Single malt whisky - tasting notes

NC2 is an uncoloured and unchill-filtered series by Duncan Taylor, usually for younger / affordable whiskies bottled at 46%. Today we’re trying a new Springbank 1998. As far as I know, it was matured in a sherry cask.

 

Springbank 1998 DT NC2Springbank 13 yo 1998
(46%, Duncan Taylor NC2 2011)

Nose: settles nicely on sweet, almost marmalade aromas (peach jam, oranges, plums, even strawberries) while also displaying a maritime character of salty seawater. Some apple and ginger. Hints of yeast. Simple but nice enough. Mouth: curiously fruity. It’s a kind of a fruit compote but I have difficulty describing it. Orange syrup. Yellow raisins. Rhubarb jam? Overripe tangerine or figs? Melon sweets? Molasses? Many question marks but it’s actually quite enjoyable. Reminds me of certain Sauternes / Moscatel finishes. Again a salty / bitter twist and hints of sticky sweet toffee. Finish: not too long, with the sweet fruits having the last word. Hints of ginger again with a faint bitterness.

Much sweeter and rounder than most recent official Springbanks. A sweet wine finish that’s in fact not a wine finish? Worth trying. Around € 60. Available from Whisky-Doris among others.

Score: 82/100


A young and affordable Cragganmore 1999 from the recent releases by Malts of Scotland.

 

Cragganmore 1999 Malts of ScotlandCragganmore 11 yo 1999
(55,1%, Malts of Scotland 2011, bourbon hogshead, MoS 11012, 298 btl.)

Nose: a lot of oak and spices. Big peppery notes and hints of allspice. Grass. A very bourbonny profile. Sweet fruity notes that are hard to pin down: apple maybe or just nondescript fruit candy. Some vanilla and coconut. Mouth: sweet. Again very very spicy (ginger, pepper). Liquorice. It just ooses (fresh) wood. Pencils, oak shavings…  Sweet orange candy. Finish: long, warm and peppery with hints of green apple and oak.

This Cragganmore shares quite some elements with bourbon whiskey and it even shows more oak spices than some new oak matured whiskies. Good spirit from an extremely active cask. Around € 50.

Score: 82/100


TWE Masterpieces are selected by TWE chief Sukhinder Singh himself. I adore the style and label. It’s classy and features handmade paper, an embossed TWE stamp, waxed sealing and great typography. Not unlike some vintage cognac bottles. Respect!

You already know the story: Bowmore filled very few casks in 1993 and there’s nothing left in the distillery warehouses. There should be a couple of casks available from independent bottlers (check earlier bottlings from Whisky Agency, Thosop and Whisky-Fässle), but this is truly rare.

This release won a silver medal at the recent Malt Maniacs Awards 2011.

 

Bowmore 1993 TWE MasterpiecesBowmore 18 yo 1993 (61,6%, The Whisky Exchange ‘Masterpieces’ 2011, American oak hogshead, 195 btl.)

Nose: quite bold with smoke, peat and a little tar. Brine. Slightly sharp, but it’s great to see the rounder, fruity notes come straight out as well. Starts on banana and sugared grapefruit, and evolves on gooseberries, guava and tangerine. A little vanilla. This is a unique feature of these 1993’s: a lot of Islay power (more than other Bowmore) combined with tropical fruits, alternating constantly. Impressive. Mouth: very peaty and extremely salty which evolves on zesty citrus flavours and herbs. There’s a sweet wave underneath, a kind of generic sweetness without clear-cut fruit profiles. Maybe a little too strong to drink undiluted. With water it’s sweeter (apple, juicy grapefruit) without loosing the liquorice, seawater and peppery kick. Finish: long and citrusy. Salt and tobacco notes.

Complex stuff, just like the other 1993’s. Water is necessary though. Good selection and one of my whisky icons of 2011. Around € 140 which makes it an expensive 1993. Used to be sold out, yesterday new stock appeared, now sold out for good.

Score: 91/100


Scotland’s hundred finest malts vatted blended together, that’s Chivas Century of Malts. It was released in 1995 and contains some of the rarest malts like Craigduff / Glenisla (peated Glen Keith). A little booklet describes all of the 100 distilleries.

 

Chivas Century of MaltsChivas Century of Malts
(43%, OB 1995)

Nose: sweet and biscuity. Citrus. Honey. Vanilla. Hints of nougat and cake. Disappointingly similar to regular (cheaper) blends. Mouth: sweet and biscuity again with big vanilla. White grapes. Orange cake. Then it moves to heather, with very soft hints of peat and a nice toffee coating. Finish: sweet, showing subtle spices and faint hints of smoke. Quite lovely with nice roasted nuts and moccha.

It may sound crazy to blend 100 malts, you’d never be able to detect them all. It’s true that the result lacks some uniqueness, but it shows decent depth and it’s not a bad vatting.

Score: 80/100

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There’s a new edition of the 30 years old Speyside whisky by Master of Malt. We already tried the 2nd edition and 3rd edition before. This one is a return to sherried form.

 

Master of Malt 30yo SpeysideUndisclosed Speyside distillery 30 yo (40%, Master of Malt 2011, 4th Edition)

Nose: nicely aromatic despite the low strength. Very juicy, with honeyed malt, vanilla and baked apples. Some dried fruits (plenty of raisins) and spices (cinnamon, soft cloves). Orange peel. Mouth: sweet start on honey and soaked raisins. Caramelized apple again. Sweet almonds. Hints of tobacco and a little wood resin. Finish: still rather honeyed with something of roasted nuts. A tad drier in the very end.

