Friday, 31 December 2010

#394 - 10 Most Wanted Whiskies (?)

Bugger! When I read Whiskyfun a few days ago, I saw Serge's top 10 of tasted malt whiskies. That reminded me of an ad I saw for the site www.minibottles.eu - and that in turn reminded me of the log entry about the "10 most wanted malt whiskies" (well, at least according to Google) that I had promised to write. 

When I tried to make the Malt Madness site even more Google-friendly a few weeks ago, I noticed that Google provides rough indications of the number of search queries for any given topic. The numbers Google provides are notoriosly unreliable, but perhaps the relation between the numbers in itself could be interesting. Or it cold be complete bollocks - we'll see... 

Anyway, I'll gather the raw data first, and will leave the actual thinking about those results for next year. So, according to the information on the Google AdWords dashboard, most searches (world wide) were done for these single malt whisky brands... 

1) Lagavulin (my "amazing discovery" of single malt Scotch whisky in 1991.)
2) Talisker (although Google indicates even more hits for Jameson - which is Irish.)
3) Cardhu (which surprised me, but perhaps it's because these are worldwide results.)
4) Macallan (which sounds about right - although J&B scores even higher than Big Mac.)
5) Glenfiddich (I expected the world's biggest brand to score higher than Crown Royal.)
6) Oban (but I have my doubts - Grant's, Dimple and Black & White score higher.)
7) Glenlivet (which came right after Canadian Club, so that's another question mark.)
8) Highland Park (which scored a little higher than the Teacher's blend.)
9) Laphroaig (which is a little surprising, considering it's difficult to spell.)
10) Bowmore (which scored higher than "Cutty Sark" and "whisky fun" to name a few.) 

I should point out that the basic search query I used for this list was "malt whisky" - and I've only included the brand names of Scotch whiskies. If I had used the broader search query "whiskey" (and if I had included all whisky and whiskey brands), the list would have looked fairly differently. I'll get into that research on the Malt Madness site itself - for the upcoming year I'm going to devote this liquid blog to a very specific topic. 

That topic will be my struggle in finding a new balance between my passion for and consumption of malt whisky on one end and a healthy lifestyle on the other. Because I can fully understand how that would be utterly boring for some, I've confined my rants on that particular topic to this blog for now. If you are one of those young and/or lucky bastards than are still able to combine whisky and health without any sort of compromise, I reluctantly congratulate and salute you - and point you to the main Malt Madness site...

And that's it for now. More later, HAPPY OLD YEAR!

Sweet drams,
 

Tuesday, 14 December 2010

#393 - Age Doesn't Improve Everything

The contents of my top shelf, circa 2003
 
I was pleasantly surprised when I received an unexpected present this morning: The inaugural edition of the official Malt Maniacs whisky calendar for 2010. As it turns out, Krishna takes his official title of "Trinket Master" more seriously than we had anticipated. He had a bunch of calendars with "maniacal" pictures made and sent a few to every team member. 
What a great initiative! Thanks very much, Krishna! 

And to my surprise I saw a picture that Krishna had taken during his first visit to Amsterdam: my very own top shelf and the cautionary remark that hangs on the wall above it. (Indian tourists are just as bad as the archetypical Japanese tourists with their camera's ;-)  I was surprised by the fact that so many official bottlings were on there - in recent years the number of independent bottlings in my drinking collection has increased considerably. I was also surprised by the poignancy of the phrase "age doesn't improve everything" above the bottles. When I hung it over there, I meant it as a sardonic reference to some overpriced older single malts - but my doctor has recently informed me that I should start acting my age now as well. 

I'm very good at sitting behind my PC - I can do it for hours without getting tired. However, this superpower has caused my weight to increase from less than 80 kilo's in 1995 (when I stopped playing rugby every week and started Malt Madness) to a whopping 112 kilo's right now. So, with my dwarf-like build (I'm only 1,73 meters small) I'll need to lose some 30 kilo's to reach a somewhat healthy weight again. I've had a few days to get used to the idea, and I now actually look forward to the challenge. And I'm also looking forward to trying to write some interesting words about the experience as well. From quite a few personal messages I received after my previous post I've learned that I'm not the only one struggling with the transfer of a relatively wild, hard drinking lifestyle to a more moderate consumption pattern and a slightly healthier lifestyle. 

Don't worry, I can still enjoy the occasional dram or two, but tasting a dozen drams per day is off the menu in the foreseeable future.So, instead of tasting notes you'll find opinions and information on a wide variety of other whisky related topics here. You'll need to wait a little longer for that piece on the most popular whisky brands - but I'll leave you with a link to a web page that can be very useful for people who are beginning to write tasting notes; http://flavornet.org/flavornet.html.

Sweet drams, 


Wednesday, 8 December 2010

#392 - Facing an Angry Doctor

Well, it has been a week since we've published the final results of the Malt Maniacs Awards 2010 - and by matter of coincidence I had a meeting with my doctor this morning. As you may remember, I was diagnosed with a mild case of diabetes two years ago, so I already had to reduce the intensity of my dramming quite significantly. 

So, I had already curtailed my whisky consumption from roughly a bottle of whisky per week to 3 or 4 drams a week. However, the parsimony ended 6 weeks ago when 262 samples arrived from France. 

The Malt Maniacs Awards 2010 may have been our biggest competition yet - but it also was the heaviest test, physically and mentally speaking. The fact that three jurors had to drop out of the race somewhere along the way is a testament to that. Last year's awards effort already showed up as a sizeable dent in the gradually rising trend on the graph with some of my health indicators - but as it turns out that was negligible compared to the shock to my system that I received this year. Apparently, my blood pressure is through the roof now as well...

That means that I'm now on extra medication - which means that the number of fresh tasting notes in this Liquid Blog will be limited further in the foreseeable future. But with Serge still publishing fresh tasting notes on Whiskyfun almost every day (not to mention dozens of other whisky bloggers sharing their opinions), I think my often sketchy notes won't be dearly missed anyway. Don't worry, I'm still mad about malts (and I can still sniff as many of them as I want), but the focus of the Malt Madness site will shift away from tasting notes towards stuff like liquid links and the Advanced Beginner's Guide. 

And that's just the stuff on Malt Madness. Meanwhile, the maniacs are almost ready to launch version 1.0 the interactive whisky monitor. If all goes according to plan, a vast number of tasting notes by almost 20 maniacs will be unlocked in the coming weeks. Coming up next:
A look into the "brand pressure" of some of the most famous single malt whisky brands.


Sweet drams,
 

Wednesday, 24 November 2010

#391 - The World's Best Whiskies

Surprise! This is the third book review within little more than a month - it would almost seem like this whisky blog has turned in a whisky book blog. But while I've been dramming heavily for the upcoming Malt Maniacs Awards 2010 whisky competition, I didn't have the stomach (or liver) for any additional whisky tastings for my blog at the moment. 

So, it's just a coincidence that three very different whisky books happened to be published this autumn; the expected fresh issue of the Malt Whisky Yearbook (see entry #390 for a small review), Dave Broom's World Atlas of Whisky (entry # 388) and now Dominic Roskrow's "The World's Best Whiskies". Just like with Dave Broom's Atlas, the price is 30.- GBP.

