Single malt whisky - tasting notes

This Allt-a-Bhainne (pronounced ‘Olt-er-Vane’) is from Murray McDavid, the independent bottler related to Bruichladdich. After the normal maturation in American oak, it was ACE’d in new French oak casks.

Allt-a-Bhainne was founded in 1975 under the Chivas Brothers flag and mothballed in 2002 with production re-starting in 2005.

Allt-a-Bhainne 1996 Murray McDavid Allt-a-Bhainne 12 yo 1996
(46%, Murray McDavid 2008, 1500 btl.)

Nose: a very cereal kind of nose. Notes of malt and bread. Biscuits. A few musty elements. With some hand warmth, brighter and slightly tropical fruity notes step forward, but they seem to disappear really soon. A bit disappointing, not much happening here besides the malty core. Mouth: again full of cereal notes. Now clearly fruity: pear, apple, kiwi… but a little flat as well and the same kind of dustiness. Moreover it’s too focused on the spicy flavours from the new oak. Finish: rather short, with a simple sugar cane sweetness.

Not exactly bad, but there are plenty of other 12yo drams to choose from, so don’t bother.
Available for € 40.

Score: 68/100

Glenrothes bottlings by Duncan Taylor from 1968/1969/1970 casks have proven to be solid choices. This Glenrothes 1970 is closely related to the one bottled for The Nectar (cask #10567) last year.


Glenrothes 1970 DTRA 10574 Glenrothes 35 yo 1970 (43,5%, Duncan Taylor Rare Auld 2006, cask #10574, 162 btl.)

Nose: instant fruitiness, with banana, apricot, passion fruits and pineapple. Plenty of youth here. Some green notes (mint, herbs) and spices (cinnamon, vanilla). A little honey. Mouth: gentle attack but not too soft. I get some almonds and fruits, together with oak and spices. Pine resin. Faint hints of sweet gingerbread. Banana. Powdered sugar and a hint of cocoa. Less superb than on the nose, and a tad less complex than sister casks. Finish: long, with apricot marmalade and sweet lemonade.

These old Glenrothes are really recommended, although they are slowly reaching their limits. Keeping them in the cask much longer will cause some of them to drop below the minimum strength (like the Glenrothes 1969 in the Lonach series) or become too woody. Around € 125 at the time. Now difficult to find, but keep your eyes open for similar releases.

Score: 90/100

Port Ellen PE1 was talk of the town in 2009. It was highly sought after with exceptional prices in auctions. Its successor, Port Ellen PE2, was sold out in just around 24 hours, but the hype seemed a bit smaller afterwards.

With Port Ellen PE3 knocking on the door, it’s time to review PE2.


Port Ellen PE2 Port Ellen Pe2
(59,5%, Elements of Islay 2010, 50 cl.)

Nose: starts on very dark chocolate and gunpowder. Notes of burnt wood that seem less strong in PE1. There’s a sherried sweetness in the background, but it’s not extremely fruity (no apples or raspberry like in PE1). Instead there’s an organic / slightly dirty / damp side to it that I find a bit difficult to appreciate. Aged meat. A rather dominant smell of a tyre shop. Some tobacco and liquorice. Quite “dark” overall – PE1 seems fresher and more vibrant. Water highlights the sulphury matchsticks and mustiness. Mouth: intense with coal smoke, soot and tar. The peat is nicely countered by cocoa sweetness and spices but again the fruitiness is buried deep inside. Chili and ginger. Grows drier and spicier over time, with added notes of liquorice. Water doesn’t add much, it just gets less powerful. Finish: medium length, rather sweet with hints of pepper and savoury meat sauce.

Sometimes it’s a fine line… when tasting PE2 on its own, it seemed very similar to PE1, although I couldn’t put my finger on the differences. After a direct comparison, it’s clear that the successor is sweeter yet less fruity, with a slightly bigger focus on sulphury notes and rubber. Around € 140 at the time, now sold out (unless you want to pay much more).

Score: 89/100


Port Ellen PE3


Port Ellen PE3
(54%, Elements of Islay 2010, 50 cl.)

