Single malt whisky - tasting notes

Among the many bottlings for The Whisky Fair 2014, there were no less than three Arrans: this Arran 1997 (sherry cask), a bourbon cask Arran 2001 and a peated Arran 2005.

 

Arran 1997 for Limburg Whisky FairArran 16 yo 1997 ‘Private Cask’
(50,1%, OB for Limburg Whisky Fair 2014, sherry hogshead #518, 246 btl.)

Nose: a kind of light, elegant sherry that leaves room for the original spirit. Some oranges, peaches, rhubarb and leather. Fruit stems. Hints of thyme honey and orange blossom. More and more flowers actually. Mouth: again a mix of round fruitiness (tangerines, cherries, berries), with some orange marmalade, lemon zest and a hint of bitterish oak around the corner. Pleasant flinty notes and cardamom. Parts of this remind me of fruit eau-de-vie. Quite different and pretty naked when compared to heavily sherried Arran from the same period. Finish: long, citrusy, with some pepper and a pinch of salt.

Nice, clean Arran, showing a naked, fruity spirit and just echoes of sherry notes. A kind of Arran that’s slightly different from the others. Around € 80. Available from eSpirits.

Score: 86/100


Some time ago, Belgian importers and shopkeepers went on a joint trip to the Signatory warehouses, which is why there’s a whole list of Signatory releases for Belgian companies at the moment.

This Bunnahabhain 2003 was split amongst five shops: The Bonding Dram, Dims Dram, Comptoirs des Vins, Maison Baelen and Maison Demiautte.

 

Bunnahabhain 2003 (SV for The Bonding Dram)Bunnahabhain 11 yo 2003
(58,8%, Signatory Vintage for The Bonding Dram and others 2014, sherry butt #1152, 627 btl.)

Nose: not your classic sherry influence, in the sense that there’s more toffee, brown sugar and buttery toast than the usual dried fruits. Maple syrup. It shows a nice hint of dusty warehouses as well, even faint farmy touches. Gingerbread. Roasted chestnuts and lovely hints of honeycomb. Mouth: strong, initially there’s a similar caramel sweetness but this gradually makes place for mineral notes and spices. Walnuts, orange peel and some salt. More toast. Then the spices, including nutmeg, vanilla, clove and especially juniper. A peppery heat as well. Finish: medium long, leathery and spicy, slightly grassy, but always with an underlying chocolate sweetness.

I like this one for being different and balancing Bunnahabhains typical coastalness to a dark sweetness and spicy side. Even better with a drop of water. Around € 75, available from The Bonding Dram of course.

Score: 87/100


This Glengoyne 14 Year Old is a limited edition for Marks & Spencer in the UK. It was launched in April 2011 but we’re trying the graphically updated version of late 2013. It was matured in casks that previously held Oloroso sherry (both first-fill and refill).

 

Glengoyne 14 Years for Marks & SpencerGlengoyne 14 yo
(40%, OB for Marks & Spencer 2013)

Nose: toffee caramel, sweet lemon and apples sprinkled with cinnamon. Sweet barley notes and brown sugar. Also poached pears. Hints of butter pastry and honey. Golden raisins. For a sherried malt, it’s a bit too malty (and slightly musty) for me, but overall quite nice. Mouth: sweet and smooth, with a buttery mouthfeel. Yellow apple and raisins again, with a soft underlying tingle from the oak spices. It’s all about smoothness, with an easy caramelly maltiness and balanced nutty sherry notes. Finish: not too long, very malty, a little drier, with some lingering nutmeg and pepper.

This Glengoyne 14 Years is a smooth malt, well in line with the rest of the Glengoyne range and pretty good value for money. Only available at Marks & Spencer. Around € 45. Thanks for the sample, Martin.

Score: 81/100


I’ve reviewed a couple of Glenturret 1977 expressions in 2012, all pretty excellent. Since then they’ve regularly popped up – now there’s a new one in the Mollusc & Medusa series from The Whisky Agency.

 

 

Glenturret 1977 - The Whisky AgencyGlenturret 36 yo 1977
(46,3%, The Whisky Agency ‘Mollusc & Medusa’ 2014, refill hogshead, 245 btl.)

Nose: starts a little acetic but it picks up fruitiness by the minute. Fruit yoghurt. Pineapples, green bananas, then some floral notes and mint. Faint vegetal notes. Almonds and honey. More classic vanilla biscuits. Hints of leather old wood. A little unconventional, but very nice again. Mouth: slightly grainier and sour than I remember the previous ones, although the round fruit salad is still present. Tangerines, dried coconut. Then some oakiness and herbs (both fresh coriander and a little cough syrup). Also a bitterness of banana skin and walnuts. Finish: long, gingery, leathery, with green oak and lemon skin.

Still very good, although I think it’s slightly less impressive than the previous casks. These were € 160-170 less than two years ago. Now it costs around € 250.

Score: 88/100


Buffalo Trace has a large number of brands and every one of them has several expressions. It proves the industry obsession with individuality, small batch releases and nice labeling. A virtually unlimited pool of flavour profiles and marketing opportunities.

Colonel Edmund Haynes Taylor, Jr. is widely considered one of the founding fathers of the bourbon industry, fighting for the Bottled-in-Bond Act of 1897, nearly three decades after he purchased what is now called Buffalo Trace Distillery.