I'll be the first to admit that I've only read (or browsed through) four or five other new whisky books this year, but as far as I'm concerned these three books are the best choices amongst the material that was recently released. Ingvar Ronde's Malt Whisky Yearbook is the odd one out in this trio; the relatively small (168x236mm) soft cover guide costs less than half of the price of the bigger, hard cover books from Dave and Dominic. The yearbook provides plenty of interesting trivia about the malt whisky world and the distilleries in the main whisky countries. That makes it an excellent choice for experienced malt whisky aficionados - but it's not the most practical whisky guide for novices. Because a big chunk of the information doesn't change from year to year, they certainly wouldn't have to replace their copy each year.

The two larger books feel more like investments - and very wise investments too.
Both Dave's World Atlas of Whisky and Dominic's "The World's Best Whiskies" are comparable in price, format and size - much wider, taller and thicker than the yearbook. In fact, both could be described as "tomes"... Both books are very well written and both feature beautiful photography - although the atlas features a lot more more of it than Dominic's book. Both books should provide useful for many years to come as well, because they both offer so much more than their titles suggest...


In fact, in both cases, dozens of pages at the start of the book are dedicated to an in depth treatment of various aspects around the topic of whisky - although the focus is different at times. In Dave's whisky atlas, the focus is arguably a little more on the theory and a structured approach, with particular attention for flavours and the differences in production technique in various countries. Dominic's book leans in a slightly more practical direction with attention for one topic in particular that rarely gets some much deserved attention: the glassware that is used to enjoy the whisky. 

On the other hand: I have one very big beef with Dominic's book; the title suggests that the book features the 750 BEST whiskies. It doesn't - unless you agree that Cutty Sark, Johnnie Walker Red Label, Jack Daniels and Slyrs are amongst the best whiskies in the world. Not a single independent bottling is mentioned in the book - which immediately makes it far less useful for the serious malt afficionado IMHO. Also, you can find so many tasting notes on-line these days that I fear that that aspect of the book might lose its sparkle relatively soon. Also, from what I've read so far, Dominic has tried to cram as much different topics, types of whisky and brands into the book as possible. Combined with the mismatched title, I imagine that this could be confusing for some readers.

Both books are most definitely worth the money.
Considering that you can get BOTH books together for the price of a bottle of Laphroaig 15yo or Macallan 15yo Fine Oak, my advice to serious maltsters out there would be to invest in both whisky books. There is some overlap of the content, but there's often value in comparing different perspectives on the same topic. However, if you HAVE to chose (and you're a fairly experienced whisky afficionado), I'd go with Dave's atlas. It goes a little deeper into a lot of the topics and I imagine it won't age as quickly. 


However, if you are a relative beginner (or if you want to give it as a gift to a potential whisky lover), I'd go with Dominic's book. For one thing, it's the finest looking check list you've ever seen if you're planning a voyage of discovery through whisky land. And here's the best part: I've just checked on the Amazon.co.uk site to add a link where you can buy the book and now I see that the book is already discounted to a friendly £17.25. That's almost half price! And apparently you can even get free delivery in the UK. I'd say that's an excellent opportunity to get a nice gift for Christmas.

As for suggestions for "liquid" gifts: only six more nights until the results of the Malt Maniacs Awards 2010 whisky competition are published...

Sweet drams,
  

Monday, 8 November 2010

#390 - Malt Whisky Yearbook 2011

A few hours after I had published my glowing review of Dave Broom's "World Atlas of Whisky", I received another eagerly awaited book in my mail box; the 2011 edition of the Malt Whisky Yearbook. If you have read my reviews of previous editions you know that I used to like the handy format and the friendly price of this small but useful whisky compendium a lot. 

This year, there are some small changes (for example, the height of the book is 2 millimeters less than previous editions) but the concept has remained mostly unchanged. And that's just as well, because the current format works quite well for me. The Malt Whisky Yearbook 2011 provides most of the essential details on the distilleries, and it seems that most of the relevant developments of the past year (new bottlings, etc.) are once again covered as well.

The price of the MWYB 2011 is still a paltry 12,95 GBP - which really is a very decent price, given the vast amount of current information on offer. In fact, compared to many whisky magazines, the yearbook offers much better value. Many whisky magazines fill around half of their pages with advertising, advertorials and promotions these days. Of course, many publishers will argue that they need several sources of revenue to make their business model work. That may very well be, but to me it still feels a bit like I'm paying for the privilege of looking at some pretty advertising that's designed to make me spend more money on something than I probably should. Something about that feels a tad masochistic...

Anyway, Ingvar proves every year that you can stuff an incredible amount of malt whisky information (facts, opinions and analysis) in a handy, flexible form for a very fair price. I'd say that you get the equivalent of information to two or three vintages of an average whisky magazine with the Malt Whisky Yearbook. So, should you spend the equivalent of three decent drams in a whisky bar on the Malt Whisky Yearbook ? I think that the question you should really be asking yourself is: "Can you afford NOT to?" 

I mean, it's simple mathematics. It's a well known fact that knowing more about the background of a dram enhances your enjoyment of that whisky considerably. So, let's say you are a mild imbiber and you consume one dram on every day of the week except for Sundays. That's some 300 glasses of whisky per year with an average value of 4 Euro's. That's a total value of 1200 Euro's of whisky per year. If the information in the yearbook increases your enjoyment of every glass by 10% on average, that represents a value of 120 Euro's - almost ten times your investment for the book. Like I said, it's simple mathematics...

Meanwhile, I'm actually a little ahead of schedule with my awards dramming because I feel a common cold breathing down my neck. The problem is that us jurors need to sample some dozen whiskies per day on average, and if you're out of the running for just a few days with a cold, it means you need to pick up the drams you missed later on. So, I'm running around taking vitamin pills and throwing salt over my shoulder - but I may have misinterpreted my grandmother's health advice in this matter ;-). Nevertheless, I'm trying to finish the blind tastings for the Malt Maniacs Awards 2010 as soon as humanly and humanely possible.

Sweet drams, 
 

Tuesday, 19 October 2010

#389 - Awards Season Is Here!

This afternoon my heart was filled with glee and my eyes were filled with tears. Tears of joy, because the samples for the Malt Maniacs Awards 2010 had finally arrived. To be more precise: more than 260 samples have arrived! As you can see from the picture at the right, I've cleared out most of my whisky shelves to make room for the little buggers. 

It seems that the folkloric strikes in France may have delayed the awards parcels for a few days, but at least most now seem to have gotten out of the country safely. From what I see on the TV News, the pressure in France is rising to a boiling point. France is a really beautiful country, but I'm glad I don't have to be there at the moment... ;-)

Fortunately, I'm in Holland now, sampling my first "blind" drams for our little whisky competition as I write this. 
The other jurors and me can't afford to waste any time, because we're expected to submit our scores around the end of November. That means that we have around 5 weeks left to sample more than 260 different whiskies. That means we'll have to taste around 50 whiskies every week! 

So, I'm afraid I'll have to give my liver a rest and keep it brief this time. I can confirm that I've now received a copy of the Malt Whisky Yearbook 2011 though. It looks sharp, as usual. I'll use the breaks between the awards samples to write a review for the book - as well as a more thorough examination of Dave Broom's excellent new Atlas of Whisky. 

