Single malt whisky - tasting notes

It’s amazing that 1972 is such a good whisky year for several distilleries. Caperdonich (the “backup” distillery for Glen Grant by the way), GlenDronach, Longmorn, Glengoyne and Clynelish spring to mind. We’ve seen a few very good 1972 Glen Grants as well.

 

Glen Grant 1972 Malts of ScotlandGlen Grant 38 yo 1972
(48,2%, Malts of Scotland 2011, sherry hogshead #8235, 148 btl.)

Nose: no sherry bomb, just a very big and ripe fruitiness with melons, yellow plums, quince marmalade, gooseberries, apricot pie… very jammy and honeyed. Precious polished wood. A little maple syrup, marzipan and toffee. A little ginger and mint. Very elegant. Mouth: a tad more oak now, but still plenty of oranges, tangerine, fruit cake and lovely honey to withstand the wood. A nice combo of dried fruits and exotic notes. Develops some toffee and mint as well. Very refined and even more jammy with some water. Finish: not very long, with cinnamon, tangerine and frangipane.

Old Glen Grant is quite reliable and this one is no different with its jammy fruitiness. Recommended. Around € 170.

Score: 90/100


This Glenburgie 1997 was bottled from a first fill bourbon cask by Gordon & MacPhail for Bert Bruyneel’s label Asta Morris.

I’ve never seen this bottle design on a G&M Exclusive bottling before, it has a distinctive shape and the G&M letters are embossed on the neck. Must be a new styling.

 

Glenburgie 1997 Asta MorrisGlenburgie 1997 (57,6%, Gordon & MacPhail Exclusive for Asta Morris 2011, bourbon cask #8551, 212 btl.)

Nose: youthful and aromatic. Starts relatively narrow on apples, barley and waxy notes, but it keeps developing and widening. Vanilla and cinnamon. Traces of honeysuckle. Almonds. Hints of pineapple. A few floral notes. Paraffin. Fresh oak shavings. Modern but really nice. Mouth: powerful attack, sweet and spicy. Slightly hot even. A jammy fruitiness (apples, pears, gooseberries, apricots) with vanilla, white pepper and ginger. Traces of coconut? Finish: long with fruits, spices and a lingering hint of moccha.

Remember how a Glenburgie 1988 surprised us recently? This younger Asta Morris release is just as nice and it’s cheaper as well. Perfect drinking whisky from a distillery that’s often overlooked. Around € 60.

Score: 89/100


This GlenDronach single cask is not part of the 4th batch. Half of it was bottled for The Nectar a couple of months ago. The rest went to La Maison du Whisky. The bottle says “PX sherry puncheon” while the GlenDronach website claims it was an oloroso butt.

 

GlenDronach 1991 - The Nectar / LMdWGlenDronach 19 yo 1991 (50,4%, OB for The Nectar & LMdW 2011, Pedro Ximenez sherry puncheon #3181, 624 btl.)

Nose: nice sherry, powerful and round. Dried fruits, some nutty notes. Very polished with some waxed furniture, similar to the great GlenDronach 1992 cask #161 in that respect. Blackberry jam and figs, maybe even some black cherries. Sparkling top notes of orange liqueur and mint as well. Rum & raisins. Plenty of good sherry associations. Mouth: rather oily, not really thick or powerful. Starts on dried fruits again, with some added herbal notes and polished oak. Plums. Cocoa. Not extremely complex, but very pleasant. Nice gingerbread and aniseed in the end. Finish: quite long, a little drier, with some tobacco now and some oak and spices.

This cask was an excellent (and pretty safe) choice. It has a few nice touches (oak polish, gingerbread) while remaining within the “classic” profile everyone has come to expect from GlenDronach single casks. Around € 105.

Score: 89/100


I always like the idea of filling two types of casks with the same spirit – it really shows you how big the influence of the wood has been. Be sure to compare this Macallan 1990 from a Fino cask #1135 with its sibling Oloroso cask #1134.

 

Macallan 1990 Fino - Malts of ScotlandMacallan 21 yo 1990  (51,5%, Malts of Scotland 2011, Fino sherry hogshead #1135, 254 btl.)

Nose: again quite aromatic, but drier and flatter and a little less fresh (airing helps). It lacks the sparkling raspberry and juicy fruits (still some apples though). Instead there are plenty of spices and herbs (pepper, nutmeg, aniseed, thyme) as well as some vegetal, earthy and leathery elements. Faint meaty notes (oxo). Some hay and leather. Less classic I would say. Mouth: the roasted notes are more prominent here, they even suggest a little smoke. More oak as well. Heather. Again lots of spices, with bags of pepper, ginger and nutmeg. Bitter notes towards the end (walnuts). Finish: medium long, dry and spicy, with hints of bitter chocolate.

This one is less to my liking, as it plays the card of pepper and dry herbs without having the juicy fruitiness to balance it. Around € 120.

Score: 81/100


Among the new series by Malts of Scotland there are two bottlings of sherried Macallan 1990. One of them is matured in an Oloroso sherry cask (usually medium sweet), the other one in a Fino cask (usually drier).

 

Macallan 1990 Oloroso - Malts of ScotlandMacallan 21 yo 1990 (49,1%,
Malts of Scotland 2011, Oloroso sherry hogshead #1134, 184 btl.)

