Single malt whisky - tasting notes

Here’s the 14 years old Ben Nevis 1992 I tried in The Glengarry last week-end. I’ve bought a bottle myself a few weeks ago so I was happy to be able to try it.

This Ben Nevis was matured in a sherry cask for 13 years, then watered down, then further matured for one year and finally bottled at 46%. On the label they call this “double maturation”.

 

Ben Nevis 1992 cask 2623Ben Nevis 14 yo 1992
(46%, OB 2007, sherry cask #2623, 815 btl.)

Nose: starts a little sharp and not as sherried as I had hoped. Plenty of orange peel, liquorice and some mineral notes, even a few coastal hints. It takes a while, but it opens up nicely with rounder chocolate and nutty notes. Some leather. Soft herbs. Mouth: good strength, with more sherry notes now. Sweet raisins, kumquats, chocolate. Orange liqueur. Hints of ginger. Something delicately smoky in the background. Still a surprising coastal hint. Finish: medium long on rounded sherry, spices and a bit of wood.

Not an easy one to describe or score. Don’t be fooled by the first impression – it takes a very long time to display its full potential. Around € 100 if you can still find a bottle.

Score: 87/100


The Glengarry Gent

The Glengarry is one of the few dedicated whisky pubs in Belgium. It’s located in Gent and run by Bob Minnekeer who has years of experience in tastings and Scotland trips. He’s also the author of several books on whisky.

Other than the Medieval vaults and Bob’s Bowmore collection, the pub’s atmosphere is a little disappointing. There’s a big selection of whiskies though, with a few hundred bottles to choose from. I saw many standard bottlings (including some very recent ones), lots of independent releases, a couple of really old ones, some Japanese whiskies, etc. so it’s certainly a must for whisky enthousiasts in Belgium.

 

Location: Sint-Baafsplein 32, 9000 Gent (Belgium)
Range: +/- 250 single malts
Price: € 4 to € 30 (for a 3cl dram)

What I’ve had: Ben Nevis 14yo 1992 ‘double matured’ cask #2623 (€ 10)
Glass: ISO tulip (with an engraved Johnnie Walker logo…)

Pros: great selection, quality advice available
Cons: rather dusty atmosphere


German whisky shop Whisky-Doris has a couple of new releases. First up is this 31 years old Bunnahabhain. We’ve seen quite a few 1970’s Bunnas but the 1980’s are far more uncommon.

 

 

Bunnahabhain 1980 Whisky-DorisBunnahabhain 31 yo 1980 (46,3%, Whisky-Doris 2011, bourbon hogshead #13, 177 btl.)

Nose: starts fairly simple on fragrant oranges and sea breezes. After opening up, the fruitiness widens into orange peel, fruit cake, honey and hints of vanilla. The sea breeze develops into a big saltiness, soft medicinal notes and all-round spiciness. Some leather and nutmeg as well. Mouth: not overly powerful, but punchy enough and very complex. There are nutty notes, fruity notes (even hints of coconut and tropical fruits), a beer-like malty note, eucalyptus oil, a leathery note again, tobacco, ginger, liquorice…   and again coastal elements. Finish: medium long, half sweet / half bitter with orange notes, soft peat and ginger.

Not an easy one to assess, but a very complex and proudly coastal Bunnahabhain. Take your time and enjoy. Available from Whisky-Doris, € 110.

Score: 89/100


When I tried most of the fourth batch of GlenDronach single casks a couple of weeks ago, I went on and forgot to publish the review of this GlenDronach 1971 cask #1436.

Actually I didn’t completely forget, but I felt a little unimpressed with this year’s single casks. Let’s hope they still have some great casks lying around, because upping the price each year and lowering the quality doesn’t make much sense.

 

GlenDronach 1971 cask 1436GlenDronach 40 yo 1971
(48,5%, OB 2011, PX sherry puncheon #1436, 583 btl.)

Nose: meaty start with some gravy notes and Oxo. Dark crispy bacon. Dried fruits as well (blackberry jam) but none of the fresh fruitiness that we’ve seen in previous 1971 and (especially) 1972 casks. If you wait long enough, there are some nice tobacco notes, roasted nuts and moccha. Disappointing in terms of freshness and complexity. Mouth: perfect drinking strength but an unusual mixture of sharp, slightly vinegary notes and dark, sticky plums, with nothing in between. A little incoherent and too sweet I’m afraid – think actual PX sherry or Greek raisin syrup. After that it becomes spicier (pepper), nuttier but woodier as well. Finish: dry, with walnuts and the return of tobacco notes.

