Malt Maniacs E-zine

Malt Maniacs #012

My Malt Maniacs prE-pistle #1
prE-pistle #2000/25 by Patrick Whaley, USA

The first prE-pistle this issue is from the hand of our second correspondent in the USA; Patrick Whaley from Minnesota. The US is becoming a massive malt market, so it's good to have another correspondent there to share his experiences.

August & September 2000 Sessions
prE-pistle #2000/26 by Roman Parparov, Israel

A short & sweet report from Roman, our correspondent in Israel.

Beware of Marketing Manipulation
prE-pistle #2000/27 by Craig Daniels, Australia

Craig responds to some of the worries expressed by Patrick with a 'cautionary tale'. Perhaps our new matrix isn't enough and we need to start up our own HONEST whisky competition? ;-)

Public Service Announcement
prE-pistle #2000/28 by Louis Perlman, USA

Well, I usually try to keep these reports topical (i.e. about whisky), but here's a 'public service' announcement from Louis on music.

Overproof Oldies
prE-pistle #2000/29 by Craig Daniels, Australia

Another report from the adventures of the Earls of Zetland, Craig's renowned whisky tasting club in Australia.

prE-pistle #2000/30 by Davin de Kergommeaux, Canada

We're all big fans of 'head-to-head' tastings. Davin did one to compare the old Glenfiddich 'no age statement' and the new 12yo.

Buffalo Trace Distillery
prE-pistle #2000/31 by Krishna Nukala, India

Our Indian correspondent Krishna travels all around the world.
This time he visited the Buffalo Trace Distillery in the USA.

A Visit to Amsterdam
prE-pistle #2000/32 by Klaus Everding, Germany

German maniac Klaus visited Amsterdam recently for an extended tasting session at 'Malt Maniacs Central' - a.k.a. my apartment.

How I Spent My Summer
prE-pistle #2000/33 by Louis Perlman, USA

Louis updates us on his discoveries for the summer of 2000.
Too bad I haven't convinced him yet to start scoring the whiskies.

Olympic Tastings
prE-pistle #2000/34 by Craig Daniels, Australia

Honouring the Olympic games in Sidney this year, Craig arranged a tasting with an international flavour - at least whisky-wise.

Next IssuePrevious Issue

Malt Maniacs #012 - October 1, 2000

In his article about rating single malts in our previous issue our Canadian maniac Davin de Kergommeaux made a remark that took a few days to sink in. Please allow me to quote Davin; 'Essentially, in a response to a query regarding unpleasant flavours in some Bowmores (and I have to admit, I can't taste them) Mr. Gilchrist said that many of the self-styled connoisseurs on the Internet don't know what they're talking about (...), and that there were no problems with Bowmore products. He went on to say that Bowmore will take legal action against websites that post negative comments about Bowmore products.'

Legal action? What a load of bollocks! I don't consider myself an 'expert', but I know what I like and I know what I don't like. I happen to be rather fond of older Bowmores, but if I find a disappointment like the uninspired 'Surf' version or the freaky 'Darkest' I'll make sure to share my opinions about it.
So, sue me! ;-)

On a more positive note, we welcome our second American correspondent in the form of Patrick Whaley. He kicks off this issue with some thoughts about 'outrageously high scores' and the possibility that those who were handing out those scores might not have been feeling entirely impartial at the time. Craig added some of his own thoughts and experiences, which makes me even happier that we've put up our own 'Matrix'. There you can find the scores of all maniacs (except Louis) for all the single malts we've tried so far. Unfortunately, these scores don't take the important topic of 'value' into consideration.

For that, you can drop by the 'personal' section of the site for the revised 'Bang-For-Your-Buck' List with affordable single malts.

Sweet drams,

Johannes van den Heuvel
Editor Malt Madness / Malt Maniacs

E-pistle #2000/25 - My Malt Maniacs prE-pistle #1
Submitted on 02/08/2000 by Patrick Whaley, USA

Hello everybody and welcome to my first update.

First off I would like to thank Johannes for giving me the opportunity to express my opinions on SMS,  It feels great because the scene where I live is almost nonexistent. There is a very good liquor store here that has around 250 single malts. Now I have the opportunity to interact with others on a regular basis. Now for a little background info on me...I am 22, I live in Minnesota in the US, and I am in my last year of pursuing a bachelors degree.  From there it is off to graduate school.

Anyways, I stumbled onto single malts out of curiosity.  If I remember, some of the first single malts I purchased were Cardhu, Glenkinchie, and Glenlivet 12.  Then one day I came across Islay malts.  I can't remember which I had first, Laphroaig 15 or Lagavulin.  I do remember my first Lagavulin experience.  I didn't even get the cork all the way out of the bottle and wham!  It hit me.  I removed the cork and the scent became stronger and stronger.  I said to myself, "This is gonna be real good."  I had no idea how good it was going to be.  I was instantly hooked.  Lagavulin is my favorite malt, and I get it at a good price, $35.99.  I am extremely fond of the Islay malts.  In my next update I will include my own ratings and it will be apparent how much I favor them.

Now I want to throw in my thoughts regarding ratings.  I have read quite a bit about the topic lately and I didn't know it had such a political feel.  Some people suspect that distilleries offer free whisky to writers in turn for a good review, or some sort of financial agreement.  I was perusing Michael Jackson's latest malt companion and noticed the outrageously high scores awarded to the Macallan malts.  It appears that MJ has a propensity for sherried malts.  It could be true but other sherry malts did not score as well.  Or it just may be that Macallan is MJ's favorite.  But then again, we all have our own bias for things.  Like if I wrote a book, malts that obtained scores in the 90's would be dominated by Islay malts.  All I want is the truth.  If Macallan is MJ's favorite, I want to see that in the book. You can call this MJ bashing or whatever, but we have to remember that the writers do not dictate out taste.  I respect what MJ has done for the industry as he has helped many people. 

I can recall the enthusiasm I had when I purchased my first Mac, the 12 yo which was rewarded a score of 91. That enthusiasm deteriorated rapidly as I made my way through the bottle.  I did not like it.  I found it to be too sharp in the nose and in the finish.  But to be fair, I am going to give it another shot down the road.  I was greatly disappointed, but this was before I got a good grasp on the whisky scene.  I do like Macallan but I think it is overrated.  Another reason I feel this way is because I'm not a huge fan of the sherry taste, but it is growing on me.  I will hit the Mac issue again in my next E-signment.

