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Malt Maniacs #16

Malt Maniacs E-zine

Malt Maniacs #016

Amsterdam, The Second Time
prE-pistle #2001/10 by Klaus Everding, Germany

German malt maniac Klaus Everding dropped by in Amsterdam for some casual dramming. Well, not that casual actually; we did some heavy tasting and his fried Michael managed to find a bottle of Saint Magdalene 1979 in the UDRM series. I had owned the bottle for quite some time already but never gotten around to opening it. Thank heavens that Michael did, because that gave me the opportunity to discover my new #1 malt whisky while I still could acquire a few spare bottles for my 'reserve stock'.

The Oldest Still
prE-pistle #2001/11 by Lex Kraaijeveld, England

Professor Kraaijeveld takes a look at the long history of distillation and argues that the first stills were invented in East Asia. Interesting enough, there are similarities between the typical design of a so-called 'Mongolian Still' and the type of still that's used in Ireland to create their version of moonshine whiskey called 'poteen'.

How To Choose The Blind
prE-pistle #2001/12 by Craig Daniels, Australia

The capable nose of our Australian maniac Craig Daniels has helped him win quite a few blind tasting competitions in the past. He decided to share some of his knowledge and experience with the rest of the whisky loving world. In this E-pistle Craig explains which rules apply for choosing the blind and how you can make it a fair test.

Tasting Session on February 15, 2001
prE-pistle #2001/13 by Roman Parparov, Israel

Roman Parparov reports from one of the 'developing countries', at least when it comes to the appreciation of single malt whisky. Due to the strong theocratic tendencies in the state of Israel, local malt whisky enthusiasts might just as well be living in an islamic country.

Harlem Tasting Report 16/02/2001
prE-pistle #2001/14 by Klaus Everding, Germany

We've wrapped up this little 'special edition' of Malt Maniacs with a scattershot report from our German correspondent Kleus Everding.

Next IssuePrevious Issue

Malt Maniacs #016 - March 1, 2001
 

Some of the certified malt maniacs have been enjoying the 'aqua
vitae' that is single malt whisky for more than a decade now. I've
discovered Lagavulin 16yo in 1991 and if I'm not mistaken our
Australian maniac Craig Daniels was already happily dramming
away during the 1980's.

Over the past decade we've seen some notable changes in the
malt whisky world. For one thing, availability has improved
dramatically. During the early 1990's I used to enter an unfamiliar
liquor store wondering if they would have any single malts in stock.
These days the question isn't IF they'll have single malt whisky
available, just how many. So, all in all that's an improvement for
the average malt whisky lover. There is also a downside to this,
though... With the growing demand we're starting to see the
bottom of the 'malt whisky lake' that has been filled during the
depression of the 1980's. We've already seen the first signs of
whisky prices going up now that demand keeps growing...

Sweet drams,

Johannes van den Heuvel
Editor Malt Madness / Malt Maniacs

E-pistle #2001/10 - Amsterdam, The Second Time
Submitted on 31/01/2001 by Klaus Everding, Germany

We, that means Marlou, Michael and me, were invited by Johannes a second time for a malt-tasting.
This time on a Thursday. We didn't want to challenge our luck or pay the horrible parking fees in the city.
And we also needed a really safe parking for our car because malts for Johannes worth more then 300 Euro were packed neatly in the boot. So we parked near Johannes flat in the outskirts of Amsterdam. From Johannes' place, the city of Amsterdam is easily accessed by public transport. You can see the arena of Ajax Amsterdam and the meeting place of the Hells Angels (Dutch section) during the ride with the metro. (By his own testimony, Johannes doesn't frequent either place.)

We strolled through the city for 2 hours. Again the streets were crowded like on the Saturday in August with the big tourist attraction going on. But this time the people of Amsterdam were busy shopping and doing their regular work. Having bought a map we could identify some tourist attractions, for example the Nieuwe Kerk and  the queen's palace. Being used to Hamburg dimensions, we realized how small the old core of Amsterdam is when we reached places three times faster than we had suspected from the map.

The main tourist attraction of course is the city itself with its old houses, some beautiful, some funny, and always interspersed with water. Some streets reminded us of a set of bad teeth, crooked, old and irregular, some slanting to the left, some leaning to the right, so opening gaps in the row, and some even hanging over to the front, seeming to tumble into the ever present water. Really a funny sight!
When the hour of dusk was near we went to the bar "De Kroon" at the Rembrandt Square. This bar has a large glass front and you can watch the life on the square from above (second storey) while sipping on a drink. The cooking, too, was excellent. I can highly recommend this place when you want to give your feet a rest while you are exploring Amsterdam.

