Single malt whisky - tasting notes

Aultmore was founded in 1897 by Alexander Edward who also owned Benrinnes and Oban. It is now part of the Bacardi empire and most of the output is used for the Dewar’s blends. The Aultmore 12 years old is currently the only official bottling.

Bristol Brandy was an independent bottler with a few legendary releases at the beginning of the 1990’s. This Aultmore 1976 is one of them.

Aultmore 15 yo 1976 (43%, OB 1992 for Bristol Brandy Company Ltd)

Nose: hmm great sherry nose. Very much on tobacco and cigar boxes. Milk chocolate and coffee. Hints of oak polish and leather. A bit of library dust. Dried fruits of course, mostly apricots and figs. Elegant and not too overpowering, which is an advantage but also a disadvantage because it’s not very punchy. Mouth: sourish attack, soon overtaken by an avalanche of spices and wood resin. Very woody and rather tannic. Bitter oranges. Pine trees. Again not very big nor very complex. The flavours struggle to fight the wood. Finish: spicy (cloves, pepper) with hints of chocolate.

Lovely sherry influence on the nose, but the woody palate more or less spoils the overall experience. I expected more of this.

Score: 83/100


In 2000, the owners of Springbank distillery bought their closed neighbour, Glengyle distillery. It was refurbished and production restarted in 2004 under a new name: Kilkerran (to avoid confusion with a brand of blended Highlands whisky called Glengyle).

This ‘Work in progress’ bottling gives us an insight of their new whisky style after 4 to 5 years of maturation.

 

KilkerranKilkerran ‘Work in progress’
(46%, OB 2009)

Nose: flinty and green. Dried grass, wet limestone, green lemon and apples. Clean hints of grains. Modern austerity which is perhaps more inspired by the Highlands style than by Campbeltown. Gets more aromatic after a while. Mouth: quite thick and creamy. Waxy notes, almonds. Lots of grains. Again quite some ‘green’ notes (grass, unripe fruit) and bitter notes (tonic, ginger). I miss a soft, sweeter side to counterbalance, to me it seems quite harsh and zesty. Finish: grassy with more smoke. The gingery bitterness is still there.

Not bad at all for a young whisky, well made but not really my type of dram. Around € 45 but the limited yield of 12.000 bottles is probably gone by now.

Score: 82/100


Glenburgie (or Glenburgie-Glenlivet as stated on this bottle) was officially founded in 1829, but like many other distilleries it seems they were active before legalizing their production. The spirit was part of the Ballantine’s blend and the distillery also produced another malt called Glencraig using Lomond stills (an experimental type of still that it said to produce a heavier and oilier end product thanks to a thick column-like neck).

Glenburgie 5yo 1965Glenburgie was refurbished in 2004 and is still contributing to Ballantine’s. There is an official single malt bottling of Glenburgie 15 yo 1992 in the Chivas cask strength series. The bottle we’re reviewing here is a 5 year-old distilled in 1965.

 

Glenburgie 5 yo 1965 (43%, OB 1970, 75cl)

Nose: hints of orange juice. Slightly fragrant notes of coriander seeds and apricots. Develops on sweet yellow apple. Holds the middle between fruity, grassy and mineral notes. Not very complex or expressive but very nice for a 5 year-old, quite old-fashioned and perfectly enjoyable. Mouth: less sweet than I expected, even a bit weakish. Watery malt in the centre. Big hints of tea, a few woody notes and something vaguely metallic. A peaty / smoky hint in the background? Finish: long on fragrant apples with a hint of smoke.

Maybe not the most impressive old malt, but still nice as a standard malt from the 1960’s. Auction value around € 150.

Score: 84/100


Another closed distillery: Dallas Dhu, one of many distilleries that didn’t survive the crisis year 1983. Diageo released three Dallas Dhu bottlings in the Rare Malts series: two 24 years old 1970’s and one 21 years old 1975. There were some releases in the ‘Historic Scotland’ Dallas Dhu Rare Malts 1970series as well, and there are a bunch of independent releases.

 

Dallas Dhu 24y 1970 (60,6%, Rare Malts, 1995)

Nose: malty and nutty, with prominent oak. Quite waxy. Lots of apple juice, some almonds as well. Hints of vanilla yoghurt with cereals. A little sweeter with water. Mouth: punchy, peppery delivery. Even more wood than on the nose, and clear notes of Turkish delight and some orange blossoms. Malty. Cider apples and a few earthy notes as well. Long, drying finish on oak, black tea and cloves. The pepper comes along again.

Price: € 300–400 (and the rare 60,54% version has been sold for € 600 and even € 900). Not bad, but this Dallas Dhu is still a middle-of-the-road whisky to me, which means I’d recommended to keep it closed if you happen to own a bottle.

Score: 81/100


There’s only one official bottling of Coleburn whisky, a 21 years old Rare Malts version released in 2000. The distillery was closed in 1985 and dismantled in 1996.

Coleburn was described by Jim Murray as a “rarely enjoyable” whisky, but given the extremely low number of bottlings, I don’t think anyone can really make a judgement of this kind.