Watch this space...

Sweet drams,
 

Tuesday, 12 October 2010

#388 - World Atlas of Whisky

I'm a fairly content person to begin with (I imagine that's why my current job title is 'content manager'), but the past few days I've been particularly happy. We've been enjoying a bit of an 'Indian Summer' here in Holland, and the weather has been absolutely glorious for a week or so. Clear skies & brilliant sunsets - great!

And even better; I've found a little piece of 'ersatz' forest near my apartment in Amsterdam. Two years ago, real estate developers demolished the nearby park where I used to go when I needed to escape the chaos of big city life for a while. I really miss that park! Fortunately, I've now managed to use Google Earth to locate the last pockets of nature in the 'Bijlmer' ghetto where I live. 

So, I've now laid out the route for a hugely relaxing walk of half an hour that takes me through some woodland and along some small ponds and streams. If I squint and look through my eyelashes a lot (and use both my hands to cover my ears so I can't hear the sound of the nearby highway), it's almost like being back home in 'the woods'. This 'fleeing from reality' trick works especially well with the help of a stiff dram of whisky or two... ;-) 

Anyway - as I said, this summer has an Indian quality to it. 
The leaves on most trees are still pretending to be green, although you can see that they don't really believe in it any more. In a few weeks time the trees will be al bald as I am - which always signals the return of whisky season for me. And that's usually signalled by the arrival of the 'Malt Whisky Yearbook' from Ingvar Ronde. However, this afternoon I found a much bigger book in my mailbox instead: Dave Broom's World Atlas of Whisky

Wow! Or rather: WAoW!!! I've only read a few pages so far, but I'm already deeply impressed after flipping through it for half an hour. The book looks like the secret love child of the aforementioned 'Malt Whisky Yearbook' and Tolstoy's 'War and Peace' - on steroids. The photography is stunning and the same goes for the large, detailed maps. Like the name 'atlas' would suggest, the book looks at the whisky distilleries of the world from a 'geographic' point of view. That means that the distilleries in Scotland are grouped into regions as well. Scotland covers roughly 65% of this hardback tome, but there's plenty of information on the distilleries in the rest of the world as well. From what I've seen so far, Dave has tasted at least one expression from every distillery and brand that is discussed. In short: FANTASTIC!

Or, in the words of the publishers; 

"The World Atlas of Whisky is the only guide the connoisseur will ever need to understand everything there is to know about the international life and love of whisky. It is an in-depth and comprehensive journey through the history, process, distilleries, and expressions of world whiskies, featuring detailed maps of the key whisky-producing regions. Heritage, romance, flavour, and craftsmanship are all celebrated in this complete study of the most versatile of drinks.

In-depth descriptions of all the key Scottish distilleries can be found, while Ireland, Japan, India, France, Canada and the USA, and the rest of the world are given exhaustive coverage. The World Atlas of Whisky includes detailed maps, and sample single malts from Aberfeldy to Tormore, great blends from Bushmills to Yoichi, and the best of the bourbons and ryes from Barton to Wild Turkey. It also offers tasting notes on over 300 selected expressions.

Whisky expert Dave Broom has divided the whiskies of the world into six flavour camps to provide a perfect one-stop guide for selecting the right one for your palate and your preference. Experience the entire range, from ‘malty’ malts, with their crisp, biscuit-like aroma, to ‘peaty’ expressions, where smoke is the dominant aroma. ‘Fragrant’ malts, delicate and perfumed with aromas of cut flowers, grass, and fresh fruit; ‘oaky dried fruit’ malts full of Christmas cake, cloves, walnuts, and figs; ‘oaky soft fruits’ aged in American bourbon casks and infused with aromas of vanilla, butter, pine, coconut and sweet spices; and finally, the small and unusual group of ‘waxy’ unctuous malts, full of texture with an oily rich nature. The appreciation of whisky offers a world of variety, subtlety and gratification.

So, experiment with a new taste or relax with an old favourite and prepare to immerse yourself in this stylish, beautiful collection. Whether you savour with experience or are looking for that perfect first taste, this is the ideal whisky bible."
 
The World Atlas of Whisky by Dave Broom, £30, Published 4th October by Mitchell Beazley, www.octopusbooks.co.uk or on Amazon: http://tiny.cc/d3t5u

Hah! "the ideal whisky bible" indeed. Now HERE we indeed have a book that deserves to be called a BIBLE on the topic of whisky. From what I've read to far this seems to be a very worthy successor to Michael Jackson's Whisky Encyclopedia. I'm very proud that this work of whisky art was produced by a fellow malt maniac.

I will delve deeper into the book in the coming weeks; I'll need many breaks during the tasting for the MM Awards 2010 anyway. Now I can improve my theoretical knowledge about whisky while I'm improving my practical knowledge of whisky. 

That's it for now - more about the awards later...

Sweet drams,

Saturday, 2 October 2010

#387 - Whisky Disneyfication


Perhaps I'm becoming just as selective about my memories as I am about my whiskies (or perhaps it's just because I'm growing older), but it really seems to me that malt whisky marketing has suffered from "disneyfication" in recent years. 

At the end of the 20th century, single malt whiskies were hardly 'marketed' - at least not compared to well known blends like Ballantine's and Johnnie Walker. This situation was caused mostly by the fact that the single malt whisky category was a small niche market that represented only a fraction of the value of the blended Scotch whisky market. The focus of PR and advertising for single malts was mostly on product and heritage.

However, these days the marketeers use a much wider range of tools. I receive press releases about whisky festivals, competitions and charity events on a daily basis. I also receive regular press releases about 'Donald Trump whiskies' - like a new 50yo Highland Park that's supposed to fetch the nice round sum of 10,000 GBP per bottle. In the various articles that have been written about the launch of this whisky, most of the attention was reserved for the sterling silver casing that comes with the bottle and the Manhattan jeweller that produced them. 

I'm suffering from a progressive case of oldfashioned-ness, so it's entirely possible that the next generation has no problems with the growing gap between the actual product and the image or "extended experience" of the whisky brand. However, my body has already reached middle age - and now my brain is rapidly catching up. As a penny-pinching Dutchman I'm having problem with this growing gap. The Dutch phrase for hollow, meaningless boasting is "gebakken lucht" - which means something like 'fried air'. One of the problems with fried air is the fact that it isn't free. In fact, sometimes you have to pay dearly for it.

That's why I'm extra happy to report that we've received plenty of entries in the 'Daily Drams' category) priced below 50 Euro´s a bottle' of the Malt Maniacs Awards 2010. In fact, the total number of entries was a whopping 260 bottles of whisky - and it would have been even higher if half a dozen bottles hadn't broken during transit. The record number of bottles means that the members of the awards jury will have to put their personal lives in sleep mode until December 1. 

Oh, the pain we endure for the sake of good whisky ;-) 

Sweet drams,

Saturday, 18 September 2010

#386 - Is Google Growing Evil-ish?

So far I've used this new 'Blogger' blog mostly to apologise for the fact that I post so few messages here - but then again I'd like to think that I usually have a good excuse... 

