Single malt whisky - tasting notes

What if… you took some quality gin, produced in Belgium, and finished it in a whisky cask? This is the concept behind the NOG! Gin which is set to be launched next week. The label calls it ‘whisky infused gin’.

NOG! stands for No Ordinary Gin, but nog also means more! in Dutch. After his whisky and rum releases, this is another brainchild of Bert ‘Asta Morris’ Bruyneel.

The first edition was finished in the cask that previously contained his Dalmore NAS whisky. We can already give away that there will be a second edition soon, basically the same gin but finished in different cask previously bottled by Asta Morris.

Let me warn you that I do appreciate a gin & tonic as an aperitif (when there’s no decent dry sherry available), but I’m certainly not an experienced gin taster.

 

 

Nog! gin - Asta MorrisNog! gin
(46%, Asta Morris, batch n°1)

Neat. Nose: quite assertive, with juniper, big lemon notes, hints of mint and liquorice. A floral touch as well. Enticing and bright, a very nice nose. Mouth: slightly less assertive at first, with a fairly neutral, sweet grainy note. Then some spices (pepper, liquorice, maybe coriander) but overall not very pronounced compared to the nose.

With Fever Tree Mediterranean. Nose: Again very aromatic and highly seductive on the nose. It’s almost as if you’ve added a bit of lime and mint to make a perfect summery drink. I’d say pineapple cubes as well. A piece of grapefruit zest is recommended as a garnish – makes sense. It balances the nice candied fruity note in the background. Mouth: the candied theme keeps going. Sweet, with some vanilla and marzipan – not what I expected and definitely amplified by the tonic. This must be the wood talking, but again I’m not an expert when it comes to (aged) gins. Lime. Sugar cane, a faint hint of caramel? A soft floral bitterness as well, but the sweetness is definitely bigger.

I love the clarity and wide aromatic profile of the nose. I had some difficulty with the sweetness of the palate, especially when you’re aiming for a (dry) aperitif, but that’s partly because aged gins are new to me, I guess. The vanilla and marzipan certainly add complexity that you will rarely find in commercial gins. I would say this is very much a sipping gin, one I’d have with different garnishes but without tonic. No ordinary gin for sure.

Nog! gin will be presented at QV.ID – 2nd of May and Crombé – 3rd of May. Probably in other stores soon after. Around € 50.


Bowmore Small Batch was launched in May 2012 as Small Batch Reserve, but last year it was renamed Small Batch. Originally a UK exclusive, it has recently started to pop up in other European countries as well.

It is entirely matured in first- and second-fill bourbon casks and supposedly the lightest, most delicate expression of Bowmore so far. It is vatted in limited quantities, although there doesn’t seem to be a mention of the batch number or the amount of bottles on the label.

Bowmore & Montezuma's chocolateBowmore Small Batch is also one of two expressions that have now been reinvented into chocolate, together with the 15 Years Old ‘Darkest’. British chocolatier Montezuma’s created two 60% dark chocolate bars inspired by (and infused with) these whiskies.

The chocolates will be available to sample at different whisky fairs and at the distillery. Or you can buy a bottle of Bowmore Darkest from TWE and get one for free.

 

Bowmore Small BatchBowmore Small Batch
(40%, OB 2014)

Nose: starts a bit gristy, with raw barley notes, but quickly develops fruity notes. Stewed peach, youngish banana and lots of white grapes. Some vanilla cream and honey. Cinnamon cookies. Subtle smoke as well, but overall rather light and fresh indeed. Soft floral notes. Simple but really pleasant. Mouth: almost surprisingly light-bodied and fruity, with lots of youthful notes. Peaches, lime, hints of coconut. Even a tropical hint of passion fruit that reminds us of the great Bowmore 1993 expressions. Then some salty notes and seaweed. A modern touch of oak, always with vanilla in the background. Finish: medium long, the smoke returns while the creamy vanilla stays strong. A hint of mint in the very end.

I couldn’t note any whisky in the chocolate. It’s a dark chocolate bar with a softer milk chocolate filling with hints of vanilla toffee, honey and salt. It’s more of an inspirational, complementing flavour pairing, rather than just a praline filled with whisky, if you know what I mean. It’s a tasty combination although the chocolate may be too rich and intense for such a delicate whisky.

On its own, Bowmore Small Batch is a lively but also surprisingly light and floral Bowmore. Quite uncommon – Islay for dummies? Worth trying though, as the flavours are really pleasant. Just don’t expect a lot of complexity or an intense kick. Around € 35-45.

