Single malt whisky - tasting notes

It seems Coal Ila 1981 is easy to find these days. We’ve seen bottlings by Liquid Treasures, Liquid Sun, Thosop and Malts of Scotland.

 

Caol Ila 1981 (Malts of Scotland 11009)Caol Ila 30 yo 1981 (59,2%, Malts of Scotland 2011, ex-bourbon hogshead, MoS #11009, 117 btl.)

Nose: very elegant and sweet. Marzipan, clementine, some banana. Hints of vanilla and pastry, some creamy notes (rice milk, Almendrina paste). Very interesting, and overall very refined and balanced. Develops some medicinal notes and very soft ashy touches but it never becomes an Islay monster. Great silky elegance. Mouth: oily mouthfeel with much more (grassy) peat now. More pronounced coastal notes as well. Still this almond creaminess. Some sweet lemon and punchy pepper. Finish: long, initially salty and herbal but then returning to citrus and pepper.

This Caol Ila develops nicely from a discreet, rounded nose to a powerful, relatively peaty body without losing its balanced smoothness. High quality and fairly priced. Around € 130.

Score: 90/100


Tormore 1995 Whisky-DorisI’ve never tried a modern Tormore. It’s a new release by Whisky-Doris. The bottle is released in memory of Horst Manthée, the artist who made all the illustrations (views of distilleries) for the bottles of Whisky-Doris. He died in December 2011.

 

Tormore 16 yo 1995 (53,4%, Whisky-Doris 2011, bourbon hogshead #20213, 132 btl., In memoriam Horst Manthée)

Nose: a mixture of youngish, fruity sweetness (pear drops, apple juice, oranges, pineapple) with buttery malt and a little vanilla. Soft pepper dust. Water makes it a little more grassy. Mouth: fairly thick. Sweet and fruity again (apricot, orange marmalade, citrus candy) with a big dash of honey. Some toffee. Then it grows spicier (mainly pepper again, maybe even a little mustard cress). Finish: long, sweet and peppery.

A nice profile, very sweet and very spicy at the same time. Pleasantly vibrant. Around € 70.

Score: 85/100


Longmorn… I can’t think of another distillery that produces outstanding examples of both bourbon maturation and sherry maturation. Especially at high ages. Glenfarclas maybe, but bourbon examples are very rare. It’s one of the reasons why I like Longmorn so much, it seems like two high quality distilleries in one.

This Longmorn 1965 was bottled for Limburg (home of The Whisky Fair and The Whisky Agency) by Gordon & MacPhail, which is no surprise as they practically own the complete stock of old Longmorn.

 

Longmorn 1965 G&M Limburg #370Longmorn 46 yo 1965 (51,8%, Gordon & MacPhail for Limburg 2011, Book of Kells, first fill sherry butt #370)

Nose: oh how great is this. A mixture of the best sherry fruits (fig jam, apricots, raspberries), all kinds of waxes (polished sandalwood, leather polish, tiny notes of oil paint and varnish), surprisingly exotic all-spice and subtle oak. Hints of eucalyptus. It shows elements of both old cognac and old rums. Just exquisite. Mouth: very punchy and so fruity again. Figs, raisins, apples with cinnamon, blood oranges… Herbal honey. Leather. Mint. Pleasantly oaky with a chocolate dryness towards the end. Finish: very long, not too dry with cinnamon, cocoa and menthol.

One of my favourite sherried Longmorns already. Impressive freshness at such an age. Recommended, even though the price will probably prevent you from rushing to the nearest whisky shop. Around € 370.

Score: 93/100


Glen Moray is often overlooked and as far as I know this 36 years old Glen Moray 1973, bottled in 2010, was a one-off for The Whisky Agency as well.

Duncan Taylor had a few similar releases (cask range #70xx), it wouldn’t surprise me if they were related.

 

Glen Moray 1973 Perfect DramGlen Moray 36 yo 1973 (53,1%,
The Whisky Agency ‘Perfect Dram’ 2010,
joint bottling with Three Rivers Tokyo,
bourbon hogshead, 301 btl.)

Nose: stewed fruits (apricots, prunes) with tropical touches (mango, melon, coconut). A lot of vanilla and oak, or rather oak polish, which gives this one a bit of a bourbon profile, maybe even a Japanese oak character. Beehive notes (honey, wax) and spices (cinnamon, mint). Mouth: again oaky with bags of spices (cinnamon, vanilla, pepper, nutmeg). Fruity notes like plums and oranges. Hints of coconut and pineapple. Sweet malt. Some leathery touches. Finish: long and vibrant with oranges and spices.

A little water takes away the harshness of the oak and releases its full potential of nice fruits, wax and spices. A nice surprise with a slightly exotic character.
Around € 170, but we’re too late now…

Score: 90/100


Highland Park 1986 Daily DramLast night whisky club Fulldram hosted another great tasting in Leuven. Titled Class of 89, the concept was to have seven whiskies that all scored 89 points on Whiskyfun.

89 is a high score but it’s slightly short of the magical 90/100 mark, so frankly we were expecting “close but no cigar” whiskies. Some of them are worth € 35, others € 185. Could they really be on the same level?

We were given a sheet of paper with all seven tasting notes but no names. Whiskies were poured blind and it was up to us to match each whisky to a tasting note (quite a challenge).

Congratulations to the Fulldram board for coming up with such a nice idea. It was fun to “quiz” our way through the line-up (all good quality whiskies) and Serge’s tasting notes were an interesting starting point for discussion.