Like this time. I had to upgrade to a new PC last month and strangely enough, such a relatively simple 'domestic' procedure also affects the Malt Madness and Malt Maniacs web sites. Because the foundations of these sites were laid in 1995, simple things like transferring files from one computer to another can cause some technical problems. 

So, I have to admit that one of the reasons for starting this "external" whisky blog was that it would allow me to keep sharing my thoughts with other whisky lovers, even if something went wrong with the main sites. Since Google generously provides all the services behind this "Blogger" blog for free, I guess I really can't complain to loud when something goes wrong. Nevertheless, some very colourful words were shouted in Google's general direction when I found out last week that all pages on Malt Madness had disappeared from Google's index. 

This effectively meant that novices in the confusing world of whisky would no longer be able to find any of the precious nuggets of whisky wisdom that are littering the pages of Malt Madness. And that wasn't even the worst part of it. Unless I'm sorely mistaken, Google did more than introduce 'Google Instant' last week. (Google Instant starts offering search results before you hit 'enter' - significantly increasing the amount of web traffic in the process...) I'm not sure yet, but it seems Google used this opportunity to change their search algorithms as well. Many pages on Malt Madness used to score quite high "organically" with Google on whisky-related searches, but even now that most pages seem to be back in Google's index, they score much lower than they once did.

So, I'll have to make some changes to the structure of the site to try and make Malt Madness easy to find again. This could mean that parts of Malt Madness will be temporarily off-line in the days and weeks to come. Fortunately, I'll still be able to vent my spleen via other channels like this blog, the Mixed Messages mailinglist, Malt Maniacs, Facebook and Twitter

So, watch this space for updates in the weeks to come. As far as the news over the past few weeks is concerned: we've already received more than 150 bottles for the MM Awards 2010, our annual whisky competition. And there's still one week left for participants to join the competition, so we should get over 200 bottles again. Yumm.... Furthermore, we've received an interesting E-pistle about taxes on whisky in Europe from foreign correspondent Keith Wood. There are a few more E-pistles in the pipeline AND Rich Howard has been making some steady progress with the Malt Maniacs Database. The demo of the new MMMonitor is fully functional, so that should hopefully keep you suitably entertained for a while. 

And if that isn't enough, here are a handful of links to some enjoyable music I found on YouTube. Since YouTube is owned by Google, I figured that my enjoyment of the music they so generously provide might diminish their increased evilness a bit in the grander scheme of things. I'd like to encourage everybody to help me reduce Google's evilness by enjoying this small but eclectic collection of some home grown Dutch music... 

Johannes Heesters - Ode aan de Westertoren (An antique pre-WWII song)
Caro Emerald - Back It Up (The Original Videoclip)
Caro Emerald - Back It Up (A funny Kraak & Smaak Video-remix)
Veldhuis & Kemper - Volkomen Kut (Funny videoclip & lyrics) 
Room Eleven - Hey hey hey! (Just some happy music)
Zangeres Zonder Naam - Ach Vaderlief, toe drink niet meer (1959)
Bløf - Mooie Dag (lovely spacy music to my ears)
Jurk! - Tram 7 (Live)
Jurk! - Verloren (Beautiful melancholic lyrics)
De Lenco's - Het Grote Brandweerlied (Dutch Uber-folk)* 

(* Voor de Nederlandse lezertjes: in het laatste lied spreekt me met name het tomeloze enthousiasme aan waarmee de Lenco's over "een brandende hel" zingen...)

Eauqui-deauqui - enjoy....
 

Wednesday, 1 September 2010

#385 - Cask Logistics in South Africa

In entry #382 I posted some thoughts from the other maniacs and myself in response to a question from Jeff Borowitz regarding the selection of casks for ageing. Our South African maniac Joe Barry was kind enough to follow up on Jeff's question and forwarded it to Andy Watts, Manager of the James Sedgewick distillery in South Africa. Andy wrote;

"Great to hear from you again and this is a very interesting and good question. I will try to answer with my opinion which is not necessarily that of the company or other whisky companies / distillers. Please also remember that we are relatively very new in the whisky business and therefore we don’t currently have all the “nice” options of very old aged stock!  To try to answer you would ideally have some kind of strategy within your company which would give guidelines as to what products the marketing department would want available with volumes and when! 

This strategy may change due to various reasons; however it must remain the back bone of your planning. This means that for example a certain amount would be laid down for a 12yr plan but also an acceptable volume may be added so that if during this 12 years the strategy changes you do have some stock to go forward with.

In our case our oldest commercially available whiskies at current are 5yr old but with the success of the previous 10yr old single malt it highlighted the fact you need a whisky strategy. Over the last few years we have put that in place and this means we now have whiskies laid down which will eventually bring an ongoing 10yr old and then also older versions.

I would be very reluctant to make the decision that a particular whisky is made for being 30yr old and then just left in maturation. I believe whisky inventory control means constantly assessing the product and making decisions regarding re-vat into a different / older type of cask etc. At all times quality must take preference over age!

Economics also plays a very big role in whisky inventory and that is why, in our case, the older offerings are generally low volume. The accountants are reluctant to sit with stock of high value which can’t move. It is therefore a case of demand outstripping supply on these products. Special occasions or significant dates in history may necessitate releasing whisky at a younger age than anticipated or leaving it in for an extended period of time. 

Personally I believe that style is starting to play a more important role in the whisky we drink making an age statement not always necessary but there is no escaping the fact that age is a traditional part of the whisky heritage and there will always be aged products and a demand for them.

I hope the above gives Jeff some insight into the mind of a distiller. If I have missed anything or not been specific enough then please let me know but I think the reality is all companies will approach this differently and there is no hard and fast rule. Whisky Live will see me at both Cape Town and Jo’burg this year and look out for the new 10 yr old single malt which will be on the Three Ships stand.  It is due for release towards the end of October and I can’t wait to hear the honest comments from all of you whisky lovers."


Joe added: "An interesting point to note is the pending release of new single malts from South Africa, the one Andy mentions and a first ever from Draymans which was supposed to be ready for the World Cup but will now appear at Whisky Live here."

So, apart from the theories of a the maniacs that were posted in July, we now also have a contribution from somebody working in the whisky industry. That's great - although I should point out that the situation might be a little different in Scotland. In fact, given the differences between the way the process works in countries like Japan, Ireland and Canada it's possible that things work a little differently in every country.
 
Sweet drams,
 

Monday, 30 August 2010

#384 - Kilbeggan Malt Whiskey Revisited

Dear readers...

Sorry for the relative radio silence. I've been busy working on a new site for my boss and that has been eating up most of my attention over the past few weeks. Apart from that, I've been having lots of bad nose days AND we've been suffering from a heat wave. So, all in all there have not been many nights that were really suitable for serious dramming. 

However, a post on the wall of Malt Maniacs & Friends on Facebook reminded me of the lastest arrival on my shelves; the recently introduced Kilbeggan NAS Malt Whiskey (40%, OB, Batch #0001, Btl. 06/2010, 70cl). I tried it last month, but that was right after I opened the bottle. Now that it has broken in, I found much more spices in the nose than first time. Again, it's grainy as well. It's sweet and extremely smooth on the palate. That is one advantage of the average Irish whiskey over the average Scotch whisky. There's a touch of smoke in the finish and after a delay some gentle tannins emerge. Slightly bitter at the very end of the finish. 

