Single malt whisky - tasting notes

Among the different double matured Distillers Editions, I’m sure Lagavulin P.X. is the most popular. It is basically the Lagavulin 16 Year Old which spent the last few months in a sweet Pedro Ximénez sherry cask.

This is the latest 1997 / 2013 edition, which comes in an updated bottle with a new, minty green label. Classy and totally in line with the special editions.

 

 

Lagavulin Distillers Edition 1997/2013Lagavulin 1997 ‘Distiller’s Edition’ (43%, OB 2013, P.X. finish, lgv. 4/502)

Nose: I rather love this. It has the classic Lagavulin smoke, soot and a leathery dryness, but also a thick, sweet coating of Mon Cheri cherries, prune jam and brown sugar. Honey-glazed almonds. Cinnamon. Fresh floral top notes. Quite some coastal notes too (sea breeze, very subtle iodine). Sweet tobacco. Complex and balanced. Mouth: sweet and surprisingly shy entry, maybe we were expecting a higher ABV to highlight the intense flavours. Smooth, starting on the common Lagavulin 16 elements: earthy peat, liquorice, Lapsang tea, smoked fish… Then some spices (pepper) and growing fatty notes – it takes a while before it tilts towards sherry, with chocolate, honey and a dark sweetness, say Turkish coffee. Finish: very long, on ashes, dark chocolate and peat smoke. A drier, more oaky hint as well.

I was slightly surprised by the soft entry on the palate, but I still think this is an excellent wine finished Lagavulin. Maybe too sweet for die-hard Islay fans, but it adds complexity and a certain decadency. A must-have. Between € 65 and € 90 depending on which shop.

Score: 90/100


Massandra wines - GlenglassaughMassandra is the oldest winery in Crimea. It has been producing fine wines for more than 110 years and won international acclaim for its quality. The winery tends to mimic some of the greatest styles like Port, Tokay or Madeira. Moreover, they own one the largest collections of rare wines (over 1 million bottles), some of which were once in the collection of the Russian Tsars.

Back in 2012, Glenglassaugh released five old expressions, all finished in ex-wine casks from Massandra. One of them was a 33 year-old 1978 vintage finished in a “Madeira style” cask.

For a recent tasting organized by the Belgian shop TastToe, Douglas Cook brought a cask sample of another Madeira finished 1978 vintage, now 35 years old. This ‘sample’ was presented in the new single cask bottle, with a printed label and everything. It was taken directly from the bottling line and it should hit the market in the near future. I’m not sure whether this was the same cask that was reused after 2012.

 

Glenglassaugh 1978 Madeira finishGlenglassaugh 35 yo 1978 (41,7%, OB 2014, Rare Cask series, Massandra Madeira puncheon)

Nose: pretty much like a sherried old Glenglassaugh. Lots of tobacco leaves and humidors, as well as different nutty notes (walnut cake, cashew). Leather. Figs, melons and raisins with a bright, slightly acid top note (raspberry vinegar). Overall rather dry and a little shy maybe. Mouth: more fruity and sweet now. Red fruit jams, pomegranate, sweet rhubarb, baked apple with cinnamon and candied ginger. Faint notes of marzipan. Also a rummy / molasses side. Nice. Fades on sweet herbal notes. Finish: long, medium sweet, quite rounded with jammy notes (plum) and herbs.

Really nice whisky, with a wine influence that’s close to regular sherry, but with a few twists. Not overdone – good. Something to look out for, although probably € 350 – 400 when released.

Score: 90/100


Le Gus’t is the retailer and bottler in the South of France who also brought us a nice Glenfarclas 2003 last year. Its third release is this Glen Grant 1992 from the Signatory stocks and bottled in one of their Ibisco decanters.

Signatory Vintage already bottled other casks in the #554xx series, all distilled on the 22nd of April 1992.