Thanks for reading, until next time.


E-pistle #2000/26 - August & September 2000 Sessions
Submitted on 09/08/2000 by Roman Parparov, Israel

Finally, I am glad to make another contribution to the Reports list.
The malt knowledge is not widespread in Israel, and the tastings I arrange are often first time of Malt for my friends.
So, on 3 August 2000 I had on the table:

Macallan 12
Longmorn 15
Cognac Remy Martin XO
{quite a strong competitor}

Tasters - me and 2 friends of mine, one a huge cognac enthusiast, that hasn't tasted malts before, but also a big fan of Johnny Walker Blue, another one - recently quite successfully introduced by me to Malts. Also there were some women. But the strong aroma of the malts already scared them away from these bottles and they concentrated on a some very nice other drinks.

Resumes: Macallan 12yo - a very light malt. The aroma is also not so intensive, but sweet and nice. The bit of saltiness in the taste is surprising, but not unpleasant. My placement - behind Lagavulin, Talisker and Balvenie 10, above Glenmorangie 10 and Longmorn. The cognac fan wasn't impressed - "A very nice drink, but not profound enough". On the other hand the third guy, who favors the lighter side of the spectre put this one as his second top choice so far [and he tasted Glenmorangie, Balvenie and Lagavulin and his preference was in that order]. An average of this marks would give it a rating of 82-83.

Longmorn 15yo - overwhelming bouquet. When we tried this malt, one of the girls decided she wanted to try it. Well, she had to drink, squeezing her nostrils shut, the aroma was too strong, causing even some tears in her eyes. And, a couple of tips was sufficient for her - too strong a drink. Taste: overall very nice, complex, but has some bitterness which is not welcomed by me. The cognac fan, on the other hand, was very much impressed, the guy surely favors the intensity. The third guy didn't like it too much. An average rating of 75-76. For us, by the way, the nose is quite less important than the taste.

Remy Martin XO - oh, very very nice, but offtopic. Too bloody expensive, BTW.
Always glad to taste more and contribute some more,

Then, on August 8 I was brought a bottle of Bowmore 12yo. Very friendly price of 28$.
Beautiful bottle, although the design of Balvenie is a more convenient.
Smell: typical peaty, smoky for Islay. But not a very wide bouquet and a hint of not so nice medicine-like smell.
Probably some unsolved alcohol. The smell ranks it 6th among my 7 tasted malts above Macallan.
Still, I don't give much importance to smell, so I moved on to a very thorough tasting.
Taste: has some VERY disturbing salty medicine-like side. It breaks the peaty taste which would give otherwise a sense of VOLUME to the drink. I thought in the beginning that the glass wasn't clean, so I took another one, clean for sure, also washed it with mineral water and then poured the Bowmore for a re-tasting. Still, the medicine-like side remained. I finished the drink and I will finish the bottle, but I will think twice to buy another one.  We'll see how it improves with time as well. Primary rating of 73.


Recently we had a small tasting session with a friend of mine (the cognac adept one) with only Bowmore 12 vs. Glenlivet 12. The idea was to sample Bowmore again, after being such a failure before, and after it was allowed to breath for a few weeks, versus Glenlivet which is overall a nice but not an outstanding whisky.

Well, Bowmore 12yo only got worse. I have a friend that is a big fan of Bowmore anyways and I hope he'll agree to trade this bottle (which has about 0.75l left in it) for some other whisky. Salt and even a bit of mustard in the taste, too heavy. Rating goes down to 70.

Glenlivet 12yo - just very very nice. Contrasts of bitterness and sweet in both nose and taste. I feel I need to have more of it to give it a rating.

I have another remark on Glenfiddich. A friend of mine that heard a lot of good things on Single Malts [and of likes of Lagavulins, Macallans, and likewise] decided to go for a tasting. Unfortunately, he stumbled upon Glenfiddich, which is one of the widespread malts. He told me: "So, I tasted that very-much-talked-about single malt. Nothing special at all." I replied that he should visit Malt Madness and try the top scorers instead.... But some damage was done.


E-pistle #2000/27 - Beware of Marketing Manipulation
Submitted on 15/08/2000 by Craig Daniels, Australia

Subject:  Cautionary Tales - Beware of Marketing Manipulation  (Stunts Liquor Companies pull with Tasting Panels)

I must admit to being sceptical of tasting notes and especially scores produced by anyone where independence is even slightly in doubt - as I strongly believe in the old maxim "who pays the piper, calls the tune", even if remuneration is very indirect.  I've seen some pretty slippery stunts pulled by liquor companies to get the results they want from "disinterested" tasting panels.

No names, no pack drill, but my home town (Adelaide) is often used for market research purposes prior to brand launches going national.  I was involved as an 'expert' on a tasting panel for a brand launch (American whiskey, not SMSW, to make it any more specific would identify the parties), but I was only called in at the last minute. The rest of the judges including some local wine celebrities, a national wine writer, (now deceased) and a few "consumer" representatives were given the full treatment before the "test tasting" at the media launch. The full treatment consisted of lunch and tutored tastings of the Sponsors product including all the reasons why their product was better than the whiskey against it was to be benchmarked.  As I was a late inclusion, I didn't get the 'benefit' of the coaching.  Suffice it to say, I was the only judge on the panel that scored the opposition better than the Sponsor's product.
The result 5-1.  Interesting how things can be manipulated, hey?

Personally I'd rather trust the gradings and rankings of Malt Whisky Tasting Clubs. 
Sites like the Stockholm Malt Club are excellent. Check them out at
The home page leads into the tasting notes, just keep scrolling down.
These guys get pretty close to the mark as far as I'm concerned.

Adelaide - South Australia

E-pistle #2000/28 - Public Service Announcement
Submitted on 23/08/2000 by Louis Perlman, USA

Subject: Off Topic E-pistle: 'Public Service Announcement'
Date: Wed, 23 Aug 2000

If I may be allowed one off-topic indulgence, please read on.
Otherwise, feel free to click on the back arrow.

