Single malt whisky - tasting notes

Darkness! Sherry finish whiskyDarkness whisky

 

 

Master of Malt / Maverick Drinks has a new sub-brand called Darkness! It’s a range of sherry finished whiskies, “sherry monsters” if you like.

 

To get this dark sherry profile, the whiskies are finished for three months in 50-litre Octave casks.

Some of them, like the Ardbeg 21yo PX or the Macallan 15yo PX, are actually not very dark at all, but they’re said to have taken over the typical sherry profile nonetheless. Of course it depends on the type of maturation it received before the finishing period.

We’ll start with the darkest of all, a Benrinnes 15 Year Old that is available in an Oloroso version and a Pedro Ximénez version. I’m not entirely sure, but I hope the base whisky was the same for both versions, so that we can really see the effect of the sherry.

 

 

Darkness Benrinnes 15 yo OlorosoDarkness! Benrinnes 15 yo (52,9%, Master of Malt 2014, Oloroso finish, 50 cl.)

Nose: very jammy, fruity sherry. Plum and blackberry jams, cherry preserve. Sultanas. Fruitcake and chocolate. Big sherry indeed. There’s also a hint of burnt bread crust and peppercorn. A bright top note of sourish fruits and mint as well. Very good. Mouth: punchy. Slightly winey as well, with some grape skin and peach pits. Raisins. Some dry woody notes. Aniseed and nutty notes. Feels a little “high pressure cooked”. Finish: long, quite dry and slightly sour.

On the nose: great, pretty much what we’re looking for in a sherried dram. On the palate: very modern, slightly winey, less to our liking. Around € 75.

Score: 84/100

 

 

Darkness Benrinnes 15 yo Pedro XimenezDarkness! Benrinnes 15 yo (53,3%, Master of Malt 2014, P.X. finish, 50 cl.)

Nose: on first sight, just as jammy and juicy. But it feels slightly capped by a little more dusty oak and a few matchstick notes. At the same time slightly more candied as well (cherry candy). Fudge and hints of burnt sugar. It misses some of the brightness of the Oloroso version. Mouth: same effect. There’s a sharp, winey side to it, which may seem quite contradictory with the sticky, overly sweet character of PX. Same dried fruits, raisins, walnuts and liquorice. Big wood influence already, with a bittersweet tang. Finish: long and fairly dry, on pepper, clove, wood and lingering dark fruits

I do think it’s the same whisky finished in different cask. But not all that different – after all it was only three months. The Oloroso version wins because of the nicer nose. Around € 75.

Score: 82/100


 

Auchentoshan 1998 Kintra

Auchentoshan 15 yo 1998 (52,2%, Kintra 2014, bourbon hogshead #102347)

Nose: starts light and clean, citrusy with barley notes. Hay. Lowlands, right. Becomes creamier and sweeter after a while, with added notes of strawberries and pineapple candy. Hints of marshmallows. There’s also a dusty note, slightly grassy, with some smoky undertones. Mouth: sweetness up front (fruit jellies) but some grassy notes and lemon zest take over quite soon. Then some bitterness comes out as well as a certain herbalness. Ginger, aniseed and liquorice roots. Briny notes and stranger hints of rubber gloves as well. Finish: medium long, on apple peel and herbal notes. Still some bitterness.

Maybe not my favourite Auchentoshan, but still a nice one. The smoky hints and herbal notes make it quite interesting. Around € 85.

Score: 82/100


Beside the nog! gin, Asta Morris also has a new whisky coming up: an Imperial 1995 sourced from the Signatory stocks.

 

 

Imperial 1995 - Signatory Vintage for Asta MorrisImperial 18 yo 1995 (52,4%, Signatory Vintage for Asta Morris 2014, bourbon cask #50147)

Nose: nice entrance on aromatic orange peel, which unfolds towards tangerines and lime. Apples, mint. After a while also hints of marzipan and vanilla. Some honey. After some time it adds marshmallows and waxy notes as a bonus to an already convincing nose. Mouth: while you could say the nose showed a rather generic bourbonny Speyside profile, this definitely takes it up a notch. Sweet and rounded, with a slightly tropical side and plenty of fruit liqueurs. Coconut and pineapple, tangerine, pink grapefruit. Tinned apricots. These waxy notes again and a few gingery touches. Cinnamon. Maybe a chalky note. Lovely, and it goes down way too easily. Finish: medium long, still fruity with some green oak and a hint of fruit tea.