The E.H. Taylor, Jr. collection contains a Small Batch version, this Single Barrel release, a Barrel Proof expression, Straight Rye, Old Fashioned Sour Mash and a Warehouse C Tornado Surviving limited release. The Single Barrel is aged in warehouse C, which was built by Taylor in 1881.

This low-rye bourbon is 11-12 years old and bottled at 100 proof. It earned the award for best bourbon whiskey in the 2014 World Whiskies Awards. Unfortunately there doesn’t seem to be a specific barrel indication.

 

 

EH Taylor Single BarrelColonel E.H. Taylor, JR. ‘single barrel’ (50%, OB 2014)

Nose: a big, fruity sweetness, with plenty of figs and plums, dried banana and honey. A bit of popcorn and butter pastry. Beeswax and vanilla. Rummy molasses. There’s a lot of toasted oak as well, and cinnamon, which give it a solid dry side. I like the combination of oak spices and a slightly exotic sweetness. Mouth: starts sweet and round, but quickly evolves towards drier, oaky spices. Banana, figs and sweet berries. Bright top notes of orange peel. Then lots of leather, tobacco leafs, charred oak and roasted nuts. Nutmeg. A slightly tannic oaky touch, but not out of place for me. Finish: long, oaky, with a faint smoky touch and tobacco.

I really dig this bourbon whiskey. It unites big spicy notes with an underlying buttery sweetness. I do like my bourbons oaky, as long as there’s enough to balance it. There is. Around € 110.

Score: 86/100


Remember NOG! – the gin matured by Asta Morris? Back then we already mentioned there would be a second release soon. Here it is.

It’s the same distillate but matured in a different cask (BenRiach this time) for a slightly longer time.

 

NOG gin - batch 2N.O.G. gin
(46%, Asta Morris, batch n°2)

Neat Nose: less assertive than #1. The lemon and minty top notes are muted and the profile is a little warmer. It seems more compact, maybe more complex but with the flavours closer together. Mouth: sweeter than expected (orange), with some boozy heat and a big spiciness (pepper, aniseed). Also a hint of rosemary or eucalyptus, which gives it a fragrant edge that I don’t like.

With Fever Tree Mediterranean Nose: again a more interwoven nose, more narrow. The citrus, lime, liquorice and spices are all there, but they’re more on the same level. Oh, and I do get a sense of whisky now. Mouth: similar findings. Marzipan now, rather than vanilla. The sweetness and classic juniper notes are on par, which makes it seem more balanced and complex but also more silent overall.

More complex, more balanced… I prefer this batch over the first one. Around € 50, available in most respectable whisky stores in Belgium.


This is an old Bunnahabhain 1968 released in 2012 in the Sea Life series by The Whisky Agency. I don’t recall other sherry butts for this vintage.

 

 

Bunnahabhain 1968 Whisky AgencyBunnahabhain 43 yo 1968
(47%, The Whisky Agency ‘Sea Life’ 2012, refill sherry butt, 498 btl.)

Nose: fruity and honeyed. The fruits are more indigenous than tropical: pears, plums, figs, apricots. Indeed “sherry fruits”, including a vegetal, slightly dirty aroma which takes away some of the magic. Light resinous notes, floral notes and leafy notes. A little leather in the distance. Very elegant, a slightly drier, sherried version rather than the tropical goodness of the bourbon casks. Mouth: fresh and minty with hints of tobacco and resin. Yellow plums at first, then oranges (both sweet and bigarade varieties). Dashes of pine tree honey and hints of soft pepper. After a while the oak grows stronger, grassy but it’s never too dry. Finish: medium long, a little more herbal and dry, with some green tea notes.

A great nose, and a vivid palate, although I think I’ve had better Bunnahabhain 1968 even from the same bottler. We’ve been spoiled. Around € 225.

Score: 89/100


English Harbour is a top-quality molasses-based rum distilled by the Antigua Distillery and named after the town on the island briefly inhabited by our own Horatio Nelson during the 18th century.

Distilled in 1981 and bottled in September 2006 – this is the oldest rum from the Antigua distillery. It was matured in used Jack Daniels barrels. About two pounds of oak chips are added to each barrel to provide more colour and flavour. Only 600 bottles are released each year.

 

 

English Harbour 25 Year Old 1981English Harbour 25 yo 1981 (40%, OB 2006)

Nose: complex nose, very integrated with lots of tiny aromas. Cake, pencil shavings, honey and milk chocolate. Almonds. Clove and vanilla. Brown sugar and cinnamon. Blackcurrants and dried figs. Subtle smoky notes. Mouth: very thick and very smooth at the same time, with dried fruits (banana, apricot, raisins), caramelized nuts and honey. Lots of toffee. Very subtle herbal notes. Hints of toasted oak. Fades on Mexican chocolate. Finish: medium long, toasty, still pretty sweet, with more oak now and eventually dry hints of cinnamon bark and tobacco.

A great rum. I love its subtlety and layered structure. Excellent balance of sweetness and spiciness too. On the other hand it’s really expensive (around € 185) – too much for me in terms of value for money.


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Coming up

  • Lagavulin 12yo (2014 release)
  • SIA Blended Scotch
  • Ardmore Legacy
  • Cardhu 18 Year Old
  • Clynelish 21yo 1992 (Cadenhead)
  • Ledaig 2005 (Maltbarn)
  • Aberlour 8yo (cube, small cork)

1643 notes by Ruben

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