Single malt whisky - tasting notes

Not too long ago we wrote that the Thosop handwritten series received a final 19th release, a Tomatin 1976, only available for collectors who had already bought the complete series before.

On a tasting for these collectors, organised by Luc Timmermans, yet another addition to the series was presented, an ‘underground’ Port Ellen 1978. Only 6 bottles exist of this whisky, which was actually ‘lost stock’ that never reached its distributor (just like the Tomatin). We will probably never know where this came from, but apparentely it was bottled in 2005 and now relabeled.

Just 1 of these bottles would leave the Thosop cellar: the names of the collectors went into a hat and one name was drawn. Geert is now the only person who owns the complete series of 20 expressions.

 

 

Port Ellen 1978 | Thosop HandwrittenPort Ellen 1978 (55,7%, Thosop Handwritten 2005, refill sherry butt, 6 btl.)

Nose: a balanced nose. It’s flinty and mineral, it has the typical medium peatiness, but also nice apples, sweet lemon candy, even some green banana notes. A little paraffin and butter. It’s great how it changes from rougher notes to rounder notes and vice versa. Let’s not forget to mention the medicinal notes and soft vanilla. Excellent. Mouth: sweet, very sweet actually and rather creamy. Lemon pie and candied oranges, some plum jam. Then heavier notes of liquorice and peat. Back to pear juice. Tangerines? Peppered marzipan. Finish: very long, trading some of its sweetness for peaty and peppery notes.

It’s just superb Port Ellen, with the kind of sweetness and roundness that I love to see alongside the punchy peat. Such a lovely dram, and such a shame this is basically a one-off.

Score: 93/100


Kintra is regularly bottling casks without telling us what is really is. While the contents remain confidential, most of our sources claim it’s a “teaspooned” Balvenie. A very small amount of another whisky is added, in this case probably from the neighbouring Glenfiddich distillery. Technically not a single malt, but close enough.

 

 

Kintra 4th Confidential Cask - Balvenie?4th Confidential Cask, 20 yo 1993 (50,3%, Kintra 2013, bourbon hogshead #1791, 295 btl.)

Nose: quite a modern, oak-driven profile (vanilla galore). A lot of biscuity notes with garden fruits like green apples and pears. Hints of flower honey and orange blossom. Pepper and ginger. Sawdust. Good but it’s got a slightly disturbing, plankish edge. Mouth: sweet and malty. Lots of pear and lemon candy, orange sweets and honey. Almond cream and vanilla custard. After that it turns towards the woody side again. Cloves, pepper, some zesty grapefruit. Some raw cereals and floral notes in the background. Finish: sweet and zesty, with echoes of warm toffee.

The teaspooned Balvenie guess makes sense. In fact this one reminds me of the recent profile that this distillery is showing in the Balvenie 12 Year Old Single Barrel releases (although this one is slightly older). Modern and American oak-driven. Around € 60.

Score: 84/100


Douglas Laing seems to have bought quite a few Isle of Jura 2003 casks and they’ve started to bottle them. There were at least 2 or 3 similar releases in 2013.

 

Jura 2003 | Douglas Laing ProvenanceJura 9 yo 2003 (46%, Douglas Laing Provenance 2013, ref. 9305)

Nose: gristy, grainy and peaty. It’s really young spirit, with newmakeish notes of pear drops, porridge and spearmint bubblegum. That doesn’t mean it’s bad – there’s a nice oiliness to it and a pleasant dustiness. Hints of walnut husks. Mouth: very sugary. It’s fairly rounded, with vanilla, honey and cinnamon sweets. Peaty notes, some iodine. Unfortunately also a faint wodka-like roughness. Finish: medium. Some apples and grains.

A simple, peaty dram. It’s not a bad drink, but it should have matured for a couple of more years before being bottled. Around € 50.

Score: 78/100


The youngest from the Age Matters series by The Whiskyman. Fifteen years old Ledaig 1997.

 

Ledaig 15 1997 - The Whiskyman 'Age Matters'Ledaig 15 yo 1997 (51,9%, The Whiskyman ‘Age Matters’ 2013)

Nose: what the… There are a few aromas that I usually don’t appreciate in whisky. Dirtbin odours, rubber, porridge with milk… This one has them all. It’s buttery, peaty and quite raw, almost industrial. There are hints of wet things: hay, leaves, sheep and their manure… Then some brighter fruity notes, but only in the background. It’s not exactly a gentleman, but I admit, it possesses an authenticity and a certain beauty. In the same way Permeke’s lying farmer is truly beautiful, if you know what I mean. Mouth: again firm, peaty, briny, buttery and ashy. Then a lemon / barley sweetness, almost candied. Some farmy notes. Liquorice and seaweed. Peated apple juice and pepper. Finish: long, sweet and peaty, moving towards lapsang souchong.

You know, it’s challenging to present a mix of all kinds of nasty aromas and get away with it because the end result is a coherent, ‘proud’ whisky. In a way this is a concept dram, like the Littlemill 1988, and it’s just as hard to score. Tomorrow I might love it. A bold whisky. Around € 70.

Score: 85/100


Dun Eideann is a sublabel of Signatory Vintage, the independent bottler founded by Andrew and Brian Symington in 1988. Dun Eideann was primarily intended for export markets like Switzerland, France, Spain and Italy, where Donato & C. is still the distributor).

