Single malt whisky - tasting notes

ardbeg_logo Yesterday, I’ve had a look at the brand new Ardbeg Corryvreckan. Let’s find out how it compares to the Airigh Nam Beist (its predecessor), and the Supernova which is the “heavy duty” offer in the Ardbeg range.

 

Ardbeg Airigh Nam Beist Ardbeg Airigh Nam Beist
Much more candied and floral than the Corryvreckan. You can hardly pick up the peat at first, such a difference! Bigger fruitiness, more vanilla (lovely white chocolate), Ardbeg Supernovaless burnt notes. Less grassy notes as well. If you go back to the Corryvreckan after this, it seems like a Supernova. I have to say I appreciate the Airigh Nam Beist more after this comparison.

Ardbeg Supernova
This one is definitely stronger, peatier, ashier. More tar, espresso and more camomile. There are also (pleasant) notes of rubber and pencil shavings that I didn’t get in the Corryvreckan. Overall more mono-dimensional though.

 

Basically the new Corryvreckan (30% fruit / 70% peat, I would say), sits in the middle between the feminine, candied Airigh Nam Beist (70% fruit / 30% peat) and the monstruous Supernova (5% fruit / 95% peat). It seems the overall Ardbeg profile is moving towards less complexity, with a darker taste and heavier peat (except for Blasda, that is). I’m pretty sure Corryvreckan will be a hit, although the price is considerably higher than previous standard Ardbegs.

After this comparison, I decided to give the Airigh Nam Beist one extra point and the Supernova one less.


Ardbeg Corryvreckan

22 Sep 2009 | Ardbeg

Ardbeg whisky A new Ardbeg is always something to look forward to. Ardbeg Corryvreckan replaces the Airigh Nam Beist and has already been announced in the UK (check Tim’s notes), but yesterday was the official launch date. The Committee version was received very well last year, so the general release promises to become a real hit (altough it’s a different batch).

Ardbeg Corryvreckan (named after a dangerous whirlpool in the seas near Islay) is composed around batches of spirit matured in first-fill French oak casks. They should give this whisky enough sweetness and spiciness to compete with the peat.

 

Ardbeg Corryvreckan Ardbeg Corryvreckan (57,1%, OB 2009)

Nose: sweet peat smoke mixed with lemons, fresh kumquats but also slightly overdue oranges. Walnuts and wet wool. A few grassy notes and hints of heavily toasted bread. Roasted nuts and a few spicy notes emerge after a while (pepper and ginger). I even picked up hints of violet candy which is quite remarkable. They were gone quickly, but it proves the Corryvreckan is indeed a real whirlpool of flavours. Mouth: very strong impact, starting rather sweet but evolving towards a spicy / savoury profile. Peppery with generous coal smoke. Lemon again, liquorice, phenols, very Ardbeggy. Toast with peach jam. Some cocoa. Finish: very long, continuously switching between peat, salt, mocha and pepper. Hints of olive juice.

Intense and powerful, no doubt about that, but balanced as well. Less peaty than Ardbeg Supernova but punchier / rougher than the Renaissance. Probably my favourite expression in the current Ardbeg range. Around € 70. Oh, and I really like the “no swimming” joke on the box!

Score: 88/100


Imperial is a rather low-profile Speyside distillery. During the 1980’s and 90’s, it has been closed (even with demolition permits) and restarted several times. Currently no whisky is produced at the distillery and it is uncertain what Pernod Ricard is planning to do with it. All the warehouses are empty but independent bottlers are releasing some of their stocks.

This 19 years old Imperial is part of a series. In 2008, Duncan Taylor released casks #35x and this year #44x with #450 being the latest addition.

 

Imperial 1990 Duncan Taylor (450) Imperial 19yo 1990 (53,9%, Duncan Taylor Rare Auld 2009, cask #450)

Nose: very fresh, candied and floral. Lots of honey, toffee and vanilla pudding. Lots of fruit as well: oranges, pears, some pineapple and mango. Good balance with the oak that’s coming through (if you add water, the oak becomes more prominent). Quite feminine, very nice. Also, it seems older than it actually is. Mouth: very fruity again, enriched by the wood spices. Not at all drying though (unless you add water). Sweet notes of oranges and grapefruit. Different sorts of fruit candy. Apple pie. Some cinnamon, nutmeg and light hints of pepper towards the finish. Hints of liquorice as well. Finish: medium long, on pear drops, cinnamon and honey.

The fruitiness on the nose is just perfect. On the palate it manages to integrate the wood very well. Around € 65. Highly recommended.

Score: 87/100


Museo del Whisky - San Sebastian Museo del Whisky is a bar in the North of Spain with one of the largest collections of whisky (3400 bottles). The bottles above the bar are top pieces worth a lot of money.