 

Coleburn 1983 Whisky Agency Coleburn 26 yo 1983 (49,5%, The Whisky Agency 2009, Fossils series, 120 btl.)

Nose: slightly phenolic and earthy but at the same time fruity (apricot, citrus) and floral (orange blossom). Very subtle smoke. Sharp notes of oak polish and mustard. Almond paste. There’s a deceiving lightness to this one but it has some interesting rough edges. Hints of cardboard which grow stronger if you add a bit of water. Mouth: grapefruit with mustard (what a combination…). Blue cheese? Quite a lot of spices (cloves, ginger) and again slightly smoky. Lime. Hints of wintercress. Finish: dry and oaky with a bitter edge (orange peel).

This Coleburn is not an easy lover, but really interesting. Its style is old-fashioned and reminded me of 1950-60’s spirits – they don’t make this kind of profile any more. A tad too bitter for my taste. Around € 115.

Score: 83/100


Littlemill was founded in 1772 which would mean it has one the earliest foundation dates! As a Lowlands distillery, it used triple distillation until the 1930’s. After 1984 it has been closed and reopened a couple of times until the final dismantling in 1994.

There is an official Littlemill 12 years that is still bottled by the owner and a couple of independent releases over the years. This 1990 bourbon barrel was recently bottled by Malts of Scotland.

 

Littlemill 1990 Malts of Scotland Littlemill 19 yo 1990 (54,3%, Malts of Scotland 2010, cask #915, 142 btl.)

Nose: fresh and oily with typical Lowlands elements: grass, flowers, hay… Quite fruity as well, with honey, melon and kiwi. Frangipane. Vanilla cream. Lemon. Hints of almonds and ginger. Freshly sawn wood. Clean and a little grainy (at times it even reminded me of old grain whisky). Interesting hints of cod liver oil. Great nose. Mouth: mouth-coating and sweet, with overpowering hints of grapefruit. Some waxy notes, vanilla and oak. Spicy (nutmeg, clove) and slightly bitter. Finish: half sweet / half spicy. Medium length.

Quite a surprise, because it’s more complex and more fruity than your typical Lowland whisky. Recommended. Around € 85.

Score: 88/100


We’ve recently passed the 300 posts mark, and even then there are a bunch of distilleries which we’ve never reviewed on this blog. At this moment, there are whiskies from 73 distilleries but let’s take it to a higher level.

During the next ten days, we only allow “new” distilleries. A few names? Littlemill, Coleburn, Aultmore, Glenburgie, Dallas Dhu, Glen Elgin, Kilkerran, Cardhu… Stay tuned.

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We don’t need to repeat that Ardbeg Rollercoaster is a vatting of Ardbeg casks from all years between 1997 and 2006, both bourbon and sherry casks. After some e-commerce troubles on the launch day, 15000 bottles are currently on sale through the Ardbeg website.

 

Ardbeg Supernova Ardbeg Rollercoaster 
(57,3%, OB 2009, Committee release)

Nose: briney and coastal, with notes of smoked sardines with a few drops of lemon. It’s easy to detect the youthful power and the sweet notes that go with it (pear, artificial hints of banana) but there’s enough older stuff in there to get the balance right. A lot of iodine. A few musty elements. Nutmeg and cumin. Mint. Quite industrial in a way. Water brings out vanilla and fragrant notes. Mouth: not the most impressive mouth-feel given its strength, but the big wave of peat smoke is certainly present. The first things I get are signs of its youth which are then overtaken by liquorice, lemon and coal. Gets curiously vegetal and herbal after a while (aniseed, eucalyptus, coriander leaves?). Some very dark chocolate. Water makes it slightly grassier and more rubbery.  Finish: long on chilli peppers and briney smoke. Slightly bitter cloves.

I’m not sure what to think. On the one hand, I’m impressed because the effect of its immature age is well hidden. On the other hand, it doesn’t seem unique at all and it’s probably a bit over-hyped. But hey, Ardbeg fans will love this anyway. Around € 55
(a high price for a 3 year-old, but enough bang for your buck).

Score: 85/100

 

I poured a glass of Ardbeg Supernova and quickly tasted them side-by-side. Supernova shows more peat but more vanilla and camomile at the same time. Still it seems the Rollercoaster is more expressive with its added layer of sweetness, hints of musty earth and more balanced peat. For me, the Rollercoaster has the edge.

What surprises me is that they are so similar despite the different composition. If you could add just one or two casks of 3yo spirit to the Supernova, I’m sure it wouldn’t be far away from the Rollercoaster. The current Ardbeg range is quite narrow if you think about it. How long before they release wine finishes…?


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  • pb: This had some very conflicting tastes. Without ice, I found it almost unbearable (maybe my palate isn't ready for 60% ABV)...but, without ice, there
  • pb: I managed to get my hands on this in the US---it's hardly available here. Easy drinking----hints of sweet caramel, coconut and vanilla. Really opens
  • Tabrulavubeg: The post is more than 3 years old. But I got to buy a bottle of Old Bothwell Cask 2039 today to find that this also was a bottling from the same cask!

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.