This year's MM Awards were also the most international so far; we've had whiskies and
whiskeys from Scotland, Ireland, the US and Japan in the past, but this year we saw
participants from India and Tasmania as well - and they performed much better than
many of us expected. It seems that Scotland now has SERIOUS competition abroad...
But who are we to hand out awards and medals? Shouldn't that be a job for 'the experts'? Well, perhaps...
Nevertheless, in 2003 we had grown so annoyed by the many 'chocolate' medals that were awarded to fairly mediocre whiskies in the many
professional 'competitions' that we decided to offer an independent alternative. You can find our guiding principles in our manifesto - but action
speaks louder than words. Why don't you be the judge for yourself and compare a couple of gold medal winners from different competitions?
DAILY DRAMS CATEGORY
91 Lagavulin 21yo 1985/2007
(56.5%, OB, 6642 Bts.)
91 Balblair 1973/2006 (45%, G&M Private Collection, C#3184-3185, 385 Bts.)
90 Karuizawa 1971/2008 (64.1%, OB for The Number One Drinks Company, C#6878)
90 Carsebridge 42yo 1960/2002 (41.6%, Chieftain's Choice, Oloroso, C#15010, 135 Bts.)
90 Inchgower 26yo 1980/2007 (59.8%, Adelphi, C#14155, 223 Bts.)
The introduction of three different price categories wasn't the only change in the set-up of the Malt
Maniacs Awards this year. For one thing, we've decided to be even more transparent than usual and
publish a COMPLETE SCORE CARD OF ALL MEDAL WINNERS for the Malt Maniacs Awards 2008. This
PDF file perfectly illustrates that the 'magic formula' we use to calculate the average scores is very simple;
this year we simply eradicated one 'extreme' score if it was more than 10 points lower than the average.
Those cells are marked with 'D' (for 'discarded') on the list. The score card also shows that our feelings
for some bottles were more unanimous than those for others - it's a thin line between love and hate...
We didn't apply the same rule to the extreme scores that were 10 points higher than the average this
year because that would only drop one bottle from the final list; the Rosebank 1990/2008 (46%, C#605).
That would also deprive us of a time honoured tradition - teasing the hell out of the maniac that gave a
gold medal nomination to a whisky most of the other jurors were not that impressed with. We have a few
of these cases every year, but most of them don't even make the 'shortlist' of medal winners.
Another change from previous years is the number of eleven jurors on the score card.
In previous years we had a team of twelve or more maniacs sampling away for the MM Awards, and that
was how it started out again in 2008. However, after working his way through the entire set of nearly
200 samples, American maniac Mark discovered that the prescribed medication he had been taking had
seriously influenced his tastes. In some cases his scores were indeed quite different from the general
consensus amongst most of the other maniacs, so we decided to discard all Mark's scores this year.
A tough decision, but Mark agreed - including his scores would have skewed the results considerably.
Last but not least; the e-mail traffic has been hectic over the past few days, but our readers can now
participate in some of the discussions on Malt Maniacs & Friends on Facebook. The maniacs are a crusty
bunch of oldfashionista's, so we stick to e-mail most of the time - but if you post a question or comment
on the discussion board we might come out to play...
Before I hand over the virtual microphone to Canadian maniac Davin de Kergommeaux for some of his
editorial comments, I'd like to use the opportunity to point out that French maniac Serge Valentin did an
interview on WhiskyCast about this year's MM Awards. Scroll down a little further for an overview of all
medal winners. Many bottles that were submitted to this year's Malt Maniacs Awards were single cask
bottlings and very limited releases. That means that just a few hundred bottles were produced - if that.
I've highlighted the more widely available releases of at least 1000 bottles in BOLD in the list below.
Johannes van den Heuvel
Editor Malt Madness / Malt Maniacs
Every year we invite whisky makers to send their best bottlings to the Malt Maniacs Awards.
Yes, the producers themselves choose the whiskies and we get some pretty amazing bottles as our score
sheet shows. The competition is fierce and unlike commercial competitions, only a few bottlings are good
enough to satisfy the judges that they deserve gold. Six years ago we introduced the Malt Maniacs Awards
to help consumers sort through the hundreds and hundreds of new whiskies released each year.
Yes, there were other competitions but we felt their medals were tainted by high entry fees and judges
who made their living from whisky. We wanted a competition that was completely unbiased, without the
perception that medals were for sale, a perception we felt was reinforced by the large number of unworthy
whiskies advertising gold or even double gold in other competitions.
We told distillers, bottlers, distributors and retailers that if they entered our competition we would have an
international team of avid amateurs taste and rate their whiskies and we would award medals to those that
really turned our cranks. We told them our scoring would be done completely blind so our scores would be
honest, and it was in their interest to submit only their very best. We also told them we would accept only
a limited number of bottles from any distiller, so they should select their entries carefully. We told them there
was no entry fee whatsoever and rather than making a profit as some competitions do, we would assume all
the costs ourselves. We would owe nothing to anyone. We also told them we would keep our categories
broad so there were no winners 'by acclamation.' To win a medal, their whisky really had to earn it.
Right from the start we got the crème de la crème and were able to award a large number of honest medals.
To encourage up-and-coming competitors we also agreed that we would publish the names of the winning
whiskies only. This has paid huge dividends as some early disappointments have turned into stars of
recent Malt Maniacs Awards. We noticed though that many of the winners were very high-end bottlings,
often from independent bottlers, so wondered how much this really helped the average consumer.
More recently we have divided entries into three categories – Ultra Premium (quite expensive), Premium
(expensive), and Daily Dram (affordable). This year are pleased that along with the outrageously amazing
one-offs, producers have responded by entering a number of stellar daily drams such as the wonderful
Highland Park 12 year old.
It's been a fantastic six years and we thank all those whisky makers who have supported our competition
and all those readers who used the results when making their purchases. We look forward to many more
years of Malt Maniacs Awards, always totally non-commercial, totally honest, and we hope more useful each
year. Maybe we'll even help to highlight under-appreciated gems along the way like the stunning Glengoynes
in year two, the rise of Japanese whiskies in general, or the newly-fledged Lark distillery in Tasmania.
