Single malt whisky - tasting notes

This is quite a rare Highland Park 1973 bottled by Mackillop’s Choice. Sister cask #8396 was bottled by Jack Wiebers in 2003.

Mackillop’s Choice was founded by Angus Dundee Distillers (Tomintoul, Glencadam) in 1996 and bottlings have been released since 1998. All releases are single casks selected by Lorne Mackillop – originally a Master of Wine – and bottled at 43% or 46%.

 

Highland Park 1973/2007 - Mackillop's ChoiceHighland Park 1973 (43%, Mackillop’s Choice 2007, cask #8395)

Nose: starts a little shy and mostly malty / nutty, but folds open so nicely. Juicy oranges, whiffs of mint and pine resin. Eucalyptus honey and nice beeswax. Subtle fruity notes, rhubarb and sourish pear. Some floral notes as well (orange blossom). Quite delicate, not extremely wide but very elegant. Mouth: oily and waxy, with resinous notes and some pepper at first. Sweet lemon and mint. Quinces jam. Hints of green banana too, a little pineapple, slightly surprising but nice. Then onto bags of (white) grapefruit and a little oak. Finish: long, fruity, oaky, still on grapefruit and mint.

Great old Highland Park, quite neutral in a way but showing plenty of complexity and delicacy. I liked this very much, but it doesn’t seem to show up in auctions regularly.

Score: 91/100


After my subtle hints while talking about the new Springbank 25 Year Old, some people have been waiting for my review of this one: Springbank 18 Year Old, a single cask version, distilled October 1996 and bottled for The Nectar.

It’s rare to see a bourbon cask version of a well-known dram that relies on sherry casks for around 80% of its composition.

 

 

Springbank 18 - single cask - The NectarSpringbank 18 yo 1996
(58,7%, OB for The Nectar 2014, refill bourbon, single cask, 210 btl.)

Nose: starts with the typical dusty, grainy Springbank note, alongside coastal notes. Vague oily notes (wax candle). A little pepper and mint. Grated coconut. Walnut husks. Over time it becomes clearly fruitier, with lots of gooseberries and rhubarb, strawberries and the lightest tropical touch of papaya. A smoky side as well, not exactly peat smoke but more like toasted oak. Mouth: big and spicy, again quite oily and waxy with lots of briny notes. In a second wave, there are beautiful fruits – bright, lightly tropical again, say sweet oranges, mango and pineapple. Almonds. Green tea. Dusty, earthy smoke. Finish: rather long, on zesty notes, oak spices and that faint smoky edge.

The oily fruitiness works very well with the maritime character and the smoky notes in this Springbank 18. As I said before, an exquisite version of an already really good dram. Now that I think of it, it’s totally in line with last year’s 14 Year Old as well. Around € 140.

Score: 91/100


Not so long ago, I was very impressed with the new batch of Benromach 10 Year Old which was unveiled in April 2014.

Past October, the distillery also released a higher strength version: Benromach 10 Year Old ‘100° proof’, bottled at the old Imperial measure which equals 57% alcohol volume. It shares the cask distribution (80% bourbon, 20% sherry), the one-year Oloroso finish and the new style of packaging.

 

Benromach 10 Years - 100 ProofBenromach 10 yo ‘100° proof’
(57%, OB 2014)

Nose: this only confirms how good this spirit is, whatever the strength. This combination of baked apple, plum jam, vanilla, furniture polish and toasted wood is simply delicious. Maybe there’s a tad more prune / red berry aroma than in the standard edition, a tad more sherry if you like. Is that kiwi in the background? Anyway the old-school dusty / earthy notes, mint and leather are still present. Mouth: fairly dry, quite spicy and even more old-school. Library dust, pepper, light earthy peat smoke, hints of cough syrup and linseed oil. Becomes rounder as it shows hints of chocolate bars with banana filling and toffee. Finish: long, still smoky with echoes of sherry and chocolate.

Great to see its profile is very similar to that the original 10 Year Old. The added strength makes it seem slightly drier and even more inspired by a 1960’s profile. I think it’s better (by a small margin) but it’s a slightly more difficult whisky as well. Around € 60.

