Single malt whisky - tasting notes

Fulldram whisky labelA couple of weeks ago, members of the Fulldram Whisky Club asked me if I was interested in designing a label for their new bottling, the first one released under their own name. Of course I was looking forward to combine two of my major passions! The result is a minimal design with fairly uncommon proportions.

I’ve just picked up my own bottles of this 12 years old Bowmore 1999 bottled by Fulldram and drawn from an oloroso cask so I’m quite curious to find out how it tastes.

 

Bowmore 1999 FulldramBowmore 12 yo 1999 (57,6%, Fulldram 2011, oloroso sherry cask, 190 btl.)

Nose: immediately smoky (charcoal) and coastal (seaweed, tarry ropes). Not really a sherry bomb but it does open up nicely with sweeter notes of apples, yellow plums and apricots. Also a wave of yellow raisins and natural caramel. Water even brings out some hints of overripe mango. Some wet hay and chocolate. Strong but beautifully balanced and mouth-watering. Mouth: very powerful with lots of peat, more than we’ve come to expect from Bowmore recently. Strong liquorice / menthol notes (Fisherman’s friend). It takes a while before the hotness fades away and sweeter background notes come forward. Raisins again, hints of berries. Anise. Water makes it a little more rounded, but it stays bold and peaty. Finish: long and coastal, with liquorice and a lingering sweetness.

A good Bowmore which combines powerful Islay flavours with sweeter aromas. I would have liked a tad more roundness on the palate – it’s very peaty so I think it could resist a little more sherry, but given the price (€ 60 for members) it offers very good value for money. If you’re not in the Fulldram whisky club, your best shot at getting it would be QV.ID.

Score: 87/100


Based on the limited number of bottles and the link with The Whiskyman, we can probably assume this Laphroaig 1990 is from a shared cask. Jack, the friendly chief of Whiskysite.nl kindly provided a sample.

 

Laphroaig 1990 Whiskysite.nlLaphroaig 21yo 1990 (48,4%, Whiskysite.nl 2011, selected by The Whiskyman, bourbon hogshead, 60 btl.)

Nose: quite aromatic. It’s definitely peaty and smoky (hints of bacon) but there’s a nice layer of banana, gooseberries and vanilla to make it a little rounder. Similar to the Laphroaig 1990 by Malts of Scotland in that respect. Nice lemon candy. Some seaweed in the background. Balanced nose. Mouth: sweet and citrusy. More emphasis on the smoke now (smoked fish). Hints of liquorice and antiseptic. Some briny notes as well. Again good fun. Finish: very long, smoky, citrusy.

It’s complex and certainly up there with the other great Laphroaig 1990 we’ve seen in the past few months. Around € 120. They also have a sample for you to try.

Score: 89/100


Here’s another single blend produced at Lochside distillery. This time a 1965 bottled by Adelphi from a sherry cask. It won a gold medal at the recent Malt Maniacs Awards 2011.

 

Lochside 1965 AdelphiLochside 46 yo 1965 (52,3%,
Adelphi 2011, sherry cask #6778,
single blend, 499 btl.)

Nose: a totally different genre but equally excellent. It’s sherried with polished oak and plenty of red fruits (raspberries, redcurrant jam). Leathery notes. Similar tropical notes (banana and mango) but in a thick sherry coating this time. Lovely combination which made me think of the legendary Longmorn 1972 Perfect Dram (really). Rum & raisins. Almonds. Even a faint whiff of smoke. Stunning. Mouth: huge in many ways. The sherry is huge, the fruitiness is huge, the oak as well. Spicy (ginger, nutmeg) and herbal. Eucalyptus. Plenty of tannins. Burnt sugar. Finish: very long, very intense with bitter oranges, dark chocolate and cloves.

 

Yesterday’s Lochside 1964 was harmonious and smooth. This one is taking a different route. It’s incredibly intense and punchy, heavily influenced by the wood, but it’s a unique experience with elements of whisky, rum, cognac… On the nose I prefer this 1965 (not necessarily because it’s better but because I prefer sherry notes over grain notes) and on the palate it simply blew my socks off, but beware, that cough syrup profile will definitely be too challenging for some people. A masterpiece, but a masterpiece with barbs. Around € 310.

Score: 92/100


Lochside produced both grain and malt whisky from its opening in 1957 until the early 1970s and this is a ‘single blend’ using both types of whisky from the same distillery. Unusually, the whisky was blended before ageing, with the mix of grain and malt maturing in the same cask for 46 years.

 

Lochside 1964 TWELochside 46 yo 1964 (42,1%,
The Whisky Exchange 2011, cask #8970,
single blend, 139 btl.)

Nose: tropical fruit galore: pineapple, mango, passion fruit, tangerine… also a buttery note (white chocolate and butterscotch) which brings up memories of the lovely BbyB white chocolate / passion fruit / basil bars. Quite a lot of coconut as well. It’s clear that we’re listing a lot of aromas commonly associated with old grain whisky. Exquisite nonetheless. Mouth: still quite a “grainy” profile. Green banana, coconut, papaya. Also pink grapefruit and tangerine (similar to some 1970’s BenRiach). Oak as well, with a faint bitterness. Overall a little soft but full of flavours and pretty complex. Finish: still very fruity, grainy and slightly floral.

A lovely exotic nose and a smooth, fruity palate. Amazing how it managed to keep out woody notes. On the other hand, as the influence of the malt is not very high, old single grain whiskies offer a very similar profile at half the price. Around € 310. Still available from TWE.

Score: 91/100


Mac Bolle is the nickname for Karel Van Wijnendale. I don’t know squat about cycling but I’ve been told he’s a sports journalist and the founder of the classic Tour of Flanders. To honour him (and the 100th Anniversary of the Tour in 2012), Whisky Import Belux and The Bonding Dram have bottled two whiskies sold by the city of Torhout.

