Single malt whisky - tasting notes

This is the Glen Grant 1972 I was talking about last November when a group of people selected it as the Spirits in the Sky bottling in a Whisky Agency Masterclass. It arrived in stores last week and I’ve heard sales are roaring.

 

Glen Grant 1972 - TWA Spirits in the SkyGlen Grant 39 yo 1972 (53,2%,
The Whisky Agency ‘Perfect Dram’ 2011, ex-sherry cask, 119 btl.)

Nose: big big notes of cherries (dark cherries as well as Portuguese Ginjinha liqueur made from Morello cherries). Lots of dried fruits like figs. Bramble and plums. Dark honey. Precious woods and hints of leather and eucalyptus. Heaps of oriental spices as well (which blend into a kind of incense profile). A drop of water brings out beehive notes and makes the fruits a little more tropical. Just great. Mouth: more oak in the attack, but quickly the fruits take over. Still plenty of cherry notes, plums and mixed red fruit jam, this time combining nicely with a chocolate coating. Fruit cake. Finish: long and elegant, fading on Mon Cherie and soft spices.

This Glen Grant 1972 is clearly more sherried than the MM Awards winning Glen Grant 1972/2009 by Duncan Taylor or any other (mostly refill sherry) expressions of GG72. The oak is well controlled. A real beauty. Recommended. Around € 210.

Score: 92/100

Merry Xmas everyone!


Cutty Sark bookAlthough I’m generally not the biggest fan of whisky books, I’ve recently spent a few evenings reading the new Cutty Sark book. In many regions it’s one of the most popular brands of blended whisky and the story behind the brand is quite colourful and interesting to read.

This 192-page book was edited by Ian Buxton and features articles by Helen Arthur, Dave Broom, Charles Maclean, Marcin Miller and several other well-known names.

 

It starts by investigating the popularity of the brand in different key markets around the world: Madrid (where it is mixed with lemonade, I’ve witnessed that), Lisbon, Lithuania, India, China & Japan, Britain, etc. After that, different aspects of the brand’s history are placed in the spotlight.

One of the most important things is the link between Prohibition and Cutty Sark (you may have read about this in the Whisky Yearbook 2012 as well). It’s no secret that Cutty Sark was intended for oversees markets and Captain Bill McCoy provided the East of the USA with an important amount of Scotch, obviously a much better product than the illicit liquors at the time. No surprise the Americans stayed faithful to their brand even after the liquor ban was put to an end.

Also nice to read is the article about Kirsteen Campbell, the new Master Blender of Cutty Sark. Interesting fact: she makes around 120 batches a year, each composed of 103 butts of malt and grain whisky. Kudos for keeping all these batches consistent!

Of course there’s also a chapter about the components of the blend: Glenrothes (the “home” of Cutty Sark), Tamdhu, Highland Park, The Macallan and Bunnahabhain, as well as some information on cocktail making with Cutty Sark. And much more…

In short: a book that’s well written, with beautiful photographs. A great gift for the holidays, even for people who are normally not blend drinkers!

Cutty Sark: The making of a whisky brand
ISBN: 9781780270265
Ed. Ian Buxton
hardback, around € 35


Fulldram whisky labelA couple of weeks ago, members of the Fulldram Whisky Club asked me if I was interested in designing a label for their new bottling, the first one released under their own name. Of course I was looking forward to combine two of my major passions! The result is a minimal design with fairly uncommon proportions.

I’ve just picked up my own bottles of this 12 years old Bowmore 1999 bottled by Fulldram and drawn from an oloroso cask so I’m quite curious to find out how it tastes.

 

Bowmore 1999 FulldramBowmore 12 yo 1999 (57,6%, Fulldram 2011, oloroso sherry cask, 190 btl.)

