Single malt whisky - tasting notes

The time has come. Every autumn, Diageo, owner of 28 Scottish single malt whisky distilleries, unveils a small and highly desirable collection of limited edition single malt Scotch whiskies. Here are this year’s Special Releases.

 

Diageo Special Releases 2011

  • Brora 32 yo 1978 (54,7% – € 350 – 1404 btl.)
  • Caol Ila unpeated 12 yo 1999 (€ 60 – 6000 btl.)
  • Glenury Royal 40 yo 1970 (€ 650 – 1404 btl.)
  • Knockando 25 yo 1985 (46% – € 160 – 4500 btl.)
  • Lagavulin 12 yo (57,5% – € 70)
  • Port Dundas 20 yo 1990 (57,4% – € 130 – 1920 btl.)
  • Port Ellen 32 yo 11th Release (53,9% – € 350 – 2988 btl.)
  • Rosebank 21 yo (53,3% – € 180 – 5604 btl.)

Update 1: prices have been added. Thanks Jack!
Update 2: official information now added.

 

This means no Talisker but instead a couple of interesting distilleries that we don’t see too often, like Knockando, Rosebank and the Lowlands grain distillery Port Dundas. The first ever grain Special release, right?

Bottlings are due in December. In the meantime they will refresh the Distiller’s Editions of Talisker, Glenkinchie, Royal Lochnagar, Dalwhinnie, Cragganmore, Coal Ila, Clynelish and Lagavulin.

Related:
Diageo Special Releases 2014
Diageo Special Releases 2013


Almost a year since we’ve reviewed a product of The Whisky Exchange, but now they seem to have a couple of new things in the pipeline. First there was a sherried Springbank 1999 and now the new Port Askaig 19yo and this Rosebank 1991 in the revamped Single Malts of Scotland series.

Don’t forget they’re hosting The Whisky Exchange Whisky Show in October. I’m sure they’ll surprise us with more interesting releases by then.

 

Rosebank 1991 - Single Malts of ScotlandRosebank 19 yo 1991 (46%, Single Malts of Scotland 2011 cask #311, 285 btl.)

Nose: nicely light and fragrant. Both fresh fruits (apple, citrus) and fruity side notes (lemon scented candles). Elegant with a minty freshness. Tiny mineral hints with overtones of dried flowers and grass. Mouth: a similar light-footed freshness here, with sweet barley, vanilla and apple juice. Evolves on lemon zest, mild notes of grass and pine wood. Liquorice. A soft bitterness in the background. Finish: medium long, with citrus zest, some vanilla sweetness and soft spices from the oak.

Although it doesn’t seem 20 years old, this Rosebank strikes a good balance between a gentle softness, medium complexity and interesting grassy notes. Available from TWE for just under € 90, expect it to show up in other shops as well.

Score: 87/100


With all the lovely 1970’s Longmorn, it’s easy to loose sight of the younger production. Last year we’ve had a similar Longmorn 1996 from Daily Dram.

 

Longmorn 1996 A.D. RattrayLongmorn 14 yo 1996 (46%, A.D. Rattray 2011, bourbon cask #97630, 304 btl.)

Nose: lots of sweet, candied notes (wine gums, crystallized fruits) as well as fresh fruits (peaches, apples and nice strawberries). Very summery. Some waxy / oily notes as well. Hay. Hints of vanilla and mint. Mouth: very sweet with an oily texture again. Big almond notes and sweet oak. Apricots on syrup. Vanilla custard. Heavy honey. Hints of caramel. Relatively few spices to be found (some cinnamon) or other flavours to balance the major sweetness. Finish: medium long, less sweet now and slightly more resinous with uncommon (but really nice) hints of carambola fruits.

An enjoyable Longmorn with a big fruity sweetness and nice oily elements. Bring it on when the summer returns (damn, that might take a while). Around € 45.

Score: 86/100


You’ve probably heard of the Cask in a van concept: fill your own bottle straight from a GlenDronach cask that’s touring shops all over Belgium. This year, the third edition brought us an 8 years old Pedro Ximénez cask. It was actually a PX finish, not a full maturation.

 

GlenDronach 2002 - Cask in a vanGlenDronach 8 yo 2002 (55%, OB for Cask in a Van III 2011, PX sherry butt #2009, 660 btl.)

Nose: sweet with lots of moscovado sugar and caramel. Flambéed bananas. Angelica fruit cake. Sweet nuts and honey. Punchy pepper and a few herbs in the background, as well as toasted oak. Mouth: sweet and spicy start (pepper again, but also softer vanilla). Then a burst of forest fruits and praline as well as some winey flavours (hints of chocolates filled with balsamic ganache). Then some liquorice, dark chocolate and a few earthy notes. Finish: rather long, on sweet mocha and milk chocolate with a slightly hot afterglow.

A young GlenDronach that shows typical sherry influences but also a youthful nervousness. Good value for money. Around € 55. Still a few bottles available.

Score: 86/100


Black Bull is the brand of blended whiskies made by Duncan Taylor. I can confirm they’ve done an excellent job with Black Bull 30yo and Black Bull 40yo and even the youngest member, Black Bull 12yo, has just won a IWSC award.

Now there’s a limited Special Reserve. It doesn’t mention an age.

