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Matching Malts to Music


Magical Melodious Malts

(and a Malternative)


This month I'll be doing something a little different; I have a quite illustrious selection of samples on my desk and it's about time I got a round tuit as they say, so what better to do it than by combining my love of classical music with some truly classical drams?

For my first pairing, or should that be trio-ing? I have the great pleasure of trying a brace of Glen Grant both created in 1950 and almost a decade before I was born, then bottled five years apart in 2010 & 2015 making them 60 & 65 years old respectively.

If this isn't enough I'm adding an even older Malternative to the equation with a very limited edition Le Sein de Dieu cognac from the Bache-Gabrielsen cognac house which comprises extremely old distillates from the private paradis (cellar) of Thomas Bache-Gabrielsen. All the distillate components pre-date the Phylloxera plague which blighted the French wine industry in the mid-19th century. In fact the oldest component within is dated 1790.

But what about the music? Well, a little more of that later but as you'll see I've chosen a selection of masterpieces from Edvard Grieg to accompany today's tasting and provide a suitable musical background to what promises to be something rather special.




Glen Grant 1950-2010


Glen Grant 1950-2015



Glen Grant 1950-2010


G&M 40% abv


Glen Grant 1950-2015

65y Cask 2747

G&M for Wealth Solutions


Glen Grant 1950-2010 60y G&M 40%

Is this really 60 years old? Yes it is and what a vibrant colour it has too with a rich oaky appearance offering great clarity. After so long in the cask it's no surprise that the nose offers a little woodiness, but certainly not too much. Then comes a hint of smokiness over good old-fashioned beeswax furniture polish. This soon opens further to include something creamy (creme caramel maybe?) with a gentle nuttiness reminiscent specifically of hazelnuts, but all wrapped in a gently aromatic floral character. Truly astounding for its age!

That woodiness and hazel-nuttiness are also apparent on the palate in quite a dry way, but far from unpleasant. Suddenly the palate opens further to include a fruitiness perhaps with hints of raisin and (almost) raspberry before the nuttiness morphs more into almond (marzipan) than hazelnut.

The finish is long and lingering with that gentle fruity, nutty dryness.


Glen Grant 1950-2015 65y G&M for Wealth Solutions, Poland

If I had to ask if the last one was really 60 years old, what about this one? Distillate from the same year; 1950, but left to mature for a further 5 years until Autumn this year ensuring a full pensionable age of 65 years!

If anything the colour is slightly lighter with even more clarity than the 60y, but the first real surprise is in the astonishing fragrance of the nose. This is just so light, fragrant & aromatic that although it shows great maturity it defies that pensionable age with amazing floral and fruity notes alongside a faint creamy hint of beeswax furniture polish (again, but so much more delightfully fragrant).

The first impression from the palate is one of a mouth-warming, lightly spiced character which follows with mildly peppery coconut, tropical fruitiness and even a suggestion of golden syrup spread thinly on a shortbread biscuit on the back of the palate. Stunning, amazingly so!

The finish can only be described as everlasting, warming and comforting. Is there such a thing as "comfort whisky"?


My overall impression of these two whiskies is one of excellence and master-crafting. It can't be denied that both are "Greats" in my opinion. The 60y had truly amazing characteristics across the nose and finish but the palate was slightly less amazing with that dryness. Did I say less amazing? It was still a "Great" whisky which deserves a score of 90 points from me. If I'd have scored on just the nose and finish it would have been more like 93-94 points. But 90 it is overall.

As for the 65y bottling I'm struggling a little; firstly for the correct superlatives and secondly to decide whether this is the single best whisky I ever tried or just as good as my previous best which was a 48y Karuizawa Cask 3603, scoring 96 points from me? This is a real dilemma as that Karuizawa was magnificent but so is this Glen Grant. It offers so much vitality, fragrance, character and depth of flavours that I'm still trying to comprehend what I just experienced. I'll revisit this in the next day or so but suffice to say we're talking superlatives and a score somewhere in the 96-97 range. Watch this space for an update - soon!

