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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
some choice choices"
At the recent Munich whisky (& bar)
festival I had the pleasure to meet Andy McNeill on his
Coopers Choice stand, or rather in the middle of the aisle as
he wandered around chatting to as many visitors as he was able.
It was still early doors and the queue for the cloakroom was
rather long so instead of waiting to lose my duffel coat I chose
to keep it on for a while until the queues subsided. Seeing me
in my long brown duffel coat, Andy's opening remark was along
the lines of "I'm sure I know this man, you're a monk aren't you?"
Andy, nice to meet you too and you win my award for most
original greeting on the day!
your whisky any good?
have come across the Coopers Choice range before and if my
memory serves me correct they are usually decent enough malts at
budget prices, but I now see new packaging, or at least new to
me and some promising distillery names in the line-up, so I
chose to bring away a selection of samples for review in the
comfort of my wee whisky den.
addition, I also recently received three samples from Master
of Malt and, believe it or not, one was an Auchentoshan from the
Coopers Choice range, so I now present to you five different
whiskies from this range; A 1998 Glenlivet (sherry cask!), 1982
Glen Mhor, 1982 18y Longmorn, Auchentoshan 1991 & Bowmore 1990
18y (also sherry cask!).
Glenlivet 1998-2010 11y 46% Now here's
a surpirse; A Glenlivet sherry cask with a dark, almost teak
colour. The nose shouts sherry too with raisins, currants,
leather, aged oak and then even a suggestion of lightly toasted
apricot and berries. These fruity notes come right through on
the palate too, with the apricot quite prominent alongside peach
and berries, but all marinated in an oak bath of sherry,
marzipan and nuts.
different, but most enjoyable Glenlivet!
Glen Mhor 1982-2009 27y 46%
I'm greeted here by a nose of dried wood, hay, straw and grasses,
all of which have been left out in the mid-day sunshine. After
some minutes some stronger herbal notes develop, expanding
further into sweet candy floss. The palate offers a creamy
mouth-feel with hay, aromatic and floral grasses and even a
little black pepper. The grasses fade and the floral elements
grow as it heads into the finish.
and quite drinkable Glen Mhor.
1992-2010 18y 46% Richly armoatic
hay with creamy toffee make for a very interesting and pleasing
nose. On the palate the hay and grasses lead to red peppercorns,
toffee, freshly-cut damp wood and a suggestion of vanilla. The
finish is long and slightly dry.
quite a lot happening in this Longmorn which deserves a little
more of your time. It's a fine dram too.
Auchentoshan 1991 46%
The first surprise here was the extremely faint colour, but yet
a very powerful nose with perfumed hay and grasses partnering
something quite citrus (lemon) and a touch of fresh wood. The
palate is also fresh with lemon alongside the hay making it
quite sharp and a little bitter.
was a little disappointed with this one, but that's more down to
my taste preferences than the whisky itself.
1990-2009 19y sherry cask 46% Now
here's a rich dram; lots of aged oak and rugged leather (think
hiking boots!) on the nose which opens after some minutes to
include slightly smoky sweet honey. All of these elements
translate perfectly onto the palate which also develops a little
it about these 19y sherry-cask Bowmores that makes them so good,
I really like this whisky!
really sure what I expected from this selection of Coopers
but what I found was a selection of good whiskies interspersed
with a couple of magnificent ones. The Glenlivet and the Bowmore
are certainly the stars of this line-up for me. Does this mean I
have a preference for sherry-cask whiskies? Not usually,
although I do like good ones and these two certainly qualify!
Longmorn too was most enjoyable, but perhaps because I have
had the pleasure of some truly magnificent Glen Mhors, maybe I
expected too much from this particular one and was just slightly
the Auchentoshan was not to my personal taste, but it would
certainly make an excellent summer dram for those who enjoy
slightly grassy, citrus and fresh whiskies.
Overall I have been quite impressed with my exposure to
Cooper's Choice and will certainly watch out for them again,
especially if I can find bottles of the Bowmore, Glenlivet and
Mhath Andy and thanks for all the choices!