Davin de Kergommeaux, Certified Malt Maniac, Canada
84 Balblair 1975/2007 (46%, OB)
84 Glengoyne 21yo 'Sherry Matured' (43%, OB, +/-2008)
84 Glenkinchie 20yo (58.4%, OB, 10yrs american refill + 10yrs brandy casks, 2007)
84 Mortlach 18yo 1990/2008 (56.8%, Wilson & Morgan, Sherry Butt, C#4422)
84 Rosebank 16yo 1991/2008 (55.2%, The Single Malts of Scotland, C#402, 249 Bts.)
84 Laphroaig NAS 'Cairdeas' (55%, OB, 2008)
84 Caol Ila 27yo 1981/2008 (53.8%, DT Rare Auld, C#2932, 502 Bts.)
84 Auchroisk 18yo 1989/2008 (59.4%, Blackadder RC, Sherry, C#30268, 373 Bts.)
84 Caol Ila 23yo 1984 (50.7%, Exclusive Malts, C#2729, Madeira Hogshead Finish, 386 Bts.)
84 Benriach 13yo 'Maderensis Fumosus' (46%, OB, heavily peated, Madeira Finish, +/-2008)
84 Hakushu 1993/2008 (58%, OB, Hogshead, C#3B40574, 232 Bts.)
84 Highland Park 18yo (43%, OB, +/-2008)
84 Lark Distillery NAS 'Single Malt Whisky' (58%, OB, C#LD31, 2008, Tasmania)
84 Macallan 17yo 1991/2008 (46%, Hart Brothers, Finest Collection, First Fill Sherry Butt)
84 Laphroaig 8yo 1998 (53.7%, Exclusive Malts, C#103, 708 Bts.)
84 Cooley 15yo 1993/2008 'The Mad(eira) Angel' (46%, The Nectar, Madeira Finish, 370 Bts.)
84 Celtique Connexion 1994/2007 'DM Highland Monbazillac Finish' (46%, CWC, 307 Bts.)
84 Imperial 18yo 1990/2008 (52.2%, DT Rare Auld, C#358, 226 Bts.)
84 Glenfarclas 27yo 1980/2008 (48.6%, OB for Flickenschild Berlin, Port Pipes, C# 11067+11069)
84 Glenmorangie NAS 'Signet' (46%, OB, +/-2008)
84 Tomatin 25yo (40%, OB, +/-2008)
84 Compass Box NAS 'Hedonism Maximus' (46%, Compass Box, 1500 Bts., Vatted Grain)
84 Glenfarclas 41yo 1966/2008 'Feral Clangs' (45.7%, The Nectar Daily Dram, 201 Bts.)
84 Wilson & Morgan 1999/2008 'House Malt Born on Islay' (43%, W&M, C#5888-5890)
84 Connemara 1992/2007 (46%, OB, Peated, C#K92/334086)
84 Cooley 15yo 1993/2008 'The Angel's Port(al)' (46%, The Nectar Daily Dram, Port Finish, 360 Bts.)
84 Tormore 17yo 1990/2007 (64.6%, The Clydesdale, C#0150/1967, 205 Bts.)
84 Highland Park 12yo (40%, OB, +/-2008)
84 Connemara NAS 'Cask Strength' (57.9%, OB, Peated, +/-2008)
84 Nikka 12yo '70th Anniversary' Coffey Grain (58%, OB, Single Grain, +/-2004)
84 Bruichladdich 21yo Oloroso Sherry (46%, OB, +/-2008)
83 Caol Ila 1984/2008 (59%, The Whisky Agency)
83 Blackadder Smoking Islay NAS (45%, Blackadder, C# 2007/405, 2007)
83 Caol Ila 12yo 1995/2008 (60.8%, Blackadder RC, C#10017, 591 Bts.)
83 Caol Ila 25yo 1982/2007 (57.9%, Adelphi, C#685, 225 Bts.)
83 Compass Box NAS 'Flaming Heart 2nd release' (48.9%, Compass Box, ltd release #FH16MMVII)
83 Smokehead NAS 'Islay SMSW' (43%, OB Ian Macleod, +/-2008)
83 Carsebridge 29yo 1979/2008 (56%, DT Rare Auld, C#33032, 175 Bts., Grain)
83 Longrow 7yo 2000/2008 Gaja Barolo Finish (55.8%, OB, 12120 Bts.)
83 Breath of the Isles 15yo 1993/2008 (56.2%, Adelphi, C#3748, 279 Bts.)
83 Tullibardine 16yo 1992/2008 (56.9%, Blackadder RC, Bourbon, C#745, 180 Bts.)
83 Clynelish 1995/2008 (60.6%, The Whisky Agency, Refill sherry)
83 Port Ellen 1982/2008 (46%, BBR, C#2030/2035)
83 Breath of Islay 14yo 1993/2008 (57.7%, Adelphi, C#1637, 265 Bts.)
83 Amrut NAS C/S 'Peated Indian Single Malt Whisky' (62.78%, OB, 04/'08)
83 St Magdalene 25yo 1982/2008 (61.8%, Blackadder RC, C#2180, 603 Bts.)
83 Cooley 16yo 1991/2008 (46%, Milroy's of Soho, first fill Bourbon, C#12441, 264 Bts.)
83 Tyrconnel 10yo Madeira Cask Finish (46%, OB, +/-2008)
83 Arran 1998/2008 (52.3%, OB, Sherry, C#305, 285 Bts.)
83 Highland Park 1995/2006 (57.2%, G&M Cask, Refill sherry, C#1326+1331+1333)
83 Old Pulteney 21yo (46%, OB, +/-2008)
83 Talisker 10yo (45.8%, OB, +/-2008)
83 Dailuaine 1998/2008 (43%, Jean Boyer Best Casks, Sherry, 700 Bts.)
83 Arran 1998/2008 (57.5%, OB for LMdW Paris, Bourbon, C#675, 213 Bts.)
83 Glen Grant 30yo 1977 (57.4%, Langside Distillers for www.whisky.com.tw, Sherry butt)
83 Caol Ila 1996/2007 (56.8%, BBR, C#12241)
83 Benriach 1991/2006 (53%, OB for Taiwan Single Malt Whisky Tasting Ass., C#6921, 311 Bts.)
83 Laphroaig 1990/2008 (55.6%, BBR, C#2248)
82 Springbank 17yo 1990/2008 (51.5%, OB for Springbank Society, 570 Bts.)
82 Blackadder 11yo 'Peat Reek' (57.5%, Blackadder RC, Islay Malt, C#BA8286, 335 Bts., 2008)
82 Dallas Dhu 26yo 1981/2008 (57.3%, Part des Anges 'Closed Distilleries', C#PDA366)
82 Yamazaki 1995/2007 'Owner's Cask' (59%, Suntory OB for TSMWTA, Ohmi Aging Cellar, Taiwan)
82 Clynelish 1996/2008 (46%, Wilson & Morgan Barrel Selection, Marsala Finish)
82 Imperial 1998/2007 (55.1%, Whisky Doris, C#106041, 178 Bts.)
82 Tyrconnel 10yo Sherry Cask Finish (46%, OB, +/-2008)
82 Macallan 20yo 1988/2008 (46%, Wilson & Morgan Barrel Selection, Sherry Butt, C#5809)
82 Tyrconnel 15yo (46%, OB, C#1852/92, +/-2008)
82 Glenrothes 17yo 1990/2008 (59.9%, The Clydesdale, Sherry, C#0221/11001, 542 Bts.)
82 Caol Ila 12yo (43%, OB, +/-2008)
82 Strathmill 31yo 1976/2008 (44.8%, Adelphi, C#1126, 227 Bts.)
82 Mortlach 1991/2007 (56.4%, BBR, C#4227)
82 Ben Nevis 15yo 1992/2008 (59.5%, The Clydesdale, Sherry, C#0350/2626, 306 Bts.)
82 Arran NAS 'Madeira Wine Cask' (50%, OB, Ltd Edition, 5760 Bts., 2008)
82 Balblair 1989/2007 (43%, OB)
81 Balblair 1997/2007 (43%, OB)
81 Amrut NAS 'Indian Single Malt Whisky' (46%, OB, Btl. 04/'08)
81 Arran 1996/2007 (54.6%, BBR, C#1507)
81 Greenore 15yo (43%, OB, Limited Edition, 5000 Bts.)
81 Glengoyne 17yo (43%, OB, +/-2008)
81 Glen Scotia 16yo 1992/2008 (46%, MMcD for Ermuri Berlin, C#92225, Rum casks Aced)
81 Cragganmore 1993/2007 Distillers Edition (40%, OB, Port Wood Finish)
81 Singleton of Glen Ord 12yo (40%, OB, +/-2008)
81 An Cnoc 16yo (46%, OB, +/-2008)
81 Longrow NAS 'CV' (46%, OB, 2008)
81 Bowmore 6yo 2002/2008 (46%, MMcD for Ermuri Berlin, C#02226, Chateau Margaux Aced)
81 Balvenie 17yo 'Rum Cask Finish' (43%, OB, +/-2008)
81 Celtique Connexion 1990/2008 'DM Speyside Armagnac Finish' (46%, CWC, 325 Bts.)
81 Caol Ila 8yo 'Unpeated Style' (64.9%, OB, 2007)