 

Black Bull Special Reserve n°1Black Bull ‘Special Reserve No. 1’
(46,6%, Duncan Taylor 2011, 978 btl.)

Nose: quite rich with hay and a light bread crust, mixed with a nice coconut / vanilla / banana combination that is so typical for grain whisky. Some nutty aromas (sweet almonds). Oranges. Cinnamon. Honey. Everything is wrapped in elegant old oak. Great balance with an emphasis on the malt contents. Mouth: dry start, joined by slightly bitter notes before moving towards sweeter, fruitier notes. Honey, yellow raisins, a little toffee. Vanilla again. But there’s always a slightly bitter edge of cereals, oak and orange zest. Finish: quite long, with mocha and honey as well as drier spices.

Another great Black Bull, with plenty of elements that are more typical to (old) malts than to regular blends. Probably a “compact” blend of only a few casks, usually they are very good. Probably around € 120, expected in stores soon.

Score: 86/100


Port Askaig was launched in 2009 by Specialty Drinks / The Whisky Exchange. While the distillery is still undisclosed but it’s commonly assumed to be Coal Ila.

The newest addition to the range is called Port Askaig Harbour 19 years old. It will replace the 17 years old and it’s still bottled at the classic strength of Imperial 80 proof.

 

Port Askaig Harbour 19 yearsPort Askaig ‘Harbour’ 19 yo
(45,8%, Specialty Drinks 2011)

Nose: starts on citrus and malty notes (Hob Nob cookies) quickly assisted by coastal hints (wet gravel and sand), wood smoke and gentle phenols. Well balanced, with a shy vanilla sweetness in the background. Mouth: a slightly soft attack. Plenty of lemon, sweet peat, salt water and cocoa dust. Quite an excellent profile but it feels a little thin in the middle. Luckily it picks up strength soon enough, while displaying soft hints of grapefruit and more obvious medicinal notes. Finish: long, with a clean smokiness, some dusty notes and a soft grapefruit edge.

It’s good to see evolution in the Port Askaig series. In any case the 17yo is replaced by a worthy 19yo that’s on the same level (with a slightly higher price). No surprises here. Available from TWE and shops overseas in the near future. Supposedly under € 70.

Score: 86/100


Only a handful of Cragganmore releases appear each year. This one was distilled on the 8th of March 1991 and bottled by Master of Malt 20 years later. This is a sister cask of the Bladnoch forum bottling released last year.

 

Cragganmore 20 years 1991 - Master of MaltCragganmore 20 yo 1991 (54,2%, Master of Malt 2011, refill hogshead, 274 btl.)

Nose: fresh and invigorating, almost a benchmark for middle-aged Speyside whisky. Juicy fruits (apples, peaches, oranges) with sweet malty notes and mint. More and more floral notes developing. A spicy layer, mineral notes and freshly cut oak add some depth. Typical and very good. Mouth: starts on vanilla. Sweet and fruity (apples and citrus again, hints of pineapple) which develops into zesty notes. Then it grows towards grassy notes, with quite some oak spices, ginger, tonic and finally a lemony twist with a faint suggestion of flowery soap. A bit hot and tangy, not as easy-going as the nose suggested. Finish: lengthy, on aniseed and citrus. Drying green tea in the very end.

Releasing a Cragganmore is not a common thing, and this particular cask had a few tricks up its sleeves: a mineral aperitif‑style nose and bursts of spices and citrus zest on the palate. A 20 year-old for less than € 60, nice.

Score: 86/100


Tomatin Decades

09 Aug 2011 | Tomatin

Tomatin Decades has been composed to celebrate Douglas Campbell, their Master Distiller who has been working for Tomatin for 50 years now. To honour this, one cask was selected from every decade that he has worked there. There were three refill sherry casks (1967, 1976, 1984) and two first fill bourbon barrels (1990 and 2005).

It seems this ‘cask vatting by numbers’ concept is a new trend, after the Glenfarclas 175th Anniversary and similar ideas like the Glenlivet Decades set or Ardbeg Rollercoaster.

 

Tomatin DecadesTomatin Decades
(46%, OB 2011, 9000 btl.)

Nose: starts buttery and milky, with hints of vanilla ice cream. Soon these notes are overtaken by juicy fruits: stewed apples, peaches, but also great hints of tropical fruits. Dried fruits from the sherry are present on a lower level as well as some marzipan and caramel. Even some traces of peat. Nicely layered, plenty of things to discover. Mouth: creamy again (fruits with whipped cream, yum). Apples, orange sherbet, papaya… Vanilla and cinnamon. Faint butterscotch notes. Sweetish, fresh and balanced. Finish: medium long, hints of drying oak now, and soft spices.

This Tomatin Decades is well composed. It’s nice to see the typical 1960-1970’s fruitiness mixed with vibrant flavours and a creaminess from the younger casks. Fair pricing as well, so recommended. Around € 80.

Score: 89/100


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Coming up

  • Irish malt 1991 (Whisky Mercenary)
  • Aberlour a'bunadh Batch #50
  • Bowmore Gold Reef
  • Tomatin 1997 (Liquid Library)
  • Springbank Vintage 2001
  • Mortlach Rare Old

1793 notes by Ruben

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