Single malt whisky - tasting notes

BenRiach logoAsta Morris has quickly gained a reputation for excellent BenRiach releases. Bert Bruyneel is trying to bottle at least one benchmark BenRiach for every vintage (check the BenRiach 1975 cask #7227 and BenRiach 1978 cask #7037 released previously).

I had an early look at this brand-new 1977 bottling as Bert asked me to write tasting notes for the tube and bottle. Here’s a more elaborate version of these notes.


BenRiach 1977 #9119 Asta MorrisBenRiach 33 yo 1977 (45,7%, OB for Asta Morris Belgium 2011, refill bourbon cask #9119, 175 btl.)

Nose: fresh spring fruits (tangerine, pear, nectarine) sprinkled with lime and orange juice. A crisp and ‘indigenous’ fruitiness rather than the warm, exotic, marmalade-type fruitiness we’ve come to expect from 1975-1976 BenRiach. This one is more subtle, more interwoven with oak. There’s also a layer of spearmint / eucalyptus notes which adds to the fresh appeal, as well as some flowery notes (orange blossom, honeysuckle) and hints of pollen. Soft ginger and vanilla notes. A true gentleman – a little reticent at first but complex and very refined. Mouth: fresh with big fruity notes (yellow plum, kumquat, pink grapefruit, peach), again slightly “green” and definitely not cloying. There’s a fine exotic fruitiness (banana, passion fruits) but it’s in the background. Almond notes. Then the spices from the oak kick in (ginger, mint). Develops on fruit tea and heather honey. Citrus zest. Very smooth. Finish: long and clean, balancing between fresh fruits and soft oak.

Not just a benchmark for the 1977 vintage, but an exquisite BenRiach in general. Interesting how its profile is yet again different from both the 1975 and 1978. Arriving in stores any day now. Around € 230.

Score: 92/100

Linkwood is one of these distilleries I can’t seem to pin down. I really enjoyed some expressions (e.g. Linkwood 1973 for TWE) but most expressions left me cold. Age, cask type… didn’t seem to matter.

This Linkwood 1987 is probably very different, the label says “peated type” and I’ve never seen peated Linkwood before.


Linkwood 1987 Liquid SunLinkwood 24 yo 1987 (54,6%, Liquid Sun 2011, bourbon hogshead, peated, 329 btl.)

Nose: well, yes, moderately peated. It’s a rather dry peatiness with lots of grainy notes and subtle hints of moss or wet ferns. There’s something half fruity / half buttery hidden in the back as well. Almonds maybe. Quite closed and neutral. Water doesn’t change it much. Mouth: again peaty and quite grainy. It develops into sweeter and slightly fruity notes (lemon) with a tangy herbal / bitter / grassy edge towards the end. With water: not better. Very very neutral, peated wodka with a little sugar? Finish: long, peaty with faint herbal notes and caramel.

It’s always nice to discover a peated version of an otherwise unpeated distillery, but unfortunately it doesn’t win me over. No real flaws, no excitement either. Educational whisky, I would say, certainly at around € 120. By the way, Malts of Scotland has just released a similar bottling (MoS 11008).

Score: 76/100

The latest addition to the long list of Longmorn 1975 / 1976 bottlings from The Whisky Agency. A Longmorn 1975 in the Perfect Dram series. Could it be the last 1970’s cask from this bottler?


longmorn 1975 Perfect DramLongmorn 36 yo 1975 (50,6%, The Whisky Agency ‘Perfect Dram’ 2011, ex-bourbon hogshead, 163 btl.)

Nose: starts very fruity, with tangerine, peach, banana, papaya and some nice strawberry bubble gum notes. Quite some vanilla. Touches of wax and almonds. I’ve had a lot of these Longmorns but I’ll never get tired of them. Mouth: punchy start on fruity notes, mainly oranges and pink grapefruit. Then there’s some rather obvious oak and some drying notes of pine resin and tea. Some mint, nutmeg and aniseed. Finish: long, with the same oak / fruit theme and some herbal tea.

On the nose, those bubblegummy notes are a nice extra, but I’m afraid the oaky notes on the palate are louder than how I remember them in previous releases. Still pretty amazing how high the quality of these casks is! Around € 190.

Score: 88/100

Age of Discovery is a new series by Glenfiddich, celebrating the Portuguese explorers in the 15th Century. The first release is this 19 year-old finished in Madeira casks which were brought over from the Canterio warehouse of Henriques & Henriques, a famous Madeira producer.


Glenfiddich Age of Discovery MadeiraGlenfiddich 19 yo ‘Age of Discovery’ (40%, OB 2011, Madeira finish)

Nose: fresh and quite luscious. Starts with plenty of sparkling fruity notes: apricot, peach, juicy pear, gooseberries. After a while it moves to sweeter notes of vanilla, a little marzipan, honey and fruit pies. Subtle oak. Also a very soft earthy hint of moss or tobacco leafs. How nice! Mouth: smooth but very lightweight and slightly winey. Not overly sweet. Lots of oranges, with spicy hints of ginger, pepper and cinnamon. Balanced oak. Hints of toffee towards the end. Silenced by the lack of strength. Finish: still fairly dry and gingery. Marmalade, vanilla and nutty notes. Medium long.

