of the University of Karlsruhe in Germany and the existence/impossibility of salt in whisky runs as a slowly bubbling ferment on its pages.  While the experts tell you and chemical analysis confirms that you can't possibly detect NaCl in your whisky, but and it's a BIG but, there are some malts that definitely smell of the seaside, especially with the impression of seaweed and sea-spray.  Of the 400 plus different compounds identified in SMS there must be something (probably amongst the phenols, creosols and aldehydes) that tricks the brain somehow.  There is something extremely evocative of the sea in malts from distilleries as diverse as Highland Park, Clynelish, Inchgower, Talisker, Isle of Jura and all seven on Islay.  Something intangible and ozone-like that wafts insouciantly over the taster's olfactory epithelium and whispers insistently of seaspray and sea-shells, rolling breakers and wind swept kelp beds: of mist and melancholia.  My god, almost a prose poem?  Hell, I'd better stop this or Mike Padlipsky will accuse me of "moon-walking" and you'll all think worse of me for arty-farty nonsense.

Anyway, I've tried to pick malts that fairly represent the flavour profile I associate with Coastal Malts, especially where the delicate hints of sea air are not swamped by tsunamis of peat.  After all, these meetings are supposed to be educational as well as hedonistic romps.   Mind you, the olfactory system is hot-wired to the memory circuits in the brain, so if a whiff of Clynelish transports you back to joyous holidays at Port Elliott when you were a kid, just be thankful and don't ask too many questions.

Bunnahabhain 12yo – Seriously good and much underrated dram. 
Steve Matthews puts it in his top five commercial malts and I prefer it to Highland Park 12.  In fact there is little to separate the two except that the Bunnahabhain has slightly deeper sherry notes and a bit rounder mouth feel, while HP 12 has the honey &citrus nose and a long, smoky finish.  Most of the things I've written about Bunnahabhain before don't warrant repeating here except for a couple of extracts…. " A lovely, well balanced malt, despite the fact that its flavour profile suggests a coastal highland rather than exhibiting classic Islay traits. 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" and the observation that it's a very tricky blind because it's easily the best highland malt made on Islay. By now everybody knows that I hold this malt in high regard.  This particular visit did nothing to detract from my high opinion.  Rich and briny nose with very attractive meat & gravy aromas.  I'm indebted to Marc Keegan for his "beef stock' descriptor.  It improved in the glass with more toffee and peat coming out.  Certainly was the peatiest of the four malts, at least to my senses, but I still maintain that as a blind most people don't pick it as an Islay.  I like the toffeed malts like this one and Glenury-Royal 12, although the Bunnahabhain wins in the complexity and depth stakes.  Score 8.1

Oban 14yo  -  Another underrated malt and one that manages to get the balance between sweetness and peatiness almost perfect.  It's a bugger as a blind, precisely because of this.  Another malt which has a lot in common with Highland Park 12, but with more salt and markedly sweeter.  Indeed if you were putting together a trio of malts for the National Championship, the Bunnahabhain 12, Oban 14 and Highland Park 12 would be an utter, utter, utter bastard.  For me Oban is almost impossible to tie down.  Some days the peat is dominant and it smells and tastes like a Campbeltown or Island malt and on others there's a delicate flaxen sweetness that screams Speyside to me.  I've gone through my comments about Oban and here's some germane ones: "Subdued, even nose. Touch of brine, touch of hessian, little bit of peat. Much more peat on palate, nice finish.  Hessian notes get stronger in nose and some liquorice emerges.  Salt and peat are dominant in finish. Very mellow throughout: gets some clean, fresh-bread notes". A real chameleon and on this occasion after the meaty richness of the Bunnahabhain, I thought the Speyside characteristics were dominant.  Quite malty/yeasty to start like Glenfarclas & Glen Keith 10 but with salty notes becoming more insistent and more evident, then gets some very Speyside hessian and straw bales in the nose.  Quite a sweet palate with a finish reminiscent of the aftertaste of Columbine caramels: a touch of salty toffee on the lips.  Couldn't extract a lot of peat on this occasion, but a smooth mellow dram throughout with more depth than the aforementioned Speysiders.  Score 7.8.

