Single malt whisky - tasting notes

There are several versions of this Mortlach 1936 bottled by Gordon & MacPhail. It’s one of the youngest I could find, other bottlings are 45 or even 50 years old. G&M released an impressive amount of 1930’s Mortlach over the years.

 

Mortlach 1936 G&MMortlach 35 yo 1936 (43%, G&M Connoisseur’s Choice for Pinerolo Import 1972, 75 cl)

Nose: wow, very fragrant. The more ‘direct’ notes are those of old leather, coal smoke, prunes and library dust. There’s a sherried fruitiness, with fruit compote and plum jam, but it’s pushed aside by this lovely pre-war style of coals, herbs and oils. I couldn’t possibly mention everything, but I also noted eucalyptus, pine resin, fruit cake, camphor, tobacco, herbal liqueur, raspberry ganache, mint, cedar, caramelized sugar… All of this on a background of typical 1940’s-1950’s blend notes. Mouth: the first thing that struck me was “babelutte”, a kind of hard butter toffee typical for the Belgian coast. Quite spectacular. Then the other notes appear: smoke, wax, sultanas, almonds, mint, red fruit gums, Turkish delight… It keeps developing on toffee / mocha / chocolate notes, really great. Hardly any oak, hardly any bitter notes, no dryness whatsoever – rather perfect. Maybe a few metallic notes but very few considering it spent nearly 40 years in glass. Actually it’s an asset here. Finish: really long, with smoke and soft resin. Hints of tea as well.

It doesn’t require an elaborate conclusion to know this was exceptional. Pre-war whisky, from directly fired stills, with old-style sherry and smoke harmoniously mixed. Try to taste this kind of whisky before it’s gone forever! Value of the bottle: not sure, around € 1000? Heartfelt thanks Johannes.

Score: 95/100


Glenfarclas cask 697You know that expression “you can’t stand on one leg”? Expect a few more celebration drams in the next couple of days.

This Glenfarclas 1968 cask #697 was selected by Luc Timmermans who previously selected cask #699 (Fino) and #702 / #5240 (Cream + Fino). All of these are 1968 casks of which he has been monitoring the evolution for a couple of years now.

This cask was previously used by Pedro Domecq to mature manzanilla, the most peculiar type of sherry, with a dry, briny and delicate profile – a coastal Fino so to speak. This type of wine is made exclusively in the charming seaside town called Sanlúcar de Barrameda.

 

Glenfarclas 1968 cask 697Glenfarclas 43 yo 1968 (47,5%, OB Family Cask ‘selected by Luc Timmermans’, Manzanilla cask #697, 133 btl.)

Nose: great nose, on aromatic fruits (kumquats, Seville oranges, peach pits, guava, yellow plums, grapes – not the usual oloroso sherry fruits) and beautiful waxy / mineral notes (paraffin, scented balm). Buttercups. Quite some spices (nutmeg, mint) as well as nicely integrated, polished oak. Light tobacco. Mouth: half sweet, half spicy. The fruits are more pronounced now, more jammy with slightly more tropical hints. Soft pepper and ginger, hints of eucalyptus. Distant traces of nuts. Growing savoury, more oaky and slightly bitter towards the end. Finish: long, with lingering fruit, chamomile tea (or is that the power of suggestion?) and drying spices. Indeed, there’s also a faint salty edge.

Another impressively complex Glenfarclas from 1968. It’s a little more ‘intellectual’ than the previous two, but it’s also more unique. The price is higher, perhaps because of the official label and the cardboard box: around € 380. Cheers Luc!

Score: 93/100


Note n°750 on this blog so let’s dig up something special for the occasion. And special it is, no doubt: a Laphroaig 10 years bottled in 1968. Yes, that’s 1950’s distillation! It’s bottled in clear glass, look at that colour…

Ardbeg collector Geert Bero managed to find a pristine case (!) of these beauties in the States (most of them rotation 1967 actually). Some people have all the luck… Well done of course and I was happy to able to taste it.

