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Malt Maniacs #19

Malt Maniacs #019 - August 1, 2001
 

During the early years of the 'Vox Populi' forum, most of the longer messages were posted by just a handful of malt whisky lovers. But last year the number of regular contributors rose considerably, and this year we needed no less than 10 'issues' to publish just the highlights from the messages that we've manage to rescue after an earlier website crash.

We still have a few issues of 'prE-pistles' to go; articles that were mostly published on the old Malt Madness website. However, starting with issue #25 in 2002 we became a genuine malt whisky E-zine. Or rather, the amateur version of a proper E-zine...

We decided to reconstruct this 'prehistoric' part of Malt Maniacs because they provide an interesting historical perspective on the evolution of the (malt) whisky world in general and our little group of whisky lovers in particular. Besides, the blood, sweat and tears that were spilled producing the text would have been in vain if all of those articles would have been lost in time.

Articles like that on the first American whisk(e)y - which probably wasn't whisk(e)y according to Lex. Or the report by Davin about his recent world trip, which produced tasting notes on no less than 30 new whiskies. Some of them are so exotic that no other malt maniac has tried them (yet), so they won't appear on the matrix in the foreseeable future.

Speaking of the matrix - the overview of all whiskies that were tasted and scored by at least 3 maniacs is growing steadily.
HNot as steadily as it could be growing though, we've decided that we will only include SINGLE MALT whisky for now.

Sweet drams,

Johannes van den Heuvel
Editor Malt Madness / Malt Maniacs

Malt Maniacs E-zine

Malt Maniacs #019

Earls of Zetland; Bourbon Peat Monsters
prE-pistle #2001/35 by Craig Daniels, Australia

Craig's Australian whisky club pitted a Longrow 10yo (a Campbeltown malt whisky) against three peat monsters from the isle of Islay.

The Victorian Whisky Capital of Scotland
prE-pistle #2001/36 by Lex Kraaijeveld, England

Our resident professor of Xenomaltology takes a closer look at the history of Scotland's smallest malt whisky region; Campbeltown.

Cask Strength Vintage Highland Malts
prE-pistle #2001/37 by Craig Daniels, Australia

Another tasting report from down-under.

MM Inter-continental Tasting Event
prE-pistle #2001/38 by Louis Perlman, USA

Quite a few malt maniacs appear to be enthusiastic global travellers. This time, Roman Parparov hopped from Israel to New York.

The First American Whisk(e)y
prE-pistle #2001/39 by Lex Kraaijeveld, UK

What was the very first spirit from American soil? As Lex explains, it was probably not whiskey, brandy or applejack - but tequila.

Impression of a Major Tasting with Louis
prE-pistle #2001/40 by Roman Parparov, Israel

After Louis presented his side of the story, Roman himself reports on his recent whisky tasting trip to New York, USA.

Glenfiddich Australian Championships
prE-pistle #2001/41 by Craig Daniels, Australia

The Earls of Zetland monopolised the prizes, appartently.

Whisky on Jersey
prE-pistle #2001/42 by Lex Kraaijeveld, UK 

Interestingly enough, the small British island of Jersey had quite a few distillers operating during the 19th century. Lex tells us more...

Yes, I Still Drink Whisky!
prE-pistle #2001/43 by Davin de Kergommeaux

The world-wide travels of Davin enable him to sample a wide variety of (sometimes exotic) whiskies. After his latest trip, Davin could add tasting notes for 30 new whiskies to his little black book.

Close Encounters of the malty kind
prE-pistle #2001/44 by Klaus Everding, Germany

It's interesting to see how some of the more 'junior' maniacs still have difficulty with coming up with scores for the whisky they taste.

Previous Issue

E-pistle #2001/35 - Bourbon Peat Monsters
Submitted on 21/06/2001 by Craig Daniels, Australia

Greetings to all fellow whisky enthusiasts, its...

THE ALMOST (BUT NOT QUITE) ALL ISLAY NIGHT!

Superior malts from the West Coast, form Caol Ila, Laphroaig and including the rare and expensive Longrow 10. 
Longrow is included as an honorary Islay as its peating levels approach the serious levels between Bowmore and Laphroaig.  Actually if you liked the Clynelish 24 and can imagine a marriage of the Clynelish and Laphroaig, you've got the profile of the Longrow tagged pretty well. The Islay night is always popular and rightly so as they are the whiskies that provide the essential distinction between Scotch and other spirits. Come along and see why Islays hold so many of us enthralled or if you are already acquainted with the tarry intensities of Islays, come along and get re-acquainted.

May was a mighty BIG month with the two club meetings and the Millennium Malt Convocation thrown in.  The Islay Night on 30 May was another beauty.  For those of you who trust my judgement, the G&M CC Caol Ila 1984 16 is well worth chasing down, especially if you like your Islays with a touch of cherry/sherry and almost Speyside 'candy' refinement. We've been practising hard for the National Malt tasting Competition 2001 on 24 June 2001 in Earls Tavern.  Based on what we've discovered in the last few weeks, there are some extremely good whiskies out there, representing excellent value for money, in the $50-65 range.  Tasting whiskies masked when you're not sure what they are sure helps sort the interesting and acceptable from the boring, bland and overrated.  Longmorn 15, Glendronach 15, Bunnahabhain 12 and Cragganmore 12 are very impressive and Glenfarclas 10 and Cardhu 12 are better than they used to be.

BTW tried the Bowmore 30 Sea Dragon for the first time last night. The colour was a bright, lambent and limpid orange with gold highlights. Lots of sherry over the tropical fruit and the vine leaf sappiness, but the smoke and passionfruit shine through after 10".  there's a lemonade spritzig in the nose that's enchanting.  Sweeter than the 17, more intense than the 21 and less bubblegum fruity than the 25.
Yum, yum, yum, yummmmmm!

