MALT MANIACS #109
Let's Call The Whole Thing Off
The Lastest (& Blackest?) Bowmore
Book Review; Whisky With Dinner
A Dozen Recent Duncan Taylor Bottlings
What's in a Word?
(Sort of a) Book Review; The Malt Whisky File
CioccolaTò Report 2008
Mega Macallan Tasting (Part II)
Glenfarclas Family Casks : The Saga goes on
Malt Maniacs #109 - April 15, 2008
Looking over the contents of this issue, it might seem that the malt
maniacs (and our foreign correspondents) are a bunch of grumpy
old men. Well, some of us are really not that old - but the picture
at the top seemed appropriate somehow... Still, it might not reflect
all aspects of our collective public image; in a discussion about the
maligned phrase 'blended malt whisky' somebody described the
malt maniacs as 'the Hell's Angels of the whisky world'...
Well, we'd like to think we're a tad more sophisticated than that ;-)
And we frown upon the combination of drinking and driving, but I
think that goes without saying. But where do we draw the line
between responsible and irresponsible alcohol consumption?
In his 'responsible drinking' E-pistle, foreign correspondent Dominic
Roskrow takes a closer look at the blurring of the line in the UK.
Davin's opening article tackles a question that's much more
interesting that it seems; how should we spell 'whisky'? Do you
spell your whisky with or without an 'e'? You may think you know
the 'correct' answer, but chances are you actually don't... ;-)
What else do we have for you in our 109th issue?
Well, two book reviews this time, one for Whisky With Dinner from Bernard Poirier by Davin and one for The Malt WHisky File by yours truly. Well, I've actually abused the last paragraphs of that review for a little rant about the new SWA classifications - a topic which is in turn related to Craig's 'What's in a Word' E-pistle about the little riot about the introduction of a Cardhu vatted malt a few years ago.
The rest of this issue is filled with reports on tastings and festivals; Mark Gillespie's Black Bowmore report, a report on a dozen recent releases from Duncan Taylor by Bert Bruyneel, a report on a festival of whisky & chocolate by Luca Chichizola, the second half of a big Australian Macallan tasting by Craig Daniels and, last but not least, the Glenfarclas Family Casks reviewed by Luc Timmermans.
One last bit of good news before I leave you to (hopefully) enjoy this issue: a new version of the Malt Maniacs Monitor has just been published by Serge - with the help of Konstantin and Luca. There now are more than 10,000 different whiskies on the monitor!
Not bad for a decade's work, eh?
Editor Malt Madness / Malt Maniacs
"Welcome to another edition of Straight Whiskey Radio and with today's insight, here's H.W. Fowler:"
"The words whiskey and whisky - is there a difference?
Apparently, to many, yes. To some, whiskey is a term that should only be used
to describe brown, grain-based, distilled beverages produced by those in rebellion
to Scotland's plan of malt-driven domination of all mankind. To others, "whisky"
-making men and women are those who have a preference and attraction
toward the traditional potation and are non-political, while "whiskey" makers are
the militant political ones flaunting their rift with the Auld Country whilst turning
their own country upside down with their linguistically jingoist agenda. Frankly,
whatever term one uses, this writer's view is quite clear. Pedantry about
foreign spellings is a compulsion of the overbearing and when acted upon
becomes sinfully arrogant behaviour The Ord calls an abomination with severe,
(but divine?), consequences. The great news is through intensive therapy, and
a washback load of humility, recovery is completely possible. More information
on today's broadcast call 800 832-3623 or visit straightwhiskyradio.org."
There has been much discussion of late on some American whisky
websites about how to spell whisk(e)y. I thought whisky anoraks
concerned themselves with whisky itself, while language anoraks argued
over spellings. Not so, apparently, for some bloggers have taken to calling
those who disagree with their home-made spelling rules, (in what to them
is really a foreign language), stupid. Hmmm, now there's an enlightened
argument. The problem is, there are really two written languages that
call themselves "English" – one in America and the other in the rest of the
world. The Chinese have two languages that sound entirely different from
each other, but are written exactly the same way, so folks who can't speak
to one another can pass notes with complete confidence of comprehension,
for their "spellings", are identical.
For English though, it is just the opposite. While most versions sound similar enough (and there are many oral versions – accents you might say) that people can talk to each other, the Americans, they who cast off the British yoke and rejected the British education system in a pre -literate era, have developed their own spellings, generally simpler than those still used in England (where English comes from) and the rest of the British Commonwealth (e.g. Scotland).
Thus Americans and Scots spell many words differently when referring to exactly the same thing. Americans say "while", for instance, whilst the Scots, like English speakers from around the world who have been educated in the British system (and Americans affecting Scottishness – you know, the type - they come home from vacation with a British accent), say "whilst". Americans graduate college, in the transitive sense while the rest of the English-speaking world intransitively graduate from college, except they call it university unless it really is a trade school. And when they're done, they speak and write, and maybe even think, differently. So from whisky writers, we read flavor versus flavour, color vs. colour, aging vs. ageing, favorite/favourite, PLOWED/PLOUGHED, whiskey/whisky, burned/burnt, etc.
But it's not just cyber whisky-geeks who are fascinated by phantom nuances of the variant spellings.
Professors Fritz Allhof and Marcus Adams, from Western Michigan University are editing a book called Whisk(e)y & Philosophy and have solicited contributions for a chapter called: "What's in a name?: Whisky, whiskey, and cultural identity". So some pretty full noggins have been drawn to ponder this tempest in a mash tun. I can only wonder how a more erudite mind will approach the subject, if it actually takes the time, that is. Remember, the professors have the brains to outsource this discussion.
But perhaps the spelling of whisk(e)y really is a question better left to experts, those whose business is words rather than to whisk(e)y blogsters and pontificators. Professional editors carefully check the rules before committing to ink and there are reams of reference books that go beyond mere dictionaries to help them. And because styles of English vary with geography, most books that are published globally have at least two different English editions, one using American spellings, the other using British (really international) spellings. Of course self -published books, like blogs, often lack the considerable benefit of a professional editor's eye.
There are two editions of Eats, Shoots & Leaves by Lynne Truss for example. This is a very influential book in the popular literature on how to use written English. The American edition differs from the international edition, as people educated in America would find the international version somewhat irritating due to the way it uses English, even though that is its subject.
Similarly, there are two English-language editions of the best whisky book currently on the market. I am talking about Michael Jackson's Whisky, The Definitive Guide. In America it is called Whiskey, The Definitive Guide, and all references to Scotch whiskey use the American spelling NOT the Scottish. The authors are the most knowledgeable whisky writers of the day (Dave Broom did most of the Scotch section) and the spelling of whiskey in their book is correct in my view, if only because it has Michael Jackson's name on it and was professionally edited.
In 2004, when Jackson published the fifth edition of his Malt Whisky Companion, the world's best-selling book on malt whisky, he said: "There is a misunderstanding that there are British and American spellings of this term. However, it is not the nationality of the writer or the country of publication that should determine the spelling. It is the type of whisk(e)y: thus Scottish and Canadian "whisky", but Irish "whiskey". American styles, such as Kentucky Bourbon and Tennessee whiskey, generally favour the "e", but some labels dissent." However, by 2005 Jackson had considerably softened his stance. In the introduction to the international edition of Whisky he devotes a single sentence to spelling, saying only "However whisky is spelled, the word is of Celtic origin …". In the American edition, Whiskey, he says, "The word whiskey (spelled "whisky" in some countries) is of Celtic origin …", but he (or more likely his editor, but again, this tells us who should be making these decisions) uses "whiskey" throughout. Dorling Kindersley, who publish Jackson's, and many other whisky books, and are among the largest publishing houses in the world, use the spelling of the country of publication.
I'll justify my lengthy dissertation here by saying I am discussing the spelling of whisk(e)y only to
illustrate my real topic which is the senselessness of there even being such a controversy among
whisk(e)y nuts while so many drams remain untasted. Generally I take it as a mark of a novice
whisky writer to waste more than a line or two earnestly propounding the "correct" spellings of
whisky, because it really doesn't matter. It just depends on where you went to school. Spelling
is an editor's responsibility and the generally accepted practice is to use the spelling of the country
of publication, whether you are publishing in English, Italian or Sudanese. I agree with the editors
of Whisky/Whiskey that Americans spell it differently. We can't have one rule for "whisky" and
another rule for every other word in the English language. The trouble for some auto-didactic
bloggers though, is that they make strong assertions before they really know what they are
talking about then end up spending the rest of their blog-lives trying to defend naiive positions
rather than simply admitting their statements were premature and perhaps misguided.
I think this whisky/whiskey controversy got started when one writer mentioned the two spellings
in his book and those who followed were too lazy to do their own research and simply copied him.
It has become such a cliché now to begin a cut-and-past whisky book with a discussion of spellings,
that not to do so would almost in itself make a book noteworthy. Certainly it would encourage you
to read on in hope of finding other new thoughts. The fact is though, you can still buy Irish whisky
with the "whisky" spelling. I have a bottle of Paddy's that I bought a few years ago just because
of that spelling. It was very common for the Irish to use either spelling right up into the 1970's,
and I believe the only reason it changed to a single spelling was because the Irish distilleries were
in serious recession so they merged to form a single firm. Thus, with only one distiller producing
Irish whisky, you would expect a single spelling on the label. Why they chose the "e" spelling, I
don't know, but that's not the way it was until that recently.
I have an old whiskey jug made in Glasgow (Scotland) which uses the spelling "whiskey".