 

 

Glen Grant 1992 - Signatory for Le Gus'tGlen Grant 21 yo 1992
(52,6%, Signatory Vintage for Le Gus’t 2014, hogshead #55415, 274 btl.)

Nose: very aromatic and inviting. Sweet berry jam, red fruits and fresh figs. Some vanilla and brown sugar. Soaked raisins. Honey and nice beeswax. Also almonds and floral hints (peonies). With water it becomes more citrusy and the flowers stand out. Mouth: again lots of berries, with hints of plum wine, quickly joined by assertive spices like cinnamon, clove and nutmeg. Oak. Gingerbread. A slightly bitter herbal note / orange peel as well, maybe soft peat even. Finish: long, spicy (cloves and pepper) with hints of chocolate.

The nose of this Glen Grant was really excellent and had a unique quality. On the palate it becomes more spicy and ‘modern’. Around € 110.

Score: 85/100


A sherry matured Glen Grant 1992 (distilled in June) and bottled in the newish Old Particular series from Douglas Laing. We’ve already tried nice bourbon matured 1992’s, let’s see whether they work as well in sherry butts.

 

Glen Grant 21 yo - Douglas Laing - Old ParticularGlen Grant 21 yo 1992
(51,5%, Douglas Laing Old Particular 2013, refill sherry butt, 374 btl.)

Nose: some unlit matchstick heads up front. Not too bad though, it evolves towards graphite and wood. Behind this, there are raisins and a tobacco / leather combination that works well. Spicy chocolate. Pears in brandy. Mouth: oily and peppery, then ginger and a dry cocoa note. A “mulled wine” kind of sherry maturation. Rum & raisins. A bit light in the middle, it’s either wine or spices. Finish: medium long, with a dry oaky kick and lingering spices.

Not my preferred type of sherried whisky. In any case it’s lacking some body to really stand out. Around € 110.

Score: 82/100


Arran 17 years

19 Apr 2014 | Arran

It’s just one year until the Arran 18 Year Old will be launched. It will form a trilogy with Arran 16 years and this Arran 17 years. It was matured in ex-sherry hogsheads and it is the oldest official release yet from this distillery (again).

 

Arran 17 Year OldArran 17 years
(46%, OB 2014, 9000 btl.)

Nose: fresh and fruity like we’ve come to expect from The Arran. More stewed fruits this time and definitely more spices. A cider apple sourness too, especially the first few minutes. Settles on cut apples, berries, candied orange peel and a little honey but overall its spiciness makes it seem drier than most Arrans. Aniseed and ginger, clove as well as soft pepper. A bit of dusty oak. Mouth: fairly spicy and sharp at first, with citrus and dry hints of tobacco leaves. Then honey and apricots on syrup with a chocolate sweetness in the background, before the spices move to the front again. Cardamom, clove, pepper. Really light sherry. Finish: medium long, on spiced apples, liquorice and soft oak.

This Arran 17 Year Old revolves around wood spices besides the typical, fairly light, easy-drinking character. Well-made whisky but I prefer the 16. Around € 75.

Score: 86/100


Yes, a lot of Littlemill 1988-1992 so far. No, we still don’t have enough. Bring on the newest expression: Littlemill 1992 from The Whisky Mercenary.

 

Littlemill 1992 - The Whisky MercenaryLittlemill 21 yo 1992
(52,9%, The Whisky Mercenary 2014)

Nose: starts maybe a little grassier than other casks. Lots of power. Typical waxy notes / lemon balm, then some tangerine and grapefruit. A sharper rhubarb note. A soft vanilla / frangipane whiff seems to come and go. Mouth: takes no prisoners. Perfect zestiness of grapefruit and lemon, with slightly rounder tangerine. Citrus green tea and grasses. A soft hint of vanilla marshmallow in the back, as well as a creaminess of latte, or coconut. Perfectly focused on its Lowlands strengths. Finish: medium long, zesty, with a spicy warmth.