Most readers of this page listen to music, and I'm sure that many purchase cd's on at least a semi-regular basis as well. If you've been keeping up with Internet-related news (Wired News is a good place), you also know about the monopoly that that music industry holds on content, price, and distribution, and how hard it is working to maintain that monopoly. Industry consolidation has left us with four conglomerates, BMG, AOL/Time Warner/EMI, Sony, and Seagram/MCA (which just absorbed Polygram). Anybody who gets big enough to challenge the big boys gets bought out, right David Geffen? Local record shops are squeezed by wholesale prices for new releases higher than the industry-subsidized sale prices at Tower and HMV. The legal attacks against Napster and DVD de-cryption are just the beginning of what we are sure to be seeing. AOL recently disabled the MP3 search in their Winamp player, and the industry's Secure Digital Music Initiative (SDMI) specifications doesn't even allow future players to play MP3 files.

There is only one way to keep the monopoly from totally dictating what we are allowed to listen to, and that is by supporting small, independent labels. One such label is California based Reference Recordings. Their catalog has almost 100 recordings, spread across classical, jazz, and vocal music. Even if your listening taste doesn't cleanly fall into one of those categories, many of the pieces are offbeat enough for there to be something for just about everybody. They have an exquisite recording of John Rutter's Requiem, for example, and I know that Johannes himself is a fan of Rutter's works. And worthwhile artists as well. Two recordings by pianist Eugene Istomin, and a dozen by the Minnesota Orchestra, even though most US orchestras can't get a recording contract nowadays for a variety of reasons.

But Reference Recordings is short of cash, and may have to close it's doors once it's current supply of recordings have been released. Right now, RR is offering any 3 cd's for $39.98 including shipping. That's the same as one bottle of Lagavulin at the best US price plus tax. Since we can't be gulping down SMS all of the time, listening to good music is a very reasonable alternate, Listening to music while drinking SMS is acceptable too. And the cd's will be providing years of enjoyment long after the whisky would be gone.
Since the cd's are in inventory, each purchase is money in the bank for Reference Recordings. If enough of us purchase a few cd's, we can really make a difference. Remember too, we single malt lovers are thumbing our collective noses at the whisky establishment, namely the big name blends. Please check out their web site. For your convenience, a PDF file of the complete track list of the catalog is included right here, and the toll free order number is 1-800-336-8866 (I am sorry that I am not sure of RR's distribution outside of the United States, but cd's ordered from a third party would have been paid for already). A heartfelt thank you to anybody who places an order.

PS - If you are unfamiliar with classical music but would like to get your toes wet,
send me a note, and I'll be glad to make some recommendations.

PPS - Many of the orchestral discs are audiophile caliber.
For selections suitable for more moderate systems, check the web site.


E-pistle #2000/29 - Overproof Oldies
Submitted on 23/08/2000 by Craig Daniels, Australia

A few of the more observant will note that I've made a slight change to the line-up for this month, substituting the newly released Aberlour a'bunadh for the Hillside 25.  Now while this completely vitiates the integrity of the original theme, (in that the a'bunadh is neither old nor from a silent distillery), my motives were relatively pure.  The Hillside was easily the poorest of the three Rare Malts (I score it around 7.8) and the Aberlour is a good, robust no holds barred, hairy chested kind of whisky with significant sherry influence.  I tasted it in America earlier this year and scored it 8.4.  Plus I figured that the a'bunadh is much more likely to go on yours and my shopping list than the Hillside, simply because there is a significant price differential - the a'bunadh is $43 dollars cheaper.  And of course, this means that the cost of the night comes down and we need less people to turn-up to break even, however I'll be hurt if anyone suggests this was my primary motivation.

Aberlour a'bunadh 59.6% -  I have tasted this one before.  It was the lesser of the three Aberlours it was my pleasure to run into in Las Vegas in January but the others (Aberlour 100 and Aberlour 1969) were awesome.  The a'bunadh is merely impressive.  There is no age statement and my understanding is that it is an amalgam of 8 to 12 year old malt from first and second fill sherry barrels.  The colour is an orange red, very similar to the standard ten, with a little more dark ruby in the meniscus.  The sherry is forward and the nose is spiritty.  It tastes young, but it's a vital youth - plenty of interesting things happening in the background.  At around $70 a bottle it has to be the best value cask strength around, especially as it is more generous and robust than its main competition in the Glenfarclas 105 and $20 cheaper.

Dallas Dhu 21 Distilled 1975 61.9% -  One of my favourite distilleries and this one is a little bit different as it's from a bourbon cask and most Dallas Dhu has a proportion of sherry.  Remarkably smooth for the proof and the finish is very creamy - one of the creamiest malts outside of Glen Elgin, Miltonduff and Knockdhu that I have come across.  One to savour - mighty fine stuff.

Glenury-Royal 23 Distilled 1971 61.3% -  This whisky is a real gem.   I usually associate chocolate with speysides like Balvenie, Strathisla and Glenfarclas, but this Glenury is a chocoholics dream.  Not quite in the desert island malt class, but not far away.   Indeed the International Wine and Spirit Competition Judges thought it pretty damn good awarding it a trophy and 2 gold medals for best whisky over 12 years old in 1996.  Don't miss a chance to sample this exceptional malt.

We had a record attendance for a non-Christmas meeting with 20 making it along. Allan arrived a little late and had to make do with
non-standard glassware and Colin wandered in when we only had a bit of two of the bottles left. The Laird had issued an invitation to the newly crowned National Malt Champion and consequently were joined by Sandi McOrist from the Streah Malt Tasters. I caught up with her at the Streah meeting on 20 September and she confirmed that she'd enjoyed the hospitality and found the Laird a most convivial host. Unfortunately while the company was good, the quality of the malts was not as stellar or as even across the range as the malts we had in August, but at least two of the disclosed malts were very good, while one was a disappointment, especially considering the price. The blind chosen by Bronte usually rates higher but in the shade of the OP's it was a watery shadow of its usually svelte and satisfying self.

