Malt Maniacs Awards 2003
Tasting Notes (2003)Medal Winners (2003)Award Winners (2003)Editorial Comments (2003)

So, we'd like to thank the participants and jurors for making edition #1 of the MM Awards a success.
And we have to give special thanks to one of our (relatively) 'junior' maniacs; Serge Valentin from France.
He has championed the idea of our very own whisky competition from the start - and has also done most of the work that
was involved with it. That includes receiving the bottles from participants, filling the blind samples for the 11 other jurors and
shipping the samples all around the world. He even had to use 'child labour' (his children) to get this massive job done!

Results of the 2004 and 2005 Awards are published on separate pages. From the whiskies that
competed in 2003, 3 won gold, 16 silver and 24 bronze. The malts in the list of medal winners are
ranked according to their average score and 'mettle' (gold, silver or bronze). Scroll a little further
down to find a full A-Z overview with some fresh quotes from assorted MM Awards jury members.
You can also check out all 2003 award winners and the winners of various bronze medals,
silver medals and gold medals - or jump directly to our comments on any particular whisky.

So, how did we manage to translate the personal opinions of 12 maniacs into these results?
If you really want to know, please check out the slightly boring bit about the numbers below.
You'll find out that we take these matters very seriously. Some people might even argue that we
take malt whiskies a little too seriously - but hey, they don't call us 'malt maniacs' for nothing...

As you can see from the many logo's of participants on this page, the response was overwhelming
when we approached the people that we knew in 'the whisky world' with our idea for an open and
independent competition. In fact, the response was bigger than we had anticipated and at a certain
point we even had to stop accepting new entries. The procedure itself was actually fairly simple,
although it involved plenty of handiwork by Serge Valentin who acted as our 'postmaster general'
in charge of the logistics this year.

Serge had the bottles from our participants shipped to France and then distributed the contents of
these bottles across a dozen 60cl miniatures for shipment to malt maniacs all over the world. All
samples had to be individually numbered to allow the other jurors to sample the awards candidates
completely 'blind'. Obviously, we wanted our awards scores to be as honest and straightforward as
possible, so we wanted to reduce 'the label effect' to a minimum.

La Maison du Whisky
Douglas Laing
Wilson & Morgan
Murray McDavid
Aberlour
Balvenie
Glenrothes
Diageo
Springbank
Talisker
Bruichladdich
Glenlivet
LG-GFID1
Cragganmore
LG-DUTA1
Celtic Whsiky Compagnie
Gordon & MacPhail
Ardbeg
LG-WGRS1
LG-PERN1
Lagavulin

And speaking of honesty and transparency...
I should stress that the 2003 awards only covered a fraction of the wide variety of single malt whiskies available to discerning consumers around the world today. We would have loved to sample and judge even more malts than we did but our tight schedule, complicated logistics and common sense forced us to limit the number of malts for this installment of the awards. After all, it was the first time we organised a shipment of this magnitude. We had arranged some 'Pandora' blind tastings between some maniacs before, but never with so many bottles to so many people.

But I digress...
I was stressing the fact that the dozens of single malts the participants submitted for the 2003 Awards are just a drop in the ocean of available whiskies. Nevertheless, we feel the selection we ended up with offers a limited but fairly representative picture of the current malt whisky world. We contacted all the major 'players' and invited them to submit up to a dozen different candidates, so everybody had a fair chance to participate in the event. Fortunately, nobody actually sent the maximum allowed number of bottles - and our health has probably benefitted from that. And even if our livers could have processed more malts than we actually ended up with, the US Customs clearly couldn't.

Most maniacs received their packages at least a month before their scores were due but one American maniac was still eagerly awaiting his package when the deadline of the competition passed on December 15. There's the odd chance that the Glenfiddich 21yo 'Havana Reserve' (finished in Cuban rum casks) in the package set off the alarm bells at the American customs. Too bad, but we promised the participants in the competition we would publish the results on December 15, 2003 - and that's what we did...

And how did we arrive at those final results?
Well, we took the first MM Awards pretty seriously and even formed a 'committee' of senior malt maniacs to work out the proceedings and a 'magic formula' to calculate the averages - i.e. translate the scores into metal. For example, what if an entry received two votes for gold, three for silver and four for bronze? As it turned out, there were no major problems and our final setup was fairly plain and simple.