Location: Boulevard 5 – 20003 San Sebastián (Spain)
Range: +/- 100 single malts (menu available with descriptions)
Price: € 8 to € 100

What I’ve had: Tomatin 12
Price: € 12 (+/- 5cl)
Glass: tumbler (the glass came filled, no chance to ask for a different one)
Extra: ice and spring water offered separately, different nuts and a free tapa

Pros: very nice decor, nice staff, large range
Cons: menu mentions many (interesting) things that are not available, no adequate glass


Duncan Taylor has had some wonderful Caperdonich in their portfolio and it seems 1972 is an outstanding vintage for this distillery. Cask 7449 was bottled after 36 years of maturation.

 

Caperdonich 36yo 1972 (47,8%,
Duncan Caperdonich 1972 cask 7449Taylor Rare Auld 2009, cask #7449, 158 btl.)

Nose: starts on furniture polish but after a few moments this makes place for a fruitier profile. Prunes and dried apricots. Hints of tangerine and chamomile. A bit of freshly cut mint. Very elegant, very balanced, very superb. Water brings out some wet wool but diminishes the overall power. Mouth: gentle attack but a wonderful development. Fruity and quite minty again, fig marmalade, beautiful tannins and spices (cloves, cinnamon). Some almonds. Finish: smoothly fading, getting more herbal with the wood taking the upperhand (not drying though).

As expected, great stuff. At around € 115, you can’t go wrong. Sold out at most places but Duncan Taylor releases similar cask at regular times. None of them was ever bad.

Score: 91/100


This 13 year-old Laphroaig 1996 was part of the latest batch of Single Malts of Scotland releases. It comes from a single bourbon hogshead.

 

Single Malts of Scotland - Laphroaig 1996 13y Laphroaig 13yo 1996 (46%, Single Malts of Scotland 2009, cask #1983, 280 btl.)

Nose: rather mellow. Wood smoke mixed with lime juice. Some iodine and marzipan. Typical although fruitier and sweeter than usual, very integrated overall. Water intensifies the sweetness and shows some slightly floral notes. Mouth: very fruity and sweet again. I’m not a smoker, but I guess this tastes like citrus candy after a good cigar. Hints of black pepper and almonds. Finish: sweet and ashy with notes of liquorice and a gently bitter edge (over-infused Lapsang).

Not a wham-bam Laphroaig but quite subtle, sweet and very drinkable. Available from TWE (€ 55).

Score: 85/100


There are only three distilleries who can claim to be “royal”: Royal Brackla, Glenury Royal and Royal Lochnagar, the favourite distillery of Queen Victoria. It’s Diageo’s smallest operational distillery and bottlings are quite rare. There’s an official 12 year old and the Selected Reserve from 2008 (half sherry, half bourbon, around 18yo).

 

Royal Lochnagar 1990 Duncan Taylor Royal Lochnagar 19yo 1990 (54,6%, Duncan Taylor Rare Auld 2009, cask #356, 259 btl.)

Nose: starting rather mineral and grassy but the fruit comes out after a while, mainly zesty citrus. Heather honey. There’s a delicious peat base, hints of wet rocks and sawdust. Spicy edge (ginger, mint, even chives). Classy Highland character I would say. Mouth: powerful attack, starts on fruit cake. Evolves on oranges, some liquorice. Grassy notes as well, mixed with lemon marmalade. Hints of violets and rosemary. Finish: rather long and hot. Getting grassy and lemony again. Dark caramel in the aftertaste.

A very solid Highland malt with some intriguing aromas. A Royal Lochnagar to recommend! 
Around € 85.

Score: 88/100


Macallan doesn’t need an introduction. There are plenty of bottlings, both official and independent. This 19 year old Macallan 1990 was drawn from the cask four weeks ago so it should be available shortly.

 

Macallan 1990 Duncan Taylor 8099 Macallan 19yo 1990 (50,1%, Duncan Taylor Rare Auld 2009, cask #8099, 266 btl.)

Nose: not the most expressive nor a very fruity Macallan. Malty start with hints of fresh apples. A bit of vanilla and honey. Mouth: much more punchy now, with hints of sugared almonds and candied pineapple. Banana with cinnamon. Slightly roasted as well, with hints of mocha and chocolate. Finish: drops rather soon. A bit of candy sugar and whiffs of oak.

This one is all right (non-sherry for a change) though probably not the most interesting Macallan. Good on the palate, but the nose and finish are less convincing. Around € 85.

Score: 81/100


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Coming up

  • Benriach 1991 (MoS for QV.ID)
  • Bowmore 2003 (The Whiskyman)
  • Ardmore Legacy
  • Balblair 2000 single casks
  • Lagavulin 12yo (2014 release)
  • Craigellachie 17 Year Old
  • Cardhu 18 Year Old
  • Clynelish 21yo 1992 (Cadenhead)
  • Ledaig 2005 (Maltbarn)
  • Aberlour 8yo (cube, small cork)

1639 notes by Ruben

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