Single malt whisky - tasting notes

Whisky Troef is a whisky club from the north of Belgium, which also happens to be the region of Jürgen Vromans who is behind The Whisky Mercenary. Their latest club bottling is this Ben Nevis 1996.


Ben Nevis 1996 - Whisky Mercenary | Whisky TroefBen Nevis 18 yo 1996 (50,9%, The Whisky Mercenary for Whisky Troef 2014, 100 btl.)

Nose: fairly light, but quite a lot happening right away. Starts on subtle grainy / grassy notes and youthful citrus, but evolves nicely towards slightly tropical fruits. Hints of guava and banana. Kiwi. Some rummy touches as well, nice. Typical waxy overtones. Mouth: immediately lemony, with both the juice and the zesty notes. Creamy and sweet at first, then adding spices. Green banana, peach, quite some ginger and grapefruit. Oranges with cloves. A bit of honey underneath. Finish: medium long, reminds me of a gin & tonic for its combination of spices, lemon and balanced bitterness.

This is quite a zesty Ben Nevis, flirting with a Littlemill profile at times and showing a great overall freshness and complexity. A big part of the allocation was reserved for club members but I’ve heard a couple of bottles are still available to outsiders. Around € 95.

Score: 86/100

Cardhu 18 Year Old

14 Jan 2015 | Cardhu

Cardhu 18 Years is different from the 12 Year Old in the fact that it was partly matured in sherry casks. Its price is relatively low compared to the limited edition Cardhu 21 Year Old released last year.


Cardhu 18 YearsCardhu 18 yo (40%, OB 2014)

Nose: in line with other Cardhu expressions. Pretty neutral that is. Vanilla fudge, sweet malt, apples and oranges. Hay. This time also nice roasted pineapple (the highlight of this dram) and dried flowers. Mouth: sweet and spicy, but in a slightly disjointed way. Fairly underpowered as well. Plenty of honey. Toffee and caramel. Vanilla biscuits. Chocolate, mocha and soft earthy notes. Hints of dusty oak too. Finish: rather short, bittersweet with a firm spiciness from the oak.

Not exactly a highflyer, there’s much better whisky to be found for this amount. In fact I’d rather have a good NAS whisky than a bland 18 year-old. Around € 60.

Score: 76/100

Glenmorangie likes to call The Taghta a ‘crowd-sourced’ whisky. Almost all of its characteristics (name, cask type, graphic identity…) were decided by its fans in online polls. An interesting concept, although you could ask how reliable it is for the general public to decide on things like a cask type – most will not have tasted the different options beforehand.



Glenmorange The Taghta is finished in Manzanilla sherry casks – an unusual choice for whisky maturation in general, and an unusual choice when coming from such a large panel. By the way it seems Glenmorangie has been experimenting with different styles of sherry. The new Glenmorangie Dornoch was finished in Amontillado casks – quite rare as well.

The Taghta means The Chosen.


Glenmorangie The Taghta - label choices



Glenmorangie The TaghtaGlenmorangie The Taghta
(46%, OB 2014, 12.000 btl.)

Nose: surprisingly sweet at first, but on a second level there are certainly elements of Manzanilla. Salted almonds, zesty citrus and a buttery touch. Golden raisins, soft hints of honey. Maybe dates. Fairly light overall. Mouth: spicy and quite acidic and zingy (lemon sherbet), although there’s still a raisiny sweetness too. A little caramel. Pepper and ginger. A ‘green’ briney note as well, maybe echoes of the olive juice that’s so typical of Manzanilla. Finish: not too long, with some oak and salty notes coming through.

This Taghta is an interesting dram, not exactly the easy-going whisky I would expect from a big crowd. It has the typical Glenmorangie sweetness but puts it against salty and zingy notes that are a little overpowering. Around € 85.

Score: 83/100

Whisky-Fässle and Whiskybase / Archives were already related in the sense that both bottlers / retailers were selling each other’s whiskies. They are regularly releasing similar casks and now they’ve even shared one, a 23 years old Auchentoshan 1990.

I really like the way they also ‘exchanged’ animals on the labels. The Archives bottle features a duck while the Whisky-Fässle version now has an exotic fish. The duck of Samoa, is it? Really nice guys.



Auchentoshan 1990 - Archives & Whisky-FässleAuchentoshan 23 yo 1990 (47,7%, Whisky-Fässle & Whiskybase 2014, hogshead #6850)

Nose: light and inviting but not just clean or dull. There’s a nice fruity side of oranges and sweet pear, with hints of pineapple syrup. Soft hints of vanilla. On the other hand there are also notes of linseed oil and dusty wood. Hints of lime blossom. Quite fragrant after a while. Mouth: sweet and creamy at first (vanilla cake) but these flavours quickly make place for zesty (grapefruit skin) and grassy notes. Herbal teas. Clove, a bit of aniseed. A few salty touches too. A little austere maybe. Finish: not too long, still on the herbal and bittersweet side. Some pepper as well.

