Single malt whisky - tasting notes

This year’s Talisker 30 years old is a mixture of refill American oak casks and European oak casks. It’s the fourth edition of the 30yo bottling. I’ve tasted it alongside the Talisker 25 yo.

 

Talisker 30 years old (2009) Talisker 30yo (53,1%, OB 2009, 3000 btl.)

Nose: obviously the same family as the 25yo, but gentler and creamier. Less smoke, less maritime notes (still there, just muted). More fruity notes, added hints of vanilla and toffee. Hints of almond pie and apples. Very warm, rather sweet and simply lovely. Mouth: fruity again (candied oranges, lime) with some candle wax. Interesting how it starts very feminine (almond milk) but gets more turbulent over time (more peat, salt, strong tea) with a peppery tang. Finish: very long, citrus with pepper. Some salt and smoke.

Well, Talisker 30yo offers a few added levels over the 25yo. The sweet and fruity side is better developed and it balances all the typical Talisker elements very well. It’s richer and very refined. Around € 240.

Score: 92/100


This is the seventh edition of the Talisker 25 years old. It’s a mixture of refill American oak casks and European oak casks and a true classic in the Diageo Special Releases range.

Talisker 25 years old (2009) Talisker 25yo (54,8%, OB 2009, 5862 btl.)

Nose: very maritime start (seaweed, brine) with some lazy peat and smoke. After a while citrus grows stronger (lemon but oranges as well). Some trademark pepper. Quite some oak and cigar boxes. Linseed oil. Compared to the 30yo, punchier and slightly more grassy but still relatively shy. Mouth: a slap in your face. Very spicy with the pepper being the most important. More sweet peat now. Some liquorice towards the finish. Nice lemon-salt combo. Very oily and powerful. Medium finish. Slightly bitter / organic onset, then more salty. Coastal notes and more wood in the end.

Very intense and very Talisker although I don’t see a real premium over the 20 years old version. If money is not an issue, have a look at the 30 years old. Around € 170.

Score: 88/100


I’ve never published notes of Brora 30 years old although it has been one of my favourite drams ever. After a 25 year-old version in 2008, there was enough stock to release a 30 year-old version again.

 

Brora 30yo (53,2%, OB 2009, 8th Edition, 2652 btl.)

Brora 30 yo 2009 Nose: starts very fruity. Pears on syrup, even tinned lychee. Orange lemonade and vanilla. Quite refined – a big surprise if you’re expecting the goat stables of the previous releases. There’s also a coastal and slightly medicinal side to it, which makes it more punchy. I’m picking up a few green, vegetal notes but the farminess is nothing like before. Hints of mint. It evolves on wax, almonds and apples. Still quite clean. Whiffs of light coal smoke as well. Mouth: more smoke now, on par with the fruity notes. Lots of lemon. Getting more salty and oaky. Once again more wax, apples and smoke. Finish: long, well balanced between salt, pepper, oak and smoke.

I’m a huge fan of the farmy Brora profile. If you haven’t experienced it, you won’t understand, but I really adore the hints of goat cheese or cow stable. This new Brora 30yo goes in a slightly different direction (the Clynelish direction that is) but it’s still excellent. For me, less wickedly unique though than previous versions.
Around € 275.

Score: 90/100


The Lagavulin 12 yo is probably the most popular of the yearly Special Releases. It’s a powerful cask-strength dram with an accesible price tag. I’m tasting this year’s release together with the Lagavulin 12yo 2006 release.

 

Lagavulin 12 years old (2009) Lagavulin 12yo Special Release
(57,9%, OB 2009, 9th release)

Nose: very ‘deep’ smoke, hints of burnt stuff. Some iodine, but initially less round and fresh than the 2006 version. It’s only after a few minutes that vanilla shows through with hints of chocolate, tobacco and apples. Some gypsum. More straightforward than the 2006. Mouth: again a strong base of peat smoke, burnt grass and roasted coffee beans. Very masculine. Not much fruit although there are hints of pear candy and almonds. Some sugared lemon juice. Vanilla. Spicy but not as salty as the 2006. Finish: smokey, not too long with the sweet peat having the last word.

