Single malt whisky - tasting notes

A sherry matured Glen Grant 1992 (distilled in June) and bottled in the newish Old Particular series from Douglas Laing. We’ve already tried nice bourbon matured 1992’s, let’s see whether they work as well in sherry butts.

 

Glen Grant 21 yo - Douglas Laing - Old ParticularGlen Grant 21 yo 1992
(51,5%, Douglas Laing Old Particular 2013, refill sherry butt, 374 btl.)

Nose: some unlit matchstick heads up front. Not too bad though, it evolves towards graphite and wood. Behind this, there are raisins and a tobacco / leather combination that works well. Spicy chocolate. Pears in brandy. Mouth: oily and peppery, then ginger and a dry cocoa note. A “mulled wine” kind of sherry maturation. Rum & raisins. A bit light in the middle, it’s either wine or spices. Finish: medium long, with a dry oaky kick and lingering spices.

Not my preferred type of sherried whisky. In any case it’s lacking some body to really stand out. Around € 110.

Score: 82/100


Arran 17 years

19 Apr 2014 | Arran

It’s just one year until the Arran 18 Year Old will be launched. It will form a trilogy with Arran 16 years and this Arran 17 years. It was matured in ex-sherry hogsheads and it is the oldest official release yet from this distillery (again).

 

Arran 17 Year OldArran 17 years
(46%, OB 2014, 9000 btl.)

Nose: fresh and fruity like we’ve come to expect from The Arran. More stewed fruits this time and definitely more spices. A cider apple sourness too, especially the first few minutes. Settles on cut apples, berries, candied orange peel and a little honey but overall its spiciness makes it seem drier than most Arrans. Aniseed and ginger, clove as well as soft pepper. A bit of dusty oak. Mouth: fairly spicy and sharp at first, with citrus and dry hints of tobacco leaves. Then honey and apricots on syrup with a chocolate sweetness in the background, before the spices move to the front again. Cardamom, clove, pepper. Really light sherry. Finish: medium long, on spiced apples, liquorice and soft oak.

This Arran 17 Year Old revolves around wood spices besides the typical, fairly light, easy-drinking character. Well-made whisky but I prefer the 16. Around € 75.

Score: 86/100


Yes, a lot of Littlemill 1988-1992 so far. No, we still don’t have enough. Bring on the newest expression: Littlemill 1992 from The Whisky Mercenary.

 

Littlemill 1992 - The Whisky MercenaryLittlemill 21 yo 1992
(52,9%, The Whisky Mercenary 2014)

Nose: starts maybe a little grassier than other casks. Lots of power. Typical waxy notes / lemon balm, then some tangerine and grapefruit. A sharper rhubarb note. A soft vanilla / frangipane whiff seems to come and go. Mouth: takes no prisoners. Perfect zestiness of grapefruit and lemon, with slightly rounder tangerine. Citrus green tea and grasses. A soft hint of vanilla marshmallow in the back, as well as a creaminess of latte, or coconut. Perfectly focused on its Lowlands strengths. Finish: medium long, zesty, with a spicy warmth.

Another one of these very enjoyable Littlemills. We may be spoiled now but I’m telling you these stocks can’t last forever. Around € 115, available from most Belgian retailers as we speak.

Score: 88/100


The Strathisla 8 Years Old must have been one of the regular common malts in the 1970’s and 1980’s. Many versions exist (some with a subtle floral print above and below the label for example), all bottled by Gordon & MacPhail in one of their semi-official series.

 

Strathisla 8 Years - 70° ProofStrathisla 8 yo ‘70° Proof’ (40%, Gordon & MacPhail 1970’s, 26 3/4 fl. oz)

Nose: not extremely assertive, but a nice, rather naked distillate nonetheless. Lots of hay and dried flowers. Hints of muesli. Some cooked apple. Simple pleasures. Mouth: again not too bold. Sweet apples, lots of malty notes. A little mint and pepper. Also a bit of a floral, almost perfumy side. Finish: medium long. Most of the sweetness is gone, and some dry grainy notes stay behind.

