Single malt whisky - tasting notes

Tamnavulin is a young distillery built in the 1960’s as part of Invergordon Distillers. Currently White & Mackay are managing it. The distillery produces an impressive amount of malt whisky but most of it is used for blends. Single malt bottlings are quite rare.

This cask strength bottling is the third or fourth Tamnavulin release in the Master of Malt series.

 

Tamnavulin 16yo Master of Malt Tamnavulin 16 yo (55%, Master of Malt 2008)

Nose: malty start with grapey accents. Some pears. Becomes significantly more flowery and sweeter after breathing. Vanilla. There’s also a vegetal side to it, like raw cabbage. That may seem strange, but it’s very enjoyable. Mouth: punchy attack. Starts very sweet but grows maltier. Apples and pears. Nice oak. Hints of pineapple sweets and violets. Lemon squash. Some notes of lavender. Getting slightly spirity and even perfumy in the end, but nothing too bad. More or less the same with water. Finish: long, grainy and very sugary. Loads of honey with hints of oranges.

Interesting Tamnavulin. It shows a few uncommon flavours, although it’s not overly complex. Maybe not my style of dram, but still quite nice, certainly if you have a sweet tooth. Around € 70.

Score: 81/100


Arran distillery was opened in 1995 and named Scottish Distiller of the year 2007. As you know, it’s a difficult situation for start-up distilleries, as they need to come up with all sorts of releases while at the same time invest in storage of casks for mature versions. Currently, 12 years is about the oldest Arran you will find.

I’ve tasted a 40% version of this single cask Arran, but the release currently being sold by Master of Malt is cask strength (55%). I’m not sure both are from the same cask.

 

Arran 12 years - Master of Malt Arran 12 yo (40%, Master of Malt 2008)

Nose: there’s a great maritime wave up front, that I’ve never experienced with Arran (a light sea breeze). It even hints towards farmy notes (yummie) that you can find in some Connemara, while at the same time integrating superb fruity notes like kiwi and lychee. All sorts of overripe fruits really. Marshmallows. Hints of spices in the background. With water some waxy vanilla emerges. On the nose one the most interesting Arran I’ve had. Mouth: the marshmallows evolve into rosewater lokum (Turkish delight, the candy invented by confectioner Haci Bekir). These fragrant notes take over the whole profile, up to the point where I wonder if I’m drinking whisky or alcoholic rosewater. Very uncommon but really enjoyable, alhough you could argue the complexity is very low. With water some notes of sweet pears appear, with added hints of citrus and barley. Finish: not too long. Still quite fragrant, even slightly perfumy.

Funny how a malt with a complex nose can have such a mono-dimensional palate. Anyway, the nose is great and the taste has a truly unique character. Haci Bekir would have loved this! Around € 50.

Score: 86/100


British actor Stephen Fry (known from his Oscar Wilde performance and The Discovery of Heaven, among others) likes whisky and his favourite dram is this 19 years old Tomatin bottled by Master of Malt. He says “This is one of the most magnificent yet approachable malts I’ve ever had the delight of sampling.” That may seem like marketing blah blah, so let’s figure out why he likes it so much.

This Tomatin was bottled at cask strength, but there’s also a version at 40%.

 

Tomatin 19yo 1989 Master of Malt Tomatin 19 yo 1989 (57,6%, Master of Malt 2008)

Nose: very nice indeed. An entertaining battle between citrus (lots of oranges) and fresh oak. It seems like it has been aged in a very active cask, because it reminds me of Glenmorangie / BenRiach in virgin oak casks. On one hand, the spices (cinnamon) give it a lot of depth with a prickly edge, but on the other hand some flowery notes and soft vanilla give it a soothing feminine side. Water brings forward some tropical notes (mango? coconut?). Really good. Mouth: again very punchy. No shortage of oak, but enough fruity notes as well (pears, slightly bittersweet grapefruit). Hints of spices (ginger). Citrus. Towards the end it gets a herbal edge. Water emphasises the wood (maybe a tad too much?) and the herbal notes. Finish: long, on liquorice and nutmeg.

Fry is right, this Tomatin is a solid Master of Malt release. The only remark would be that it underscores the wood quite strongly and slightly overpowers the fruity notes. Recommended.

Score: 86/100


Master of Malt

11 Jan 2010 | * News

Master of Malt | whisky Master of Malt is an online whisky retailer with a proud heritage of over 25 years. As a web designer, I can assure you that their online shop is technically the most advanced whisky shop I’ve seen on the web. Their range may not be the largest, but prices are competitive and delivery is pretty fast, even to uncommon destinations.