From this series we’re trying a Springbank 1967 bottled in 1989.

 

 

Springbank 1967 (Dun Eideann)Springbank 20 yo 1967 (46%, Dun Eideann for Donato & C. 1989, cask #3131 – 3136)

Nose: old-style, dusty sherry, not too aromatic but nicely complex. Starts citrusy, with lots of oranges, then it settles on dried figs, Nutella (both hazelnuts and chocolate) and plenty of silver polish. Hints of smoke and old books. Whiffs of dried coconut flakes as well. Soft notes of dried herbs, which stresses the fact that it’s hardly fruity. Mouth: quite soft, again very dry, waxy and dusty. Old pipe tobacco and some Seville oranges (including zest). Lots of mint, hints of cardboard. Minerals and herbs. It lacks a bit of roundness but it’s typical for this style. Finish: long and resinous, with the smoke moving forward.

It’s always nice to try very old Springbank, although I think there are even better examples. It felt a little tired. Almost impossible to find.

Score: 90/100


Glenfarclas 105 is one of the first whiskies I ever reviewed on this blog (see here). Around 2008 it used to be one of my favourite daily drams. It never hurts to revisit this kind of stuff, batches are replaced often anyway (although Glenfarclas doesn’t advertise them so it’s impossible to recognize them).

As you know Glenfarclas 105 is their popular high strength expression, it refers to 5 over proof which is 60% alcohol, and it’s supposedly around 8 years old. Since +/- 2010 it comes in an updated (wider) bottle and packaging.

 

Glenfarclas 105Glenfarclas 105 (60%, OB 2013)

Nose: intense sherry, with plenty of raisins, redcurrants, milk chocolate and toffee apples. Some fudge. Sweet but not cloying, there’s a bright hint of raspberry jam and a slight citrus tingle. Hints of mulled wine – some rich spices in the back. Soft tobacco as well. Mouth: powerful but not anesthetizing at full strength (well, maybe a tiny bit). Thick sherry, hints of mocha and orange liqueur. Dried prunes and raisins. Treacle. Cinnamon, pepper and ginger. Some molasses. Still some berry jams, but overall a little on the dry side, although water helps in this respect. Finish: long, rich, sweet and spicy but also a tad nuttier (almonds and hazelnut).

Still a good dram to show how well sherry and whisky can get along. Also a good introduction to high strength whisky. Slightly more modern when compared to the older bottling, but still good value. Widely available. Around € 50 these days, but sometimes a promotion can bring it down to € 30.

Score: 85/100


Elijah Craig is a Kentucky straight bourbon produced by Heaven Hill distilleries (they also produce Bernheim Original among others). The Baptist minister Elijah Craig is credited for having invented the usage of new, charred casks for the maturation of bourbon whiskey.

This expression was bottled for The Nectar in Belgium.

 

Elijah Craig 12 years - The NectarElijah Craig 12 yo (47%, OB ‘full barrel’ for The Nectar 2013, 94 Proof)

Nose: a medium dry nose with lots of sawdust and a typical rye note. Nicely balanced with sweeter corn and pastry notes. A little orange marmalade. Almonds and raisins. Quite a lot of mint as well. Mouth: again on the dry side, lots of mint and eucalyptus at first (slightly medicinal hints even). A rye tingle again, with some leathery notes. Fresh, toasted oak. Vanilla and cinnamon, a little pepper too. Caramel and brown sugar, even a hint of coconut. Dried fruits and spiced honey. Finish: long, with a corn sweetness and some orange flavours alongside the lingering spices.

I’m not an American whiskey expert, but for me this has elements of classic bourbon and rye whiskey. It shows a drier, more oaky and spicy kind of style. Good sipping whiskey for the price. Around € 40.

Score: 84/100


Every whisky deserves a second chance, so even though we’ve had a disappointing Deanston 1997 very recently, we’ll see if this one from the Archives / Fishes of Samoa series is more attractive.

 

Deanston 1997 - ArchivesDeanston 15 yo 1997 (55,8%, Archives ‘Fishes of Samoa’ 2013, hogshead #1959, 327 btl.)

Nose: grassy notes (wet hay) with overripe apples. A little dirty, with decomposing leaves, closely related to the Asta Morris cask in that respect. A lot of butter, some mashy / porridgy notes, some nutty notes too. Heather honey. A slightly sharp, spicy tingle as well. Mouth: sharp and grainy at first, slightly alcoholic, and kind of blend-like actually. A gingery / peppery heat to sharpen the edges even more. It is softened by a more creamy middle, with, vanilla and honey, and a slightly indefinite fruitiness, but it returns to green tea and liquorice. Finish: medium long, dry and spicy, with slightly peaty / salty overtones.

I didn’t really like the Asta Morris version, and this one is just as mashy on the nose and even sharper on the palate. Personally I would have labeled it as blending whisky. Around € 55.

Score: 80/100


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Coming up

  • Auchentoshan 15yo (Kintra)
  • Lagavulin 1997 Distillers Edition
  • Ben Nevis 1997 (Maltbarn)
  • Tomatin 1978 (Cadenhead / Nectar)
  • Aultmore 2007 (Daily Dram)
  • Karuizawa 45 Year Old (cask #2925)
  • Glengoyne 1999 (Palo Cortado)

1506 notes by Ruben

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