Single malt whisky - tasting notes

This Glen Scotia 1992 was distilled in a problematic period. Between 1979 and 1999, this Campbeltown distillery was only operational for 7 years. It is part of the latest series by A. Dewar Rattray. It’s only half of the cask by the way, so we can expect the other half to be bottled on a later moment.

 

Glen Scotia 1992Glen Scotia 19 yo 1992 (59,6%, A.D. Rattray 2011, sherry butt #2 (part), 359 btl.)

Nose: a dirty start (some rubber, sulphur and organics) although it gets better after some breathing. Typical huge sherry: dried prunes, blackberry pie, walnuts, raisins… Some roasted malt notes and faint smoke in the background. Leather. Hints of mulchy leaves as well. Mouth: just as sherried. A slightly salty dryness alternates with a herbal sweetness (Ricola bonbons). Dry fruits. Roasted chestnuts and oak. Balsamic syrup. Some nice mocha as well. Plenty of caramel flavours. Reminds me of some 1950-1960’s blends in a way. Finish: quite long and dry, on spices, bitter chocolate and oak.

Difficult to assess, although I think it’s more consistent than the Glen Scotia 1992 by Malts of Scotland. You could argue it’s over-sherried with little distillery character left, but if you’re looking for a sherry monster, then it’s quite interesting. Around € 85. Distributed in Belgium by Jurgen’s Whiskyhuis.

Score: 82/100


I had another Laphroaig 1990 hanging around, let’s try it against the Private Stock release. This one has considerably less alcohol, not sure if it has been brought down by adding water.

 

Laphroaig 1990 Whisky-DorisLaphroaig 20 yo 1990 (47,3%, Whisky-Doris 2011, bourbon hogshead #10873, 225 btl.)

Nose: a more buttery version again, with some cake and soft vanilla underneath the coastal / medicinal notes. Even a farmy edge that I didn’t find in the other releases. Nice. But mind you, differences are subtle. Mouth: a tad softer due to the lesser strength. Briny, with sweet peat and smoked fish. Almonds. Definitely rounder and sweeter than the Private Stock. A hint of cocoa. Finish: long, smoky and salty with a marzipan coating.

All these 1990’s are similar and it will be down to your personaly preference if you were to pick a favourite. Personally I like a little sweetness to counter the coastal austerity. This one has a perfect drinking strength of course, so no need to fiddle with water. Around € 110 – now sold out.

Score: 90/100

 

ps/ All these similar Laphroaigs, whether they are 1990 or 1998 or 2000, are getting a little boring. Laphroaig is one of these distilleries with a high quality in general combined with a very small deviation.

I wonder if it’s a good thing for independent bottler to release so many nearly identical casks at the same time? Personally I haven’t bought any of them, simply because I never get the feeling of a unique opportunity. If I’d wish to buy one tomorrow, I think I wouldn’t have difficulty finding similar quality again.


This Laphroaig 1990 was bottled by The Whisky Agency in association with The Whisky Exchange (their first joint bottling as far as I know). I’ve only seen it available from German shops so far, but I expect we’ll see it arrive at TWE as well in the near future.

We’ll compare it to the Laphroaig 1990 by Malts of Scotland, bottled earlier this year and one of my favourite 1990’s so far. Tomorrow we’ll match it to another bottling.

 

Laphroaig 1990 Private StockLaphroaig 21 yo 1990 (55,9%, The Whisky Agency & The Whisky Exchange ‘Private Stock’ 2011, bourbon hogshead, 264 btl.)

Nose: starts very similar, with maritime hints (seaweed, oysters) and smoke. It evolves to a fresher profile though, with more lemon and almost none of the banana / cake / vanilla notes of the MoS version. More classical we’d say. Some green apple. Almonds. Soft medicinal notes in the background. Very clean overall. Mouth: quite dry, with oily elements, smoke, iodine and lemon. A pinch of salt. Liquorice. Slightly leafy towards the end. Balancing citrus. Definitely less sweet and rounded than the one from MoS, and more focused on coastal elements. Finish: long and dry, with salty notes, lemon zest and liquorice.

I’ve always had the impression ‘Private Stock’ was kind of a premium label within the TWA releases. While this Laphroaig is very good, I’m missing kind of a “wow” factor compared to other 1990’s even from the same bottler. Anyway the price is the same as before and the quality is certainly up there, so maybe I’m just confused by the label. Around € 120.

Score: 89/100


Last year several independent bottlers released one or more Inchgower 1974 casks (Whisky-Doris and Thosop as well as Dewar Rattray, The Whisky Agency, Douglas Laing, Daily Dram…).

You may say Master of Malt is coming late with their Inchgower, but it has to be applauded their version was available for around € 85 while the others were around € 150!

 

Inchgower 1974 Master of MaltInchgower 36 yo 1974 (53,4%, Master of Malt 2011, refill sherry hogshead)

Nose: nice old-style Speyside, with a little more vanilla than other 1974 releases. A lot of lemon balm and paraffin. Honey. Old oak. Dried flowers and soft spices (cinnamon, mint). A little leather. There’s also a lovely chalky dampness to it, even some coastal hints. Great complexity. Mouth: starts with a zesty fruitiness (oranges, lemon) and punchy spices (pepper, ginger, aniseed, mint). Big citrus notes. Still some waxy notes and leather. Hints of herbal tea towards the end. Even better (slightly rounder) with a drop of water. Finish: long and warming with citrus and spices standing out.

