Malt Maniacs E-zine

Malt Maniacs #014

Bowmore Darkest - The Confusing Malt
prE-pistle #2000/45 by Davin de Kergommeaux, Canada

When the Bormore 'Darkest' finally arrived in Canada in 2000 it proved to be a little controversial. Canadian maniac Davin explains why...

Battle of the Bards; Robert Burns
prE-pistle #2000/46 by Lex Kraaijeveld, England

In this issue Lex Kraaijeveld looks at the relation between whisky and two different 'bards'. First up: the Scottish poet Robert Burns.

HarLeM pre-christmas tasting sessions
prE-pistle #2000/47 by Klaus Everding, Germany

Our German maniac Klaus Everding reports on a trio of recent tasting sessions with a dozen newly arrived expressions.

Sweet & Sherried Malt Tasting
prE-pistle #2000/48 by Davin de Kergommeaux, Canada

Davin initially resisted the idea of us publishing scores, but he now takes the matrix very seriously. In fact, he has now embarked on a campaign to re-taste (and score) a large number of malts.

Your Ratings vs My Ratings
prE-pistle #2000/49 by Richard Block, USA

Richard Block disagreed with my score for Loch Dhu.
Well, we live in a free world - sort of... ;-)

The Relativity of Ratings
prE-pistle #2000/50 by Johannes v/d Heuvel, Holland

I don't like to repeat myself too often, but some comments on the forum inspired me to stress once more that my scores are purely personal. You may feel very different about a whisky than I do.

Battle of the Bards; Shakespeare
prE-pistle #2000/51 by Lex Kraaijeveld, England 

After looking into the relationship between Robert Burns and whisky, Lex Kraaijeveld now focuses on another 'bard'; Shakespeare.

Another viewpoint on Isle of Jura
prE-pistle #2000/52 by Sigurd Stori, Norway

OK, I have to admit that this message from Sigurd probably wouldn't qualify as an E-pistle in the later years of Malt Maniacs...

Isle of Jura & Oban
prE-pistle #2000/53 by Johannes v/d Heuvel, Holland

My response to Sigurd's remarks - hardly of 'historical' value.

Canadian Whiskies
prE-pistle #2000/54 by Davin de Kergommeaux, Canada

We all have our chauvinistic moments, so Davin was quickly forgiven for this piece on the whiskies that are produced in his home country.

Vox Populi Excerpts
prE-pistle #2000/55 by Johannes v/d Heuvel, Holland

Before we properly launched the Malt Maniacs e-zine in 2002 there was a forum on the Malt Madness website. We closed it when we launched our E-zine, but I've collected a few messages and posts here.

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Malt Maniacs #14

Malt Maniacs #014 - December 31, 2000

They say the internet boom is over, but I have to admit I'm still enjoying the aftershocks - allowing me to pick up a few spare bottles of single malt whisky every now and then. Prices are rising now that single malts are becoming 'hot property', but there still are plenty of very good and affordable malt whiskies to be found (as long as you stick to the regular 12yo stuff).

I've focused on the more affordable single malts over the past few years, but some Ardbegs from the early 1970's released by Douglas Laing seemed like a sensible investment of my discretionary income. In fact, I went a little 'malt mad' during this year; I think I've added well over 100 bottles to my 'reserve stock'. You can read more about my exploits in my Liquid Log.

Another 'upgrade' on Malt Madness is the significantly improved and expanded Beginner's Guide to Single Malt Whisky. I've expanded the number of chapters (i.e. pages) from six to ten and added more detailed information about barley, cask types and independent bottlers. I'll work on a new 'Mega Malt Map' next.

Meanwhile, we managed to publish even more E-pistles than last year - together with a massive wrap-up report (with some posts and messages from the Vox Poluli forum) we managed to get to 55 articles this year. I guess that's almost as much as a 'proper' magazine. Well, maybe not quite - but if we manage to expand our team to, say, twelve people we may be able to match the output of a proper whisky publication some day. I realise we'll never be able to match the level of writing of a professional publication (most of us are non-native English speakers) but we have one 'unique selling point' - we're completely independent.

And even before we have reached our optimum crew capacity there's a 'support crew' of foreign correspondents forming. That's the title we've bestowed upon the people that are not members of our team of 'certified malt maniacs' (yet), but who still want to help in spreading the good word by writing an E-pistle. We're proud to publish Lex Kraaijeveld's first articles in this issue.

Sweet drams,

Johannes van den Heuvel
Editor Malt Madness / Malt Maniacs

E-pistle #2000/45 - Bowmore Darkest - The Confusing Malt
Submitted on 8/12/2000 by Davin de Kergommeaux, Canada

As others have noted, Bowmore released a new malt, called Darkest, in mid-1997. 
By mid-2000 it had made it to these colonial shores where it was stirring up a bit of a controversy.  While others were detecting unexpected and unwelcome flavours, I found the freshly-opened whisky quite appealing, then noticed rapid deterioration and changes as the bottle aged.  Patrick had the same experience, while the bottle Louis was working on was quite stable.  I've dubbed Bowmore Darkest the 'Confusing Malt' for it seems to lack consistency among bottles and, for Patrick and I, changes from one dram to the next. Craig reported elsewhere the darker coloured and more intense earlier bottlings he had tasted were superior to a recent version.  Then a correspondent from Germany, where all contents must be listed on the label, noted that colour was not a good indicator of anything, since the German labels show caramel colouring as one of the ingredients in Darkest.

My Darkest usually begins with the trademark Bowmore, dusty, antiseptic, peat-smoke nose. 
It's a sherried malt and sweet, but I can't detect sherry in the nose,  though I do get a fleeting whiff of cordite.  It's sweet and slightly soapy on the tongue, developing more in the front of the mouth.  The middle, often becomes fruity, and more recently there has been an overpowering fruity bath soap. This soap becomes much more dominant as the flavour moves to the back of the throat.  A few drops of water sweeten up the nose and add a touch of berries.  Initially water ruins the palate though, as the soap and a hint of metal move to the fore.  The smoke returns in the middle as the soap now begins to dissipate.  It's warm and marginally spicy on the tongue.  The warmth but not the spice continues into the throat followed by a smoky, fading finish.  The empty glass has a wonderful, strong, smoky, medicinal aroma with just a hint of sweet malt.

I said I'd not buy another bottle because of all the disappointing drams I've had from this one, but since individual bottles seem to perform differently, I think I'll pick up a mini or two if I can find any. Perhaps leave one half-full for a couple of months then do a head-to-head with a freshly opened one.  (As an aside, I like comparing minis with the full-sized bottle as you can be pretty sure of getting different batches.  I've found some great differences in some instances.)

