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The whisky world as seen by an eccentric Bavarian exile
me here to comment on any Dram-atics article, I'll include as
many replies as possible
Overdosing on sherry casks
So, my first week of employment is completed,
or should I say my return to school is completed. As you know I
have been offered a job which I accepted and was duly sent back
to school. There are so many new things to learn, many of which
are not only necessary, but also quite critical, so newbies are
sent off for training along with real examinations before they
are allowed to actually start 'work'.
seems I've managed to get through this first week and now
find myself, after two years of constant 'weekends' where every
day was the same, having a real weekend!
celebrate, whilst the rest of the world seemed to be
esconced in a certain distillery's offerings from Wick, I turned
to something slightly more southerly as my Old Pulteney samples
didn't arrive in time.
Thanks to another online friend, who I have communicated
with electronically for a couple or so years now, but never
personally met as yet, I became the proud owner of four
different Aberlour samples. Three were older A'Bunadh batches
and the fourth was a "fill your own bottle" distillery single
sherry cask, dated 1994 and filled in 2007.
first A'bunadh is indeed a quite early one, in fact it's so
early it doesn't even have a batch number!
turns out to be a very good example of A'Bunadh with raisins,
plums, black cherries and even a well polished antique oak table
on the nose. The palate als ohas those dark fruits, but also
leather and then a slightly peppery butterscotch as it
transcends the palate. A few drops of water work wonders in
making it even smoother and bringing out much more flora.
second example is one of the oft-spoken about batches, No.6
which I have been longing to find and try.
far from disappointed as I immediately found a long-lost
childhood sweetshop where nothing is packed in plastic and all
the aromas greet the poor unsuspecting children as they walk in
with pocket money aready to spend. Alongside this was aged oak,
leather shoe polish of the highest quality and sheen and a
suggestion of rich oil of arange.
way this opened to include hints of smoke and richer fruits
made it my favourite A'bunadh so far!
A'Bunadh was another oldie; batch No.10 which was a very good
whisky, but sadly it lacked a little depth compared to the other
Finally, I tried a sample of a single sherry cask which sat
at the distillery in 2007 as visitors were invited to fill their
own bottles directly from it.
experience here was of not only wood and sherry, but an
initial burst of dark fruits, cloves, currants, figs, raisins,
plums and then a delightful marshmallow experience leading me
gently into the finish.
whilst everyone else was somewhere in Wick enjoying WK209; A
herring fishing boat called "Good Hope", I was a little further
south, down in Speyside, enjoying the delights of some superb
sherry casks thanks to an old friend.
Teun and Danke!
For those interested, here's my "Scale
Finding your way Around
the 2nd left after tasting notes"
things have looked a little quiet
around here for the last week. In fact some have even asked if
things will fizzle out now I'm starting a job. "Nay!" I
say, "Nay and thrice
quiet as The Emporium may have seemed from the outside, I
have been extremely busy on the inside so to speak. A few new
tasting notes have been added to take the current Dram-o-meter
reading to a modest 632, but more importantly I've been
hammering away at a previously little-known new page nicknamed
ToC, which from now on will be your personal navigator through
course ToC is "Table of Contents" and in reality is a list
of every main page, feature, interview, distillery page and even
individual tasting note throughout the site. If it's on the
website, then ToC knows about it and will lead you there. Or at
least in another week or so it will.
the moment ToC is about 80% complete as I need to make to
make a few more updates to distillery pages to include the tags
to be used as links, so don't worry, if you find an entry in ToC
without an active link, try again in a few days when all should
everything is finished, I'll add a wee "ToC" up with the
main page options at the top, but until then it can be found via
a link towards the bottom of my Home Page called "Table of
time for a dram, or three"
Saturday I spoke of
things possibly looking up and "taking off" for me in 2011, well
I can confirm that today I have signed the contract and all
being well, after that two years of employment misery, I should
be back in work again from next Monday.