May 30, 2001 - Report Card
"BOURBON PEAt MONSTERS"

May was huge and the (Almost) All Islay Night was a fitting send-off to a BIG malt month.  Islay malts are the Comfort Food of the Single Malt world: warm and hearty and smelling of autumn leaves and the sea and are thus regularly mandated on the club's malt agenda.  This meeting was very well attended with 19 showing up and what's more the whiskies lived up to the collective anticipation.  It was another night where I rated them all at 8.0 or better.  The Blind was tricky because Bob Reid was very naughty and broke all the rules; not only hadn't we tried that particular whisky in the last three years, additionally we hadn't tried anything from that distillery (as a club) in the last 8 years.  We've only ever had anything from Ardbeg on 6 occasions and the last of them was in 1993). Bob, all is forgiven as any Ardbeg is an adventure, although I must admit that approaching it without knowing its identity that it had a lot more in common with Bowmore and Bruichladdich than anything from the seriously hairy-chested brigade.  Of course he couldn't fool everybody:  Bob Perry got it right!

Longrow 10 -  My affection for this whisky grows with every re-acquaintance. There's something approachable about it that is endearing.  The nose is very clean with fresh sawn pine and sandalwood notes, then the sterile bandages and a faint hint of peanuts and peanut brittle.  The gauze and bandages get stronger in the nose over time and there's a faint hint of hot plastic as well.  Overall impression is of good bourbon wood and a healthy amount of peat.  In April I opined that the flavour profile was "a marriage of Clynelish and Laphroaig", but the more I nose it the more it comes across as a melding of Caol Ila & Clynelish.  How do you tell a pretend Islay from the real thing? It's like that Brora that was made from malt kilned at Caol Ila.  I suspect that very few people on the planet would pick it as anything but an Islay.  Really is a good, clean and gutsy whisky.  Score 8.3

Laphroaig 10 - There's something dark and brooding about the 'froig.  It's from murkier climes than the Longrow  with dank, dark forest floor, mouldering leaves, smudge pots and roasting flesh, then burning leaves, tar and old hemp.  The palate is true to the nose with the garden bonfires reprising throughout.  There's something comforting and reassuring about the dark smouldering resonances in the Laphroaig  Score 8.5

Caol Ila 1984 16 G&M CC - A wonderful surprise and easily my favourite on the night.  This one reinforces my regard for the people from Gordon & MacPhail who choose the barrels from Caol Ila.  I've never had a bad Caol Ila from G&M and this one is top shelf.  Lovely sweet nose with cherries and turkish delight, a hint of sappy leaves and a whiff of smoke and big burning leaves in the palate.  The best traits of all the Islays nicely melded in one dram.  The smokiness hangs around and it even develops a hint of gunpowder in the tail.  The cherries and rosewater suggest a touch of sherrywood but I might be mistaken.  Seriously good.  Score 8.8

The Blind: Ardbeg 1978 22 G&M CC 40% - Bob ("Tricky") Reid brought the blind.  For a long time I struggled to find any peat at all, but it came out after 20 + minutes.  Of the ones on the list that I'd tasted before, I knew it didn't have enough peat (or spirit) to be either Bowmore 18 or Talisker 19 and I knew it had too much of the island bourbon character to be Strathisla 12 or Oban 14.  That elimination process left Ardbeg 1978, Bruichladdich 10 and Old Pulteney 14.  Didn't have any bitter herbs so that dispatched Pulteney, so I went for the Bruichladdich 10 as I did find some light fudge & honey biscuits and some slight plastic and play dough notes.   In the finish it could've been Ardbeg, but I couldn't find enough peat to be true to type.  Score 8.0

Craig Daniels, Australia
 

E-pistle #2001/36 - The Victorian Whisky Capital of Scotland
Submitted by Lex Kraaijeveld, England

No one will disagree with me when I call Campbeltown the Victorian whisky capital of Scotland.
At the peak of its glory it certainly had the highest number of distilleries per square mile anywhere in Scotland. But before Campbeltown developed into this whisky capital, a lot of illicit whisky was distilled, not only in and around the town, but all over the Kintyre peninsula.
 
The account books of Robert Armour, plumber and coppersmith in Campbeltown, give a real taste of illicit distilling in the area. The preserved books cover the period from 1811 to 1817, which is just before the onset of the whisky boom in the town. Robert Armour made new stills for anyone who wanted one, legal or illicit, and repaired them when necessary. In his 'Still Books' he kept meticulous notes of all his transactions, listing names, amounts of materials used and money paid; entries were mostly scored out when the transaction was completed.
 
His customers were not only from Campbeltown, but throughout virtually the whole Kintyre peninsula, from Southend in the south to as far north as Clachan; in addition, he had customers on Gigha and along the southwest coast of Arran. A complete new copper still of about 10 gallons capacity cost just under £5; occasionally, in one case to oblige a widow, he would manufacture a tin still, with a head and worm of copper, for a price of £1 15s. The total value of materials used and work done in the period of 1811-1817 adds up to over £2,000, giving him an average annual turnover of about £350.
 
Robert Armour's 'Still Books' alone would already take an unrivalled place in Scotland's distilling heritage, but there is even more. Several account books of John Colville, one of Campbeltown's maltsters, have been preserved as well. Two of these books, covering the periods 1814-1819 and 1823-1826 show transactions with distillers. It is interesting that both the 'Still Books' and the 'Malt Books' list a substantial proportion of female customers; a nice illustration of the involvement of women in distilling in those days.
 
Together, Robert Armour's 'Still Books' and John Colville's 'Malt Books' offer an absolutely unique view on whisky distilling in the early 19th century.