Davin de Kergommeaux, Canada

E-pistle #2000/46 - Battle of the Bards; Robert Burns
Submitted by Lex Kraaijeveld, England

Whisky will be forever linked to the name of Robert Burns.
Scotland's greatest poet considered whisky his "muse" and it seems he had a special liking to whisky from the famous Ferintosh distillery. Many whisky books quote the outcry in his poem Scotch Drink when the privilege of distilling free of duty, granted to Duncan Forbes of Culloden in 1689, was withdrawn from Ferintosh in 1785:

....Thee, Ferintosh! O sadly lost!
....Scotland lament frae coast to coast!
....Now colic grips, an barkin hoast
....May kill us a';
....For loyal Forbes' charter'd boast
....Is taen awa!
....Thae curst horse-leeches o th' Excise,
....Wha mak the whisky stells their prize!
....Haud up thy han', Deil! ance, twice, thrice!
....There, seize the blinkers!

Despite him cursing the Excise, only four years later, in 1789, Robert Burns, troubled by financial difficulties, joins the Scottish Excise Service and for the rest of his life he would be a poor, damn'd, rascally Gager. Whisky was far from the only thing that fell under Excise laws in late 18th century Scotland: duty had to be paid on beer, malt, tea, salt, tobacco, soap, candles, glass, bricks, cocoa, coffee, cider, leather, paper, spirits, calicoes, wine and wire. Burns' first Excise station, a large stretch of countryside between Dumfries and the Lowther Hills, comprised tanners, maltsters, tobacconists, victuallers (these were publicans brewing their own beer) and wine, spirit and tea dealers.

After a year, he was moved to another Excise station, covering about a third of Dumfries and its immediate surroundings, where he was responsible for tobacconists, victuallers, a chandler and a brickmaker. In the spring of 1792, Burns took up his third and final Excise post, another part of Dumfries. Here duty had to be collected from a brewery, tanners, chandlers, a maltster, victuallers, dealers in spirits, wines and tea and all excisable goods passing through the port.

Luckily for Burns, he didn't have to act as the "Deil" against his muse.
There was a whisky distillery in Dumfries in 1795 (and possibly earlier), but there is no indication that it ever fell under his responsibility; it may very well have been located outside his Excise stations.

Robert Burns died on July 21 1796, at the age of 37, from endocarditis. Since his teens he had suffered from ill-health, rheumatic fevers and nervous depressions and this, combined with the hard life of an Excise officer (the sheer size of the area covered by his first Excise post forced him to spend long hours on horse back almost daily, in sometimes atrocious weather conditions), almost surely shortened his life. It is ironic that the Excise he first cursed and then joined, appeared instrumental in his death.

Lex Kraaijeveld, UK

E-pistle #2000/47 - HarLeM pre-christmas tasting sessions
Submitted on 17/12/2000 by Klaus Everding, Germany

We have been very busy in the last month here in Hamburg. 3 Tasting session and 12 new malts sampled.
Here come the tasting notes in alphabetical order:

Aberlour A'bunnadh 59.6% - We tasted this malt when we had a tasting session at our new HarLeM member Christophs home. 
He has many interesting malts in his shelves, - so there was a lot to "plunder". Aberlour a'bunnadh is a very dark almost copper-red malt in cask strength. It comes in a nice bulky bottle.
Nose: A lot of sherry, sandalwood, raisins, vanilla. Water added to dilute the malt to drinking strength intensifies the aroma.
Taste: In undiluted form this malt was too sharp for my tongue. Strange, normally I don't have problems with c/s malts. With water: very balanced and smooth. Not a single edge, round as pebbles. There is a lot of sherry and a somewhere in the first third and island of citrus and spice rises and softly sinks into the sherry and malt sea. Finish – not very long.
Score: I can't get a grip on that malt. It is by no means artificial but I always get the impression of a beautiful face but with heavy makeup. Such balance it not natural. 79 points in the malt madness matrix rating system.

Ardbeg 10y 46% - Much fuzz on the Ardbeg webpage about the Ardbeg 10. The malt is rather pale.
If you read the description there you could come to believe that you are going to taste something directly from heaven.
Nose: The malt from the fresh opened bottle is very fresh and grassy. There are also the typical Islay notes: peat, smoke and medicine.  Strange things happened when I tasted the malt 3 weeks later. The nose had changed. In addition to the aromas mentioned before I detected a strong alcoholic note and far worse the smell of gastric acid.
Taste:  sweet and fresh notes with citrus when you start. Then comes the punch of medicine combined with tar and peat which never seems to stop. The fresh sweetness changes to a lasting molasses sweetness and I also detected hints of bitterness. When I tasted the malt the first time I didn't really like this combination. I found that it was very unbalanced. 3 weeks later when the nose had grown worse the balance had drastically improved. Suddenly there was a kind of balance.
Score: I guess that I will need a few more drams and I will think about my rating in the matrix. Probably the malt will get a few more points. But one thing is sure: I prefer the peatiness of the Laphroaig 10 which is not disturbed by sweetness.

Balvenie Doublewood 12y 43% - I tried the Balvenie Founder's reserve a year ago and was slightly disappointed.
It was pleasant but it lacked the edges. Nothing to hang on to. The Doublewood is far better.
It comes in the nice bulky Balvenie bottle which lies in the arm like a baby. The malt has the colour of full amber.
Nose:  aromatic, fruity, flowers, honey, fresh honey. Really delicious but you have to wait approx 5 minutes until an unpleasant esther-note (adhesive) is gone. This observation is at least true for a fresh opened bottle.
Taste: sweet, toffee, fruits, malt, honey and maybe tangerine. A very pleasant combination.
You can have a lot of sips and every time you detect something new
Score: A really good malt with a preliminary score of 83. This 8 points more the Founder's reserve. 
I can only recommend that you spend the additional 3 Euro and buy the Doublewood.

Brora Signatory Vintage Millenium edition 43% (distilled 1981, bottle 213/628, butt 1081, sherry cask 18y).
A very interesting golden malt from Christoph's shelves. Surely one of the peatiest ones beyond Islay.
Nose: fresh, moss, smoke and medicine, some spice.
It reminds me at Clynelish (who wonders, - it's the same distillery) and Caol Ila.
Taste: strong citrus notes  and spice in combination with a lot of peat and smoke with a long finish.
The synthesis of the fresh and peaty notes is just a pixel away from perfect.
Score: I think this malt is more interesting than delicious. The combination of very pronounced very different aromas gives food for thought. The taste is quite good but there are malts which caress my palate more. 80 points preliminary score.

Caol Ila Mackillop's choice Single Cask 1989 43% (bottle 131, cask 1894, bottled may 1999).
Another pale gold jewel from Christoph's treasures.
Nose: surprisingly reserved, fresh moss and grass and only a hint of smoke and peat
Taste: the start: sweet and fresh, even a touch of mint but then peat and smoke take over the command in perfect very long lasting harmony. The only flaw for me: there is a hint of sweetness in the peat symphony
Score: Whow! What a great malt. Feels like Laphroaig 10 and Lagavullin 16 have married and this is the child. If only the nose would have been more pronounced. So I only score preliminary 90 points on the grounds that it is difficult to get and the feeble nose.

