Single malt whisky - tasting notes

I know some friends who have open bottles of Karuizawa, but they were usually opened before the prices exploded. Who still opens them now?

This Karuizawa 1981 cask #152 was part of the 2014 collection from La Maison du Whisky, which included four Karuizawas from the late 1970s and 1981.



Karuizawa 1981 cask #152 LMdWKaruizawa 33 yo 1981 (54,5%, OB for LMdW 2014, sherry cask #152, 566 btl.)

Nose: the nicest humidors, with lots of tobacco notes (cigars but pipes even more) and exotic woods like cedar and thuja. Big fruity notes too, strawberry jams and blackberries. Thyme, dried porcini. Some hickory smoke after a while. Pu-erh tea. Old roses, hints of lokum even. We tried this alongside the Karuizawa Nepal Appeal and I prefer this nose. Mouth: not as bloated as some other Karuizawas, slightly more docile. The same interplay of sweet berries and dark prunes, spices (thyme, cumin, nutmeg) and earthy smoke. Bergamot and blood oranges in a second wave. Then back to tobacco leaves and some very light medicinal herbs. Finish: very long, but this is where it looses a point. Drier than the Nepal bottling, showing more earthy notes, more smoke and more tannins, eased by some chocolate and eucalyptus.

One of the best Karuizawa noses ever, in my opinion. Too bad for the dryness in the end. Originally € 515, now around € 4000 in auctions. Thanks for popping it, Joeri, highly appreciated.

Score: 93/100

The Nikka Taketsuru range unites blended malts from the Yoichi and Miyagikyou distilleries. The Taketsuru 35 Year Old is the oldest available, very limited (1000 bottles) and originally reserved for the Japanese market. It contains the oldest available casks from both distilleries.

Masataka Taketsuru was sent to Scotland in 1918 to learn the secrets of whisky making. He came back with a suitcase full of luggage, and Rita Taketsuru, his Scottish wife. Both would play an important role in the development of Nikka and Japanese whisky in general.



Nikka Taketsuru 35 YearsNikka Taketsuru 35 yo
(43%, OB 2008, 1000 btl.)

Nose: quite exceptional. It’s remarkably fruity and tropical (mango and passion fruits, plums, hints of raspberry and melon) and full of oak polish and waxed leather. Cinnamon and tobacco. Something slightly fragrant (bergamot and rose petals). A bit of mint. It has an Irish side, something American as well, but it’s clearly oriental too. Intruiging and highly seductive. Mouth: again this lovely mix of mango / guava / passion fruit with fragrant bergamot. Strawberries. Something lightly rummy. Old cognac too. Very creamy and rounded considering the age. Just some exotic spices from the oak (cinnamon, soft pepper, cardamom) and a hint of citrus green tea. Maybe some light wood smoke in the background? Finish: medium long and rather light, but fresh with the fruity green tea and mint in the lead.

It would have been great to have this at a slightly higher strength, but nonetheless this is a superb and wonderfully cosmopolitan dram, with an exceptional nose. Around € 1100 in auctions. Thanks, Bert.

Score: 92/100

In our flight of Brora, we also had this Port Ellen 1983 in the exclusive Private Stock series of The Whisky Agency.

Actually I think the Brora 1975 Rare Malts was better than this Port Ellen, so I’m reviewing them in the wrong order. I had the Brora 1972 Alambic Classique lined up instead (thanks for your sample, Dominiek) but I forgot I had already reviewed it some time ago… So here’s a bottle that didn’t really make the top-5.



Port Ellen 1982 - Private StockPort Ellen 27 yo 1983 (55,6%, The Whisky Agency ‘Private Stock’ 2010, refill sherry cask, 96 btl.)

Nose: one of these Port Ellen expressions that are really close to Caol Ila of the same era / age. Warm smoke, with medium peat and quite some sweet and fruity undertones (orange jelly, peach compote, candy apple). Leathery tones, a hint of cocoa and subtle medicinal notes. Lovely harmony. Mouth: bigger than the nose made me expect. Lots of lemony, peppery, ashy notes, very Caol Ellen. Stewed plums and citrus, with a pinch of salt and ginger. Liquorice. Full-bodied but quite round again. Finish: long, ashy, with soft hints of brine and a bit of sherry sweetness.