Nose: immediately smoky (charcoal) and coastal (seaweed, tarry ropes). Not really a sherry bomb but it does open up nicely with sweeter notes of apples, yellow plums and apricots. Also a wave of yellow raisins and natural caramel. Water even brings out some hints of overripe mango. Some wet hay and chocolate. Strong but beautifully balanced and mouth-watering. Mouth: very powerful with lots of peat, more than we’ve come to expect from Bowmore recently. Strong liquorice / menthol notes (Fisherman’s friend). It takes a while before the hotness fades away and sweeter background notes come forward. Raisins again, hints of berries. Anise. Water makes it a little more rounded, but it stays bold and peaty. Finish: long and coastal, with liquorice and a lingering sweetness.

A good Bowmore which combines powerful Islay flavours with sweeter aromas. I would have liked a tad more roundness on the palate – it’s very peaty so I think it could resist a little more sherry, but given the price (€ 60 for members) it offers very good value for money. If you’re not in the Fulldram whisky club, your best shot at getting it would be QV.ID.

Score: 87/100


Based on the limited number of bottles and the link with The Whiskyman, we can probably assume this Laphroaig 1990 is from a shared cask. Jack, the friendly chief of Whiskysite.nl kindly provided a sample.

 

Laphroaig 1990 Whiskysite.nlLaphroaig 21yo 1990 (48,4%, Whiskysite.nl 2011, selected by The Whiskyman, bourbon hogshead, 60 btl.)

Nose: quite aromatic. It’s definitely peaty and smoky (hints of bacon) but there’s a nice layer of banana, gooseberries and vanilla to make it a little rounder. Similar to the Laphroaig 1990 by Malts of Scotland in that respect. Nice lemon candy. Some seaweed in the background. Balanced nose. Mouth: sweet and citrusy. More emphasis on the smoke now (smoked fish). Hints of liquorice and antiseptic. Some briny notes as well. Again good fun. Finish: very long, smoky, citrusy.

It’s complex and certainly up there with the other great Laphroaig 1990 we’ve seen in the past few months. Around € 120. They also have a sample for you to try.

Score: 89/100


Here’s another single blend produced at Lochside distillery. This time a 1965 bottled by Adelphi from a sherry cask. It won a gold medal at the recent Malt Maniacs Awards 2011.

 

Lochside 1965 AdelphiLochside 46 yo 1965 (52,3%,
Adelphi 2011, sherry cask #6778,
single blend, 499 btl.)

Nose: a totally different genre but equally excellent. It’s sherried with polished oak and plenty of red fruits (raspberries, redcurrant jam). Leathery notes. Similar tropical notes (banana and mango) but in a thick sherry coating this time. Lovely combination which made me think of the legendary Longmorn 1972 Perfect Dram (really). Rum & raisins. Almonds. Even a faint whiff of smoke. Stunning. Mouth: huge in many ways. The sherry is huge, the fruitiness is huge, the oak as well. Spicy (ginger, nutmeg) and herbal. Eucalyptus. Plenty of tannins. Burnt sugar. Finish: very long, very intense with bitter oranges, dark chocolate and cloves.

 

Yesterday’s Lochside 1964 was harmonious and smooth. This one is taking a different route. It’s incredibly intense and punchy, heavily influenced by the wood, but it’s a unique experience with elements of whisky, rum, cognac… On the nose I prefer this 1965 (not necessarily because it’s better but because I prefer sherry notes over grain notes) and on the palate it simply blew my socks off, but beware, that cough syrup profile will definitely be too challenging for some people. A masterpiece, but a masterpiece with barbs. Around € 310.

Score: 92/100


Lochside produced both grain and malt whisky from its opening in 1957 until the early 1970s and this is a ‘single blend’ using both types of whisky from the same distillery. Unusually, the whisky was blended before ageing, with the mix of grain and malt maturing in the same cask for 46 years.

 

Lochside 1964 TWELochside 46 yo 1964 (42,1%,
The Whisky Exchange 2011, cask #8970,
single blend, 139 btl.)