Auchentoshan… still hit and miss for me. I liked the nose, but the palate is less my style. Not bad, but these bottlers have better stuff to discover. Around € 135.

Score: 82/100

The youngest member of the Early Flying series from The Whisky Agency is this Bunnahabhain 1990.



Bunnahabhain 1990 - The Whisky AgencyBunnahabhain 24 yo 1990
(48,3%, The Whisky Agency ‘Early flying’ 2014, refill hogshead, 190 btl.)

Nose: pine needles and mint, as well as some flinty notes and wet sand. Apple peelings. Sunflower oil and waxy notes. Hints of cigar boxes as well. Less honeyed than we would expect. Maybe a few dried mushrooms in the background. Mouth: plenty of apple peelings again, hints of cider apples too. A slightly earthy profile, very natural with less fruity or rounded notes, just a little honey. Hay. Green spices and liquorice. Some leafy notes and grapefruit tea. Finish: takes the herbal notes a bit further. Tobacco, a little ginger and green oak.

This Bunnahabhain 1990 is not showing my preferred side of this distillery, but it’s an interesting dram nonetheless. Around € 140.

Score: 85/100

This Springbank 12 Years Old is nicknamed Green. It is made from naturally farmed barley, but as the distillery itself doesn’t have the right certificates, the resulting whisky can’t officially be called organic. Hence green.

It’s matured entirely in bourbon casks. Springbank is preparing a 13 yo Green for next year, matured in sherry casks.



Springbank Green - 12 YearsSpringbank 12 yo ‘Green’ (46%, OB 2014, batch 14/488, 9000 btl.)

Nose: a true Springer, fresh, aromatic, with coastal and earthy undertones. Maybe a little more peat than usual. Also white peaches, citrus and freshly cut green apple. Sweet vanilla cake. Soft pepper. Hints of wet stones. Not too austere though, it’s rather creamy and easy to like. Mouth: starts bright and citrusy, then some creamy barley and vanilla biscuits. Honey. Becomes oilier and ashier. On to some grapefruit zest, walnuts and youngish cereal notes. Hints of peat as well as pepper. Just a slight bitter tang. Finish: medium long, with grainy notes, a lemon and salt combo and liquorice.

I haven’t been a huge fan of recent entry-level Springbanks, but I liked this one almost immediately. I’ve tried it a few times already and it’s a nice treat. Around € 70 – in stores now.

Score: 87/100

The ever expanding list of Elements of Islay bottlings includes seven Caol Ila expression already. This is Cl7, the latest release.

Originally sold by The Whisky Exchange, it’s found in plenty of whisky shops around Europe.


Caol Ila Cl7 - Elements of IslayCaol Ila Cl7 (58,5%, Elements of Islay 2014, 50 cl)

Nose: a fairly expressive but also balanced nose. Medicinal notes, lots of coastal things (beaches, shells, hints of wet rope). On the other hand also soft hints of almond oil, sweetened lemon juice, even traces of butter biscuits and barley sugars. I tend to like ‘em like this. Mouth: certainly sharper and highly medicinal. Antiseptics, iodine, menthol. Quite salty, one of the most mouth-watering whiskies I’ve come across lately. Liquorice and salted nuts. Cough syrup and herbal potions. Fernet-Branca. Impressive bitterness and saltiness. Finish: long, still quite savoury. Lots of salmiak and earthy notes.

While the nose could make you think it’s a rounded, gentle Coal Ila, the mouth is very intense, herbal and salty. Interesting bottling from an otherwise very “narrow” / predictable distillery. Around € 85.

Score: 87/100

This Bunnahabhain 1980 in the Perfect Dram series says on the label Selected and approved by Master Taster F. Thomas. Does anyone know him?

There has been a whole series of Bunnas from this vintage, released over the last few years, mainly by German bottlers. I don’t recall any bad ones.



Bunnahabhain 1980 Perfect DramBunnahabhain 34 yo 1980
(47,1%, The Perfect Dram 2014, refill sherry butt, 504 btl.)

Nose: nicely aromatic, with a deep, gentle fruitiness of apricot, melon and oranges. Gooseberries. Hints of honey and fragrant meadow flowers. It’s not just fruity though, there’s a coastal side to it, as well as a minty / resinous side. Plenty of polished oak too. Mouth: a honeyed fruitiness again. Fresh fruits (plums) and dried fruits (golden raisins) in equal amounts – although the sherry influence is quite moderate. Orange cake and almonds. Hints of green tea with passion fruit. A bit of cinnamon and leather from the oak. The lightest hint of salt. Finish: long, fairly dry and oaky, with hints of honey, apple peelings and ginger.

A very nice profile, combining a mellow fruitiness and beehive notes with a subtle coastalness. To think this was a mere € 100 just three years ago. Now around € 250.

Score: 89/100



April 2015
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Coming up

  • Images of Dufftown (Malts of Scotland)
  • Glenturret Peated Edition
  • Bowmore Black Rock
  • Aberlour a'bunadh Batch #50
  • Paul John Edited
  • Tomatin 1997 (Liquid Library)

1772 notes by Ruben

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