After sampling all the awards candidates in his own peculiar manner (either once or several times),
each malt maniac sent his final scores to Serge to be inserted in the Malt Maniacs Monitor. We used
the same (1-100) scoring system we use for the matrix and calculated the average scores in the
same way, adding more 'weight' to the scores of the senior maniacs with a higher malt mileage.

I should however point out that the MM Awards are different from the matrix and monitor.
For one thing, the malts on the matrix and monitor aren't usually sampled blind - which could cause emotional attachments to a certain distillery or bottler to cloud a maniac's judgment. What's more, a single malt whisky receives a 'solid' score on the matrix when it has been sampled by three maniacs and as soon as we have six scores we print the average bold to illustrate that we're pretty sure about that score.

But as far as the awards is concerned that's not solid enough.
Even with Peter missing out on the fun (Mark flew to Europe for the occasion) we still had nine maniacs on our tasting team. That's the majority of the maniacs - plenty of experienced noses and palates to come up with some suitably solid scores, I'd say.

Nevertheless, this is a great excuse to set up another MM Awards competition in the near future ;-)
Next year we will try to have AT LEAST a dozen maniacs on the tasting team - and convince the industry that they should send even more bottlings. We strive to offer a complete picture of the whisky world so we should try to get at least all the distilleries that offer a range of OB's on board.

Sweet drams (indeed),

Johannes van den Heuvel
Editor Malt Madness / Malt Maniacs
 

 
Non-Plus-Ultra Award
(Overall top scoring whisky out of all 2003 MM Awards entries)

Talisker 20yo 1981/2002 Natural C/S
(62%, Official Bottling, Sherry casks, 9000 bottles)

Supreme Sherry Cask Award
(Best whisky matured exclusively in sherry cask(s)

Glenfarclas 33yo 1970/2003
(46%, OB, Bottled for La Maison du Whisky, Sherry cask #2022)

Supreme Bourbon Cask Award
(Best whisky matured exclusively in bourbon cask(s)

Aberlour 12yo 1990/2003 Warehouse N1
(58.8%, Official Bottling, Cask #11552)

Supreme Warped Cask Award
(Best whisky matured or finished in 'special' cask(s)

Lagavulin 1986/2002 Distillers Edition
(43%, Official Bottling, lgv.4/490)

Speyside Award of Excellence
(Best Speyside single malt whisky)
Glenfarclas 33yo 1970/2003
(46%, OB, Bottled for La Maison du Whisky, Sherry cask #2022)

Highlands Award of Excellence
(Best Highlands single malt whisky)
Brora 30yo Bottled 2002
(52.4%, Official Bottling, 3000 bottles)

Islands Award of Excellence
(Best Islands single malt whisky)
Talisker 20yo 1981/2002
(62%, Official Bottling, Sherry casks, 9000 bottles)

Islay Award of Excellence
(Best Islay single malt whisky)
Ardbeg 21yo 'Committee'
(56.3%, Official Bottling, Btl. +/- 2003)

Lowlands Award of Excellence
(Best Lowlands single malt whisky)
Saint Magdalene 24yo 1978/2002
(50%, Douglas Laing Old Malt Cask, 504 bottles)

Bang-For-Your-Buck Award
(Best performance/price ratio in the 'affordable' area)
Glenrothes 1990/2002
(46%, Wilson & Morgan Barrel Selection, Sherry Wood)

Pressure Cooker Award
(Best performance/age ratio in the 'affordable' area)
Talisker 10yo
(45.8%, Official Bottling)

Internal Combustion Award
(Best performance/ABV ratio in the 'affordable' area)
Balvenie 12yo 'Doublewood'
(43%, Official Bottling, Matured in Sherry and Bourbon)

 .

(Scroll down for tasting notes and comments on all medal winners)

Editorial comments
Gold Medal Winners

Talisker 20yo 1981/2002 Natural Cask Strength (62%, Official Bottling, Sherry casks, 9000 bottles)
Brora 30yo Bottled 2002 (52.4%, Official Bottling, 3000 bottles)
Ardbeg 21yo 'Committee' (56.3%, Official Bottling)