 

Laphroaig 10 (1968 Carlton)Laphroaig 10 yo (91,4 US Proof, OB 1968, 4/5 quart, Imported by The Carlton Company)

Nose: peatheads would be disappointed. No big fireworks. Instead it evokes tobacco leaves, cigar ashes in water and unlit coal bricks. All of this mixed with a lovely almond sweetness and even buttery pastry notes. Quite rounded and definitely sherried. There’s a whole range of tiny micro-notes as well: motor oil, leather, turpentine, tea, sea air, dust… Stunningly delicate old Laphroaig. Mouth: quite punchy and briney / salty. Then it grows sweeter with tobacco again (reminds me of the pralines with Havana leaves by Dominique Persoone). Smoked tea. A little toffee maybe. Hints of lemon. Relatively peaty for such an old malt with a slight earthiness in the very end. Great combination with the silky nose. Finish: long, rather sweet and smoky with toffee and liquorice.

This shouldn’t be evaluated like modern malts. The nose is exceptional: delicate and aromatic at the same time. On the palate there’s slightly less complexity but it’s still very beautiful. A lovely piece of history. Thanks Geert!

Score: 94/100


A couple of weeks ago, the Edrington Group sold Tamdhu distillery to Ian Macleod. In 2003, the same companies already exchanged Glengoyne. We can probably expect Tamdhu to be reopened in the near future. It was closed since 2009.

 

Tamdhu 1990 Liquid SunTamdhu 21 yo 1990 (48,1%, Liquid Sun 2011, sherry butt, 312 btl.)

Nose: heavy sherry with lots of dates, roasted nuts and chocolate notes. Rum & raisins. Prune jam. Soft meaty hints but nothing dirty here. Burnt sugar. Oranges. Similar to the Tamdhu 1990 by Malts of Scotland. Mouth: a thick mixture of sweet notes (syrup, moscovado sugar, dried fruits) and more savoury notes (herbs, slightly bitter chocolate, cinchona). Some eucalyptus and liquorice. Cocoa and roasted chestnuts. Obviously some wood as well (how else would it get this colour, right?). Finish: long, bittersweet with liquorice and dark coffee. Slowly drying.

Very heavy sherry, a bit too much for my taste actually and better suited for the winter time. On the other hand, it’s quite flawless and I’m sure it’s spot-on for markets with lots of sherry lovers. Around € 80.

Score: 86/100


This Glen Scotia 1992 was distilled in a problematic period. Between 1979 and 1999, this Campbeltown distillery was only operational for 7 years. It is part of the latest series by A. Dewar Rattray. It’s only half of the cask by the way, so we can expect the other half to be bottled on a later moment.

 

Glen Scotia 1992Glen Scotia 19 yo 1992 (59,6%, A.D. Rattray 2011, sherry butt #2 (part), 359 btl.)

Nose: a dirty start (some rubber, sulphur and organics) although it gets better after some breathing. Typical huge sherry: dried prunes, blackberry pie, walnuts, raisins… Some roasted malt notes and faint smoke in the background. Leather. Hints of mulchy leaves as well. Mouth: just as sherried. A slightly salty dryness alternates with a herbal sweetness (Ricola bonbons). Dry fruits. Roasted chestnuts and oak. Balsamic syrup. Some nice mocha as well. Plenty of caramel flavours. Reminds me of some 1950-1960’s blends in a way. Finish: quite long and dry, on spices, bitter chocolate and oak.

Difficult to assess, although I think it’s more consistent than the Glen Scotia 1992 by Malts of Scotland. You could argue it’s over-sherried with little distillery character left, but if you’re looking for a sherry monster, then it’s quite interesting. Around € 85. Distributed in Belgium by Jurgen’s Whiskyhuis.

Score: 82/100


I had another Laphroaig 1990 hanging around, let’s try it against the Private Stock release. This one has considerably less alcohol, not sure if it has been brought down by adding water.

 

Laphroaig 1990 Whisky-DorisLaphroaig 20 yo 1990 (47,3%, Whisky-Doris 2011, bourbon hogshead #10873, 225 btl.)

Nose: a more buttery version again, with some cake and soft vanilla underneath the coastal / medicinal notes. Even a farmy edge that I didn’t find in the other releases. Nice. But mind you, differences are subtle. Mouth: a tad softer due to the lesser strength. Briny, with sweet peat and smoked fish. Almonds. Definitely rounder and sweeter than the Private Stock. A hint of cocoa. Finish: long, smoky and salty with a marzipan coating.