Score: 83/100


Among the different double matured Distillers Editions, I’m sure Lagavulin P.X. is the most popular. It is basically the Lagavulin 16 Year Old which spent the last few months in a sweet Pedro Ximénez sherry cask.

This is the latest 1997 / 2013 edition, which comes in an updated bottle with a new, minty green label. Classy and totally in line with the special editions.

 

 

Lagavulin Distillers Edition 1997/2013Lagavulin 1997 ‘Distiller’s Edition’ (43%, OB 2013, P.X. finish, lgv. 4/502)

Nose: I rather love this. It has the classic Lagavulin smoke, soot and a leathery dryness, but also a thick, sweet coating of Mon Cheri cherries, prune jam and brown sugar. Honey-glazed almonds. Cinnamon. Fresh floral top notes. Quite some coastal notes too (sea breeze, very subtle iodine). Sweet tobacco. Complex and balanced. Mouth: sweet and surprisingly shy entry, maybe we were expecting a higher ABV to highlight the intense flavours. Smooth, starting on the common Lagavulin 16 elements: earthy peat, liquorice, Lapsang tea, smoked fish… Then some spices (pepper) and growing fatty notes – it takes a while before it tilts towards sherry, with chocolate, honey and a dark sweetness, say Turkish coffee. Finish: very long, on ashes, dark chocolate and peat smoke. A drier, more oaky hint as well.

I was slightly surprised by the soft entry on the palate, but I still think this is an excellent wine finished Lagavulin. Maybe too sweet for die-hard Islay fans, but it adds complexity and a certain decadency. A must-have. Between € 65 and € 90 depending on which shop.

Score: 90/100


Massandra wines - GlenglassaughMassandra is the oldest winery in Crimea. It has been producing fine wines for more than 110 years and won international acclaim for its quality. The winery tends to mimic some of the greatest styles like Port, Tokay or Madeira. Moreover, they own one the largest collections of rare wines (over 1 million bottles), some of which were once in the collection of the Russian Tsars.

Back in 2012, Glenglassaugh released five old expressions, all finished in ex-wine casks from Massandra. One of them was a 33 year-old 1978 vintage finished in a “Madeira style” cask.

For a recent tasting organized by the Belgian shop TastToe, Douglas Cook brought a cask sample of another Madeira finished 1978 vintage, now 35 years old. This ‘sample’ was presented in the new single cask bottle, with a printed label and everything. It was taken directly from the bottling line and it should hit the market in the near future. I’m not sure whether this was the same cask that was reused after 2012.

 

Glenglassaugh 1978 Madeira finishGlenglassaugh 35 yo 1978 (41,7%, OB 2014, Rare Cask series, Massandra Madeira puncheon)

Nose: pretty much like a sherried old Glenglassaugh. Lots of tobacco leaves and humidors, as well as different nutty notes (walnut cake, cashew). Leather. Figs, melons and raisins with a bright, slightly acid top note (raspberry vinegar). Overall rather dry and a little shy maybe. Mouth: more fruity and sweet now. Red fruit jams, pomegranate, sweet rhubarb, baked apple with cinnamon and candied ginger. Faint notes of marzipan. Also a rummy / molasses side. Nice. Fades on sweet herbal notes. Finish: long, medium sweet, quite rounded with jammy notes (plum) and herbs.

Really nice whisky, with a wine influence that’s close to regular sherry, but with a few twists. Not overdone – good. Something to look out for, although probably € 350 – 400 when released.

Score: 90/100


Le Gus’t is the retailer and bottler in the South of France who also brought us a nice Glenfarclas 2003 last year. Its third release is this Glen Grant 1992 from the Signatory stocks and bottled in one of their Ibisco decanters.

Signatory Vintage already bottled other casks in the #554xx series, all distilled on the 22nd of April 1992.

 

 

Glen Grant 1992 - Signatory for Le Gus'tGlen Grant 21 yo 1992
(52,6%, Signatory Vintage for Le Gus’t 2014, hogshead #55415, 274 btl.)

Nose: very aromatic and inviting. Sweet berry jam, red fruits and fresh figs. Some vanilla and brown sugar. Soaked raisins. Honey and nice beeswax. Also almonds and floral hints (peonies). With water it becomes more citrusy and the flowers stand out. Mouth: again lots of berries, with hints of plum wine, quickly joined by assertive spices like cinnamon, clove and nutmeg. Oak. Gingerbread. A slightly bitter herbal note / orange peel as well, maybe soft peat even. Finish: long, spicy (cloves and pepper) with hints of chocolate.