Silver Medal Winners

Lagavulin 12yo Special Release (58%, Official Bottling, Bottled 2002)
Laphroaig 16yo 1987/2003 (50%, Douglas Laing Old Malt Cask, DL REF 814, 276 bottles)
Saint Magdalene 24yo 1978/2002 (50%, Douglas Laing Old Malt Cask, 504 bottles)
Aberlour 13yo 1989/2003 Warehouse N1 (58.7%, Official Bottling, Sherry cask #13330)
Lagavulin 16yo 'Port Ellen' (43%, Official Bottling)
Glenfarclas 33yo 1970/2003 (46%, Official Bottling, Sherry cask #2022)
Lagavulin 1986/2002 Distillers Edition (43%, Official Bottling, lgv.4/490)
Macallan 12yo 1990/2003 (57.5%, Wilson & Morgan, cask #8748)
Caol Ila 12yo 1990/2003 (46%, Whisky Galore)
Talisker 10yo (45.8%, Official Bottling)
Caol Ila 1992/2002 (50%, Wilson & Morgan Barrel Selection, Extra Strength)
Glenlivet 26yo 1976/2002 (59.7%, Signatory Vintage for LMW, cask #430)
Glenrothes 1990/2002 (46%, Wilson & Morgan, Sherry Wood)
W&M 'House Malt Born On Islay' 1994/2003 (43%, Wilson & Morgan, cask #1496-1502)
Bruichladdich 1970/2002 (44.2%, Official Bottling)
Longrow 10yo 1993 (46%, Official Bottling)

Aberlour 15yo 1988/2003 (50%, Douglas Laing Old Malt Cask, cask DL REF 875, 306 bottles)
Balvenie 12yo DoubleWood (43%, Official Bottling)
Convalmore-Glenlivet 26yo 1977/2003 (46%, Cadenhead's, Sherry)
Aberlour 12yo 1990/2003 Warehouse N1 (58.8%, Official Bottling, Bourbon cask #11552)
Highland Park 19yo 1984/2003 (50%, Douglas Laing Old Malt Cask, cask DL REF 406, 636 bottles)
Talisker 1989/2002 Distillers Edition (45.8%, Official Bottling)
Mortlach 12yo 1990/2002 (46%, Murray McDavid, MM 3748)
Cragganmore-Glenlivet 14yo 1989/2003 (46%, Cadenhead's)
Glenrothes 1973/2000 (43%, Official Bottling)
Highland Park 12yo (43%, Official Bottling)
Glenrothes 1979/2002 (43%, Official Bottling)
Talisker 20yo 1982/2003 (58.8%, Official Bottling, Refill casks, 12000 bottles)
Aberlour 16yo Double Cask Matured (43%, Official Bottling)
Cragganmore 1988/2002 Distillers Edition (40%, Official Bottling)
Balvenie 1989 PortWood (40%, Official Bottling)
Springbank 15yo (46%, Official Bottling)
Glenrothes 1989/2000 (43%, Official Bottling)
Glenlivet 18yo (43%, Official Bottling)
Glenfiddich 21yo Havana Reserve (40%, Official Bottling)
Lochside 1991/2003 (43%, Gordon & MacPhail Connoisseurs Choice)
Cragganmore 12yo (40%, Official Bottling)
Inverleven 1989/2003 (45%, Gordon & MacPhail, new bulky bottle)
Clynelish 1989/2003 (46%, Wilson & Morgan, Marsala Finish)
Springbank 10yo (46%, Official Bottling)
 

And these were 2003's winners.
Scroll down for an A-Z overview of all winners.
As usual, we don't mention any of the 'non-winners'.

Bronze Medal Winners
Medal Winners

Aberlour 12yo 1990/2003 Warehouse N1 'Bourbon'
(58.8%, Official Bottling, Bourbon Cask #11552, Bottled 10/10/2003)

Aberlour already offers a large variety of official bottlings in its core range, but they also offer two bottlings
that are (usually) only available to distillery visitors. I really like the fact that you get the chance to fill your
very own 'Abunadhy' bottle from a single bourbon or sherry cask at the end of the Aberlour distillery tour.
Although the sherry bottling earned a higher score, this one received the Top Single Bourbon Cask Award.

Aberlour 13yo 1989/2003 Warehouse N1 'Sherry'
(58.7%, Official Bottling, Sherry Cask #13330, Bottled 10/10/2003)
During his 'blind' review of the awards submissions, Craig Daniels thought this malt was 'seriously expensive'.
For most people that's true, when you consider that you'll have to visit the distillery to get yourself a bottle.
All maniacs preferred the sherry cask over the bourbon cask; Klaus Everding and Roman Parparov even scored
it in the 90's. The average score wasn't quite enough for gold, but I'd say it's worth the trip to the distillery.