Aberlour a'bunadh 59.6% - Very attractive nose with some clean ether/solvents revealed early. Develops fruitcake, fruchocs and warm apricot jam after the volatiles diminish. Palate has a lot of toffee and oak lactones & chocolate covered apricots. A generous and robust dram with lots of youthful exuberance, but doesn't get ratty or disintegrate like some young OPs. A little research through the UK Brand Manager revealed that the bottlings do vary (each bottling is from a distinct set of 8 year old first fill sherry barrels and second fill 12 yo sherrywood) so there will be slight but discernible differences across batches. I reckon this one was superior to the one I tasted in America in January. A remarkably solid dram throughout which represents exceptional value for money. Beautiful stuff. Score 8.5

Dallas Dhu 21 (1975) 61.9% - Despite the highest alcohol level of all on the table, the nose appeared a little flat, especially after the a'bunadh. The nose was clean, if a little subdued: creamy with mint, fennel seeds and caraway but lacking impact. The palate was slightly creamy and the finish good if a little boring, but certainly nowhere near as creamy as the last time I tried it, but I expect the a'bunadh skewed the taste buds a little. Some funky dark woodiness in the finish raised the interest level. The mouthfeel was excellent and boosted the overall score. Actually, it was the mirror image of the Hillside 25 in the same series that we tried in August 1999. That one had a great nose and a raw finish, the Dallas Dhu had a forgettable nose but a great mouthfeel and a flawless finish. After the DD had sat in the glass for a while the vanilla and oak notes become dominant. A slight dash of water increased the forest floor woodiness, again not dissimilar to the Hillside. Overall well made, with no real flaws but ultimately uninspired - disappointing at the price. Score 7.9

Glenury-Royal 23 (1971) 61.3% - Funnily enough, I reckon the chemicals that evoke dank, damp cardboard and moss and those that evince carob, coffee and dark chocolate are remarkably similar. The good news is that the Glenury-Royal, while the nose starts with an earthy, musty and mushroom nose evolves into the much more attractive dark unsweetened chocolate. This whisky has a very muscular palate with a lot of impact. Another one with good mouthfeel and also improves with a judicious addition of water. A different whisky to the a'bunadh, but in the same class. Not as clearly superior as the time that I tried it with the Streah Club in April 1999 when it had a distinct aroma of vanilla pods and warm honey behind chocolate and coconut rum balls. I still think it is on the verge of greatness though. Score 8.5

The Blind – Longmorn 15 - Another excellent example of how one's judgement of a whisky is altered by the company in which it's tasted. The OP's made the blind seem a lesser malt than it truly is. Selected by Bronte and picked by a few and while I got close I didn't think it good enough to be the Longmorn 15 and picked it as the Balvenie 10 instead. To further reveal my lack of accuracy, my second pick would've been Glenfarclas as I didn't find the lively mint caramel toffee that I usually spot in Longmorn. The nose started with lots of bread dough and became increasingly yeasty with cardboard showing after 30 minutes. Also developed some carob and chocolate. The palate was OK, but really seemed very thin in the company. The finish was reasonable but fairly short. Probably not a fair test. Score 7.4

Craig Daniels

E-pistle #2000/30 - Glenfiddichs
Submitted on 25/08/2000 by Davin de Kergommeaux, Canada

Hi Johannes and all,

Well here is my latest E-pistle.  It's a head to head tasting between the old Glenfiddich "Pure Malt" and the new Glenfiddich 12 year old "Single Malt."  I honestly espected this was little more than a labelling change so was surprised to detect some distinct differences. Primarily the 12 year old is still the same old bland Glenfiddich, but with a little more body, a bit more flavour, and a drier nose.  This head to head was conducted in two stages.  First, the undiluted 40% abv malts, then after lunch and a break, the diluted versions.  I was careful to keep the dilutions the same.

Here are the details:

Glenfiddich no age statement
Colour:  Apple juice
Nose:  Initial strong smell of sweet apple cider.  Sweet, malty and a bit spirity.  The nose is much bigger than the 12 year old. 
Adding water diminishes the nose to a faint grassiness.
Taste:  Sweet, slightly oily and a little soapy, slight burn, with a bit of cloying alcohol.  The nose does not carry over to the taste. 
There is a slight metallic astringency after the oiliness leaves.  For an instant, after I added water there was a flash of leather, but it quickly disappeared, never to return.
Finish:  Very short and not much flavour.  Quickly dissolves to nothing.  Finish of the diluted dram was gone almost right away with no distinctive notes.

Comments:  This whisky really is bland.  No doubt about it the 12 year old is better, though still nothing to write home about.  I can see why non-whisky types like Glenfiddich.  It starts out sweet, has a spirity middle with a bit of burn almost like a vodka.

Glenfiddich 12 year old
Colour:  Apple juice, slightly darker than the nas.
Nose:  Apple cider, but drier and less powerful than the nas.  Malty, grassy, dusty and dry.  Adding water reduces the nose to a faint sweet maltiness.  (I am using the smell of dry barley beer malt as my reference.)  A hint of dryness remains.
Taste:  Sweet and dusty, slight burn, oily on roof of mouth.  Most of the nose does not carry over into the taste.  It's pleasant, but pretty bland, though not as bland as the n.a.s. version.  No strong flavours to offend or entice; no subtleties to intrigue.  After a long while a passing hint of apple.  Some hint of bitterness in the middle quickly resolves again into sweetness.  Adding water renders it quite sweet, oily then metallic.  This is a more substantial whisky that the nas, though they are in fact quite close in taste.
Finish:  Malty, sweet and longer than I expected.

Comments:  Like a Lowland whisky (of which I've only tasted Auchentoshan and Rosebank) with the flavour filtered out.  It is not as rich, or flavourful as Auchentoshan nor as delicate, complex and subtle as Rosebank.  A head to head against these two would be interesting.  The Lowlanders would really shine.  It's better than the n.a.s. but not so changed as to offend (or even be noticed) by the occasional drinker.
Almost strays into Balvenie territory.

'Til next time,


E-pistle #2000/31 - Buffalo Trace Distillery
Submitted on 29/08/2000 by Krishna Nukala, India

Our (my self, my brother and sister) drive from New York to Lexington KY took nearly 15 hours and as we entered the town, exhausted, we needed something to pick up to call it a day. So, we headed direct to the "Liquor Barn" and picked up Ancient Age - a local bourbon and I was surprised to pay only USD 7.53 for a 75cl bottle. The bottle was opened without much fanfare and I took the first swig, expecting it to be a normal, cheap stuff. To my utter surprise, I found it be very smooth (even without water) and the distinct flavor of a brand new oak cask hit my palate. The taste was very sweet which lingered for quite some time. More importantly the stuff agreed with our spicy Indian food and I decided to look more deeply into the label of the bottle. Ancient Age is produced by Buffalo Trace Distillery at Frankfort, KY and I learnt that it is only 45 minutes drive from Lexington.