Clynelish 24yo 1972 (61.3%, UD Rare Malts) – As I've got no idea what this one tastes like, I can't wax lyrical about it. 
However, one of the blokes from Baily & Baily at Cumberland Park reckons that this one was the pick of the four or five of the Rare Malts that they lined up and tried few months back.  Given that the list included Caol Ila 21 and Glenury-Royal 23, I figure this is nigh on the perfect endorsement.  Clynelish and Brora both have top reputations in the malt world.  Normal expressions are moderately peated and normally quite dry, again not dissimilar to Highland Park.  Maybe I should rename the night - NOT Highland Park.  (We get to try 2 Highland Parks next month).  If this 24yo OP is as good as I suspect, maybe we'll all stumble out into that dark night singing "Clynelish, Clynelish  uber alles,  uber alles in der welt". Unfortunately underwhelming & somewhat disappointing, especially after the marvelous (almost sublime) Dailuaine in February, although the three ex- National Malt Champions were kinder (Bob awarding 8.4, Bronte 8.5 and yours truly 8.0) in their assessments than others.  While David was a bit savage in the scoring department (6.0), he summed up the mood pretty well in that he remarked that you really couldn't detect the benefit of all that EXPENSIVE time in (probably refill) bourbon barrels. Fighting through the spirit the malt was immediately sweet with a very clean lifted fruity note reminiscent of juicy fruit chewing gum that evolved into melon ala Glenlivet 15.  Bob says he gets "peaches" out of a lot of OP malts, so I guess it's an ester of sorts.  I for one thought the palate remarkably refined and smooth considering the proof. The finish was long and very slightly metallic tangy with a hint of sea air. I didn't actually detect any peat until I diluted it a little.  Then the smoke and vanilla came to the fore, but it still wasn't as peaty as I expected.  My tasting notes tend to support the contention that the time in wood (except for the smoothness) hadn't added much over the usual 12yo OP. Just goes to show that age & proof don't guarantee a great malt experience.  Score 8.0.

Blind: Longmorn 15yo  -  I know that most people would reckon that anyone who thought they were half way sensible at picking blinds would get it right, especially given that it was the same blind as January's meeting. Well on this occasion I didn't get it right.  The weird thing was my tasting notes weren't that far off the mark, "sweet & spirity, toffee & roses, bit yeasty – might be a Speyside, but some salty toffee. But no peat – some floral bite and gets sweeter, bit ratty and disintegrating in the finish".  But I didn't  think the whisky was as good as the Longmorn we had last.  Bad mistake but still awarded it a moderately decent mark.  Score 7.6

Craig
 

prE-pistle #1999/23 - Thoughts on Scores
Submitted on 15/03/1999 by Johannes van den Heuvel, Holland

Ah, that was a nice meaty report, Craig.
It also reminded me of something I've discussed with some of you via e-mail: scores.
I realise that scores only offer the most basic reflection of our opinions about a whisky, but that's better than nothing.
One of the reasons I added the 'forum' part to Malt Madness was the realisation that the simple publication of my own opinions and feelings about whisky wouldn't be very useful for visitors with tastes different from my own - hence this 'Malt Maniacs' extention.
I think if we all started to add scores to our notes we could offer the visitors an extra 'layer of information.

Louis and Davin are not assigning scores to the whiskies in their articles yet, but all they need is a little push.
The next step would be making our scores as 'compatible' as possible. I think Craig and I are already using roughly the same scale - even though Craig still adds a superfluous point in the middle ;-)  Craig's 8.1 points for the Bunnahabhain 12yo is roughly comparable with my own 80 points, I think. Since Louis and Davin aren't scoring whiskies yet, it should be easy to agree on a common 'scale'.
So, I'd like to 'throw some thoughts into the group'...

