Single malt whisky - tasting notes

Elements of Islay Kh1The Whisky Exchange Whisky Show (London) is coming up Friday 7th and Saturday 8th October 2011. Head over to their webpage for all the details.


For now we’ll focus on the upcoming new bottlings that will be presented at the show.

First there is the inaugural bottling of Elements of Islay Kh1, the first independent bottling of Kilchoman. It will be accompanied by Bn1, Lp3, Cl2, Br2 and Pe5 (if that last one arrives in time).


Lochside 1964 Single BlendThe Whisky Exchange showcases a Lochside 1964 Single Blend (46 years old). It contains malt and grain whisky distilled in 1964. Interesting to see it was vatted immediately after distillation. I’m sure this will be great.

There’s also a Bowmore 1993 Masterpiece, said to be considerably peatier than normal for the distillery. Next up are a Glen Garioch 1971 (OB for TWE), new Single Malts of Scotland releases from Clynelish 1972 and 1982, Ardmore 1992, Aberlour 1990 and Whisky Trail bottlings (Caol Ila 1999 and Macallan 1990).

And this is not all, there will be new releases by Number One Drinks (Karuizawa 1981), Highland Park, Longrow, Buffalo Trace, Amrut etc. It will surely be an event to remember.

Our relaxing holidays have ended, I hope you enjoyed the reviews that were scheduled. Let’s try a couple of recent releases in the next few days.

A couple of weeks ago, we introduced the BenRiach 1975 cask #7227 bottled for Asta Morris, the label of (now ex-)Malt Maniac Bert Bruyneel. One week later, this BenRiach 1978 was released. The sherry cask yielded only 79 bottles.



BenRiach 1978 Asta Morris 7037BenRiach 32 yo 1978 (48%, OB for Asta Morris 2011, sherry hogshead #7037, 79 btl.)

Nose: very jammy, with big apricots and thick honey. Tropical fruits as well: mango, guava, clementine. Pineapple syrup. Faint camomile tea. Less citrusy than #7227, less complex and more direct as well, but really juicy and delicious. Mouth: again quite direct, with a nice coconut / banana combination and citrus (oranges and mandarin). Some “darker” elements like natural caramel – even hints of bread crust. Strawberries and cream. Light vanilla. This one doesn’t show the 1975/76 grapefruit in the end, but stays on warm, oak-infused flavours. Finish: lengthy, still fruity and full-bodied with soft spices.

It seems most people think of the 1975 as a slightly higher class than this 1978, but personally I think the difference is not that big. Different styles – both quite excellent. Around € 210. Now sold out.

Score: 92/100

This is one of the latest Karuizawa Noh releases, a 1977 from a single sherry cask released in 2010. I’m curious for the future – all remaining Karuizawa stocks have been bought by Number One Drinks, the UK distributor behind these Noh series.


Karuizawa 1977 Noh 4592Karuizawa 32 yo 1977
(60,7%, OB 2010, cask 4592, 190 btl.)

Nose: earthy and meaty. Roasted coffee. Incense. Charred steak. Very smoky for a Karuizawa. All of this mixed with a lovely sweetness of chocolate and black cherries. Precious spices like Szechuan and cardamom. Sandalwood and tobacco. Mouth: hot with big peppery notes. Quite sharp at first, then some dry walnuts and leather, sweeter caramel, dark chocolate and bags of cigar leafs. Lovely chocolate / cherry combo. Really great. Camphor, hints of tar even. Some liquorice. Wow. Finish: long and rich, spicy..

Another extreme Karuizawa. Interesting to see it shows a bigger and different kind of smokiness – not the usual matchstick notes from other bottlings. The savouriness is quite exceptional. With a slightly bigger fruitiness this would have been heavenly. Originally around € 170 – now sold for crazy amounts.

Score: 91/100

I’m always delighted when casks from rare distilleries find their way to the market. Glenburgie can be hard to find.

A sister cask #11242 was bottled last year by Duncan Taylor, but I couldn’t find it outside of Japan. This cask #11239 is available in Europe.


Glenburgie 1988 #11239Glenburgie 22 yo 1988
(57,3%, Duncan Taylor Rare Auld 2011,
cask  #11239, 233 btl.)

Nose: nice and sweet, with yellow orchard fruits (yellow plums, apple compote, quinces) and traces of tropical fruits (mango) and pineapple sweets. Some vanilla and faint nutty notes. Several kinds of honey. Mouth: very sweet again, with a nice vanilla / coconut combo, pineapple syrup, mango sweets… very jammy. Sweet almond paste. Some creamy mocha and toffee towards the end. Finish: long, sweet and sugary. Again traces of tropical fruits.

Quite a lovely Glenburgie, with a sweet profile that’s referring to grain whisky at times. The tropical fruitiness (which made me think of much older BenRiach) and vanilla makes it hugely drinkable and easy to enjoy. Excellent value for money – around € 75.

Score: 87/100

Caroni is a heavy-style rum made in Trinidad & Tobago. The distillery, which had been operating since 1918, was closed in 2002, which caused some of its large stocks to become available for independent bottlers. Bristol Spirits claims this cask (fully matured in charred barrels in the Caribbean) is among the oldest Trinidad rums ever bottled.


