Single malt whisky - tasting notes

Highland Park WhiskyNotes is 6 months old now, and still a few well-known brands never appeared (simply bad luck of course, every whisky deserves a review). Time to feature Orkney-based Highland Park, a distillery with many fans.

Highland Park had a major restyling in 2006, and the brand was supposed to become a top 10 single malt by 2011. They have already overtaken Lagavulin, but Talisker and Bowmore are still ahead.

Their core range consists of a 12 year old, an 18 year old, a 25, a 30 and recently a 40 year old. They are usually described as good all-rounders because they offer a bit of everything: sweetness, floral notes (especially heather), some smoke, coastal notes, usually some hints of sherry as well…

Let’s try some Highland Parks in the next couple of days.


Glendronach is not the best known distillery. It was mothballed in 1996, restarted in 2002, bought by Pernod Ricard in 2005 and put up for sale again in 2008. The distillery was bought by the owners of BenRiach, and we should spell GlenDronach now to make that clear (marketing dudes…).

The core range (12yo, 15yo and 18yo) was reworked and relaunched. Hence the name Revival for the 15 years old.

 

Untitled-1 GlenDronach 15y ‘Revival’
(46%, OB 2009)

Nose: There certainly are sulphur notes in this bottling. The first thing I get are mushrooms, a dirt bin and some rubber. Now this is personal, some people like it, others don’t. I have difficulties with it, but let’s move on. Very clear oloroso sherry influence as well: raisins, balsamico vinegar, coffee, mint… Slightly herbal. Subtle smoke as well. Mouth: good mouthfeel. The sherry continues with raisins, dark chocolate, figs, prunes and (slightly bitter) coffee notes. Still a bit dirty if you ask me. Finish: spicier on cloves. Quite long.

I suppose this is going to get a low score in next year’s Whisky Bible. I find it difficult to really appreciate it, although there is some lovely old-style sherry at work here. I can imagine some people adore this for its “off-road” character. Around € 50.

Score: 83/100


Since 2005, Duncan Taylor released a bunch of great Glenrothes bottlings, distilled in 1968, 1969 and 1970. They all seem to be good, and some are quite excellent.

 

Glenrothes 37yo 1968 DTGlenrothes 37y 1968 (57,6%, Duncan Taylor 2006, cask #13482, 160 btl.)

Nose: quite powerful and typically Speyside. Honey, heather. Slightly floral, even some varnish. Spicy oak. Oranges. Vanilla. There’s also a peppery / minty edge to it. Nice and immediately demonstrative, which is impressive for a whisky that spent almost 40 years in a wooden cask. The oak influence is clearly noticeable in the spices but never overpowering. Mouth: more vanilla and oranges. Some nutmeg, pepper and honey. Citrus. Hints of a creamy banana milkshake. Big oak now (still within the normal limits of its age). Finish: slightly drying, again lots of oak influence. Hints of peaches and chocolate.

A really vivid Glenrothes, even at this age.
Very tasty with good spices. Other 1960’s Glenrothes releases by Duncan Taylor can be found for +/- € 160. This one is sold out.

Score: 88/100

Thanks for sharing this bottle, Jorgen!


Port Askaig 25y

06 May 2009 | Caol Ila

This is currently the oldest release in the new Port Askaig range, although a ‘Special release’ 30 year old will be added towards the end of 2009. Bottled at Imperial 80 proof (today’s 45,8% vol). It is available through The Whisky Exchange and through local importers in most of the European countries, Japan and Taiwan.

There has been some discussion about the bottle design, because it seems to be based on the Ardbeg Corryvreckan bottle, with embossed text and an off-white label. Personally I don’t mind, I don’t think you would accidently buy the Port Askaig if you were looking for an Ardbeg.

 

Port Askaig 25y (45,8%, Whisky Exchange 2009)

Port Askaig 25yoNose: much more fragrant and delicate than the cask strength. Less phenols and coal smoke, but more fruit. Beautiful citrus notes (orange blossom water), sweet melon and yellow apple. Some blueberries and waxy notes. Ashes and smoke in the distance. Hints of lemon. Mouth: sweet and malty. Very mellow. More lemon. More spicy oak influence as well (nutmeg). Nice vanilla. Towards the finish, lovely notes of cocoa and mocha. With a drop of water, it gets fruitier and the oranges and berries get noticeable again. Finish: good length. This is where the fruit fades and the peat smoke appears. Getting drier and peppered.

Very good and really elegant. The flavour profile is quite different from the Port Askaig Cask Strength. Less maritime and less straightforward. Around € 85. Highly recommended.

