Issues, Concepts, Myths, Lies, and Other
Random Factoids Related to Single Malt Scotch Whisky
This page lists some concepts and issues that swirl around the
world of single malt scotch whisky and represent my opinion / take on
them. Others will disagree - that's one of the primary criterion for including
them on this page.
Age on a Bottle of Whisky - The age stated on a bottle is the amount of
time that f the youngest whisky in that particular batch was stored in
wood. Older whisky is not necessarily always better - malt whisky
matures non-linearly on a path that resembles a bell curve and the trick is to determine
this optimal range representing the top of the curve. Some claim this
is generally around 15 - 18 years but we've all had stellar drams much
older. The alcohol content also drops while in the cask so older cask
strength whiskies are generally bottled at lower proof than younger
ones. Malt whisky does not change once bottled, except to deteriorate
if not stored correctly and exposed to temperature shifts, sunlight or if
the cork deteriorates and allows leakage/evaporation. Unlike
wine, whisky should be stored standing rather than lying down to keep the
whisky off the cork. I was told years ago that bad things can happen
if you do this so I've never tested this rule of thumb...
Ardbeg hits the Road - We've begun
collecting photos of enthusiasts driving automobiles worldwide with ARDBEG
vanity plates. So far we have registered vehicles in Maine,
New York, California and Hawaii. Send a photo of your ARDBEG
plate and we'll add you to the rolling cult of ARDBEG fanatics.
Ardbeggeddon, Ardbegeddon, or Ardbeggedon? - Hard to believe but
the spelling of this word is still under dispute. You'd think that the
bottling of the Oct 1972 Ardbeggeddon by Douglas Laing would have put this
issue to rest but in typical PLOWED style the debate
Ardbegholic - a
Ringleader who cannot help but buy mountains of Ardbeg even
when it means overextending their plastic... it's a
very social disease.
Bad Whisky - yes kids, there IS bad
single malt whisky out there. Most is drinkable, a good deal is very tasty
and a small amount is tremendous. And some is
terrible... If there's any good news here it's that terrible malts can be vatted with other malts to
produce an acceptable dram. Sir Dave is an expert at vatting
undrinkable malts and requests for advice on "fixing" any given
dram should be forwarded to him.
Here is a list of malts I believe should be avoided
(some are extinct so avoidance should be fairly simple - however, do not buy
these as collectables if you plan to drink them.) Given that, I need to
enter a disclaimer that even bad whisky may well become
expensive/collectible but I still avoid them at all cost. Here are whiskies that I think
should be avoided:
Loch Dhu (the black whisky often dubbed Loch Don't) - this
malt actually has a surprisingly large contingent who actually like
it. I think it's ok on vanilla ice cream but find the finish horrid and
cloying in a burnt stinky way. Drinkable, just nothing I'd choose if I
had anything else at all to choose from. The last bottle I owned was
opened at a Halloween tasting in 2000 where the tasting theme was
"Scary Malts". I left the remainder (3/4 of a bottle) with
the host and I'd bet that the level hasn't dropped to 1/2 in the intervening
time. Almost impossible to find except at specialty shops at insane
prices (often POV) - don't do it... get an Ardbeg or Springbank for
the same price instead.
Talisker 18 yo, 7/79-9/97, 60.8%, Cadenhead's - the horrid
orange pumpkin whisky. The nose of this dram is pure nail polish
remover. Water doesn't help. If you had a sample of this
in your bag while flying and were asked by airport security to taste it to
prove it actually was whisky, I think most would admit it's a toxic
substance and risk jail instead. Run for your life!
Barley - One of the holy
trinity... the best grain for distilling spirits, especially
whisky. Scotch malt whisky is distilled from malted barley. Need
I say anything more here? The other trinity deities are of
course water and yeast...
Blended Whisky - generally, a mix of many single malts combined with a
quantity of grain alcohol. Most blended whiskies are created to
reproduce the flavor profile established for that particular bottling, and
the blenders therefore must adjust the types and amounts of the single malt
components to reproduce this profile on every batch. The
blending formula is determined by the Blender primarily by nosing the single
malts in a very diluted form. In my opinion, this is one of the most
amazing accomplishments in the whisky world while at the same time, one of
the most unappreciated.