Aberlour 15yo 1988/2003
(50%, Douglas Laing Old Malt Cask, cask DL REF 875, 306 bottles)
Three out of the four award-winning Aberlours are official bottlings, but the people of Douglas Laing prove
once again that they can bottle a mean malt as well. To me, this one didn't seem quite as sherried as most
official bottlings and Craig seemed to agree. He found sweet nutty cream and pine oil in the nose and cream
and citrus oil on the palate. Davin thought this one was 'most unusual' - which usually is a good thing...

Aberlour 16yo Double Cask Matured
(43%, Official Bottling)

This OB displayed all the characteristics I love in Aberlour; it's rich, sherried and fruity with smoke and spices.
Oddly enough, the oldest Aberlour among the medal winners also earned the lowest average score. That's still
well into the 80's, mind you - nothing to be ashamed about. Maybe we liked it not quite as much as the other
bottlings because this is the only multi-cask Aberlour of the four. As a 'blend', it's bound to be less extreme.

Ardbeg 21yo 'Committee'
(56.3%, Official Bottling)
This one blew us away. It wasn't just the winner of the Islay Award of Excellence for the best Islay malt,
it was also was one of only three malts to win a gold medal. Davin describes it as 'rich, sweet and full-bodied'.
Serge thought it was great as well, although he felt it was a little too medicinal. To me, that's like saying that
a woman is too beautiful... Anyway, this gold medal doesn't come as a huge surprise; we're all Ardbeg freaks.

Balvenie 12yo 'DoubleWood'
(43%, Official Bottling)
During his first blind run Craig described this as 'a fun malt' and if it had been up to Klaus this one would have
received the 'Bang-For-Your-Buck' Award that eventually went to the W&M Glenrothes 1990/2002. Although
the average score was just a fraction short of the 85 points needed for a silver medal, the Balvenie 12yo DW
managed to earn itself an award; the Daily Dram Award for the best affordable, all-round single malt whisky.

Balvenie 1989 'PortWood'
(40%, Official Bottling)
I suspect Balvenie could have won themselves a silver medal if they had submitted the 21yo Port Wood Finish
but this one went down pretty easily as well. Except for Klaus Everding, all maniacs scored it in the 80's. If it
had been up to Serge Valentin this bottling would have been awarded a silver medal, which is quite ironic when
you consider that he is no fan of novelties like double maturation. But then again he couldn't find the port here.

Brora 30yo
(52.4%, Official Bottling, Bottled 2002, 3000 bottles)
The winner of the Highlands Award of Excellence (as well as a gold medal) made Klaus cry - twice...
First when he put a small drop under his tongue, then when he heard the price. Well, it may be an underdog
when it comes to the BFYB Award, but all maniacs (except yours truly) scored it in the 90's. A solid gold medal.
Maybe these results brought tears to Serge's eyes as well. He wrote: 'An aboslute winner. Beautiful peat.'

Bruichladdich 1970/2002
(44.2%, Official Bottling)
If we would have had an award for the candidate we most disagreed on, this old Laddie would have won it.
Serge and Olivier would have gladly presented Mark Reynier with a gold medal for this one, but a few other
maniacs were not quite as impressed. That being said, it impressed enough maniacs to earn itself a silver
medal - which in itself is pretty impressive. Serge proposed it might be 'a tad too subtle for some maniacs'.

Caol Ila 1992/2002 Extra Strength
(50%, Wilson & Morgan Barrel Selection)
A solid Islay malt that had Klaus hopping up and down with excitement - he gave it a whopping 94 points.
Except for Roman all other maniacs scored it well into the eighties, which makes this a real crowd-pleaser.
When he sampled it blind, Serge first thought this might be a Talisker because it showed plenty of pepper.
To me it seemed more medicinal after some breathing, so my first guess was Laphroaig. Good stuff!

Caol Ila 12yo 1990/2003
(46%, Whisky Galore)

Judging by their scores in the 90's, Klaus and Mark really loved this one. Davin notes say: 'Smoke like crazy'.
Serge thought this was 'a very good example of Caol Ila', although he found it not very complex. I think I'd have
to agree with him on that, but with a profile like this, who cares? To me, it has the main ingredients I'm looking
for in an Islay malt; peat and smoke. That makes this one perfect for days when I'm in a less 'analytical' mood.

