People that have been following Malt Maniacs for a few years may know that
our earliest beginnings in 1997 were very modest indeed. They were just a
few messages on the Malt Madness website. Those messages from Craig
Daniels (Australia) & Louis Perlman (USA) were retro-actively turned into
the first few issues of our E-zine as more and more malt whisky lovers
found the primitive Malt Madness site (which was established in 1995).
Around the turn of the millennium, more people started to contribute to
our little on-line whisky collective. First, Davin de Kergommeaux (Canada)
joined in 1999 and soon Roman Parparov (Israel) & Klaus Everding from
Germany followed. As the year 2000 progressed, Krishna Nukala (India),
Lex Kraaijeveld (UK) and others joined our cause, and we slowly evolved
into a truly international team. It was around this time that we published
the first version of our matrix with our personal scores for (at the time)
more than 100 (!) single malts. Yeah, we were still humble at the time... ;-)
Things shifted to a higher gear when Serge Valentin (France) joined
the team in 2001 and we reached a 'critical mass' of 12 maniacs.
Our ambitions grew, so we launched our own E-zine in 2002, as well
as the Malt Maniacs Matrix. And although we liked the nice, round
number of 12 maniacs, we also started recruiting new members.
In 2003 our ranks swelled both in height and width with the arrival
of Frenchman Olivier Humbrecht and American Peter Silver. In fact,
there were a few other 'prospect' maniacs during that time as well,
like Alexander van der Veer (Holland) and Mark Adams (USA). But I
was having one of my more dictatorial episodes at the time, so...
So, Malt Maniacs was back with a vengeance in 2007 - and we welcomed
four new members to help us with our malt research and evangelisation;
Konstantin Grigoriadis (Greece), Pit Krause (Germany), Mark Gillespie (USA)
and Joe Barry (South Africa). And because we chose not to count South
America as a separate continent, we were now an intercontinental team.
By now the Malt Maniacs Monitor had long outgrown its Excel roots and
Serge couldn't handle all the work by himself anymore - so Luca jumped
in as 'monitor assistant' and we switched to a PDF format. At some point
the HTML Malt Maniacs Matrix became a 'monitor excerpt' in PDF as well.
The year 2008 was one of consolidation & relaxation (we published no
more than 27 E-pistles), but in 2009 Nabil Mailloux from Canada and Dave
Wankel from the USA came aboard - and we published 38 whisky articles.
In 2010 we switched to PDF for our E-pistles as well - and the collective
was expanded further by Rich Howard (USA), Paul DeJong (Belgium),
Patrick De Schultess (Switzerland), Martin Diekmann (Germany) and Tim
Puett (USA). Thanks to Rich's IT expertise we were able to launch a new
3.0 version of the old MMMonitor - an actual interactive whisky database!
Finally, we have the year 2011 when Keith Wood (Germany), Oliver
Klimek (Germany), Benjamin Chen (Singapore) and Raf Mithell (UK) joined
the collective, bringing the number of certified malt maniacs to 34.
So, now the future had finally arrived...
And it was nothing like I had imagined it would be.
It's nothing like I imagined it to be in 1967 when I
was one years old and imagined a future filled with
boobies. And it's nothing like I imagined it to be in
1977 when I was eleven years old and dreamed
that I would be grow up to be a secret agent or a
pilot. Fortunately, it's nothing like the sordid stuff
I imagined around 1987 either - I was 21 years
old and in the army, so most of my creativity was
spent on finding and exploiting the cracks in the
military machine. And somehow my earlier interest
in boobies had returned as well...
And then 1997
arrived - and so did the internet.
I was 31 years old and had figured out how to
build websites. My hormones had settled down a
bit by then, so instead of a website about boobies
I decided to build a few other sites. These included
a site about single malt whisky - Malt Madness.
Actually, Malt Madness was launched as early as
1995. However, at the time the world wide web
(for consumers) was still a novelty and there were
only about a hundred other people on-line. (Well,
I may be exaggerating a bit...) So, it took a while
before an 'amateur whisky community' emerged.
I hope that this archive managed to capture some
of our original spirit - and that it lives on for many
years to come on the new Malt Maniacs website.