Johannes picked us up there at 18:00 PM and then we went back to his flat where all his delicious malts awaited us.
Unfortunately I had caught a real nasty cold. Nosing was impossible  and I felt a little bit weak. Very bad, - now I had only half of the fun. But this was only true from the malty point of view. I enjoyed the discussion, the jokes and Johannes' hospitality very much. Because of the bad state of my nose and taste I won't give any scores and perhaps you shouldn't take my descriptions too serious.

We started with a head to head tasting of an 8y Signatory Campbeltown 40% and the Glen Scotia 14y 40%.

Signatory Campbeltown 8y 40%
This is a relatively new bottling and both Johannes' and my liquorist say that it contains Glen Scotia. The price (~ 20 Euro) is very attractive. The malt is very pale (white wine). Tasting notes: sweet, fruits, cinnamon. Nice malt.
Glen Scotia 14y 40%
Very strange: there is no age statement on the bottle. But it must be 14y old because it is everywhere sold with that designation. The malt has the colour of full gold. Even with my bad nose I could smell something. So it must be very aromatic. I detected fruits and lilac. The taste is very balanced and pleasing: malt, toffee, fruits (pears) and sherry.
The Glen Scotia 14y is the winner of this head to head tasting. But you have to pay 10 additional Euros for it. A considerable amount of the GS 14 seems to come from sherry casks whereas the SC seems to have aged in bourbon casks.

The next distillery which we wanted to explore was Glenmorangie.
I am a great fan of the Glenmorangie 10y, a really nice malt for only 26 Euro.

Glenmorangie Cellar 13 10y 43%
This malt comes from the cellar of the warehouse which lies closest to the sea. So I expected that the fresh sea breeze which is an undertone in 10y would be more pronounced. Maybe my taste betrayed me (No, it didn't ! says Marlou) but I found that it went to the opposite direction. It tasted more speysidish: clover honey and  fruits, mint (?) and spice (pepper) still there but to a lesser degree than the 10y. Bear this in mind if you are willing to pay 6 additional Euros for that bottling.
Glenmorangie Madeira Wood Finish 43%
I was very curious about this malt because I had already tasted the port wood finish (hmm, -  very nice) and the sherry wood finish (brrr, - I want to drink a single malt, not a dry sherry). Unfortunately my nose and my taste failed completely. I could smell nothing. In the taste I could only detect sweetness and some ripe and overripe late summer fruits (no fresh apples or pears). Very sad, - I think I missed a malt which under normal conditions I would have greatly enjoyed.

I think the next malt was the wonderful Macallan 100 proof 10y 57%.
Johannes was kind and had organized a bottle for me and Michael at his liquorist because it is not available at  my whisky shop. This malt was a good benchmark for my taste buds because I had immediately fallen in love with on our first visit. Well here we had it. Shit!- the Mac only seemed to be a nice malt this time. In my mind I crossed this tasting session from my serious malt experiences.

Because our visit to Amsterdam was a special occasion Johannes allowed us to choose an unopened bottle from his reserve stock.
I left the job to Michael and he had golden fingers. He selected the St. Magdalene Rare Malts 63.8% distilled 1979 bottle 1031. St. Magdalene is or I should better say was a distillery located in the Lowlands. Nowadays some of the buildings are converted into apartments. I can only hope that an unfriendly distillery ghost haunts these lodgings to take revenge on the reprehensible fact of closing the distillery. Everybody said that this full golden malt was definitely the winner of the evening. Such a rich and wonderful aroma: flowers, fruits (plums, apricots). Always something  new to discover yet very balanced. You should read Johannes contribution to get an impression from someone who had a nose this evening. In my tasting notes a multitude of items are marked: fruity, flowery, toffee, nuts, wood, coffee. The undiluted malt can be drunken in small sips but it is more fun to enjoy it with some water. Then you can contemplate on the complex aroma without being disturbed by the high alcohol content.

Because Michael had such a lucky hand in choosing from Johannes' stocks he was allowed to pick another unopened bottle to celebrate the evening. This time it was the Dailuaine 16yo 43%, a bronze coloured Speyside malt. As the colour indicated there was a lot of sherry in the malt. Sherry, wood and earthy notes in the nose. Sherry, fruits, wood and toffee the taste, not dry at all. This malt was also a good pick but not so excellent as the St. Magdalene. (Marlou's comment: Such another would have been hardly possible! Poor Klaus, you really missed something there.)

