Single malt whisky - tasting notes

This Macallan 12 Years old was distilled in the first half of the 1970’s and sold exclusively at the Hong Kong airport. That’s why the label mentions HKDNP (Hong Kong Duty Not Paid).


Macallan 12 years HKDNP Macallan 12 yo ‘HKDNP’ (43%, OB 1980’s, 1 litre)

Nose: not as fresh as I had hoped. There are big notes of mothballs (naphtalene) that are very hard to get over. Musty and stale with traces of mushrooms and sulphur. Let’s wait for another half hour and try again…

Nose: better now, but really old-style (probably still coal-fired?). Notes of red fruits, some raisins. A little tar and ashes. Coffee. Overall quite fat. Slightly disappointing
(I had heard a lot about this Macallan) but interesting as an antiquity. Mouth: much better. Very creamy with hints of leather and nice fruits with crystallized oranges and prunes. Sherried but not too much. Sultanas. Cinnamon. A little praline. Kind of an artificial sugary aftertaste. A smoky / ashy hint as well. Finish: medium length, on cherry candy and orange marmalade.

The nose was a bit difficult to appreciate but the palate is very balanced and truly classic, which for the most part made up for the lower score of the nose. I’m glad I tasted it (Marc Segers had a bottle on offer during the latest whisky festival in Ghent).

Score: 85/100


This Hakushu 1981/2003 was the first cask of Hakushu ever to be bottled by the Scotch Malt Whisky Society. It was matured in a Japanese oak cask.

 

Hakushu 1981/2003 SMWS 210.1 Hakushu 21 yo 1981 (60,7%, Scotch Malt Whisky Society 2003, SMWS 120.1, 373 btl.)

Nose: where do I start… the nutmeg maybe, which is quite big. A lot of sawdust as well, and cigar boxes. Roasted nuts and coffee beans. Quite a toasted profile overall. Damp moss and ferns. A bit of caramel. After a while, there are hints of fruits and ginger. Very unique but not for beginners. Mouth: very woody. Very powerful of course, and a tad alcoholic. Let’s add water right away. Still very oaky with added notes of mint. Roasted almonds? A hint of burnt vanilla. Coriander. Getting spicy with pepper and ginger. A bit extreme. Finish: spicy and oaky.

You’ll love this one or simply hate it because of the heavy oak and the toasted / burnt notes. I like it, but it’s not an everyday dram. Anyway, very uncommon and ‘intellectual’. Around € 250 but I’m afraid you won’t find this one any more.

Score: 86/100

ps/ I’m suffering from a cold which makes it impossible to taste new whisky.
I’ll publish a few older notes but I’m going to take it easy for a few days.


This Linkwood 1989 was matured for over 20 years in an ex-bourbon cask. It was bottled by Malts of Scotland in January 2010.

 

Linkwood 1989 - Malts of Scotland Linkwood 20 yo 1989 (53,5%, Malts of Scotland 2010, cask 1826, 263 btl.)

Nose: quite sharp and alcoholic at first. Rather neutral flavours to be honest (malt, cereals, freshly sawn wood). Hints of rosewater (quite typical for Linkwood – more noticeable with a few drops of water). Some vanilla. Apples. Mouth: more or less the same remarks. Strong but not very complex. Pepper. Green apples. Citrus tea. After a while, it gets tannic and really gingery. Grains. Hints of tonic with a slice of lemon. Quite dry. Water doesn’t help to improve, it even becomes slightly perfumy. Finish: long, spicy. The bitter tonic is quite dominant.

This Linkwood is not my favourite bottling among the new releases by Malts of Scotland. Not bad, but overshadowed by the other new bottles on offer. The overall quality of this bottler is still very high. Around € 90.

Score: 80/100


GlenDronach Grandeur Today the recently re-launched distillery GlenDronach announced a new thirty-one year-old expression selected personally by Mr Billy Walker: GlenDronach Grandeur.

It’s a selection of some of the oldest oloroso casks at GlenDronach. The expression is bottled at 45,8% (cask strength).