Another one of these very enjoyable Littlemills. We may be spoiled now but I’m telling you these stocks can’t last forever. Around € 115, available from most Belgian retailers as we speak.

Score: 88/100


The Strathisla 8 Years Old must have been one of the regular common malts in the 1970’s and 1980’s. Many versions exist (some with a subtle floral print above and below the label for example), all bottled by Gordon & MacPhail in one of their semi-official series.

 

Strathisla 8 Years - 70° ProofStrathisla 8 yo ‘70° Proof’ (40%, Gordon & MacPhail 1970’s, 26 3/4 fl. oz)

Nose: not extremely assertive, but a nice, rather naked distillate nonetheless. Lots of hay and dried flowers. Hints of muesli. Some cooked apple. Simple pleasures. Mouth: again not too bold. Sweet apples, lots of malty notes. A little mint and pepper. Also a bit of a floral, almost perfumy side. Finish: medium long. Most of the sweetness is gone, and some dry grainy notes stay behind.

A simple malt without flaws but without any special flair as well. Comes close to other low-budget malts from these days, like the common Glen Grant 5 Year Olds. It shows that things weren’t always better in the old days.

Score: 77/100


Pre-war whisky, it’s one of these things any serious whisky enthusiast should have experienced. The recent ‘Pre-War Whisky Tour’ that you may have seen on Facebook could make you think otherwise, but you don’t usually stumble upon these things easily. They’re lucky cellar finds or expensive auction items.

This Glen Grant 21 Year Old 70° proof is one of the best examples I’ve come across. It was bottled by Gordon & MacPhail in their semi-official distillery series.

We’re lucky when it comes to dating this bottle: it is sealed with a securo cap. That’s a special kind of screw cap, very effective and probably ahead of its time, but only used for a couple of years between 1961 and 1963. Gordon & MacPhail used it but you can also find it on bottles of Macallan or blends from this era.

The very narrow timespan of bottling, minus at least twenty one years of maturation, leads us back to a distillation date of 1940-1942 or earlier. Glen Grant was closed during World War II however, so the whisky inside the bottle is effectively 1930’s production.

 

 

Glen Grant 21 Years Old 70° Proof - Gordon & MacPhail - securo capGlen Grant 21 yo (70° proof, Gordon & MacPhail 1960’s, securo cap)

Nose: it’s a typical profile, but one we haven’t described too often on this blog. It starts with a rich, pastry-like sweetness. Honey, soft apricots and golden raisins. Bright citrus. Banana. This moves towards waxy notes (candles) and polished wood. But the unique part are old-style hints of camphor, heavenly silver polish and subtle peat. Such elegance. Also worn leather and dusty libraries. In the background, there’s a whole list of tiny aromas. Bay leaves, marjoram, ashes, dried chanterelles, almonds, pipe tobacco… Endless and priceless. Mouth: fairly savoury, with tobacco stepping forward again. Lots of oily things, huge wax and metallic notes. Then a vague fruity sweetness (fruit cake, maybe apple) and caramelized brown sugar. Plenty of spices and herbs (ginger, clove, cinnamon, menthol). Something of a herbal liqueur. Clear coal smoke and a ‘garage’ flavour towards the end, as well as the rancio side of an old Palo Cortado. Finish: alright, not huge, mainly a mix of herbs and bittersweet elements.

It’s difficult not to get nostalgic with such a whisky. It goes back at least 75 years. How did they achieve this complexity and these unique aromas? Were they originally present or is it a matter of half a decade of sublime ‘bottle refinement’? Will we ever witness the same effect with current production, after many years? A small masterpiece anyway, perfect to conclude 1500 blog posts.

Score: 96/100


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Coming up

  • Cardhu 18 Year Old
  • Old Pulteney 1990 (lightly peated)
  • Blair Athol 1991 (Wemyss Malts)
  • Benromach Traditional

1635 notes by Ruben

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