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. 

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...