Single malt whisky - tasting notes

A bunch of samples are waiting on my desk, but I’m developing a cold so I may have to slow down the publishing tempo for a while…

The otherwise unpeated Islay distillery Bunnahabhain did some peated runs in 1997, and occasionally they make it into a limited release like Bunnahabhain Toiteach or Bunnahabhain Moine. Now there’s a peated expression for duty free shops (as often also available in a few regular stores). Cruach Mhóna is the name for a pile of drying peat bricks.

 

Bunnahabhain Cruach MhonaBunnahabhain Cruach Mhóna
(50%, OB 2010, travel retail, 100cl)

Nose: starts savoury with coastal hints of dried algae. Toasted bread. Then some herbs and something that vaguely reminds me of Maggi or – strangely – Worcestershire sauce. Smoke with sweet liquorice. Faint eucalyptus. Less peaty than previous peated Bunna, or so it seems. A few fruity notes in the background that grow stronger over time. Mouth: more peat now. Ash tray, tarry ropes. More malty sweetness than the nose suggested. Develops on pepper, liquorice and a little salt. A few herbal notes. Nose: slightly drying and smokey. Medium length.

Not a bad dram, but it suffers from a comparison with its Islay neighbours who offer similar (yet more mature) peated whisky for less money. Around € 65.

Score: 75/100


Greenore 18 Years

26 Jan 2011 | * Grain

Greenore is the single grain Irish whiskey from the Cooley family. Previously there was an 8 years old and the highly praised 15 years old expression. Now they are accompanied by an 18 year-old, the oldest Irish single grain available. Well, not quite… there’s also a new Greenore single cask that’s 19 years old (cask #1798). But that one is only available at Dublin airport.

Greenore 18yo is bottled at 46% and the current batch is limited to 4000 bottles. In the UK it will be available soon, the rest of Europe will have to wait until mid February.

 

Greenore 18 yearsGreenore 18 yo (46%, OB 2011, 4000 btl.)

Nose: a mild nose (for a grain whiskey at least), with banana peel, apricot and sweet corn. Vanilla with a curious milky element, like a crème anglaise (custard sauce). A hint of cinnamon. Some honey and faint grassy / herbal notes. Overall quite smooth, oily but a little soft maybe. Hardly any synthetic notes that are common in other grain whiskies. Mouth: balanced between very sugary grains (think frosted cereals) and plenty of spices from the oak (nutmeg, pepper). Pineapple syrup, banana, some coconut cream. Quite some vanilla again. Finish: medium length, sweet but slightly harsh with spicy notes and oak.

Smoothness should be the keyword for this Greenore 18 Years. While it shows nice elements, it’s not perfectly smooth. Compared to Irish malt whisky, it’s also a little simple. Around € 80.

Score: 81/100


Highland Park whiskySaint Magnus is the second part of the Highland Park tribute to the Inga saga (the first release was called Earl Magnus). All of these releases are bottled in a hand-made brown bottle with a label design based on a 150 years old bottle of Highland Park.

Saint Magnus was matured mainly in Spanish sherry oak, of which 20% were first fill casks. It is bottled at 55%.

The third edition in this series, Highland Park Haakon, will be bottled as an 18 year-old. Expected in the second half of 2011.

 

 

Highland Park Saint Magnus 1998Highland Park 12 yo 1998 Saint Magnus (55%, OB 2010, 12.000 btl.)

Nose: starts with a few unfresh smells, especially in comparison with yesterday’s 1986 by Daily Dram. Hints of rubber and meat. This is not uncommon for sherry releases, but I have troubles with it sometimes. After a while it fades and shows more classic dried fruits and honey lacquered meat (overall not very sweet though). A little yeast. Apples and cinnamon. Heather. Subtle peat. Some barbecue smoke, leather and plenty of spices. Mouth: very spicy (cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg) with toffee notes, apples and a hint of wax. A little pepper. Some bitter liquorice. In the end there’s something like burnt oranges and still some rubber. Finish: rather long, dry / bitter and sherried with peat smoke.

I had high hopes for this, but they’re not entirely fulfilled. It’s nicely coastal and relatively peaty but I’m more a fan of fresh, juicy (second fill?) sherry influence. Quite expensive as well: sold for € 100.

Score: 80/100


This Highland Park 1986 is one of the most recent releases by The Nectar of the Daily Drams. Independent bottlings of Highland Park can go in different directions, let’s see where this is going…

 

Highland Park 24yo 1986Highland Park 24 yo 1986
(51,8%, Nectar of the Daily Drams 2010)

Nose: mixed fruity notes and coastal elements. Not wham-bam candied fruit but a nice, elegant sweet layer of oranges and ripe apple. More fruits than usually found in this distillery. Nice eucalyptus and wax. Vanilla. On the other hand quite some dry flinty notes and a hint of chalk. Very good. Mouth: oily, mineral and slightly resinous. A hint of peat as well. Quite dry, the sweeter layer with vanilla is now in the background. Grapefruit. Develops on leafy / grassy notes with a hint of bitterness and liquorice. Still pretty coastal (oyster, lemon). Finish: medium length, with hints of herbal liqueur, dry resin and earthy notes.

A high quality dram with different elements: very fruity but also mineral, waxy, coastal elements… An nice all-round Highland Park. Very different from distillery releases though, so be careful if you’re only searching for that kind of profile. Around € 105.