Anyway, to celebrate the event I have broken open three
suitable samples; each 30 years old and each quite different.
They are Campbeltown Loch 30y, Strathisla 30y from
G&M and the OB Highland Park 30y.
Campbeltown Loch 30y, 40% abv
is the 30y variant of the range of blended
whiskies from J&A Mitchell, owners of Springbank and Glengyle
begins with slightly sweet nuts and creamy furniture
polish before something slightly metallic and perfumed appears.
has creamy malt and butterscotch which are followed by a slight
leafiness leading into the finish which is medium
to long with mild fruit; Papaya, apricot and peach are
Strathisla, 30y, 43% abv: The nose
initially has well-aged
oak with a dash of fine perfume behind the ears. The floral
and perfumed elements intensify steadily over some minutes. Also
after some minutes there's
a quick burst of what can only be described as perfumed baby
vomit, but as I say, this disappears as quickly as it arrived
and left me with a well polished, aged oak dining table.
smooth and slightly dry with a hint of oil of orange, figs and
raisins. An intense oakiness builds but is quite dry, suggesting
a dry fino sherry which leads into the
quite long, but dry
Highland Park, (OB)
30y, 48.1% abv: The nose
with aged oak, bracken, polish and tanned leather. After a
minute or two a slightly herbal-floral attribute appears and
then expands into what I can only describe as oak flavoured ice
cream with a topping of wax furniture polish.
with smooth nuts, marzipan and butterscotch
which all charge
immediately onto the palate, then fade gently to leave oak,
walnut and a slightly dry sherry
which continue into the long finish.
I've been looking
forward to this little trio
some time now and, although they turned out not to be totally
earth-shattering examples, they are all very pleasant
indeed and well worth the experience.
Campbeltown Loch is smooth and inoffensive, but sadly
what I can only suggest is a little "je ne sais quoi".
is pretty rich with a nice balance between between the oak
and some very pleasant floral nuances, but right in the middle
of the experience comes that fleeting perfumed baby vomit, but
like the real thing, it's short and doesn't stick around too
The pick of the
bunch is certainly the Highland Park 30y, it has all that
rugged Scottish outdoors I have come to associate with HP (the
whisky, not the sauce!), but it still isn't quite the superstar
or "great" that I would have liked from a bottle in this price
Anyway, there you have it, all three are good whiskies, the
Highland Park the star in this case and I even have half my
samples left to savour once again tonight, or when I once again
join the ranks of the 'working class' next week!
This is the year, this is
is not lost afterall"
things looking up for 2011? I guess the changing of the year
is a time when many wish for something better in the coming year.
I was no exception this year, or should that be last year? In
wishing for a better 2011.
two years of being unemployed following the demise of my
business, two years of being told "you're not allowed to
apply for this job because you don't have relevant (German)
qualifications, even though you've previously done the job for
the last 20 years".
welcome to the 'real' Germany, a land of paper, certificates
and qualifications versus skill, expertise and experience.
Anyway, I tried yet more job applications in the lead-up to
Christmas and yesterday, I finally received my formal job offer
and contract to sign. Yes, I have a few questions for them on
Monday, but it looks like I will be starting a job and whole new
career in a mere 9 days time from now.
things looking up for 2011? Will a whole new career "take off"
for me? I certainly hope so after two years of misery.
luck to you for a better 2011 too.
That was the year, that was
"Maniacal Malticious Musings"
Just before Christmas I was enjoying a
celebratory dram or three with my old friend Oliver Klimek of
Dramming.com and as often happens
after a few Drams and when the night draws in, we set about
putting the world, or at least whisky world, to rights.
Of course the conversation soon involved
something of a look back at the year and our thoughts as to what
was either memorable or eminently forgettable and as far as my
memory serves; our discussion went something like this:
Oliver: Let's first talk
about our top whiskies in 2010. I tasted so many excellent
drams last year that it's not easy to pick a favourite. But I
have to say that most of my top picks were earlier bottlings.