Lex Kraaijeveld, UK
 

E-pistle #2001/37 - Cask Strength Vintage Highland Malts
Submitted on 27/06/2001 by Craig Daniels, Australia

There are some regular gigs on our malt agenda and the OP night is one of these.  With the alcohol levels nudging and exceeding 60% we probably get a tad more unruly than usual but good quality Cask Strength Malts repay a decorous approach with one of the truly unique whisky experiences.  My advice is; pour yourself a moderate dram, nose and taste them neat then add a little water (3-5 drops is recommended) and watch a whole new flavour profile develop.  Two whisky experiences for the price of one.

The Rare Malts have been around for a while and we've managed to try a few. 
They have ranged from excellent to acceptable with some gems amongst them such as the Caol Ila 21 1975, the Clynelish 24 1972 and the Glenury-Royal 23 1971. The Glenury-Royal is a 'chocoholics' delight with a big leafy and slightly bitter, dark chocolate palate.  Teaninich is rare, not being marketed as a single, but I expect that the 1973 23 will be a robust if prosaic highland coming from a distillery about 1 kilometre west of Dalmore in the town of Alness adjacent to the Moray Firth.  The corporate tasting notes for the Teaninich 23 go "glorious bright gold-displaying characteristic herbal, leafy aromas which lead into a firm, full bodied, almost leathery malt with a robust warming finish; an ideal restorative".  Leafy and leathery describes most of the bigger Highlands well.

Dufftown-Glenlivet distillery is much better known (as part of the Arthur Bell group, before being swallowed by UDV (also included Blair Atholl and Inchgower)) and the Dufftown -Glenlivet 8, while nothing startling, was a bit more interesting than a lot of the comparable 'beginner' level malts like Glenfiddich, Glenmorangie and Glen Grant.  Light, creamy and malty pretty well sums up most D-G output.  The Dufftown-Glenlivet 21 is described as: 'this creamy 21 year old shows a fresh green-gold colour and honeyed nose, which together introduce firm bodied flavours of treacle toffee and fudge, finishing in ginger and sweet smokiness." Sounds true to type -a 100% bourbon wood Speysider.

Firstly, I apologise for the lateness of this Round-up as June was a big month, following on from the epic May. For those of you who have been away or out of contact and don't know the latest news, the Club Teams in the National Malt Tasting Competition did the Club proud. We ended up with five members across three teams and we managed to fill the first three placings, Paul Rasmussen was a clear winner with Bronte Milde losing to me in a taste-off. Paul and I won the teams as well. Bob Perry came equal fifth.

June 27, 2001 - Report Card - "United Distillers Rare Malts OP Trio"

Dufftown-Glenlivet 21 54.8% - Colour was medium bright gold, with bronze highlights. The nose started creamy as expected, then developed some fruity, roasted malt and nuttiness with a faint hint of passionfruit. The nose became slightly sweet and sour over time with sour cream and a whiff of pine needles, disinfectant and stripped wood. Was fairly smooth considering the proof. Had a typical Speyside trait of bitter aspirin in the tail. Nothing startling, but perfectly serviceable and recognisably Speyside. Score 7.6

Glenury-Royal 23 61.3% - Dark clear amber with umber highlights. The nose starts with rich toffee and walnut praline, then it develops a dark chocolate note with lots of roasted nuts. The burnt notes follow through into the palate. I found the chocolate, but thought it more in the background than on other occasions and the overall effect was more refined and genteel than in some of its more wanton predecessors. Given that I usually think this whisky worth 8.5, I must have been having a spleen-venting and tough marking night. Score 8.2

Teaninich 21 57.1% - Bright pale gold with straw yellow highlights. Pretty straightforward, uncomplicated and well made malt. Clean nose, with hints of hay bales and wheat fields, with leather and sour cream. Gets more interesting in the glass with honey and butter. I didn't detect any sherry, so I expect 100% bourbon wood. Butteriness gets stronger and a bit too dominant, then gets some chocolate and bitter metal in the tail. The fatty aspects and the bitter herbs/metallic notes straddle both Highland and Speyside styles and this whisky could pass for either. I liked it and it probably deserves a less critical review. Score 7.9

The Blind: Bowmore 18 54.8% (Cadenhead Authentic Collection) - I failed miserably in my attempt to identify this one.
All my scores were low tonight so I suspect that my critical malt faculties were a victim of over training and I was being hypercritical, but I wasn't the only one to think this didn't nose like an Islay and that it may have wood faults. The really distressing thing is that I didn't want to hurt Bob's feelings as he brought it along. The other really scary thing is that it is from the same batch as a Bowmore 18 that I have raved about. Paul and I even resorted to going back to my place and trying the open bottle at my place. Verdict; definitely not the same whisky. The nose started with cream and candy, with a faint hint of liniment and gauze, but no obvious peat or lavender/violets perfume. It developed a faint hint of dry peppermint that evolved into menthol and camphor. There was some mint toffee and then the dusty chalk and stripped pine of napthalene came to the fore. The only other malt I've ever got napthalene in was an Imperial and I suspect that it means that over-extracted wood lies at the root cause. I couldn't extract any peat at all as I couldn't get past the chalk, driftwood and camphor.
My tasting notes were brutal; "wood is feral and bizarre". Score 6.8

Craig Daniels, Australia
 

E-pistle #2001/38 - MM Inter-continental Tasting Event
Submitted on 12/07/2001 by Louis Perlman, USA

Last night, I had the honor of having Roman Parparov over for the first ever malt Madness Inter-continental tasting event. The evening got under way shortly after 7:30 PM. I am going to let Roman provide the commentary, and I'll just list the malts that we sampled.

To get things going, I started with a Bruichladdich round-up, which included the distillery 15 & 21, and the Murray McDavid 11.
Bruichladdich is generally not what most people try early in their SMS life, and it seemed like a good choice to lead off, since it would be obliterated by the heavier malts that were going to be sampled later. Next up were the Isle of Arran and Glenmorangie Cellar 13 (which someone just brought me back from England). The former was in front of the Bruichladdich's in my cabinet, and I figured that I might as well leave it out. Roman mentined to me that he had recently sampled the GM 10, 12PW and 18, so the Cellar 13 was a natural choice.

