Single malt whisky - tasting notes

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


By now you all know the story: explorer Ernest Shackleton and his crew took a few cases of Mackinlay’s whisky to the Antartic in the 1900’s. The bottles have recently been recovered from the ice and were then analysed in the Invergordon lab. The whisky turned out to be stable and has been recreated by Richard Paterson, the Master Blender of White & MacKay who now own Mackinlay’s. Even the bottle and the packaging are closely related to the originals. A great story! The N.Y. Times published a good article in case you’re interested in finding out more.

As a vatted malt, the Shackleton Replica contains malt whisky from several distilleries in Speyside, the Highlands and the Islands. The oldest is Glen Mhor distilled in 1983, their final year of distillation.

 

Mackinlay's Shackleton replicaMackinlay’s Rare Old Highland malt whisky ‘Shackleton’s Replica’ (47,3%, White & MacKay 2011, 50.000 btl.)

Nose: nice example of a rather light and slightly dusty Highlands profile, albeit in a modern disguise. Some grassy notes with grains, vanilla and walnuts. Slightly shy fruits (apple and pear). Some buttery notes and leather. Hints of spices, mainly ginger and nutmeg. Earthy / leafy notes in the background. Echoes of the old-style. Mouth: delicate balance of sweetness (oranges, honey, caramel) and a bitter grassiness, accompanied by mineral notes. Dry and sweet at the same time really. Again some earthy notes with an elegant hint of smoke. Zesty citrus. Ginger. Finish: medium long and dry, growing more smoky and gingery with a caramel sweetness in the background.

 

It’s getting difficult to find traces of this Highlands profile (old-style à la Coleburn, Glen Mhor, Millburn, Teaninich) and the end result is quite enjoyable. Of course you’re paying a premium for the packaging and marketing, but at least it’s good whisky. Around € 125.

Score: 85/100


This 1994 is the youngest whisky in GlenDronach’s fourth batch of single casks. Last year I was surprised by the GlenDronach 1993 cask #529 which was too dirty for my taste…

 

GlenDronach 1994 cask 97GlenDronach 17 yo 1994 (60,1%, OB 2011, oloroso butt #97, 617 btl.)

Nose: similar. Very mushroomy start, with lots of caramel. Some vegetal and meaty notes (oxo). Lots of roasted hazelnuts. Caramel again. Adding water doesn’t help this slightly sulphury profile, on the contrary. Not my type of whisky, although I want to repeat that these notes can be temporary and letting the bottle breathe for a couple of months can make them disappear. Some pear syrup in the background as well. Mouth: sweet at first, but quickly overtaken by spices and herbs (cloves, pepper, liquorice). Then a wave of wood and dark chocolate. Dry and nutty aftertaste. Water does help on the palate, making it rounder and slightly more fruity. Finish: quite dry and quite long with spices and wood.

I can’t really recommend this one, unless you’re familiar with this style and like your sherry a little dirty. Around € 100.

Score: 77/100


Let’s try another one of these Liquid Sun bottlings that arrived at the beginning of the summer.

 

Tomintoul 1967 Liquid SunTomintoul 43 yo 1967 (49,8%, Liquid Sun 2011, bourbon hogshead, 209 btl.)

Nose: elegant nose with a complex mix of dried apricot, papaya and melon. Some tangerine, maybe lychee. Quite some almond / marzipan notes. Nice spicy notes as well. Mouth: good attack, slightly oily, followed by some soft oak and spices (pepper, nutmeg, cinnamon). Citrus flavours (orange, grapefruit, lemon) and yellow apple. Some leather. Very faint hints of bitterness and salt. Everything is coating in a nice sort of grain dust / flour veil as if it wanted to underscore its age. Finish: medium long, drying now with hints of fruit tea and banana skin.

We already knew Tomintoul from the 1960’s can be great (especially on the nose). Compared to cask #2559 bottled by A.D. Rattray, this one has a similar profile with more punch. Around € 190.

Score: 89/100


At the end of August, together with the six new GlenDronach single casks, BenRiach launched its 8th batch of single casks, twelve in total ranging from a 40yo 1971 to an 18yo 1993.

Eight of them were finished, two were peated. The oldest casks were classic Speyside style, like this BenRiach 1976 cask #6942. Always a highly anticipated vintage for this distillery.

 

BenRiach 1976 cask 6942BenRiach 34 yo 1976 (57,8%, OB 2011, butt #6942, 469 btl.)

This one has a more tawny colour than most 1976’s. I reckon it was a sherry cask? Nose: indeed not the classic 1976 (tropical) fruitiness. More polished oak to begin with. Cedar wood. Leather and some wax. Tobacco. Then the fruit comes out. A lot of juicy plums and raisins. Black cherries. Pastry with apricot marmalade. Whiffs of eucalyptus. A little pepper and cinnamon. Subtle roasted almonds and hazelnuts, maybe even traces of peat smoke? Very faint turpentine. It needs some time but it’s certainly high-class. Mouth: snappy, with roasted nuts again and dried fruits. Quite some spices (cinnamon and nutmeg), herbs and wood. Hints of orange marmalade and Christmas cake. Cherry brandy. Mango? Dark chocolate. Works well, juicy enough and none of the components gets too loud. Finish: drier now, balancing between dried fruits, grapefruit and spices.

This BenRiach 1976 requires a totally different point-of-view than the legendary tropical versions. Then again it’s a pretty great example of its sherry style. Around € 230 – already hard to find.

Score: 91/100


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  • Chris: Based on price and transparency alone I'd pick this over the shoddy HP Dark Origins any day. Benromach continues to win me over. While I may not drink
  • Roberto Sikora: Benromach seem to do great things these days. Thumbs up for an uncommon age statement!
  • Fredrik: I recently made a promise not to buy or try NAS whisky anymore. It will sadly go unnoticed but that´s how I feel about this.

Coming up

  • Michters 10 Year Old
  • Glendronach 1995 #4408 (for TWA)
  • Glenlossie 1992 (Whisky Mercenary)
  • Mackmyra Midnattssol

1710 notes by Ruben

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