I also have an old Scotch Whiskey mug with that spelling, so in practice, though it is rare, it is not
unknown for the Scottish to use the "e" spelling. America, though, is another kettle of fish because
both spellings are used commonly by whisk(e)y makers there, though for Bourbon the "whiskey"
If you look at the Scotch Whiskey Order you will quickly discover that the Scottish have spelled it both ways and the "legal" spelling is (or at least until very recently was) "whiskey". Now, if you go to the most recent proposals from the Scotch Whisky Association, the "legal" spelling is about to change yet again, for in the draft "legal" documents it is now always capitalized – "Whisky", much like "Bourbon". In America, however, despite the common wisdom, the "legal" spelling is still "whisky", without the "e". If you look at the US Standards of Identity, in America, the spelling without the "e", applies to Scotch whisky, Irish whisky, Bourbon whisky and every other whisky. But then legal spellings mean diddley-squat. It is useage that prevails, and here it is the wordsmiths, not the regulators or self-proclaimed whisky gurus who should have the final say.
Well, if it's the wordsmiths, then why not look to a word book, let's say the Oxford Dictionary – the standard for English English, wherein we find: "Whisky n. (Ir., US whiskey) …." Great! So they're exactly the same word but in Ireland and the USA it's spelled "whiskey", and it looks like editors and writers in those countries are free to use that spelling, regardless of who made the amber liquid of which they write.
An automotive magazine published in America, would not call those round, black, rubber things on a car's wheels "tyres" just because they were made in a Commonwealth country, "tires" if they were made in America, or "pneus" if the were made in France. No, they'd be tires in the American press, no matter where they came from. Similarly you'd read about tyres in Britain and pneus in France whether the manufacturer was Goodyear, Dunlop, or Michelin. For whisky it is also most appropriate to use the language of the country of publication, whether that be France, Japan, Brazil or America, when a book or article is destined for that market.
I don't know why some people get their shirts in such a knot over which spelling of whisk(e)y is used for the product of a specific country.
Oh, of course the marketers love to find obscure ways to "differentiate" their product, but what if they decided everyone must use the same pronouniations as well? What if you could only order Scotch with a Scottish accent (that would please the posers of course), and Irish whisky with an Irish accent?
Chuck Cowdery publishes the Bourbon County Reader, writes for Whisky Magazine, and is the author of Bourbon, Straight, one of the most informative, if occasionally opinionated, books about Bourbon, in print. But when Cowdery recently suggested writers use the spelling of the country they write in, he became somewhat of a bloggers' pariah and his idea was trounced as American arrogance by some of his (American) detractors. But if people are worried about American arrogance, isn't forcing all writers to use "whiskey" for Irish whisky, as some American bloggers suggest, (actually they say you are stupid if you don't, but please don't tell Paddy), when both are correct, more likely to be viewed as arrogant Americans trying to force the whole world to use consistent spellings – their spellings (for products of foreign countries). Similarly, some American bloggers' insistence that Scotch whiskey not be spelt with an "e" could also be interpreted as trying to force conformity down people's throats. If it's important to the Scottish, they'll deal with it and don't need foreigners bringing it to their attention.
But hang on just a minute. There is also a rule of printed English that says if you use a foreign word it must be set in italics, so if you write Irish whiskey with an "e", because that's how the Irish spell it, you really should be italicizing the whiskey part – whiskey. And if America spells whiskey with an "e", then to be correct, American publications should use Scotch whiskey with an "e" or set Scotch whisky in italics, to use the Scottish spelling. Do you see how ridiculous this business of using "the" correct form is becoming? So why do some people so stridently insist they are right and any who disagree with them are "stupid"?
This really is an American problem, and perhaps that's why the name-calling emanates from America.
Every whisky-producing country in the world uses or has recently used the spelling "whisky". American producers have not felt the need to collectively choose between the two spellings, but it's "whiskey" in American dictionaries and tends to be the same on their labels. The Irish until recently also used both spellings and whether they settled on the "e" spelling (and there's no evidence it was even a conscious decision) to be cute or just to be different from the reviled Scots who stole the whisky industry out from under them, both spellings are still seen on older labels. So one could say the correct spelling is "whisky" and the other is just an affectation. Meanwhile, writers, editors and publishers from Canada, a country of peacemakers, where the art of compromise borders on schizophrenia, can use spellings from either system as long as they remain consistent. When some indignant, self-styled whisky expert decides to take them to task for writing American whisky they need only say they were thinking of Early Times, Old Potrero, George Dickel or Makers Mark; and of Irish whisky – well, I've included a photo of my no-e-Paddy they can point to.
So let's let writers use whatever spelling helps them write most comfortably and leave it to editors, using their stylebooks, to decide whether or not to revise to other spellings. Because that's what it is - a matter of style, not law.
I'll stick with the no-e spelling unless I'm writing about a brand that doesn't.
The Black Bowmore is a whisky of mythical proportions. Distilled on November 5, 1964 after the Morrison family
had taken over Bowmore Distillery, the Black Bowmore came from some of the first new make spirit produced
after a new boiler was installed. That spirit was placed into a series of Oloroso oak casks sourced from Williams
& Humbert, which had used them for what it called "walnut sherry." The casks helped give the Black Bowmore
its rich, dark color and wide range of flavours, while aging the casks in Bowmore's #1 Vaults below sea level
and literally immersing them in sea water at times led to the touch of salt water.
Just 5,800 bottles of the original Black Bowmore were released between 1993 and 1995, with 2,000 bottles of
29-year-old spirit in 1993, another 2,000 as a 30-year-old in 1994, and the final 1,800 bottles as 31-year-old
Black Bowmore in 1995. Today, the Black Bowmore sells for as much as $6,000 a bottle, or as little as the
original price of around $150 – as has been rumored to happen when a whisky expert stumbles into the right
retailer at the right time and said retailer doesn't know what his whisky is worth.
What Bowmore didn't brag about at the time were the 5 Williams & Humbert casks that stayed behind in the
warehouse…and which now make up the 827 bottles of the "new" Black Bowmore. It's not a knockoff – just
the same whisky now bottled at 42 years of age and selling for $4,500 a bottle. Bowmore senior blender Iain
McCallum has been monitoring those casks for the last decade or so, and made the decision to bottle them in
late 2006 after the whisky's alcohol level had dropped to 40.5% -- just above the legal minimum for Scotch
whisky. For that reason – and for the fact that it's a rare $4,500 whisky, damn it, there's no reason to add
water to a dram of whisky that makes Loch Dhu look like amber by comparison. It's a dark burnt caramel
color that could be compared to used motor oil on a dipstick.
The aroma of the warehouse carries into this whisky, and if it were possible to find the words to describe
something as smelling "old," they would certainly apply here. It's musty without the fungus-like smell, and
dusty without the dryness one would expect. The brininess expected from an Islay whisky aged on the
shore in a wet warehouse is understated, and a decidedly non-Islay aroma of tropical fruits fills the void
with hints of mango, kiwi fruit, and even a bit of papaya.
That continues in the taste, where a passionately fruity blast (including said passion fruit) explodes off the tongue like a skyrocket, then dims to a tartness on the top of the tongue and lingering citrus notes that eventually reveal the traditional Bowmore smokiness in the finish.
For a whisky of this vintage, to be as vibrant and fresh as a much younger malt is miraculous.
This is like no other whisky I have ever tasted, and rates a score to match: 97 points.
I only hope they saved one bottle for this year's Malt Maniacs Awards competition...
Whisky With Dinner, Revised by Bernard Poirier, 322 pages
General Store Publishing House, Burnstown, Canada, 1991
Bernard Poirier has a theory that malt whisky can enhance the enjoyment of almost any meal,
and he does not mean cooking with malt whisky, although, with a tip of the hat to Dione Pattulo,
he certainly delves deep into that area as well, but rather his main focus is selecting just the
right whisky to drink with a meal. The basics, he says, are almost intuitive: pungent island
malts complement seafood, while full, round-bodied Highlanders go well with heavier meats
such as beef. Subtle Lowlanders best accompany milder fare.
The book begins with an overview of malt whisky - malt whisky as it was in the 1980's that is.
It's remarkable what the information age has done for our knowledge of whisky. Only twenty
years ago, when Bernard Poirier penned Whisky For Dinner, much whisky knowledge we take
for granted now, was a mystery even to connoisseurs like Poirier himself. An even slightly
knowledgeable whisky fan today might thus be tempted to scoff at Poirier, for his first few
chapters include a number of myths and deductions that have since been discarded.
Persevering though is well worth the while of even the most knowledgeable malt-o-phile,
for Whisky With Dinner still stands as the best analysis of food and whisky matching, and
whisky cookery available. Though now out of print, Whisky With Dinner is easily found on line
for those wanting help stretching their palates. The selection of malts available in 1989 was
nothing like it is today, and Poirier was safe in describing house styles in his tastings and
matchings. His ability to reduce a malt to its key essentials is one of the reasons this book
is a good generic guide to whisky cookery and food-whisky matching.
Just as some wine writers are now beginning to abandon, esoteric and sometimes lurid tasting notes and return to basic pairings such as red wine with red meat, so Poirier introduces whisky descriptions that are simple and to the point. He uses four basic whisky characteristics, colour, nose, flavour and finish, as the basis for his food matching. Of colour he recommends a three-point scale: light, medium, and heavy, along with the actual colour – yellow, gold, amber and mahogany. He also makes reference to using the "legs" to get an idea of the viscosity of the whisky.
Poirier analyses three elements of the nose. The "attack," measures whether the fumes are sharp or gentle. Other characteristics of the nose are "presence" and "persistence." When it comes to taste, Poirier describes body, bite, balance and aftertaste. No candied cumquats or amarula peelings for Poirier.
Thus he describes Cragganmore as "medium amber with excellent legs; medium sting to the nose with strong and persistent presence; full, well-rounded body and very well balanced with good aftertaste. Glenfarclas 15yo is dark amber with very good legs; sharp to the nose but with a moderate presence, quite persistent; full-bodied and delicate; very well balanced with a lingering aftertaste with a very slight hint of peat. Mortlach – very pale colour, good legs, light nose, medium but lingering presence; round but not full body; delicate and smooth with peaty mustiness. To Poirier Mortlach tastes like a bagpipe bladder - the perfect match for organ meats such as kidney.
