Monthly Archives: May 2021

Whisky Blind Tasting Log

I got some sample bottles from a good friend, labeled 1-9. So I will blind taste them and I was recommended to start with 1,2,3,5,8 (thats close to a Fibonnaci siries but I am quite sure that is a coincidence). #1 is supposed to be cask strength. Try them head to head, randomly first.

#2 vs #5: #2 is darker. #5 has a quite classic aroma, not so little bourbon and vanilla in it. Neither very peated or sweet. #2 is fruitier and if one would be sherry matured it is this one. #5 is a softer, more malty thing. #2 is a bit more raw (or that is how I experience the probably-sherry-character). I taste #2, yes it is very good, in my taste, much vanilla and oak, and not so soft in the mouth as I first thought: it both has a kick and is soft (I add a little water). #5 has a strong sherry character, but what a sherry character (!), it is fruity like raisins or cherries, rich and deep, soft and malty. Very good. I really like #5 (although it has a hint of surprising bitterness after #2), but the only reason to not let #2 win would be if I were an absolute sherry hater, and I am not. Victory to #2.

#1 vs #3: Quite similar in color, #1 is cask strength and #3 is perhaps slightly more red. These are not so obvious on the nose, classic almost subtle with no immediately dominating aromas. #3 is a bit more of oak and vanilla, #1 a light, somewhat fruity maltiness. I taste #1 (first without water) and it is an unusual whisky, I find coffee and stout (or porter) in it. Oh, #3 is nice, an elegant mix of classic malt and sherry, with a nicely lingering red fruitiness. Back to #1, I remain at this roasted somewhat sweet flavour. #3 wins.

So that leaves us with #2 and #3 winning, and #1 and #5 losing. Lets play the losers and winners before trying #4.

#1 vs #5: Similar color. A bit more vanilla and oak in the aroma of #5, #1 is harder to put words to. I like #1 now, classic but yes still with some coffee and stout. #5 is more soft, with more vanilla. I really like #5 and it wins.

#2 vs #3: #2 is darker. I ended up with the two sherry inspired whiskies in the final. Well, this is weird, #2 is a bit chlorine, like a swimming pool, but in a good way! #3 has a more rough sherry cask character. #2 has to me a close to perfect sherry whisky flavour, soft and well balanced, without the sherry dominating too much. #3 is good, but a bit more rough and raw, and perhaps with a hint of that sulphur (which I don’t find a trace of in #2). Victory to #2.

So at this point we have #2 in the top, followed by #3, #5 and #1. I pour up #8 and find it as dark as #2, and yes, it has a definite high quality sherry character. Lets play it against #3.

#3 vs #8: #8 is darker, and it has more powerful aroma. I think #8 may be a bit peated. On the nose I would think that #3 is the more safe choice, and #8 is the joker. Lets taste the joker. Not bad, it is definitely a sherry matured whisky, a but juicy – like fresh and sour. #3 is more malty, a bit more conservative, I prefer #3.

#5 vs #8: #5 is paler. On the nose, #5 is a much lighter, maltier more classic speyside-like whisky. #8 is more spectacular sherry. #5, very good soft bourbon flavour. #8 is more powerful, and obviously more sherry. I prefer #5.

#1 vs #8: #1 is paler, and cask strength. On the nose #8 is rich, sherry, peated (perhaps) and complex. #1 is rather anonymous and subtle. #1 starts with a quite classic malt flavour, ending with this coffee roast again. These are a bit different in character, yet similar in quality. I am not a sherry fan (although top 2 of 5 went to sherry so far), and there is some I don’t like about #8 and I find #1 more enjoyable.

Final list (best to worst – and with the actual names written out):

  1. #2 Bunnahabhain 1986-2010 Carn Mor
  2. #3 Bunnahabhain 28 Untold Riches
  3. #5 Bunnahabhain 1989-2016 Samaroli
  4. #1 Bunnahabhain 1979-2000
  5. #8 Bunnahabhain 28 Statement

More tasting against other whiskies

(#2) Bunnahabhain 1986-2010 Carn Mor vs Bunnahabhain 21 Königsmann Oloroso: Königsmann is darker, and it has a very powerful fruity aroma. #2 is more subtle, balanced, classic malt here. Königsmann has a distinctive sherry character, rich sweet and complex. #2 is more balanced, not exactly subtle sherry but less dominant sherry. I prefer #2.

