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The whisky world as seen by an eccentric Bavarian exile


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Saturday January 22nd 2011

Overdosing on sherry casks

or "Ahhhhh-Bunadh"


So, my first week of employment is completed, or should I say my return to school is completed. As you know I have been offered a job which I accepted and was duly sent back to school. There are so many new things to learn, many of which are not only necessary, but also quite critical, so newbies are sent off for training along with real examinations before they are allowed to actually start 'work'.

It seems I've managed to get through this first week and now find myself, after two years of constant 'weekends' where every day was the same, having a real weekend!

To celebrate, whilst the rest of the world seemed to be esconced in a certain distillery's offerings from Wick, I turned to something slightly more southerly as my Old Pulteney samples didn't arrive in time.

Thanks to another online friend, who I have communicated with electronically for a couple or so years now, but never personally met as yet, I became the proud owner of four different Aberlour samples. Three were older A'Bunadh batches and the fourth was a "fill your own bottle" distillery single sherry cask, dated 1994 and filled in 2007.

The first A'bunadh is indeed a quite early one, in fact it's so early it doesn't even have a batch number!

This turns out to be a very good example of A'Bunadh with raisins, plums, black cherries and even a well polished antique oak table on the nose. The palate als ohas those dark fruits, but also leather and then a slightly peppery butterscotch as it transcends the palate. A few drops of water work wonders in making it even smoother and bringing out much more flora.

My second example is one of the oft-spoken about batches, No.6 which I have been longing to find and try.

I was far from disappointed as I immediately found a long-lost childhood sweetshop where nothing is packed in plastic and all the aromas greet the poor unsuspecting children as they walk in with pocket money aready to spend. Alongside this was aged oak, leather shoe polish of the highest quality and sheen and a suggestion of rich oil of arange.

The way this opened to include hints of smoke and richer fruits made it my favourite A'bunadh so far!

My third A'Bunadh was another oldie; batch No.10 which was a very good whisky, but sadly it lacked a little depth compared to the other 'greats'.

Finally, I tried a sample of a single sherry cask which sat at the distillery in 2007 as visitors were invited to fill their own bottles directly from it.

My experience here was of not only wood and sherry, but an initial burst of dark fruits, cloves, currants, figs, raisins, plums and then a delightful marshmallow experience leading me gently into the finish.

A truly excellent whisky!

So, whilst everyone else was somewhere in Wick enjoying WK209; A herring fishing boat called "Good Hope", I was a little further south, down in Speyside, enjoying the delights of some superb sherry casks thanks to an old friend.

Slŕinte Teun and Danke!

For those interested, here's my "Scale of A'bunadh"




Sunday January 16th 2011

Finding your way Around

or "Take the 2nd left after tasting notes"


I guess things have looked a little quiet around here for the last week. In fact some have even asked if things will fizzle out now I'm starting a job. "Nay!" I say, "Nay and thrice times Nay!"

As quiet as The Emporium may have seemed from the outside, I have been extremely busy on the inside so to speak. A few new tasting notes have been added to take the current Dram-o-meter reading to a modest 632, but more importantly I've been hammering away at a previously little-known new page nicknamed ToC, which from now on will be your personal navigator through the website.

Of course ToC is "Table of Contents" and in reality is a list of every main page, feature, interview, distillery page and even individual tasting note throughout the site. If it's on the website, then ToC knows about it and will lead you there. Or at least in another week or so it will.

At the moment ToC is about 80% complete as I need to make to make a few more updates to distillery pages to include the tags to be used as links, so don't worry, if you find an entry in ToC without an active link, try again in a few days when all should be working.

When everything is finished, I'll add a wee "ToC" up with the main page options at the top, but until then it can be found via a link towards the bottom of my Home Page called "Table of Contents" or here!



Monday January 10th 2011

Three Thirties

or "Fine time for a dram, or three"


On Saturday I spoke of things possibly looking up and "taking off" for me in 2011, well I can confirm that today I have signed the contract and all being well, after that two years of employment misery, I should be back in work again from next Monday.

