Single malt whisky - tasting notes

This Bunnahabhain 1980 in the Perfect Dram series says on the label Selected and approved by Master Taster F. Thomas. Does anyone know him?

There has been a whole series of Bunnas from this vintage, released over the last few years, mainly by German bottlers. I don’t recall any bad ones.

 

 

Bunnahabhain 1980 Perfect DramBunnahabhain 34 yo 1980
(47,1%, The Perfect Dram 2014, refill sherry butt, 504 btl.)

Nose: nicely aromatic, with a deep, gentle fruitiness of apricot, melon and oranges. Gooseberries. Hints of honey and fragrant meadow flowers. It’s not just fruity though, there’s a coastal side to it, as well as a minty / resinous side. Plenty of polished oak too. Mouth: a honeyed fruitiness again. Fresh fruits (plums) and dried fruits (golden raisins) in equal amounts – although the sherry influence is quite moderate. Orange cake and almonds. Hints of green tea with passion fruit. A bit of cinnamon and leather from the oak. The lightest hint of salt. Finish: long, fairly dry and oaky, with hints of honey, apple peelings and ginger.

A very nice profile, combining a mellow fruitiness and beehive notes with a subtle coastalness. To think this was a mere € 100 just three years ago. Now around € 250.

Score: 89/100


This is the third batch of Arran single malt bottled by That Boutique-y Whisky Company. The typical graphic-novel-style illustrations shows the artist, Emily Chapell, and a friend stranded on a desert island after a kayaking trip gone awry. Arran’s eagle and the Waverley ship (Glasgow – Arran) also play a part in it.

 

Arran Batch 3 - That Boutique-y Whisky CompanyArran batch #3
(51,5%, That Boutique-y Whisky Company 2014, 728 btl., 50 cl)

Nose: typical clean Arran, very citrusy (grapefruit, lemon) with hints of ginger. There’s also a slightly more earthy / roasted note in the back, think roasted malt and bread crust. Dried coconut flakes and soft mineral notes. Mouth: sweet and fruity (plum syrup, fruit biscuits), slightly synthetic / new-makeish at times. Goes on with malty notes and almonds. Some zesty grapefruit, as well as a bit of cocoa. Finish: medium long, with chocolate and green fruits.

Pretty standard, all-round Arran. Just a good showcase for this distillery. Around € 55 – only 50cl bottles available.

Score: 84/100


Bruichladdich says Port Charlotte Islay Barley is a milestone. Perhaps for the first time in the island’s history, a heavily-peated single malt has been distilled using Islay-grown barley.

The barley had been harvested in September 2008 from the farms at Coull, Kynagarry, Island, Rockside, Starchmill and Sunderland, peated to 40 PPM, then distilled in December of the same year and bottled towards the end of 2014.

 

 

Port Charlotte Islay BarleyPort Charlotte 2008 ‘Islay Barley’ (50%, OB 2014)

Nose: a salty and malty nose, with sweet liquorice and plenty of soot. Rather clean and elegant, rather rounded as well, compared to other Islay whiskies. Sweet lemon candy in the background. Something of mentholated oils. Mouth: rather dry now, with a leathery feel and some herbal hints. Dark toasted bread. A bit of sea spray and kippery notes. There’s a slight bitter edge to it, as well as a peppery heat. And always a sweet layer underneath. Finish: long, slightly hot, with ashes, plenty of salt and still these herbal (Fernet) touches.

I’m personally not very fond of this one. It seems less focused and less powerful than its Octomore sister and the herbal bitter side is quite loud. There have been better PC’s, but of course they don’t have a terroir story behind them. Around € 75.

Score: 85/100


Whisky in 2014

 

Happy New Year to everyone! Best wishes for 2015.

We’ve had a succesful year on this website again. In terms of visitors, 2014 was roughly at the same level as 2013, with over 2 million pageviews. However there have been more prominent highs and lows. The summer months were quieter this year but the last two months have been consistently record-breaking, with 15% more visitors than in the same period of 2013. That means more daily visitors than ever before, with significant increases from Germany, The Netherlands, Norway, Singapore…

GlenDronach is still the most popular distillery, with Ardbeg closely behind. When looking at specific pages / drams, the comparison of Johnnie Walker Red Label and Black Label is the most popular. My reviews of the Macallan Ruby and Lagavulin Distillers Edition are next.

 

 

The best whiskies of 2014

Among the new releases, the highlight of the year was probably the Glen Grant 1948 bottled by Gordon & MacPhail for WealthSolutions. A stunning whisky, but probably more of an emotional tasting.

I also had the privilege to try past stunners like the Isle of Jura 1972/1991 SMWS 31.4, the Karuizawa 45 Year Old 1967 or the wonderful Glen Grant 21yo bottled in the 1960’s. That Glen Grant was definitely the best whisky I tried in 2014.

When looking specifically at the 2014 releases, I had the impression the last few months were much more interesting than the beginning of the year. These ones stood out in a really positive way:

For everyone’s cabinet: Benromach 10

For those on a budget, the renewed Benromach 10 Year Old was a great surprise, as well as its higher strength sibling: Benromach 10 Year Old 100° proof. Great, old-style drams that are well priced.

 

 

Overall feeling

Somehow I thought 2013 was a bit depressing: prices were going over the top, NAS releases were a new trend, and top quality was sometimes hard to find.

