Single malt whisky - tasting notes

We’ll place a Laphroaig 1998 by Malts of Scotland against the Whisky Agency release we reviewed yesterday. As usual for Laphroaig, both were matured in bourbon casks.

 

Laphroaig 1998 - Malts of Scotland 700272Laphroaig 12 yo 1998 (59,6%,
Malts of Scotland 2011, bourbon hogshead 700272, 152 btl.)

Nose: it’s remarkable how similar this is: deep smoke, seaweed, antiseptic – the same ingredients and the same result. If we’re really splitting hairs, then this version has less citrus notes and something lightly fragrant (like a vanilla floweriness). But maybe it’s just the higher strength? Anyway very clean and without surprises. Mouth: just as powerful but a tad less sweet. It shows more lemon and other citrus fruits. Big peat and big lemon. A little liquorice. Very fresh but a tad less complex than the Whisky Agency cask. Develops an earthy grassiness as well. Finish: sooty, long, with some pepper and cocoa.

I have some difficulty writing about these Laphroaig, because the distillery has such a small deviation! Apart from a few details, bottles from a certain era can be really interchangeable. Around € 65.

Score: 86/100


The Whisky Agency released a handful of Laphroaig 1998’s already, all in their Liquid Library series (e.g. this 11yo version bottled at 59,6%).

 

Laphroaig 1998 - Whisky AgencyLaphroaig 12 yo 1998 (52,4%,
The Whisky Agency ‘Liquid Library’ 2010,
bourbon hogshead, 158 btl.)

Nose: everything you’d expect from medium aged Laphroaig: big smoke (slightly bigger than normal), coal, car workshop aromas, coastal notes (seaweed, oysters), medicinal notes (iodine, antiseptic). It’s rather dry, although there are faint sweet almond notes in the background as well and a hint of citrus. Laphroaig’s recipe is still perfectly accurate. Mouth: powerful, quite sweet now with marzipan notes and barley sugars. Earthy peat and big smoke. Getting salty with hints of liquorice. With some water, the sweetness is replaced with typical lemon notes. Mouth: long with a nice balance of rounded sweetness and dry peat. Some liquorice.

This is a perfect daily dram for peat lovers, not too complex and simply faultless. In fact I think you can never go wrong with this kind of Laphroaig. Around € 65.

Score: 86/100


Here’s our comparison cask, a Longmorn 1976 bottled by Malts of Scotland. While yesterday’s TWA Longmorn 1976 is practically sold out, this MoS version has just started to appear in stores.

 

Longmorn 34yo 1976 (51,5%, Malts of Scotland 2011,
bourbon hogshead #5892, 132 btl.)

Longmorn 1976 - Malts of Scotland 5892Nose: while it shares a lot of elements with the Whisky Agency bottling, this one shows much more vanilla and pastry notes. You could say the TWA version is more fresh and citric while this one is warmer. A little more tropical as well (ripe mango). Gooseberries. Interesting that both have a different character while they also share common things: a little mint, a little polished oak, a few spices… Less hints of dried grass in this one I would say. Water highlights the vanilla. Both very high quality, but personally I prefer the warmer version. Mouth: again different, with a more bourbonny character which means more wood varnish, more mint and cinnamon. A little eucalyptus again. Hints of vanilla fudge. Herbal tea in the end. Finish: long, drier than the TWA Longmorn. Otherwise quite similar, with mint and grapefruit.

 

This would be a difficult choice. I prefer the nose of this Malts of Scotland release, but on the palate it gets rather bourbonny. It’s quite unique and I personally don’t mind but I guess that’s not the case for everyone. It’s somewhat drier as well. Anyway no need to force a choice, both are high quality and have the same price. Around € 180.

Score: 91/100


Our first head-to-head this week are two Longmorns distilled in 1976. We’ll start with The Whisky Agency. It’s part of the series with Landscape labels.

 

Longmorn 1976 TWA LandscapesLongmorn 34yo 1976
(50,2%, The Whisky Agency ‘Landscapes’ 2010, bourbon hogshead, 139 btl.)

The nose immediately shows a big fruitiness. If you don’t mind a little generalisation, ‘76 tends to be less tropical than ‘75 Longmorn. It seems right. This one shows quite some kumquat and fresh oranges. Apricots and gooseberries. Lemon balm as well as a little mint and eucalyptus. It shows a nice dustiness and faint flinty notes, but they seem to come and go. Cinnamon. Soft oak. Water brings out grapefruit. Mouth: quite oily. Now the citrus fruits stand out – mainly oranges. Hints of pears. A few resinous notes from the oak. Ginger lemonade. Evolves on grapefruit. Very nice, with a light hint of smoke. Finish: long, on lemon and mint with a little resin again.

This is a very attractive Longmorn, less luscious and less tropical than some of the 1975’s we’ve had, but still really excellent. Around € 180. Limited availability.

Score: 91/100


Just a few days after the Miltonduff 1980 by Malts of Scotland, a sample of a sister cask arrived. Interesting! This one was bottled by A.D. Rattray as part of their March 2011 releases.

