Single malt whisky - tasting notes

Hey, Benromach, why didn’t this distillery feature on this blog earlier? Maybe because I only tried some standard expressions in the past (Benromach Organic, Benromach Origins) and I wasn’t impressed.

The distillery is owned and operated by independent bottler Gordon & MacPhail. It’s small (only 2 employees) and had a history of ups and downs – between 1983 and 1998 it was closed altogether.

This 1977, bottled for the Belgian importer Premium Spirits, is pre-G&M distillation, made with equipment that has been replaced in the 1990’s.

 

Benromach 1977 - Premium Spirits BelgiumBenromach 34 yo 1977 (48%, OB for Premium Spirits Belgium 2011, refill American hogshead #1470, 249 btl.)

Nose: elegant nose on raisins and honey with some polished furniture. Jammy, juicy fruits (peach, pear, melon) and some floral notes. Notes of honeysuckle. Distant hints of library dust, cinnamon and vanilla. Fresh and attractive, although not very complex. Mouth: smooth, fruity start (citrus, peach again) with some waxy notes – not as sweet as the nose suggested. Barley. Evolving quickly on spices from the oak (ginger and pepper). Roasted notes, even a vague hint of smoke. Finish: medium long, on natural caramel and a herbal touch of oak.

A nice surprise. Not much to complain although it’s not exactly unique. G&M is probably not doing enough to promote Benromach, this deserves some praise. Around € 165.

Score: 88/100


This is the first Bunnahabhain in the Elements of Islay series. It’s a peated version from an otherwise unpeated Islay distillery.

 

Bunnahabhain Bn1Bunnahabhain Bn1
(55,6%, Elements of Islay 2011, 50 cl)

Nose: peated, no doubt. Rather deep smoke with a hint of rubber. Very sweet too, especially when diluted: big notes of honey, barley and quite some vanilla, which make this a nicely warm nose. Sweet apples. Citrus candy. Almonds. Medicinal notes in the background. Mouth: big and oily with punchy peat again. That same hint of rubber to start off, quickly overtaken by sweet apple and pear (makes me think it’s not too old). Lemon. Big pepper, a little ginger and a few briny hints and tar towards the end. Finish: rather long and smoky with notes of salty liquorice and citrus zest.

This Bunnahabhain is fairly simple but packed with punch and it features a lovely nose. Even though peated spirit is not its core business, Bunnahabhain sure knows how to present this style. Check it out if you like a young, peaty profile. Around € 50.

Score: 85/100


In the recent wave of Glen Grant 1972 there’s also this interesting bottle by Whisky-Doris. Colour, age, provenance are similar, so let’s hope it’s on the same level as the Glen Grant 1972 for Spirits in the Sky.

 

Glen Grant 1972 Whisky-DorisGlen Grant 39 yo 1972 (48%, Whisky-Doris 2011, sherry hogshead #11395, 163 btl.)

Nose: This one has less alcohol and indeed it starts more like the Spirits in the Sky version with water. It seems more open – it doesn’t have as much cherry notes but its fruitiness is wider, like a red fruit compote with tropical touches in the background. Leather again. Maybe a little more spices and cocoa. Dates. Mouth: smoother but just as fruity and intense. Plums, blackberries, figs, all present. Extra raspberry (nice). Develops on cocoa, almost completely on chocolate in the end. Pretty much perfect strength and nicely supported by the spices without being oaky. Finish: long, sweet. Spices and chocolate.

I don’t have a favourite, both are equally great in my opinion. The lower strength certainly isn’t a downside and it’s 10% cheaper as well. Recommended. Around € 190. Available from Whisky-Doris.

Score: 92/100


This is the Glen Grant 1972 I was talking about last November when a group of people selected it as the Spirits in the Sky bottling in a Whisky Agency Masterclass. It arrived in stores last week and I’ve heard sales are roaring.

 

Glen Grant 1972 - TWA Spirits in the SkyGlen Grant 39 yo 1972 (53,2%,
The Whisky Agency ‘Perfect Dram’ 2011, ex-sherry cask, 119 btl.)

Nose: big big notes of cherries (dark cherries as well as Portuguese Ginjinha liqueur made from Morello cherries). Lots of dried fruits like figs. Bramble and plums. Dark honey. Precious woods and hints of leather and eucalyptus. Heaps of oriental spices as well (which blend into a kind of incense profile). A drop of water brings out beehive notes and makes the fruits a little more tropical. Just great. Mouth: more oak in the attack, but quickly the fruits take over. Still plenty of cherry notes, plums and mixed red fruit jam, this time combining nicely with a chocolate coating. Fruit cake. Finish: long and elegant, fading on Mon Cherie and soft spices.

This Glen Grant 1972 is clearly more sherried than the MM Awards winning Glen Grant 1972/2009 by Duncan Taylor or any other (mostly refill sherry) expressions of GG72. The oak is well controlled. A real beauty. Recommended. Around € 210.

Score: 92/100

Merry Xmas everyone!


Cutty Sark bookAlthough I’m generally not the biggest fan of whisky books, I’ve recently spent a few evenings reading the new Cutty Sark book. In many regions it’s one of the most popular brands of blended whisky and the story behind the brand is quite colourful and interesting to read.

This 192-page book was edited by Ian Buxton and features articles by Helen Arthur, Dave Broom, Charles Maclean, Marcin Miller and several other well-known names.

 

It starts by investigating the popularity of the brand in different key markets around the world: Madrid (where it is mixed with lemonade, I’ve witnessed that), Lisbon, Lithuania, India, China & Japan, Britain, etc. After that, different aspects of the brand’s history are placed in the spotlight.