Caol Ila 3385 days old 55.7% Signatory Vintage - A very pale cask strength.
Nose: peat and tar in the foreground, some moss. When diluted to drinking strength the fresh mossy notes increase.
Taste: undiluted: sweet but also peat, smoke and tar (Islay of course). Drinking strength: extraction of old rigging in sugar water almost like the Ardbeg 10. Seems to be more harmonic. Maybe because the citrus notes are missing.
Score: peat and smoke together  with some molasses sweetness is not really my cup of tea. This means 79 preliminary points.

Glen Garioch 15y 43% - The Glen Garioch a golden malt from the eastern highlands is not filtrated.
Small particles like bits of plastic foil were swimming in the malt.
Nose: The fresh opened bottle smells like smoke dried ham. This aroma suppresses all other notes.
2 week later I could also detect some fresh notes.
Taste: smoke, some wood, some peat, and bitter citrus notes, very dry.
There is also some kind of sweetness which increases with every sip.
Score: nice but I don't really need that malt. 69 points on the malt madness scale.

Highland Park 18y 43% - The 18 years old Highland Park is a little bit darker than the 12 years old one (full amber).
Nose: very intensive fruity sweetness, honey, heather and honey, malt. The nose is not so sweet as the 12y
Taste: delicious, malt, toffee, spice, a hint of citrus and mint, wood and peat/smoke in the finish. Long taste development.
Compared with the 12y HP the taste is definitely more satisfying. Score: I rate the malt with 92 points. Only 2 points more than the Highland Park 12y but very often I think it is worth to pay a 50% higher price.

Laphroaig 10y c/s 57.3% - The full amber coloured Laphroaig c/s comes in a bottle which looks almost similar to Laphroaig  10y.
Nose: alcohol, peat, smoke, tar, medicine, rotting leaves in water, wood. Diluted: as in c/s but some fresh and fruity notes arise.
Taste: c/s: a sweet start (?!!!) but then the phroaig tar, peat and smoke arise.
Really strange the sweetness fights a long struggle but it is finally overwhelmed by the peat.
diluted with a lot of water: tastes like extracts of tar ointment and burnt wood with some sugar.
Score: The Laphroaig 10y c/s is not a standard version the 10 year in higher concentration. It has its own face.
I had the impression that this malt is a Laphroaig 10y on the way to the 15 years old Laphroaig, Maybe 2/3 10y and 1/3 15y.
It scores 90 points on the MMM scale because of the "bad" influence of the 15y.

Longmorn 15y 45% - A golden amber malt in a bulky bottle with long neck.
Nose: My first impression was apple spirit. There are strong fruity notes (apples, maybe pears), nuts, vanilla and honey are also present
Taste: sweet, citrus, spice, some spice and pepper. The finish is peaty and smoky and relatively long.
Score: I think this malt shows very marked characteristics for a Speyside malt.
It is not the one dimensional  fruit – sweetness you often find in that region. Score 82 points.

Springbank 12y 46% - This dark amber coloured malt came from a 1/3 l bottle from Christoph. He said that this bottling was far better then the 1 l bottle he also owned. Too bad that this malt tastes so different in different bottles.
Nose: Overwhelming sherry. It took some time until could assign the impression to sherry.
My first notes were, malt and wood cream (this means whipped cream with wood sandal wood aroma)
Taste: very nice sherry, toffee, citrus, hints of coffee, all in perfect balance.
Score: very good malt. I like it although it is very much sherried, too bad that it has such a large variation. 83 points on the MMM scale.

Talisker 10y 45.8% - My second approach with Talisker 10y. My first encounter with that malt was  a total catastrophe.
I had a bad bottle and the guys at United Distillers wouldn't believe it although I sent them a sample to verify my judgement. It seems that I have bad luck with Talisker. Although this time the malt was excellent this time I don't trust my senses. My impressions are not in accordance with the tasting notes I have read about it. Could it be because we just opened a new bottle and then enjoyed the malt?
Anyway, - here you can read what I detected.
Nose: very reserved. First I could only detect alcohol. After a few sips the aroma unfolded: fresh, fruity and malty very interesting.
Taste: Sweet with spice and citrus, pepper. No smoke or peat. I had the impression of a Glenkinchie which had grown to manhood (more lively and bolder) but all said I was crazy.
Score: I don't dare to rate the malt yet. If my tasting experience is reproducible it will surely be in the upper 80s.

Klaus Everding, Germany

E-pistle #2000/48 - Sweet & Sherried Malt Tasting
Submitted on 18/12/2000 by Davin de Kergommeaux, Canada

Sweet & Sherried Malt Tasting

Preparing for the matrix lead to a number of re-tastings, one of the most enjoyable being a four-day comparison of sweet and sherried malts. Day one began with initial notes on Balvenie 10, 12, 15 and 21, Glendronach 12 and 15 and Macallan 12, 15 and 18.  Day two brought a simultaneous tasting panel with the Macallans and the Balvenies.  This lead to all kinds of comparisons and more notes.  On day three it was the Balvenies and the Glendronachs, then on day four the Macallans and the Glendronachs.  This was a very instructive session as each malt was compared on three occasions to several other similar malts leading to a good deal of precision in detecting the differences.

Balvenie 10yo (43%, OB, 81 points)
Nose:  Very sweet clover honey, a little dusty, a hint of apple.
Palate: Very sweet, like dilute sugar water.  Spicy tingles, malty, grassy honey.
Finish:  Sweet, and malty.
Empty glass:  Malt and dry grain.

Balvenie 12yo Doublewood (43%, OB, 82 points)
Nose:  More complex.  Dustier than 10yo, slight hint of flowers, green apple, fresh hay.  Malty with a hint of wood.  Real clover nectar, a hint of cigar box and beeswax.
Palate:  Sweet, watery and estery.  Some wood, cigar box and honey.
Finish:  tobacco and malt.
Empty glass:  Sweet, mild, pipe tobacco.  Dusty.  Slightly oily.

Balvenie 15yo Single Barrel (50.4%, OB, 80 points)
Nose:  Again a complex nose.  Dusty and malty with a sweet vanilla and some clover.  Very full floral scents with honey. Grassy and wild flower garden (including the soil).  Sweet silage and fresh hay.
Palate:  Rich, sweet, honey and wood, strong and spicy, then very spicy.  A distinct raw mushroom taste develops in the middle.
Finish:  Sweet and malty
Empty glass:  Hay, sweet cigarette tobacco, and honey.