 

Miltonduff 1980 A.D. RattrayMiltonduff 30 yo 1980 (44,5%, A.D. Rattray 2011, bourbon hogshead #12427, 240 btl.)

Nose: candied, slightly tropical, with fresh fruits, vanilla and sawdust. Some fragrant dandelion notes. A little mint and honeysuckle. Apple notes grow stronger when you let it breathe. Great freshness, maybe a little more hints of dusty warehouses than the sister cask, but those work very well here. Mouth: rounded and fruity with a nice buttery mouth-feel. Some vanilla and honey, citrus, light grassy notes, maybe a tad more oak and spices than #12429. Almonds and cinnamon. Finish: quite long, warmer and spicier with a nice woodiness and cocoa in the end.

As expected, very few differences with the Malts of Scotland cask except for a little more wood. On the other hand, this will only set you back around € 95, that’s € 35 cheaper. Makes it easy to choose, right?

Score: 88/100

 

ps/ Starting tomorrow, we’ll have a few other side-by-side comparisons. Longmorn 1976, Ardmore 1992, Laphroaig 1998… similar casks from different bottlers.


Here’s a new Glen Garioch 1991 bottled by Malts of Scotland. A few months ago, the distillery announced a limited 1991 release at cask strength as well (batch N°38). Let’s hope we can have them side-by-side one day.

 

Glen Garioch 1991 | Malts of ScotlandGlen Garioch 19 yo 1991 (50,1%, Malts of Scotland 2010, cask #3175, 234 btl.)

Nose: white fruits at first (pear mostly, some apple), minerals, mint and citrus, then after some breathing it becomes very lightly sooty. Hints of coconut. Showing a fragrant side at times. Marzipan. Nice to see this light smokiness but overall not very expressive and a little youngish for a 20 year-old. Mouth: apple juice poured in an ashtray? No, not an ashtray – it’s just lightly smoky. Dry, earthy and heathery smoke. Still high on sweet apple juice. A bit of lemons and oranges. Almond notes again. Light spices. Finish: rather sweet and rounded. Almonds and apple.

Certainly not a bad Glen Garioch, as it’s pleasant and well-made but just not very fascinating in my opinion. Around € 90.

Score: 82/100


Balvenie Whisky AcademyThe Balvenie Warehouse 24 has now been expanded with a Whisky Academy. It contains four modules explaining a lot of common aspects about whisky (history, production, types of whisky, regions, aromas…) as well as some less common subjects (investing, quality vs. appreciation, terroirs…)

Balvenie’s Global Ambassador David Mair and whisky doctor Sam Simmons (now brand ambassador) are hosting 35 videos, and they’re interviewing people like David Stewart, Gavin D. Smith, Sukhinder Singh, Eddie Ludlow and Charles MacLean.

I don’t usually pass along press releases, but this time you should really check it out and dedicate some time to the videos.

http://www.thebalvenie.com/en/whisky_academy.php


You all know I love Caperdonich and 1972 was known to be a top vintage. One of my favourite distilleries and one of my favourite independent bottlers. Prepare for some fireworks.

Luc Timmermans really sparked a hype around this one. One Facebook message was enough to have it almost sell out before this first review shows up!

 

Caperdonich 1972 - Perfect DramCaperdonich 38 yo 1972 (58,4%,
Whisky Agency 2011, refill sherry, 145 btl.)

Nose: truckloads of apricot jam, with nice furniture polish and backed up by other juicy fruits like mango, tangerine, pears, quinces, even white cherries. Over time these change slightly towards (subtle) dried fruits (apricot, figs) and almonds. Apart from the fruit basket, it shows a whole range of elegant beehive notes (wax, honey, pollen). Hints of fruit tea and mint, later on soft spices as well. Hints of cigar boxes. Lovely pastry notes (lemon pie) with warm vanilla cream. Some cocoa. Candied, jammy, packed with flavours, and simply delicious! Mouth: starts fruity and rounded (figs, apricot). Then the firm oak comes rushing in (yet never too dry) with plenty of spices and mint. Slightly leathery. Really elegant and a few drops of water keeps the fruitiness alive. Finish: very long, half fruity / half oaky, and polished. Traces of liquorice and vanilla.

 

Punchy, aromatic, complex, fruity, spicy… The nose alone keeps me happy for a whole evening. The luscious apricots and figs lift it above other great 1972′s like cask #7424 for The Nectar. Last year TWA brought us the famous Longmorn 1972, and this Caperdonich promises to be one of the highlights of 2011 already! Around € 200 but I’m afraid there aren’t too many bottles left.

Score: 93/100


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Coming up

  • Glen Flagler (70° proof)
  • Ben Nevis 1997 (Abbey Whisky)
  • Blair Athol 1993 (First Editions)
  • Blair Athol 2002 (Hepburn's Choice)
  • Braeval 1994 (Tasting Fellows)
  • Tomatin 1988 (Malts of Scotland)
  • Ben Nevis 2002 (Port cask #334)

1594 notes by Ruben

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