Single malt whisky - tasting notes

David Stewart and Tun 1401The eighth release of the hugely successful Balvenie Tun 1401 found its way to Belgium at the end of 2013.

Batch 8 brings together the largest number of casks in the series so far, 9 American oak bourbon casks and 3 European oak sherry butts. One of them was filled in 1991, two in 1981 and 1982, but all the rest is 1970’s whisky. It’s the darkest Tun 1401 I’ve come across, a first hint of its character?

 

 

 

Balvenie Tun 1401 Batch 8Balvenie Tun 1401 (50,2%, OB 2013, batch 8, 2.700 btl.)

Nose: it seems immediately different from the others. Rather more overtly sherried. But stunning notes of American whiskey as well. I would say it’s fuller and warmer than the ones I’ve tried before. Mirabelles on syrup, black cherries, ripe banana and candy apples. Plenty of acacia honey and beeswax. Creamy vanilla. Cinnamon sticks and leather. Faint mocha. Excellent. Mouth: richly sherried again. There’s more cinnamon, dried fruits and strawberries, as well as top notes of orange peel and ginger cake. Vanilla pods and chocolate. Some woody spices, wax and pine resin in the end. Finish: long, leathery. Still some plums alongside the oaky touches. A tad too tannic to be truly heavenly.

 

Excellent Tun 1401, slightly different from the others, with a slightly ‘darker’ sherry influence, and my favourite batch so far (although batch 5 comes close). I believe the official price was around € 200 but as always with these kind of whiskies, some shops are not afraid to ask € 300 or more.

Score: 92/100


The last whisky I’ll review from the GlenDronach single casks batch 9. The 1991 and 1992 were not very convincing, let’s hope the 1993 cask #5 can fulfil its promises.

 

GlenDronach 1993 single cask 5GlenDronach 20 yo 1993
(53%, OB 2013, oloroso cask #5, 645 btl.)

Nose: excellent. Lots of fresh figs and juicy plums, with a bright top note of orange blossom and rose petals. A slightly rummy / brandy-like aroma as well. Soaked raisins. Lovely pipe tobacco and cigar boxes. Hints of incense. Almonds and vanilla cake. Soft hints of those chocolate-covered coffee beans. Mouth: rich, initially sweet but growing drier and spicier in a nice evolution. Figs and dates again, raisins and chocolate. Cinnamon and cloves. Lacking a tad of body in the middle, but still very good. Ginger and herbal notes (mint). Finish: long, quite dry and rather ‘darker’, with hints of dried fruits, dark chocolate and mild oak.

I’ve said it before, but those GlenDronach butts filled on the 15th of January 1993 are just great (casks #1-#35 more or less). Around € 130.

Score: 91/100


The Yamazaki Puncheon is matured in American oak puncheons (large 480 litre casks, often even larger). Larger casks, so slower ageing and supposedly elegant and spirit-driven. While puncheons are usually seasoned with sherry or rum, apparently the ones Yamazaki used had previously contained bourbon whiskey. I hadn’t heard of bourbon puncheons before.

It has been released in 2011 and 2012 already, and the 2013 version is said to be the final release.

 

Yamazaki Puncheon 2013Yamazaki Puncheon
(48%, OB 2013)

Nose: fresh and fruity, with lots of American oak influences indeed. Pears, peaches and vanilla, with nice hints of pineapple and banana. A little bubblegum. Hints of floral honey. Quite some fresh oak as well. Overall it’s bright but also a little youngish. Mouth: bright, malty and fruity again. Yellow plum, peach and orange. Pear drops and lime. Coconut. Vanilla ice cream. Becoming fragrant, a tad too floral maybe. Exemplary for American oak, very predictable as well. Finish: medium long, sweet and slightly gingery.

Well made, clean and fruity whisky that’s easy to like. On the other hand its ambition doesn’t reach beyond showcasing the wood it was matured in. Between € 105 and 125.

Score: 84/100


The Auld Alliance is a high-class whisky bar in Singapore which boasts one of the largest collections in South-East Asia. It is run by Emmanuel Dron, a Frenchman who worked for La Maison du Whisky before.

Since 2013, Auld Alliance also has its own line of whisky bottlings. This Littlemill 1992 is the fourth release.

 

 

Littlemill 1992 - Auld AllianceLittlemill 20 yo 1992 (52,2%, Auld Alliance 2013, bourbon hogshead, 216 btl.)

Nose: maybe not a full fruitiness this time. There’s apple, pear and marzipan sweetness at first, but also linseed oil and lots of waxy notes: wax candles and paraffin. Vanilla cake and soft herbal notes. In the end it turns towards the typical citrusy notes and lemon balm. Whiffs of marshmallows too. Mouth: oily, starts on these waxy notes and minerals again, before the nice burst of lemons, pink grapefruits and lime. Hints of lemon grass and, well… normal grass. Quite resinous towards the end. Finish: long, with the same lemon theme. Lime zest, grapefruit and the lingering grassy notes.

Highly enjoyable Littlemill again, with slightly bolder waxy and zesty notes this time. Really good stuff.

Score: 89/100


I can’t remember other Irish whiskey from The Whisky Agency, but now they have two at the same time. It’s a single malt so either produced at Bushmills or Cooley. This one was distilled in 1988, the year Cooley started distilling, but that doesn’t tell us anything. Update: according to the Teeling brothers, Cooley distilled it first malt in 1989. Bushmills it is?

 

Irish single malt 1988 | The Whisky AgencyIrish single malt 25 yo 1988
(51,1%, The Whisky Agency ‘Old Times Diving’ 2013, 212 btl.)

