Single malt whisky - tasting notes

Springbank 21 years old is an iconic whisky (read this if you don’t know what I’m talking about). Several batches were bottled in the 1980’s and 1990’s but since 2005 the reserves had dried up. As the distillery was closed from 1979 until 1989, it was clear that it wouldn’t come back before 2011. And here it is… matured in fresh and refill sherry casks and presented in a 1980’s gay golden packaging.

 

Springbank 21yo 2011Springbank 21 years
(46%, OB 2011, 1560 btl.)

Nose: well, very good. Rich sherry notes: juicy plums and rhubarb jam. Hints of heather honey and roasted sugar. Not exactly sweet though, there are plenty of spices (ginger, pepper) as well as some wood tones and a certain musty cellar theme to keep it on the dry side. The modern Springbank austerity (minerals, brine, wax) is also showing. Quite complex. Mouth: starts fruity (cassis, raisins) but quickly becomes spicy and sour / vinous. Orange peel, liquorice, ginger, cinnamon. More oaky dryness now. Very faint smoke as well. Finish: long, half-sweet, half-dry, on anise, grass and raisins.

 

A very complex dram, probably the best modern Springbank. I have to admit I was quite skeptical but in the end it did win me over. It takes the old profile and blends it with the new distillery character. A worthy successor if not for the winey side (but that’s also a modern feature I guess).

Originally around € 250. Already gone now and the last remaining bottles are fetching € 500. Would I trade one of the old ones against this new version? Don’t push it. No.

Score: 91/100


The Caroni rum distillery had been in business since 1918 in Trinidad but it was closed in 2002 due to industry consolidation, leaving Angostura as the only active distillery in Trinidad and Tobago.

In October 2008 the distillery still had an estimated 5300 casks of aged rum in stock which occasionally find their way to independent bottlers like A.D. Rattray (especially the 1997 casks, or so it seems). Silver Seal, which have a great tradition in rum, also bottled a cask in 2011.

 

Caroni 1997 Silver SealCaroni 1997
(46%, Silver Seal 2011)

Nose: very aromatic, with overripe banana and cinnamon sweetness as the first impressions. Then some marzipan and caramel. Typical Caroni hints of engine oil and tar as well. Plenty of vanilla. Whiffs of mint. Very nice. Mouth: pretty austere. Some oak resin mixed with earthy notes (dried mushrooms) and leather. Again a tarry note and something slightly medicinal. Some liquorice and spices. Burnt sugar too. Finish: long, bold and tarry with a salty twist and whiffs of cinnamon.

Good, slightly heavy rum with some unique traces of cognac and Islay-style aromas. Caroni is closed but luckily we’ll be able to enjoy it during the years to come. Around € 77.


This Glenrothes 1970 is a joint bottling by eSpirits in Germany and Acorn in Japan, in honour of the 150th Anniversary of the German – Japanese friendship.

In 1861, the King of Prussia and the Tycoon of Japan signed a treaty of peace and constant friendship and indeed in 2011 both countries still enjoy close and friendly relations.

 

Glenrothes 1970 eSpirits & AcornGlenrothes 41 yo 1970 (45,1%, eSpirits & Acorn 2011, bourbon hogshead, 113 btl.)

Nose: at first it suffers from an avalanche of polished oak, varnish and wood glue. After some time these notes start to give way to nice fruits underneath. Apricots, pineapple, guava, tangerine. A little mint and leather. Mouth: easy drinking strength, again a tropical fruitiness of pineapple / coconut, gooseberries and papaya. Again some oak in the background – better under control now, but showing some herbs and fruit tea as well as a slightly bitter edge. It remains pretty juicy though. Finish: medium long, on sweet oak and spices, mainly ginger.

This Glenrothes is a nice drinking whisky, but the recent expressions in the TWA Romantique series and Angel’s Choice series were more to my liking (less oaky) and a tad cheaper. Around € 250.

Score: 87/100


Dominiek, the man behind The Whiskyman, has a sweet spot for Clynelish so it’s no surprise both the classic label series and the Thosop Handwritten label series simultaneously feature a Clynelish.

The handwritten Clynelish is a 1989 vintage which we’ll try head-to-head with the Clynelish 1989 by Malts of Scotland.

 

Clynelish 1989 ThosopClynelish 22 yo 1989 (53,5%, Thosop 2012, bourbon barrel, 138 btl.)

Nose: all these 1989’s seem to share a vanilla theme and a pastry-like quality. This one is certainly the same family, with sweet gooseberries, yellow apples and warm beeswax. No strawberries or pastry though. Instead it displays more coastal notes, brine and minerals than the MoS version, as well as more ginger and seaweed. Mouth: wow, rather perfect Clynelish style. Thick and sweet with vanilla, a little honey and candied lemon. All of this backed up by typical minerals and paraffin. A little pepper and whiffs of ginger. Developing on soft grassy notes. Great balance. Finish: long, fully displaying its mineral side now, its trademark wax and a soft hint of peat.

Although the Malts of Scotland version had something unique (a buttery warmth and interesting jammy notes), this one is more typical with a balanced character of coastal notes and sweetness. It’s a more quintessential expression of this distillery. Dominiek and Luc sure know how to pick their Clynelish.
Around € 130.

Score: 92/100


Clynelish 1997 The WhiskymanHere’s a picture of the Clynelish 1997 (a second cask after the Clynelish 1997 bottled last year) with a new Whiskyman label designed by yours truly.

It’s the start of a new series (nicknamed “classic label”) for drams that will bring a smile to your face without breaking the bank: accessible prices but still high quality drinking whiskies.