The third heir in the PE family – PE3 –  has been announced. Judging by the colour, it will not be a sherry cask this time. It’s safe to expect a completely different profile.

It will be bottled at 54% and sold for € 215,
a significant step up from the previous editions
(i.e. € 300 for 70cl – probably not far from the official Port Ellen 10th release). Keep an eye on the TWE or LMdW websites if you want to get this.

Discovering Scotland's DistilleriesDiscovering Scotland’s Distilleries is a book wirtten by Gavin D. Smith with pictures by Graeme Wallace.

It’s a handy guide and probably the first true tourist’s companion focusing on distilleries. It’s well-written with concise information about the distilleries, with a big focus on their visitor facilities: a short description of what they provide, different tours, written guides, contact information, timetables, admission fees etc. The small space for the date of visit and the signature of the distillery manager is a nice idea!

The first 70 pages are about whisky trails, major cities and transportation between different regions.

Apart from the short distillery histories or the descriptions of the house styles, it’s not a book you’d want to read at bedtime. It’s really a guide with practical info for those planning a tour of Scotland. Therefore it relies on up-to-date information and will often need a revision (with the year of publishing on the cover maybe?).

A must-have when you’re going on a distillery trip.

Discovering Scotland’s Distilleries
GW Publishing 2010
ISBN 978-0-9561211-5-8

£ 9,99 / around € 12

This is post n°500. No need to thank me, thank YOU for visiting this blog so often. Most people suggested to celebrate with the Laphroaig 1964 / 1981, so here it is…

Remember that it’s only 16 or 17 years old, it spent much more time in the bottle than in the cask. It has a unique yellow-brown colour – almost none of the red hues that we find in other sherry casks.


Laphroaig 1964 / 1981 BBR Laphroaig 1964
(43%, Berry Bros & Rudd 1981, 75 cl)

Nose: okay, let’s take it step by step. First step: quiet, almost velvety sherry. I wouldn’t say this was an Islay whisky. Step two: it IS an Islay whisky. There’s deep tobacco, some smoke, cold ashes and precious types of wood (cedar). Step three is where it all comes together with beautiful fruits, prunes, dates, berries… Lovely mocha. Old leather, a bit of musk. Toasted bread. Subtle oak polish. Something minty and metallic. Also, the coastal elements are superb. It’s very complex and perfectly smooth. I’m especially fond of the tobacco / fruit mix. Mouth: very gentle and round, with some dates and sweet marmalade. Still a surprising amount of earthy smoke, although it turns out a bit weak and watered down. It keeps growing smokier with plain soot before turning slightly metallic and more briney, with liquorice and ashes and a cocoa edge. Finish: medium length, dry and faintly herbal / bitter. Still very ashy.

Impressive how there are so many flavours in a wonderful balance. I guess the 30 years in glass had some effect, but it’s still an excellent showcase of the qualities of old-style sherry matured Laphroaig.

Score: 95/100

Thank you for the opportunity, Régis!

Old Rarity

14 Oct 2010 | * Blends

Old Rarity is a blend made by Bulloch Lade & Co., a Glasgow company which also owned Caol Ila from 1863 to 1920 when it went into liquidation. I don’t have much information but it’s probably a safe guess that this blend holds some Caol Ila? I’ve never tried any pre-war Caol Ila and we’ll probably never know.


Old Rarity - Bulloch Lade Old Rarity (86.8 proof, Bulloch Lade & Co. ca. 1940, 4/5 quart)

Nose: very buttery with hints of coal smoke and peat (don’t expect modern Coal Ila peat though). Quite some beefy notes, raisins and not-so-clean hints of organics and distant sulphur. Don’t let this put you off, the roughness really works well here. It’s clear that this is old-fashioned, manually crafted spirit. A few fruity notes shine through (peaches). Mouth: starts rather weak. Sherried notes. Some nuts. A lot of caramel. Metallic notes (OBE?). Again faint hints of peat and smoke. Finish: dark sugar and kind of a funny salt & pepper edge.

On the nose this Old Rarity blend has a lovely dirtiness mixed with sherry notes. On the palate it is slightly weak (compared to modern standards) and a little high on caramel. A true rarity but certainly worth looking out for. Thanks a lot Dirk!

