MALT MANIACS #104
The Benefits of Adding Water Your Dram
Diluting Water Tasting
Olivier's Travels: The Summer Isle Restaurant
Book Review: The Social History of Bourbon
The Fossil Record in Antarctica
Mega-Macallan Tasting in Australia - Part 1
Glengoyne Ultimate Challenge
Limburg Whisky Fair 2007
A Dozen Dependable Drams
Ask an Anorak: Bottle Oxidation
Malt Maniacs #104 - June 1, 2007
We opened our previous issue with two E-pistles about glassware.
Now it's time to take a closer look at the stuff you pour into them.
(Well, apart from whisky, obviously.) That would be: pure water...
This issue of Malt Maniacs opens with two articles about the topic
by Lawrence Graham and Ho-cheng Yao. Especially the last one is
a bit of a novelty on these pages: a head-to-head tasting of more
than a dozen different types of water. Maniacal enough for you?
Which reminds me - the old Malts-L mailinglist
had to move and the members (quite a few certified malt maniacs among them) were looking for a new virtual home. Our Greek maniac Konstantin came to the rescue and erected a brand new 'retro' infrastructure. This list now fills the gap between being an actual Malt Maniac and simply being a 'lurker' on the old 'Mixed Messages'
(Which, let's face it, isn't very 'interactive' compared to Malts-L.)
More info at: http://lists.grsnet.net/mailman/listinfo/mm-malts-l.
Meanwhile, our new Germaniacs chapter is now 'live' as well.
Apart from Malt Maniacs in a printable format (we're busy working on that), the request that drops into our mailbox most often is a version of MM in someone's mother tongue. Well, the good news is that that's now possible. The bad news is that you'll need to find a few like-minded individuals who are willing to help you get things started in your own language - AND that you'll have to write an English E-pistle for this international website first.
Drop me a message if you're still inspired...
But let's get back to this 104th issue of Malt Maniacs.
After the 'watery' start Olivier and Davin pick up the thread with a fresh episode of 'Olivier's Travels' and a fresh book review. Davin has now assumed the responsible position of our own 'official good book reviewer', so I had to give him his own section of the site.
In The Good Book section you can find all Davin's book reviews.
That section is part of the library, and so is a new section that our very own 'Captain Caveman' Lex Kraaijeveld is working on; 'The Fossil Record'. You can read the first article in the series here.
Well, I guess you can check out the rest of the contents of this issue for yourself by browsing through the green column at the right or simply scrolling down - you know the drill...
Johannes van den Heuvel
Editor Malt Madness / Malt Maniacs
PS: Check out WhiskyFun for reports on Feis Ile 2007.
One of the most frequently asked questions that I encounter from curious and
eager enthusiasts who are just commencing their discovery of whisky is whether
to add water to their dram and if so how much?
For some reason this question is quite contentious in the whisky world and
evokes strong emotions on both sides of the debate. I have frequently noticed
that the strongest emotions come from the group representing "No Water in
Whisky!" who are quite militant in their belief, flawed as it is. Now if you have any
kind of background in law enforcement, or even as a school crossing guard, you
will recognize my last comment as some form of a 'clue' about which side of the
debate I'm on. I have yet to hear one unbiased argument for not adding water
to your whisky sample when making an initial assessment.
This small epistle is not a guide on how to nose and taste whisky but is a simple
inventory of the advantages of adding water to your sample. The initial amount of
water added is up to you and after your initial assessment you may decide in the
future that this particular whisky is best taken neat. You may also conclude that it
is best enjoyed with a large measure of water. Experience will help determine
how much your sample requires but start off with small measures; you are aiming
at reducing the nose 'prickle' so that you can appreciate the underling aromas.
Professional noser's dilute to 20% but they nose many, many samples in the
course of their work and most enthusiasts find that 35% is a suitable level but
once again your experience will be your best guide.
You should also understand the difference between making an initial assessment and simply enjoying you dram in a social setting.
In the latter case some people actually add lemonade or cola to their whisky but we will pretend that this doesn't actually occur; some subjects are best not discussed in too great a detail.
In your initial assessment of a whisky, you are doing yourself a disservice if you do not at some point add a small amount of water to your sample. This simple act of adding a little bit of water will have the effect of opening up the whisky to reveal hidden aromas in both the nose and taste which may be pleasant or in some cases, not so pleasant. The discovery of off notes and flaws is just as important as discovering unique and wonderful highlights hidden in the whisky. The addition of water, in varying amounts, reveals another dimension of whisky that would other wise not be viewed and experience will help you determine the amount to add to each sample. However if you never add water you will simple miss these important aspects of whisky assessment. An additional clue as whether you should add water to your whisky comes from the professional in the industry, the noser's and blenders who all dilute samples with water to when making an assessment.
I have attended and organized numerous whisky tastings over the years and have seen a myriad of approaches to sampling and assessing whisky from shaking the whisky to the other extreme of dribbling water down the inside of the glass so as not to disturb the spirit and bruise it. While each presenter has had their own unique approach and methods they all have one point that they agree on; the addition of a little water opens up the sample to reveal hidden pleasures.
The water should be room temperature and never chilled and the addition of ice, for assessment purposes, is completely forbidden. Ice dramatically chills the whisky, closes down the nose of the sample and chills the mouth reducing the ability to taste. The water should be of the still variety and not carbonated. With experience you will find the best still water for the task. In some locations plain local tap water will suffice along as it is not chlorinated.
I have heard of many silly excuses for not adding water from 'it's not manly' which is too stupid to comment on further to 'it's the natural state' of the whisky, this also is quite spurious as the Alcohol by Volume in the bottle is often mandated by local taxation rates. As an example the standard official bottling of Laphroaig 10 is bottled at 40% ABV in Canada and 43% in the United States of America. Which is 'natural'? Local laws and marketing are now determining the natural state? Further one could argue that the 'natural' state for a whisky is not how it is poured from the bottle but rather how it is taken from the cask or even straight off the still however in the later case it is not legally whisky.
I can respect an individuals choice whether to add water or not but I have to wonder about their trying to prevent people from adding water under any circumstances. In any case you earned the money to purchase the bottle of whisky and it's your choice whether to add water or not but if you don't, you're missing a large part of the whisky experience.
Date: February 10, 2007
Place: Fiesta Cafe, Taipei, Taiwan
Topic: Diluting water tasting (Ca and Mg is in "mg/100ml water")
Attendents: Members Taiwan Single Malt Tasting Association.
Glenlivet 12yo (40%, OB), Glenfiddich 12yo (40%, OB)
Glenmorangie 10yo (43%, OB), Bowmore NAS Darkest (43%, OB)
Ardbeg 10yo (46%, OB) - as well as one cask strength single malt;
Dailuaine 25yo 1979/2005 (51.4%, Signatory, C#8958, 509 Bts.)
Tap Water (Taiwan), Taisun Pure Water (Taiwan), Volvic (France),
Evian (France), Highland Spring (Scotland), Acqua Panna (Italy),
Solan (Spain), Wattwiller (France), Contrex (France), Blue Gold
Deep Ocean Water (Taiwan), Suntory Deep Ocean Water (Japan)
Rainboii Volcanic Water (Hawaii) and Kirin Alkali (Japan)
After so many vertical tastings and some interesting topics, I decided to do something different in our February monthly tasting.
We know from many books as well as advice from famous Masters, Never Use Tap Water for diluting whisky in a tasting. But how many of us has actually done experiments on it, furthermore, which bottled water is good for this purpose? Thus I decided to sort out some famous brands and do a experiment in my club.
My main target I to compare the effect on the malt. Thus I prepare three quite basic standard malts (Glenlivet, Glenfiddich, Glenmorangie),
one more sherried malt (Bormore Darkest) and one very peated malt (Ardbeg), and just in case some one prefer single cask high strength, I
also prepare the Dailuaine. With the three standard malts, I also take the chance to explain the MM scoring system again, and ask every
body's opinion for the "standard" malt as 75 points. Interesting, 9 out of 13 vote for the Glenlivet as more "standard" to him (she). To have
more fun, I let everybody choose the malt he like to see the water effect. Most people use the same malt through the tasting. Only one
person play a little bit with different malt. As most people don't have too many glasses with him, we tried to taste three water ever round.
For myself, I use Glenmorangie 10yo as I think it's nosing is quite complex and easy to see the difference.
Tap Water (Taiwan, Filtered)
Taipei's tap water is quite clean, but wit lot's calcium(hard water) and easy to tell chlorine nose.
Most public place provide filtered tap water and use sliced lemon to get rid of the unpleasant nose.
Amazingly, when adding this kind of water in, the beautiful nose just disappeared. Just like pour some mud water into a nice malt.
Very dirty nose. Interesting, everybody feel the same.
Taisun Pure Water (Taiwan, almost no mineral content, pH 6~7)
This is a local bottled water, should be distilled water and get rid of most minerals. I think this one performs quite well.
Brings out more fresh note. Something active but a little bit more alcohol comes out as well.
10 out of 13 think this one performs best in this round.
Volvic, France (France, Ca: 1.2, Mg: 0.8, Mineral: 130 ppm, ph: 7)
Famous French water, Brings out more malty/grain feel. But a little bit boring.
... Everybody becoming quite exciting as everyone can easily tell the difference.