Apart from their catalogue of regular whisky brands, they also have their own range of independent Master of Malt bottlings. Most of them are highly rated in the latest Whisky Bibles, which made me eager to review a selection of their offerings.

I’ll be reviewing five Master of Malt bottlings: a Bowmore, Arran, Tomatin,  Tamnavulin and an undisclosed Speysider. In the meantime, have a look at their online shop.


Connemara Whisky Festival Gent I’m happy to be able to give away 5 entry tickets (worth € 30 each, including a Glencairn glass and a whisky magazine) as well as 5 samples of this year’s whisky festival bottling (a peated Irish):

 

Connemara 10yo 1999 (60,3%, OB 2010 for Whiskyfestival Gent, single cask #250, 180 btl.)

 

To win a free ticket, send me your answer to this question: In which year was the first edition of the whisky festival in Gent? 2003, 2004 or 2005?

Send your answer and your personal details to info {at} whiskynotes.be before 20 January 2010. Winners will be published here and can claim there ticket at the entrance.

To get a sample of the Connemara bottling (nice if you can’t come to the festival), just send an e-mail with your details to the same e-mail address. If you’re lucky, you’ll receive a sample through the post. Be sure to let me know what you think of it afterwards. Good luck!


Irish distillery Cooley has different brands: the peated Connemara of course, Locke’s, the Greenore grain whiskey and this unpeated Tyrconnell pure pot still whiskey. Tyrconnell was named after a very successful racing horse owned by the Watt family who founded the distillery.

Tyrconnell Ambassador choiceLike most Tyrconnell single casks at the moment, this release is 16 years old. It was bottled exclusively for Belgium, at cask strength.

 

Tyrconnell 1992 Ambassador’s Choice
(51%, OB 2009 for Belgium)

Nose: very fruity barley. Hints of apple pie and lemon sweets. Lively and juicy with tiny notes of freshly cut grass and mint. Apricots. Spicy undertones (cinnamon, lots of vanilla). Floral notes as well. Mouth: big, fresh maltiness with some lightly toasted accents which gives it more weight. Sweet and honeyed with banana. Interesting notes of hay and green tea. Finish: medium length, with some oak and hints of prunes.

Clean, firm and summery with a lovely nose. Around € 80 which is a heavy price for a faultless but still relatively simple Tyrconnell.

Score: 84/100


Whiskyfestival Gent Now that I’m moving from Spain back to Belgium, I’m ready to visit the festivals I’ve had to miss the last couple of years. There’s one festival I never skipped though, the International Malt Whisky Festival in Gent – www.whiskyfestival.be

During the weekend of February 6 and 7, the ICC building will welcome all major bottlers and distributors to present their newest offerings. Maybe I’ll see you there?


The Lagavulin 12 year old is part of the yearly Special Releases. My bottle of the 2006 release is almost empty, but I never published my notes. The release of the Lagavulin 12yo 2009 version made me taste them head-to-head and publish my notes.

Lagavulin 12 yo (2006) Lagavulin 12yo Special release
(57,1%, OB 2006, 6th release, 20cl)

Nose: more mineral and oily than the 2009 release. Cleaner and more rounded, not as peaty as I remembered it. More citrus, vanilla and hay. Apples, grapefruit, slightly minty. Marzipan. A little banana skin. Some leather. Flowers. Let’s just say it’s more gentle but also more complex than the 2009 release. Mouth: quite sweet with nice notes of oranges and fruit drops. Some maritime notes (seaweed). Soft spices. Citrus. Showing quite some salt as well (liquorice towards the finish). Finish: very sweet but getting drier. Quite long and smoky.

Please remember that the 2009 version was quite peaty and rough. The 2006 release certainly isn’t weak, it’s very powerful but just very sophisticated at the same time. Quite impressive for a young malt.

Score: 88/100


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  • Jorn: I agree, the first expressions tend to go up in value the most, - ofcourse -, but do you really think the Bowmore DC 2 will sink below 150,00 euro? N
  • WhiskyNotes: I tend to disagree. I would just wait for n°III and make sure you inform your favourite retailer that you want one beforehand. Buying a hyped product
  • Jorn: It's worth 150 allright, but mainly from a collector's point of view. That's where the market is. Like precious little stamps (Nothing wrong with that

Coming up

  • Tomatin 1988 (Malts of Scotland)
  • Aberfeldy 12 Year Old
  • GlenDronach 1994 PX cask #3397
  • GlenDronach 1994 PX cask #326
  • GlenDronach 1993 Oloroso cask #494
  • 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.