Balvenie 21yo Port Wood (40%, OB, 84 points)
Nose:  Sweet, honey, woody, waxy, candy.  The sweetest of the four Balvenies.  Mild cream cheese.
Palate:  Sweet and honeyed with an early metallic flash.  Milder than the others.  A slight tingle, mild and floral.  Not quite as rich as the 15yo.  The reduced abv is noticeable though there is a mild, warm spice at the back of the throat and tip of the tongue.  Not as complex as expected.
Finish:  Long and sweet.  The sweetness fades into mild wood with a hint of fresh fish.
Empty glass:  Toasted bread and honey.  Sweet, mild pipe tobacco

Glendronach 12yo Sherried (43%, OB, 80 points)
This old bottle of Glendronach 12 came from a tiny grocery store in Macau.  The shelves were partly bare and the only liquor was seven or eight old, dusty, single malts in the window.  When the proprietress picked up the Glendronach the white square it left on the shelf showed the bottle had gone unnoticed for some time.  This malt is just laced with raisins, and yes, a hint of sulphur.
Nose:  Raisins, prunes then a hint of cider vinegar (or is it sulphur?) Sherry so strong it smells like pure sweet Pedro Ximinez then a whiff of dark fruit cake.
Palate:  Sweet and fruity but musty.  Spicy.  Raisins, round and robust, but fresher than the 15yo. 
An unusually fruity whisky and very enjoyable.  Darker in colour and much better all-round than the 15yo.
Finish:  fading fruitiness.
Empty glass:  Slightly sour, some sulphur and dried fruit.  A mild floral sweetness.

Glendronach 15yo (40%, OB, 76 points)
Nose:  Sweet musty sherry and fruit with a hint of licorice root. Sulphur. 
Dried fruit and apricots, quite sweet sherry; almost a dark rum sweetness.  Brown sugar or fudge and cream liqueur (Amarula?)
Palate:  Creamy and sweet, some mild spice on lips; warm in mouth. Woodier than the 12yo. 
Very sweet on the tongue with sherry and a hint of wood.  Again like dilute sugar water.
Finish:  Woody and grassy.
Empty glass:  Faint woodiness, meaty, malty.

Macallan 12yo (43%, OB, 81 points)
Nose:  Sweet malt vinegar, sherry, cider vinegar, hard candy, sulphur, esters.
Palate:  Sweet, sherry, slight soap.  Some minor sweet spice.  A bit metallic in the middle.
Finish:  Slight metallic bitterness.
Empty glass:  Ginger ale; mildly woody.

Macallan 15yo (43%, OB, 82 points)
Nose:  Sweet and dry, some esters, alcohol.  Dusty, dry tobacco.  Some fudge.  The least sweet of the Macallans.
Palate:  Quite soapy and bitter.  Hot and briefly spicy.  Some sweetness.  Sulphur, like a struck match.
Finish:  Rubbery and metallic.
Empty Glass:  Mild sherry; gunpowder.

Macallan 18yo (43%, OB, 85 points)
An undated bottle from a forgotten liquor store in New York.  It was dusty, but is it old? 
I thought all the 18 year olds had a vintage year on the label, but not this one.  It's a truly exceptional whisky though.
Nose:  Aromatic rich and full.  Vanilla, sweet sherry, nutmeg in eggnog.  Becomes fruity then estery. 
Rich, heavy, dried fruit.  Fudge, soft candy.
Palate:  Very spicy.  An initial flash of sweet wood and a hint of mustiness. Sweet and fruity sherry.  The sweetness continues in the back of the throat.  Sugary, fudge.
Finish:  Sweet then woody.
Empty glass:  Strong honey.  Very strong beeswax.  Slightly sour dried fruit.

Davin de Kergommeaux, Canada

E-pistle #2000/49 - Your Ratings vs My Ratings
Submitted on 19/12/2000 by Richard Block, USA

Johannes, I was wandering around your site between updates, and noticed that you gave Loch Dhu 8 points!!! 
I'm not averse to assigning single digit ratings, but I don't think Loch Dhu deserves one.  The only single malt to receive less than 10 points (2 blends have received this dishonor) on my list is some awful crap called 12 Scots. (it occurs to me they might have called it 12 Scots so stupid fools, (is there another kind?) would think the 12 was an age statement.  The stuff was $9 US and I've told you how much stuff is here... probably a 3 yo.)  It didn't list the distillery.  Good thing, too; I woulda bombed it (just kidding.) Anyway, i gave this putrid stuff a 5.  But I gave the Loch Dhu a 44.  Why?  well, my initial impression was 20 - 25.  I ended up giving it a 44 because it grew on me. 
The predominant taste is, to me, of bananas.  Did I mention I HATE bananas?  Well, I do.

Loch Dhu, in my opinion, is a decent liquor. As a Single Malt, it sucks, but I have had worse.
I read your reasons for the "8" on Loch Dhu.  That pretty much matches what I've read elsewhere.
But I swear my bottle was better! (no ashtray here). Not anywhere near good - still major crap, but better than an 8!!!

Here are my current ratings - you may think I'm crazy, but that's okay.
I have rated all scotches together.

  1.)  Laphroaig 15        98
  2.)  Lagavulin 16          97
  3.)  Laphroaig 10         97
  4.)  Royal Salute 21     96
  5.)  Talisker 10            94
  6.)  The MacAllan 12    93
  7.)  Chivas Regal 18     92
  8.)  Scapa 12               90
  9.)  Strathisla 12          88
10.)  The Glenlivet 12     85
11.)  Aberlour 10             85
12.)  Chivas Regal 12       84
13.)  Dalwhinnie  15           82
14.)  The Century of Malts   82
15.)  Glenmorangie 10        81
16.)  Chivas 12 / 40%       81
17.)  Bowmore Legend     72
18.)  Speyburn 10           67
19.)  McLell (Auch 5?)     66
20.)  Glen Deveron 5     60
21.)  Cutty Sark            56
22.)  JW Red Label        53
23.)  Loch Dhu 10          44
24.)  Harvey's 12            31
25.)  12 Scots                 5
26.)  Highland Mist          4
27.)  Don's & Bens Own   4

All the best,

Richard Block, USA

E-pistle #2000/50 - The Relativity of Ratings
Submitted on 21/12/2000 by Johannes van den Heuvel, Holland

Thanks for your regular posts to the forum, Richard...

My personal 'Liquor Likability' ratings on the Hit List just reflect the amount of love I have for a certain drink on a scale of 0 (throw away immediately) to 100 (extasy). So 8 points is not a neutral 'quality' indicator, or anything. This one is the first single malt that has almost made me physically sick - hence the unusually low score. I actually would prefer to drink Johnnie Walker Red Label (20 points).
It could have been a bad bottle - but I'm not buying another one to find out...