(#8) Bunnahabhain 28 Statement vs Bunnahabhain 21 Königsmann Oloroso: Königsmann is darker, with more fruit and bourbon (! – who would have thought) on the nose. #8 a bit dull here. First two very small sips, Königsmann feels like the richer more powerful whisky. #8 tastes a hint of peat, not so much sherry, and some unfortunate sulphur that I can’t forget or forgive. Königsmann has a more straight sherry influence, more fruity. It is actually very close, but I prefer Königsmann.

Bunnahabhain 1989-2016 Samaroli vs Redbreast 15: Redbreast a bit darker. Not so little similarity in aroma, Redbreast has a little bit more raw bourbon character and Bunnahabhain seems slightly softer, fruitier. Bunnahabhain has a rich and complex flavour that lingers long, a bit salty, a bit bitter, not so little bourbon and oak. Redbreast is more immediately and powerful sweet bourbon, which is very nice, but then it fades quicker. These two dont quite improve each other, Bunnahabhain seems a bit dull and Redbreast a bit chemical. Bunnahabhain is definitely a more complex and complete whisky, with some unfortunate bitterness. Redbreast is much more simple, but it does its bourbon extremely well. I prefer Redbreast, but I understand if connaiseurs and enthusiasts find that crazy.

Bunnahabhain 1989-2016 Samaroli vs Bushmills 16: Bushmills clearly darker. Bunnahabhain has a saltier and maltier aroma (you can feel the Islay/Sea-character, without the peat). Bushmills is sweeter, more chemical. I taste Bushmills, at first sweet, then sweeter, caramel, very soft. Bunnahabhain is saltier, maltier, and more bitter. Thinking I have very cheap and sweet preference, I lean towards Bushmills. I find Bunnahabhain more interesting than pleasant.

Bunnahabhain 1989-2016 Samaroli vs Springbank 15 Rum PC#629: Springbank much paler to the eye, but to the nose much rougher. Bunnahabhain rather soft and balanced, Springbank actually a bit sulphur. Springbank tastes fantastic though, no sulphur really, salty and with a hidden sweetness from the rum. Bunnahabhain has a more dominant sweetness more in the front. Bunnahabhain is more complex, lingering nicer, and I prefer it.

Bunnahabhain 28 Statement vs Glengoyne 21: Very similar color, both rather dark. Glengoyne has a light, almost wine-like aroma, definitely dominated by a soft sherry character but I thought I found bourbon in there too (and reading the bottle I am wrong). Bunnahabhain not so different, a bit saltier, rougher and in-your-face sherry, but not so much. Bunnahabahin is the more sweet. Tasting Glengoyne, it is sweet, caramel, some dark fruits, soft nice and round. Bunnahabhain is saltier, rougher, and an unfortunate hint of sulphur. I add little water to it. Tasting both again, I prefer Glengoyne.

Bunnahabhain 28 Statement vs Longrow 13 Red: Both rather dark and reddish, Longrow stronger but adding water makes not so much difference. Not so different on the nose, Longrow is a bit rougher and saltier, perhaps more sulphur, and its “red” casks have given less sweetness than the sherry casks of Bunnahabhain. I take a small sip of both, Longrow has too much sulphur, like old margarine, and Bunnahabhain has more complexity and and variety. Bunnahabhain wins.

Bergslagen Two Hearts vs Bunnahabhain 28 Statement: Very similar color. There is something thin, sweet, fruity and unnatural about Bergslagen, where Bunnahabhain smells of old quality. I taste Bergslagen, and it does have some quality: reasonable compexity, some softness, sweetness that is easy to enjoy and quite an absense of unwanted flavours. Bunnahabhain is saltier, but with some unfortunate sulphur. However, with that sulphur in mind, Bergslagen is not so flawless after all, and I think Bunnahabhain wins a narrow victory.

Bunnahabhain 28 Statement vs Johnny Walker 18: Similar color, JW probably slightly paler. JW quite light, something mint/hay about its aroma, otherwise classic scotch and perhaps a hint of peat. Bunnahabhain fresher, fruitier, saltier. I taste Johnny Walker, and it is flawlessly soft and balanced and it remains fairly long in the mouth. No bones. Bunnahabhain is much more sherry, and with that comes the sulphur: it has a lot of quality, but I am not forgiving with Sulphur. I prefer Johnny Walker 18.