It has opened up a bit since I opened the bottle, so I'll increase my initial score to 71 points. For a MALT whisk(e)y that's a few points below average, but I'd like to point out that I would pick this over some Scotch single malts like Glen Grant NAS, Auchentoshan 10yo or Dalwhinnie any day. I also expect that this could be a sort of 'gateway drug' for people who are used to drinking bottom shelf blends and bourbons...

Anyway, that's it for this micro-report... However, expect some big announcements soon. The first bottle for the Malt Maniacs Awards 2010 has just arrived at our logistics centre and we now have a working demo of an interactive version of our monitor; the first steps for our very own whisky database. Stay tuned for upcoming updates...

Sweet drams,
 

Monday, 19 July 2010

#383 - A new Irish MALT whiskey

A few weeks ago Cooley's Jack Teeling informed
me that the very first malt whiskey from the re-opened Kilbeggan distillery in Ireland had been bottled. That's excellent news! A little over three years ago I could visit the grand re-opening of Ireland's oldest distillery (and have a chat with Michael Jackson) and now I would have the opportunity to sample the matured product. 

The label of the bottle boasts "from the world's oldest pot still". If I'm not mistaken, that would be the rather unique contraption depicted at the right. It might not be quite what most people imagine if they try to form a mental picture of 'the world's oldest pot still', but the gap between image and reality in the Scotch whiskey industry can be shockingly wide as well. Anyway, let's open the bottle and try it...

Kilbeggan NAS Malt Whiskey (40%, OB, Batch #0001, Btl. 06/2010, 70cl)
(And that's not everything on the label; it also says "KD" and "Distillery Reserve".)
Nose: Grainy. Some subtle spices in the background. Gradually growing complexity. 
Dust? That being said, it's really too hot to seriously taste whisky at the moment.
Taste: Warm and honeyed. Quite sweet. Very smooth - like all Irish whiskeys, really.
Toffee too. Surprisingly sweet and mellow for such a young whiskey.
Score: 70 points - but I should point out that it's a very provisional score... 
I'll give the bottle a few weeks to break in and try it again a little later when the heatwave that's torturing Northern Europe is over.

Meanwhile, if we assume that production started around the time of my visit to Kilbeggan in May 2007, this first Kilbeggan whiskey was aged for three years. That's the minimum age of Scotch whisky - anything younger isn't 'legally' whisky but just spirit. Maybe the Irish have a similar law, or they simply felt that the whiskey was at the right age now. Whatever the case, the second Irish malt whisky (after the peated Connemara, also from Cooley) is now on the market - and it's not bad at all. It has the accessibility and smoothness of other Irish whiskeys, but more complexity than most. 

Anyway, watch this space for a more thorough review in a few weeks time...

Sweet drams...

Thursday, 1 July 2010

#382 - Advance Planning for Bottling?

Gmail has made my on-line life a lot easier in recent years, but the amount of E-mail traffic I receive can still be overwhelming at times. So, it's not unusual for a message to 'slip between the cracks' every now and then. 

Fortunately, you don't have to clean out your inbox regularly with 7471 megabytes of storage space at your disposal, so I often stumble across those missed messages a few weeks or even months later. My most recent stumble was this morning when I discovered the message below from Jeff Borowitz. It concerns an interesting topic that may not have been explicitly discussed on M-Madness or M-Maniacs before;

"Hi Johannes, I found your site tremendously informative -- thanks!  I'm a doctoral student in economics at the University of Maryland, and I'm interested in potentially applying some economic theory to the decision of when to bottle whiskeys. I did have another question about the business decisions that go into the maturation and bottling process which I couldn't figure out from your Beginner's Guide. My question is whether distillers plan to mature a particular group of casks for 12 years, another group for 18 years, etc?  Or do they simply mature everything for 12 years, and then make a business decision about how much to bottle this year and how much to keep back towards making older bottles? To rephrase the question, after distillation takes place, are there some batches of whiskey that are planned to be aged for certain amounts of time?  And if so, how often do these plans change after more than a decade? Thanks so much for your help!  Your site is fantastic. Best, Jeff Borowitz."

Hah! That's a very interesting question from Jeff! 
I'm a romantic at heart, so whenever I'm daydreaming about Scotland (which I do more often than average I think), I still like to paint a mental picture of a few lucky Scottish distillery workers that get to sample the contents of each maturing cask of malt whisky on a regular basis. Sadly enough, that rosy view may not reflect the reality in most modern Scotch malt whisky distilleries any more. Especially the contents of casks that are destined to be used in blends may never even be tasted before they are vatted together.

In fact, 'Wood Management' (making sure that you have enough casks of the required variety to hold the freshly distilled spirit) is a very important topic these days. This suggests that the 'fate' of many casks can be predicted with a fair degree of certainty when the cask is filled. Still, I'd like to think there is room to deviate from the rules when an exceptional cask is discovered. However, at this point all this is pure speculation. So, I decided it was time to give my fellow malt maniacs a chance to share their thoughts on the question...

Olivier: "Very interesting question indeed. He, or we, should ask it to the distillers… My guess is that the price of the older whiskies includes the extra financial cost of keep stocks longer + loss to the angel’s share + gain of image if selling an older whisky. However, market prices do not always allow such price adjustments, especially when some very young whiskies < 12yo sell at a high price. It is hard to imagine today what the market will be in 21 years for a 21yo! I’m sure they change the rules as they go along… IMHO. Or the question is: are they making an 18yo or + because they can’t sell all their 12yo? I guess  that we see so many 30+ yo whiskies today because of the difficult times distilleries experienced in the 1970s and 1980s…"

Patrick: "At first thought and in my opinion, when they distilled they don't presume the evolution, it's only after some years that they take the decision to bottle some cask and give the other a further maturation. This general rule shouldn't apply for sherry cask unless they are used to "enhance the whisky"."

Davin: "Maniacs, someone once said: "If all the accountants in the world were lined up
end to end that would be a good thing." Same goes for economists, and in whisky this is doubly true. My guesses:  when the batches are large, differences among casks get
evened out.  Likely there are specific barrels set aside to be aged for predetermined periods, but adjusments may be made along the way. Some age statements, particularly new ones, are based on available inventory.  Same with lack of age statements."

Louis: "I am quite sure that all of the larger distilleries keep a constant eye on their inventory and market conditions. After being burned by the 18 year old malt shortage in the early 2000's, they absolutely need to know what's going on. Also, computers make this easy, they can project the yield at different ages at the click of a mouse. When the new spirit goes into the barrel, they should have a reasonable guess at what the breakdown will be down the road, but also have the flexibility to change directions mid-course. Lets us also not forget that the most of the output of many distilleries goes for blending, so they are only looking at three years for some of it. Slainte."

Lawrence: "I’ll wager they start out with one plan and then change course as the market fluctuates, the way the spirit is maturing and if their finances go south they’ll sell as much as they can now as a 10yo (or whatever the case may be). Then they kick themselves 3 years later. I also assume that Diageo and Springbank or Loch Lomond behave quite differently. And as a curious aside Dewar Rattray / Stronachie has come out of the closetwith Stronachie / Benrinnes (the worst kept secret in the whisky world). Regards, and HAPPY CANADA everybody!" 