A collector’s item maybe, but not the most rewarding GlenDronach for whisky drinkers in my opinion. Around € 450, still readily available.

Score: 83/100


Whisky enthusiasts are sometimes joking about Jura – the distillery doesn’t have a solid reputation, although there have definitely been some excellent versions in the past. From what I’ve heard, the recent Jura 1976 ‘Feith A’ Chaorainn’ is also worth a try (but probably not worth € 650).

This Isle of Jura 1988 was bottled from a bourbon cask, although the colour could easily trick you into thinking it was a sherry cask. The final bottling in the Romantique series.

 

Jura 1988 Whisky AgencyIsle of Jura 23 yo 1988 (52,9%, The Whisky Agency ‘Romantique’ 2011, ex-bourbon hogshead, 201 btl.)

Nose: nicely aromatic. There are ripe fruity notes (oranges, berries) but overall it’s fairly dry, heathery and nutty and it shows a distinct coastal character. Very gentle peat, traces of iodine and light camphor. Hints of tobacco, leather and dried herbs. Cocoa. Great surprise. Mouth: good weight, starting on a herbal sweetness. Lovely old peat and smoke in the background. Light pepper. Faint medicinal elements again. Balances nicely with rounded chocolate, dried oranges and soft spices. Finish: long, drier and earthier, with oranges, cocoa and soft oak.

A great surprise indeed. I would have sworn there are traces of old-style sherried Islay whisky in here. A recent jewel coming from Jura, was anyone expecting this? Well priced as well: around € 110. Highly recommended.

Score: 91/100


It seems the overall quality of this latest Romantique series by The Whisky Agency is very high again. Here’s another one, a 35 years old Dailuaine.

 

Dailuaine 1976 Whisky AgencyDailuaine 35 yo 1976 (50,5%, The Whisky Agency ‘Romantique’ 2011, ex-bourbon hogshead, 148 btl.)

Nose: beautiful, with lots of warm oak and soft turpentine. Wax polish and beehive notes. Some citrus (oranges, pink grapefruit) and ripe banana. Hints of dried flowers. A hint of vanilla, cinnamon and mint as well. Quite complex and very elegant. Mouth: hmm, focuses directly on Seville oranges although there are other fruits and a little vanilla as well. Pretty oaky with an obvious bitterish side. Evolves to a soft peppery / herbal palate. Hints of fruit tea. Finish: long with oranges, ginger, a fair amount of drying oak and a nice nuttiness.

Indeed, high quality again. There’s some firm oak in this Dailuaine but it’s still within limits. Around € 180.

Score: 87/100


Hotel Bero - Ardbeg 1991This 20 year-old Ardbeg (distilled February 1991) was bottled by Malts of Scotland for Hotel Bero in Ostend (owned by Lindores member Geert Bero and the location for the Lindores Whisky Fest). Anyone can try it in the hotel bar, but you can only buy a bottle when you are sleeping at the hotel.

It was presented at the Lindores Whisky Fest last weekend and I heard some discussions about the price. Many people wondered how a 20 year-old whisky could be worth € 225, but remember sherried Ardbegs are thinly scattered. Douglas Laing released a 1991 refill cask earlier this year and that was rather scandalously priced at € 450. So yes, it is expensive but relatively cheap at the same time. Ardbeg is not selling casks to independent bottlers any more, so I’m afraid the times of affordable medium-aged sherry cask Ardbegs are now officially over!

 

Ardbeg 1991 Hotel Bero - Malts of ScotlandArdbeg 20 yo 1991 (48,4%, Malts of Scotland for Hotel Bero 2011, sherry hogshead #MoS 11003, 240 btl.)

Nose: balanced nose with excellent notes of old ashes and tar on the one hand and rounded, chocolaty notes on the other hand. Sweet almonds and rhubarb compote. Figs. Lovely tobacco leaves. Old leather. Relatively soft iodine and hints of camphor. Complex, not extremely big (which is a good thing – it’s not over-sherried nor over-peated) and quite brilliant. Mouth: starts rich and oily with sweet peat smoke. Again some almonds, now mixed with dried fruits and lemon drops. Some herbal notes. The smoke grows stronger, the soft tar shows up again. No brute forces here, it’s all about integrating the different flavours. Finish: long on dried fruits and smoke with a softly coastal edge.

