E-pistle #18/11 – Maniacal Tasting in Ingooigem

By Bert Bruyneel, Belgium

On February 28th, I was in Haarlem at Michel’s place for quiet a tasting, together with Alexander and Johannes.
It was a very … let’s call it cosy … tasting. It was even that cosy that we decided to repeat this event in Belgium.
We quickly had found a date on which everybody was free, so on may 5th another tasting together with 4 maniacs (Luc also had planned on coming over) was planned at my place. With a little delay, my guests arrived around 5pm. The highways around Antwerp were (ironically) a bit to full of … Dutchmen leaving on holiday for the long weekend. In the meanwhile, Luc and Johannes had cancelled their participation. Johannes was to busy doing thirty eleven things in a time, and Luc’s daughter Sophie had a communion party on may 7th, and our only Belgian maniac was asked politely but firmly to stay at home to help preparing the party … appologies accepted 😉 !!!

When I opened the door, Michel and Alexander both were wearing a yellow Maltmaniac shirt. The reason for doing this was mainly because they had been lauging with us Belgians on february 28th at Michel’s place. We Belgians seem to be very keen on wearing so called ‘club-shirts’, so they were already fooling me before they had even entered ;-). Still they are right in a way. Personally, I am the president of the Wee Dram Whisky Society, and member of the Lindores Whisky Society. During Whisky Live Verviers, I was wearing another shirt every hour: an hour my Wee Dram-shirt, an hour the Lindores-shirt …

Before starting the hard labour, we planned on how we were going to do it. Michel proposed to put the whiskies in rows of five, so he could go and have a cigaret after every 5 whiskies (how deep can a man fall …).
The first row of 5 was:     

75   79   76 – Highland Fusilier 5y. (40%, G&M, Pinerolo Import)
76   79   76 – Highland Fusilier 8y. (40%, G&M, Pinerolo Import)
82   83   82 – Highland Fusilier 12y. (40%, G&M, Pinerolo Import)
85   85   86 – Highland Fusilier 15y. (40%, G&M, Pinerolo Import)
87   90   90 – Highland Fusilier 21y. (40%, G&M, Pinerolo Import)

After discussions over smell of mothballs in the good or the bad way, the eyes of the female singer of the Guano Apes in which Michel would like to get lost, and E150A (spirit caramel), we just went on with a next row:

78   80   72 – Dufftown 8y. (40%, ob, Bell’s, mid ’80’s)
82   83   81 – Auchroisk 1977/1997 (46%, MMcD., MM11199, Bourbon wood)

Here, Michel was talking about the fact that life is just one bunch of nonsense, while U2 was singing on ‘Whisky in the Jar’. The discussion that followed was about U2, and was concluded by Alexander saying:’Let that guy Bono join us … we’ll drink him under the table on Bushmills’. Michel added:’You can easily drink 6 liters of Bushmills, and than get into the hospital with a water empoisonment. Hilarious !!! The second row however, got completed with:

85   88   84 – Inchgower 1977/1997, 19y. (54,8%, Glenhaven)
83   92   80 – Glenmorangie Burr Oak Reserve 1993/2004 (56,3%, ob, 1152 fl.)
84   86   85 – Glenlivet 1969/2000, 31y. (56,4%, S.V., cask 1392, 498 fl.)

During this row, we have eaten four pizza’s (2x sea food, 1x Hawaï, 1x Quattro formaggi) and we also made a quick call to Luc. Luc warned me through Alexander that I had to behave that night, and also gave me the strict interdiction of pouring bad whisky for the Dutch maniacs .. as if I would dare !!! While eating, we were having some very animated discussions about politics … and about cigars (another passion of Alexander, in which he ‘s very knowledgeable). I have just told about the fact that Michel and Alexander were laughing with Belgians and their clubshirts, while they were wearing a Maltmaniac shirt and I was wearing a BenRiach-shirt. All at once, I stood up from the table, went to my bedroom, and came back with my Wee Dram-shirt. At least than they had a reason to laugh (Trix, thanks again for putting Bert B. on the front pocket of my shirt) !!!
A next row of 5 was:

85   92   84 – BenRiach 1980/2006 (57,2%, cask sample 2534, Virgin barrel)
84   90   87 – BenRiach 21y. (46%, ob, Authenticus)
88   90   89 – Ardbeg 1975/1999 (ob, 43%)
91   92   92 – Ardbeg Committee Reserve (55,3%, bottled 2002)
94   98   94 – Ardbeg 1974/1983 (59%, Samaroli, sherry wood, 2400 fl.)