Score: 89/100


This Ledaig 2004 is the third bottling by Liquid Art. I’ve seen a lot of 2004-2005 releases from this distillery lately, but I haven’t reviewed many of them as they tend to be really similar.

 

Ledaig 2004 - Liquid ArtLedaig 10 yo 2004 (51,6%, Liquid Art ‘Pink Salmon’ 2014, 176 btl.)

Nose: somehow the peat is quite warm here, more so than in other Ledaigs, and despite the young age. Tar and charcoal, mixed with a bit of vanilla and lemonade sweetness. Maybe tinned peaches or pineapple in the back. Very light coastal notes, along with some mentholated hints, but it’s mostly the roundness that’s remarkable here. Mouth: slightly more fierce now, with a hot peaty kick. A little more olive brine as well. Then it returns to sweet soot, with a light syrupy, fruity undertone again. Nice. Sweetened lapsang tea. Finish: long, more towards kippery and herbal notes now, but always with this lingering sweetness.

Nice how this one mixes the deep peaty notes with a balancing sweetness. I don’t like roughly peated whisky so this is one of the nicest Ledaigs I’ve come across so far. Launched today, available from Liquid Art.

Score: 87/100

 

 

Let’s compare it to another Ledaig 2004 that was bottled earlier this year in the Liquid Treasures series.

 

Ledaig 2004 - Liquid TreasuresLedaig 10 yo 2004 (53,2%, Liquid Treasures 2014, bourbon hogshead, 179 btl.)

Nose: this one is slightly cleaner and brighter. In this case this means less of the tinned fruits and vanilla. More minty notes, more sea spray, more mezcal-like notes as well. More towards the focus of young Coal Ila, if you like. There’s a nice buttery side to it as well, so it’s certainly not austere. Mouth: again slightly more focused on the peaty notes, the brine and the smoked fish. It also has a nice sweet side, but it’s less pronounced. Bright hints of sweetened lemon juice and candied ginger. Liquorice too. Finish: long, smoky, half briny, half sweet. Echoes of sweet coffee and chocolate in the very end.

Both are close together. If you prefer a pronounced peatiness and a slightly sharper profile, this one is for you. Around € 70, available from eSpirits among others.

Score: 86/100


This brand-new bottling in the Fishes of Samoa series from Archives says ‘distilled at a Kildalton distillery’ on the label. Those are the Southern distilleries on Islay (Ardbeg, Laphroaig, Lagavulin and Port Ellen).

Even though the distillery remains undisclosed, it’s mostly Ardbeg which often refers to the nearby Kildalton Cross (e.g. Ardbeg Kildalton). But there’s also a small chance of being Lagavulin.

 

 

Kildalton 2007 ArchivesKildalton 7 yo 2007 (54,4%, Archives ‘Fishes of Samoa’ 2014, hogshead #9396, 170 btl.)

Nose: high-strength and quite medicinal. Tarry notes and wet wool. Burnt heather and hay. A little lemon skin and hints of apples. A bit of marzipan as well. Very clean, rough, quite simple. Mouth: sweet attack, quickly joined by some thick peat smoke, peppercorns and sweetened lemon juice. A tad youngish, but this is Ardbeg alright. Liquorice and earthy notes with touches of creamy mocha towards the end. Finish: long but a tad more gentle again. Some grapefruit, salted anchovies and an earthy / ashy end.

This Kildalton 2007 is fairly narrow on the nose, but has a wider and thicker body. A bold whisky, slightly overpowering but a nice chance to try a young Ardbeg at cask strength. Available from the Whiskybase shop for € 68.

Score: 87/100


Kavalan released an ex-bourbon expression for their Belgian importer The Nectar. I’m not sure why it doesn’t say Solist on the label, as far as I can tell it is a single cask release?

There’s also a new brandy cask release for TastToe (59,4%).

 

Kavalan ex-bourbon for The NectarKavalan ex-bourbon 2009 (54,8%, OB for The Nectar 2014, cask #B091103031A, 193 btl.)