From the new releases of 2010 I really liked the
Glenglassaugh 21 yo (Batch 2).
Another great Batch 2 was the
2010 Laphroaig Cask Strength
release. Even though it couldn't quite match the 2009 version
it's still pretty damn good. And I found the
Ardbeg Rollercoaster to be
particularly good. I've read numerous reviews that placed it
behind last year's Corryvreckan, but I beg to disagree.
But I happen to have a
Port Ellen from Old Bothwell (1982/2010, cask #2039)
in my bag that manages to beat all of those excellent drams with
ease. May I offer you a dram?
Thanks Oliver, I personally tasted
three excellent Islays in
Ardbeg Supernova 2010,
Octomore ‘Orpheus’ and the Laphroaig
2010 Feis Ile Cairdeas which for me was better than the CS
second batch, which I just happen to have here. In fact these
are all worthy of mentions as was that
Ardbeg Rollercoaster, although I did
Corryvreckan and the
Supernova. Otherwise I was very
pleasantly surprised by a single cask
Ben Nevis 25y which was a seriously
good dram; however, the two totally outstanding offerings were a
38y Glen Grant from Whisky Doris and
Port Ellen which you just poured for
me. In fact, this Port Ellen is truly magnificent and I would
say just pips the Glen Grant as not only my favourite whisky of
2010, but it even edges into my all-time top 10 list. So, this
Old Bothwell, single cask 2039, 1982, 28y Port Ellen is my
choice for 2010. Slŕinte and is there perhaps a wee
drop more in that bottle for me?
Now, I reckon this Port Ellen is still
my No.1 of 2010, but if I could be permitted to select
something not necessarily released in 2010, I would have to
consider Jack Wieber’s 34y Old Train Line
Banff from 1974, David Stirk’s
34y Inchgower, also from 1974,
Convalmore from 1977 and last but not
34y Ladyburn (Rare Ayrshire) from 1975.
All of these are magnificent whiskies and well worthy of
accolade. What about your own thoughts here Oliver?
I already mentioned
that most of my favourites of 2010 were earlier bottlings. Only
that Port Ellen manages to match those. I would like to mention
single grain from Duncan Taylor, the
Dallas Dhu 1975/2005
again from Duncan Taylor, the 2006 release of the
and also the
2009 Geore T. Stagg,
a magnificent bourbon. But my overall winner of 2010 was the
Karuizawa 1985/2009 Cask #7017,
a sherry monster of the highest quality.
You know, it's
always nice to look back at the highlights of a year. But
what about the Dark Side? I've tasted quite a few utterly
mediocre drams and noted some rather upsetting trends in the
whisky industry that I think should not go unnoticed.
Let's start with my least
favourite drams. The overall loser was without a doubt that
Loch Dhu that you were kind
enough to dispose of by letting me taste the remaining 90% of
your sample. Runner-up is not a whisky in the Scotch sense but
worth a mention anyway: The herb-infused
Mekhong Whisky from Thailand
that I had tried at a Thai restaurant. I also recall the
Tamnavulin 12 yo to be a
memorable dud, and I was quite disappointed with the
Arran 100 Proof as well.
The last whisky
I would like to mention in this respect leads to my gripes about
the whisky industry. 2010 saw a repackaging of the Irish
blend that went along with a significant and well-noticeable
drop in malt content. This used to be an excellent budget blend
but now it's become just one of many. I also was quite unhappy
with Diageo's Manager's Choice series. Not because they released
bad whisky but they priced those single cask bottlings way
beyond anything I would call acceptable. They must have had a
massive budget going into marketing this range, and obviously
this has to be paid for.
But the Golden Bung
Cloth 2010 goes to The Macallan, who with the marketing for
their fancy brass
ice ball maker
managed to negate what has been taught to us by whisky experts
for decades: ”The ultimate way to enjoy the ultimate whisky”
which translates into “Any Macallan is better than any other
whisky and it tastes best at temperatures near freezing”.
