Single malt whisky - tasting notes

Duncan Taylor is the most active supplier of good Caperdonich. Until last year, they were released as part of their Rare Auld series, but since the demolition of the distillery (October 2010), new bottlings are part of the Rarest of the Rare series. It’s sad but Caperdonich will never come back.

Last February, a Caperdonich 1969 cask #3250 was bottled, as well as the Caperdonich 1972 cask #7460 we’re reviewing here. Earlier this week, cask #7440 was bottled (53,6% as well).

 

Caperdonich 1972 7460Caperdonich 38 yo 1972 (53,6%,
Duncan Taylor Rarest of the Rare 2011,
cask #7460, 160 btl.)

Nose: very close to the 1972 bottled by Whisky Agency, which is currently my benchmark Caperdonich. Furniture polish and oak (which fades out over time) with tangerine, yellow plums, oranges and a little mango. Very juicy, a tad more citrusy than the TWA version. Maybe a bit more spices: cinnamon and mint, a little pepper. Vanilla. Slightly less beehive notes, although there’s certainly some wax and honey involved. Again very attractive with great depth. Mouth: assertive and punchy. Initially there’s a certain sharpness from the oak but over time it gets smoother. Very fruity: apricots, fig marmalade, honey. Plenty of spices (pepper, mint, cloves) and a faint bitter note from the oak. Finish: ginger and liquorice, mixed with honey.

Another wonderful Caperdonich! One point less for having a slightly less unique nose, but on the other hand this is priced well below the TWA version. Around € 140 which makes it quite a bargain. It seems most of the allocation went to Germany.

Score: 93/100

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Whisky-Doris released a cask of Ledaig 2001 (peated Tobermory) and as they often do, there’s a high strength version (60,6%) and a low strength version (well low strength… 50,5%). According to Doris, it’s probably from a refill sherry butt.

 

Ledaig 9yo 2001 Whisky-DorisLedaig 9 yo 2001 (50,5%, Whisky-Doris 2011, sherry butt, 212 btl.)

Nose: big peat, exhaust fumes and smoked meat. Unique hints of pimentón (smoked paprika powder, commonly used in Spain to prepare Pulpo a la Gallega). Then big coastal notes (cod-liver oil, smoked fish, iodine) and hints of rubber boots. Quite farmy as well: wet earth, a little yeast. Underneath a nice layer of dried fruits and burnt sugar from the sherry. Fresh lemon and ginger. Some Mexican chocolate with spices. High complexity considering the age. Mouth: oily mouth-feel, with earthy peat but also a honey coating. Lemon. Coastal notes again. Tar. Less complex now, but very clean. Finish: very long, peaty and slightly chocolaty with a salty note.

A well-made peat bomb, with plenty of peat and coastalness but also quite rounded thanks to the sweeter sherry notes. This version costs € 42. The higher strength version is € 48.

Score: 87/100

The 60,6% version starts more alcoholic and is slightly more closed. It takes more time to open up, but after a while they’re quite similar. I would suggest the 50,5% version as it has more than enough power and shows more of its flavours without the need to fiddle with water.


Another Coal Ila from Dewar Rattray (now A.D. Rattray to avoid confusion with the other Dewar) but from a long time ago. This Caol Ila 1984 was bottled for The Nectar, their Belgian importer at that time.

When I started collecting whisky, this was a must-have bottle, certainly after it won a silver medal at the 2006 Malt Maniacs Awards.

 

Caol Ila 1984 (#6226 - The Nectar)Caol Ila 21 yo 1984 (58,5%, Dewar Rattray
for The Nectar 2006, bourbon cask #6266,
251 btl.)

Nose: moderately peaty with sweet lemon juice, candied zest and vanilla. Some dried hay and liquorice. Nice balance of pastry notes (butter cake) and drier hints of limestone, minerals and seafood. There’s a great farmy side to it as well, which grows stronger with a few drops of water. Quite rounded and gentle but very complex. Mouth: oily and mouth-coating. A much bigger peatiness now. Bread crust. Caramelized apples. Becomes drier and spicy in the end. Finish: very long, sweet with peat and coastal hints.

One of the best Caol Ila I’ve had. I feel lucky to have secured a bottle back then. Around € 110 but probably impossible to find now, except in auctions.

Score: 91/100


This Caol Ila 2000 was part of the latest releases by A.D. Rattray.

 

Caol Ila 2000 A.D. RattrayCaol Ila 10 yo 2000 (46%, A.D. Rattray 2011, bourbon cask #309530, 322 btl.)

Nose: a bit more peat than expected. Aromatic peat, with coastal notes (wet rocks) and medicinal elements but with a rounded sweetness in the background as well. Lemon candy. Green apple. Clean and simple. Mouth: again quite peaty with the same lemon candy theme. Youngish but very juicy, nicely mixed with coastal notes. Ashes. Liquorice. Nice mocha / butterscotch towards the end. Finish: quite long and ashy with a lemon / salt combo.

This Caol Ila proudly displays its well-made, youthful simplicity and clean Islay character. A nice and affordable gift for an Islay-lover, I would say.
Around € 50.

