Single malt whisky - tasting notes

Yesterday, in a lovely local bar hidden from civilisation, it was time for the 25th edition of the Weedram Masters. This is a regular “super-tasting” of the Weedram whisky club. Bert Bruyneel selected a few stunning old bottles like a Longmorn 1969 (G&M #3716/3717), Jura 1966 (SV #1485) and Ardbeg 1974 (SV #1045). More about this in the weeks to come.

At the end of the evening, a new 35yo BenRiach 1975 was officially presented. Cask #7227 was selected by Bert Bruyneel for his new label called Asta Morris. During his latest trip to BenRiach, he nosed over 60 casks and this was ‘the one’.

Bert thinks it was a Fino sherry cask. I don’t share that opinion (not dry / spicy enough), but in any case it was not a very active cask: the influence is too subtle to pin down the cask type.

 

BenRiach 1975 Asta MorrisBenRiach 35 yo 1975 (51%, OB for
Asta Morris Belgium 2011, sherry hogshead #7227, 236 btl.)

Nose: the first fifteen minutes, I thought it would not be as good as the highly praised 1976 casks. It was nice and fruity but rather silent. It’s only after some time and airing that it shows its true character. Great citrus notes (pink grapefruit and tangerine), evolving to warmer, exotic fruits like pineapple, mango and strawberries. Quite some honey. Subtle oak adds some spices to the mix. Great nose which keeps evolving in the glass. Don’t be hasty. Mouth: a little sweeter than expected – honey sweetness again. Now lovely notes of fresh apricots and melon, with sweet/sour hints of passion fruit. Ripe mango. Typical BenRiach fruitiness with soft oak in the background. Finish: long and fruity, with pink grapefruit taking the lead in the fruit basket.

Everybody wondered whether this is a new classic and whether it is better than cask #3557. I didn’t have them head-to-head and I don’t think it really matters anyway. All I can say is that it’s different from the 1976’s. It takes more time to seduce you but the evolution in the glass is really a textbook example of great BenRiach. Well done Bert!

Available as of today, but probably sold out before you know it. Around € 250. There’s also a 1978 cask from Asta Morris due next week.

Score: 93/100


One of the latest releases by Whisky-Fässle is this undisclosed Speyside whisky distilled in 1969. Could this be a sister cask of the “Speyside Region” bottling in the Perfect Dram series by Whisky Agency?

As for the distillery, our first guess would be Glenfarclas, although the combination of distillation year and cask number could also indicate Strathisla. Bourbon cask maturation is very rare for Glenfarclas, but it certainly existed.

 

Speyside 1969 Whisky-FaessleSpeyside Region 41 yo 1969 (55,1%,
Whisky-Fässle 2011, Bourbon hogshead #2671)

Nose: very punchy for an oldie. Starts on polished furniture. Complex development, hard to pin down. A lot of spices anyway (cinnamon, cloves, eucalyptus). Hints of soft vanilla and heather. Very moderate fruits, mainly Seville oranges and orange liqueur. Angelica cake. Subtle wax. Mouth: again very spicy (soft pepper, ginger). The oak is easy to notice but luckily it doesn’t cause a dry mouthfeel. Hints of tea. Again quite orangey with a dash of honey. A hint of smoke in the background? Finish: quite long, spicy with liquorice, oak and a few salty notes

A great old Speysider without excessive oak but with plenty of spices. An interesting opportunity to buy a 1960’s malt for a very reasonable price. Around € 180.

Score: 89/100


Allt-A-Bhainne was mothballed in 2002 and re-opened in 2005. They’re producing almost exclusively for blending purposes.

 

Allt-A-Bhaine 1992 | Malts of ScotlandAllt-A-Bhaine 18 yo 1992
(56,1%, Malts of Scotland 2011, bourbon hogshead #6, 273 btl.)

Nose: natural nose on barley and sweet grains. Hay. Some nice stone fruits in the background. Light oak influence with a little mint and juniper. Also a hint of chalk or dust. Mouth: oily and sweet. Quite spicy (pepper) and a little hot. Something of a fruit liqueur although I wouldn’t call it fruity. Slightly raw and spirity, even with water. Finish: rather long and neutral, with hints of liquorice and pepper.

A simple malt that’s very punchy and without obvious flaws. Typical blenders whisky I would say. We should applaud bottlers who try to find something different, even when they’re not always highflyers. Around € 80.

Score: 79/100


Even tough we’re comparing a 1989 and 1990 Tamdhu, I think they might be sister casks. Earlier releases from casks #8113, #8126 and #8132 were also 1989 production so it doesn’t seem to be a chronological numbering.

This cask is part of the new Malts of Scotland releases.

 

Tamdhu 1990 - Malts of ScotlandTamdhu 20 yo 1990
(49,8%, Malts of Scotland 2011,
sherry butt #8119, 209 btl.)

Nose: a profile that’s similar to the Tamdhu 1989 Liquid Treasures. Lots of rum & raisins again. A little gunpowder and flints. More and darker chocolate, something of burnt sugar as well. It doesn’t have the slightly sour notes of balsamico. Dates. A few gamey notes. Roasted nuts. Mouth: sweet with smoky undertones. Raisins, prunes and dates. Roasted almonds. Big sherry. A nice dark chocolate bitterness. Then back to muscovado sweetness and light pepper. Some liquorice. Finish: long, marked by sherry and mocha with a nice dryness.