A great Port Ila, but it doesn’t give me a “wtf?” feeling like some other Private Stock bottlings. Could have been the pressure of such legendary Brora before. Around € 900 in auctions. Thanks, Joeri.

Score: 92/100

I had a really nice tasting with friends the other day, and although the focus was a little less on whisky than it would have been three years ago, everyone brought some cracking old stuff. This week I will post my thoughts on five of the most memorable whiskies of that evening (well, except for a few that I had already reviewed like this, this or this).

This Brora 1975 is a bit of an outsider, as it only exists in 20 cl. bottles in this strength. It was part of a Rare Malts box set which also included Caol Ila, Dailuaine, Glendullan and Teaninich.



Brora 20 yo 1975 - Rare MaltsBrora 20 yo 1975
(60,75%, Rare Malts 1996, 20 cl.)

Nose: it has all of the raw Brora elements but it’s also surprisingly rounded. There’s peat, mineral notes and quite some wet dogs, but also sweet fruity notes (pear, a little honey). Even a slightly floral / fragrant touch. Candle wax, some oysters and library dust. Also very nice, soft farmy notes in the background, but not the 1972 sheep stables. Mouth: peaty and lemony, intense and already very enjoyable, though a bit of water makes it much wider and brings out warm smoke, candied lemon and hints of bergamot. Plenty of wax. A hint of fruit tea. Walnut cake. Finish: long, still quite sweet, with pepper and salt. Traces of peat.

Really great, complex Brora in my opinion, and I seem to like it even more than some other reviewers. I think the sweet roundness works very well here. Around € 300 in auctions. Thanks, Dominiek!

Score: 92/100

We will be looking at some recent bottlings next week, but for now I’m still enjoying myself with some very nice oldies.

This is part of a small batch of 1964 Bruichladdich casks that was bottled by Gordon & McPhail in three vattings: #3670-3672 which I’ve reviewed before, #3673-3675 and #3676-3677.



Bruichladdich 1964/1995 G&M #3676-3677Bruichladdich 30 yo 1964
(50%, Gordon & McPhail Cask Strength 1995, cask #3676-3677)

Nose: a warm, seductive and almost tropical fruitiness. Lots of apricot jam, quinces and honey. All kinds of beehive notes actually – beeswax, pollen, reminds me of Caperdonich 1972. Melons, pineapples. Polished oak, moving towards mint and a light metallic note. Maybe silver polish, but not the OBE kind. Mouth: still very fruity and very minty. Also more oak, including ginger, pepper and a little nutmeg. Peaches, Cantaloupe, grapefruit. Mint. It has a slight sharpness, maybe it’s peat, maybe it’s resinous oak, maybe this metallic edge. Finish: medium long, a mouthwatering combo of juicy oak and fruits, with a very light smoky touch.

I loved this one, even though the oak is getting a little loud on the palate. I think I prefer the #3670-3672 bottling as well, but anyway: great whisky.

Score: 91/100

While we’re at it, let’s throw in a younger expression, Glen Avon 8 Year Old. Again there are lots of variations, with a colour label (younger?) or grayscale (older?), with a red 8 or a green 8. Even funny decanters with the shape of a still.



Glen Avon 8 Years OldGlen Avon 8 yo
(40%, Gordon & MacPhail, 1990s, 75 cl)

Nose: quite nice, with less sherry influence but a nice fruitiness of oranges and peaches. Gooseberry pie. Sweet barley, Frosties, a hint of mocha and vanilla cream too. Honey. After a while some spicy notes. Fresh and bright, but with an oldskool dusty / grainy side to it. Mouth: really fruity and creamy again, even though it’s nothing special (apples, oranges, pears). Muesli with sultanas. Caramel toffee. A mild walnut dryness towards the end. Finish: pretty long, sweet and fruity, with a smooth honey note and a hint of pepper.

This could be much worse! It’s only 8 years old but it’s smooth, fruity and really full-bodied considering the low alcohol volume. Simply very decent whisky.

Score: 82/100

Saying that Glen Avon was a kind of hotchpotch brand of Gordon & MacPhail (more precisely its sister company Avonside Whisky) would be unrespectful. In any case it was made with stocks from an undisclosed Highland distillery – some say Glenfarclas, some say it could have been different distilleries depending on the batch.

