Single malt whisky - tasting notes

Ardbeg Lord Robertson Lord Robertson is a former Nato Secretary General born on Islay. Ten years ago, when he visited the distillery, a cask of Ardbeg was laid down for his charity project Erskine. About two weeks ago it was bottled and made available in the online shop.

It’s a fairly standard 10 years old Ardbeg, but as usual Ardbeg could charge £ 220 and still sell out in five hours, simply because it’s a single cask. At least this time the earnings are donated to charity.

 

Ardbeg 2000 Robertson #1217 Ardbeg 10 yo 2000 “Lord Robertson” (53%, OB 2010, Committee release, cask #1217, 202 btl.)

Nose: the sweetness of white chocolate, vanilla and marzipan is very nice. It shows sweet peat, but it’s not very smoky. Some apples and cloves. Faint hints of antiseptics and wet wool. Toffee. Water brings out freshly laid tarmac and burnt tyres with a citrus overtone. Mouth: a nice pepper / peat / lime combo. Dark soot and tar but at the same time that sweet barley coating again. Chocolate and sugared almonds. I’m missing a bit of complexity in the middle: there’s black soot and white chocolate but not much in between, if you know what I mean. Finish: long and smoky with a hint of cocoa.

An interesting young Ardbeg with a fairly sweet profile. Nice enough as long as you don’t take into account the price.

Score: 86/100


Monkey Shoulder

17 Jul 2010 | * Blends

Monkey Shoulder is a “triple malt”, a blended malt containing whisky from Glenfiddich, Balvenie and Kininvie (all three part of the same company). Kininvie is the newest distillery – it has been in production for over 10 years but we’ve never seen a single malt bottling.

Monkey shoulder - whiskyMonkey Shoulder is said to be around 6 years old. It is released in batches which may differ slightly, but overall the profile should remain quite constant.

 

Monkey Shoulder (40%, OB 2008)

Nose: Fresh, very fruity, candied and slightly youngish. Notes of apple sweets and honey. Some apricot and banana. There’s a flowery side to it (violets maybe?). Mouth: suddenly it becomes clear that this is not a single malt. The attack is very weak and the first flavours are quite generic (grains and caramel). It misses some punch. Is that vanilla? Or mint maybe, in the end? Finish: rather short, grainy and nutty in the very end.

Monkey Shoulder is very smooth, easy-going but also quite harmless. Probably a great base for a Manhattan, but for € 30 there are better options in the single malt shelf.

Score: 74/100


Caperdonich from the 1970’s is relatively easy to find – and one the best price / quality whiskies if you ask me – but 1960’s Caperdonich is a bit less common nowadays.

Lonach is a series by Duncan Taylor that blends underproof casks (below 40% alcohol) with higher strength casks to make sure the result can still be called whisky. Although they have a lower strength, most of them are still very full and flavoursome.

 

Caperdonich 1969 DT Lonach Caperdonich 39 yo 1969 (42,2%, Duncan Taylor Lonach 2008)

Nose: instantly more herbal than I expected. The usual tropical fruits are certainly present (mango, pineapple), but they are mixed with sour apples and some mint. Big hints of chamomile. Heather honey. A little grapefruit. Vanilla. Will we ever be disappointed by an old Caperdonich? Mouth: hmmm, it’s very oaky although not too dry. Minty / woody / grassy, some nutmeg but not much more, I’m afraid. The fruit is reduced to a vague sweetness. Finish: not too long, slightly tannic, showing some aniseed.

This is not a bad malt, not at all, but because of the lower strength and the age, the oak is relatively loud. There’s better Caperdonich to be found. Around € 100 at the time but difficult to find now.

Score: 84/100


Renegade Rum is owned by Murray McDavid and part of the Bruichladdich group. They apply the same ACE concept (additional Cask Evolution) to their rums as to some whiskies. They ship the rum to Islay, finish it in wine casks and bottle it at Bruichladdich.

This 10 years old Brazilian rum was distilled at the colossal and modern Epris distillery near São Paolo, where they also distill for Bacardi.

Renegade Epris 1999 rumCongratulations to Bruichladdich for the bottle design (again) and the nice metal name tag, although I must add that it’s almost impossible to pour a glass from this type of bottle without spilling (maybe this will be easier once the level starts to lower).

 

Epris 10 yo 1999 (46%, Renegade 2009, Chateau Lafite finish, 1380 btl.)

Nose: a mixture of dried fruits (plums) and fresher fruits (apricot, berries). Quite spicy. Some toffee. Hints of musty oak. Mouth: smooth, lots of berries again. Red wine gums. Caramel and brown sugar. Soft vanilla and spices. Finish: not too long. A very light hint of mint.

I don’t think this Brazilian rum was of special quality before being ACE’d by Renegade. The wine helped to add complexity in a nice way, but the end result is still not really exceptional (in the eyes of a rum novice). Around € 45.