81 Miltonduff 1999/2007 (55.7%, Whisky Doris, C#810, 180 Bts.)
80 Clynelish 12yo 1995/2008 'Shiny Cell' (46%, The Nectar Daily Dram, 200 Bts.)
80 Springbank 1997/2008 'Vintage' (54.9%, OB, Batch No. 2)
80 Monkey Shoulder NAS 'Batch 27' (40%, OB, vatted, +/-2008)
80 Ardmore NAS 'Traditional Casks' (46%, OB, peated, finished in quarter casks)
80 Connemara NAS (40%, OB, Peated, +/-2008)
80 Bowmore 1994/2007 (46%, Whisky Doris 'The Dram', 119 Bts.)
80 Bushmill's NAS '400th Anniversary 1608' (46%, OB, 2008)
80 Oban 14yo (43%, OB, +/-2008)
80 Tomatin 18yo (40%, OB, +/- 2008)
80 Balvenie 12yo 'DoubleWood' (40%, OB, +/-2008)
80 Glen Scotia 32yo 1975/2008 (46%, Chieftain's Choice, C#2191, 78 Bts.)
80 Rosebank 1990/2008 (46%, BBR, C#605)
80 Glenkinchie 1992/2007 Distillers Edition (43%, OB, Amontillado Finish)
80 Glencadam 16yo 1991 (46%, Milroy's for Yossi Schwartz, Single & Single Collection)
80 Benriach 19yo 1987 (51.3%, Exclusive Malts, C#14388, European Hogs finish, 351 Bts.)
80 Celtique Connexion 1992/2007 'DM Speyside Quarts de Chaume Finish' (46%, CWC, 319 Bts.)
80 Bruichladdich NAS 'Peat' (46%, OB, +/-2008)
80 Old Pulteney 17yo (46%, OB, +/-2008)
80 Glenkinchie 12yo (43%, OB, +/-2008)
80 Benriach 15yo Madeira Finish (46%, OB, +/-2008)
80 Bruichladdich 1988/2007 (46%, BBR, C#1879)
And these were all medal winners in the Malt Maniacs Awards 2008 so far, ranked from 'best' to 'worst'.
You can find tasting notes and comments on some of these winners in the overview of some of the most
noteworthy entries below - others are listed in the MaltMenu or the 'Specials' section of our little bar.
If you want to dig a little deeper and scores are your thing; the Malt Maniacs Matrix lists more than
3,000 single malt whiskies that were sampled by at least four certified malt maniacs. And if that's not
enough for you, the Malt Maniacs Monitor features over 10,000 whiskies - malts, grains & blends.
Our scores - and many other issues - are discussed at Malt Maniacs & Friends on Facebook.
89 Glen Grant 1955/2008 (50%, G&M for LMW, First Fill Sherry Hogs, C#844, 88 Bts.)
89 Yamazaki 1990/2008 (60%, OB, sherry butt, C#0N70645)
89 Yamazaki 1979/2008 (55%, OB, Japanese Mizunara oak butt, C#RF1037, 294 Bts.)
89 Tobermory 35yo 1972/2008 (49.4%, Whisky Doris, First fill dark sherry, 191 Bts.)
88 Glendronach 33yo (40%, OB, Oloroso Sherry, +/-2008)
88 Bowmore 36yo 1972/2008 (48.8%, Prestonfield/LMdW, refill sherry, C#3881, 565 Bts.)
88 Longmorn 30yo 1978/2008 (58.1%, TWE Masterpieces)
88 Caperdonich 1972/2008 (49.9%, G&M for LMW, first fill sherry butt, C#1976)
88 Glenfarclas 30yo (43%, OB, +/-2008)
88 Strathisla 1960/2008 (50%, G&M for LMW, First Fill Sherry Hogs, C#2544, 60 Bts.)
88 Hakushu 1993/2008 (60%, OB, Spanish oak 'Bota Corta', C# 3C40789, 571 Bts.)
87 Highland Park 40yo (48.3%, OB, +/-2008)
87 Clynelish 35yo 1972/2008 (53.7%, The Single Malts of Scotland, C#12651, 273 Bts.)
87 Lagavulin 1991/2007 Distillers Edition (43%, OB, lgv 4/495, PX finish)
87 Talisker 25yo (58.1%, OB, 6894 Bts., 2007)
87 Glengoyne 19yo 1988/2007 (58.3%, OB, Pedro Ximenez butt, C#718)
87 Karuizawa 1986/2008 (60.7%, OB for The Number One Drinks Company, C#7381)
87 Glenrothes 1965/2006 (43%, G&M, MacPhails Collection)
87 Glen Grant 38yo 1969/2008 (51.7%, DT Lonach)
87 Mortlach 1954/2008 (43%, G&M Rare Old)
87 Nikka Yoichi 1986/2008 (59%, OB for LMdW, New Oak Cask, C#112112)
87 Connemara 1992/2007 (50.5%, OB for Whisky Fair Germany, peated malt, C# K92/34 4184)
87 Glenfiddich 30yo (40%, OB, +/-2008)
86 Lagavulin 16yo (43%, OB, +/-2008)
86 Highland Park 30yo (48.1%, OB, +/-2008)
86 Glen Elgin 32yo 1976/2008 'Green Elgin' (40.8%, TWE, C#3544)
86 Benriach 23yo 1984/2008 (54.2%, The Single Malts of Scotland, C#194, 214 Bts.)
86 Glen Albyn 33yo 1974/2008 (58.9%, The Clydesdale Company, C#0016/1601, 248 Bts.)
86 Tomintoul 1976/2007 (40%, OB)
86 Lagavulin 12yo Special Release #7 (56.4%, OB, 2007)
86 Nikka 21yo 1986/2008 (63%, OB for lmDw, C#80283)
86 Rosebank 25yo 1981/2007 (61.4%, OB)
86 Laphroaig 16yo 1992/2008 'Aloha Grip' (58%, The Nectar Daily Dram, 180 Bts.)
86 Amrut NAS (62.7%, Blackadder, C#BA 1/2008, 277 Bts., 2008)
85 Benriach 20yo (43%, OB, +/-2008)
85 Laphroaig 1998/2008 (61.2%, Jean Boyer for Whisky Forum, 260 Bts.)
85 Caol Ila 26yo 1982/2008 (54.6%, DT Peerless, C#2738, 279 Bts.)
85 Bowmore 16yo 1991/2008 (59.3%, Wilson & Morgan, Port Finish, C#15058-15059)
85 Laphroaig 7yo 2000/2008 (58.2%, LMW, refill butt, La Preceptorie Finish, 4456 Bts.)
85 Highland Park 25yo (48.1%, OB, +/-2008)
85 Yamazaki 1993/2008 (62%, OB, Heavily Peated, puncheon, C#3Q70048)
85 Hakushu 25yo (43%, OB, +/-2008)
85 Amrut NAS 'Cask Strength' (61.9%, OB, Btl. 09/'07, India)
85 Ardbeg 1998/2008 'Renaissance' (55.9%, OB)
85 Karuizawa 1991/2007 (62.5%, OB for The Number One Drinks Company, C#3318)
85 Lochnagar 21yo 1986 (50%, The Whisky Agency)
85 Glenfiddich 21yo 'Rum Finish' (40%, OB, Cask selection #19, +/-2008)
85 Karuizawa 1992/2007 (61.5%, OB for The #1 Drinks Company, Sherry Butt, C#3330, 430 Bts.)
85 Glenlivet 1971/2007 (46%, BBR, C#6450)
85 Ardbeg 17yo 1991/2008 (46%, Hart Brothers, Finest Collection)
85 Caol Ila 8yo 1998 (56.4%, Exclusive Malts, C#8350, 329 Bts.)
Amrut NAS (62.7%, Blackadder, C#BA 1/2008, 277 Bts., 2008)
The majority of the judges voted for silver, but Swedish maniac Robert Karlsson enthusiastically went for gold.
He gave it 93 points and wrote: "Nose: Huge fruityness, candied superb vanilla. Exotic fruits and all that. 70's Clynelish
style. Utterly enjoyable. Taste: Exotic round buttery fantastic intensive fruityness (wow). Super vanilla and still balanced."
Exotic indeed ;-) German maniac Pit Krause was the only one who didn't feel this international whisky (a 'Scotch' style whisky, distilled in India and bottled by semi-Swedish independent bottler Blackadder) deserved any medal at all.