The basis of my alcoholic beverages rating system (as well as my life) is 'the Pleasure Principle' - I just try to translate the fun my nose and tongue are having into a number between 1 - 100. This means that the malts are ranked according to their perceived 'Fun-Factor'. What makes a malt 'fun', you ask? Well, to me that means a single malt with 'a lot of nose'; a big bouquet with a lot of different fragrances. And if the nose shows development over time in the glass that's a bonus. I like development in the mouth as well, together with a long finish. Some people judge a malt (partially) by its colour. Personally, I don't give a rat's ass about the colour; I wouldn't care if a whisky were green or orange - It's the aroma and the taste that interest me.

It's very hard to quantify, qualify and explain WHY I love a certain malt as much as I do.
What do I look for in a single malt whisky? What do I 'prefer' in a single malt whisky?
A malt that responds well to water - or a malt that doesn't need any water at all?
A nicely balanced nose - or a very expressive nose that highlights the extreme traits?
A chewy palate that ends in a clean finish - or a dry malt with a finish that lasts forever?

Well, it all depends. Instead of breaking my brains on these sorts of fundamental questions, I focused my attention on thinking of a system that would express HOW MUCH I love a malt as precisely as possible. I'm trying to express my love for a particular single malt whisky in two digits. My ratings are on a 1 - 100 scale. The theoretical average score of 50 points is the 'watershed' between me liking and disliking a drink. Please note that the scale includes other alcoholic liquids as well; drinks like beer, wine, blended whisky, bourbon, Irish whiskey, cognac, armagnac, calvados, grappa, etc. That means my scores aren't always comparable with other people's scores - for example those of our malt guru Michael Jackson.

As far as the entire scale goes: here's the meaning of the bottom end of my scale - the drinks I don't like;

01 - 09:   Barely drinkable gagwater. Serving me this may result in physical violence.
10 - 19:   Truly disgusting. Varying degrees of awfulness; highly avoidable.
20 - 29:   Only suitable for intoxication purposes. Best used as Anti-freeze.
30 - 39:   Definitely not enjoyable. Don't pour me another glass, please.
40 - 49:   Flawed. I'll drink it, but don't expect me to be happy about it.

Above 50 points I'm slowly starting to warm up to things.
My scores on the 'positive' end of the scale mean something like;

51 - 54:   All things considered I like it, but just barely. It's a thin line between love and hate.
55 - 59:   I'm far from crazy about this, but I could find some redeeming qualities.
60 - 64:   Quite drinkable, but I could find nothing in there to get very excited about.
65 - 69:   An altogether satisfactory experience, but somehow it doesn't fulfill its potential.
70 - 74:   An enjoyable drink, just a tad below average. Could do better.
75 - 79:   A very enjoyable drink; above average but not exciting enough to be recommendable.
80 - 84:   Recommendable. Very nice indeed, thank you. Pour me another one, please.
85 - 89:   Highly recommendable. Wonderful! Never a dull moment with one of these.
90 - 94:   Everybody should try this at least once in their life. Great liquids of the world.
95 - 99:   Exceptional. The sort of stuff where price starts to become almost irrelevant.
100 pts:   True 'aqua vitae'. Once I've found this legendary drink I can rest easy.

Here are some 'anchors' or 'benchmarks' in my rating-system;

80 - Bowmore 12yo, Dalmore 12yo, Glen Ord 12yo
60 - Glenfiddich Special Reserve, Johnnie Walker Black Label
40 - Drumguish 3yo, Dimple
20 - Johnnie Walker Red Label

60 points is the very least I expect a decent malt to score. So how come my top single malt scores 95 points instead of 100?
Well, first of all: I'm an optimistic person. It's feasible that I will one day encounter a single malt that surpasses even the wonderful Lagavulin 16. Second of all: Before I discovered single malts, I had been rating cognac and armagnac for several years. My whisky rating system is derived from my original cognac/armagnac scale. See the info to the left for my benchmarks.

I don't take my tasting and rating TOO serious, but serious enough to wait until after I've sampled at least 5 glasses of a particular whisky before I give my final rating. Due to frequent attacks of sinusitis, my nose is often 'out of synch'. As a result, I'm often not able to fully explore a single malt on the first or second tasting session. And then there's the time-factor. Some malts change considerably in the months after the bottle is opened. And even then my final ratings aren't always all that final. Sometimes there are notable differences between various bottles of the same malt. It's a shame not all distillers put the dates of distillation and bottling on the label. Whenever I encounter a malt that has changed considerably since my last tasting I will update the rating. This has happened with Lagavulin 16yo (down), Ardbeg 17yo (up) and Macallan 10yo 100 Proof (up).

