Single malt whisky - tasting notes

Valentino Zagatti

 

Giacconi, Casari, Giuliani, Begnoni, Righi, Ambrosio… all famous Italian whisky collectors. Valentino Zagatti is one of them.

He bought his first bottle (a Gilbey’s Spey Royal) in June 1958. To celebrate 50 years of collecting, he selected a couple of casks from Linkwood, Springbank, Glenlivet, Mortlach and Caol Ila bottled by High Spirits.

 

 

In this series there’s also this 16 years old Clynelish, bottled from an obviously very active oloroso sherry cask. I opened this bottle a couple of months ago with some whisky friends, and the first thing that struck us was a slightly sulphury smell. While I fully agreed at that time, a little airing seems to have changed it for the better – I can’t find any sulphur now.

 

Valentino Zagatti - Clynelish 1991Clynelish 16 yo 1991 (46%, High Spirits 2008, Valentino Zagatti’s Personal  Choice)

Very very dark. Nose: over the top sherry, dry and herbal with notes of dried fruits, coffee, walnut liqueur, crushed pecan nuts and a quite some wood. The sulphur has disappeared, but there are still traces of matchsticks and ashes to be found, which I don’t find disturbing. Water brings out orange peel and nice apricot aromas. A slightly exaggerated nose. Mouth: really dry. It starts on cold coffee flavours, then shows very dark chocolate and finally some Campari and Seville oranges. Quite nutty and a little tannic as well. This is an Octomore amongst heavy sherry bottlings. Finish: long, nutty, bitterish and slightly smokey.

Apart from the sulphur story, this could have been any whisky, as it’s 95% sherry influence and 5% Clynelish. Sherry extremism, I would say, which is a pity if you know the true character of young Clynelish.
Around € 80.

Score: 79/100

ps/ If you want this kind of profile, why not buy actual dry oloroso or Palo Cortado sherry? Lustau Don Nuño or the 30 year-old Gonzalez Byass Apostoles (both € 20-25) are well worth it.


Merry Christmas everyone! A nice oldie to celebrate…

This Ardbeg 1975 was bottled for the French market. Similar bottles exist: a 1975/1988 by Auxil as well as some releases with an almost identical Gordon & MacPhail label (a 1975/1997 for Meregalli for example). This makes sense as Jas. Gordon & Co. refers to James Gordon who founded G&M together with John Alexander MacPhail.

It’s really a previlege to taste Ardbeg 1975 bottled at such a young age.
A big thank you to Ardbeg collector Geert Bero who brought this bottle to the Lindores Whisky Festival.


Ardbeg 1975 / 1989 Jas. Gordon AuxilArdbeg 1975 (40%, Jas. Gordon & Co. 1989, imported by Auxil France, 75 cl)

Nose: very smooth profile. The typical Ardbeg notes are present (bandages, some tar, peat, camphor, oyster juice) but it’s incredibly delicate. It’s also quite fruity, with yellow apple and lemon. All of this is coated with marmalade and creamy toffee. A little wax. Marzipan. A hint of spearmint. Mouth: a bit soft but great aromas. Almost like a breakfast whisky, showing a lovely mixture of bergamot, lemon tea and honey. Oranges. Sweet almonds. The middle is a bit less impressive (slightly papery?), but it returns nicely to medicinal and smokey notes (more smoke than on the nose), lemon marmalade and mineral notes. Finish: smoked fruit and hints of parsley.

Classic stuff. Overall very good but the nose is the really fabulous element here!

Score: 91/100


Let’s try another member of the Glenfarclas Family Casks. While the Family Cask 1990 was obviously an excellent first fill sherry cask, this 1977 vintage (cask #61) was a refill butt – hence the lighter colour. It was bottled in November 2006.

 

Glenfarclas 1977 Family Cask 61Glenfarclas 1977 Family Cask
(59%, OB 2006, cask #61, 582 btl.)

Nose: the other side of Glenfarclas, more “naked” and true to the original spirit. Grains with a dash of honey. Heather and fresh herbs (marjoram?). Spicy as well, with some mint and soft pepper. After a while subtle fruits come out, like apricots and yellow raisins, but not enough to make this a balanced nose. Mouth: much sweeter and fruitier, but still rather grainy. Plenty of spices again (mainly pepper and cloves). Slightly waxy. Faint sherry influence with cocoa notes in the aftertaste. Finish: remarkably short, but warm and enjoyable. Hints of vanilla.

I’m not sure of this one. The heavy spices and strong malty notes are not entirely my style. A bigger fruitiness would have been welcome. Around € 260.

Score: 82/100


Glengoyne Christmas CaskGlengoyne distillery is launching a very special bottling. Each Christmas from now until 2014, they will take 70 litres from a single cask of Glengoyne (oloroso cask #790 distilled in 2002) and make 100 bottles available in the distillery shop.

As the filling level of the Christmas Cask becomes lower, evaporation and maturation speed will increase. It’s an interesting experiment and a great chance to follow the maturation of one specific cask throughout the years.

Bottles will be available on 28th of December, priced £ 100.


Glenfarclas Family Casks is a collection of single casks from each year between 1952 and 1994. Since the launch in 2007, some vintages were released multiple times. This 1990 cask #5095 was part of release 5.

 

Glenfarclas Family Cask 1990Glenfarclas 1990 Family Cask (56,5%, OB 2010, cask #5095, 459 btl.)

