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A Happy New Year

or "same procedure as every year"


Please allow me a little private pontification as 2012 gently eases into recent memory and the bud that is 2013 promises to flower with hopes of even more highlights. There's no denying that 2012 was a great year for me as after wallowing in the self-pity and denial of unemployment (and insolvency), things suddenly started to improve as my job changed slightly for the better and I actually started living again. OK, so things are still very tight as I continue to pay my dues, but touch wood, 2013 will continue in an upwards and forwards direction.

But what about whisky? Well, January 2013 sees my second anniversary as a certified Maniac, although some say I should have been certified long ago and, earlier in the year I was delighted to be able to join the largest real-life gathering of Malt Maniacs in their fifteen year history as more than 20 of our like-minded group gathered in Scotland to celebrate the next fifteen years and look back at the last fifteen. This was certainly the whisky highlight of the year for me as I finally met the majority of The Maniacs and had unlimited opportunity over the course of a few days to discuss our mutual mania. My thanks here also extend to Diageo who kindly provided the perfect setting for our meeting and even opened corporate doors which are usually kept firmly closed.


Speaking of whisky; this year's MMA (Malt Maniacs Awards) was astoundingly successful with a depth of quality rarely sampled together. This was borne out by the results which provided 12 gold medals compared to the eight of 2011. I'll not go into full details again here as our MM website has full details of the awards, medals and full judges' scorecard.

Somehow my participation in MMA 2012 had a quite unusual effect in that after sampling all the entries and many more than once in order to finalise my personal scores, I began to queston my inner feelings for whisky. Throughout December my senses turned away from this marvellous hobby and moved more towards my love of classical music and spending more of my free time with my wife. Needless to say this time also meant my updates to this website were very few and far between. I have managed to get my reviews online for all twelve gold medal winners, but as yet that's all and during my navel searching I even considered closing it down or leaving it to wallow in a state of no further updates, such was my apathy for a few weeks.

Fortunately my apathy has passed and as 2013 blossoms I'm already planning some quite Maniacal features in the not too distant future and yes, when I say Maniacal I'm talking serious head to heads for which I hope to be joined by another Maniac or two, but if not then it could be "Whisky for One" and "Same procedure as every year, Miss Sophie"

Slàinte Mhath and a happy and healthy 2013 to all my readers.







or "There's gold in them thar Drams"


Could this be the start of the Bavarian Gold Rush of 2013? I certainly hope not as I couldn't really deal with hordes of prospective tasters, Glencairns in hand, blocking this tiny street in the backwaters of Erding, all hoping to gleem a few drops of what seems to have become liquid gold.

No seriously, I've often said it's a special occasion when my good Dramming friend and fellow madman Oliver Klimek calls in for an evening of whiskymania and yesterday was certainly no exception. A few weeks ago we were discussing what I can only describe as The Glendronach Effect on the Malt Maniacs Awards when I had the crazy idea to pit them against each other and see if there could be one overall winner amongst a line-up of award winners and gold medallists, but just for fun let's add a couple of curve balls too.

I now present to you "Glen-DROOL-nach" an evening of sherry, eight drams including two MMA Supreme Champions and five gold medals all competing in three head-to-heads and in search of a single golden nugget, let's see how it pans out shall we?



Not bad for starters


1996 15y Cask 233

1994 17y Cask 107



The evening started with two Oloroso Sherry Cask offerings, both in their teens, distilled just two years apart and bottled in 2011. When I first tried these (blind) for MMA 2011 I found the nose of the 15y Cask 233 to have a light rubberiness, perhaps even hints of fishing harbour alongside the rich dark fruitiness of heavily sherried nuts, raisins & figs. This seems to have changed somewhat with time in my refilled sample bottle as the rubberiness is gone and replaced by a distinct BBQ suggestion, lots of furniture polish and something not quite coffee, nor quite chocolate, but along those lines. The palate still has some woodiness, perhaps a little more now and that almost-coffee on the nose is very much distinct coffee-ness on the palate, although at the same time it really is quite dry.

