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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.

  1. 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...

  2. 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.  

  3. 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 continues...  

  4. Ardbegholic - a Ringleader who cannot help but buy mountains of Ardbeg even when it means overextending their plastic...   it's a very social disease.

  5. 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!

  6. 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...

  7. 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. 

  8. 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!

  9. 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.

  10. 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...

  11. 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).

  12. Crusing (M)altitude - the proper blood alcohol level to complete simple tasks (courtesy of Usigetom in the PLOWED Chat on 2/21/02). 

  13. 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 came from. 

  14. 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...)

  15. Drain Brammage - one of the side effects of dramming with PLOWED.

  16. 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.  

    Sir 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!

  17. 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...

  18. Dramming Your Age (DYA) - another malt whisky extremist practice developed by PLOWED through the Ardbeggeddon venue.  We expanded this concept significantly at AX and had to move this topic to its very own "Dram Your Age" page.. 

I think we may be onto something here! 

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 Rules

  1. FOAFing (to FOAF) (also FoaFing) - follow this link for an extended diatribe... one of the primary activities of PLOWED.

  2. FWP - Flower Water Problem (Malts-L) and French Whore Perfume (PLOWED).   See Self Styled Whisky Connoisseur for more info on this topic.

  3. Glen Whatever - 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!

  4. Homer's Hypothesis - You can never have too much Ardbeg (Gordon Homer sort of likes Ardbeg, as noted on his Spirit of Islay website.  PLOWED salutes you G!

  5. Kleptomaltia (aka KleptoFOAFia) - the uncontrollable urge to collect samples of single malt whisky at every FOAFing opportunity.  See S'tamples.

  6. Lippage - Drams expensive and exclusive enough to be considered candidates for lipping by PLOWED.

  7. 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.

  8. liverevil - the liver is evil and must be punished.  This palindrome was of course another construction by Slur Dave.

  9. Loco (Barley) - shorthand nickname for Sir Dave of the Local Barley.  

  10. Malt Porn - 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. 

  11. Minion - People ineligible for PLOWED membership (see Ringleader).

  12. 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 de mon! 

    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...

  1. 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.  Mouth Vatting demonstration by S'tan.

  2. Nectar - the Drink of the Gods.  Spanky's euphemism for the water of life.

  3. OCR - Obsessive Compulsive Ringleader.  Ringleaders who never miss an Ardbeggeddon after the first time they participate in this annual event.  See the attendance list for more info on the OCR phenomenon.

  4. Pildramage (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....

  5. PLOWED - People Lucid Only While Enjoying Drams.

  6. 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).

  7. 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.  

    Historic 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 [his old site is now dead] 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! 

  8. 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

  9. Russo's Rule - One can never own too much Springbank.

  10. 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.

  11. "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!

  12. 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 label.  

    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!

  13. 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?  slainte!

    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 sleeping bag
    while the coffee is brewing
    the remnants in a broken glass from the night before
    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  - TIA

    Remember though, after 8 or 9 refreshing skalks it's apt to degenerate into drinking!

  14. Slainte - Health, good health - primarily used when dramming and toasting.  slainte mhor:  great health,  slainte mhath: good health

  15. 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...)

  16. S'tan - see MOK

  17. S'tanima - the ability to dram evil malts all day long.

  18. 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.

  19. 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."  

  20. 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 success...

  21. 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

  22. Vitamin B-1 - The drammer's friend.  ...currently researching this and will post more shortly....  after my legal counsel releases my text...

  23. 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!

  24. Weedram (aka Weed Ram) - self explanatory...  if not, probably best not to inquire any further here...

  25. 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. 

  26. 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