Single malt whisky - tasting notes

This Bunnahabhain was distilled in December 1990 and aged in a single Spanish oak butt for 20 years before being bottled for Master of Malt in November 2011.

 

Bunnahabhain 20y 1990 | Master of MaltBunnahabhain 20 yo 1990
(54,1%, Master of Malt 2011, sherry butt)

Nose: starts with some clean matchsticks (pleasant enough, not unlike some Karuizawa) and hints of oxo broth (less pleasant to be honest). Quite savoury, as often with these sherried Bunnas. Plenty of dried fruits (figs, dates) but there’s a sparklingly fresh red berry note as well. Hints of cocoa and bread crust. Mouth: nicely vibrant with sultanas, prunes and blackberry jam. Big spicy notes as well (cinnamon, soft pepper, aniseed). Roasted almonds. Hints of smoke in the background. Finish: long  and dry, on cocoa, prunes and Chinese five-spice.

A richly sherried Bunnahabhain. It adds some savoury / meaty aromas to the mix so it might not appeal to everyone. Around € 85, available from Master of Malt. They also offer samples.

Score: 83/100


Villa Konthor whiskyVilla Konthor is the well-known whisky bar in Limburg, Germany. They have a proprietary label for bottlings that are usually similar to the Whisky Agency releases. Be sure to visit them if you’re heading for the Whisky Fair festival in April.

 

Isle of Jura 1988 Villa KonthorIsle of Jura 23 yo 1988
(56,3%, Villa Konthor 2011, sherry cask)

Nose: a peculiar and very interesting profile again. There’s very ripe fruit, a lot of hay and nice Brora-esk farmy notes. More farmy than how I remember the Whisky Agency version. Quite some cigar leaves and leather again. Fresh herbs and heather. A slight caramel / chocolate note. Iodine in the background. Mouth: earthy, peppery and rather peaty. It grows on bitter herbal notes and something vaguely medicinal. Some walnuts and a little salt. Oak. Ginger. Maybe a little too herbal compared to the TWA version. Finish: warm and dry with some grassy notes (or pine needles) and nuts. Medium long.

I think this is a beautiful profile that is not commonly found these days. One of the rare occasions that I’ve found Brora elements in another distillery. Not the most balanced palate, but definitely worth a try. Around € 105. Sold by their partner webshop eSpirits.

Score: 90/100


La Maison du WhiskyI owe you the rest of my La Maison du Whisky experience (remember that I ordered the Karuizawa 1981 #2634).

 

LMdW investigated my case (wrong stock indication, incorrect reminder e-mail, seemingly random order allocation) and sent me an answer. The clarification of the situation contains two arguments:

  • Karuizawa is theoretically reserved for the domestic market and selling a big portion to international customers would bring logistic problems and criticism from French customers.So I suppose you have a higher chance of obtaining LMdW bottles if you enter a French shipping address? Didn’t expect that. Also I’m not sure can I agree with this policy. After all we’re all customers and you’re selling on the internet, not on Minitel. Also it’s not like there are plenty of other distributors of Karuizawa. In any case I’m sure it’s technically possible to limit certain products to certain countries (before the actual sale) and avoid the hassle.
  • Because there were so few bottles, there is a system of allocations (by country, domestic on-license, domestic off-license and internet). But the system is not able to follow in real-time with highly popular releases.I understand the need for allocations (LMdW shop vs. website for example) but this doesn’t explain the problems. The website apparently didn’t respect any allocation at all, it just kept selling and selling.

 

The bottom line of the e-mail is this:

We have managed to resolve the problem and are working on putting in place measures to avoid similar problems in the future. We have managed to negotiate some bottles – which were originally allocated to other customer networks – so that we are now able to fulfil your orders, and to send you the bottles that you previously wanted: we hope that this goes some way to restoring your confidence in us.

They didn’t comment on the false reminder e-mail and I’m still not sure there is a real-time stock indication on the website after the “measures” they’re talking about. Let’s hope there’s at least some kind of (quick) response mechanism which limits sales of rapidly selling bottles. It’s better to sell just a few bottles and eventually offer the remaining stock after a few days than just take all the orders you can and having to refund most of them.

Anyway thanks to La Maison du Whisky for taking the time to investigate. I’m sure I’ll enjoy this Karuizawa twice as much now!


Although Yamazaki distillery was opened in 1923 (as the first malt whisky distillery in Japan), it’s uncommon to see vintage releases distilled before the 1980s (apart from one or two 1979s).

 

Yamazaki 1980 Vintage MaltYamazaki ‘Vintage Malt’ 1980
(56%, OB 2004, refill sherry)

Nose: immediately shows huge hints of scented cedar wood (cigar box). Typically Japanese in this respect.  A lot of plums, raspberries and chocolate. Hints of tobacco leaves and dried mushroom. Cinnamon. The slightest hint of smoke. Very clean sherry with that oriental je-ne-sais-quoi. Mouth: starts sweet and sour. Plenty of fruity notes (forest berries, prunes, grapes) with bags of spices and herbs (pepper, ginger, liquorice, thyme). Some meaty hints as well. Herbal tea. Bitter oranges. Very powerful. Finish: long, more noticeably woody now. Cloves and blackberry notes.

Very big and full-flavoured but maybe slightly past its due date already. Quite expensive if you’re looking to buy a bottle: around € 380. Look at Whiskysite.nl for example. Thanks Jack!

Score: 90/100


We all know the Limburg Whisky Fair as one of the major whisky festivals in Europe (btw the 2012 edition is April 28-29). They have their own whisky label which is used to release interesting drams, not only at the time of the festival but practically the year round.