Instructions for matching whisky with food proceed through the courses with plenty of examples and lots of encouragement for experimentation. The idea always is to enhance the dining experience. Poirier is not above cutting his drams a little either to avoid overpowering a delicate dish and he gives instructions for appropriate dilutions. All this is spiced with Poirier's dry wit.
Of cooking with whisky Poirier includes numerous recipes, though he is clear to state Whisky With Dinner is not a recipe book. Patés, soups including Scotch broth, main dishes of beast, fish and fowl along with sauces, and of course, haggis are included, but one of the more amusing is his own concoction on rum balls, a treat he aptly names Scotch grapes.
Unlike Patullo, who favoured cooking with blends, for the sake of economy, Poirier believes that malt whiskies will make the meal just that much better, though he does still favour blends for puddings, sweets, and sauces that already have their own characteristic flavour.
Poirier helped found the Scotch malt club, An Quaich, and he briefly talks about how they started and how they ran their whisky dinners, with drams matched to courses. He then makes the modern-day collector weep as he runs through his stock which includes such beauties, then common, as Ben Wyvis 10yo, Ladyburn 12yo, and original Ardbeg 10yo. Ahh, so much has changed in so short a time. Poirier concludes with a table of malt whiskies and the foods they complement.
A little dated,yes, but Whisky With Dinner is very much worth the read.
Is there anyone else out there who has noticed a significant shift
in British media attitudes to alcohol? Or who has started to feel
uneasy at what appears to be a concerted campaign to attack
drinking habits in the United Kingdom? And senses a move from
a position of 'moderate' or 'sensible' alcohol consumption towards
the start of a zero tolerance campaign?
Am I being unduly paranoid, or is Britain in the grip of a media
frenzy that seems intent on condemning drinking alcohol to the
same fate as smoking? And am I alone in thinking that the drinks
trade is sleepwalking its way towards a draconian crack down by
a Nanny state? The most recent example is that of London Mayor
Ken Livingstone, who has been accused of drinking a single glass
of whisky before midday. A television station has, it claims, got
scientific proof that it was whisky. This, apparently, is enough
to raise doubts about his suitability to run England's capital.
Did he trip over in public, slur his way through a speech and then
burst in to a loud version of 'Maybe It's Because I'm a Londoner'?
No. Indeed, there isn't the slightest suggestion that he was in
any way as pissed as the newts that he has always liked to keep
Admittedly the attack is part of a concerted campaign to undermine 'Red' Ken politically, but one whisky!
The mere fact that anyone would even consider using the incident as an example of what might be construed as the Mayor's wayward behaviour provides a worrying indicator as to where we're headed. This is just the latest example of an increasingly intolerant attitude to drinking in Britain. And if you've any doubts how things have changed, then consider how it was once seen as a virtue that Margaret Thatcher worked through the night while drinking Scotch – and that was Bell's.
I appreciate that the drinks companies are keen to portray themselves as responsible, and are worried that if they don't police themselves adequately someone else will do it for them, and with a far bigger truncheon. But shouldn't someone be trying to make the distinction between the hordes of inebriated teenagers fighting and fornicating on the high streets of Britain every weekend and the consumers of premium malt whisky? Isn't there a danger that we innocent malt drinkers, already bracing ourselves for substantial price increases as the cost of barley, wood and oil catches up with whisky, are clobbered still further? The calls for punitive taxes on high strength spirits is becoming a roar in Britain , just as it once did with cigarettes; and look where that ended up.
And what is the whisky industry doing about it? It's siding with the anti-drink lobby.
A few years ago when Richard Burrows of Chivas became chairman of the Scotch Whisky Association and Paul Walsh of Diageo became deputy, I attended a business briefing attended by them. It took place on the day the Government announced an English smoking ban.
So I asked them what would prevent a similar fate awaiting alcohol, given that every time you conceded ground to the anti lobby they took it and asked for more. "Nobody has every argued that a cigarette or two a day was good for you." said Mr Walsh in reply. But they did didn't they? There were all sorts of positive images put on cigarettes in the 60s before attitudes changed. Is it really so very far-fetched to fear a change in attitude towards even moderate consumption of alcohol when you hear about Ken Livingstone's one glass of whisky?
The industry isn't helping itself. Take those stupid disclaimers you find at the entrance to any distillery website, for instance, when you are asked to state your age before entering. What's that about? Is the assumption that there are hordes of impressionable under-age internet surfers who might stumble on to a whisky website by mistake and be driven to drink by it, and that they have been saved by the warning notice? Is it that there are scores of enthusiastic violin pupils who would today be chronic alcoholics had it not been for the warning at the gateway to the Bowmore site? Wombles fans narrowly saved from the temptation of Tobermory? Marathon canoeists saved from the evils of Longrow? And have these people never been teenagers? What's the first thing a teenager does when he or she is told that they are not allowed to do something?
"Fair enough," you can hear them say in bedrooms across the UK, "I could lie about my age but I'm clearly not meant to enter the site because it's not good for me so I won't. Thank you whisky people for pointing out the dangers that might lie ahead!" It's total nonsense of course, tokenism that is potentially doing more harm than good. Has anyone got the nerve to stand up against all this? After all, in my experience drinking whisky is all about independence and non-conformity.
It's all about personal choice.
I know I don't drink responsibly by most people's standards, but I am prepared to take responsibility for my drinking.
Ken Livingstone should admit to drinking whisky but state in mitigation that it wasn't any old whisky, it was a Talisker 18.
He should extol the health benefits of malt and launch an offensive on the style fascists who want to impose their dull puritanical view of the world on the rest of us. And in response every London-based whisky drinker should vote for him as a matter of principle while the rest of us should start a loud and active campaign to stop this drift to prohibition, before it's too late. Or perhaps redirect the campaign to focus where it really should be aimed – at those companies providing high strength beer, cider and alcopops by the crate-load to kids only just old enough to go to the pub.
Dominic Roskrow (www.true-spirit.co.uk), March 2008
Since Duncan Taylor is a regular supplier of 'stunners' (< € 50,-), I am always highly interested in tasting
their 'newies'. As you guys know, I am on a continuous search for Stunners to share with you. Here under,
you will find my personal appreciation of some recent Duncan Taylor bottlings. I hope you enjoy, and I wish
you happy hunting... An interesting thing about the independents is that they often allow us to discover
some obscure malts. I mean... names one hardly finds on the shelves (Glenallachie, Dailluaine, …).
The kind of things nobody is interested in on a first view. On a second view however, these obscure
distilleries also produce their beauties (cf. the Glentauchers in my previous Stunner Report), it's just less
obvious to discover them. I can't repeat it enough: it's all a question of tasting as many different things
as possible... Or as we Malt Maniacs say: 'Quaestio aqua vitae perfectum, per ardua ad nauseam'...
Inchgower 15yo 1992/2008 (46%, DT NC2)
Nose: pulp of beets, malty, quiet clean, some mineral notes.
Palate: some spices and slightly creamy, malty sweet, remains clean, grassy. Also remains very clean in the finish.
Verdict: 84 points - just a bit to clean to my personal taste.
Dailuaine 13yo 1994/2007 (46%, DT NC2)
Nose: a candystore, malty sweet, clean and mineral.
Palate: slightly spicy and creamy, some marshmellow, clean and mineral, green apples. Gets complexer and deeper in the finish.
Verdict: 85 points - a good daily drinking whisky.
Glenallachie 12yo 1995/2007 (46%, DT NC2)
Nose: lactic, clean, mineral, gas of a lighter.
Palate: a little spicy and some cream, nice mouthfeel, clean, mineral, green fruit. The finish is clean and linear, also some alcoholic tones.
Verdict: 83 points.
Glendullan 11yo 1996/2008 (46%, DT NC2)
Nose: pretty clean, strawy nose, grassy, a bit sterile.
Palate: spicy and some cream, remains clean, grassy, malty sweet, sour apples, a nice but not to complex finish.
Verdict: 83 points - a nice easy-drinkable whisky.
Clynelish 13yo 1994/2007 (46%, DT NC2)
Nose: dried flowers, pretty clean and chalky, malty.
Palate: smooth and medium creamy, nice mouth feel, some smokiness, malty sweet. A nice and sweet finish, nice complexity.
Verdict: 84 points - a nice bottling.
Caperdonich 39yo 1968/2008 (56%, DT, C# 2608, 167 Bts.)
Nose: nice old nose, a pinch of woodiness, dry leather, some vanilla.
Palate: spicy and some cream, slightly alcoholic, vanilla, malty sweet. Enjoy a full crafty old Speyside finish.
Verdict: 90 points - Still very punchy and fresh to be a 39yo whisky.
Caperdonich 39yo 1968/2008 (51.8%, DT, C# 2610, 108 Bts.)
Nose: needs time, a bit woody initially, gets more 'old Speyside' later, honey, vanilla, oak.
Palate: spicy and somewhat creamy, some woodiness, a bit of ashes, goes open with time. The finish is nice, but lacks a bit of complexity.
Verdict: 87 points.
Caperdonich 37yo 1970/2008 (43.3%, DT 'Lonach')
Nose: waxy, lots of old Speyside, a nice sweetness/honey, slight floral notes, some vanilla.
Palate: starts smooth, gets to spicy, nice mouth feel, herbal, nice sweetness, honey, vanilla. Nice full finish, not to complex but very pleasant.
Verdict: 91 points - my kinda stuff ...
Glen Grant 37yo 1970/2008 (51.5%, DT, C# 3480, 435 Bts.)
Nose: deep sherry, dark chocolate, some bitterness.