Evian (France, Ca: 7.8, Mg: 2.4, Mineral: 309 ppm, ph: 7.2)
No further word necessay for this water. Brings out more citrus nose, Also help the palate getting rounded.
Quite sweeter finish. Very balance and really "help" the malt performs better. 6 people vote for it.
Highland Spring (Scotland, Ca: 3.2, Mg: 0.8, Mineral: 136 ppm, ph: 7.8)
Brings out more tropical fruit note. Also more malty feel. Layered and complex, seems totally different from Evian.
Some people using Ardbeg prefers this one. 5 people vote for this one.
Acqua Panna (Italy, Ca: 3.3, Mg: 0.7, ph: 8.1)
This is very popular in local fine dining restaurants. I also like this one a lot.
However, most people agree this one performs worst in this round.
Solan (Spain, Ca: 5.8, Mg: 2.5)
This is Spanish mineral water, not good for nosing but make the malt taste sweeter. 5 people vote for this one.
Wattwiller (France, Ca: 22.2, Mg: 1.8, Mineral: 889 ppm, ph: 7.6)
Quite hard water, brings out more layer on nosing. Taste very salty. I like it, but tied with 5 votes.
Contrex (France, Ca: 46.8, Mg: 7.45, Mineral: 1468 ppm, ph: 7.6)
Extremely hard water, yet quite boring in nose and damaged the palate.
Blue Gold Deep Ocean Water (Taiwan, Mineral: 150 ppm)
Deep Ocean Water is very popular in Asia. With more Mg. and less Ca.,
Honestly, not so bad but reminds me the tap water. And no one vote for this one.
Suntory Deep Ocean Water (Japan, Ca: 2.2, Mg: 16.0, Mineral: 700 ppm)
Brings out more fresh fruit, but palate just OK! 5 vote for it.
Rainboii Volcanic Water (Hawaii, Mineral: less than 10 ppm, pH: neutral)
This one should be more close to pure water, won't bring out better nose but seems very close to original note. 6 vote for this one.
Till now we only have the last Kirin Alkali Water left. This kind of alkaline water is very popular in Asia.
People believe you'll easy get over hang-out if you had more alkaline water. I ask every one to taste it and prepare for the final vote. Without comparison, this one still performs well, but not too impressive.
Evian get 5 votes for the best diluting water. Highland Spring get 2nd place for 4 votes.
People general believe Evian is more balance to brings our nose and palate and even help make the malt performs better.
Highland Spring at the other hand seems brings out more layer, but won't help the malt.
The most interesting thing for the tasting, everyone in the tasting can tell the difference. Even there are several new-bie who has no
experience on single tasting before. Most people agree a little bit hard water will help you identify more nose, but not necessary make it
better. We can't really identify which factor is most important for diluting water, It seems more Mg (magnesium) won't help, a little bit Ca
(calcium) should be OK. "Pure Water" (neutral water) seems quite OK as it won't change anything.
And the pH seems not an issue here.
The Taiwan club members would love very much to read a diluting water test from a club in an other country.
If you like this idea of diluting water tasting, please organize a tasting with your club and write a report for Malt Maniacs.
It would be very interesting to see if American or European palates have other preferences from Taiwan.
The Summer Isle Restaurant, Achiltibuie - Highland Park Bicentenary
November 2003, The North-West Trail, Scotland
To start this sequence of memorable places, food and whisky, I could not choose a
different location. Achiltibuie is a small village (I mean really small: just 40 people, a post
office, a small store, a painting gallery with great aquarelles, and the Summer Isle Hotel…)
located at the end of an endless single track, roughly an hour north-west of Ullapool,
facing the famous Summer Isles. 'The Wicker Man' from the 1970's with Christopher Lee,
Edward Woodward, Britt Eckland… is a must see cult film set in this wild part of Scotland.
(Please, do not even think of watching the poor American remake made recently).
The drive to Achiltibuie will make you dizzy just looking at the extraordinary scenery.
High munros, volcanic shaped peaks like the Suilven drop directly into the blue of the
ocean. If you are lucky enough to do this drive in a sunny day, the summer Isles (a group
of small islands just off the coast) will appear shining in the sea and you could take a
(digestive) walk on one of the nicest white sand beach you've ever seen...
The scenery wasn't the first motivation to go that far in NW Scotland, it was an unexpected bonus.
The 'Red Guide' or Michelin guide gives the Summer Isle Restaurant in Achiltibuie a one star rating, and that was enough to trigger my curiosity. As we arrived the first time there (you guess correctly, we are going back regularly now…), the main restaurant was closed, so we ended up eating in the adjacent bar. It only has 5 tables and a small bar, but it is the same kitchen that prepares the food. My choice went without hesitation for the seafood platter. If you ever take it, DO NOT order anything else before, as you will get a huge plate covered with what this area of Scotland does the best: lobster, langoustines, salmon prepared in many different ways, mussels, crab, oysters, shells, and various kind of marinated and smoked fishes… and as fresh as it can be.
As I was enjoying my meal, my eyes caught a dumpy bottle with a funny transversal narrow label behind the bar.
It was a Highland Park 21yo 1977/1998 (40%, OB Bicentenary). One dram, two drams… three drams later I decided that Highland Park was definitely a good distillery. This whisky is not a power house cask strength wood enhanced type, but more a gentler all rounder honeyed, lightly peated/smoky kind. In short, a better more complex version of the beautiful 18yo. It really shows the maritime/island character of Highland Park with delicate heather/flowers aromas. The fact that it is a low ABV makes it a little shorter than I would have loved it to be, but on the other hand, after lunch, I was able to enjoy it without feeling overwhelmed. I thought first that my rating of 90 points was perhaps to generous and influenced by the whole experience, but I tasted this whisky in multiple occasions after, and never lowered my score.
Sadly, if you go to Achiltibuie, you can't taste the Bicentenary anymore, because some enthusiastic maniac finished the bottle!
No worries, you'll find an interesting selection of other whiskies at this 'end of the world' location (www.summerisleshotel.co.uk).
Driving off Achiltibuie, take the small coastal road to Lochinver (45 minutes) and make a stop at the Albanach in Baddidaroch….
The Social History of Bourbon (Carson, Gerald)
The University Press of Kentucky, Lexington Kentucky, USA, 1984; 280 pages.
(Originally published: New York: Dodd, Mead, 1963.)
The Social History of Bourbon relates somewhat chronologically the role played by bourbon in
American politics and history, then bogs slightly as it ends with chapters on whiskey tall tales, a look at the pre-Prohibition barroom, and enumerations of great Americans who tippled and then some.
Carson, who died in 1989, was an entertaining writer, a journalist, advertising man and later a social historian, with a knack for exactly the perfect obscure word. He was born and raised in the Illinois Corn Belt and in an earlier volume dealt not with corn whiskey, but with the lowly corn flake. Although sub-titled An Unhurried Account of Our Star-Spangled American Drink, the book fairly rolls along and one can almost hear Carson dictating it to himself in a playful Appalachian-American accent.
The earliest American distillates were rum, made from Caribbean molasses, and apple jack (calvados), from ever-increasing orchards. But with the arrival of Scottish and Irish immigrants, many of whom brought stills, interest shifted to distilling grain alcohol as they had done at home. The stony soils of Maryland and Pennsylvania were most suited to growing rye, a spicy European grain, and here rye whiskey became the staple. But as people headed down the Shenandoah Valley and crossed the Cumberland Gap into what is now Kentucky they grew Indian corn, or maize, which produced much more alcohol per bushel and yielded a sweeter whiskey. Incidental barrel aging occurred during long months of river transport to southern markets, particularly when whiskey awaited spring flooding before shipping. However, once aged whiskey began to command higher prices the word 'old' quickly found its way onto cask heads.
Early bourbon may have left the distillery in good shape, but middlemen at every turn were wont to adulterate it with water, neutral grain alcohol, peppers, tobacco, and even strychnine just to stretch it out and increase their profits. It wasn't until the invention of the inexpensive bottle that people could count on their purchases actually being bourbon. The difference, once tasted, was so dramatic that bottled whiskey soon commanded a premium price and a large share of the market.
It seems wherever there is great enterprise there is whiskey and a government that wants to tax it. Carson goes to lengths to recount the positive, probably essential role whiskey played in opening up the American West and financing America's early governments. He also recounts how whiskey taxes led to all manners of protest, revolt and evasion. "The power to tax involves the power to destroy" he quotes Chief Justice John Marshall as saying, but it was legislated Prohibition, not taxation that really did almost destroy bourbon.
Though it touches on Prohibition the book focuses more on the role bourbon whiskey played in the lives and society of America and Americans from the earliest colonial times to the early 1960's. Alcohol came to America with the Pilgrims he tells us, and many prominent Americans, including the first President were distillers. The temperance movement, he reminds us, promoted moderation, not abstinence.
How temperance hardened into Prohibition is not so much explained, as described and we can almost see Carson shaking his head in disbelief at governments giving up such a goldmine of taxes. Enacting Prohibition was like putting organized crime on steroids but we are led to wonder what the bourbon industry might have become had its manufacture not been dealt such a permanently crippling blow. Canadian and Scotch whisky distillers can smile though, for with bourbon-making outlawed a generation of bootleggers made these lighter potations the American favourites they remain today. Early American clergy often made and usually partook of ardent spirits. However, Carson questions whether the Baptist Reverend Elijah Craig was really the first person to distill Kentucky bourbon and reminds us that Craig was a Virginian and not from Bourbon County. Dr. James C. Crow, a Scottish physician, gets full credit, however, for inventing the sour mash process.