Update; I promised an update as to my decision on this magnificent whisky and after much consideration and a re-test I really think it's just a little better than that Karuizawa, maybe not a full point better, but certainly a little. So here goes ....... 96.5pts from me!


... and now for something a little ...


La Sein de Dieu

Bache-Gabrielsen private paradis



I already mentioned that this cognac comes from the private cellar (paradis) of the Bache-Gabrielsen cognac house and that all components pre-date the Phylloxera outbreak of the mid-19th century, with the oldest component being from 1790. This all bodes for something rather special?

The colour is that of clear vibrant oak as it sits in my Czech crystal goblet, steadily acclimatising and breathing. The nose initially suggests faintly perfumed fruitiness, but after 150-200+ years in the making, I appreciate that it needs just a little more time in the glass. With time the gentle fruitiness gradually opens and expands to offer more concentrated fruitiness (think oil of orange and a hint of mandarine) and possibly some oriental spiciness, gentle without the heat. This is just so aromatic and warming, there are no false notes here at all.

The palate appeared to initially offer a suggestion of wateriness (due to abv?) but this soon expanded across the palate in a very warming, glowing way diminishing the very thought of that wateriness. The oil of orange fruitiness continues from the nose to palate but includes suggestions of nuttiness and for a second just the slightest hint of liquorice in the background.

The finish is just everlasting, it doesn't stop and I don't want it to ..........

This cognac is magnificent, or is that magnifique! I just want more but sadly I'm restricted to the confines of my sample. Very sadly.

Can I be so bold as to offer a score to this cognac? Of course I can and will go out on a limb here with a truly "Great" 94-95.



Edvard Grieg

Peer Gynt / Symphonic Dance Opus 64 No.2 / Concert Overture "In Autumn" Old Norwegian Folk song with variations

Sir Thomas Beecham with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra


On my tasting desk are various malts which I sincerely hope live up to their heritage and reputations. One thing they all (hopefully) have in common will be the ability to charm, soothe and surprise me so I've decided to dedicate December to making my way through them in a suitably charismatic, relaxing and soothing manner. What better way to do this than by enjoying them to a background of some of my favoruite musical moments.

Today, I searched long and hard to find the right accompaniment to these two marvellous aged Glen Grants and also that quite astonishing cognac. After considering various compositions by Mozart, Tchaikovsky and Bach I finalised upon my favourite collection by Edvard Grieg. Obviously it contains his "Peer Gynt" but in addition the Symphonic Dance (Opus 64 No.2), His concert overture "In Autumn" and finally an old Norwegian folksong with variations.

This particular selection is conducted by Sir Thomas Beecham with The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra.

I've chosen this particular collection as I believe it perfectly fits the character and mood (or style) of these Malts and Malternative which each begin perhaps slowly or tentatively, albeit showing glimpses of what delights are to come, before opening into gloriously teasing and tantalising crescendos and lulls before starting all over again.

As with the spirits this collection opens slowly and gently, it soothes whilst only suggesting what hidden promises may soon unfold. It's melodious before exploding into life and soothing back into tantalising melodiousness (is that a word?)

Throughout this musical series we're treated to crest after crest until we reach that harmonious old Norwegian folk song which just soothes and excites, exactly like our magnificent Malts and Malternative.

Harmonious? Yes, perfectly harmonious which is why these marvellous sips have been partnered with Edvard Grieg today.

Slàinte Mhath.






Going for Gold; In this year's Malt Maniacs Awards (MMA2015) just four whiskies achieved gold medals which means an average score of at least 90 points across all judges. When 11 individual judges' palates and preferences are taken into consideration it really is an achievement for any whisky to win a gold medal, so hearty congratulations to these four great whiskies. Not only that, but three of the gold medal winners all hail from the same distillery; Kavalan in Taiwan which is an astounding achievement for any distillery.