Clynelish 1989/2003 Marsala Finish
(46%, Wilson & Morgan Barrel Selection, Marsala Finish)

Wilson & Morgan really submitted some great malts for the MM Awards. Their Caol Ila 1992, Glenrothes 1990,
Macallan 1990 and W&M 'House Malt Born On Islay' all won silver medals in this instalment of the MM Awards.
This Marsala finished Clynelish managed to charm Serge, Craig, Olivier, Krishna and myself just enough to earn
itself a bronze medal. However, if it had been up to Davin, Klaus and Roman it wouldn't have won a medal at all.

Convalmore-Glenlivet 26yo 1977/2003
(46%, Cadenhead's, Sherry Cask)

This bronze medal might have been a silver one if it had been up to Serge, Craig and Olivier.
In fact, all maniacs scored this one in the 80's and it only missed the silver medal by a fraction of a point.
Craig's notes describe the nose as 'fiery, woody, pine, pineapple, cream, pine wood', the palate as 'fruity,
spirit bite, fruit acid'
and the finish as 'sweet then dry and bitter'. Serge loved its 'beautiful flowery nose'.

Cragganmore 12yo
(40%, Official Bottling)

I don't know what happened, but when I poured this one (blind) to Mark and Krishna in Amsterdam they went
ballistic and scored it in the 90's - at least 10 points more than their scores for earlier batches of Cragganmore
released in the 1990's. In fact, Krishna gave it 92 points and put it at #2 of his Awards Top 10, right after the
overall winner Talisker 1981/2002. Craig and Davin liked this latest batch better than previous incarnations too.

Cragganmore 1988/2002 Distillers Edition
(40%, Official Bottling, Double Matured, CggD-6553)

Most - but not all - maniacs agreed that the finish had done good things for the standard Cragganmore 12yo.
Serge called it 'A nice surprise, ten steps further than the 'classic'. Olivier felt the same way and scored this
one almost ten points higher than the 12yo. However, some maniacs sang a different tune; Krishna and Davin
preferred the 'normal' 12yo over the Distillers Edition. Craig liked the palate a little better than the nose.

Cragganmore-Glenlivet 14yo 1989/2003
(46%, Cadenhead's, Sherry Casks)

Although all three gold medals went to official bottlings, the independents offered some nice surprises as well.
From the three medal winning Cragganmores, this independent bottling from Cadenhead's outscored the two
official bottlings. If it had been up to Serge, Olivier and Krishna this Cragganmore would have earned a big fat
silver medal. Mark was even going for gold. More subdued reactions by Craig, Davin and Klaus kept it at bronze.

Glenfarclas 33yo 1970/2003
(46%, Official Bottling for La Maison du Whisky, Sherry Cask #2022)
Winner of a silver medal, the Top Single Sherry Cask Award and the Speyside Award of Excellence.
This is one of the big winners of the 2003 MM Awards. In the end it didn't earn a gold medal, but if it had been
up to Serge, Davin and Olivier it would have. Klaus described the nose as 'manifold' and 'a meadow of flowers'.
Serge found it 'very long, very subtle, with all sorts of fruit'. I was very impressed by the fabulous finish myself.

Glenfiddich 21yo Havana Reserve
(40%, Official Bottling)
Looking at the matrix you'll see that the average malt maniac isn't a big Glenfiddich fan. Well, with the possible
exception of Krishna and Mark perhaps. Until the 2003 Awards we had only one truly 'recommendable' version on
the matrix; the 15yo Cask Strength. I'm glad to announce that with the release of this Havana Reserve we have
found ourselves another recommendable Glenfiddich - even though Craig Daniels thought this was 'a weird one'.

Glenlivet 18yo
(43%, Official Bottling)
Craig and Roman liked this one a little better than the majority of the maniacs, while Krishna, Mark and Olivier
felt it wasn't even worthy of a medal. Well, I can certainly live with awarding this Glenlivet 18yo a bronze medal.
It's a very decent, accessible dram and I feel that its subtle, modest character made it slip into the background
a bit in the company of so many bigger and bolder malts. Just like some Glenfiddichs, it suffers for being subtle.

Glenlivet 26yo 1976/2002
(59.7%, Signatory Vintage for La Maison du Whisky, Sherry cask #430, 794 bottles)
Olivier and Roman felt this one deserved a gold medal. Davin and myself really liked this one as well; the style
reminded me of the good old Macallan OB's. Craig's notes say: 'sherry burnt notes, woody, gunpowder, pudding'
for the nose, 'sherry, wood phenols, mint caramel, menthol' for the palate and 'warming, caramel, sulphur' for
the finish. Serge wrote: 'Very bold, another great malt by Andrew Symington.' Yep, this is a good piece of work.