A simple malt without flaws but without any special flair as well. Comes close to other low-budget malts from these days, like the common Glen Grant 5 Year Olds. It shows that things weren’t always better in the old days.

Score: 77/100


Pre-war whisky, it’s one of these things any serious whisky enthusiast should have experienced. The recent ‘Pre-War Whisky Tour’ that you may have seen on Facebook could make you think otherwise, but you don’t usually stumble upon these things easily. They’re lucky cellar finds or expensive auction items.

This Glen Grant 21 Year Old 70° proof is one of the best examples I’ve come across. It was bottled by Gordon & MacPhail in their semi-official distillery series.

We’re lucky when it comes to dating this bottle: it is sealed with a securo cap. That’s a special kind of screw cap, very effective and probably ahead of its time, but only used for a couple of years between 1961 and 1963. Gordon & MacPhail used it but you can also find it on bottles of Macallan or blends from this era.

The very narrow timespan of bottling, minus at least twenty one years of maturation, leads us back to a distillation date of 1940-1942 or earlier. Glen Grant was closed during World War II however, so the whisky inside the bottle is effectively 1930’s production.

 

 

Glen Grant 21 Years Old 70° Proof - Gordon & MacPhail - securo capGlen Grant 21 yo (70° proof, Gordon & MacPhail 1960’s, securo cap)

Nose: it’s a typical profile, but one we haven’t described too often on this blog. It starts with a rich, pastry-like sweetness. Honey, soft apricots and golden raisins. Bright citrus. Banana. This moves towards waxy notes (candles) and polished wood. But the unique part are old-style hints of camphor, heavenly silver polish and subtle peat. Such elegance. Also worn leather and dusty libraries. In the background, there’s a whole list of tiny aromas. Bay leaves, marjoram, ashes, dried chanterelles, almonds, pipe tobacco… Endless and priceless. Mouth: fairly savoury, with tobacco stepping forward again. Lots of oily things, huge wax and metallic notes. Then a vague fruity sweetness (fruit cake, maybe apple) and caramelized brown sugar. Plenty of spices and herbs (ginger, clove, cinnamon, menthol). Something of a herbal liqueur. Clear coal smoke and a ‘garage’ flavour towards the end, as well as the rancio side of an old Palo Cortado. Finish: alright, not huge, mainly a mix of herbs and bittersweet elements.

It’s difficult not to get nostalgic with such a whisky. It goes back at least 75 years. How did they achieve this complexity and these unique aromas? Were they originally present or is it a matter of half a decade of sublime ‘bottle refinement’? Will we ever witness the same effect with current production, after many years? A small masterpiece anyway, perfect to conclude 1500 blog posts.

Score: 96/100


Kininvie was the ‘secret distillery’ within the William Grant & Sons production site that also houses Glenfiddich and Balvenie. Although its stillhouse was separate, it used to share mash tuns and washbacks with The Balvenie. But now it has been expanded with its own dedicated equipment.

So far we’ve only seen a couple of Hazelwood-branded releases from these stills. They were only fired when extra blending whisky was required (it’s the core ingredient of Monkey Shoulder) and there was officially never any intent to bottle Kininvie as a single malt. Until this first official bottling that was launched in Taiwan last year. It’s a 23 years old composition of different bourbon and sherry casks distilled in 1990.

The fact that it’s called Batch 001 indicates the start of a series, maybe also releasing expressions in other parts of the world, although it looks like nothing is fixed yet and they prefer the future to be a little vague.

 

Kininvie 23yo 1990 Batch 001Kininvie 23 yo 1990
(42,6%, OB 2013, hogsheads & sherry butts, 7000 btl, Batch 001, 35 cl.)

