As the number of bottles in the competition grows, the task of
the jurors becomes more arduous. In fact, we almost had to go
with ten jurors this year. One juror missed three deadlines in a
row for the final scores, which effectively meant that the rest
of the jury had less time than usual for deliberations about
the 'magic formula' and nominations for the various awards.
Because we finally managed to find a peaceful compromise,
the competition cost us a little less blood this year - but a lot
more sweat & tears. But we survived - and we emerged
victoriously with a bunch of medals and awards in our hands.
Anyway; you can find the 18 award winners below; scroll
down further for an overview of all medal winners and some
additional 'editorial ' comments. At the very bottom of this page
you can find an alphabetical selection of a few dozen medal winners
with background details of those whiskies, as well as tasting notes.
Johannes van den Heuvel
Editor Malt Madness / Malt Maniacs
1) He ranked all the whiskies according to their original averages;
2) Next, he deleted ALL lowest scores, whether extreme or not, for all whiskies
that had an average score of 87.5 or more (the middle of the 'silver' range;
3) Next, he deleted one extreme score, i.e. lowest scores that were at least 10 points
below the average, for all whiskies with average scores between 85 and 87.4 and;
4) The full remainder of the list was left untouched.
This formula produced the PDF score card. Last year we still kept some information
from the card (if an extreme score was discarded we replaced it with a 'D'), but this
year every juror stood by his scores, so we felt there was no reason to hide them.
In fact, it's good to stress the fact that our medals are based on averages and that
we can disagree quite a lot on certain bottlings. Take the Glendronach 15yo Revival
at the left, for example. Everybody agreed that it should earn a gold or silver medal,
except for Konstantin who didn't even feel it should earn bronze. And although we
don't usually discuss the 'non-winners', I'm not afraid to reveal that one bottling
deserved a bronze or silver medal - at least as far as nine jurors were concerned;
the Caol Ila 10yo 'Unpeated' (65.8%, OB, bottled 2009). However, Peter's score of
72 points and Konstantin's 30 points (!) pushed this candidate out of medal territory.
ULTRA PREMIUM CATEGORY
DAILY DRAMS CATEGORY
Just like last year, we've published a PDF Score Card with the price categories, average scores and individual scores for all medal winning whiskies in this year's whisky competition. The overall results are comparable with last year's; 7 gold medals, 64 silver medals and 103 bronze medals. That means that most participants are sending us 'a better class of whisky' year after year - these days the percentage of medal winning whiskies is higher than in the early years 2003 and 2004. However, to arrive at these results we had to use a slightly different 'magic formula' than in previous years...