The official tasting notes of GlenDronach Grandeur mention “fruits, nuts, berries, coffee and subtle sweet sherry notes with date pudding aromas”.

There are 1013 bottles. No indication of the price…


I’m not a big fan of young Springbank, but the fact that Springbank 10 Years old picked up an award at the recent World Whisky Awards 2010 made me want to review it in depth. I’ll do a direct comparison between the 2008 batch and the restyled 2009 batch.

 

Springbank 10 years old Springbank 10 yo
(46%, OB 2009, batch 09/434)

Nose: a classic Springbank profile with a wide range of aromas. Starts on tangerine, with added notes of lemon peel, green apples and pears. Dry oak. Maritime notes with a bit of ‘wet dog’. Hints of sharp, earthy peat as well. After a while, the fruitiness becomes bigger and rounder. Mouth: very oily and extremely coating. Very peaty as well, much more peat than I expected. Rather spicy, with mostly pepper and nutmeg coming out. Roasted nuts in the background. A faint hint of sour notes (vinegar?) in the aftertaste. Becomes a bit perfumed with water, so I recommend it straight. Finish: long, peaty and briney.

This is a surprisingly complex dram. A very consistent opener of the range! Around € 35.

Score: 86/100

 

Springbank 10Springbank 10 yo
(46%, OB 2008, batch 08/82, 35cl)

Nose: this version clearly shares the same basic elements, but the end result is less appealing. Still some tangerine, but it misses the sparkling freshness. Lots of strawberries with cream, quite spectacular. A bit more wine influence I would say, with dried fruits and even a few dirty traces. Hints of sesame oil (I don’t think I’ve ever noticed this in a whisky before but it’s clearly there). Mouth: maybe a tad less fat and a tad less peaty. More spices though. Less different than on the nose, but still it misses the balance of the 2009 version. Hints of heather honey that I didn’t find in the newer version. Finish: medium length, less briney and more malty. Very dry.

This Springbank 10yo is less complex and a bit rougher. Let’s be glad the current version is definitely the better choice.

Score: 82/100

 

Afterwards, I found out it won in the category “Best Campbeltown under 12 years” which probably limits the number of contenders to.. two? three maybe? Never take whisky competitions too seriously!


The new Daily Dram bottlings are now called The Nectar of the Daily Drams which is a nifty word play with the old name and the name of the bottler (The Nectar). I’m not sure why they did this, maybe because they are now bottled exclusively for Belgium and the previous range was a co-production with the Dutch importers Bresser & Timmer?

The label design has changed as well, for the better I think. The new labels use modern colour combos, interesting pictures and a clean typography.

Port Ellen 27yo 1982 - Daily DramI know a lot of people are looking out for this 27 years old Port Ellen 1982 so let’s try this one first.

 

Port Ellen 27 yo 1982 (53%, Daily Dram 2010)

Nose: peaty and coastal. Seems to hold the middle between a briney, mineral profile and a more warm profile. There’s praline, marzipan, pears and vanilla but also sharper grassy notes, boat ropes and hints of citrus. Smoked bacon. After a while, there’s lovely cider apple. The complexity is quite excellent, and on the nose this is more elegant than most other 1980’s Port Ellens I’ve tried. Water amplifies the sour notes and adds a few candied, fruity notes. Mouth: rather creamy, with enough lemon marmalade to counterbalance the peat. Sugared lemon. A bit of ginger and oak. Again hints of marzipan. Water brings out cardamom, leather and lemon desserts. Mouth: long, smokey and rounded.

I’m sure this Port Ellen will be difficult to find in a couple of days. Around € 200. Totally worth it.

Score: 92/100


Daily Dram

23 Mar 2010 | * News

Daily Dram There are five new Daily Dram releases (now called The Nectar of the Daily Drams):

Later today, I should be able to taste them and post my first findings. Which one should I open first…?