Glenrothes 1989/2000
(43%, Official Bottling)

If I'm not mistaken, every single Glenrothes that was entered into the competition earned itself a medal.
That's not bad at all, considering that just being 'better than average' doesn't earn a malt a medal in our book.
This 1989 vintage was Roman's favourite among the four medal winners but the majority of the other maniacs
(except Serge) preferred the older OB's - and the Wilson & Morgan 1990/2002 bottled at 46% for that matter.

Glenrothes 1990/2002
(46%, Wilson & Morgan Barrel Selection, Sherry Wood)

Craig and Davin were captivated by this winner of the Bang-For-Your-Buck Award, and who could blame 'em?
Klaus described it as 'a very obtrusive sherry monster' - and I'm sure he meant that in the nicest possible way.
My own notes match those from Klaus; the nose was very rich with an amazing, heavily sherried complexity.
I really loved it, but I have to admit it's quite extreme. A real sherry monster, not for the faint of heart...

Glenrothes 1979/2002
(43%, Official Bottling)

Overall this one earned the same average score as the 1989 OB, so it seems the extra ten years in the casks
didn't do very much for the whisky. Serge, Krishna, Mark and Roman liked the '89 a little better than the '79,
while Craig and I preferred the older expression. None of the maniacs rated them more than five points apart.
In the end it all evens out and the result is another bronze medal for an official Glenrothes bottling.

Glenrothes 1973/2000
(43%, Official Bottling)

The third official Glenrothes bottling in the competition won a bronze medal as well, although this was the one
that came closest to actually winning silver. Craig, Davin, Olivier, Klaus and Roman all scored it in the upper 80's.
Looking at the scores in the matrix, some other maniacs share my feelings about the Glenrothes OB's. I've never
had a bad one, but to win silver or gold in the MM Awards being just quite good just isn't quite good enough...

Highland Park 12yo
(43%, Official Bottling)

With the exception of Craig and Roman, all maniacs scored this latest expression a little below the HP12 that
was available in the 1990's; one of Klaus' first true loves. Nevertheless, this recent bottling (packaged in a box
instead of a tube) missed a silver medal by just a few points and was a serious contender for the BFYB Award.
Klaus found fruit, wood, honey and sherry in the nose sherry, honey and wood on the palate. Very satisfying.

Highland Park 19yo 1984/2003
(50%, Douglas Laing Old Malt Cask, cask DL REF 406, 636 bottles)

When I sampled this one blind I was convinced I was enjoying an Islay malt - enjoying it very much, in fact.
Krishna scored it in the 90's and Davin, Mark and myself came pretty close to nominating it for gold as well.
Serge was the only maniac who didn't think this Highland Park was medal material. He liked its subtle nose, but
found the palate a little disappointing. Too bad, because this HP came very close to winning a silver medal.

Inverleven 1989/2003
(45%, Gordon & MacPhail, new bulky bottle)

We became very excited when we learned that G&M were going to submit a few bottlings from their latest
range to the MM Awards because Derek Hancock told us that G&M was about to change its approach to their
'preferred bottling strength' of 40%. I think this young Inverleven at 45% winning bronze proves that they did
the right thing. Craig got musk, chalk and pink sherbet from the nose while Serge found a lot of bubblegum.

Lagavulin 12yo Special Release
(58%, Official Bottling, Bottled 2002)

If it hadn't been for the flabbergasting Ardbeg 21yo Committee, this cask strength Lagavulin would surely have
picked up the Islay Award of Excellence. Olivier, Mark, Roman and myself all scored it in the 90's but Serge and
Klaus had their doubts, just keeping this one from winning a gold medal. Well, a silver medal is nothing to be
scoffed at either. I just adore this peat monster and this time I imagined I even found garlic in there. Lovely!

Lagavulin 16yo 'Port Ellen'
(43%, Official Bottling)

Serge wrote: 'A winner, any time…' and I have to go along with that. The 'White Horse' bottlings of the 16yo
Lagavulin have reigned supreme on the top of my Hit List throughout the 1990's and most of these 'Port Ellen'
batches aren't half bad either. That being said, except for Serge all other maniacs scored this one a tad below
the 12yo Special Release. I have to say I love them both, and I welcome the expansion of the Lagavulin range.

