Single malt whisky - tasting notes

This GlenDronach single cask is not part of the 4th batch. Half of it was bottled for The Nectar a couple of months ago. The rest went to La Maison du Whisky. The bottle says “PX sherry puncheon” while the GlenDronach website claims it was an oloroso butt.

 

GlenDronach 1991 - The Nectar / LMdWGlenDronach 19 yo 1991 (50,4%, OB for The Nectar & LMdW 2011, Pedro Ximenez sherry puncheon #3181, 624 btl.)

Nose: nice sherry, powerful and round. Dried fruits, some nutty notes. Very polished with some waxed furniture, similar to the great GlenDronach 1992 cask #161 in that respect. Blackberry jam and figs, maybe even some black cherries. Sparkling top notes of orange liqueur and mint as well. Rum & raisins. Plenty of good sherry associations. Mouth: rather oily, not really thick or powerful. Starts on dried fruits again, with some added herbal notes and polished oak. Plums. Cocoa. Not extremely complex, but very pleasant. Nice gingerbread and aniseed in the end. Finish: quite long, a little drier, with some tobacco now and some oak and spices.

This cask was an excellent (and pretty safe) choice. It has a few nice touches (oak polish, gingerbread) while remaining within the “classic” profile everyone has come to expect from GlenDronach single casks. Around € 105.

Score: 89/100


I always like the idea of filling two types of casks with the same spirit – it really shows you how big the influence of the wood has been. Be sure to compare this Macallan 1990 from a Fino cask #1135 with its sibling Oloroso cask #1134.

 

Macallan 1990 Fino - Malts of ScotlandMacallan 21 yo 1990  (51,5%, Malts of Scotland 2011, Fino sherry hogshead #1135, 254 btl.)

Nose: again quite aromatic, but drier and flatter and a little less fresh (airing helps). It lacks the sparkling raspberry and juicy fruits (still some apples though). Instead there are plenty of spices and herbs (pepper, nutmeg, aniseed, thyme) as well as some vegetal, earthy and leathery elements. Faint meaty notes (oxo). Some hay and leather. Less classic I would say. Mouth: the roasted notes are more prominent here, they even suggest a little smoke. More oak as well. Heather. Again lots of spices, with bags of pepper, ginger and nutmeg. Bitter notes towards the end (walnuts). Finish: medium long, dry and spicy, with hints of bitter chocolate.

This one is less to my liking, as it plays the card of pepper and dry herbs without having the juicy fruitiness to balance it. Around € 120.

Score: 81/100


Among the new series by Malts of Scotland there are two bottlings of sherried Macallan 1990. One of them is matured in an Oloroso sherry cask (usually medium sweet), the other one in a Fino cask (usually drier).

 

Macallan 1990 Oloroso - Malts of ScotlandMacallan 21 yo 1990 (49,1%,
Malts of Scotland 2011, Oloroso sherry hogshead #1134, 184 btl.)

Nose: very aromatic, nicely sweet and balanced with the sherry. Apples and stewed fruits. Caramel. Rum & raisins, raspberry liqueur. Still some of the original malt underneath the sherry. A fine layer of fresh herbs and nuts. Tiny bits of menthol. All of this rounded by some polished oak. Very nice. Mouth: sets off with plenty of bittersweet spices and oranges. Quite peppery and gingery. Roasted nuts. Liquorice and coffee. Some oak. With all this bitterness and herbalness, it takes a while before the dried fruits are noticeable again and it’s never really rounded anyway. Finish: medium long, rather dry with cocoa notes and spices.

I really liked the nose, but on the palate the spicy theme gets a little strong. Let’s find out how it compares to the Fino. Around € 120.

Score: 86/100


Luc TimmermansLast night I went to an event that I always look forward to: a whisky tasting chez Luc Timmermans, composed with whisky from his own (legendary) stash. It was a surprise tasting so we didn’t know what to expect.