Palate: very heavy sherry but not over-sherried, smooth and creamy. Gets more bitter and some woody tones come through.
Verdict: 86 points.
Glen Grant 35yo 1972/2008 (53.4%, DT, C# 1643, 104 Bts.)
Nose: oak, vanilla, a little sharpness, nice old Speyside.
Palate: spicy and rather dry, oak, orange, vanilla, more 'Speyside' in the second taste.
Finish opens beautifully with a nice old Speyside development.
Verdict: 91 points.
Glen Grant 35yo 1972/2007 (53.5%, DT, C# 1641, 121 Bts.)
Nose: leather, orange, vanilla, nice maturity.
Palate: spicy, pretty dry, oak, vanilla, nice old Speyside, some citrus, a nice one. Enjoy a beautiful, full, long and complex finish.
Verdict: 92 points.
Tomatin 42yo 1965/2008 (52.1%, DT, C# 20942, 211 Bts.)
Nose: herbal, a very 'old' nose, needs some time in the air, a bit 'dirty', very special but really pleasant.
Palate: surprisingly punchy, very nice drink, honey, a fruit basket, tropical. A powerful nice old Speyside-finish, really beautiful.
Verdict: 95 points - special, but an absolute winner to me.
If I look at recent price evolutions, another interesting thing about independents is that they allow us to drink older whiskies to prices much more affordable than what the official bottlings can offer us for the same kind of whiskies.
Anyhow, my next Stunner Report will be in the next issue of Malt Maniacs.
Cheers, Stay tuned for more...
What's in a Word? (Or why did the appearance of 'Pure' on a label cause such a stink?)
Some lateral-thinking mavericks in Diageo stirred the SWA (Scotch Whisky Association) into action a few
years ago. The "Cardhu Pure Malt" controversy brought the category into sharp focus, but just why did
the corporate machinations of Diageo kick up such a stink and get the malt connoisseur community
(unkindly put down as anoraks) seriously agitated? It wasn't a launch of an especially old and hideously
expensive malt or yet another foray into wood finishes (yawn) or another consolidation of capital (via
some take-over the value of a small planet) within the industry. Au contraire, this was at its deepest core
of meaning about nomenclature, specifically what you could do with the words "Single" and the word
"Pure" on bottle labels within the malt whisky category.
The window of opportunity for a little bit of fancy footwork was afforded Diageo because the word "Pure"
had been applied historically to both single malts (Glen Grant and Glenfiddich to name but two prominent
examples) and vatted or 'blended malt' product such as in Hankey Bannister, Ballantines and Clan
Campbell Pure Malts. What the Cardhu experiment was all about was manoeuvring a name on a label of
an existing distillery (and by understood convention, guarantee of origin) into a mass brand, which was
what got everyone including the SWA upset. What they were trying to do was about 'blending' or vatting
(as I prefer) 100% malt whisky made from malted barley but coming from different sources and then
placing it into the market bearing the name of an operational distillery, although Diageo did provide a
little bit of tissue paper to cover the emperor's modesty by renaming the distillery as Cardow.
The underlying issue was about 'branding': about turning a previously understood guarantee of origin (distillery name) into a mass brand, basically by changing the word "Single" to "Pure" on the Cardhu label reflecting a decision to reposition Cardhu from a single malt to a vatted malt. There were all sorts of nasty accusations of "bait & switch" practices and a general brouhaha that Diageo couldn't close down, despite their best efforts.
The Cardhu manoeuvre was always likely to stir passions and you can understand why William Grant & Sons got so upset.
They've spent the best part of 40 years trying to protect the cachet of single malts and to make sure that anything with Glenfiddich on the label was 100% Glenfiddich, including their decision to denature any Glenfiddich sold by the addition of a homeopathic amount of Balvenie so that the purchaser couldn't on-sell it as Glenfiddich. No wonder they didn't take kindly to the idea that someone could muddy the waters by attaching a distillery name to a vatted or blended malt product. This bun fight has left a big mark on the industry including a very clumsy and confusing language construction to re-define the various categories within the Scotch Whisky Industry. But probably the most significant ruling that came out of the whole sorry episode was the following: "a distillery name should not be used on any Scotch whisky which has not been wholly distilled in the named distillery."
The furore was never really about the fate of a mediocre Speyside, even if they were selling buckets of it in Spain? No; it was about a breach of tradition and the establishment of a precedent; this latter is critical; if they could do it to Cardhu, they could do it to distilleries that the malt whisky connoisseur actually cared about. And it wasn't only about Diageo, although they copped all the flack- it was about stopping anyone trying the same strategy with any single malt distillery. Mind you, the denouement and the rephrasing of industry definitions which has resulted in the confusingly clumsy 'blended malts' might not have the marketing benefit that the SWA figured.
However the ruling quoted above means that there is still the odd rock that the SWA hasn't turned over.
One that might exercise them at some time in the future is what are they going to do about Dewar Rattray's little bit of necromancy with the launch of Stronachie - it's a single and Stronachie is the name of a distillery, but a distillery that died and disappeared in the 1920's, so again the name on the label isn't a guarantee of origin. What's next, someone relaunching Grand Tully or even Ferintosh?
Whoops - I think someone's already rattled the bones of poor Ferintosh!
Craig Daniels, Australia
(this article was published earlier for & by the Malt Whisky Society of Australia and The Earls of Zetland Malt Tasting Club.)
The Malt Whisky File (John Lamond & Robin Tucek), 288 pages
Canongate Books Limited, Edinburgh, Scotland, 2007, ISBN 978 1 84767 005 2.
Time is a wonderful thing - it heals all wounds and some people even claim that it is able to fly...
What's more, it gradually changes the world around us, for better or for worse. One of the improvements
time has brought us over the past decade is the availability of a large number of books about malt whisky.
When I discovered single malt whisky in the early 1990's, the internet didn't exist yet. In the old days, one
had to leave the comfort of one's desktop to go hunt for whisky information in libraries and book stores.
I suspect there must have been some good whisky books available in English at the time, but Dutch book
stores usually only offered translations. If memory serves, the only whisky book that was widely available
in Holland in the early 1990's was Michael Jackson's Whisky Companion. When I started exploring the world
wide whisky web in 1995, that was the book that every whisky lover seemed to have on his shelves as well.
However, around that time I also heard rumours about another 'indispensable' whisky book called 'The Malt
Whisky File'. I looked for it in book stores in Holland, but never found a copy. And then, by the end of the
1990's, more and more other whisky books started appearing on the shelves in Holland while online stores
like Amazon opened our eyes to a world of hundreds of whisky books in English. So, I sort of forgot about
The Malt Whisky File until a few people pointed towards the publication in the recent row about the new
SWA proposals. One of the writers, Blackadder's Robin Tucek, pointed towards The Malt Whisky File (first
published in 1989) for a perfectly simple definition of whisky types that didn't require the introduction of
the artificial phrase 'blended malt' - a linguistic & logical abomination according to most maniacs;
"There are three types of Scotch whisky: malt whisky, grain whisky and blended whisky. Malt whisky is produced only from 100% malted barley (in Ireland, they also add unmalted barley). Grain whisky is produced from a variety of cereals which may, but need not, include a proportion of malted barley. Blended whisky is a combination of malt whisky and grain whisky, mixed together before bottling."
In the most recent '2008' edition, the writers delve a lot deeper into this issue in the 'File Notes' section of the book.
When the latest edition went to press, the SWA had already been pushing the 'blended malt' classification for a few years, but at the moment the classification hasn't turned into law yet. The writers have taken the opportunity to take a closer look at the issue. That's a very useful addition to the book - and the adjective 'useful' applies to the rest of the book as well. Just like Michael Jackson's 'Whisky Companion', TMWF starts of with a few concise chapters about the basics; a guide to the regions (with a slightly different classification), the art of nosing, an overview of the major whisky conglomerate and independent bottlers, hints on pronunciation of distillery names, etc.
The 'meat' of TMWF is the central section with a description of all (malt) whisky distilleries in Scotland and Ireland.
Here, the set-up is comparable with Michael Jackson's 'companion' as well; a few paragraphs on the history of the distillery and tasting notes on one or more expressions. TMWF doesn't contain scores like Michael Jackson's 'companion' or Jim Murray's 'bible'; instead, for each whisky the writers indicate the sweetness and peatiness on a scale of 1-10. I think I would personally prefer overall scores on a 1-100 scale in the book, but I can imagine that the set-up they chose is useful for relative beginners. Because the writers of TMWF have usually sampled multiple expressions for each distillery, their approach seems more sensible to me that David Wishart's, who seems to quantify the entire output of a distillery based on just one bottling in his 'Whisky Classified'.
TMWF wraps up with a few small chapters about Japanese whisky, two Australian distilleries and a few whiskies from 'the rest of the world'. It's sort of a limp ending, because this section isn't nearly comprehensive enough for my tastes. If I'm reading a chapter about Japanese whisky I'd like to think that it contains a fairly complete overview of the whiskies I could actually go out and buy. But of course that's the problem with all whisky books that are (partly) based on tasting notes; none of them offer a complete overview of what's currently available in a particular market. So, in that respect TMWF has the same 'problem' as Michael Jackson's Malt Whisky Companion or even Jim Murray's Whisky Bible. Since the invention of the internet, even the most complete books are outdated as soon as they're published.
Does that mean you shouldn't buy TMWF - or other whisky books for that matter?
No, most definitely not - especially if you're a relative novice in the world of single malts. With a cover price of 12,99 GBP, it will cost you less than a bottle of malt whisky - and it should help you pick your future purchases more wisely. Even if you already own Michael Jackson's Whisky Companion, it's always good to be able to compare different opinions. And if you also add the Malt Whisky Yearbook 2008 to your shopping basket you'll always have access to most of the information you need during a dramming session or shopping spree.
