Single malt whisky - tasting notes

Littlemill from the 1960’s and 1970’s isn’t always stunning. We’re trying the 1975 cask #2144 bottled by Signatory Vintage in 1993.

 

Littlemill 1975/1993 Signatory #2144Littlemill 18 yo 1975
(55,8%, Signatory Vintage 1993, cask #2144, 225 btl.)

Nose: hmm, certainly not what I expected. Very dusty, with lots of hay and old oak (with most of its polish gone). Hints of mint and minerals, maybe metallics. Wet newspaper. Hints of grapefruit, if we dig very deep, but it’s far from the citrusy profile that we love in the 1988-1992 bottlings. Mouth: again a bit dull and uninspired. More citrus, sure, but not the brightest kind. More on nutmeg and liquorice. Herbal notes. Finish: medium long, a slight disappointment.

This is the kind of whisky Littlemill’s so-and-so reputation was based upon, until the wave of wonderful citrus bombs was discovered a couple of years ago. A mediocre oldie.

Score: 80/100


Bulleit BourbonIn the 1830s, as a tavern keeper in Louisville, Augustus Bulleit set himself on a mission: to create a bourbon unique in flavour. Unfortunately he died suddenly (or rather vanished) and his bourbon adventure was lost as well, until in 1987 his great-great-grandson Tom Bulleit revived the brand (currently under the wings of Diageo, that is). As of 2008 the brand is also being exported to certain European markets and Australia.

Bulleit bourbon is distilled at the Four Roses distillery in Kentucky and aged in small batches. First they only had a NAS version (said to be around 6 years old), known for its relatively high share of rye in the mash (about 30%). In 2011 a Bulleit Rye was introduced (95% rye). Obviously the modern Bulleit recipe isn’t related to the original one, which would have contained about two-thirds of rye.

At the beginning of 2013, this Bulleit Bourbon 10 Year Old was launched.

 

 

Bulleit Bourbon 10 YearsBulleit Bourbon 10 yo (45,6%, OB 2013, Kentucky straight bourbon)

Nose: a nicely elegant nose with lots of fragrant cinnamon and vanilla, as well as some dry herbal notes. Plenty of toasted oak with traces of polished furniture. Hints of dried fruits as well. Marzipan. There’s a uplifting, spicy rye element, but it’s very well balanced and an attractive ensemble. Mouth: a big spicy kick now. A lot of oak, mint / eucalyptus, pepper and this special rye touch. Herbal tea. Liquorice. Less elegant than on the nose, this is very oak-driven and there’s just traces of fruity sweetness. Finish: moderate length, really dry and oaky. Returns to cinnamon and vanilla in the very end.

This is a very spicy and oaky bourbon. I love the nose for its dry / sweet balance and overall elegancy, but the palate is a little too much. I hear a lot of people actually prefer the NAS version. Around € 75.

Score: 82/100


This GlenDronach 2002 was bottled for The Whisky Fair (check the related GlenDronach 1993 for The Whisky Agency). These 2002 casks are the oldest ones filled at the distillery under the new ownership, after it had been mothballed since 1996.

It was drawn from a Pedro Ximénez sherry puncheon (bigger than a hogshead, smaller than a butt). Not sure whether this means full maturation or just a finishing period like here, or maybe even a re-racked cask.

Update: a well deserved Best Sherried Whisky award for this one (Malt Maniacs Awards 2013).

 

GlenDronach 2002 cask #710 - Whisky FairGlenDronach 10 yo 2002
(52,8%, OB for The Whisky Fair 2013, Pedro Ximénez puncheon #710, 665 btl.)

Nose: honey, maple syrup and a caramel mocha latte note. Some spicy notes like cinnamon and candied ginger. Sweet nuts. Some brown sugar and sourish red berries. Leather. Hints of smoke or toasted oak in the background. Overall less profoundly sherried than you would expect. Mouth: again quite spicy, quite some white pepper at first, then also cinnamon and cloves. Dark chocolate. Plenty of classic sultanas, sweet plums and dates, as well as a hint of orange jam. A little fudge. Some oak and coffee. Finish: long and warming, with the spices up front and a lingering dark plum sweetness behind them.

Quite a spicy GlenDronach, a bit of a ‘punche(on)ed up’ version with some nervous elements alongside more classic notes. Around € 75.

Score: 88/100


The youngest and least expensive dram in the latest batch by Maltbarn. Port Charlotte 2002 from a sherry cask.

 

Port Charlotte 2002 MaltbarnPort Charlotte 11 yo 2002 (54,7%, Maltbarn 2013, sherry cask, 78 btl.)

Nose: quite unique and really nice. Not too much peat, instead a lot of graphite and hints of petrol. Cod liver oil and Moroccan Argan. Brine. Very mineral (Caol Ila style, but bigger) and there’s a nice farmy side to it (wet earth, hay and wet animal fur). I think this is great. Mouth: clean, ashy and peaty, sharp and briny. Again: in line with Caol Ila but bigger. Kippers and liquorice. There’s also an almond sweetness in the background, as well as lemony notes to make sure it’s not too austere. Finish: long, clean, smoky. Still a subtle sweetness.

A very good – if slightly atypical – Port Charlotte, one of the most interesting 2001/2002 casks I’ve had so far. No obvious sherry, Fino maybe? Around € 95.

Score: 89/100


There are two new GlenDronach releases for Germany. The first is a GlenDronach 2002 PX for The Whisky Fair and the other one a GlenDronach 1993 for The Whisky Agency. Cask number 4.