As an aperitif, we tried the Glen Elgin 1984 by Thosop, a nice dram with fruity, waxy and mineral notes on the nose, joined by some herbs and soft bitter notes on the palate.

 

Then it turned out the theme was Caperdonich 1972.

Here’s the line-up:

  • Caperdonich 1972 (46%, G&M 2010, Connoisseurs Choice)
  • Caperdonich 1972 (46%, G&M 2011, Connoisseurs Choice)
  • Caperdonich 35 yo 1972 (48,3%, The Whisky Fair, 188 btl.)
  • Caperdonich 38 yo 1972 (53,6%, DT RoR, cask #7440, 181 btl.)
  • Caperdonich 38 yo 1972 (57,4%, Malts of Scotland, cask #1144, 98 btl.)
  • Caperdonich 38 yo 1972 (58,4%, Whisky Agency Perfect Dram, 145 btl.)
  • Caperdonich 39 yo 1972 (52,8%, Whisky Agency Private Stock, 57 btl.)

I had already tried most of them, except for the first two and the last one. The Gordon & MacPhail bottlings stood out because of their rather heavy sherry influence. At first I really liked them, but they came out last in our ranking as the refill sherry of the other releases suits the natural Caperdonich fruitiness much better.

Not everyone agreed on the rest of the ranking, but the recent release in the Private Stock series won the battle with a surprisingly unanimous vote. Indeed it’s marginally better than the Perfect Dram version which Luc, Johan and myself raved about no so long ago. Don’t bother looking for it, it’s gone already and I don’t even have a bottle myself.

 

By the way, I’m planning a big Caperdonich 1972 line-up myself with at least 24 versions waiting to be sampled. This will also include the 1972 DT for The Nectar which some people think of as the benchmark Caperdonich.


While the first Octomore releases had long waiting lists, the latest bottling is still widely available three months after it arrived in stores. It takes the phenol levels even further (first 131 ppm, then 140 and 152, now 167 ppm).

In another glass, I have the original Octomore 1.1 to compare.

 

Octomore 4.1 167ppmOctomore 5 yo 04.1
(62,5%, OB 2010, 167 ppm, 15.000 btl.)

Nose: the new one is hotter and sharper than the first release. I wouldn’t say it seems peatier, on the contrary, the sharpness blocks some aromas and brings out a more biscuity side. It even seems younger (with more apple peel and synthetic sweetness). No ashtray blast, no garage smells. Some almonds, soft vanilla and herbal notes instead (heather, juniper). Rounder, more citrusy, more aromatic, but less smoky and peaty (yes, that may sound contradictory). Mouth: very clean, oily and intense. It feels like it has an anaesthetic effect? Tarry and grassy with a peppery hotness, but again a less mind-boggling intensity than Octomore 1.1. Heather notes again with herbal tea. Faint anti-septic notes. More plain smoke now, still accompanied by a slightly artificial fruitiness. Finish: medium long, with a veil of smoke and the lingering candied notes.

 

I wouldn’t have guessed this is the peatiest dram around. Not sure why, but the first release seems smokier and peatier, on the nose as well as in the mouth. Even though it’s not a bad dram, shouldn’t we conclude the new one is less impressively experimental and less true to the concept? Around € 100.

Score: 84/100


No need to tell you peat-smoked Springbank is actually the same as Longrow. But independent bottlers like Berry Bros & Rudd are not allowed to mention that on the label, so they have to call it peated Springbank.

This is the second peat-smoked Springbank from BBR, after sister cask #71 bottled in 2009.