I now have the great pleasure to try these four great drams in an uncompromising head to head and not only that but I'll be doing so as part of my latest quest to pair great drams with equally great pieces of music, but more of that soon.


MMA2015 Supreme Champion,

Supreme Winner Premium Category

and Gold Medal Winner

Kavalan Solist Cask No.S060904024




With a colour of rich dark treacle toffee, bordering almost on ebony this whisky is positively glowing as it proudly exudes its sherried attributes. Remember this is natural colour and non chill-filtered.

The Nose immediately suggests rich roasted coffee, followed shortly afterwards by black cherries and raisins. Are there also hints of dark chocolate and toasted tropical fruits in there too? Maybe. What I do know is that this is wonderfully rich, deep, aromatic and with further suggestions of even more hidden depths to be found.

The Palate is fantastically smooth with a mildly dry mouth-feel preceding an explosion of Arabica coffee shielding a gentle, mostly almond nuttiness and the most wonderful dark chocolate, rich in cacao. This is all just so bold and inviting in the way only a truly great sherry cask matured whisky can be.

The Finish is long-lasting and I sit here just wanting it to continue forever.


Best Sherry Cask (joint winner)

Premium Category

and Gold Medal Winner

Kavalan Solist Cask No.S081229019




The colour is one of dark toasted oak, not quite so ebony-like as the previous one (cask S060904024) but still rich, dark, clean and almost glowing.

The Nose is a little slow to develop here, but give it a little time and your patience will be well rewarded firstly with hints of creamy chocolate. In fact I'm reminded of a particularly rich and heavy hot chocolate in a certain Italian cafe in Meran, Süd Tirol. A little more patience is equally rewarded with the suggestion of mild coffee and an almost smoky, oaky fruitiness.

The Palate offers some delightful creaminess in the mouth-feel as the hints of chocolate and coffee transcend from the nose into the palate. Then comes that fruitiness, not just cherries, raisins and maybe currants, but something quite tropical in character. Finally, some caramel-style traits lead into the finish which is long, rich and creamily luxurious with that cherriness, coffee-ness and chocolatey-ness.


Best Sherry Cask (joint winner)

Premium Category

and Gold Medal Winner

Kavalan Solist Cask No.S081229020




The colour offers rich, very dark oak with an almost freshly-polished glow.

The Nose quite unbelievably initially suggests creamy Brasso. Did I really say that? A nose that reminds me of a renowned (UK) brass polish? Well, yes it does, but that's not a bad thing as I'm reminded of trips and holidays to my beloved Yorkshire Dales and the wonderful outdoor adventures of those heady times whilst staying in an old coaching house turned into outdoor centre par-excellence. The Brasso soon fades to be replaced by a light fruitiness which almost has a syrupy character with a hint of tinniness? Oh my, Brasso and tins? I guess what I find here is more akin to one of those cans of fruit cocktail that were so popular in the 70's & 80's. Again not a bad thing, just my olfactory senses playing tricks with more long-forgotten memories and experiences.

The Palate has a slightly dry woodiness which soon expands to include a suggestion of fruit cocktail, but unlike the nose this is much more exotic with hints of mango and papaya alongside dark cherries and all swimming in fresh double cream. There's also a mild (black-) pepperiness which complements everything rather nicely.

The finish has a medium length but is filled with that tropical fruitiness and just the slightest hint of pipe tobacco right at the end.


Supreme Winner

Ultra-Premium Category

and Gold Medal Winner

Glenfarclas Family Casks 1994

Double Cask - Oloroso 3913 & 3914




The colour is rich and dark (treacle toffee) with a very slight burgundy tinge.

The Nose has mild hints of oak but alongside rich and fruity red wine, something along the lines of a fine Haut-Medoc in character. Adding to this is a suggestion of prunes, cloves, almonds and raisins. We're talking bold, rich and quite luxurious.

The Palate has an initial burst of sweet tannins before all those great luxurious elements from the nose begin to appear and dominate. That rich (red wine style) fruitiness is quite marvellous, but it's soon eclipsed by a cocktail of oil of orange, dark cherries and dark, high-cacao chocolate. Wonderful.