Visit Jack Daniels distillery and people may talk of an old Daniels family Mint Julep recipe.
It involves placing mint leaves and sweet syrup into a glass. The whiskey is then poured into a well-frosted container, the rest of the ingredients are thrown away and the whisky is enjoyed neat. Carson knows this story too, only in his telling it originated with Louisville journalist "Marse Henry" Watterson and there is no mention of the Daniels. Ah such is the lore of bourbon.
Carson also introduces several bits of bourbon trivia that have since found their way into many a subsequent book.
The "No Chemists Allowed" sign at Old Fitzgerald is one such nugget. So too is the observation that bourbon is as emblematic of America as Scotch is of Scotland and wine of France. Many authors since have found one way or another to make this observation, just as others begin, as Carson did, with the Roman expression abusus non tollit usum; abuse is no argument against proper use.
Fourty-odd years after it was written, and nearly twenty years after author Carson's death at 90, The Social History of Bourbon remains one of the most enjoyable books in the bourbon literature. Though long out of print, it's a must read for the bourbon aficionado, but more recent authors should take care to distil rather than recycle its contents.
A few months ago, a wee piece in the British
newspaper The Independent caught my eye:
"Whisky Magazine discovered in Antarctica!" it
said. No, this was not Marcin Miller celebrating
the first Antarctic subscription to Whisky
Magazine, but a discovery by polar historian
David Harrowfield which adds a fascinating
little twist to whisky history.
The 'whisky magazine' in question is titled
Dawson's Annual 1910 Review of Reviews.
It contained advertisements of distributors
of Peter Dawson's Old Scotch Whisky from
around the world while part of the magazine
contained pages with dates, which could be
used for diary notes. So how did this piece of
whisky advertising end up in Antarctica?
In November 1910, the British Antarctic Expedition, led by Robert Falcon Scott, left New Zealand with the main aim of being the first to reach the South Pole. Many books and documentaries have told the story of how Scott and four companions (Evans, Oates, Wilson and Bowers) reached the South Pole, only to find that the Norwegian expedition led by Amundsen had beaten them by a month. The tale of them perishing on their way back is among the most poignant of polar exploration. What is less well-known is that, besides reaching the South Pole, the expedition also had clear scientific aims and that a group of six people, called the 'Northern Party', was sent out by Scott separate from the 'Pole Party' to explore an unknown area of Antarctica. The whisky magazine is linked to this 'Northern Party'. It had been used by a member of the party as a diary during their stay in Borchgrevink's hut at Cape Adare and, obviously, left behind. It was found, covered by decades of penguin guano, and removed by David Harrowfield in January 1982 from a depot established by the 'Northern Party' on top of Cape Adare in late December 1911.
The magazine was put in the hut and returned to New Zealand for
conservation in 1990. The party appears to have had several copies of the
magazine: Raymond Priestley, one of the members of the party, writes in
Antarctic Adventure, his account of the expedition: "… we had with us two
copies of the Review of Reviews, and these were read from cover to cover,
advertisements and all." Conservation of the brittle pages was undertaken
by Lynn Campbell, Robert McDougall and Kirsten Elliot. Analysis of the script
is under way to ascertain which of the people in this party (besides
Priestley, the party included Campbell, Dickason, Browning, Abbott and
Levick), is the author of the diary. At the moment, it actually looks as if the
diary is in more than one hand.
But why would a magazine with whisky advertisements be present in a
polar expedition in the first place? First of all, Scott's expedition did bring
whisky along to Antarctica. Six cases of whisky (or possibly five; the records
are a bit contradictory) were supplied to the expedition by Peter Dawson
Ltd, which explains the presence of the magazine. And whisky was not the
only alcoholic drink they brought with them. On board of the Terra Nova,
the ship that brought them from New Zealand to Antarctica, Christmas
was celebrated with champagne, port, liqueur, beer and whisky.
On sledge journeys over the ice weight is crucially important and there is obviously no place for luxuries; nevertheless brandy was taken along for 'medical comforts' and a bottle of brandy was also left at one of the depots laid down for the return journey from the pole. And humans weren't the only potential recipients of some medical spirit. A photo taken by Herbert Ponting shows whisky being poured down the throat of a pony that went for an involuntary swim in the icy Antarctic water during the unloading of the Terra Nova.
Scott's expedition was certainly not unusual in taking along alcoholic beverages. Many, if not all, of the famous polar explorers around the turn of the 19th/20th century brought alcoholic drinks with them, always either for special occasions or for medical emergencies. Christian Borchgrevink brought along whisky, cognac and port. Ernest Shackleton mentions wine, beer, champagne, crème de menthe, whisky and brandy (one of his unlucky ponies received half a bottle of brandy to warm up). Roald Amundsen talks about Lysholmer schnapps, aquavit and gin. At the opposite end of the world, Fridtjof Nansen had Ringnes bock-beer and Linie aquavit with him, members of the D'Abruzzi expedition celebrated with cognac when they reached a point further north than Nansen, and Robert Peary (who may or may not have been the first to reach the North Pole) repeatedly mentions brandy as part of the sledge supplies. Interestingly, Frederick Cook (who may or may not have reached the North Pole before Peary) does not mention any alcoholic drink; of course absence of proof is not proof of absence.
A rather unusual spirit came into being during the Scottish National Antarctic expedition in 1902-04. A barrel of porter, supplied by Guinness, started freezing and it appears that, as a result of drinking the remaining unfrozen (and highly alcoholic) liquid, matters got a bit out of hand. Quite possibly, this 'freeze-distilled whisky' is the only spirit actually distilled (though involuntarily) on Antarctica ….. it shares being a true polar spirit with a 'whisky' freeze-distilled in barrels of beer during the overwintering of a group of Dutch sailors on Nova Zembla, an island off the north coast of Siberia, in 1596.
The link between whisky and the poles reaches into the present.
On June 2 2002, Ann Daniels and Caroline Hamilton arrived at the
North Pole, making them the first women to walk to both poles
(they reached the South Pole, as part of a 5-woman team, in
January 2000). They celebrated their achievement with a
miniature bottle of whisky.
And as I was working on the final version of this article, an
obituary appeared in The Independent of the explorer Charlie
Burton. On Easter Day 1982, he and Ranulph Fiennes became
the first men to reach both poles by surface travel.
The photo accompanying the obituary shows Charlie Burton at
the North Pole, with a grin on his ice-covered face and a bottle
of Jack Daniel's in his hand …..
The article above was published in Celtic Spirit in 2002. But earlier this year a very interesting whisky find was reported from Antarctica and this find warrants an update. Two cases of MacKinlay's whisky were excavated from the ice beneath Shackleton's hut. MacKinlay's was the official whisky supplier to Shackleton's expedition and as such they provided 12 cases of their blended whisky. Some empty bottles had already been found, but these cases contained the first full bottles of whisky discovered on Antarctica. According to a certain Charlie Maclean, the whisky should still be perfectly drinkable .....
I could never have written this article without the kind help of David Harrowfield and Fiona Wills of the Antarctic Heritage Trust and I owe David, Fiona and the Trust my thanks for the permission to publish a few of the diary pages and the photo of one of the two cases of MacKinlay's whisky. The AHT, a New Zealand based charity, has recently launched a £10M international heritage restoration project to restore the historic huts of Scott, Shackleton and Borchgrevink in the Ross Sea region of Antarctica and is appealing for financial help to safeguard this British heritage. For more information visit their website www.heritage-antarctica.org.
The photo of the pony ('Giving whiskey to a pony which swam ashore'), taken by Herbert Ponting on February 3 1911, comes from the Pennell
Collection at the Canterbury Museum (ref 1975.289.2); my thanks to the Canterbury Museum for the permission to use the photo in this article and
to Christine Whybrew for her help in obtaining the photo. Permission of the Canterbury Museum must be obtained before any re-use of this image.
An E-Pistle from Downunder (Part 1) - Mega – Macallan Tasting - A truly maniacal gathering - By Craig Daniels
I know lots of maltsters who love Macallan, yet I must confess that I've never really 'got' Macallan; I've drammed plenty of different expressions and while a few have been excellent very few have really connected with me, certainly not in the same way that particular malts from distilleries like Glenfarclas, Aberlour and Glenlivet have. Still I've been wrong before; I never understood what the fuss over Glenlivet was all about until I started to explore the older expressions, so there was always a fair chance that I just hadn't come across the right Macallans to rid me of any lingering doubts. And if I was ever to be convinced, then a chance to taste the entire E.S.C. (Exceptional Single Casks) range along with a miscellany of old and rare Macallans was the most likely occasion.
This über Macallan tasting, which brought some of the most maniacal malt whisky fans to Sydney from all over Australia was hosted by Shane Kalloglian, Australia's foremost collector of Macallan whiskies. He decided to delve into his collection to come up with the most comprehensive and exclusive as well as the most informative and educational Macallan tasting in Australia, certainly in my experience
I suspect that there would be less than a handful of Macallan enthusiasts on the planet who could've put that selection of whiskies together, let alone had the generosity of spirit to put them on the table for those keen enough to travel to try. It would certainly take very deep pockets to think about outdoing Shane. One-upmanship in this bit of the stratosphere doesn't come cheap.