 

Springbank 1992 peat-smokedSpringbank 1992 ‘Peat-smoked’
(46%, Berry Bros & Rudd 2011, cask #61)

Nose: smooth and subtly peated, quite oily with some medicinal elements as well as more aromatic, fruity notes. Tangerine, pear and melon, I would say. Quite coastal as well, with iodine, wet sand and chalk. Wet wool. A little eucalyptus. Graphite. Hints of sweet lemon. Very clean and finely chiselled but not too austere, with the soft peat completely mixed with the rounder elements. Not too far from the legendary 1970’s Ardbegs in that respect, which is quite an achievement. Mouth: also quite oily, with the same elements we saw on the nose. Again perfectly in the middle between austere and rounded. A soft bitterness, a soft sweetness and a soft peatiness, how’s that for balance? Fresh lemon. Mineral notes. Soft spices (pepper, ginger and a pinch of salt). Cold ashes. Finish: long and powerful, still mineral with some sweet lemon and soot.

In case you’ve missed cask #71, here’s a perfect replacement. Is it indecent to hope for a cask strength version one day? That could be out of this world. Around € 110.

Score: 90/100


By now you all know the story: explorer Ernest Shackleton and his crew took a few cases of Mackinlay’s whisky to the Antartic in the 1900’s. The bottles have recently been recovered from the ice and were then analysed in the Invergordon lab. The whisky turned out to be stable and has been recreated by Richard Paterson, the Master Blender of White & MacKay who now own Mackinlay’s. Even the bottle and the packaging are closely related to the originals. A great story! The N.Y. Times published a good article in case you’re interested in finding out more.

As a vatted malt, the Shackleton Replica contains malt whisky from several distilleries in Speyside, the Highlands and the Islands. The oldest is Glen Mhor distilled in 1983, their final year of distillation.

 

Mackinlay's Shackleton replicaMackinlay’s Rare Old Highland malt whisky ‘Shackleton’s Replica’ (47,3%, White & MacKay 2011, 50.000 btl.)

Nose: nice example of a rather light and slightly dusty Highlands profile, albeit in a modern disguise. Some grassy notes with grains, vanilla and walnuts. Slightly shy fruits (apple and pear). Some buttery notes and leather. Hints of spices, mainly ginger and nutmeg. Earthy / leafy notes in the background. Echoes of the old-style. Mouth: delicate balance of sweetness (oranges, honey, caramel) and a bitter grassiness, accompanied by mineral notes. Dry and sweet at the same time really. Again some earthy notes with an elegant hint of smoke. Zesty citrus. Ginger. Finish: medium long and dry, growing more smoky and gingery with a caramel sweetness in the background.

 

It’s getting difficult to find traces of this Highlands profile (old-style à la Coleburn, Glen Mhor, Millburn, Teaninich) and the end result is quite enjoyable. Of course you’re paying a premium for the packaging and marketing, but at least it’s good whisky. Around € 125.

Score: 85/100


This 1994 is the youngest whisky in GlenDronach’s fourth batch of single casks. Last year I was surprised by the GlenDronach 1993 cask #529 which was too dirty for my taste…

 

GlenDronach 1994 cask 97GlenDronach 17 yo 1994 (60,1%, OB 2011, oloroso butt #97, 617 btl.)

Nose: similar. Very mushroomy start, with lots of caramel. Some vegetal and meaty notes (oxo). Lots of roasted hazelnuts. Caramel again. Adding water doesn’t help this slightly sulphury profile, on the contrary. Not my type of whisky, although I want to repeat that these notes can be temporary and letting the bottle breathe for a couple of months can make them disappear. Some pear syrup in the background as well. Mouth: sweet at first, but quickly overtaken by spices and herbs (cloves, pepper, liquorice). Then a wave of wood and dark chocolate. Dry and nutty aftertaste. Water does help on the palate, making it rounder and slightly more fruity. Finish: quite dry and quite long with spices and wood.

I can’t really recommend this one, unless you’re familiar with this style and like your sherry a little dirty. Around € 100.

Score: 77/100


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  • Bowmore Black Rock
  • Yamazaki 12 Year Old
  • Aberlour a'bunadh Batch #50
  • Tomatin 1997 (Liquid Library)

1768 notes by Ruben

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