Single malt whisky - tasting notes

I plea guilty. Although I try to avoid blind purchases at all times, sometimes I am tempted and I buy a bottle without tasting it beforehand. I decided to buy this 39 year-old Glenrothes 1969 by Duncan Taylor after reading Bert Bruyneel’s whisky diary. He’s also the one who gave me a dram yesterday – my own bottle is still closed.

Lonach is a series of bottlings by Duncan Taylor meant for “under proof casks” i.e. casks of which the alcohol volume dropped below (or just above) the limit of 40%. The usual remedy is to mix two casks in order to obtain a final volume of more than 40%.

 

Glenrothes 1969 39 yo (Lonach) Glenrothes 39yo 1969 
(42,7%, Duncan Taylor Lonach 2008)

Nose: very fruity, tropical even. Ripe apricots, tangerines, oranges. A fruit basket in a great mix with creamy vanilla. Not weak at all. Subtle hints of wax, almonds and white pepper. Wonderful notes of guimauves (marshmallow candy). Mouth: this is where you notice the lower alcohol volume. A subdued start, although it picks up very well. Again very fruity (orange marmalade). Honey. Vanilla. Perfect oak influence now, with spices (nutmeg, pepper) and a bit of tannins. Finish: not too long, but fruity and spicy in a near-perfect balance.

As Bert told me the other day, there’s a huge difference between a cask strength whisky of 43% and a higher strength whisky that has been diluted to 43%. He’s absolutely right. This is wonderful old whisky, aromatic, complex and perfectly gentle. One of my best Glenrothes ever. Still to be found in some places. Around € 140. Thanks Bert!

Score: 92/100


Clynelish 1982 / 2009 Whisky AgencyThis is basically the same Clynelish as yesterday’s Daily Dram Synch Elli, but without dilution. It comes from a bourbon cask.

 

Clynelish 27 yo 1982 (53,9%, 
Whisky Agency 2009, 240 btl.)

Nose: as expected, the same aromas: wax, stones, limes, leather, dry white wine… It seems a bit sweeter though (yellow apples, acacia honey). Added hints of grapefruit. Mouth: wax, lemons. Very rich. Slightly warmer, more biscuity. The oak seems smoother and the sea associations are subdued. More difficult to notice the aspirin now. Slightly peppery. Finish: long, less dry and a bit less bitter.

Well, I didn’t expect big differences but still it’s interesting to see how the extra 8% intensifies some aromas and makes others less prominent. I prefer this version, but I think the austerity of the Daily Dram release is slightly bigger. Around € 120. Sold out.

Score: 90/100


Sharing casks is a common practice these days. Lots of independent bottlers know each other and bottle the same cask for different markets.

This 27 years old Clynelish is bottled by Daily Dram at 46% but also by The Whisky Agency at cask strength (53,9%). Let’s find out if it makes a difference.

 

Daily Dram Synch Elli Clynelish ‘Synch Elli’ 27yo 1982 
(46%, Daily Dram 2009)

Nose: big hints of wet limestones and wax. Wet newspaper. Fresh leather. Slightly tart apples and limes. Razor clams. A wonderful profile that’s very typical of Clynelish but that may seem strange if you’re not used to it. In fact, there are few immediately attractive aromas but it’s very unique and quite excellent. Mouth: lemon / lime again with slightly more candied notes. Wax again (I’ve never tasted a lemon candle but this may be close enough). Very mineral. Hints of aspirin. Quite some oak in the aftertaste. Finish: long, zesty, dry and a tad bitter.

This Clynelish is a very tight and uncompromising dram. You’ll love it or hate it. Around € 100 – excellent value for money.

Score: 89/100


The Glenmorangie Sonnalta PX is the first expression in the “Private Collection”, a range of limited editions sold in travel retail (although by now it’s available in regular shops as well). It was finished in Pedro Ximénez sherry casks after maturation in white oak ex-bourbon casks.

 

Glenmorangie Sonnalta PX Glenmorangie Sonnalta PX
(46%, OB 2009)

Nose: aromatic and luscious. A very complex play of chocolate, raisins and toffee. Vanilla, cinnamon, ginger. Richly sherried but it respects the original spirit, with hints of apricots, honey and oranges. Wonderful notes of roasted nuts. Sweet, rich and quite magical. Mouth: good mouthfeel with vanilla, lovely coffee beans and blood oranges. Sweet and coating but never too sugary. Soft pepper. Tobacco. Plums and berries. Nice balance between malty flavours and the sherry again. Very polished. Finish: long and creamy, on demerara sugar and spices.

