Single malt whisky - tasting notes

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


In 2007, Glenmorangie reinvented itself as a distillery. The complete range was revised and redesigned, and they managed to release a few uncommon experiments.  First there was the ‘designer cask’ Glenmorangie Astar and later this Glenmorangie Signet.

Signet is a mixture of different types of malt. It uses some 20% of ‘chocolate malt’ (normally used to produce stout beer) and roasted barley which is dried at a higher temperature and roasted to a higher degree. It’s also a mixture of different ages (up to 35 years old) and cask types (refill bourbon, ‘virgin’ new oak, sherry oak and wine barrels).

It comes in a beautiful bottle that’s smoked at the top and gradually transparent towards the bottom. The lid of the box also serves as a plinth.

 

Glenmorangie Signet

Glenmorangie Signet
(46%, OB 2008)

Nose: complex and perfumy. Reminds me of aftershave in a way. Armani Signet? Rather oaky. There are indications of oloroso casks (marmalade, raisins, chocolate), but also of new oak and bourbon (ginger, cinnamon). Hints of smoke, toasted bread and roasted coffee. Even some old glue. Very interesting. Mouth: rich, with fruit cake, vanilla and chocolate. Lots of ginger and nutmeg and again some roasted flavours. Hints of tobacco. Walnut oil. Finish: the wood is taking over, nutmeg again. Rather tannic. Spicy Mexican chocolate with a hint of lime.

Very different in style. It had to grow on me, but in the end I was really convinced of its qualities. Bonus point for the innovation. It was a limited edition but it’s still available at around € 140.

Score: 86/100


Two years ago, when I moved to Madrid, I noticed a ceramic decanter of this Glenfiddich 18yo ‘Ancient Reserve’ in a local bar named La Toja. I asked the waiter if I could have some, but he didn’t know the price. Neither did the owner, because it turned out to be on the shelf for about 20 years. The cork broke into a thousand pieces while opening and apparently Spanish waiters solve this by pouring the bottle down the drain until there are no more pieces of cork left… Sacrilege!

 

Glenfiddich 18 yo Ancient Reserve decanter
Glenfiddich 18 yo ‘Ancient Reserve’ (43%, OB, late 1980’s, black decanter)

Nose: very rounded and gentle. Fruity, with big notes of blood oranges, kind of a malt version of Cointreau. Some banana too. The lightest hint of smoke. Whiffs of heather. Quite simple but very enjoyable. Mouth: malty sweetness, lightly sherried with hints of plums. Caramelized apples with cinnamon. Honey. Very light oak. Still those oranges mixed with vanilla. Finish: not too long but perfectly smooth.

A Glenfiddich that scores with an impressive smoothness rather than complexity. The smokey hints tell you it’s not a modern malt. My brother in law, who shared this dram with me, said “if all whiskies were as gentle and balanced as this Glenfiddich Ancient Reserve, more people would drink whisky”. Well said.

Modern 18yo versions (in the triangular bottle) are said to be a bit flatter and less impressive. If you find an old decanter, be sure to try it. There are several versions of the decanter by the way (green, blue, black), worth around € 130.

Score: 84/100


A new whisky year

01 Jan 2010 | * News

Whisky year 2010 I hope you enjoyed 2009 as much as I did and I wish everyone a happy new year full of interesting whisky releases!

The start of a new year is always a reason to look back. A quick look at Google Analytics reveals a lot of data:

Personally, I would choose other releases as the highlights of my year. They may not have received the highest scores, but they were surprisingly interesting in some way or another:

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This Brora 21y 1977 RM generally gets better reviews than its 1982 RM brother. The two 1972 versions in the Rare Malts collection seem to be the best though (SV scores them 96 and 97 and other MM seem to agree).

 

Brora 1977 Rare Malts Brora 21 yo 1977
(56,9%, Rare Malts 1998)

Nose: it shares a similar profile with the Brora 20 yo 1982, but this one is slightly more exotic with banana and coconut. Some juicy yellow grapes. Quite a few floral hints. It’s less austere with more spices. Wood chips. Hints of heather. No farminess and still relatively low peat levels, but complex. Mouth: very powerful, sweeter than the 1982 version, more honey and vanilla with more oak as well. The same fat, oily mouth-feel. Soft, sweet peat. A salty edge (seaweed). Spices. Lemons. Slightly nutty. Finish: a very similar peppery kick with a slightly woody / salty aftertaste.

In line with the Brora 1982, but slightly more complex and more powerful in all directions (bigger fruitiness, sweeter, more oak, but a more alcoholic character as well). Very rare now and more valuable than the 1982 version. Around € 300 unless you find an occasional bargain.

Score: 91/100

Johan, who provided my sample (thanks) has tasted a lot of Rare Malts Brora. If you understand Dutch, check out his notes.


According to Ulf Buxrud’s RM website, there were 10 Brora’s in the Rare Malts series and most of them get high scores (although they have different characters). I bought this Brora 1982 on eBay a couple of years ago. At that time, I wasn’t very familiar with the distillery but I really enjoyed it and the level in the bottle quickly lowered.

Together with the Glenury Royal 23 yo 1971 (IWSC Gold Medal 1996), this Brora is one of the few Rare Malts releases that received an award (IWSC 2004 – Best Cask Strength Whisky).

 

Brora 20 yo 1982 (58,1%, Rare Malts 2003)

Nose: very attractive Highlands style, fruity (peach, apple, lemon), a bit perfumed even but slightly austere at the same time. A few salty notes (sea-air, iodine, oysters). Some smoke and peat but quite subtle and on par with the fruitiness. Hints of shoe polish and paraffin. Some leather. Very balanced, you can just sip this and enjoy or really get into it and unwind its complexity. Mouth: malty and spicy, with a firm kick at cask strength and an oily texture. Bittersweet with a touch of vanilla. Lightly peated again. Tobacco and dark chocolate as well (sweeter than other Brora). Finish: rather long and warm, slightly peppery, drying and smokey.

Certainly different from the 1970’s Brora style. I miss the farmy notes and the peat is quite subtle, but overall the 1982 still has a very nice coastal profile. What a shame my bottle is going to be finished soon. Quite rare now. Expect to pay around € 200 for a bottle.

Score: 90/100


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Coming up

  • Lagavulin 12yo (2014 release)
  • 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.