Single malt whisky - tasting notes

Mac Bolle is the nickname for Karel Van Wijnendale. I don’t know squat about cycling but I’ve been told he’s a sports journalist and the founder of the classic Tour of Flanders. To honour him (and the 100th Anniversary of the Tour in 2012), Whisky Import Belux and The Bonding Dram have bottled two whiskies sold by the city of Torhout.

The other bottling is a 14 years old Bowmore 1997. I’ll review that one later.

 

Mac Bolle's Aberlour 1994Aberlour 16 yo 1994 (46%, Whisky Import Belux & The Bonding Dram 2011, bourbon hogshead #8825, 279 btl.)

Nose: fresh and aromatic with a pleasant rounded fruitiness. Big notes of apples and juicy pears. Hints of peach and vanilla. Frosties. Also soft spicy notes and gentle oak. Typical bourbon matured whisky, maybe a little younger than its actual age suggests. Mouth: creamy vanilla with a little caramel sweetness and honey. Again quite juicy with peach jam, apple compote and fresh mint. A sweet malty core again, punched up by some pepper and liquorice. Rather simple but very enjoyable. Finish: medium long on clean oak and vanilla.

This is a straightforward but well-made Aberlour, excellent as a daily dram. Sold for € 60 of which € 5 is donated to the anti-cancer campaign “Kom op tegen Kanker”.

Score: 84/100


Blackadder whiskyThis Banff was distilled 16 November 1966 and spent 34 years in a sherry cask before being bottled in August 2001. Sister casks #3437, #3439, #3440… have been bottled by Signatory, Blackadder, Douglas Laing and others. Cask parcel sharing is not a new thing.

Blackadder is a British / Swedish bottler founded by Robin Tucek. Although there isn’t much fuss about it, and although their websites are hugely outdated, it seems they’re still steadily working to find interesting whisky. Other labels like Clydesdale, Riverstown and Smoking Islay are also part of this company.

The Raw Cask series is interesting because they leave all the residues and sediments in there – most bottles are full of toasted oak flakes at the bottom. They claim it’s the best way to ensure a maximum amount of natural oils, fats and flavour. I’m not sure the effect is noticeable, but it’s a nice feature.

 

Banff 1966 BlackadderBanff 34 yo 1966 (52,3%, Blackadder Raw Cask 2001, sherry butt #3438, 539 btl.)

Nose: amazing how old Banff often manages to boast such a unique (and often quirky) nose. Tobacco leaves, a little turpentine, beeswax… very nice oak polish (rather than actual wood). Underneath is a nice fruitiness (apricot, yellow raisins) and plenty of warm vanilla. Some buttery notes and wood spices. Mouth: more sappy oak now, albeit again the varnished type. Very spicy with ginger and nutmeg. Vanilla as well. Quickly drying towards the end, with a sharpness of mustard seeds. Sure, this has some loud oak but not the tannic kind. Finish: dry, with apple skin, soft ginger and oak.

There’s always a certain unsexy sharpness to Banff and this is no different. On the nose the oak polish is definitely an asset, on the palate it might be a little too much to be a real stunner. Now virtually impossible to find. Many thanks Joeri.

Score: 88/100


Earl Haakon is the third and last release in the Magnus series. While I didn’t like the previous 1998 Saint Magnus, this one is older and was well received. Haakon was the cousin of the influential 11th century viking Magnus.

A blind sample was sent to me by Marc (thanks) and my first impression wasn’t very good. I gave it a second try though.

 

Highland Park Earl HaakonHighland Park 18 yo ‘Earl Haakon’
(54,9%, OB 2011, 3300 btl.)

Nose: sweet with a lot of red fruit aromas: redcurrant jam, damson, pomegranate maybe. Slightly candied. So far so good. Quite some spicy notes (ginger, cinnamon). In the background: bonfire on a beach. Mouth: very peppery and gingery attack. Starts fairly dry but after a while it develops a nice sweetness (dark sugar, raisins). Unfortunately there’s also a sharpness and sourness of winey notes (plum wine). Hints of Seville oranges and chocolate, with a faint coastal hint and traces of peat towards the end. Finish: spicy, oaky, quite long and rather dry.

My notes are still the same, but my initial score (“around 80”) is now a little more on the positive side. It’s probably the best of the Magnus releases, but given the price and hype, I’m still not convinced. Around € 185.

Score: 84/100


Leif Eriksson is a new member in the ever expanding travel retail selection from Highland Park (most of these are also available in regular stores though). It’s a very unusual variation as the spirit matured only in bourbon barrels and American oak sherry casks. All of the standard HP releases use European oak sherry casks.

 

Highland Park Leif ErikssonHighland Park ‘Leif Eriksson’
(40%, OB 2011, travel retail)

Nose: starts on porridge and dried flowers. Also a little unfresh melon, although this changes into more pleasant fruits like figs and pears. Quite some spices (vanilla, spicy oak). Subtle hints of smoke and sea air. Pine wood. Mouth: soft and a little undefined. There’s sweet apple, citrus, plenty of malty notes / cereals and plain sugar. Again a faint smokiness and oakiness. Some vanilla and nutmeg. A bit too naked in my opinion. Finish: sweet, underpowered and too malty.

I’m not really impressed by this Leif Eriksson release. The common Highland Park assets are not present, and the result is lacking some punch and character. I’ll have any member of the standard range over this one. Around € 70.

