Single malt whisky - tasting notes

A few Ardbeg distilled in 1972 are truly legendary. The one for Velier Italy, the Ardbeggedon for PLOWED… many of them appear in shortlists of connoisseurs.

The one we’re tasting now is quite famous as well. It was distilled in November 1972 and bottled for Alambic Classique, a German spirits importer founded by Hermann Suppanz.

 

Ardbeg 1972 DL Alambic GermanyArdbeg 28 yo 1972 (50,1%, Douglas Laing for Alambic Classique Germany 2000,
234 btl.)

Nose: wow. Let’s start by saying it’s quite organic and farmy, with notes of fern forest and wet leaves. Stables and sheep. Tobacco as well. Then some deep tarry notes and peat, nicely balanced. On a third layer, there’s something in between mint and dental filling material, if you know what I mean. Medicinal and mineral notes, maybe even some rubber or diesel. Leather. Algae. Quite dry, but wonderful. Mouth: quite dry again and rather salty. Liquorice and ashes. Lovely peat with camphor. Again some rubber. Cecina de León. Lots of algae. Not overly complex and missing punch in the middle, but still excellent. Finish: long, salty and dry.

Spitzenklasse, as they say in Germany. A true classic and as I said, it’s famous so the last bottle sold on Whiskyauction fetched € 740. Many thanks for the sample, Thomas!

Score: 94/100


Bowmore 2001 Daily Dram GermanyAnother Daily Dram bottling exclusively for Germany. Sold by eSpirits.

 

Bowmore 9 yo 2001 (46%, The Nectar of the Daily Drams for Germany 2010, bourbon cask)

Nose: Oily and mildly peaty, with charcoal rather than actual smoke. Clear sea-breeze notes. Quite malty as well, with notes of hay and fresh barley. Hints of carbolic soap (nice and harmless). A faint buttery note. Overall quite dry, no particular sweetness to be noted. Mouth: creamy with a peppery kick and some salt. More pronounced peat now. Oily and slightly grassy development. Cold ashes and clean lemon. Finish: medium length, briny with lemon and pepper.

A clean and simple Bowmore, getting close to Coal Ila with its faultless medium peated style. Around € 50.

Score: 84/100


Belgian Owl is a another Belgian whisky. This single malt was created by Etienne Bouillon who also owns a fruit liqueur distillery near Liège. The recent 53 months old release is the oldest Belgian Owl currently available. A slightly younger version (44 months) received a whopping 95,5 points in the latest Whisky Bible by Jim Murray.

Note the enormous 74% alcohol. It’s probably the strongest drink I’ve ever had. By the way, are there rules about maximum strength or can you just distill 99% of alcohol and claim it’s whisky as well?

 

Belgian Owl 53 monthsBelgian Owl 53 months
(74,1%, OB 2010, cask #4275986)

Nose: freshly cut oak and hay, lots of mint and lemon. Some vanilla custard. Spiced honey. Hints of apricot sweets and dried banana. Water brings out a slightly dusty muesli aroma. Mouth: sharp, grainy / grassy attack. Develops a bubblegummy flavour after the alcohol fades. Difficult to taste straight of course, so let’s add water. Much more creamy, but still quite grassy and gingery, with a bitterness that I find a little disturbing. Citrus again. Oak and nutmeg, other spices as well. Pears and vanilla. Not the fruity spirit I expected. Finish: long, half fruity, half bitter. And grainy.

Not bad, but no highflyer either (not yet?). Around € 65 but very limited so it’s hard to find.

Score: 71/100


Gouden Carolus whiskyBrewery Het Anker is located in my home town Mechelen and produces renowned beers like Gouden Carolus and the vintage Cuvee van de Keizer. In 2003, they decided to do an experiment: distill the beer mash of Gouden Carolus Triple and mature it in Jim Beam casks.

While the first batches (like the 2009 release) were made in column stills, they’re now reconstructing an old genever distillery which features pot stills from Forsyths (at a mere 200 meters from the place where I’m about to build a house, what a coincidence). It’s the first dedicated pot still distillery in our country and we can expect the new single malt somewhere around 2013.

 

Gouden Carolus whiskyGouden Carolus ‘2009 release’
(40%, OB 2009)

Nose: indeed very reminiscent of the Gouden Carolus Triple beer. Big banana aromas (slightly synthetic though) with coriander seeds. Rather flowery. Hints of lemon and lemon grass, on the edge of becoming soapy. Faint yeast. Mouth: artificial citrus and pear. Tinned lychee. Coriander seeds and orange peel. Gumball. Now also lavender soap I’m afraid. A shame. Finish: short, with plain alcohol and banana skin.