He wrote: "Nose: nutty, ginger, marzipan, vanilla, flower bouquet. Taste: Powerful and complex, needs water."
Amrut NAS 'Cask Strength' (61.9%, OB, Btl. 09/'07, India)
This case perfectly illustrates the strength of independent bottlers - ideally, they can select the VERY best casks.
Amrut submitted three official bottlings to the MM Awards in 2008 and all of them did very well. However, a cask
strength version that was submitted by Blackadder did just a smidgen better, stealing some of Amrut's thunder in
the process. This was our favourite among the three bottles that were submitted. Indian maniac Krishna wrote:
"Nose: Perfumy? Organics and tropical fruits. Taste: Very sweet and round and some tannins, good finsh."
Taiwanese maniac Ho-cheng wrote: "Rich malty nose, fruity, lot's flower, very rich palate, strong, lot's fruit, last well."
Ardbeg 1998/2008 'Renaissance' (55.9%, OB)
The jury was unanimous in their opinion that this deserved a medal - although they did not agree on the colour.
Olivier voted for solid silver with 89 points and wrote: "Nose: vanilla almonds, fruity discreet peat that eventually
unfold into more smoky style. pungent. Taste: dry smoke intense peat on the palate. Light tannins and wood influence.
Nice. Roasted almonds. Slight greener touch on second taste." I was suitably impressed and voted for a silver medal
(although not quite as thick with 85 points). My notes on the taste: "Round and solid start. Beautiful subtle peat
opening up and growing stronger. Great mouth feel with a good deal of sweetness." So, a good Ardbeg again!
Arran NAS 'Madeira Wine Cask' (50%, OB, Ltd Edition, Bottled 2008, 5760 Bts.)
This Arran bottling wasn't the highest scoring Arran this year (that was the Arran 1998/2008 (57.5%, OB for Maison
du Whisky in Paris, Bourbon C#675), but this one came close and is more widely available. Opinions within the jury
were divided, though - as they often are when it comes to wine treated whiskies. In this case Serge and Krishna
voted for silver while five other voted for bronze. Mark even voted for gold - but as it turned out that may have been
due to prescription medication. Robert wrote: "Nose: Light notes of maltiness, some vanilla of the buttery kind. Makes it round and enjoyable. Some cinnamon and "peppermint rock". Taste: Slightly odd. Christmas spices & honey sweetness."
Balblair 1973/2006 (45%, G&M Private Collection, C#3184-3185, 385 Bts.)
With seven nominations for a gold medal (and all others for very solid silver - either 88 or 89 points), this was one
of the few entries where the jury was fairly anonymous. Olivier wrote: "Nose: Dark sherry, strong oloroso type. Honey,
wax, toffee, mahogany nose. Tobacco. Taste: sweet rich dense sherry wood. Lots of wood tannins. Mahogany cigar box.
Resin, leather. Very active sherry cask. Overall very interesting. Definitely for dark sherry lovers." Indeed... Davin wrote:
"Nose: fudge, caramel, hints of resin, wood, complex fruitiness, Then musty. hint of wood, some freshness, dark fruits.
Taste: Sweet, chocolate, wood, hot and sweet spices, cream sherry, dark fruits, pulling tannins, very very nice whisky."
Balvenie 17yo 'Rum Cask Finish' (43%, OB, Bottled +/- 2008)
The Balvenie 12yo 'Doublewood' has wone prizes at the MM Awards in the past, but the opinions on this year's
batch were too strongly divided for it to earn more than a relatively thin bronze medal - some maniacs felt it was
worthy of a silver medal while others didn't nominate it for any medal at all. This one earned wider approval.
Luca wrote: "Nose: Not very expressive at first. Organics, wet dog. Slightly musty, then getting sweeter and even a bit
honeyed. Taste: Oaky, tannic, with a nice background fruity sweetness and trappist ale. Balanced." That being said,
if you're looking to balance your budget the 12yo 'Doublewood' or 'Signature' expressions are good alternatives.
Benriach 13yo 'Maderensis Fumosus' (46%, OB, Madeira Finish, +/-2008)
All jurors except Olivier felt this finished, heavily peated whisky deserved a medal - and it was one of the very few
'daily drams' (below 50 Euro's) to almost earn silver. Bert Bruyneel gave it 86 points and wrote: "Nose: Dirty peat,
citrus, coal, medicine. Taste: peaty, citrus, coal, fruity, nice peaty finish." I liked it 89 points worth myself and wrote:
"Nose: Coastal and a little farmy with some subtle oatmeal sweetness. After a minute the smoke grows stronger and
stronger. Some creosote too. Wonderful development that slowly reveals a gentler, fruitier side. Too extreme for some?
Taste: Softly peaty start before a strong, salty centre. Loads of liquorice & smoke. Strong tannins & rubber; dry finish.".
Benriach 20yo (43%, OB, +/-2008)
It's hardly surprising that this earned a slightly higher average score than the 13yo madeira finished expression;
this falls firmly in the 'premium' price category. In fact, Bert Bruyneel and Pit Krause voted for gold with Bert giving
92 points and Pit 93, respectively. Most 'senior' jurors were not quite so enthralled and voted for silver or bronze.
Pit wrote: "Nose: great fresh aroma, berries, traces of faded peat, tropical, mineral, old Laphroaig-like. Taste: wonderful
complexity, all there that an old malt needs, reminding me of old Laphroaigs again." Well, it's not quite old Laphroaig,
but I found some old organics too. Davin wrote: "Plastic, phenols, hints of peat smoke, cow barn, very appealing".
Bowmore 36yo 1972/2008 (48.8%, Prestonfield for LMdW, C#3881, 565 Bts.)
Time and time again the people at La Maison du Whisky in France prove that they haven't lost their uncanny ability
to track down and obtain the finest casks - in this case a refill sherry butt. Opinions were divided though; it was one
of my own favourites of this year's competition (five jurors voted for gold), but Davin and Ho-cheng were not quite so
impressed - and Pit loathed it. In my own words: "Nose: Antique, exquisite profile. Celery. Maggi. This must be an oldie.
Unique - really smells like something bottled at least two decades ago. The organics were more obvious during round two.
Taste: Smooth, growing stronger. Shines in the shadow of a gold medal candidate. Great mouth feel. Very strong tannins.".
Bruichladdich 21yo (46%, OB, Oloroso Sherry, +/-2008)
There were quite a few whiskies that divided the jury this year and this was one of them. Mark Gillespie's nomination
for gold was discarded, but Krishna's nomination counted. However, it was offset by 3 votes for silver (from Davin,
Luca and Pit), four votes for bronze and two 'not medal worthy' from Olivier & Bert. Had Michel's score been counted,
this Laddie would have lost out on a medal altogether. Michel complained about the sulphur, which was commented
on by Luca as well. He wrote: "Nose: Dry, winey, astringent and also sulphury. Burnt rubber. Oranges, peaches, green
kiwis. Let it breathe, and the sulphur will partly dissipate, leaving you with excellent winey impressions & some camphor.".
Bushmill's NAS '400th Anniversary 1608' (46%, OB, 2008)
I have to admit I was a tad underwhelmed by this 'anniversary bottling' from Bushmills - it seeems the staff was
too busy celebrating their 400th anniversary to be able to fully concentrate on cask selection. Two expressions of
Bushmills managed to pick up silver in the 2007 edition of the MM Awards so that fostered some expectations.
That being said, most judges felt that this was medal material and Luca and Bert even voted for silver. Luca wrote:
"Nose: Overripe red apples, paint thinner and some nuttiness. A hint of ground coffee. Taste: Soft, with the same flavour
as the nose. Then it gets sweeter, bigger, warmer. Lots of strong trappist ale (Chimay Red?), and a loooong finish."
Caol Ila 8yo 1998 (56.4%, Exclusive Malts, C#8350, 329 Bts.)