After this row, a very interesting but hypothetical discussion began.
Suddenly, Michel said he had broken the ‘Ardbeg bottling code’. If you look closely, you can see a code on any Ardbeg bottle printed with inkjet. This code always starts with an ‘L’, with a number behind, well … this number could be the bottling year;

L1 is 2001
L2 is 2002
L3 is 2003 check this with the first Uigeadail (bottled in 2003)
L4 is 2004 check this with the ‘1990’ and the second Uigeadail (both bottled 2004)
L5 is 2005 check this with the third Uigeadail (without bottling date, bottled 2005)

We checked this with the Ardbeg which was officially only bottled in 2001. Still there are bottles with different codes: L1, but also L2. This would reveal that there also was Ardbeg 1977 bottled in 2002. This is totally different information as what’s told at Ardbeg !!!
Michel had never seen L0 up until here, but we checked this with the Provenance Asia that was waiting for the Wee Dram Masters of june 6th, and what do you guess??? Indeed, the Provenance Asia that was bottled in 2000 gebotteld, has inkjet code L0 !!! Of course, this could be a coincidence, and as I told you this whole theorie is hypothetical, but wouldn’t this be a bit VERY much of a coincidence??? Michel adds to this one: Finally someone who takes this seriously. I fried tried this theory back in 2004 and was subject of public laughter…

While tasting the Ardbegs, another discussion had risen between Michel and me: How important was ‘coincidence’ at the distilleries? Nowadays, the proces is exactly the same every day, every week, every month, … Barley is made by computerprograms that always make the same barley. I am almost sure that the great peatiness of Ardbeg in the early ’70s partially had to do with the motivation of the guy that had to heat up the peat fire. Much effort: very peaty Ardbeg, less effort: lesser peated Ardbeg.
Michel didn’t agree on this one, he said the differences were more due to the use of deep or undeep peat (there is an article on this topic on www.lindores.be from my hand for the people interested). I would like to have this discussion a bit deeper with maybe some more maniacs. What do you think guys?
A next row was:

91   92   91 – Port Ellen 1978/2002, 23y. (60,9%, S.V., cask 5265, 464 fl.)
86   89   92 – Dumbarton 1962/1994, 32y. (49,9%, Cad Auth Coll)
87   96   90 – Longmorn 1964/1997 (57,5%, Dun Eideann, cask 5090, 480 fl.)
80   89   81 – Caperdonich 1968/1999 (50,3%, cask 3560, S.V., 260 fl.)

Michel said about the Dumbarton that it has so many ‘faults’ in it, but these faults make inforce each other in a way that it gets a great whisky. All at once, I called Michel ‘out of the blue’ an ‘oetlul’ (Dutch for ‘jerk’). He answered by calling me a ‘schurftbelg’ (Dutch for Belgian with a skin disease ;-)). After that we brotherly ticked glasses  . Still, Michel remarked that it wasn’t kind to insult him without a reason. Alexander however interrupted him:”As if you didn’t deserve this just by being your charming self all evening”. Hilarious … again !!!

As I told before, we had a discussion about cigars during our tasting. Alexander had seen a cigar in one of my closets, and when Michel took his next smoking-break, I offered him the cigar. He took the offer without any doubting, and I almost didn’t see myself standing before my door because of the smoke my guests produced. After some minutes, the Michels cigarette was done, but Alexander sais: “I still have 45 minutes to go, we might better take a walk. So we did, and I showed the Maltmaniacs Ingooigem by night (Ingooigem is the village where I live with approx. 1800 inhabitants). Michel and Alexander were suprised to see the stores at all the windows, and even more that people closed these stores !!! Also the tractor that passed with a machine attached to the frontside, ànd one attached to the backside really surprised my guests: “such a thing wouldn’t be allowed on the streets”, they told me. After our walk, the cigar still wasn’t finished, so Michel smoked another cigarette.