The next morning we headed straight for Frankfort.
Following the paths the countless wild buffaloes bound westward in ancient days, we reached a small valley, interspersed with red brick buildings, nestling among the thick woods. From the middle of these buildings emerged a tall water tank with the distinct mark of the wild buffalo, the distillery's mascot. Also in the front lawns of the distillery one can see a majestic buffalo, carved out of an old tree trunk.

The distillery claims to be the oldest in North America dating back to 1787 although the modern distillery started operating since 1857. The water is tapped from the Kentucky river running through the limestone fields. The bourbon is made from the sour mash extracted from corn (80%), malted barley and rye. The distillery manufactures its own casks and it was very interesting to note the charring of the inside of the casks. The alcohol is stored in these barrels for aging.
Since Kentucky has distinct warm and cool seasons, the bourbon matures faster in these charred casks and the used casks are then sold to the single malt distilleries in Scotland. The distillery official refused to reveal the names of the Scottish distilleries  which purchase these casks.

After the tour of the distillery, the official poured us the samples of " Buffalo Trace" bourbon which is supposed to be the company's main product. It is called "Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey" aged 10 years. It was smooth and had a distinct taste of toffee and is being offered at USD 22.- for a 75cl bottle at the distillery's gift shop. I think it had 50% abv. I am not very sure. I did not much fancy the stuff.

For a price of USD 7.53 for a 75cl bottle, I thought Ancient Age was a far better bourbon than Buffalo Trace. I bought instead three bourbon cigars from the shop. I sure recommend Ancient Age for any bourbon novice although I doubt it may be available for that price outside Kentucky.

P.S: Mr. Elmer T Lee still visits the distillery and it was unfortunate that he was not there on the day I visited the distillery. Later, in one of the book shops in London  I saw this month's Whisky Magazine featuring an article on Buffalo Trace distillery.
Anybody read it?

Krishna Prasad Nukala

E-pistle #2000/32 - A visit to Amsterdam
Submitted on 02/09/2000 by Klaus Everding, Germany

Amsterdam, the capital of the Netherlands, is a beautiful city and well worth a visit. But apart from the wonderful architecture, the ducts and the museums there is one thing which is especially challenging: The single malt shelves of Johannes van den Heuvel. Johannes invited all members of my malt tasting club HarLeM, but only Michael and my girl friend Marlou decided to join me.

Less than 5 hours with the car from Hamburg to Amsterdam, no traffic jams and sunny weather. Excellent conditions. We arrived at Amsterdam at about 14h. The city was very crowded because two big tourist events were going on. We parked our car near the centre. Holy cow, those parking fees are really expensive in Amsterdam. We neither had any guilder coins nor the plastic card the people of Amsterdam use. So we decided to challenge our luck, hoping that the police had better things to do. Later on Johannes informed us that the contrary is true. When big events happen the Amsterdam traffic police swarms out in force to fill the purses of the city's administration.

Four hours in the city gave us a good first impression of the atmosphere. At 18h we phoned Johannes who met us in a bar where we sat outside. He guided us to his home. On arriving I immediately inspected the malt shelves. From my reading of the website I assumed that there would be one big shelf with the top malts in the first row, the medium nice stuff in the second row and so on. Nothing like that. Malt shelves are distributed on every wall of the room. Some of the most interesting malts are hidden deep within cupboards to shelter them from thirsty but unprofessional eyes. (Can eyes be thirsty? Maybe a malt madman's eyes can!)

But now let us begin with the tasting notes. My friend Michael and I were willing to seize the opportunity and try as many malts as possible. In this case it was too bad that whisky contains alcohol, so there was a natural limit. Marlou, my girl friend, never drinks alcohol, but she likes to sniff at the malts. Apart from her many other advantages this fact is especially pleasing: she doesn't reduce my malt stocks and she can drive me home when I come from a tasting session.

The Ultimate Glenturret matured 19 years in oak cask, distilled 1978 – bottled 1998
We wanted to start with a lighter malt. Pleasing the palate with a heavy Islay malt at the beginning could ruin the taste experience for the more flowery malts. The Glenturret is very pale for a 19 year old malt, the colour of white wine.
Nose: slightly pungent, but the main impression is a stroll through a birch wood where someone has placed citrus fruits cut open on the ground after doing some chopping. A promising summer breeze tingling in the nostrils.
Taste: The palate can't keep the promises the nose makes. Sweet citrus fruits, spice, a hint of maltiness and fresh wood. Nice and soon over.
Score: Altogether the malt is too light for my liking. And I suspect it will be heavily overprized.

Balvenie port wood finish 21yo 40% comes in the nice bulky bottle which is typical for Balvenie. I had already tried Glenmorangie port wood but the Balvenie was still missing. So I was rather curious about it.
Colour: Amber
Nose: a very balanced fruity and flowery note, hints of wood, port, vanilla and malt in the background. Very nice to sniff at.
Taste: First there is a sweet and fruity note but then toffee takes over the command. Some spicy elements and coffee in the overwhelming toffee symphony, maybe some port too, but it is far in the background. Small glowing peat fires in the finish which lasts medium to very long.
Score: One of the winners of the evening and better than the Glenmorangie port. Could it be that I prefer the Balvenie because the port taste is almost absent? Glenmorangie has a taste which reminds me on rose hip tea at the beginning, and the port finish seems to be responsible for it. I don't really like it.
I read in Johannes' report that the Balvenie he served was almost 2 years in an open bottle and that the port taste had almost vanished. This means, I will have to purchase a bottle to give it a fair judgment. Unfortunately the Balvenie (60 Euro) and the Glenmorangie (45 Euro) don't have the same price in Germany as in the Netherlands. So it may take some time until my palate will be pleased by this malt again.