I was very pleased to know that I would have benchmarking malts as there would be whiskies that I have tried before, the 1874 Replica (which I rate very highly) and the David LeCornu Macallan 1975 OzMac which was the star of the Inaugural Malt Whisky Convention in 2003 (and my previous highest scoring Macallan) to compare the unknown malts against.
We tasted two flights of six. The first flight consisted of the entire E.S.C. (I to VI) range and the second flight visited the 1874, an 8 y/o, a 12 y/o (both Italian imports bottled in 1983), a Fine & Rare 1976 (unreleased) and finally the two David Le Cornu Private Bottlings, Cask 17112 and 17113 (the last two served blind, simply known as A and B).
I have never had the pleasure of tasting any of these before but I decided to keep a small amount of the first flight to taste them up against the known malts in Flight 2, just to make sure that my scores were defensible in the light of previous visits to the well.
Macallan 1981/1999 Exceptional Single Cask I (56%, Fino Sherry Butt, OB, C#9780) Resin, tobacco and a hint of gunpowder with leather and sawn timber in the nose. There's also a bit of spirit evident and some wood prickle along with roasted/cooked nuts. Palate is rounded, unctuous and quite syrupy with some citrus (lemon zest and lemon sours). The Fino seems to contribute more nuttiness and pine resin than the fruitcake from Oloroso and the style is a little more austere – Finish is long with lots of citrus peel and then polished oak and leather along with persistent, but eminently well-behaved sherry. Score 89
Macallan 1980/2001 Exceptional Single Cask II (59.3%, Oloroso Sherry Butt, OB, C#4063) Ahhhhh! This is more like it! Nosing this was like coming home and sinking into a soft pillow after a very long and hard day. Lovely luscious fruitcake, chocolate cake, Christmas pudding with loads of candied fruit and just awesomely, stunningly beautiful and limpid oak (wax polished floorboards and old mahogany). The palate has chocolate and resin and more of that exemplary wood, along with some of those vine cane, dry leafy and ferny/mossy "green" notes that distinguish my favourite malts – Loved this one – reminded me most of an erstwhile favourite in the 1967 18 year old but the extra proof adds a whole new dimension – Score 95
Macallan 1980/2002 Exceptional Single Cask III (51%, Sherry Butt, OB, C#17937) Lighter and fruitier (cumquats and apple pie) than the previous two. The nose also has a hint of sour cream, beeswax, parchment and honey. The palate was quite silky with some charred nuts. The finish has nuts, chocolate and herbs. Lovely stuff once again, but in the shade of ESC II Score 90
Macallan 1990/2003 Exceptional Single Cask IV (57.4%, Sherry Butt, OB, C#24680) Nosed a lot younger and had some very minor faults which probably would've gone unnoticed in lesser company. Pretty typical sherry nose with fruitcake and toffee but with much more citrus than the first three (blood oranges/candied orange peel, cooked cumquat) and some delicate orange blossom accompanied by some unfortunate cardboard. The palate was a little oily with a bit of spirit bite, then a waxy note. Finish – a little more citrus oil, charred fruit and some sappy wood. Not a bad malt, just not a great one Score 83
Macallan 1989/2003 Exceptional Single Cask V (59.2%, Oloroso Sherry Butt, OB, C#552 I must confess that I had problems with this one and I may be well and truly out of line with the rest of the scores in the room, but this one had a distinct whiff of sulphur, of which I am not at all fond. Resin, chocolate and that slightly noxious hint of sulphur (struck match, marsh gas, blocked drains), dried apricots, balsamic and fudge. Palate was oily and had a curious burnt, charred note. The finish was cocoa, chocolate with bitter herbs (endive, chicory, rocket) and ashy embers from old fireplaces. The sulphur never took over, but I like wood cleaner than this. Score 80
Macallan 1990/2004 Exceptional Single Cask VI (59.6%, Sherry Butt, OB, C#24483) A little untamed, but much nicer and much closer to ESC III in style. In fact it was the one that reminded me most of venerable Glenlivets and Tomintouls that have excited me in the past. Much more of the mild tropical fruit and creamy toffee that one associates with refill sherry from American and not Spanish oak. Nose has a little spirit prickle, orange, guava, custard apple, starfruit, toffee and cream; a bit like someone poured fruit salad syrup and candied orange peel into a batch of crème caramels. The palate is quite toffeed with nuts and some typical Speyside bitter metal in the tail. The toffee and nuts (peanut brittle, honey roasted almonds) continues through into the finish. On the rambunctious side and a tad too metallic to score higher, but a lot of fun Score 88.
I know that quite a few in the room liked the E.S.C. I, III and VI, and that I was out of whack in not liking V, but I don't find sulphur attractive. I'd happily sit down to I, II, III & VI any time and I could've scored them differently in a different tasting order but ESC II stood out for me as what Macallan in first fill oloroso sherry guise is all about. In other words, these whiskies polarized the room and everyone had his or her own personal favourite. I suppose I have to admit that ESC II displaced my previous highest scoring Macallans in the Cask #17112, the 1874 Replica, the 1975 25yo Anniversary and the 1967 18yo. A Macallan has finally entered my pantheon of Speyside malts that have scored 95 alongside Aberlour 1964 25yo OB and Glenfarclas 1962 23yo from Cadenheads.
Glengoyne; the ultimate challenge of the sleeping giant....
Rarely done, rarely experienced, rarely organised......
Yes, it is quite rare that you get an invitation for a Vertical Glengoyne Tasting. I was very surprised when Serge Reynders (Casksix member) sent me an invitation for his birthday tasting party. Not surprised for his birthday nor for the invite, but very surprised to hear about the tasting theme. Are you sure...? A Glengoyne vertical tasting. Mmm, could be interesting. It was never done before... Off course you do encounter Glengoyne expressions regularly at tastings, but you rarely encounter a Glengoyne dedicated vertical tasting. And I was even more eager to go since Geert Bero and myself visited the Glengoyne distillery last year September, when going to the McTears auction in Glasgow. The granted hospitality, the guided tour by Valerie Marsch, the offered drams, the atmosphere, the new-spirit experiment was so good I did not hesitate to accept Serge's invitation to widen my Glengoyne experience.
Glengoyne Distillery lies in a tranquil wooded glen on the western edge of the Campsie Fells. It takes its name from Glen Guin, or 'Glen of the Wild Geese', and sits at the foot of a small waterfall tumbling from the volcanic plug of Dumgoyne Hill. Glengoyne distillery uses only specially selected unpeated malted barley i.e. barley which is malted using air from a natural fire and not a peat fire., thus resulting in a whisky that is generally fairly light. The Highland Line, which notionally divided Highland from Lowland Scotland runs through the distillery grounds, making Glengoyne the southernmost Single Highland Malt. Sold in 2003 by the Edrington Group to the independent bottler Ian Macleod.
I must say that Glengoyne surprised quite a few of us, Maniacs, when they joined/competed in the 2005 Malt Maniacs Awards and sneaked away quite some precious metal presenting us the "Choice's Range" amongst others. So I decided to play it safe and relie on the public transportation to get to Balen, Serge's house. Serge did announce we would be having quite a few Glengoyne's so I did not hesitate....but great was my surprise to see the line-up...no less then 21 different Glengoyne's were brought together. Bart (a big Glengoyne afficionados, and a "The Finest Notes" member), Wim (Casksix Member) and Serge (the Casksix member) had been preparing this tasting miniculously, yes. 21 different Glengoyne's were to be evaluated, that Tuesday May 1 in Balen.
We dediced to arrange 4 flights in order to try to match the whisky more correctly.
Flight 1 was the "Get the Glengoyne Palate going...." And here my notes........
Langs Select 12yo (40%, OB, SPA Trieste, 70cl)
Nose : Pancakes, caramel sauce, creamy crêpes suzette, a little grain, nice but simple (19)
Taste : Warm caramel, very creamy, nuts and macadamia cookie, a little peach, nice (19)
Finish: Sweet malty (19)
B/C : Nice dram to get this tasting going (20)
Total points : 77
Glengoyne 10yo 1995/2005 (50%, DL OMC Advance Cask Sample, Cask 2036)
Nose : Very new make, white flowers, oak, not much going on....some vanilla, very boring (12)
Taste : Astringent white flowers on sweat, malt, boring (12)
Finish : Short...very new make (12)
B/C : A shame for bottling this....even as Advance Cask Sample (10)
Total points : 46
Glengoyne 16yo 1988/2005 (50%, DL OMC, Cask 885, 331 Bts.)
Nose : Malty sweet, green fruits, a little brown apple on a cake, barley aroma still strong (19)
Taste : Sweet sugary, loads of vanilla, pure and simple (19)
Finish : Sugary sweet, a touch of pepper (19)
B/C : Nice but very sugary sweet (20)
Total points : 77
Glengoyne 22yo 1981/2004 (49,1%, OB, Cask 410, 234 bottles, Whiskyfair)
Nose : Sweet fruit, apples and cinnamon, sweet barly, honey, nuts and spices, clean (21)
Taste : Full taste of sweet fruits, apples and spices, quite some body here (22)
Finish : Spicy peppery sweet, a little hot but nice (22)
B/C : Good drinking Glengoyne, pure expression, An interesting 'natural' Glengoyne (22)
Total points : 87
Glengoyne 19yo 1985/2005 (55.8%, OB, refill sherry, cask #1227, 697 bottles)
Nose : Quite alcohol punchy start, a little rubbery, raisins, varnish, a little sour underneath, sour buttter, too long opened cider, quite a love or hate experience in this one, has quite some nice but at the same time dirty aroma's, not easy (22)
Taste : Powerfull creamy texture, a buttery sweaty taste, applecompote and sour cream, sugary-sour expression, some pepper underneath (21)
Finish : Nice and good length (21)
B/C : You have to like the special aroma's....but quite ok I would say (22)
Total points : 86
Glengoyne 21yo 1985/2006 (53%, OB, Cask 629, 632 Bts.)
