Every other month, I’ll invite some friends to my house for some private tasting. Normally, it’s quite small, around 5 people! As a tradition, we’ll take all the bottles out to share with others. The major reason is not so noble to share with some good drams, but to have others help to consume quicker!

Last night is a little bit different that I invite some of my wine tasting group members for some single malt experience. Normally I’ll have some short introduction and discuss the tasting sequence together. As it was quite a mass, that around 20 people together, I decided only to arrange the bottles by region and let everybody taste by themselves. Surprisingly, everybody was quite happy about the atmosphere, and enjoyed the malts a lot! Probably, most people already have some experience at wine, they have quite some self-control not to be too greedy to take everyone of them. It seems quite successful.

I start with the two low land ones. I am not quite a low land person, it may really source back to the bad experience on Auchentoshan triple wood. However, Rosebank may really be an exceptional one. Rosebank 11yo 1989/2001 (43%, Signatory, Cask# 708+09, 35cl) malty, fruity, quite fresh and has different layer on taste. Score80, seems a good start. It also reminds me an earlier experience on a Blackadder Rosebank 12yo 43%, though not in written note, I think that one scores around 85. Rosebank may really be my low land love. Next, I moved to Linlithgow 26yo 1975/2002 (59.3%, Blackadder, Cask# 30012, 328b. Hogshead) This is the first time I come across St.Magdalend/Linlithgow in Taiwan. I know my friend Richard, who works for the Blackadder Taiwan Agent, always trying to find interesting malt for us, but I’ve never image this one come to the table. Like most Balckadder Raw Cask series, powerful feeling comes first, quite strange for a lowland malt. Though I don’s like low land malt, my limited experience actually shows clear malt smell. This one has the same. Beautiful malt smell with a hint of peat and fruit attract me at the very start. However the taste is quite simple and finish is only OK. Not quite like a 26 yo malt to me. Especially after an above average Rose Bank experience, I am a little bit lost at that moment. Score76.

Next I decided to refresh my memory about Glenmorangie 18yo (43%, OB). As I am now trying to convert my previous tasting note into MM scoring system, I think this is a good timing to going back with some basic ones. Well, as I remember, this is quite an average malt to me, just a little bit better. Matches my memory. Score78. The two Strathisla bottles are provided by myself. As there were too many bottles I just skip them last night. But I quite like my Strathisla experience, it’s quite noble, solitude, not so easy to come across but quite a treasure to me. I skip the Mortlach one as I have taste it twice and I had much better Morlach before. I also skip the two bottles of Highland Park as I have tasted them in a previous Highland Park tasting event. The Celtic Heartland one is quite interesting. It seems to be matured in a fresh boubon cask. Taste quite different from any OB ones. A very refreshing malt to enjoy in the hot summer time.

At this moment, quite some friends has already tired the Ardbeg ones and hurried me to move to Ardbeg to discuss. However, I would like to keep the best at the very end to make a big ending. I decided to go with Coal Ila 9yo 1991/2001 (43%, Signatory, Cask# 10784+85, 35cl) first. Again, the 35cl tasting pack must be selected by a Signatory expert. This young Caol Ila has quite clear distillery characters and beyond. Peat, sweet and quite good tropical fruit smell. Variable layers on taste. Finish well. Score80. Then, the Isle of Jura 21yo (40%, OB). I’ve only tried two Jura before, not too astonishing to me. As Jura seems quite a good malt to most people, I thought the higher vintage ones must be really good. However, this one let me down again. It’s not bad, but I can’t really taste the characters it wants to give. Score75.

The Lagavulin 16yo (43%, OB, white horse) is quite a surprise to me. Late March this year, I have the honor to chat with Mr. Andrew Grey at Hyatt Taipei. This malt is what I had that time. To tell the truth, it was quite a pleasant talk but I am totally disappointed about the malt I ordered. I had a very moving moment at the very first dram of this malt. That was the winter of 1998. That dram leads me to the world of Isley. For the past several years, I put my eyes on other Isley bottles and not really paying attentions on this “standard” version. I immediately e-mail my friend Stephen, discussing the experience, I wondered whether it was because I am getting picky, or the recent bottling has changed. Stephen has a bottle, which has opened for a couple of months. We decided to compare his one with the one I bought in 1998, when I was so moved to buy half dozen. Though I have finish some, I am quite sure I still have 1 or 2 in the closet. I didn’t realize the old ones was actually better than current version until last week I checked some Maniacs’ personal profile and got some impression about Lagavulin “white horse”. I read about this version but always thought to be an “antique” bottle back in long long time. Last week I decided to check about this bottle to understand other Maniacs’ favorite and surprising found out about the “white horse” version and “port ellen” version. For the past several years, I kept consuming the bottles I bought that time and I didn’t found out the label has change a little bit. I checked the two bottle left in my closet and confirmed the bottle I kept is the “white horse” version. Well, in that case, it seems comparing is not necessary, anymore. It was another surprise that a friend bought this “white horse” version bottle at a very small store recently. He took the bottle to the tasting just by chance. I was so happy I could try it again to confirm my feeling. Though, the cork is a little bit damaged but yes, this is the one I love. Later, another friend tried it and confirms again this is quite different from the one he bought recently. He always wonders why I wrote an earlier article describing my Lagavulin moving moment. Now he finally understand. A happy Score91, again.