Johannes van den Heuvel
Editor Malt Madness / Malt Maniacs (1997-2011)
And while that concludes Johannes' remarks about 15 years of malt mania, a few of the other maniacs wanted to share some thoughts too...
For example, in the words of Canadian malt maniac Davin de Kergommeaux (who joined in 1999): "Malt mania, it seems, is permanent.
Well into my second decade I neither see nor seek a cure, but instead thank Johannes, the latter-day Typhoid Mary who infected me, and probably
a million others. Drinking whisky was one thing – my doctor's suggestion – studying its minutia another altogether. An early goal to taste a new
Scotch malt every week became "malt mileage" in the many thousands. And not just Scotch, but Japanese and Indian whisky too."
"A passion for malt whisky drew us Maniacs together, and while the mania's vector was people, healthy discussion and conscious decision kept our
official numbers low. Whisky made us, but now we talk equally of music, politics, cars, countries, families and philosophies. Without the Maniacs I'd
have stuck with Johnny Walker. My now-full-time avocation writing about whisky would not be. What pleasures I would have missed, most among
them these wonderful, enduring friendships. Here's to 1999!"
Or, in the words of Indian malt maniac Krishna Nukala (who joined in 2000): "Those were the days when Single Malts were unheard of,
and especially for a guy from India - getting a Single Malt Whisky was next to impossible and obtaining authentic information about whisky?
Forget it! I stumbled upon www.maltmadness.com for the same reason – looking for some serious malts fun on and it was love at first si(gh)te.
Johannes set me a stiff criterion to join the group. I had to prove myself how crazy I was about Single Malts. Having just made a trip to Islay a
year before after tasting a Lagavulin in Surrey, I wrote an article about it- "A Pilgrimage to Islay" and Johannes said, "Welcome to the group -
you are the kind of guy I am looking for" and rest is history."
"I learnt literally everything from Johannes and whatever I know about whiskies today is due to the knowledge I gained (apart from Johannes)
through my fellow maniacs like Davin, Serge, Craig, Olivier, Michel and Klaus during early days and later from other maniacs like Robert,
Ho-cheng, Keith, Oliver, Dave, Charlie and others. Malt Maniacs made me a person what I am today and it is not about just drinking whisky.
Our world revolved around whisky on music, books, cars, sports etc, and in fact having stimulating discussions on anything under the sun.
Without Johannes and Malt Maniacs, my life would have continued like a frog in the well - knowing that the only best whisky available in
the world is the molasses based Indian Made Foreign Liquor. Thank you Johannes, you have enriched my life through whisky and for
bringing together such a motley but chivalrous bunch of guys."
... they were fired! Yeah, because that's how the we rolled in those days...
On the other hand, 2003 was also the year that we organised our first real 'maniacal' trip to Scotland. Five of
us (Craig, Davin, Krishna, Serge and yours truly) made it to Speyside and safely back. And that's not all, we also
launched the very first edition of the Malt Maniacs Awards - so for most of us it was a pretty good year, I guess.
The same goes for 2004 when we became even more global. Ho-cheng Yao from Taiwan joined our merry band
of barley brothers - and it may also have been the year that the first version of the Malt Maniacs Monitor (Excel)
was produced by Serge. And then there was another 'big bang' in 2005 when Ulf Buxrud, Charles MacLean,
Dave Broom, Martine Nouet, Michel van Meersbergen & Lawrence Graham joined our team.
And then we had 'the big crash' of 2006.
The original Malt Madness site crashed
and we re-launched Malt Maniacs as a
separate site on www.maltmaniacs.org.
We had some megalomaniacal plans
to develop the ultimate whisky web site.
So, we invited Luca Chichizola (Italy),
Robert Karlsson (Sweden) and Thomas
Lipka (Germany) to join our mission...
It was also around this time that many
more pages were added to the site;
a manifesto with our guiding principles,
an overview of team members, a page
about scoring whisky, a MaltMenu with
tasting notes, a Lex-icon about world
wide malt whisky distilleries, a number
of whisky book reviews, interviews, etc.