The finish is satisfyingly long with what can only be described as a quite magnificent fruity, sherried coffee-ness.


Observations & conclusions; there's no denying these are four truly Great whiskies deserving of their accolades. For me, just like our judges the Kavalan Solist Cask No.S060904024 is the stand-out offering here. It just offers so much richness and quality but yet with subtle hints of so much more. For these reasons I'm awarding it a magnificent 92 points.

The next two Kavalans are actually sister casks and both OB bottlings for Asia Palate Association. Having said they're sister casks, they are quite different in character with S081229019 starting a little slowly but then opening to offer lots of rich, typically sherried delights. In slight contrast S081229020 is lighter and perhaps more fruity, especially with that exotically fruity character and mild pepperiness on the palate. They're both fantastic whiskies but for me the lighter S081229020 just has the edge with 91 points over S081229019 which I gave 90 points. Could it be that Brasso memory? Quite possibly.

But let's not get carried away with the three Kavalans, the Glenfarclas Family Casks (Oloroso 3913 & 3914) is putting up a strong fight for Scotland in this contest. It's without a doubt a Great Glenfarclas and showcases all that Glenfarclas does extremely well. For me another Great with 90 points.

But now what about the music?

I've thought long and hard about this choice and eventually came up with three possibilites; Tchaikovsky's 1812 Overture, Ode An Die Freude (Beethoven's 9th Symphony) or one other piece which I finally decided to use here.

I needed a piece of music equalling the dramatic yet tender and complex characters of these whiskies. Something evoking luxury and hidden depths, also sensually artistic and exciting. Add to this the element of gold which is prevalent in all these great drams then for me there can only be one choice.

This may not be the best recording of the music, but it's by far the most emotional and probably well-known for those of a certain age like me; a twenty-something back in 1984 when an ex-Policeman and insurance clerk conquered the world to win gold with a performance that hasn't been equalled since.

Ravel Bolero - Torville and Dean 1984







Millburn 1972-2006

G&M 46% abv


For my next pairing I'm selecting a brace of Millburn from 1972 & 1971 respectively which I tried during a recent wintry evening. The G&M 1972-2006 is first and offers very little by way of colour as it's extremely pale to the point of looking like slightly discoloured water. Not a bad thing, it's just very, very pale.

The nose begins with an almost chemical or perhaps tin-like quality which doesn't bode too well but let's give it some time ...... Yes, that's better as those initial notes fade and are replaced with a hint of slightly over-ripe green apples and maybe even pears. Something biscuity too .... Hovis biscuits in fact which are something I love. Further development offers a suggestion of mild mountain (Alpine) cheese. Definitely worth giving this one a little extra time.

Those apples, but this time stewed rather than over-ripe and raw reappear on the palate with an undoubted creaminess or softness. Perhaps stewed apples served with custard and a hint of dates? Creamy with a suggestion of apple is a quite typical characteristic of Millburn for me. Nice.

The finish is long and again offers a suggestion of creaminess.

My overall impression is one of a dram needing some time to develop to avoid disappointment. It turned from offering some unwanted chemical tinny qualities to an almost typical Millburn. It may not be stunning or greatly memorable but it surely is a good gentle warming whisky for a winter's evening.



Millburn 1971

Speymalt 40% abv


My next Millburn is a 1971 Speymalt (Italian Import) whose colour is pale yellow, perhaps almost like 9ct gold. The nose is initially warming and welcoming with definitie floral qualities, perhaps a little more herbal than rose garden as it suggests mild lavendar, basil and even hints of lime tree blossom. After a few minutes in the glass this turns more into a richer offering with gentle aromas of leather and oak.

The palate is more subdued than the impressive nose and offers those gentle qualities of leather and oak, perhaps even with a suggestion of roast beef. In fact the long finish dwells on the roast beef-iness in a delightful Sunday lunch kind of way.