If I really want to examine a whisky closely, I compare it to two or three 'reference' malts.
At any given time, there are 48 different open bottles 'on stock' in my collection , which is quite useful for the calibration of my senses. That way, I don't have to rely on my memory alone to place a particular single malt in 'the grander scheme of things'.

I'm afraid that's about all there is to tell about my rating system. Now I know what you're thinking; "That's not much of a system!".
Admittedly, it's a bit nonsensical to try and express a single malt experience in numerical form. Nevertheless, my system allows me to make some kind of quantifiable comparison between whiskies - which is nice.

So, do any of the other maniacs have something to share about their scoring philosophy?

Sweet drams,

Johannes
 

prE-pistle #1999/24 - Duty Free / Dallas Dhu
Submitted on 04/04/1999 by Davin de Kergommeaux, Canada

Hi Johannes, I did have some new whisky experiences to add to my knowledge.

For a start I have confirmed my opinion that duty free does not mean less expensive.  With a few notable exceptions I found duty free prices in Europe about 20% higher that full retail here in Ottawa. But the selection was unparalleled. After much heart-wrenching turmoil, I bought two bottles of Dallas Dhu. The first, a Signatory 19yo bottling, the second a Rare Malts Selections 21 years old cask strength from  (not duty free).  I was told these are very difficult to find now, but excellent quality so I took a chance.  Now what do I do? 
Should I just open them up and start enjoying them, or are these really worth saving for a special occasion? 
What do you think?

I was delighted to see that you have added a new tasting session to your Malt Madness pages.
I also checked out your new dynamic prototype pages which are great.  Honestly though, I like what you have already, and being the selfish guy that I am, would rather see you put your time into adding content rather than rebuilding something that is already great.
But... I'll stick with you however it evolves.

Thanks for directing me to your Glenmorangie tasting session. I've read all your tasting notes, but had forgotten this page. 
I had the opportunity to try the Madeira, Sherry and Port Wood versions while away, and agree that the Madeira is very unique. 
I still like the 10 year old best, but enjoy them all.

I was working with a Scotsman on this trip, and he introduced me to Famous Grouse (which he claimed was named after his mother-in-law).  I learned to like it rather quickly. The free whisky flowed quickly at the duty frees in Heathrow, so quickly I hardly had time to enjoy the finish.  I tried the Distiller's Editions of Cragganmore, Dalwhinnie and Glenkinchie, which were all wonderful. The Cragganmore especially was excellent, but I'll buy it here in Ottawa and save a good 30% over duty free prices.

All the best,

Davin de Kergommeaux, Canada
 

prE-pistle #1999/25 - The Time Factor
Submitted on 07/04/1999 by Johannes van den Heuvel, Holland

Good question, Davin - open up your bottles straight away or save them for later?
That depends on whether you look at your bottles as a 'collection' / 'investment' - or as a source of instant gratification.
I have to admit I mostly subscribe to the second perspective. As soon as I learned about 'batch variation' I stashed away a few bottles of Lagavulin 16yo and Talisker 10yo, but I plan to enjoy those sooner rather than later. They say that whisky doesn't age or change inside a closed bottle, but I'd rather not take any chances with that. All the same, I hope to save at least one bottle of each so I can compare those bottles with a more recent batch in a few years time and find out whether or not the style or character has changed over the years.

In fact, while working on 'the matrix' I've been thinking about the time factor as well.
If we all sampled and scored a bottle of Lagavulin 16yo that was bottled in (or around) 1998 we could compare our scores for that expression (I'm ignoring the fact that they could be from different batches). But what if we tried another bottle next year or in 2001? Should we just change our scores if they're different from those of an earlier batch or identify them as different batches on the matrix?

