Single malt whisky - tasting notes

After the excellent surprise that was the Benromach 10 Year Old, we’re now trying another release from the same distillery (Speyside’s smallest operational distillery by the way). It’s the Benromach 1976, part of the Heritage collection which also includes the 30 Year Old and a 1969 vintage.

Benromach vintage 1976 was matured in first fill and refill sherry hogsheads. Obviously it was produced by the previous owners and even made with different equipment – Gordon & MacPhail installed new stills when they reopened the distillery.

 

Benromach 1976 vintageBenromach 1976 (46%, OB 2012)

Nose: creamy start. Tinned peaches and oranges, with quite some sourish kiwi and subtle hints of passion fruits. Very fruity, in a rather candied way. Honey pops. Polished wood. Traces of vanilla, coconut and menthol. Some gentle sherry influence in the background (fresh figs). Mouth: a bit soft but still quite fruity, not unlike some Longmorn or BenRiach from the same era. Apricot, pink grapefruit, passion fruit and plenty of oranges. Gains weight after a while, with some milk chocolate, ginger and pepper, as well as some leather and tobacco. A few floral notes. Coriander. Nutty sherry. More oak now, but still refined. Finish: quite long, beautiful tobacco notes and still lots of lingering fruits and spices.

Pretty great again, a complex Benromach with the fruity smoothness of old Speysiders but also extra sophistication. Benromach 10 still wins the value for money award though, this one costs around € 550.

Score: 91/100


Liquid Art is a project that originated in Mol, Belgium. Although their mission statement also includes beer and regional specialties, the first three releases are whisky bottlings.

The first one is this single cask Glen Elgin 1995, selected by Bert Dexters and Serge Reijnders of whisky club Cask Six. The label is designed by Raymond Minnen and features a stag beetle, a native of the Lowlands but a nice hint towards Scotland as well.

Glen Elgin is not a big name – it’s mostly known as the base malt for the legendary White Horse blend. By the way, did you know the distillery was powered and lit by a kerosene engine until the 1950’s? Not the best choice: this engine alone cost them one full-time employee…

 

Glen Elgin 1995 | Liquid ArtGlen Elgin 19 yo 1995
(49,3%, Liquid Art 2014, 94 btl.)

Nose: sweet and fruity. Lots of apples, pears, stone fruits and orange. Candy sugar and plenty of honey. Fresh and creamy. Moving to more ‘modern’ marshmallow, vanilla and hints of tropical fruits (tinned pineapple, hints of pomegranate). Sweet corn flakes. Hints of wax in the background, as well as light cardamom and cake dough. Mouth: very sweet again, almost lemonade. Barley sugar, vanilla custard and all kinds of fruit candy (pineapple cubes, lemon). Tropical notes again. Very honeyed, with a minty freshness on a second level. Finish: not too long, but nicely fruity. Light, creamy oak and some citrus zest.

A really nice Glen Elgin, easy to love especially if you have a sweeth tooth. Easy to drink, and the nose has a special something. Around € 75, already sold out.

Score: 88/100


Jura Origin

28 Jul 2014 | Jura

Jura Origin is the base malt from this distillery. It is 10 years old and aged in ex-bourbon casks.

 

Jura Origin 10 Years OldJura 10 yo ‘Origin’
(40%, OB 2014)

Nose: a malty sweetness up front, with hints of caramel and baked apples. Some honey and toffee. Also drier notes, say dry leaves and hay, as well as a little musty oak. Relatively young but decent complexity already. After a while there’s a subtle orange blossom note coming through. Mouth: some fudge and sweet barley again. Quite creamy and pretty smooth. Oranges and other – hardly defined – fruits. Honey. A faint salty edge. Not bad, but the main problem is a lack of punch. With most competitors already at 46% ABV (or at least 43%), this comes across as a watered down whisky. Finish: not too long. Hints of honey and ginger. Also a slightly harsh, grainy note.

Although I didn’t publish notes, I tried this one before, in my early days of whisky discovery. I didn’t like it. Now either I’ve changed (probably, yes) or they’ve improved quite a bit (on which other people seem to agree). Either way this is now a decent entry-level single malt… which shoots itself in the foot by adding so much water. Around € 30.

Score: 78/100


A new Littlemill 1991, bottled by Eiling Lim. The fourth release in her series. Yes, a second Littlemill already, in just four bottlings, but it’s different enough from the previous one.

 

Littlemill 1991 | Eiling LimLittlemill 22 yo 1991
(47,2%, Eiling Lim 2013, 40 btl.)

Nose: all sorts of lemon really. Lemon juice, lemon candy, lemon balm, lemon yoghurt… Right, grapefruit as well. Some apple peelings and honey. Evolves to lemon marshmallow, nice. Hints of muesli and dried grass on a second level. Some gravel and dust after a while. Mouth: same story, lemon all over. Sharper zesty notes, crystallized lemons, grapefruits. Then some sweeter notes of tangerines and lemon candy too, maybe a few golden raisins. Verbena. The whole spectrum. Finish: medium long, stays on the candied side now, lemons and oranges.

Some whiskies are nice paintings, even though they only use one or two colours. Rich and nicely entertaining in all its variations, and extremely drinkable. Around € 190.

Score: 89/100


Benromach whiskyBenromach distillery – like many others – was mothballed in the whisky crisis of the early 1980’s. In 1993 it was picked up by one of the most renowned independent bottlers, Gordon & MacPhail. Production restarted some five years later. Since then they’ve been working hard on branding and promotion, with good-looking bottles.

While the distillery is still not running on its maximum capacity, there’s a clear progression and lots of expressions are available: a young Benromach Traditional, this Benromach 10 Years, a few oldies, a peated version, an organic version and several wine finishes.