Score: 79/100


This Port Charlotte 2001 bottled by Malts of Scotland comes at a whopping 66,3% of alcohol. I’m not sure but it might be the strongest Scotch I’ve ever had (The Stagg outclasses it of course). There’s another fact that sets it out from the crowd: it was finished fully matured in a white Rioja wine cask.

 

Port Charlotte 2001 Malts of ScotlandPort Charlotte 9 yo 2001 (66,3%,
Malts of Scotland 2011, white Rioja hogshead, MoS 11017, 345 btl.)

Nose: rather huge notes of burnt grass, sand, brine, kippers and smoke. All this with a coating sweetness from the wine. Water is probably not a bad idea, so let’s try that. It adds big notes of damp cloth and flax rope, as well as some hay, garage smells and wax. Mouth: very sweet and very peaty (it probably hasn’t been measured, but it wouldn’t surprise me if this is close to an Octomore in ppm). Quite juicy with sweet grapes and sugared lemon juice. Undiluted it tends to numb your mouth. Water adds tarry notes, sweet smoke and some saltwater. Finish: long, clean, with grapes and peat.

This Port Charlotte is extreme in many ways (alcohol, peat, sweetness). I’m not the biggest fan of unrestricted sweet peat, but on the other hand, it’s much more than just another wine finish. Around € 85.

Score: 88/100


Whisky enthusiasts on a budget have probably noticed a couple of Macduff 2000 releases that stood out in the Malt Maniacs Awards 2011 (like the one for The Bonding Dram). They pop up everywhere nowadays: Creative Whisky Co., Dewar Rattray, Berry Bros. to name just a few.

This one was bottled in the The Dram series by Whisky-Doris.

 

Macduff 2000 Whisky-DorisMacduff 10 yo 2000 (50%, Whisky-Doris ‘The Dram’ 2011, dark sherry butt, 120 btl.)

Nose: a dry and chocolaty Macduff. Milk chocolate up front, followed by oranges, apples and raisins. Some nutty notes (almonds, hazelnuts, walnuts) and spicy honey. Leather. Noticeable hints of matchsticks and gunpowder. Quite attractive, heavily sherried but not overdone. Mouth: good attack with a spicy prickle and some mineral notes. Still quite some chocolate notes and currants. Pepper. A little toffee. Gets drier, winier and more coastal towards the end, with a dark (roasted / smoky) touch.  Finish: rather long. Dark chocolate with hints of coffee and cloves.

This heavily sherried but juicy Macduff has quite a few dark notes (I couldn’t stop thinking of Karuizawa at some point). Should be a perfect companion for a high quality chocolate mousse. Very affordable: around € 45.

Score: 86/100


Time to compare. This Bunnahabhain 1968 has similar specs. It was released by Whisky-Fässle together with the newly opened Whiskybase shop in Holland (who claim this is better than the legendary Auld Acquaintance – not sure about that guys).

 

Bunnahabhain 1968 Whisky-Fässle WhiskybaseBunnahabhain 43 yo 1968 (43,8%,
Whisky-Fässle 2011, refill sherry cask,
joint bottling with Whiskybase)

Nose: a bigger fruitiness here. Juicy pears and (riper) banana but also added notes of mango and apricots. Even more jammy. Extra beehive notes as well (beeswax, honey), I like that. More sherry notes obviously. In short: similar elements but a tad more luscious and warm. Mouth: sweeter, slightly fruitier than the TWA/3R release. Banana flambeed. Raisins and dried figs. Honey. Baked apple with cinnamon. Less oak. Finish: long, fruity and honeyed with subtle oak.

This one is more to my liking than yesterday’s sister bottling. It’s rounder and controls the oak more. Great selection. It’s slightly less expensive as well.
Around € 205.

Score: 92/100


There’s quite some Bunnahabhain 1968 on the market. Malts of Scotland released one last year, now The Whisky Agency, Whisky-Fässle and The Whiskyman almost simultaneously.

 

Bunnahabhain 1968 TWA / Three RiversBunnahabhain 43 yo 1968 (45,7%,
The Whisky Agency & Three Rivers Tokyo 2011, ex-bourbon hogshead, 211 btl.)

Nose: very fruity – slightly tropical. Lots of juicy pears with banana. Plums. Honey. Grows sweeter with hints of fruit jams (strawberry and apricot). Not completely fruity though, there’s a layer of coastal notes (very soft saltiness) and subtle pine resin which makes more complex. Great nose. Mouth: oily and smooth. Still fruity (banana, grapefruit, orange) although the oak is louder now and adds a resinous bitterness. Soft spices (nutmeg) and salt. Hints of liquorice and mint. Finish: long and rather mineral with notes of vanilla, soft herbs and oak.

A great nose and (as often with oldies) a slightly less impressive palate. High class and very drinkable.
Around € 215.

Score: 90/100


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  • Taco: I'm about finished with a bottle of this and am still amazed at how good it is. It's much more subtle than the popular sherry finished whiskers, but
  • Tony: I guess they are not planning on selling much to the likes of us. "Premiumisation" gone mad...
  • Johan Andersson: I'm in Campbeltown right now for the Springbank Open Day on Thursday. This review is really spot on. I really love Longrow and especially the 18 it be

Coming up

  • anCnoc 24 Year Old
  • Aberlour a'bunadh Batch #50
  • Paul John Edited
  • Ledaig 42 Years Old
  • Bowmore Gold Reef
  • Tomatin 1997 (Liquid Library)
  • Springbank Vintage 2001
  • Mortlach Rare Old

1789 notes by Ruben

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