Serge: "Well, I doubt they wouldn't know that the malt will be bottled early when using first fill bourbon, for instance. I seem to recall that first fill bourbon casks are usually prepared with grain when used for long-term maturation. In short, very active casks (flavour-packed ones) maybe be used for short maturation only, on purpose. Or for older whisky 'rejuvenation' of course (finishing). But I may well be completely wrong here. It's just that in the wording 'wood management', there's also 'management', which is the art of planning things (isn't it?). Santé." 

Craig: "Hi all. I know it might be naïve or disingenuous, but my understanding was that there were a multiple (a couple at least) of different types of filled barrels. Most distilleries were blending focussed so under the law the make needed to be matured for 3 yrs. In the malt/branded whiskies, the early selection of barrels depended on whether they were likely to be selected for blending or were selected for ‘further maturation’ to become single malts. I find it most credible that the people marshalling the casks get a say, but I might be wrong!" 

Well, thanks to these useful additions from the other maniacs I now have a somewhat clearer picture of the 'modus operandi' of most distillers. So, the consensus seems to be that most of the wood management is carefully planned out in advance these days. In other words, most of the whisky industry has chosen the 'technocratic' perspective that considers the production of whisky a science (or perhaps a craft) rather than an art. Well, I suppose the risks and interests are so large these days that it's only logical that most of the Scotch whisky industry tries to minimise the role of coincidence in the production process. Before Louis accuses me of grumpiness again, I'd like to point out that I fully appreciate that the rationalisation and uniformisation of the production process has had some notable benefits - like the fact that REALLY BAD WHISKY is rarer now than it was in the 1990's. Unfortunately, that goes for the extremes on the other end of the spectrum as well. Oh, and I've been ungrumpified about something else too - I'm happy that A. D. Rattray now openly admit that Stronachie is actually produced at the Benrinnes distillery.

I think I'll let this topic simmer inside of my brain for a while now... 
I'll leave you with two links on topics I've been discussing with a few friends recently; My beloved old DAF 66 car that I used to drive around in during the late 1980's (just before I moved to Amsterdam and discovered single malt whisky) and a compilation of footage of a favourite national Dutch pastime in those years: racing those DAF cars backwards!
  
Sweet drams...
 

Wednesday, 30 June 2010

#381 - Age Statements Before Beauty?

Due to some micro-mismanagement from an interim manager on a project I'm currently involved with (well, I don't think he initially planned to be 'interim', but the aforementioned mismanagement took care of that ;-) I've had to spend a lot of extra hours on work during the past week.Those were hours I didn't get to spend updating this blog as often as I wanted to - sorry...

Nevertheless, I've managed to finish the refurbishment of the 'Distillery Data' section of Malt Madness just before the second half of 2010 kicks off. The profiles of all active malt whisky distilleries are now expanded with sub-sections with a small selection of recent developments. So, I'm enjoying a stiff dram of the Glendronach 15yo to celebrate while I write this...

Meanwhile, Pernod Ricard / Chivas Brothers launched a large PR & publicity campaign a few days ago. A bunch of 'whisky web publishers' among the malt maniacs (Serge, Mark, myself, etc.) were invited last week to interview a senior Chivas Brothers spokesperson about a certain 'very interesting' topic. However, the invitor was unable to give more information about the topic at that time. Being the skeptic that I am, I figured this was the equivalent of a shop trying to sell me 'an interesting whisky' in a closed cardboard box, so I politely declined. 

However, as it turned out this PR and press campaign wasn't about the oldest or most expensive whisky ever sold, or a new packaging or yet another 'brand extension'. In a time when more and more whiskies are released without an age statement (so that younger - and therefore cheaper - whisky can be used to fill the bottles), Chivas Brothers is now launching a campaign to point out the age statements on whisky bottles to consumers. 

Interesting! 
The interests of the larger members of 'the whisky industry' (Diageo, Pernod Ricard, William Grant, etc.) are often similar in nature, so when the industry moves, most members usually move in the same direction. The SWA's introduction of new whisky classifications like 'blended malt whisky' may have been a miscarriage of logic, but at least it was supported by most whisky producers. With this campaign Pernod / Chivas seems to be taking a stand against producers of whisky brands like Ardbeg, Bruichladdich, Bunnahabhain, Glenmorangie and Jura, that have released a handful of new bottlings without an age statement lately. It seems that it's mostly the (relatively) smaller whisky producers that have launched expressions without age statements. Could it be that the drop in demand for malt whisky worldwide gives the larger players an advantage because they now have larger stocks of maturing whisky, so they can 'play the age card' for a long while to come?

So, that's interesting food for thought, but typing all of those thoughts down is a little pointless because Serge beat me to it on Whiskyfun. Check out Serge's entry for June 28 for a bunch of interesting thoughts and observations about the new Chivas campaign. On the whole I tend to agree with Serge's thoughts, although I've always felt that the 'older = better' rule of thumb should be taken with a few grains of salt.  

OFF TOPIC: Meanwhile, here's a little update for the international audience of this blog: the Dutch politicians have made no progress whatsoever in forming a coalition government yet, three weeks after the elections... Many of us that grew up in 'the free west' during the 1960's and 1970's have been indoctrinated with the idea that our form of parliamentary representation was the best form of democracy we could hope for. As I'm growing ever older and wiser, I'm starting to have my doubts. Since I've learned that in Holland the severely mentally handicapped get to vote as well, I'm starting to believe that the politicians can't have a lot of respect for the voters. After all, if that 'solemn responsibility' can be given to somebody who can't even go to the toilet unsupervised, how important can it be? 
Pffft.... I needed to get that off my chest. 

So, that's already 'it' for this report - more news about the work on MM in my next post.

Sweet drams...
 

Wednesday, 9 June 2010

#380 - A Talisker Tasting

It has been a while since my last report because I've been busy with some preparations for the Malt Maniacs Awards 2010 - and with wrapping up some more distillery profiles in the Distillery Data section. I expect to finish the refurbishment of that site section before July 1. I've also made some minor tweaks to the Beginner's Guide that make it easier to 'drill down' to other site sections for people that want to learn more about a specific
topic from one of the ten chapters. 


To cut a long story short; I haven't had any whisky for a few weeks, 
but tonight I really need a few drams; it's election night in Holland... 
As opposed to many other countries that have only two or three main
political parties, we had around a dozen different political parties in
the Dutch parliament. The first signs indicate that they will need a
coalition of at least four different parties to form a new government.
I think it's safe to say that the coming weeks will be interesting ;-)

Talisker NAS '57° North' (57%, OB, Bottled 2008)
Nose: Fairly fruity. Loads of spices; like being served a fresh dish in an Indonesian restaurant. Taste: Hot, sweet and peaty. A fairly rough centre. Hint of menthol? Hot finish. Mellows out a little with air. I was watching a TV programme while tasting this one, so I’m afraid I forgot to make many notes. Score: 87 points - I like it quite a bit, but I feel the high proof masks the youth of the whisky a bit. 