Nose: starts a bit woody, but in a fresh way. A lot of vanilla, hints of caramel and banana. Fresh coconut. A bit like light American whiskey, if not for the tropical touches (pineapple, mango). Some toasted oak and ginger. Mouth: really sweet and fairly oak-infused again. Vanilla, coconut, pears and oranges (sweet ones at first, bitter ones as well). Lots of punchy spices, like ginger, mint and pepper. A high pressure cooked American white oak infusion. Finish: long, still some bitterish echoes but also sweet vanilla and golden syrup.

Parts of this Kavalan are really great (the fruitiness, the pure focus on what American oak can impart) but sometimes I feel its too simple and too woody. Good but not worth the price. Around € 135.

Score: 86/100


Ah, another one of these GlenDronach 1993 single casks distilled in January of that year. This time Oloroso butt #23 bottled for Whiskybase in The Netherlands.

As a side note, I’ve heard all remaining casks from 1993 are currently ‘on hold’. None of them will be bottled for clubs or stores, all that is left will only be used for the official releases.

 

 

GlenDronach 1993 cask #23 WhiskybaseGlenDronach 21 yo 1993 (52,1%, OB for Whiskybase, Oloroso butt #23, 681 btl.)

Nose: rich and expressive. A kind of juicy plum and bramble aroma, with rummy overtones. Cinnamon. Big nutty notes (roasted chestnut, walnut) and leather. Slightly dry. Dark chocolate and toffee. After a while it becomes a bit minty, with just a slight mustiness in the background. Mouth: punchy, with a sweet and sour base of cherries, plums and raisins. After that it moves to chocolate and mocha notes, as well as herbal notes and a faint gingery heat. Toffee, dates and tobacco. Pepper. Mon Cheri. Finish: good length, not too dry, entirely on dark chocolate, spices and coffee.

A really nice GlenDronach 1993 again. This is one of the heavier versions I’ve come across, with lots of dark chocolate and a bit less of the bright fruity notes. Still available from the Whiskybase shop for € 135.

Score: 90/100


Smooth AmblerSmooth Ambler is spirits company founded in 2009 in West Virginia, USA. Their brand is an ensemble of different things. They’re best known for “scouting” bourbon and rye whiskeys from external stocks, in a series named Old Scout, but they’re also producing spirits in their own still (gin, vodka, wheated bourbon). It’s not a temporary solution: they’ll continue this ‘independent bottler’ story, even when their own stock is mature enough.

Smooth Ambler Old Scout 7 Year Old is a straight bourbon whiskey produced by MGP in Lawrenceburg (Seagram’s at the time). It contains 60% corn, 36% rye and 4% malted barley. It won a Gold Award in Jim Murray’s Whisky Bible 2015.

 

 

Smooth Ambler Old Scout 7 YearsSmooth Ambler Old Scout 7 Year Old (49,5%, Smooth Ambler 2014)

Nose: sweet but also quite savoury. Lots of pencil shavings and cinnamon powder. Cashews. Peppermint and hints of eucalyptus, even a few ether-like top notes. Some rounded caramel and sweet cherries underneath. Mouth: sweet, with hints of vanilla syrup, although the dusty / dry notes are prominent again. Lots of mint / mint tea and ginger, as well as a bit of tangy lemon and pine wood. Pepper and nutmeg. Tobacco leaves. A bitter edge in the end. Finish: long, dry and ‘refreshing’ in a way (bags of mint and eucalyptus). Cinnamon powder.

A nicely dry and spicy bourbon, marked by the high rye content. Give it a try when you like minty flavours. Around € 60 from Master of Malt, or as part of their Dramcrackers of course.

Score: 85/100


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  • Taco: I'm about finished with a bottle of this and am still amazed at how good it is. It's much more subtle than the popular sherry finished whiskers, but
  • Tony: I guess they are not planning on selling much to the likes of us. "Premiumisation" gone mad...
  • Johan Andersson: I'm in Campbeltown right now for the Springbank Open Day on Thursday. This review is really spot on. I really love Longrow and especially the 18 it be

Coming up

  • Ledaig 42 Years Old
  • Irish malt 1991 (Whisky Mercenary)
  • Aberlour a'bunadh Batch #50
  • Bowmore Gold Reef
  • Tomatin 1997 (Liquid Library)
  • Springbank Vintage 2001
  • Mortlach Rare Old

1793 notes by Ruben

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