Single malt whisky - tasting notes

Last Monday I attended a great “televoting tasting” by whisky club Fulldram. Each member could nominate 6 bottles from a list of 20.

The resulting line-up contained eight drams, with a few highlights like the Glen Elgin 1975 by Berry Bros, Port Ellen 1983 (cask #66 by Malts of Scotland) and Glenlivet 1972 Perfect Dram (notes will follow). The preferred whisky of most members turned out to be the Tomatin 1976 released by Daily Dram.

That Tomatin seems to be gone now, but a similar release has just been announced by The Whisky Agency in the new Grotesque Crocs series. Let’s do a little comparison.

 

Tomatin 1976 Whisky Agency CrocsTomatin 34 yo 1976 (51,3%, The Whisky
Agency ‘Grotesque Crocs’ 2011, refill sherry butt, 309 btl.)

Nose: difficult to spot differences between both versions. Both are wonderfully tropical: mango, tangerine, apricot and banana with silky vanilla and mint. The pink grapefruit notes were a bit stronger in the Daily Dram version, the TWA focuses more on oak (+ polish) and seems to show more spicy / herbal notes and also a soft layer of dried fruits. But you know, as soon as I swirl my glasses and put my nose back in, I’m wondering whether it’s not simply imagination. The similarities are far more striking than the differences anyway. Mouth: impressive fruitiness again (tropical fruits and citrus), backed up with spices (nutmeg, pepper, cinnamon, vanilla) and oak. Again the spices in this TWA version seem a little louder and the DD version has more pronounced grapefruit. A little dryness in the end, which seems bigger here. Finish: medium long, fruity and spicy.

For those who were unable to get the Daily Dram version: here’s an almost identical Tomatin – again not the most complex whisky but otherwise just as excellent and extremely drinkable. Great tropical fruits tied together by oak spices. Should arrive in stores shortly. Around € 150.

Score: 91/100


Whisky Round Table

05 Apr 2011 | * News

Head over to Whisky Israel (by Gal) for this month’s Whisky Round Table.
The twelve of us are discussing this question:

The Single Cask. A distinct point in time, A unique combination, of a cask, maturation climate, location, and magic. the whisky world’s version of a “singularity”. No two casks are ever the same, and once finished, only a memory is left”.

  • What was the best single cask bottling you have had the pleasure of sampling . Where did you try it, did you own the bottle, and what made it so good?
  • Did you ever come by a single cask bottling which was really bad?
  • What’s your take on Vatting two extraordinary casks together? is a Quasi single cask vatting better than a “classic” single Cask?

Seven Scotch whisky distilleries are donating a cask of its single malt that will be expertly blended to create a limited edition whisky, appropriately called The Spirit of Unity.

The Spirit of UnityThe seven are Arran, BenRiach, Bladnoch, GlenDronach, GlenGyle, Kilchoman and Springbank. They represent the Islands, Speyside, Highlands, Islay, Campbeltown and Lowlands.

The idea came from Euan Mitchell, managing director of Arran, and the seven casks will be blended by BenRiach’s Master Distiller Billy Walker.

The combined contribution will produce approximately 2000 bottles with 1200 available in the UK. The remainder will be shipped to Japan with some being donated for sale in New Zealand to assist with relief in the aftermath of the Christchurch earthquake.

With the support of suppliers and partners, including retailers, a conservative estimate is that at least £50,000 will be donated to the relief effort.

The Spirit of Unity will be available by the end of April. Pre-orders at £59 per bottle are now being taken at www.royalmilewhiskies.com and www.LFW.co.uk


This Inchgower 1982 is a sister cask of the ones bottled by Bladnoch (#6965 and #6966), the one from Berry Bros. and Rudd (cask #6968) and a recent one bottled by Whisky-Doris (cask #6971).

 

Inchgower 1982 Malts of ScotlandInchgower 28 yo 1982 (57,2%, Malts of Scotland 2011, bourbon hogshead #6969,
212 btl.)

Nose: starts strong but warm, with some vanilla and cooked fruits. It quickly gets more grassy (fresh and dried), gingery and minty with light hints of garden herbs. Spiced up with some fresh sawdust, traces of smoke and a slightly sharp, salty breeze. Mouth: the first wave is slightly milky and creamy (vanilla ice cream?). Then some citrus notes (ripe tangerine). After a while, a big wave of oak comes rolling in, in a nice, slightly bourbonny way (pine wood, resin, cedar maybe). Not tannic, just a little oak-flavoured, subtly bitter and heavily spiced. Soft toffee and demarara sugar in the background. Leather. A hint of parma violets. Finish: medium length, with traces of fruits, salt and lingering oak.

Even though it’s not very rounded, this Inchgower stands out in a good way and has a nice coastal edge. Be sure to try it if you’re not afraid of some wood nectar and plenty of spices on the palate. Around € 115.

Score: 86/100


This Glenlossie 1975 in the Grotesque Crocs series should be similar to last year’s 49,3% version by the same bottler (which is still available by the way).

