Single malt whisky - tasting notes

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


Over the last two years, we’ve seen a series of wonderful Longmorn 1975 / 1976, but it will end sooner or later… This 1976 cask was released by the great people of The Whisky Agency in their Perfect Dram series, just before The Whisky Fair. I hadn’t heard of it until a few weeks ago and apparently it has been a lot harder to find in stores than most other Whisky Agency releases.

 

Longmorn 1976 Perfect DramLongmorn 35 yo 1976
(53,6%, The Whisky Agency ‘Perfect Dram’ 2011, bourbon hogshead, 187 btl.)

Nose: right. This has the same pastry and honey notes as the Malts of Scotland version. It develops on huge beehive notes, warm wax and all kinds of jams (apricot, mandarin). Papaya, overripe gooseberries and honeydew melon. Butter biscuits with almonds. Subtle mint, vanilla and cinnamon. Intensely fruity and getting warmer by the minute. Mouth: oily and thick, almost a diluted jam with a lot of warm fruity notes (ripe apricots, plums, melon), evolving to citrus notes (oranges, pink grapefruit) but overall much less citrusy than the other 1976’s. Faint leathery notes. A little cinnamon, ginger and mint, but low on plain woody notes. Finish: long, fruity and slightly mentholated. Drier notes only show in the very end.

Longmorn 1976 tends to show more citrus fruits compared to 1975 vintages. That’s not the case for this Perfect Dram: it’s very warm and fruity and the jammy / beehive / pastry notes make it exactly to my liking (and rather similar to 1972 Caperdonich in some respects).

I dare to say it’s my favourite Longmorn among all those releases of the last two years, even though they were all high quality. Around € 180 – now sold out.

Score: 94/100


There are several versions of this Mortlach 1936 bottled by Gordon & MacPhail. It’s one of the youngest I could find, other bottlings are 45 or even 50 years old. G&M released an impressive amount of 1930’s Mortlach over the years.

 

Mortlach 1936 G&MMortlach 35 yo 1936 (43%, G&M Connoisseur’s Choice for Pinerolo Import 1972, 75 cl)

Nose: wow, very fragrant. The more ‘direct’ notes are those of old leather, coal smoke, prunes and library dust. There’s a sherried fruitiness, with fruit compote and plum jam, but it’s pushed aside by this lovely pre-war style of coals, herbs and oils. I couldn’t possibly mention everything, but I also noted eucalyptus, pine resin, fruit cake, camphor, tobacco, herbal liqueur, raspberry ganache, mint, cedar, caramelized sugar… All of this on a background of typical 1940’s-1950’s blend notes. Mouth: the first thing that struck me was “babelutte”, a kind of hard butter toffee typical for the Belgian coast. Quite spectacular. Then the other notes appear: smoke, wax, sultanas, almonds, mint, red fruit gums, Turkish delight… It keeps developing on toffee / mocha / chocolate notes, really great. Hardly any oak, hardly any bitter notes, no dryness whatsoever – rather perfect. Maybe a few metallic notes but very few considering it spent nearly 40 years in glass. Actually it’s an asset here. Finish: really long, with smoke and soft resin. Hints of tea as well.

It doesn’t require an elaborate conclusion to know this was exceptional. Pre-war whisky, from directly fired stills, with old-style sherry and smoke harmoniously mixed. Try to taste this kind of whisky before it’s gone forever! Value of the bottle: not sure, around € 1000? Heartfelt thanks Johannes.

Score: 95/100


Glenfarclas cask 697You know that expression “you can’t stand on one leg”? Expect a few more celebration drams in the next couple of days.

This Glenfarclas 1968 cask #697 was selected by Luc Timmermans who previously selected cask #699 (Fino) and #702 / #5240 (Cream + Fino). All of these are 1968 casks of which he has been monitoring the evolution for a couple of years now.

This cask was previously used by Pedro Domecq to mature manzanilla, the most peculiar type of sherry, with a dry, briny and delicate profile – a coastal Fino so to speak. This type of wine is made exclusively in the charming seaside town called Sanlúcar de Barrameda.

 

Glenfarclas 1968 cask 697Glenfarclas 43 yo 1968 (47,5%, OB Family Cask ‘selected by Luc Timmermans’, Manzanilla cask #697, 133 btl.)

Nose: great nose, on aromatic fruits (kumquats, Seville oranges, peach pits, guava, yellow plums, grapes – not the usual oloroso sherry fruits) and beautiful waxy / mineral notes (paraffin, scented balm). Buttercups. Quite some spices (nutmeg, mint) as well as nicely integrated, polished oak. Light tobacco. Mouth: half sweet, half spicy. The fruits are more pronounced now, more jammy with slightly more tropical hints. Soft pepper and ginger, hints of eucalyptus. Distant traces of nuts. Growing savoury, more oaky and slightly bitter towards the end. Finish: long, with lingering fruit, chamomile tea (or is that the power of suggestion?) and drying spices. Indeed, there’s also a faint salty edge.

Another impressively complex Glenfarclas from 1968. It’s a little more ‘intellectual’ than the previous two, but it’s also more unique. The price is higher, perhaps because of the official label and the cardboard box: around € 380. Cheers Luc!

Score: 93/100


Note n°750 on this blog so let’s dig up something special for the occasion. And special it is, no doubt: a Laphroaig 10 years bottled in 1968. Yes, that’s 1950’s distillation! It’s bottled in clear glass, look at that colour…

Ardbeg collector Geert Bero managed to find a pristine case (!) of these beauties in the States (most of them rotation 1967 actually). Some people have all the luck… Well done of course and I was happy to able to taste it.

 

Laphroaig 10 (1968 Carlton)Laphroaig 10 yo (91,4 US Proof, OB 1968, 4/5 quart, Imported by The Carlton Company)

Nose: peatheads would be disappointed. No big fireworks. Instead it evokes tobacco leaves, cigar ashes in water and unlit coal bricks. All of this mixed with a lovely almond sweetness and even buttery pastry notes. Quite rounded and definitely sherried. There’s a whole range of tiny micro-notes as well: motor oil, leather, turpentine, tea, sea air, dust… Stunningly delicate old Laphroaig. Mouth: quite punchy and briney / salty. Then it grows sweeter with tobacco again (reminds me of the pralines with Havana leaves by Dominique Persoone). Smoked tea. A little toffee maybe. Hints of lemon. Relatively peaty for such an old malt with a slight earthiness in the very end. Great combination with the silky nose. Finish: long, rather sweet and smoky with toffee and liquorice.

This shouldn’t be evaluated like modern malts. The nose is exceptional: delicate and aromatic at the same time. On the palate there’s slightly less complexity but it’s still very beautiful. A lovely piece of history. Thanks Geert!

Score: 94/100


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Coming up

  • Strathisla 1948/1961
  • Dos Maderas 5+3
  • Bruichladdich 1964 (G&M #3676-3677)

1837 notes by Ruben

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