At first I was charmed by the distinct smell of beer mash, which I found unusual and interesting. But once tasted, the same beer associations become a big disadvantage. A curiosum at this point, but I’m sure the pot stills have a bright future ahead.

Score: 60/100


Kilchoman Spring 2011 is the sixth seasonal release already. It’s a vatting of 70% 3 year old and 30% 4 year old casks. Both were matured in first fill bourbon barrels, but the 4 year old spirit has been finished in oloroso sherry butts for five weeks. This means the formula is similar to the Autumn 2009 release although the colour suggests there should be less sherry influence.

As stocks and batches are probably getting bigger, this will be available for a longer time and there won’t be other seasonal releases in 2011. Kilchoman made a few other announcements for the rest of this year:

  • a 100% Islay version available in June
  • a 4,5yo fully sherry matured version in September
  • the first 5 year old (first fill and refill bourbon) in November

 

Kilchoman Spring release 2011Kilchoman 3 yo ‘Spring 2011 release‘ (46%, OB 2011)

Nose: sweet peat mixed with fruity notes. The peat is maybe not as heavy as you would think. Ashes and tarry ropes. Soaked grains. Pear drops and kiwi. Pencils. Quite good. Mouth: sweet and oily, but the attack is remarkably “open”, as if it only starts to speak after ten seconds. Not much grip, so to speak. After that, it gets briney and peaty. The aftertaste is more fruity again. Finish: smoky and rather earty, with hints of olives.

Well, it seems to go up and down with these seasonal releases. I like the bourbon releases better, no doubt about that. Especially the attack of this release disappointed me.
Around € 45.

Score: 81/100


We’re seeing a lot of Littlemill bottlings distilled in 1989/1990/1991 lately. Today we’re trying a new release in the Grotesque Crocs series by The Whisky Agency.

 

Littlemill 1989 - The Whisky AgencyLittlemill 21 yo 1989 (51,3%, Whisky Agency ‘Grotesque Crocs’ 2011, refill sherry hogshead, 239 btl.)

Nose: starts on warm oak with cinnamon, sherry notes and some grainy / grassy notes. This evolves to “wet” notes (gravel after the rain, a little wet newspaper) and a little wax. A sweet layer of dried apricots, fresh tangerine and honeydew melon. Mint. Gets a bit rounder and more sherried with water. Mouth: punchy and thick, quite sweet with dried fruits from the sherry cask (prunes), even a tropical hint of mango. Then the sweetness makes place for nervous grassy notes and spices (pepper, ginger, mint). Toffee and caramel towards the end. Finish: sweeter again, slightly malty with pepper and ginger.

These Littlemills distilled around 1990 are really building up a reputation, and this one is probably my favourite
so far. It adds some subtle sherry character to the classic grassiness and spices. Around € 120.

Score: 90/100


Ardbeg - Geert BeroLindores member Geert Bero holds one of the world’s biggest Ardbeg collections. He started collecting in 2003 and now owns more than 200 different OB Ardbeg bottles.

The collection includes the expensive Ardbeg 1965 and the different editions of the Double Barrel case, but also less common releases like the clear glass Ardbeg 10yo bottled in the 1970’s (black label, white letters).

I recently designed a new website for his collection. Bottles are still being added as we speak, but please head over to www.ardbeg.eu already to get an idea.


This market house Auchentoshan 1978 was created in 1997 by blending
13 casks. Half of them were distilled on 04/09/1978, the other half on 21/11/1978. Recently a new 1978 vintage was bottled (30 years old).

 

Auchentoshan 1978/1997Auchentoshan 18 yo 1978
(58,8%, OB 1997, 13 casks
#295x + #436x + #437x)

Nose: fresh malt and sweet gooseberries. Buttercups and dandelions. Marzipan. Quite intense, with a spicy prickle and fresh oak. A little caramel. There’s a lovely dusty / leathery element as well. Mouth: punchy with a rather oily mouthfeel. Great mixture of toffee, dark honey and traces of smoke. Fruit tea. Roasted nuts. Orange peel, spices, oak, vanilla… quite complex. Finish: malty and spicy, with leather and hints of lemon.

Not the usual Lowlands whisky, with a bold profile and uncommon (oily, smoky, leathery) elements.
A bit too strong when neat, but really nice with a drop of water.

Score: 87/100


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Coming up

  • Images of Ayrshire (Malts of Scotland)
  • Ardbeg 1972 (Douglas Laing OMC)
  • Jura 1972 SMWS 31.4
  • Balblair 2002
  • Kavalan Solist sherry (for LMdW)
  • Tullibardine 1980 (Malts of Scotland)
  • Ardbeg 1998 (Malts of Scotland)

1578 notes by Ruben

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