Single malt whisky - tasting notes

Trip to Scotland

07 May 2012 | * News

Speyburn distilleryTomorrow I’m off to Scotland.

I was invited by the nice people of Inver House to visit (most of) the distilleries in their portfolio: Pulteney, Balblair, Speyburn and Knockdhu (home of anCnoc).

I’m sure I’ll be able to try great new whisky at each of the distilleries but tomorrow I’ll get in the mood with a Balblair that’s long gone.

Middle-aged Imperial is usually good value. Here’s an Imperial 1995 selected by Whisky-Fässle.


Imperial 1995 Whisky-FässleImperial 16 yo 1995 (53,9%, Whisky-Fässle 2011, bourbon hogshead)

Nose: fresh and vibrant whisky, starts malty / grainy and adds some stewed apple, banana and peach jam. Some rather spectacular mint and eucalyptus notes too. Soft herbal / grassy notes. Mouth: creamy and spicy (ginger, liquorice) with a peppery burst. After this the fruits come back (pear, citrus) with hints of vanilla. Some eucalyptus again in the aftertaste. A good swimmer, it makes it more fruity. Finish: long, on citrus zest and liquorice.

All good, not overly complex but it shows some interesting mint / eucalyptus. Around € 80, quite a price hike from other Imperial 1995 released a couple of months ago. Sold out anyway.

Score: 87/100

Knockando is a big seller in France and Spain but it’s not too popular around here. This Knockando 25 years, the oldest official release at that point, was part of Diageo’s 2011 Special releases. It was matured in first fill European oak sherry casks.


Knockando 25 yearsKnockando 25 yo
(43%, OB 2011, 4758 btl.)

Nose: a sherry character that I usually relate to refill sherry rather than first fill. Subtle sherry, quite fragrant and very fruity. Soft butterscotch, raisins. and milk chocolate. Quite some red berries, hints of ripe bananas, plum jam. Elegant polished oak and leathery notes. There’s a very faint vegetal note in the background, as well as a hint of smoke. Extremely elegant. Mouth: light, a tad weakish, but very fruity with an array of jams: strawberry, redcurrant, orange, plum… Gets drier, with oak, nuts, coffee, tobacco and Christmas cake flavours. Hints of rosehips. Liquorice and a hint of smoke again. Finish: medium long, on cocoa powder and spices.

I really like this kind of sherried elegancy, half-sweet / half-dry, so although it’s slightly tame on the palate, it gets into the 90’s territory.
Around € 160.

Score: 90/100

The Glenrothes 25 years old is a limited expression originally destined for travel retail but as often it also appeared in regular stores. Although the yield was quite low, bottles are still found here and there.

Glenrothes 25yo is a marriage of casks from 1979 as well as other years: 1967, 1972, 1977 and 1980. All these years have brought us excellent vintages from this distillery, so the marriage should be good as well.

It won the World Whiskies Award 2008 for Best New Release.


Glenrothes 25 yearsGlenrothes 25 yo
(43%, OB 2007, 2400 btl.)

Nose: really fruity, with lots of oranges, peaches, juicy plums and even strawberries. Hints of vanilla cake, barley and soft spices (pepper, ginger). A bit of bergamot honey and almonds. Leather. Rich and balanced with muted cedar wood and even a hint of smoke. Quite typical and you can tell that there’s very old whisky in there. Mouth: a drier mixture of fruits (mainly oranges now) and spices (vanilla, nutmeg). Not overly punchy, I would have preferred this at a slightly higher strength. Some creamy toffee. A tad more oak and tannins than on the nose. Finish: long, slowly drying with plenty of spices from the oak. Aniseed stands out. A hint of toast in the background.

An elegant and characteristic Glenrothes that’s quite complex and very balanced.
Around € 200.

Score: 88/100

Glenlochy distillery started up during the whisky boom at the end of the 19th century and closed down in the whisky crisis of 1983. Glenlochy occured twice in the Rare Malts series (both bottles are highly sought after) but other than that it’s a truly rare name.

This particular cask was bottled by Part des Anges, a label set up by Laurent Buob and Thierry Richard, French wine / champagne sellers. The Closed Distilleries series is a collection of single casks from… closed distilleries of course. It seems the series never gained much popularity, it started in 2006 but the tempo has always been quite slow.


Glenlochy 1980 | Part Des AngesGlenlochy 27 yo 1980
(58,3%, Part des Anges ‘Closed Distilleries’ 2007, cask #2826, 231 btl.)

Nose: minerals, turpentine, wax… this is typically a Highland whisky and not the most accessible. Quite peaty as well, not unlike the 1980’s Brora style in fact, but maybe more medicinal than Brora. At the start it showed beautiful round notes (apple pie, fruit syrup) but these disappeared quickly. Settles on paraffin and grasses. Mouth: punchy, again waxy and mineral but it show a little more roundness now (lime, apple). Spices (ginger, pepper). Some earthy notes and peat. Camphor and mint. A slightly oaky dryness as well. Finish: long, kind of hot and peaty.