91 Glen Grant 36yo 1972/2009 (56.3%, Duncan Taylor for The Whisky Fair, Sherry, 209 Bts.)
90 Karuizawa 1972/2008 (65%, The Number One Drinks Company, Sherry Cask#7290, 528 Bts.)
90 Glendronach 37yo 1972/2009 (53.3%, OB for LMdW, Oloroso Sherry Butt, Cask#705, 275 Bts.)
90 Bunnahabhain 35yo 1974/2009 (56.6%, Adelphi, 200 Bts.)
90 Yoichi 1991/2009 'Single Cask' (58%, OB, Imported by LMdW, Cask#129374, 453 Bts.)
90 Hakushu 1989/2009 (62%, OB, TWE 10th anniversary, Sherry Butt #9O 50021)
90 Macallan 1970/2009 (46%, G&M Speymalt for LMdW, First Fill sherry cask #8326)
89 Benriach 33yo 1976/2009 (47.4%, OB for TWF, cask#3558, 162 Bts.)
89 Clynelish 36yo 1972/2009 (59.4%, Gordon & MacPhail for LMdW, Refill Sherry Hogshead #14301)
89 Bowmore 36yo 1972/2008 (45.4%, SigV CS Collection, Sherry Butt #3890, 540 Bts.)
89 Distilled in Speyside 39yo 1970/2009 (54.4%, The Perfect Dram, First Fill Oloroso Butt, 240 Bts.)
89 Port Ellen 25yo 1982 (58.2%, Douglas of Drumlarig for Kingfisher, Selection 2008, Sherry Butt)
89 Elements of Islay NAS 'PE1' (58.7%, Speciality Drinks Ltd, 'Port Ellen', 50cl)
89 Port Ellen 25yo 1982/2008 (59.3%, Signatory CS Collection, Refill Sherry Butt #2846, 234 Bts.)
89 Glenury Royal 36yo 1973/2009 (46.2%, Blackadder Raw Cask, Cask #6863, 148 Bts.)
89 Karuizawa 1982/2009 (56.1%, OB for the Number One Drinks Co, First Fill Sherry, Cask #2748)
89 Glengoyne 1973/2009 (55.1%, Malts of Scotland, Bourbon cask #677, 138 Bts.)
89 Glenfarclas 1972/2006 (51.1%, OB Family Cask #3546, 645 Bts.)
89 Yamazaki 1984 (48%, OB, matured in Japanese Mizunara oak, +/- 2009)
88 Caperdonich 36yo 1972/2009 (54.4%, Whisky Doris, Bourbon Hogshead #7425, 175 Bts.)
88 Yamazaki 18yo (43%, OB, +/- 2009)
88 Laphroaig 20yo 1989/2009 (57.1%, Douglas Laing for LMdW, Sherry Hog, DL Ref 5220, 219 Bts.)
88 Laphroaig 1998/2009 (55.5%, Malts of Scotland, Sherry Butt #MoS15, 201 Bts.)
88 Ardbeg NAS 'Corryvreckan' (57.1%, OB, +/- 2009)
88 Ben Nevis 34yo 1975 (63%, Prestonfield for LMdW, Bourbon cask #7439, 146 Bts.)
88 Bunnahabhain 18yo (43%, OB, +/- 2009)
88 Longmorn 30yo (43%, Gordon & MacPhail, +/- 2009)
88 Lagavulin DE 1991/2008 (43%, OB, ref 4/496)
87 Strathisla 1957/2007 (43%, Gordon & MacPhail)
87 Glendronach 15yo 'Revival' (46%, OB, Oloroso cask matured, +/- 2009)
87 Linkwood 1990/2009 (45%, Gordon & MacPhail for LMdW, Cask #6964)
87 Adelphi 18yo 1991/2009 Breath of Speyside (54.2%, Adelphi, cask #5145, 520 Bts.)
87 Invergordon 1971/2009 (48%, Berry Brothers & Rudd, Cask#6)
87 Glen Grant 34yo 1974/2009 (52.2%, Duncan Taylor Rare Auld, cask #16578, 175 Bts.)
87 Caol Ila 27yo 1982/2009 (62.4%, The Perfect Dram, Bourbon Hogshead, 108 Bts.)
87 Benrinnes 13yo 1996/2009 (57%, A. D. Rattray, Sherry Hogshead #6461, 315 Bts.)
87 Glengoyne 11yo 1997/2008 (56.3%, OB, Sherry hog, Cask#2692, 301 Bts.)
87 Adelphi's 12yo Laudale 'Batch #1' (46%, Adelphi)
87 Talisker 25yo (54.2%, OB, bottled 2008, 9708 Bts.)
87 Hakushu 25yo (43%, OB, +/- 2009)
87 Glan Ar Mor NAS 'Kornog' (57.1%, OB, Peated whisky, single cask, Britanny France)
86 Caol Ila 1998/2009 (60.9%, Malts of Scotland, Bourbon Hog #12374, 226 Bts.)
86 Lagavulin 16yo (43%, OB, +/- 2009)
86 Lochside 28yo 1981/2009 (56%, Blackadder Raw Cask, Cask #617, 202 Bts.)
86 Glenrothes 39yo 1970/2009 (47.9%, Duncan Taylor for The Nectar, cask#10567, 127 Bts.)
86 Talisker 30yo (49.5%, OB, bottled 2008, 2970 Bts.)
86 Port Ellen 27yo 1982/2009 (58.6%, Signatory for LMdW, 3rd Release, Cask#1523, 229 Bts.)
86 Caol Ila 16yo 1992/2009 (57.2%, The Clydesdale, cask ref 0006/10641, 292 Bts.)
86 Smoking Islay 15yo 1993/2009 (57%, Blackadder Raw Cask, Cask ref BA2009/417, 270 Bts.)
86 Bowmore 1994/2008 (56.3%, Berry Brothers & Rudd, cask #1681)
86 Lochside 1981/2009 (56.1%, Gordon & MacPhail for LMdW, refill sherry hogshead #803)
86 Glenugie 31yo 1977/2009 (58.1%, Signatory, Oloroso finish for 84 months in cask #7, 577 Bts.)
86 Caol Ila 1979/2009 (53.1%, Berry Brothers & Rudd, cask #4412)
86 Carsebridge 30yo 1979/2009 (52.3%, Duncan Taylor Rare Auld, cask #33038, 164 Bts.)
86 Lagavulin 12yo 'Special Release' (56.4%, OB, Bottled +/- 2009)
85 Octomore 5yo '2nd Edition' (62.5%, OB, 140ppm, 15000 Bts.)
85 Glenlivet 14yo 1995/2009 (46%, Signatory, Sherry butt #144352, 767 Bts.)
85 Amrut NAS 'Fusion' (50%, OB, Batch #1, Bottled March 2009)
85 Glenfarclas 1986/2007 (56.5%, OB Family Cask #3434, 521 Bts.)
85 Caol Ila 20yo 1988/2008 (46%, Wilson & Morgan, cask #4224-4225)
85 Talisker NAS '57° North' (57%, OB, Bottled +/- 2009)
85 Laphroaig 10yo 1998/2008 (62.2%, Blackadder Raw Cask, Cask ref 700214, 272 Bts.)
85 Blue Hanger NAS '4th Release' (45.6%, Berry Brothers & Rudd, Bottled 2008, Blend)
85 Skye 24yo 1984/2008 'Undercover #2' (51.9%, The Nectar Daily Dram, 82 Bts.)
85 Yamazaki NAS (48%, OB, Sherry Cask, Bottled +/- 2009)
85 Bowmore 10yo 'Tempest Batch #1' (55.3%, OB, First Fill Bourbon, Bottled 2009)
85 Celtique Connexion 1995/2008 'Affinage Sauternes' (46%, Celtic Whisky, Speyside, 328 Bts.)
85 Amrut NAS 'Two Continents' (46%, OB, multiple continents, bottled Feb 2009, 786 Bts.)
85 North British 45yo 1963/2008 (55.8%, Signatory, Cask #48762, 294 Bts.)
85 Glen Grant 23yo 1985/2009 (55.9%, Adelphi, 191 Bts.)
85 Clynelish 12yo 1996/2008 (58.6%, Wilson & Morgan, Marsala finish, cask#06/09013-5)
84 Glendronach 18yo 'Allardice' (46%, OB, Oloroso cask matured, +/- 2009)
84 Tullibardine 1988/2009 (56%, OB, cask#540, 317 Bts.)
84 Talisker 10yo (45.8%, OB, Bottled +/- 2009)
84 Islay Blended NAS 'Big Peat' (46%, DL, vatting of Ardbeg, Caol Ila, Bowmore, Port Ellen, +/- 2009)
84 Port Ellen 29yo 1978/2008 '8th Release' (55.3%, OB, 6618 Bts.)
84 Glenfarclas 1991/2007 (57.9%, OB Family Cask #5623, 613 Bts.)
84 Highland Park 12yo 'Hjärta' (58.1%, OB, Bottled 2009, 3924 Bts.)
84 Kavalan NAS 'Solist' (58.4%, OB, sherry cask#S060703012, 608 Bts.)
84 Inchgower 1974/2009 (57.1%, SSMC Maggie Miller, cask#7763, 188 Bts.)
84 Amrut 2003/2009 (46%, Milroy's, cask# 08/08/30-1, 210 Bts.)
84 Tyrconnel 10yo Sherry Finish (46%, OB, Bottled +/- 2009)
84 Laphroaig 12yo 1996/2009 (46%, Milroy's, bourbon hog #7289, 337 Bts.)
84 Caol Ila 26yo 1982/2008 (54.6%, Duncan Taylor for The Nectar, cask#2738, 279 Bts.)
84 Glenlivet 21yo 'Archive' (43%, OB, batch#0209C, +/- 2009)
