Single malt whisky - tasting notes

TWE Masterpieces are selected by TWE chief Sukhinder Singh himself. I adore the style and label. It’s classy and features handmade paper, an embossed TWE stamp, waxed sealing and great typography. Not unlike some vintage cognac bottles. Respect!

You already know the story: Bowmore filled very few casks in 1993 and there’s nothing left in the distillery warehouses. There should be a couple of casks available from independent bottlers (check earlier bottlings from Whisky Agency, Thosop and Whisky-Fässle), but this is truly rare.

This release won a silver medal at the recent Malt Maniacs Awards 2011.

 

Bowmore 1993 TWE MasterpiecesBowmore 18 yo 1993 (61,6%, The Whisky Exchange ‘Masterpieces’ 2011, American oak hogshead, 195 btl.)

Nose: quite bold with smoke, peat and a little tar. Brine. Slightly sharp, but it’s great to see the rounder, fruity notes come straight out as well. Starts on banana and sugared grapefruit, and evolves on gooseberries, guava and tangerine. A little vanilla. This is a unique feature of these 1993’s: a lot of Islay power (more than other Bowmore) combined with tropical fruits, alternating constantly. Impressive. Mouth: very peaty and extremely salty which evolves on zesty citrus flavours and herbs. There’s a sweet wave underneath, a kind of generic sweetness without clear-cut fruit profiles. Maybe a little too strong to drink undiluted. With water it’s sweeter (apple, juicy grapefruit) without loosing the liquorice, seawater and peppery kick. Finish: long and citrusy. Salt and tobacco notes.

Complex stuff, just like the other 1993’s. Water is necessary though. Good selection and one of my whisky icons of 2011. Around € 140 which makes it an expensive 1993. Used to be sold out, yesterday new stock appeared, now sold out for good.

Score: 91/100


Scotland’s hundred finest malts vatted blended together, that’s Chivas Century of Malts. It was released in 1995 and contains some of the rarest malts like Craigduff / Glenisla (peated Glen Keith). A little booklet describes all of the 100 distilleries.

 

Chivas Century of MaltsChivas Century of Malts
(43%, OB 1995)

Nose: sweet and biscuity. Citrus. Honey. Vanilla. Hints of nougat and cake. Disappointingly similar to regular (cheaper) blends. Mouth: sweet and biscuity again with big vanilla. White grapes. Orange cake. Then it moves to heather, with very soft hints of peat and a nice toffee coating. Finish: sweet, showing subtle spices and faint hints of smoke. Quite lovely with nice roasted nuts and moccha.

It may sound crazy to blend 100 malts, you’d never be able to detect them all. It’s true that the result lacks some uniqueness, but it shows decent depth and it’s not a bad vatting.

Score: 80/100

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There’s a new edition of the 30 years old Speyside whisky by Master of Malt. We already tried the 2nd edition and 3rd edition before. This one is a return to sherried form.

 

Master of Malt 30yo SpeysideUndisclosed Speyside distillery 30 yo (40%, Master of Malt 2011, 4th Edition)

Nose: nicely aromatic despite the low strength. Very juicy, with honeyed malt, vanilla and baked apples. Some dried fruits (plenty of raisins) and spices (cinnamon, soft cloves). Orange peel. Mouth: sweet start on honey and soaked raisins. Caramelized apple again. Sweet almonds. Hints of tobacco and a little wood resin. Finish: still rather honeyed with something of roasted nuts. A tad drier in the very end.

A rich and really juicy sherry bottling. Something in between the heavily sherried 2nd edition and the malty / more bourbonny 3rd edition. Too bad they’re still holding on to the 40% strength. Available from Master of Malt. Around € 115 – good pricing again.

Score: 87/100


Malt Maniacs AwardsThe Malt Maniacs Awards 2011 have just been announced. See the score card at http://www.maltmaniacs.org/2011-score-card.pdf

A rather classic result I would say. GlenDronach single casks, Karuizawa, old Strathisla, Port Ellen… they’ve all won gold medals before and we all know how great they can be.

