Single malt whisky - tasting notes

Belgian bottler Asta Morris is just in time for father’s day to present this Blair Athol 1998. Indeed not a common distillery or vintage, which makes us even more curious.


Blair Athol 1998 - Asta MorrisBlair Athol 14 yo 1998
(47,8%, Asta Morris 2012, 345 btl.)

Nose: interesting combo: honeysuckle, linseed oil and some rhubarb compote. Nicely oily and mineral while there’s always a candied sweetness in the background. Hints of marzipan and apple pie. Leather. Whiffs of buttercups. Dusty grains as well. It quickly grabs your attention and keeps showing extra layers. Impressive for a relatively young malt. Mouth: oily / creamy again, quite sweet as well. Pineapple and pear candy, gooseberries, stewed apples and a little vanilla. Then it grows grainier (sweet cereals) and more herbal. Ginger. Grassy notes. Finish: long, candied again, with warming spices now as well.

By now we trust Asta Morris’ Bert Bruyneel in his selections of course. Again this is high quality, interesting and entertaining whisky. Around € 50 which is a bargain price. Only available through 3 Belgian whisky stores: QV.ID, Crombé and Single Malt Whisky Shop.

Score: 89/100


We’ve seen quite a lot of Littlemill distilled in 1989 and 1990 over the last few years, and also one unique Littlemill 1988 by The Whiskyman. This brand-new version by Whisky-Fässle is a lot darker – more sherried.


Littlemill 1988 Whisky-FässleLittlemill 23 yo 1988
(52,4%, Whisky-Fässle 2012, sherry cask)

Nose: very complex. It started in a ‘green’ herbal / spicy way, then moved towards sherry and subtle dried fruits (raisins, fruitcake), then precious woods and leather. Then there was a lovely wave of oily garage smells (hint of diesel?) and tobacco. And surprisingly enough after some time it also shows fresh, even slightly tropical fruits, like pink grapefruit, tangerine and mango. What a wonderful combination. Closest to the Littlemill 1989 in the Archives series I’d say. Mouth: punchy, spicy start with peppery oak but also lots of fruity notes. Raisins and prunes combined with citrus, lemon and bergamot. Hints of coffee as well. Some ginger and liquorice. Finish: long, peppery, with oak, ginger and cardamom.

Another lovely Littlemill. The sherry adds a lot of complexity to the already juicy mix of Lowlands citrus and spices. I love this profile and it won’t come back. Recommended. Around € 125.

Score: 91/100


The previous Miltonduff 1980 releases that I could taste, were quite up my alley. As it turns out, they were all sister casks: #12427, #12429 and now #12431 in the Mo Òr Collection.


Miltonduff 1980 Mo OrMiltonduff 30 yo 1980
(46%, Mo Òr Collection 2010, bourbon hogshead #12431, 321 btl.)

Nose: complex nose. Starts on fruits (apple, banana) and light honey / chocolate and almonds, evolves on freshly cut timber and some floral notes. A few spicy / herbal and dusty notes. Complex but over time it becomes a little narrower with plain barley. Mouth: fruity (oranges, apples) and spicy (first soft vanilla, then slightly punchier pepper and aniseed). The sweetness slowly evolves to soft bitterness (grapefruit, ginger) with hints of grassy sourness, herbs and liquorice root. Finish: medium long, lemony / gingery with drying oak.

Again a very interesting Miltonduff. Consistent quality compared to the other casks. More expensive though, as often with this collection aimed at collectors, hotels and restaurants. Around € 145 (50 cl bottle).

Score: 90/100

English Whisky Co.The English Whisky Company is based in the St. George’s distillery, the first whisky distillery in England for over 120 years. It was founded by the Nelstrop family who have a 600 year old tradition of growing and processing grains and started production in December 2006, under supervision of Iain Henderson, former distiller at Laphroaig.

English Whisky Co. creates both unpeated and peated expressions, all named Chapters in the book that is the history of the distillery. As of Chapter 5 (a limited release) and Chapter 6 (the first public release) they are 3 years old and can be called whisky.


Tonight at 8 pm CET there will be a Twitter session to present four expressions. The blind samples have already been sent out, but you can still follow the hash tag #EWCTT and tune in if you like.

The tour de force in the current series by Malts of Scotland is a Lochside 1967. It’s not a ‘single blend’ (malt and grain both distilled at Lochside) like we’ve seen from Adelphi or The Whisky Exchange last year, it’s a single malt version this time.


Lochside 1967 Malts of ScotlandLochside 44 yo 1967 (41,7%, Malts of Scotland 2012, bourbon hogshead, MoS 12016, 115 btl.)

Nose: needs some time. There’s a lot of (good) dust at first, the kind of musty smell of a bodega or a whisky warehouse. Moss and mushrooms too. Quite some oily notes as well (cod liver oil, paraffin). A little metal polish. Then it settles down but it keeps developing. Chamomile. A little vanilla. Not a fruit bomb, but it does show papaya, apricots and relatively shy citrus notes. Soft tobacco notes as well. You only see this kind of profile in really old malts, it’s quite unique but not entirely satisfying maybe because of its softness. Mouth: obviously not very punchy but quite flavoursome. Starts on a fair amount of oak and tobacco, with a sudden wave of rather tropical fruity notes (guava, coconut). Again some chamomile, maybe other teas as well. Oak, definitely, which is not too dry and mostly adds some bitter notes: grapefruit, ginger, a few tannins. In the background there’s always this unique dustiness. Finish: medium long, now almost entirely on oak juices. Bitter oranges as well. A little mint.