Brora - Signs are looking very promising
that this will be the 2002 - 2003 PLOWED commemorative bottling. The
Ringleaders are currently sampling 1972 distillations and descriptors such
as Brorzilla, Brorasaurus, Brorathon, and Brorageddon are being slung
around the chatrooms. I'm PSYCHED! This promises to be
another over the top vanity bottling - stay tuned!
Casualties and Injuries - Injuries are hangovers after a night of
dramming. Casualties are the unintentional loss of bodily fluids.
Monitoring and discussing those rare casualties after tastings helps keep
future events under better control. One of the most often used
examples is the "Shamu Incident", but most of us have also found
ourselves in the netherworld of overindulgence at one point or
another. This is the most common side effect of enthusiastic
overconfidence, but occasionally triggered by simply human error and/or bad
karma. All is forgiven if a proper sense of humor after the fact is
displayed during the inevitable rehashing of the unfortunate incidence.
Cobwebs and Dents - There's an old
school of malt thought where distilling is a mystical/magical process
influenced by the most minute changes in the equipment and environment. The
story goes that dents are reproduced in the stills when they are renewed and
cobwebs left undisturbed in annual cleanings. Some dismiss this
practice as bunk that is not really adhered to while others cite distillery examples. I mostly
believe in magic...
Collapsing in the Bottle - The
description of how a whisky can deteriorate once it's been open for awhile
and left unattended (read: undrunk). I've found that these
changes usually start after about 6 - 18 months and only after the bottle
level drops below 50% or so. The lighter alcohol evaporates and
repeated openings force this cycle to repeat as the empty space in the
bottle strives to maintain vapor equilibrium. This can be avoided
by: 1) Drinking the bottle before it occurs; 2)
Rebottling in smaller bottles to reduce the empty space above the
whisky; 3) Adding solid objects to the bottles to raise the levels (yeech!);
and 4) Adding inert gas every time you pour a dram. PLOWED recommends
dramming up and rebottling if necessary. This is also a slang term for
folks who end up drinking too much on a regular basis and totally messing up
their lives via alcohol (physically, not financially... see Usigetom's
Evolution of a Single Malt Whisky Fanatic for a
description of this affliction).
Crusing (M)altitude - the proper blood alcohol
level to complete simple tasks (courtesy of Usigetom in the PLOWED Chat on
Database Dramming Mode
- what happens to your serious tasting notes when you
get so impaired that merely keeping a list of your drams is a tremendous
accomplishment. All you end up with is a tidy inventory at
best... more often than not just incomprehensible diagrams and
seemingly profound statements. None of which make any sense...
not that that's a bad thing mind you... that's where all the material
on this website
Daydramming - participating in the UK Spirit of Islay Yahoo
club for on-line drams mid-day in the United States (courtesy of Alan - one of the
PLOWED reps who often participates in this daylight debauchery...)
Drain Brammage - one of the side effects of
dramming with PLOWED.
Dram - A dram is a measure of whisky for
consumption. The size of a dram varies from establishment to
establishment and is defined by the generosity of the host - it's
usually between 20 - 35 ml. The standard dram at my house
is 30 ml. Dram is a versatile word that serves as both noun and
verb. Distillery workers used to be "drammed" at least 3
times a day on a regular schedule, and additionally "drammed" if
asked to perform a particularly nasty task as a reward/incentive.
Dave (of the Local Barley) and I were discussing this practice on our April
2002 flight back from London and Dave decided if he ever has children he'll
establish a system of dramming them as compensation for
completing their household chores ( in lieu of allowance of course) - let's all pray he remains childless!
Drammaged - multiple meanings...
originally a description of your mental state after dramming with PLOWED. More recently the meaning has been expanding to denote
"permanent" damage (physical, mental and financial) from living
the PLOWED lifestyle to it's fullest. Common usages: Drammaged
goods, Nice drammage! (usually uttered when surveying a table arranged for a
tasting or a single malt whisky collection), Brain Drammage, Drammage Report
(usually after a tasting or a spectacular FOAFing event), Structural
Drammage, and so forth...