I must admit that until now, Glenmorangie had a rather commercial image in my opinion, with a well composed but harmless profile. This is totally different though, quite unique and very drinkable. Very modern and meticulously designed but the result is great. Around € 70 for 1 liter.

Score: 89/100


It’s funny that the distillery named Speyside is technically not located in the Speyside region, because the river Spey is running on the wrong side of the distillery. But anyway, it’s the closest distillery to the source of the river, hence the name.

Apart from their malt whisky production (bottlings are very rare), the distillery is home to the Scott’s Selection independent bottlings, as well as the Cu Dhub black whisky (basically caramel with a dash of Speyside whisky).

 

Speyside 1993 Malts of Scotland Speyside 15yo 1993 (61,7%, Malts of Scotland 2009, sherry cask #636, 180 btl.)

Nose: quite tingling (well, not surprising at this strength). Hints of rum raisin (molasses, very dark raisins) and natural caramel. Cereals. Toasted bread. Plums. With water, notes of red berry jam emerge. Mouth: sweet, almost sugarish. Plums again, a little pepper. Slightly grainy, hot and not very expressive. Water doesn’t help much, I’m afraid, it stays rather flat. Finish: plums, malt, caramel. Another variation on the same theme. Still hot, even with water. Lots of camomile tea in the end.

This Speyside is quite alcoholic, rather closed and it doesn’t open up with water. Basically it displays the same aromas from the beginning until the end. It’s going in the right direction, but there’s not enough depth for me. Around € 70.

Score: 79/100


A 43 year-old Tomatin is not something you try every day. This 1965 vintage was bottled in March 2009 by German shop Whisky-Doris. What’s even more interesting, is that around the same time, a similar cask was bottled, the Daily Dram Oat Mint. I’ll have them side by side.

 

Tomatin 1965 Whisky-Doris Tomatin 43yo 1965 (48,2%, Whisky-Doris 2009, cask #20950, 194 btl.)

Nose: very assertive nose, with sweet fruits. Melons, peaches, some passion fruits. Maybe less creamy than the Daily Dram. Less vanilla as well. Pears and mango. Fresh mint. White pepper, more so than in Oat Mint. A tad sharper as well, less gentle. Mouth: fat and spicy. Nutmeg, mint again, pepper. Peach and pears mixed with a decent amount of wood. Hints of peat! Again less gentle than Oat Mint. Finish: long. Big oak now and big spices.

This Tomatin is more punchy than its Belgian sister but I’m not sure that’s a good thing. The Daily Dram has a slightly more fruity, mellow profile. If you prefer spicy whisky though (with more oak), this is the one to go for.
Price: 150 euro. Still available.

Score: 88/100


While reviewing the GlenDronach single casks, there was one cask that I didn’t post, the GlenDronach 1996. Given its low price, it was sold out very soon.

 

GlenDronach 1996 single cask 193 GlenDronach 13yo 1996 (59,4%,
OB 2009, oloroso butt #193, 399 btl.)

Nose: this one is the most rubbery of all the single casks. Nothing nasty, just plain rubber. I don’t really mind. Of course heavy sherry as well: raisins, prunes, chocolate. Some mint. Leather. Kirsch. A tad more meaty than the other casks as well (tajine lamb?). Mouth: A bit sharp, hints of sweet & sour. Figs and dates. Cherry liqueur again. Classic notes of coffee in the aftertaste. Finish: very long, a bit dry. Dark chocolate. Added notes of oranges.

The 1996 is the youngest and roughest cask of the GlenDronach single cask series. Close to being over-sherried. The rubbery nose costs a few points, but overall still decent value for money. Around € 65.

Score: 83/100

ps/ Its sister cask #209 (a 1996 vintage as well) is now promoted in Belgium by the GlenDronach “cask in a van” event. You can fill your own bottle straight from the cask.


Aberlour 14 yo 1995 (Duncan Taylor NC2)NC2 is a series by Duncan Taylor. It stands for “non coloured” and “non chill filtered”. These bottlings are usually a little younger and cheaper than the ones from other DT series.

Aberlour 14yo 1995
(46%, Duncan Taylor NC2 2009)

Nose: fresh, fruity start on peaches and pears. Hints of cereals and butter, a few lactic notes. Very little wood influence. After a while, some flowers appear, mainly violets and roses. Nothing spectacular but nice enough. Mouth: sweet start, quite some vanilla and apple juice. Orange candy. Muesli. Strawberries. Growing spicier in the aftertaste (soft pepper, ginger). Finish: medium length. Liquorice.

Simple but charming and highly drinkable daily dram. Around € 45. Available soon.

Score: 80/100


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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.