Single malt whisky - tasting notes

Malt Maniacs Awards It has been a while since the Malt Maniacs Awards 2009 were announced, so it’s time we investigate the bottlings that won this year’s awards.

These releases won a Gold Award:

Some of them have already been reviewed here but I’ll fill in the missing pieces in the next couple of days. This promises to be a week with high scores!


After the first Inaugural release of Kilchoman, this new version was released a couple of weeks ago.

It has been matured for three years in first fill and refill bourbon casks bought from Buffalo Trace. After that, it was finished in oloroso butts for two and a half months and vatted with non-finished (ex-bourbon) Kilchoman. Kudos to the distillery for explaining precisely what’s in the bottle.

Kilchoman 3yo - second autumn release

Kilchoman 3yo 2006 ‘Autumn 2009 release’ (46%, OB 2009, 10.000 btl.)

Nose: starts in a similar way as the first release, but it doesn’t take long before this one shows more fruit. Another (small) step away from the new-make notes. Firm peat and extinguished cigarette notes, but also more maritime hints this time. More pepper as well. Hints of black olives. Faint whiffs of cinnamon and caramelized ginger – the start of spicy notes developed by the wood! Interesting how it constantly switches from sweet to savoury flavours while swirling the glass. Mouth: fat, oily peat. It doesn’t seem to get much grip though, the attack of the Inaugural release seems stronger to me. Some sweeter notes, fading quickly and making way for a very dry bitterness that evolves to soapy notes in the aftertaste. A bit strange and not entirely my taste. Finish: rather earthy peat with hints of nutmeg.

On the nose: perfectly enjoyable with an impressive mixture of sweet, candied notes and briney peat. On the palate, I felt disappointed with the soapiness as an off-note for me. Better than the Kilchoman 3yo Inaugural release, but no match for the Kilchoman single cask for LMdW. Around € 55.

Score: 79/100

Kilchoman 3yo
Inaugural release

– clear hints of new-make
– artificial fruitiness
– too ashy
– mono-dimensional
Kilchoman 3yo
Autumn release

– hardly any new-make notes
– pleasantly fruity and spicy
– too soapy
– more complex

Kornog is the peated version of the Glann ar Mor whisky. This French distillery is located in Brittany, a region which has quite a lot of Celtic influence.

This is the first cask ever bottled of the peated spirit. Their (Scottish) malt has been peated to 35 ppm and matured in ex-bourbon barrels for three years. It’s very limited and hard to find with prices ranging from € 35 to € 75 for the same bottle!

 

Kornog Glann Ar Mor Glann ar Mor ‘Kornog Taouarc’h Kentan’ (57,1%, OB 2008, first release)

Nose: very fresh, citrusy peat with light smoke and big notes of marzipan. A nice fruitiness as well (pears on syrup, pineapple sweets), slightly bubblegummy but very nicely so. There’s also a noticeable medicinal side (iodine, bandages) which gives it kind of a young Ardbeg profile. Hints of seaweed, rather faint but I hope this will become stronger after a couple of extra years in the maritime Breton climate. Give this dram some time and you’ll even notice some farmy notes and some garage smells. Mouth: interesting flavours of marzipan again, with some pear and kiwi. Definitely more smokey than on the nose. Lemon. Hints of vanilla. Growing saltier towards the end. Finish: very ashy with a big woody kick. Lots of peat.

Compared to other young peat bottlings like Kilchoman 3yo, this is more balanced (read: less peaty), more complex and surprisingly mature. Very enjoyable.

Score: 84/100


Berry Brothers & Rudd (BBR) is one of the oldest wine importers in the UK. They are the official distributor of The Glenrothes, and they have their own range of “Berry’s own Selection” bottlings. They’re all single cask releases (or at least very small batches).

This Longmorn is rather legendary, especially in Belgium. Some of our Malt Maniacs discovered this in Paris and advised the Belgian importer to make it available. A wise decision, as we will see.

 

Untitled-1 Longmorn 1990/2005
(46%, Berry Bros. 2005, cask #30111 & 30112)

Nose: very fragrant nose. Peach, grapefruit, strawberry. Fresh lemon. Cooked apple. Sweet and fruity, but there’s a lot more going on. Some vanilla. Mint. Milk chocolate with nuts. Dried flowers. A delicate layer of smoke. Hints of wax. What a wonderful complexity! Mouth: sweet and direct. Quite floral as well. Notes of herbal tea and citrus. Vanilla custard. Grapefruit again. Almonds. Light smoke. Banana. Finish: the same beat keeps going: vanilla, grapefruit and almonds, mixed with light peat smoke. Rather light in the end.