Going blind with samples
Dave Stirk Five"
Stirk is a fellow Tyke
(read Yorkshireman if you don't understand Tyke) and in his case,
the founder and owner of The Creative Whisky Company whose
ranges of single malts all include the word "Exclusive" as in
Exclusive Malts, Exclusive Casks and Exclusive Range.
Inchgower 34y 1974 was a
delight and one of the best drams I tried in late 2009 - early
2010, then the
WWW forum Tamdhu 26y was
another fine whisky from his stable, so when he contacted me and
asked if I fancied trying a little blind experiment with some of
his samples I was "Reelin' and Rockin'" and "Glad
all over" whilst waiting for them to "come home" to
Arrive they did; five sample
bottles with nothing on the labels other than being
hand-numbered 1 to 5, no clues as to their identities in a
"Catch Guess us if you can" kind of way.
Sample No.1: Glass; Classic Malt, Colour; Pale
yellow )9ct) gold, Nose; Sweet, aromatic and quite floral
with vanilla (ice cream) and some hints of butterscotch. It's
also quite fresh and surprisingly also offers just a dash of
slightly smoky oak. Palate: Very smooth and creamy with
vanilla alongside some tropical fruits which immediately makes
me think of papaya flavoured ice cream! With 4 drops of water;
there's more oak on the nose whereas the palate now has more
fruit, some more of that oak and a little black pepper to spice
it up. Finish; Very long and with a little pepper when
the water is added. Overall Impression; "You must have
been a beautiful baby"
Sample No.2: Glass; Classic Malt, Colour;
Extremely pale straw, Nose; Cherry schnapps, smoke, wood
and a goold old dose of Atlantic sea-air. Palate: Lots of
fruit alongside that wood and smoke and now also joined by light
peat. Finish; Long and sweet with fruity peat. Overall
Impression; "I knew it all the time"!
Sample No.3: Glass; Classic Malt, Colour;
Treacle toffee, almost teak, Nose; Oak, dark fruits (plums,
raisins, currants & figs) and a hint of toasted vanilla.
Palate: Very rich and creamy oak, those dark fruits and an
element of dark (90% plus) chocolate. With 4 drops of water;
More wood on the nose and a slightly sweeter palate with
enhanced fruit a now some nuts too. Finish; Very long
with nicely aged oak and fruit, even longer with the water.
Overall Impression; "You got what it takes"!
Sample No.4: Glass; Classic Malt, Colour; Very
pale straw, Nose; Faint green apples with just a hint of
iodine. Also something resembling car polish applied in direct
sunlight on a hot summer day. Palate: Creamy mouth-feel
with green apples and a suggestion of freshly-sawn light wood.
It's not exactly bitter, but far from being sweet. With 4
drops of water; A slightly fainter nose, but the palate has
more fruit and a hint of pepper. It's also now slightly maritime
in character. Finish; Long Overall Impression; "Satisfied
Sample No.5: Glass; Classic Malt, Colour;
Light yellow (9ct) gold, Nose; Lots of aromatic and
floral fruit (berries) followed by creamy toffee and vanilla.
Palate: Oaky vanilla with green peppercorn, slightly herbal
and almost leafy. With 4 drops of water; Slightly more
toffee, or even butterscotch, on the nose whilst the palate is
much drier and more leafy. Finish; Very long with some
green apples. Overall Impression; "Here comes summer"
firstly many thanks for these samples and this impossible
challenge, even though "I like it like that" how can I begin to
guess what these are?
enjoyed all five, but sample No.1 was my favourite
which I would call 'easy drinking' with delightful light
flavours, lots of fruit and just a hint of smoky wood. In some
ways it reminds me of a Caperdonich or Coleburn, but not quite.