Score: 89/100


Jefferson’s Reserve is a small-batch, handcrafted bourbon. In fact it’s just a label for different whiskies bottled independently by McLain & Kyne in Kentucky. Only occasionally do they reveal the producer of the spirit.

There’s a regular Jefferson bourbon whisky (note that they don’t spell it the American way) and this higher-strength brother Jefferson’s Reserve. A previous batch was labeled “15 years old” but not this time, so we can assume this new batch is a little younger. Each batch is around 2400 bottles.


Jefferson's ReserveJefferson’s Reserve (45,1%, OB 2010)

Nose: very smooth and gentle, with sweet corn, lovely notes of vanilla and a white chocolate bar filled with banana cream. Some raisins and apricots as well. Hints of black cherries, nice! A little mint. Not very complex but with a kind of “sherried” sweetness and great elegance. It suggests a higher age than regular bourbon. Mouth: medium-bodied, much more oak influence now, with spices, mint and nougat. Raisins again. Hints of cigar leafs. There are not many other flavours to be found. Finish: spicy and dry with hints of polished oak and tannins.

I really liked the sophisticated nose, but on the palate I think it switches too much towards oak and spices. Around € 60.

Score: 80/100


The Ten

22 Jan 2011 | * News

The Ten - La Maison du WhiskyLa Maison du Whisky came up with an interesting idea: The Ten.

It’s a series of ten expressions, each representing a certain style of whisky rather than a region. It’s marketed as an “initiation” to Scotch whisky.

The bottles are ordered from light
(00, a single grain) over medium
(05, a sherried Speysider) to heavy
(09, a heavily peated Islay malt). The whisky comes from the Signatory Vintage stocks.

All of them are pretty young (2000 to 2005 vintages) so this time it’s really the style that makes the difference rather than the age. Priced from € 29 to € 46 or € 340 for the complete series.

As an introduction series, I think 50cl or even 20cl bottles could have been more successful (people would more easily buy multiple bottles to check the differences). Also, mentioning the distillery name instead of just the style and region would help starters to find their way in their quest for a great dram. Anyway, an innovative idea.


Old Pulteney 17 years old is made up of around 90% refill American bourbon barrels and a small percentage of refill oloroso / PX casks.

Old Pulteney 17 yearsOld Pulteney 17 yo (46%, OB 2010)

Nose: very feminine compared to the
12 years old or WK209, also lighter and fresher. None of the beefy notes. Instead lots of vanilla and wax (how far is Clynelish distillery from Wick?). Pears and a little apricot. Even some tropical estery notes. Then it develops more grassy and austere notes. Very nice. Mouth: full-bodied, oily attack. Fruity (apples) and vanilla again. Honey. Clearly noticeable oak: some tannins, many spices (cinnamon, nutmeg). Beautiful balance. Finish: quite long with a little chocolate and lingering spices.

This Old Pulteney 17 years old is maybe the least typical member of the core range. So be it. The vanilla / wax / fruit combo really does it for me. A great dram worth the extra investment over the 12yo.
Around € 65.

Score: 86/100


Old Pulteney WK209After the travel retail exclusive Old Pulteney WK499 that I picked up in Heathrow last year, a new “duty free” expression is due to be released.

Just like its sibling, Old Pulteney WK209 is named after the registration number of a herring boat called “Good Hope” and based in Wick harbour. In its time, it was a unique boat that was different from all the others.

Contrary to WK499, the new WK209 is matured entirely in first-fill European sherry oak. There’s no age statement on the bottle, but it’s said to contain 8 and 10 year old casks. It is bottled at 46%, non chill-filltered, natural colour and limited to 9600 bottles of 1 litre.

This evening, a handful of bloggers attended a Twitter tasting hosted by Malcolm Waring, distillery manager of Old Pulteney. We tried Old Pulteney 12yo, 17yo and the new WK209. Thanks again Malcolm and Lucas!

 

Old Pulteney WK209Old Pulteney WK209 ‘Good Hope’
(46%, OB 2010, 9600 btl.,
travel retail, 100cl)

Nose: starts unfresh in my opinion: meaty notes, distinct rubber, even plain sulphur… but other tasters liked that. Anyway it gradually turns towards more traditional sherry notes. Nutty aromas: praline, chestnuts… A hint of sour apples and a little mint. Coastal elements. Leather maybe. Apart from the sulphur problem, I’m missing the attractive freshness and the coherence of the WK499. Mouth: dried fruits, dark chocolate, overall rather dry. Strong coffee. Plenty of spices (cinnamon, pepper, mustard). Now also the typical Pulteney salty edge. Liquorice. Brown sugar. Nice fade on roasted nuts. Finish: medium length, half-sweet / half-dry, with hints of salt and cold coffee.

WK209 is meant to be a different dram, just like the boat it was named after. They’ve certainly succeeded, but I still prefer WK499 as a more typical and balanced Old Pulteney. WK209 will be available around March for about € 50.

Score: 77/100


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Coming up

  • GlenDronach 1990 (PX cask #2970)
  • Highland Journey
  • GlenDronach 1993 Oloroso cask #494
  • Glen Elgin 1985 (Maltbarn)
  • Fettercairn Fior
  • Cardhu 18 Year Old
  • Ben Nevis 2002 (Port cask #334)
  • Tomatin Cuatro series

1614 notes by Ruben

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