84 Talisker 15yo 1993/2009 (51.7%, Hart Brothers Finest Collection)
84 Speyside 19yo 1990/2009 'Undercover #4' (48%, The Nectar Daily Dram)
84 Brora 25yo '7th Release' (56.3%, OB, bottled 2008, 3000 Bts.)
84 Yamazaki 1996/2008 (59%, OB Suntory for Whisky Master, cask#AW70059, 123 Bts.)
84 Bunnahabhain 31yo 1976 (47.9%, A.D. Rattray for Single & Single, Sherry Cask)
84 Amrut NAS (62%, Blackadder, Bottled 2009, cask Ref BA6/2009, 254 Bts.)
84 Nikka 1995/2009 'Coffey Grain' (60%, OB, Imported by LMdW)
84 Connemara NAS 'Sherry Finish' (46%, OB Small Batch Collection, Peated, Lot L9088, +/- 2009)
84 Caol Ila 13yo 1995/2009 (60.5%, A. D. Rattray, Sherry cask #10035, 591 Bts.)
84 Elements of Islay 'CI1' (62.9%, Speciality Drinks Ltd, 'Caol Ila', 50cl)
84 Nikka 'Single Cask' 1990/2009 (58%, OB, Imported by LMdW)
84 Clynelish 'Synch Elli' 27yo 1982/2009 (46%, The Nectar Daily Dram)
84 Hakushu NAS 'Heavily Peated' (48%, OB, +/- 2009)
84 Amrut NAS 'Peated' (46%, OB, Bottled +/- 2009)
84 Tomatin 18yo 1990/2009 (56.6%, The Clydesdale, cask ref 0145/7717, 232 Bts.)
84 Caol Ila 25yo 1983/2008 (50.7%, Exclusive Malts for Taïwan SMWTA, Hogs cask #4793, 300 Bts.)
84 Mortlach 18yo 1990/2008 (46%, Hart Brothers Finest Collection, First Fill Sherry Butt)
84 Rosebank 18yo 1990/2008 (46%, Chieftain's, Sherry Butt, cask#614, 312 Bts.)
84 Cambus 18yo 1991/2009 (51.9%, Signatory, cask#55883, 664 Bts.)
84 Ballechin NAS '3rd Release' (46%, OB, Port Cask matured, Bottled 2008, 6000 Bts.)
83 Aberlour 18yo (43%, OB, Bottled +/- 2009)
83 Benriach 15yo Dark Rum Finish (46%, OB, +/- 2009)
83 Benriach 10yo 'Curiositas' (46%, OB, Peated Malt, +/- 2009)
83 Caol Ila 12yo (43%, OB, Bottled +/- 2009)
83 Glenlivet 16yo 'Nadurra' (57.7%, OB, batch#1007D, bottled 2007)
83 Clynelish 1992/2008 'Distillers Edition' (46%, OB, ref 171/3h)
83 Glen Elgin 16yo (58.5%, OB, Bottled +/- 2009)
83 Caol Ila 18yo 1991/2009 (48%, Chieftain's, 'German oak finish', cask #91821, 288 Bts.)
83 Cameronbridge 30yo 1978/2008 (56.6%, Adelphi, 238 Bts.)
83 Littlemill 1991/2009 (46%, Gordon & MacPhail Reserve for LMdW, Cask #94, 287 Bts.)
83 Mortlach 18yo 1990/2009 (57.3%, Wilson & Morgan, sherry butt, cask #4433)
83 Glen Scotia 17yo 1992/2009 (59.4%, A. D. Rattray, Sherry Butt #1, 670 Bts.)
83 Ardbeg 10yo (46%, OB, Bottled +/- 2009)
83 Bunnahabhain NAS 'Darach Ur' (46.3%, OB, for duty free, 1L)
83 Connemara NAS 'Cask Strength' (57.9%, OB, Peated, +/- 2009)
83 Laphroaig 1998/2008 (43%, Jean Boyer Best Casks, 1300 Bts.)
83 Bowmore 8yo 2000 (46%, A.D. Rattray for Single & Single, Bottled 2009)
83 Ben Nevis 1995/2009 (55.5%, The Nectar, Hogshead Cask #964, 212 Bts.)
83 Arran 12yo 1996/2008 (54.7%, Master of Malt, Refill Sherry Hogshead, 301 Bts.)
83 Bruichladdich 'Infinity Edition 3' (50%, OB, +/- 2009)
83 Wilson & Morgan 1999/2009 'Born on Islay' (43%, W&M, casks #12732-12739)
83 Celtique Connexion 1994/2008 'Affinage Vin de Paille' (46%, Celtic Whisky Cie, 328 Bts.)
83 Bunnahabhain NAS 'Toiteach' (46%, OB, Peated, Bottled 2009)
83 Glenlivet 1991/2009 'Nadurra' (48%, OB, Triumph barley varietal, batch #0809A)
82 Amrut NAS (62.3%, Blackadder, Bottled 2009, cask Ref BA4/2009, 277 Bts.)
82 Kavalan NAS 'Concertmaster' (40%, OB, Port Cask Finish)
82 Linkwood 19yo 1989/2009 (53.5%, The Clydesdale, cask ref 0034/1841, 209 Bts.)
82 Tomatin 18yo (46%, OB, Bottled +/- 2009)
82 Lark NAS 'Distiller's Selection' (46%, OB, Tasmania, Bottled +/- 2009)
82 Glen Grant 18yo 1990/2008 (59%, Signatory CS, Cask #7122, 582 Bts.)
82 Benromach 10yo (43%, OB, Bottled +/- 2009)
82 Caol Ila DE 1996/2008 (43%, OB, ref 4/468)
82 Ballechin NAS '4th Release' (46%, OB, matured in Oloroso Sherry Casks, Bottled 2009, 6000 Bts.)
82 Amrut NAS Rum Finish (62.2%, Blackadder, Bottled 2009, cask Ref BA5/2009, 245 Bts.)
82 Aberfeldy 21yo (40%, OB, Bottled +/- 2009)
82 Glenmorangie NAS 'Nectar d'Or' (46%, OB, Sauternes Casks Extra Matured, Bottled +/- 2009)
82 Stronachie 12yo (40%, OB, Bottled +/- 2009)
82 Glenlivet 18yo (43%, OB, Bottled +/- 2009)
82 Tyrconnel 10yo Port Finish (46%, OB, Bottled +/- 2009)
82 Bruichladdich 1992/2009 'Sherry Edition 2' (46%, OB, PX cask finish, 6000 Bts.)
82 Big Bastard 'Very Old' (200° proof, OB Serge Valentin, Matured in SGN bloodtub, 50cl, bottled 2008)
81 Kavalan NAS 'Solist' (58.8%, OB, Bourbon cask#B070604026, 196 Bts.)
81 Bowmore 11yo 1998/2009 (46%, Duncan Taylor NC2)
81 Tobermory 15yo (46.3%, OB, Bottled +/- 2009)
81 Arran 12yo 1996/2009 (55.7%, A. D. Rattray, cask #96/723, 656 Bts.)
81 Whyte & MacKay 22yo 'Supreme' (40%, OB, Blend, +/- 2009)
81 Ardbeg NAS 'Blasda' (40%, OB, Bottled +/- 2009)
81 Islay 12yo 'Distilled at Islay secret distilleries' (40%, Master of Malt, Bottled +/-2009)
81 Blair Athol 1998/2009 (46%, Berry Broethers & Rudd, cask #2157)
81 Edradour 10yo 1997/2008 Moscatel Cask Finish (56.9%, OB, 468 Bts.)
81 Clynelish 12yo 1996/2009 (58.3%, Whisky Doris, Sherry Butt, 221 Bts.)
81 Jura NAS 'Superstition' (43%, OB, Bottled +/- 2009)
81 Glenlivet 15yo 'French Oak Reserve' (40%, OB, +/- 2009)
81 Glendronach 12yo 'Original' (43%, OB, PX & Oloroso cask matured, +/- 2009)
81 Bowmore 1995/2009 (46%, Wilson & Morgan, Sherry finish)
81 Clynelish 12yo 1995/2008 (58.5%, SigV CS Collection, Sherry Butt #12789, 635 Bts.)
81 Lark NAS 'Cask Strength' (58%, OB, Australian Port quarter cask #LD80, Bottled 2009, 50cl)
81 Connemara 2001/2009 (59.2%, OB for Limburg, Peated, cask#K01/10 1196)
81 Longmorn 16yo (48%, OB, Bottled +/- 2009)
80 Arran 10yo (46%, OB, Bottled +/- 2009)
80 Arran 12yo 1996 'The Peacock Ltd Edition' (46%, OB, 6000 Bts.)
80 Scapa 16yo (40%, OB, Bottled +/- 2009)
80 Bruichladdich 'Laddie Classic Edition 1' (46%, OB, +/- 2009)
80 Glenmorangie NAS 'Quinta Ruban' (46%, OB, Port Cask Extra Matured, +/- 2009)
80 Clynelish 12yo (46%, OB, Bottled +/- 2009)
80 Tomatin 15yo (43%, OB, Bottled +/-2009)
80 Benriach 16yo (43%, OB, Bottled +/- 2009)
80 Jura 16yo (40%, OB, Bottled +/- 2009)
80 Johnnie Walker 15yo 'Green Label' (43%, OB, Bottled +/- 2009)
Please keep in mind that the PDF Score Card provides you with the indivudual scores from the eleven
jurors, as well as the price category for each whisky. Below are some more comments and tasting notes.