A high quality Inchgower again, very complex and certainly on par with the ones we’ve seen before. Think about the price and you know this was an unbelievable bargain! It was sold out, then it came back (06/08/2011), now I’m pretty sure it’s sold out completely…

Score: 90/100


Here’s another sherried Laphroaig, distilled March 1989 and bottled last year by Douglas Laing in the Old & Rare Platinum Selection range. In March 2011 another 1989 cask was bottled in the same series (58,5%).

 

Laphroaig 1989 Douglas Laing PlatinumLaphroaig 21 yo 1989 (56,9%, Douglas Laing Old & Rare Platinum 2010, refill sherry hogshead, 212 btl.)

Nose: the tar seems to be a little softer here, but apart from that, the nose is very similar. Big tobacco notes and cocoa. Dark fruity notes. Cigar boxes. Of course also the usual coastal notes, sweet peat and antiseptic. Some graphite. This one leaves a slightly sharper impression than the Liquid Sun bottling. A little mint maybe. Mouth: quite dry, with big peat, some walnuts and hints of olives. Pepper and lemon zest. Big smoke. Seaweed. Certainly less fruity, which makes it less unique (but perhaps more classically Laphroaig). Liquorice. A little ginger. Finish: long, dry and leafy, with salty and bitter touches.

From the nose I though this would be nearly identical to the Liquid Sun release, but on the palate it turns out less rounded and balanced, less sherried and more extreme. Not bad of course, but at this price? Around € 230 – now sold out. This year’s cask is still available but it will cost you over € 300, that’s just ridiculous. Thanks for the sample, Johannes.

Score: 88/100


This Laphroaig 1991 is part of the recent series by Liquid Sun. It was matured in a sherry hogshead, which is always an eye-opener. The distillery itself never uses sherry wood to mature its normal production, but independent sherried Laphroaig can be really good.

 

Laphroaig 1991 Liquid SunLaphroaig 20 yo 1991 (53,3%, Liquid Sun 2011, sherry hogshead, 279 btl.)

Nose: impressive notes of tar and smoked meats: cecina de Léon, grison, barbecued streaky (pork belly)… nicely mixed with muted medicinal notes and gouache paint. Coal smoke. Quite sweet as well, with tobacco and some dried fruits. Blackberry jam? Nice balance. Water brings the spices out. Mouth: again very smoky and ashy, with burnt toast and plenty of liquorice, a little pepper and salt. Then the sherry comes through, still showing sweet notes of ripe dark fruits (cassis especially) and chocolate. Nice tobacco notes and espresso. Finish: long, drier, smoky and a bit salty with a little coffee. And back to the smoked bacon.

As I said, sherried Laphroaig can be really good. This one has quite an excellent combination of deep smoke and dark fruits. Recommended. Too bad the rarity makes the price slightly heavier than I hoped for… Around € 150.

Score: 91/100


White Oak is a Japanese distillery near Kobe, run by a company named Eigashima. Although the company has a long history in distillation (mainly sake and shochu but also whisky since 1919) their first single malt was not released until 2007, an 8 years old now replaced by a 12 years old. They’re labelled Akashi after the town the distillery is in.

In Europe we can now find limited quantities of three White Oak versions: a blended version at 40% and the 5yo and 12yo single malt versions.

 

Akashi White Oak 5yoAkashi White Oak 5 yo (45%, OB 2011)

Nose: smooth with lots of yellow apple, powder sugar and angelica fruits. A bit synthetic. Honeyed tea. Corn flakes. Unfortunately there’s also a yeasty / rubbery side to it which doesn’t seem to fit, a strange mixture of plastics and cookie dough. Mouth: sweet with a rather weak attack. A simple malty core, with plenty of apple flavours again (cider) and grainy notes. Ginger maybe, but that’s about it. Not exactly raw but pretty immature and synthetic nonetheless. Finish: very short and rather grainy.

Although Eigashima is proud of its oldest Japanese license to distil whisky, this White Oak is a far way from more experienced producers like Yamazaki or Karuizawa. Around € 45.

Score: 67/100


Here’s the other “steady cracker” I was talking about when reviewing the Glen Grain Class by Malts of Scotland. It’s supposed to be a vatting of Glenrothes distilled in 1992 and matured in bourbon hogsheads, but remember the contents can change when batches are renewed.

 

Glen Speyside ClassGlen Speyside Class 18 yo
(50%, Malts of Scotland 2011, batch n°1)

Nose: fruity and honeyed. Baked apples sprinkled with cinnamon. Pear syrup. Apricot jam. Some great pastry notes. Demerara sugar. Heather and hay. Mouth: similarly sweet and fruity, very honeyed. Apple pie with raisins. Fructose. All sorts of fruit jams. Sugar coated nuts. Heather and light pepper in the end. Even a faint hint of smoke. Finish: sweet, softly spiced.

This Glen Speyside Class is much better than the Glen Grain Class in my opinion, and more typical for its type of whisky. Sweet, rounded, with decent complexity. Good to see it’s still possible to find a tasty 18yo single malt under € 50, bottled at 50%, uncoloured and un-chillfiltered. Around € 45.

Score: 84/100


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Coming up

  • Karuizawa 45 Year Old (cask #2725)
  • Cardhu 18 Year Old
  • Craigellachie 13 Years
  • Port Askaig 19 Year Old
  • Ledaig 2005 (Maltbarn)

1660 notes by Ruben

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