Nose: great sherry power. Plenty of thick sherry, dark rum & raisins, demerara sugar, cherry liqueur. Some toffee and nutty notes. Very juicy and much richer than I expected from a 1990 cask. Water makes it more fragrant with hints of polished wood and apples with cinnamon. Mouth: again juicy, lively and full of flavour. Loads of oranges, dried fruits and plums. The oak comes marching in as well, which makes it drier and a bit herbal towards the finish. Water hardly changes it - an extra hint of mocha maybe. Finish: long and drying on oranges, spices and tannins.

This one takes the intense profile of Glenfarclas 105 and develops it a bit further, with quite some added oak but still an impressive balance. Juicy oloroso and plenty of punch at cask strength. Be prepared
for a heavy price tag though: around € 170.
A special treat for the holidays?

Score: 89/100


For their 17 and 21 years old expressions, Old Pulteney uses a mixture of
ex-bourbon and ex-sherry casks. For the 17 this is mostly oloroso and PX sherry (European oak), while the Old Pulteney 21 years relies mostly on the drier, sharper fino sherry (American oak). The amount of sherry casks versus bourbon is around one third.

 

Old Pulteney 21 yearsOld Pulteney 21 yo (46%, OB 2010)

Nose: on a first level, quite spicy (ginger, mint) while showing the coastal character of the distillery. On a second approach, it turns out to be more complex than younger expressions, with notes of cereal bars, some vanilla, leather, a little wax and faint phenols. Not exactly fruity, but there’s plenty of nice apple notes. Mouth: sweet start but again not a fruity sweetness – more like toffee and honey. The centre is full of malty flavours. Turning to dry flavours, spices and a little salt. Some ginger and orange peel. Finish: long and warming, with malt, pepper and smooth oak.

All the typical Old Pulteney elements are here, but they’re muted by the age. The emphasis is on the spices and sweet malt which makes me prefer the younger versions. Around € 110.

Score: 84/100

Update 23/10/2011

Whisky Bible 2012This Old Pulteney 21yo has just won the World Whisky of the Year award in the 2012 edition of Jim Murray’s Whisky Bible. Do I agree with his record-equaling 97.5 points? I’m afraid not. Although it’s definitely a fine whisky, and although Old Pulteney is taking big steps forward in terms of recognition, I’ve had better drams this year.


Ardmore, a sister distillery of Laphroaig in the Beam Global portfolio, is one of the non-Islay distilleries that produce peated spirit (around 14 ppm). This expression was distilled in February 1990 and matured in a “wine treated barrel” (a newish or revived cask that was quickly impregnated with (sherry) wine instead of actually holding the wine for maturation purposes – a practice that we often see with Signatory lately).

Signatory Vintage released a series of similar casks in the past. They seem to have a significant stock of Ardmore 1990 and 1992.


 

Ardmore 1990 Signatory 30118Ardmore 20 yo 1990 (61,6%, Signatory Vintage 2010, cask #30118, 355 btl.)

Nose: pungent, clean peat, without medicinal notes, as often with peated Speysiders. Earthy notes of dry hay, heather and chalk. Some vanilla and apple. A bit herbal as well. Mouth: starts quite salty and peaty with cereal notes and liquorice. A floral touch as well which clearly marks this as non-Islay again. Then gaining a bit of sweetness with almonds and heather honey. Hints of bread crust. Finish: clean, bittersweet with some iodine.

Heavily peated in a very clean way. An alternative to Islay whiskies that doesn’t make me wild –
I would have guessed it was much younger.
Around € 70.

Score: 80/100


Port Charlotte was revived by Bruichladdich in 2001. After having seen mostly 2001 bottlings (including all the Port Charlotte PC5, PC6, PC7… releases), Whisky-Doris has now bottled a 2002 bourbon cask.


Port Charlotte 2002 Whisky-dorisPort Charlotte 7 yo 2002 (63,5%, Whisky-Doris 2010, cask #1171, 298 btl.)

Nose: a very strong, high density nose of ashes and soot. Some pencil shavings and graphite. Biting alcohol as well (oh really?). Also nice hints of cigars. Water adds a little vanilla, iodine and wet wool. Slightly farmy. Sweet grassy notes as well. Mouth: too aggressive for me, at least when undiluted. Very peaty, very raw – a throat burner. More accessible with water. Lemon and salt combo. A bit of sweetness as well (sugared cereals, grapes, a hint of vanilla). Very smokey. Finish: long, like an ashtray.

I’m not a big fan of whisky that’s so peaty that it becomes difficult to detect other aromas. Peatheads will be delighted though! Available for € 60.

Score: 83/100


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  • Roberto Sikora: This is really a great, great bottling. One of my favourite Littlemills so far... :-) Thank you, Ruben for this review!
  • george: i see you have tried st magdalene and say it is harder to find i am a collector of st magdalene and i have 40 bottles i am selling these date from 196
  • sjoerd972: I wish the guys at Bushmills would demand the labels to say "Northern Ireland" so we didn't have to speculate on the booze's origins.

Coming up

  • Bowmore Devil's Casks - Batch 2
  • Tomatin 1988 (Malts of Scotland)
  • Aberfeldy 12 Year Old
  • Blair Athol 2002 (Hepburn's Choice)
  • Fettercairn Fior
  • Bowmore Laimrig 15yo
  • Ben Nevis 2002 (Port cask #334)

1601 notes by Ruben

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