 

Here’s the full line-up of gold medals:

  • GlenDronach 1972 cask #712GlenDronach 39yo 1972/2011
    (49.9%, OB, Oloroso Butt, C# 712, 466 Bts.)
  • Karuizawa 1981/2011
    (55.2%, OB, C#2634, Btl. 12/08/2011)
  • GlenDronach 39yo 1972/2011
    (54.7%, OB for Taiwan, PX C#2033, 450 Bts.)
  • Lochside 46yo 1965/2011 (52.3%, Adelphi, Limited, Blended Scotch Whisky, 499 Bts.)
  • Strathisla 1970/2011
    (43%, G&M Licensed Bottling, 514 Bts.)
  • Strathisla 1965/2011
    (48%, G&M for LMdW, 1st Fill Sherry, C#3473)
  • Port Ellen 28yo 1982/2011
    (60%, Wilson & Morgan, C#2011, 534 Bts.)
  • Glen Grant 59yo 1952
    (49.2%, G&M Book of Kells, C#1134)

Update: here’s the full jury report.

 

A few of my personal observations…

First, surprisingly, the most experienced tasters weren’t in the jury. I’m not sure what the effect has been and whether there has been an effect at all. Would be interesting to recalculate last year’s results without those three members. See below.

Second, I think the gold medals are all relatively unknown. I mean, they’re not part of the daily buzz and discussions I’ve seen on forums or blogs or among enthusiasts. Most of the things that everyone was raving about, haven’t even entered the awards. And some of the winners (including the GlenDronach) have been on the shelves for months with low interest (and now suddenly everyone will look for them). Just an observation.

Third, nice to see the same whisky enter twice (two bottles of Talisker 30yo). Great consistency for most tasters. Less so for PD and RM who almost invert each other’s scores… but excellent proof for the reliability of this competition.

 

Update: our friend Bastien did some recalculations and pointed out that last year’s awards would have been quite different without Serge, Johannes and Davin. Five out of 12 gold medals (Glenfarclas 40, Caperdonich 1972, Port Ellen PE2…) would have been degraded to silver. Karuizawa 1977 Noh would have been the overall winner with the GlenDronach in sixth place! Thanks again Bastien, this confirms our feeling that the preferences of the jury are a major element in any competition!


Tun 1401 is the favourite marrying tun of David Stewart, Master Blender at Balvenie distillery. He selected ten casks and married them for three months in this tun: seven bourbon casks and three sherry casks. Except for one 1989 cask and one 1967 cask, all were filled in the 1970’s.

Batch 1 of this expression (336 bottles) was presented in 2010 and sold exclusively at the distillery. Now there’s a larger second batch (available in Europe) and soon also a third batch for the US.

 

Balvenie Tun 1401Balvenie ‘Tun 1401’ (50,6%, OB 2011, batch 2, 2226 btl.)

Nose: rich and rounded. Great polished oak up front, immediately followed by thick honeyed notes and orange peel. Nice pineapple candy in the background. Vanilla and almonds. Raisins. Some hay and flowers (old roses). Very light spices. Excellent balance of sherry and bourbon, both are clearly present and work well together. Mouth: velvety and quite dry. Much spicier now, plenty of ginger and white pepper. A little nutmeg. Honey, apricot and (slightly tangy) orange peel again. Oak and vanilla. Faint hints of dark chocolate. Sweeter and fruitier with a few drops of water. Finish: very long, with Seville oranges, chocolate and nutmeg.

The best Balvenie I’ve had so far, including the Balvenie 30 years old. I really like the distillery character but in the past I was somehow missing either punch or personality. This one has a lot of complexity and power. A great marriage, let’s hope it yields many children. Around € 195. Thanks Marc!

