Single malt whisky - tasting notes

Diageo Special Releases 2010 

These are this year’s Special Releases from Diageo:Diageo Classic Malts

  • Brora 30yo
  • Caol Ila 12yo unpeated
  • Lagavulin 12yo
  • Port Ellen 31yo
  • Talisker 30yo

The Brora and Port Ellen are always highly anticipated of course. No Talisker 25yo apparently. This year we also see four uncommon releases:

 

  • Auchroisk 30yo
  • Cragganmore 21yo
  • Glen Spey 21yo
  • Glenkinchie 20yo

Although younger expressions of these distilleries are commonly found (expect for Glen Spey, that is), we don’t see them often as old official bottlings.


In 2005 some very old Ardbeg was accidently mixed with one fifth of 12 year-old Glen Moray. The result turned out to be very good, and it was bottled as Serendipity. Lady Luck is a similar vatting, this time made on purpose by independent vatting wizard John Glaser. It contains three casks:

  • Caol Ila 29yo 1980 cask #8165
  • Caol Ila 25yo 1984 cask #5384
  • Imperial 14yo 1995 cask #100049

Compass Box Lady Luck Lady Luck (46%, Compass Box 2009,
754 btl.)

Nose: elegant and gently ashy, like a fireplace that is cleaned the morning after. Some toffee, vanilla custard and sweet orange. Hints of cinnamon and cardamom. Coal and yellow apple. Nice to have the restrained Islay character together with the candied, fruity Imperial. Works really well. Mouth: oily mouthfeel. Peatier now with big tobacco notes. Again a nice sweetness but it’s mostly the Coal Ila talking. Quite briney and coastal with subtle lemon. Finish: long and dry on liquorice and olive juice.

After experiments such as Canto Cask, Compass Box is again proving that whisky doesn’t have to be single malt to be great. A bit expensive, but you do get old Coal Ila of course: about € 150.

Score: 86/100


The Ardbeg shop promises the Supernova 2010 edition to be deeper, stronger and earthier than the 2009 edition. Let’s see if the slightly higher ABV really makes it different. Be sure to compare with my Ardbeg Supernova review of 2009.


Ardbeg Supernova 2010 Ardbeg Supernova
(60,1%, OB 2010)

Nose: it shares a lot of elements with the 2009 edition of course: oily peat, pepper, tobacco and a touch of citrus and apple. There are bigger notes of graphite and phenols / gouache paint in the 2009 edition. On the other hand Supernova 2010 seems to boast more sweet apple, grass and camomile (some call it soapy because of this, but I don’t really mind). I would say 2009 is rougher and 2010 is smoother and better balanced. Mouth: very earthy and grassy now, with wet hay. Slightly less peaty than the 2009, or so it seems. Very bitter coffee. Some salty notes. Big big liquorice. Lemon zest. A bit of menthol and anise towards the end. A bit sharp and bitter maybe. Finish: hot and quite sharp. Liquorice and dry pepper.


Ardbeg Supernova 2010 is very powerful. Deeper, stronger and earthier than last year? Well, not quite. On the nose, I was charmed by the balance of the new one, but on the palate the added harshness and bitterness push me towards the 2009 edition. In the end both are very similar, so there’s no reason to alter the score.

Score: 85/100


For what it’s worth, here’s a rough comparison. Mind that the differences are much more subtle than the plusses may indicate.

  2010 2009
peat / smoke +++ +++
sweetness /vanilla +++ ++
citrus / fruit ++ +
graphite / phenols ++ +++
spices / earthiness ++ +++
lemon zest / bitterness +++ ++

Bruichladdich is regularly producing whisky made of traceable barley, grown by 14 Islay farms. It is 100% organic and local malt, with the Optic variety having the largest share nowadays (together with 7 other varieties).

The distillery already jumped on this “terroir” wagon in 2004, when whisky was distilled from Chalice barley grown on the Kentraw farm, less than a mile from the distillery. For Feis Ile 2010, this first Islay grown whisky was released as a five year-old.

Note that using local barley was obviously very common in the past, so this Bruichladdich is more precisely the first “remake” of local Islay whisky in the past few Bruichladdich Islay Barley 2004decades.

 

Bruichladdich Islay barley 2004 (57,5%,
OB for Feis Ile 2010, fresh sherry butt #1667, 1060 btl.)

Nose: sweet and sour notes. Redcurrant, gooseberry… Rhubarb pie. Pêches Louis with brown sugar. There’s also a burnt element in the background and a winey overtone. Mouth: sweeter now, with notes of red candy and milk chocolate. Quite sour and sharp nonetheless. Roasted peanuts and bittersweet notes of caramel. A hint of soft pepper. Finish: warm and sweet.

A Bruichladdich with a big malty profile and highly acidic fruit notes. Not too bad but a nice marketing concept rather than a nice drinking whisky.

Score: 76/100


This 30 years old Glen Grant is an unusual whisky. It has been matured in a brandy butt and finished in a sherry cask – I can’t think of similar malts.

It was bottled to celebrate the 60th Anniversary of independent bottler Douglas Laing.


Glen Grant 30yo Douglas Laing 60Glen Grant 30 yo 1979 (52,5%, Douglas Laing 2009, 60th Anniversary bottling, brandy butt – sherry finish, 282 btl.)