Nose : Heavy sherry, polished leather, varnish, candy sugar, heavy dry oloroso, calvados apples, nice if you like them heavy (22)
Taste : Whauh, heavy dry, gunpowder, a bit sulphury, but so dry.....(17)
Finish : Ai ai....the sulphury notes are coming harder now.....not my kind I'm afraid (15)
B/C : The nose had something going...but the palate is not my kind.....(15)
Total points : 69 (I scored it 79 blind during the last MM Awards...but I'm afraid I'm going to adjust that score)
So far Flight n°1... my personal winner of this pack was the Glengoyne 22yo 1981/2004 (49,1%, OB, Cask 410, 234 bottles, Whiskyfair).
Not only for scoring the highest points but for its pure and neat Glengoyne profile without any flaws.
On to Flight n°2, the "Long gone Glengoyne expressions....."
Glengoyne 17yo (43%, OB, 75cl, DAB Italia SPA, 80's, pear shaped)
Nose : Warm peaches, heathery a little coastal even, orange blossom, fine and delicate, a little varnish, great (22)
Taste : Lovely sweet peach marmelade on a fresh warm white bread toast, good and lovely drink-ability (22)
Finish : Nice and sweet, liquid pancake peach syrup (22)
B/C : Lovely drinking expression (22)
Total points : 88
Glengoyne 8yo (43%, OB, 75cl, Giorgio Grulo Import Bologna, Black label, golden stills, early 80's)
Nose : Very herbal start, like walking in a spice shop, loads of rosemary, parcly, polished oak, lovely depth (23)
Taste : Lovely sweet and smoky, a little peat even, old sherry, mastic, a touch of the animal, great (23)
Finish : Great finale, the spices kick back in, the cinnnamon, rosemary, lovely, a bit short (22)
B/C : Lovely expression, great drink-ability again (22)
Total points : 90
Glengoyne 1967 "Christmas Day" (43%, OB, bottled 1992, 2500 Bts.)
Nose : Nice fruity peachy Glengoyne, mashed apple compote, meadow blossom, lovely (23)
Taste : Lovely taste of sweet apricots, warm white bread, sugar (23)
Finish : Great package of fruit, a bit short (22)
B/C : Another great Glengoyne....(22)
Total points : 90
Glengoyne 1969 "Autumn" (55,3%, OB)
Nose : Intense fat nose of soaked oak, rum toffee, banana's on a BBQ, oak-smoke, a little beerfoam, varnish, lovely (23)
Taste : Intense and bold taste, soaked oak on warm peaches, apricot jam, rum notes, a little tobacco, some smoke and pinetree juices, lovely (23)
Finish : Long building, growing, yummie yummie (23)
B/C : Super Glengoyne expression soo bold and powerfull, for BIG boys (24)
Total points : 93
Glengoyne 1969/1998 (54,4%, OB, Cask 4464, 384 Bts.)
Nose : Deep dark sherry, roasted nuts, mokka coffee, cohiba cigars, burnt smoked meat, horse leather, intense (23)
Taste : Quite harsh and biting, the deep sharp sherry hits you, cohiban cigar smoke, expresso (22)
Finish : Dry, soo dry, coffee beans and expresso (22)
B/C : Lovely nose but a bit harsh and dry, but still lovely (22)
Total points : 89
So far for the second fligth. The winner for me was the Glengoyne 1969 "Autumn" (55,3%, OB) which I had also in Glasgow last year
September together with Sukhinder Singh when we met in the Pot Still pub in Glasgow for a few drams. This absolute fabulous Glengoyne
already surprised me big time then, but now it really showed its class amongst his Glengoyne brothers and sisters. Before starting flight n°3
Serge treated us with a lovely home made Tiramisu and a delicious Chocomousse.... Serge is really treating us like kings.
So, time for flight n°3...."Glengoyne through the seventies..."
Glengoyne 32yo 1972/2005 (48.7%, OB, white Rioja cask #985, 328 bottles)
Nose : Sweet ripe banana, crême brulée, sugar and rose blossom, lovely (23)
Taste : Sweet and ripe banana, a touch of tonicum, a lovely sweet bitter balance (23)
Finish : Sweet dry, nice (23)
B/C : Great expression, the white rioja cask has smoothen the edges (23)
Total points : 92
Glengoyne 1970/1998 (53,4%, OB, Cask 3854, 210 Bts.)
Nose : Intense varnish, pinewood, freshly cut oak, peachskin, yellow flower blossom, a little cabbage, oak, lovely (23)
Taste : Lovely intenste taste, the pure apricot, varnish, oaked, pinejuice, a little oak smoke, great (23)
Finish : Intense and long, pure pleasure (23)
B/C : What a dram (24)
Total points : 93
Glengoyne 1972/1998 (55%, OB, Cask 1428, 180 Bts.)
Nose : Pure and neat expression, orange zest and yeast, a bit refrained and shy (22)
Taste : Intense taste of orange zest, yeast, varnish, quite exotic with a lovely smoky oaky undertone (23)
Finish : Great length, sweet bitter..nice (22)
B/C : Another great Glengoyne (22)
Total points : 89
Glengoyne 1971/1998 (56,2%, OB, Cask 4855, 588 Bts.)
Nose : Raisins, plum, nuts, walnuts, chocolate, gravy on red berries, lovely (23)
Taste : Sweet thick oloroso, of the good kind, warm chocolate, velvety walnuts, lovely (23)
Finish : Lovely length, the sherry sweet coating round lovely capucinno, tiramisu and cream, lovely (23)
B/C : Great (24)
Total points : 93
Glengoyne 1972/1998 (55,9%, OB, Cask 583, 468 Bts.)
Nose : Clean sherry, smashed strawberries on brown sugar, milk chocolate, nice and delicate (22)
Taste : Full taste of red berries, milk chocolate, a tad dry, coffee, amaretto, bbq's banana's (22)
Finish : Good length, a bit dry (22)
B/C : The clean sherry is quite powerfull in this one and perhaps has too much control (22)
Total points : 88
So far.....for the spectacular 70's series. I was doubting my judgement a lot during this flight, was I getting in the mood or where these
expressions simply super great ? Since the fellow tasters were also raving about these expressions, my ratings are to be taken seriously
(but never too seriously). Quite hard to get a winner out this serie though.....mmmm, I think I would go for the Glengoyne 1971/1998 (56,2%,
OB, Cask 4855, 588 Bts.) with a very strong second, the Glengoyne 1970/1998 (53,4%, OB, Cask 3854, 210 Bts.).
So up to the final flight....the "Glengoyne's choice's series competing the expensives....."
Glengoyne 15yo 1989/2005 'Duncan's Choice' (55.7%, OB, sherry hogshead #1204, 350 bottles)
Nose : Deep intense sherry, a little burnt, animal, horse sweat, a bit of manure, balsamic, burnt nuts, lovely intense (22)
Taste : Deep fat rich sherry first dry and then sweet, mexican coffee on sugar, fine tannins and woodnotes (23)
Finish : Fine sweet fat oloroso....(23)
B/C : Great if you like them heavy (23)
Total points : 91
Glengoyne 19yo 1986/2005 'Ewan's Choice' (51.5%, OB, sherry puncheon #441, 600 bottles)
Nose : Refined sherry, fat and sweet, brown apple, crême brulée, brown cake, raisin cream, choco muffin, lovely (23)
Taste : Intense lovely sweet and fat, choco-truffles, lovely (23)
Finish : Liquid choco mousse, my goodness this is lovely (23)
B/C : This is great...yummie yummie (24)
Total points : 93 (I scored this one only 89 during the MM Awards 2005 but this one is definitely worth more - hence my 93 points now)
Glengoyne 1986/2006 'Peter's Choice' (51%, OB, Pedro Ximenez Butt #433, 603 Bts.)
Nose: Nice creamy oloroso sherry nose, old leather, meat sauce, choco mousse, capucinno coffee with loads milk, morello cherries, very nice melted aroma's with a great sherry topping (23)
Taste : Lovely full taste, morello cherry, mon chéri, cooked apples on calvados, chocolate with orange zest, coffee notes underneath, great, very Macallan'ish (the old style that is) (23)
Finish : Long, sweet development with a tad of bitterness underneath and a bit drying your palate and tongue, but still nice (22)
B/C : A perfect after dinner dram that you should enjoy with a great Illy espresso coffee...yummie yummie (23)
Total points : 91 (this was very closed at first, but with time, it really opens up, give it time...)