Anyway, to celebrate the event I have broken open three suitable samples; each 30 years old and each quite different. They are Campbeltown Loch 30y, Strathisla 30y from G&M and the OB Highland Park 30y.


Campbeltown Loch 30y, 40% abv is the 30y variant of the range of blended whiskies from J&A Mitchell, owners of Springbank and Glengyle distilleries.

The nose begins with slightly sweet nuts and creamy furniture polish before something slightly metallic and perfumed appears. The palate has creamy malt and butterscotch which are followed by a slight leafiness leading into the finish which is medium to long with mild fruit; Papaya, apricot and peach are identifiable.


G&M Strathisla, 30y, 43% abv: The nose initially has well-aged oak with a dash of fine perfume behind the ears. The floral and perfumed elements intensify steadily over some minutes. Also after some minutes there's a quick burst of what can only be described as perfumed baby vomit, but as I say, this disappears as quickly as it arrived and left me with a well polished, aged oak dining table. The palate is smooth and slightly dry with a hint of oil of orange, figs and raisins. An intense oakiness builds but is quite dry, suggesting a dry fino sherry which leads into the quite long, but dry finish.



Highland Park, (OB) 30y, 48.1% abv: The nose begins with aged oak, bracken, polish and tanned leather. After a minute or two a slightly herbal-floral attribute appears and then expands into what I can only describe as oak flavoured ice cream with a topping of wax furniture polish. The palate continues initially with smooth nuts, marzipan and butterscotch which all charge immediately onto the palate, then fade gently to leave oak, walnut and a slightly dry sherry which continue into the long finish.


I've been looking forward to this little trio for some time now and, although they turned out not to be totally earth-shattering examples, they are all very pleasant indeed and well worth the experience.

The Campbeltown Loch is smooth and inoffensive, but sadly lacking in what I can only suggest is a little "je ne sais quoi".

The Strathisla is pretty rich with a nice balance between between the oak and some very pleasant floral nuances, but right in the middle of the experience comes that fleeting perfumed baby vomit, but like the real thing, it's short and doesn't stick around too long.

The pick of the bunch is certainly the Highland Park 30y, it has all that rugged Scottish outdoors I have come to associate with HP (the whisky, not the sauce!), but it still isn't quite the superstar or "great" that I would have liked from a bottle in this price range.

Anyway, there you have it, all three are good whiskies, the Highland Park the star in this case and I even have half my samples left to savour once again tonight, or when I once again join the ranks of the 'working class' next week!

Slŕinte Mhath



Saturday January 8th 2011

This is the year, this is

or "Hope is not lost afterall"


Are things looking up for 2011? I guess the changing of the year is a time when many wish for something better in the coming year. I was no exception this year, or should that be last year? In wishing for a better 2011.

After two years of being unemployed following the demise of my business, two years of being told "you're not allowed to apply for this job because you don't have relevant (German) qualifications, even though you've previously done the job for the last 20 years".

Aye, welcome to the 'real' Germany, a land of paper, certificates and qualifications versus skill, expertise and experience.

Anyway, I tried yet more job applications in the lead-up to Christmas and yesterday, I finally received my formal job offer and contract to sign. Yes, I have a few questions for them on Monday, but it looks like I will be starting a job and whole new career in a mere 9 days time from now.

Are things looking up for 2011? Will a whole new career "take off" for me? I certainly hope so after two years of misery.

Good luck to you for a better 2011 too.



Wednesday January 5th 2011

January's Whisky Round Table heads back across The Pond where Mike, Mike & Dan of WhiskyParty invite The Knights discuss the phenomenon that is "Craft Distilling".



Saturday January 1st 2011

That was the year, that was

or "Maniacal Malticious Musings"


Just before Christmas I was enjoying a celebratory dram or three with my old friend Oliver Klimek of Dramming.com and as often happens after a few Drams and when the night draws in, we set about putting the world, or at least whisky world, to rights.

