Single malt whisky - tasting notes

The team behind Whiskybase.com have now started their own shop in Rotterdam (NL). Of course they’re bottling proprietary releases (labeled Archives, we’ll focus on that later) but they’re also bringing a few interesting independent bottlers to Holland. Mainly German bottlers like Alambic Classique, Whisky-Doris and Whisky-Fässle as well as others like Silver Seal.

A good reason to try this Glencadam 1974, a joint bottling between Whisky-Fässle and Whiskybase.

 

Glencadam 1974Glencadam 37 yo 1974 (41,5%,
Whisky-Fässle 2011, refill sherry,
joint bottling with Whiskybase)

Nose: complex and refined. A slightly subdued fruity layer (orange, tangerine, banana, maybe guava) with additional layers of dried flowers and soft herbs (lovage), a leathery / oily touch and  faint hints of mocha. Subtle oak as well. More delicately sherried than last year’s Malts of Scotland release. Mouth: not extremely powerful (no surprise) but pleasant. Fruity notes (tangerine, gooseberries), a little ginger and hints of herbal tea. Leather notes and oak. Finish: similar flavours. Medium long, nicely balanced and not too dry.

Not a flavour bomb, but still an excellent balance and pleasant ‘oldness’. A great example of this overlooked distillery. Around € 155.

Score: 90/100


A direct comparison this time. The Clynelish 1982 by Single Malts of Scotland against this version by Malts of Scotland. This one has an impressive strength of 53,7%, let’s see if the added punch alters the delicate Clynelish profile.

 

Clynelish 1982 Malts of ScotlandClynelish 28 yo 1982 (53,7%, Malts of Scotland 2011, MoS 11015, 275 btl.)

Nose: a lot punchier than the SMOS cask. More green banana. A tad more oak as well although that may be part of the higher strength. A lot of honeydew melon and beeswax (warm and honeyed compared to the sharper oiliness of the SMOS). Walnut liqueur. Apples with cinnamon. Some biscuity notes. Guimauves (the white ones). Great nose. Mouth: punchy again. Key components are vanilla and grapefruit this time, with some peppery notes. Hints of sweet almonds. Less complex and slightly less convincing than the nose, but still a nice whisky. Lemon zest and a slight coastal edge towards the end. Finish: long and elegant, zesty at first but coming back to a fruity sweetness.

For me this is the better Clynelish of the two, especially on the nose, although you could say they’re two different kinds of whisky alltogether (this one showing a slightly more 1970’s character). A little more expensive: around € 125.

Score: 91/100


Malt Maniacs e-pistleIn case you haven’t noticed already, there’s a new E‑pistle on the Malt Maniacs website, and I’m responsible for that. I had been playing around with the idea of writing a kind of “primer” for independent bottlers as I noticed that it’s still confusing for a lot of whisky enthusiasts.

Around the end of 2008, when I started this blog, we witnessed the birth of The Whisky Agency and Malts of Scotland, two independent bottlers that have gained a lot of interest ever since. While growing up, they were also an important example and aid for several other, smaller bottlers that are working under their umbrella, so to speak.

This new situation lead to a number of questions that I kept hearing over and over again: who is behind all these labels? Are they related? Do they have the same quality? Why does every bottler suddenly releases a Glengoyne although Glengoyne isn’t normally selling to independent bottlers? How come shops and clubs seem to have no difficulty finding high quality casks? Etc. etc. It turns out there’s a certain hierarchy in the independent whisky market these days, more so than a couple of years back. I may have simplified a few things, or focused on our Benelux/German market, but I’m mostly trying to point out a certain mechanism here.

In case you’re interested, you can find the whole article on the Malt Maniacs website: The hierarchy of independent whisky releases. Feel free to comment here in case you want to add your thoughts and experiences.


This Clynelish was distilled 15 December 1982 and bottled in September 2011 for The Whisky Show in London in the Single Malts of Scotland range.

 

Clynelish 1982 - Single Malts of ScotlandClynelish 28 yo 1982 (43,1%, Single Malts of Scotland 2011, hogshead #3985, 175 btl.)

Nose: delicate and mellow, even a little inexpressive at first. After a while it opens up with a juicy fruitiness (lime, yellow apple, white peach, something Albariño-esque), typical waxy notes (paraffin, lemon candles) and flinty notes in the background. Soft hints of vanilla. Faint grassy notes. Very nice but the strength makes you work harder to get the aromas. Mouth: waxy and citrusy (grapefruit, lemon). A few mineral touches. A bit more oaky dryness now, with hints of fruit tea. It seems too delicate to completely withstand the wood. Finish: waxy, lemony and faintly bitterish. Medium long.

Too bad this one was really soft. It’s great as long as you don’t compare it to similar Clynelish. I’ve had better ones, with just as much fruits, more punch and a better balance with the oak. Around € 110. Temporarily out of stock on the TWE website, but more is expected at the beginning of December.

Score: 89/100


This Highland Park 1981 was bottled by The Whisky Agency in the Fungi series. One of these releases by TWA that were sold out before most of us heard about it.