The nose is to die for. The mouth and finish keep developing the same flavours in endless variations. Around € 50 at the time. Now impossible to find. Damn!

Score: 91/100


If your name is Jean-Pierre, Veerle, Rowin, Bert or Arnaut, then you can expect an e-mail from me soon. You’re probably on the guest list for the upcoming Whisky Festival in Gent. See you on Sunday maybe?

The Connemara samples go to Pavlos (Greece), André (France) and three Belgians: Walter, Hans and Geert. You’ll have to be patient, because I will only be able to send them out after the festival.

Congratulations to the winners, and thanks everyone for taking part.


Bruichladdich is known for its extensive range of bottlings. Links is a series of limited edition bottlings, launched in 2003 and chosen by Jim McEwan, celebrating Scotland’s two major passions: whisky and golf. All of the Links series have been bottled deliberately at 14 years, providing an interesting comparison of different cask types and finishes.

The first release in the Links series was this ‘Old Course – St. Andrews’, matured in Spanish Oak casks. Later releases are Augusta, Turnberry, Troon, Torrey Pines, K Club, Hoylake, Carnoustie… There’s also a miniature version that is included in some Bruichladdich 3×5 cl tasting packs.

 

Bruichladdich Links - Old Course St. Andrews Bruichladdich Links 14y
‘The Old Course, St. Andrews – 17th hole’ (46%, OB 2003, 1st release)

Nose: very fragrant. Interesting combination of sweet exotic fruit and a salty whiff of sea air. Peach, kumquat, apple candy. Passion fruit. Mango. Fruit syrup and orange marmalade. A touch of mint and a hint of smoke. Very good. Mouth: oily delivery. The fruit is more subdued now, but still candied with some orange peel and apple. More smoke. Rather short, but warm finish.

I was really impressed by the nose but the palate didn’t deliver in the same way. Overall nice balance. A few stores around the world still sell this one. Around € 35 (50 cl).

Score: 84/100


The Bonding Dram Last night I was at a tasting with an interesting concept named Battle of the Stunners. Two challengers (Malt Maniac Bert Bruyneel and The Bonding Dram owner Jeroen Moernaut) select one bottle for each of 5 categories (blends, non-Scotch, peated…) with a maximum retail price of € 50 per bottle. The audience evaluates each combo blind and singles out one of the two bottles. The challenger with the best set of bottles wins the battle.

 

This was the line-up:

The choices of the public are in bold, although I have to say I had a different opinion on the second and third combo. Jeroen, who selected the first bottle of each combo, won 4-1. Congratulations!

It was an entertaining evening. My personal conclusion would be that malts from outside of Scotland offer great value for money, certainly in this price range. Also, it seemed to me a general public prefers bottles that have common (easy) flavours rather than complex (more difficult, but for me more interesting) profiles. Anyway, I swooped a couple of samples and will revisit some of these whiskies over the next few weeks.


I was in a bar in Madrid recently where this Jameson 12yo Special Reserve (formerly known as Jameson 1780) was the most interesting dram on offer. I decided to take my chances. Jameson is an Irish single-distillery blended whiskey (Midleton distillery produces malt whiskey as well as grain whiskey, and they mix it), matured in bourbon and oloroso sherry casks.

 

Jameson 12 years Jameson 12 yo ‘Special Reserve’ 
(40%, OB 2009)

Nose: quite closed and not very expressive. Some oranges, caramel and hints of sherry. Notes of ripe melon. Mouth: bittersweet start, slightly grainy. Soft and smooth delivery. Hints of spices. A beautiful wave of peaches with honey and cinnamon towards the end, which I detected as pot still influence – probably the best aspect of this whiskey. Finish: rather short, with a bit more sherry and hints of chocolate.

Not bad but it lacks some character and punch. I’m afraid I expected too much from this. Around € 32.

Score: 77/100


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Coming up

  • SIA Blended Scotch
  • Ardmore Legacy
  • Cardhu 18 Year Old
  • Clynelish 21yo 1992 (Cadenhead)
  • Ledaig 2005 (Maltbarn)
  • Aberlour 8yo (cube, small cork)

1644 notes by Ruben

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