Single malt whisky - tasting notes

Arran Machrie Moor

10 Feb 2011 | Arran

This is the peated Arran. Since 2004, the distillery produced some mildly peated spirit (14 ppm phenols) and now a limited release of 9000 bottles is made available.


Arran Machrie MoorArran Machrie Moor
(46%, OB 2011, 9000 btl.)

Nose: the expected notes of a very young whisky: sweet malt, pear drops, some coconut. Artificial in its fruitiness. The peat comes second, it’s more of a mild grassy / smokey undertone. A few yeasty notes as well. Topped off by fresh citrus. Mouth: overly sour start (lemon), then some peat smoke, then back to sweeter notes like apple candy. Fades on a bitter (tonic) & salty (liquorice) combo. The palate has the same problem as the nose: it tries a lot of different tricks but none of them really work. Finish: now developing an enjoyable pastry-like quality alongside the peat smoke.

This Arran Machrie Moor is clearly not about heavy peat, it’s not about juicy fruits, it’s not about complexity, it’s not about balance… I fear this is simply a way to widen the range, like the wine finishes. I’d stick to the Arran Peacock or
Arran 14yo. Around € 40.

Score: 70/100

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Yesterday’s Lochside 1981 by The Whisky Agency is a perfect sparring partner for this recent Lochside 1981 released by the German shop
Whisky-Doris. Both fino casks, probably sister casks.


Lochside 1981 (Whisky-Doris)Lochside 29 yo 1981 (58,8%, Whisky-Doris 2010, fino butt #960, 403 btl.)

Nose: very similar to the Whisky Agency cask, only slightly less austere. A tad more fruity notes and definitely more spices (white pepper, ginger, nutmeg). Still nicely coastal. Some pastry notes, fruits (whitecurrant), a bit of smoke. Walnuts. There’s an organic side to it as well (asparagus and other cooked vegetables) but luckily it’s subtle and it seems to come and go. Mouth: punchy and full-bodied, with plenty of spices backed up by fruit. Again a little less extreme than the Whisky Agency cask, which is a plus in my opinion. Lemon zest, hints of ginger. White chocolate and almonds. Finish: quite long and spicy with some liquorice and candied lemon zest.

Although this one is clearly related to the Whisky Agency release, it’s a bit more accessible and even more to my preference. Good news: still available from Whisky-Doris (for € 150).

Score: 89/100


Fino casks are uncommon for whisky maturation. This unoxidized style of sherry is usually bone-dry and not really suited for shipping so most of the production (and casks) stayed in Spain.

Occasionally, a fino matured whisky turns up, like this Lochside 1981 which is one of a whole series of Lochsides bottled by The Whisky Agency in Germany. We’ll compare it to a similar Lochside by Whisky-Doris tomorrow.


Lochside 1981 Whisky Agency (fino)Lochside 29 yo 1981 (52,7%, Whisky Agency ‘Still Lifes’ 2010, fino hogshead, 275 btl.)

Nose: very peculiar mix of oil and gas, sourish butter, yeast, some hay and clay. Wet gravel and stone dust. A few metallic notes and graphite. It tends towards fruity notes at times (subtle gooseberry, lemon) but overall it’s mostly mineral and far from sensual. Some (clean) match heads as well. Mouth: an austere profile again (lemon peel, ginger, salt water). Quite punchy with some pepper and allspice. Hints of tonic. A tad sweeter when water is added, but it never really becomes smooth, until… the finish: not too long but surprisingly rounded compared to the palate.

Very complex whisky with a unique old-style profile.
As a consequence, it’s also quite challenging -
not everyone will like this (but I do). Around € 150. Sold out.

Score: 87/100


Creative Whisky CompanyCreative Whisky Company is an independent bottler specialising in single casks, all picked by the owner
David Stirk. He’s a former whisky writer for Whisky Magazine who also worked for Cadenhead. The names of the bottling ranges are easy to confuse: Exclusive Malts, Exclusive Range and Exclusive Cask.

We’re now tasting an exclusive Macduff 2000 bottled exclusively for our Belgian retailer The Exclusive Bonding Dram. It was chosen from a series of cask samples by founder Jeroen and a team of Bonding Dram enthusiasts. It’s bottled at cask strength and presented in a nicely designed box.


Macduff 2000 Bonding DramMacduff 10 yo 2000 (56,5%, Creative Whisky Co. for The Bonding Dram, sherry butt #3525, 200 btl.)

Nose: juicy start with cooked fruits and tinned fruits on syrup. Then slowly growing spicier (mainly cinnamon) with some Mexican chocolate disks. Gingerbread cake. Some nutty aromas and raisins. Baked apples. A lovely sherry profile. Water makes it slightly more fragrant and brings out oranges. Mouth: good attack, sweet, now with the same spices really up front. A light peppery prickle. Rum & raisins, figs, prunes. Also fresher fruits (berries and apples). Nice, and best without water. Finish: long and spicy with some Mon Cherie notes.