The 17y Cask 107 originally offered lots of rich wax polish, currants and almond (marzipan) on the nose and this too has changed with time. It now offers a massive initial burst of coffee and leather followed after some minutes in the glass by a lightly floral but rich fruitiness. Very nice indeed. The palate appears to have gained a quite distinctive floral woodiness alongside the original dark fruitiness. It's also dry but not as dry as the 15y.

For MMA 2011 I had the 17y Cask 107 as a clear two point winner, but although I still prefer cask 107, it's a much closer contest with its lead reduced to just a single point.




Let's get serious

Two MMA Supreme Champions

Two Gold Medals

Two sister casks

1972 39y Cask 712

1972 40y Cask 713



Take two (Oloroso Butt) sister casks, fill them with new spirit in 1972 then let them rest in a Scottish warehouse for around four decades. Fill one in 2011 at the age of 39 years and enter it into MMA 2011. Fill the second a year later in 2012 at a ripe old 40 years and enter it into MMA 2012 and if that new spirit is from Glendronach distillery, one would appear to have an almost certain recipe for alchemy. In this case, not only gold but also two supreme champions, but can these sisters be separated? Can we find a single champion?

Cask 712, 39y, bottled 2011 was, in my opinion a herbal delight offering a lightly smoked woodiness, black cherries, amaretto and antique leather. Today this exudes coffee, chocolate and faint tobacco alongside a slightly lesser suggestion of that dark fruitiness. The palate is rich, full bodied and mouth-coating.

Cask 713, 40y, bottled 2012 remains intensely herbal and fruity (black cherries, figs, dates) but also seems to fade or lighten quite quickly. The herbal fruitiness sits alongside some woodiness on the palate which leads into a long, intense and lightly peppery finish.

Is it really fair to try to separate these two champions? They are both truly excellent whiskies and worthy award winners, but yes, Oliver and I are on a mission tonight and although we both agree on the winner, we slightly disagree (as usual) on the actual scores. We agree that Cask 712 is the clear winner, by three points for me but Oliver has an extra point or two between them.






Three more gold medals but this time from PX sherry Puncheons; just how do these stack up not only against each other, but also against the two Oloroso Butts?

Cask 2033, 1972-2011, 39y When I first tried this (blind) for MMA 2011 I found it oozing dark fruitiness, just like our English Christmas cake. It also had lots of aged oak and leather. Today it explodes with a rich coffee-ness, dark chocolate and indeed that leatheriness but also a faint suggestion of a mild cheese, maybe something like Emmentaler. The palate has a light pepperiness alongside the wood and dark fruitiness.

Cask 1248, 1971-2011, 40y The first of two more sister casks, both filled in 1971 but this one bottled at 40 years old in 2011. It has bundles of fruitiness, but also a quite strong suggestion of rubberiness, which has changed quite significantly from my original experience of dark fruits and lightly toasted raisins a year ago.

Cask 1247, 1971-2012, 41y When I tried this for MMA 2012 just a couple or so months ago I was delighted to find a smooth creaminess with hints of honey and more toasted dark fruitiness. I still agree with those thoughts but today I also find lots of herbal elements once again akin to that dandelion & burdock drink from my youth. It's still deliciously long and creamy and an absolute gem.




... and now for something completely different.

Well, maybe not that different.


Cask Strength Batch 1


Glendronach Cask Strength, Batch 1This has a lovely dark coppery colour and the nose immediately offers dusty fudge with a slight dryness. Somehow this reminds me of a single cask rum, a trait which Oliver immediately agrees with. After some 10 minutes in the glass the nose expands to offer something indeed quite different which, after studying it for a few more minutes I can only describe as "baked pearwrapped in marzipan and served on a bed of Weetabix with a leaf or two of fresh spearmint". Oliver gave a "Paddington" stare.

The palate is richly fruity, abounding with figs, damson, dates and even a hint of Hoi-Sin sauce.

With 5 drops of water the nose turned more musty and nutty whilst the palate was slightly more sweet with a lightly peppered nuttiness.

A further 5 drops of water suddenly give the whisky a very maritime characteristic as it now suggests an old sea-soaked salty pier.

Both Oliver and I agreed that this is a whisky which needs time and also one worth spending  the time with.


So, the evening draws to a close as we attempt to decide upon our golden nugget(s). Between us we have three clear favourites, but firstly what of the others?