It also has some of the attributes of Imperial or even Linkwood,
but to tie it down exactly is not an easy task here. If you are
interested in scores, then I would consider a good '86'.
slightly behind and in a close 2nd place is sample No.3;
Dark and fruity with aged oak and still a good dose of vanilla
alongside some dark chocolate, this is also a very enjoyable
whisky. With a whisky like this as an IB, one's mind often turns
to Glenfarclas, but I doubt this is one. Nor does it really have
enough smoke or peat to be a Bowmore. In some ways I'm reminded
of Glen Keith and Glencadam, but again not quite. Points?
Sample No.4; Light and fruity with a hint of a Summer Sunday
polishing the car. This is light and creamy with plenty of apple
and a touch of iodine, making me think of an unpeated Islay
whilst retaining some maritime character. But I guess I'm on the
wrong island here and more like mainland? Anyway, 83 points from
me for a thoroughly enjoyable dram.
Whilst mentioning Islay, let's come to sample No.2 which
from the first moment I saw the bottle, something whispered "Islay"
in my shell-like. It's light but still rather peaty with oddles
of fruit. In fact this really reminds me of Kilchoman but I
doubt they are releasing casks to IBs as yet? Another 83 points
here from me.
Finally sample No.5; again lots of fruit (berries) and quite
floral and aromtaic too, but all slightly faint or subdued as
this one is rather shy and perhaps a little reserved. A few
drops of water increase the toffee and butterscotch elements and
it also suggests Autumn in its leafiness, which I usually
associate with a Jura, but this has a little too much flora for
Jura. In some ways it almost reminds me of a Glenkinchie with
that leafiness, but it doesn't have the citrus of a typical
Glenkinchie. Anyway, no matter what it is, it gets a good 80
points from me.
were they? (in order of my preference)
surprise for me is that No.1 was a Tobermory. Almost no peat
and with only a hint of smoky wood but lots of light fruit and
floral complexity, this is a truly excellent Tobermory and
unlike any others I've tried.
Is David's "Isle of Islay" and is dark and rich with lots of
sherry cask character, but hardly any typically 'Islay' peat or
smoke. It's an excellent cask with no hints of sulphur or other
impurities. Could this possibly be a Bunnahabhain?
my fruity summer Sunday is an Ardmore? I don't usually
associate Ardmore with 'maritime' but that typical fruitiness
and complexity is certainly there.
Sample No.2 couldn't be anything other than Islay, as I
mentioned, but such a fruity Laphroaig? Nice!
Finally a 27y Aberfeldy? Well, this is another surprise
especially as it's quite subdued for such an age, but still very
again David my many thanks for some fine whiskies but also for
some true surprises!
cute little bottles"
I guess one privilege of running a
quite popular whisky website with this Dram-atics blog-esque
page is the fact that people do read it and not just consumers,
but it seems I have a reasonable 'industry' following too, if
some of the mails I receive are anything to judge by.
my dearth of samples in January and February my desk is now
brimming, mostly due to the Munich whisky & bar festival which I
recently attended and brought away a plethora of goodies which
will be tasted and included in the site over the next weeks. But,
in addition I have a fine selection of others, some swapped with
fellow whisky enthusiasts and a few which arrived in the post
thanks to distilleries, an Independent Bottler and in the case
of today's article; an online shop.
often use Master of Malt to buy samples which I fancy
tasting, but this time they sent me a wee parcel of three
samples that they "thought I would like to try", namely an
Auchentoshan from Cooper's Choice, Ian MacLeod's
8y Highland single malt and finally, their own 8y blended whisky,
all in those cute little 3cl bottles.
mentioned I attended the recent Munich festival and from
that event I brought away a few other Cooper's Choice offerings
from their rather well-stocked stand, so this Auchentoshan will
be held back to join my Cooper's Choice jamboree
planned for Dram-atics later this month.
leaves two; Ian MacLeod 8y Highland single malt and Master of
Malt's own 8y blend for today.