Dramming Your Age (DYA) -
another malt whisky extremist
practice developed by PLOWED through
Ardbeggeddon venue. We
expanded this concept significantly
at AX and had to move this topic to
its very own
I think we may be onto
FAQ for Dramming your age: Lots of folks also
interested in the DYA lifestyle had asked about how a neophyte might attempt
to accomplish this feat. Here are the DYA
FOAF) (also FoaFing) - follow this link
for an extended diatribe...
one of the primary activities of PLOWED.
FWP - Flower Water Problem (Malts-L) and
French Whore Perfume (PLOWED).
See Self Styled
Whisky Connoisseur for more
info on this topic.
- a PLOWED descriptive term created by Usigetom that describes the random batch of
blending malt that somehow gets bottled as a single. These single malts
uniformly tend to be non-descript, malty and usually one dimensional.
Oh, and generally very inexpensive - buyer beware!
Homer's Hypothesis -
You can never have too much
Ardbeg (Gordon Homer sort of
likes Ardbeg, as noted on
Spirit of Islay website.
PLOWED salutes you
(aka KleptoFOAFia) - the uncontrollable urge to collect samples of single
malt whisky at every FOAFing opportunity. See S'tamples.
Lippage - Drams expensive and exclusive
enough to be considered candidates for lipping by PLOWED.
Lipping the Local Barley
- A PLOWED tradition created by
Sir Dave of the Local
Barley. Involves dramming Springbank Local Barley directly from
the bottle. Conspicuous consumption firmly demonstrating the PLOWED
lifestyle. Here's some photos from this year's
Lipping the Local Barley session at Ardbeggeddon 3 in Las Vegas.
liverevil - the
liver is evil and must
be punished. This
palindrome was of course
another construction by
Loco (Barley) - shorthand nickname for
Sir Dave of the Local Barley.
- Enticing video, still
pictures, and reporting of whisky stores, distilleries, warehouses and other
large collections of single malt scotch whisky. In general, any media
that causes a physical reaction or fantasizing about malt whisky determined
to be prurient by prevailing community standards.
Minion - People ineligible for PLOWED
membership (see Ringleader).
MOK as S'tan
- Over time, FX has observed that MOK has been steadily
becoming increasingly evil and affecting everyone's financial stability within his
sphere of malt whisky influence. FX is convinced he is Satan, and has
nicknamed him accordingly. S'tan has been number one on my west coast "evil" list for years, except for FoaF who is currently giving
him a run for his money. However, for evil longevity - S'tan's
FX recently alerted us that late one night in March 2002 S'tan was in a late
night drammaged glassy-eyed condition and muttered:
"I love the Lord"
This had me quite concerned until I
discovered he was dramming Ardbeg's Lord of the Isles bottling when he uttered
this obvious contradiction...
Mouth Vatting - the practice of dramming
two single malts at the same time - you can titrate the vatting on the fly
to quickly determine where to start to vat those two particular malts.
Nectar - the Drink of the Gods. Spanky's euphemism for the water of
on the OCR
(Pildrammage) - Trips to
Scotland primarily focused around FOAFing and dramming (courtesy of S'tan).
Note: we're still working on the spelling here - the first spelling implies
a gaelic root... the second excess... hmmm - not surprisingly
I'm drawn to both....
- People Lucid Only While Enjoying Drams.
PLOWEDnym - an expression created by one
of the PLOWED Ringleaders, most likely when immersed in the water of
life. For example - PLOWEDynm and all most of the rest of the noise on
this "issues" page. (courtesy of Uisgetom).
Preiss Gouging - The reason Springbank
is one of the few single malt scotch whiskies that actually costs MORE in
the US than in Scotland (and you thought that the VAT was
unreasonable!) I'm currently boycotting buying any Springbank in the
US and have been stocking up in Scotland instead - normally you only want to
bring back bottlings NOT available in the US.