A confident example of the Highlands austerity. Therefore not a real seducer but more of an intellectual malt. Around € 180.

Score: 87/100

Highland Park started a new limited quartet (similar to their Saint Magnus trilogy) called Valhalla Collection. In the best story-telling tradition, all four will be named after Norse legends and gods and the first one is Highland Park Thor. Loki, Freia and Odin will follow later.



The whisky is 16 years old, cask strength (“Thor” strength) and it’s presented in an impressive boat-like wooden frame. For more information, head over to the official website Whisky of the Gods.



Highland Park ThorHighland Park Thor
(52,1%, OB 2012, 23.000 btl.)

Nose: the first thing that strikes me is its sweetness (as I don’t associate sweetness to a God like Thor). I get peach jam, stewed yellow plums, vanilla, barley sugars. Candied ginger. Over time the peatiness and sooty smoke move forward. I like this combination a lot, it’s fresh and relatively powerful at the same time. Mouth: punchy, with a more earthy kick of peat and smoke, but it retains this sweet coating of candied apples and pear candy. Quince jelly. Hints of cassis even. Dollops of honey. Vanilla biscuits. A faint salty twist. Finish: long, still fruity (citrus) and subtle spices. Still a hint of smoke in the very end.

This is not just a nice packaging, it’s a rather fruity Highland Park, mixed nicely with some peat smoke and spices. It’s certainly a different style of HP but a lovely one. If you ask me this Valhalla Collection started off in a much better way than the previous trilogy already. It’s not all positive news though as it’s way overpriced, so in that respect I would have dropped the wooden frame. Around € 150.

Score: 90/100

The yearly Islay festival Feis Ile 2012 is coming (26th of May until 2nd of June). Here are some of the things worth looking out for.


Kilchoman will release a Feis Ile bottling at 4 years of age, 100% Islay produced, matured in first fill bourbon and finished in oloroso sherry.

Bowmore will release a limited 15 years old. Only 750 bottles. There’s also a commerorative Bowmore 1985, only 200 bottles.

Ardbeg Day sherry 56.7%Lagavulin offers a 14 year-old distilled in 1998 and matured in a refill sherry butt, cask strength (55,1%), 654 bottles. £ 85.

From Coal Ila comes an 11 year-old distilled in 2001 and matured in a sherry butt. Again cask strength (60,4%) and 618 bottles. £ 85.


Ardbeg is celebrating 2nd June 2012 as the first global Ardbeg Day. People can take part in the “Islay-limpics”: phenolic gymnastics tastings, Marathon tastings, sprint tastings, etc. They will also release an Ardbeg Day 2012 bottling, without age statement. It’s an assembly of two vintages matured in bourbon casks and married / finished in refill sherry casks previously used for Ardbeg Uigeadail. Cask strength 56,7%. It will be available from the distillery but also from the various Ardbeg Embassies around the world (in Belgium we have four).

Speyburn whiskySpeyburn, part of the Inver House group that also houses anCnoc and Old Pulteney among others, had a recent brand makeover. The new bottles are more modern and they’ve presented Clan Speyburn, a community for fans of the distillery.

One of the privileges of the Clan members is the possibility to purchase exclusive whisky releases. The first of these Clan casks (available February 2013), is a Speyburn 1975 single cask. Cask #3413 comes from the famous Pedro Domecq bodegas in Jerez de la Frontera and ‘most probably’ held Pedro Ximénez sherry.

I had a chance to try a March 2012 sample of this cask and I was quite charmed…


Speyburn Clan cask 1975Speyburn 37 yo 1975 ‘Clan cask’ (55,8%, OB 2012, Clan Speyburn exclusive, sherry butt #3413)

Nose: plays the card of polished oak and sherry. Raisins and elegant spices. Quite some citrus / orange marmalade. A few floral hints (dandelions) and hay as well. Some tobacco. After a while the oak polish (with quite some estery hints of glue at first) diminishes and makes place for juicy red fruits (raspberry jam and redcurrant). Quite excellent. Mouth: sweetish start, quite assertive and immediately spicy: pepper, ginger, cinnamon. Still nice and fruity, hints of forest fruit candy. Chocolate mousse. Hints of mint and liquorice.  It’s not totally free of tannins but it’s impressively vibrant. Finish: long, half fruity / half oaky. Still nicely fruity.

This is an excellent sherried whisky and a great surprise from Speyburn. Around € 270. Sadly only available for UK customers. That’s a shame and disappointing for a supposedly worldwide clan.

Score: 91/100



November 2015
« Oct    

Coming up

  • Lindores 2015 festival bottling
  • Amrut 2009 (cask #2701)
  • 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)

1931 notes by Ruben

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