I prefer the latter.
That way, we should be able to track the development of the 'style' or 'character' of a whisky.
Since the master blenders have to use different casks for each batch, there have to be differences - even if they may not seem that obvious to the naked eye (or, in this case, nose).  In fact, assuming that I'm not getting spoilt by too much of a good thing, I feel that there is some 'slipping' in the Lagavulin 16yo. It's still a BRILLIANT whisky, but the near perfect balance between sherry and peat has changed.
So, now I want to track those changes so I can buy a few more bottles if and when they hit a peak again.

Sweet drams,

Johannes
 

prE-pistle #1999/26 - Old Versus New
Submitted on 28/04/1999 by Craig Daniels, Australia

Old versus New - "Yes Virginia, Malts do change over time!!! - Tried & True, educational & a bit of fun

Despite plenty of apparently sincere efforts and prestige invested by premier malt producers such as Macallan in ensuring that this years release of 18 is as close as humanly possible to the last, is it possible to assert that malts change over time. 
My answer is "Yes, Virginia, malts do change over time" and the reasons are quite straightforward.

The first reason is illustrated by Aberlour and others where their standard distillery release went from a solid and moderately heavily sherried 12yo to the more familiar 10yo.  The 10's released in the late 80's thus probably contained some of the older fillings, simply because they were around.  Remember that the age on the label refers to the youngest malt in the bottle and all producers can and do put older material in their standard releases, however one would expect the Aberlour 10 to become lighter in body and palate over time as the percentage of older fillings diminished with the shrinking availability of barrels of the 12yo.  Thus one would expect to taste slight differences between an Aberlour 10 bottled in 1988 against one bottled in 1998.

The second reason also relates to the availability of older fillings.  What happens when the bean counters realise that "premium" & "special" releases of older single cask & batch material (pick any famous distillery) generate far greater profits and that with the expansion of the market that a percentage of cashed up aficionados will pay the asking?  I suspect that any employee purists staging a rearguard action and arguing that it is better as a long term strategy to maintain faith with consumers and produce the best standard commercial releases will lose out.  And anyway, everyone knows that in the world of marketing "the illusion of quality is more important than quality itself".

The third and most prosaic reason is wood. 
I suspect that as sherry barrels get scarcer and concomitantly more expensive (according to Macallan, first fill sherry barrels are now 8 times more expensive than bourbon) that less of a distillery's make will be matured in sherry barrels, particularly first fill sherry barrels and more an more will be put into bourbon and re-fill sherry barrels, with the difference in colour patched over by the addition of slightly higher levels of spirit caramel.  Technically it isn't lying to call any whisky matured in a 2nd or 3rd re-fill sherry barrel a Sherry Matured Malt, but don't expect the chocolate and suphury dried apricot you get from "real & proper" sherry wood. 

Maybe consumers will have to insist on First-Fill Sherry Barrel on the label in order to get the real thing.

On this occasion we have two malts of the same age from both Glen Ord distillery and Highland Park.  My bet is that there will be discernible differences, but what do I know???  I promise not to make it too hard.  A & B will be Ord and C & D will be Highland Park.  It should be an effective "bullshit" detector: both a lot of fun and a genuine challenge, firstly to see (1) if you can you pick a difference, (2) which offering is which and (3) which version is better.

EoZ April 1999 Report Card

The April meeting was our Club's third try at tasting various bottlings of commercially released singles of the same age from the same distilleries and bottled some years apart.  I think the general consensus was that there were differences and one version was better than the other, however not many could agree on which were better and which were the older versions.  I think John Roberts was the only one to get them exactly right and for his sins, earns the right to choose the blind for this month's meeting.  Mind you, JR's reasoning was interesting, settling on the "old" Glenordie because he recalled it as 'boring'.

