Single malt whisky - tasting notes

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.


A trio of Littlemill expressions was added to the Archives series in a very short timespan. This Littlemill 1989 is a joint bottling with The CasQueteers, a Dutch group of whisky enthusiasts constantly looking for the best casks (or parts of casks). They regularly sit together to try cask samples, they also buy new make spirit and split the costs when a certain whisky is bottled.

 

Littlemill 1989 Archives & CasQueteersLittlemill 24 yo 1989 (53%, Archives 2014, joint bottling with CasQueteers, bourbon hogshead #42, 178 btl.)

Nose: typical Littlemill fruitiness. Peach, pear, liters of apple juice. Moving towards tropical fruits as well. The usual grassy / mineral side seems a bit more gentle here. Vanilla and buttercups. Hints of beeswax. All the ingredients for a lovely bourbon-aged Littlemill, I’d say. Mouth: utterly fruity again, with more exquisite tropical notes. Tangerines, mango and passion fruits. Some sweet almond cake and honey. Beautifully juicy, and the waxy notes blend in nicely. Subtle citrus tea, dusty grains and white pepper towards the end. Finish: long, with a little more typical Lowlands grassiness, grapefruit and mint.

Excellent Littlemill, probably the best of the new Archives trio. Well done for both Whiskybase and the CasQueteers. Around € 130, but sadly sold out as far as I can tell.

Score: 91/100


Like the Port Ellen 1983, this Glen Grant 1972 was bottled in 2012 and released by Maltbarn just recently. Like the neighbouring Caperdonich 1972, it’s one of the old delights that seem to have disappeared from the market almost entirely.

 

Glen Grant 1972/2012 MaltbarnGlen Grant 40 yo 1972 (51,6%, Maltbarn 2012, sherry cask, 49 btl.)

Nose: the joys of whisky. Different kinds of fruit jams (apricots and greengages), mixed with wonderful beehive notes (pollen, beeswax, honeycomb) and fine polished oak. Very light mineral notes, as well as a minty freshness. Quite brilliant. Mouth: spicy, with a faint oaky bitterness, but luckily there’s still plenty of fruity sweetness. Oranges and yellow plums. Fruit cake. Honey pastry and beeswax. Evolves on Early Grey teas. Finish: fruit tea indeed. Long, honeyed, with very mild tannins considering the age. A little aniseed in the very end.

Yes, I love this profile. Just a handful of bottles left, I guess. These Glen Grant 1972’s have become expensive but they’re still wonderful. We should be thankful someone can still offer them. Around € 400.

Score: 92/100


No, I didn’t win the lottery that was used to randomly assign bottles of this Karuizawa 1984 cask #3663 to potential buyers. I think The Whisky Exchange came up with a pretty fair solution for the problem of high demand that has become hard to avoid with Karuizawa releases.

On the other hand, I think this is mostly a solution for the problem of high server load, which most online retailer are not capable of handling. Buying Karuizawa has always been a lottery, maybe not openly so, but a lottery of getting information and being awake at the right moment nonetheless.

 

Karuizawa 1984 cask 3663 for TWEKaruizawa 29 yo 1984 (56,8%, OB for The Whisky Exchange 2013, first fill sherry cask #3663, +/- 250 btl.)

Nose: quite meaty at first, and full of oriental wood as well. Cedar oak and polished sandalwood all over. Roasted notes, some damp earth and wet leafs, and cinnamon bark. Used leather. Faint asphalt / rubber too. Dark tea and liquorice. Mouth: starts on lots of plum syrup and cloves, black cherries, coffee beans, toffee and dark cocoa bars with raisins inside. Some sourness as well, in between a leafy sourness (tobacco) and citrus. Charred oak and coal smoke. Nutmeg. Finish: very long, spicy and sour, with plenty of sweet oak and coffee.

Very big, charred, sweet & sour Karuizawa. With all this power, it’s clear that it misses some of the elegance and perfectly layered structure of other bottlings. Lottery price: around € 400. Thanks for the sample, Joeri!

Score: 91/100


Compass BoxCompass Box Delilah’s is an homage to Delilah’s, Mike Miller’s legendary punk rock whisky bar in Chicago, to celebrate the bar’s 20th anniversary in 2013. The late Michael Jackson called it the most important bar in America.

Delilah’s is a blended whisky, developed by John Glaser and Mike Miller as an expression of their shared vision on great whisky. It’s a mix of 50% malt whisky (our guess would be Longmorn and Teaninich) and 50% grain whisky from Cameronbridge. The blend was aged in ‘experimental’ new American oak barrels and rejuvenated American oak hogsheads.

Funny remark: the press release claims it was created to be perfect served as a shot with a beer. That’s not how we enjoy our whisky, but let’s try it anyway.

 

 

Compass Box Delilah'sDelilah’s 20th Anniversary
(40%, Compass Box 2013, 6324 btl.)

Nose: truckloads of vanilla, sweet cereals (Honey Pops) and something of a fruit syrup. Peach, a little mango. Apple and lemon sweets. Hints of white chocolate. Lots of barley sugars with subtle new oak spices. Mouth: smooth and really fruity again. Pretty much the same creamy vanilla, honey and biscuits. Not too soft at 40%. Gentle spices again and no harsh grainy notes. It lacks a little complexity but it’s well composed. Finish: more grainy notes now, hints of grated coconut and a gentle oaky dryness.

It’s a fun whisky, easy to drink and quite undemanding. That’s exactly what they were aiming for, I guess. A perfect card player’s whisky. Around € 70.

Score: 84/100


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Coming up

  • Benriach 1991 (MoS for QV.ID)
  • Bowmore 2003 (The Whiskyman)
  • Ardmore Legacy
  • Balblair 2000 single casks
  • Lagavulin 12yo (2014 release)
  • Craigellachie 17 Year Old
  • Cardhu 18 Year Old
  • Clynelish 21yo 1992 (Cadenhead)
  • Ledaig 2005 (Maltbarn)
  • Aberlour 8yo (cube, small cork)

1639 notes by Ruben

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