Available from The Bonding Dram for € 50. Great price / quality – recommended if you’re into fresh and juicy sherry. You can also buy a sample if you want to try it.

Score: 89/100


Villa KonthorThe Villa Konthor is an important part of the whisky community in Limburg (Germany). It is also the perfect place to try Whisky Agency / Daily Dram bottlings or chill out after the yearly Whisky Fair.

Location: Werner-Senger-Straße 23, 65549 Limburg an der Lahn (Germany)
Range: +/- 500 single malts (menu available on their website)
Price: € 4 to € 15 (2cl)

What I’ve had: Longmorn 35 yo 1975 (Daily Dram)
Glass: tulip

Pros: uncommon whiskies, knowledgeable staff, good pricing,
bottles for sale as well
Cons: none that I know of


Gordon & MacPhailAfter the Speymalt Macallan 1970 cask #8326 that won a 2009 Malt Maniacs Award, this sibling Macallan 1970 cask #10031 won a Gold Medal as well at the 2010 MM Awards (for Best Sherry cask).

A 39 years old Macallan bottled by Gordon & MacPhail for La Maison du Whisky. Here we go!


Macallan 1970/2010 cask 10031Macallan ‘Speymalt’ 1970 (46%, Gordon & MacPhail for LMdW 2010, first fill sherry hogshead #10031)

Nose: (old) Macallan + sherry = magical richness.  Apricot tartlets, prunes and dates. Some fresh red fruits. Mint, cinnamon and hints of sweet ginger. Some heather and fir-tree honey. Dusty books in the background – lovely. Mouth: vivid, with plenty of dry spices (cloves, cardamom). While initially rather rounded, it quickly becomes leathery and a lot oakier. Blackberry liqueur. Some resinous notes. Walnuts and liquorice. Roasted coffee. Very rich. Finish: medium length (only), with forest fruit, resin and spices.

In line with last year’s excellent cask although maybe a tad less sparkling. Not cheap, but acceptable for this age: around € 210. Now sold out.

Score: 90/100


Brackla was founded in 1812. In 1835, it was the first of three distilleries allowed to use “Royal” in its name. It was mothballed from 1985 to 1991 and is now refurbished under Dewar & Sons.


Royal Brackla - Signatory 5413Royal Brackla 25 yo 1975 (55,4%, Signatory Vintage 2001, cask #5413)

Nose: quite waxy and oily. Paraffin. Lemon and flints. Alternating with waves of fruity notes and marmalade. Some hay and walnuts. Gravel and stone dust. Not the most exuberant nose, after all the prominent wax makes it a little subdued, but I love its ‘nakedness’ and sincere style. It’s old and it doesn’t try to disguise it, if you know what I mean. Mouth: strong attack, initially rather sweet but quickly drying. Extremely drying – very oaky and full of pine resin. Getting really bitter as well. Nutmeg, pepper, over-infused tea, grapefruit peel… Bonkers! As if the palate is suddenly flooded by oak. Finish: very bitter. Too long, I would say.

Wow, what a strange dram. I could score this high for a very nice nose and a palate that’s nothing like any other dram I’ve ever tasted. On the other hand, the bitter oak on the palate is completely over the top and deserves something like 50/100. Anyway you’re warned: the score is slightly arbitrary.

Score: 80/100


Although the name Miltonduff is not heard often as a single malt, it is a high-capacity distillery and considered the most important component of the Ballantine’s blend. It’s one of the key plants in the Chivas / Pernod Ricard group. Gordon & MacPhail has semi-official bottlings of Miltonduff such as a regular 10 years old.

As you know, the Lonach series by Duncan Taylor blends one or more underproof casks with stronger sister casks to reach the required 40% limit. As the result is still cask strength, it’s much richer than a cask that has been diluted to the same 40%.


Miltonduff 1971 37y LonachMiltonduff 37 yo 1971 
(40%, Duncan Taylor Lonach 2008)

Nose: beautiful round Speyside elements. Very sophisticated. Big vanilla, some very sweet pineapple, banana and lovely hints of marshmallows! Some honey. Orange gums and cinnamon. Polished oak. Mouth: light but not too soft. Again quite a sweet profile with yellow apples and citrus candy. Pollen and honey. A fair amount of spices from the oak (soft pepper, cinnamon). Some sawdust towards the end. Finish: medium long, on barley sugars, oranges and oak.

This Miltonduff is simply a succulent Speyside whisky. It’s a bit reticent maybe, but very warm and I adore those marshmallow notes! If only
I could find a bottle somewhere. It was around
€ 120 at the time.

Score: 92/100


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1506 notes by Ruben

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