However the differences within the pairs were less than between Aberlours in 1997 and the Bowmores in 1998.  I think there were some slight differences in colour: it was obvious with the Highland Park but only when they were decanted into identical clear bottles and placed side by side.  The other thing I noticed, which I can't explain, was that the two versions from Ord distillery, didn't differ in colour so much as clarity or brightness.  The newer version appeared brighter, with more sparkling highlights.  It tends to suggest that the newer version is 'cleaner', either through a narrower cut or through more thorough chill filtering.  If there is anyone out there who can tell me whether the "old' Glenordie 12 was chill filtered or not, feel free to e-mail me.  The other thing that was interesting is that most people liked the newer version of Glen Ord 12 better than the 'old' Glenordie, which tends to suggest that United Distillers are on a winner here.  The differences between the Highland Parks were very minor and they tended to converge over-time, although I thought the nose on the older one much more appealing early on, while the nose on the more recent offering improved markedly in the glass.   I will be most interested to see what the scoring results were when the Laird does the number crunching.  Anyway I think most present thought it was an interesting & worthwhile experience and worth doing again.

Glen Ord 12yo (New Version) -  The nose was very even with clean, sweet toffee and malt.  It was a bit thin compared to the older version and it got thinner over time.  Developed a little floral peat, (smoky lantana) but it also developed some oak splinter woodiness.  Smooth palate with quite a soft, fading finish.  Palate also thinned out after a while.  The kind of malt better for early consumption so it doesn't get a chance to deteriorate.  Score 7.3.

Glenordie 12yo (Old Version) -  Appearance was duller than the new version.  Much more closed nose, which took a while to open up.  Persistent delving was rewarded with a bit more complexity: deeper burnt toffee notes with dry wood in the background which became a little rough.  The palate and mouthfeel were richer, rounder and oilier than the newer version. 
A solid, maybe even stolid malt.  I was one of the few that preferred this one. Score 7.8

Highland Park 12yo (Old) -  Ever so slightly, yet discernibly darker than the younger version with the most appealing nose initially of the four on offer.  My notes just said "yummy: apricots, honey, beautiful rounded whisky ".  Over time the nose developed tobacco leaf and herbs.  The palate was initially sweet, but became drier with the trademark hit of smoke in the tail. 
Started out as a seriously good whisky, but lost a few points, Score 8.1.

Highland Park 12yo (New)  -  Started quite spiritty, with lots of dry wood astringency.  Got sweeter over time with smoke building in the background.  Much more austere nose early on, but this one definitely improved in the glass.  The Highland Parks converged as the evening went on until the distillery character was dominant and the citrus, honey and strong hint of smoke emerged. 
Definitely and identifiably from the same family. Score 8.0

Craig
 

prE-pistle #1999/27 - Old & New
Submitted on 29/04/1999 by Johannes van den Heuvel, Holland

That was an excellent introduction to your latest article, Craig!
You've formulated your thoughts about 'batch variation' more clearly than I ever could.
I also love the concept of an 'old versus new' H2H tasting - I've done quite a few of those recently (see my Liquid Log on Malt Madness) and I guess that I could keep myself busy with those for another two or three years - just go over my entire 'Track Record' of official bottlings once again. But then my 'quest' to find the perfect single malt would never end!

If I'm allowed to extrapolate a little on your results, it would seem the overall 'quality' of whisky is dropping.
Well, I haven't tried enough different batches of enough different malts yet to either agree or disagree (although I'm leaning towards agreement). Based on just the Lagavulin 16, I could see myself agreeing with you, but then again maybe it isn't the whisky that has changed, but it was I that changed?  When I tried my first Lagavulin 16 I didn't have any frame of reference and I thought it was the greatest thing on earth. Since then I've sampled a few hundred different whiskies. I still LOVE the Lagavulin (remember it's still at #1 on my Hit List of favorites) but I've learned to appreciate other 'styles' of whisky as well. Anyway, I guess I should be able to say more about this in a few years.

The phrase 'old & new' could also apply to us 'malt maniacs'.
I'm afraid that you would be the 'old' part, Craig - while Louis, Davin and myself make up the 'new' section.
I think that together we offer our readers a nice blend of perspectives - the slightly 'jaded' view from an experienced Aussie who has seen it all and the fresh eyed innocence of us three (relative) beginners. But the difference in perpectives goes deeper than our experience. It seems like Craig is really a 'club' guy while the focus of the three young ducklings is more on sharing their experiences with the rest of the world. The 'Earls of Zetland' reports are educational and inspirational, but sometimes perhaps directed towards fellow club members a little too much. At the same time, the writings of the three new ones are sometimes idle chatter. So, I suggest we all try to gravitate a little towards the middle of the road in our writings and try to get a 'proper' E-zine together over the next few years.

