Single malt whisky - tasting notes

Whisky enthusiasts are sometimes joking about Jura – the distillery doesn’t have a solid reputation, although there have definitely been some excellent versions in the past. From what I’ve heard, the recent Jura 1976 ‘Feith A’ Chaorainn’ is also worth a try (but probably not worth € 650).

This Isle of Jura 1988 was bottled from a bourbon cask, although the colour could easily trick you into thinking it was a sherry cask. The final bottling in the Romantique series.

 

Jura 1988 Whisky AgencyIsle of Jura 23 yo 1988 (52,9%, The Whisky Agency ‘Romantique’ 2011, ex-bourbon hogshead, 201 btl.)

Nose: nicely aromatic. There are ripe fruity notes (oranges, berries) but overall it’s fairly dry, heathery and nutty and it shows a distinct coastal character. Very gentle peat, traces of iodine and light camphor. Hints of tobacco, leather and dried herbs. Cocoa. Great surprise. Mouth: good weight, starting on a herbal sweetness. Lovely old peat and smoke in the background. Light pepper. Faint medicinal elements again. Balances nicely with rounded chocolate, dried oranges and soft spices. Finish: long, drier and earthier, with oranges, cocoa and soft oak.

A great surprise indeed. I would have sworn there are traces of old-style sherried Islay whisky in here. A recent jewel coming from Jura, was anyone expecting this? Well priced as well: around € 110. Highly recommended.

Score: 91/100


It seems the overall quality of this latest Romantique series by The Whisky Agency is very high again. Here’s another one, a 35 years old Dailuaine.

 

Dailuaine 1976 Whisky AgencyDailuaine 35 yo 1976 (50,5%, The Whisky Agency ‘Romantique’ 2011, ex-bourbon hogshead, 148 btl.)

Nose: beautiful, with lots of warm oak and soft turpentine. Wax polish and beehive notes. Some citrus (oranges, pink grapefruit) and ripe banana. Hints of dried flowers. A hint of vanilla, cinnamon and mint as well. Quite complex and very elegant. Mouth: hmm, focuses directly on Seville oranges although there are other fruits and a little vanilla as well. Pretty oaky with an obvious bitterish side. Evolves to a soft peppery / herbal palate. Hints of fruit tea. Finish: long with oranges, ginger, a fair amount of drying oak and a nice nuttiness.

Indeed, high quality again. There’s some firm oak in this Dailuaine but it’s still within limits. Around € 180.

Score: 87/100


Hotel Bero - Ardbeg 1991This 20 year-old Ardbeg (distilled February 1991) was bottled by Malts of Scotland for Hotel Bero in Ostend (owned by Lindores member Geert Bero and the location for the Lindores Whisky Fest). Anyone can try it in the hotel bar, but you can only buy a bottle when you are sleeping at the hotel.

It was presented at the Lindores Whisky Fest last weekend and I heard some discussions about the price. Many people wondered how a 20 year-old whisky could be worth € 225, but remember sherried Ardbegs are thinly scattered. Douglas Laing released a 1991 refill cask earlier this year and that was rather scandalously priced at € 450. So yes, it is expensive but relatively cheap at the same time. Ardbeg is not selling casks to independent bottlers any more, so I’m afraid the times of affordable medium-aged sherry cask Ardbegs are now officially over!

 

Ardbeg 1991 Hotel Bero - Malts of ScotlandArdbeg 20 yo 1991 (48,4%, Malts of Scotland for Hotel Bero 2011, sherry hogshead #MoS 11003, 240 btl.)

Nose: balanced nose with excellent notes of old ashes and tar on the one hand and rounded, chocolaty notes on the other hand. Sweet almonds and rhubarb compote. Figs. Lovely tobacco leaves. Old leather. Relatively soft iodine and hints of camphor. Complex, not extremely big (which is a good thing – it’s not over-sherried nor over-peated) and quite brilliant. Mouth: starts rich and oily with sweet peat smoke. Again some almonds, now mixed with dried fruits and lemon drops. Some herbal notes. The smoke grows stronger, the soft tar shows up again. No brute forces here, it’s all about integrating the different flavours. Finish: long on dried fruits and smoke with a softly coastal edge.

The sherry complements the whisky very well, and the harmonious qualities might actually justify the price in my opinion. Available at the Hotel Bero for € 225.