Glengoyne 2000 AD (51,3%, OB, Millenium Bottling, youngest whisky 30 yo old)
Nose : Lovely powerfull nose of ripe apricots, varnish, oak, pine-apple juice, almond milk, smoke, lovely (23)
Taste : Exotic ripe fruits with a bitter edge, grapefruit skin, intense (24)
Finish : Great length, the bitter tonicum holds the fruits and make them grow stronger, lovely (24)
B/C : Stunning.....(23)
Total points : 94
Glengoyne 1967/1999 "The Middle Cut" (52,5%, OB, 100 Bts.)
Nose : A bit more chemical, more alcohol, you get a very pure and neat expression here, malted barley, quite harsh but very little aroma development compared to the Millenium (21)
Taste : Good and intense taste, pure malted barley mixed with ripe apricots, oak smoke, varnish, bigaro red confit fruit, sweet, lovely (23)
Finish : Great lenght, and sweet fruit (23)
B/C : Nose was clean pure and refrained, but the palate is immense, strange balance....(22)
Total points : 89
The final flight was won without any doubt by the Glengoyne 2000 AD (51,3%, OB, Millenium Bottling, youngest whisky 30 years old). Unfortunately this bottling is extremely expensive. It was released in a copper "spirit safe" packaging and in a "clock" version. Both holding the same superb Glengoyne expression. Well well.... quite a tasting.... what an impressive line-up of some exquise Glengoyne's. If I would be asked to describe the profile of Glengoyne my final judgement would be "Apples, varnish, oak, peaches/apricots & oak-smoke"
Many thanks to Serge for hosting this tasting.
Many thanks to Bart and Wim for their contribution and my special thanks to Bart for bringing all these lovely Glengoyne expressions.
Luc Timmermans, Belgium
Limburg Whiskyfair, April 21-22, 2007
Limburg is in a town one-hour drive from Frankfort, mainly known for its old medieval castle.
The event hall, Josef Kohlmaier Halle, was very sought during that weekend with a queue of over 50 meters on Saturday shortly before lunchtime. The inhabitants, unused to such a crowd, were wondering what was going on. The answer was The Limburg Whisky Fair, which is one of the largest whisky events in Germany.
Because of its proximity to Belgium, the Netherlands and France, many Malt Maniacs were present (e.g., Serge, Konstantin, Pit, Olivier, Peter, Charles and others). The concept of the whisky fair is quite simple: after you pay an entry fee of 7 Euros, you can walk around the booths as you like and by paying the price indicated on the label you will receive 2 cl of your whisky of choice. In addition to many official bottlings, the range of independent bottlers was huge (e.g., Jack Wiebers, Compass Box, Chieftains, Scotch Malt Whisky Society, Blackadder, MacArthur, Scott's selection, Berry Bros and Rudd, Duncan Taylor, Signatory, Douglas Laing or Whiskyfair). Well, you might find the same type of malt at any other major whisky event, however, the main difference at the Whiskyfair is the tremendous choice of open "old" whiskies. A good opportunity for the Malt Maniacs to taste some good oldies and to complete the Malt Maniacs Monitor.
From the top of the stairs of the Hall, a bottle of Brora 1977 Douglas Laing Platinum, 54.9%, bottled in 2003, was looking straight at me and I could not resist the temptation. I was not to be disappointed either. Heavily peaty
with a strong wood and sherry influence. To my taste, the combination of flavours and the wood influence was pleasant and in my opinion worth 91 pts for this unusual malt, very different from the 1977s version of the Rare
Malts, closer to the 1972 version bottled for the Whisky Shop. After such a nice start, I then moved on to a sherry monster, the Glen Grant 1969 from Berry Bros, 46% bottled in 2004 (79 pts). The nose was impressive, very
sherried and intensely fruity at the same time (peach and pineapple), but turned out to be dry, bitter and thick on the palate.
If only the palate would have matched the nose!
Before the lunch break, I went on to try the Glen Scotia 1991, 15 YO, from Cadenhead, matured in sherrywood and bottled at 57.8%.
It was deliciously malty and extremely smooth and benefited from an excellent sherry cask. Glen Scotia matured in sherry casks are rare and this one deserved its 87 point. A good surprise.
Just after lunch, I had a dram of Caol Ila bottled by the host.
The Caol Ila from 1984, 22 YO, 55.9% was from the Whiskyfair and was very mellow, nicely peaty and complex, with the sherry merging nicely with the peat. A good whisky well worth its 87 points too. The aromatic profile was close to the Caol Ila from1984, a 22 YO recently bottled by Adelphi. On my way to the older stuff, a Tobermory from 1972 bottled in 2007 by Whisky-Doris at 49.5% distracted me. 1972 is known to be an excellent year for Tobermory and this example held the standard. On round peat, oranges, tangerines and sunbathed malt, wrapped by a top class first-fill sherry cask, it was well worth its 92 pts and a wonderful distraction!
And to continue with the sherry, what about a Longmorn Scott's selection 1971 bottled in 1999 at 57.8%.
This whisky was up to its expectation with 91 pts, a whisky with a lot of finesse, an intense and round nose, full of berries and with a lingering long finish. With all these whiskies, I forgot to mention the Caol Ila 1969 from Gordon and Macphail, 60.4%, bottled in 1984 (89 pts). That whisky was heavily peaty, very clean and dry to very dry, with a slight taste of minerals and some gentian bitterness. The finish was not very pleasant, but the retro-olfaction was stunning. Very long and heavily peaty. Last but not least, I decided to go for a dram of Clynelish 14 YO 92 proof bottled for the Royal Marine Hotel. The price tag (€20) made me hesitating in the morning, but the recommendations of two lovers of Clynelish and Brora (i.e., Lexus and Serge) convinced me. It turned out to be an excellent Clynelish (Brora) from the mid-sixties, on a clean and mineral peated nose, followed by a clean heavily peaty taste, mineral, malty and quite floral (gentian). The finish was on the same flavours and long. It deserved 91 points. I enjoyed very much my first experience with a pre-1970 Clynelish/Brora and would gladly try some others. The aromatic profile was different from the 1970s Brora, cleaner and with more minerals.
Well, after all these whiskies and talks with other whisky enthusiasts, the Whiskyfair was about to close its door and I had to think of my journey home. It had been a very pleasant day, with images of old bottlings and nice flavours in my thoughts on my way back. I really enjoyed very much the event and can only recommend it to any whisky enthusiast. The event was very well organised.
Interested in experiencing the next Whiskyfair Limburg? Then book the April 26-27, 2008!
Anyone who hasn't been living in a cave for the last few years has noticed that single malt scotch prices have been rising steadily.
Whether it's rising energy costs which affect all aspects of SMS production and distribution, or price gouging by corporate ownership or distributors, you are paying more for your favorite dram these days. Fortunately, there are still some darn good drams out there that have fallen between the cracks, and can still be picked up for a reasonable price. I've put together a list of a dozen or so of them. There is a good bit a variety among the dozen. A few are limited editions, most are mid priced, and there are a couple of affordable drams and one luxury bottle. All are original bottlings, so no need to look long and hard to track down 1 of the 262 bottles that exist in the world.
(54.2%, OB) $80
The Uigeadail is vatted from older casks that dropped (presumably far) below 40% ABV and could not be legally bottled as scotch whisky, and younger cask strength malt. The contribution of the younger malt is evident, as there is quite a direct punch, while the older malt adds roundness and extra complexity. As such, the Uigeadail doesn't quite reach the lofty heights of the Old malt Cask bottlings from the seventies, but I find it to be a superb dram and agree with Michale Jackson's 92 rating. There appear to be two versions floating around, one a bit lighter than the other. Luca also rated a recent release only 83, and I would imagine that the last of the older casks may literally and figuratively have been the bottom of the barrel. But keep this in mind. The distillery has run out of casks from the 70's. Unless you have very deep pockets, this is your last chance to obtain ANY older Ardbeg for a long time. The bottles out there now are going for around $300 in the US, and the price is certain to go even higher. And once that very last cask in Scotland is bottled, it will be auction house prices only. The good news is that there was plenty of Uideadail produced. Many liquor stores stocked up early, and the Uigeadail can still be found in New York City for $80. So just ask the owner or manager from when his stock dates from, and buy as much as you can of the older stuff.
(55.5%, OB) $72-80
Because the distillery was closed for a while, Jimmy McEwan and friends have had to use some creative thinking to fill out the product line. The Infinity is vatted from three ages and levels of peat, all aged in refill sherry casks. The youngest malt is the barely-legal Port Charlotte, which adds most of the punch. The other malts would seem to be close to the 10 year old and 14 year old Augusta Links. The end result is superb. Not a total peat monster, but that just means that you'll have to go for something else on the very coldest days. The high ABV helps, but the Infinity won't need more than a tiny bit of water at most. A real winner, my rating is 89. The price is attractive as well, I paid just $2 more than I did for the new Turnberry links at 46% ABV. The Infinity is by definition, a limited release. There is now a second release which is lighter in color, and wine finished. If you would rather have scotch that tastes like scotch, it's worth putting away a few bottles.
Compass Box Whisky Eleuthra
(46%, OB) $40-48
The Eleuthra is one of the earlier CBW releases, and it my favorite. Vatted from Clynelish and Caol Ila, there is just the right amount of balance between the sweeter and peaty elements. I like it better than the CBW Peat Monster, of which the two bottles that I have tried (purchased a year apart) failed to live up to the heritage of the original Monster. The Eleuthra is now listed on the CBW web site in the 'Limited Release Range' section, so I am including it here. There are plenty of peaty-wannabees at this price, so might as well get a really good one.
