Single malt whisky - tasting notes

This is 16 years old Strathisla 1970, bottled by Gordon & MacPhail as a semi-official release for the Italian market. The spirit was distilled 29.09.1970 and bottled 29.06.1987 at natural strength. There’s also a version at 40%.

Intertrade was a company run by Ferdinando “Nadi” Fiori in Rimini, Italy. He owned the restaurant “Taverna degli Artisti” (famous among politicians, actors, directors… back then) and started in the 1970′s as one of the first Italian importers of whisky. He was one of the pioneers, not just for whisky which wasn’t very popular back then, but also for concepts like ‘cask strength’ bottlings.

He had excellent contacts with Gordon & MacPhail and sourced a lot of his bottlings from their warehouses. Most of his legendary releases (e.g. the Port Ellen 15 yo 1969) were bottled in the 1980′s. Later, Intertrade was restarted as Turatello for a short time until it evolved to High Spirits which is still active in whisky & rum as we speak. Mr. Fiori turned 70 this year by the way.

 

 

Strathisla 1970 G&M for Intertrade 16yoStrathisla 16 yo 1970 (61,3%, Gordon & MacPhail for Intertrade 1987, sherry wood)

Nose: dried prunes and black cherries. Hints of walnut liqueur. Coffee and chocolate. It’s got the old-style sherry character, including the hints of beef stock and jerky. Some earthy, slightly sulphury notes too. Mouth: very raisiny, with loads of dark chocolate. Mint. Star anise and cloves. Something of over-infused tea and strong liquorice. Quite heavyweight and a tad too bitterish and dirty for my taste. Slightly better when diluted but still… Finish: not too long, herbal, peppery and chocolaty.

The sherry is all over this whisky. Robust, dry and herbal, including an old-school dirtiness. Love it or hate it, I guess. Thanks Jens.

Score: 85/100


We’re seeing a lot of GlenDronach 2002 releases lately. Remember this is the year the distillery was restarted after having been mothballed for six years.

Note that GlenDronach is keeping a lot of these 2002 casks aside to create the new 12 year-old, which is now effectively much older as there is no stock from 1996-2002. Nonetheless some of them are now hitting the market as single casks bottled for different parties. It’s funny that this expression has the same cask number as one of these magnificent 1972 vintages. Anyway it’s a sister cask of the 2002 for The Whisky Fair.

 

GlenDronach 2002 cask #712 for The Whisky AgencyGlenDronach 11 yo 2002 (52,1%, OB for The Whisky Agency 2013, Pedro Ximénez sherry puncheon #712, 624 btl.)

Nose: rich and sweet, with loads of brown sugar, caramel, raisins, cinnamon syrup… Red berries (moving towards cassis), some leather and vanilla, giving it a bourbonny and rummy aspect (was this a re-racked cask?). Big honey notes too. Really nice. Mouth: similarly syrupy and honeyed, now a little more spices (nutmeg, ginger, pepper, speculoos). Sultanas, prune galore, dates and orange jam. The sticky toffee sweetness has something of old sherried blends, but I can’t put my finger on it. Finish: long, no need to mention the strong sweetness, with all kinds of liqueurs and honey.

I couldn’t do a direct head-to-head, but this one seems sweeter than cask #710, with less emphasis on spices. Almost too much of the (natural) caramel and syrupy notes, although it’s a perfect match for this time of the year. Around € 80.

Score: 88/100


Thosop is the label started by Luc Timmermans in 2010. A total of 18 releases have been bottled with handwritten labels (including one uniquely hybrid Glenfarclas 1968 OB).

This year a 19th expression was released, a Tomatin 1976, a final bottling which marks the end of a great series.

 

Thosop handwritten - the complete series

 

Note that there are only 24 bottles of this Tomatin. None of them are commercially available, only collectors who own the complete Handwritten series have been able to buy this bottle.

 

Tomatin 1976 - ThosopTomatin 1976 (49%, Thosop ‘handwritten’ 2013, ‘Never released stock’, 24 btl.)