Artifact: The good
news is that the prices have come down a bit recently because of the
attention brought to bear on this topic and if further price shifting occurs
I will consider lifting my boycott. Andrew at
took the lead on publicly exposing this practice and I have to credit him
for the reason the cost has recently dropped on the 10, 15, Rum Casked and
10 yo Longrow expressions here in the US. Well done Andrew!
Ringleader - the descriptor of the
typical PLOWED member created by FX who observed that none of us take orders
or instructions very well. Best expressed by the statement:
"PLOWED - all ringleaders, no minions!"
Ringleaders and Minions
Russo's Rule - One can never own too much
Salt - This is a very hot topic that boils to the surface on the MALTS-L
Listserver every year or so. Many folks claim to taste salt or a salty
influence in certain drams, often from distilleries located near the
sea. The chemists on MALTS-L calmly explain that the family of salt
compounds are the only substances that can produce a "salty"
taste, yet analysis of a wide range of malt whiskies have consistently failed
to detect any salt compounds in the final products. However,
"saltiness or brininess" is often used as a descriptor by tasters
in their notes.... the debate continues.
"Self-Styled Whisky Connoisseurs"
- A description of PLOWED from a distillery marketing representative
responding to a
PLOWED member who had the nerve to ask some critical questions about the
perceived decline in the quality of their malt whisky. We've been
called a lot of things over the years but I think this label is going to
stick - shirt designs incorporating this critical assessment are
currently in production. Proud to be PLOWED!
Single Malt Whisky - A whisky that has been made by a single
distillery using a pot still (as compared to a Coffey, or Patent Still).
Unless specifically denoted as being from a single cask, single malt whisky
always consists of a vatting of many casks from
the parent distillery. The age on the bottle is the amount of time the youngest
whisky in the mixture was allowed to mature in oak. Therefore, single
malt whisky often contains components of older whisky than the age noted on
The classic example of this was the 12 yo Springbank 100 Proof.
This was a mixture of very old underproof Springbank (reportedly 30 - 35 yo
between 39 - 43%) with 12 yo at cask strength (overproof). The myth
here is that they did not use water to bring the 12 yo cask strength down to
100 proof - they used the underproofed older whisky to do this and I've
heard that the resultant mixture varies but is generally around 40% 12 yo
and 60% older whisky. This was a one-time experiment that will
supposedly not be repeated. These come in a dark and double-dark
(almost mahogany) version and are basically only available from
collectors. Make sure you try this dram if at all possible... a
classic and one of my all time favorites.
Note: I have no references for this (that I know of) and this tale is
completely word of mouth, mostly over drams, so this entire story could be a
total myth... the whisky is still stunning though! If you ever
find a dusty bottle sitting neglected on a shelf in some backwater liquor
store FOAF it immediately! You will not be disappointed!
If too expensive for your taste send me an
email and I'll move on it for sure!
Skalk / Skulk / sgailc - The first dram of the day. Usually before breakfast.
Gavin Smith presents a wonderful description of the various skalks in his
1993 book "A to Z of Whisky" referencing material from the
Illustrated Gaelic-English Dictionary:
sgailc-sheide - a dram taken before rising in the morning
sgailc-nide - a full bumper of whisky while still lying down
froichd-uilinn - an elbow nip, when he was first propped up
deoch chas-ruisgte - when still barefoot
deoch bhleth - while his breakfast porridge oats were being ground
...and I'm sure there are many more... doesn't it kind of suggest a Gaelic
version of the number of words that Eskimos have for snow?
Now PLOWED is interested in obtaining the following Gaelic translations:
immediately after turning off the alarm
after hollering out what you want for breakfast while still huddled in your
while the coffee is brewing
the remnants in a broken glass from the night
before looking in the mirror
before masturbating your first adjectives of the day
If you can help us with this please send us your Gaelic translation to:
Skalk-Defs (at) SMWhisky.com
Remember though, after 8 or 9 refreshing skalks it's apt to degenerate into
Slainte - Health, good health - primarily used when dramming and
toasting. slainte mhor: great health, slainte mhath: good
Slainte ya'll - Stewart Slack's farewell on his way back to Louisiana.