(45%, OB Stillmans Dram) $120-130
This is the luxury bottle mentioned above. Nicely balanced with a good firm body, it does an
excellent job of presenting the Dalmore profile. The reason i am including it here is that you could pay a heck of a lot more for something 28 years old. And since this is an official bottling, there is no need to scrounge around to figure out which of the 1970 or 1971, or cask 3475 or 3476 is the 'good' one, as often must be done with independent bottlings.
(53.4%, OB Nadurra) $50-60.
The standard GL 12 year old has a reputation as a 'beginners malt' amongst Maniac types.
The distillery shrugs this off, noting that they tend to do quite well in blind tastings, where snob factor doesn't come into play. Nonetheless, they have given us the cask strenght Nadurra, free of chill filtering or caramel color. And the price is a bargain as well, since you can pay that much for a 16 year old at standard strength.
(43%, OB) $50-75
Lets see know. The 15 has positive attributes of 10 and 18 year olds, but is priced closer to the 10. Corporate owner LMVH is in the luxury good business. In just the time I dreamed up the idea for this list to getting it keyed in, the price went up from just over $50 to the low seventies. You still might find some of the older stock at the lower price, so buy while you can if the 15 is something you re interested in.
(57.3%, OB 'Cask Strength) $60
Laphroaig 'Quarter Cask' (48%, OB) $42-50
These are both superior to the standard 10 year old. The Cask Strength is perfect for those bitter cold winter nights, and the 1/4 Cask has some creaminess added, which is countered by the unusual 48% ABV. Both are bargains, which means that they are good candidates for a price increase at any time.
Lowgrow 10yo 1985
(56%, OB) $80
This release of the peated Springbank is a real winner. The peat dovetails nicely with the
exuberance of the standard 10 year old Springer. While I haven't tried the immediately preceding vintages, the 1985 is better the early nineties Longrows, as well as the previous release of the Springbank 15 year old (I haven't tried the latest release). Don't worry about the age, this is worth the price tag as much as anything else in that price range.
Macallan Cask Strength
While Macallan does not have enough sherry casks to meet world demand, they still sell the Cask Strength in the US.
It has malts from 12-15 years old, and is an excellent value at full strength. You know what that means, so put away a few bottles while you can. Come to think of it, stock up on the twelve year old, now part of the 'Sherry Oak' series, before it's price goes thru the roof wherever you can actually still find it. In case you're still waffling, I'll remind you that the Macallan 18 year old goes for around $150 nowadays.
(50%, OB) $55-60
While the current release of the 10 year old is a pleasant dram, the 100 proof version has a firmer, more rounded profile.
It is darker as well, but my retailer tells me that it is due to 100% first fill bourbon casks, rather than sherry influence. Whatever the case may be, this is a real sleeper.
Talisker 18yo (45.8, OB) $58-65 & Talisker 12yo 1992
(45.8%, OB 'Distillers Edition') $58-65
These two bottling make up the middle of the Talisker range. The 18 wears its extra age well, kind of like a 40 year old James Bond. Sherry finishing on a peated malt such as Talisker may lead to a confused result, but not here. The DE add a layer of glazed fruit, imagine a fruitcake with a not-sweet crust. The reason that I am listing these Taliskers here is the price gap between these expressions and their older siblings. While the 18 goes for $65, the 20 year old costs $150, a big difference for just two extra years. And Talisker is the most prestigious of the Distillers Editions imported to the US, so there is plenty of opportunity for upward price movement for both.
Obviously, stock up on the Uigeadail if you at all have a fondness for older Ardbeg.
The Infinity is worth having a couple of bottles in reserve, but I wouldn't empty my piggy bank. Ditto for the Glenmorangie 15, as it is bottled at the standard 43% ABV. The Longrow and Dalmore aren't really in any danger, but they are worthwhile considering if you'd like to treat yourself to a special bottle. The Macallan Cask Strength is definitely an endangered species, but a bottle should last a while at cask strength. There are always going to be heavily sherried independent bottlings of just about everything, so there will be alternatives. It's worth having 3 to 6 bottles on hand depending on just how much big a Mac fan you are. As for the rest, I would keep of buffer of two or three bottles for anything that you like to have in your open stock. Then pick up a new bottle each time you open one from the buffer. And keep some spare cash around, and stock up immediately as soon as you hear about a price increase for one of your favorites.
I've recently received an interesting question from Gunnar Thormodsaeter from Norway.
He was wondering about oxidation inside the bottle - a topic that has been discussed here and there in several E-pistles and the Beginner's Guide on Malt Madness. I don't think we ever had a proper group discussion, though. So, let's take this opportunity...
Gunnar: What goes on in an opened bottle? We have probably all noticed: Once a bottle has been opened, the whisky may change more or less during some period of time, due to the air exposure. Different whiskies react differently, and some more than others. Generally, my own experience is that - pouring a dram or three a week - there usually will be a detectable positive effect to begin with; say the first couple of weeks or up to a couple of months.
The change can be considerable: I score my whiskies, and I would say an improvement of 3 points from the freshly opened bottle is not uncommon. In more rare cases there can be as much as 5 or 6 points difference. (This seems to be either underestimated or simply ignored in published reviews). The whisky opens up and shows more complexity. As long as there's more whisky than air in the bottle, then nothing more happens for quite a while. Sooner or later though, a negative effect will be noticeable; the whisky will slowly become flat and dull. This may occur after about a year, but sometimes allready after maybe six months or even sooner. (There are a few obvious variables here: How much air there are in the bottle at any given time, and how often the bottle is opened and the air is renewed).
As you have mentioned briefly in your old Liquid Log somewhere, Johannes, different whiskies react differently and in varying degree to the phenomenon, and exactly which factors that are at play here is perhaps difficult to establish. You mention type of cask (bourbon/sherry), phenol level and age. I guess tannins maybe could have importance too. When age is concerned, I really can't draw any conclusions at all from my own experience. But a layman's guess would be that young whiskies, since they haven't already been breathing in the cask for that long, will 1) be more sensitive than older whiskies to the early, positive effects, and 2) endure a longer period of air exposure than older whiskies before they decline. But then there is the influence of the cask. If that in some way has a preservative effect, then probably older whiskies will withstand air exposure better...
And what about the cause? I used to believe it it all had to do with oxidation myself.
Bringing the subject up in the newsgroup alt.drinks.scotch-whisky a few times have given limited feedback, but one "mdavis" there pointed out that the evaporation of volatile components should be concidered as well. Referring to what goes on during the 5 to 30 minutes in the glass (the development of the "nose"), I'm sure he is right. As for an opened (but corked) bottle, I still believe oxidation to be the main cause. But maybe there is a combination? Well, changes occur, that's for sure, and I've been intrigued by this for some time now. Strange thing that a few weeks in an opened bottle can make so much difference with whisky that has been breathing in the cask for many years. I'd love to see you guys elaborate a bit on the subject!
Cheers! (Gunnar Thormodsaeter, Trondheim, Norway)
Johannes: Interesting question, Gunnar - I haven't found a 'definitive' answer myself yet. It's a topic that deserves a serious investigation, like the glassware tests that Lawrence and Craig did for Malt Maniacs #103 last month - or indeed Ho-cheng's water test in this issue. But so far I haven't found the time to organise that yet. So, I'll put it on my 'To Do' list - I plan to add a comprehensive section to the 'Advanced Beginner's Guide' that I'm working on. I guess the main issue is to NOT to mistake changes from day-to-day (changes in perception, but influences of the weather and food as well) for changes in the whisky. So, it's important to make a certain comparison more than once before making any strong claims. But because of the major role of perception in the process, it's hard to approach it scientifically...
Your observations match those of American maniac Louis Perlman who already commented on the phenomenon in the 1990's.
He was mainly interested in the effects on the short term at first - the need for bottles to 'break in' for a few weeks before they reached their peak performance. That makes sense, because Louis often finished his bottles quickly. But as the percentage of thrifty maniacs grew, so did our collective interest in the long term effects. Put simply: we all wanted to know how long we could keep suckling from a bottle.
One very general observation in that respect it that sherry matured whiskies seem a tad more vulnerable to time - like wine.
But before I'll go into other 'long term' aspects, I'll ask the input from a few of the other maniacs...
Davin: Hi Johannes & all, I think Louis did a piece on this some time back.
I have not found that all whiskies change in the bottle, or at least they change at very different rates. I found the PC5 improved decidedly after a couple of weeks, but I have a Talisker 10 that has not changed in about four years (not sure how long, but it's an old label bottle). Still I try to finish up bottles once they are opened. What really surprises me though is just how quickly whisky deteriorates in sample bottles. I find that pouring whisky off into a sample bottle really accelerates the degradation process. Especially with light whiskies and non-peated.
After a few months or so I often detect significant oxidation. Have others observed this?
I mean in sample bottles that have been opened, sampled then half put back for re-sampling later.
Especially true back when we used to exchange larger samples than the 50 or 60 ml standard we use now.
Just my tuppence. Others?
Louis: Yes, Davin remembers correctly, I have noticed this effect almost since day one of my SMS career.
