Single malt whisky - tasting notes

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.

Tags:

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…?


The 16 years old with Sauternes finish is one of the wood finish expressions in the standard BenRiach range. In November 2009, the Belgian whisky shop Pin’Art in Mechelen bottled its own single cask with the same specifications. It was very popular and there are only a few bottles left.

 

BenRiach 1993 Sauternes Pinart BenRiach 16 yo 1993 (55,6%, OB 2009 for Pin’Art, hogshead – Sauternes finish, cask #2587, 295 btl.)

Nose: starts rather curiously buttery on toffee and nuts. Hints of marzipan. Not as tropical as I thought it would be, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. After a while the expected sweet and fruity notes shine through. Grapes, peaches on syrup, soaked raisins, hints of dried figs. A little water brings out Cavaillon melon. Nice balance. Mouth: thick mouth-feel with a little vanilla. Sugar coated nuts. Quite a refined sweetness although the spices soon take over (pepper, cinnamon, nutmeg). The fruits are pushed aside by the power of the spices. Water doesn’t change this. Finish: dry and peppery, with lots of spices from the oak.

The combination of the spirit with the Sauternes influence is not at all cloying nor overly sweet. It’s well balanced (although a little on the spicy side) and very enjoyable. Around € 70.

Score: 85/100

Thanks for the sample, Serge.


Single Malts of Scotland bottled three 1989 / 1990 casks of Glenrothes last year: one bourbon hogshead and two refill sherry casks. This Glenrothes 1990 cask #3331 (refill sherry) was the first in the row.

It’s interesting that SMoS chooses Glenrothes casks with a very light sherry influence since nowadays most of the independent bottlings seem to be heavily sherried.

 

Glenrothes 1990 SMOS #3331 Glenrothes 18 yo 1990 
(46%, SMoS 2009, cask #3331, 785 btl.)

Nose: a characteristic Glenrothes nose with butter toffee and some dry flowers but punchier than most official releases. Freshened by big hints of orange juice. Nectar. Something that reminds me of Swedish mustard. Hints of roasted nuts. Cake. The sherry influence is certainly there, but it’s very subtle. Mouth: not too bold. Quite malty and sweet. Spicy (nutmeg, herbal sweets) with hints of liquorice. Interesting roasted / bread crust notes in the aftertaste. Finish: rather long and spicy, with beautiful candied notes, even hints of violets.

This bottling shows a slightly different side of The Glenrothes. An all-round charmer. Around € 50.

Score: 82/100


Plantation rum Plantation is a premium series of rum produced by small independent distilleries in different Caribbean countries (Barbados, Trinidad, Panama… which all have their own style of rum).

They have a unique “double aging” technique: first the rum is matured in small ex-bourbon or ex-sherry casks in the humid Caribbean climate, but after that, the casks are shipped to France where they are matured for another year in the cellars of the Château de Bonbonnet to give them more refinement and roundness. This technique was common in the 18th and 19th century, but it had almost disappeared.

This Plantation single cask rum was distilled in Barbados and is 11 years old. It has been selected by The Nectar (our Belgian whisky distributor).

 

Plantation 11yo The Nectar Plantation 11 yo (45%, OB 2009,
single cask #01 for The Nectar)

Nose: lots of molasses, sort of a caramel smell. Unrefined Demerara sugar. Some vanilla and cinnamon. Great depth with smooth flavours but also notes of slightly burnt sugar. After 15 minutes in the glass and some hand warmth, a wonderful ripe banana smell comes through (Pisang Ambon) with beautiful notes of coconut cream. Mouth: the coconut is taking the lead now (Malibu) with caramelized banana. A flowery element that is quickly overtaken by the oak. Tropical fruit juice. Some raisins. Sweet and smooth. Finish: medium length, basically the flavours of the palate that fade slowly.

One thing is for sure: this Plantation single cask is a rum for savouring rather than mixing. It’s a lot sweeter than your regular Scotch whisky, but it’s definitely worth looking for. Whiskies are usually more complex than rum, even this kind of rare vintage rum, but they’re priced a lot higher as well. Around € 40.


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  • Roberto Sikora: This is really a great, great bottling. One of my favourite Littlemills so far... :-) Thank you, Ruben for this review!
  • george: i see you have tried st magdalene and say it is harder to find i am a collector of st magdalene and i have 40 bottles i am selling these date from 196
  • sjoerd972: I wish the guys at Bushmills would demand the labels to say "Northern Ireland" so we didn't have to speculate on the booze's origins.

Coming up

  • Bowmore Devil's Casks - Batch 2
  • Tomatin 1988 (Malts of Scotland)
  • Aberfeldy 12 Year Old
  • Blair Athol 2002 (Hepburn's Choice)
  • Fettercairn Fior
  • Bowmore Laimrig 15yo
  • Ben Nevis 2002 (Port cask #334)

1601 notes by Ruben

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