Another malt which wanted to be tasted was the Blair Athol 12yo Flora & Fauna edition 43%. The nose of the amber coloured malt from the Midlands reminded me of the Macallan, damp dark notes of ripe and more than ripe notes. The taste lacked a distinct expression. There was some citrus and some toffee. Nothing very pronounced.

The other malts of the evening:
I tried a Talisker 10yo and let Johannes confirm that this was a real Talisker. I think I like it and I will buy a bottle here at home because it is reasonable priced (less than 30 Euro for the 0.7 l bottle). For medical reasons (so much peat!) I had a Lagavulin 16yo. A Tomintoul 12yo from Speyside out of a bottle which looked like an expensive bathing essence container was served. Then I tried Johannes "torture" malts. The Tobermory 10yo from Mull was not so bad and the Glenesk from the eastern Highlands which gets considerable low scores from Michael Jackson didn't scare me. I guess I was in a state where even Loch Dhu, Johannes most "cruel" malt, would have gone down my throat.

We all enjoyed our second visit at Amsterdam very much, even though Johannes and I had to pay the bill for our exuberant malt consumption. Back at home I went immediately to bed and had learnt that oral administration of alcohol does not help against viruses. Johannes, who had to get through the day at his job, also had a big hangover. But as we say in Germany and in the Netherlands: "Shared misery is half the misery, shared joy is double the fun". We now hope that Johannes will some day come to visit us at Hamburg so that we can have a lot of fun again and I think then we can do without the misery.

Klaus Everding, Germany
 

E-pistle #2001/11 - The Oldest Still
Submitted by Lex Kraaijeveld, England

The oldest known still design used for distilling alcoholic spirits comes from East Asia and is usually called the "Mongolian" still.
In such a still, alcoholic vapours rise from the fire-heated mash in the still body until they reach the lid. The lid is kept cool with water and causes the vapours to condense on the underside of the lid; because of the lid's convex shape the spirit trickles down into a bowl on a perforated shelf.

A bronze still of this design is known from China as far back in time as the Eastern Han period (25-220 AD). Experiments with this still have produced a spirit with 26% alcohol, but there is no solid proof that it was actually used for alcohol distillation that long ago. "Mongolian" stills are used up to the present day, for instance by Central Asian people for distilling a spirit from fermented mare's milk; snow is sometimes used for cooling!

The principal difference between "Mongolian" stills and the pot stills used for distilling whisky and other spirits in the West is where the spirit is condensed: inside or outside the still body. Western pot still design ultimately goes back to the "Hellenistic" stills of the Alexandrian chemists and it seems that Western and Eastern still designs evolved independently from each other (or rather, there is no real evidence to suggest otherwise).

Now keep in mind how a "Mongolian" still works and read this description of an Irish poteen still, 'captured' earlier this century:

A kettle was partly filled with the fermented liquor and a pint mug placed inside it (presumably on some support to lift it from the bottom);
the spout of the kettle was then sealed or corked and its lid turned upside down so that the knob hung above the mug and cold water could be added to the hollow of the lid. Thus the vapours condensed on the under surface of the lid and the concentrated alcohol dripped into the mug.

Had whoever made and used this poteen still any knowledge of Asian still types?
Not very likely, I would think, so it seems that this Irish poteen distiller added his or her common sense to a bit of trial-and-error and
re-invented the "Mongolian" still!

Lex Kraaijeveld, England
 

E-pistle #2001/12 - How To Choose The Blind
Submitted on 05/02/2001 by Craig Daniels, Australia

As I was the first to correctly identify the blind at the Earls of Zetland tasting in January, I get to bring one this month.
A lot of people, when confronted with this task for the first time always ask me two questions. Firstly what are the rules for choosing the blind and secondly how do you make it a fair test? To this end I have included my thoughts on these two matters of import.

HOW TO CHOOSE THE BLIND AND MORE IMPORTANTLY HOW TO HIDE IT.