And that's it for the 'review' part of this E-pistle.
However, the very last chapter of The Malt Whisky File is titled 'vatted malts' - which gives me a nice excuse for one last rant about the recent actions of the Scotch Whisky Association (SWA)... In fact, I've already done quite a bit of ranting about the phrase 'blended malt' in my most recent log entries on Malt Madness, but my head is still filled with some steam (a.k.a. hot air) that I need to let out...
Many of the 'proposals' of the SWA actually seem to make sense, but after some people
from within and outside the industry tried to get a debate going about one of those
proposals we gained some disturbing insights in the inner workings of the SWA. The
proposed legal definitions of various whisky categories seem to have been 'pre-cooked'
by a mysterious 'working group' of corporate representatives within the SWA. Various
sources have informed us that it is virtually impossible for smaller companies to join
these 'working groups'. So, the policies of the SWA in this matter are actually the policies
of 'Big Whisky' - Diageo, Pernod Ricard, William Grant, etcetera. Far enough, but that
means that the SWA's claim that they represent the entire Scotch whisky industry has to
be taken with a few grains of salt.
The thing that really bugs me is the SWA's claim that they act in the interest of consumers.
In this case they seem to interpret that as: politely ignoring the input of those consumers
whilst performing acrobatic acts of sophistry. The SWA tries to 'sell' their definitions to
legislators and the public by quoting 'market research' that they are 'not at liberty to
divulge'. And when 'the public' speaks up and tells them that their experiences are often
quite different from the public that was 'researched', the SWA replies with: "I suspect we
are going to have to agree to disagree on the compulsory sales categories. Our Working Group,
representing a variety of companies in the industry, discussed this issue for months before
they reached a view, and they went over every conceivable option and considered suggestions
put up by others. I very much doubt they are going to change their position now."
Well, I guess we'll just have to wait and see how things work out...
In the end, all that really matters to most of the maniacs is the quality of the whisky
inside the bottle, be it malt whisky, grain whisky or even a blend. Or an Irish, American
or Japanese whisk(e)y for that matter... I'm sure we'll see some effects of the attempt
at 'watering down' the Scotch whisky categories on the shelves of our liquorists eventually.
When that happens, the malt maniacs will do the usual 'market research' amongst themselves.
And we don't have a shadowy 'working group' that tells us what to think; our opinions are all out in the open on the matrix...
OK, I promise this was my last rant about the 'blended malt' controversy - at least on these pages.
This pet peeve of mine is probably a little too 'anoracle' for the target audience of Malt Madness as well, so I suggest you check out the discussions on Malt Maniacs & Friends on Facebook for more details about this issue...
Johannes van den Heuvel, Holland
One thing has to be awarded to us Italians: the inventiveness, the skill
and the artisanal passion that we put into specific sectors, and one of
these certainly is food. It is no mystery that the Slow Food movement has
a strong following in Italy, and that great care is taken to preserve culinary
traditions, quality and attention to "niche" products.
One field in which Italy excels is the production of high quality chocolate.
Not generic candy bars made from undisclosed cocoa seeds, but specific
crus, products genuinely crafted to satisfy a variety of tastes, to explore a
whole world of nuances. Italy is one of the very few places in which it still is
forbidden by law to add vegetable fats other than cocoa butter, and this
sure is a guarantee of superior quality and no-compromise craftsmanship.
The careful choice of base products and techniques, and the refined
connoisseur-oriented approach from the small artisanal producers and often
also from the big names make the Italian chocolate scene so interesting,
innovative, multifaceted that it easily beats the offerings from the more
conservative (and less stimulating) approach of the old Swiss masters...
So, don't be surprised if in Italy you can find many chocolate-oriented events.
One of them is CioccolaTò (www.cioccola-to.com/english/manifestazione), taking place every year in my home town of Torino: a town with a great tradition for chocolate, which grew even more fascinating after the cleaning, restoration and general reorganization for the 2006 Winter Olympics; a perfect scenery for a big event of national interest (but also international, I would say, considering the high amount of tourists I have seen from all over the world). The 2008 edition took place from February 23rd to March 2nd in the appealing scenery of Piazza Vittorio Veneto, a very huge square right in the middle of Torino's historical center with a view on the Gran Madre cathedral at the feet of the hills, on the banks of the Po river.
As usual, the event had several very interesting guests: from the big "classic" names to a wide array of interesting small artisans. But then, why are we speaking of CioccolaTò? What specific interest may it have for single malt lovers?
The answer is simple: among all the chocolate-only stands, one was hosted by
a big name of the whisky world, a name which is known for its impressive range
of bottlings… from the ordinary and well-known core range, to its exotic and
highly sought-after and collectable special releases. The name is, of course,
Diageo. As you probably may not know, the Italian headquarters of Diageo are
in Torino, at a short walking distance from the CioccolaTò event. What a better
idea, then, that pairing some selected chocolates from some of the best
producers to some of the finest malts around? The idea was strongly backed
by Mr Franco Gasparri, Master Ambassador of the Classic Malts, and the result
was one of the most eye-catching and intriguing stands at CioccolaTò.
With the precious help of Alessandro Gravino (Diageo Area Manager "Reserve
brands" for center-south Italy) and of whisky expert Ottavia Costanza (plus a
very efficient logistics and hosting team), the Diageo stand was a very
interesting place to visit, have a chat, take a look at the bottles (including some
gems like the 30yo special releases of Lagavulin and Talisker) and buy them,
have a dram and discover the world of single malt whiskies. A great idea, since
single malts are not largely known to wide audiences in Italy yet: I think that
many people walked out of the stand either with a bottle to try at home, or at
least a much clearer idea of how whisky is made in Scotland, of the different
regional styles, of what makes this drink so special. I had the pleasure of
spending some time with Diageo people, and their style of making single malts
known and appreciated by the visitors was very efficient: gentle, knowledgeable,
refreshingly informal. Direct contact with the audience, great availability to satisfy
every question, and of course an attractive portfolio of distilleries.
But the core of why this first experience at CioccolaTò was so satisfying was the organization of 52 guided tastings meant to be a "starting point" in the world of single malts. Most of these tastings were offered for free to the audience, and were soon completely booked out: a testament to the success of this initiative.
The tastings were hosted on the now well known (at least to Italian single malts aficionados) Diageo old style double decker London bus, painted with the Classic Malts flagship colors (cream and green) and which has already toured several cities for events such as this in the past months. Not satisfied to introducing the audience to the now enlarged Classic Malts selection (to the original six ones Cardhu, Clynelish and Caol Ila were added), Diageo upped the ante by pairing these landmark single malts (which have been the usual introduction to this world for most of us and still are very appreciated by connoisseurs too) with fine selected chocolates. As such, the tastings were meant to be a suggestion to either discover single malts for the first time, and to experiment and enjoy them in an innovative way. And the results were at times intriguing and surprising to myself too…
The choice of chocolates for the pairing with the Classic Malts had to be carefully thought out, and what better expert than single-malt and chocolate expert Damiano Verona of "Art and chocolate" for picking up intriguing and exclusive ones? The tastings were organized according to three kinds of sessions: the "harmonic" malts, the "solo" ones, and a special "deluxe" tasting called Pantagruel dedicated to Distillers Editions and the very well appreciated Talisker 18.
But let's see in detail how the tastings were organized...
Cardhu 12yo (40%, OB) with Domori Porcelana 70% (Venezuela)
The sweetest, most delicate whisky in the Classic Malts range: very much appreciated by the ladies (although there are some who actually prefer the strongly peated malts from Islay!), quite accessible but also enjoyable. Lots of honey, vanilla, sweet licorice, and hints of candied orange and pear. 80 points for its honest and clean profile: much better than a blend, never an unpleasant or unconvincing note, a good starting point for a gentle introduction to single malts. It was paired with a buttery chocolate from the rare Criollo beans, full of bakery notes, low on acidity and astringency, with a moderate and pleasant cocoa bitterness (in spite of the high percentage of cocoa mass). It made the fruity notes of Cardhu more evident, partly masking its trademark honey sweetness.
Glenkinchie 12yo (43%, OB) with Gli Origine – Tingo Maria 70% (Peru - www.cioccolatomaglio.it)
Say what you want, but I always liked Glenkinchie: it is delicate and not challenging, but it is also flawless. A soft, refreshing malt that is a most welcome change of pace from my usual diet of strongly peated or sherried whiskies. It has many subtleties, and very nice flavors of cereals (it is one of the whiskies which remind me most of the smell of barley), hay, vanilla, chamomile, and a hint of lemon peel. Always soft, but not lacking richness. This new 12yo version is very similar to the 10yo, probably a little bit sweeter. For me, it is worth 83 points. Don't forget that Diageo recently released a very bold Glenkinchie 20yo matured for half its age in brandy casks, which makes an interesting variation compared to the Classic Malts version: a nice one to try head to head. It was matched with a chocolate with a high acidity and tannic astringency, bringing out the flowers and the grassiness of Glenkinchie even more (not to mention some pear taste). The pairing with the whisky, on the other hand, enhanced the coffee aftertaste of the chocolate.
Oban 14yo (43%, OB) with Colombian Single Origin 70% (www.chocolatesantander.com/english/retailBars_70Cacao.html)
A good malt that strikes a nice balance: sure, it is fuller, more maritime and intense than for example most Speyside whiskies, but it still is soft enough not to scare newbies away. It dances between a nice sweetness, some firm oaky tannins, some interesting fruitiness (figs, oranges), and some very evident salty/coastal notes. As such, it suffers a bit from comparison with the big experience offered by Talisker… but it's always enjoyable, straightforward and flavorful. A friend of mine considers this one of his favorites, and for me it's 79 points.