In 2014, prices were certainly not lower (just look at the ridiculous pricing of Diageo’s Special Releases – and notice that we’ve only bothered to review two or three) but I think we’ve become accustomed to buying less and letting more bottles gather dust on the shelves. I’d say the general quality from respected sources was okay: the excellent (and once readily available) 1970’s are gone for good, but at least we’ve discovered a couple of distilleries that are also good at lower ages. Let’s keep it at a status quo, and let’s be happy with that.

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We already tried this Linkwood 1984 at Spirits in the Sky in November, but it took us some time to get a second sample to confirm. It’s part of the latest Early flying series from The Whisky Agency.

 

 

Linkwood 1984 - The Whisky AgencyLinkwood 30 yo 1984 (49,2%, The Whisky Agency ‘Early flying’ 2014, refill hogshead, 174 btl.)

Nose: smooth, fruity nose. Honeydew melon, apple and a bit of peach jam. Green banana. Whiffs of verbena. Buttercups. It’s quite complex but also quite compact. Old-style polished furniture. Hints of mint and leafy notes in the background. Mouth: smooth and fruity again, but less emphatically so, with more oily notes and dryness now. Tobacco leaves. Some funnier notes as well, something in between potpourri and marihuana (reminds me of the undisclosed 60 year-old from Master of Malt). Herbal honey, mint liqueur, green tea. Settles on oranges and apricot. Beautiful mix of fruity notes and soft herbs. Finish: long, oaky, with lots of oranges and pepper.

It’s funny how this reminded me of another whisky that’s twice as old. Now that I think of it, that could have been Linkwood as well. In any case: this is a nice, complex and unique whisky. Around € 225.

Score: 91/100


Spirit of Freedom 30 Year Old is a blend produced by J & A Mitchell (the owners of Springbank), to commemorate the 700th anniversary of the Battle of Bannockburn in 1314.

It is composed of 75% malt whisky (from five distilleries) and 25% grain whisky – a mix of bourbon and sherry casks.

 

 

Spirit of Freedom 30 YearsSpirit of Freedom 30 yo (46%, Springbank 2014, 2014 btl.)

Nose: herbal and floral at first. Heather honey. Becomes wider and sweeter, with nougat but also slightly exotic fruits (guava, banana). Nicely waxy, with some coconut oils. Mineral touches as well, it’s easy to detect some Springbank in there. Mouth: creamy and surprisingly fruity. Slightly exotic fruits indeed: pineapple, orange and papaya. Balanced herbal notes and waxed furniture. Vanilla. Honey. Pretty old-school, how nice to find this in a blend. Hardly any grainy notes. Finish: long, some grains now, hints of oak as well, but also fruity sweetness.

A very nice surprise, especially for a blended whisky. Well composed, interestingly old-style and very reasonably priced: around € 110.

Score: 89/100


I try to get a wide variety of distilleries on this website, but Bunnahabhain is pretty much incontournable when talking about independent Islay releases. While most of the other Islay whiskies are hard to get for independent bottlers, Bunna is still readily available.

Asta Morris’ latest release is a Bunnahabhain 1987.

 

 

Bunnahabhain 1987 | Asta MorrisBunnahabhain 27 yo 1987
(50,8%, Asta Morris 2014, AM039, 124 btl.)

Nose: punchy and coastal, with some brine and various oily notes. Leathery notes. Grasses. There’s a vague aromatic sweetness in the background, but not enough to call it fruity. Well, grapefruit maybe. Soft mint and a faint touch of smoke. Mouth: rich, much more fruity now, with less austerity and mineral notes. Ripe apple, some honey and berries, a little tangerine and banana. Still some earthy hints in the back, a little pepper and salt. Very rich. Finish: medium long, still quite sweet and fruity, almost candied with a mild earthy note and  brine.

Excellent Bunnahabhain (like most other 1987’s I must add). It combines a punchy, coastal side with a big fruitiness on the palate. Around € 170.

Score: 90/100


Most of the Private Stock bottlings from The Whisky Agency go by pretty unnoticed, simply because they’re in high demand and yields are usually very low. This recent Glenrothes 1980 still seems to be available though.

 

 

Glenrothes 1980 - TWA Private StockGlenrothes 34 yo 1980
(48,5%, The Whisky Agency ‘Private Stock’ 2014, refill hogshead, 180 btl.)

Nose: a relatively light nose, starting on honey and almonds and slowly developing a nice fruit basket. Butter pear, nectarine, malon, freshly squeezed oranges, soft hints of guava. Subtle waxy notes too. Classic old Speyside. Mouth: rather sweet and fruity again, with apples, peaches, papaya and a little tangerine. Soft hints of cinnamon and ginger, enough to add depth but not drying. Quite oily, with hints of beeswax and polished oak. Floral honey. Finish: long, with a lime & mint combo and some resinous oak.

Really good, very bright, fruity and easy-going. Maybe not the most complex whisky ever, but it’s a rare example of the aged style of this Speyside distillery. Around € 290.

Score: 89/100


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Coming up

  • Images of Dufftown (Malts of Scotland)
  • Glenturret Peated Edition
  • Bowmore Black Rock
  • Aberlour a'bunadh Batch #50
  • Paul John Edited
  • Tomatin 1997 (Liquid Library)

1773 notes by Ruben

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