Having coverd the lighter fare, we hit the Springbanks. First the new distillery 10 and my favorite 12 year old (not being bottled anymore, but still a good supply available). I couldn't resit having some fun, and brought out the 12/100 Double Dark. This was the hit of the evening, even if I am violating my self imposed editorial blackout by saying so. And to finish up this round, the Scott Selelction Longmorn 1970/30yr (57.1% ABV). Since Roman wanted to end the evening with Ardbeg, we took a break for a while. I got on the the internet and showed him the Ardbegddon pictures (on www.single-malt.com and go to the Events page). Then we discussed a wide range of important topics that included sports, (smoking) pipes, robots, music, chess, and probably other things.

And finally, it was time for the Ardbegs. There was specific interest in the distillery 17, but I couldn't leave well enough alone, so I brought out the Signatory 8 as well. And to close the evening out, the Old malt Cask 1973/27.

It was getting close to midnight, so things came to an end. It was a wonderful night, and also many thanks to my wife Shari for preparing dinner and cleaning up afterwards, while all of this was going on.

Cheers.

Louis Perlman, USA
 

Comment by Johannes: Jolly good show! I'm not quite sure that this was the very first inter-continental tasting session of the Malt Madness Team, though. Although I agree Australia hardly counts as a 'proper' continent, Craig would propably argue otherwise. And in that case, the session we had in Amsterdam on August 28 1998 would be the first ever inter-continental tasting. Anyway - I hope many more will follow.
 

E-pistle #2001/39 - The First American Whisk(e)y
Submitted by Lex Kraaijeveld, England

What was the first spirit distilled on American soil? I guess we will never know for sure what the first batch of spirit was that the colonists distilled shortly after they landed on America's shore in the early 17th century. It could have been whiskey, brandy, applejack .....
 
But one thing is sure: neither of these spirits was the very first. About a century earlier, forced by a shortage of brandy shipped over from Spain, the Conquistadors in Mexico distilled a spirit from pulque, the fermented Aztec beverage made from agave. This agave-based spirit is the crude fore-runner of what is now known as tequila and mezcal. In other words, the very first spirit from American soil was not whiskey, brandy or applejack, but tequila.
 
So far the facts, let's cross over to a bit of speculation .....
 
Several Mexican native people, like the Coras, Tarascos, Huichol and Zapotecs, even nowadays use stills that work on the Mongolian principle (the spirit is condensed by a cooling-water basin on top of the still and caught in a catch-cup inside the still body). Whether use of an Eastern rather than a Western still type is proof of a pre-Columbian cross-Pacific contact is an anthropological hornet's nest I don't want to get into, but a pottery vessel that looks very much like a Mongolian-type still (but without the catch-cup) is known from the Colima culture and definitely pre-Columbian. There is no proof that it actually was used for distilling, but it certainly could have been used for that purpose.
 
Besides pulque, the Aztecs and other native Mexican people also had a maize-based beer.
Let's take the speculation one step further. IF they had knowledge of distilling before Europeans first arrived, what did they distill? Pulque or their maize-based beer? If the latter, corn whiskey truly is the first American spirit .....

Lex Kraaijeveld, UK
 

E-pistle #2001/40 - Major Tasting with Louis - IMPRESSION
Submitted on 23/07/2001 by Roman Parparov, Israel

Hey, guys! Here comes the long-promised report on the wonderful and even more wonderful malts Louis introduced me to.
In the approximate order of appearance and with as much remembrance I still carry:

Bruichladdich 15yo:
Excellent starter, mellow, sweet, with hints of salt and smoke poking.
Never would think it's an Islay. Very good to get started.

Bruichladdich 21yo:
Emphasizes even more the better qualities of the 15 years old.
A very good companion to a supper! Extremely gentle.

Bruichladdich 11yo (Murray McDavid):
Again, the difference in the age is felt, this time to the opposite side.
This time, some mixture of "shy boldness" and regular mellowness appears, and this malt is least favorite of the three.
But it was a good trampoline to the next group of malts.

Arran NAS:
Spicy, underdeveloped. Grass, pepper, less salt. Not too pleasant. Really, it was a trial malt rather than a known one to enjoy.
Bitterness at the end doesn't add. But, again, a very interesting thing to try before.

Glenmorangie NAS 'Cellar 13':
Again, spices, cloves, peppers, even a hint of coriander. Then goes sweeter. Something Arran guys have to learn from, looks like the same stuff, but properly arranged. But, they're also related in the bitterness in the finish...

Springbank 10yo:
All the previous malts forgotten immediately. Heavy sherry shows up immediately. Oily, sweet streaks.
Very good, superb. Different from any other distillery I tasted so far.

Springbank 12yo CV:
An overall improvement over 10! Rich and seemingly neverending.
Candy playing together with sherry, not much saltiness.

Springbank 12yo 100 proof:
The hit of the night. The only malt of the twelve I asked for the second dram! Something like Magnetic Fields of Jean Michel Jarre, if music and taste can be compared. Again, sherry and sweet, with stronger proof only improving their combination. After this triplet, I must find a Springbank somewhere for a deeper exploration.

Longmorn 30yo 57%:
Very good continuation of Springbanks. Sherry, rich and slightly oily.
Sweet, just more salt, clearly distinguishing it from the Campbeltowns.
Diluted it a bit, and I must say, I liked 57% version more.

Ardbeg 17yo:
Ardbegs came after a well-deserved break. And, we started with the top player of these. Indeed, a malt with behaviour. Sweet and soft in the very beginning (suspicion - bruichladdich) and then the Islay's peat hits. No extra iodine as in Laphroaig and Bowmore, superbly balanced, even finish. Marvellous.