Score: 84/100

ps/ Don’t forget the Lindores Whisky Fest in Oostende, where this kind of old whisky can be found. It’s less than two weeks from now!

Whisky Bible 2011

12 Oct 2010 | * News

Whisky Bible - Jim MurrayYes, I still buy it. But I can’t help being stunned sometimes. Take this review of the Littlemill 1990 bottled by Malts of Scotland (cask #915).

N23 […] adorably curious […] T23 […] too good to be true […] F22.5 […] B22.5 Sukinda Singh has somehow bagged himself an eminently drinkable Littlemill. As if to prove, against the odds, that such a thing exists. He sometimes amazes me, that bloke. How does he do it…?

Well… Malts of Scotland is a German bottler. Single Malts of Scotland on the other hand (owned by Sukhinder Singh) is a series by The Whisky Exchange in the UK. Sukhinder sometimes amazes me as well, but not with this Littlemill! Jim’s obviously not tasting blind (or at least writing part of his notes after having seen the bottler’s name), how can such an error make it into the printed version?

As a side note, all of the entries of Malts of Scotland bottlings mention “192 bottles” or “96 bottles”. I suppose he was sent miniatures because MoS always fills 192x 5cl bottles (or 96x) apart from the actual run of full bottles. I can imagine people asking themselves why the 70cl bottle in their store has different numbers on the label.

Now I’m checking out the Lochside 1981 by The Whisky Agency. According to the Bible, there were two releases (54% and 55.5%, both sherry, no further information like bottling date, series, number of bottles…). Has anyone heard of this 55.5% version? I think there’s only one Lochside, but they get two different scores.

Update: Carsten Ehrlich from TWA was so kind to clarify. The 55.5% version is this one bottled for While this cask was provided by TWA, I guess it would be hard for customers to recognize it based on the Bible’s description. Also, the 54% version (Insects series) is ex-bourbon wood. Thanks Carsten!

I appreciate Jim’s work and I must say I agree with a lot of scores this year (well… maybe not the award winners). But the basic information should be pristine in an encyclopaedic work.

The Japanese Hanyu distillery is no longer operational. In the 1980’s they had some financial problems and the distillery was closed in 2000. Ichiro Akuto, the grandson of the distillery founder, bought 400 casks of Hanyu Hanyu Big Butt - Full Proofwhisky that are now being sold, most of them in the Ichiro’s Malts series in which every bottle is named after a playing card (Three of Diamonds, Ace of Spades…). Akuto also started a new distillery: Chichibu.

This sherry butt was bottled by No.1 Drinks in their Noh series – in two parts. A smaller part (200 bottles) had already been bottled for Full Proof Europe in Holland featuring… well… another type of butt on the label. Sister casks #9305 and #9307 have also been bottled for Full Proof.



Hanyu 1988 Noh 9306 Hanyu 21 yo 1988 (55,6%, No.1 Drinks 2009, sherry butt #9306, 625 btl.)

Nose: spicy notes to start with: Christmas cake, a bit of menthol and other medicinal things, a bit of incense. Deep fruity notes as well: cherries, plums, raisins. Hints of smoked meat (cecina). Also a few whiffs of matchsticks but much less than comparable Karuizawa bottlings for example. Some resinous notes and roasted almonds as well. Quite complex. Mouth: intense with typical dried fruits, sultanas and lots of tobacco. Black cherries. Cinnamon and ginger. Liquorice. Certainly woody, but not too dry. A little chilli pepper. Finish: long and peppery with a dry herbal touch.

An impressive Hanyu, showing a large range of intense flavours while at the same time remaining very drinkable. Around € 160.

Score: 90/100



August 2015
« Jul    

Coming up

  • Glenglassaugh 1972 (Carn Mor)
  • Danica whisky (Braunstein)
  • Laphroaig Lp6 (Elements of Islay)
  • Bruichladdich 1964 (G&M #3676-3677)
  • Scallywag Cask Strength
  • Woodford Reserve Master's Collection
  • Highland Park 1990 (Master of Malt)
  • Springbank 2001 vintage

1840 notes by Ruben

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