The rule for choosing the blind is fairly straightforward. The Club must have tasted the exact same whisky on at least one occasion in the last three years, but for ease of calculation, we stretch that to the last 36 meetings. Now there is the odd occasion when the blind bringer doesn't adhere to this Rule and someone invariably gets it right but at the philosophical heart of the rule is fairness; the members should have a chance based on previous experience in the club environs. To get a list of all the malts the club had tasted you can contact Bob for an up to date list or I have one that is current to January 2001. Now if we take the last 36 meetings including blinds and including the Christmas shows (back to 27 August 1997) this gives us a total of 140 spirits (not all of the stuff we have drunk in the last three years (6 in fact) has been Single Malt Whisky) to choose from. Some of these may not be obtainable due to rarity or being bought in from O/S (roughly 18) and some will have been tasted more than once (18 duplicates accounting for 42 out of the 140) but it leaves a solid working list of about 80.

The blind can be any one of the spirits on that list of 80. Now the list you prepare to try and make working out the blind a true test of malt scholarship should but doesn't have to follow the same rule, but the list should include only those whiskies that the club has tasted somewhere in its history.

How do you make it a fair test, not too easy and not too hard? You can do it any way you like, but for what it's worth this is my way. My method owes a little to multiple choice questionnaires and a little to David Wishart's Clustan Cluster Analysis. I've reproduced the guts of this analysis in a separate paper attached to this Newsletter. Now there are some omissions and a couple of glaring 'clangers' in his groupings, relying on 'expert' tasting notes as he does, but it is interesting how few I would take serious issue with. Anyway, I find it much more useful than Michael Jackson or Charles MacLean to compose my Blind Lists.

OK to use an example that complies with all the information above say the blind you have chosen is Strathisla 12 (tasted four other times since being a blind in October 1997). How would I come up with a fair list? Firstly (using the modified multiple choice methodology you want 2 obviously wrong answers, three unlikely answers and 3 strong possibilities, one of which is correct). Going to Dr Wishart's cluster analysis, Strathisla sits in Group G with 9 other malts (Glen Keith, Aultmore, Glenmorangie, Old Fettercairn, Auchentoshan, Bladnoch, Glen Garioch, Tobermory and Inchmurrin). Now of these, the club has tried Glenmorangie Sherry 12 and Tobermory in the last 3 years and Aultmore 12 and Glen Keith 1983 in the last 4 years.

Now from experience I reckon that Tobermory and Aultmore are the least like Strathisla so I'd leave them out. So the three strong possibilities are Strathisla, 12, Glenmorangie Sherry 12 and Glen Keith 1983. Now we turn to the definitely not pair. OK this is the easy part. Strathisla has appreciable sherry wood with fruity notes and a hint of earthy peat. So going back to Dr Wishart's tables, let's find some that are the antithesis of sherry, fruit and earthy peat and the two groups that are farthest from Strathisla are Glengoyne at one end and the peat monsters at the other. The club has tasted Glengoyne 10, Talisker 10, Lagavulin 16 and Laphroaig 10 in the last three years so because Lagavulin and Laphroaig are too easy in this group the 'no way known it could be' pair is Glengoyne 10 and Talisker 10. Now for the maybe trio; just about anything from Clusters E, F and H would fit the bill and the ones that are closest without being too like Strathisla 12 (and we have tasted them in the last 3 years) are Royal Brackla 14, An Cnoc 12 and Cragganmore 12. So there's the list to hide Strathisla 12 and to make it a fair test. In alphabetical order the list would be An Cnoc 12, Cragganmore 12, Glengoyne 10, Glen Keith 1983, Glenmorangie 12 Sherrywood, Royal Brackla 14, Strathisla 12 and Talisker 10.

I have followed this methodology to come up with list to hide February's blind.
 

THE CLASSIFICATION OF MALT WHISKY – OR HOW TO HIDE THE BLIND

After reading an article about a scholarly paper entitled "Classifying Single Malt Whiskies Using Cluster Analysis", read to the British Classification Society Annual Conference by Dr David Wishart including the groupings he ended up with I decided that his classification provided an excellent tool for putting together the list of possibles for a blind malt to be presented at Club meetings and that his classification could be used to good effect by experienced as well as novice tasters. His tool, being based on similarities across vectors such as sweetness, fruitiness, peatiness throws up some interesting clusters, but is ultimately more sophisticated (and useful from identification purposes), than classification systems based primarily on geographical areas.

The following owes a lot to Dr Wishart and Charles MacLean, the majority of the content being extracted from the Scotch Malt Whisky Society of America Summer 98 Edition.

Traditional Classification & the push for more meaningful sub divisions.