Nose: all the yellow fruits you can expect from Irish whiskey. Especially Maracuja sherbet. Also pink grapefruit (BenRiach 1976’s style), white apricots and hints of Charentais melon. Orange blossom. Bags of gummy bears. Very fresh, with a definite acidity, although there’s a warmer vanilla theme in the background. Soft notes of herbal honey. Mouth: sweet, still lots and lots of this passion fruit sherbet, simply lovely. There’s some oak and liquorice, as well as fresh herbs, but they don’t stand a chance, the tropical fruitiness is ten times bigger. Bananas, mandarins and a little coconut. Triple Sec. Truly a fruit bomb. Hints of cinnamon and mint. Finish: long, still sweet, slightly nuttier and more chocolaty now.

Just excellent Irish whiskey, it turns the fruity volume up to 11 but it wouldn’t be a Whisky Agency release if it didn’t show complexity as well. It doesn’t matter, but this time my guess would be Bushmills. Highly recommended, even at € 200.

Score: 92/100


Glenrothes 2001

25 Feb 2014 | Glenrothes

The Glenrothes 2001 vintage is the latest vintage from this distillery. It has been selected from a variety of casks to deliver a “conversational style”. Try to meet the wonderful Ronnie Cox if you ever have a chance. He’ll tell you all about the different “moods” they’re trying to create, and how a new vintage replaces the previous while recreating the same style.

The Glenrothes 2001 is the youngest offering in their range, and the first vintage of the new millennium. This is the European version at 43%. Apparently the Asian version is 40%.

 

 

The Glenrothes 2001Glenrothes 2001 (43%, OB 2013)

Nose: bright, with juicy barley, vanilla and icing sugar. Stewed apples. Fresh oak and honey, with some lemon peel top notes. Just a little butterscotch in the background. Classic Glenrothes. Mouth: shy attack, it feels slightly underpowered at first, but it folds open nicely. First citrus notes (lemon pie, lemon zest), apples, then brazil nuts and heather honey. Orange peel. Growing spices from the wood, mainly cinnamon and nutmeg with a bittersweet edge. A hint of kirsch as well. Finish: medium long, slightly sweet, citrusy but mainly quite spicy.

A nice, clean dram that’s both light, citrusy and spicy at the same time. Around € 55.

Score: 83/100


I tried this Ben Nevis 1995 quickly but couldn’t detect anything special. I was in a hurry so I poured it back and tried it again three days later. Sometimes waiting long enough makes all the difference between a regular whisky and a special one.

 

Ben Nevis 1995 - The Whisky AgencyBen Nevis 18 yo 1995 (51,8%, The Whisky Agency ‘Old Times Diving’ 2013, refill hogshead, 242 btl.)

Nose: starts surprisingly un-fruity compared to the rest of this series. Sweet cereals, mineral notes and some waxy / fatty notes. Meadow flowers. After some time and hand warmth it becomes warmer and unfolds its fruits: first grapefruit and lemon balm, then more exotic banana, maybe kiwi. Hints of vanilla. Quite a “Littlemillian” evolution in a way. Mouth: even more similarities to some Littlemill expressions: bright, slightly exotic fruits. Tangerines, lemon sweets, a little passion fruit and pink grapefruit. A good dose of fresh bourbon oak too, as well as a cirtusy zestiness, ginger and grassy notes. The waxy notes are still present. Finish: medium long, still fruity.

Fresh whisky with a fruitiness that starts shy and hits you on the palate. Typical Ben Nevis minerals as well. A nice surprise. Around € 95, arriving in stores as we speak.

Score: 88/100


Whisky-Doris has two new releases: Bowmore 2003 and Bunnahabhain 1980. It has been matured for 33 years in a sherry butt.

 

Bunnahabhain 33yo 1980 Whisky-DorisBunnahabhain 33 yo 1980 (45,6%, Whisky-Doris 2013, sherry butt #92, 460 btl.)

Nose: a delicate nose, on dried flowers, soft honey and allspice. A subtle fruitiness of orange peel and lemon cake. Candied ginger. Overall rather dry and waxy. Some old-style oak and walnut husks. The lightest hint of sea breeze as well. All rather discreet, but pretty complex, it grows on you. Mouth: dry with lots of herbal notes, liquorice and a load of oak juice and nuts (without becoming astringent though). Yellow apples and orange peel again, mixed with soft pepper and a pinch of salt. A bit of bitter grassiness towards the end. Maybe Fino sherry? Finish: medium long, dry, with apple peel, liquorice root and nutmeg.

A herbal, oak-infused Bunnahabhain that steps out of the box at times but manages to keep you interested. It could be mistaken for an old-style, discreet Speysider. Around € 170.

Score: 87/100


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  • WhiskyNotes: It says 'single cask Scotch whisky' on the label, so yes, technically it can even contain a bit of Girvan grain. Not that it matters a lot though.
  • kallaskander: Hi there, could be a teaspooned blenders cask... technically not a single malt then.... that seems more probable than letting an IB bring out the fir
  • Glenn Vanbellingen: If you put the 12 y origin at 40% head to head with the 12 y origin 46% you see it immediately or better you taste it immediately.

Coming up

  • Ardbeg 1972 (Douglas Laing OMC)
  • Jura 1972 SMWS 31.4
  • Balblair 2002
  • Kavalan Solist sherry (for LMdW)
  • Tullibardine 1980 (Malts of Scotland)
  • Ardbeg 1998 (Malts of Scotland)

1579 notes by Ruben

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