Cask 233 or Cask 107? We both agree here on the 17y Cask 107, it just has more and is a point or two better.

Glendronach Cask Strength Batch 1: As I mentioned, it's a good whisky which most definitely benefits from both time and water. Give it both and you'll be rewarded.

As for the prized golden nugget: We both agree that Cask 712 is magnificent, but then I initially preferred the PX Cask 2033 and Oliver the PX Cask 1247. Gentle debate followed and we finally agreed that each of these three drams deserved a rather Golden 92 points, but we are here to find "the best of the best" so yet further debate ensued until we settled upon 92.75 points, 92.5 points and then 92 points.

Congratulations to (Oloroso) Cask 712 which we felt edged Cask 1247, which in turn just pipped Cask 2033.






The Fab Fourties

or "Here comes the Dram"


I think it's fair to say yesterday was more a labour of love than a hard day's night as I lined up not four, but a fab five flight of forties. All children of the sixties except for the 40y youngster Glenury Royal they come together for one final magical mystery tour.






Tomintoul 43y, 1969-2012 "Liquid Sun" having matured for 43 years in a refill hogshead this is wonderfully rich and golden in colour. As for the nose it's very aromatic with lightly perfumed notes, lots of vanilla alongside gentle hints of wood and even reminiscent of an evening rape field after a day of hot sunshine. That vanilla extends to the palate but is accompanied by a massive and exotic fruitiness akin to a cocktail of apricot, mango, papaya and maybe even galia melon. The finish is very long and also filled with that exotic fruitiness.

My overall impression is one of de-light-fulness, I love that fruitiness and would happily sit on the patio on a summer evening with a dram or three of this to keep me company. For MMA 2012 I scored this an excellent 86, but I'm now raising this by a couple of points to 88, so good it certainly is: Sun King.



Tomintoul 45y, distilled 6.10.1967, cask No.6579, "Exclusive Malts" for Another Tomintoul and another refill hogshead but two years older, how does it compare? The colour is also rich golden but the nose couldn't be more different; in fact I think I just cleaned and polished my dining room table with this, so strong is the initial burst of furniture polish. No, it's not bad, it's very good, just massively polished. As the polish settles I suddenly find a suggestion of well-baked jacket potato skin alongide some background fruitiness. As time passes the polish fades further and a gentle musty oakiness expands. The palate is different again with incredible intensity, lots of exotic fruitiness and even a suggestion of coconut. The fruitiness extends into the long and also intense finish.

My overall impression is one of a delightful, unassuming and awfully civilised dram. Good old high quality understatement: Love me Tender.



Glenury Royal 40y, 1970-2011, "OB"  Today's youngster is a rather fetching 40 year old Glenury Royal and glows a pale amber in the glass. Ooohh this is deep, a little antiseptic and very Atlantic. There's a dark fruitiness on the nose too which exudes raisins and cherries, but that Atlantic-ness is just quite stunning. It's maritime, lightly salty and a little woody, just like an aged Atlantic pier. The palate has an earthiness, not quite peaty but again very Atlantic and quite massively intense as it sits right on the front of the palate leading into the long finish.

This is definitely a Great which I scored 91 for MMA 2012 and again a 90-91 points here. Moonlight Bay.



Glenrothes 42y, 1969-2012, cask No.2, "Adelphi"  Mahogany in my glass, does it stain? Now that surely should be a song title? Lots of aromatic toasted oakiness on the nose with hints of amaretto and some smoky woodiness in the background. Nice, very nice. The palate initially abounds with creamy cherries, expanding to plums or damsons marinated in rich red wine. The overall effect is rich and deep, but very dry as is the very long finish.

I generally tend to like Glenrothes at 17y or above and this is no exception as it's a very good whisky with lots of rich character and even a light smokiness. The only slight negative is the dryness, but it's still quite excellent although I have downgraded my 88 points from MMA 2012 to 87 points here. Twist and Shout.