One of the most important things is the link between Prohibition and Cutty Sark (you may have read about this in the Whisky Yearbook 2012 as well). It’s no secret that Cutty Sark was intended for oversees markets and Captain Bill McCoy provided the East of the USA with an important amount of Scotch, obviously a much better product than the illicit liquors at the time. No surprise the Americans stayed faithful to their brand even after the liquor ban was put to an end.

Also nice to read is the article about Kirsteen Campbell, the new Master Blender of Cutty Sark. Interesting fact: she makes around 120 batches a year, each composed of 103 butts of malt and grain whisky. Kudos for keeping all these batches consistent!

Of course there’s also a chapter about the components of the blend: Glenrothes (the “home” of Cutty Sark), Tamdhu, Highland Park, The Macallan and Bunnahabhain, as well as some information on cocktail making with Cutty Sark. And much more…

In short: a book that’s well written, with beautiful photographs. A great gift for the holidays, even for people who are normally not blend drinkers!

Cutty Sark: The making of a whisky brand
ISBN: 9781780270265
Ed. Ian Buxton
hardback, around € 35


Fulldram whisky labelA couple of weeks ago, members of the Fulldram Whisky Club asked me if I was interested in designing a label for their new bottling, the first one released under their own name. Of course I was looking forward to combine two of my major passions! The result is a minimal design with fairly uncommon proportions.

I’ve just picked up my own bottles of this 12 years old Bowmore 1999 bottled by Fulldram and drawn from an oloroso cask so I’m quite curious to find out how it tastes.

 

Bowmore 1999 FulldramBowmore 12 yo 1999 (57,6%, Fulldram 2011, oloroso sherry cask, 190 btl.)

Nose: immediately smoky (charcoal) and coastal (seaweed, tarry ropes). Not really a sherry bomb but it does open up nicely with sweeter notes of apples, yellow plums and apricots. Also a wave of yellow raisins and natural caramel. Water even brings out some hints of overripe mango. Some wet hay and chocolate. Strong but beautifully balanced and mouth-watering. Mouth: very powerful with lots of peat, more than we’ve come to expect from Bowmore recently. Strong liquorice / menthol notes (Fisherman’s friend). It takes a while before the hotness fades away and sweeter background notes come forward. Raisins again, hints of berries. Anise. Water makes it a little more rounded, but it stays bold and peaty. Finish: long and coastal, with liquorice and a lingering sweetness.

A good Bowmore which combines powerful Islay flavours with sweeter aromas. I would have liked a tad more roundness on the palate – it’s very peaty so I think it could resist a little more sherry, but given the price (€ 60 for members) it offers very good value for money. If you’re not in the Fulldram whisky club, your best shot at getting it would be QV.ID.

Score: 87/100


Based on the limited number of bottles and the link with The Whiskyman, we can probably assume this Laphroaig 1990 is from a shared cask. Jack, the friendly chief of Whiskysite.nl kindly provided a sample.

 

Laphroaig 1990 Whiskysite.nlLaphroaig 21yo 1990 (48,4%, Whiskysite.nl 2011, selected by The Whiskyman, bourbon hogshead, 60 btl.)

Nose: quite aromatic. It’s definitely peaty and smoky (hints of bacon) but there’s a nice layer of banana, gooseberries and vanilla to make it a little rounder. Similar to the Laphroaig 1990 by Malts of Scotland in that respect. Nice lemon candy. Some seaweed in the background. Balanced nose. Mouth: sweet and citrusy. More emphasis on the smoke now (smoked fish). Hints of liquorice and antiseptic. Some briny notes as well. Again good fun. Finish: very long, smoky, citrusy.

It’s complex and certainly up there with the other great Laphroaig 1990 we’ve seen in the past few months. Around € 120. They also have a sample for you to try.

Score: 89/100


Here’s another single blend produced at Lochside distillery. This time a 1965 bottled by Adelphi from a sherry cask. It won a gold medal at the recent Malt Maniacs Awards 2011.

 

Lochside 1965 AdelphiLochside 46 yo 1965 (52,3%,
Adelphi 2011, sherry cask #6778,
single blend, 499 btl.)

Nose: a totally different genre but equally excellent. It’s sherried with polished oak and plenty of red fruits (raspberries, redcurrant jam). Leathery notes. Similar tropical notes (banana and mango) but in a thick sherry coating this time. Lovely combination which made me think of the legendary Longmorn 1972 Perfect Dram (really). Rum & raisins. Almonds. Even a faint whiff of smoke. Stunning. Mouth: huge in many ways. The sherry is huge, the fruitiness is huge, the oak as well. Spicy (ginger, nutmeg) and herbal. Eucalyptus. Plenty of tannins. Burnt sugar. Finish: very long, very intense with bitter oranges, dark chocolate and cloves.

 

Yesterday’s Lochside 1964 was harmonious and smooth. This one is taking a different route. It’s incredibly intense and punchy, heavily influenced by the wood, but it’s a unique experience with elements of whisky, rum, cognac… On the nose I prefer this 1965 (not necessarily because it’s better but because I prefer sherry notes over grain notes) and on the palate it simply blew my socks off, but beware, that cough syrup profile will definitely be too challenging for some people. A masterpiece, but a masterpiece with barbs. Around € 310.

Score: 92/100


Categories

Calendar

July 2015
M T W T F S S
« Jun    
 12345
6789101112
13141516171819
20212223242526
2728293031  

Coming up

  • Balmenach 2001 (Liquid Treasures)
  • Auchentoshan Heartwood
  • Elements of Islay Lp6
  • Strathisla 1948/1961
  • Benromach 15 Years

1822 notes by Ruben

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