Update: The Port Ellen review has been published. On the nose, the Glenburgie seems to be slightly disappointing, but the Glen Elgin is very interesting. The Clynelish shows a lot of violet candy and the Longmorn is a bit bubblegummy. But these are just quick impressions, an in-depth review will follow!


Whisky Nosing Kit - aromas

Nearly two years ago, I’ve got the Scotch Whisky Aroma Nosing Kit as a gift for my birthday. It contains a booklet, a tasting record sheet and 24 samples of pure aroma chemicals, selected and developed by a Scottish perfumer and a whisky expert. The nosing kit is presented in a nice wooden box.

After two years, I think I can evaluate.



The aroma samples

The aromas are well chosen and well made. There is vanilla, hay, caramel, citrus, fruity, flowery, malty, nutty, peaty, smoky, sherry, woody… and even ‘decay’ (the dirty kind of sulphur). Although more than 300 aromas are found in whisky, they provide a basic map for the possible directions.

Some of them are vague though: “fruity” is just one sample but in the real world there are lots of different fruits that are quite easy to discern. The same goes for “spicy”. Other aromas are left out. I suppose you’ll have a hard time defining a typical Brora or Springbank using only these 24 ‘obvious’ aromas.

Since they are basically alcohol solvents, the makers suggest to use a tasting strip and let the alcohol evaporate before nosing. I think it’s better to nose the bottles, because your whisky will also include alcohol that will not evaporate. The biggest challenge in learning how to nose, is to filter out the alcohol smell from a whisky and detect only the subtle flavours underneath. Nosing straight from the bottles would be a lot easier if they had a bigger opening.

It’s worth noting that some of my samples are half empty after less than two years, even though I’ve used the tasting strips only once. The alcohol will slowly evaporate just by opening the bottles every now and then. It’s safe to say some samples will be useless after three or four years, even when you don’t use the kit intensively.


The aroma guide and box

The wooden box is a nice touch but the execution is a bit poor (notice the big air bubbles under the sticker on the lid? some of the wooden dividers were broken as well). The 40 page booklet contains an introduction to the kit, the nosing process, the vocabulary of nosing, etc.

Most of the information can be easily found in books or online. The most interesting part of the guide are 10 pages with explanations of the actual aromas. A bit of background information is given about the molecular composition or similarities between aromas, but often I’m missing the link to whisky itself. Which distilleries or regions are likely to show a certain aroma? Why does a certain aroma show up in whisky? What about wood types and their associated aromas? I feel the guide is a bit too generic and only really useful when you have a certain level of experience already.


The price

The kit is sold for € 130 (EU customers) or $ 214 (non-EU), shipping included. Most people I’ve spoken to seem to think this is too much, but maybe you can share the cost with a couple of friends and pass the box around.

Compared to wine aroma kits such as “Le nez du vin”, it seems a correct pricing, although I must admit these wine kits look much more attractive with a professional layout and full colour booklets.


Conclusion

The Scotch Whisky Aroma Nosing Kit is quite an interesting tool for whisky enthusiasts who want to sharpen up their detection skills. The samples are generally good which is the most important element. The price may be relatively high but there simply isn’t an alternative.

For beginners, I fear this won’t actually learn you how to nose a whisky. The guide is too limited to achieve this, and you’ll need interaction with more experienced people who can learn you how to apply the knowledge about the basic aromas to a variety of real-world whiskies. I think a few miniatures of different types of whisky (selected as a typical example of a specific aroma) could be an interesting improvement for beginners, or at least a certain written guidance to the profiles of different distilleries.

More info on their website


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Coming up

  • Littlemill 1992 (Whisky Mercenary)
  • Strathisla 8 Years Old (1970s)
  • Glen Grant 1992 (Old Particular)
  • Auchentoshan 15yo (Kintra)
  • Lagavulin 1997 Distillers Edition
  • Johnnie Walker 18yo Platinum Label
  • Ben Nevis 1997 (Maltbarn)
  • Karuizawa 45 Year Old (cask #2925)
  • Glengoyne 1999 (Palo Cortado)

1500 notes by Ruben

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