Score: 91/100


Lindores Whisky FestToday is a big day. I’m heading to the Lindores Whisky Fest. Usually this is an open festival, renowned for its selection of legendary old bottlings, but this year (due to construction works in the Bero Hotel), it’s on invitation.

Anyone could suggest a bottle that he wished to donate for the occasion, and about 50 people were selected to join in. The Glenrothes 1979 single cask #3808 will be my entrance ticket.

Apart from the list of donations, all the bottles in the Lindores vaults will be available to try.

 

Lindores Whisky Fest

Lindores Whisky LoungeIt was a great day. The concept worked fine, with enough space in the lounge to move around freely and talk with different people. There were around 50 bottles from participants (left part of the stand – click the polaroid to see the full picture) and at least the same amount from the Lindores vaults.

All of the bottles were high quality and some of them truly legendary. It would be impossible to mention everything I’ve tasted – the 1cl micro-drams allowed you to try as many different things as possible – but here are some of the highlights…

 

  • Bowmore 31 yo 1957/1988 (40%, Hart Brothers)

    Very fruity and slightly exotic Bowmore, soft but showing a lovely profile.

  • Springbank 25 yo (46%, OB, Archibald Mitchell, dumpy bottle)

    Among the best Springbanks I’ve tried so far. Similar style to the well-known 21 years old.

  • Glenfarclas 21 yo (51,5%, OB for Pinerolo)

    The best Glenfarclas ever, according to some people. Maybe not the absolute stunner I was expecting, but still a hugely complex and attractive Glenfarclas.

  • BenRiach 34 yo 1976/2011 (48,2%, OB cask #3033 for Taiwan)

    Wow! Not far from the best 1976’s out there. Even cask #3557 for LMdW couldn’t put it to shame.

  • Caperdonich 39 yo 1972/2011 (52,8%, Whisky Agency Private Stock)

    Confirmed itself as one of the best Caper 1972’s.

  • Glenugie 31 yo 1980/2011 “Exotic scenes in a Bedouin tent” (48,3%, SMWS 99.13)

    Very fruity, slightly oriental. Very unique and hugely complex. Don’t underestimate Glenugie!

  • Ben Nevis 40 yo 1963/2004 (45,7%, Douglas Laing Platinum)

    Rather superb Ben Nevis with the usual lipstick, oranges and bourbon notes. Nothing to complain about.

  • Glenfarclas 1965 cask sample

    The last 1965 cask in the Glenfarclas warehouses and probably one of the next bottlings by Luc Timmermans. Better than the first 1965 Family Cask and the 1965/1999 cask #3897 by The Bottlers that were also available.

  • Highland Park 30 yo 1956/1986 (55,6%, G&M for Intertrade)

    Stunning Highland Park: smoky, fruity, chocolaty.

 

No doubt I’m forgetting to mention a couple of beauties. It didn’t end with exceptional single malts either. What to say of this…

  • Johnnie Walker Red Label rotation 1924
  • Toro Albala Don P.X. 1947
    (55+ years old Pedro Ximenez wine from the Montilla Moriles D.O.)
  • Boal Barbeito 1938 Madeira wine
  • Gosling’s Bermuda Old Rum
  • 1983 Gewürztraminer Magnum
    from Olivier Humbrecht’s Rangen de Thann vineyard

Also, congratulations to Johan & Koen for becoming new Lindores members.


 

Glen Scotia 1966 SignatoryGlen Scotia 27 yo 1966 (51,5%, Signatory Vintage 1994, cask #1271-1272, 480 btl.)

Nose: starts a little austere. Mineral and waxy with a sharp orange aroma. Some leafy and salty notes. After a while it grows sweeter and rounder (almonds, yellow raisins, hints of figs and buttercups). Some herbs. Underneath is a turpentine / gasoline smell and subtle peat – how wonderful. Mouth: quite oily and peaty with a dry profile. Salty as well with a slightly bitter grassiness. Ginger. Walnut skin. There’s a sweet note of dried fruits but too much in the background to balance the austerity. Finish: long, very salty, slighty bitter with quite some wood.

It’s always a delight to taste this old-style Campbeltown profile. The nose is glorious, too bad it’s rather bitter and even slightly spirity on the palate. Long gone. Thanks Bert.