Score: 88/100


Port Askaig is a small town in the north-west of Islay. Sukhinder Singh, chairman of The Whisky Exchange, now has its own range of single malt whisky under this name.

I’ve tried this one alongside the Caol Ila 12 year-old, because there’s a good chance both are made at the same distillery and share approximaterly the same age. Too bad I didn’t have the Coal Ila Cask Strength to compare.

 

Port Askaig - Cask Strength Port Askaig ‘Cask Strength’
(57,1%, Whisky Exchange 2009)

Nose: smokey and phenolic, but at the same time rather sweet. Coals on syrup? Less notes of apple or diesel than the Caol Ila 12. Hints of bandages. A bit grassy, hints of wet stones. Some lemon. Mouth: at first, relatively shy considering the alcohol volume. There’s sweet barley with some honey. Then the peat arrives and the whole gets more intense and hotter. Finish: lingering on smoke. Sweet aftertaste. Hints of coffee (which I always like). Loses some points for getting a bit cardboardy in the very end.

Powerful and expressive. Around € 45.

Score: 82/100


Port Askaig

04 May 2009 | * News

Port Askaig whisky

 

There is a new kid on the block: Port Askaig, a brand from Specialty Drinks (a sister company of The Whisky Exchange). A few weeks ago, the first three expressions were launched: a 17 year-old, a 25 year-old and a younger cask strength version. Update: now there’s a 30 year-old as well.

They are single Islay malts, which means they’re produced at the same distillery on Islay. There are no official clues about the name of the distillery, but it should be easy because there’s only one distillery really close to the village of Port Askaig…

There’s a good review of the 17yo on Tim’s TWE blog, so I’ll be reviewing the other versions for now, starting tomorrow with the Port Askaig Cask Strength.


This Balvenie has been finished in 30 year-old Port pipes, and – apart from the limited edition Balvenie 30y – this is the oldest whisky in the current range. There have been younger PortWoods as well, released as 1989, 1991 and 1993 vintages.

This is the regular 40% version. In duty free, The Balvenie PortWood Aged 21 Years is non chill-filtered and bottled at a higher strength of 47.6% abv.

 

  
Balvenie 21 yo Port WoodThe Balvenie 21y PortWood
(40%, OB 2006)

Nose: on one side there is the (subtle) port wine influence, on the other side there are a lot of beeswax notes. Nicely balanced and very elegant. The waxy notes remind me of older Clynelish bottlings. Creamy honey, some oranges. Hints of old, dusty oak and gentle notes of tropical fruits. Mouth: spicy attack and quite a juicy mouthfeel although it stays very polite and balanced. Dried fruit. Beeswax again. Slightly smoky and almost meaty after a while with distant hints of soy sauce. A bit underpowered maybe. Finish: warm, nutty aftertaste. Pepper. Long and gentle on raisins and pear.

The mouthfeel, which is less powerful than the nose and finish, could have gained extra points with a higher strength. I expect the duty free version to be real stunner. Still a nice Balvenie. Price: around € 80.

Score: 83/100


Springbank distillery is alive and kicking, after the 2008 rumours that it might shut down. They release whisky under three names: Springbank is distilled twice with low peating levels (+/- 15 ppm) whereas the Longrow brand is for heavier peat (+/- 50 ppm) and Hazelburn for triple distilled spirit.

This new Springbank 18 is matured in 80% sherry and 20% bourbon casks, with a limited production of 7800 bottles that sold out almost instantly (just like the Longrow 18y last year).

 

Springbank 18

Springbank 18y (46%, OB 2009)

Nose: complex nose. Sweet start on berries (redcurrant, blueberry, strawberry) with underlying coal smoke and espresso. Slight notes of bubble gum and wax. Grape and apple. Fruit cake. Fresh for its age. Very balanced and very pleasant. Mouth: very fruity again and rather oily. Bubble gum again. Some violets and cassis. Almonds. Smoky undertones with hints of liquorice. Long, candied finish. A bit dusty, with more sherry influence (raisins, chocolate).

Very smooth and beautiful Springbank. A little expensive though. Around € 100.

Score: 88/100


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Coming up

  • Glen Grant 1992 (Old Particular)
  • Glen Grant 1992 (Le Gus't)
  • Auchentoshan 15yo (Kintra)
  • Lagavulin 1997 Distillers Edition
  • Ben Nevis 1997 (Maltbarn)
  • Tomatin 1978 (Cadenhead / Nectar)
  • Aultmore 2007 (Daily Dram)
  • Glenglassaugh 1978 (Madeira)
  • Karuizawa 45 Year Old (cask #2925)
  • Glengoyne 1999 (Palo Cortado)

1503 notes by Ruben

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