The pairing chocolate was very rich, nutty and tannic, slightly acidic and fruity. It was the only chocolate from a producer outside of Italy: it is made in Colombia from the same consortium of small farmers who grow the cocoa plants. Very interesting, as it includes roughly ground cocoa beans that give it a raw feelings and a coffee aftertaste. In combination with the Oban, it made its salty, spicy and orangey notes even more evident.
Lagavulin 16yo (43%, OB) with Gli Origine 75% – Africa (Tanzania, www.cioccolatomaglio.it/dettaglio.asp?id=2&id_prodotto=425)
A great malt, as usual: full of the rich aromas we have been appreciating for years, a great bottling full of smoke, iodine, medicinal notes but also impressively smooth, creamy and chewy. You really can't go wrong with Lagavulin, it's one of the classic that it's always a pleasure to come back to. I always have a bottle at home, and every lover of Islay malts should too. What makes it so different and unique are its sweet winey notes, full of figs, plum-cake and dried raisins: a perfect match for the hot and peaty character. 87 points. How to find a suitable chocolate for this big monster? Something just as intense was needed: a dark and fruity one, rich of vanilla flavors and with a high acidity. The warm peaty notes of the Lagavulin were almost intensified by the pairing. Good choice!
Dalwhinnie 15yo (43%, OB) with Sambirano (Madagascar) 70% (www.domori.com)
I used to find Dalwhinnie bland, but in time I have found out that while delicate in its aroma, its body isn't weak at all. Very pleasant, sweet and honeyed but also crisp and lively, with nice pear, banana and vanilla notes. Also some Latakia pipe tobacco in the background, for just a hint of smokiness. In my book, it is worth 82 points. Sure, the 20yo release from 2006 (matured in sherry casks) is a very different beast and a much more stunning malt, but the basic bottling has nothing to complain about. An apparently weird choice: such a delicately flavored malt with such an intense, full-bodied chocolate! Sambirano has very deep and dark cocoa notes, high acidity and impressive tannins (exactly how I like it, and Domori is one of my favorite brands)… but when it joins Dalwhinnie, the vanilla and pear notes of the malt are heightened.
Cragganmore 12yo (43%, OB) with Gli Origine – Cuba 70% (www.cioccolatomaglio.it/dettaglio.asp?id=2&id_prodotto=471)
A malt that's both very accessible (gentle, absolutely never aggressive) but also "difficult" because of its complexity, of its very delicate flavors that don't scream for attention and require careful nosing. Very malty, with lots of flowery notes (rose, geranium, orange blossom), some nice grassiness, and alternating between sweet fruitiness (again, orange peel, apricots), Virginia tobacco and a moderate final dryness, slightly astringent too. Very fragrant, as a consequence, but also very subtle and subdued. I prefer more intense experiences, but it still is an elegant malt: 79 points . A very creamy and buttery chocolate was chosen, rich on dried figs and nuts: quite intense. Not the best pairing with an elegant and subtle malt, perhaps, but not bad either: it made the dry and flowery notes of Cragganmore more evident.
Talisker 10yo (45.8%, OB) with Gli Origine – Africa (Tanzania) 75% (www.cioccolatomaglio.it/dettaglio.asp?id=2&id_prodotto=425)
Another favorite malt, and probably the one many of us started with… By the way, I am glad to report that the bottles opened at CioccolaTò showed a Talisker back to its true form: more intense and lively than ones I have sampled in recent times, more peppery and peatier. A good sign indeed, perhaps a return to the old style? You already know it all: intense, fiery, hot, medicinal but also very balanced and backed by great sweet vanilla, nice firm tannins and that lovely full and chewy character. In spite of this bold character (or perhaps because of it) many people who tasted it for the first time at the event absolutely loved it. Some more fans for the Talisker… and 85 points from me. The chosen chocolate was the same which had been picked for the Lagavulin 16yo: nice choice, and as a result the Talisker grew even more intense, smokier and medicinal (though a bit less creamy than when tasted alone).
Caol Ila 12yo (40%, OB) with Carenero Superior (Venezuela) 70% (www.domori.com)
Another recent entry in the Classic Malts line, and already a winner. As much as Lagavulin is peaty and hot but also buttery, chewy and sweet , this relatively young Caol Ila is dry, pungent, fresh, vegetal and very seaweedy. Its big blast of peat and medicine truly conquered the hearts of the bravest (including some elderly ladies!!!). The "Natural Cask Strength" version is even better, but this one is a solid 83 points. Its matching chocolate was very full, with lots of figs and dried raisins but also some marked and pleasant acidity (as it often happens with the darker Domori offerings). It brought out the salty and maritime notes of the Caol Ila very well, perhaps slightly taming the smokiness.
The most luxurious tastings, held only once every day in the evening… richer in choice of whiskies and chocolates, targeted to a more experienced or simply more curious audience. They were led with the assistance of the nice people from ChocoClub (www.chococlub.com).
Glenkinchie 1992/2007 'DE' (43%, OB, Amontillado Finish) with Crema 'Cioccolosa' Fondente 30% (www.cioccolosa.com)
An interesting whisky, often wrongly overlooked: the delicate notes of the ordinary Glenkinchie are enriched by the finishing, adding a pleasantly sweet but not cloying fruitiness: peaches, apricots, oranges. It's not evidently winey, and its nuttiness is very pleasant. My score is identical to that of the ordinary 12yo: 83 points . They are different, but both enjoyable. It was paired with a chocolate cream, much thicker than for example Nutella and with a rather high cocoa content for a product of this kind. It's extremely biscuity, very nutty and sweet both on nose and palate. It has a very mouthcoating feel, and at the end of the tasting it becomes slightly rougher in texture, showing the grain of the cocoa powder. The pairing with the Glenkinchie DE is a bit like Sacher Torte: big sweet chocolate, great biscuity and bakery aromas, and that pleasant fruity background. It probably makes the whisky slightly less sweet in comparison, but the match is very intriguing.
Cragganmore 1993/2007 'DE' (40%, OB, Port Wood Finish) with Cru Scavina (Brazil) chocolate 65% (www.silviobessone.it)
While I am not a big fan of Port-finished malts, the Cragganmore DE is quite a nice one: not as weirdly winey or flamboyantly sweet as other experiments of this kind, it still has appeal to traditionalist single malt lovers. Of course, it is VERY different from the ordinary 12yo which is so fragrant, moderately dry, flowery, elegantly restrained… Here, on the other hand, you will find that big fruity sweetness is the main characteristic: ripe cherries, red fruits, acacia honey. Luckily, the sweetness is not overpowering and there still is some spiciness and some nice oaky tannins. Overall I would say that it is a 79 points in my book, again exactly like the ordinary 12yo. Please bear in mind that I am not a fan of Ruby Port (and of Port finishes in general) and that for example many ladies enjoyed this expression very much. The chosen chocolate was very buttery and shiny, with an almost oily visual and tactile impression. On the palate, it had the same very buttery, creamy and thick impression. Its flavor was dark, rich in coffee and vanilla aromas. Very intense, a suitable match for the intense malt: they fought for dominance, but quietly settled together: the Cragganmore DE became a little less sweet in comparison, spicier and nuttier.
Clynelish 1992/2007 'DE' (46%, OB, Oloroso Finish) with Modica Cinnamon-flavoured 40% (www.chococlub.com)
Crazy me: I didn't like Clynelish very much at first, then I happened to taste several expressions and to read Serge's tasting notes on the malts from this distillery (and from its silent sister Brora) and the magic came. Now I enjoy it very much, especially its sweet honeyed notes, its ginger, its spiciness (like the sweet fruit seasoned in sugar and mustard syrup from Cremona), its delicate smokiness and coastal/seaweedy notes. I had never tried this Distillers Edition before, and I was pleasantly rewarded: it has all the good traits of Clynelish, and the extra Oloroso maturation adds some more sweetness, some nice orange marmalade and hints of cinnamon. Very smooth while at the same time intense and syrupy. For my taste, 83 points . To give an extra boost to the sweet spices of the malt, a very traditional chocolate from Sicily was chosen. Modica chocolate, made by a consortium of producers, is a strange thing: it isn't smooth or creamy in its tactile structure, and it contains very little amounts of cocoa butter compared to the other chocolates. It is made instead by pressing together cocoa and sugar crystals: the result is very crunchy, very raw, very textured. This particular one was also flavored with a touch of cinnamon: other examples of traditional flavoring include vanilla and red pepper. A nice interaction with the Clynelish, though certainly not a subtle one!
Talisker 18yo (45.8%, OB) with Ghana "Granella" 61% (www.guidocastagna.it)
And now we come to one of the most appreciated malts of the tastings… In spite of having been introduced only a few years ago, the 18yo version of Talisker is already a big success. Do I need to say more? All you love in the 10yo… but more! It may seem smoother and more restrained at first, then all the trademark flavors of Talisker esplode: the smoke, the gentle medicinal aroma, the vanilla sweetness, the pepperiness, the propolis, the chocolate, the coffee and the rich and rewarding warmth. In addition, we find some more tannins from the oak and an even bigger chewy mouthfeel. No less than 87 points . Talisker is, in my opinion, one of the malts that go better with dark chocolate: a lovely combination. At the tastings, it was paired with one of the best chocolates, too: a thin tablet, shiny on one side and corrugated on the other one. Like the Santander mentioned above, its secret lies in the addition of some roughly ground cocoa beans, for a snappy, crunchy and very chewy feeling. The contrast between the smoothness of the chocolate and the crunchiness of the small bits of cocoa beans was very stimulating. Its moderately astringent taste was rich of coffee notes, nutty, very biscuity. The impression of this chocolate with Talisker reminded me of a good "Cuneese al rum" (rum-filled chocolates).