Rating whiskies is a very personal thing anyway...
Perhaps my article about my scoring 'system' can give you some insight into the way my ratings should be interpreted.
For me, Lagavulin 16 is still number one, but I can certainly understand how it's too much for some people. Although I like the Chivas Regal Royal Salute a lot, I would rate it 10 - 15 points below the Talisker 10. In fact, I haven't had a blend or vatted malt yet that rates over 80 points. About the 12 Scots: Beware! There are quite a few frauds out there who label any old blended crap as a 'single malt whisky'.

Sweet drams,

Johannes van den Heuvel, Holland

E-pistle #2000/51 - Battle of the Bards; Shakespeare
Submitted by Lex Kraaijeveld, England

Robert Burns' links with whisky are often written about, but what about Britain's other bard, the one south of the border? Any connection between whisky and William Shakespeare? Now if you scour the works of Shakespeare for the word 'whisky', you won't find anything. The word 'whisky' didn't yet exist in the late 16th and early 17th century, so search for the equivalent in Shakespeare's days: aqua-vitae.

Sure enough, aqua-vitae is briefly mentioned in Romeo and Juliet, Comedy of Errors and The Twelfth Night; the aqua-vitae is mostly mentioned as having a medicinal effect in one way or another. Quite different Shakespearean 'whisky' quotes are found in two other plays.

In The Merry Wives of Windsor, aqua-vitae is obviously regarded as a price possession: 'I will rather trust a Fleming with my butter, Parson Hugh the Welshman with my cheese, an Irishman with my aqua-vitae bottle, or a thief to walk my ambling gelding, than my wife with herself; then she plots, then she ruminates, then she devises; ...'

In The Winter's Tale, aqua-vitae plays a role in a bizarre torture practice: 'He has a son, who shall be flayed alive; then 'nointed over with honey, set on the head of a wasp's nest; then stand till he be three quarters and a dram dead; then recovered again with aqua-vitae or some other hot infusion; then raw as he is, and in the hottest day prognostication proclaims, shall he be set against a brick-wall, the sun looking with a southward eye upon him, where he is to behold him with flies blown to death.'

Think I prefer Rabbie's attitude to using whisky …..

Lex Kraaijeveld, UK

E-pistle #2000/52 - Another Viewpoint on Isle of Jura
Submitted on 23/12/2000 by Sigurd Stori, Norway

HI, Johannes.

First; Thank You very much for an excellent site. It is truly one of the best for a "beginner" in the world of malt Whisky.

One thing I can`t understand is that you rate the "Isle of Jura" so low. It is one of the better malts that i have tasted so far, and I have tried some, even though I look upon myself as a beginner. I am also very surprised that you have not tasted "the Oban". which is a very nice malt, it is available in Norway, therefore I believe it is available in Amsterdam as well. Check it out, it would be fun to see what you think about it. I rate it as one of the better malts, It is on my personal top 5 list, as is the "Jura".

Keep up the good work.

Sincerely, Sigurd Stori

E-pistle #2000/53 - Isle of Jura & Oban
Submitted on 23/12/2000 by Johannes van den Heuvel, Holland

Thanks for the input, Sigurd. As I've tried to explain in my reply to Richard's question about Loch Dhu, my ratings only reflect my purely personal taste - and I'm afraid I just don't like the Isle of Jura that much. To me, the oily elements are too similar to cod liver oil. Maybe my expectations of an 'Island' malt were too high, but that's how I feel. Please note that I've only tasted one or two bottles of Isle of Jura, so I may have had a 'bad bottle'. This seems to happen occasionally...

I did taste a few bottles of Oban before I started taking notes in 1995, and last week I bought myself a new bottle to enable me to properly rate it. Based on my past experiences, I'm pretty sure it won't reach my Top 10, though... If memory serves Oban is a good malt whisky - but that isn't enough to compete with the big boys like Lagavulin 16 or Talisker 10.

Sweet drams,


E-pistle #2000/54 - Canadian Whiskies
Submitted on 23/12/2000 by Davin de Kergommeaux, Canada

With the introduction of a few boutique brands, Canadian whiskies have begun to find their way into the glasses of more and more connoisseurs. The first wave featured Gooderham and Worts, a traditional rye whisky, and Lot 40 which is a personal favourite pot-still rye.  A newer entry is a pair from Kittling Ridge, a Niagara winery, which has introduced "Barrel Select" and "Three Grains" rye whiskies, both of which are excellent.

My ventures into Canadian whisky have brought me into contact with Montreal connoisseur Marty Brunet and we recently spent a pleasant afternoon in Montreal visiting SAQ liquor stores (Societee d'Alcools de Quebec).  Marty also took me to a little stemware shop called Vinum Design  at 1400 Rue City Councillors, where I purchased four more of the Glenmorangie-style tasting glasses.  They had a good selection of single malt glasses including some in crystal, and an excellent range of prices.   Vinum also had an interesting wine tasting game with bottled scents for players to identify.  It was tempting, but so close to Christmas I dare not buy anything for myself. 

We finished the afternoon off at L'Ile Noire Whisky Pub on Ontario Street, where I tried the Rare Malts Clynelish 21yo 58.9% abv cask strength.  Marty said some taste mustard in it, but I found none.  It was spicy, but surprisingly smooth.  The alcohol was way in the background.  Uncharacteristic for a cask strength whisky.  No tasting notes,  the company was too engaging, but it's a definite must to try again.

Marty is an interesting guy.  He's a home brewer, who grows his own hops and buys his malt direct from a malting company.  After eight years brewing beer he plans to move on to whisky.  With his analytical approach and open mind, I can see a new Canadian single malt beginning to take shape.  This would be welcome addition, though I have recently learned, not a first for Canada.

Historic Canadian Single Malts

When one thinks of single malts, one thinks of Scotland, but for more than a century they have been produced, albeit not as well, outside Scotland also.  France's Armorik ( is a Breton single not heard of often, and Lammerlaw was produced in New Zealand. Suntory ( makes a range of malts in Japan and St. George single malt is a highly rated product of the USA.

Canada also has produced its own share of singles over the years.  Early Canadian single malts available until the time of Prohibition included brands called Old Perth; Old Perth Malt Whisky (from different distilleries); Mountain Dew; VVO Canadian Scotch Whisky and Seagrams Pure Malt Whisky.  Probably the most interesting name for a Canadian single was Ogopogo, produced until the 1980's by British Columbia's Okanagan Distillery.  Ogopogo took its name from a Loch Ness-like sea monster that is still sighted once or twice a year in the long narrow Lake Okanagan.

It's winter in the north - downtime for some distilleries and slow time for the rest. 
But for us, The Malt Mad, it's the peak of the season.
May it be a great one for all.