 

Highland Park 1981 FungiHighland Park 30 yo 1981 (52,2%,
The Whisky Agency ‘Fungi’ 2011, ex-bourbon wood, 198 btl.)

Nose: a classic nose on hay, paraffin and grass with lots of heather. True Highlands style. Some citrus notes and apples. A little resin and earthy notes. Something yeasty as well. Very faint coconut oil and lemon balm. It could have been very austere and unsexy but there’s just enough fruity sweetness to balance it. Complex. Mouth: starts quite sweet / citrusy and grows grassy over time. Heather again. Seville oranges. Lots of spices (nutmeg, pepper, cloves). Some tannins and bitter notes. Hints of smoke. Again nothing jumps out, everything is presented in a perfect balance. Finish: long, sharply focused on lemon and pepper with slightly oaky notes.

A very clean and typical Highland Park, excellent in many ways but maybe a bit too austere for my personal taste. Around € 170. Sold out.

Score: 90/100


Nikka single cask whiskyLa Maison du Whisky is now selling the latest single casks by Nikka. There’s a Coffey Malt 1998 and Coffey Grain 1997, a heavily peated Yoichi 1991 and this Miyagikyo 1988, all presented in a wooden box.

I suppose all these single casks will be quite limited.

 

 

 

Miyagikyo 1988 #92414 LMdWMiyagikyo 23 yo 1988
(57%, OB 2011, cask #92414)

Nose: exotic fruits (ripe pineapple, banana) and mirabelles come out first, together with cigar boxes. Then a lot of vanilla, sawdust and beeswax. Hints of eucalyptus and white pepper. Lusciously warm. Mouth: punchy with a fine layer of oak. Still quite creamy and fruity at first (blackcurrant, apricot, plums, hints of Turkish delight) but quickly developing on spices (vanilla, pepper, light ginger). A slightly sharp peatiness as well. Light grassy / leathery notes in the end. Finish: long, spicy with vanilla and light peat. Again these notes of oak shavings.

A very fine Japanese malt, with traces of peat and some very prominent new oak notes. Exclusively available from La Maison du Whisky but I’ve noticed a few bottles are on their way to Holland as well. Around € 145.

Score: 88/100


Like its neighbour Caperdonich, 1972 is a great year for Glen Grant. Usually Duncan Taylor is one the best sources for this vintage from both distilleries. A couple of great casks have recently been bottled by The Whisky Agency as well.

 

Glen Grant 1972 Private StockGlen Grant 39 yo 1972 (51,4%, The Whisky Agency ‘Private Stock’ 2011, sherry cask, 87 btl.)

Nose: heavenly. Truly heavenly. Lots of fruity sherry notes: dried apricots, dates, prunes and raspberry jam but also more tropical notes of banana liqueur and pineapple. Very jammy, with lots of honey. Hints of vanilla. Big notes of beeswax and pollen. And wonderful oak polish. And milk chocolate. And marshmallows. Simply exquisite. Mouth: very thick again with rich flavours. Fruit jam all over. Creamy chocolate again. Spices, especially nutmeg and mint. There are quite some oak tannins and dry hints of herbal tea, in fact a bit too much for me. I had this at 93/100 at first, but the more I sipped, the more I was bothered by the wood. Finish: long, oaky and spicy, with all kinds of teas.

The nose is near perfect for me. If only it were a little less woody on the palate… I’m thinking the Glen Grant 1972 we selected at the Spirits in the Sky festival (to be bottled in the near future) is slightly better in this respect. Around € 230. As often with the Private Stock releases, hard to find (no wonder, only 87 bottles).

Score: 91/100


Baràbas BoechoutBaràbas is one of the trendy bars / restaurants in the centre of Boechout near Antwerp. They’re focusing on wines by the glass (40 wines from one of these enomatic machines) and whisky.

Their range features a lot of common brands (Glenmorangie, Bruichladdich, Balvenie, Laphroaig, Highland Park, almost the complete range sometimes) but also foreign names like Mackmyra, Belgian Owl, Amrut or Yamazaki. The most expensive ones are Royal Lochnagar 30yo 1974 Rare Malts and a Nikka Yoichi 20 years old.

Apparently the person responsible for whisky wasn’t there (on a Saturday evening), so the waitress spent 15 minutes trying to match her (phonetic?) notes to something from the menu. At first she brought me a white wine that also started with “fi” and it took another 15 minutes to get an actual Glenmorangie Finealta. Let’s suppose it was an off-day.

 

Location: St. Bavoplein 19, Boechout
Range: +/- 100 single malts
Price: € 5 to € 40 (for a 3cl dram)

What I’ve had: Glenmorangie Finealta (€ 12 – attractive nose, disappointing palate) & Bruichladdich 16yo Bourbon (€ 10 – a good, natural dram)
Glass: Schott Wiesel Pure (ice in a separate glass)

Pros: balanced selection, nice atmosphere, friendly
Cons: slow service, no product knowledge, no music?


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Coming up

  • Clynelish 1996 (SV for TWE)
  • Knockdhu 1974 (G&M CC)
  • Strathisla 1948/1961
  • Dos Maderas 5+3

1837 notes by Ruben

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