Bunnahabhain 28 Untold Riches vs Glen Ord 18 (2019 Special Release): Much more color in Bunnahabhain. Glen Ord has a somewhat oily soily nose, but also fruity. Bunnahabhain strikes me as more sherry, those dark and red fruits. Glen Ord is classic, easy to enjoy, dry and a bit burnt in the mouth. Bunnahabhain has a more powerful aroma with an nice balance between sherry and malt. Glen Ord being a bit lighter, still has a comparable wealth of flavours. I have a simple flavour, not leaning towards sherry, and I prefer Glen Ord.

Bunnahabhain 28 Untold Riches vs Macallan 1993-2013: Very similar color. Macallan is lighter, more maltier, a bit more caramel and soft fruits on the nose. Bunnahabhain is saltier, rougher with more sherry. Macallan tastes good, very soft and balanced, slightly bitter. Bunnahabhain is a saltier more powerful experience. Back to Macallan, a bit dull, not quite up to this. Bunnahabhain wins.

Bunnahabhain 28 Untold Riches vs Highland Park 18 Viking Pride: Bunnahabhain perhaps slightly paler. Both has a bit salty and rough aroma, Highland Park a bit more oil, leather and peat (definitely), Bunnahabhain becomes a little in the shadow here, not quite matching HP in nose power. In the mouth the sherry of Bunnahabhain turns a bit sour, Highland park is very well balanced. I prefer Highland Park.

Bunnahabhain 28 Untold Riches vs Glenfiddich 15 Solera Reserve: Similar color. Bunnahabhain has a more rough and salty aroma, Glenfiddich fresher and fruitier and some maltyness comes through more as well. Tasting Glenfiddich it is very soft, honeylike, malty with some fruitiness. Bunnahabhain is more rare, exquisite in flavour, but also more of an aqcuired taste. I can really see myself and other people prefer Glenfiddich but there is something thin and somple to it side by side with this Bunnahabhain, so I will let Bunnahabhain win.

Bunnahabhain 1979-2000 vs Macallan 1993-2013: Bunnahabhain slightly paler. Macallan has a light fruitiness, with some maltiness. Bunnahabhain rougher, sweeter and saltier. Both have a sherry origin but quite different. Macallan is malty and nice, caramel, a bit nutty. Now there is much more raw sherry character to Bunnahabhain and I add water to it since it is cask strength. Bunnahabhain gets softer with water. Very similar quality, quite quite different character. Macallan is good but it is missing something to me, Bunnahabhain does its thing more straight. So it is a narrow victory to Bunnahabhain.

Wilesco D10 Review & Notes

I have owned a Wilesco D10 model steam engine since many years. Last days I gave it a few runs and I will write a few words about it.

In short conclusion I think it is great. It has a nicer cylinder than the budget D5/D6 models, and it is the real deal. I have never had any issues with my D10. However, there are some things that other more advanced models might have, that I actually miss.

Water Tray

This is actually my biggest complain or concern with the D10. There is a small red water tray around the cylinder. It gets full. Water ends up everywhere. The D24 has a removable tray to the side. The D20 has some solution. I believe perhaps a newer D10 also has some condense water tray. I like to run gentle and slowly and then the steam is probably less hot when it comes out, giving more condensed water than if running more aggressively.

Manometer

I am pretty careful and I find the idea that the boiler should explode quite creepy. Some models have a manometer so you can follow the pressure in the boiler. That is nice.

Steam Regulator

Some models come with a Steam Regulator so you can adjust the speed of the engine. That is nice – especially together with a manometer. What does work on the D10 is to move the burner slides slightly in and out, which changes the amount of oxygen for the fuel, and this quite quickly regulates the steam pressure.

Water Drain Valve

It is quite nice and civilized to have a water drain valve. My D10 does not. I either need to turn the machine upside down to empty it, or use a little hose to suck out the remaining water.

Reqired water level

This is with 4g Esbit fuel tablets.

Four fuel tablets: I would fill up the boiler to the top of the glass. However, I think operation is a bit to aggressive with 4 tablets and I avoid it.

Three fuel tablets: I have found that with three tablets, about half of the water in the boiler can boil away, so you should fill above half full. If you start with more water more fuel with will be wasted to just start up.

Two fuel tablets: For a gentle run two fuel tablets placed on top of each other in the middle, and slightly less than half full boiler, seems to be a good start. To me, this is the preferred mode of operation. The condense water is mostly contained in my little red tray.

One fuel tablet: For a very gentle run a single fuel tablet placed in the middle, and somewhat less than half full boiler works fine.

Starting up

When starting up it is easy to get a high pressure, and at first the steam pipes are cold and gets full of condensed water. So I start with the whistle open, and when steam starts coming out of it I close it and run the wheel manually until the engine starts.