The nose of this Glen Grant was really excellent and had a unique quality. On the palate it becomes more spicy and ‘modern’. Around € 110.

Score: 85/100


A sherry matured Glen Grant 1992 (distilled in June) and bottled in the newish Old Particular series from Douglas Laing. We’ve already tried nice bourbon matured 1992’s, let’s see whether they work as well in sherry butts.

 

Glen Grant 21 yo - Douglas Laing - Old ParticularGlen Grant 21 yo 1992
(51,5%, Douglas Laing Old Particular 2013, refill sherry butt, 374 btl.)

Nose: some unlit matchstick heads up front. Not too bad though, it evolves towards graphite and wood. Behind this, there are raisins and a tobacco / leather combination that works well. Spicy chocolate. Pears in brandy. Mouth: oily and peppery, then ginger and a dry cocoa note. A “mulled wine” kind of sherry maturation. Rum & raisins. A bit light in the middle, it’s either wine or spices. Finish: medium long, with a dry oaky kick and lingering spices.

Not my preferred type of sherried whisky. In any case it’s lacking some body to really stand out. Around € 110.

Score: 82/100


Arran 17 years

19 Apr 2014 | Arran

It’s just one year until the Arran 18 Year Old will be launched. It will form a trilogy with Arran 16 years and this Arran 17 years. It was matured in ex-sherry hogsheads and it is the oldest official release yet from this distillery (again).

 

Arran 17 Year OldArran 17 years
(46%, OB 2014, 9000 btl.)

Nose: fresh and fruity like we’ve come to expect from The Arran. More stewed fruits this time and definitely more spices. A cider apple sourness too, especially the first few minutes. Settles on cut apples, berries, candied orange peel and a little honey but overall its spiciness makes it seem drier than most Arrans. Aniseed and ginger, clove as well as soft pepper. A bit of dusty oak. Mouth: fairly spicy and sharp at first, with citrus and dry hints of tobacco leaves. Then honey and apricots on syrup with a chocolate sweetness in the background, before the spices move to the front again. Cardamom, clove, pepper. Really light sherry. Finish: medium long, on spiced apples, liquorice and soft oak.

This Arran 17 Year Old revolves around wood spices besides the typical, fairly light, easy-drinking character. Well-made whisky but I prefer the 16. Around € 75.

Score: 86/100


Yes, a lot of Littlemill 1988-1992 so far. No, we still don’t have enough. Bring on the newest expression: Littlemill 1992 from The Whisky Mercenary.

 

Littlemill 1992 - The Whisky MercenaryLittlemill 21 yo 1992
(52,9%, The Whisky Mercenary 2014)

Nose: starts maybe a little grassier than other casks. Lots of power. Typical waxy notes / lemon balm, then some tangerine and grapefruit. A sharper rhubarb note. A soft vanilla / frangipane whiff seems to come and go. Mouth: takes no prisoners. Perfect zestiness of grapefruit and lemon, with slightly rounder tangerine. Citrus green tea and grasses. A soft hint of vanilla marshmallow in the back, as well as a creaminess of latte, or coconut. Perfectly focused on its Lowlands strengths. Finish: medium long, zesty, with a spicy warmth.

Another one of these very enjoyable Littlemills. We may be spoiled now but I’m telling you these stocks can’t last forever. Around € 115, available from most Belgian retailers as we speak.

Score: 88/100


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  • Gal(WhiskyIsrael): Just tasted this one. WOW. i am very very impressed Ruben. Amazing BFYB for 40 euro. this feels much older and so complex. WOW again. dang!
  • bakerman: I will look for the cheaper unpeated Caol Ila as I am interested to compare it with the younger versions released earlier (8 and 12 years). I will als
  • WhiskyNotes: It may be just a detail, but I said "a relatively modest price increase", not a modest price! It's true that the price is heavy, especially because I

Coming up

  • GlenDronach 1990 (PX cask #2970)
  • GlenDronach 1993 Oloroso cask #494
  • Glen Elgin 1985 (Maltbarn)
  • Fettercairn Fior
  • Cardhu 18 Year Old
  • Ben Nevis 2002 (Port cask #334)
  • Tomatin Cuatro series

1613 notes by Ruben

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