Lagavulin 1986/2002 Distillers Edition
(43%, Official Bottling, Double matured, lgv.4/490)

With candidates finished in casks that previously contained port, rum and marsala running in this year's race
it may come as a surprise that the winner of the Warped Whisky Award (award for the best whisky treated
or finished in 'special' wood) was the good old Lagavulin DE, finished in Pedro Ximenez sherry casks. Well, there
actually were some debates within the jury wheter or not this one qualified - we neglected to specify 'special'.

Laphroaig 16yo 1987/2003
(50%, Douglas Laing Old Malt Cask, DL REF 814, 276 bottles)

Craig and I were both very intrigued by this independent take on Laphroaig when we first sampled it blind.
It somehow reminded me of a fish market - and in this case that's not a bad thing. It starts off remarkably soft
before it starts unveiling its Islay trademarks of peat, iodine and liquorice. Olivier Humbrecht and Klaus Everding
scored this one well into the 90's, and each maniac that sampled this OMC Laphroaig nominated it for a medal.

Lochside 1991/2003
(43%, Gordon & MacPhail Connoisseurs Choice, JC/FG)

Not all maniacs were convinced one of G&M's first 43% bottlings was medal material.
In fact, Davin, Olivier, Klaus and Roman all scored it in the 70's. Craig, Krishna, Mark and myself begged to differ
with scores in the lower and mid-eighties while Serge was almost ready to go for gold with a score of 89 points.
Serge grew quite sentimental about this one; he wrote: 'Clean and fresh, superb! I love this Lochside!.'

Longrow 10yo 1993
(46%, Official Bottling)

Serge described this one as 'Very interesting, sharp and fresh, a great alternative to the southshore Islayers.'
Well, I wouldn't know about that. To me it's more like a subtle Caol Ila - smoky and peaty but transparent and
briny like a cool sea breeze as well. I'd say this is no peat monster like some Ardbegs, Lagavulins or Laphroaigs,
more like a 'peat baby'. Klaus and Mark were especially excited about this one and were ready to go for gold.

Macallan 12yo 1990/2003
(57.5%, Wilson & Morgan Barrel Selection, Cask #8748)

After Krishna ranked his awards malts from best to worst this one came at #3. Most other maniacs loved this
one as well; Except for Mark we all ended up scoring it in the upper or mid-eighties. Another wonderful bottling
from the 'underdogs' Wilson & Morgan who entered the race at the last moment. This Macallan reminded me of
one of the August fruit parades we have in Holland; dozens of sweet fruits with some rubber in the background.

Mortlach 12yo 1990/2002
(46%, Murray McDavid, MM 3748, Sherry Casks)

Serge wrote: 'A very classical all-rounder'. I liked it as well, the nose showed great development over time.
This is one of those whiskies that makes you afraid to put your glass on the table because you might miss
something while you're not looking - or in this case sniffing. Krishna and Mark both gave this one 90 points but
most other maniacs scored it more conservatively in the eighties. This MurMac gets a very solid bronze medal.

Saint Magdalene 24yo 1978/2002
(50%, Douglas Laing Old Malt Cask, Bottled December, 504 bottles)

If it had been up to me, this winnner of the Lowlands Award of Excellence would have won a gold medal too.
Serge described it as: 'Very special meaty notes, and a lot of sherry, although not stated on the label. Great.'
Craig and I both found plenty of sherry too - and fruit, wood and smoke as well. In fact, when I tried it blind
for the first time I was convinced I was enjoying an old Macallan. Another fabulous expression of Linlithgow.

Springbank 10yo
(46%, Official Bottling)

Opinions about this young Springer varied a lot; the difference between Mark's highest score and Klaus' lowest
score was an amazing 19 points. This illustrates a suspicion I've had for some time now; Springbanks (especially
the younger expressions) seem a little better suited to American noses and palates than to European ones. I'm
quite sure this one would have earned a higher score if the packages for the USA maniacs had arrived in time.

Springbank 15yo
(46%, Official Bottling)

Serge wrote about this Springer: 'A good malt, but not that superior to the 10yo.'
Well, the average score for this one was two points higher than that of the tenner and only two maniacs rated
it in the seventies, so I'd say the official maniacal recommendation for this one rings a bit louder than that for
the tenner. Serge, Craig, Olivier and Krishna were most impressed with this particular expression.