first came across Ian MacLeod's bottlings many years ago on
a visit to the Isle of Skye when I discovered the delights of
his "Isle of Skye" bottlings. He has expanded since those days
and now offers more choice and ranges, but is this one any
MacLeod 8y Highland single malt
first strikes me by the nose, it's extremely aromatic and floral
with a suggestion of my favourite childhood olde worlde sweet
shoppe and oodles of buttersctoch. This continues onto the
palate in a very creamy and smooth way whilst offering floral
light wood and faint creamy toffee. White peppercorns lead the
way into the long finish.
really is a delightful dram which I hope to revisit with a full
Master of Malt 8y blended whisky Rich
and dark in colour this offers a nose of aromatic rich oak,
cloves, a hint of lavendar and after some minutes; soft Italian
leather. The palate is creamy whilst having a slightly watery
mouth-feel but still offers hints of figs and currants with a
suggestion of marzipan and dark cherries. However, these
flavours are all slightly subdued as none seem to wish to burst
to the fore as they remain quite shy. My thought
here is that 43% or 46% rather than the actual 40% would greatly
conquer this shyness and create a much bolder dram.
March 2nd 2011
Memory and the Middle Cut
through the Worm
recall that back in November last year
a journey to the end of The Scotverse
as I was invited to attend a trip to three of Inver House's
distilleries; Old Pulteney, Balblair & Knockdhu. I don't intend
to recap that journey again here, but I would like to expand on
some discussions I enjoyed during the trip, specifically with a
young chap called James who is not only a highly intelligent
student, but also seems to posess that typical student trait or
desire for self-punishment as he had recently completed a
marathon, nay Herculean, bicycle trip across the length and
breadth of Scotland. James had decided to use his trusty old
steed of a bicycle to visit 42 Scottish distilleries with
visitor centres spread across 1,400 miles of Scottish
platform to recount his journey and more recently his
thoughts on Scotland and its national drink, James is the owner
and author of the very well written
Scotch Odyssey blog which, I
assure you, is well worth a read!
Anyway, I digress so let's get back on track, not on
bicycles this time, but in a crew bus with a host of
super-bloggers on a journey from Wick, down through Speyside and
ending very late one night in Edinburgh. Of course on such a
journey the topics of conversation are many and varied,
especially after the Lagavulin 12y begins to flow (thanks again
Mark!), but perhaps the conversations I remember most vividly (which
is nothing to do with the Lagavulin 12y) are some that James and
I held whilst discussing whisky tasting notes and the ability of
aromas to provoke long-forgotten memories of times and places.
In fact this topic alone reminded me of an article I read some
time ago on the connection between our olfactory senses and the
part of the brain associated with memory.
you are a follower of my tasting notes you will know that I
often reflect on this phenomenon as whisky aromas often return
long-forgotten memories immediately to the fore. My first
experience of this was whilst nosing a
Jack Wieber Caol Ila and I was
summarily returned to a cold and damp day in the Yorkshire Dales
some 30 years previously. You will also see from my
notes page that I swear there is an Islay jetty inside every
bottle of Ardbeg, Caol Ila and Laphroaig. This is thanks to
those peaty aromas mingling with ones of wood, sea-air, surf and
that je ne sais
quoi which is Islay personnified. Likewise,
Highland Park takes me away into the wild Scottish countryside
with heather, bracken, hints of smoke and the great outdoors,
reminding me of many walks across Bens and Glens. Finally,
people often talk about 'Christmas drams' and I also have my own
Glenfarclas Quarter Casks (1987) which was truly
surprising as it offered an amazing array of aromas when the
bottle was first opened. These included leather, aged oak and
musty books, but after the bottle had been opened a couple of
days these were replaced by sherry and dark fruits like plums,
currants, raisins and figs. This overall experience immediately
transported me to an Olde English country house on Christmas day,
just after lunch when I might be relaxing in my favourite
deep-buttoned leather chair, surrounded by old first editions
lining oak shelves and with a glass of sherry or port in my
hand. This, for me is the magic of malt whisky!
topic and approach to writing tasting notes interested James
as he recounted similar experiences during his bicycle tour, so
much so that we have decided to look at this topic further in
the form of a joint article on our blog pages, but let me hand
you over to James for now: (Whose own version of this
may be found here)
hardly essential in all matters, with certain phenomena it
is satisfying when science can confirm what you long
suspected.‘[O]lfaction,’ Messrs Rubin, Groth and Goldsmith
stated in their 1984 study concerned with the relationship
between how our separate senses cue contrasting categories of
memory, ‘is somehow different from more commonly studied senses
of vision and audition.’