This one needs some time, otherwise there’s not much else than peat smoke. Young, sharp and expressive. A small concern though: it seems Lagavulin is moving towards heavier peat, as clearly seen in recent Ardbegs or the Laphroaig 10yo CS as well. It’s a general trend, which makes it very Islay but also less complex and sophisticated than before. For me personally, that’s a small downturn.
Around € 70.

Score: 86/100

ps/ After I roughly rinsed my glasses with some water, the 2006 glass didn’t show much smoke. The 2009 on the other hand was pretty useless until it was cleaned thoroughly. I guess it shows the difference.


Diageo special releases 2009 whisky

Isn’t that a lovely sight? It’s the full range of this year’s Diageo Special Releases, which includes a few very interesting bottles. There are two groups. First, the usual stuff that we’re looking forward to every year:

Apart from these ‘regular’ releases, 2009 is a special year because it also presents three bottles of distilleries that are very scarce on the market.


Stratyhclyde is a Lowlands grain distillery. Within its plant, there was also the Kinclaith malt whisky distillery which was closed in 1975. Strathclyde is now part of the Pernod Ricard imperium. The spirit contains 70% maize.

 

Strathclyde 1980 - Duncan Taylor Rare Auld Strathclyde 27yo 1980 (58,2%, Duncan Taylor Rare Auld 2007, cask #1496)

Nose: lots of varnish / paint notes. Not unpleasant but too harsh maybe. Some hints of toasted oak and a little mocha. Tropical fruits as well, but they’re burried somewhere deep inside. Too bad, because the balance is a bit gone. Some mint. Mouth: very very strong and equally strange. Heavy alcohol, an overload of wood resin, then some grains… quite ethereal on the whole with hints of after shave. Rum, burnt cake. Honey maybe? Water doesn’t do any good either. Finish: quite long but a bit too alcoholic and bitter.

I’ve never had this kind of experience with grain whisky. Way too much focus on the varnish notes and the alcohol. Still available in some shops. Around € 80. You’re warned though!

Score: 58/100


Balmenach is a little-know Speyside distillery. It was mothballed in 1993 and changed owners in 1997. Production was restarted with traditional machinery and methods. As there’s no official (old) stock, only independent bottlers can release bottlings at this moment.

This Balmenach 1975 was matured in first fill sherry casks. It was distilled in April 1975 and bottled by G&M in its Connoisseurs Choice range.

Balmenach 1975 / 2007 (G&M) Balmenach 31yo 1975
(43%, Gordon & MacPhail 2007)

Nose: special. A sherry profile but quite unique. Earthy, with notes of hay and a fern forest. Nuts. Something of soy sauce. Apples. Coffee. Some heather. Rather strange, quite herbal, with interesting notes of pine needles! Very complex really. Mouth: oily mouth-feel but slightly underpowered at 43%. Big notes of dried fruits (figs, raisins), candied orange peel, very dark chocolate. Hints of roasted nuts / smoke as well. Some banana. Ginger. Rich and intense. Finish: very long, very sherried. A pinch of salt in the aftertaste. Excellent espresso.

This Balmenach feels old, in a good way. Well, it is old of course… but first fill sherried whisky at this age is not always drinkable. This one doesn’t have that problem and the result is intense, old-school sherry. A contemplative whisky that would have been even better at 46% or cask strength. Some bottles left at around € 90.

Score: 89/100


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


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  • Tony: Well the 1401 batch 8 could be found easily in most places for £200 - indeed I got one for £180 with a discount. The £225 price was a bit high and
  • WhiskyNotes: Don't just look at the UK - it's not always representative for the rest of the world. The last 1401 for Europe was batch 8. I bought that one for €
  • Sam: Nicely written notes, not rated this myself yet. Just to confirm, it's nowhere near a 40% price rise though. The last 1401 released in the UK was at

Coming up

  • Macduff 1980 (Golden Cask)
  • Karuizawa 45 Year Old (cask #2725)
  • Cardhu 18 Year Old
  • Craigellachie 13 Years
  • Port Askaig 19 Year Old
  • Ledaig 2005 (Maltbarn)

1659 notes by Ruben

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