Nose: tropical fruit galore: pineapple, mango, passion fruit, tangerine… also a buttery note (white chocolate and butterscotch) which brings up memories of the lovely BbyB white chocolate / passion fruit / basil bars. Quite a lot of coconut as well. It’s clear that we’re listing a lot of aromas commonly associated with old grain whisky. Exquisite nonetheless. Mouth: still quite a “grainy” profile. Green banana, coconut, papaya. Also pink grapefruit and tangerine (similar to some 1970’s BenRiach). Oak as well, with a faint bitterness. Overall a little soft but full of flavours and pretty complex. Finish: still very fruity, grainy and slightly floral.

A lovely exotic nose and a smooth, fruity palate. Amazing how it managed to keep out woody notes. On the other hand, as the influence of the malt is not very high, old single grain whiskies offer a very similar profile at half the price. Around € 310. Still available from TWE.

Score: 91/100


Mac Bolle is the nickname for Karel Van Wijnendale. I don’t know squat about cycling but I’ve been told he’s a sports journalist and the founder of the classic Tour of Flanders. To honour him (and the 100th Anniversary of the Tour in 2012), Whisky Import Belux and The Bonding Dram have bottled two whiskies sold by the city of Torhout.

The other bottling is a 14 years old Bowmore 1997. I’ll review that one later.

 

Mac Bolle's Aberlour 1994Aberlour 16 yo 1994 (46%, Whisky Import Belux & The Bonding Dram 2011, bourbon hogshead #8825, 279 btl.)

Nose: fresh and aromatic with a pleasant rounded fruitiness. Big notes of apples and juicy pears. Hints of peach and vanilla. Frosties. Also soft spicy notes and gentle oak. Typical bourbon matured whisky, maybe a little younger than its actual age suggests. Mouth: creamy vanilla with a little caramel sweetness and honey. Again quite juicy with peach jam, apple compote and fresh mint. A sweet malty core again, punched up by some pepper and liquorice. Rather simple but very enjoyable. Finish: medium long on clean oak and vanilla.

This is a straightforward but well-made Aberlour, excellent as a daily dram. Sold for € 60 of which € 5 is donated to the anti-cancer campaign “Kom op tegen Kanker”.

Score: 84/100


Blackadder whiskyThis Banff was distilled 16 November 1966 and spent 34 years in a sherry cask before being bottled in August 2001. Sister casks #3437, #3439, #3440… have been bottled by Signatory, Blackadder, Douglas Laing and others. Cask parcel sharing is not a new thing.

Blackadder is a British / Swedish bottler founded by Robin Tucek. Although there isn’t much fuss about it, and although their websites are hugely outdated, it seems they’re still steadily working to find interesting whisky. Other labels like Clydesdale, Riverstown and Smoking Islay are also part of this company.

The Raw Cask series is interesting because they leave all the residues and sediments in there – most bottles are full of toasted oak flakes at the bottom. They claim it’s the best way to ensure a maximum amount of natural oils, fats and flavour. I’m not sure the effect is noticeable, but it’s a nice feature.

 

Banff 1966 BlackadderBanff 34 yo 1966 (52,3%, Blackadder Raw Cask 2001, sherry butt #3438, 539 btl.)

Nose: amazing how old Banff often manages to boast such a unique (and often quirky) nose. Tobacco leaves, a little turpentine, beeswax… very nice oak polish (rather than actual wood). Underneath is a nice fruitiness (apricot, yellow raisins) and plenty of warm vanilla. Some buttery notes and wood spices. Mouth: more sappy oak now, albeit again the varnished type. Very spicy with ginger and nutmeg. Vanilla as well. Quickly drying towards the end, with a sharpness of mustard seeds. Sure, this has some loud oak but not the tannic kind. Finish: dry, with apple skin, soft ginger and oak.

There’s always a certain unsexy sharpness to Banff and this is no different. On the nose the oak polish is definitely an asset, on the palate it might be a little too much to be a real stunner. Now virtually impossible to find. Many thanks Joeri.

Score: 88/100


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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)

1771 notes by Ruben

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