Score: 85/100


A few Ardbeg distilled in 1972 are truly legendary. The one for Velier Italy, the Ardbeggedon for PLOWED… many of them appear in shortlists of connoisseurs.

The one we’re tasting now is quite famous as well. It was distilled in November 1972 and bottled for Alambic Classique, a German spirits importer founded by Hermann Suppanz.

 

Ardbeg 1972 DL Alambic GermanyArdbeg 28 yo 1972 (50,1%, Douglas Laing for Alambic Classique Germany 2000,
234 btl.)

Nose: wow. Let’s start by saying it’s quite organic and farmy, with notes of fern forest and wet leaves. Stables and sheep. Tobacco as well. Then some deep tarry notes and peat, nicely balanced. On a third layer, there’s something in between mint and dental filling material, if you know what I mean. Medicinal and mineral notes, maybe even some rubber or diesel. Leather. Algae. Quite dry, but wonderful. Mouth: quite dry again and rather salty. Liquorice and ashes. Lovely peat with camphor. Again some rubber. Cecina de León. Lots of algae. Not overly complex and missing punch in the middle, but still excellent. Finish: long, salty and dry.

Spitzenklasse, as they say in Germany. A true classic and as I said, it’s famous so the last bottle sold on Whiskyauction fetched € 740. Many thanks for the sample, Thomas!

Score: 94/100


Bowmore 2001 Daily Dram GermanyAnother Daily Dram bottling exclusively for Germany. Sold by eSpirits.

 

Bowmore 9 yo 2001 (46%, The Nectar of the Daily Drams for Germany 2010, bourbon cask)

Nose: Oily and mildly peaty, with charcoal rather than actual smoke. Clear sea-breeze notes. Quite malty as well, with notes of hay and fresh barley. Hints of carbolic soap (nice and harmless). A faint buttery note. Overall quite dry, no particular sweetness to be noted. Mouth: creamy with a peppery kick and some salt. More pronounced peat now. Oily and slightly grassy development. Cold ashes and clean lemon. Finish: medium length, briny with lemon and pepper.

A clean and simple Bowmore, getting close to Coal Ila with its faultless medium peated style. Around € 50.

Score: 84/100


Belgian Owl is a another Belgian whisky. This single malt was created by Etienne Bouillon who also owns a fruit liqueur distillery near Liège. The recent 53 months old release is the oldest Belgian Owl currently available. A slightly younger version (44 months) received a whopping 95,5 points in the latest Whisky Bible by Jim Murray.

Note the enormous 74% alcohol. It’s probably the strongest drink I’ve ever had. By the way, are there rules about maximum strength or can you just distill 99% of alcohol and claim it’s whisky as well?

 

Belgian Owl 53 monthsBelgian Owl 53 months
(74,1%, OB 2010, cask #4275986)

Nose: freshly cut oak and hay, lots of mint and lemon. Some vanilla custard. Spiced honey. Hints of apricot sweets and dried banana. Water brings out a slightly dusty muesli aroma. Mouth: sharp, grainy / grassy attack. Develops a bubblegummy flavour after the alcohol fades. Difficult to taste straight of course, so let’s add water. Much more creamy, but still quite grassy and gingery, with a bitterness that I find a little disturbing. Citrus again. Oak and nutmeg, other spices as well. Pears and vanilla. Not the fruity spirit I expected. Finish: long, half fruity, half bitter. And grainy.

Not bad, but no highflyer either (not yet?). Around € 65 but very limited so it’s hard to find.

Score: 71/100


Gouden Carolus whiskyBrewery Het Anker is located in my home town Mechelen and produces renowned beers like Gouden Carolus and the vintage Cuvee van de Keizer. In 2003, they decided to do an experiment: distill the beer mash of Gouden Carolus Triple and mature it in Jim Beam casks.

While the first batches (like the 2009 release) were made in column stills, they’re now reconstructing an old genever distillery which features pot stills from Forsyths (at a mere 200 meters from the place where I’m about to build a house, what a coincidence). It’s the first dedicated pot still distillery in our country and we can expect the new single malt somewhere around 2013.

 

Gouden Carolus whiskyGouden Carolus ‘2009 release’
(40%, OB 2009)

Nose: indeed very reminiscent of the Gouden Carolus Triple beer. Big banana aromas (slightly synthetic though) with coriander seeds. Rather flowery. Hints of lemon and lemon grass, on the edge of becoming soapy. Faint yeast. Mouth: artificial citrus and pear. Tinned lychee. Coriander seeds and orange peel. Gumball. Now also lavender soap I’m afraid. A shame. Finish: short, with plain alcohol and banana skin.

At first I was charmed by the distinct smell of beer mash, which I found unusual and interesting. But once tasted, the same beer associations become a big disadvantage. A curiosum at this point, but I’m sure the pot stills have a bright future ahead.

Score: 60/100


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Coming up

  • Cardhu 18 Year Old
  • Benriach 1991 (MoS for QV.ID)
  • Blair Athol 1991 (Wemyss Malts)
  • Ledaig 2005 (Maltbarn)
  • Ardbeg 15yo 1973 (Sestante)
  • Aberlour 8yo (cube, small cork)
  • Balblair Millennium

1638 notes by Ruben

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