Caroni 1974 Bristol Classic rumCaroni 34 yo 1974
(46%, Bristol Spirits 2009, 1500 btl.)

Nose: starts on those wonderful diesel- and tar-like aromas that you sometimes find in old rum. Baked apples. Burnt sugar. Sultanas. Grows more herbal and spicy (pepper, cinnamon) after a while. Some oak. Not immensely complex but quite intriguing. Mouth: again it reminds me of car workshops. More oak now, with a dryness and notes of liquorice. Definitely tarry. Quite herbal as well (cough syrup). Dried fruits in the background. Maybe some eucalyptus. Finish: long, dry, with the liquorice standing out. A faint rubbery hint in the very end. The dry glass shows lovely sultanas, more than while tasting it.

I find this quite amazing. By that I mean it’s uniquely disturbing (for someone used to whisky) rather than being immediately attractive. I can imagine some people will find this too weird as well. Around € 175. Thanks Jack.

Edinburgh-based grain distillery North British is usually found in older expressions (we’ve even had a 48 year-old). Here’s a medium aged single cask version bottled by Master of Malt.


North British 1991 20yo - Master of MaltNorth British 20 yo 1991 (55,8%, Master of Malt 2011, first fill bourbon, 244 btl.)

Nose: rather warm at first with plenty of vanilla and fresh oak shavings. Soft white chocolate / very light mocha notes in the background. Sweet and thick. After some time it seems to loose some of its vanilla creaminess and it gets a little sharper, with traces of grass and Nivea cream that I found before in much older North British. Mouth: very sweet and quite surprising. Big notes of Pisang Ambon (banana liqueur) and Malibu (coconut liqueur). Very thick and almost sticky. Sweet corn. Pineapple syrup. Butterscotch. A burst of pepper and ginger in the end. Finish: not too long, still extremely sweet with some spirity notes and an oaky / spicy edge.

This is not a complex grain whisky but it’s interesting as it lacks some typical grain flavours but also shows a few less common elements. Around € 52.

Score: 82/100

Tormore 10yo

01 Sep 2011 | Tormore

Michael Jackson called Tormore the most elegant distillery (architecturally speaking). It’s modern (built in 1958) and slightly bombastic. If you like traditional distilleries then this one is probably not for you. If you like a modern interpretation, yes it’s beautiful.

Anyway, the whisky is part of the Ballantine’s blend and there’s an official Tormore 12yo and a 15yo.


Tormore 10 yo DreherTormore 10 yo ‘Pure malt 100%’
(43%, OB for Dreher Milano, around 1980, 75cl)

Nose: quite mild. Cereal notes with fruity bits. Red berries, oranges, pears. Heering cherry liqueur. Hints of malt and praline as well. Mouth: it seems bigger than 43% and balances between sweet notes and sourish / resinous elements. Apples with caramel sauce. Mint, cloves and bitter oranges. Nutty notes, with some sharpness in the aftertaste (like radish). Finish: a bit undefined, with hints of oak. Not too long.

This Tormore shows a great fruitiness on the nose. The palate is slightly less interesting but still full-flavoured. You’ll often read Tormore from this period seems more intense than you’d expect, which is a quality in its own right. Collector’s item.

Score: 87/100

This Springbank 1969 was distilled on the 12th February 1969 and left to mature in refill butt #266. It was bottled on the 18th April 2003.


Springbank 1969 SV 266Springbank 34 yo 1969 (56,7%, Signatory Vintage Rare Reserve 2003, refill butt #266, 494 btl.)

Nose: all kinds of oil and wax: linseed oil, engine oil, brylcream… Rather dusty with hints of old libraries. Hints of vegetables, moss, wet fern forest. A little mint. Not bad but slightly uninspiring. Mouth: a watered down oak infusion, or so it seems. Quite tired I’m afraid. Cloves. Wax. Tobacco. Faint eucalyptus, but all of this is rather soft and quiet. Then developing some farmy notes and something bitter. Finish: bitter, dry, tannic and even a bit medicinal.


I expected a lot from a 1960’s Springbank but unfortunately this is not a highflyer. At first I thought the sample could be tainted, but then it turned out other reviewers mentioned the same disappointment. Oh well… Around € 300 if you happen to find a bottle.

Score: 81/100



October 2015
« Sep    

  • WhiskyNotes: Obviously there are new articles each year (see my post about last year's edition) and the latest releases / statistics are added each year. If you've
  • Nate: I've never bought a copy. Is each year very different or is just buying the most recent sufficient?
  • WhiskyNotes: Benrinnes :-) although calling it one of Scotland's finest distilleries may be a bit too much. However casks from 2001 are being released, I've found

Coming up

  • Caol Ila 1979 (Malts of Scotland)
  • Bunnahabhain 1987 (Maltbarn)
  • Glen Garioch 1993 (Maltbarn)
  • Royal Brackla 16 Year Old
  • Irish malt 1991 'Maria' (The Nectar)
  • Teeling 26yo Vintage Reserve
  • Kavalan Podium

1889 notes by Ruben

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