Davin de kergommeaux, Canada

E-pistle #2000/55 - Vox Populi Excerpts
Submitted on 31/12/2000 by Johannes van den Heuvel, Holland

Before things evolved into the current 'Malt Maniacs' format the old Malt Madness site also contained a forum.
Much of the public contributions to this site section were lost during a crash of my hard drive, but here are just a few messages from 2000 and 2001 I managed to save. Some of them are quite informative and/or funny...  You'll notice that I've included many messages from people who are not members of the team of 24 'certified' malt maniacs. These days most of the articles on MM are written by the malt maniacs themselves, but you can still become a 'foreign correspondent' and write a contribution about whisky for the world's whisky community.

Subject: The Water Of Life <un-spellable in Gaelic> (by James MacNaughton)

Hullo, lad.  Lots of good commentary, I like your humour.  There are so few people out there that have a right mind-set about whiskey.  Just as a note, old Scotsmen aren't as mean as the liquor bearing their name!  I'm not so old, but my da's not a bad old fellow; perhaps a bit of a curmudgeon, but that's not really a racial trait; he's nearly 80, he's allowed!

I'm living stateside, and it never ceases to amaze me, what an American will drink and call whiskey.  Things to add to your list of 'Drinks Too Vile For Human Consumption,' would include:  Jim Beam, Yukon Jack, or anything produced in Tennessee that claims to contain alcohol.  I don't think they ever got over the moonshine running days.

You seem to like dinner whiskeys; and I'm afraid I'm a bit of a Jessie, there.  I prefer the lunch whiskeys like the Glenmorangies and their ilk. One of my lads even calls Glen Livet a breakfast whiskey, the bastard. Perfectly lovely stuff.  Anyway, there are lots of other good single malts out there; Laphroig, Tomatin, Lismore and many, many others.  You might also want to branch into the Irish single malts like Knappogue Castle and Dalmor.  Lismore's just grand.  I'm going to have to find a bottle of that soon. ... Now I sound like a sod.  Mea apologia; I finally went back and visited the rest of your site. 

Three cheers, and then some.  I'm roaring from your vox populi page. Oh well, here's to ya.

Subject: A 'Dram' (by Tom Spencer)

Sir, may I congratulate you on an excellent web site! It is well-designed, amusing, interesting and unusually comprehensive.

I understand that the 'whisky' 'whiskey' issue is largely to do with a legal argument concerning methods and place of production  (much like the 'Champagne' 'sparkling wine' issue). Somewhere on your site you describe a 'dram' as meaning 'a glass of whisky'; I know I'm just being pedantic but a dram (or drachm) is a precise measurement equal to 1/8th of a fluid ounce or 60 minims. Since metrification and the Weights and Measures Act of 1985 it has been illegal (in the European Union) to sell spirits in any quantity other than multiples of 25ml. You may still be encouraged by a friend to stay for "a wee drachm" or kid yourself you wont really drink today, just have a drachm, as it is a relatively small measurement (nowhere near what you would expect to be served in a bar these days) and is useful to maintain the illusion of not over-indulging.

I agree with a great deal of what you say and, although I differ on issues such as dilution, I am impressed by your informative rather than dictatorial approach to teaching the world the values of malt whisky; as you say, it is a matter of individual taste. The place to go if you like single malt scotch whisky is the Craigellachie Hotel, Speyside, where over three hundred different malts line the walls; it is also home to the Malt Whisky Club although membership rates are a bit steep at 350.

Subject: Lagavulin & Dalmore (by Richard Klein)

THANK YOU!!!!!!!!! I've finally found a decent whisky (without the "e" meaning single malt scotch whisky). 

Even though I have only been enjoying and appreciating the elixir of life for a few years already, I really appreciate the information and interaction of a good web site such as yours.  Mr. Jackson's book is good, but your more concise approach and taste system is more to more liking.  This was recently proven when, before having just discovered your website, I purchased bottles of Lagavulin 16yo. and Dalmore 12yo. for a reception celebrating the birth of my first son after having four (4) daughters.

I thought the Lagavulin was the best I've ever had, and the Dalmore was very good. (I must admit I have a predilection to Macallan 18yo. for some time.) To say the least, about two dozen men and a few women agreed with me.  I even had some Jack Daniels, Crown Royal, and Cognac on the table for the traditionalists, but after one sip (nee breather!) of the Lagavulin, the other stuff was hardly touched by anyone.

Again, THANK YOU!!! Keep it up.

Subject:  My Lagavulin Story (by Hide and Denise)

What a site (sight)! Thank you for your comprehensive coverage of single malt.
It just happens that out of 20 or so that I have tasted, my No.1 and No.2 are Lagavulin and Talisker, respectively. Coincidence or not, I would consider it an auspicious beginning to a newly-found lifelong hobby.

Pronounced climatic differences in seasons is what I get living in New York, USA as opposed to living in Europe or where the single malts come from. In that sense, I have choices of summer dram - personally, I would give a little more credit to Glenkinchie for that reason (try drinking Laphroaig in that weather...).

I wish if my first Lagavulin story was as impressive as yours: my story:
Standing at single malt section in one of the better liquor stores in New York, I thought what can I get that's aged most but affordable... I saw a tasteful green box with 16 years on it that was priced comparably with other 10's and 12 year olds.  I took the box home, and rest was history.

Subject: The water of life (by Todd Carlson)

Yo Johannes! What a great site!  Thanks much.  I'm a yank (from west Michigan where we have a lot of Dutch immigrants - even a real windmill) and am looking into the world of SM Whisky as a birthday present to myself.  My dad is a big SM fan and I went through the obligatory bottle of Glenfiddich and a very plain bottle labeled "Prime Malt" (I think this is Laphroig), but that was many years ago.  I was in Scotland last may but spent more time drinking beer than Whisky. You can read all about it at

I did have a nice glass of SM at the Kildrummy Castle Hotel.  This is a fine, upscale manor overlooking the castle ruins in the Spey area. 
The whisky I selected from their menu was the hotel's own label.  I asked got the name of the distillery but unfortuantely I forgot to write it down - I presume it must have been local.  Nevertheless, I was educating myself at your website in preparation for buying my birthday bottle.  Our local shop has a reasponable selection.  I am considering Lagavulin or Macallan, as these seem to be widely regarded as among the best and are both available in my price range ($50) at our local shop.

Keep up the great work and have a drink on me.

Subject: Lagavulin DE & Summer Stuff (by Hide and Denise)

Johannes: I also managed to get hold of a Lagavulin DE Double Matured, however, mine is 1980. 
I wonder how it would compare to your 1979 DE.  There is an unmistakable sherry overtone that I cannot decide whether it adds or detracts from the 16-year old.  It certainly makes for a perfect after dinner dram (try it after a good rum raisin ice cream), much more so than the 16, but on the other hand, I find myself craving for that strong, smoky and peaty finish that's like having two pints of Guinness instead of a meal. One of my most recent acquisitions, The Balvenie 15 Single Barrel, seems to come from a particularly good cask.  Sometimes, I experience a taste 'flashback' of sorts where this particularly flavorful mix of nuts, toffee, and coconut, as my wife had suggested, haunts me in the middle of the day.