Of course the conversation soon involved something of a look back at the year and our thoughts as to what was either memorable or eminently forgettable and as far as my memory serves; our discussion went something like this:


Oliver: Let's first talk about our top whiskies in 2010. I tasted so many excellent drams last year that it's not easy to pick a favourite. But I have to say that most of my top picks were earlier bottlings. From the new releases of 2010 I really liked the Glenglassaugh 21 yo (Batch 2). Another great Batch 2 was the 2010 Laphroaig Cask Strength release. Even though it couldn't quite match the 2009 version it's still pretty damn good. And I found the Ardbeg Rollercoaster to be particularly good. I've read numerous reviews that placed it behind last year's Corryvreckan, but I beg to disagree.

But I happen to have a nice Port Ellen from Old Bothwell (1982/2010, cask #2039) in my bag that manages to beat all of those excellent drams with ease. May I offer you a dram?

Thanks Oliver, I personally tasted three excellent Islays in Ardbeg Supernova 2010, Octomore ‘Orpheus’ and the Laphroaig 2010 Feis Ile Cairdeas which for me was better than the CS second batch, which I just happen to have here. In fact these are all worthy of mentions as was that Ardbeg Rollercoaster, although I did prefer the Corryvreckan and the Supernova. Otherwise I was very pleasantly surprised by a single cask Ben Nevis 25y which was a seriously good dram; however, the two totally outstanding offerings were a 38y Glen Grant from Whisky Doris and this Port Ellen which you just poured for me. In fact, this Port Ellen is truly magnificent and I would say just pips the Glen Grant as not only my favourite whisky of 2010, but it even edges into my all-time top 10 list. So, this Old Bothwell, single cask 2039, 1982, 28y Port Ellen is my choice for 2010. Slŕinte and is there perhaps a wee drop more in that bottle for me?

Now, I reckon this Port Ellen is still my No.1 of 2010, but if I could be permitted to select something not necessarily released in 2010, I would have to consider Jack Wieber’s 34y Old Train Line Banff from 1974, David Stirk’s ‘Exclusive Malts’ 34y Inchgower, also from 1974, Cadenhead’s 21y Convalmore from 1977 and last but not least; Signatory’s 34y Ladyburn (Rare Ayrshire) from 1975. All of these are magnificent whiskies and well worthy of accolade. What about your own thoughts here Oliver?

I already mentioned that most of my favourites of 2010 were earlier bottlings. Only that Port Ellen manages to match those. I would like to mention the Cameronbridge 1978/2008 single grain from Duncan Taylor, the Dallas Dhu 1975/2005 again from Duncan Taylor, the 2006 release of the Lagavulin 12 and also the 2009 Geore T. Stagg, a magnificent bourbon. But my overall winner of 2010 was the Karuizawa 1985/2009 Cask #7017, a sherry monster of the highest quality.

You know, it's always nice to look back at the highlights of a year. But what about the Dark Side? I've tasted quite a few utterly mediocre drams and noted some rather upsetting trends in the whisky industry that I think should not go unnoticed.

Let's start with my least favourite drams. The overall loser was without a doubt that Loch Dhu that you were kind enough to dispose of by letting me taste the remaining 90% of your sample. Runner-up is not a whisky in the Scotch sense but worth a mention anyway: The herb-infused Mekhong Whisky from Thailand that I had tried at a Thai restaurant. I also recall the Tamnavulin 12 yo to be a memorable dud, and I was quite disappointed with the Arran 100 Proof as well.

The last whisky I would like to mention in this respect leads to my gripes about the whisky industry. 2010 saw a repackaging of the Irish Kilbeggan blend that went along with a significant and well-noticeable drop in malt content. This used to be an excellent budget blend but now it's become just one of many. I also was quite unhappy with Diageo's Manager's Choice series. Not because they released bad whisky but they priced those single cask bottlings way beyond anything I would call acceptable. They must have had a massive budget going into marketing this range, and obviously this has to be paid for.

But the Golden Bung Cloth 2010 goes to The Macallan, who with the marketing for their fancy brass ice ball maker managed to negate what has been taught to us by whisky experts for decades: ”The ultimate way to enjoy the ultimate whisky” which translates into “Any Macallan is better than any other whisky and it tastes best at temperatures near freezing”.