Ah yes, that Macallan Ice ball
was a pretty strange idea to me too, but my own thoughts are
drawn to the less-noteworthy whiskies I tried. These include the
Caol Ila Zinfandel finish here
on the table tonight, that particular wine finish just doesn’t
work with the Caol Ila, in fact I wouldn’t have believed a Caol
Ila like this could be so dominated by the Zinfandel. 2010 Was
also the year I tried
Drumguish and a rather insipid
Tamnavulin OB 12y, a sample of
which I gave you and which I see impressed you equally. Then
there was Snow Grouse which was equally bad at room temperature
or chilled, but none of these come anywhere near to the now
Loch Dh-Ugly which is the only
whisky I have ever considered worthy of a score in single
figures and which I gave away to some poor unsuspecting chap
I know. Oh yes, sorry Oliver, do forgive me for subjecting
you to that one too!
Let’s get back to
some highlights as 2010 has been rather special for me when
it comes to my whisky experiences. My website has gained in
popularity and I have become much more aware of what others are
doing, so I’m now wondering; if I could honour or award someone
with recognition for their contribution as a whisky insider,
commentator, blogger or just “all round good guy”, what would my
From a trade point of view I
have been impressed by David Stirk, a small independent bottler
with some excellent offerings, but then Whisky Doris comes up
with the goods too, just look at that Glen Grant! Last year I
also came across a previously unknown IB called Artworks who use
the “Art of Whisky” label, excellent again. I have also been
impressed with various bloggers and commentators, but for me and
closer to home, I would have to nominate a Munich bar, in fact
the one we frequent occasionally when we feel a joint need for a
serious whisky and a chat. Ede stocks some astonishing whiskies
and creates an excellent ambience for an evening of quality
dramming, in fact he’s responsible for introducing me to “Artworks”,
that Glen Grant and various other gems, so congratulations
Irish Folk Pub is the best!
I have to say that
I pretty much agree with your thoughts here, Keith. The
whisky scene on the internet has become very diversified with
blogs and forums but also on Twitter and Facebook. I have got to
know so many interesting people that I can't possibly pick just
a handful for a special mention. I too have noticed great work
done by some of those small “armchair bottlers” as they have
been called somewhat disrespectfully. To the ones you mentionend
let me add Old Bothwell who seem to have an excellent supply of
Port Ellen. I should also point out that industry trends in 2010
were not entirely negative. We have seen an increased number of
uncoloured and un-chillfiltered bottlings, and the most
promising (and surprising) news for me was the courageous move
by Burn Stewart to overhaul all their single malt ranges
(Bunnahabhain, Deanston and Tobermory/Ledaig) in this fashion.
But I am fully in
line with you nominating Eddie's Irish Folk Pub as best
personal whisky experience of the year. We have met there
several times now, and his selection of drams and the atmosphere
are just perfect.
2010 was also a
pretty successful year for my blog. I don't want to be a
narcissist and give an award to myself. But since the revamp of
my old Whisky Rating on the new domain dramming.com things have
been developing very positively. I was flattered to get a
mention as one of the six new websites to watch in the last Malt
Whisky Yearbook. But the greatest honour arrived right in
time for Christmas: being accepted to join the Malt Maniacs
together with you! What are your personal highlights, Keith?
Oliver, as I
mentioned previously, I have seen many great blogs and
websites in 2010, your own Dramming included and one highlight
for me has to have been getting involved with “The Whisky Round
Table”, I also reached a major personal milestone with 500
online tasting notes, but without question the highlight of
my year too was to be invited to become a Malt Maniac, an honour
of which I’m very proud as I look forward to joining in
discussions with this great team.
Thanks Oliver and here’s to a great 2011.
© Copyright 2009-2010 by Keith Wood - All rights reserved - Whisky-Emporium