Strathisla 9.12.1965-31.5.2011, cask No.3473, "G&M for LMDW"  I love the coppery tinge in the rich dark teak colour of this whisky. This was matured in a first-fill sherry butt and not surprisingly the nose just exudes age and richness. There's a suggestion of roasted coffee beans, oil of orange, aged oak, candle wax and even a lightly toasted perfumed quality. Can you toast perfume? The palate is just big, very big as it explodes with a dark fruitiness of figs, plums, dark cherries and some accompanying toasted almonds or perhaps chestnuts. The finish can only be described as massive, rich, long and slightly dry.

This whisky is just massive, bold and definitely not an advocate of understatement. Great? Yes, undoubtedly, although my 94 points from MMA 2011 is now a firm 91. I am the Walrus.


Roaring forties?  It would certainly seem so with some of these giants, but I was also impressed with the subliminally light characteristics of them too, especially the Tomintouls as they certainly stood up well to the competition of two well-aged sherry monsters. I really couldn't separate the two Tomintoul and awarded each the same 88pts. As for the sherry monsters; the Glenrothes was just a little too dry compared to the Strathisla. The Glenury Royal; magnificent and equalling the 91 points I awarded the Strathisla, in fact if there is to be a single winner then I just favour the Glenury Royal for those Atlantic notes and overall balance.

From me to You, Slàinte Mhath






or "ring out the old, ring in the new"


I promised a few truly Maniacal articles for the new year and what better way to begin than by looking towards a distillery which was mothballed in 1986 and which lay dormant until 2008 when it was re-opened by The Glenglassaugh Distillery Company. Refurbishment began on 29th February 2008 and after being officially reopened on 25th November, spirit began flowing from the stills on 4th December with the first casks being filled on 16th December.

But why should this tasting be Maniacal? Well, old stocks of Glenglassaugh still exist and are readily available, but at a significant price and yes, they have a certain reputation for quality, so why not compare two of these oldies with their first two releases of whisky after their reopening?



The lineup for today is Revival; the first official whisky to be released by the new owners. It's three years old and bottled at 46% abv. Secondly comes Evolution which is a limited release, matured in George Dickel (Tennessee) casks and bottled at 57.2% abv. Thirdly and the first of the two oldies is the Madeira edition of The Massandra Connection. Distilled in October 1978 and bottled in July 2012 it's 33 years old and finished in Madeira (style) wine casks. Finally there's one of Glenglassaugh's Manager's Legacy bottlings honouring Walter Grant, the distillery manager from March 1962 to August 1967. The whisky distillation was overseen by Walter in May 1967 and filled into a refill hogshead cask where it was left to mature for 42-43 years before being bottled in 2010 at 40.4% abv.



Revival: This is now the third time I've tried this whisky, the first being a pre-release before bottling, the next two this actual released version, but today is the first time I've directly compared it to some older bottlings.

It has a pale yellow golden colour and the nose immediately exudes a rich malty fruitiness including what I can only describe as hints of bread dough and Atlantic driftwood. With time in the glass the Atlantic drift-woodiness fades to be replaced by a suggestion of red wine. The palate is richly fruity with damson & bramble (blackberry) jam alongside a quite solid burgundy wine presence which continues through the finish too.

Unlike the last time I tried this I didn't add any water today, but my previous notes say that this really improved further with a few drops.



Evolution: The follow-up to Revival this has been matured in Tennessee (George Dickel) bourbon casks but doesn't carry an age statement.

The colour is extremely pale yellow and the nose initially offers spirity bread dough and hay. It steadily expands to include the fruitiness of peach, pineapple and pink grapefruit. Yes, it's now a very fruity bread dough waiting to be baked. That bread dough effect isn't to be found on the palate which abounds a fruitiness akin to pink grapefruit and predominantly; cantaloupe melon. The fruitiness lingers long on the palate right into and through the finish.

This comes across as a little spirity but also very fruity, in a slightly citrus way with that pineapple and grapefruit, but it has lots of character and the fruitiness is certainly welcome.



The Massandra Connection - Madeira finish: I recently reviewed this whisky (blind) as part of MMA 2012 where I loved it and awarded it a Great 90 points, so let's now see how it stacks up against its distillery counterparts.

