Single malt whisky - tasting notes

Discovering Scotland's DistilleriesDiscovering Scotland’s Distilleries is a book wirtten by Gavin D. Smith with pictures by Graeme Wallace.

It’s a handy guide and probably the first true tourist’s companion focusing on distilleries. It’s well-written with concise information about the distilleries, with a big focus on their visitor facilities: a short description of what they provide, different tours, written guides, contact information, timetables, admission fees etc. The small space for the date of visit and the signature of the distillery manager is a nice idea!

The first 70 pages are about whisky trails, major cities and transportation between different regions.

Apart from the short distillery histories or the descriptions of the house styles, it’s not a book you’d want to read at bedtime. It’s really a guide with practical info for those planning a tour of Scotland. Therefore it relies on up-to-date information and will often need a revision (with the year of publishing on the cover maybe?).

A must-have when you’re going on a distillery trip.

Discovering Scotland’s Distilleries
GW Publishing 2010
ISBN 978-0-9561211-5-8

£ 9,99 / around € 12

This is post n°500. No need to thank me, thank YOU for visiting this blog so often. Most people suggested to celebrate with the Laphroaig 1964 / 1981, so here it is…

Remember that it’s only 16 or 17 years old, it spent much more time in the bottle than in the cask. It has a unique yellow-brown colour – almost none of the red hues that we find in other sherry casks.


Laphroaig 1964 / 1981 BBR Laphroaig 1964
(43%, Berry Bros & Rudd 1981, 75 cl)

Nose: okay, let’s take it step by step. First step: quiet, almost velvety sherry. I wouldn’t say this was an Islay whisky. Step two: it IS an Islay whisky. There’s deep tobacco, some smoke, cold ashes and precious types of wood (cedar). Step three is where it all comes together with beautiful fruits, prunes, dates, berries… Lovely mocha. Old leather, a bit of musk. Toasted bread. Subtle oak polish. Something minty and metallic. Also, the coastal elements are superb. It’s very complex and perfectly smooth. I’m especially fond of the tobacco / fruit mix. Mouth: very gentle and round, with some dates and sweet marmalade. Still a surprising amount of earthy smoke, although it turns out a bit weak and watered down. It keeps growing smokier with plain soot before turning slightly metallic and more briney, with liquorice and ashes and a cocoa edge. Finish: medium length, dry and faintly herbal / bitter. Still very ashy.

Impressive how there are so many flavours in a wonderful balance. I guess the 30 years in glass had some effect, but it’s still an excellent showcase of the qualities of old-style sherry matured Laphroaig.

Score: 95/100

Thank you for the opportunity, Régis!

Old Rarity

14 Oct 2010 | * Blends

Old Rarity is a blend made by Bulloch Lade & Co., a Glasgow company which also owned Caol Ila from 1863 to 1920 when it went into liquidation. I don’t have much information but it’s probably a safe guess that this blend holds some Caol Ila? I’ve never tried any pre-war Caol Ila and we’ll probably never know.


Old Rarity - Bulloch Lade Old Rarity (86.8 proof, Bulloch Lade & Co. ca. 1940, 4/5 quart)

Nose: very buttery with hints of coal smoke and peat (don’t expect modern Coal Ila peat though). Quite some beefy notes, raisins and not-so-clean hints of organics and distant sulphur. Don’t let this put you off, the roughness really works well here. It’s clear that this is old-fashioned, manually crafted spirit. A few fruity notes shine through (peaches). Mouth: starts rather weak. Sherried notes. Some nuts. A lot of caramel. Metallic notes (OBE?). Again faint hints of peat and smoke. Finish: dark sugar and kind of a funny salt & pepper edge.

On the nose this Old Rarity blend has a lovely dirtiness mixed with sherry notes. On the palate it is slightly weak (compared to modern standards) and a little high on caramel. A true rarity but certainly worth looking out for. Thanks a lot Dirk!

Score: 84/100

ps/ Don’t forget the Lindores Whisky Fest in Oostende, where this kind of old whisky can be found. It’s less than two weeks from now!

Whisky Bible 2011

12 Oct 2010 | * News

Whisky Bible - Jim MurrayYes, I still buy it. But I can’t help being stunned sometimes. Take this review of the Littlemill 1990 bottled by Malts of Scotland (cask #915).

N23 […] adorably curious […] T23 […] too good to be true […] F22.5 […] B22.5 Sukinda Singh has somehow bagged himself an eminently drinkable Littlemill. As if to prove, against the odds, that such a thing exists. He sometimes amazes me, that bloke. How does he do it…?

Well… Malts of Scotland is a German bottler. Single Malts of Scotland on the other hand (owned by Sukhinder Singh) is a series by The Whisky Exchange in the UK. Sukhinder sometimes amazes me as well, but not with this Littlemill! Jim’s obviously not tasting blind (or at least writing part of his notes after having seen the bottler’s name), how can such an error make it into the printed version?

As a side note, all of the entries of Malts of Scotland bottlings mention “192 bottles” or “96 bottles”. I suppose he was sent miniatures because MoS always fills 192x 5cl bottles (or 96x) apart from the actual run of full bottles. I can imagine people asking themselves why the 70cl bottle in their store has different numbers on the label.