The other bottling is a 14 years old Bowmore 1997. I’ll review that one later.

 

Mac Bolle's Aberlour 1994Aberlour 16 yo 1994 (46%, Whisky Import Belux & The Bonding Dram 2011, bourbon hogshead #8825, 279 btl.)

Nose: fresh and aromatic with a pleasant rounded fruitiness. Big notes of apples and juicy pears. Hints of peach and vanilla. Frosties. Also soft spicy notes and gentle oak. Typical bourbon matured whisky, maybe a little younger than its actual age suggests. Mouth: creamy vanilla with a little caramel sweetness and honey. Again quite juicy with peach jam, apple compote and fresh mint. A sweet malty core again, punched up by some pepper and liquorice. Rather simple but very enjoyable. Finish: medium long on clean oak and vanilla.

This is a straightforward but well-made Aberlour, excellent as a daily dram. Sold for € 60 of which € 5 is donated to the anti-cancer campaign “Kom op tegen Kanker”.

Score: 84/100


Blackadder whiskyThis Banff was distilled 16 November 1966 and spent 34 years in a sherry cask before being bottled in August 2001. Sister casks #3437, #3439, #3440… have been bottled by Signatory, Blackadder, Douglas Laing and others. Cask parcel sharing is not a new thing.

Blackadder is a British / Swedish bottler founded by Robin Tucek. Although there isn’t much fuss about it, and although their websites are hugely outdated, it seems they’re still steadily working to find interesting whisky. Other labels like Clydesdale, Riverstown and Smoking Islay are also part of this company.

The Raw Cask series is interesting because they leave all the residues and sediments in there – most bottles are full of toasted oak flakes at the bottom. They claim it’s the best way to ensure a maximum amount of natural oils, fats and flavour. I’m not sure the effect is noticeable, but it’s a nice feature.

 

Banff 1966 BlackadderBanff 34 yo 1966 (52,3%, Blackadder Raw Cask 2001, sherry butt #3438, 539 btl.)

Nose: amazing how old Banff often manages to boast such a unique (and often quirky) nose. Tobacco leaves, a little turpentine, beeswax… very nice oak polish (rather than actual wood). Underneath is a nice fruitiness (apricot, yellow raisins) and plenty of warm vanilla. Some buttery notes and wood spices. Mouth: more sappy oak now, albeit again the varnished type. Very spicy with ginger and nutmeg. Vanilla as well. Quickly drying towards the end, with a sharpness of mustard seeds. Sure, this has some loud oak but not the tannic kind. Finish: dry, with apple skin, soft ginger and oak.

There’s always a certain unsexy sharpness to Banff and this is no different. On the nose the oak polish is definitely an asset, on the palate it might be a little too much to be a real stunner. Now virtually impossible to find. Many thanks Joeri.

Score: 88/100


Earl Haakon is the third and last release in the Magnus series. While I didn’t like the previous 1998 Saint Magnus, this one is older and was well received. Haakon was the cousin of the influential 11th century viking Magnus.

A blind sample was sent to me by Marc (thanks) and my first impression wasn’t very good. I gave it a second try though.

 

Highland Park Earl HaakonHighland Park 18 yo ‘Earl Haakon’
(54,9%, OB 2011, 3300 btl.)

Nose: sweet with a lot of red fruit aromas: redcurrant jam, damson, pomegranate maybe. Slightly candied. So far so good. Quite some spicy notes (ginger, cinnamon). In the background: bonfire on a beach. Mouth: very peppery and gingery attack. Starts fairly dry but after a while it develops a nice sweetness (dark sugar, raisins). Unfortunately there’s also a sharpness and sourness of winey notes (plum wine). Hints of Seville oranges and chocolate, with a faint coastal hint and traces of peat towards the end. Finish: spicy, oaky, quite long and rather dry.

My notes are still the same, but my initial score (“around 80”) is now a little more on the positive side. It’s probably the best of the Magnus releases, but given the price and hype, I’m still not convinced. Around € 185.

Score: 84/100


Leif Eriksson is a new member in the ever expanding travel retail selection from Highland Park (most of these are also available in regular stores though). It’s a very unusual variation as the spirit matured only in bourbon barrels and American oak sherry casks. All of the standard HP releases use European oak sherry casks.

 

Highland Park Leif ErikssonHighland Park ‘Leif Eriksson’
(40%, OB 2011, travel retail)

Nose: starts on porridge and dried flowers. Also a little unfresh melon, although this changes into more pleasant fruits like figs and pears. Quite some spices (vanilla, spicy oak). Subtle hints of smoke and sea air. Pine wood. Mouth: soft and a little undefined. There’s sweet apple, citrus, plenty of malty notes / cereals and plain sugar. Again a faint smokiness and oakiness. Some vanilla and nutmeg. A bit too naked in my opinion. Finish: sweet, underpowered and too malty.

I’m not really impressed by this Leif Eriksson release. The common Highland Park assets are not present, and the result is lacking some punch and character. I’ll have any member of the standard range over this one. Around € 70.

Score: 79/100


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Coming up

  • Irish Single Malt 16yo 1999 (The Nectar of the Daily Drams)
  • Bunnahabhain 1987 (Maltbarn)
  • Glen Garioch 1993 (Maltbarn)
  • Glenlivet 42yo (Cadenhead)
  • Blended Malt Extra Old (Whisky Agency)
  • Woodford Reserve Master's Collection
  • Teeling 26yo Vintage Reserve
  • Springbank 2001 vintage

1865 notes by Ruben

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