Score: 88/100


Whisky Agency RomantiqueThere’s still uncertainty about Imperial. Like Glen Keith (owned by Chivas Brothers as well), the distillery is currently closed but there are rumours that it could be restarted in the near future. Both have produced some nice whisky, but Glen Keith is probably in a better state and could be reopened more easily. Time will tell.

This Imperial 1990 is part of the Romantique series by The Whisky Agency. Unique labels again. I’m expecting high quality based on the reputation of many Imperial 1990 casks bottled by Duncan Taylor.

 

Imperial 1990 (Whisky Agency Romantique)Imperial 21 yo 1990 (52,7%, The Whisky Agency ‘Romantique’ 2011, ex-bourbon hogshead, 233 btl.)

Nose: sweet with juicy butter pears, pineapple candy and plenty of vanilla powder. Crème anglaise, some white chocolate as well. Marzipan and roasted almonds. Apples with cinnamon. Quite thick. Mouth: big bodied with similar aromas. Sweet and slightly sticky fruits (orange marmalade, ripe pear) with pleasant spices (light pepper, cinnamon, ginger). Balanced oak. Generous dashes of honey. Apple pie. Finish: medium long, still the same profile of fruit pie, honey and spices.

A thick and juicy Imperial with buttery vanilla and spices from the oak. Not much evolution but very enjoyable. Around € 105.

Score: 88/100


I’ve seen a couple of outstanding Glenrothes 1970 releases by Duncan Taylor, DTRA cask #10574 and DTRA cask #10567 for The Nectar. Today we’re having a bottle from the latest Romantique series by The Whisky Agency.

 

Glenrothes 1970 Whisky AgencyGlenrothes 41 yo 1970 (47,7%, The Whisky Agency ‘Romantique’ 2011, ex-bourbon hogshead, 197 btl.)

Nose: quite brilliant! Lots of fruit jams, tangerine, apricot pie, pineapple. Plenty of honey and touches of beeswax. Hints of vanilla pastry. Some buttercups. After a while it gets a tad more spicy and herbal with mint, soft ginger and thyme. Leather. And even bigger hints of juicy apricots. Mouth: creamy start, still plenty of fruits at first (oranges, banana) with waxy notes. Some coconut. The oak then starts to move forward. It throws in some spices (ginger, soft pepper, gingerbread) but no excessive dryness. Some fruit liqueurs and fruit tea in the end. Finish: long, half spicy, half fruity. Mainly oranges now and oak.

A great Glenrothes that combines a nice fruit basket with balanced oak. Too bad the price has taken quite a hike recently. Around € 235.

Score: 90/100


Like the often praised 1993 vintage, 1994 is not a common year for Bowmore. The distillery was being taken over by Suntory and worked on a lower regime at that time.

Sister casks #564, 565, 567, 568, 569, 571, 572, 573 (filled on the same day as this #570) have all been bottled in the Signatory Un-Chillfiltered Collection in 2010 and 2011, in twin cask releases. The cask for Belgium has been selected in 2 masterclasses hosted by Signatory’s Des McCagherty while he was in Belgium at the end of April 2011.

 

Bowmore 1994 SV Nectar BelgiumBowmore 17 yo 1994 (48,8%, Signatory Vintage for The Nectar Belgium 2011, hogshead #570, 227 btl.)

Nose: clean and fresh but not very mature. There are coastal notes to be found (kippers, seashells), faint medicinal notes and pleasant  fruits (lemon, apple, some green banana). Hints of eucalyptus and very nice tobacco. Medium peat and a little wet wool. Quite gentle and not extremely expressive, but I like it a lot. Mouth: again not extremely powerful. Starts sweet, slightly rooty and herbal with pepper and peat. Lots of coastal notes. Smoked tea. Lemon candy. Also flowery hints and some carbolic soap (bummer). Finish: long, salty (liquorice) and peaty with the bitterness of lemon zest.

Around € 70 while several UCF releases are still available for around € 40.

Score: 82/100


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Coming up

  • Yamazaki 12 Year Old
  • Langatun Old Bear peated
  • Laphroaig An Cuan Mor
  • Fettercairn 1990 (Liquid Library)
  • Tomatin 1997 (Liquid Library)
  • Karuizawa 1981 Sakura #158
  • Karuizawa 1981 (cask #6207)
  • Karuizawa 1984 (cask #3692)

1730 notes by Ruben

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