A rich and really juicy sherry bottling. Something in between the heavily sherried 2nd edition and the malty / more bourbonny 3rd edition. Too bad they’re still holding on to the 40% strength. Available from Master of Malt. Around € 115 – good pricing again.

Score: 87/100


Malt Maniacs AwardsThe Malt Maniacs Awards 2011 have just been announced. See the score card at http://www.maltmaniacs.org/2011-score-card.pdf

A rather classic result I would say. GlenDronach single casks, Karuizawa, old Strathisla, Port Ellen… they’ve all won gold medals before and we all know how great they can be.

 

Here’s the full line-up of gold medals:

  • GlenDronach 1972 cask #712GlenDronach 39yo 1972/2011
    (49.9%, OB, Oloroso Butt, C# 712, 466 Bts.)
  • Karuizawa 1981/2011
    (55.2%, OB, C#2634, Btl. 12/08/2011)
  • GlenDronach 39yo 1972/2011
    (54.7%, OB for Taiwan, PX C#2033, 450 Bts.)
  • Lochside 46yo 1965/2011 (52.3%, Adelphi, Limited, Blended Scotch Whisky, 499 Bts.)
  • Strathisla 1970/2011
    (43%, G&M Licensed Bottling, 514 Bts.)
  • Strathisla 1965/2011
    (48%, G&M for LMdW, 1st Fill Sherry, C#3473)
  • Port Ellen 28yo 1982/2011
    (60%, Wilson & Morgan, C#2011, 534 Bts.)
  • Glen Grant 59yo 1952
    (49.2%, G&M Book of Kells, C#1134)

Update: here’s the full jury report.

 

A few of my personal observations…

First, surprisingly, the most experienced tasters weren’t in the jury. I’m not sure what the effect has been and whether there has been an effect at all. Would be interesting to recalculate last year’s results without those three members. See below.

Second, I think the gold medals are all relatively unknown. I mean, they’re not part of the daily buzz and discussions I’ve seen on forums or blogs or among enthusiasts. Most of the things that everyone was raving about, haven’t even entered the awards. And some of the winners (including the GlenDronach) have been on the shelves for months with low interest (and now suddenly everyone will look for them). Just an observation.

Third, nice to see the same whisky enter twice (two bottles of Talisker 30yo). Great consistency for most tasters. Less so for PD and RM who almost invert each other’s scores… but excellent proof for the reliability of this competition.

 

Update: our friend Bastien did some recalculations and pointed out that last year’s awards would have been quite different without Serge, Johannes and Davin. Five out of 12 gold medals (Glenfarclas 40, Caperdonich 1972, Port Ellen PE2…) would have been degraded to silver. Karuizawa 1977 Noh would have been the overall winner with the GlenDronach in sixth place! Thanks again Bastien, this confirms our feeling that the preferences of the jury are a major element in any competition!


Tun 1401 is the favourite marrying tun of David Stewart, Master Blender at Balvenie distillery. He selected ten casks and married them for three months in this tun: seven bourbon casks and three sherry casks. Except for one 1989 cask and one 1967 cask, all were filled in the 1970’s.

Batch 1 of this expression (336 bottles) was presented in 2010 and sold exclusively at the distillery. Now there’s a larger second batch (available in Europe) and soon also a third batch for the US.

 

Balvenie Tun 1401Balvenie ‘Tun 1401’ (50,6%, OB 2011, batch 2, 2226 btl.)

Nose: rich and rounded. Great polished oak up front, immediately followed by thick honeyed notes and orange peel. Nice pineapple candy in the background. Vanilla and almonds. Raisins. Some hay and flowers (old roses). Very light spices. Excellent balance of sherry and bourbon, both are clearly present and work well together. Mouth: velvety and quite dry. Much spicier now, plenty of ginger and white pepper. A little nutmeg. Honey, apricot and (slightly tangy) orange peel again. Oak and vanilla. Faint hints of dark chocolate. Sweeter and fruitier with a few drops of water. Finish: very long, with Seville oranges, chocolate and nutmeg.

The best Balvenie I’ve had so far, including the Balvenie 30 years old. I really like the distillery character but in the past I was somehow missing either punch or personality. This one has a lot of complexity and power. A great marriage, let’s hope it yields many children. Around € 195. Thanks Marc!

Score: 91/100


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


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Coming up

  • Highland Park 1995 (Whisky Mercenary)
  • Laphroaig Lp6 (Elements of Islay)
  • Irish Single Malt 27yo 1988 (The Nectar of the Daily Drams)
  • Irish Single Malt 16yo 1999 (The Nectar of the Daily Drams)
  • Bunnahabhain 1987 (Maltbarn)
  • Glen Garioch 1993 (Maltbarn)
  • Glenlivet 42yo (Cadenhead)
  • Auchentoshan 1994 (Whisky Agency)
  • Blended Malt Extra Old (Whisky Agency)
  • Woodford Reserve Master's Collection
  • Teeling 26yo Vintage Reserve
  • Springbank 2001 vintage

1860 notes by Ruben

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