Talisker 10yo (45.8%, OB, Bottled +/- 2009)
Nose: Fruity and sweaty. Some organics. A malty component as well. Opens up after some breathing. A hint of rotting milk powder - and yes, I realise that this is a fragrance outside most people’s experience ;-) Oddly oily for a Talisker 10yo; I never found any oil in Talisker before as far as I know. Some cardboard. Taste: Sweet. Some fairly faint smoke and organics, evolving into peat. Very subtle fruits in the finish. Score: 83 points - which is a little below earlier batches, but still very respectable for a 10yo whisky. 


Talisker 25yo (54.2%, OB, Bottled 2008, 9708 Bts.)
Nose: Passion fruit, bordering on perfumy. Maybe a hint of chloride? Coffee. Cassis? Evolves quickly; more medicinal after a minute before it gradually sweetens out. Grows a little dustier. Taste: Smooth, sweet and fruity in the beginning. Tannins already emerge in the centre. Raisins too. Touches of smoke. Maybe a hint of coconut? The mouth feel is big, full and round. Yes, I like this one... Score: 88 points - which means that I like this batch exactly as much as the previous one from 2007. 


Talisker 30yo (49.5%, OB, Bottled 2008, 2970 Bts.)
Nose: Slightly uneven start; veggy and a little oily. The bouquet opens up after a minute. Fairly simple compared to the palate at first. During a second try the nose appeared light and a tad watery. Light citrus? Speculaas? The bouquet is fairly subtle, but it shows quite some development over time. Taste: Fruity start, teetering on the brink of perfumy. Passion fruits? Fairly hot and harsh in the dry finish. The finish also shows some 'aspirin' bitterness after a few minutes. A (relatively) crappy cask? Score: 82 points - recommendable, but perhaps the bouquet is just a tad too ‘bourbony’ for my tastes. 

Talimburg 20yo 1986/2006 (43.8%, The Whisky Fair, Artist Edition)
Nose: Sweetish and a little sweaty.
Perhaps a tad rubbery? Anthracite and some subtle organics. Taste: Smooth and soft start, before liquorice and some smoke emerge. Sweeter towards the finish. Score: 86 points - I had it at 87 points for a long time, but the finish grew a little too dry for me. 

Talisker 26yo 1975/2002 (44.7%, Douglas Laing for Cöpenicker WH, 'Tactical', 294 Bts.) Nose: Cassis. It’s fruity for a minute before it grows oilier. Powerful start, but it loses some steam quickly. Taste: Sweet pastry. More phenols in the centre. Wonderful mouth feel. Feels stronger than its actual ABV. In fact, the longer you keep this whisky in your mouth, the more powerful it becomes. Light tannins. Score: 85 points - perhaps not terribly impressive given its ripe old age, but still highly recommendable.  

And that's already 'it' - time to call it a night... 

Sweet drams...
  

Friday, 28 May 2010

#379 - Battling the Biotics

Generally speaking, I love nature...
Unfortunately, these days nature has wild ticks in it. And even more unfortunately, little fat middle-aged men like myself seem to be the favourite prey of those wild ticks. 


Well, who could blame them; I was easy prey.
Instead of running away in panic like I should have done, I just sat there drinking whisky for hours on end, enjoying the first summery weekend of the year with some fat middle-aged friends. So, one of them got me without much effort. Within a week or so the first mild signs of Lyme's disease appeared, so I had to get on powerful antibiotics for three weeks. That wouldn't have been too bad on itself, but these were the kind of antibiotics that requires you to avoid sunlight and alcohol.

So, it could be because of the Vitamin D deficit or unusual soberness, but I decided to post some whisky news here about an open day at Arran distillery. My fellow malt maniac Dave Broom will be performing tricks there, so that's an extra good reason to check out a counterpart to the Islay distilleries that receive so much (well deserved) attention these days... So, HEAR YEA, HEAR YEA...

Attention all Single Malt Lovers!
 
 What do you get when you combine beautiful surroundings with good company and a fantastic dram of single malt? Keep reading……
 
The Isle of Arran Distillery is celebrating its 15th Anniversary this year and to celebrate it in style we are holding an open day at our distillery in Lochranza on the Isle of Arran.  It’s the perfect day out for whisky lovers and anyone who enjoys sampling the finest produce that one of Scotland’s most beautiful islands has to offer.

Here are just a few of the things that everyone can look forward to on the day:

·         Limited Edition Bottling of 3 x 1995 casks, especially for the occasion, exclusive to the Arran Distillery Visitor Centre – you won’t find these anywhere else!

·         Master-classes with our Master Distiller James MacTaggart, Arran Team Member Andy Hogan and whisky writer Dave Broom (these are not included in the ticket price – please phone our Visitor Centre on 0044 1770 830 264 or e-mail on visitorcentre@arranwhisky.com ASAP to book your place)

·         Island showcase featuring all of the fantastic food & drink producers on the Isle of Arran – including a special ale brewed for the event by the Arran Brewery

·         Under 18s come free and there’s plenty of activities for our younger fans; face painting, archery, mountain biking, bird display with the RSPB and story telling to name a few!

·         Evening ceilidh in Lochranza Village Hall with live ceilidh band “Skerryvore”

Why not get a few of you together and make a weekend of it – come along and soak up the great atmosphere and great whisky.

Tickets are being sold on our web site, priced at £10 for a day or evening ticket, and £18 if you’re in it for the long haul and decide to join us for both the day and evening events. Go straight to our web site shop http://www.arranwhisky.com/ProductCategories.aspx?cat_id=41  to buy your tickets or e-mail jaclyn@arranwhisky.com for more info.

Looking forward to seeing you there,

Slainte,

Jaclyn McKie
Isle of Arran Distillers Ltd
43 Enterprise House
Springkerse Business Park
Stirling FK7 7UF
Tel: (0044) (0)  1786 431 903
=================== 

Meanwhile, there are just two more days left to my anti-biotics treatment, so I'll celebrate with a tasting of some 'T' malts within a few days. I'm REALLY looking forward to it - my liver has been idle long enough I tell you!

Sweet drams...
 

Thursday, 13 May 2010

#378 - [EXPLETIVE REMOVED]


Oh boy... 

I had intended to fill this log entry with the tasting notes for 
four antique samples I received from our Australian malt 
maniac Craig Daniels some time ago. However, once again 
I'm being pestered by a lawyer - and over the last few 
months the story has grown weird enough to warrant a
publication on my whisky blog. So, you'll only find my
scores at the bottom of this article; the tasting notes
will be published on the distillery profiles.


Those of you that have been following the Malt Madness
and Malt Maniacs web sites for a few years may remember 

that we used to publish quite a lot of information about our
investigations about fake whiskies on our website in the
past. Before the old website crashed in 2006 we even had a special 'Fake Alert' page that was dedicated to this topic. 


After the old site crashed, the fake alert page became part of the 'frozen' ADHD archive while I started work on two brand new websites. This effectively meant that I now have to dive directly into the HTML code of the old pages for every single change - a lengthy, boring and cumbersome process, especially if you have better things to do. 

Fortunately, during a period of some four years there had been no need for me to directly edit the code of any of the old pages - until circa three months ago when I received an e-mail from our Italian maniac Luca, begging me to try and sort out an issue with Italian whisky trader Giuseppe Gambi. Luca told me that Mr. Gambi kept harassing him because of the fact that his name was mentioned several times on the aforementioned "fake alert" page. His name was mentioned there because a few suspicious bottles could be traced back to his rare whisky store in Ravenna. 