Adjusting Speed

Despite there is not steam valve, moving the burner slider slightly changes the amount of oxygen available and you can quite control the power and speed of the engine.

Ranking Whisky (theory)

I have been tasting whisky for a while, systematically, in order to make a (personal) ranking based on my preference and experience. How do I do it?

Head to head

I decided based on experience that tasting one whisky and giving it a score does not work for me. I can like something better one day and worse another day. And what I have eaten or drunk before matters much. The popular 1-100 scale (where 1-60 is rarely used at all) is not what I want to use.

Also based on experience, I find it very hard to compare 4-5 whiskies at the same time. I simply find it hard to keep them all in my head and make any sense of it.

So I decided that when I test whisky, and rank whisky, I drink them two and two, head to head. This is not so strange, it happens in many sports that two teams or players compete against each other, and in the end there is a ranking.

Many ranking systems (tennis) promote participation and punish absence. You can not be #1 in Tennis if you have not played a game in two years. However, for my purposes, if I find 5cl of an excellent whisky, it goes to the top and it should remain in the top. It is not supposed to get punished because I am out of it.

So I developed a ranking system based on the above principles and findings.

A strong assumption

Lets say I have three whiskies: Perth, Dundee and Stirling (I will use made up names for examples). I have tested twice:

  • Perth beats Dundee
  • Dundee beats Stirling

Is it then possible to make a third tasting and find that

  • Stirling beats Perth?
  • Dundee beats Perth?

In sports this can obviously happen. But I have decided that for my purposes this will never happen. How do I know? I simply never test two whiskies that already have a decided ranking order.

It is not obvious that this is a good (true) assumption. However, it is an assumption that has worked good for me – perhaps better than I expected from the beginning. However I have been making separate ranking lists for peated and unpeated whiskies.

Example

Perth beats Dundee, and we have:

  1. Perth
  2. Dundee

Dundee beats Stirling, and we have

  1. Perth
  2. Dundee
  3. Stirling

Glasgow beats Stirling and it gets more complicated

  1. Perth
  2. Dundee
  3. Glasgow (could have been #1 or #2, but keep close to Stirling)
  4. Stirling

Glasgow beats Perth, and we have

  1. Glasgow
  2. Perth
  3. Dundee
  4. Stirling

Glasgow beats Edinburgh, and Edinburgh beats Stirling, and we have

  1. Glasgow
  2. Perth
  3. Edinburgh (could have been – and can become – #2 or #4 – but keep it in the middle for now)
  4. Dundee
  5. Stirling

In principle, this is all there is to it. If I get a new cheap blend I probably try it against Stirling. If it loses to Stirling it is now #6. If it wins to Stirling I compare it against a better whisky “hoping” it will lose, and I get an interval. Lets say that Aberdeen beats Stirling and loses to Perth, I would get something like

  1. Glasgow
  2. Perth (could be anywhere from #2 to #4)
  3. Edinburgh (could be anywhere from #2 to #5)
  4. Dundee (could be anywhere from #3 to #5)
  5. Aberdeen (could be anywhere from #3 to #5)
  6. Stirling

This is a ranking based on the information I have. Aberdeen may beat Edinburgh, or not. At this point, this is far from obvious or trivial. If you look through the “tastings” above one by one you shall find that all the results are respected in the list. However, I have written a little computer program to help with the ranking.

Data and Code

The data of the above tastings is represented as JavaScript code as this (ignore price for now):

exports.whiskies = () => { return [{
   name  : 'Perth',  // 0
   win   : [1,5],
   price : 3.0
 },{
   name  : 'Dundee', // #1
   win   : [2],
   price : 2.0
 },{
   name  : 'Stirling', // #2
   win   : [],
   price : 2.5
 },{
   name  : 'Glasgow',  // #3
   win   : [0,2,4],
   price : 3.5
 },{
   name  : 'Edinburgh',  // #4
   win   : [2,5],
   price : 4.0
 },{
   name  : 'Aberdeen',  // #5
   win   : [2],
   price : 3.0
 }]};

This should be understood as (for example) Aberdeen is #5 in the list, it has beaten only one whisky, #2 Stirling. And if you browse through the data you can see that both Perth and Edinburgh has beaten #5 (Aberdeen). As I test more whiskies I just add them to the end of the list, and add more entries in the “win”-lists.