A different Lochside than the more fruity single blends distilled in the 1960’s. Don’t rush this one, it’s old and delicate and it needs some time. But once it has opened up you get to enjoy a unique profile and fine complexity. Many other malts would have been dead after so many years in the cask, this one is still alive. Expensive of course: around € 345.

Score: 89/100

Whisky club Fulldram had its annual Supertasting yesterday, the last tasting of the dramming season. You’ll understand that the overall quality was very high (again) when I tell you a Bowmore 1968 ended up in fourth position (out of six drams) in the voting at the end of the evening…

The winner was an ex-aequo of the BenRiach 1975 for Asta Morris and a Clynelish 1974 bottled by The Whisky Fair which we’ll review later on. More surprisingly, one of the possible highlights of the evening turned out to be a letdown for most of the audience: this Caol Ila 15 years old ‘Manager’s Dram’, said to be one of the best Caol Ila ever.

The Manager’s Dram series was bottled for staff members of the distilleries owned by Scottish Malt Distillers Ltd., but it came to an end when it turned out a lot of employees were selling their rare bottle to gain some extra income.

The big question of the evening seemed to be: is it sulphured? I didn’t notice this at first, but indeed, in this particular line-up, when nosed right after some of the other (mostly very fruity) drams, there were quite some sulphury notes. Even though they didn’t bother me personally, a lot of people found it too dirty to give high marks. An example of how a line-up can make or break a particular whisky?


Caol Ila 15yo Manager's DramCaol Ila 15 yo ‘Manager’s Dram’
(63%, OB 1990, sherry cask,
for the S.M.D. staff association)

Nose: punchy. Definitely quite meaty with some (in my opinion clean) matchstick notes, let’s keep it at that. For me it’s not an off-note in this case. Lots of charcoal ashes and pipe tobacco. Cigar leaves and leather. Sweet peat, coated by caramel and brown rock sugar. Fruit cake. Not immensely wide but a perfect marriage of peat and sherry. Mouth: strong and “reduced” on chocolate, balsamic syrup, dried prunes and forest fruit jam. Cinnamon and pepper. Then quickly drying on liquorice and Lapsang tea. Hints of salt (cured ham and seaweed). Finish: very long, flinty and ashy with lingering sherry.

Excellent peat / sherry combo, but not the superb highlight we were expecting. I can imagine though that on a winter’s day, with a different line-up, this could sparkle more. Its profile reminded of some of the best Karuizawa expressions, as well as of the Bowmore 1995 SMOS. Around € 1000 in auctions.

Score: 92/100

A couple of months ago, we were pleasantly surprised by a similar bottling by Malts of Scotland. It looks like these Glenturret 1977 are sister casks. This one is bottled at cask strength 46,7%.


Glenturret 1977 - Whisky AgencyGlenturret 34 yo 1977
(46,7%, The Whisky Agency & The Nectar 2012, refill hogshead, 256 btl.)

Nose: oily and honeyed. Vanilla. Rich, thick fruit compote (apricot jam, yellow plums, a little banana). Very light dusty notes and soft spices. Even a hint of soot and a few vegetal notes. Quite unique, elegant and really mouth-watering. Mouth: sweeter and fruitier, really impressive. Butter pears, cooked apricot and nectarine. Evolves to slightly tropical (and overripe) fruits: tangerine, mango, mashed banana. Very jammy. It then becomes elegantly waxy with some hay and pepper, but surprisingly low on oak again. Similar to the version of Malts of Scotland, maybe a little more complex. What a great pair of casks! Finish: long, fruity, with cake notes, a little pepper and some ginger tonic.

Most of the time 2 cl is enough for me to assess a dram, in this case I’m quite sure I will buy a bottle to investigate a little more. I love this Glenturret, even though there’s definitely a whacky side to it (it’s Glenturret after all). Around € 160.

Score: 91/100

Are you also having trouble pinpointing Springbank these days? I seem to really like part of their releases (say Springbank Rundlets & Kilderkins) and thoroughly dislike others (say Springbank C.V. and a few independent releases).

Here’s a Springbank 1998, part of the new series by Malts of Scotland.


Springbank 1998 Malts of ScotlandSpringbank 1998 (51,5%, Malts of Scotland 2012, sherry hogshead, MoS 12014, 212 btl.)

Nose: a modern Springbank nose (wet limestone, gravel, wax) coupled to thick blackberry jam, plums and blueberries. Toffee. A little moss, faint farmy notes as well. Flax. Leather. Slightly dirty (rubber and cooked asparagus). So and so. Mouth: sweet and rather jammy again, mainly dark fruits. Forest fruit jam. Fig compote and caramelized sugar. Port syrup. Shares some similarities with wine finishes (I’ve said this before). Very sweet with some herbal hints and a bitter dryness towards the end. Wet gravel notes again and minerals. It’s mainly the wine talking I guess, the Springbank spirit is on a second level in my opinion. Finish: long, still very sweet fading to drier notes.

A very whacky Springbank 1998 again, it’s heavily sherried but in a candied way rather than a dry way. Was this some kind of sugared cream sherry? Interesting but not entirely my taste, and the Springbank sharpness can’t find the right balance. The first time I rather liked it, the second time I poured it away. Around € 75.

Score: 80/100



December 2015
« Nov    

Coming up

  • Glenlivet 1981 (#9468 for TWE)
  • Lagavulin Distillers Edition (2015)
  • Talisker Distillers Edition (2015)
  • Laphroaig 32 Year Old
  • Glen Grant 65yo 1950 cask #2747 for Wealth Solutions
  • Mortlach 1959/1960 (G&M Royal Wedding)

1934 notes by Ruben

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