I detected the Singleton (of Auchroisk) 1981 in Johannes's shelves. A Speyside malt I had put my eyes on for more than a year. Unfortunately it is not available at my whisky store at home. Now here was the opportunity examine it.
Colour: amber
Nose: Very fresh and flowery, fruits and some sherry. There was also an artificial, synthetically note which I could not classify. Maybe that are the aniseed and liquorice tones which my fellow tasters detected.
Taste: Sweet, citrus fruits and spicy notes inflict some kind of sharpness but there are also woody and toffee tones which calm down the palate. Again I couldn't detect aniseed and liquorice which must be there. At least my fellow tasters detected it.
Score: Nice malt! For me I think it ranks in the upper 30% of the Speysiders. Not a must, but very delicious.

Caol Ila 21yo 61,3% Rare Malts 1975
Time to approach a the true heavy weight of the evening, a 21 year old Islay malt in cask strength. I am very fond of the Caol Ilas and I like especially to smell the beautiful aroma. My friend Michael is crazy about the taste too.
Colour: pale gold
Nose: fresh grassy and mossy notes in a continuo of peat, medicals, smoke and seawater. When a good deal of water is added the peaty tones become dominant.
Taste: Pure: very pleasant medical aroma but the alcohol is too strong.
Diluted: some sweetness, but overwhelming is the symphony of peat, smoke and medical notes. Very long aftertaste. The sweetness still holds on and becomes equal in strength to the peat. Must be some kind of long chained ester (not sugar) which is responsible for it.
Score: An excellent malt. As I already said I prefer to smell it. The taste doesn't really hold what the nose promises. Those beautiful fresh green notes vanish in the mouth.
Back at home I examined my malt store price list. I thought that the Caol Ila 1982 16y Signatory vintage had had an equal impact on me. 5 additional years in the cask hadn't changed the character of the stuff we tried at Johannes's. Now, - oh wonder: you can have 2 bottles of Caol Ila 1982 16y for the same prize as the Caol Ila 21y Rare malts cask strength! There is no discussion which malt I would choose.

After a short pause with some snacks to get rid off, no – I should say to neutralize the Caol Ila taste, we approached another highlight: Macallan 10yo 57% 100 proof.
Colour: full amber
Nose: Yes, that's truly a Macallan, typical fruitiness with sherry. Raisins, wet leaves, resin and honey form the darker tones. A wooden note from damp oak forests almost a bit harsh plays its tunes. Johannes says that the woody note is characteristic for the 18 y old Mac. I have to believe it because I must confess I haven't tried the Macallan 18y yet.
The malt reacts very well to water. With each drop another layer unfolds. When the c/s is diluted to normal drinking strength it resembles the Macallan 12y. The woody notes are reduced in favour of the fruits and the sherry.
Taste: Pure: A Macallan with strong wood notes. The wood dominates but fruits and sherry are also present.
Diluted to normal drinking strength: fruits, toffee and sherry. The wood falls behind. Some peat and smoke in the finish.
Score: A malt to fall in love with! You have at least 2 different Macs when you own the bottle. The 18y (so Johannes says) in pure stage and the 12y in the diluted form. It just depends on the amount of water you add. Unfortunately this malt is difficult to get. But I think it is available at the whisky store of Theresia Lüning for about 50 Euro. Must place an order there as soon as possible.

I think Johannes planned that the opening of the Bowmore Darkest bottle should be a major event of the evening. Instead it turned out to be a disaster. Never tasted such a terrible single malt before. And I won't revoke unless I am threatened by methods of the Spanish inquisition.
Colour: full amber
Nose: some sweet sherry notes accompanied by burnt wood and peat. Nothing wrong with it but far from brilliant.
Taste: to reduce the risk of getting killed at Bowmore when I visit the distillery I will start with notes of a Bowmore Darkest tasting I had only 5 days before our visit at Amsterdam. It was a bad day for my nose and palate but anyway the judgement is better than the notes from Amsterdam.
Hamburg tasting: very dry, sharp and a little bit rough. Smoke and wood, some sherry sweetness. Some peat in the background.
Amsterdam tasting: Pfui Deibel! Only my good manners prevented me from spitting the stuff right back into the glass. Someone must have filled at least 20% cheap perfume into the bottle. The taste of violet flavoured liquorice. I demand that this kind of liquorice should be forbidden but to find that taste in a malt in the 50 Euro region gives me a terrible shock.
Score: Well, the malt I tasted in Hamburg seems to be OK although it is not my cup of tea. I prefer the Mariner, the 12y and even the Surf. What happened in Amsterdam was a kind of catastrophe. Even if a malt needs time to breathe in an open bottle the first impression should not be so terrible. Who wants to buy a malt, open the bottle, gulp a few unfriendly drams and then let it breathe for 1 or 2 months? I can only hope that Johannes's Bowmore Darkest develops to a more friendly impression.

Arran (no age statement) 5y?
Johannes had a bottle of Arran. Arran is a new distillery which started in 1995. I was curious about this malt because a friend owns whisky bonds of Arran. He will surely need some help when his bottles arrive.
Colour: white wine
Nose: sweet and smooth, lots of fruits, especially dried banana chips
Taste: Very fruity! With some artificial notes. Tastes like a pear spirit. Some maltiness in the background
Score: This malt definitely needs some additional time to develop. But with an age of 10-16 years it could become a big one.

By now I had reached a level where I stopped making notes. But tasting went on. For our justification I have to say that we only took one dram of the malts we tasted. At home in Hamburg we have two or three rounds of the malts in tasting progress. But then there are only 3-4 malts on the program.
The rest of the evening as far as I can remember it.
Glenfarclas 105: a nice Speyside malt in cask strength but no match for the Macallan 10y c/s.
Suntory Kakubin and Aberlour 10y: None of these malts found grace on Michaels tastebuds. I tried the Dallas Dhu instead.
Dallas Dhu: nice Speyside malt with delicious fruitiness. But this malt will never make its way into my top 10.

Three self made blends from Johannes: one with stress on citrus fruits, one nutty and spicy one and one almost good one. Johannes tried if we could guess the components of his blends. Each vatted malt was composed of 5 single malt whiskies. Given the degree of our drunkenness and the fact that some malts he had used were unknown to us it is pardonable that our hits were only slightly above the statistics. 1 real time blended malt: Johannes blended five malts in a measuring cup. No great success this blend, although the components were quite good if I remember right.