Let us say I get a great whisky, Port Ellen, I try it against the best of the list (Glasgow) and it wins. Then I add to the end of the list:

   name  : 'Port Ellen',  // #6
   win   : [3],
   price : 5.0

Get Ranking

I can run my program like this:

Documents/Programming/whisky$ node whisky.js example.js -r
   1   6-0      1-0       :2   100%  Port Ellen
   2   5-1      3-1      1:3   100%  Glasgow
   3   3-2      2-1      2:5    86%  Perth
   4   2-2      2-1      2:6    71%  Edinburgh
   5   1-3      1-1      3:7    71%  Dundee
   6   1-4      1-2      4:7    86%  Aberdeen
   7   0-6      0-4      6:    100%  Stirling

So the output columns are:

  1. Rank
  2. Extended won and lost tastings. Port Ellen has just beaten Glasgow. But Glasgow has beaten 5 whiskies (using the same extended logic), so Port Ellen is considered to have beaten all those 5 plus Glasgow, which makes it 6.
  3. Won and Lost tastings
  4. Nearest whiskies in the list that it has lost against and won against
  5. 100% means that it won and lost against it neighbors. A lower value means that the nearest winners and losers are more far away. So a low value is an indication that this whisky needs to be tested more.
  6. Name of whisky

Get Suggestions

The program can suggest what I should try next:

Documents/Programming/whisky$ node whisky.js example.js -s
Dundee     - Edinburgh   1 77%
Edinburgh  - Perth       1 66%
Aberdeen   - Dundee      1 66%

Without going into details, this indicates that testing Dundee vs Edinburgh will be the most useful thing to stabilize the list. As you see, even though Port Ellen is just tested once it gets no suggestions. It will remain like that until some (new, not on the list) whisky beats Glasgow. As long as I only test whiskies from this suggested list I will not end up with circles of A beats B beats C beats A.

Pricing

I do not consider price when I compare whiskies. Nevertheless it is interesting to compare value for money. How do you make sense of adding prices to a list of whiskies given different currencies, markets, stores, auction prices, bottling sizes and cask strength whiskies? Well, it is not going to be exact, but I came up with a Johnny Walker equivalent:

  1. Red Label
  2. Black Label
  3. Gold Label
  4. 18 YO (Platinum Label)
  5. Blue Label
  6. The most expensive whisky in my collection

So when set my price value (1.0 to 6.0) for any whisky, I try to compensate for ABV and bottle size, and then give it a price value from the table above. So if Black Label is $30 and Gold Label is $50, a $40 whisky will get a price of 2.5.

I can run my program:

Documents/Programming/whisky$ node whisky.js example.js -v
   1  1.303  3.500     75  Glasgow
   2  1.267  3.000     50  Perth
   3  1.167  2.000     30  Dundee
   4  1.143  5.000    200  Port Ellen
   5  0.917  4.000    100  Edinburgh
   6  0.767  3.000     50  Aberdeen
   7  0.667  2.500     40  Stirling

The columns are:

  1. Ranking in value for money
  2. A value for money quote
  3. The price value in JW-scale
  4. The price in $ based on the JS-scale
  5. Name of whisky

Finally I can do a price-quality-plot:

Documents/Programming/whisky$ node whisky.js example.js -c
 |                                         
 |                                         
 |                                        .
 |                                         
 |                                         
 |                    .                    
 |                                  .      
 |       .                   .             
 P .                                       
 R                                         
 I              .                          
 C                                         
 E                                         
 |                                         
 |                                         
  ===== QUALITY ==== correlation : 0.7373 ==================

This obviously makes more sense with more than 7 whiskies.

Code

For anyone interested in running this code themselves here are download links.

  • whisky.js (run this with node.js on the command line)
  • example.js (data file with above 7 fake whiskies)
  • peat.js (data file with my peated list 2021-05-01)
  • std.js (data file with my standard list 2021-05-01)

Do not expect my data files to be regularly updated. The price data is a quite new feature so some prices may be quite off and I am considering to remove prices entirely for whisky that can not be bought or where price is not known.

Final words

I keep working on the ranking (testing more whiskies) and sometimes improving the ranking program.

I am obviously thinking about making this available for other people (you) in a simple way. I am not sure how to do it though. I think it should be a web page. But I do not know if you should:

  • enter your tastings in my webpage and save it there
  • enter your tastings in an Excel-sheet or something, and upload it to my page just when you want to run it

Perhaps there is something even smarter?

Let me know if you would like me to make this available in some other way than just sharing the source code above (which obviously mostly appeals to programmers).