Eight jurors voted for silver - which is quite impressive if you consider that this is an unusually young whisky in the
cheapest 'daily drams' price segment. So, we felt it only appropriate that it would win the 'Best Peated Malt Award
2008 (Daily Drams)'. Ho-cheng wrote: "Nose: medium peaty level, nut, a little bit vanilla, oaky, iodine, sea. Taste: very
nice palate, charming sweet with right peaty level, very enjoyable." Pit Krause wrote: "Nose: peat, sea air, complex Islay.
Taste: peat, ash, leather, iodine, gun powder sulphur in long finish." while Krishna expressed his appreciation like this;
"Nose: lemony smoke, more lemon after a dash of water. Taste: Nice round and organics smooth long smoky finish."
Caperdonich 1972/2008 (49.9%, G&M for LMdW, first fill sherry butt, C#1976)
Davin got pretty carried away by this oldie; he wrote: "Nose: dark fruit, resins, wood, sherry, raisins, Then just wow...
Killer nose with lots of tertiary smells, wood, leather, tobacco, dark fruits, sherry, very expressive, smells like it will have
a tannic bitterness (which I love), rich dark fruitiness, sour fruits. (...) Please god, let it be even half as good on the palate.
Taste: Heaven, did I die and go to heaven? So rich & sweet, lots of hot spices, musty wine cellar, all tertiary flavours,
nothing primary, hints of wood, hints of resin, vaguest hint of metalic mouthfeel. Beautiful soft tannins, lots of Christmas
spices, ginger, cinnamon, amazing spicy wood in the finish. Tobacco, good! The stuff Glenfiddich 12yo-lovers spit out...".
Carsebridge 42yo 1960/2002 (41.6%, Chieftain's Choice, Oloroso, C#15010)
I have to admit that I didn't notice this wasn't a recent bottling until when we made up our shortlist of potential
winners, but after a lot of discussion we conceded this grain whisky deserved a gold medal with six votes for gold.
Serge wrote: "Nose: the sherry is so big (yet subtle) that it's completely impossible to detect an old grain. It may as well
be an old Glen Grant or Sthathisla. (...) Sumptuous notes of old precious wood, high-end chocolate, raisins, hints of
chestnut purée, wax polish, plum and cinnamon pie, sandalwood and, 'of course', plain oloroso. Gets then more leathery
and gamey, as often with these very old sherried whiskies.". And those were just his notes on the nose...
Clynelish 35yo 1972/2008 (53.7%, Single Malts of Scotland, C#12651, 273 Bts.)
This 'ultra premium' expression in Sukhinder Singh's 'The Single Malts of Scotland' range managed to collect four
votes for gold (from Serge, Olivier, Bert and Pit), but that was not quite enough to get to an average of gold. Davin
and Krishna felt it only deserved bronze, so together with six votes for silver the average score eventually was 87.
I wrote: "Nose: Serious, slightly dusty but not very expressive at first. A tad buttery? Fairly sharp, let's add some water.
Grows much more complex with a few drops, although it remains very subtle. Smooth with old fruits & a fair dose of peat.
Strong tannins. Much more lively than the nose suggests. Lingering finish that turns sour and dry in the end. Chalky.".
Compass Box NAS 'Hedonism Maximus' (46%, Compass Box, 1500 Bts.)
With seven votes for silver this vatted grain whisky (something you don't see every day) came very close to silver.
However, with 2 votes for bronze and 2 'no medal' nominations the numbers just don't add up to a silver medal.
Michel wrote: "Quite grainy. Lots of vanilla, some traces of 4711. Develops more and more grainy notes. Some hazelnut
cream, lemon skin. A tad too shallow perhaps. Lack convincing intensity here. Taste: As the nose suggested it's quite
grainy here as well. Some perfumy cereals, marshmallow, rose water and traces of 4711. Oak and Malibu. Crystallised
fruits, milk chocolate, hazelnut cream and hints of pastry. Finish: A bit shy. Some vanilla and oak, almonds, cereals."
Glen Albyn 33yo 1974/2008 (58.9%, Clydesdale, C#0016/1601, 248 Bts.)
Over the years over a 1,000 different whiskies have been submitted to the Malt Maniacs Awards, but this was our
first ever Glen Albyn. Looking at the scores on the monitor so far, we've hit the jackpot with this expression; it was
notably better than the 'average' Glen Albyn - not that there are many out there, mind you. All jurors voted for silver,
except for Davin (bronze) and Bert (gold). He wrote: "Nose: mint, oak, vanilla, honey, beautiful nose, old Speyside style.
Taste: spicy and a bit dry, very fruity, honey, some oak, vanilla, getting fruitier in finish." I voted for silver myself, even
though this was a rather unusual whisky to my palate - the words 'odd' and 'weird' keep popping up in my notes...
Glen Grant 1955/2008 (50%, G&M for LMdW, First Fill Sherry C#844, 88 Bts.)
After more than fifty years this hogshead produced less than 100 bottles - and one of the 88 bottles ended up on
our shelves to be tried and tested in the ordeal that is the MMAwards. That was quite an honour - and an hugely
enjoyable experience for most jurors to boot; 5 maniacs voted for gold and 4 for silver; which in the end worked out
as the thickest silver medal in the pack. Olivier wrote: "Nose: Dark dark amber. Powerful dense oloroso sherry. Lots of
vanilla, truffle oil, walnuts. Very complex. Beautiful captivating nose. Old; coal smoke and peat. Taste: Round powerful
intense palate. Sherry is huge & powerful, enhanced by some smoke flavours & wood tannins. Made before technology..."
Glen Grant 38yo 1969/2008 (51.7%, DT Lonach)
Serge and Pit nominated this oldie for gold, but with eight votes for silver it ended up with a very solid silver medal.
Bert wrote: "Nose: fruity sweetness, lots of candy, haribos. Taste: spicy & dry, fruity, a candy store, some tropical notes,
sweet. Gets more tropical in the finish.". Several other maniacs mentioned these 'tropical' fruits as well; like Michel
who found mango and apricot jam and Davin who wrote about peaches and apricots. My own notes: "Nose: Polished
wood and fruits - a classic profile. Faint hint of something floral. Highland Park? Taste: Powerful and fruity with a strong
woody undercurrent. Maybe a touch of something medicinal? Settles down after a few minutes with a brilliant sweetness.".
Glenkinchie 20yo (58.4%, OB, 10yrs American refill + 10yrs brandy casks, 2007)
With five nominations for silver (from Serge, Davin, Ho-cheng, Luca and Krishna) this came awfully close to winning
a silver medal, but it ended up as the third highest scoring bronze medal winner. That's still no mean feat, mind you.
After all, this is a Lowland whisky competing with the best and the brightest from the rest of Scotland and the world.
Krishna wrote: "Nose: salty sea shells, hemp on a sea shore, a drop of water brings out floral and heather and some
lemon notes. Taste: Very sweet and spicy, excellent satisfying finish.". Luca wrote: "Nose: Needs water. Musty, some
men's perfume. Peaches, grapes, kiwis. Camphor. Taste: Nice. Oaky, tannic, with some tea, strawberries and apricots."
Glenrothes 1965/2006 (43%, G&M, MacPhails Collection)
Three votes for gold (from Luca, Michel and Robert) wasn't enough to make it so, but the vast majority of judges
agreed this was very good whisky indeed. Michel wrote: "Nose: Toffee apple, cinnamon, some licorice, varnish and wax
in a nice expressive nose. Develops a spicy edge with mace, some black pepper and also notes of fresh toast. Some ginger
in the background. Water brings out a waxy edge, some pine apple jam and oranges in the background. Taste: Lots of
ginger, oak, some malts, vanilla, hints of butter, pepper and almonds. Quite nice. Hints of pine wood in the background.
Finish: Quite some oak, the right kind it is. Prunes, pineapple, sandalwood, traces of smoke and mandarin. Very nice!"
