Single malt whisky - tasting notes

As you know, BenRiach is a Speyside distillery with a tradition of making peated batches as well. The Whisky Exchange bottled quite a few BenRiach from the 1980’s in their Single Malts of Scotland range, and most of them were really worthwhile.

This BenRiach 1984 won a silver award at the 2008 Malt Maniacs Awards.

 

BenRiach 1984/2008 SMOS BenRiach 23 yo 1984 (54,2%, SMoS 2008, cask #194, 214 btl.)

Nose: clearly a peated version, even though it’s not at all monstrous. Nice dark ashes. Smoked ham. Surprisingly coastal for a BenRiach, with tarry ropes and whiffs of sea air. Nonetheless it’s beautifully balanced with marmalade and honey which makes this one very attractive. Hints of diesel oil. Waves of citrus. Very entertaining. Mouth: very thick and powerful. Much more peated. Really dark, almost like burnt whisky. Lots of pepper (red chilli even) but again there’s a sweet coating. Finish: a bit drier, with coal and diesel oil. Hints of liquorice.

A high quality peated Speysider, very muscular. I really loved the nose, too bad I find the peat a tad overpowering on the palate. Sold out (around € 75 at the time so great value for money).

Score: 87/100


Glenrothes 1994

15 Feb 2010 | Glenrothes

The Glenrothes 1994 vintage has been around since 2006, at least in Europe. In the States, it was introduced at the beginning of this year and it will hit the shelves any moment now. I guess the US version is still the same batch because the label says “distilled Oct 94 – approved Apr 06”.

The 1994 vintage was composed as a lighter, stimulating and uplifting expression of The Glenrothes.

 

Glenrothes 1994 Glenrothes 1994 (43%, OB 2008)

Nose: the first few seconds are filled with buttery toffee which is typical for The Glenrothes. After that, a wave of zesty lemon shows up and make it a lot fresher. Its spring-character shows juicy pears and orange fruit gums with a touch of vanilla. Very citric. Lemon pie. Slightly flowery with hints of Cif (the cleaning cream). None of the spices that we see in older Glenrothes bottlings. Mouth: rather weak and watery. Quite malty with a fruity layer of fresh plums. Hints of hazelnuts in the aftertaste. Finish: not very long and quite soft. Pears. Light ginger and nuts.

On the nose, this is the closest to a Lowlander that The Glenrothes will probably ever get (although the trademark toffee is still there). Great to see such a variation on the distillery profile. Probably very teasing as a summer dram, although I prefer the spicier profile. A higher alcohol volume could make it more punchy as well. Around € 55.

Score: 82/100


After the standard Penderyn Madeira, let’s compare it to a sherried version. It was finished in dry oloroso sherry casks.

 

Penderyn Sherrywood Penderyn Sherrywood
(46%, OB 2008, June 08 sample)

Nose: interestingly different. All sorts of fruits, from fresh mirabelle / damson and oranges to dried prunes. There’s also an artificial fruitiness to it, but it’s nicely integrated. Some green apples. Hints of freshly cut herbs and peppermint. Also a distinct butter-nuttiness (almond butter, praline, hazelnut). Pleasant. Mouth: sweet attack (banana and quite a lot of Spanish ‘membrillo’), but not very powerful. Slightly Irish in that respect. The oloroso sherry is not really noticeable as such. Quickly growing spicier (ginger, nutmeg, a little pepper). Finish: rather short on damp wood, powder sugar and honey.

Much more balanced than the standard version. Sweet and soft. Still youngish but the sherry helps to mask its age and adds depth. It would be difficult to compare this to Scotch whisky, because Penderyn has a profile of its own. Let’s see how this evolves in the following years. Around € 50.

Score: 80/100


Penderyn was founded in 1998 by four private individuals. It’s the one and only Welsh distillery and quite different from Scottish or Irish whisk(e)y because the complete process from wash to new make is done in a single still. Also, they buy their wash from a regional beer brewer instead of preparing it themselves.

At the moment there are three core expressions. This standard Penderyn is matured in bourbon barrels and finished in madeira casks. There’s also a sherried and a peated version, together with a few limited editions such as a “rich madeira” bottling.

 

Penderyn whiskyPenderyn ‘Madeira finished’ (46%, OB 2008)

Nose: fruity and mildly perfumed. Big notes of white wine and oak. Some juicy vanilla as well. Slight apple and peach. Not bad. Stranger, dusty notes as well, mixed with hints of new-make (artificial banana). Let’s say it’s different. Mouth: malty with a few young bourbon notes: pine wood, sweet vanilla. Blood oranges. Also lokum (turkish delight) with rose water. Hints of bubble gum that are not really integrated. Gets spicier towards the finish. Finish: honeyed and sweet. Creamy toffee.