Classification was not a problem in the old days: the division, for fiscal and other purposes was simply Highland/Lowland (ie distilleries above and below the Highland Line, an imaginary frontier introduced in 1784, which stretched approximately from Dumbarton to Dundee). By the late 19th Century three further 'Whisky Regions' were recognised: Campbeltown, Islay and Glenlivet - the latter approximating to our Speyside. This simple division was all that was required by blenders who divide Highland malts into 'Top', 'First' 'Second' and 'Third Class' for blending purposes - broadly speaking the dozen 'Top Class' malts (all Speysides) being used as 'top dressings' in a blend, and the 'Third Class' malts tending to be considered as useful 'fillers'.

Geographical Classification & Increasing Sophistication in sub-regional groupings

But with the rise in interest in single malts during the 1980s, distillery owners, consumers and writers began to look more closely at regional classifications. Especially they - we - were interested in ways in which individual regions might be considered to bestow regional 'styles' or 'character' to the malts made there. Professor RJS McDowell (The Whiskies of Scotland) had' divided the Highlands into 'The Glenlivets and their like' 'Dufftown', 'Northern' and 'Island' as early as 1968, but it was not until Wallace Milroy (Malt Whisky Almanac, 1986) that sub-division really got underway, quickly brought to geographical sophistication by Michael Jackson (The World Guide to Malt Whisky, 1987). Milroy divided the Highland Region into Northern, Southern, Eastern, Western, Speyside, Islands and Orkney. Jackson followed this, but called the 'Southern Highlands' 'The Midlands', and subclassified Speyside according to its main rivers, viz: the Findhorn, the Lossie, the Upper Spey, the Lower Spey, the Livet, the Fiddich and the Dullan, Strathisla, the Bogie and the Deveron. A simplified version of this classification of Speyside by rivers has long been used by The Society Spey, Lossie, Deveron and Findhorn.

But is it really helpful? As Tim Fiddler says, "... I am not keen on the obsession with river valleys. Process water almost invariably comes from springs, not always adjacent to the distillery". Inter alia he proposes an interesting new classification for Speysides.

A New Classification for Speyside by Tim Fiddler;
"Classification begins with geography; coincidence of characteristics is merely a bonus... It has to be admitted that Speyside has style on its side. It also has numbers, and the trouble is that as a classification it is unwieldy. Even if the malts of the Lossie, Deveron, Findhorn and Nairn valleys are subtracted, that still leaves 36 malts. A closer examination is not as easy as it is in, say Islay, with a sensible eight. For the purposes of differentiation and comparison it helps to have groups of moderate, proportionate size. Although 'Greater Speyside' could be considered to extend over a thousand square miles, the distilleries are huddled together in groups. Two reasonably-sized groups can be formed from those on the banks of the Spey; I call these the 'Banffshire Bank' and the 'Morayshire Bank'. The towns in the district provide another four: 'Rothes' 'Dufftown' 'Elgin' and 'Keith'. 'Mere is a group of 'Coastal' distilleries, and a group of 'Up-land' distilleries further inland. The groups vary in size from five to nine, and are therefore in proportion to other regional groupings. I find that this enhances my discernment and appreciation of the wide variety of Speyside malts."

Geography & Familial flavour/style profiles

Prompted by an invitation to a presentation of the 100 whiskies which go into the vatted malt, Chivas Century, Charles Maclean recorded the procedures used in creating the vatting by Chivas Brother's Master Blender, Colin Scott. He arranged his malts geographically as follows: North Speyside (28 malts, including those from Elgin, Keith, Rothes and 'The Coast'), South Speyside (25 malts, including the products of Dufftown, 'The Banffshire' and 'Morayshire Banks' and 'Up-land Speyside'), North Highlands (14 malts, including the North-eastern malts), South Highlands (15 malts, including those from the West, South, South-east and Central Highlands) and 'The Rest' (18 malts from Campbeltown, Lowlands, Islands, Islay. These were actually vatted separately in the creation of Century). Although this arrangement was geographical, it was possible to detect family resemblances, even in broad districts such as the North and South Highlands and Speyside. The Southern Highlanders were marginally heavier, fruitier and more intense than their heathery northern cousins, while the Northern Speysides were firmer, sweeter and more aromatic than the Southern Speyside malts, which we generally found more cereal-like. Clearly, classification by character, style or flavour is more useful to the consumer than mere geographical grouping, and although regional characteristics are familiar to us, we all know how difficult it is to place some malts - especially when they are drawn from a single cask.

Classification by Clustering

The third approach to classification abandons geography altogether, and seeks to group malt whiskies by aroma/flavour alone. Dr Wishart, a designer of statistical software, has used a statistical method known as 'cluster analysis' to classify malt whiskies. Although originally developed for studies in biological taxonomy, cluster analysis can also be used for market analysis. Dr Wishart's classification, which I have attached to this article, is provisional and on-going. He is keen to have your comments on his findings to date, so please let us know your views and we will pass them on to him.