As you can see on the PDF Score Card two jurors were unusually harsh this year; Peter Silver and Konstantin Grigoriadis. Although they often were harsh in different parts of the spectrum, using last year's formula to calculate the average scores would mean that we would be left with not a single gold medal winner this year. What's more, many deserving bottles would have dropped off the list of medal winners altogether.
So, our 'master alchemist' Serge came up with an alternative formula for 2009;
Anyway, you can find which scores have been ignored on the PDF Score Card - the scores that were not used for the
calculation of the average
are inside the red cells; the blue cells with the 'X' signify samples that could not be scored because they were missing or broken. The 18 awards were given based on this 'raw data'. It was extra hard to pick various award winner this year. Should we choose the highest scoring entry in every category or or go for entries that offered more 'bang-for-your-buck'? The whiskies at the very top of the list are usually expensive and limited by definition while the winners in the 'daily drams' category are more relevant for more people because they are more affordable. In this case the Glendronach 15yo Revival was a big winner in that category - but people that follow the (b)logs of Serge and myself might have already expected that because we were both very enthusiastic about it... ;-)
-----One 'trend' that emerges from these results (or
-----perhaps an existing trend that is confirmed by
-----these results) is the strengthened profile of
-----Japanese whiskies. Ever since they started
-----participating in our competition in 2006, the
-----Japanese managed to collect more than their
-----fair share of medals. This year, 3 of the 7 gold
-----medal winners were Japanese whiskies.
-----Such a result would make sense if half of the
-----bottles in the competition came from Japan, but
-----in fact only a handful of the participants for 2009
-----were submitted by Suntory, La Maison du Whisky
-----or the Number One Drinks Company. So, based
-----on our experiences in the MM Awards it seems
-----that the average Japanese whisky is fabulous!
Of course it's entirely possible that we've only received the very best whiskies from Japan, so we'd never encounter possible sub-standard expressions - even if they existed. Nevertheless, based on what we've experienced so far it would seem that the 'quality' of the average Japanese whisky has now surpassed the quality of the average Scotch whisky. This didn't have to be a problem if the price levels had not changed in recent years; Japanese whiskies used to be considerably more expensive than Scotch whiskies a few years ago. However, the prices for most of the Scotch whiskies were raised significantly in recent years. That means that these days Japanese whiskies offer some serious competition for Scotch whiskies, especially in the 'premium' and 'ultra premium' price segments. In that respect it's amusing to read headlines like "Scotch whisky protected against 'inferior' copies" in relation to the new SWA guidelines; based on our experiences it seems Scotch whisky is gradually becoming the 'inferior product'.
Anyway, those were some of my own 'editorial comments' on this year's results. Scroll down if you can't wait for a list of all winners and some tasting notes (widely available bottles are printed boldly for easy scanning) - or keep reading for some additional comments on this year's results. The whole point of the Malt Maniacs Awards is the presentation of various different opinions and points of view, so I'm very happy that fellow juror Davin de Kergommeaux wrote some words on the proceedings as well.
Johannes van den Heuvel
Editor Malt Madness / Malt Maniacs
Why don't we mention the lower scoring whiskies in the Malt Maniacs Awards?
One reason is that we have 11 judges and it really takes only one bad score to kill a whisky's chance of getting a gold medal. Similarly it is difficult to get a bronze medal if even one judge strongly disagrees. We have different palates and have different preferences, so a whisky has to give a VERY strong performance to get any medal at all. This means a lot of really good whiskies just don't earn a medal. Wouldn't it be a shame if this meant some people chose never to taste them? Our process screens out all but the strongest of the strong so we could really do a disservice to our readers if we gave the impression that some fine whiskies somehow just aren't that fine.
The rules are known up front. We will publish the list of all whiskies that score 80 or more, but not the rest. This takes the risk out of the competition for small, new, and emerging distilleries. This means wonderful unknown malts like Amrut can join the competition confident that we won't diminish their chances to expand their market. And then, when they perform well in the Awards, we can take pride in having helped malt lovers discover a new hidden gem.
A few years ago we included a whisky from an upstart American micro-distillery in the Awards packages so all the judges could taste it. It was without doubt the worst whisky we had ever tasted. It tasted like someone had soaked a candle in vodka, and I don't mean beeswax, I mean paraffin. Since then this distillery has come a long way and is producing some respectable drams. It was not an official entry, so of course its score, no matter how good or bad, would not have been reported. I sometimes wonder though, what would have happened if we had published a score in the 40s for this whisky on the Awards page, along with negative tasting notes. It might have stopped a few people from ever tasting what is now becoming an interesting whisky, but more than that, it could have been quite discouraging to a distiller who was just starting out, and who it turns out, has quite some promise.
So be satisfied with knowing the whiskies we really recommend.
They've earned their medals, but don't be shy to taste those not on the list as well.
Who knows? Maybe they didn't enter in the first place.
Davin de Kergommeaux
Ian J. Dove, from whom I have borrowed the title of this piece, in an essay published in Allhoff and Adams' fascinating new book, Whiskey and Philosophy, compares tasting note writers to witnesses at a trial.
There is the eyewitness. She was there, saw it happen, smelled the cordite, heard the bang, saw the body drop and can identify the perpetrator. We rely on her because of her intimate experience with what happened. The trouble begins, when there are several eyewitnesses, because they don't often agree. The lawyers quiz them, and, when it helps their case, emphasize the differences in their testimony. The more eyewitnesses there are, however, the more the trends emerge, and minor discrepancies are forgotten, as the real events become clear. Tasting notes, says Dove, are the testimony of someone who has tasted the whisky and is, in their own simple words, trying to describe what it tastes like. Not all will agree, but when several tasters' notes are compared a useful impression of the whisky will emerge.
Then there is the expert witness. She has studied the subject matter, is objective, dispassionate and maintains professional distance. Her word alone can carry a lot of weight, even casting doubt on a whole raft of eyewitnesses. Expert tasters, whose notes carry such weight, are most often people who earn at least part of their living from writing tasting notes to publish in magazines, books and the like.
The judges of the Malt Maniacs Awards have tasted a lot of whiskies. We do publish our tasting notes, some of us more regularly than others, and we are careful with our tasting and our note writing. But just the same I hope that we are viewed as eyewitnesses, not experts, and I hope that as you peruse our notes and our score card, you think of us as eyewitnesses. Look for the similarities, but look for the discrepancies as well, because these too will help you find the trends, and I hope, a useful impression of the whiskies we have tasted.
Davin de Kergommeaux
Aberfeldy 21yo (40%, OB, +/- 2009)
Robert Karlson was charmed quite a bit by this bottling; he gave it 89 points (i.e. a nomination for a solid silver medal) and wrote: "Nose: Distinctly fruity and nice berries too. Well composed, the fruits of the sweeter exotic kind. Passion fruits and papaya. Ananas? Promising. Taste: So round and easy to drink, in balance with the nose. Lovely fruityness, vanilla and malt in great combination.". He nominated it as a fruity "easy to drink award" winner - and Serge and Bert also nominated it for a silver medal. However, with six votes for bronze that turned out to be the majority opinion. Bert Bruyneel described the nose as "Acacia honey, floral, a hot croissant, a fresh waxiness" and scored it at 86 points.