Lagavulin 1991/2007 'DE' (43%, OB, PX finish) with Cru Sauvage (Bolivia) 68% (www.chocoalpi.it)
A wild and very flavorful whisky (and don't forget that it won our Non-Plus-Ultra Award in the Daily Dram category in 2007!), matched with a very wild and flavorful chocolate… You probably already know the effect of the Pedro Ximenez finishing on Lagavulin: the same bold smoky and medicinal notes of the 16yo, the same raisiny richness, the same iodine… but with an extra sweetness, a lovely smoothness and a winey nose rich on red fruits and plums. I still prefer the more straightforward approach of the traditional 16yo, but this sure is a very enjoyable whisky: the faces of the audience at the tastings showed great delight when this expression was sampled, and rightly so. Such a crafty combination of huge in-your-face peat and fruity sweetness is hard to find elsewhere… 86 points.
The peculiarity of this rare chocolate is that it is made not from pods gathered from cocoa trees in plantations, but growing freely in the wilderness. This of course means a lot of effort to find the amount of beans necessary for production of this chocolate, which as a consequence is restricted to limited quantities. It has a fruity nose, but not particularly intense. Very subdued, very dark, very "cocoa"-like. In the mouth it initially has some pleasant acidity, then turns buttery, creamy, very thick and, again, dark. Interaction with the Lagavulin DE brings out a particularly pleasant impression of crème brulèe.
Are you still there? Did you resist until the end without feeling the urge to try
some of your favorite single malts with some fine chocolate (maybe some Italian
one)? Then, let me say you are not human… If, on the other hand, your mouth
has started watering… then you are perfectly normal!
Overall I must say that the event was a success: a good way to promote the
Classic Malts line and the knowledge of single malts in general (every tasting
was meant to show different regional styles and to explain how whisky is made,
how its flavors are born). There was a lot of enthusiasm from the audience, who
flocked to the tastings: I have seen people from 20 to 80 years old, some of
them complete beginners in the world of single malts, and they all seemed to
enjoy the experience. Of course only a big company like Diageo could pull it off:
such an event is not easy or very economical to organize. So, kudos to Diageo
for deciding to try something relatively new (at least in Italy) to promote single
malts! It is a pleasure to see that multinationals do care for trying to share the
enthusiasm in their products.
For me, apart from the interesting pairing with the chocolate, the event was a further confirmation of the solid quality of the Classic Malts line. Of course I already knew it quite well, but every time I taste this range I appreciate its consistency, its versatility and its high average level: single malts that are easy to enjoy, representative and without any excess or unpleasant note (and with some real gems among them, like Talisker and Lagavulin). Very well crafted whiskies as usual, great to start in this complex world but still interesting enough to satisfy even the jaded connoisseur. And, by the way, thanks to Diageo for enduring my presence at their stand and for granting me the privilege to host five of their tastings: it was a memorable experience!
See you in Torino next year, too?
(The first part of Mega-Macallan Tasting was published in Malt Maniacs #104.)
Macallan NAS The 1874 Replica (45%, OB, Btl. 1996) - I was so glad this was in the tasting as I knew and liked it, but it would also help
frame my response to the unknown whiskies. I suppose revisiting an old favourite in amongst potentially more impressive whiskies is always
fraught, but the 1874 didn't disappoint. It was actually very interesting to pin it down in style in amongst the continuum represented by the
ESC series. The 1874 was a lot closer to the ESC III and ESC VI in style than the others. I must admit that I prefer nosing whiskies at 43-46%
and am often the Malt Maniac that gives the lower proof whiskies higher scores, as I think in the cask strengths the spirit can often hide or
obscure the true character of the whisky underneath. The quite beautiful nose has orange peel, orange blossom, honey, treacle, floorwax
then toffee and cream. The palate had a little bit of everything Macallan; citrus, toffee, Christmas pudding, some mint chocolate ice-cream
which used to be the marker for Macallan 12 in the mid 1990's. This is a truly classy whisky and still one of my favourite Macallans.
Score 91 points.
Macallan 8 yo (43%, OB, Rinaldi Import Bologna Btl. 1983) The sherry in this youngster was exceptional and amazingly fresh. The spirit was
lively and floral and the whole package was very well integrated. I've limited experience with young Macallan, but I do remember that the 10
year old 100 proof was a revelation in 1998 when I first came across it. This one had a deeper sherry profile, almost certainly with first fill
oloroso in the vatting. Lots of muscat and raisins, quite grapey, more grapey than any of the ESC series, but maybe that's the youth talking.
The palate was also sherry dominated with the wood a bit overshadowed. The finish had some nuts and some bitter metal.
Score 84 points.
Macallan 12 yo (43%, OB Giovinetti & Figli Import Milano Btl. 1983) This was just like time traveling – I got maniacal about malt in about 1994 and this was so much like what I loved about Macallan 12 that was around in Australia in the mid 1990's. Raisins, brandy soaked fruit, cherries, lots of big muscatty notes, clean minty wood and no sulphur. The sulphur started to appear in the malts bottled after 1998 so this was like a little time capsule and a good one too. Impressive and multilayered with a classic sherry profile. The nose on this was worth over 90 but the rest of the package didn't reach quite such stellar heights. Score 88 points.
Macallan 1976 Fine & Rare (Unreleased/WIP), a whisky that had not been released at the time we tasted it. This is an interesting whisky and in profile a lot like a cross between ESC I, III and VI mixed with some of the Fine Oak 21 or 25 casks. It had a nose of candied fruit, toffee and fresh stone fruit (locquats and apricots) with syrup and citrus (mandarin) in the palate with a lingering citric note in a gently tannic finish. I must admit I found it incredibly refined and an excellent whisky, but it didn't leap up and smack me in the mouth as a typical Macallan. I love whiskies from refill sherry from American oak and this is good, but there are plenty of other distilleries doing the same and hence the competition gets a bit more hectic. Score 88 points.
Macallan 1975/2001 (54% Cask#17112 Laird's Club Australia). I just love the nose on this one – it has a beautiful and voluptuous ripe red
apple and ether/ethyl acetate note along with all the usual Macallan markers (mint toffee oak and chocolate ice-cream, varnish, floor polish
and old furniture) and a big and slightly sour maraschino cherry note kicks in after about 10 minutes in the glass. A mega-sherry palate (resin,
raisins and fruitcake) with lots of flavour development. Has some fine tannins (like freshly brewed tea with some fresh peach) and the proof
kicks it into another league. The marriage of fresh and lively fruitiness with old wood character is a winning combination.
Score 92 points.
Macallan 1975/2001 (54% Cask#17113 Laird's Club Australia) The neighbouring cask is much less well known. The profile is more austere and less fruity. More mahogany, dry cocoa and carob, with a waxy note. There's some sour wood and quite a lot of dry mint along with more cocoa and dark chocolate, some ferns and resin. A little bit of sulphur (pickled onions, gunpowder, cabbage water/cooked vegetables) snuck in to spoil the party. Personally I love the bell-like clarity of 17112 and prefer it over the more muddied charms of 17113. By no means poor, just not in the same class as its sibling. Score 85 points.
Am I a Macallan convert? Not really – I always knew they could make great whisky however I can state that the ESCII has entered my pantheon of great whiskies. I, for one, had never sat down to 12 different Macallans at one time and I must admit that I never got bored nor craved a different style, which speaks volumes for the both the quality and variety on offer. We all tasted something new, we all learnt something and I will cherish the memories for a long time to come.
My thanks go to Shane Kalloglian, a very generous host indeed. Thanks also to Graham Wright who MC'd the tasting, the fantastic team at Astral for providing a truly spectacular venue and who went out of their way to make a bunch of whisky tragics feel welcome and also to Maxxium Australia for supporting the event and giving us a sneak preview of the Fine & Rare 1976.All the photos were taken by Dr Paul Gooding, fellow Malt Whisky Society of Australia member and scientist with a vocation for delivering whisky education and I'd like to acknowledge a truly maniacal colleague in Franz Scheurer for portions of the text.
Well, I guess you must have all seen the release of the Family Casks from
Glenfarclas last year. A real show off, bringing at once 43 different vintages,
from 1952 to 1994, all single casks to the market. This was never done before
by any distillery...a complete series of 43 consecutive years of whisky. Big was
the success and soon the distillery was sold out of a couple of vintages. So what
to do then.....a normal distillery would cease the series, simply because of the
missing stock. But if you are Glenfarclas and you are sitting on a stock of 60.000
casks going from 1952 uptil now, you don't... You just fill the gaps and hence the
release II of the Family Casks Series (who were all five bottled on October 11th,
2007). When George told me about this I was thrilled... thrilled of being able to
savour more of these georgeous whiskies... but when he asked me to join the
primeur tasting organised at the distillery in Ballindalloch scheduled on April 1...
I had mixed feelings.
April's foulday, mmmmm was he pulling my leg....
Apparently he wasn't, so we decided to combine this invitation with a 9 day family holiday in Scotland.
But back to the subject. The invitation of the tasting looked fantastic. We were expected at 3.30 pm at the distillery and Ian McWilliam was so kind to pick us up at the Dowan's Hotel in Aberlour. In total 28 people attended the primeur tasting, amongst others Ian Buxton, Keir Sword, the managing director and marketing manager from Pol Roger (the Glenfarclas UK distributor), Sandy, John Smith and many others. First we started with the tasting of the 5 newly released casks and here are my notes and comments:
Glenfarclas 1952/2007 (41.9%, OB, Family Casks, Plain Hogshead #1710, Release II, 55 Bts.)
The previous 1952 cask # 1712 yielded 110 bottles and when they wanted to bottle the next 1952 the choice was first to bottle another then the # 1710 but apparently that one turned out to be empty...so it was # 1710 that was choosen. When this one is sold out there is only 1 cask of Glenfarclas 1952 left at the distillery.