Talisker 10yo
(45.8%, Official Bottling)

Klaus was the only one who didn't score this one in the upper eighties or lower nineties. He claimed it wasn't
peppery enough for him, but that didn't keep it from picking up the Pressure Cooker Award along with a solid
silver medal. The PC Award goes to the malt with the best performance/age ratio. The Lagavulin 12yo Special
Release came pretty close to grabbing the PC Award, but in the end the youthful Talisker (at 45.8%) prevailed.

Talisker 1989/2002 Distillers Edition
(45.8%, Official Bottling, Double matured, TD-S: 5DP)

My first tasting notes say: 'Subtle fruits on the surface but something evil lurks at the bottom of the pond.'
If it had been up to Serge, Davin, Olivier and me this double matured Talisker would have earned a silver medal,
while Krishna and Mark were even ready to go for gold. Only Klaus and Roman felt it wasn't worthy of a medal,
but Roman's score in the 60's was extreme enough to drag this one just outside the silver medal range.

Talisker 20yo 1981/2002 Natural Cask Strength
(62%, Official Bottling, Sherry casks, 9000 bottles)

This fabulous whisky nabbed the Non-Plus-Ultra Award as the highest scoring whisky of the 2003 awards,
as well as the Islands Award of Excellence and a gold medal. I think Klaus' comments 'Geil!!! Ultra-intensive!'
more or less reflect all our feelings. Davin wrote: 'Please sir, may I have some more?' Yeah, me too, please.
This is absolutely stunning stuff and there wasn't a single maniac who didn't score it well into the 90's.

Talisker 20yo 1982/2003
(58.8%, Official Bottling, Refill Casks, 12000 bottles)

Serge thought this was 'very good, but less demonstrative than the earlier 1981/2002 sherry matured version.'
With four medals in the 2003 MM Awards, Talisker rivals Aberlour and Glenrothes as one of our 'official' favourite
three distilleries. (Lagavulin 'only' won 3 silver medals) Given the fact that Aberlour and Glenrothes have both
won 'just' one award where Talisker has won three, I think it's safe to say that Talisker is the big awards winner.

Wilson & Morgan 'House Malt Born On Islay' 1994/2003
(43%, Wilson & Morgan, Cask #1496-1502)

This was sort of a 'black horse' in this year's competition - the only 'bastard malt' on our list.
Several maniacs thought they were sampling a young Lagavulin when they tasted this one blind, and that seems
to confirm the rumours I've been hearing through the grapevine. However, make sure to check the cask numbers
before you buy yourself a case of this friendly priced bastard malt; I've been told the next batch will be Caol Ila.

And those were the results of the Malt Maniacs Awards in 2003...
By the time you read this, 'batch variation' could have changed the character of some of the official bottlings considerably, while most of the independent bottlings will probably be hard to find these days. Check out the Malt Maniacs Awards Overview or the MaltMenu to find out about more recent bottlings. Check out the Matrix and the Monitor if scores are your thing.
 
 

Alphabetical overview of medal winners in 2003
2003
Malt Maniacs Awards - 2003

December 15, 2003 - Oh boy... the final results of the MM Awards are finally on-line!
Frustrated by the dozens of 'chocolate medals' that are handed out each year we
organised the very first 'Malt Maniacs Awards' - and the support from the whisky
industry was overwhelming - and quite heart warming. On this page you can find
an overview of all 2003 Malt Maniacs Award winners and a complete list of no less
than 43 malt whiskies that managed to win a bronze, silver or gold medal.

MM Archives - Home

Some of the absolute highlights of 2003 were the Talisker 20yo 1981/2002
(62%, OB, sherry), the Ardbeg 21yo 'Committee' (56.3%, OB) and the brand
new Brora 30yo bottling (52.4%, OB). Just click on the name of a particular
malt whisky to read some of our comments and tasting notes.

We'll get back to the results for 2003 in a moment, but we should also point out
that this is an 'archived' website. Many of the whiskies that are discussed will be
hard to find in stores these days. If that doesn't bother you, you are welcome to
browse the 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010 & 2011 awards editions.

Malt Madness - our first whisky web siteWhiskyFun - by Serge ValentinMalt Maniacs - The ArchivesQuestions?Malt Maniacs - The Archives
2007 E-pistlesThe New Malt Maniacs website2003 E-pistles2005 E-pistles2008 E-pistles2009 E-pistles2010 E-pistles2011 E-pistles

The Malt Maniacs Awards 2003 - Complete Results

MM Awards Overview --- Rules --- A2003 --- A2004 --- A2005 --- A2006 --- A2007 --- A2008 --- A2009 --- A2010 --- A2011

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