Aberlour 18yo (43%, OB, +/- 2009)
Incredibly enough, Aberlour forgot to send the most recent batch of their popular A'bunadh this year; those sherry bombs usually end up in the upper echelon of the silver range - possibly even reaching gold. Too bad... This was a fine bottling too, but three votes for silver and one for gold were not enough. I wrote: "Nose: Rich and fruity; seems quite sherried. Expressive, almost like a cognac in style. Some spices emerge after a few minutes of breathing - traces of cinnamon and nutmeg. A hint of mint in the background? Growing complexity. Taste: Fruity. Quite some tannins in the finish. Very nice, but not quite as 'thick' as the nose suggests. Score: 86 points." Unfortunately, that was a little higher than the average.
Amrut NAS 'Fusion' (50%, OB, Batch#1, India, Bottled March 2009)
All jurors agreed that this bottling from India deserved a medal, but opinions were divided about the colour.
Robert loved this expression from Amrut and gave it a score of 92 points. With four more votes for solid silver (from Olivier, Peter, Bert and Luca) this made it to an average that was just enough for a a silver medal. Robert wrote:
"Nose: Earthy tones. Some sooty smoke? Dark maltyness. Murky and promising. Taste: Spicier, livelier but just as dark as expected. Big and bold all the way. Cured leather and some soot at the end. With time also fruits.". There were several expressions of Amrut in this year's competition, but this was our favorite, together with the Amrut 'Two Continents'.
Ardbeg NAS 'Blasda' (40%, OB, +/- 2009)
The majority of the maniacs felt this deserved a medal, but with only one vote for silver (from Robert Karlson) and three votes for no meal at all (from Peter, Luca and myself) this ended up with a relatively thin bronze medal on average. Davin voted for 80 points and wrote: "Nose: Peat smoke, slightly acrid. Taste: Overly sweet, watery, nice mild peat smoke but too sweet, very simple, nice caramel notes way in the background, citric notes, pickles.". Konstantin guessed this was a Caol Ila. He gave it 80 points as well and wrote: "Nose: Peat, medicinal, iodine, tar, citrus. Taste: Peat, medicinal, tar, diluted.".
All in all, it would seem this relatively mild expression from Ardbeg doesn't do to well with most peatheads...
Ardbeg NAS 'Corryvreckan' (57.1%, OB, +/- 2009)
This was one of the 'big releases' of 2009; many people wondered if Louis Vuitton would dare to submit this 'show pony' to a harsh competition like our awards. Yes they did! I wrote: "Nose: Hint of wet dog. Fresh peat. Over time more organics emerge, but it all remains quite subtle. Whiff of rubber? Band aids? Or is that an association brought on by the subtle iodine? Nice definition and development, but it could use more fruits for balance. After ten minutes sweeter, fruitier elements emerge that (barely) lift it into the upper 80's. Needs time to get there. Taste: Feisty start with quite a lot of liquorice right away; I usually find that in the finish. Dry throughout with decent amounts of peat & smoke. Score: 85 points.". A solid silver medal!
Arran 12yo 1996/2008 (54.7%, Master of Malt, Refill Sherry Hogshead, 301 Bts.)
Several expressions of Arran were submitted to the MM Awards this year - and this one earned the highest average score. Krishna voted for gold with a score of 90 points and wrote: "Nose: Smoky, medicinal, green peppers. Taste: Very sweet and full bodied, lots of organics, B Complex. Fantastic finish, lots of organics.". The other jurors were not quite as enthusiastic, but Olivier, Ho-cheng and Bert still voted for a silver medal. Because Davin and Peter felt it didn't deserve a medal at all it ended up with a (solid) bronze medal on average. Bert wrote: "Nose: Antique, something waxy, alcohol. Taste: Smooth and creamy, getting spicier, straw, getting a bit clean, dried flowers, finish is dominated by spicyness.".
Ballechin NAS '4th Release' (46%, OB, Oloroso Sherry Casks, Btl. 2009, 6000 Bts.)
Looking at this year's score card, one could get the impression that Konstantin's tastes are quite similar to those of Andrew Symington and his team; both last year's Ballechin #3 and this year's #4 earned nominations for a gold medal from Konstantin. He preferred the lastest version by a point and wrote: "Nose: Mushrooms, medicinal, hospital. Taste: Big smoke, tar, peat, sweet, mushrooms.". Five other maniacs felt the lastest version deserved a silver medal, but much lover scores by Peter (60 points) and Krishna (73 points) pulled the average down to a bronze medal. Batch #4 earned a higher average score, but that may be because Peter didn't score this one - his sample broke ;-)
Ben Nevis 34yo 1975 (63%, Prestonfield for LMdW, Bourbon cask#7439, 146 Bts.)
Prestonfield is a brand that Signatory uses in France. This 'ultra premium' bottling received three nominations for a gold medal (from Serge, Peter and Krishna) and five more for silver. I wrote: "Nose: Peculiar. Silly Putty? Hard to define but very interesting! Some subtle organics behind the wood. A real teaser; many intriguing smells that suggest more than they give away. The nose deserves a score near the 90's. Taste: Big, woody and chewy. Toffee and smoke. The smooth centre is dry and sweet at the same time. Feels quite hot, although the smoothness suggests this is a grain whisky. Harsh finish though. Score: 87 points.". My own score was quite close to the overall average score of 88 points for this Ben Nevis.
Benriach 33yo 1976/2009 (47.4%, OB for The Whisky Fair, cask#3558, 162 Bts.)
There were several expressions of Benriach in this year's awards, but this was the only one that earned a silver medal. Serge, Olivier, Bert and Konstantin loved it enough to vote for gold, and five others voted for a silver medal. That means that this one actually came very close to winning a gold medal. I voted for silver with 88 points myself and wrote:
"Nose: Faint tropical fruits. Passion fruits. Banana. Whiff of smoke in the distant background. An incredibly enjoyable profile; different fruits emerge as time goes by. Rotting milk powder (a smell I remember from my youth). Taste: Very soft and fruity (passion fruit and gooseberry), but solid at the same time. Hint of pine? A nice amount of tannins in the background.".
Benrinnes 13yo 1996/2009 (57%, A. D. Rattray, Sherry Hogshead #6461, 315 Bts.)
This bottling from A.D. Rattray won the 'Best Sherry Cask Award' in the 'Daily Drams' price category. That probably means that it could be difficult to find a bottle - reasonably affordable sherry monsters have a tendency to fly off the shelves of the liquorists of the world. On the other hand, Benrinnes isn't a big brand like Macallan or Springbank. So, there's a chance that there are still some bottles gathering dust on the backs of shelves. Davin voted for a gold medal with his score of 92 points and wrote: "Nose: Sherry, dark fruit, hints of gunpowder, wood, more cream sherry, rubber. Taste: Wow! excellent, wood, fruit, sherry, very complex, nice christmas spices, loads of wood, sweet and spicy, hints of rubber, woody.".
Benromach 10yo (43%, OB, +/- 2009)
Although the average score ended up in bronze territory, Serge, Olivier, Robert and Bert voted for a silver medal.
Robert gave it 85 points and wrote: "Nose: Dry grass/hay initially, disappears with time. Under that bombmat there are quite some fruits, yet crisp all the way. Even some smoke/tobacco in there I'd say. Eucalyptus dominates. Taste: Mostly on fruits, then vanilla and malt. Quite enjoyable indeed. Some whiffs of smoke too in there. Tar and wood at the end. Crisp eucaluptys and mint as well. Complicated stuff this one! Kind of Japanese.". Well, it wasn't Japanese, but Gordon & MacPhail have proven that their own product has matured really well in recent years - this score is not bad for a 10 year old!