Ardbeg 8yo:
Hits like a hammer. Much bolder than Laphroaig 10. Salt, peat, hints of iodine, keeps your mouth busy for a long time. But, most of the strength, unlike in older brother, goes out in the beginning.

Ardbeg 27yo OMC:
Again, the old age development is in the predicted direction. Softer, still very islayish, but more salt and sweet than peat.
Very enjoying, but makes me wonder if it's worth to hold Islays more than 20 years in the cask.

Magnificent tastings. Thanks a lot Louis!
I was rather drunk when I finally got to the place I was staying at, but managed to undress and get into bed without problems. :)
Of course, it would be premature for me to give ratings to these malts, but in order of preference, I'd put them in the following order:

01) Springbank 12 100 proof
02) Ardbeg 17
03) Springbank 12 CV
04) Longmorn 30
05) Springbank 10
06) Ardbeg 27
07) Glenmorangie Cellar 13
08) Bruichladdich 21
09) Ardbeg 8
10) Bruichladdich 15
11) Bruichladdich 11
12) Arran NAS

Roman Parparov, Israel
 

E-pistle #2001/41 - Glenfiddich Australian Championships
Submitted on 27/06/2001 by Craig Daniels, Australia

Glenfiddich Australian National Malt Tasting Championships

Hi everybody,

It's 4.15PM local time (GMT +9.30) and the malt whiskuy championship is over for another year.
The SERIOUSLY good news is that the Earls of Zetland Malt Tasting Club took out all the individual and team prizes.
Paul Rasmussen won the individual competition with 8 out of 8, I came second (after two taste-offs) where I managed to identify Bunnahabhain 12 and Aberlour 10 and Bronte Milde. Vice Laird of the Earls came third. This means that the Earls of Zetland have both the Individual Winner and two runners- up and the team winner as well.  This is the best result for the club ever.

For those of you who want to invest some time and money into making yourselves into serious malt tasters, you could do worse than signing up to the Earls of Zetland & Clan Drummond Academy of Malt. This august institution boasts two winners and three top place-getters in the last 6 years. Enrolments will be accepted April 2002.

BTW The difference between Paul Rasmussen (All Hail to the New Champ) and myself is that I got Cardhu 12 and Glenfarclas 15 wrong and he didn't. Oh well - more great news for the Earls.

Cheers

Craig Daniels, Australia
 

E-pistle #2001/42 - Whisky on Jersey
Submitted by Lex Kraaijeveld, England

The last few decades have seen several areas around Britain 'produce' whiskies that are actually distilled somewhere else: 'Welsh whisky' from Brecon is Scottish whisky filtered through a layer of herbs; 'Manx whisky' from the Glen Kella distillery is, again, Scottish whisky re-distilled to remove the colour and there is no indication that 'Lancashire whisky' from Wigan is really distilled in England.

To this handful of whisky-'producing' areas we can add one from the last century: Jersey, one of the Channel Islands. I want to thank the Société Jersiaise Library for allowing me access to the (unpublished) research undertaken by Lori-Ann Foley into distilling in Jersey.

During the 19th century, Jersey had quite a number of distillers operating on the island, often for short periods of time. In most cases, the records are sketchy and it is not clear what kind of spirit they actually distilled. The distillery of John Brodie, established in St Helier, appeared to have imported whisky from Ireland and to have subjected it to a 'certain procedure' which made it look and taste like French eau-de-vie. It is tantalising that nothing more seems to be known about what this 'procedure' was exactly, but is it too much speculation to suggest it was some form of re-distillation? In any case, the 'treated' Irish whisky was exported to England as a product of Jersey. Brodie did not commit a fraud for as far as Customs & Excise was concerned: the Irish whisky was turned into something else and therefore was in fact to be considered as no more than a base material for manufacturing a Jersey product. It was claimed by competitors that the Jersey spirit was a mixture of Irish whisky and French calvados, but chemical tests could not find any trace of calvados.

Brodie's distillery appears to have stopped operating in 1845, but that was not the end of Jersey's contribution to whisky history: records from 1848 and 1849 show a certain Owen Garvan in connection to eight entries of 'whisky, distilled in the island'.
So real Jersey whisky has existed after all!?!

Lex Kraaijeveld, UK
 

E-pistle #2001/43 - Yes, I still drink whisky!
Submitted on 21/07/2001 by Davin de Kergommeaux, Canada

Hi fellow Malt Mad,

This is a crazy travel year for me, and I still have major mouse arm, hence my recent silence. 
Many more malts tasted including some odd ones. Ankara from Turkey (not too bad and at $6.50 a major bargain), Clontarf from Ireland (this comes in a strange package that includes 3 different whiskies in stacked bottles made to look like they are in one bottle.  The single malt is only ok, the gold blend is crap but the black label blend is not so bad if you like rye whisky.), and Aleksjandr a single rye from Latvia that tastes like nothing more than Drambuie with a licorice cigar in it.  New malts include Royal Lochnagar (liked it), Imperial (ok) and a host of others. I hope to get a decent update, prepared before I'm off again in September.

To help keep track, with this update I've started numbering my new malts as I pass the half way mark in the 52 Challenge.