How it works is this. Dr Wishart analysed the descriptive terms used in eight current books to describe 85 readily available single malts in proprietary bottlings at around 10 years old. A vocabulary of some 800 aromatic and taste descriptors was compiled. These words were then bundled into a number of flavour/aroma groups: sweet, peaty, smoky, medicinal, honeyed, spicy, sherried, nutty, cereally, fruity, floral. Each of the 85 malts was 'consensus coded' (2 where a majority of authors agreed, 1 where a minority agreed, 0 otherwise) according to the number of times a descriptor was applied to it. Using his Clustan software, Dr Wishart then classified the 85 malts into "clusters" each having broadly similar taste characteristics. The result is what is called a 'hierarchical classification tree' in which the 85 malts have been ordered and classed into a kind of taxonomy of malt whisky based on their flavours and aromas. Dr Wishart then examined - somewhat arbitrarily - the division of this tree into 10 groups of whiskies plus one singleton (see attached list).

Although you may be surprised to find, for example, Knockando and Glen Grant clustered with The Macallan and Springbank, or Glenkinchie lumped with Highland Park, the methodology is interesting and the findings potentially of great value to the consumer who continually asks: "If I like Clynelish (etc) what others will I like?" But to obtain more meaningful clusters, the language of whisky tasting must be more rigorous, the descriptors more narrowly defined. I wrote to Dr Wishart when I first heard of his research pointing out the variations - even contradictions and inaccuracies - to be found in the tasting notes supplied in the eight books, including my own, which provided him with his vocabulary. I wonder what his clusters would look like if he used the highly imaginative descriptors employed by The Society Nosing Panel?
 

A CLASSIFICATION of EIGHTY FIVE SINGLE MALT WHISKIES
Using Clustan Analysis by Dr David Wishart

Cluster A
Medium-sweet unpeated with spicy nutty fruity notes (1 only)
Glengoyne

Cluster B
Sweet low-peat with spicy fruity floral main (18 malts)
Speyburn, Miltonduff, Tormore, The Edradour, Balblair, Craigallachie, Deanston, Glentauchers, Glenallachie, Benriach, Glen Moray, Inchgower, Glenlossie, Glenturret, Tomintoul, Glen Deveron, Benromach, Aberlour

Cluster C
Sweet low-peat with smoky spicy sherried nutty fruity floral notes (8 malts)
Glen Spay, Glen Grant, Knockando, The Macallan, Glencadam, Longmorn, Springbank, Scapa

Cluster D
Sweet low-peat. with spicy sherried fruity floral notes (3 malts)
Balvenie, The Glenlivet, Glendullan

Cluster E
Sweet medium-peat with smoky spicy sherried fruity notes (12 malts)
Caperdonich, Tamdhu, Benrinnes, The Singleton, Glen Rothes, Royal Lochnagar, Glenfarclas, Balmenach, Mortlach, Linkwood, Glen Ord, The Dalmore

Cluster F
Sweet medium-peat with smoky honeyed fruity floral notes (6 malts)
Dufftown, Glen Elgin, Dalwhinnie Glenfiddich, Teaninich, Royal Brackla

Cluster G
Medium-sweet medium-peat with smoky fruity floral notes (10 malts)
Glen Keith, Aultmore, Strathisla, Glenmorangie, Old Fettercairn, Auchentoshan, Bladnoch, Glen Garioch, Tobermory, Inchmurrin

Cluster H
Sweet peaty with smoky spicy fruity flora notes (8 malts)
Tomatin, Blair Atholl, Ardmore, Cardhu, Aberfeldy, An Cnoc, Cragganmore, Imperial

Cluster I
Medium-sweet peaty with smoky spicy fruity notes (7 malts)
Ben Nevis, The Glendronach, Loch Dhu, Dailuaine, Oban, Old Pulteney, Clynelish

Cluster J
Dry very peated with smoky spicy floral notes (7 malts)
Bunnahabhain, Bruichladdich, Glenkinchie, Highland Park, Ledaig, Isle of Jura, Bowmore

Cluster K
Dry very peated with smoky spicy medicinal notes (5 malts)
Caol Ila, Talisker, Lagavulin, Laphroaig, Ardbeg

Craig
 

E-pistle #2001/13 - Tasting Session on February 15, 2001
Submitted on 16/02/2001 by Roman Parparov, Israel

On the table:
Lagavulin 16
Glenlivet 15
Dalwhinnie 15
Glenmorangie Port Wood Finish
Highland Park 12
Glenfarclas 12
Laphroaig 10

Continuing the research on the malts I brought from Eastern Europe, I organized a tasting session with my friends in which took altogether five people - one of them relatively advanced malt consumer (for Israel, which means he did taste 5-7 malts before) [Alex 1], one a beginner [Alex 2] and two total newbies [Mike 1 and Mike 2].

