Single malt whisky - tasting notes

Did you notice we’ve been reviewing more old bottlings lately? It is rather quiet in the whisky scene – summer, you know.

Gordon & MacPhail has a tradition to do special bottlings to commemorate royal weddings. For the marriage of Prince Charles and Lady Di on 29th of July 1981 they released vattings of 1948 and 1961 casks. There’s Glen Grant, Glenburgie and Strathisla, as far as I know.



Strathisla 1948-1964 - Charles & DianaStrathisla 1948 / 1961 ‘Royal Wedding’ (40%, Gordon & MacPhail 1981, for Charles & Diana)

Nose: maybe not the freshest nose at first (sticky toffee with a meaty twist), but this kind of old bottles deserve a bit of airing. Not a classic sherry nose in any case, it’s more on aromatic herbs and juicy fresh fruits than on the typical raisins or spices. Lemon verbena, lime leaves and mint. Oranges and pineapples, with a pleasant sourness. Mouth: much sweeter, with quite some vanilla and a list of fruity notes (dried apricots, tangerine). Becomes considerably drier, on ginger, dark chocolate and cardamom. Some resinous notes. Finish: malty and spicy, rather short.

This is a subtle Strathisla with a light, elegant profile. Really good but it may be a bit soft at 40%. Worth around € 500.

Score: 89/100

Knockdhu is the distillery that makes the current-day anCnoc. This is a young expression in the Connoisseurs Choice series (brown label) from Gordon & MacPhail.



Knockdhu 1974 - G&M Connoisseurs ChoiceKnockdhu 10 yo 1974 (40%, Gordon & MacPhail Connoisseurs Choice +/- 1984, 75cl)

Nose: a lot of sweet grains, with hints of pear schnapps. Some silver polish and mint. Pine wood. A little paraffin. Musty warehouses. Almonds and wet papers. It’s not very expressive but it’s certainly not unpleasant either. Mouth: sweet start, quite soft yet a little spirity and bitterish. There’s grapefruit and lemon zest, mixed with wet cardboard and this vague barley sweetness. Traces of wax again and diesel. Pepper. Kind of an eau-de-vie with the fruits missing. Finish: not too long, peppery and slightly grassy.

This Knockdhu is totally unmodern – I find that very interesting. However it’s useless if you’re trying to prove that whisky was better in the old days. Around € 500 from TWE – hopefully this makes sense from a collector’s perspective. Thanks for the sample, Jeroen!

Score: 79/100

This is the third and last of the Signatory Vintage casks that were bottled exclusively for The Whisky Exchange. It is a sherried Clynelish 1996.



Clynelish 1996 - Signatory Vintage #6509 - Whisky ExchangeClynelish 18 yo 1996 (55,5%, Signatory Vintage for The Whisky Exchange 2015, refill sherry butt #6509, 606 btl.)

Nose: not the cleanest start, with a earthy and slightly sulphury hint, but this disappears. Overripe melon. Then some nice baked apple and raisins, rhubarb jam, even a bright hint of raspberries. Lots of leathery notes and pepper. Hints of waxed paper as well as some very light potpourri. Mouth: sweet and spicy. The pepper is stronger now and joined by cinnamon and nutmeg. Stewed fruits, mainly red berries and candy apple. Becomes darker and drier, on dark chocolate and ginger. Finish: long, still very much on plums, raisins and spices.

The sherry cask makes this Clynelish very full-bodied, fruity and spicy at the same time. Not my favourite from this trio, but overall quality is undeniably high! Around € 120.

Score: 86/100

Sometimes I tend get bored of modern malts and I turn to my sample archive to dig up a sample I collected long ago. Bottles that nobody opens these days… too expensive. Today: Glen Garioch 1968 hogshead #625 which is the best cask from this era, according to some.



Glen Garioch 1968 cask #625Glen Garioch 29 yo 1968
(57,2%, OB 1997, hogshead #625)

Nose: ah yes, one of these glorious sherry casks. Full of blackberries, juicy strawberries and dates. Rum & raisins. Black Forest gateau and chocolate. Dark baked pastry. Hints of cigar boxes. Underneath is a layer of toasted oak and warm tarmac, at the top end there are hints of Pedro Ximénez vinegar and the acidity of raspberry juice. It’s very wide and intense at the same time, not unlike Karuizawa or Kavalan, but so juicy and with lots of tiny nuances! Mouth: excellent again. Cherries, blackberries, raspberries, plus vanilla and lots of herbs (mint, eucalyptus, hyssop). Very thick and compact, with a nice smokiness. Liquorice, some leafy notes. Leather and hints of tobacco. It keeps going on and on. Finish: long, with the herbs and dark chocolate having the last word.