Nose: starts on notes of burnt sugar, smoke and honey. Bread crust. Caramelized apples. Slightly dusty. Chocolate. Cinnamon. Interesting but quite winey. Mouth: full and rather winey again. Sour apple cider, a sharp maltiness and a lot of oak. Tangy herbal elements (cough syrup, ginger). Sweet / sour combo, some cocoa. Gets very bitter in the end, rather difficult to enjoy. Finish: long, with liquorice and herbs.

I guess this cask was selected for its unusual maturation and equally unusual flavours. A shame really, I could think of a dozen other Glen Grants that are better suited to celebrate your anniversary. Around € 240.

Score: 77/100


Linkwood is part of the Diageo empire. Together with the surrounding distilleries in West Speyside, it holds an annual competition for spirit yield efficiency (litres of spirit per ton of malt), and Linkwood regularly wins it, together with Glen Elgin.

Although most of the production goes to Johnnie Walker and White Horse, independent single malt bottlings are fairly common as well. This 36 years old Linkwood 1973 was bottled for the 10th Anniversary of The Whisky Exchange in 2009.


Linkwood 1973 TWE Linkwood 36 yo 1973 (49,7%, The Whisky Exchange 10th Anniversary 2009, bourbon cask)

Nose: a delicious old Speysider, vibrant and utterly fruity. A vanilla infused fruit salad with ripe banana, some mango, dried apricots, papaya… Hints of good piña colada. A little polished oak. Pancakes (VIPS tortitas anyone?). Faint tobacco leafs and spices in the background. Really outstanding. Mouth: fruity again, some pineapple, orange and apricot but less abounding in vitality than on the nose. A more spicy kick with ginger, cinnamon and soft pepper. Oaky in a good way, giving it a lot of depth but not the dryness. Finish: long, growing more tannic and resinous now, although the fruitiness seems to go on and on.

Clearly the best Linkwood I’ve had so far. A stunning nose and overall on par with the lovely Clynelish TWE 10th Anniversary, although that one still has a slight edge in complexity for me. Around € 170, still available from TWE.

Score: 92/100


Rosebank was closed in 1993. While most of the equipment was still in place and rumours circulated that Diageo would eventually restart production, the copper was stolen at the beginning of 2009 and the Lowlands distillery may be lost forever. There have been a few official bottlings in the Rare Malts series, a Flora & Fauna 12y and a 25 year-old from the same year as this Daily Dram release (bottled in 2007).

In 2006, this was one of two releases in the first Daily Dram series ever. You may think it is diluted, but it’s actually cask strength.


Daily Dram - Rosebank 1981 Rosebank 1981 (43%, Daily Dram 2006)

Nose: classic Rosebank lemons. Tangerines and other citrus fruits. Juicy pears. Really fresh. Buttercups. Some tropical notes as well: passion fruit, pineapple. Buttercups. After a while, there’s a peaty note in the background. That’s not completely uncommon for old Rosebank (Rosebank 25yo OB also has some). Develops on slightly grassy, waxy and minty notes. Fruit tea. Mouth: fruity (oranges) but slightly sour at the same time. Lots of (pink) grapefruit and green tea. Apple. Hints of cloves. Finish: medium length, on lemon candy and tangerine.

Impressive, certainly because other distilleries generally need more years to develop a similar profile. It shares similar elements with old Clynelish or some 30-40 year-old Longmorns. Not available any more.

Score: 89/100

ps/ Re-tasted at a Fulldram tasting in May 2011. Added one extra point.


Banff was closed in 1983 and demolished in a fire in 1991. There’s limited stock left so expressions are pretty rare. The distillery doesn’t have much fame and Banffs tend to be a little unbalanced, but some early 1970’s expressions are great.

This Banff 1978 was distilled in October 1978, so within the first weeks of your reviewers existence. It has been matured in a sherry cask and bottled by Ian Macleod (owners of Glengoyne distillery) in their Chieftain’s range.


Banff 1978 Chieftain's 3771 Banff 26 yo 1978 (46%, Chieftain’s 2004, sherry cask #3771, 462 btl.)

Nose: a sherry nose allright. Dried fruits like sultanas and figs. Fresher, sparkling apricot notes as well. Sour apples. Some leather. Cinnamon and liquorice. A faint hint of smoke and fat, which makes this a nice full-bodied old-style nose. Mouth: spicy Christmas cake, a few burnt notes. Nutmeg. Sour cherries. Cinnamon. Raisins. Finish: not too long, spicy and drying, fading to liquorice.

Well, this Banff is not of exceptional quality, but it’s quite balanced and certainly enjoyable. Difficult to find, expect to pay around € 135.

Score: 84/100


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Coming up

  • Glen Grant 1992 (Old Particular)
  • Glen Grant 1992 (Le Gus't)
  • Auchentoshan 15yo (Kintra)
  • Lagavulin 1997 Distillers Edition
  • Ben Nevis 1997 (Maltbarn)
  • Tomatin 1978 (Cadenhead / Nectar)
  • Aultmore 2007 (Daily Dram)
  • Glenglassaugh 1978 (Madeira)
  • Karuizawa 45 Year Old (cask #2925)
  • Glengoyne 1999 (Palo Cortado)

1503 notes by Ruben

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