This is dark teak in colour and the rich nose just screams aged oak, leather and a nuttiness marinated in sherry or heavy red wine. In fact the rich aged character of the  wood and leather also offer the vitality of youthfulness. Nice. The palate is once again very fruity, but with damson, plum and bramble alongside suggestions of red wine and oak. There's the slightest hint of coconut on the finish which reminds me of the flavoured coconut sticks we buy in the local Christmas markets. Excellent, luxurious & still a Great.



The Manager's Legacy - Walter Grant: This is the oldest of today's treats being distilled in May 1967 and bottled in 2010.

The colour is dark amber, bordering upon dark treacle toffee and the nose is filled with an oakiness and dark fruits like cherries and plums.  Not only am I reminded of childhood treats like treacle toffee (by the colour), but now the nose is suggesting another rare treat called brandy snap which was a staple offering at local fairgrounds through the summer into Autumn. The palate offers a creamy, slightly toasted luxury with that fruitiness alongside hints of port wine. The finish is long, rich and sweet.

This is truly wonderful, yes Great again, especially with so many childhood memories being evoked.


This new versus old comparison has been quite illustrating and extremely interesting as it's the first time I've tried these head-to-head.

The Revival shows lots of maturity beyond its three years, something which I personally attribute to the fact that it comprises a number of red wine cask variants in the mix, or recipe. This also explains the differences I found between the pre-release version I tried and this released one. Evolution is a 'pure' bourbon cask edition and has a light spirit-iness alongside oodles of fruitiness with pineapple, pink grapefruit and cantaloupe melon. The Massandra 'Madeira' obviously exhibits lots of red wine and rich dark fruitiness but that suggestion of coconut right at the end was surprising and delightful. The "Walter Grant" was brimming with not only great aromas and flavours, but also some wonderful childhood memories.

Two overall impressions immediately spring to mind here; firstly the fruitiness of Glenglassaugh spirit which matures wonderfully in the cask. The fruitiness is apparent in all four expressions tested here and varies from the citrus aspects of Evolution which had no red wine / sherry exposure, to the richness of those which did. I'd love to try a well-aged version of Evolution in years to come. This brings me to my second impression which is just how well the Glenglassaugh spirit combines with wine finishing. I'm not the biggest fan of wine finishes in general, but they really seem to work well here.

As a final comment do I have a winner or favourite amongst these? They are all good whiskies but I think I still prefer the Revival to Evolution, the extra body and depth just edges it for me. As for the oldies; they were and are still Greats in my book, each scoring a magnificent 90 points, but if had to select an absolute winner I'd give an extra half point to Walter Grant. Glen-Class-augh indeed! Slàinte Mhath.




Recent major features (A full list of all Dram-atics articles may be found in my ToC)  
Autumn 2012 The Olympkins, Getting old and Grainy  
July 2012 Motor Maniac meets Malt Maniac, Nosing New Make  
May-Jun 2012 Limburg - Whet Dreams, Dalmore Constellation, Independence? MM 15y Scotland, Blend of Maniacs  
Mar-Apr 2012 Investment grade madness, Glenglassaugh, 5th IWD, 1000th Review, April Fool, Going dotty, age verification  
Feb. 2012 It's a rum old do, Growing old gracefully, Four Imperial sisters  
Jan. 2012 Onwards & Upwards, Canadian Whisky Awards  
Dec. 2011 MMA 2011 Winners, HP 70's Orcadians, Debussy plays Pitaud, Class of 64-65, Elementary my dear Sukhinder  
Sept-Nov 2011 Malt Maniacs Awards 2011 - A weekend in the life of a Postmaster General  
June-Aug 2011 Bits Bytes & Drams, Glen Garioch 1994, Angela D'Orazio - Mackmyra, Trinity of Two Earls, Drams at Dawn
May 2011 Don't bug me with ads, A dram fine evening
April 2011 Cry me a River, Golden Oldies, The Shackleton Legacy, Two Weddings and a Whisky
March 2011 Masters of Photography, Memory and the Middle Cut, Sampling again, Dave Stirk 5, Choosing choice Choices
Feb. 2011 Festival time again, Spam Galore!, Drams & Trams

Jan. 2011

Lookback at 2010, New Job? Three Thirties, ToC, Overdosing on sherry casks






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