I’ve tried cask #12 earlier, and I bought a bottle of cask #3 which I thought was clearly better. All of these are oloroso butts.

 

GlenDronach 1993 cask #4 The Whisky AgencyGlenDronach 20 yo 1993
(53,6%, OB for The Whisky Agency 2013, oloroso sherry butt #4, 664 btl.)

Nose: a very elegant and aromatic nose with a rosebud / rosehip syrup / waxed oak combination that is truly fantastic. Incensed church and old leather. Some earthy / leafy notes and bread in the background. Then some chocolate almonds and walnut cake. Just a little sticky caramel and meaty hints, but they come and go – easy to forgive. Mouth: sweet, with truckloads of figs, dates and sultanas. A slight gingery heat. Black cherries. Cinnamon. Slowly moving towards coffee beans and herbal notes. Cigar leaves. Drying out. Finish: very long, dry, with a nice bittersweet balance. Echoes of sweet Vermouth.

A great middle-aged GlenDronach. Nice selection by TWA. In case you’ve missed cask #3 from the official single casks batch #8, check this out. And keep an eye on these 1993′s. Around € 150.

Score: 91/100


Malt Whisky YearbookThe latest Malt Whisky Yearbook 2014 arrived on my doorstep the other day. Without doubt one of the books that I look forward to most.

It is packed with information about the recent whisky year. Which new releases have hit the market, which evolutions did we see in distilleries, what’s the situation like in other countries than Scotland, etc. Apart from the data and statistics, there are +/- 60 pages with articles written by renowned whisky writers (Buxton, Maclean, Roskrow…).

 

Here are some of this year’s themes:

  • Emerging markets: how is whisky doing in China, India or Africa?
  • How did Scotch conquer the world during the last 150 years?
  • What’s the effect of the recent mergers and acquisitions?
  • A short history of finishing
  • Experimental small distilleries like Teeling Whiskey, Zuidam or the Italian Puni distillery
  • A social look on whisky and whisky festivals

Some of these articles are quite ‘industrial’ – overviews of people, companies, figures – not always easy reading for outsiders but very insightful nonetheless. And even when you’re not interested in the industry news, it’s an essential list of distilleries, bottlings and events.

Most books are read once and then gather dust on your shelf, but this is the kind of book you’ll keep picking up, to look up some facts and figures or simply read the interviews and articles. Ingvar Ronde does a great job editing such an in-depth overview of today’s whisky industry.

The Malt Whisky Yearbook 2014 is sold through whisky shops all over Europe, distillery visitor centres or you can buy it online for £ 14.


I have a large amount of old samples waiting in my whisky cupboard, a few hundreds at least, brought together over the last eight years or so. Some magnificent single cask Ardbegs as well, and sometimes I simply don’t find the time to enjoy them (always waiting for a special moment, you know). Here we go with an excellent dram, for no special reason: Ardbeg 1974 cask #5666.

 

Ardbeg 1974 cask #5666Ardbeg 31 yo 1974 (51,8%, OB 2006, bourbon cask #5666, 168 btl.)

Nose: walnuts and gentle peat up front, but it develops almond milk (horchata) and lemon sweets as well. Turkish delight! Rosehip syrup? Sweet marzipan. Butter pastry and vanilla. Quite a round nose. Nice turpentine and camphor underneath. A little herbal syrup. Back to vanilla latte. Beeswax. Even hints of musk? Grand. Mouth: less rounded now, highly mentholated. Marzipan again, aromatic pepper, lemon pie and bergamot. Heather. Cinnamon. Still a hint of Turkish delight. Something in between Pu-Erh and Jasmin tea. Sweet liquorice. Hints of Benedictine. The best cough syrup ever. Finish: very long, still sweet, herbal and leathery.

A magnificent Ardbeg. Surprising sweet notes, floral notes and some of the best herbal liqueurs. Those were the days, my friend. So, you want one? Expect to pay around € 1400 now.

Score: 94/100


For now this 25 year old Bowmore 1987 is the diamond on the crown of the new Old Particular range by Douglas Laing. Wait, what’s that sound? Right, my 1980’s Bowmore alarm went off.

 

 

Bowmore 25yo Old ParticularBowmore 25 yo 1987 (50,2%, Douglas Laing Old Particular 2013, refill hogshead, 234 btl.)

Nose: a very creamy profile, with strawberry sweets and some goji berry notes. A lot of sweet barley with relatively subtle smoke and brine. Some oranges and lemon. Some floral notes too, but not the perfumy style. Really okay so far. Mouth: soap, soap, soap. Also lavender and parma violets. I won’t make an effort to pick up other flavours – soap is one of these total blockers. Peppered soap with hints of perfume. Finish: ruined.

The tasting notes on the label say:

Parma Violets in the mouth (typical for old Bowmore)

They’re pretty honest about it, but the fact that most Bowmores from this era have it (here’s a 1983 version), doesn’t make it a feature. Just to get this straight: it’s not typical for old Bowmore, it’s only typical for the period between +/- 1981 and 1988. It’s also found in Auchentoshan and Glen Garioch, coincidently all part of the Morrisson Bowmore group. Really old Bowmore is totally different and sometimes utterly fantastic.

This soapy Bowmore is a style on its own and I’m allergic to it. Like sulphur though, not everyone will be sensible, some will even like it. Mind that it’s not representative for the overall quality of the Old Particular range. Around € 320 – better wait for the interesting Port Ellen that is also in the pipeline.

Score: 72/100


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Coming up

  • Arran 17 Years Old
  • 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.