I've been cleaning up the old 'Vox Populi' section and I have to admit that many entries were not particularly useful for our readers.
The problem with an 'open forum' is that anybody can get in... Some people have the urge to act like 'malt missionaries' and spread the gospel about single malt whisky - en perhaps even offer some guidance to other newcomers when it comes to choosing their next purchase. Some others, however, seem to get off on hearing themselves talk and are not that interested in actually helping others. So, while I'm working on a new incarnation of the website I'll strip out the 'open forum' and try to integrate everything in a 'magazine' format.

Sweet drams,

Johannes
 

prE-pistle #1999/28 - More Fun
Submitted on 30/04/1999 by Craig Daniels, Australia

Hi all, For all the poor schmoes who work (or used to work) for big organisations, these are "just so".  A magazine recently ran a "Dilbert quotes" contest. They were looking for people to submit quotes from their real life Dilbert-type managers.
Here are the finalists.

1.  As of tomorrow, employees will only be able to access the building using individual security cards. 
Pictures will be taken next Wednesday and employees will receive their cards in two weeks;
(This was the winning quote from Fred Dales at Microsoft Corp in Redmond, WA.)

2.  What I need is a list of specific unknown problems we will encounter.
(Lykes Lines Shipping)

3.  E-mail is not to be used to pass on information or data.  It should be used only for company business.
(Accounting manager, ElectricBoat Company)

4.  This project is so important, we can't let things that are more important interfere with it.
(Advertising/Marketing manager, United Parcel Service)

5.  Doing it right is no excuse for not meeting the schedule.  No one will believe you solved this problem in one day! 
We've been working on it for months.  Now, go act busy for a few weeks and I'll let you know when it's time to tell them.
(R&D supervisor, Minnesota Mining and Manufacturing/3M Corp.)

6.  My Boss spent the entire weekend retyping a 25-page proposal that only needed corrections. 
She claims the disk I gave her was damaged and she couldn't edit it.  The disk I gave her was write-protected.
(CIO of Dell Computers)

7.  Quote from the Boss: "Teamwork is a lot of people doing what I say."
(Marketing executive, Citrix Corporation)

8.  My sister passed away and her funeral was scheduled for Monday.
When I told my Boss, he said she died so that I would have to miss work on the busiest day of the year. 
He then asked if we could change her burial to Friday.  He said, "That would be better for me."
(Shipping executive, FTD Florists)

9.  "We know that communication is a problem, but the company is not going to discuss it with the employees."
(Switching supervisor, AT&T Long Lines Division)

10.  We recently received a memo from senior management saying:
"This is to inform you that a memo will be issued today regarding the subject mentioned above."
(Microsoft, Legal Affairs Division)

Craig
 

prE-pistle #1999/29 - Glen Bogus - Queen's Day in Holland
Submitted on 30/04/1999 by Johannes van den Heuvel, Holland

Today is 'Queen's Day' here in Holland.
On April 30 (the birthday of the queen mother), all of Amsterdam becomes one big orange party zone.
After a festive day in town, I returned home for some peace and quiet. It's been a few months now without a single good nose day, and all this time there have been two very intriguing miniatures waiting for me in my cupboard; Ardbeg 1975 and Bladnoch 1984. The Ardbeg is the new official distillery bottling and was sent to me from Sweden by Mats Ola Ekberg. Franz Konig from Switzerland snail-mailed me the (Connoisseur's Choice) Bladnoch. I'll just have to give it a go.

I tried the "official" Ardbeg 1975 (40%, OB, 5cl) next to the Ardbeg 1974/1995 (40%, G&M Connoisseurs Choice, 70cl).
The CC seemed to have some more peat and sour tones in the aroma at first. The peat in the '75 bouquet vanished quite quickly & abruptly, leaving a more "Highlandish" character. The '74 kept it's peaty character a lot longer, and the change in character was much more gradual. The '75 seemed to have less peat than the 1974, and it evaporated more rapidly. The taste was amazingly soft for an Islay, and a lot sweeter than the '74. It was almost like there was a soft layer around the peaty heart. Compared to the 1975, the '74 almost seemed to have some chloride-tones. Mats - or rather his wife - was good enough to send me a "two dram tasting quantity", so I will be able to confirm my findings next to an Ardbeg 17 soon. First impressions say 87-89 points - which can be translated as super nice (which is almost as good as meganice and ultranice).