13.  Clynelish 1991 10 yo Signatory  (bourbon barrel). 43.0% abv.
Malty nose, sweet and mildly astringent, a hint of brown sugar.
Bitter/sour mouth drying. A sweetness in the throat that develops into an unpleasant finish.
A strange, very long finish that tastes like vomit. Not before bedtime.
Nominal score 68

14.  Rosebank 1990 10 yo Signatory. 43.0% abv.
Almost colourless; just a hint of green. Mild but malty nose. Sweet, but definitely no sherry. A bit green and chemically. 
Develops a grassy flavour. Nominal score 72

15.  Glen Grant nas. 40.0% abv.
Malty nose. Wheat, aquatic plants, sweetish malt.
Alcoholic but not spirity. Empty glass is a sweet minty evergreen.
This is my second best bang for the buck ever.  Bought it for $10.00 US in Panama Duty Free.
Nominal score 65

16.  Tomintoul Glenlivet 12 yo. 43.0% abv.
Nose grassy, malty with a bit of wood and dry grain. Warm, but not spirity at all.  Palate bitter becoming peppery then bitter again. A bit astringent. Some sweetness develops in the back of the roof of the mouth. A medium length finish that fades to grass.  With water the nose is somewhat diminished with dry grain and malt.  The palate is spicy and malty and still a bit astringent but the bitterness becomes a hot spice. The diluted finish fades to nothing.
Nominal score 63

17.  Royal Lochnagar 12 yo. 40% abv.
Nose fruity with licorice and a minty feel but not scent. I can feel the licorice almost sweet in my throat. Palate is smokey sherry. Sweetish but a bit astringent. Gets some malt in the middle. Quite hot in the throat and spicy on the tongue. A smokey finish.  With water the nose is malty and smokey with some sweetness. The palate is now quite sweet, but still smokey and a bit spicy. There is a nice licorice feel in the middle like a mild and fruity northern Islay. The finish is nice and long.  Fruit and sherry with a bit of malt.
Nominal score 76

18.  Old Pulteney 12 yo. 40.0% abv.
The nose is malty and a touch estery.  A hint of ozone or bleach.  Palate is sweet with grain and nuts.  Warm and sweet. Mildly spicy then hot, rich and creamy.  Stays hot then becomes peppery in the middle.  A slightly bitter undertone.  Stays quite sweet in the mouth and back of the throat.  The finish is long and sweet, the empty glass, slightly sweet.  Mmm, nummy.  A good test of my palate.  By chance I tasted this one a second time a month later and came up with almost exactly the same notes.
Nominal score 80

19.  Glen Garioch 8 yo. 40.0% abv.
Nose has raisins, shoe leather, fruit and sherry. A hint of smoke.
The palate is perfumy, soapy with lacquer and a bit of spice in the back of the throat.  The finish is short of slightly sour malt.
Nominal score 73

20.  Imperial 1979 G&M.  40.0% abv.
Nose - alcohol, grass, slightly musty with just a passing hint of wood.
Palate is sweet, a bit spicy and mouth filling with a metallic feel on the teeth. Not very complex, but it gets sweeter with each sip. The finish is long and sweet.
Nominal score 71

21.  Linkwood 15 yo G&M.  40.0% abv.
The nose is warming with wood esters. A splendid mix of ever-developing flavours including smokiness, sweetness, raw mushroom, apple juice, citrus fruit, nuts/almonds, and caramel. The nose develops progressively over time.
Palate is sweet, slightly astringent with some wood and caramel and a pleasant bitterness in the throat. Finish is sweet and fading.
Nominal score 75

22.  Mortlach 10 yo Scottish Wildlife. 43.0% abv.
Nose is fruity, woody with a touch of tobacco and a touch of honey. Over time the honey increases. Palate is malty, sweet, spicy then quite spicy. Not as rich as other Mortlachs I've tried. The empty glass smells like caramel.
Nominal score 77

23.  Speyburn 10 yo.  40.0% abv.
Nose has a slight smokey pungency. Palate is initially almost tasteless then warm with very mild spice. It becomes slightly metallic with a passing hint of smoke. It's mildly astringent. A bit malty in the middle with a touch of green hay. Pleasant, but no bite. A very mild whisky. The finish fades quickly on a slightly sweet malty note.
Nominal score 68

XX.  Springbank 10 yo. 46% abv.
(Bonus malt; already tasted so it doesn't count for 52 challenge)
Nose fresh, grassy, tobacco, a malty sweetness; a hint of licorice. Palate rich, sweet and spicy. Very warming. Overall a bit disappointing given all the hype it gets.
Nominal score 82

And now on to Odd-Ball Whiskies I Have Known. Since the 52 Challenge is really a (very pleasant) training exercise I thought I would venture into some odd-ball whiskies from strange places that may or may not be trying to be Scotland. Picked up some rather oddball notes. My favourite was Sullivans Cove (no apostrophes in Tasmania?) and the hands down loser was Viskijs Alexsandrs, a liqueur-like dram that the liquorist put considerable effort into telling me not to buy. She was right.

24.  Latvijas Viskijs Alexsandrs. 40.0% abv.
A novel whisky I found in Latvia.  I think it's a single malt rye. Fermented and distilled from Latvian rye in 1993, it has absolutely no familiar rye notes. The nose contains cereal, pablum and lacks the spicy note of Canadian rye whisky. It is sweet and estery but disappears quickly. Palate is cotton candy, nutty marzipan, drambuie, sweet like a liqueur - too sweet. It's a bit spicy and hot. Tastes green, a bit off. It develops a spicy middle then fades to a saccharine sweetness. Reminds me of a glass of drambuie with a sweet licorice cigar soaking in it. The only whisky I've ever thrown down the drain. After 4 drams, final score 45

25.  Clontarf Single Malt Irish Whiskey. 40.0% abv.
Nose has all the advertised vanilla and more. Very grassy, malty and fresh. An almost marshmallowy sweetness. Palate begins sweet and malty. Cloying and creamy. Develops some strong spice - almost peppery, especially on the side of the tongue.  There is a slight metallic feel in the middle and it finishes on sweet cereal. Exactly as described on the label except with a negative connotation. This malt is crap.  "Mellowed through Atlantic Irish oak charcoal". Why?? To remove all the flavour??
The barrels used in this exceptionally bad Irish Whiskey were "specially selected by the Master Taster".  Let's hope he stays out of Scotland. This whiskey comes in a neat package of three stacking 200 ml bottles that look like a single bottle. Each of the three contains a different whiskey - a crappy blend, a second so so blend with a mysterious rye note and the crappy single malt described above. Not worth the $20.00 US I paid for it, but it looks neat. Nominal score 52