Lagavulin 16yo was tasted by two newbies only - I've been regularly having my drams of it and two other guys already tasted it and wanted something new. Mike 1 nearly choked on it - he was unprepared and it was too intensive for him, but the other one was extremely impressed by both the smell and the taste of it. I must add to that my experiences from that bottle have been extremely pleasant ones. So the rating of 96 stands.

Glenlivet 15yo was tasted by me, Alex 1, Alex 2 and Mike 2. A very profound drink. First, the sharp malt reveals itself and then when the mouth gets adjusted to it, a lot of new flavors show up - just as I wrote before, orange candy in the beginning, then chocolate and mint with a hint of bitterness later. Tasting it without smoking a pipe didn't cause much afterburn. Rating - a strong 85 and I will be trying to dilute it next week.

Dalwhinnie 15yo was tasted by me, Alex 2 and Mike 1. A gentle malt. It fit nicely for Mike 1 that was hit by Lagavulin before. Smell - sweet and sour, very friendly. Freshness in the nose and in the taste. Fruits, not too complex. Unchallenging, I'd think it is 40%. Very convenient bottle. Rating of 74.

Glenmorangie Port Wood Finish - tasted by me, Alex 1 and Alex 2. The most complex malt of the listed, IMHO. The nose - elements of cognac, sweet and sour, but challenging. Pity, I tasted the GM10 about a year ago and can't really compare the experiences. There are similarities between it and the Glenlivet 15, but this one is sharper. Minty, aggressive, with a bit of mint. Rating of 84.

Highland Park 12yo - the malt of the evening (there was little left in the bottle, so everyone took a dram of it to finish it off). This malt had a lot of time to breath and I wasn't expecting too much to be kept from the smell. Yet what was left still was very remarkable. A peaty, smoky background and a sweet font. Taste - a wonderful balance of sweetness with a hint of salt. Alex 1 in the beginning was not impressed with it, but after going through about a half of a dram he changed his mind and even went for
an additional dram. Rating goes up to 87.

Glenfarclas 12yo - untouched. This bottle uses a metal cap and not a cork and it already reduces it attractiveness... I had two drams of it until now, not too impressive. Still a lot to explore, though.

Laphroaig 10yo - tasted by me, Alex 1 and Mike 2. Great stuff!
Mixture of everything from Islay and more. Peat, iodine, sweetness. In the taste it all mingles together into a pattern. Still, the iodine a bit too characteristic for me, a stronger one than in Lagavulin. Still, it is not the "medicine-like" Bowmore 12. A solid 85 from me, just as pleasant as Glenlivet 15, but for entirely different part of the spectre.

The summaries of the other tasters:

Alex 1: 1) Glenlivet 15, 2) Highland Park 12, 3) Glenmorangie PWF, 4) Laphroaig 10
Alex 2: 1) Glenmorangie PWF, 2) Glenlivet 15, 3) Highland Park 12, 4) Dalwhinnie 15
Mike 1: 1) Highland Park 12, 2) Dalwhinnie 15, 3) Lagavulin 16
Mike 2: 1) Laphroaig 10, 2) Lagavulin 16, 3) Highland Park 12, 4) Glenlivet 15

So, as you see, the opinions are very different.

Roman
 

E-pistle #2001/14 - Harlem Tasting Report 16/02/2001
Submitted on 17/02/2001 by Klaus Everding, Germany

Hello everybody, here comes a short report from my single malt tasting club Harlem latest session. We tried Glen Garioch 15 y 43%, Ardbeg 17y 40%, Caol Ila 15y UD Flora& Fauna 43% and Bowmore c/s 56% to verify our earlier impressions.

- The nose of the Glen Garioch 15 which had rested several month peaceful in an half empty bottle had improved. I was surprised by a very  flowery note  which had not been there before. The aroma of smoke dried ham  was still there. But the whole scenery was more balanced. No changes in the taste. My rating goes up to 76 points because of the improved nose.