Benromach 10 matures in a combination of 80% bourbon barrels and 20% sherry hoggies. It spends its final year in first fill Oloroso casks.

 

 

Benromach 10 YearsBenromach 10 yo (43%, OB 2014)

Nose: this is rather stunning for a 10 year-old. Very aromatic, with sweet fruits coming to the fore. Apples, peaches. It’s a stewed / baked kind of fruitiness, topped with cinnamon and chocolate fudge. Brown sugar. A little mint and liquorice. Malty biscuits. Excellent whiffs of waxed wood and leather, as well as subtle bonfire in the background. Very complex and pleasantly un-modern. Mouth: medium sweet, full-bodied, initially quite smoky and phenolic. Picks up fruitiness after that, with oranges, blackcurrant, raisins and honey. Hints of butter pastry. Soft nutty notes and soft spices. Complex and balanced again. Finish: quite long, warming, with soft wood, minerals and lingering sherry.

Gordon & MacPhail engineered this whisky to replicate a profile of pre-1960’s Speyside whisky, which I’m happy to confirm. One of the best widely available, standard whiskies around, in my opinion. A must, especially for people on a budget. Around € 40.

Score: 88/100


A new Glen Garioch 1989 in the Perfect Dram series.

 

Glen Garioch 1989 - Perfect DramGlen Garioch 24 yo 1989 (51,4%, The Whisky Agency ‘Perfect Dram’ 2014, refill hogshead, 220 btl.)

Nose: starts with a nice combination of sweet apples, maybe some unripe peach, and sharper mineral notes. Wet gravel. I don’t like my whisky really austere, but I find this quite gentle actually. The nicest surprise is in the minty / mentholated notes and the eucalyptus, up to the point where it becomes slightly medicinal. Nice damp oak, a little paraffin and whiffs of smoke as well. Very subtle vanilla in the background. Mouth: more fruity sweetness at first (peach, melon, sweet citrus), quickly moving towards sharper grapefruit and some green oak and grasses. Walnut skin. Hints of tonic and juniper. Soft white pepper and ginger. Wet wool. Really austere now, a tad too much for me. Finish: long, with the same flavours and mineral sharpness. Lots of grapefruit zest.

This is a really good Glen Garioch. It starts in a great way and shows an entertaining evolution from rounder notes to mineral sharpness, although it’s also flirting with extreme austerity towards the end. Around € 140.

Score: 88/100


It becomes nearly impossible to find / buy 1950’s-1960’s whisky these days – usually bottled a long time ago already. Especially the more established distilleries are out of reach.

Glen Moray isn’t one of them, so it’s usually not outrageously priced. This 30 years old expression was distilled 26 March 1959 and bottled October 1989, so it spent almost the same amount of time in the bottle already.

 

Glen Moray 1959/1989 30yo Dun EideannGlen Moray 30 yo 1959 (40%, Dun Eideann 1989, ref. 84/611-1, 75 cl.)

Nose: perfectly expressive, given the 40%. Guavas, passion fruits and tangerines up front, sort of an old Lochside fruitiness. Then some waxed old floors and lovely hints of Neroli (orange blossom oil). Bergamot. Sweet almonds with honey and a little vanilla (pastry-like indeed). There’s also an old-style dusty note in the background, as well as some eucalyptus. A delight. Mouth: less oomph now, but just as fruity. Citrus (lots of oranges), green mango, a little melon and quinces. Vanilla again. Surprisingly candied actually. The waxy beehive notes are still prominent. Fades on soft pepper, a hint of cinnamon and subtle oak. Finish: struggles to keep its voice, which is normal, but very graceful. Fruit tea and soft nutty notes.

It may be slightly soft-voiced but it still swings like hell with its typical 1950-1960’s fruitiness. Old Glen Moray is underrated I tell you! Around € 375 in auctions. Thanks Luc.

Score: 93/100


Whiskyfun was particularly fond of this Teaninich 1983 bottled by Signatory. The distillery may not enjoy big fame, at least not among single malt lovers, but it’s highly respected by blenders and a standard ‘workhorse’ for Compass Box for example. I don’t think I’ve ever had bad Teaninich and some of them have been really nice surprises.

 

Teaninich 1983 Signatory #8071Teaninich 29 yo 1983 (57,5%, Signatory Vintage 2013, refill butt #8071, 471 btl.)

Nose: graphite and industrial oils. Paraffin and plastics. Limestone and brine. Surprisingly mineral. There’s a sweetness in the background, a slightly synthetic one of unripe pineapple, green banana and lime. Hints of tequila as well. Hints of pepper. Mouth: punchy, with a more prominent marzipan sweetness now. Apples and cane sugar. Lemon drops. Floral notes as well as metallic notes. Chalk. Petrol. A bit of a strange combination, really interesting though. Hints of tonic water and liquorice towards the end. Toasted / smoked oak as well. Finish: quite long, waxy, with malty notes, herbs and a soft bitter edge.

This Teaninich revolves around an intriguing industrial side, a tequila side and plenty of minerals. A bit of the Highlands, a bit of the Lowlands. Not your typical Teaninch in any case, so one bonus point for its highly individual character. But I wasn’t totally blown away either. Thanks for the sample, Joeri. Around € 135.

Score: 90/100


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Coming up

  • Inchgower 1975 (Maltbarn)
  • Octomore 6.3 258ppm
  • Peated Irish 1991 (Eiling Lim)
  • Ardbeg 1974 for Christmas
  • Spirit of Freedom 30 Years
  • Elements of Islay Cl7
  • Benromach 5 Year Old

1681 notes by Ruben

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