Bowmore 10yo 'Tempest Batch#1' (55.3%, OB, First Fill Bourbon, Bottled 2009)
We started our annual whisky competition in 2003 and over the years many distilleries and bottlers have participated. One of the very few distilleries that never participated so far was Bowmore, but this year they submitted their first bottling - and it confidently won a silver medal. Olivier voted for gold and wrote: "Clean fruit, some delicate peat, almost not noticeable. hold on, this very complex: great discreet fruit and nice peat, not the greenish style, but the maritime/salty style. At the moment the fuit battles the peat in the glass. If times helps, this will be a fantastic dram in the future.I think so. powerful finish and very long.". Olivier was the only one who votes for gold, but all jurors agreed it deserved a medal.
Bruichladdich NAS 'Infinity Edition 3' (50%, OB, +/- 2009)
Serge loved this to the tune of 88 points and wrote: "Nose: full blown peaty, leathery and organic profile. Very 'tertiary', with quite some dried mushrooms, old leather, Barbour grease, dried flowers, earth and just tiny-wee whiffs of lavender. I must say I like this profile a lot, it's big, complex and rather unusual (hence entertaining). Mouth: big peat, a certain 'Ardbegness', walnut cake, manzana liqueur, tangerines. A big fruitiness (...). Develops more on hugely peated lemons (yes, should that exist). The wine's influence grows bigger (...). Finish: long, with silky tannins, always these citrusy notes and big peat. Comments: rather different from the earlier batches of Infinity, that were more sherried and beefy if I remember well.".
Caperdonich 36yo 1972/2009 (54.4%, Whisky Doris, Bourbon C#7425, 175 Bts.)
The whisky in this hogshead was matured to perfection according to Serge, Olivier, Krishna and Konstantin; they all voted for a gold medal. Because Peter, Luca and myself only felt it deserved a bronze medal the average turned out as silver, but at least everybody agreed it deserved a medal. Luca wrote: "Nose: Grapefruit, passion fruit, strawberry, but most of all some REALLY heavy oak. Taste: Identical to the nose, then getting ENORMOUSLY astringent and slightly soapy.". Incidentally, here was yet another bottling from 1972 that did very well in our competition this year; the three highest scoring whiskies and four of the award winning whiskies were distilled in that year...
Clynelish 12yo 1996/2008 (58.6%, W&M, Marsala Finish, cask#06/09013-5)
Luca was proud as a peacock when he heard this bottling had earned a medal - he had helped select this cask with Wilson & Morgan's Fabio Rossi. Oddly enough, he gave it 'only' 81 points in the awards and wrote: "Nose: Quite restrained. Melon, some farminess. Taste: A bit watery, but OK. Nice firm maltiness, again melon and watermelon. Slighty and pleasantly tannic.". I voted for 85 points myself and wrote: "Nose: Coffee. Sour apples (Granny Smith?). Whiff of spices in the background. Very expressive. A little extreme, but I like it a lot. In fact, the score gradually climbed from 82 points to 85 points. Taste: Thick and very fruity. Tia Maria. Feels quite 'thick'. Remains fruity until the very end, while the fruits.".
Carsebridge 30yo 1979/2009 (52.3%, Duncan Taylor, cask #33038, 164 Bts.)
Comments will be added shortly... This bottling was released in the 'Rare Auld' range from Duncan Taylor. Davin swore it was Irish whisky, and a good one at that. He wrote: "Nose: Almost creamy with fruitiness, grass, flowers, icing sugar and perfume. Taste: Lots of nuttiness with lots of grain and more floral notes.". Davin voted for a bronze medal (and so did Peter, Robert, Konstantin and myself), but four votes for silver and two for gold (from Krishna and from Bert who apparently adores grain whiskies) brought the average to silver. In the past we had an awards for the best grain whisky; if this had still been the case this one would have lost to the Invergordon 1971/2009 (48%, Berry Brothers).
Clynelish 27yo 1982/2009 'Synch Elli' (46%, The Nectar Daily Dram)
Opinions were intensely divided about this 'ultra premium' bottling; Serge and Konstantin voted for a gold medal but most other jurors didn't feel this was very special. In fact, this was one of the lowest scoring bottlings with an 'ultra premium' price tag. If you're looking to expand your collection with a Clynelish, the 12yo Marsala finished bottling from Wilson & Morgan costs only a fraction of this 'Glen Wonka' and earned a higher average score. Konstantin wrote:
"Nose: Citrus, fresh hay, sea air, peat. Taste: citrus, iodine, metallic.". Krishna didn't like it quite as much and wrote:
"Nose: Smoke from green vegetation, feints, resins. Taste: Very sweet & Spicy, smoky, not many complexitites.".
Connemara NAS 'Cask Strength' (57.9%, OB, Peated, +/- 2009)
Cooley didn't perform as strongly as in previous years, although this bottling still earned a respectable bronze medal.
Seven jurors voted for bronze, two for silver and Konstantin even liked it enough to vote for gold. Only Olivier didn't feel this was worthy of a medal. Ho-cheng correctly identified this as an Irish whiskey in the blind tasting and wrote: "Nose: Leather, linseed, minty, herbal, Irish. Taste: Light body, quite Irish feel. Light, accetable, though not really my style.". This was not the only Connemara in this year's competition though - the Connemara NAS 'Sherry Finish' (46%, OB Small Batch Collection, Peated, Lot L9088, +/- 2009) received five votes for silver and earned a slightly higher average score.
Bunnahabhain 18yo (43%, OB, +/- 2009)
This bottling managed to impress many of the jurors this year, so it's no surprise it earned the "Best Natural Cask Award 2009" in the premium price category. Robert voted for silver with 88 points and wrote: "Nose: Nice spicyness and round fruityness. Some wood in there too, of the nice dark style. Taste: A nice round spicy and darkly fruity taste. Lively all the way although it's round and enjoyable. Some chocolate and more spice. A good one and soo drinkable.". Serge, Olivier, Peter, Krishna and Luca voted for silver as well and Ho-cheng and Bert even felt it deserved a gold medal. Ultimately, it reached the 26th position on our overall 'best-to-worst-list' of this year's MM Awards candidates.
Bunnahabhain 35yo 1974/2009 (56.6%, Adelphi, 200 Bts.)
Several jurors were deeply impressed by this expression of Bunnahabhain by Adelphi. Serge wrote; "Nose: chocolate, raisins and prunes galore at first nosing, then more typical honey and ripe fruits. (...) Leather, coffee, fig liqueur and cocoa, then a little menthol. Excellent. Big rancio after a while, dried mushrooms. Mouth (neat): rich, creamy, very sherried but not 'monstrous'. Cassis jelly, raspberry liqueur, old Armagnac, toffee (...). With water: more spices, the whole getting drier. Bitter chocolate, coffee beans and liquorice. Finish: long, with some fresh fruits (but don't we get rhubarb?) and once again these faint notes of grape skin or even pips. Score: 90 points. Only Peter Silver didn't think this bottling deserved a medal.