This one was distilled at an undisclosed Speyside distillery. My guess would be Glenfarclas and in that case it’s quite rare since it was matured in bourbon wood (check this similar release by Whisky-Fässle).

 

Speyside 1969 Whisky FairSpeyside 42 yo 1969 (53,4%, The Whisky Fair 2011, ex-bourbon cask, 156 btl.)

Nose: elegant and luxurious. A lot of beehive notes (beeswax and honey) with vanilla cream and Demerara sweetness. Plenty of precious woods and spices. Mint. Some floral touches. Hints of dried apricots and walnut cake. Mouth: oily mouthfeel with spices everywhere! Pepper, ginger, nutmeg… Clear oaky notes but not the drying, tannic kind of woodiness. It stays rather sweet and rounded. Less fruits though, mostly citrus now. Orange cake. Finish: long, still gingery and peppery. A little mocha. Maybe a tad too woody in the very end.

A marvellous nose and a very spicy palate, clearly marked by the oak but still fresh after so many years. Around € 200. Available from the Whisky Fair shop or eSpirits.

Score: 89/100


After The Whisky Agency, the Whiskybase shop is releasing a Glen Grant 1975. Just 81 bottles from this cask which I believe was a (refill) sherry cask.

 

Glen Grant 1975 ArchivesGlen Grant 36 yo 1975 (46,6%, Archives 2012, hogshead #5476, 81 btl.)

Nose: plenty of red fruits: cherries and plums but especially raspberries. A slightly floral (feminine) kind of fruits. Grenadine. Marshmallows. Indeed pink macarons as they say in the official notes. Some oak and spices as well. Mouth: very fruity again (raspberries, banana, a little kirsch) but the wood brings a certain sourness now (orange skin?). Hint of liquorice, ginger and pepper. Nutmeg. A few waxy notes towards the end. Finish: long, but drier, less thick and more oaky than the best 1972 Glen Grants.

The nose is really the main attraction here, too bad the oak gets rather loud towards the finish. A perfect example of raspberry flavours in whisky. Nice to see it’s a little cheaper than comparable releases. Around € 150.

Score: 89/100


Next up in the Angel’s Choice series by Malts of Scotland: a Glenrothes distilled in 1970.

 

Glenrothes 1970 (Angel's Choice)Glenrothes 1970 (44,5%, Malts of Scotland ‘Angel’s Choice’ 2011, bourbon hogshead MoS 11026, 135 btl., 35 cl.)

Nose: huge (but volatile) notes of oak polish at first. Some banana and pineapple candy, apricot jam, then big hints of strawberry bubble gum and marshmallows. A little honey. Whiffs of mint and cinnamon notes but it’s really 95% fruit candy here. Lovely. Mouth: still plenty of fruits, much more tropical now. Bordering on the profile of old grain whisky: pineapple and coconut. Banana. Vanilla and some spices, but less influenced by the oak than the Glenrothes 1970 by The Whisky Agency. Fruit tea. Finish: long, very fruity (pineapple) with only traces of oak. Hints of cocoa as well.

Five years ago I was already in love with the Glenrothes 1968 / 1969 / 1970 releases by Duncan Taylor and now it seems the Germans have managed to find a couple of similar casks. Recommended. Around € 120.

Score: 91/100


This is only the sixth single cask BenRiach from the 1979 vintage as far as I know. Bert Bruyneel is scanning their warehouses trying to find one stunning cask from every year (check his previous 1975, 1977 and 1978 releases).

Here’s my official short description as printed on the label:

Fruit cocktail with tangerine, candied pineapple and a sprinkling of strawberry marshmallows. Warming vanilla and delicate heather honey.

BenRiach 1979 Asta MorrisBenRiach 32 yo 1979 (47,3%, OB for
Asta Morris 2012, refill bourbon barrel
#8507, 192 btl.)

Nose: starts on a fruit cocktail of tangerine, green banana and gooseberries. Grows sweeter with a luscious layer of candied pineapple and papaya cubes. Quite some creamy vanilla and honey. After some time it even shows strawberry marshmallows – love that! All this sugary elegance is balanced by delicate heathery notes and sprinkles of freshly sawn oak. Ambrosial stuff really with a little more vanilla than most other 1970s BenRiach. Mouth: creamy mouthfeel. The same kind of sweet fruitiness (apricot jam, banana and more citrus now) with a candied coating (honeysuckle). A nice pineapple / coconut combo as well, and hints of vanilla pudding. It shows gentle spices from the oak but the fruits are much stronger. Lovely profile. Finish: long and smooth with plenty of sweet citrus.

Compared to the 1977, this is more candied (but certainly less so than the 1978), with more vanilla and less polished oak. If the 1977 is spring then this is summer. Excellent whisky and a worthy end of the 1970s series. Bring on the 1980s, Bert!

Score: 92/100


Categories

Calendar

July 2015
M T W T F S S
« Jun    
 12345
6789101112
13141516171819
20212223242526
2728293031  

  • WhiskyNotes: Good point Diego, it's important to coat the glass with whisky indeed. It helps it to evaporate and bring out the aromas, and take away the residuals
  • Diego Sandrin: i agree, N.5. The way i use it is i fill it up 2cl and then put it flat (horizontal) on the table, don't fill it more than 2cl or it will spill out, a
  • Basidium: I am partial to the Glencairn Crystal Canadian Whisky Glass as it is closer to what I am used to in a standard whiskey tumbler. It still narrows the t

Coming up

  • Clynelish 'distillery only'
  • Bunnahabhain 1980 (Eiling Lim)
  • Balmenach 2001 (Liquid Treasures)
  • Auchentoshan Heartwood
  • Strathisla 1948/1961
  • Benromach 15 Years

1819 notes by Ruben

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