Single malt whisky - tasting notes

Blimey. I have so many samples that I tend to forget some of the interesting ones that are hidden in my drawers… how stupid is that? Not that I mind discovering three Karuizawa expressions that I hadn’t tried, of course. One of them is this Karuizawa 1981 Sakura cask #158, a release of only 45 bottles! The rarest Karuizawa ever?

Sakura is the typical Japanese sherry blossom. It was a special release for Prineus, the German distributor for No.1 Drinks and Karuizawa.



Karuizawa 1981 Sakura #158Karuizawa 31 yo 1981 (62,8%, OB 2012, Sakura series, sherry cask #158, 45 btl.)

Nose: the fruity, sweet kind of Karuizawa. Lovely black cherries, prune jam and blackberries. Fig compote – all typical, but also frankly tropical notes, like papaya and passion fruits. Tobacco-infused pralines (yes, they exist). Lots of pipe aromas actually. Precious exotic woods (sandalwood, thuja). Oil paint. Cinnamon. Soft hints of camphor and menthol. Wet forest soils. Just exquisite. Water brings out waxed papers. Mouth: very big. There’s a big mentholated / peppery heat that almost numbs your palate. Let’s add a few drops of water. Sweeter and fruitier now (plums, figs), but still peppery and gingery. Dry ashes, mixing with tobacco, earthy tea and dry wood, including a bit of sourness and smoke. Coffee. Finish: very long, with lots of herbal notes, almost medicinal hints. Tannins too.

Stunning Karuizawa, with one of the fruitiest noses I’ve come across from this distillery. The palate is significantly drier though, but still really impressive. Originally around € 350 but I don’t think it actually arrived on the shelves. Now around € 7500 (!) in auctions.

Score: 94/100


Glenlivet 25yo 1973/1998 Signatory #3307Glenlivet 25 yo 1973 (57,2%, Signatory Vintage 1998, sherry butt #3307, 570 btl.)

Nose: heavy sherry, GlenDronach-style. Raisins, figs, some orange peel. Quite oaky, with peppery notes, menthol and eucalyptus, as well as bit of smoke. Hints of cedar and pine needles. Mouth: the mentholated hints now become frankly medicinal, bringing cough syrup and antiseptics. Also big toasted wood and ashes. Charred meat. Walnut cake, bitter chocolate and plums in brandy. Oak polish, pepper and nutmeg. Quite firm, even a little aggressive but water helps. Finish: long, herbal, with liquorice and burnt sugar.

This Glenlivet has seen some very active wood, inducing a bold, medicinal profile with lots of dry notes. Impressively powerful, almost too much. Thanks, Joeri!

Score: 87/100

Chichibu On The Way is the work in progress of Ichiro Akuto. He founded his distillery in 2008 at the foot of a mountain in the region of Saitama, and he is on the way to release his first 5 years old whisky.

The current Chichibu On The Way is a vatting of three casks:

  • one Mizunara oak hogshead filled in 2008, in fact this was the second oldest cask in the distillery
  • one American oak ex-bourbon barrel filled in 2009 (used for ‘The Floor Malted’ batch 2009
  • another American oak ex-bourbon barrel filled in 2010 (used for ‘The Floor Malted’ batch 2010

Although the packaging says five years old, this refers to the oldest whisky in the vatting – Japanese rules are different from Scottish. Despite its high alcohol volume, it is not entirely cask strength.



Chichibu On The WayChichibu ‘On The Way’ (58,5%, OB 2013, 9900 btl.)

Nose: a brightly oaked profile, showing grassy notes, fresh oak shavings and hay. Sweet malt, youngish pear and vanilla. Quite a lot of herbal notes too: fennel seeds, menthol and pepper. New leather. Mouth: lots of sweet pears and apple pie, sweet breakfast cereals and a thick, syrupy side. Lychee juice. Popcorn. Apricot jam. A wide array of spices again, giving it an oriental touch as well as a potpourri-like edge. Some green, oaky notes on top. Finish: long, drier, with lots of wood spices and a hint of incense.

A really interesting Chichibu, showing the powerful aromas of Mizunara oak. All those spices make it quite oriental. I hope the real 5 year-old finds a better balance, but this is certainly promising. Around € 135. Thanks, Angelo.

Score: 83/100

The Ultimate is a series from the well-known Dutch bottler / importer van Wees. It’s a wide range with a fairly good value for money ratio.

We’re trying the latest Tamdhu 2005 bottled in January 2015. Several 2004-2005 casks have been bottled before.



Tamdhu 2005 - van Wees - The Ultimate #353Tamdhu 9 yo 2005 (60,3%, The Ultimate 2015, sherry butt #353, 631 btl.)

Nose: lots of toffee, butterscotch and marzipan for starters. Then the more typical dried fruits (dates, figs), as well as blueberries, candied orange peel and a hint of eucalyptus. Something of a creamy vanilla / raspberry combination, which gives it a hint of cupcakes. A slightly musty undertone of overripe melons, but otherwise very nice. Mouth: very punchy and creamy, with some intense sherry notes, big caramel toffee and molasses sweetness. Raisins. Hints of toasted oak, ginger and a chili heat. Again a very light mustiness underneath, but nothing dirty. Finish: long with a peppery heat, sweet malt syrup and a red berry sweetness.

This Tamdhu is a punchy, creamy, modern sherry bottling for people with a sweet tooth. Or two. Really good value for money. Around € 50.