Ardbeg 17yo: A great malt and one of my favourites.
I remember that I enjoyed it very much. But that late in the evening it was pearls cast before swine.

Glen Scotia: I have only vague memories of it. Must have been a nice malt but no revelation.

Loch Lomond: Johannes has done me wrong when he reported that it took a while for me to detect that the L L is bullshit. I was busy with the nose and I think the nose really is OK. The taste is terrible indeed. I detected a barely readable note of my own hand on one of my tasting forms. It says: Beware of Loch Lomond. Even if the malt is cheap you should not drink it. Better use it as gasoline substitute.

There might have been a Connemara from Ireland in our tasting session. Maybe after the blends, but neither do I have a memory about it nor Marlou, the only person who was totally sober. One thing I am sure of is that we didn't taste Laphroaig 15y. I love Laphroaig and I would have remembered it under all circumstances.

The next morning we left Johannes at 11 a.m. He was invited to a wedding and so there was no extra time available. Since the weather had changed (rain) we started back home to Hamburg – the taste of a fresh spicy and fruity malt still on the palate. I hope that some day Johannes will visit us in Hamburg so that we can requite his hospitality.


E-pistle #2000/33 - How I spent my Summer
Submitted on 21/09/2000 by Louis Perlman, USA

With school well under way, it's time I completed my 'how I spent my summer report'.
Moving on then......

Aberfeldy 17 yr Cadenhead and Glen Ord 23yr Rare Malts. Both of these were acquired two years ago, and both are around 60% ABV. The Aberfeldy was enjoyable right from the start. It shares a lot of the overall charachter with the Glenmorangie 10 yr, but adds apples, and a bit of spiciness. The Glen Ord was absolutely vile at first. Watered down considerably, it tasted EXACTLY like the Glenmorangie. I buried it on the back of my liquor cabinet, and only came across it last summer. Much improved. So I figured that a Highland HTH with the Aberfeldy was appropriate. Both benefited from a small splash of water. The Aberfeldy was pretty much as I remember it. A nice dram, and at cask strength, a decent value at the $70 I paid for it. But the GO did very well for itself too. The extra age shows, along with the slight gingeriness noted in the enclosed literature. I got this bottle in St. Thomas for $50, which turned out to be a good deal, but I doubt you'll do as well today. The are better bottles out there once you hit the $70-80 range, so shop carefully.

Bowmore 1975 20yr Signatory 53% and 15yr Glenhaven 57.7%. The Signatory was acuired at the same time as the Aberfeldy, and was an instant hit. The family resemblence is there, but the peat attack is reigned in, making it very pleasant during the summer. It was expensive at $85, and I doubt it is available anymore.
The Glenhaven isn't really a summer dram, but I needed something for a HTH, so it got the nod. People who's opinions I respect like it very much, but my bottle has a component that I can only describe as rubber. Strange, as it is otherwise quite decent.

Benrinnes 17yr Adelphi. Most tasting notes for this distillery say earthy, peaty, etc. This one is flowery, and light and fruity. One thing to be aware of, it comes in at 64.5% ABV. I didn't notice it the first time!!! A good value in the low $60's, and keep the water close by. No suitable candidte for a HTH in my collection.

And finally, the Bruichladdich round up. Last summer, I picked up the distillery 15 and Murray McDavid 11, and added the distillery 21 and Scott's Selelction 12, the latter two covered in the last prE-pistle. Getting the entire group together was something I looked
forward to. As happens sometimes, the results were not entirely as would have been expected. First, I did a HTH with the 15 and 21. The 15 didn't do so well. It had a somewhat watery body, with less flavor developement. The 21 had a nice viscosity, and showed it's age. But this is a bit unfair, especially given the $80 vs $45 price tags. The 15 is really more of a daytime, nice day malt. The 21 is for the evening, although summer whites rather than black tie. The Scott's Selection was as previously judged, the younger age is apparent, but a bit of the higher proof preserves the more expensive, older bottles. But the big surprise of the evening was the Murray McDavid. When first opened almost a year ago, it was just like water (I also hears this about the MMD Auchroisk). Eventually, a hint of smoke and the promised passion fruit emerged.
But they were finally came into bloom, albeit in a nice, delicate way. I would rate this ahead of the 15yr, and maybe two pints behind the 21, if I were doing ratings. Once again, Bruichladdich is seriously overlooked.

And finally, a quick overview of a few standard offerings that I like for the warmer weather:

Dalwhinnie 15 - Lightly peated, with a touch of honey, and a very long finish.
Sometimes thought of as feminine, but being an Islay snob isn't so great either.

Scapa 12 - The other malt from the orkney isles. Similar to Dalwhinnie to a point, but without the peat and some vanilla.
It gets a bad rap from many as being not very complex, but it's fine for what it is. A good value in the low $30's.

Littlemill 8 - I picked this one up on new Year's Eve, a few years ago. The shelves were empty, and this bottle even had dust on it. A hint perhaps? Anyway, this is a somewhat bizzare malt. Grassy, with a touch of marshmallow(!). The finish lasted forever. But after a few sips, I really don't want to be drinking something that tastes like grass. A curiosity, but nothing beyond that.


E-pistle #2000/34 - Olympic Tastings
Submitted on 27/09/2000 by Craig Daniels, Australia

I figured that the Earls really needed to get into the swing of the Olympics. 
Since knowing the difference between peating levels, wood type, distillation method or colour is about as useful as an ashtray on a motorbike in the field of athletic pursuits, we just had to craft our own celebration befitting such an august occasion.  True, we have had similar nights before, such as in August 1997 when we tried to tease out the intricacies of Linkwood 12, Bunnahabhain 12, Royal Brackla 10 and Highland Park 12 in a sort of Great Britain Commonwealth Games trial.  Even earlier, at our original foray into this concept (in May 1994); the "International Invitational" we found ourselves wading our way through Jack Daniels, Jamesons, Canadian Club and Aberlour 10.  This actually proved quite difficult as it turned out, especially to those who had never bothered to actually stop and analyze Canadian Club, rather than drown it in soda at every opportunity.  And finally most recently (and by far the most fun) was the "Benchmark Night" of 22 September 1999.  We put some acknowledged standards from different spirit categories through their paces, with Macallan 12 representing Great Britain, Hennessy Privilege Cognac VSOP (France), Baker Beam 7 Bourbon (USA) and Yalumba 20 Brandy (Australia).

