Single malt whisky - tasting notes

At each Spirits in the Sky festival there is always a new selection of The Nectar of the Daily Drams releases.

Among others: Auchroisk 1990, Glen Keith 1992, Glenturret 1977 and this 25 year-old Glenrothes 1988. There were also three joint bottlings by The Whisky Agency & The Nectar, as well as a series of officials for The Nectar (Bowmore 2001 Blackadder, Arran 2001, Jura 1989 SV, Glenburgie 1983 SV, Kavalan sherry, Elijah Craig…).

 

Glenrothes 25yo 1988 - Nectar of the Daily DramsGlenrothes 25 yo 1988 (50,6%, The Nectar of the Daily Drams 2013, refill sherry)

Nose: quite full, with a spicy sherry character rather than a dried fruits profile. Candied ginger and pepper. Oranges (both juice and zest) and yellow plum compote. Caramelized pear. Lots of floral honey. Hints of almonds. Mouth: sweet and very citrusy. Grapefruits (pink and yellow ones), lemon marmalade and oranges. Again a honeyed pastry note with some vanilla custard. Some nutmeg and cinnamon towards the end. Finish: medium long, now strictly spicy (ginger, pepper, nutmeg) with oaky notes and sweet herbal tea, although there’s still a sweet echo in the back.

Good Glenrothes, with a focus on honey, citrus and spices. Around € 115-130. That’s 40% more than similar ones released last year.

Score: 86/100


You know these ‘urban’ dictionaries on the internet these days, to look up slang words? I didn’t know the word Scallywag, so I looked it up and I found this:

A person who is known to be a treacherous lying son-of-a-bitch, and usually smells bad.

Funny! I’m quite sure the name wasn’t chosen based on the smell of the whisky…

Scallywag is the latest product from Douglas Laing. It’s a small batch vatted malt, created using only Speyside malts, including Mortlach, Macallan, Glenrothes and others. Kind of a Speyside version of the Big Peat concept.

The packaging (very well executed if you ask me!) was inspired by the long line of Douglas Laing family Fox Terriers, which are renowned for being sweet yet rather mischievous dogs. Sweet wee Scallywags indeed.

 

Scallywag (Douglas Laing)Scallywag
(46%, Douglas Laing 2013)

Nose: very malty, with Frosties and grain biscuits. Very heavy on sticky toffee notes. Some honey, icing sugar and dried grasses. Vanilla custard. Macadamia nut brittle ice cream. Spices like cinnamon, candied ginger. Some overripe orange in the back. Mouth: sweet and spicy. Raisins, oranges again, revolving around a core that screams young malt. Sugared cereals and caramel. Abundant spices: pepper, ginger, as well as a vanilla woodiness. I think there’s quite some sherried Glenrothes in there – not everyone likes that. Finish: medium long, grainy with a slightly harsh / bitter edge and a dry end.

A very decent vatting. I’m missing a bit of the bright fruity side here – to me that’s more typically Speyside than the caramelly, malty and spicy profile shown here. Sweet but slightly mischievous indeed. Around € 45 – on its way to stores as we speak.

Score: 81/100


Jan Vissers - Arran ambassadorJan Vissers is the owner of The Single Malt Whisky Shop in Zammel (Belgium) and a proud ambassador for the Arran distillery.

For Jan’s 35th birthday, distillery manager James MacTaggart selected a 16 years old cask that was released as a Private Cask bottling. It’s clearly from a sherry hogshead and probably the darkest Arran so far.

 

 

 

Arran 1996 - Private Cask Jan VissersArran 16 yo 1996
(55,7%, OB Private Cask for Jan Vissers 2013, oloroso sherry hogshead, 174 btl.)

Nose: nicely aromatic, with a wide array of sherry aromas. Juicy cherries (hints of Ginjinha), Christmas pears in wine, redcurrants, red plums. Almond cream and a soft caramel note. Growing spicy over time – Christmas spices indeed. Cinnamon, cloves, ginger. Light floral notes and oak polish. Milk chocolate and Café Noir biscuits. Whiffs of cedar oak and mint as well. Very sherried, in a superbly clean way. Mouth: again highly influenced by the sherry. Raisins, muscovado sugar, chocolate and dried fruits, followed by spices again (cloves, pepper). A dry edge of strong black tea, as well as some tobacco leaves. Finish: long, mostly on liquorice, dark chocolate and walnut hints.

Very punchy, flavoursome Arran, with the sherry in the lead. This profile usually comes with a higher age and a higher price. My best Arran so far. Around € 75 – sold out.

Score: 89/100


A Karuizawa 1977 with a Geisha label. Just like the 1971 cask #7267 (released at the same time), it was bottled in 2012 but not released until the summer of 2013. Both extremely hard to get, even in Taiwan.

I don’t think I’ve ever seen a whisky with such a striking brown colour. Sherry tends to impart some red hues as well, but not this time.

 

Karuizawa 1977 #4010 for TaiwanKaruizawa 35 yo 1977 (65,9%, OB 2012, sherry butt #4010, 427 btl.)

Nose: very high on tobacco notes. Cigar leaves and pipe tobacco. Evolves on forest aromas like wet soil and moss. Hints of overripe fruits (pineapple, figs). Pepper and cinnamon. Walnut husks and macadamia nuts. Cedar wood and soft incense. After a while… crème anglaise as well. Complex and sophisticated. Relatively accessible too. Mouth: much more powerful, much more smoky as well. Tons of milk chocolate. Allspice. Sweet black tea, as well as freshly roasted coffee beans. Kahlua or Heering Coffee. Fruity notes in the background (pineapple with citrus). Tobacco, yes. A painting with a narrow colour palette maybe, although there are many tiny flavours and the smoke makes it special. Finish: long, smoky and chocolaty with liquorice and pepper growing bigger, as well as hints of cinnamon chewing gum.