Many of my bottles have required 'break-in' for anywhere from two weeks to two months. Because of that, I don't make serious judgments about ANY malt until it has been open for that long. There are a couple of variations, sometimes the malt just needs to snap into focus, other times, the various flavor components stand out by themselves. I observe this most often with peated whiskies, but that just may be because I buy more bottles of peated SMS. A couple of Bowmores never settled down, and drifted continuously until they were finished, but I am not trying to start another FWP controversy. Sherried malts have tended to converge to a generic Speyside profile if the bottle had been opened for a long time. And I would definitely agree that once a bottle gets down to the 3/4 empty, it should be finished off quickly, although this can be painful for an expensive and/or rare bottle.
Interestingly enough, while I was standing at the Glenfiddich table at Whiskyfest last fall, someone was telling the reps that he experienced the exact same thing with a recent bottle of the GF 18. They had never heard of it before, but he claimed that it had improved dramatically over two months or so. Johannes, If you'd like, I can try to come up with a list of bottles that either required break in, or that changed dramatically after being opened.
Robert: Me too finds this phenomena interesting and definitely worthy of discussion.
To me this has happened most clearly with (lower proof) bottlings with sherry in their recipies. These can turn bland, flat or "teaish".
This does not seem to happen as clearly nor as often with bourbon matured stuff. Also it seems to happen that some peaty whiskies loose their oomph while others keep it. Weird. Anyway, to minimize the risk of this happening I do as many others and pour my big ones into smaller bottles when the levels turn low (say ~30%). Also sample bottles are rebottled to smaller ones in case I don't plan to finish a big sample anytime soon as I share Davins opinion regarding bottle changes in not-full sample bottles too.
Ho-cheng: I've experienced the same thing. But not to every bottles. As Davin's said, PC5 is a very nice example recently.
It needs about 1~2 weeks to open up. My experience showed that single cask bottling, especially sherry casks, tend to need some time to open up. The interesting thing is that we don't need to really open the bottle. But just as Gunnar said, we only need to pour a dram out, to leave some space in the bottle. For me, if I am going to lead a tasting, I tend to open the bottles several days in advance and try it. It is not only to be familiar with the whiskies, but also to let it breathe for a while. Many of my club members tend to taste only half in the tasting and bring the other half home, for the second chance. Sometimes they found positive changes.
I remember one of my friend asked the same question to Charlie when he visited Taiwan last year.
Charlie found the air space in the bottle has some affect the speed of the whisky oxidation. But I remember he doesn't really believe whisky need some time to open up. Whisky does oxidize, we've discussed several times. For people like Krishna and me who live in tropical countries. Even un-opened bottle may oxidized. For me, if I didn't finish a whisky in the summer time. It will turned sour for just over night.
BTW, I think this effect is not for nosing but for tasting.
I think nosing will be detectable by a drop of water to open it up.
But some bottles need some time to open up and it taste dramatic different.
And I also agree it sometimes changes the scores a little bit, but not always.
Johannes: Quite right, Ho-cheng! Oxidation seems to affect some whiskies more than others.
Well, I guess that makes sense. After all, the chemical composition of each single malt whisky is unique, and some of those compounds will react more actively with oxygen than others. So, this adds a whole new layer of complexity to the wonderful world of whisky.
And a very good point about the climate as well - temperature and humidity are important factors as well...
Any other input from the other maniacs on this aspect?
Krishna: Temperatures where I live vary from 10 degrees (in winter) to 45 degrees in summer.
Right now it is 41 degrees outside and the inside non- A/C room, temperature is a few degrees lower. Can you expect good malt whisky to withstand this huge temperature variations? As I said before, I keep my bottles in a refrigerator and this too has a a limitation. Frequent opening, taking small quantities, keeping it back in the refrigerator - all these take toll of my whisky and gradually my whisky deteriorates so much that it becomes undrinkable. The non - chill filtered stuff deteriorates faster than the chill filtered whiskies due to obvious reasons.
Recently I was told by a net -friend that the vibration of the refrigerator also effects your whisky.
There are so many constraints to store and enjoy a good malt in India, the only way is to finish them off as quickly as you can.
Olivier: I keep my bottles in my cellar 'ante-room' that most of you have already seen. Temperatures variations are very limited, from maybe 17°C in winter to 20°C in summer at the hottest, and there is basically no daily variation. Humidity is quite high (not quite enough for a wine cellar though), so I have to wrap the bottles in a protective film to protect the labels from rot. The system works quite well. I feel that a room which is too dry and/or to warm will accelerate evaporation on older bottles with weaker closure systems, especially with big daily temperatures variations, that will put a big stress on the corks or the seals of the screw caps.
Evolution of an open bottle: yes, absolutely yes, I do see a positive evolution after a few weeks of opening the bottle.
Especially if there is 20-25% missing in the bottle and if it is a cask strength whisky. I try not to keep open bottles for more than a year if there is less than 40-50% in it and especially if it is an older lighter style. I decant the left over in smaller bottles, which in turn can be kept a long time after, or, drink them!
Michel: About the same here as Olivier's situation, except for the cellar that is...
After opening a bottle I will monitor it quite closely for a week or two and see waht happens. Sometimes the changes are dramaticly - that includes negative changes especially with old bottles, which means I invite some people to empty the bottle ASAP - the Talisker we had on the Filling Party essentially disintegrated after two weeks. If the malt shows next to no progress I will leave it for a month or two and return to it. I had some very pleasant surprises here, but also some major disappointments...
When the level is down to about 40% I decant into 6 and 3 cl botlles...
Excpeptions are the whiskies that failed to impress or left me indifferent.
I leave them in the bottle and every now and then I try to see what happens when it's kept for a longer time (1 year +) in a bottle with a filling level lower than 10% or so... Just to know... What amazes me is that in quite some cases non-peated, low ABV, chill filtered, bourbon casks seem to have eternal life, or at least keep their subtleties while the peated ones can become ultra flat. Gezondheid!
Olivier: Michel, regarding that excellent BBR Talisker: you forgot to mention that you also drove back home from France to Holland with the bottle open. Maybe transport was to brutal for this old malt (low strength also...)...
Michel: Olivier, I guess it only shows how fragile that Talisker was...
If this was 'normal behaviour' for old bottles the guys from Dutch Connection are in big trouble every time they move their bottles... From the other side... I suddenly have this image of 'a certain trader we talked about during Pit's breakfast Session at Limburg' doing a Paris-Dakar before offering his bottles... :-)
Luca: Temperatures inside my house in Torino range from 23 degrees (Celsius) in Winter (damn centralized heating... I'd prefer 21), to up to 32 degrees in Summer (I like air
conditioning at work, but I prefer not to have it at home). Let's say that 9 months per year the temperature stays under the 24 degrees threshold. So far I haven't experienced DRAMATIC changes in taste, but I have
experienced subtle or moderate ones. It must also be said that during summer I tend to have very few opened bottles in my cabinet (I finish the opened ones before summer comes). It must also be said that rarely a bottle stays
open more than 4 months: it usually is finished before that time (by me or by friends who come and visit). Usually I have found PLEASANT changes: especially in stuff that was young heavily peated and pleasantly softened up a
bit with time, or that was heavily sherried and then became richer and more voluptuous.
Yes, it usually is a softening, but a pleasant one...
Craig: In Adelaide the temperature range is from 10 degrees Celsius in winter to 43 degrees Celsius in summer.
We'd have 12-15 days per summer over 35 deg C) but it's very rare to get 4 or 5 days in a row over 38 deg C.
When it happens plants in the garden start to die. We're in the middle of a big drought here (although it has started to rain in the last couple of weeks) so we're on third stage water restrictions which means we can only water our lawns one day a week.
I don't do anything special with my open malts - they're kept on a traymobile in my lounge room,
which isn't the coolest room but doesn't get any afternoon sun either. Air-conditioning (evaporative only) isn't on during the day as both Rosemary and I work during the day on weekdays. We probably use air conditioning maybe 40-50 days between November and March. All my unopened malts are kept in cupboards either in the lounge room or the Lyne Arm Malt Room (my family/tasting room).
On the open bottle effect - I agree with everything everyone else has said.
Almost every one gets slightly better after a few days/weeks open. With some it is profound.
The only caveat is those that are unpleasant to start with (oxidized or corked) which stay nasty.
I agree with the observation about bourbon matured malts remaining constant or hanging together longer than sherry matured malts. Finishes almost always get a cardboardy edge. I think they start to disintegrate when they are over 12 months open and less than 50% full; and the older they are the more pronounced the drop off. Old low alcohol malts are fragile and I don't know why but the natural cask strength ones (even if the bottling strength is less than 45%) seem to last better than the ones where they've been cut prior to bottling.
Johannes: Thanks, fellows. I think we've covered most of Gunnar's questions along the way - and dragged up a few fresh ones.
For example, there seems to be a difference between oxidation in A) a cask, B) a bottle and C) a glass.
Interesting... Why would that be?
Well, I guess that's a topic for another time. The publication date of MM#104 is nigh and I need to wrap up this issue...
- A Book Review by Davin de Kergommeaux, Canada
- An episode of 'Olivier's Travels' by Olivier Humbrecht, France
- A review of a handful of 'bang for your buck' malts by Bert Bruyneel, Belgium
- An article about the recent takeover of Whyte & Mackay by Krishna Nukala, India
- A report about this year's Victoria Whisky Festival by Wendy Harker, Canada
- An article on whisky classifications by Ulf Buxrud, Sweden
That's it for now - Please visit the (new) archive or the old 'ADHD' version of Malt Maniacs for more E-pistles.