(FX translation: I'll drink your 'shine but keep your plaid skirts
away from me...)
S'tan - see MOK
S'tanima - the ability to dram evil
malts all day long.
S'tanples - The
bag fulls of malt whisky samples collected at PLOWED gatherings. Named
for S'tan because of his obsessive/compulsive approach to collecting
mindnumbing amounts of samples by bringing shopping bags full of empty 50 ml
bottles. See Kleptomaltia.
The Time of Liver Punishment - a
description of the annual PLOWED clan gathering in Las Vegas coined by
FX. "The liver is evil and must be punished."
VAT - "Value Added Tax" of 17%
piled onto scotch by the UK. About 14% can be refunded if VAT rebate
forms are submitted for whisky taken out of the UK under a system referred
to as "the scheme". There are several "schemes" in
operation and some work a lot better than others. We were in Scotland
in May 2002 and the VAT Rebate Scheme used by Gordon and MacPhail's in Elgin
instructed us to return the VAT rebates directly to them - the rebates were
posted to our credit card accounts within a couple of weeks. Most of
the other retailers use the standard scheme where the rebates are sent to a
central processing facility. As of September 2002 none of us have
received a cent of our rebates from this particular (well-named)
"scheme". Another reason only to buy whisky in Scotland that
is not available in the US. VAT UPDATE: my rebates submitted in
June 2002 at the Glasgow airport were credited to my VISA card in late
December 2002. All of it! Another total FOAFing
Vatted Whisky - Whisky that consists of a mixture of single malt
whiskies from different distilleries. Casks are selected, mixed in huge
vats and left to "marry" for a while before bottling.
Similar to Blended Malts, casks are chosen to create a desired flavor
profile without the addition of grain alcohol. Vatted malts also
usually consist of malts from a much smaller number of distilleries, often 3
to 6 rather than the 20 - 50 single malts commonly found in blended whiskies. John
Glaser's Compass Box Eleuthera is a stunning example of a recently-released
vatted malt that must be tried if you ever have the chance - better yet add
one to your collection! (Not available in the US as of April 2002 tho...)
See Mouth Vatting for a deviation demonstration
Vitamin B-1 - The drammer's friend. ...currently
researching this and will post more shortly.... after my legal counsel
releases my text...
Water - one of the holy malt trinity. Barley and yeast
are of course the other two. Often water is added to single malt
whisky to "open" it up - especially cask strength offerings.
Care needs to be taken when adding water to older malt whisky though since
it often can cause older well balanced drams to "fall
apart". This was very well demonstrated at Ulf's mega-mastadon
Macallan tasting in London in April 2002... thanks again Ulf!
You rock in serious PLOWED style! Sweden is in the house!
Weedram (aka Weed Ram) - self explanatory... if not, probably best
not to inquire any further here...
WWSD - acronym for "What Would
S'tan Dram?" This is the question that all PLOWEDsters ask
themselves whenever they are presented with an ethical question...
usually this situation arises after many excellent drams or if presented
with a sensitive FOAFing dilemma. S'tan always provides guidance...
The mirror of this is obviously "What Wouldn't S'tan Dram?"
(also WWSD) Generally he accepts all malts but there are a few
he avoids as well (see Bad Whisky above). Uhhh....
unbelievably it turns out there are NO drams S'tan Wouldn't Dram -
this morning at WHDJ he voluntarily chose the Orange Pumpkin Talisker
as his first skalk - even his drams are evil.
Yeast - the final member of the holy
trinity. The religious nature of this threesome was captured on Islay
in 2002 and obliquely captured in The Ord's Prayer.
Please forward any other terms that you think belong on this list to
DrE (at) SMWhisky.com
and I'll add them to the list. Please provide your definition when
submitting them or I'll have to make something up.
Ardbeggeddon (source of
much of this material)
Last Update on 09/11/2009