- Ardbeg 17. The new bottle of Ardbeg 17 is still a problem for me.  The malt in this bottle lacks the time delayed taste development. Fruity and sheried notes which I rembered being present at the start and in the middle play had also vanished. I detected new smoky phenolic notes combined with a hint of molasse sweetness in the finish which reminds me of the Ardbeg 10y. Very strange - can a malt change so much with the years? Or have they increased the number of bourbon casks and decreased the number of sherry casks for the composition of this malt?  I will have to try another bottle to verify my impression. If this new style is reproducible I will have to subtract some points from the score of  my beloved Ardbeg 17. Very sad.

- Caol Ila 15y (UD Flora&Fauna): no changes.
One of the weaker expressions from Caol Ila distillery I have tried, but still a good malt.

- Bowmore c/s no changes in 10 months.
Still the wild peaty and smoky animal.

And now come the ratings for three new malts which I can highly recommend:

Glen Farclas Edition No. 6 James Watt (distilled 1978 bottled 2000 59.8%).
The malt rests in a nice wooden box, but the look of the bottle is really a shame.
Just a standard whisky bottle with an more or less ugly label. The colour of the malt is old gold. No caramel present to influencethe hue.
Nose: Whow! What a great nose! An interesting and manifold bouquet. Fresh and fruity, caramel, sherry, nuts, dried fruits, raisins. Very balanced. I could place my nose above the glas and sniff for at least 10 minutes. Dilution of the malt with water to 40% weakens the bouquet
Taste: Even though the malt has 59.8% alcohol strength it is good to drink. It doesn't burn too much. After the wonderful nose the taste is somehow disappointing: no sharp edges, citrus, toffee, fruity not too sweet, no wood (even after 22 years in the cask) and hints of smoke. Somewhere in the middle I detected a sour note. The aftertaste doesn't last too long. I wouldn't recommend to add water to the malt because even in c/s the taste is not very powerful.
Score: This is a malt is excellent when you have a good nosing day. If you mainly rely on the taste, well it's above average but nothing great. 86 temporary points. The malt cost only 59 Euro. Considering the cask strength, the fact that it is a single bottle numbered edition and the wooden box in which it is delivered and the excellent nose this malt is really highly recommendable.

Caol Ila Mackillops Choice (distilled 89 bottled 99 43%).
The pale malt comes in a standard whisky bottle which is placed in a wood imitation cardboard box.
Nose: fresh moss and grass accompanied by smoke, tar and peat. The fresh note is less intense than the other Caol Ilas I know.
Taste: peat and tary penolic smoke, charcoal combined with a hint of molasse sweetness.
This malt seems to be the child of Lagavulin 16y and Laphroaig 10y. Very good for such a young malt. Long finish.
Score: 91 points. This means I rate it one point above the Laphroaig 10y. Maybe because I won't get this malt in the next year.
It is from a single cask. Reasonably priced with 38 Euro. It is my second bottle in the half year since I know this malt. I had to argue a lot with Johannes until he put the MacKillops Choice Caol Ila on his shopping list for my visit at Amsterdam. I hope he will enjoy this malt too.

Directors Laudable Selection Old Malt Cask 1985 15y 50% (Laphroaig).
The pale malt comes in a standard  Whisky bottle with nice label.  It is placed in a nice eight cornerd cardboard box.
Allied Distillers doesn't allow to trade this malt under the term Laphroaig.
Nose: fresh mossy and grassy green notes. Phenol and tar notes barely detectable. The nose reminds me of Caol Ila.
Taste: Whow! What a punch in the belly. Have I gulped radioactive waste products? The 50% alcohol male my stomach burn.
And then comes the taste: Tar, phenol, smoke to the extreme and a hint of molasse sweetness.  No half measures.
Even after half an hour I get reprises of this uncompromising taste.
Score: This is a heavy duty malt for real men. Love it or leave it! You can't compare it with the tame 15y distillery edition. There are no fruity notes, no mint, no toffee. This malt has learnt nothing in the 15 years in the cask.  Instead the brute force which is present in the 10y distillery edition has increased to hurrican strength. I give it 96 temporary points which is the best rating I have ever given to a malt. (Could it be because the weather was really rainy and cold?) Too bad that you have to pay more than 60 Euros for this extraordinary malt. I can have the threefold amount of Laphroaig 10y for that money.

Klaus
 

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Malt Maniacs Issue 016 - Malt whisky writings for 2001

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