Glan Ar Mor NAS 'Kornog' (57.1%, OB, Peated whisky, Britanny France)
This bottling from the Celtic Whisky Company earned a pretty solid silver medal, partly thanks to votes for gold from Olivier, Bert and Konstantin. Davin voted for 84 points and wrote: "Sweet fresh fruit with a developing smokiness. Taste: More smoke, a light fruitiness – sweet pears and apples and hot pepper. A slight bitterness.". I also went for a score of 84 points and wrote: "Nose: Mellow start with sweet orange and lemon notes after a few seconds. Honey. A little rough, but very expressive. Taste: Surprising blast of peat - the nose didn't prepare me for that. Wait, it's not so much 'organic' peat; rather smoke and anthracite. Grain whisky smoothness. Harsh but pleasant finish.".
Glenlivet 21yo 'Archive' (43%, OB, batch#0209C, Bottled +/- 2009)
This was Bert Bruyneels's absolute favorite bottling in this year's edition of the Malt Maniacs Awards; he voted for a gold medal with his score of 94 points. Bert wrote: "Nose: A fruit basket, old Speyside?, vanilla, oak, peaches, really nice. Taste: Spicy and creamy, really nice mouthfeel, powerful but well balanced, remains a fruit basket, nice vanilla and oak, finish remains powerful but complex, well balanced and fruity till Timbuktu.". Six other jurors (Serge, Davin, Ho-cheng, Krishna, Robert and Luca) voted for a silver medal, but Konstantin's 73 points dragged the average down to 'bronze' territory.
So, let's hope all maniacs send in their scores on time next year so we'll have more time for the 'magic formula' ;-)
Glendronach 37yo 1972/2009 (53.3%, OB for LMdW, Sherry Cask#705, 275 Bts.)
This ancient Glendronach was matured in an Oloroso Sherry Butt. Robert Karlsson voted for gold with 92 points and wrote: "Nose: Special nose. Almost OBE? Cured leather? Very special dark malts. Sooty smoke. Intense and very very special. Taste: Whoa. Beautiful taste. Everything the nose suggested and add a bunch of very exciting fruits. Long and dry aftertaste too. A really odd bird. Only found style like this in bottlings done decades ago. Ah, yummy.". He was not the only one who loved this expression; Serge, Olivier, Davin, Luca and Konstantin also felt this one deserved a gold medal. Ho-cheng, Krishna and myself voted for solid silver medals, so the average score was enough for gold...
Glen Grant 36yo 1972/2009 (56.3%, DT for The Whisky Fair, Sherry, 209 Bts.)
If it had been up to Peter Silver, this one would not have won any medal at all; he felt this one had been too long in the cask and gave it a measly 72 points. Fortunately, more than half of the jurors felt this bottling from Duncan Taylor actually deserved a gold medal, so that's what we gave it - and we could do so because Peter's score was so extreme we could exclude it altogether. Bert Bruyneel thought it was a Glendronach and gave it 92 points. He wrote: "Nose: BIG sherry, but still complex and pleasant, BBQ, herbal, liquorice. Taste: Spicy and creamy, great mouth-feel, fruity sweet, great evolution towards a great, warming, spicy finish, this is a great one." Most of the other jurors enthusiastically agreed.
Glenugie 31yo 1977/2009 (58.1%, Signatory, Oloroso Finish, cask#7, 577 Bts.)
This bottling was finished in Oloroso casks for 84 months. Davin voted for 86 points and wrote: "Nose: Sherry, wood, tobacco, stewed prunes and flowers. Taste: Hot pepper, dark fruits, tobacco, and loads of wood all on a sweet sherry background.". I was one of the other five jurors that voted for silver (89 points) and wrote: "Nose: Smoke, wood and fruits - a classic profile. A quick burst of rubber. Sulphur? Finds a new balance after ten minutes with more organics. Very faint medicinal notes after fifteen minutes. Taste: Cassis. Slowly emerging woody notes. Fairly harsh finish at first, but more fruit and tannins emerge after a while. Meaty notes after ten minutes. Buysman burnt caramel.".
Edradour 10yo 1997/2008 Moscatel Cask Finish (56.9%, OB, 468 Bts.)
Krishna adored this bottling and voted for a gold medal with his score of 92 points. He wrote: "Nose: This one appaers classy initially, taking time to come out. Add a dash of water. Some beautiful, sweet smelling oriental flowers emerge, lactose leaning towards asafetida. Taste: Fantastic palate - sweet, full bodies spicy and delicious stuff. Much better on the palate than nose, Very smooth long finish.". Interestingly enough, Ho-cheng was the other maniac that loved this bottling more than most of the jurors. He gave it 87 points and wrote: "Nose: Animal herbal, sherry influence. Taste: Orange and fruit. Young. Medium light body, medium finish. Good light one.". Could it be that this profile is especially suitable for Asian palates?
Brora 25yo '7th Release' (56.3%, OB, bottled 2008, 3000 Bts.)
In the early years of our annual whisky competition a few batches of the Brora 30yo did very well. In fact, in 2003 (the first year we organised the MM Awards) all jurors except one felt the 30yo expression deserved a gold medal. Oh, how things have changed. Only three jurors (Serge, Olivier and Konstantin) felt this should receive a gold medal and each juror voted for the thinnest gold medal possible with 90 points. This bottling also received three votes for silver (from Krishna, Bert and Luca) and two for bronze from Davin and Ho-cheng. Last but not least, three jurors (Peter, Robert and yours truly) didn't even think this expression deserved a medal at all.
Hakushu 1989/2009 (62%, OB, Sherry Butt #9O 50021)
This was Davin's absolute favorite bottling in this year's edition of our annual whisky competition. Serge, Krishna, Robert, Luca and myself also felt this one deserved a gold medal. I wrote: "Nose: Heavy wood, coffee and smoke. Organics emerge after a minute. Extreme, but right up my alley. Quite unique; the profile remains fairly limited though. However, it mellows out after a few minutes, gradually climbing to 90 points. Taste: Woody and very hot. Smoke and raisins. Loads of tannins in the finish. Sweetens out a little after a few minutes with more sweets emerging. A little too extreme for a score in the 90's if you ask me. Score: 90 points.". Granted, heavy sherried whiskies are not for everybody, but this one is magnificent...
Karuizawa 1972/2008 (65%, Number One Drinks Company, C#7290, 528 Bts.)
This was my absolute favourite bottling this year. I wrote: "Heavy and fruity. Lovely development in the fruity side of the spectrum. Meaty. Cinnamon? Nutmeg? Ghurkins? Amazing complexity and development. Taste: Smoke and fruits; brilliantly combined. An excellent balance with a long finish. Plenty of tannins. Score: 93 points." I wasn't the only one who was suitably impressed by this expression; five other jurors (Serge, Olivier, Ho-cheng, Krishna and Robert) voted for a gold medal as well. Four other jurors voted for silver and even Peter felt it deserved a bronze medal. Due the peculiarities of our 'magic formula', this earned a well deserved gold medal as one of the the top scoring entries this year.
Lagavulin DE 1991/2008 (43%, OB, ref 4/496)
Robert gave 88 points to this old favourite (earlier batches performed very well at the MM Awards) and wrote: "Nose: Dried fruits. Very dry, almost dusty. Then smoke also. Complex and kind of restrained. Special vanilla with good time & water. Leather. Taste: Smoky. Special vanilla, some berries. It's quite compact and well put-together. Wood is evident. Soot at the bitter end. This could be something special.". Something special indeed... This one actually earned a higher score than the regular 16 years old expression, as well as the 12yo 'Special Release' at a higher proof. Serge, Olivier and Bert all felt this deserved a gold medal while five other jurors voted for silver.
