Single malt whisky - tasting notes

First of all, I’m not a beer connoisseur and I’m not planning to review beer on a regular basis. But I’m a gastronome with a few links to Spain, so whenever Ferran Adrià’s elBulli develops something new, I’m in the front row to try it. Moreover, this beer pretends to have a uniquely crafted character, so there are some parallels with whisky.

Inedit - Estrella DammThe Inedit beer was developed by elBulli and Spanish beer brewer Estrella Damm as the optimal beer to accompany food. As such it is a light, hazy “Celis white beer” served in a white wine glass and presented in a great 75cl design bottle.

 

Estrella Damm Inedit (4,8%, OB 2009)

Nose: very aromatic and quite fragrant for a beer. Huge notes of coriander seeds with layers of orange, tangerine and lemon. Malty with lots of added aromas, so it seems. Mouth: mild and fresh, very summery with a slight fizziness. A little flowery. Oranges again. Light peach. Finish: light spices with hints of liquorice.

Inedit is a clean beer with a nose that’s more interesting than the slightly boring palate. Good but nothing unique if you have access to a zillion beers here in Belgium. Indeed better with food where the light taste doesn’t mask the food flavours.
Around € 10 at restaurants.


Cooley started distilling whiskey (both grain and malt whiskey) in copper pot stills in 1989, after having bought a distillery that produced wodka and other spirits in column stills. Since 1996, they have a peated brand named Connemara.

The 10 years old Cooley whiskey we’re reviewing now, is an independent single cask bottling of peated Connemara matured in a bourbon barrel. A bunch of similar versions by Cadenhead is available – there seems to be one release each year.

 

Cooley 10yo Cadenhead Cooley 10 yo 1992 (59,3%, Cadenhead 2003, bourbon, 234 btl.)

Nose: great peatiness, with tar and lovely farmy notes (wet dogs, sheep stable – not unlike some Broras). My favourite kind of peat I would say. Slightly medicinal as well. Nicely integrated with young, sweeter notes (candy, yellow apple). Mouth: powerful attack on citrus and peat. Grassy barley. Vanilla cream. Oak. Hints of caramel. Finish: medium length. Peat smoke and oranges. Getting drier and marginally bitter in the end.

Cooley is making good no-nonsense stuff. Complexity is not the major goal here, but the Irish peat is really unique and the end result has a lot of qualities. The recent bottlings by Cadenhead (14-16yo) cost around € 75.

Score: 88/100


Clynelish 1995 - Nectar Daily DramsThis 14 years old Clynelish 1995 is part of the new The Nectar of the Daily Drams range.

 

Clynelish 14 yo 1995 (46%, Daily Dram 2010)

Nose: typical violet candy and waxy notes. Lemon juice. It shows a few youngish elements, with notes of marshmallow and pear drops. A bit of orange marmalade and tropical fruits. Flinty hints of chalk and limestone. Also some ginger lemonade. Not too complex but very expressive. Mouth: fat and oily attack, again very fruity and sweet. Yellow apples, grapefruit. Very much on fruit candy now. Lemon balm. Almonds. On a second level, there are spicy notes (pepper, hints of curry maybe?), cashew nuts and hints of mocha. Paraffin in the aftertaste. Finish: half sweet, half spicy. Quite long.

A fine dram, that’s for sure. Highly drinkable as well. Around € 60.

Score: 87/100

 

ps/ As often these days, a higher strength version (53%) of the same cask is available from The Whisky Agency. These bottlers are sharing most of their casks lately, even though they don’t mention it.


This Macallan 12 Years old was distilled in the first half of the 1970’s and sold exclusively at the Hong Kong airport. That’s why the label mentions HKDNP (Hong Kong Duty Not Paid).


Macallan 12 years HKDNP Macallan 12 yo ‘HKDNP’ (43%, OB 1980’s, 1 litre)

Nose: not as fresh as I had hoped. There are big notes of mothballs (naphtalene) that are very hard to get over. Musty and stale with traces of mushrooms and sulphur. Let’s wait for another half hour and try again…

Nose: better now, but really old-style (probably still coal-fired?). Notes of red fruits, some raisins. A little tar and ashes. Coffee. Overall quite fat. Slightly disappointing
(I had heard a lot about this Macallan) but interesting as an antiquity. Mouth: much better. Very creamy with hints of leather and nice fruits with crystallized oranges and prunes. Sherried but not too much. Sultanas. Cinnamon. A little praline. Kind of an artificial sugary aftertaste. A smoky / ashy hint as well. Finish: medium length, on cherry candy and orange marmalade.

The nose was a bit difficult to appreciate but the palate is very balanced and truly classic, which for the most part made up for the lower score of the nose. I’m glad I tasted it (Marc Segers had a bottle on offer during the latest whisky festival in Ghent).

Score: 85/100


This Hakushu 1981/2003 was the first cask of Hakushu ever to be bottled by the Scotch Malt Whisky Society. It was matured in a Japanese oak cask.

 

Hakushu 1981/2003 SMWS 210.1 Hakushu 21 yo 1981 (60,7%, Scotch Malt Whisky Society 2003, SMWS 120.1, 373 btl.)