Score: 87/100

Talisker Skye

23 Feb 2015 | Talisker

Talisker Skye is the latest release from this distillery, which is effectively on the Isle of Skye. It’s the fourth (and supposedly youngest) No Age Statement release in under two years (after Talisker Storm, Talisker Dark Storm and Talisker Port Ruighe). Apparently it’s here to stay as a permanent extension of the core range.

Talisker Skye is matured in refill and toasted American oak casks, with that last type having the biggest proportion.



Talisker SkyeTalisker Skye (45,8%, OB 2015)

Nose: fairly sweet and youngish with pears, orange juice and a little apricot. This mixes with a soft, rounded smokiness and hints of toasted oak indeed. Vanilla. There’s brine as well, but the typical peppery notes are much less obvious. More nutmeg this time. Mouth: much more spicy now (pepper, ginger) and smoky, but again balanced by a candied sweetness (baked apple, peach candy, berries). Hints of dark chocolate with a pinch of salt towards the end. Some tarry smoke growing stronger. Finish: medium long, with the spicy warmth and smoke standing out, coming to a drier, ashy finale.

This is an uncommonly sweet and fruity Talisker. Young alright, but the toasted oak works out quite well. A nice entry-level whisky and the best NAS so far from Talisker. Around € 35.

Score: 83/100

Ian MacLeod bottled a whole series of Rosebank 1990 casks. Sister casks #611, 612 and 614 were all bottled in 2008.


Rosebank 18yo 1990 - Dun BheaganRosebank 18 yo 1990 (48%, Ian MacLead Dun Bheagan 2008, sherry butt #611, 618 btl.)

Nose: a solid, sweet malty base, with some butter pears, apple and mango. Honey. It shows a bit of an old-style side as well, think waxed dental floss and library dust. Mocha. Hints of walnuts and ginger. Mint. Of course there’s also the typical lemony side. Mouth: sweet fruity notes (peach, pear, orange) alongside slightly bitter fruits (grapefruit). Grassy and herbal touches, even some salt. Candied ginger, a little juniper. Sweet peppermint and faint hints of camphor. Slightly funny to get the Lowlands austerity combined with so much sweetness. Finish: medium long and bittersweet. Lemon, orange zest, ginger and nutmeg.

Good Rosebank, interesting because of its sherry sweetness that mixes well with the more typical Lowlands notes. Around € 160 at the time. Thanks, Stefan.

Score: 88/100

Isle of Jura distilled March 1966 and bottled March 1984. It’s 18 years old.

This is one of the old dumpy Cadenhead bottles with black label. I’m always surprised when I see the typography of these labels, the distillery names tend to be set in funky (sometimes cheapo) fonts that are so typical of the 1980’s. As if someone at Cadenhead’s bought one of these cd-roms with 50.000 “professional” fonts.


Jura 1966/1984 Cadenhead dumpyJura 18 yo 1966 (46%, Cadenhead 1984, dumpy brown bottle, 75 cl)

Nose: a highly mentholated profile with quite some sappy notes. Hints of metal polish and huge tobacco notes. Dried flowers and old books. Becomes slightly fruitier after a while (a nice, warm fruitiness) but it’s really shy and it stays pretty much on the greasy, leathery and metallic side. Hints of heather and walnuts. Mouth: earthy and herbal, with maritime notes, salty liquorice, walnuts and some medicinal touches. Medium peat. Hardly any fruits now. Resinous notes, different oils and wax. Finish: long, with lingering phenols, walnuts and a salted, mouthwatering end.

This is an austere Jura, which misses some of the great tropical fruits of other 1960’s expressions and focuses on rougher notes. A really nice example of the Islay-esk side of this distillery. Rarely seen in auctions.

Score: 91/100

There is one grain whisky in the recent batch of Wemyss releases: Invergordon 1988 ‘Caribbean Crème’.


Invergordon 1988 - Wemyss MaltsInvergordon 1988 ‘Caribbean Crème’
(46%, Wemyss 2014, barrel, 171 btl.)

Nose: a creamy nose, full of popcorn, vanilla and wood varnish. Butter pastry. Minty notes. Pineapple yoghurt and coconut cream. Fresh oak shavings with some nutmeg. Typical middle-aged grain whisky, nice enough. Mouth: very sweet, with popcorn, caramel and vanilla cream at the centre. Some lemon zest and grapefruit, giving it a bitter edge. Also a slightly harsh alcoholic side that I find a bit too loud. Pepper and ginger. Finish: long, sweet and gingery / peppery.

I like it on the nose, but the heavy sweetness, the wodka-like kick and the coconutty touches on the palate remind me of a ready-made Piña Colada. Not that it’s bad, I guess it’s just not my type. Around € 90.

Score: 79/100



August 2015
« Jul    

Coming up

  • Top-5 of a little tasting
  • Highland Park 1995 (Whisky Mercenary)
  • Laphroaig Lp6 (Elements of Islay)
  • Irish Single Malt 27yo 1988 (The Nectar of the Daily Drams)
  • Irish Single Malt 16yo 1999 (The Nectar of the Daily Drams)
  • Bunnahabhain 1987 (Maltbarn)
  • Glen Garioch 1993 (Maltbarn)
  • Glenlivet 42yo (Cadenhead)
  • Auchentoshan 1994 (Whisky Agency)
  • Blended Malt Extra Old (Whisky Agency)
  • Woodford Reserve Master's Collection
  • Teeling 26yo Vintage Reserve
  • Springbank 2001 vintage

1859 notes by Ruben

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