Laphroaig 10yo 1998/2008 (62.2%, Blackadder RC, Cask ref 700214, 272 Bts.)
This overproof bottling was released in Blackadder's 'Raw Cask' series. I wrote: "Nose: Loads of organics, but some fruits as well - making it a lovely balanced dram. Some meaty notes. Surprisingly complex for a peat monster. Some chloride after circa five minutes when it starts to drop off a little. Some water breaks it up, before releasing more light fruits (water melon). Ah, and the development goes on - more herbal notes now... Taste: Peaty, sweet and fruity - just how I like it. More smoke and leather in the centre. Fairly harsh, dry finish - which initially keeps it from reaching the 90's. The smoke grows more pronounced over time. Very heavy 'legs' - although it feels quite young. Score: 90 points.".
Macallan 1970/2009 (46%, G&M Speymalt for LMdW, First Fill sherry cask #8326)
This was Robert Karlsson's favourite bottling in this years MM Awards and Ho-cheng, Krishna, Luca and myself voted for gold as well. Serge wrote: "Grows bolder by the minute, a little more on bananas flambéed & crème brulée. High-end honey, cooked apples and figs, (...) grassier and (...) kirschy. Lys. Mouth: Kind of greener and grassier, with more tannins and green pepper (young Cabernet-Sauvignon). More sherry too, cooked strawberries, prunes, dried apricots, then ginger and cinnamon and (..) pepper. (...) Blood oranges, (...) sangria. (...) Finish: medium long, (...) with more raisins, dried papayas, ripe apples & honey. Some green spices in the aftertaste as well as a little mint, liquorice, violet sweets and pine resin. Score: 87 points.".
Octomore '2nd Edition' 5yo (62.5%, OB, 140ppm, 15000 Bts.)
Bruichladdich participated in most editions of the MM Awards, but they suffered from the fact that their lightly peated style didn't always appeal to all jurors. But now the Octomore has arrived on the stage to appease the peatheads.
I wrote: "Nose: Sharp peat with a hint of rubber and some citrus in the distant background. Anthracite and smoke. Quite extreme. Some meaty notes. I'm not always a fan of extreme, but this is right up my alley. More industrial than organic in the beginning; but that changes over time. Benefits from some breathing. Taste: Surprisingly sweet start, followed by loads of tar and smoke. Dry, salty and phenolic centre and finish. Rubbery - which isn't necessarily a bad thing. Score: 88 points.".
Tyrconnel 10yo Port Finish (46%, OB, +/- 2009)
The jurors could not agree on this one, with scores ranging from Konstantin's 63 points to Bert's 89 points.
Davin liked it to the tune of 85 points and wrote: "Nose: Woody, sweet and sherried, with icing sugar, dust but an artificial fruitiness. Taste: A refreshing bitterness in the palate along with grape juice and wood.". Four more votes for silver (from Luca, Ho-cheng, Krishna and Bert) were outweighed by the opinions of three maniacs that felt this one did not deserve a medal at all; Olivier, Peter and Konstantin. I guess it's no surprise that a finished whisky provokes such diverse responses; some maniacs are almost allergic to finishes while others feel the end justifies the means.
Yamazaki 1984 (48%, OB, matured in Japanese Mizunara oak, +/- 2009)
This whisky was just on the cusp of a gold medal, but four votes for gold were not quite enough to materialise into an average gold medal. According to Davin, the nose and palate showed a broad range of complex and fruity notes with granny Smith apples, Christmas spices, tobacco, sandalwood, and burnt sugar with a slight tannic pull. Luca voted for a gold medal and wrote: "Nose: Rhubarb, licorice, camphor. Old furniture, big old sherry. Taste: Maybe the ABV is a bit low, but it's rather rich: dry sherry, tropical fruits, coffee. Hint of soapiness. Tannic, astringent, slightly dusty.". I noticed that tannic aspect as well; the brilliant tannins emerge early on in the centre and hang around for a long time in the finish.
Yamazaki 18yo (43%, OB, +/- 2009)
This relatively 'mainstream' bottling turned out to be a solid sherried malt. Except for Davin and Peter all jurors felt it deserved a silver or even gold medal. In his trademark concise style Konstantin wrote: "Nose: cedar wood, cuban cigars, rum plums. Taste: Pencil, tobacco, leather, medicinal.". I wrote: "Big, fruity, woody and polished. A classic sherried profile with everything you'd expect. Enormously enjoyable, although it doesn't have a lot of 'staying power'. That being said, some lovely organics emerge after 15 minutes." - and that was just on the nose. The elements that impressed me most on the palate were the strong foundation of wood, smoke and tannins and the exquisite balance.
Port Ellen 25yo 1982 (58.2%, DoD for Kingfisher, Selection 2008, Sherry Butt)
Opinions on this 'Douglas of Drumlarig' bottling were divided, but all jurors agreed this deserved a medal.
With six votes for gold, two for silver and three for bonze this earned a very solid silver medal and the 14th highest average score this year. Olivier gave it 93 points and wrote: "Nose: Big fruit than dry peat. Palate: mega power, hug rubber/peat combo. desinfectant, medicinal and very salty. Big style, powerful. Very serious stuff.". Ho-cheng went with 88 points and wrote: "Nose: Peaty, sherry influence. Old malt. Plum, malty. Taste: Tannin, peat, sweet but balance. Very nice sherry peated one.". With these scores, it confidently beat the older official bottling that also participated this year.
Yoichi 1991/2009 'Single Cask' (58%, OB, Imported by LMdW)
This 'ultra premium' bottling was Ho-cheng Yao's favourite expression this year; he went with a score of 95 points. He wrote: "Nose: Nice old malt, honey, flower, malty, melon. Taste: Quite matured, lingering, some Japanese wood?". According to Davin the nose was fragrant, woody, meaty with hints of kippers. He found the palate complex with Christmas spices and hints of chocolate. Davin gave the Yoichi a score of 90 points, and so did Robert and Konstantin. The praise for this bottling was quite universal; the lowest score was 85 points - which is still the equivalent of a silver medal.
So, this was an excellent bottling - and the fact that it's relatively reasonably priced is an added bonus.
December 1, 2009 - Hurray! If the level of participation in this year's Malt Maniacs
Awards is any indication, the worst of the credit crisis is already over! This year
we had even more participants than last year in our whisky competition.
By popular demand we also published a PDF Score Card again; a full overview
of all medal winners with the scores of all 11 jurors. Eleven jurors you ask? Yes,
just like last year we started out with twelve jurors, but just like last year one of
them had to excuse himself due to medication that didn't mix well with alcohol
(a key component of whisky). The rest of the rules were pretty much the same
as in the editions for our competition in 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007 and 2008.
Apart from that, not much has changed since 2008 - we still sample all entries
'blind' to prevent the potential influence of personal brand preference and we
used three 'price brackets' again. These price categories are Daily Drams (with
an average street price of up to 50 Euro's), Premium Whiskies (price between
50 and 150 Euro's) and Ultra Premium Whiskies (average price over 150 Euro's).