Nose: this one needs some time to settle, but then it shows the lovely fruits (red berries, guava, plums, tangerines) with lots of raisins as well. It’s a heavy sherry version like the one for The Whiskyman. Then a certain greenness and some oak spices (cinnamon, mint, aniseed) and a little dusty malt. A hint of metal polish as well. Mouth: herbal and sweet at first (cough candy) before the tropical fruits come out, like mango, pink grapefruits, peaches, raspberries and passion fruits. Mint and a hint of pepper. Fruit tea. Finish: long, with the sweet fruits chilling alongside the herbal notes.

Excellent Tomatin 1976 again. Perhaps a shared part of the Whiskyman cask, or maybe a different cask… but that’s not important. A nice pre-finale for this series.

Score: 91/100


Lagavulin whiskyMerry Christmas everyone!

As the oldest and most expensive bottling of the pack, the Lagavulin 37 Years is the highlight of the 2013 Diageo Special Releases. Distilled in 1976, it could be the same batch of casks that also produced the Lagavulin 30 Year Old.

Old Lagavulin is very rare (Diageo calls it “dramatically limited”), due to the popularity of the younger expressions and a lack of anticipation in terms of production capacity. This expression was matured in refill American oak and European oak.

 

 

Lagavulin 37 Year Old 1976Lagavulin 37 yo 1976
(51%, OB 2013, 1868 btl.)

Nose: very nicely oily and elegant. Earthy notes up front (rather than big peat), with moss and plenty of tobacco leaves and soft soot. Behind this are some sweeter notes, a mix of almonds and heather honey. Also lime (not lemon). Subtle nutty notes (hazelnuts) and herbs (aniseed). Among the tiny notes, there’s menthol, orange, walnuts, incense, oysters and beeswax. It is wonderfully balanced and slightly understated, I love that. Mouth: slightly sharp, with a grapefruit bitterness and tangy oak as the first elements. Quite briny and very earthy (moss again, burnt grasses). Seaweed and oysters. Lots of leathery dryness. Green tea leaves and mint. Nutty notes (walnuts, chestnuts and pine nuts). Lemon balm and lemon zest. Tiny hints of dried fruits and Seville oranges, as well as some dark chocolate, but a bit of extra sweetness could have lifted this one even further. I have to say it does take a drop of water and becomes slightly rounder that way. Finish: very long, dry and oaky (although not tannic). Full of ashes.

A magnificent nose and a proud, powerful palate. Slightly robust (yet fragile at the same time), even a little austere but a masterpiece in terms of Lagavulin character and elegance. Around € 2750.

Score: 94/100


Johnny Drum is a sour-mash bourbon made by Kentucky Bourbon Distillers (also known as Willett). They have a Green label, Black label, a Black label 12 and this Private Stock label. It used to have a separate “15 years old” label on the neck but recently this has been left out so it’s possibly a little younger.

Note that the Willett distillery has been restarted in 2012, but this small batch whiskey is just a label – the spirit is bought from external sources (some suggest Heaven Hill further down the same road).

 

 

Johnny Drum Private StockJohnny Drum ‘Private Stock’ 15 yo
(50,5%, OB 2012)

Nose: fairly spicy and woody, with some gingery oak and cinnamon sticks up front. Soft rye elements. A little nutmeg. Maple syrup and vanilla. Nice hints of peaches and banana in the background. Also interesting earthy hints and a fresh minty top note. Rounded off by some varnish. Mouth: quite a surprise. Very savoury and spicy now, with the mouth-coating dryness of cinnamon, with leather and lots of pine and cedar wood. Juniper berries? Ginger. Something of a herbal gin indeed, strange. Burnt wood. Roasted pecans. Some medicinal notes even. Some late dark chocolate. Hardly any sweetness. Finish: shortish, a little toffee sweetness now but still mostly spices and oak tannins.

A slightly strange bourbon, especially on the palate where it displays some uncommon herbs and spices, and few of the classic vanilla / caramel notes. Heavy on the oak and rye notes as well. Let’s keep it at interesting. Around € 45 from UK retailers.