High power sherry. Very similar to the Liquid Treasures bottling, equally nice altogether, differences will come down to personal preferences. Around € 80.

Score: 86/100


German bottler eSpirits released a Tamdhu 1989 in the Liquid Treasures series. We’ll compare it to a 1990 cask tomorrow.

 

Tamdhu 1989 Liquid TreasuresTamdhu 21 yo 1989
(50%, Liquid Treasures 2011, sherry butt)

Nose: takes a few minutes to settle down. After that, it shows chocolate and raisins mixed with flinty notes and matchsticks. Prune jam, a little leather. Soft hints of balsamic vinegar. Roasted nuts. Mouth: heavy sherry with a nice balance of sweetness, soft sourness and toasted elements in the background. Plenty of dried fruits (prunes especially) with a few nutty notes. Side notes of pepper, liquorice and coffee. More accessible with a few drops of water. Finish: long, slightly drier, with sherry and liquorice.

A Tamdhu with a rich first fill sherry character and nice roasted notes. Around € 80.

Score: 86/100


Private Stock is a series by The Whisky Agency, offering only exceptional (old) whiskies. Today we’re trying a 45 years old Bunnahabhain.

 

Bunnahabhain 1965 Private StockBunnahabhain 45 yo 1965
(40%, The Whisky Agency ‘Private Stock’ 2010,
refill hogshead, 195 btl.)

Nose: delicate with a nice banana fruitiness right from the start. Unripe pineapple. Hints of mint. Soft vanilla and hay. A faint hint of smoke and varnish. Nice dustiness. Quite light. Mouth: silky but really thin and silent. There’s a bit of oak juice and tobacco, with again a faint smokiness in the back. Lightly fruity (sourish oranges). No dryness but the flavours are muted. I’m not sure whether to call this subtle or just weak. Finish: medium length, soft with hints of chocolate and apple.

It’s nice to find this kind of elegant fruitiness with smoky hints and a proud kind of oldness. On the other hand, it’s rather thin and perhaps slightly over-aged.
Around € 240. Still available.

Score: 85/100

Re-tasted 18/04/2012: +1


Here’s a recent Malts of Scotland release with a slightly different presentation (tube and different label) as it is a joint bottling with The Whisky Agency. This Strathisla 1970 was bottled from a dark sherry hogshead and presented at the recent Whisky Fair in Limburg.

Would you believe this is the most recent Strathisla I’ve made notes of?
All the others were 1960’s distillation.

 

Strathisla 1970 | Malts of ScotlandStrathisla 40 yo 1970 (59,6%, Malts of Scotland & The Whisky Agency 2011, sherry hogshead, 109 btl.)

Nose: very intense oloroso aromas. Dried fruits (raisins and figs) and liquorice. A hint of cherry liqueur. Fruit jams. Melon with Port. After a while it shows more nutty notes and some tobacco. Some butterscotch and cigar boxes. Clean and quite excellent: heavy sherry the way it should be. Mouth: lots of oomph and very concentrated. Water required! Still big, with plenty of dried fruits, some herbal notes and resin. Liquorice and walnut liqueur. Prunes. Dark chocolate. A little cough syrup. A rather ‘dark’ palate. A dry mouthfeel overall but it shows lovely jammy flavours towards the end. Finish: very long, with the same dark and dry sherry theme.

This kind of sherry can only be expected of Strathisla and a handful of other distilleries like GlenDronach. Very good but quite expensive as well. Around € 300.

Score: 90/100


Duncan Taylor has a big stock of old Glenrothes casks. Many of their 1968 casks have been bottled in the prestigious Peerless series. The most recent release was this 41 year-old at 43%.

As a matter of fact, the Duncan Taylor casks are so good that Glenrothes decided to buy back a whole bunch of casks. Does it mean there’s a very expensive official release planned in the near future?

This is slightly darker whisky than yesterday’s Glenrothes 1968 by Malts of Scotland.

 

Glenrothes 1968 DT PeerlessGlenrothes 41 yo 1968 (43%, Duncan Taylor 2010, cask #9974, 139 btl.)

Nose: this one is much more biscuity than the Malts of Scotland version. More vanilla custard, great white chocolate notes and something caramelly. Over time it smells like a chocolate store really. Lovely dusty elements. The same kind of freshly sawn oak. Then back to gooseberries and apricots, pineapple, honey, even some volatile strawberry notes. Slightly wider and more complex than the other. Mouth: creamy, with the same kind of sweet / fruity vs. sour / oaky combination. Thicker and creamier than the Malts of Scotland, despite the slightly lower strength. Soft fruits (oranges, mango) and soft spices (cinnamon, cardamom). Custard with caramel. Finish: long and sweet, half spicy / half citrusy with apples and hints of aniseed.

A great cask, no doubt, showing both fresh fruits and warmer vanilla / chocolate notes. The thicker structure seems to hide the oak influence more. More expensive though: around € 260.

Score: 89/100


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Coming up

  • Benriach 1991 (MoS for QV.ID)
  • Bowmore 2003 (The Whiskyman)
  • Ardmore Legacy
  • Balblair 2000 single casks
  • Lagavulin 12yo (2014 release)
  • Craigellachie 17 Year Old
  • Cardhu 18 Year Old
  • Clynelish 21yo 1992 (Cadenhead)
  • Ledaig 2005 (Maltbarn)
  • Aberlour 8yo (cube, small cork)

1639 notes by Ruben

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