26.  Glen Breton Rare Canadian Malt Whisky. 40.0% abv.
A sweet malty musty beginning which quickly fades to an alcohol tingling. Quickly becomes flavourless with almost no finish.
There is a caramel-like overtone throughout. No complexity at all. Like cotton candy it's gone in an instant. LCBO sold out of 50 cases in one day and the next weekend I saw a couple of forlorn Cape Bretoners searching the shelves for it. Cape Bretoners, like Scotsmen, never really leave home.  At $80 CDN it's way too expensive but I suspect the distillery could sell as much of this as they could make to Ontario's ex-patriots from The Cape. Nominal score 65

27.  Redbreast 12 yo Pure Pot Still Irish Whiskey. 40% abv.
This dark coppery gold whiskey is not related at all to Clontarf. The nose is grassy and malty with a hint of skunk. Pleasant.
The palate is malty and spicy with a hint of bitterness. It becomes slightly metallic in the middle. There is an evergreen pine needle start then a bit of a burn. OK but not great. The finish is long with a slight bitterness.  It leaves a pleasant malty taste and a slippery mouth feel.
Nominal score 67

28.  Ankara Malt Viski 5 yo. 43% abv.
This Turkish single malt is a real find. Lex Kraaijeveld told me about it only a couple of hours before I left for Turkey.
I searched for it for a week and finally got a bottle through a local, then discovered cases of it at the airport on my way out.
Not fabulous, but a good solid whisky, it could do well in export. A medium golden colour, this malt has a spirity, estery, malty nose that is entirely lacking in smoke. There is a sweetness though it's not heavy. Over time the nose develops a mint candy cane note along with malt vinegar that melts into dill pickle juice. It sounds bizarre, but it's really quite pleasant. Throughout there is a non-smoke muddiness. The palate is sweet and peppery. Though nothing does pepper like Talisker, this one is a bit hot and quite emphatic. The spirit was a flaw in the nose, but it does not emerge in the palate.  Some real warmth and sweetness develops in the middle as does lots of burning spice. It becomes grassy towards the end with perhaps a hint of fresh hay. The medium to long finish is quite entertaining as it continues to change and develop until it disappears. It moves from pepper through grass, candy to mustiness then ends sweet and malty. I liked it so much I bought a second bottle then ended up giving it to my dad for his birthday. As $6.50 per bottle I doubt that Ankara will ever ever be displaced as my all-time best bang for the buck. Only available in 'Turkey you say?  Pity!
Nominal score 74

29.  Tasmania's Old Hobart Pure single malt. (NAS.)  40% abv.
My wife picked this up for me in Australia and I find it, again, quite an education as it has new and unfamiliar notes. The nose is round (whatever that really means) with a musty, smokeless, medicinal smell. It seems just slightly off. There is a citrus note here but it is lost and turns to rotten fruit when nosed after the Sullivans Cove I sampled at the same time. (Love my wife!!).  I suspect the fruity notes originate in the same place as both whiskies come from the same distillery. This unique note led me initially to wonder if these were simply different expressions of the same whisky, but in-depth evaluation suggests otherwise. The element of rotten fruit persists in Old Hobart but is not found in SC. The palate starts with burnt sugar, tropical spice and a fair bit of hot but tasteless spice inside musty, fruity notes. The finish fades out into a mild fruitiness.
Nominal score 70

30.  Sullivans Cove Australian Premium Single Malt Whisky nas. 40% abv.
My favourite of the odd-balls. Nose has a very unique, very citrus waft. Maybe grapefruit with just a hint of an off-note.  No smoke at all, but so fruity and really quite delightful. Some strange tropical fruit notes. The citrus notes dominate the palate.  Initially there are flashes of fresh fruits and liqueurs which settle in on grapefruit with the same sweet/sour feelings at the back of the tongue. This ain't Scotch, but it's really quite pleasant.  It develops a mild spiciness then hints of peppermint and caramel.  The finish fades and the citrus disappears into a hint of malt. The glass decanter is probably the nicest on my shelf, but it is spoiled by having a plastic insert rather than traditional ground glass. Still it's a whisky and bottle I will display with pride.
Nominal score 77

That's it for now. Coming next update?
Well, I'll start with Glenfarclas 105 then on to new challenges.

Davin de Kergommeaux
 

E-pistle #2001/44 - Close Encounters of the malty kind
Submitted on 22/07/2001 by Klaus Everding, Germany

The last half year I have been rather busy. Too sad for you and me it was the exploration of new single malts that needed my attention. Anyway here come my tasting notes from 2001. Since I don't remember if I enjoyed the whisky during our regular HarLeM session or at home I can't provide amusing stories to liven up the wet material.

Douglas Laing Laphroiag 1985 15y
I enjoyed this malt early in the year when it was still winter. And, my god, I love it! Despite earlier statements I still was not able to get a full bottle into my hands. The 'phroaig, like all Douglas Laing Old Malt Cask bottlings, comes in a nice hexagon cardboard tube in a standard whisky bottle at 50% alc. strength.
If you know the distilleries 15y old Laphroaig you might expect a nice Islay malt which has sowed its wild oats. Power still in the background but now also fruity and sweet notes detectable. Fools!!! This one resembles the 10y dist. bottling. And it has used the additional five years to grow even meaner. This one is a peat monster which will surely knock you out of your shoes.
Nose: grassy mossy, fresh, phenol and tar.
It reminds me on several Caol Ilas.
Taste: whush – whuushshh! I get up from my knees.
Have they put the tary rope from all wrecks along the Islay'ish coast and an equal amount of barley into the wash to get such a malt? The phenolic punch is overwhelming. Tary sea, old wood, peat – peat – peat! Just want to mention that there is also a hint of sweetness and of cause the liquor burns (50%). But that can be cured by diluting it without loosing the extraordinary experience.
Score:  What shall I say now?  You can accuse me of masochism but that is the best malt I have ever tasted. Please don't buy it because the amount of bottles is limited.  Leave me several bottles if I can get my hands on it.  You can buy 3-4 standard Laphroaig 10y bottles for the same price instead which is also very nice.