Well, I think this Penderyn would have been a lot worse without the Madeira finish, because underneath is basically immature whisky (probably around 4 or 5 years). With the wine, it’s more interesting but really focused on sweet notes and a bit mono-dimensional. Young whisky is already fruity-sweet and a Madeira cask exaggerates this. I’m sure a sherried version (reviewed tomorrow) will offer more flavour variation. Around € 40.

Score: 72/100

 

Please note that there seems to be a significant batch variation in Penderyn releases. Even though the bottles look identical (apart from a bottling code), Jim Murray scores the April 2007 batch 76/100 and the June 2007 batch 95/100 with everything in between. Maybe I had one of the lesser batches (my 5cl sample didn’t mention a batch code).


Macduff is one of five Dewar / Bacardi distilleries and the one that sells most single malts (even though it’s still less than 10% of total production). It’s popular in France and Italy and also known under the name of Glen Deveron. This 25 years old expression is bottled and distributed by Luc Timmermans’ Thosop company.


Macduff 1984/2009 Thosop Macduff 25 yo 1984 (54,9%, Thosop 2009, Bourbon cask, 120 btl.)

Nose: malty and fresh. Quite some clean oak (hints of paper and almonds as well). Tonic with a dash of lemon. Nice mix of fruity and drier notes. A very good swimmer – water brings out flowers, apricot marmalade and vanilla cupcakes. The longer you let it breathe, the more fruity it gets (pears). Mouth: fruity with some herbal notes and hints of camomile tea. Some pepper in the back. Add a little vanilla and tiny hints of sweet lemons and oranges. With water: more wood and a little milk chocolate. Some liquorice as well. Finish: pleasantly warm and quite long. Spicy, still reminds me of herbal tea.

Take your time and enjoy. There’s a lot in this Macduff 1984 that you won’t pick up in a first of second impression. A challenging dram with different layers. Remember to add water as well. Around € 70.

Score: 86/100


You may recognize the name of this bottling, which is very similar to the Kornog Taouarc’h Kentan reviewed before. It’s the 2009 release of the peated Glann ar Mor whisky (30-35 ppm) – the French Ardbeg so to speak.

This second release comes from two ex-bourbon barrels and one Sauternes cask and is brought down to 46%. It’s again very limited and virtually impossible to find.

 

Glann ar Mor Kornog Eilvet 2009 Glann ar Mor ‘Kornog Taouarc’h Eilvet’ (46%, OB 2009, second release)

Nose: not as fresh as the previous release. The citrus is almost gone and replaced by hints of very ripe (rotten?) fruits. After a few moments this fades out and the whole evolves back to the profile of the previous version. Light smoke. Less bubblegummy but also less of the marvellous vanilla cake of its older brother. More grassy, slightly more maritime and bigger medicinal notes. Overall less complex and a tad less appealing. Mouth: basically the same remarks. The fruitiness is not as fresh and the lower strength seems to take away some of the complexity as well. First a creamy wave of peat, then sweeter notes (pears, peaches), then back to fat peat and hints of tar. Nice coffee in the end. Finish: medium length with hints of moccha and spices.

For me, this Kornog Taouarc’h Eilvet is a small step back from the first release. I guess this is due to the Sauternes influence which I usually like (as a finish) but doesn’t seem to work that well here (as a vatting). There’s a noticeable increase in maturity but also a decrease in complexity (even after the previous release was brought to the same strength).

Score: 80/100


This was the festival bottling in Gent, a peated Connemara 1999 from the Irish Cooley distillery. Contrary to what is mentioned on the festival website, it was distilled in 1999, the alcohol volume is 60,3% and the bourbon cask produced 222 bottles. By the end of the festival, only a handful were left.

 

Connemara 1999 - Whisky Festival Gent Connemara 10 yo 1999 (60,3%, OB 2010, Whisky Festival Gent, 222 btl.)

Nose: I really like this Irish type of peat. It’s sooty but not in-your-face and mixed with lots of sweet notes, like sugared almonds and pear candy. A faint farmy edge as well (wet hay, sheep). If you add a drop of water, some crême brulée with vanilla shines through. The more water you add, the more flowery and candied it gets. Mouth: too hot at cask strength. With water: very sweet with sugared corn flakes and chocolate. Peppery, drying oak. A lot of peat. Liquorice towards the finish. Finish: long and drier. Hints of burnt grass with some vanilla and spicy sweet coffee.

This Connemara 1999 is a sweet hottie, with a peppery kind of peat. Lovely on the nose and a tad sharper in the mouth. Overall very enjoyable. Around € 50.

Score: 85/100


I’ve just returned from the whisky festival in Gent. While it’s still a major festival in our (small) country, I can’t help but feeling a bit disappointed for two reasons.

First, because the festival in Gent was held at the same time as Whisky Live in Spa. If festivals want to compete over such a small country, they have to realize that eventually both will lose. Some interesting distributors chose to go to only one festival (e.g. Malts of Scotland was present in Spa, not in Gent). Other distributors didn’t even go to either of the two this year!
The Nectar, one of Belgium’s most interesting distributors and independent bottlers, was not present. Neither were the brands they represent, such as Arran, Karuizawa, Springbank, Duncan Taylor or GlenDronach. There were no Moët Hennesey brands either (Ardbeg & Glenmorangie). Where will this end?