Glenmorangie NAS 'Signet' (46%, OB, +/-2008)
We were very happy that Glenmorangie bravely decided to enter their latest 'flagship' into our little competition.
Krishna voted for gold and it received three more votes for silver, but that wasn't quite enough to bring the average
to silver. Perhaps this whisky is handicapped by its even-handedness; no extremely low score had to be deleted.
My notes: "Nose: Big and expressive start. Fruits, organics and some wood. Settles down quickly though. Well, at least
as far as the complexity is concerned; the nose burn grows sharper and a little sour. Taste: Hmmmm… Starts much
weaker than I expected, but powers up to a lovely fruity centre. Medium long, modest finish. It grew on me over time.".
Hakushu 1993/2008 (60%, OB, Spanish oak 'Bota Corta', C# 3C40789, 571 Bts.)
This relatively young expression from the Japanese Hakushu distillery actually earned a higher average score than
the 'ultra premium' 25yo expression that also won a silver medal. Davin wrote: "Nose: stale juicy fruit, red sherry,
pine, raisins, Then menthol, resins, dry sour fruit, rich and complex with some tertiary smells, hints of sweet and sour,
cereal, grass, sour fruit. Taste: Sherry, dark fruits rich and creamy, resins then quite sweet, just wonderful woody and
tannic notes, hints of caramel, lots of tertiary flavours, age, sweet rich & syrupy but so well balanced by drying & slightly
bitter tannins. I love this whisky. Chocolate, hot tobacco, hot pepper, lots of hot spices, everpresent fruity sweetness.".
Highland Park 30yo (48.1%, OB, +/-2008)
This was one of several official experessions of Highland Park that were submitted to the MM Awards 2008, and it
outperformed not only the younger and more affordable 25yo (which is understandable) but the 'flagship' 40yo too!
But then again, keep in mind that these medals are an average of a dozen personal tastes and we would probably
all agree that the price/quality ratio of 12yo OB is still the best. However, if you van afford it, go for this fine whisky.
Olivier wrote: "Nose: attractive sherry wood, medicinal, grass, hay. Soft, attractive nose; dried bananas. Taste: soft round
palate, some grass, hints of peat, good power, warms up on the very nice finish. Definite maritime touch, wood salt.".
Inchgower 26yo 1980/2007 (59.8%, Adelphi, C#14155, 223 Bts.)
Davin wrote that this one "Starts awesome and it just keeps getting better and better.". Quite right...
Adelphi has managed to surprise us almost every time they participated in the competition, and this time they
pulled another rabbit out of their hat. With seven votes for gold it rightly earned its honours. Dutch maniac Michel
wrote: "Nose: Heavy Sherry oak, chocolate powder, some car tire, traces of sulphur giving a dirty edge. Raisins, caramel,
make up powder. Morels and dried sausages. Taste: Creamy Sherry oak. Burnt and brown sugar, walnuts, dark honey,
maple syrup, cherry skins and chocolate, lime juice. Finish: Oak, some metallic notes, chocolate and Guinness.".
Karuizawa 1986/2008 (60.7%, OB for Number One Drinks Company, C#7381)
This was not the highest scoring cask from Karuizawa this year (that was a 1971, discussed next), but as a bottle
in the 'premium' category this could offer better value. In fact, Serge and Olivier felt this one deserved gold too.
Olivier wrote: "Nose: very attractive sweet butterscotch. pungent high abv. Sharp but nice. Some light nice organic
peat. Opens up beautifully. Taste: Nice bonefire smoke. Very attractive light sweetness and sherry influence. Clean, right
power. Very very good." Indeed - and I thought I found something slightly medicinal on the palate too. Well, maybe
I just imagined that because none of the other mainacs found that. Several found minerals and smoke, though...
Glenfarclas 30yo (43%, OB, +/-2008)
This was one of the big winners amongst the official heavyweights. Its average score was just a few decimal points
below that of the Glendronach 33yo and the twp jurors that nominated that one for gold (Robert and Krishna) did
so with this one too. With eight votes for silver and one for bronze, it's no surprise the average turned out as silver.
I wrote: "Nose: Fruity and spicy. Raisins. Touches of smoke and wood too. Classic. A well-balanced profile. On the edge
between silver and gold for a long time during both round one and two. Drops from 90 to 89 despite growing complexity.
Taste: Brilliant mouth feel - at least initially. Fairly weak, though. Lovely persistent fruits after a few minutes. Excellent.".
Glendronach 33yo (40%, OB, Oloroso Sherry, +/-2008)
With seven maniacs nominating this one for silver, it actually came quite close to gold with an average of more than
88 points. It's also the second highest scoring 'regular' official bottling - i.e. not a single cask bottling. Our Swedish
juror Robert Karlsson wrote: "Nose: Some matches which fades with time. This is a big big malt, burnt wood, tobacco
and lots of wood influence. Complex. Dark chocolate. Yummy. Taste: Balanced with the nose. The wood really bites,
balsamic vinegar, bitter aftertaste. Tough but not strong (I think). Feels like an old japanese. Me like.". And he wasn't
the only one. All maniacs agreed this was worthy of a medal, and only Pit Krause felt it should only be bronze.
Glenfiddich 30yo (40%, OB, +/-2008)
Big Fiddich participated in the MM Awards in the past, but if memory serves their highest scoring expression so far
was the 21yo in various guises. This one did even better, receiving gold medal nominations from Robert, Bert & Pit.
Michel wrote: "Nose: An instant whiff of glue, fudge, passion fruits & some varnish. Notes of apricot jam, furniture polish,
cardboard emerge, minced meat & bread crumbs. Taste: Enjoyable bitterness with a smoky edge. Some grass, resin and
pine wood but the bitterness gets a tad too dominant although some great notes of dark chocolate are quickly to follow.
Finish: Stays on the cardboard side, some fruit emerges a tad too late... although the fruitic bitters are quite nice!".
Glengoyne 19yo 1988/2007 (58.3%, OB, Pedro Ximenez butt, C#718)
Glengoyne didn't have as many surprises for us as in previous years, but all jurors except one agreed this deserved
a medal; eight voted for silver and two for gold (Davin & Krishna). Davin commented: "Wonderful! Makes my eyes
water to know there is still whisky like this around. Wow!" My own sentiments were along the same lines; I wrote:
"Nose: Loads of wood with some organics in the background. Profile grows bigger and more complex after breathing.
Subtle fruity sweetness in the background. Definitely improves after some 30 minutes; climbs from 86 to 88 eventually.
Taste: Woody - and just the right kind. Powerful with evolved fruits in the centre. Strong finish with a hint of smoke."
Lagavulin 1991/2007 Distillers Edition (43%, OB, lgv 4/495, PX finish)
So far, every year that Diageo submitted their double matured Lagavulin to our awards, it did very well.
So, it was no big surprise that it picked up an award this year - the 'Best Peated Malt Award 2008 (Premium)'.
Olivier wrote: "Nose: fruity, waxy, elegant peat. Attractive nose! Opens up to medicinal maritime aromas. very good.
Taste: medium power medecinal smoke. Nice, elegant, well balanced palate. Quite easy drinking for a full peated whisky.
Very nice fruity finish.". The jurors were almost unanymous in their praize and four of them actually voted for gold.
It didn't quite make it to gold, but it ended up in the Top 20 top scoring whiskies, so it's quite a bargain!
Lagavulin 21yo 1985/2007 (56.5%, OB, 6642 Bts.)
Winner of possibly the most prestigious amongst the awards, this relatively widely available 'ultra premium' malt
whisky collected 7 gold nominations. Michel wrote: "Nose: Subtle smoke and iodine, sea weed, peppered mandarin skin.
Develops notes of mango juice, tobacco leaves and hints of canvas. Some subtle notes of cow stable emerging. Quite
nice. Water brings out the fruits, hints of pineapple juice, some currants and hints of wax. Taste: As the nose some
subtle smoke, oak, subtle mango juice, orange skin. Hints of tar and tobacco leaves and cigar ashes. Water brings out
subtle notes of fudge, some lime skin and ashes. Finish: A tad flimsy now. Some fudge, smoke, oak, traces of walnuts."
