Single malt whisky - tasting notes

Glen Elgin is considered to be top class whisky by blenders and is part of the White Horse blend. Together with Linkwood, Glenlossie and Mannochmore it forms the Elgin group. The distillery is relatively active and released an official 12 Years old, a 16 Years old and a few limited editions. There’s also a Glen Elgin 1998 in Diageo’s recent Managers Choice range.

 

Glen Elgin 1975 Berry Bros Glen Elgin 31 yo 1975 (46%, Berry Bros. & Rudd 2007, cask #5167 & 5170)

Nose: elegant and fruity. Lots of sweet honey and juicy melon with mellow spices (mostly cinnamon). A bit of dusty, warm oak – works really well. Hints of tangerine, beeswax and pollen. The lightest whiff of smoke. Heather. A real treat with a lot of depth. Mouth: notes of roasted grains. Quite some fruits again, but dried, candied fruits and sultanas this time. Kiwi. Hints of liquorice and vanilla. Gets surprisingly smokey with woody undertones and spices. Slightly tannic and salty. Finish: long and pretty complex. Oily, fruity and drying. Almonds and hints of leather.

This is an unusual Speysider (elegantly fruity but with hints of smoke), very dynamic despite the age. Obviously from two great casks. I’ve bought the last bottle I could find so good luck if you want one (try LMdW if you’re in France). Around € 125.

Score: 90/100


Although Cardhu is one of the most popular brands in France and Spain, there’s not much interest from connoisseurs. Part of this is due to the controversy about the ‘pure malt’ name on Cardhu bottles around 8 years ago. Cardhu was mixed with whisky from other distilleries to meet the high demand. Most single malt fans saw this as an effort to mislead whisky drinkers and sell a vatted malt as a single malt.

Anyway, the slightly compromised fame didn’t keep LT from selecting this bottle at his birthday tasting. This Cardhu 12 Years old was bottled for the Italian market before 1974.

 

Cardhu 12yo Wax Vitale Cardhu 12 yo (43%, OB 1970’s, Wax & Vitale, white rounded label, cork stop)

Nose: very smooth and gentle. The malty centre is mixed with some caramel sweetness, a touch of honey, apricots and quite some citrus. A few floral elements. Hints of paint thinner (I personally love that). Marzipan. Very nice. Mouth: oily / waxy texture. Again rather malty with lots of sweet grains and hints of roasted nuts. Very light smoke. A bit of toffee. Grapefruit. Almonds. Not extremely complex but very pleasant.  Finish: first sweet, then drying with hints of peat.

A very good Cardhu which shows that old standard bottlings tend to be a lot better than current ones. Occasionally it shows up at auctions – prices vary from € 100 to 150.

Score: 87/100


Aultmore was founded in 1897 by Alexander Edward who also owned Benrinnes and Oban. It is now part of the Bacardi empire and most of the output is used for the Dewar’s blends. The Aultmore 12 years old is currently the only official bottling.

Bristol Brandy was an independent bottler with a few legendary releases at the beginning of the 1990’s. This Aultmore 1976 is one of them.

Aultmore 15 yo 1976 (43%, OB 1992 for Bristol Brandy Company Ltd)

Nose: hmm great sherry nose. Very much on tobacco and cigar boxes. Milk chocolate and coffee. Hints of oak polish and leather. A bit of library dust. Dried fruits of course, mostly apricots and figs. Elegant and not too overpowering, which is an advantage but also a disadvantage because it’s not very punchy. Mouth: sourish attack, soon overtaken by an avalanche of spices and wood resin. Very woody and rather tannic. Bitter oranges. Pine trees. Again not very big nor very complex. The flavours struggle to fight the wood. Finish: spicy (cloves, pepper) with hints of chocolate.

Lovely sherry influence on the nose, but the woody palate more or less spoils the overall experience. I expected more of this.

Score: 83/100


In 2000, the owners of Springbank distillery bought their closed neighbour, Glengyle distillery. It was refurbished and production restarted in 2004 under a new name: Kilkerran (to avoid confusion with a brand of blended Highlands whisky called Glengyle).

This ‘Work in progress’ bottling gives us an insight of their new whisky style after 4 to 5 years of maturation.

 

KilkerranKilkerran ‘Work in progress’
(46%, OB 2009)

Nose: flinty and green. Dried grass, wet limestone, green lemon and apples. Clean hints of grains. Modern austerity which is perhaps more inspired by the Highlands style than by Campbeltown. Gets more aromatic after a while. Mouth: quite thick and creamy. Waxy notes, almonds. Lots of grains. Again quite some ‘green’ notes (grass, unripe fruit) and bitter notes (tonic, ginger). I miss a soft, sweeter side to counterbalance, to me it seems quite harsh and zesty. Finish: grassy with more smoke. The gingery bitterness is still there.

Not bad at all for a young whisky, well made but not really my type of dram. Around € 45 but the limited yield of 12.000 bottles is probably gone by now.

Score: 82/100


Glenburgie (or Glenburgie-Glenlivet as stated on this bottle) was officially founded in 1829, but like many other distilleries it seems they were active before legalizing their production. The spirit was part of the Ballantine’s blend and the distillery also produced another malt called Glencraig using Lomond stills (an experimental type of still that it said to produce a heavier and oilier end product thanks to a thick column-like neck).

Glenburgie 5yo 1965Glenburgie was refurbished in 2004 and is still contributing to Ballantine’s. There is an official single malt bottling of Glenburgie 15 yo 1992 in the Chivas cask strength series. The bottle we’re reviewing here is a 5 year-old distilled in 1965.

 

Glenburgie 5 yo 1965 (43%, OB 1970, 75cl)

Nose: hints of orange juice. Slightly fragrant notes of coriander seeds and apricots. Develops on sweet yellow apple. Holds the middle between fruity, grassy and mineral notes. Not very complex or expressive but very nice for a 5 year-old, quite old-fashioned and perfectly enjoyable. Mouth: less sweet than I expected, even a bit weakish. Watery malt in the centre. Big hints of tea, a few woody notes and something vaguely metallic. A peaty / smoky hint in the background? Finish: long on fragrant apples with a hint of smoke.

Maybe not the most impressive old malt, but still nice as a standard malt from the 1960’s. Auction value around € 150.

Score: 84/100


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


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Coming up

  • Cardhu 18 Year Old
  • Benriach 1991 (MoS for QV.ID)
  • Blair Athol 1991 (Wemyss Malts)
  • Ledaig 2005 (Maltbarn)
  • Ardbeg 15yo 1973 (Sestante)
  • Aberlour 8yo (cube, small cork)
  • Balblair Millennium

1638 notes by Ruben

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