A perfect example of classic heavy sherry. Sure the sherry is a little overwhelming but boy is this good! Around € 1000 in auctions.

Score: 93/100

Liquid Treasures already had a young Balmenach 2000 back in 2011 and now they’ve bottled a Balmenach 2001 from a sherry hogshead.



Balmenach 2001 - Liquid TreasuresBalmenach 14 yo 2001
(51,9%, Liquid Treasures 2015, refill sherry hogshead, 245 btl.)

Nose: a light, youngish nose, full of banana yoghurt, creamy peach and white raisin juice. A lot of malty sweetness. Hints of mint and vanilla. A little paraffin as well. Sherry? Where? Mouth: very creamy texture, less straightforward, and a bit funky in its combination of flavours. I get honey, slightly artificial banana, strawberry and apple candy and a grassy / hoppy flavour. Firm peppery notes, toffee, paraffin again… And linseed oil. Sweet, bitter, peppery – all-in-one. Finish: quite long and malty, with grapefruit and liquorice.

A bit of a weirdo, but in an interesting way. It’s an uncommon dram, with some unique flavours, even though it doesn’t feel entirely integrated. Be sure to try it yourself, you will either love it or hate it. Around € 85.

Score: 80/100

This is Bowmore Bw5, the fifth expression from this distillery in the Elements of Islay series and the best one so far, according to the TWE staff.

It is a vatting of 1995 and 1996 casks, and as you know these have been excellent years for the distillery (see The Whisky Agency’s Faces release).



Bowmore Bw5 - Elements of IslayBowmore Bw5
(50,2%, Elements of Islay 2015, 50 cl)

Nose: a very classic, clean and balanced Bowmore. There’s medium smoke and medium coastalness, on the same level as the rich sweetness. Creamy vanilla. Lemon candy, tinned pineapples and faint tangerine. Also a nice fresh minty note. Mouth: coastal start, slightly hesitating, but then a great wave of pink grapefruit, mango and sweet lime comes along. Almost as if they vatted a few litres of Irish whiskey as well. Excellent, especially because the usual peat smoke, pepper and kippers make some way. Sweet and fruity Bowmore. Finish: maybe not that long, but rounded and smooth.

Perhaps too sweet with too little smoke for some, but I love this style. Recommended stuff. Too bad it’s also quite expensive: around € 125.

Score: 90/100

This is the second official release of Port Ellen, and the one with the highest alcohol strength. It’s also the widest release, if I’m not mistaken, with 12.000 bottles, and therefore one of the least expensive yearly releases.



Port Ellen 2nd release (1978)Port Ellen 24 yo 1978 ‘2nd release’ (59,35%, OB 2002, 12.000 btl.)

Nose: one of the sharp and austere noses. Cutting phenols, vegetal oils and plenty of grassy notes. Lemon. Moves towards camphor and even a hint of ammonia. Eucalyptus. Farmy notes in the background. After some time a very light fruity / honeyed note comes out. It’s quite sharp alright but it also shows a remarkable finesse in a way. Mouth: a tad hot, but also chewier and sweeter than expected. Oranges and pears, lemonade. Medium peat and a good dose of salt. Actually more ashes than real peat. Still a farmy edge that hints towards Brora. A bit of coffee (this may be the alcohol), a little wax and liquorice too. Finish: long, slightly bittersweet, with sweet peat and some wood.

Judging by the nose, I was afraid it would be too harsh and one-dimensional, but on the palate it really showed its complex aromas and balance. Maybe not my favourite release but definitely not the worst. Around € 1000 in auctions.

Score: 91/100

Just a review for an easy Monday morning…



Tomatin 1997 - Liquid LibraryTomatin 17 yo 1997 (51%, Liquid Library 2014, refill hogshead, 268 btl.)

Nose: totally naked Tomatin. Plenty of garden fruits like apples and peaches but also sweeter green melon and hints of mango. Some greener notes as well, like apple seeds and grasses. Hints of leather. Mouth: very sweet, almost syrupy if not for the peppery touches and grassy notes again. Juicy pears, pineapple, peaches on syrup. Hints of candy sugar. Tiny hints of dough and vanilla. Finish: rather long, with liquorice, subtle herbs and zesty lemon.

No fuzz, just well made and straightforward Tomatin with some old-style touches. Very good card players whisky, as they say. Around € 90.

Score: 86/100



July 2015
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Coming up

  • Dos Maderas 5+3
  • Karuizawa 1988 (Whisky Fair)
  • Glenglassaugh 1972 (Carn Mor)
  • Laphroaig Lp6 (Elements of Islay)
  • Bruichladdich 1964 (G&M #3676-3677)

1838 notes by Ruben

WhiskyNotes - Ruben LuytenThis blog is my personal collection of impressions, written while searching for the ultimate single malt whisky.