Second, because the organisation decided not to give 5 complimentary coupons with each entry ticket but instead have one free bottle available at every stand. Of course, these were only entry level malts (Macallan 12yo, Glenrothes Select Reserve, etc.) which just made the festival more expensive for whisky lovers who already know the standard stuff. This also meant I couldn’t use the coupons of my girlfriend (who drinks water) – how about a “driver’s ticket”? Overall I had the feeling more cash was needed to buy less quality whisky this year.

As a side note, there seemed to be less new bottlings than other years. Anyway, let’s summarize the things we’ve tasted… (no real tasting notes, because the environment is just not right for it).

 

Old Ballantruan (50%, OB 2009)

The peated version of Tomintoul. Very malty, quite floral and gently peated. Not sure who this is aimed at… fans of Speyside whisky will probably not like the peat but there’s not enough peat to entertain peatheads. Around € 30.

 

BenRiach 18yo Moscatel Tullibardine 1993 Sauternes finish (46%, OB 2009)

Sweet nose with hints of apricots. On the palate very coating and candied with lots of honey. Most of the Sauternes shines through in the finish. Not bad, but we already knew Sauternes can work very well. Around € 45.

 

BenRiach 18 yo Moscatel finish (46%, OB 2009)

Another sweet wine finish, maybe even more succesful than the Tullibardine.  Fruity, sweet. Very round and candied. A perfect match for the toast with haggis that was served at the festival. Around € 60.

 

Yamazaki Sherry cask Yamazaki Sherry cask (48%, OB 2009)

From first fill sherry butts only, said to be 12-15 years old. Very punchy with raisins, cocoa and slightly sourish red fruits (raspberry). Big whisky and the first glass I actually emptied. Around € 70.

 

Connemara Sherry finish (46%, OB 2009)

A limited Small Batch bottling. Sweet notes of dried fruits, balanced with smoke and a light farminess. Rich and promising. A detailed review of this one will follow. Around € 55.

 

Banff 1976 Connoisseurs Choice Benromach Organic ‘Special Edition’ (46%, OB 2009)

Bio whisky. Quite simple with huge hints of breakfast cereals and muesli. Quite a lot of wood as well. Rather mono-dimensional. Not my kinda whisky. Around € 45.

 

Banff 32 yo 1976 (40%, Gordon & MacPhail Conoisseurs Choice 2008)

A good Banff with different flavours: flinty notes, fruity notes, toffee, burnt wood… Quite rounded overall. Around € 100. Recommended.

 

Glen Grant 1985 - First Cask - WIN Highland Park 16 yo Calvados ‘Drouin’ finish (46%, Alchemist 2008)

Finished for 2 years in a calvados cask. Honeyed with hints of baked apples. Not much smoke. Uncommon for a Highland Park.

 

Glen Grant 23 yo 1985 (55,8%, First cask – Whisky Import Netherlands 2009, cask #10182, 187 btl.)

Glen Grant the way we like it: very balanced, very fruity with the right amount of spices. Fruit marmalade galore. Around € 130. Highly recommended.

 

Greenore 8 years whiskey Bunnahabhain Toiteach (46%, OB 2007)

A young profile, quite some peat and smoke but very simple. Hints of pears? A bit uninspired. Around € 40.

 

Greenore 8 yo (40%, OB 2009)

Single grain Irish whiskey. Sweet with vanilla and banana. Uncomplicated, light and elegant. A summer’s day whiskey? Around € 30.

 

 

 

I also bought a sample of the legendary Bunnahabhain 1968 Auld Acquaintance and a Macallan 12 Years old HKDNP, a Hong Kong exclusive distilled in the 1970’s. These two will be reviewed in depth. Thanks to Marc Segers for making available his impressive collection of oldies.


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  • Tudval: Just because canadian whisky 'can' have other stuff in it, doesn't mean it does. Regulation is not the be all and end all. Certainly these days there
  • Gal(WhiskyIsrael): Just tasted this one. WOW. i am very very impressed Ruben. Amazing BFYB for 40 euro. this feels much older and so complex. WOW again. dang!
  • bakerman: I will look for the cheaper unpeated Caol Ila as I am interested to compare it with the younger versions released earlier (8 and 12 years). I will als

Coming up

  • GlenDronach 1990 (PX cask #2970)
  • Highland Journey
  • GlenDronach 1993 Oloroso cask #494
  • Glen Elgin 1985 (Maltbarn)
  • Fettercairn Fior
  • Cardhu 18 Year Old
  • Ben Nevis 2002 (Port cask #334)
  • Tomatin Cuatro series

1614 notes by Ruben

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