 

Simply a very good Imperial and certainly the best 1995 I’ve had so far. On the palate this is really 90+ material. If only the nose were a little less predictable. One of my favourite Asta Morris releases so far – recommended. Arriving in stores over the next few weeks. Around € 100.

Score: 89/100


Johnnie Walker Gold Label Reserve sits more or less in the middle of the Johnnie Walker range: after Red Label and Black Label it’s the first of the precious medals that represent the upper regions.

It used to be called Johnnie Walker Gold Label 18 Year Old, but the age statement was dropped when the Platinum Label was introduced (with the same age). Now they’ve added Reserve to the name – I guess there’s a marketing rule that every expression should have something unique. I’m afraid losing the age statement also means it has become younger?

The base malts for Johnnie Walker Gold Label Reserve are Clynelish and Cardhu.

 

Johnnie Walker Gold Label ReserveJohnnie Walker Gold Label Reserve
(40%, OB 2013)

Nose: quite fresh, with lots of peaches and oranges and hints of vanilla ice cream. Honey. Hints of banana. Not much grainy notes, but a soft hint of white bread. In the background there are oak spices (nutmeg, cinnamon). Some mineral and flinty notes as well, I guess that must be the Clynelish. Lacks a bit of punch, but its profile is quite nice. Mouth: very soft (why would you even add ice to this?) and rather thin. Sweet raisins, cinnamon, butterscotch and toffee. Plenty of honey. Vanilla. The nicest part is certainly the soft minerality and waxiness in the background. Finish: still sweet with a light touch of smoke now.

The added minerality makes this Johnnie Walker Gold Label a balanced dram. I’d say this is the smoothest, least grainy of all Johnnie Walker blends. Too bad it lacks some punch, at a higher volume this could have been my favourite. Around € 45.

Score: 83/100


Among the new releases from The Nectar of the Daily Drams, there is this Aultmore 2007. A six years old bourbon cask with such an intense colour and so many red hues. A miracle?

 

Aultmore 2007 - Nectar of the Daily DramsAultmore 6 yo 2007 (50,3%, The Nectar of the Daily Drams 2014, bourbon cask)

Nose: very aromatic, with some red berries (strawberries and redcurrant) and aromatic citrus (lime, bergamot). Aromatic and slightly bubblegummy. Cotton candy. Juicy malt. A lot of vanilla (marshmallows), leather and hints of white chocolate. Traces of American bourbon indeed. Some pencil shavings as well. Very attractive and easy-drinking. Mouth: sweet and fairly modern – perfectly planned oak trickery. Apricots in syrup and fruit liqueurs. Coconut and vanilla. Cotton candy again. Maple syrup. Chocolate. Noticeable oak again, as well as mint and something strange that I can’t really put my finger on. Something metallic maybe. Finish: long, very sweet, all kinds of fruit candy and oak spices like ginger.

Very sweet, modern whisky. Nice to see this is possible after only six years. I would have sworn this was made outside of Scotland (Disneyland?). Good stuff though and very affordable. Around € 50.

Score: 86/100


Andrea Caminneci, a German of Italian descent, started a wine & spirits company in 2005 and became the importer of Glenglassaugh for Germany. As such, he managed to select and bottle many outstanding Glenglassaugh expressions, the 1972 cask #2896 for example.

His own series C&S Dram contains a long list of single cask whiskies from different distilleries. Recently a sub-series C&S Dram Exceptional was launched for special drams. It’s not surprising that the first release is a Glenglassaugh 1972.

We don’t know the cask number, but the whisky was distilled 22nd of December 1972, which is the same date as cask #2934 bottled by the distillery in a Rare Cask decanter in 2008.