There’s a whole list of versions, ranging from Glen Avon 5 Year Old all the way to pre-war Glen Avon 50 Year Old, including some vintages like 1953, 1955, 1958 and 1959. A lot of them seem to have found their way to Italian distributors.

This was a cylindrical, standard bottle whereas most of the 25 year olds seem to be bottled in square bottles, sometimes with a greyscale version of the label.



Glen Avon 25 Year Old Glen Avon 25 yo
(40%, Gordon & MacPhail, 1980s, 75 cl)

Nose: quite superb old sherry, rather fruity with some raisins, apricots and juicy oranges. Fresh plums. Also a classic dusty side, think leather chairs and old books. Hints of Mexican chocolate. Plenty of mint and menthol too. Dry hay. Ultra-classic. Mouth: soft but not too weak, with the herbal notes and spices from the sherry wood coming to the fore. Mocha. Tobacco and hints of smoky oak. Chocolate again. A tad less fruity than the nose suggested, but very nice anyway. Finish: quite long given the strength, almost entirely on chocolate now, with hints of ground pepper, liquorice and caramel.

Lovely 1950s or 1960s sherried whisky. I’ve been hesitating between a high 80s score or 90. Maybe nostalgia played a part. Glen Avon used to be fairly affordable until a few years ago, now its fame has spread and auctions prices have risen significantly.

Score: 90/100

Karuizawa 1983 - Nepal Appeal


The Whisky Show 2015, which will be held in October this year, announced one of the world’s most expensive whisky tastings ever. Each of the 45 tickets costs nearly € 8500 and allows you to try four Karuizawa expressions which are no longer available by retail:

On top of this, all participants will receive their own bottle of the Karuizawa 1983 cask #3557 ‘Nepal Appeal’, a special release of only 50 bottles. Two of the remaining bottles will be auctioned on and Bonhams Hong Kong.

Before you start ranting about excessive prices and the general Karuizawa hype: all proceedings will be shared with five charities that support the victims of the recent Nepal earthquake. This way, The Whisky Exchange is hoping to raise more than € 380.000 if all tickets are sold. I think this is a noteworthy and very generous idea.

I just checked my savings account and I’m afraid I won’t be attending the tasting… However The Whisky Exchange was kind enough to share a small sample, so here are my impressions of the upcoming charity bottling.


Karuizawa 1983 ‘Nepal Appeal’ (59%, OB for The Whisky Exchange 2014, sherry cask #3557, 50 btl.)

Nose: delicious. It has this combination of juicy cherries, tobacco leaves and a lightly ethereal touch of exotic wood – three things that pretty much define a great Karuizawa in my opinion. Moelleux au chocolat. Prunes, mocha and hazelnuts, a little incense. Eucalyptus and After Eight. Some meaty and flinty notes, dry cinnamon and a little balsamic after a while. Quite excellent. Mouth: thick, leathery and very spicy without water. Lots of cinnamon, cumin and pepper. Coffee powder and huge tobacco notes. Strong fruit tea and lightly medicinal hints of liquorice and mint. Still some prunes, figs, black cherries and fudge in the background. It takes quite a bit of water, which releases more fruits (even some pink grapefruit and bergamot) and highlights the aromatic cedar / sandalwood. Finish: very long, rather dry, on cocoa powder, pepper and blackberries.

There aren’t many 1983 expressions available, but most of them have been great. I can only confirm this is an excellent, very heavy Karuizawa. If you have the money to spare, this would be a unique way to support Nepal and get a rare Karuizawa in return. You can register online – the 45 tickets will be selected at random in three weeks.

Score: 93/100



November 2015
« Oct    

Coming up

  • Lindores 2015 festival bottling
  • Amrut 2009 (cask #2701)
  • Glenlivet 1981 (#9468 for TWE)
  • Lagavulin Distillers Edition (2015)
  • Talisker Distillers Edition (2015)
  • Laphroaig 32 Year Old
  • Glen Grant 65yo 1950 cask #2747 for Wealth Solutions
  • Mortlach 1959/1960 (G&M Royal Wedding)

1931 notes by Ruben

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