The Bladnoch 1984 (40%, G&M Connoisseur's Choice, 5cl) was, like all the Lowland malts I've tasted so far, very light in colour and taste. The nose was quite 'heavy', though. There were some very interesting variations of honey and citrus-aroma's, but not much more I could pick up. Very light taste. Although Lowlands aren't really my style, this one felt very comfortable. I guess this one would score somewhere in the upper 70's. Maybe even 80 points - which makes it one of the best Lowlanders I've tasted so far.

O.K. - That takes care of the two miniatures on my shelf.
What next?

Ah... the Glenfiddich 'Special Old Reserve'.
I have been drinking this single malt since the mid 1980's, way before my amazing discovery. I didn't even know I was drinking a single malt whisky back then. In fact, I didn't even know what a single malt whisky was! All I knew was that here was a whisky that performed considerably better than most of the blends I used to taste in those days. Since then, however, my standards have changed.
Compared to most single malts I've tasted so far, the Glenfiddich Special Reserve isn't all that 'special'.

Which brings me to another topic; the nonsense some bottlers and distilleries put on their labels.
To me, this is a continuous source of entertainment and amazement. If this is so 'special' and 'reserved', how come it's on all the shelves of all the whisky bars and liquorists in the world? And what's with the confusing 'Pure Malt' on the label? This usually indicates a vatted malt, but the Glenfiddich actually is a single malt - as it also says on the label. But then again, it says a lot of things on the label;

Glenfiddich
William Grant & Sons Ltd.
Stand Fast
Special Old Reserve
Distilled & bottled at
The Glenfiddich Distillery
Single Malt
Glenfiddich
Pure malt
Scotch Whisky
Product of Scotland

And so on and so forth...
I like to propose that from now on Glenfiddich shall be known as Glen Bogus.

Anyway - I've heard some rumours about Glenfiddich planning to release a new 12 years old version, replacing the current version without an age statement. For old times sake (and to check if the rating of 60 points is still valid), I bought myself a bottle of the current release, the Glenfiddich NAS 'Special Old Reserve' (40%, OB, 70cl). Hmm... The nose is very restrained but balanced. Sweetish, with a grainy undercurrent. Fresh with the faintest hint of fruit. The taste is sweetish, a bit malty and dry. It completely lacks character; could easily have been a blend.

So - the rating of 60 points stands - for now (it might open up after some breathing in the bottle).
Today, I can't imagine that I once used to buy this for special occasions.
Nostalgia isn't what it used to be...

Working on the new version of the Malt Madness site has made me thirsty, so I've decided to resume my session.
The task: the tasting of the Glen Rothes 1985/1997 (43%, OB, 70cl). Hmmm... This is still an elusive one. Very nice indeed, but I can't pinpoint the reason why exactly. A very delicate sweetness; the body is very smooth. This malt just "feels" very good; I'm thinking lower 80's, but I'm not quite sure yet. Maybe a few drops of water will help...

No! Adding too much water to the Glen Rothes ruins the palate!
The aroma became a little smokier and produced some new sweet overtones, but the palate had lost it's wonderful creamy smoothness. Time for an emergency re-fill. And to make things interesting, I'll make it a head-to-head tasting  with... let me take a look in my cupboard... Ah! The Linkwood 12yo 1984/1996 (43%, Signatory Vintage, 70cl); another malt that has managed to escape me for over a year now.
It's high time for a final rating.

    <..... a lot of nosing and sipping ....>

Perhaps the alcohol has numbed my senses, but this is really another of those bad nose days.
Let's just give the Glen Rothes 79 provisional points and call it a night. Both bottles still have enough content to last me through five or six tasting sessions, so there's no rush.

Sweet drams,

Johannes
 
 

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