My overall impression here is one of a great and intense floral or herbal delight on the nose but with a much more earthy palate, even if a bit subdued in intensity and perhaps not quite delivering upon the promises of the nose.

This series of drams is all about finding suitable pieces of music to accompany them on the cold winter evenings that we're experiencing at the moment. Sadly neither of these Millburn offerings are stunning nor greatly memorable (scoring 83 & 81 respectively from me) but they are in many ways what I may call comfort drams. I really enjoyed their warming and comforting properties whilst sitting here on a cold winter's evening so what music do I recommend?

Well, my choice of music is from a CD which I recently bought and is a German Klassik Radio compilation double album of piano pieces from various composers. As I tried two Millburns I think it only fair that I suggest two tracks from this album, although the whole album is filled with nice, gentle, comforting melodies, any of which may be suitable. In this case I'm selecting tracks 4 & 5; Beethoven's Moonlight Sonata & Debussy's Clair de Lune which offer an obvious common theme for this crisp winter evening and which themselves are quite memorable.

Slàinte Mhath






A selection of previous Dram-atics highlights


  The Liquid




Class of 64-65



Elementary my dear Sukhinder

Fab Fo(u)rties

Drams at Dawn

Prohibition Three Ways




  Festivals & Events

Limburg 2015

An annual Pilgrimmage

Limburg Crooks & Nannies

Limburg - Whet Dreams



Autumn 2013 Speyside










  Getting About

St. Magdalene / Linlithgow

Islay Revisited




  The Maniacs

Motor Maniac meets Malt Maniac

Anoraks Bottles & Castle

Nosing New Make

Blend of Maniacs



  The Malt Maniacs Awards - MMA  

MMA 2015 The Gathering of the Drams

MMA 2014 Unplugged

MMA 2013 Unplugged

MMA 2011 Winners


Coming soon!




A brace of luxury

Debussy plays Pitaud





Other major features  

May 2013

Duelling Drams - Man vs Clipper  

April 2013

100 points - Perfect Percy, Eggs-otic Isles Egg & Mug, Sixy bunny  

March 2013

International Whisky Day - Raise a Glass & Raise Awareness  

February 2013

A Horse, A Bow & a Dear  

Autumn 2012

The Olympkins, Getting old and Grainy  

May-Jun 2012

Dalmore Constellation, Independence?  

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

HP 70's Orcadians  

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

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

Dec. 2010

December's Advent-urous drams, Nant Distillery, The road to Certification


Nov. 2010

Journey to end of Scotverse, Wick, Pulteney, Balblair, Knockdhu, Homecoming, Tweetup, Chilling with Cooley  

Oct. 2010

The John Walker, Sampling with Master of Malts, Changing jobs, Whisky Round Table  

Sept. 2010

Playing Chinese whispers, Oktoberfest, SMWS Spirit Cellar, 500,000  

August 2010

Elementary my dear Islay, Handbags at dawn, Dram-arkable 500, Cheapo Challenge, Ah Dooagh, 1 from 3 left  

July 2010

Age matters. A series of whisky reviews concentrating upon 'Age'  

June 2010

Jules Rimet, pickles & crisps. Mon coeur, mon amour oh mon sherry. A taste of the great outdoors.  

May 2010

The highly-acclaimed and record-breaking "Desert Island Drams"  

April 2010

My peat's bigger than your peat, A foursome with a famous Scottish bird  

March 2010

Sample Mania tasting notes, The Good, the Bad & The Loch Dh-Ugly, A return to sanity, The Choice of Managers  

Jan-Feb 2010

Keep taking the medicine, It's Festival time, Maker's Mark, Sleeveless in Munich  

Dec. 2009

All power to bean-counters, protecting Scotch, seasonal drams, Definitive Xmas Drams, 2009 Whisky Awards  

Nov. 2009

How it all started, Bonfire night, Autumnal musings, EU Tax & Duty, What's in a (whisky) name?  









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