Single malt whisky - tasting notes

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


A couple of weeks ago, the Edrington Group sold Tamdhu distillery to Ian Macleod. In 2003, the same companies already exchanged Glengoyne. We can probably expect Tamdhu to be reopened in the near future. It was closed since 2009.

 

Tamdhu 1990 Liquid SunTamdhu 21 yo 1990 (48,1%, Liquid Sun 2011, sherry butt, 312 btl.)

Nose: heavy sherry with lots of dates, roasted nuts and chocolate notes. Rum & raisins. Prune jam. Soft meaty hints but nothing dirty here. Burnt sugar. Oranges. Similar to the Tamdhu 1990 by Malts of Scotland. Mouth: a thick mixture of sweet notes (syrup, moscovado sugar, dried fruits) and more savoury notes (herbs, slightly bitter chocolate, cinchona). Some eucalyptus and liquorice. Cocoa and roasted chestnuts. Obviously some wood as well (how else would it get this colour, right?). Finish: long, bittersweet with liquorice and dark coffee. Slowly drying.

Very heavy sherry, a bit too much for my taste actually and better suited for the winter time. On the other hand, it’s quite flawless and I’m sure it’s spot-on for markets with lots of sherry lovers. Around € 80.

Score: 86/100


This Glen Scotia 1992 was distilled in a problematic period. Between 1979 and 1999, this Campbeltown distillery was only operational for 7 years. It is part of the latest series by A. Dewar Rattray. It’s only half of the cask by the way, so we can expect the other half to be bottled on a later moment.

 

Glen Scotia 1992Glen Scotia 19 yo 1992 (59,6%, A.D. Rattray 2011, sherry butt #2 (part), 359 btl.)

Nose: a dirty start (some rubber, sulphur and organics) although it gets better after some breathing. Typical huge sherry: dried prunes, blackberry pie, walnuts, raisins… Some roasted malt notes and faint smoke in the background. Leather. Hints of mulchy leaves as well. Mouth: just as sherried. A slightly salty dryness alternates with a herbal sweetness (Ricola bonbons). Dry fruits. Roasted chestnuts and oak. Balsamic syrup. Some nice mocha as well. Plenty of caramel flavours. Reminds me of some 1950-1960’s blends in a way. Finish: quite long and dry, on spices, bitter chocolate and oak.

Difficult to assess, although I think it’s more consistent than the Glen Scotia 1992 by Malts of Scotland. You could argue it’s over-sherried with little distillery character left, but if you’re looking for a sherry monster, then it’s quite interesting. Around € 85. Distributed in Belgium by Jurgen’s Whiskyhuis.

Score: 82/100


I had another Laphroaig 1990 hanging around, let’s try it against the Private Stock release. This one has considerably less alcohol, not sure if it has been brought down by adding water.

 

Laphroaig 1990 Whisky-DorisLaphroaig 20 yo 1990 (47,3%, Whisky-Doris 2011, bourbon hogshead #10873, 225 btl.)

Nose: a more buttery version again, with some cake and soft vanilla underneath the coastal / medicinal notes. Even a farmy edge that I didn’t find in the other releases. Nice. But mind you, differences are subtle. Mouth: a tad softer due to the lesser strength. Briny, with sweet peat and smoked fish. Almonds. Definitely rounder and sweeter than the Private Stock. A hint of cocoa. Finish: long, smoky and salty with a marzipan coating.

All these 1990’s are similar and it will be down to your personaly preference if you were to pick a favourite. Personally I like a little sweetness to counter the coastal austerity. This one has a perfect drinking strength of course, so no need to fiddle with water. Around € 110 – now sold out.

Score: 90/100

 

ps/ All these similar Laphroaigs, whether they are 1990 or 1998 or 2000, are getting a little boring. Laphroaig is one of these distilleries with a high quality in general combined with a very small deviation.

I wonder if it’s a good thing for independent bottler to release so many nearly identical casks at the same time? Personally I haven’t bought any of them, simply because I never get the feeling of a unique opportunity. If I’d wish to buy one tomorrow, I think I wouldn’t have difficulty finding similar quality again.


This Laphroaig 1990 was bottled by The Whisky Agency in association with The Whisky Exchange (their first joint bottling as far as I know). I’ve only seen it available from German shops so far, but I expect we’ll see it arrive at TWE as well in the near future.

We’ll compare it to the Laphroaig 1990 by Malts of Scotland, bottled earlier this year and one of my favourite 1990’s so far. Tomorrow we’ll match it to another bottling.

 

Laphroaig 1990 Private StockLaphroaig 21 yo 1990 (55,9%, The Whisky Agency & The Whisky Exchange ‘Private Stock’ 2011, bourbon hogshead, 264 btl.)

Nose: starts very similar, with maritime hints (seaweed, oysters) and smoke. It evolves to a fresher profile though, with more lemon and almost none of the banana / cake / vanilla notes of the MoS version. More classical we’d say. Some green apple. Almonds. Soft medicinal notes in the background. Very clean overall. Mouth: quite dry, with oily elements, smoke, iodine and lemon. A pinch of salt. Liquorice. Slightly leafy towards the end. Balancing citrus. Definitely less sweet and rounded than the one from MoS, and more focused on coastal elements. Finish: long and dry, with salty notes, lemon zest and liquorice.

I’ve always had the impression ‘Private Stock’ was kind of a premium label within the TWA releases. While this Laphroaig is very good, I’m missing kind of a “wow” factor compared to other 1990’s even from the same bottler. Anyway the price is the same as before and the quality is certainly up there, so maybe I’m just confused by the label. Around € 120.

Score: 89/100


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Coming up

  • Irish Single Malt 16yo 1999 (The Nectar of the Daily Drams)
  • Bunnahabhain 1987 (Maltbarn)
  • Glen Garioch 1993 (Maltbarn)
  • Glenlivet 42yo (Cadenhead)
  • Blended Malt Extra Old (Whisky Agency)
  • Woodford Reserve Master's Collection
  • Teeling 26yo Vintage Reserve
  • Springbank 2001 vintage

1865 notes by Ruben

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