The fact that Mr. Gambi was mentioned on the whisky fakes page made this fake alert page pop up whenever peope searched for his name on Google. Mr. Gambi still deals in whisky - these days under the name "Rare Whisky" - and he claimed that the fact that his name was (publicly) connected with the trade in fake whisky damaged his business because some customers were extra cautious. So, he asked me to change or remove the page. I certainly didn't want to remove the page, because I feel it still provides valuable information to caution people about fake whiskies, but since it deals with two cases from circa 2004 (and in both cases the fakes were not "confirmed" with certainty, I decided to delve into the HTML code of the old page and change the name of Mr. Gambi in 'An anonymous whisky seller from Ravenna, Italy'. Nevertheless, a few weeks ago I received this message from the lawyer of Mr. Gambi;

"On behalf of Mr. Giuseppe Gambi, who turned to our assistance, formulating this to reiterate the same as expressed in the entire pre-existing post. In particular, while appreciating its operation to avoid the juxtaposition of the name of Mr Gambi to vendors of counterfeit whiskey typing its name on the web, also recognizing the attempt to eliminate the name of our client from the page www.maltmaniacs/ADHD/fake.html (SIC!), we regret to point out that in any event the reader of your magazine and the visitor of your web pages is inevitable pull the name of Mr Gambi to that of Mr. Boroli when referring to a collector and seller of whiskey rare in Ravenna, given the paucity of knowledgeable and expert in your field and then back to the ease of Mr. Gambi by the mere physical location. This inevitably affects the right of integrity and respectability of our patients, considering also the honesty and frankness with which he himself presents the bottles you examined. While acknowledging the good will, please remove any reference to our client from the page mentioned above, anything ostando the fact that this is an archive page. Finally, recognizing the importance of your work to protect consumers, we want to reaffirm the correctness of the work of our client, too deep lover of whiskey, whose integrity must be respected through a proper comparison of the merits of the issues and through the ability to counter the "allegations" moves, giving him the opportunity to argue his case by granting the "defense" as much space and prominence on your online magazine granted yours.  Sure of the collaboration that will be kind, and we wait for clarification and any need and in the occasion we send our warmest greetings   adv. MATTEO SANTINI"

Wow... Did Mr. Santini use 'Google Translate' to compose this letter? It's a very useful tool if you want to know the general meaning of a certain phrase in Swahili, but perhaps not the best tool for legal correspondence quite yet. The letter seemed friendly enough - at least the parts I could understand. I know my English is far from perfect, but I surely hope my sentences are more intelligible than this gibberish. Nevertheless, I decided to make the connection to Mr. Gambi on the fake alert page even vaguer and changed the description to "A whisky trader from Italy". Surely, they can't object to that?

Well, apparently they can - see the enclosed second portion of gibberish I received a few weeks later... "Further to previous correspondence, took note with appreciation of the interventions made by you on the site particolre's claim relating to our client, evidenziat already in our previous letter, we ask you one last time on this page www.maltmaniacs/ADHD/mm16b.html (SIC!) intervention. from the reading of which we unfortunately highlight emerging considerations, going beyond the legitimate right to criticize, undermines the integrity and respectability of our client. We ask you to delete any reference to our client from the page referred to above, or reformulated in terms of its sphere less invasive of personal rights in order to consider closed this whole affair. Sure again of the collaboration that will be kind, we remain at your disposal for any need or  clarification and we renove our warmest greetings. Adv. MATTEO SANTINI" 


And "Google Translate" rears its ugly tongue again. From what I understood of it, Giuseppe Gambi and his lawyer now had problems with YET ANOTHER page on Malt Maniacs, this time one with an article about fake whiskies where Mr. Gambi was only mentioned in passing. By now my patience had grown really, really thin. However, once again the gentler side of my personality managed to suppress my instincts to place a giant banner with the text "WE SUSPECT GIUSEPPE GAMBI MAY HAVE SOLD FAKE WHISKY IN THE PAST" on all pages of Malt Madness and Malt Maniacs to express my annoyance. However, that would take even more of my precious free time, so I took a few deep breaths and dove into the HTML code of yet another old archive page to appease Mr. Gambi and Mr. Santini. So, now the name of Mr. Gambi had been removed from all pages on Malt Maniacs and all connections in the Googlyverse would soon be severed.

And then, incredulously enough, I received this message yesterday; 

"(...) we reported that the research carried out on the Google search engine by typing its name and the word whiskey is the first page that appears: Malt Maniacs investigates the world of fake whiskey and Other Contraband. www.maltmaniacs.org / ADHD / fake.html. Although a blank page whose content is not attributable to our experienced, its placement within the search engine itself creates damage to the image of Mr. Gambi. Please therefore speeding up the procedures for cancellation, maybe contacting http: / / www.google.com/support/webmasters/bin/answer.py?&answer=164734 to remove from Google results no longer valid and consider closed the whole thing."

Whaaaat???? So, now I've spent several hours removing the name 'Giuseppe Gambi' from two different pages on Malt Madness and Malt Maniacs, and now they want me to contact Google because one very specific search string shows a page in the search results that was changed over a month ago? Mind you: I've checked and a regular search for "Giuseppe Gambi" showed no pages on
Malt Madness and Malt Maniacs - just the specific search on his name in combination with the word 'whisky'. And mind you even more: Google refreshes its results regularly, so even that specific search result would have disappeared in a few weeks time I imagine. 

But apparently Mr. Gambi enjoys spending money on a lawyer to keep pestering me. Not an expensive lawyer though; I imagine those would either have a proper command of the English language - or at least the funds to hire one if they happen to be linguistically challenged. Now, I've always had a distaste for lawyers - I think that many lawyers are parasites in the fabric of our modern Western society that charge a lot of money but don't actually contribute a lot to 'the greater good'. Just like the mercenaries of companies like Blackwater they profit from conflict - they are just better dressed... (Note to lawyers: I may need one of you soon if this article backfires, so please keep in mind that I said those nasty things about MANY lawyers; of course that didn't apply to you. What's more, I made a compliment about your dress sense... ;-)

Anyway, by now my patience had worn out altogether. I kindly invited Mr. Gambi and Mr. Santini to contact Google with their complains about the free search service. I suspect Google has lawyers of their own, so they can battle it out together. And interestingly enough, the same goes for the contents of this article...

Which is incidentally hosted by "Blogger"... 
Which is owned by Google....
Ironic, isn't it?

Meanwhile, as far as Craig's samples are concerned... I'll limit myself to the scores here; you can find my tasting notes in the Distillery Data section within a few days...

89 - Lochside 17yo 1965 
(40%, G&M Connoisseurs Choice, Old brown label)

87 - Millburn 18yo 1977/1996 (43%, Coopers Choice) 

78 - Millburn 1978/1997 (65.6%, G&M, C#3166)

That's it for now. I'll leave you with news that we're enjoying a cold spell here in Holland at the moment, which I'll use to clear a few Islay samples from my shelves soon. 


Sweet drams... 




* = The humanitarian in me decided to change the title of this post a few months later so it would no longer receive 'top billing' from Google for searches on 'Guiseppe Gambi'.