All these 1990’s are similar and it will be down to your personaly preference if you were to pick a favourite. Personally I like a little sweetness to counter the coastal austerity. This one has a perfect drinking strength of course, so no need to fiddle with water. Around € 110 – now sold out.

Score: 90/100

 

ps/ All these similar Laphroaigs, whether they are 1990 or 1998 or 2000, are getting a little boring. Laphroaig is one of these distilleries with a high quality in general combined with a very small deviation.

I wonder if it’s a good thing for independent bottler to release so many nearly identical casks at the same time? Personally I haven’t bought any of them, simply because I never get the feeling of a unique opportunity. If I’d wish to buy one tomorrow, I think I wouldn’t have difficulty finding similar quality again.


This Laphroaig 1990 was bottled by The Whisky Agency in association with The Whisky Exchange (their first joint bottling as far as I know). I’ve only seen it available from German shops so far, but I expect we’ll see it arrive at TWE as well in the near future.

We’ll compare it to the Laphroaig 1990 by Malts of Scotland, bottled earlier this year and one of my favourite 1990’s so far. Tomorrow we’ll match it to another bottling.

 

Laphroaig 1990 Private StockLaphroaig 21 yo 1990 (55,9%, The Whisky Agency & The Whisky Exchange ‘Private Stock’ 2011, bourbon hogshead, 264 btl.)

Nose: starts very similar, with maritime hints (seaweed, oysters) and smoke. It evolves to a fresher profile though, with more lemon and almost none of the banana / cake / vanilla notes of the MoS version. More classical we’d say. Some green apple. Almonds. Soft medicinal notes in the background. Very clean overall. Mouth: quite dry, with oily elements, smoke, iodine and lemon. A pinch of salt. Liquorice. Slightly leafy towards the end. Balancing citrus. Definitely less sweet and rounded than the one from MoS, and more focused on coastal elements. Finish: long and dry, with salty notes, lemon zest and liquorice.

I’ve always had the impression ‘Private Stock’ was kind of a premium label within the TWA releases. While this Laphroaig is very good, I’m missing kind of a “wow” factor compared to other 1990’s even from the same bottler. Anyway the price is the same as before and the quality is certainly up there, so maybe I’m just confused by the label. Around € 120.

Score: 89/100


Last year several independent bottlers released one or more Inchgower 1974 casks (Whisky-Doris and Thosop as well as Dewar Rattray, The Whisky Agency, Douglas Laing, Daily Dram…).

You may say Master of Malt is coming late with their Inchgower, but it has to be applauded their version was available for around € 85 while the others were around € 150!

 

Inchgower 1974 Master of MaltInchgower 36 yo 1974 (53,4%, Master of Malt 2011, refill sherry hogshead)

Nose: nice old-style Speyside, with a little more vanilla than other 1974 releases. A lot of lemon balm and paraffin. Honey. Old oak. Dried flowers and soft spices (cinnamon, mint). A little leather. There’s also a lovely chalky dampness to it, even some coastal hints. Great complexity. Mouth: starts with a zesty fruitiness (oranges, lemon) and punchy spices (pepper, ginger, aniseed, mint). Big citrus notes. Still some waxy notes and leather. Hints of herbal tea towards the end. Even better (slightly rounder) with a drop of water. Finish: long and warming with citrus and spices standing out.

A high quality Inchgower again, very complex and certainly on par with the ones we’ve seen before. Think about the price and you know this was an unbelievable bargain! It was sold out, then it came back (06/08/2011), now I’m pretty sure it’s sold out completely…

Score: 90/100


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  • SK: And just to prove a point, all of the bottles are still available in places where they usually run out. Lets see how many will be still available whe
  • SK: 2 years ago I tried the Caol Ila 1982 from Archives. What a fantastic whisky. Since then I always try to stock these Caol Ila from the 80s. Sadly no
  • WhiskyNotes: The real problem is that Caol Ila isn't selling (mature) casks to independent bottlers any more, from what I've heard, so chances are low we'll see mo

Coming up

  • Inchgower 1975 (Maltbarn)
  • Octomore 6.3 258ppm
  • Peated Irish 1991 (Eiling Lim)
  • Ardbeg 1974 for Christmas
  • Spirit of Freedom 30 Years
  • Elements of Islay Cl7
  • Benromach 5 Year Old

1680 notes by Ruben

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