Now I’m checking out the Lochside 1981 by The Whisky Agency. According to the Bible, there were two releases (54% and 55.5%, both sherry, no further information like bottling date, series, number of bottles…). Has anyone heard of this 55.5% version? I think there’s only one Lochside, but they get two different scores.

Update: Carsten Ehrlich from TWA was so kind to clarify. The 55.5% version is this one bottled for While this cask was provided by TWA, I guess it would be hard for customers to recognize it based on the Bible’s description. Also, the 54% version (Insects series) is ex-bourbon wood. Thanks Carsten!

I appreciate Jim’s work and I must say I agree with a lot of scores this year (well… maybe not the award winners). But the basic information should be pristine in an encyclopaedic work.

The Japanese Hanyu distillery is no longer operational. In the 1980’s they had some financial problems and the distillery was closed in 2000. Ichiro Akuto, the grandson of the distillery founder, bought 400 casks of Hanyu Hanyu Big Butt - Full Proofwhisky that are now being sold, most of them in the Ichiro’s Malts series in which every bottle is named after a playing card (Three of Diamonds, Ace of Spades…). Akuto also started a new distillery: Chichibu.

This sherry butt was bottled by No.1 Drinks in their Noh series – in two parts. A smaller part (200 bottles) had already been bottled for Full Proof Europe in Holland featuring… well… another type of butt on the label. Sister casks #9305 and #9307 have also been bottled for Full Proof.



Hanyu 1988 Noh 9306 Hanyu 21 yo 1988 (55,6%, No.1 Drinks 2009, sherry butt #9306, 625 btl.)

Nose: spicy notes to start with: Christmas cake, a bit of menthol and other medicinal things, a bit of incense. Deep fruity notes as well: cherries, plums, raisins. Hints of smoked meat (cecina). Also a few whiffs of matchsticks but much less than comparable Karuizawa bottlings for example. Some resinous notes and roasted almonds as well. Quite complex. Mouth: intense with typical dried fruits, sultanas and lots of tobacco. Black cherries. Cinnamon and ginger. Liquorice. Certainly woody, but not too dry. A little chilli pepper. Finish: long and peppery with a dry herbal touch.

An impressive Hanyu, showing a large range of intense flavours while at the same time remaining very drinkable. Around € 160.

Score: 90/100

Glen Mhor is closely related to the Glen Albyn distillery. It was founded by John Birnie, a former distillery manager of Glen Albyn who managed to take over his old employer in 1920. Both were sold to DCL in 1972 (now Diageo) and closed in 1983. There are a couple of official Rare Malts releases – independent bottlings are increasingly rare.

Glen Mhor 1982 SV 1327 Glen Mhor 27yo 1982 (55%, Signatory Vintage 2010, cask #1327, 235 btl.)

Nose: grassy / flinty, with an alcohol kick and some minor fruity / honey notes. Faint hints of coconut and leather. A bit of lemon zest and menthol. A wee touch of soot. Interesting because it’s quite rough and delicately floral at the same time. Old-style. Mouth: sweet and punchy attack. Quickly turns to grassy and flinty flavours again, with a bitter tang and lemon zest. Then showing a few floral notes, liquorice and clove. Finish: long and dry with herbs, lemon and green tea.

An old-fashioned Speysider. A bit of a challenge as it goes in different directions and keeps you wondering about its true character. Around € 135.

Score: 83/100

500 posts… almost

10 Oct 2010 | * News

We’re a few entries short of 500 on this website (in less than two years), so I was thinking to have something special for that occasion. Here are a few extraordinary drams that are waiting in my sample stock. Which one should I try? Feel free to leave a comment with your suggestion.

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Glen Elgin 1975 Whisky AgencyThis Glen Elgin 1975 is part of the latest releases from The Whisky Agency. Interesting to compare with the Glen Elgin 1975 / 2007 by Berry Bros.


Glen Elgin 35 yo 1975 (46,4%, The Whisky Agency 2010, Perfect Dram VI, 98 btl.)

Nose: fruity start. I get some pear aromas, orange zest, some lemon. Slightly tropical but rather green, unripe tropical fruits. A few grassy notes. Some wax and limestone. Hints of heather and mint. Fresh, clean and very “natural”. Mouth: fresh with a similar type of slightly subdued fruitiness (stone fruits, citrus). Some mineral notes now. Pleasant resinous flavours and a faint smokey undertone. Delicate ginger. Finish: rather long and drier. More spices than on the palate.

An nice old-fashioned Speysider with different aspects, not just fruits. Less aromatic than the one from Berry Bros, but still very good. Around € 160.

Score: 88/100

Re-tasted 18/04/2012: -1



October 2015
« Sep    

  • Tony: The Brora at 1500 Euros seems to recognise that last years similarly priced just hasn't sold, so no increase there (and even a slight drop). Then agai
  • kallaskander: Hi there, I remember that Bacardi said all the Last Great Malts would carry an age statement. Which is true. I thought they promised they would all b
  • WhiskyNotes: It looks like this will not be part of the official selection this year. Maybe an upcoming standalone release.

Coming up

  • Bunnahabhain 1987 (Maltbarn)
  • Glen Garioch 1993 (Maltbarn)
  • Royal Brackla 16 Year Old
  • Teeling 26yo Vintage Reserve
  • Kavalan Podium

1893 notes by Ruben

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