 

Clynelish 15 yo 1997 (53,5%,
The Whiskyman 2012, refill sherry
hogshead, 180 btl.)

See my tasting notes here. It’s the same whisky. Around € 60.

Score: 89/100


Today is a special day for me… I’m getting married!
That calls for a special dram.

 

The oldest cask in the GlenDronach warehouses is an oloroso sherry cask filled in 1968. When you hear the GlenDronach team talking about this cask, they refer to it as cask #1.

In 1993 however, long before the current owners had bought GlenDronach, an official 25 year-old 1968 vintage was released and a number of batches (seven casks, or more?) were bottled exclusively for Nippon Airways and mentioned a specific cask number. One of them was named… cask #1. Is this the same cask that’s still lying around? Probably not. All I’m saying is don’t take this too seriously, it’s probably just a nice way of indicating the oldest cask available at the time of writing.

I was lucky enough to try a sample drawn from this cask in 2011. As far as I know, it’s still uncertain when and in which form it would be bottled. There should still be a couple of 1968 casks by the way, so how long before we see sister casks popping up in the yearly Single Cask releases?

 

GlenDronach 1968 cask 1GlenDronach 43 yo 1968
(48,3%, cask #1, distillery sample)

Nose: quite punchy for such an oldie, as if the classic figs and dates (which are well present) are now soaked in brandy. Other things that I notice when comparing this to 1971 or 1972 casks is added wax / waxed furniture, mint and ripe apricots. Really nice. Classic sherry with leather, parsley and cardamom. A hint of smoke. After some time: cherries and raspberries. Mouth: very rich but a little on the dry side maybe. Herbs, raisins and chocolate. Mint. Prunes. Quite some liquorice and cinnamon. I’m missing a little fruitiness here maybe, but it’s certainly not woody. Finish: very long, with chocolate, oak and hints of oranges.

This GlenDronach 1968 cask #1 has an amazingly fresh nose, and I adore its profile. I didn’t have the occasion to put it against my favourite 1970’s casks but it might be the best GlenDronach nose I’ve tried. Not available (yet), let’s hope it keeps going uphill until being bottled. Thanks for this unique sample, Joeri. Much appreciated.

Score: 94/100


Tomorrow 14th of April, Dutch retailer Whiskysite.nl is organising a festival Whisky in Leiden (tickets are sold out I’m afraid).

For their festival bottling, Dominiek “The Whiskyman” Bouckaert selected a Clynelish 1997 matured in a refill sherry hogshead. Actually they’ll split the cask as the rest is bottled in a new “classic” series by The Whiskyman.

 

 

Clynelish 1997 | Whisky in LeidenClynelish 15 yo 1997 (53,5%, Whisky in Leiden 2012, refill sherry hogshead, 180 btl.)

Nose: starts a little shy but develops a remarkably balanced Clynelish nose, switching nicely between mineral / austere notes (flints, wax, grass) and sweeter notes (orange candy, lemon candy, apple peel). Growing increasingly aromatic until it settles on nice toffee / strawberry notes. Great Clynelish. Mouth: oily, with big citrus and wax. Quite some grapefruit zest. A very light bitterness as well (think Campari or bitter oranges) with a soft mustardy edge. Still a nice candied sweetness in the background. Ginger. Again a faint toffee / mocha note towards the end. Finish: medium long, clean, with fruity sweetness and slightly sharper citrus zest.

No sherry influence that we could detect, but that doesn’t matter. Just high quality medium aged Clynelish. Something we like to have on our shelves at all times. Available from Whiskysite.nl. Around € 60.

Score: 89/100


Ah, the famous Springbank sherry style of the 1960’s… Even though they sometimes refer to this profile when describing recent expressions, nothing comes close.

 

Springbank 15yo 1964 SamaroliSpringbank 15 yo 1964
(45,7%, OB for Samaroli Import 1979, sherry wood, 75 cl, 360 btl.)

Nose: rich sherry, with a list of aromas including but not limited to: prune sauce, eucalyptus, leather, gingerbread, cherries, pine resin, wax, cigar boxes, old books, soft smoke… A very light metallic note and hints of dried mushrooms. Yes! Mouth: not too wide but nicely oily with a combination of sweet & sour cherries. Dates, figs, walnuts, some Grand Marnier notes and herbs. Tobacco and hints of smoke as well. Fading on lovely dark chocolate. Finish: long, on a drier sherry profile now.

Quite grand, this old Springbank from sherry wood, even though it was bottled at a relatively young age. The real thing indeed. Around € 750.

Score: 93/100


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  • Tony: Yes, lower! It is almost unheard of for a more recent and older aged bottling to be 30% cheaper than the previously released one. Maybe that also help
  • Tony: True - I had it in my basket in one web shop as soon as it was announced, but it disappeared before I could check out! Luckily I have some of the prev
  • WhiskyNotes: I don't know, Gal. This kind of bottle is either sold out through pre-orders, or in a webshop five minutes after it appears online.

Coming up

  • Irish Single Malt 16yo 1999 (The Nectar of the Daily Drams)
  • Bunnahabhain 1987 (Maltbarn)
  • Glen Garioch 1993 (Maltbarn)
  • Glenlivet 42yo (Cadenhead)
  • Auchentoshan 1994 (Whisky Agency)
  • Blended Malt Extra Old (Whisky Agency)
  • Woodford Reserve Master's Collection
  • Teeling 26yo Vintage Reserve
  • Springbank 2001 vintage

1863 notes by Ruben

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