Lagavulin, Vintage Islay Malt 5 y
One of the bastard Lagavulins (as Johannes calls them).
Lagavulin is nowhere mentioned on the low cost whisky bottle with screw stop.
The malt is rather pale (no caramel).
Nose: peat, smoke and tar. But there is also a fresh grass note.
Unmistakable an  Islay. Direction Caol Ila – Ardbeg 10y.
Taste :  peat, smoke and tar. Some sweetness and despite the peat still fresh. It goes into the direction Ardbeg 10y.
Score: This is an excellent every day malt and with less than 20 Euro a real bargain.

Bowmore 8y
This one is from a bottle which Michael brought from Italy. The more I explore the wide field of single malts the more I come to the conclusion that the young Islays are the stuff I prefer. In particular given the amount of money which is available for my maltoholism.
Nose: peat, smoke, tar and wood. Just the rude Islay standard.
Taste: peat, smoke, tar, old rigging extracts. On the tip of the tongue you can detect a real sweetness (not the long lasting sweetness as present e.g. in Ardbeg 10). The malt is powerful yet light (Laphroaig 10y or Lagavulin 16y are powerful but not light).
Score: The lucky Italians have a wonderful malt available.
Less than 20 Euro, a real bargain.

Glen Rothes 1989 43% 11y
The typical Glen Rothes bottle  which is really marvellous.
But that's the best I can say about this full gold coloured bottling.
Nose: pungent, hints of adhesive, certainly the  typical Glen Rothes flavour is also present: flowers, resinous, spices
Taste:  a little bit sharp, spice, sweetness, nuts. Not too komplex, but nice to enjoy something different.
Score: Compared to the Glen Rothes 1985 13y this one was somehow disappointing. Maybe some more years of aging in the cask would have improved this malt.

Glen Ord 12y
Johannes held this malt high in his value for money ranking  This argument is not true here in Hamburg where the malt is difficult to obtain at low cost. During my last visit at Amsterdam I went home with a 0.25 l PET bottle of the malt.
Nose: somehow unpleasant, dark, earthy notes and a difficult to define chemical note. A hasty sweet and flowery note is also present.
Taste: mellow, spice (ginger? cinamon?) no pepper, flowers and malt.
Score: ok, since it is no value for money joker at my hometown nothing more to say.

Dalmore 12y
A nice bulky bottle for the full gold coloured malt from the Northern Highlands.
Nose: fragrant, fruity and flowery, it reeks after late harvest, hints of sherry.
Taste: sweet, malty, fruits (plums, apricots), wood, sherry, not too complex but difficult to characterize.
Score: Not a top malt but excellent value for money at 30 Euro for the 1 litre bottle.

Clynelish 1989 10y Douglas Laing 50%
A Douglas Laing Malt at an affordable price (45 Euro).
But this one is not to be recommend.
Nose: Chemical !!! Very strange, Fruits, earth? unplaeasant.
If you dilute the malt the unpleasant note tends towards fruitiness
Taste: Very strange, surely citrus and spice, fruits but not ripe ones, cream, and a big ???? Diluted: bergamotte and spice become more expressed.
Score: Strange, strange this one. It is totaly different than any other malt I have tasted. But I don't like it! It is artificial. Clynelish/Brora malts were always difficult to judge for me. They are a class of its own and seem to vary a lot in taste. Maybe the stuff will get better in half a year or so through oxidation in the bottle.

Balvenie Doublewood
The Balvenie single malt baby. A bottle which everyone likes to shake in his arms. If you stand at the shelves of your whisky shop and see the Founders Reserve and the Double Wood don't hesitate a single moment to spend the few additional bucks - It is worth the difference in price.
Nose: fragrant, fruity, honey, flowers, vanilla, toffee, nuts
Taste: very delicious, fruits, toffee, malt, honey, tangerines (?) hints of spice
Score:  less than 40 Euro for the 1 litre bottle. That's great.
A malt you can enjoy every day.

Longmorn 15 y 45%
The bukly bottle with long neck and golden /amber liquid is amzing.
Nose: apples, pears (brandy), sweet, interesting.
The content of my new two month old bottle smells not so pleasant.
Taste: sweet, citrus, spice (pepper). Surprisingly strong impression for a Speyside malt. Some peat and smoke. Relativly long finish. Again may new bottle betrays this judgement. It tastes a bit chemical. Maybe some oxidation will help ...
Score: When I first tasted this malt I thought it was excellent. Now the content of my own bottle betrays this promises. Will have to wait at least half a year to give a FINAL SCORE.

Glen Farclas 105 60%
The screw stop on the bottle can be pardoned.
This malt delivered in a black cardboard tube is really nice.
Nose: very fragrant, fruity, maybe also vegetables and a spice garden, honey. Although 60% alc. bareley a smell of spirit.
Taste: fruity, minty, citrus, caramel, some sherry. You notice that the stuff has 60%. Diluted: the fruity, sherry and caramel notes increase. The taste of the malts lies between the 10y and the 12y distillery edition.
Score: Less than 40 Euro for an excellent cask strength. I think it is one of the bests fruity malts at good value for money. Macallan c/s beats it - ok, but you only notice it in a head to head tasting.

Auchentoshan 10 y
Another malt bottled for Italy. It is worth mentioning because it differs a lot from the German bottling (tasted a few years ago)
The Lowland malts are not my cup of tea. To limp! I was astonished that the Auchentoshan 10y bottle for the Italian market showed some face. Although still flowery, fruity and sweet there was even some rough wood maybe even a hint of peat, never detected in the three times distilled German version.

Klaus Everding, Germany
 

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