Nose: where do I start… the nutmeg maybe, which is quite big. A lot of sawdust as well, and cigar boxes. Roasted nuts and coffee beans. Quite a toasted profile overall. Damp moss and ferns. A bit of caramel. After a while, there are hints of fruits and ginger. Very unique but not for beginners. Mouth: very woody. Very powerful of course, and a tad alcoholic. Let’s add water right away. Still very oaky with added notes of mint. Roasted almonds? A hint of burnt vanilla. Coriander. Getting spicy with pepper and ginger. A bit extreme. Finish: spicy and oaky.

You’ll love this one or simply hate it because of the heavy oak and the toasted / burnt notes. I like it, but it’s not an everyday dram. Anyway, very uncommon and ‘intellectual’. Around € 250 but I’m afraid you won’t find this one any more.

Score: 86/100

ps/ I’m suffering from a cold which makes it impossible to taste new whisky.
I’ll publish a few older notes but I’m going to take it easy for a few days.


This Linkwood 1989 was matured for over 20 years in an ex-bourbon cask. It was bottled by Malts of Scotland in January 2010.

 

Linkwood 1989 - Malts of Scotland Linkwood 20 yo 1989 (53,5%, Malts of Scotland 2010, cask 1826, 263 btl.)

Nose: quite sharp and alcoholic at first. Rather neutral flavours to be honest (malt, cereals, freshly sawn wood). Hints of rosewater (quite typical for Linkwood – more noticeable with a few drops of water). Some vanilla. Apples. Mouth: more or less the same remarks. Strong but not very complex. Pepper. Green apples. Citrus tea. After a while, it gets tannic and really gingery. Grains. Hints of tonic with a slice of lemon. Quite dry. Water doesn’t help to improve, it even becomes slightly perfumy. Finish: long, spicy. The bitter tonic is quite dominant.

This Linkwood is not my favourite bottling among the new releases by Malts of Scotland. Not bad, but overshadowed by the other new bottles on offer. The overall quality of this bottler is still very high. Around € 90.

Score: 80/100


GlenDronach Grandeur Today the recently re-launched distillery GlenDronach announced a new thirty-one year-old expression selected personally by Mr Billy Walker: GlenDronach Grandeur.

It’s a selection of some of the oldest oloroso casks at GlenDronach. The expression is bottled at 45,8% (cask strength).

The official tasting notes of GlenDronach Grandeur mention “fruits, nuts, berries, coffee and subtle sweet sherry notes with date pudding aromas”.

There are 1013 bottles. No indication of the price…


I’m not a big fan of young Springbank, but the fact that Springbank 10 Years old picked up an award at the recent World Whisky Awards 2010 made me want to review it in depth. I’ll do a direct comparison between the 2008 batch and the restyled 2009 batch.

 

Springbank 10 years old Springbank 10 yo
(46%, OB 2009, batch 09/434)

Nose: a classic Springbank profile with a wide range of aromas. Starts on tangerine, with added notes of lemon peel, green apples and pears. Dry oak. Maritime notes with a bit of ‘wet dog’. Hints of sharp, earthy peat as well. After a while, the fruitiness becomes bigger and rounder. Mouth: very oily and extremely coating. Very peaty as well, much more peat than I expected. Rather spicy, with mostly pepper and nutmeg coming out. Roasted nuts in the background. A faint hint of sour notes (vinegar?) in the aftertaste. Becomes a bit perfumed with water, so I recommend it straight. Finish: long, peaty and briney.

This is a surprisingly complex dram. A very consistent opener of the range! Around € 35.

Score: 86/100

 

Springbank 10Springbank 10 yo
(46%, OB 2008, batch 08/82, 35cl)

Nose: this version clearly shares the same basic elements, but the end result is less appealing. Still some tangerine, but it misses the sparkling freshness. Lots of strawberries with cream, quite spectacular. A bit more wine influence I would say, with dried fruits and even a few dirty traces. Hints of sesame oil (I don’t think I’ve ever noticed this in a whisky before but it’s clearly there). Mouth: maybe a tad less fat and a tad less peaty. More spices though. Less different than on the nose, but still it misses the balance of the 2009 version. Hints of heather honey that I didn’t find in the newer version. Finish: medium length, less briney and more malty. Very dry.

This Springbank 10yo is less complex and a bit rougher. Let’s be glad the current version is definitely the better choice.

Score: 82/100

 

Afterwards, I found out it won in the category “Best Campbeltown under 12 years” which probably limits the number of contenders to.. two? three maybe? Never take whisky competitions too seriously!


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Coming up

  • Benriach 1991 (MoS for QV.ID)
  • Craigellachie 17 Year Old
  • Glen Scotia 1992 (The Whiskyman)
  • Lagavulin 12yo (2014 release)
  • Balblair 2000 single casks
  • Ardmore Legacy
  • Cardhu 18 Year Old
  • Clynelish 21yo 1992 (Cadenhead)
  • Ledaig 2005 (Maltbarn)
  • Aberlour 8yo (cube, small cork)

1639 notes by Ruben

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