Score: 78/100


The SingletonThe Singleton series combines whiskies from three of Diageo’s biggest distilleries: Dufftown, Glendullan and Glen Ord (in the past other distilleries as well). They’re relatively big but hardly known as most of their production is used in blends like Johnnie Walker. It’s the first time Dufftown appears in Diageo’s Special Releases.

This expression was distilled in 1985 (one of the oldest expressions ever from this distillery) and matured in refill American oak.

 

 

The Singleton of Dufftown 28 Year Old 1985The Singleton of Dufftown 28 yo 1985 (52,3%, OB 2013, 3.816 btl.)

Nose: old Speyside the way I like it. Creamy fruits (apples, pears, grapes) are mixed with heather honey and a good dose of beeswax. Golden raisins. Soft herbal notes, dried flowers and hints of dusty books. Hints of leather. Vanilla in the distance. Mouth: oily and sweet. Garden fruits again, with some oranges, raisins and honey. Quite malty (Frosties). Lots of beeswax again. Then some mint, liquorice and nutmeg comes forward, as well as a new wave of herbal notes. Finish: long, dry, with tons of yellow apples and some pine resin. Also faint hints of smoke.

I love the kind of dustiness and mustiness that old malts like these can possess. Add some balanced fruits and herbs and you have a very nice dram. But it’s overpriced (again): around € 300.

Score: 89/100


This Old Pulteney 2001 was part of the bottlings for the Spirits in the Sky Festival in Leuven this year. A joint bottling by The Whisky Agency and The Nectar.

 

Old Pulteney 2001 (TWA & The Nectar)Old Pulteney 12 yo 2001
(49,2%, The Whisky Agency & The Nectar 2013, bourbon cask, 351 btl.)

Nose: a mineral profile. Chalk, graphite, wet cloths. Unripe fruits (apple, peach). Some seaweed. Hints of pencil shavings. Slight floral notes. Overall a little closed. After a while a candied white fruit note comes out. Mouth: surprisingly sweet, with a young fruitiness (apple liqueur, apricot, grapefruit) but also a nice praline / almond sweetness. Lemon candy. Dark honey. Still a few coastal / briny notes in the background. Liquorice. Finish: long, with lemony notes and the warmer praline.

A fine dram, combining the typically coastal Old Pulteney character with a few warmer notes. Nothing special either. Around € 85.

Score: 83/100


We’re working our way up in the Diageo Special Releases. This year’s Talisker is a 27 years old 1985 vintage. It has been matured in refill American oak casks. I have to say the packaging, with its out-of-centre labels, looks lovely.

 

Talisker 27 Year Old 1985Talisker 27 yo 1985
(56,1%, OB 2013, 3.000 btl.)

Nose: really great, I love the mix of old books (waxed paper), dusty warehouses, orange peel and vanilla. Sea spray. Hints of wet cloths. Good to find some pastry notes as well as red apples and raspberry. Mango. Soft, sweet smoke in the background, with some ashy notes. Balanced and elegant yet powerful. Mouth: sweet and spicy, nicely building up strength. Starts on malty notes, apples and oranges. Soft tropical notes. Then quite some briny notes, liquorice and wood smoke. Ginger and cloves. Oily notes as well. Not much of the trademark pepper but punchy nonetheless. Some resinous notes, tar and dark chocolate. Finish: long, smoky, with some chocolate sweetness and tobacco. Mineral, grapefruity finale.

An excellent Talisker, one of the most powerful old expressions I can remember. Around € 600. This one seems to be still around in most shops, which is strange considering the quality.

Score: 92/100


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Coming up

  • Auchentoshan 15yo (Kintra)
  • Lagavulin 1997 Distillers Edition
  • Ben Nevis 1997 (Maltbarn)
  • Tomatin 1978 (Cadenhead / Nectar)
  • Aultmore 2007 (Daily Dram)
  • Karuizawa 45 Year Old (cask #2925)
  • Glengoyne 1999 (Palo Cortado)

1506 notes by Ruben

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