Single malt whisky - tasting notes

A Cragganmore distilled only a few days after my birth (September 1978) and bottled in November 1996.

It’s part of a batch of three sister casks that were distilled on the same day and bottled by Gordon & MacPhail in their CASK series in 1996.


Cragganmore 1978/1996 G&M Cask 4959 Cragganmore 18 yo 1978
(60,1%, G&M CASK 1996, cask #4959)

Nose: starts on flowery notes and subtle fruit (apples, soft peach, grapes). Hints of white wine. Whiffs of wax and what we call “hotel cake” around here. After a while, there’s interesting coal smoke and gas coming through, which is rather typical for really old whisky (let’s say 1940’s-1960’s) but less common in the late 1970’s. Some hints of latte. Very nice combination overall, even more so with a few drops of water. Mouth: powerful. Starts flowery again and slightly herbal. Too much lavender now, which brings out a soapy element that quite frankly I’ve noticed with Cragganmore a bit too often. Other than that: almonds and spices. Water highlights fruity notes (pears and apples mostly) but it’s never really convincing. Finish: slightly smoky, definitely spicy, and quite long.

Again a Cragganmore with a soapy edge. The old-style coal smoke and fruity/spicy body makes up for part of it though. A bottle was sold for € 107 at WhiskyAuction recently.

Score: 83/100


Glenfarclas 1968 Thosop Last year, a cask of Glenfarclas 1968 was selected by collector Luc Timmermans to celebrate a couple of anniversaries (of his club Lindores, of his website whiskysamples.eu and of himself). This bottling got excellent reviews across the board.

Now there’s the announcement of a new cask from the same year. It is a vatting of two sherry casks, one oloroso and one fino cask. By mixing them, the specific aromas from both cask types were extracted and the result turned out to be exponentially better than the individual casks.

Interestingly, the Grant family agreed to have a special label, with elements of both the classic Family Cask labels and the specific hand-written labels of the Thosop bottlings.

It will be bottled on August 18th, with the first impressions published on WhiskyNotes that very same day!


In 1998 and 2000, Douglas Laing released several casks of Banff. They were all distilled in February or November 1966 and bottled in the Old Malt Cask series. I’ve recently bought a whole series of Banff samples and this one immediately got my attention because of its gorgeous smell.

 

Banff 1966 Douglas Laing OMC 45.8% Banff 34 yo 1966 (45,8%, Douglas Laing Old Malt Cask 2000, 408 btl.)

Nose: obviously from a (great) sherry cask. It shows lovely shoe polish and precious wood, apples, prunes, rhubarb, apple pie… A bit of old roses and leather. Even faint smoke and gentle tarmac. Cigar box. Quite superb, it could have been one of the great Macallan 18yo’s or an old Strathisla. You may argue that it shows little distillery character but is that relevant when it’s top class? Mouth: much more woody now and a little straightforward. Not really drying, but rather sharp. Pine resin, varnish, a little grapefruit. Over-infused tea. Hints of mustard even. Slightly past its due date perhaps? Finish: still oaky. Getting drier now. Hints of balsamic vinegar.

A bit of a descrescendo: an excellent nose but excessive oak on the palate. Therefore hard to rate. It fetches around € 200 in auctions.

Score: 84/100


Although part of the Classic Malts, Cragganmore is not very common as an independent bottling. Among the Classic Malts, only Glenkinchie sells less bottles. The distillery has a good reputation for blending and most of the production goes to White Horse and Old Parr.

The Signatory Un-chillfiltered range is used for bottling slightly younger and less expensive whiskies, but still un-chillfiltered, with their natural colour and at a nice 46%.



Cragganmore 1992 17yo 1476-1477 Cragganmore 17 yo 1992 (46%, Signatory
Un-chillfiltered 2009, cask #1476-1477, 
620 btl.)

Nose: punchy and quite sweet. Sirupy barley. A bit of citrus and some grassy notes as well. Yellow apples and ripe pears. Flowery honey. Faint hints of thyme, which become slightly soapy over time, but nicely integrated and certainly not worrying. Mouth: fresh fruits again (apples, pears). Spicy honey.  Fairly low complexity. Again a little lavender soap towards the finish, less well hidden this time. Finish: medium length, quite pleasant with returning grass.

Honest whisky at a fair price (around € 45). Too bad the flowery / herbal notes are on the edge of becoming too soapy.

Score: 81/100


An undisclosed Speysider bottled by Luc Timmermans’ label Thosop… That can only mean it was distilled at… yes, you’ve guessed it.