Nose: an elegant nose but also a slightly spirity one. Even at relatively low strength it’s rather neutral. Kirsch or other types of fruit spirit. A lot of vanilla and almonds. Newish oak. A hint of apple, as well as apple blossom. Floral honey. Not bad, just not very expressive. Mouth: very sweet, plenty of apples and honey again. Citrus. Damsons. Maybe hints of strawberries. Sugared cereals. Some pepper and a general okay note towards the end. Finish: medium long, with apple and hints of chocolate.

I really like The Balvenie and this Kininvie 1990 has a similar character, but on the other hand there’s a strange blend-like side to it as well, including the rough, grainy edges. A malt that’s made to replicate – or reinforce – a blend? Around € 250 for a half bottle – that’s a lot of money, even for one of the rarest names.

Score: 81/100


Another rare oldie brought to us by Sansibar. There seem to be different strengths and bottle amounts on the internet for this Balmenach 1979. I can only tell you what’s on the label.

 

Balmenach 1979 SansibarBalmenach 35 yo 1979 (53,4%, Sansibar 2014, bourbon cask, 127 btl.)

Nose: dry and herbal, with lots of forest associations. Dried flowers, moss and leafy notes. A proud nose but a little unsexy, although there’s a subtle fruity side of yellow apple and overripe banana. A little chalk, as well as milky cereals. Last but not least: a nice, dry layer of 35 years old dust. Mouth: thick and sweet, slightly milky / creamy again. The grassy notes are back, some grapefruit skin, apples… Dried coconut flakes. A good deal of old oak, with pepper and nutmeg coming along. A very subtle hint of sweet coffee. I’m missing a bit of fruits here, but they do get stronger when you add a bit of water. Finish: long, oaky, zesty, grassy and spicy. You can’t blame this one a lack of punch.

I really like the old-style charm on the nose, but on the palate it does start to show its lengthy time in wood. Slightly shy on the fruits. Around € 210.

Score: 88/100


Stagg Jr.

11 Apr 2014 | * USA

Stagg Jr. was the highly anticipated younger version of Buffalo Trace’s power bourbon George T. Stagg. Its age is still above average though, and they share the same recipe and strength, so ‘Junior’ may have an adverse effect of making it seem more approachable.

This American bourbon has no age statement, although the label says it was aged for nearly a decade. We’ve heard it’s slightly over 8 years old. Contrary to the yearly senior version, Stagg Jr. will have three to four batches a year.

 

 

Stagg Jr. (bourbon)Stagg Jr. (67,2%, OB 2013, first batch)

Nose: I believe my nostrils are gone. A very fierce ethanol kick. After some settling down, indeed quite similar to a senior George T. Stagg. Very rich, with lots of dry, oaky notes and rye spices like pepper and clove. Wood varnish. Toffee and honey sweetness as well. Chocolate. A lot of vanilla notes as well, if you let it breathe. Mouth: a nice combination of honey and bags of mint. Then some cinnamon bark and really dry wood. Quite hefty, alcoholic and tannic. A few drops of water make it slightly citrusy but the powdery dryness becomes even louder – I find it difficult to get a good balance with drinkability. Finish: long, dry with burnt notes and vanilla.

Good, but it goes downhill. The nose is rich and complex, but the palate is a slightly harsh oak infusion with a surprising thinness if you think away the alcohol. Around $ 50 in the US, or around € 90 if you find a bottle on this side of the ocean.

Score: 82/100


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Coming up

  • Glen Grant 1992 (Le Gus't)
  • Auchentoshan 15yo (Kintra)
  • Lagavulin 1997 Distillers Edition
  • Ben Nevis 1997 (Maltbarn)
  • Tomatin 1978 (Cadenhead / Nectar)
  • Aultmore 2007 (Daily Dram)
  • Glenglassaugh 1978 (Madeira)
  • Karuizawa 45 Year Old (cask #2925)
  • Glengoyne 1999 (Palo Cortado)

1504 notes by Ruben

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