It started with a lovely nose and plenty of freshness, but it’s lacking oomph to really stand out in the mouth. A complex Glenfiddich, probably one of the best finishes I’ve ever had. Too bad it’s so soft! Around € 100.

Score: 85/100

Here’s the 14 years old Ben Nevis 1992 I tried in The Glengarry last week-end. I’ve bought a bottle myself a few weeks ago so I was happy to be able to try it.

This Ben Nevis was matured in a sherry cask for 13 years, then watered down, then further matured for one year and finally bottled at 46%. On the label they call this “double maturation”.


Ben Nevis 1992 cask 2623Ben Nevis 14 yo 1992
(46%, OB 2007, sherry cask #2623, 815 btl.)

Nose: starts a little sharp and not as sherried as I had hoped. Plenty of orange peel, liquorice and some mineral notes, even a few coastal hints. It takes a while, but it opens up nicely with rounder chocolate and nutty notes. Some leather. Soft herbs. Mouth: good strength, with more sherry notes now. Sweet raisins, kumquats, chocolate. Orange liqueur. Hints of ginger. Something delicately smoky in the background. Still a surprising coastal hint. Finish: medium long on rounded sherry, spices and a bit of wood.

Not an easy one to describe or score. Don’t be fooled by the first impression – it takes a very long time to display its full potential. Around € 100 if you can still find a bottle.

Score: 87/100

The Glengarry Gent

The Glengarry is one of the few dedicated whisky pubs in Belgium. It’s located in Gent and run by Bob Minnekeer who has years of experience in tastings and Scotland trips. He’s also the author of several books on whisky.

Other than the Medieval vaults and Bob’s Bowmore collection, the pub’s atmosphere is a little disappointing. There’s a big selection of whiskies though, with a few hundred bottles to choose from. I saw many standard bottlings (including some very recent ones), lots of independent releases, a couple of really old ones, some Japanese whiskies, etc. so it’s certainly a must for whisky enthousiasts in Belgium.


Location: Sint-Baafsplein 32, 9000 Gent (Belgium)
Range: +/- 250 single malts
Price: € 4 to € 30 (for a 3cl dram)

What I’ve had: Ben Nevis 14yo 1992 ‘double matured’ cask #2623 (€ 10)
Glass: ISO tulip (with an engraved Johnnie Walker logo…)

Pros: great selection, quality advice available
Cons: rather dusty atmosphere

German whisky shop Whisky-Doris has a couple of new releases. First up is this 31 years old Bunnahabhain. We’ve seen quite a few 1970’s Bunnas but the 1980’s are far more uncommon.



Bunnahabhain 1980 Whisky-DorisBunnahabhain 31 yo 1980 (46,3%, Whisky-Doris 2011, bourbon hogshead #13, 177 btl.)

Nose: starts fairly simple on fragrant oranges and sea breezes. After opening up, the fruitiness widens into orange peel, fruit cake, honey and hints of vanilla. The sea breeze develops into a big saltiness, soft medicinal notes and all-round spiciness. Some leather and nutmeg as well. Mouth: not overly powerful, but punchy enough and very complex. There are nutty notes, fruity notes (even hints of coconut and tropical fruits), a beer-like malty note, eucalyptus oil, a leathery note again, tobacco, ginger, liquorice…   and again coastal elements. Finish: medium long, half sweet / half bitter with orange notes, soft peat and ginger.

Not an easy one to assess, but a very complex and proudly coastal Bunnahabhain. Take your time and enjoy. Available from Whisky-Doris, € 110.

Score: 89/100

When I tried most of the fourth batch of GlenDronach single casks a couple of weeks ago, I went on and forgot to publish the review of this GlenDronach 1971 cask #1436.

Actually I didn’t completely forget, but I felt a little unimpressed with this year’s single casks. Let’s hope they still have some great casks lying around, because upping the price each year and lowering the quality doesn’t make much sense.


GlenDronach 1971 cask 1436GlenDronach 40 yo 1971
(48,5%, OB 2011, PX sherry puncheon #1436, 583 btl.)

Nose: meaty start with some gravy notes and Oxo. Dark crispy bacon. Dried fruits as well (blackberry jam) but none of the fresh fruitiness that we’ve seen in previous 1971 and (especially) 1972 casks. If you wait long enough, there are some nice tobacco notes, roasted nuts and moccha. Disappointing in terms of freshness and complexity. Mouth: perfect drinking strength but an unusual mixture of sharp, slightly vinegary notes and dark, sticky plums, with nothing in between. A little incoherent and too sweet I’m afraid – think actual PX sherry or Greek raisin syrup. After that it becomes spicier (pepper), nuttier but woodier as well. Finish: dry, with walnuts and the return of tobacco notes.

A collector’s item maybe, but not the most rewarding GlenDronach for whisky drinkers in my opinion. Around € 450, still readily available.

Score: 83/100



November 2015
« Oct    

Coming up

  • Amrut 2009 (cask #2701)
  • Lagavulin 12 Years (2015)
  • Lindores 2015 festival bottling
  • Glenlivet 1981 (#9468 for TWE)
  • Talisker Distillers Edition (2015)
  • Laphroaig 32 Year Old
  • Glen Grant 65yo 1950 cask #2747 for Wealth Solutions
  • Mortlach 1959/1960 (G&M Royal Wedding)

1930 notes by Ruben

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