The Laphroaig ones were brought by my friend Stephen to discuss his sadness feeling whenever he had this 15yo OB. We use the Laphroaig 10yo cask strength (57.3%, OB, red strip) to compare simply this is almost our favorite Islay malt to drink in hot summer! Socor90 is quite firm to me. Stephen’s Laphroaig 15yo (43%, OB) has opened for more than one year because of the sad feeling. He just can’t finish it. For this reason, he even wrote a very touching article. He believes every growing man need some time to feel sad and being alone. This is the right malt for a lonely man. I can’t really explain the feeling, but when I thought back, Laphroaig is something you want to share by no one, not really sad but just want to be alone. Quite lonely indeed. Probably the bottle has opened over 1 year, I actually smell very clear sulfur thing. It so clear that smells like decomposed mellow! I can’t explain the smell and opened my 15 yo OB to compare. Surprisingly, the decomposed smell was gone, you can feel sulfur but not in that way, maybe it’s the smell makes Stephen sad. For this sad reason, I decide to adjust to Score85. a little bit lower than my previous note.

Finanly, it is about time to try tonight’ big show: Ardbeg. Several friends knowing that I recently managed to get the legend 1975 OMC bottle. They also brought other bottles to compare with it. Since the recent 17yo OB experience was not like the one I experienced earlier. I decided to taste the Ardbeg 10yo non-chill-filtered (46%, OB) again and confirms I can use the Score90 for the rest two OMC bottles. The Ardbeg 26yo 1974/2000 (50%, OMC, 252b.) has quite good Ardbeg typical smell Besides peat, also easily taste some fruit, and chocolate. Amazingly, the mouse feels quite dry. It probably the first time that I describe finish as “long but very dry”. Very good and astonishing, but that’s it. Score91. My previously taste at the Ardbeg 25yo 1975/2000 (50%, OMC, 702b.) was quite good. But I was a little conservative to give it as 95. However, as I check with my 10 yo OB standard again and also compared with the Lagavulin 16yo, I told myself I got to give it Score97. The best thing about this malt is: you can enjoy the smell for such a long time but never feeling enough. After you finally move to take a dram, you immediately feel the softness sliding down to your throat and immediately feel it turns back again and stay in your mouth for a long long time. For me, my favorite malts always being the ones with strong self characters. I have an interesting theory: The best malts are like models, no needs to be very beautiful but needs to be very “stylish”. It seems this bottle is not willing to be just an Ardbeg, he want to be a unique one. It just bears the Ardbeg name, but develops it unique character. I think this kind of moving is the reason why single malt attracts me and keeps me being maniacal till now.

It was supposed to be the end of the night but everybody was quite high. As the host, I have no choice but to take my house malt, the Port Ellen 23yo 1978/2001 (62.2%, Provenance, select by John Milroy), to treat them. This malt is the most powerful, attractive one I’ve ever come across. I only give it Score93 because it destroys your taste and you can taste nothing if you immediately have another malt after this one. I have tried it several times; the magic of this malt not only attracts experienced drinkers but also the new comers. Quite amazing. As my friends enjoyed this powerful malt, for no reason, I just want try something new! I immediately thought an interesting bottle I bought several months ago, the Port Ellen 24yo 1978/2002 Port Wood Finish Edition I (58%, Signatory, Cask#02/159/1, 504b.) I am not quite sure whether it’s the Edition I or II wins the Whisky Magazine Gold because the acl.vol. doesn’t match. I was about to keep this one to compare with other port finishing stuff. But at that moment, to make myself happy is the most important. Signatory seems find the perfect timing for the port finishing on Port Ellen. Maybe it was oil enough that the combination actually give you a very “round” but long feeling. The strong peat accompany the beautiful port sweet make it the happy ending of the night. I immediately give it Score93. Some of the friends has try the powerful John Milroy version and can’t taste anything on this port wood one. Stephen rested a while and took the chance to finish his cake. When he came back for the second dram. He totally agreed with what I said, it probably the best port wood finishing we had so far. What a night! Happy!
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