Nose : Very impacted by the wood, you get oaky notes, underlying vanilla, smoky meat, oaksmoke, yellow flowers from the field, a little rumnotes, the oak has it all under control I'm afraid (22)
Taste : Lots of smoke, are we in Speyside here, I feel almost Islay....loads of cinnamon, dry cut oak (20)
Finish : Short dry smoke, bitter-sweet, nutmeg (20)
Balance/Complexity : Very peculiar for a Glenfarclas, the smoke is very dominant on the palate.
I guess this must come from years in the wood, organoleptic not really stunning, but tasting a 1952 is always a treat (21)
Total points : 83/100
Now that we are at it, I can also share with you my notes from the previous 1952, the first release, cask # 1712.
Glenfarclas 1952/2006 (56.5%, OB, Family Casks, Plain Hogshead, cask #1712, 110 Bts.)
Nose : Light delicate nose of honey, banana peel, vanilla, soft sherry, nutmeg and a little smoke 21/25
Taste : Light taste, sweet & delicate on the palate, woodspices, nutmeg and some pepper 21/25
Finish : Oaksmoke, wood, spice and white pepper 21/25
Balance/complexity : Nice delicate, deserves respect 21/25
Total points : 84/100
The next one in the line-up at the tasting was the 1957 :
Glenfarclas 1957/2007 (46.5%, OB, Family casks, Sherry Hogshead, cask #2115, Release II, 116 Bts.)
Nose : Whauh, what a blast, soo aromatic, a lovely sweet creamy sherry nose, game sauce, light cigar smoke, deep intense bee wax to polish your antique book cabinets, lovely old leather notes, stunning (24)
Taste : Intense big fat sherry, a little dry but what an intensity, coffee, italian expresso, dark chocolate, some cohiba cigar smoke, what a sensation again (23)
Finish : Long, intense, balanced on dryness and sweet sherry kicking back all aroma's, lovely (23)
Balance/complexity : this is divine, to savour only with your best friends, what an aromatic experience (24)
Total points : 94/100
Now that we are at it, I can also share with you my notes from the previous 1957, the first release, cask # 2111.
Glenfarclas 1957/2006 (54%, OB, Family Casks, Sherry Hogshead #2111, 158 Bts.)
Nose : Lovely coffee aroma's, mexican coffee, arabica, rich chocolate pudding, a damn great nose (25)
Taste : Rich sweet start, lovely intensity and then a little dry, coffee, cough syrup, bitter chocolate (23)
Finish : Sweet-dry and very long (23)
Balance/complexity : Great if you like dryness on the palate, which I do (23)
Total points : 94/100 - Apparently a close match between these two 1957 expressions.
Next we moved on to the sixties expressions, first starting with a 1960 expression from cask # 1773. The first 1960 expression was quickly sold after Jim Murray's notes in his whiskybible. He acclaimed the 1960 to be the best of the first series...
Glenfarclas 1960/2007 (43.8%, OB, Family Casks, Sherry Hogshead #1773, Release II, 157 Bts.)
Nose : Heather sherry, raisins, orangezest, grand marnier, a touch of spices, fine and delicate, needs time to open up (23)
Taste : Bold and full on oranges, liquor, aniseed, the dryness holds the aroma's, lovely (24)
Finish : Long, peppery and the orangezest after-taste is great (23)
Balance/complexity : Simply great (23)
Total points : 93/100
And yes again.... Now that we are at it, I can also share with you my notes from the previous 1960, the first release, cask # 1767.
Glenfarclas 1960/2006 (52.4%, OB, Family Casks, sherry hogshead #1767, 228 Bts.)
Nose : Lovely raspberries, red fruits, Christmas pudding, cake with red confit fruit, just lovely (24)
Taste : Lovely intense taste of sherry, red fruits, raspberries shine thru, a bit of bitter coffee, ooh soo great (24)
Finish : Nice, extremely long development on a very tight rope of sweet and bitter and dryness, great (24)
Balance/complexity : Yummie......(24)
Total points : 96/100
Yeah... I have to admit, that 1960 release n°1 is a stunner.... you better call Thierry Benitah from La Maison du Whisky to try to nail a bottle or two from this nectar..... He is still sitting on some stock apparently. So on to the next release n° 2 from the sixties, this time the 1967.
Glenfarclas 1967/2007 (58.7%, OB, Family Casks, Sherry Hogshead #5117, Release II, 138 Bts.)
Nose : Spicy and a little alcoholic at first nosing but then it opens up, big sherry, the oranges, the grand marnier, woodspices, ginger, pinewood, they all pop out..lovely...and if you add a drop of water, the aroma's almost explode out your glass..., what a sensation (24)
Taste : Full taste, bang powerfull bang, bitter bloodoranges, java cake, grand marnier, very sticky and robust, yummie (23)
Finish : Long, building, bringing back every sensation from the nose...divine length...45 seconds at least, just a tad bitterness at the end (23)
Balance/complexity : Hard to tackle at first, difficult to tame....but once released a pure sensation with an extreme length (24)
Total points : 94/100
Yes..yes here again the notes of the first 1967 expression ....
Glenfarclas 1967/2006 (58.5%, OB, Family Casks, Sherry Hogshead #5118, 181 Bts.)
Nose : Rich sherry, raisins, orange zest with cloves, cinnamon, leather, very nice and refined (23)
Taste : Fat and thick, full bodied, strong, cloves, warm "speculoos", rich java cake, intense (23)
Finish : Long, intense and thick, fat sherry, lovely (23)
Balance/complexity : Great dram....(23)
Total points : 92/100 - Add much water to this one and you get an exotic overload of peach... just try it.
Too bad...it was already time to savour the last of the tasting, the 1969.
Glenfarclas 1969/2007 (56.6%, OB, Family Casks, Sherry Hogshead #3185, Release II, 121 Bts.)
Nose : Aceton and a little sulphur underneath, almonds, nuts, milk, autumn notes, wet cloth, mushrooms, wet forest, mmm (21)
Taste : Sulpuric, dry, woody, a bit flawed if you ask me (17)
Finish : Too dry and now the sulphury notes and overdominant nutty notes are not my kind (16)
Balance/complexity : ok for the nose...but the palate, mmmmm (17)
Total points : 71/100
Yes..yes here again the notes of the first 1969 expression ....
Glenfarclas 1969/2006 (56.2%, OB, Sherry Hogshead #3184, 148 Bts.)
Nose : Rich christmas cake, a whiff of sulphur again, walnut cream, apple
pie, calvados (22)
Taste : Thick profound taste, intense sherry, apples, calvados, a touch of
sulphur again (22)
Finish : Rich, thick, sweet-orange now, liquor (22)
Balance/complexity : Nice but that touch of sulphur is disturbing me a
Total points : 87/100
After this lovely tasting we were all guided around the distillery by
George Grant. Glenfarclas is now 24/24 in production and all 3 sets of
stills are in operation. In my 10 years of collecting Glenfarclas I have
never seen them soo busy and you could almost feel the building crack
under the massive constraints of 7/7 - 24/24 production, resulting in a
yearly output of 3,2 mlj liters of pure spirit.
This is all part of a bigger production plan, as John Grant explained,
to start from the inside out at maximum production output and to
change the equipment, buildings and grounds over the next 5 years.
A massive investment goes along these plans. Great to see Glenfarclas
is doing great and we will see many more whisky coming out in the years
to come. After our distillery tour we visited the warehouse to try yet
another 1957 (cask #2110) and 1960 (cask #1774) straight from the
cask. Since the whisky was very cold, so straigth from the cask, I
decided not to take any tasting notes, but I'm convinced we will soon
be seeing these casks released as yet another Family Cask.
John Grant, his lovely wife and George invited us all for an aperitif.
Pol Roger was soo kind to allow us a taste of their great champagne
and all 43 different expressions from the first series were available for
tasting.... I felt in heaven..... thé chance to try the missing vintages and
commenting them in my tasting book.
Here a few I tried at the spot....
Glenfarclas 1994/2006 (59.6%, OB, Family Casks, Sherry Butt #2935, 628 Bts.)
Nose : A classic young sherried Glenfarclas, wax, nutmeg, pinewood, some hay and heather, good (22)
Taste : Full taste, body, nutty, pine, raisins, good (21)
Finish : Good length (21)
Balance/complexity : An ok dram (21)
Total points : 85/100
Glenfarclas 1977/2006 (59%, OB, Family Casks, Refill Butt #61, 582 Bts.)
Nose : Very immature, almost new make, grass, fresh cut hay, simple (18)
Taste : Sweet, sugary, new make (17)
Finish : Medium, oak, new make (17)
Balance/complexity : Boring, has this been in cask ? (17)
Total points : 69/100
Glenfarclas 1971/2006 (57.1%, OB, Family Casks, Sherry Butt #140, 459 Bts.)
Nose : Closed at first, wheat, oat cakes, a little cinnamon (20)
Taste : Sherry, oatcakes, wheat, nuts, ok (21)
Finish : Medium (21)
Balance/complexity : Mediocre but ok (20)
Total points : 82/100
And finally before going off to the Glenfarclas dinner....
Glenfarclas 1970/2006 (53.6%, OB, Family Casks, Sherry Butt #566, 497 Bts.)
Nose : Classical sherry, toffee, christmas cake, orange zest, good (22)
Taste : Lighter body, orange liquor, a little glue, dry, peppery (22)
Finish : Orange zesty medium finish (22)
Balance/complexity : A very ok expression (21)
Total points : 87/100
To conlude this lovely day we had a superb 4-course dinner in the Ships Room accompanied by great wines from Pol Roger and lots of
Glenfarclas whiskies....I decided to have the notorious Glenfarclas 1965/2006 (60%, OB, Family Casks, sherry butt #3861, 417 Bts.)
throughout my dinner....still my numéro uno of the series.....yummie, yummie... What a day....what a whisky.....a special page in my book of life. One I will remember for a very long time.
Luc Timmermans, Belgium
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