Score: 91/100


The team behind Whiskybase.com have now started their own shop in Rotterdam (NL). Of course they’re bottling proprietary releases (labeled Archives, we’ll focus on that later) but they’re also bringing a few interesting independent bottlers to Holland. Mainly German bottlers like Alambic Classique, Whisky-Doris and Whisky-Fässle as well as others like Silver Seal.

A good reason to try this Glencadam 1974, a joint bottling between Whisky-Fässle and Whiskybase.

 

Glencadam 1974Glencadam 37 yo 1974 (41,5%,
Whisky-Fässle 2011, refill sherry,
joint bottling with Whiskybase)

Nose: complex and refined. A slightly subdued fruity layer (orange, tangerine, banana, maybe guava) with additional layers of dried flowers and soft herbs (lovage), a leathery / oily touch and  faint hints of mocha. Subtle oak as well. More delicately sherried than last year’s Malts of Scotland release. Mouth: not extremely powerful (no surprise) but pleasant. Fruity notes (tangerine, gooseberries), a little ginger and hints of herbal tea. Leather notes and oak. Finish: similar flavours. Medium long, nicely balanced and not too dry.

Not a flavour bomb, but still an excellent balance and pleasant ‘oldness’. A great example of this overlooked distillery. Around € 155.

Score: 90/100


A direct comparison this time. The Clynelish 1982 by Single Malts of Scotland against this version by Malts of Scotland. This one has an impressive strength of 53,7%, let’s see if the added punch alters the delicate Clynelish profile.

 

Clynelish 1982 Malts of ScotlandClynelish 28 yo 1982 (53,7%, Malts of Scotland 2011, MoS 11015, 275 btl.)

Nose: a lot punchier than the SMOS cask. More green banana. A tad more oak as well although that may be part of the higher strength. A lot of honeydew melon and beeswax (warm and honeyed compared to the sharper oiliness of the SMOS). Walnut liqueur. Apples with cinnamon. Some biscuity notes. Guimauves (the white ones). Great nose. Mouth: punchy again. Key components are vanilla and grapefruit this time, with some peppery notes. Hints of sweet almonds. Less complex and slightly less convincing than the nose, but still a nice whisky. Lemon zest and a slight coastal edge towards the end. Finish: long and elegant, zesty at first but coming back to a fruity sweetness.

For me this is the better Clynelish of the two, especially on the nose, although you could say they’re two different kinds of whisky alltogether (this one showing a slightly more 1970’s character). A little more expensive: around € 125.

Score: 91/100


Malt Maniacs e-pistleIn case you haven’t noticed already, there’s a new E‑pistle on the Malt Maniacs website, and I’m responsible for that. I had been playing around with the idea of writing a kind of “primer” for independent bottlers as I noticed that it’s still confusing for a lot of whisky enthusiasts.

Around the end of 2008, when I started this blog, we witnessed the birth of The Whisky Agency and Malts of Scotland, two independent bottlers that have gained a lot of interest ever since. While growing up, they were also an important example and aid for several other, smaller bottlers that are working under their umbrella, so to speak.

This new situation lead to a number of questions that I kept hearing over and over again: who is behind all these labels? Are they related? Do they have the same quality? Why does every bottler suddenly releases a Glengoyne although Glengoyne isn’t normally selling to independent bottlers? How come shops and clubs seem to have no difficulty finding high quality casks? Etc. etc. It turns out there’s a certain hierarchy in the independent whisky market these days, more so than a couple of years back. I may have simplified a few things, or focused on our Benelux/German market, but I’m mostly trying to point out a certain mechanism here.

In case you’re interested, you can find the whole article on the Malt Maniacs website: The hierarchy of independent whisky releases. Feel free to comment here in case you want to add your thoughts and experiences.


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Coming up

  • Aberlour a'bunadh Batch #50
  • Bowmore Gold Reef
  • Tomatin 1997 (Liquid Library)
  • Springbank Vintage 2001
  • Mortlach Rare Old

1794 notes by Ruben

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