Laphroaig 7yo 2000/2008 (58.2%, LMdW, La Preceptorie Finish, 4456 Bts.)
This was one of two unusually young Islay malts to win silver this year (the Caol Ila 8yo from David Stirk's Exclusive
Malts came close) and it's another example of La Maison du Whisky's excellent instincts... This bottling represents
two trends we have some reservations about (underage whisky and finishing), but here they pulled it off brilliantly.
Here are my tasting notes: "Hey, that's different! Fruity and polished - finished perhaps? Big and complex. Hangs around
in the upper half of the lower 80's for a long time until it finally hops to the edge of silver. Taste: Smooth, sweet and fruity
before the peat kicks in in the centre. Big finish with tannins, fruits and smoke. Dry in the end. Touch of mocca?".
Laphroaig NAS 'Cairdeas' (55%, OB, 2008)
This wasn't the best year for Laphroaig in the MM Awards. Last year they effectively annihilated the competition
with their Laphroaig 27yo 1980/2007 (57.4%, OB), but if it hadn't been for the feisty 7yo IB for La Maison du Whisky
this bronze medal would have been all they would have to show for their efforts. As medals go, this is a thick one
though - this was the sixth highest scoring bronze medal winner. That means that it still outscored more than half
of all bottles in this year's competition. Olivier wrote: "Nose: medicinal maritime restraint nose. very attractive complex
elegant sharp peat. Taste: classy dry medicinal creosote peat. long finish. very good structure. pure and clean style.".
Mortlach 18yo 1990/2008 (56.8%, Wilson & Morgan, Sherry Butt, C#4422)
Luca and Krishna voted for gold, but even with three more votes for silver, the average score was not quite
enough for a silver medal in the end. That being said, this turned out as the fourth highest scoring bronze medal
winner - an impressive accomplishment. Michel wrote: "Oily oak, some diesel oil, bearing grease, rose hip jam, sulphur.
School book modern Sherry profile. Cherry jam in the background. Water brings out organics. Damp wood, licorice & silly
putty. Taste: Licorice, rose hip jam, cinnamon, black pepper, fudge, orange skin, vanilla. Very mellow… Water creates a
thin mouth feel. Some oak and raisins. Finish: Mineraly, malts and oak and fades away with subtle notes of cherries.".
Mortlach 1954/2008 (43%, G&M Rare Old)
The fact that the oldest whisky in this year's competition 'only' won a silver medal proves that age doesn't improve
everything. Nevertheless, this was a beauty that still received nominations for gold from Olivier, Ho-cheng & Bert.
Serge wrote: "Nose: Very well alive after all these years - it displays most of the very subtle aromas that one would
expect from such an oldie, starting with milk chocolate and balsamic vinegar, beeswax, old wooden furniture, leather,
roasted nuts and 'old liqueurs', verbena, old tea, dried mint, (...) coffee! Mouth: Very concentrated, creamy, sweet and
fruity (bananas flambéed), old Cognac and rum. A little almondy, getting finally more resinous and herbal (tannins).".
Nikka 1986/2008 (59%, OB, C#112112)
You can find a bunch of Nikka expressions littered throughout the list of medal winners, and this was our favourite.
With eight votes for silver and two for gold, our approval was almost universal. Michel wrote: "Leather, old fashioned
shoe polish, dark honey, exotic wood. Classical stuff. Subtle notes of rose petals in the background. Resin and old fashioned
turpentine. A true silky feel. Varnish, ginger. Taste: A tad more phenolic than expected. Some charcoal, smoked citrus skin,
iodine, smoke and black pepper. Traces of fermented prunes in the background. Water brings out a slight gritty feel. Some
fire works, saltpetre, ashes. Later on some yellow stone fruit. Finish: Iodine, peat and smoke. Hefty peppery notes.".
Macallan 17yo 1991/2008 (46%, Hart Brothers, Finest Collection, Sherry Butt)
This whisky came from a first fill butt and generated some very mixed opinions. Robert and Krishna voted for gold
(and so did Mark, but his scores were not counted), Bert and myself voted for silver and four other jurors voted for
bronze. My tasting notes: "Nose: Old fruits, shoe polish and a hint of smoke. My type of profile, but fairly weak. Some
organics join the party after a few minutes, lifting it into silver territory in my book. Taste: Sweet, big and round - feels
much bigger than the nose would suggest. Nice combination of sweet & smoky. A little leathery in the long, sweet finish
with a touch of spices and celery inbetween the smoke. Earns most points on the palate." So - feeling lucky? ;-)
Longrow 7yo 2000/2008 (55.8%, OB, Gaja Barolo finish, 12120 Bts.)
Except for Olivier all maniacs agreed this was medal material, but the majority voted for bronze. Robert was one
of the jurors who nominated this one for silver and wrote: "Nose: Blue mouldy cheese, smoke and earthiness. Leather,
salami and all kinds of oddities. A special nose! Taste: More evident smoke than the nose suggested. Of the sourly kind.
Fresh and really tasty.". Davin was one of the 'bronze' voters and wrote: "Nose: fruit and smoke, slightly dirty, horse
barn, Then peat smoke. Taste: Dark fruit and Islay peat smoke, very sweet, lots of Christmas spices, sweet spices, a bit
syrupy, smokey but a bit too bitter, nice balance of smoke and sweet fruit.".
Lark Distillery NAS 'Single Malt Whisky' (58%, OB, C#LD31, 2008, Tasmania)
One of the biggest surprised came from the Southern hemisphere this year with this little miracle from Tasmania.
Serge wrote: "Nose: great smoke. (...) With water: great! There's some smoke, various herbs, great spices, various
resins, notes of Armagnac-soaked prunes, dried mushrooms, horse saddle, old Burgundy wine, old Sauternes as well…
(...) Mouth (neat): excellent! Big, punchy, wonderfully full, chocolaty and spicy, with very special earthy notes. With water:
resin and prunes. Ginger as well, cinnamon, dried bananas, raisins, crystallised pineapples, coconut milk... Also a very
pleasant earthiness. Finish: long, compact & coherent, more fruits and easier on resin. Great stuff, just great stuff."
Wilson & Morgan 1999/'08 'House Malt Born on Islay' (43%, W&M, C#5888-5890)
The 'House Malt Born on Islay' by Wilson & Morgan's Fabio Rossi is a regular guest at the Malt Maniacs Awards,
and this year's expression tickled our fancies again. Ho-cheng voted for gold and two others nominated it for silver,
but the majority of the jurors felt it deserved bronze. Ho-cheng wrote: "Nose: Nutty, tropical fruity, light peat, iodine.
Taste: medium body, sweet, very nice finish, peay and fruity mixed well. Port Ellen?". Well not quite, but this 'daily dram'
was a prime example of Islay malt whisky. Bert wrote: "Nose: deep peat, lots of medicine, some orange on the nose
(Ardbeg?). Taste: smooth and dry, peaty but no blast, lacks punch and strength. Finish is ok, but nothing special.".
Tobermory 35yo 1972/2008 (49.4%, Whisky Doris, First fill dark sherry, 191 Bts.)
This may be the very first case of 'cask fondling' at the Malt Maniacs Awards, but we knew about it, so in that case
we can live with it. The first half of this cask won a gold medal last year as the Tobermory 34yo 1972/2007 (49,5%, Whisky-Doris, First Fill dark sherry cask, 96 Bts.). With an average 89 points and five votes for gold this one came
very close as well, but it didn't quite make it to gold. Davin wrote: "Nose: mild peat smoke, clay, Then grass, some
sourness, hints of licorice, plastic, crème caramel, lovely peat smoke mixed with barn smells and cereal. Taste: Sweet
and smokey, then some beautiful smoked fish, smoked sherry-malt feel, lots of heat in the middle, slightly metallic,".
