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 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  to buy your tickets or e-mail for more info.

Looking forward to seeing you there,


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


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. / 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: / / 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'.


Saturday, 8 May 2010

#377 - Assorted Tasting Notes

The winter has been long and cold in Holland, with a snowy blanket that covered the land for more than a month. That was quite unusual, and spring has started the same. There has been a green haze around the trees since a few weeks now, but due to unusually dry conditions they did not signal the arrival of spring yet with the usual explosion of fresh green leaves

However, after three warm and sunny weeks we're now enjoying a cold and rainy weekend - ideal for a two day dramming session to 'work away' some old samples and do some serious thinking. The national elections are only a month away and I'm still a 'vigorously floating voter'. I'm even considering NOT voting at all because one could argue that one is satisfied with the current, antiquated electoral system by voting.

Compass Box NAS 'Magic Cask 2006' (46%, OB, Over 480 Bts.)
(A vatting of Clynelish 14yo and Linkwood Madeira Finish)
Nose: Fruity with a hint of oil in the background. Polished. 

Some chloride and very subtle spices emerge over time. 
Taste: Round, light and sweet. Very smooth on the palate.
Score: 79 points - nice; just short of recommendable...

Murray McDavid 'Trilogy' (40.3%, MMcD, Bottled 2006)
(A vatting of Bowmore, Bruichladdich and Bunnahabhain)
Nose: Classy, very antique and distinguished. Coal smoke. Fruits.
The fruits evolve over time. I wanted to prolong the experience.
Taste: A bit weak in the start, loads of 'OBE'. Dry, tannic finish.
A bit meaty as well; a perfect example of an 'antique' whisky. 

Coffee. Lots of coal smoke and a hint of beer. I love this profile!
Score: 91 points
- a brilliant vatting that grew on me over time.
For a while it was too weak on the palate for the 90's, but it finally arrived there. After almost an hour it finally reached 91 points...

QE2 NAS (43%, OB, Morrisson Bowmore Ltd., Black Decanter, 75cl) 
Nose: Smoky and sweaty. Tertiary fruits. Crushed plant stems.
Old fashioned menthol sweets. The aroma is simply unique.

Very fragrant; this one has 'a lot of nose' for the first ten minutes.
Taste: Lovely combination of sweetness and 'OBE'. Liquorice.
Gentle tannins in the finish. This one grows sweeter over time.
Score: 88 points - I received this sample from Olivier, who described it as "a ceramic black decanter (jug) done by Morrison Bowmore, probably a vatted or blended malt (can't remember) that was served on the QE2 (the boat) for 1st class passenger after it's launch. There is a NAS version and a 12yo. The Whisky is called QE2 like the ship and not Queen Elizabeth 2."  So there you have it...

Aberlour-Glenlivet 8yo 1965
(50%, OB, Cube bottle, small cork, Rinaldi Import, 75cl) 

Nose: Birch wood smoke. Subtle sweet and organic notes. Great!
Sweet with a hint of pine. Fruity richness in the background.
Mon Cherie - liquor filled chocolates. Just hugely enjoyable...
Taste: Quite unique. Woody and quite dry, but softer 'edges'.
The pine I found in the nose returns on the palate. Dry finish.
Score: 89 points -
incredibly complex for such a young malt.

That's it for now - but expect some fresh notes in a few days.
Most of these samples came from Olivier (Thanks Olivier, lovely stuff!); next time I'll focus on a few samples Craig Daniels sent me.

Meanwhile, I'm very happy to report that I've managed to update all distillery profiles in the 'G' section with the latest details and tasting notes. About two thirds of the Distillery Data section of Malt Madness is now revised; I hope to finish the rest before the preparations of the Malt Maniacs Awards 2010 begin in earnest.

Sweet drams...