Speyside 33yo Thosop Speyside 33 yo 1976 
(53%, Thosop 2010, cask #1420)

Nose: a warm and enticing nose showing honey and almond milk. Natillas (kind of a Spanish custard)! Lovely vanilla cream with a hint of cinnamon. Melon and apricot marmalade. A hint of crushed mint leaves. Subtle wax and oak polish. Papaya. Very sweet and creamy, like a luscious dessert. I adore this kind of profile. Mouth: immediately resinous, with some liquorice, a hint of pepper. Grapefruit. Nutmeg. Peppermint. Most of the fruity notes are pushed aside by the oak influence. Some apricot in the aftertaste. Finish: medium length. Fruitier again, with grapefruit and tangerine. A hint of mint.

After the heavenly nose, which promised a 90+ mark, the invasive oak on the palate was slightly underwhelming. Still a very nice old Glenfarclas (whoops) with the oakiness on the edge. Around € 170.

Score: 86/100


Bruichladdich WavesBruichladdich Waves is part of the series Waves / Rocks / Peat. Waves is moderately peated (15 ppm) and ACE’d in Malvoisie madeira casks, after being matured in ex-bourbon wood.

 

Bruichladdich Waves (46%, OB 2008)

Nose: soaked raisins and vanilla. A little more peat than I expected. Some maritime / grassy notes. A fruity, sweet edge coming from the madeira wine. Mouth: malty start with quite a lot of spices. Another wave of vanilla. Sweet liquorice in the background, and something slightly minty. Finish: medium-long on mellow peat, spices and berries.

A fresh, fruity and easy Bruichladdich. Kind of a summer Islay malt.

Score: 80/100


Stranahan’s, located in Denver (USA) produces a strange spirit. They use 80% Colorado grown barley and 20% Rocky Mountains grown barley. Wait, that’s 100% barley! Exactly, just like Scotch. On the other hand it’s matured in charred new oak barrels, just like bourbon.

The Stranahan’s whiskey is only +/- 2 years old and is sold in batches composed of two to six barrels. As a consequence your specific bottle may be a little different than the one I’m about to taste.


Stranahan's Colorado whiskey Stranahan’s Colorado Whiskey (47%, OB 2010)

Nose: nice hints of ripe banana, syrup and vanilla. Great hints of red berries and melon. Actually, I think it’s closer to some rums than to most bourbons.  A bit of rye elements too. Some cocoa, tangerine and cinnamon. The light smoke / charcoal is noticeable as well. Smooth and highly seductive. Mouth: huge banana again (Pisang), and spices. Lots of vanilla and a bit of coconut. A bit of lime and eucalyptus. More oak than you wood expect after two years. Finish: quite short but nicely drying.

Well, I didn’t see this coming. Unlike any other American whiskey. You could think of Stranahan’s as a mix-up between bourbon and Scotch. It’s less sweet than bourbon, less complex than Scotch but overall very interesting, big and full of flavour. Recommended! Around
€ 75 (more than twice the USA price, but still interesting).

Score: 87/100


Sullivan’s Cove is the first Australian whisky I’ve tried. This single malt is distilled by Tasmania Distillery using Tasmanian barley and pure rainforest water. The Double cask version is a marriage of one American oak barrel (ex-bourbon) and one French oak barrel (ex-Port wine). Both are also available as separate bottlings at 60% ABV.


Untitled-1 Sullivan’s Cove Double Cask
(40%, OB 2010)

Nose: once it opens up, lovely sweet fruit appears (grapes, apple pie, gooseberry). Quite oily, with hints of scented candle wax and even hints of motor oil. Some cinnamon and subtle vanilla. White chocolate. Fresh wood chips and dusty cereals. Mouth: still quite an oily mouthfeel. Round, malty and fruity although the oak is a little heavy, with faint hints of varnish. A hint of leather. Not too complex. Finish: medium length, still heavy oak.

Sullivan’s Cove Double cask is a smooth single malt, but in today’s market it’s not exceptional. While the distillery claims this is their best so far, most reviewers seem to give higher scores to the other versions. The distillery definitely shows some promise. Around € 60.

Score: 76/100


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  • SK: And just to prove a point, all of the bottles are still available in places where they usually run out. Lets see how many will be still available whe
  • SK: 2 years ago I tried the Caol Ila 1982 from Archives. What a fantastic whisky. Since then I always try to stock these Caol Ila from the 80s. Sadly no
  • WhiskyNotes: The real problem is that Caol Ila isn't selling (mature) casks to independent bottlers any more, from what I've heard, so chances are low we'll see mo

Coming up

  • Inchgower 1975 (Maltbarn)
  • Octomore 6.3 258ppm
  • Peated Irish 1991 (Eiling Lim)
  • Elements of Islay Cl7
  • Benromach 5 Year Old

1680 notes by Ruben

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