 

Glenlossie 1975 TWA CrocsGlenlossie 35 yo 1975 (52%, The Whisky Agency ‘Grotesque Crocs’ 2011, bourbon hogshead, 212 btl.)

Nose: the oak is less noticeable compared to the previous Glenlossie 1975. It seems to be slightly more flat as well. The same kind of dustiness with hints of wet cardboard. Gravel. Leaves. Some dried hay and leather. A few floral notes. Not many fruits, just hints of oranges and zesty lemon, and less vanilla this time. Some nutmeg. Mouth: much more expressive and more rounded. Very citrusy (lemon juice, lemon balm, Seville oranges) with malt and a pleasant bitterness. Hints of mint, cardamom and herbal teas. Roasted nuts. Developing a honeyed edge. Finish: rather long, on lemon, herbs and liquorice.

Although both share a similar old-style, slightly difficult profile, I prefer the previous Glenlossie on the nose. On the palate, I especially liked the lemony flavours of the new bottling. Around € 180.

Score: 87/100


It wouldn’t make sense as a direct head-to-head, but let’s have a medium-aged Glen Grant 1993 after yesterday’s excellent 38 year-old. It’s part of the latest releases by A.D. Rattray and bottled from a bourbon cask.

 

Glen Grant 1993 A.D. RattrayGlen Grant 17 yo 1993 (55,6%, A.D. Rattray 2011, bourbon cask #121916, 292 btl.)

Nose: pear, slightly artificial orange, banana… I would have guessed this was a lot younger. White peach. Soft garden flowers and grass. Just a tiny hint of oak. Simple, quite lightweight but not bad at all. Mouth: sweet fruits (pears, citrus, apple) but enough tingling spices to emphasise its 17 years of age this time (pepper, ginger, liquorice, soft aniseed). Quite some vanilla as well. Malt. Freshly sawn oak. Roasted almonds. Finish: slightly hot and spicy (something curry-like?). Rather long.

Is it young, is it old? It’s an in-between malt. It’s interesting enough and quite modern in style. I wonder how this would evolve if you kept it in wood for another 20 years. Readily available. Around € 65.

Score: 82/100


The 2009 Malt Maniacs Awards were won by a Glen Grant 1972 from a sherry cask. The newest series by The Whisky Agency, labeled “Grotesque Crocs”, contains a sherried 1972 Glen Grant as well.

 

Glen Grant 1972 TWA CrocsGlen Grant 38 yo 1972 (52,8%, The Whisky Agency ‘Grotesque Crocs’ 2011, refill sherry hogshead, 215 btl.)

Nose: a jammy and syrupy nose (Maple syrup and Belgian “Sirop de Liège”, made of pears). Lots of dried fruits (apricots, prunes) and honey. Quite some oak and spices (nutmeg, mint). Roasted nuts. A little wax. After breathing and the addition of a few drops of water it gets fruitier and more toasted at the same time. Very nice. Mouth: punchy and thick, with orange zest, citrus and heavy spices (nutmeg, cinnamon, ginger). Again a roasted element (coffee?) and some bitter chocolate. Drying towards the end. I prefer the palate without water as it seems to highlight the spices even more. Finish: long, with the spices a little louder. The fruits are less assertive by now.

This Glen Grant may be spicier and a tad less fruity than the award-winning 1972/2009 for The Whisky Fair. It certainly delivers, but the reaction to water (nose / palate) make it difficult to play around with. Currently on its way to a store near you. Around € 180.

Score: 88/100


Alchemist (written Alc-hem-ist) is an independent Scottish bottler founded by Gordon Wright (member of the family behind Springbank, one of the people behind the resurrection of Bruichladdich and co-founder of Murray McDavid). There has been some momentum around this bottler a couple of years ago, but it seems to have faded quite soon. The website has never been updated since 2006 either.

 

Ben Nevis 1966 AlchemistBen Nevis 42 yo 1966
(40,6%, Alchemist 2008)

Nose: old polished wood mixed with a slightly tropical fruitiness (melon, banana). Nice coconut / vanilla combo. Hints of old grain whisky, but this is better and certainly smoother. Hints of lipstick. Heather notes. Honey. Verbena tea. A little smoke as well. Great nose, as great as old Ben Nevis can be. Mouth: interesting combination of sweet, sour and oaky flavours. Seville oranges, a little sherry. Heathery notes again. Light coconut. Getting quite spicy and oaky after a while (nutmeg, cloves, ginger). Maybe a little too oaky but hey, it’s 42 years old. Finish: long, fruity and waxy with a sourish touch.

Always be on the lookout for old Ben Nevis. Their 1960’s spirit is getting rare, but usually of great interest. This one is still available in some shops, but it doesn’t come cheap. Around € 220.

Score: 90/100


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Coming up

  • Lagavulin 12yo (2014 release)
  • SIA Blended Scotch
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  • Clynelish 21yo 1992 (Cadenhead)
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1644 notes by Ruben

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