You recommended me the Ardbeg 17, and I will get to it in the fall when I feel the need for a long coat before going outside.
Speaking of malts for the seasons, for the summer, especially when the mercury exceeds 80F and if I have the craving, this is what I find preferable to sip out of very limited line of malts I have tasted:

- Glenkinchie 10
- Cragganmore 12
- Glenmorangie 10
- Bruichladdich 10

(I know this last one may be the least liked of all Islays, it does wonders with traditional American summer meal consisting of boiled lobsters and corn.)

Subject: Dalmore / Loch Dhu / Glen Deveron (by Jordan Smith)

Just the site I've been looking for!
Have been a MALTFAN about five years..... on the net a much shorter period.
My wife and I actually visited the Highlands in October 1999. My pilgrimage was to the Dalmore distillery and we made it. On the way we passed thru Muir of Ord, and the rest is history. I'm sure those guys would do a double-take if they could trace sales all the way to Raleigh, NC. Your comments on the price-performance are right on. It's about $30 US here. We second your description of Loch Dhu. Thank God the lesson cost only a glass, not a bottle.

Our paths diverge, however on the Glen Deveron. Did the bottle you tried say "1987"? Ours do here and at $26 US, I find it quite pleasant- lite but not thin, plenty of heathery spice {now that I know what heather smells like] and a nice round finish. Sorry, I'm used to winespeak descriptions. It shouldn't be too bad due to the distillery being close by the village of Pennan [of "Local Hero" fame] - the other don't miss spot on our trip. Anyway, keep up the good work.

Subject: Loch Dhu Warning (by Ed Voigtman)

Hi, Johannes! I've been visiting your site for, what, 2 years?, and it just keeps getting better and better. I enjoy most every section of your site, especially the ratings and public warnings and I just have to say this: PLEASE keep warning folks away from that horrific Loch Dhu!  I know some folks like it (!!!), but the large majority ABSOLUTELY DESPISE IT!
Even bong water is MUCH better ... (don't ask)

I especially love your tasting reports.  Your hopalong HTH comparison method is very similar to my practice: I seem to have relatively poor/undeveloped taste/smell memory, so I HTH a pair of malts and do this sequentially, e.g., Ardbeg 17 vs. Lagavulin 16, then Lag 16 vs. Laphroaig 10, Laphroaig 10 vs. Laphroaig 15, etc.  We disagree on Ardbeg 10 vs. Ardbeg 17 (I love the peaty 10, but consider the low peated 17 to be not really an Ardbeg, except legally), but that is the only serious disagreement I can find, which means that you are helping me out considerably by serving as "malt explorer point man".

So, keep up the good work, keep drinking and reporting from the front lines.
And, if you feel like lowering Loch Dhu's lofty 8 points, have at it! With a chainsaw!  ;-)

Subject: The water of life (by Joe Rankin)

My first experience of Scotch was probably 26 years ago. I thought it tasted like iodine, and went back to drinking rum and coke, black russians, and budweiser (I was in college, what can I say.) Lately I read a couple of articles about single malt, including something New Yorker writer John McPhee wrote, and thought perhaps I had been too hasty.

Over Christmas I treated myself to one of those sample packs, containing some Talisker, Craggamore, Oban, Lagavulin and others and said, hummm, I could get to like this stuff. Without doing any other research, I went out and bought a bottle of Glenfiddich special reserve (wasn't included in the sample pack, but the price of Lagavulin at $45 US scared me off.) Wish I had visited your site first. I believe you may have saved me hundreds of dollars.

Really informative site, easy to navigate, fun to read.
A toast, or three, to you. I'll be back.

Subject:  Whisky "moderation" (by David Moran)

Your site is just wonderfully useful, but readers should be warned to take comments (esp from hotheaded opinionates) with a grain of something or other. For example, it is clear you yourself are biased in favor of peaty and smoky SMWs. More power to you! But when there is sympathetic email talking about, say, how bloody awful J&B is, beginners should know it just isn't so. J&B is quite different, that's all, from many scotches. It is very light and somewhat sweet. Nothing awful about it. Just because someone favors a heavier style is no reason to dismiss something different. Same with Sheep Dip (they also made Pig's Nose!) Bad whiskies like Inverness, sure; anyone can tell that.

Tip of the day #1: The best cheap scotch in the US is one called (alas) Old Smuggler. It ain't great, sure, so no flames about it please, but it is entirely drinkable and with no major bad aspects to it, and this cannot be said about any of the other non-Scotland-bottled scotches in this country anyway. It is preferable to, say, Ballantine for some of us for everyday drinking. Bottled in the UK under a name with Cream in it, I believe.

Tip of the day #2: If you really have a bottle of blended that you are tiring of, doctor it lightly. Take a half-teaspoon or 2/3 teaspoon of bourbon and three drops of maple syrup (e.g.) and add to a half-gallon of (say) Black and White. Stir. It won't turn it into Macallan, or Famous Grouse, but it will be faintly sweeter and more complex. Try a blind (no jokes pls) tasting with it after a few days of settling. If you do the tasting blind and compare it with something good (but you don't know which is which), you will be in a for a surprise.

Reply by Johannes: I guess the 'Old Smuggler' that is sold in the US is different from the whisky that is sold in Holland under the same name. That is actually one of the worst blended whiskies I ever tasted. With your second tip we're merrily wandering off into cocktail territory, Don't get me started on that...

Subject: 700ml bottle bad - litre bottle Good!? (by Pekka Ahvalo)

Hi, I just recently discovered single malts, my first experience being Laphroaig 10yrs and I have just tasted few of them (Talisker, Highland Park 12, Oban 14...) and I do really enjoy them  - Laphroaig still being my favourite. There' s been one question hanging on air that troubles me. Since I'm from Finland, there are only 700ml bottles available in local stores and I have seen comments here on this web that 700ml bottles are not good as litre bottles. That the quality of the malt is better on litre bottles. If anyone has any comments, experiences etc. on that, Id like to know.

Thank you very much, this is a very fine web site.

Reply by Johannes: As far as I know, only 'commercial' bottlings like Macallan 12 or Bowmore 12 are available as 1 liter bottlings. I believe they were originally intended to be sold exclusively through airport/tax free shops, but over the years they have found their way to other outlets as well. By their very nature, commercial bottlings can vary over time. After all, they are 'blends' of the contents of different casks - sometimes even casks of different ages. That's why this year's Glenmorangie 10yo might be slightly different from last year's. The reported differences between 0.7, 0.75 and 1.0 liter bottles could be nothing more than these 'usual' differences between differented batches.
Any comments on this by visitors?