Strathisla 1960/2008 (50%, G&M for LMdW, First Fill Sherry C#2544, 60 Bts.)
Serge kept going on and on about this one - here are just some of his notes on this super premium hogshead;
"Nose: extremely classic, so this will be very quick. Coffee, chocolate, raisins, parsley, beef bouillon, beef jerky, prunes,
figs, dates, orange marmalade and Havana tobacco. Need I say more? Mouth: very rich and very concentrated, starting
half-oaky, half-jammy. The oakiness is a little drying (big tannins, a lot of cinnamon and nutmeg) but the rest is big
enough to make the whole stand that heavy wood. Various jams (all berries), peppered strawberries, hints of mulled wine (liquorice, star anise, cloves), toast, roasted almonds. Over-infused tea). Finish: very long, very oaky and frankly tannic."
Yamazaki 1990/2008 (60%, OB, sherry butt, C#0N70645)
This Japanese whisky was actually the seventh highest scoring whisky in the 2008 edition of the MM Awards.
The eight highest scoring whisky was a Yamazaki as well by the way; the Yamazaki 1979/2008 (55%, OB, Japanese
Mizunara oak butt, C#RF1037, 294 Bts.). This expression offers better value, though... Robert wrote: "Nose: Big
powerful slightly sulphury winosity. Sherry/portlike, and clearly dryish. Also some smoke in there. Chocolate. A tough
bastard which improves with water. Yummy. Taste: Grand fruityness and smoke. Slightly sourly. Dry, raisin, complex.
Very tasty indeed. Smoke, leather, earthy. Bitter chocolates. Oh my.".
Karuizawa 1971/2008 (64.1%, OB for Number One Drinks Company, C#6878)
The Japanese came away with 'only' one gold medal this year, but it's a very solid one with seven votes for gold.
In fact, this ended up at #3 on the full 'best to worst' list of some 200 whiskies - most of them Scotch single malts.
Good job! Davin wrote: "Wow! So sweet and fresh yet so complex and integrated. Fantastic! Damn near perfect."
I agreed and wrote: "Nose: Roasted nuts. A lot of development over time with different smells that are emerging and
disappearing again. Meaty? Well, maybe more fishy. Some organics too. Brilliant complexity. A tad dusty during round 2.
Taste: Passion fruits and gooseberries. Great mouth feel. A touch of smoke in the finish. Strong tannins too. Beautiful!".
Longmorn 30yo 1978/2008 (58.1%, TWE Masterpieces)
The organisation of the Malt Maniacs Awards can be a little disorganised - after all, it's an amateur effort...
In the chaos of the last few days before the deadline for submissions some bottles might slip through that don't
quite conform to the rules & regulations. This year, a bottle that was released in 2002 slipped through (we ask for
recent bottlings) and this one with a handwritten label. Sukhinder had problems with his printer, and it would seem
that now, almost three months later, the bottled whisky is still not available to the public. Well, with eight votes for
silver and three for gold it seems like a bottle that's worth picking up if it becomes available at a reasonable price.
Highland Park 12yo (40%, OB, +/-2008)
This affordable bottle was a strong favourite of many maniacs in the 1990's, usually scoring in the upper eighties.
After the turn of the millennium either the whisky or our tastes gradually changed - or maybe both. In recent years
one really had to invest in age if one wanted to tasted the best that Highland Park has to offer - but several jurors
noticed that the style of this batch had shifted to a more potent profile; it won the 'Best Natural Cask Award '08'.
I wrote: "Nose: Hey, that's something else… Fruity with subtle organics in the background. Diesel and industrial oil too.
Taste: Slightly peaty, great mouth feel. Subtle lingering tannins in the medium dry finish. Faintest hint of salt liquorice?".
Dailuaine 1998/2008 (43%, Jean Boyer Best Casks, Sherry, 700 Bts.)
Not all of the bottles that were submitted by Jean Boyer this year earned universal approval among the jurors,
but this relatively young and affordable bottling made an impression. It's a 'daily dram', so it should set you back
no more than 50 Euro's. It earned three votes for silver (from Robert, Bert and Krishna) and five for bronze - and
the three jurors that didn't quite feel it was medal material all gave it 79 points - as close as you can get to a medal.
I wrote: "Nose: Light, subtle fruits over a more serious undercurrent. Something nutty too. Growing complexity, more
fruits & spices emerging. Taste: Round & smooth. Lovely fruity centre. Fairly short finish with a long afterburn.".
Connemara 1992/2007 (50.5%, OB for Whisky Fair Germany, C# K92/34 4184)
Each year there are a few bottles that we feel really deserve recognition, but we just don't have enough different
awards. With four votes for gold and an average score of 87 points, this could very well be the highest scoring
Irish whiskey we've had so far on the MM Awards - it ended up right after the Mortlach 1954! Several other official
and independent bottlings of Cooley did very well this year too, but they all got stuck with a very solid bronze medal.
Robert wrote: "Nose: Grand vanilla & berries to go. Round & pleasant with smoke as well. Slightly prickly but rounds off.
Eucalyptus and some sardines actually. Taste: Sweet fruits and smoke. Round, yet spicy. Very well-balanced and tasty."
These were the notes and comments on a small selection of medal winning whiskies in the
Malt Maniacs Awards 2008. We did manage to get some more reasonably priced bottles into
our competition this year like we wanted, but if you want to treat yourself to some of the top
scoring whiskies of the year for christmas you'd better bring along a well filled purse...
Looking for more? Check out the MaltMenu or the 'Specials' section for tasting notes on
a bunch of other whiskies that were submitted to our competition this year - as well our
scores and opinions on a wide variety of other recent releases. Because many independent
bottlings are single cask and limited releases that are usually sold out within days or weeks,
those are not included in the MaltMenu. You can find a constantly changing selection of these
on the 'specials' page - we add the most interesting recent releases to the page regularly.
The PDF Score Card was a novelty at this year's competition - let us know if you like it.
If you want to dig a little deeper into our opinion about a wide variety of whiskies and
whiskeys (malts, grains, blends, etc.) check out the Malt Maniacs Monitor - it now features
our scores for well over 10,000 whiskies - it lets you compare your own opinion about a
certain whisky wit ours. And if you do NOT know a certain whisky yet and you want to know
how others feel about it, the monitor might offer a useful guide.
And that's almost it for this year.
All that remains is thanking Olivier, Serge and Davin for their extra hard work this year,
not to mention the winery crew from Olivier's vinyard who helped us out with the logistics
and the filling of the blind sample bottles. Merci beaucoup!
Below you can find a list of the winners of the 18 available awards for this year.
Scroll down further for an overview of the different medal winners in the 3 price brackets;
Daily Drams (up to 50 Euro's), Premium (50-150) and Ultra Premium (more than 150 Euro).
This year we handed out 5 gold medals, 51 silver medals and 110 bronze medals.
That means that a few dozen of the whiskies that were submitted in 2008 didn't earn
a medal - despite the fact that there's usually some serious cherry picking going on.
December 1, 2008
- We keep 'tweaking' the set-up and presentation of our awards.
Whenever we think we can improve them, we try, and we've now come up with one
major 'improvement" that should increase the transparancy of the MM Awards
even further. From now on, we'll include a SCORE CARD with all the average and
individual scores. That way, you can see why which whiskies won which medals...
Perhaps it's not surprising that four out of the five gold medal winners this year
fell into that most expensive category. A few 'daily drams' won silver though, and
even bronze medal winners are nothing to be scoffed at. The malt maniacs are
not easily impressed, and if we feel a whisky is very good you better believe it...
Another significant change from previous editions of our whisky competition is
the introduction of three different price categories for the whiskies. The 'price
brackets' are Daily Drams (with an average street price of up to 50 Euro's),
Premium Whiskies (with an average price between 50 and 150 Euro's) and
Ultra Premium Whiskies (average street price of more than 150 Euro's).