This, I feel
certain, will hardly astonish my whiskyphile readers. Who
among us has not perceived the heightened degree of intimacy
tied to an evening of enraptured dram-snuffling? Whiskies impel
us, quite irresistibly, to personal meditation and every so
often the consequences can be quite revelatory. If this weren’t
the case, if whisky in the glass were no more loaded with subtle
powers of suggestion than whisky on the page or screen, we would
all be content to limit our encounters to reading tasting notes
or watching Ralfy bounce enthusiastically around Scotland on
As human beings
we are programmed to pay close attention to these most
immediate and invasive of sensory cues. Aroma and taste, as
though armed with a search warrant, can pluck the deepest and
murkiest echoes of our lives from their obscurity for its own
arcane ends. Like connecting the blood-stained cleaver under the
sink to the grisly murder perpetrated the previous day, our
brains forge an indissoluble and significant link between
stimulus and past experience. Though no longer of quite the same
evolutionary necessity, this ancient mechanism is still most
definitely switched on. The study found that an odour cue was
more likely to retrieve a unique and well-preserved recollection
than other forms of cue: ‘previously inaccessible memories’ were
recalled for the test subjects as a result of nosing a selection
of aromas, memories that had never been consciously contemplated
or discussed prior to their unveiling during the experiment. In
addition, though not conclusively proven, these rarer memories
were for some rated as more pleasant than those conjured up by
images and words.
Allow Keith and I to describe how whiskies have rifled through
our personal mental photo albums and why, non-scientifically but
all the better for it, we found it to be such a breath-taking
I should say
that only rarely – thus far – has a malt recalled its
distillery, a function I had hoped my experiences on the Odyssey
would enable more consistently. Often my jogs of memory derive
from the most innocuous and randomised assortment of landscapes
and circumstances, though whisky is never too far away from the
original recollection in one of its many forms. One example is a
tasting of Ardbeg 10-year-old in late 2008, and the ensuing
reawakening of an open-air encounter I had nearly a year
previously at the Torranbuie Cottage near Strathdon in wild,
wooded Aberdeenshire. In the process a meaningful connection was
made between two largely unremarkable moments: one from my
innocent life before Whisky and the other what had been twenty
minutes spent just analysing another dram. In the former I was
walking to the porch, a late October afternoon rapidly
freshening, and I became cloaked in the smoke from our
neighbour’s log-burner which had pooled in the space between the
two houses beneath the pine trees. As the Islay malt slid down
my throat and the finish developed, the same quality of wood
smoke wafted about my palate. A Northumbrian summer melted from
my physical sight as I was transported back to the last days of
my single malt Dark Age. Soon afterwards on that holiday, I
would stumble across The Glenlivet distillery, my state of
sensory obliviousness enlightened irreversibly.
for that James, I've already mentioned
my own first
experience of this phenomenon, but let me add another, more
recent one which took me totally by surprise; The whisky was an
Port Ellen called Old Bothwell which my dear friend
and fellow Maniac Oliver Klimek brought to the table in December
last year. This had a very maritime character but with only
extremely faint peat, more akin to "the great outdoors" with
fresh, sea-air in abundance. For some reason I was immediately
transported back to some childhood days out at the coastal
resort of Scarborough during the school holidays. It was a
special treat for me when my Mother would take me to one of the
local coastal resorts for the day on the train. Scarborough was
special because at that time it was far from being a tourist
trap and had a great promenade along the sea front from the new
to the older part of town, under the watchful eye of the castle.