 

 

Glenglassaugh 1972 C&S Dram Exceptional 40 YearsGlenglassaugh 40 yo 1972 (43,1%, C&S Dram Exceptional 2013, refill sherry butt, 300 btl.)

Nose: starts rather disappointingly on grains and muesli but opens up nicely. Mirabelles, green mango, lots of mandarins and lemons. A bit of floral honey and dried flowers. Candied ginger. Typical waxy notes as well: polished oak, pollen. It’s a mix of Caperdonich 1972 (though more floral) with a subdued hint of Clynelish. Mouth: half fruity, half oaky. Apricots, pineapples, oranges, sprinkled with honey but also with a more mineral waxy note. Together with a peppery kick this leaves a rather oaky impression. Almonds and vanilla cream. Subtle warmer sherry notes towards the end. Finish: decent length, with the fruits starting to fade and the oak spices growing stronger.

Maybe not a total stunner like #2896 but a very fine, typical waxy Glenglassaugh nonetheless. Still available in Germany for around € 385.

Score: 90/100


This Karuizawa 1971 cask #7267 was bottled exclusively for Taiwan. Although the Geisha label says ‘bottled 2012’ it didn’t hit the market until the summer of 2013. At the same time the Karuizawa 1977 cask #4010 was released.

 

Karuizawa 1971 cask #7267 for TaiwanKaruizawa 1971 (62,8%, OB for Taiwan 2012, cask #7267, 467 btl.)

Nose: quite stunning right from the start. These high-strength Karuizawas can be closed right after pouring, but this one is immediately expressive. Typical pipe tobacco and humidors but the fruity notes are really big as well. Strawberry jam, figs, ripe bananas. A fragrant peaches and faint hint of old Sauternes. Quite sweet – there’s an earthy side to it as well, but on a second level. Lots of old Oloroso notes. After a while it becomes more ethereal with lots of exotic woods and beeswax, aromatic citrus oils and as some balsamic top notes. Very wide and just wonderful. Mouth: very intense with a gingery heat and the slightly tannic dryness of dark fruit teas when sipped neat. A lot of toasted notes and wood spices (chilli). Needs a few drops of water to totally shine. Dark chocolate combined with brambles and raisins. Black cherries. Tobacco leaves. Mouth: very long, on sweet coffee, dark chocolate, mint and cinnamon powder.

Muscular whisky, but quite excellent. On the nose, I prefer this one to the 1977, but on the palate it becomes too dry to score higher. It helps to add (just a tiny amount of) water though. Almost impossible to find – easily € 1000 in auctions.

Score: 92/100


More bottlers are releasing middle-aged Ben Nevis, most of them in the 1995-1997 regions. This Ben Nevis 1997 is the latest release from Maltbarn.

 

Ben Nevis 1997 MaltbarnBen Nevis 16 yo 1997 (53,2%, Maltbarn 2013, bourbon barrel, 91 btl.)

Nose: I’m not exactly attracted. It shows overripe melon and brown banana… A tad musty. Soaked grains as well. Honey and burnt sugar. Hints of citrus peel. Wet hay, which evolves towards wet newspapers. Add some undefined savoury notes and a little linseed oil. A tad difficult to enjoy for me. Mouth: oily, with nicer notes now, cherries and strawberries up front. Vanilla custard and bananas that are not overdue. Sweet, but growing spicy and grassy notes. Nutmeg and firm pepper. Mocha notes towards the end. Still not very seducative – or just not my kinda profile. Finish: medium long, with more oak and a hint of caramel sweetness.

Slightly peculiar whisky, but peculiar is the middle name of Ben Nevis, right? Be sure to try this one for yourself. Around € 75.

Score: 80/100


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Coming up

  • Tomatin 1988 (Malts of Scotland)
  • Aberfeldy 12 Year Old
  • GlenDronach 1994 PX cask #3397
  • GlenDronach 1994 PX cask #326
  • GlenDronach 1993 Oloroso cask #494
  • Blair Athol 2002 (Hepburn's Choice)
  • Fettercairn Fior
  • Bowmore Laimrig 15yo
  • Ben Nevis 2002 (Port cask #334)

1601 notes by Ruben

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