If memory serves, a few among our number managed to get the Macallan and the Yalumba mixed up and some got the Yalumba and the Cognac around the wrong way.  Not being a brandy fan, I found the Yalumba to be surprisingly good, but its lifted clean sweet wood and sultana/grape notes made the Macallan seem awfully peaty and slightly sour in comparison.  Just goes to show how the lineup can affect your impressions of what's in a blind.

Yamazaki 12 -  Not a whisky that I've had a lot of experience with but I have tasted it before and reckon I could find it among similar style Highland SMS.  Has a distinct oiliness over a woody toffee, which unkind souls have described as fish oil, but which I feel resembles hair oil or light machine oil much closer.  Its actually not a bad whisky and has distinct similarities to malts like Dalmore 12, Tomatin 12 and a single grain in Cameron Brig.

Yalumba 20 Brandy - A really pleasant surprise last time we tried it in September 1999.  On the night it was clearly superior to the cognac and the bourbon and was almost as good as the Macallan - not bad for a local product costing less than A$35, however one must acknowledge that the Macallan was more complex and remained much more solid in the glass.  The brandy has much more forward and lifted minty wood.

Evan Williams 1990 Single Barrel Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whisky -  Up until I tasted this whisky, I liked the Baker Beam 7 the most of the limited number of bourbons I have tried.  I'm not a bourbon fan as a rule, as I find them far too sweet and syruppy especially after 20 minutes in the glass, but this one is pretty good though.  Interestingly enough it was awarded the title of Whisky of The Year in 1999 by The Spirit Journal.  While I won't quibble, it would be nice to know what competition it was up against, because I'd find it hard to accept that anyone other than unashamedly partisan judges could rate a 9 year old bourbon in front of a 17 or 25 year old SMS.  However, it is a, very good bourbon with less of the whipped cream that you find in the cheapies.

Chivas Century 100 Malts -  Another marketing exercise by folk that think blending is the pinnacle of the industry and that ascribe to the more is better school.  On balance I think it a waste of many rare barrels but they probably didn't have enough to bottle on their own, so developing some spurious lore about 100 malts is one way to shift the product.  I couldn't detect any Islay in it at all, but based on previous experience, where the Yalumba managed to make the Macallan nose much peatier than usual, I'll probably find some smoke this time.  My tasting notes indicate it could be readily hidden in amongst middle of the road Speysides.  May prove very hard to distinguish from the Yamazaki, but don't rely on my notes.  I might be wrong.

By now most of the Olympic dust has settled and while the Paralympics struggles to hold our interest, the embarrassing jingoistic excesses of media jocks and the crescendo of meaningless chants has thankfully died down. I don't know about the rest of you, but endless refrains of "Ozzie, Ozzie, Ozzie, Oi, Oi, Oi!", got more than a bit tiresome after the 477th rendition. Nevertheless, the Olympics did provide the theme for the September meeting and it proved to be a very interesting exercise indeed, although in future I might restrict the field back to malt whiskies. While the brandy was pleasant and was awarded the silver medal on the night, the bourbon scored very poorly. I suspect that this reflects the group taking umbrage at having to actually drink bourbon, and might indicate a wee prejudice, but there is no way known on God's earth that the bourbon was anyone's idea of the World's Best Whiskey. I guess it just means that the opinion of the judges at the Spirit Journal are not worth twopence and get filed in the cortical retrieval system as sources never to be taken seriously. It did turn out to be a stern test though with only two people getting them all right. As suspected while a tiny majority need some more practice (couldn't even get the brandy and bourbon sorted) the biggest problem was deciding which of the malts on the table was the vatted and which the Japanese. Fooled me too.

Yamazaki 12 - Highest scorer on the night overall, but not as nice as the brandy personally. Started bland and creamy with some honey, then developed some slight but definite smokiness. The palate was slightly metallic and slightly oily. The oiliness and industrial smokiness are pretty good markers for Yamazaki but the cream and metallic notes made me think Speyside and as I figured that the Chivas Century was likely to have a big heart of forgettable Speysides, plumped for it to be the vatted. Similar in style and the equal of many highlands.
Score 7.6

Yalumba 20 Brandy - I felt this was the nicest spirit on the table and the equal of a lot of sherried Speysides, Had an attractive nose with evident grapiness and a hint of sour fruit. Stayed pretty solid in the glass although the sweet and sour notes tend to become disentangled and a bit discordant over time while good malts like Macallan and Glendronach never do. The palate was soft and sweet and the alcohol was not overly dominant. The age was revealed in a pleasant and distinctive sweet woodiness especially in the aftermath.
Score 7.8

Chivas Century 100 Malts - I actually thought this was the Yamazaki, because I expected the Chivas to be better. Big mistake and I'm sorry to say that my opinion of vatted malts hasn't improved overly much. This really is a moderately ordinary product that no amount of marketing hype will overcome. Malt drinkers are malt drinkers and not blend drinkers because they like the divergent and distinctive faces of single malt scotch. While it was well behaved overall and didn't have any serious faults, it did seem a bit rough to me with a dry woody catch in the nose and the palate was a bit fiery/grainy with pepper and ginger notes. The bumpf behind the product lists amongst the malts, content from 6 Islay distilleries including Ardbeg, Lagavulin and Laphroaig, but as I couldn't for the life of me find any peat in this whisky, one must opine that the proportion is miniscule indeed. Nice packaging.
Score 7.4

Evan Williams 1990 Single Barrel Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whisky - I'm still not a bourbon fan and neither were any of the others. The nose was dominated by fresh pine resin, french nougat and candied almonds. Just too woody and too sweet in the nose, certainly less balanced than Baker Beam or Booker's and maybe only slightly better than Knob Creek, which believe me is not a high recommendation. The palate was sweet with lots of coconut in the aftertaste. Smooth enough, but too sweet. Wouldn't drink it in preference to any decent malt.
Score 7.0

Craig Daniels

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