 

At the end of the evening this was our collective top-3:

1. Highland Park 24 yo 1986 (51,8%, Nectar of the Daily Drams 2010)
2. Glen Moray 36 yo 1973 (53,1%, Whisky Agency ‘Perfect Dram’ 2010)
3. Littlemill 21 yo 1989 (51,3%, Whisky Agency ‘Grotesque Crocs’ 2011)

Also in the tasting were the Ardbeg 12yo 1998 Daily Dram, Lochside 1981 cask #808 by Berry Bros, Port Charlotte 2002 cask #1172 by Malts of Scotland and the standard Talisker 10.

Although I wouldn’t necessarily award them the same score, it was clear that indeed most whiskies were in the same league (roughly between 87 and 90/100 I’d say). Also it should be noted that some of them were attractive drams that certainly displayed some kind of magic. If you only focused on 90+ scores, you wouldn’t discover them (proved by the fact that the Highland Park is still on the shelves in some shops).

Personally I think only one whisky stood out in a negative way: the Talisker 10 years old. Why don’t we take this opportunity and investigate this widely available classic malt…


This Talisker 10 years old was supposed to be the “value for money” bottling in the Class of 89 tasting.

 

Talisker 10 years oldTalisker 10 years old (45,8%, OB 2011)

Nose: starts on expected harbour notes (seaweed, flax rope, a little iodine) but also on mashy notes (porridge, soaked grains). It wasn’t too bad on its own, but when compared to clean (bourbon) whiskies it was a little unfresh – a kind of mashy character that I don’t like too much. Some slightly sharp citrus fruits. Mouth: quite oily and rather dry. Lacking a bit of punch. Again a coastal profile with peat, salt and a mustardy sharpness. Kippers. Some pepper (not as much as in other Talisker though) and smoke. Hints of olive juice. Growing warmer with slightly rounder notes (almonds) towards the end. Finish: not too long, spicy and peaty.

Drinkable of course, but not the high quality we found in the rest of the tasting line-up. The porridgy nose kept bothering me. Maybe other batches are more convincing. For now I’ll have a Talisker 18 years old, thank you. Around € 30-35.

Score: 82/100


I’ve had a specific tasting request for this one (you’re welcome Stuart) so let’s dive right in and try this recent Tomatin 1976 bottled by Whisky-Doris in Germany.

Note that Whisky-Doris bottlings are now locally available in Holland (Whiskybase) and Belgium (Jurgen’s Whiskyhuis) which might save you a few bucks on shipping costs.

 

Tomatin 1976 Whisky-DorisTomatin 34yo 1976 (49,5%, Whisky-Doris 2011, dark sherry hogshead #9, 139 btl.)

Nose: not exactly the tropical fruits we’d expected. It’s more sherried with ‘darker’ flavours. Herbal honey and fruits like ripe plums, raisins and blueberries. Overripe melon. Beehive notes. Mint. Some grassy elements, even something remotely earthy after some airing. Mouth: good strength, very sweet and fruity. Almost liqueur-like at some point. Blackberry or forest fruit jam. Prunes. Nicely coated with mint. Some ripe tropical fruits now, but still not as much as others. Then a wave of fresh herbs and oak before it develops some fondant chocolate towards the end. Finish: medium long, with chocolate, fruits and soft oak until the very end.

Maybe not my personal favourite among the Tomatin 1976’s (for being less typical) but still excellent whisky. I suppose it was drawn from a more active sherry cask and this overpowers the more delicate tropical flavours a little. Around € 170.

Score: 91.5/100


I’m suffering from a cold, so I’m digging up some notes of classic releases that somehow never made it to the blog.

Inspite of it’s fame, Lagavulin releases few expressions. Until 1989, Lagavulin was always bottled at 12 years. Nowadays, the 16 year-old is the only standard bottling. There’s also a 12 year-old and a double matured Distiller’s Edition which both change each year. Over the years, there have been a few limited editions as well (21y, 25y, 30y, Feis Ile single casks) but that’s about it. If you’re a collector, Lagavulin is a relatively easy distillery…

Lagavulin 16 years is the reason why many of us became interested in single malts in the first place. Like most Islay whiskies, it’s peated but in a different way than Laphroaig or Ardbeg. Lagavulin is – in my opinion – one of the warmer whiskies around. Apparently Johnny Depp (who doesn’t drink alcohol) sometimes orders a dram of this, just to sniff it.

 

Lagavulin 16y Lagavulin 16 yo (43%, OB 2007)

Nose: I’ve always found this to be the most complex and refined nose of the standard Islay malts. Very impressive, a bit rough yet balanced. Peaty with some iodine, antiseptic and fishy notes.  Gentle fruitiness (oranges). Earth. Pepper. Oil. Lapsang Souchong. Let’s just say it’s really rich. Mouth: evolves over time. Oily, grassy, smoky (yesterday’s ash tray), sweet and salty. A dynamic palate indeed. Hints of seaweed and liquorice. Finish: drier, on smoked bacon and walnuts. Some wood. Hints of shoe polish. Very long.

Totally lives up to its name! Every whisky enthusiast should have a bottle of this in his collection. Around € 45.

Score: 89/100.


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Coming up

  • Aberlour a'bunadh Batch #50
  • Bowmore Gold Reef
  • Tomatin 1997 (Liquid Library)
  • Springbank Vintage 2001
  • Mortlach Rare Old

1794 notes by Ruben

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