The sherry complements the whisky very well, and the harmonious qualities might actually justify the price in my opinion. Available at the Hotel Bero for € 225.

Score: 91/100


Lindores Whisky FestToday is a big day. I’m heading to the Lindores Whisky Fest. Usually this is an open festival, renowned for its selection of legendary old bottlings, but this year (due to construction works in the Bero Hotel), it’s on invitation.

Anyone could suggest a bottle that he wished to donate for the occasion, and about 50 people were selected to join in. The Glenrothes 1979 single cask #3808 will be my entrance ticket.

Apart from the list of donations, all the bottles in the Lindores vaults will be available to try.

 

Lindores Whisky Fest

Lindores Whisky LoungeIt was a great day. The concept worked fine, with enough space in the lounge to move around freely and talk with different people. There were around 50 bottles from participants (left part of the stand – click the polaroid to see the full picture) and at least the same amount from the Lindores vaults.

All of the bottles were high quality and some of them truly legendary. It would be impossible to mention everything I’ve tasted – the 1cl micro-drams allowed you to try as many different things as possible – but here are some of the highlights…

 

  • Bowmore 31 yo 1957/1988 (40%, Hart Brothers)

    Very fruity and slightly exotic Bowmore, soft but showing a lovely profile.

  • Springbank 25 yo (46%, OB, Archibald Mitchell, dumpy bottle)

    Among the best Springbanks I’ve tried so far. Similar style to the well-known 21 years old.

  • Glenfarclas 21 yo (51,5%, OB for Pinerolo)

    The best Glenfarclas ever, according to some people. Maybe not the absolute stunner I was expecting, but still a hugely complex and attractive Glenfarclas.

  • BenRiach 34 yo 1976/2011 (48,2%, OB cask #3033 for Taiwan)

    Wow! Not far from the best 1976’s out there. Even cask #3557 for LMdW couldn’t put it to shame.

  • Caperdonich 39 yo 1972/2011 (52,8%, Whisky Agency Private Stock)

    Confirmed itself as one of the best Caper 1972’s.

  • Glenugie 31 yo 1980/2011 “Exotic scenes in a Bedouin tent” (48,3%, SMWS 99.13)

    Very fruity, slightly oriental. Very unique and hugely complex. Don’t underestimate Glenugie!

  • Ben Nevis 40 yo 1963/2004 (45,7%, Douglas Laing Platinum)

    Rather superb Ben Nevis with the usual lipstick, oranges and bourbon notes. Nothing to complain about.

  • Glenfarclas 1965 cask sample

    The last 1965 cask in the Glenfarclas warehouses and probably one of the next bottlings by Luc Timmermans. Better than the first 1965 Family Cask and the 1965/1999 cask #3897 by The Bottlers that were also available.

  • Highland Park 30 yo 1956/1986 (55,6%, G&M for Intertrade)

    Stunning Highland Park: smoky, fruity, chocolaty.

 

No doubt I’m forgetting to mention a couple of beauties. It didn’t end with exceptional single malts either. What to say of this…

  • Johnnie Walker Red Label rotation 1924
  • Toro Albala Don P.X. 1947
    (55+ years old Pedro Ximenez wine from the Montilla Moriles D.O.)
  • Boal Barbeito 1938 Madeira wine
  • Gosling’s Bermuda Old Rum
  • 1983 Gewürztraminer Magnum
    from Olivier Humbrecht’s Rangen de Thann vineyard

Also, congratulations to Johan & Koen for becoming new Lindores members.


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  • Taco: I'm about finished with a bottle of this and am still amazed at how good it is. It's much more subtle than the popular sherry finished whiskers, but
  • Tony: I guess they are not planning on selling much to the likes of us. "Premiumisation" gone mad...
  • Johan Andersson: I'm in Campbeltown right now for the Springbank Open Day on Thursday. This review is really spot on. I really love Longrow and especially the 18 it be

Coming up

  • Highland Park Sigurd
  • Paul John Edited
  • Ledaig 42 Years Old
  • Aberlour a'bunadh Batch #50
  • Bowmore Gold Reef
  • Tomatin 1997 (Liquid Library)
  • Springbank Vintage 2001
  • Mortlach Rare Old

1790 notes by Ruben

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