Anyway, the countryside and maritime character of the Port Ellen
immediately evoked those childhood days out from more than 40
For me, this is
one of the truly unique powers,
perhaps what some would call mysteries of Scotch malt whisky and
although these are purely personal recollections, I will
continue to write about them when they occur in the hope that
others will also be encouraged to 'open their minds' and let
their imaginations enjoy the mysteries of single malts.
word from yourself in conclusion James?
So startling in their clarity and
so unexpected in their manifestation, these treasured pieces of
footage from the past are, thanks to whisky’s inherent
personality, individuality and mysterious profundity, brought to
life again on occasion. More than mere echoes, for the duration
of one sniff or sip you are possessed by the past. That being
said, one cannot omit a reckoning of the intervening time and
space, and this renders them subtly different: a new interaction
and dialogue begun. Yes, for me there is whimsy and pathos as
I come face-to-face with a pulse of my life which I hadn’t
appreciated at the time, but there is mostly wonderment at the
depths of our own personal histories, and how whisky can
navigate them with such inspiring sympathy.
to one word only to describe his career into whisky so far,
'precocious' might get the nod. A mere thirty months following
his first fully-conscious sip of Scotch malt whisky at The
Glenlivet Distillery, Speyside, James Saxon embarked on a
very nearly complete tour of Scotland's distillery visitor
centres and the whisky-making paraphernalia attached to
Enthralled by every aspect of malt whisky's creation, location,
history and unique personality, it was the only logical course. 1,400
miles and forty-two distilleries later, James's fanaticism has
not wavered and he can be found irritating his fellow members at
the St Andrews University Quaich Society at their twice-monthly
tastings which, together with as much whisky tourism-related
information as he can get his hands on, is recorded on the
Scotch Odyssey Blog.
March 2nd 2011
Masters of Photography & cocktails
some Nikon equipment too"
recently received a mail from Macallan asking if I would be
willing to be one of the 10
bloggers world-wide who are being
invited to partake in this wee feature.
am rather a purist at heart and prefer my whisky to taste like
whisky and not be some integral part in a cocktail, in fact I
was never really a big cocktail drinker even in my wilder
halcyon days, although I do admit to enjoying an odd Long Island
Iced Tea on my rare visits to the great Metropolis some years
I am a big fan of photographic art and that certainly helped
sway my decision, plus the fact that the cocktail I have been
assigned was designed by a twitter 'friend' called "The
hell am I talking about? Well, these
bloggers have each been
assigned a picture from Albert Watson's collection depicting the
journey of Macallan casks from Spain to their distillery in
Speyside. In addition, The Intoxicologist has created two
cocktails alongside the competition which people should make
themselves and try before voting for their preferred one.
Thirdly, you can enter your own photo depicting a great journey
and if you're lucky, win a trip to Scotland or some Nikon
photographic equipment, which can't be at all bad!
hand over to the Macallan press release for details of the
competition and how you can win:
Masters of Photography
The Macallan Negroni
created this special cocktail to celebrate
The Macallan’s Masters of Photography
competition. This is a modern twist on the classic Negroni
proving that this cocktail, just like this precious whisky, can
stand the test of time.
The Macallan’s Masters of
Photography is now in its second year. The exciting new addition
this year is, that you can now take part!
portrays the journey of the exceptional wood from Spain to
the distillery in Speyside.
You too can share your portrait of a great journey here
to be in with a chance of winning
the ultimate trip to Scotland or Nikon camera equipment and to
be judged by the master himself.
The Macallan Negroni:
1 ounce The Macallan 12
1 ounce Port
1/2 ounce Artichoke Liqueur
3 Dashes Peach Bitters
Orange Zest Twist
Combine liquids in a mixing glass
with ice. Stir or shake to chill according to preference. Strain
into rocks glass over fresh ice. Garnish with fresh orange zest
2009-2011 by Keith Wood - All rights reserved - Whisky-Emporium