Subject: The waters of life I want to share with you (by Markku I Manninen)

Johannes, my man.. My exploits at a whisky bar tonight included 2cls of Caperdonich (Connoisseurs Choice, a 1968 bottling). An interesting study of wood almost killing a great malt, but if you can stand/exclude it, a mind-boggling experience. A truly complex nose and palate. It took me 20-25 mins to explore this  drop of uisge beatha. Liquorice and the famous old leather. A very thought provoking malt, this one.  Like Ben Nevis 1967, it stayed  lingering on my palate long after the fact. 85 pts.

The Bartender told me about the 15 yrs Laphroaig he'd gotten hold of. Said it was like tamed and too easy on your palate, when compared with the tenner. Still a great malt. Never tasted it myself.

M. Manninen
Helsinki, Finland

PS. my top five malts:

 1. Ben Nevis 1967
 2. the Macallan 10 yrs
 3. Laphroaig 10 yrs
 4. Old Pultenay 12yrs
 5. Highland Park 12yrs

Subject:  Canadian Whisky (by John DiMarco)

Did you know that there's a Canadian malt? I don't mean "Canadian whisky", I mean a proper barley malt whisky.  There's a distillery called Glenora in Cape Breton island, Nova Scotia, Canada, that makes the Kenloch (nas) and the just released Glen Breton (10y, I think) malt. I haven't tried them yet, though; Glen Breton was just launched this month. See

Straying from single malts for a moment, I've noticed you've tried some Canadian whiskies.  They're better than bourbon, aren't they? But there are a few things to keep in mind.  Canadian whiskies are traditionally rye-based whiskies, not corn (i.e. maize) whiskies like bourbon.  or barley malt whiskies like scotch and irish.  However, most Canadian whiskies today are not made exclusively from rye.  Instead, each distillery makes some grain alcohol using whatever grain is convenient (usually corn, but sometimes rye or wheat), filters out the taste (as if making grain vodka or commercial/medical grain alcohol), and then adds a little rye whisky for flavour.  This doesn't necessarily make a bad whisky, but personally I prefer something without corn liquor in it, however detoxified.  This is why my preferred Canadian whisky is Alberta Springs, a single-grain ten-year-old Canadian rye from Alberta Distillers in Calgary, without a drop of corn liquor in it.  It's quite soft for a Canadian whisky, some honey-like sweetness, well worth a try.

Subject: The water of life... (by Peter Norgard)

Johannes, I saw your website about 3 days ago.  I was really looking for a site like this, but biased towards rum, one of my favorites. 
Anyhow, I read your page pretty much all the way through over a couple of days and had come to the conclusion that it was time to try real whisky instead of crappy rum.  I made the commitment yesterday, went out and bought an inexpensive, but decent, bottle of smsw and tried it last night (Auchentoshan 10...long story).  I would like to thank you for pointing people like myself in this direction.

The Auchentoshan 10, while not rated high on your list, rates at the top for me, right now. 
Since my only other experience with *any* type of whisk(e)y is Jack Daniels, I have no choice but to rate it at the top. 
But it is galaxies better than American whisky.  Definately more body, complex flavor/aroma, etc.  You already knew that, though.

Again, many thanks for the wonderful website. 
Had it been any less enthusiastic aboue smsw, I would probably have not even tried any. 
Keep up the good work.

Reply by Johannes: Very good to hear I've made another convert!
Your message reminds me that I have to be careful not to get spoilt. Over the last month, I have been tasting a few single malts that I felt were disappointing (Bowmore Darkest, Inchmurrin 10), but let's not forget that almost every single malt I tried beats almost every bourbon, rum and vodka with both arms tied behind its back. That is, if a single malt would have arms. Or a back, for that matter....

Anyway... With the Auchentoshan, you've started at one of the far ends of the single malt spectrum. This malt comes from the Lowlands region, which produces the lightest whiskies. The fact that this particular malt is triple distilled (as opposed to the usual double distillation) makes for an even softer malt. But one of the things I love the most about single malts is the amazing diversity. That's why I suggest you get yourself two or three other bottles of single malt whisky before you empty the Auchentoshan. That way, you can directly compare them using different glasses at the same time. If you're on a budget, I suggest the Dalmore 12, Glen Ord 12 or Laphroaig 10. With a little more to spend, you could go for Macallan 12, Glenmorangie 10 or even Lagavulin 16. You can check my 'Best-to-Worst-List' or 'Bang-For-Your-Buck-List' for suggestions.

Subject: The water of life & Cognac (by Robert K. Liu)

Johannes, I just came back from an out of town wedding and spent 2 nights sipping single malt whiskeys with a buddy who starts to fall head over heels over smw and is starting to document his tasting experiences. I have always loved whiskies but lack the proper nose and palate for it. Because of the experiences over the weekend, I ran into your site which I think is exceptional. I do own may be a dozen whiskies, half of which are smw but really lack the knowledge to appreciate them properly. Learn something new such as a few drops of water enhances the 'nose' for example from your site. I am sure I will appreciate what I have more with the knowledge gained.

Anyways, my question is not on whiskies as it will take me a little while to digest your excellent site.
I also love cognac which I also own about a dozen different brands. So what is your opinion of cognacs? 
Do you know of equivalent sites on the subject of cognacs?
Keep up the good work.

Reply by Johannes: About 'lacking the nose and palate': I don't think you need knowledge to appreciate single malts.... Just your ordinary nose and tongue will do ;-) Has your tongue made sufficient 'mileage'? I had been drinking cognac and blended whiskies for almost 10 years before I discovered single malts, which helped me a lot. And even now my nose and tongue are gaining experience. I pick up things I would never have noticed five years ago.

I suggest the following:
Get five or six very different malts (like Auchentoshan 10, Talisker 10, Highland Park 12, Glenmorangie 10, Glen Scotia 14 and Glenfiddich) and organize a tasting session with some other whisky and/or cognac lovers. Discuss what you find in the nose and palate. I'm pretty sure you will be able to identify a lot of differences. Build on that while you taste more different malts. Making extensive notes is a good idea.

I LOVE a good Cognac or Armagnac. My favorite 'sloshing cognac' is Courvoisier VSOP - at less than 25 U$ here in Holland there are only a few whiskies that can beat it in the personal enjoyment per buck - arena. For special occasions, I like the Remy Martin XO (avoid the VS). I'm also into Calvados. I did run a site about cognac (the Cognac's Connoisseurs Connection) for a year, but almost nobody visited so I closed it down. That was over three years ago, so I'm afraid I don't know about the current cognac site situation. Try a search on Altavista, HotBot or Google, I'd say.

- - -

And these were all the 2000 articles I've managed to recover.
Here you can find a few contributions from 2001...

xxxx- - - - - - -

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