Single malt whisky - tasting notes

Not the best choice if you're looking for cheap whiskyThe holiday season has arrived, everyone is trying to save some money in order to go on vacation. The financial crisis isn’t helping us either…

This is the time to look at some cheaper whisky (make that “more accessible” whisky), available for € 50 or less. I know there are good bottles to be found in this market segment.

It will be quite a random anti-crisis selection, we’ll have newly released Scotch single malts (both official bottlings and independent releases) but also Spanish and American whisky and a single grain. There’s even an uncommon brand of Japanese whisky that we haven’t tried before.

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This Caol Ila 1979 was part of the joint releases by The Whisky Agency and The Nectar. Presented at The Whisky Fair, they are still available in most stores.

 

Caol Ila 1979 Whisky Agency & The NectarCaol Ila 32 yo 1979
(52%, The Whisky Agency & The Nectar 2011, bourbon hogshead, 242 btl.)

Nose: beautifully fresh and warm at the same time. The freshness comes from maritime notes (seaweed, shells, mercurochrome) and eucalyptus, while warmer notes are added by yellow apples, soft buttercups and vanilla. The balance is perfect! Hints of limestone. Wax. Leather. And a soft veil of smoke. Mouth: dry, medicinal notes up front (bandages, iodine), with some camphor and kelp. Then a spicy / salty wave, herbal tea and liquorice. A little tar. Leather. Lemon and grapefruit zest. Finish: long, again balanced, softly briny with a coating lemon sweetness.

I would have loved a little more rounded sweetness on the palate, but nonetheless a delicious Caol Ila. Refined as always, very drinkable and extremely consistent.
Around € 190.

Score: 90/100


Scapa single maltThe first Scapa on ths blog, distilled in September 1993 and bottled by Douglas Laing in the Old Malt Cask series.

 

Scapa shares the island of Orkney with Highland Park. In 1994, the distillery was mothballed, refurbished, operated during short intermittent periods, and re-opened in 2005 (although they still only operate Monday to Wednesday). They’re only maturing in first fill bourbon wood and the complete production is bottled as a single malt.

 

Scapa 1993 Douglas Laing OMCScapa 15 yo 1993 (50%, Douglas Laing OMC 2008, refill hogshead, ref. 4713,
331 btl.)

Nose: starts fresh and youthful with a nice fruity sweetness. Apples and pears. Vanilla. Very lightly coastal. A few heathery notes and a little wax maybe. Simple but certainly not bad. Mouth: grainy with a bittersweet aroma that holds the middle between fizzy aspirin and grapefruit juice. Not an attractive development in my opinion… Then a soft vanilla sweetness, dusty flavours and resin. And again big grapefruit flavours. Really bitter at times and hard to spot other flavours. Finish: long, bittersweet with a lemon / salt combo.

I’m afraid this Scapa doesn’t hit the right notes for me. There must be better expressions of this distillery. Around € 70.

Score: 72/100


This 21 years old Bowmore was selected by Luc Timmermans and Dominiek Bouckaert for the Belgian shop QV.ID and the Dutch shop Whiskysite.nl. The same fine people also selected a Port Ellen 1982 earlier this year.

 

Bowmore 1989 QV.ID Whiskysite.nlBowmore 21 yo 1989 (51,2%, QV.ID / Whiskysite.nl 2011, bourbon hogshead, 233 btl.)

Nose: quite some sea air, seaweed and hints of iodine. Ashes. Wet wool. Lemon. Bold and coastal but nicely softened by almond paste, vanilla and hazelnut butter. Soft hints of mashed potatoes. Develops sweet moccha over time. Entertaining and balanced. Mouth: even bolder now, with plenty of peat and smoke, with a sharp grassiness and brine. Pepper. Lemon. Very clean. It’s not very dry but it misses some roundness compared to the nose. Hints of apple maybe? Fades on slightly bitter notes (tonic). Finish: long, with smoke, lots of salty liquorice and some lemon zest.

A very clean Bowmore, with the balanced nose as its best feature. Better than the recent Bowmore 1989 by Daily Dram and almost 20% cheaper as well. Around € 95.

Score: 88/100


Tomintoul 1992 Norse CaskIt seems old casks of Tomintoul are more accessible to independent bottlers than younger Tomintoul these days. We’ve tried some 1960’s casks before but this was distilled in August 1992 and bottled in 2008 by Norse Cask Selection, a side project of Danish bottler Qualityworld.