Ah yes, that Macallan Ice ball was a pretty strange idea to me too, but my own thoughts are drawn to the less-noteworthy whiskies I tried. These include the Murray McDavid Caol Ila Zinfandel finish here on the table tonight, that particular wine finish just doesn’t work with the Caol Ila, in fact I wouldn’t have believed a Caol Ila like this could be so dominated by the Zinfandel. 2010 Was also the year I tried Drumguish and a rather insipid Tamnavulin OB 12y, a sample of which I gave you and which I see impressed you equally. Then there was Snow Grouse which was equally bad at room temperature or chilled, but none of these come anywhere near to the now infamous Loch Dh-Ugly which is the only whisky I have ever considered worthy of a score in single figures and which I gave away to some poor unsuspecting chap I know. Oh yes, sorry Oliver, do forgive me for subjecting you to that one too!

Let’s get back to some highlights as 2010 has been rather special for me when it comes to my whisky experiences. My website has gained in popularity and I have become much more aware of what others are doing, so I’m now wondering; if I could honour or award someone with recognition for their contribution as a whisky insider, commentator, blogger or just “all round good guy”, what would my considerations be?

From a trade point of view I have been impressed by David Stirk, a small independent bottler with some excellent offerings, but then Whisky Doris comes up with the goods too, just look at that Glen Grant! Last year I also came across a previously unknown IB called Artworks who use the “Art of Whisky” label, excellent again. I have also been impressed with various bloggers and commentators, but for me and closer to home, I would have to nominate a Munich bar, in fact the one we frequent occasionally when we feel a joint need for a serious whisky and a chat. Ede stocks some astonishing whiskies and creates an excellent ambience for an evening of quality dramming, in fact he’s responsible for introducing me to “Artworks”, that Glen Grant and various other gems, so congratulations ‘Eddie’, your Irish Folk Pub is the best!

I have to say that I pretty much agree with your thoughts here, Keith. The whisky scene on the internet has become very diversified with blogs and forums but also on Twitter and Facebook. I have got to know so many interesting people that I can't possibly pick just a handful for a special mention. I too have noticed great work done by some of those small “armchair bottlers” as they have been called somewhat disrespectfully. To the ones you mentionend let me add Old Bothwell who seem to have an excellent supply of Port Ellen. I should also point out that industry trends in 2010 were not entirely negative. We have seen an increased number of uncoloured and un-chillfiltered bottlings, and the most promising (and surprising) news for me was the courageous move by Burn Stewart to overhaul all their single malt ranges (Bunnahabhain, Deanston and Tobermory/Ledaig) in this fashion.

But I am fully in line with you nominating Eddie's Irish Folk Pub as best personal whisky experience of the year. We have met there several times now, and his selection of drams and the atmosphere are just perfect.

2010 was also a pretty successful year for my blog. I don't want to be a narcissist and give an award to myself. But since the revamp of my old Whisky Rating on the new domain dramming.com things have been developing very positively. I was flattered to get a mention as one of the six new websites to watch in the last Malt Whisky Yearbook. But the greatest honour arrived right in time for Christmas: being accepted to join the Malt Maniacs together with you! What are your personal highlights, Keith?

Oliver, as I mentioned previously, I have seen many great blogs and websites in 2010, your own Dramming included and one highlight for me has to have been getting involved with “The Whisky Round Table”, I also reached a major personal milestone with 500 online tasting notes, but without question the highlight of my year too was to be invited to become a Malt Maniac, an honour of which I’m very proud as I look forward to joining in discussions with this great team.

Thanks Oliver and here’s to a great 2011.





Previous major features

Dec. 2010

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

Nov. 2010

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

October 2010

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

Sept. 2010

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

August 2010

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

July 2010

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

June 2010

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

May 2010

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

April 2010

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

March 2010

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

Jan-Feb 2010

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

Dec. 2009

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

Nov. 2009

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




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