Nose: very aromatic, nicely sweet and balanced with the sherry. Apples and stewed fruits. Caramel. Rum & raisins, raspberry liqueur. Still some of the original malt underneath the sherry. A fine layer of fresh herbs and nuts. Tiny bits of menthol. All of this rounded by some polished oak. Very nice. Mouth: sets off with plenty of bittersweet spices and oranges. Quite peppery and gingery. Roasted nuts. Liquorice and coffee. Some oak. With all this bitterness and herbalness, it takes a while before the dried fruits are noticeable again and it’s never really rounded anyway. Finish: medium long, rather dry with cocoa notes and spices.

I really liked the nose, but on the palate the spicy theme gets a little strong. Let’s find out how it compares to the Fino. Around € 120.

Score: 86/100


Luc TimmermansLast night I went to an event that I always look forward to: a whisky tasting chez Luc Timmermans, composed with whisky from his own (legendary) stash. It was a surprise tasting so we didn’t know what to expect.

As an aperitif, we tried the Glen Elgin 1984 by Thosop, a nice dram with fruity, waxy and mineral notes on the nose, joined by some herbs and soft bitter notes on the palate.

 

Then it turned out the theme was Caperdonich 1972.

Here’s the line-up:

  • Caperdonich 1972 (46%, G&M 2010, Connoisseurs Choice)
  • Caperdonich 1972 (46%, G&M 2011, Connoisseurs Choice)
  • Caperdonich 35 yo 1972 (48,3%, The Whisky Fair, 188 btl.)
  • Caperdonich 38 yo 1972 (53,6%, DT RoR, cask #7440, 181 btl.)
  • Caperdonich 38 yo 1972 (57,4%, Malts of Scotland, cask #1144, 98 btl.)
  • Caperdonich 38 yo 1972 (58,4%, Whisky Agency Perfect Dram, 145 btl.)
  • Caperdonich 39 yo 1972 (52,8%, Whisky Agency Private Stock, 57 btl.)

I had already tried most of them, except for the first two and the last one. The Gordon & MacPhail bottlings stood out because of their rather heavy sherry influence. At first I really liked them, but they came out last in our ranking as the refill sherry of the other releases suits the natural Caperdonich fruitiness much better.

Not everyone agreed on the rest of the ranking, but the recent release in the Private Stock series won the battle with a surprisingly unanimous vote. Indeed it’s marginally better than the Perfect Dram version which Luc, Johan and myself raved about no so long ago. Don’t bother looking for it, it’s gone already and I don’t even have a bottle myself.

 

By the way, I’m planning a big Caperdonich 1972 line-up myself with at least 24 versions waiting to be sampled. This will also include the 1972 DT for The Nectar which some people think of as the benchmark Caperdonich.


While the first Octomore releases had long waiting lists, the latest bottling is still widely available three months after it arrived in stores. It takes the phenol levels even further (first 131 ppm, then 140 and 152, now 167 ppm).

In another glass, I have the original Octomore 1.1 to compare.

 

Octomore 4.1 167ppmOctomore 5 yo 04.1
(62,5%, OB 2010, 167 ppm, 15.000 btl.)

Nose: the new one is hotter and sharper than the first release. I wouldn’t say it seems peatier, on the contrary, the sharpness blocks some aromas and brings out a more biscuity side. It even seems younger (with more apple peel and synthetic sweetness). No ashtray blast, no garage smells. Some almonds, soft vanilla and herbal notes instead (heather, juniper). Rounder, more citrusy, more aromatic, but less smoky and peaty (yes, that may sound contradictory). Mouth: very clean, oily and intense. It feels like it has an anaesthetic effect? Tarry and grassy with a peppery hotness, but again a less mind-boggling intensity than Octomore 1.1. Heather notes again with herbal tea. Faint anti-septic notes. More plain smoke now, still accompanied by a slightly artificial fruitiness. Finish: medium long, with a veil of smoke and the lingering candied notes.

 

I wouldn’t have guessed this is the peatiest dram around. Not sure why, but the first release seems smokier and peatier, on the nose as well as in the mouth. Even though it’s not a bad dram, shouldn’t we conclude the new one is less impressively experimental and less true to the concept? Around € 100.

Score: 84/100


No need to tell you peat-smoked Springbank is actually the same as Longrow. But independent bottlers like Berry Bros & Rudd are not allowed to mention that on the label, so they have to call it peated Springbank.

This is the second peat-smoked Springbank from BBR, after sister cask #71 bottled in 2009.

 

Springbank 1992 peat-smokedSpringbank 1992 ‘Peat-smoked’
(46%, Berry Bros & Rudd 2011, cask #61)

Nose: smooth and subtly peated, quite oily with some medicinal elements as well as more aromatic, fruity notes. Tangerine, pear and melon, I would say. Quite coastal as well, with iodine, wet sand and chalk. Wet wool. A little eucalyptus. Graphite. Hints of sweet lemon. Very clean and finely chiselled but not too austere, with the soft peat completely mixed with the rounder elements. Not too far from the legendary 1970’s Ardbegs in that respect, which is quite an achievement. Mouth: also quite oily, with the same elements we saw on the nose. Again perfectly in the middle between austere and rounded. A soft bitterness, a soft sweetness and a soft peatiness, how’s that for balance? Fresh lemon. Mineral notes. Soft spices (pepper, ginger and a pinch of salt). Cold ashes. Finish: long and powerful, still mineral with some sweet lemon and soot.

In case you’ve missed cask #71, here’s a perfect replacement. Is it indecent to hope for a cask strength version one day? That could be out of this world. Around € 110.

Score: 90/100


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Coming up

  • Ardmore Zionwood (21 Drams)
  • Clynelish Select Reserve
  • Mortlach 18 Year Old
  • Benromach 5 Year Old

1706 notes by Ruben

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