The Balvenie Cuban Selection was a limited edition for the French market. It’s one of their rum finishes, in line with the former RumWood and GoldenCask releases.

Balvenie Cuban Selection Balvenie 14 yo ‘Cuban Selection’
(43%, OB 2009)

Nose: indeed, the rum notes are easily noticeable. Some sweet pear candy. Some nectarines and oranges. Trademark honey and hints of vanilla cake. Some peanut butter. Apples and cinnamon. Very round and feminine. Mouth: quite sweet again, with the honey coated fruits on the foreground and a few nutty notes in the back. Vanilla and cinnamon again. Butter toffee. Relatively soft and candied. Finish: medium length, warm and sweet.

An easy malt with a nice balance. Obviously finished, which adds a candied character and makes it perfect as an introduction to whisky, I would say. Around € 50.

Score: 83/100


Sherried Caol Ila can be great. Last year’s Feis Ile bottling – the first official single cask ever – was excellent. This new version is slightly younger but shares the same European oak maturation.

 

Caol Ila 1999 - Feis Ile Caol Ila 10 yo 1999 (61,9%, OB 2010, Feis Ile, sherry cask #305646)

Nose: freshly toasted bread with salted butter. Roasted malt and peat smoke. Nutmeg. More maritime than last year: seaweed, tarry ropes, fishnets. Some iodine and bandages. Quite dry – the sherry is very shy until you add water, then it becomes much more fruity with cooked fruits (tangerine, pineapple). I find this one more typical (also less surprising) than its older brother, but it really unfolds with water. Mouth: in line with the nose, with added citrus sweetness. Strong peat with a thin chocolate coating. Growing saltier towards the end, on olive juice and cocoa. Finish: salty / sweet. Long and ashy.

This Caol Ila seems more powerful than the 2009 Feis Ile edition. Sharper and less sweet. Very good but I prefer last year’s cask. Original price: around € 90.

Score: 89/100


This 20 years old Littlemill 1990 is a sister cask of the earlier Littlemill 1990 cask #915. It was bottled by Malts of Scotland in the Clubs series to celebrate the 5th Anniversary of the Belgian Fulldram whisky club. On the back label, they explain that they’ve evolved from peat heads to advocates of fruity whisky.

 

Littlemill 1990 Fulldram Littlemill 20 yo 1990 (53,9%, Malts of Scotland ‘Clubs’ 2010 for Fulldram, cask #736, 183 btl.)

Nose: a little closed and grassy at first, but it grows fruitier by the minute. Honeydew melon, kiwi, green banana, lemon balm. Lots of pink grapefruit. Lovely hints of frangipane as well. Almond paste. Succade. A bit of freshly sawn wood and a few estery notes (bubblegum / nail polish remover) now and then. Really great. Compared to cask #915 a tad more fruit and slightly higher complexity. Mouth: very punchy and beautifully fruity, but soon evolving on bitter grapefruit again (still too overpowering for me, just like in the sister cask). Lemon zest, gooseberries, some vanilla. Pungeant ginger and nutmeg. A faint waxiness as well. Hints of cinnamon. Woody notes in the aftertaste. With water: almonds. Finish: rather long with spices from the oak and bittersweet citrus.

 

Another Littlemill with a great nose. It deserves a few points more than its sister cask because of the bigger fruit and the slightly higher complexity. It gets even better with a few drops of water. Congratulations to the Fulldram members for picking this cask - one of the best Lowland whiskies I’ve had.

Most bottles were bought by club members but a handful are still available from QV.ID (a club member’s shop). Priced € 86.

Score: 90/100


This year at Feis Ile, Bowmore had a hand signed re-packaged version of the pleasant Bowmore Tempest, as well as a 25th Anniversary bottling. It was a 25 year-old at cask strength. Only 100 bottles were bottled and the actual number available to the public was even lower, around 60. This whisky was aged in the n°1 vaults, under sea level.

25 years old means it was distilled in the first half of the 1980’s. Oh-oh

 

Bowmore 25yo Feis Ile Bowmore 25 yo
(53,1%, OB 2010, Feis Ile, 100 btl.)

Nose: very maritime with notes of sea breeze and wet hay. Quite some iodine as well. Mild peat smoke. This is backed by some sherry influence (dried fruits) and mint. A rather promising nose, even with faint hints of parma violets. Mouth: well there you have it. Soap, and quite a lot of it! Violet candy. Geraniums. Lavender. A typical 1980’s Bowmore profile that we’re not too fond of. Quite peppery as well and few citrus notes. Finish: still very candied and soapy, with a salty edge and citrus.

Yet another typical 1980′s Bowmore although on the nose it’s masked almost completely. Originally around € 400, now being sold for € 600-700. Not worth it from a quality point of view, but interesting as a collectors item.

Score: 68/100


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Coming up

  • Arran 17 Years Old
  • 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)

1502 notes by Ruben

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