 

Tomintoul 15 yo 1992 (55,5%, Norse Cask Selection 2008, hogshead CS059, 227 btl.)

Nose: malty with fresh oak and citrus. Apples and pears. Light Speyside style. Soft floral notes and some hay. A little wax maybe. Mouth: there’s the same sweet maltiness with orchard fruits and vanilla, but it’s now slightly harsher. Liquorice and a salty tang. Some bitterish herbal notes as well. Finish: long, half fruity, half bitter.

This Tomintoul starts gentle and slightly boring, but takes off on the palate and bursts into different directions. A bit of Speyside anarchy, quite entertaining even tough it’s not entirely succeeded. Sold out. Thanks Bert.

Score: 83/100


Glenrothes 1995

09 Jul 2011 | Glenrothes

The Glenrothes 1995 was the first Glenrothes ever to be laid down as a vintage with a “designed” character. Before ‘95, they simply composed vintages “ad hoc” from the available stocks. The previously released Glenrothes 1998 was also an intentional vintage, but of course that was distilled later.

Glenrothes 1995 is composed of 30% sherry treated casks (both American and Spanish oak) and 70% refill casks. I was able to try it at The Whisky Fair in Limburg thanks to Stefan, their German ambassador.

 

Glenrothes 1995Glenrothes 1995 (43%, OB 2011)

Nose: high on butterscotch, milk chocolate and toffee notes, which is very typical for Glenrothes but the recent releases (1991, 1994, 1998) didn’t seem to focus too much on these characteristics. Great to see they’re back in the 1995. There’s also quite some honey and vanilla. Malty notes. Cake. Raisins. Caramelized apple and cinnamon. Mouth: very sweet and rather thick. Vanilla custard and fruit syrup. Sweet malt and caramel. Soft oak spices (cinnamon, nutmeg, pepper). Toffee fudge and honey again. Peanuts. Subtle lemon. Finish: medium length with citrus and caramelized spices.

Good to see The Glenrothes is moving back to its rich toffee and butterscotch style. Nothing mind-boggling but good value for money. Around € 50.

Score: 83/100


Mannochmore is one of these active distilleries that is hardly seen on the market. It’s modern (founded in 1971 on the grounds of the Glenlossie distillery) and focused on producing blender’s whisky. Here’s a 28 year-old single cask bottled by Liquid Sun.

 

Mannochmore 1982 Liquid SunMannochmore 28 yo 1982 (49,4%,
Liquid Sun 2011, bourbon hogshead, 131 btl.)

Nose: slightly neutral start on malt and grassy notes. Green apples and lemon. Some flowery top notes as well. Then grows a bit warmer, with quite a lot of hay. Soft leather. Rather elegant, it seems younger than it actually is and the fruitiness is pleasantly dry and mineral at the same time. Mouth: quite soft at first, with orchard fruits, grassy notes and some spices. There’s a nervousness / hotness with herbal notes growing over time. Again an interesting mix of sweet notes and lots of dry, spicy (even slightly earthy) elements. Finish: medium length, spicy with a bitter edge.

A Mannochmore with a pleasant “green” fruitiness and quite some grassy / mineral notes. Give it some time to open up.
Around € 110.

Score: 85/100


Let’s start by checking out this Tomatin 1976. We’ve seen similar releases with Daily Dram and Whisky Agency labels recently.

 

Tomatin 1976 Liquid SunTomatin 34 yo 1976
(48,7%, Liquid Sun 2011, sherry butt, 366 btl.)

Nose: typical Tomatin fruitiness, although it starts nutty / musty and develops the fruity notes over time. Tangerines, apricots, mangos. Excellent strawberries as well. Blueberry jam. Very fruity, with silky sherry and soft polished oak. Quite some mint and eucalyptus as well, more so than I remember from previous releases. Mouth: big tropical fruitiness (the whole shebang: mango, guava, tangerine, banana, soft citrus, a little cassis). Almost no oak (a faint peppery note though). Finish: long, fruity with more spices and a little cocoa.

Wow, this Tomatin 1976 combines the best elements from the other recent releases, in my opinion. Very exemplary. The bottle will be empty before you know it. Around € 150.

Score: 91/100


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Coming up

  • SIA Blended Scotch
  • Ardmore Legacy
  • Cardhu 18 Year Old
  • Clynelish 21yo 1992 (Cadenhead)
  • Ledaig 2005 (Maltbarn)
  • Aberlour 8yo (cube, small cork)

1644 notes by Ruben

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