In the meanwhile, it already was after midnight … quiet a while …
The last row for the Friday was:

84   89   79 – Strathisla 1989/2004 (62,8%, Blackadder RC, cask 9413, 254 fl.)
87   87   86 – Millburn 1974/2004, 29y. (53,9%, Cad Auth Coll, 246 fl.)
78   83   74 – Tamdhu 1988/1997 (60,8%, G&McPh ‘cask’, cask 6690-6692)
94   XX
   XX – Ardbeg 1972/2004 (51,4%, ob, cask 2780, 245 fl., Bourbon Hogshead)

For some reason, I didn’t write down the scores of the Maniacs, but after this row, we all three went to bed … tired but satisfied !!!
Here after, I’ll write something down about the breakfast session I had on Saturday morning in my living room together with Michel, while Alexander was sleeping as if he was in a coma.

Michel and me were awake around 7:30h. We had met for the first time that day on the so-calles ‘smallest room’ due to a communication error …  !!! At 8:20h, we both were dressed and stood outside at my front door for, you can’t guess it: a cigarette. We had started a conversation about old Bowmore, and at once I said: “join me to my cellar …

At 8:35h, we took a quick look at my ‘stock’, and took some samples upstairs. Among them: two old Bowmores …
At 8:45h, we took a cup of coffee (I took a glass of orange juice, Michel coffee … I hate coffee)
At 8:50h, we took something to eat before going back to ‘work’:
At 8:55h, the tasting glasses came back on the table for the following delicacies:

92  90 – Bowmore 30y. (43%, ob, Sea Dragon)
95  90 – Springbank 1967 (46%, MMcD, cask MM1314, fresh bourbon)
89  89 – Tomatin 1966, 36y. (48%, SSMC)
86  88 – Glenfarclas 1968/2000 (54,2%, ob, ‘old stock reserve’, cask 684, 204 fl.)
94  92 – Springbank 12y. (50%, ob, 100° proof, ‘Double Dark’)
91  91 – Bowmore 1971, 34y. (51%, ob, 960fl., sherrywood)

All of a sudden, Michel jumps up, walks to my closet, and takes the following bottle:

92  90 – Nikka 1988/2000 (61,2%, ob, cask 208712, warehouse 2)  

The reason herefor was that Michel has a passion for Japanese whisky.
This Nikka has never been on the market in Europe, because it had been sent to me directly from Japan by Kenji Oshikane who I met in 2000 at Lagavulin Distillery in exchange for a giant box full of … Belgian beer !!! Michel quoted this one 90, ‘so you’ll be geving him 92’, he told me with a big smile. You have to know that I scored many whiskies approximately 2 points more than Michel, but we almost had the same fluctuation. This shows that our scores were pretty representative. We continued as busy bees with the:

Tobermory 1972/1995 (50%, Moon Import) – no scores
Ardbeg 1996/2005 (46%, G&M ‘for Belgium’, cask 906) 88 and 86 points

In the meanwhile, it had gotten 10:10h, and still no trace of Alexander.
Michel quoted in a very ‘Dutch’ way: ‘That guy can sleep’, or ‘Wat kan die gozer slapen’…” !!! Michel and me couldn’t be stopped anymore (this was maltmania of the purest kind !!!), and we continued our saturdaymorning with the following drams:

91  87 – Glenfarclas 40y., 1964/2005 (53,5%, Lucs Daily Dram, cask qw 1578)
88  86 – BenRiach 25y., 1979/2005 (57,5%, ob, cask 10985, 228 fl.)
88  88 – Auchroisk 28y., 1974/2003 (56,8%, UDV RM)

According to Michel, this one tasted very ‘un-rare-malt’, and was a nice surprise because of this.
All of a sudden, Michel said: ‘you must have 90 for this one”. I answered: “No, I have him on 88”. “Than I quoted him to low”, replied Michel. Loud laugh (I’ve lost counting). After this one, we went to wake up ‘Heer Veer’ after all. Alexander finally got up, took breakfast and swore not to drink because he still had a long drive to do. Michel and I hower took care that his promess didn’t even last for 10 minutes … The time to leave had come for the maniacs, and we said goodbye. To me, we had experienced a great evening, night, morning. We even made the agreement to repeat this at Alexanders place the next time, at Michels the time after Alexanders, than at my place again in Belgium, etc., etc., …

Johannes en Luc, you have really missed something but we also missed you !!!
However, you are invited with all our heart on the above-mentionned ‘living room tastings’ …