Well, this looks and tastes ‘brown’, if you know what I mean. Coffee, tobacco, chocolate, not the usual red fruit / raisin sherry. Quite unique, even for Karuizawa. Excellent though.

Score: 93/100


The Blue one…

 

Johnnie Walker Blue LabelJohnnie Walker Blue Label (40%, OB)

Nose: surprising amounts of toffee, with a sharpish / acidic side to it as well. Cereal notes (bread), some dried fruits and orange peel. Berries. Some lime. Vanilla. Give it some time and it develop into a decent blended nose. Mouth: medium bodied, nice enough, with toasted notes, grains and citrus. Quite a lot of floral notes alongside the soft sherry. Berries and ginger. Toffee. Good balance of sweet, spicy and acidic, but a bit characterless if you ask me (a bit of everything but nothing in particular). Fades on oak and citrus tea. Finish: not too long, returning to the grainy notes, with ginger and a slight zesty note.

It’s smooth and balanced, but it’s not a very proud blend, if you know what I mean. Although we expected a bit more at this price point, Johnnie Walker Blue Label isn’t conceived as a high quality whisky, it’s aimed at people who can simply spend more money and want to make this clear by buying something ‘premium’. At around € 150, I can think of a whole list of single malts which offer more individuality and intensity.

Score: 81/100


I believe I’ve only had one Glentauchers so far, a very young dram. This little known distillery became part of Pernod Ricard in 2005.

 

Glentauchers 2005 SansibarGlentauchers 8 yo 2005
(48,2%, Sansibar 2013, sherry cask, 244 btl.)

Nose: sweet plums and red apples, sugared cereals, maybe some muesli with raisins. Develops on mint and cinnamon, with hints of walnut liqueur. The fruity notes grow stronger and become slightly tropical (pineapple cubes and lime). Quite nice. Mouth: again sweet and fruity. Rounded, candied, not very complex but really pleasant. Apple pie and citrus. Light honey. Some toffee. Soft peppery notes as well. Finish: medium long, fruity with quite a lot of mocha, orange and a very light oaky touch.

An enjoyable little whisky. Well made, no fuss, easy drinking. Around € 70.

Score: 84/100


This GlenDronach 1959/1960 is part of a series by Gordon & MacPhail to commemorate the marriage of Prince Andrew to Sarah Ferguson on 23rd July 1986.

The mini-series also contains a Linkwood, MacPhail’s, Mortlach and Macallan (labeled ‘Pride of Strathspey’). Each of these whiskies are a vatting of 1959 and 1960 casks, the birth years of both royals.

 

 

Glendronach 1959/1960 G&M Royal WeddingGlenDronach 1959/1960 (40%, Gordon & MacPhail 1986, Royal Wedding)

Nose: quite an aromatic nose, very juicy and jammy, not as heavy as modern day GlenDronach. Fresh plums, fruit cake, apple pie and apricot jam. Heather honey and other beehive notes. Waxed furniture. A bit like a sherried Balvenie, very balanced. There’s something of toasted bread, maybe even soft smoke in the background, as well as a faint metallic note (could be a little OBE). Lovely. Mouth: sweet, lots of stewed fruits again. Apricots, yellow apples, plums. Lime. Some cinnamon and mint. Definitely smoky notes now. Just 40%, easy to drink but not weak. Finish: not too long – slightly disappointing but this is probably the low alcohol. Fairly malty, with dried fruits, soft spices and some oak.

Excellent whisky really, with a relatively subtle type of sherry. Modern GlenDronach is much more intense but this is equally enjoyable.

Score: 91/100


Laphroaig 1976

01 Nov 2013 | Laphroaig

Together with the 1977, this is one of the earliest vintages bottled by Laphroaig. These casks were bought back from private owners. Based on the L6 bottling code, this was bottled in 1996, slightly below 20 years old. It was meant as a travel retail expression.

1976 was a particularly hot summer – the back label of this bottle mentions this. Could this be one of the reasons this vintage delivered so many wonderful drams from different distilleries?

 

Laphroaig 1976Laphroaig 1976
(43%, OB 1996, 5.400 btl.)

Nose: starts in a coastal way, with kelp and harbour ropes. A little heather. Over time menthol appears and just a hint of antiseptic. Mild for Laphroaig, there are peaty and smoky hints but quite subdued. The most wonderful thing about this nose, however, is the appearance of tropical fruits. Pink grapefruit à la BenRiach 1976, some passion fruits and kumquats. Mouth: the old-style Islay profile, with ashes and soot rather than plain peat. Also lots of sweetness and tiny fruity sourness. Pink grapefruit again, passion fruits, maybe unripe mango. Pears. Some woody / herbal undertones come forward towards the end. Hints of heather honey. Finish: long, again a softly bitter herbalness but the fruity sweetness and soot are stronger.

Like most Islay drams from the 1970’s, this is a true delight. This used to be sold for around € 50 – now easily € 1000.

Score: 93/100


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Coming up

  • Auchentoshan 15yo (Kintra)
  • Ben Nevis 1997 (Maltbarn)
  • Tomatin 1978 (Cadenhead / Nectar)
  • Aultmore 2007 (Daily Dram)
  • Karuizawa 45 Year Old (cask #2925)
  • Glengoyne 1999 (Palo Cortado)

1507 notes by Ruben

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