Single malt whisky - tasting notes

Here’s another St. Magdalene that I’ve tasted alongside the St. Magdalene 1982 26y by Douglas Laing. Did you know the St. Magdalene distillery was built at the site of a former lepers colony?

This Rare Malts release is pretty rare, the 1979/1998 version is a lot more common. If you’re able to spot a bottle, expect to pay around € 300.

 

St. Magdalene Rare Malts 1970 St. Magdalene 23y 1970 (58,1%, RM 1994)

Nose: powerful and direct. Fruity but… quite some sulphur as well. Too bad really. I decided to let it air for 20 minutes. That helped, but the off-notes didn’t disappear completely. There’s definitely peat on the nose, and some burnt caramel / toffee. Some orange candy, but nothing like the femininity of the 1982 Douglas Laing St. Magdalene OMC. I, fact, this one didn’t appeal much to me. Mouth: powerful and rather grassy (burnt grass even). Slightly nutty (almonds). Oil, marzipan, herbs. Finish: very long and chewy. Herbal notes again, light peat and dry oak.

I find it difficult to evaluate this one. It definitely has some qualities, but I’m missing some finesse. I think “obscure” fits this bottling well. I prefer the Douglas Laing.

Score: 78/100


Daily Dram glass

27 May 2009 | * News

Daily Dram glas Last week,  I’ve had a sneak peek at the brand new Daily Dram whisky glass.

The bowl is closely related to a tulip / ISO glass, but there’s no stem, not even a foot. It’s rather small and comfortable to hold. I personally don’t like my whisky too cold, so I like the fact that your hand will inevitably warm up your whisky when holding this glass (although I’m sure others will dislike it).

Around € 20 for a six pack.


Macallan 18y 1983

26 May 2009 | Macallan

The 18 years old Macallan vintages are highly regarded. They are fully matured in sherry oak casks from Jerez de la Frontera (Spain), which is getting uncommon these days (too expensive). They have been around since the 1980’s (distilled late 1960’s).

 

Macallan 1983 18yo Macallan 18y 1983 (43%, OB 2001)

Nose: classic sherry maturation. Chocolate, lots of raisins, dry fruit, prunes. Still, the fruitiness and freshness of this Macallan is exceptional. A bit of vanilla and smoked bacon. Some notes of an old cognac. Mouth: as expected, really rich again. Prunes, raisins, oranges, chocolate… Rather sweet and very smooth. A bit of oak. Finish: long aftertaste on chocolate and soft spices (cloves). Getting drier in the end, with more wood influence.

The Macallan 18yo is a must-try for sherry lovers and a benchmark for other sherry bottlings. It may be blasé to say, but it’s also a bit predictive (the huge over-influence of sherry means this is quite close to other sherry bombs such as the much cheaper Aberlour A’Bunadh). Anyway, it surely is a great whisky.

Price: around € 250 for such an old version. Around
€ 100 if you take the recent Macallan 1990/2008.

Score: 89/100


Ardbeg Ten (2006)

25 May 2009 | Ardbeg

The Ardbeg Ten is one of the most enigmatic of all the commonly available standard malts. In last year’s Whisky Bible, Jim Murray gave it an incredible score and declared it whisky of the year. Apart from that, it’s generally highly regarded. In fact, it doesn’t make sense to publish tasting notes, because I believe everything is written already.

It is said that recent batches contain quite a lot of older whisky (almost twice the age), because there was a shortage of younger casks.

 

Ardbeg Ten 10yo Ardbeg 10yo ‘Ten’ (46%, OB 2006)

Nose: peat, but not so much the medicinal type that you find in Laphroaig. Ashes, a bit of tar. Sea air. Fresh, fruity notes as well, mostly apple and lemon. Walnuts and roasted almonds. Well integrated flavours. Mouth: smokey-sweet and full bodied. Nicely oily. Apple and lime. Lovely notes of roasted coffee towards the finish. Finish: peaty with a touch of vanilla. Getting drier and grassier in the end.

I have to say my opinion on the Ardbeg Ten changes over time. At first, I didn’t see what the fuzz was all about. Nowadays, I appreciate it more (depending on my mood, I guess) and I have to agree it’s an outstanding malt considering the age and the price (€ 35).

Score: 86/100


The Glenrothes released a 25 year old and 30 year old whisky exclusively for travel retail in the past couple of years. Now, there is a new bottling for duty free shops, the Robur Reserve. It is the first expression in a new cardboard box and a stretched version of the distinctive bottle.

 

Glenrothes Robur ReserveThe name derives from Quercus Robur, the Latin name for European / Spanish oak. This Glenrothes was matured in first-fill ex-sherry casks. There’s no age statement.

 

Glenrothes Robur Reserve
(40%, OB 2008, 1 liter)

Nose: instant toffee. Some vanilla, dried fruits and oranges. Hints of leather. Some soft flowery notes as well. Mouth: very velvety and smooth. Malty and fruity flavours, vanilla again, rather sweet sherry. Fresh plums. Caramel. Hints of clove. Finish: medium long, starting rather sweet and developing on toffee and spices.

Not bad, although it won’t blow you away. Really mellow and easy-going, but less sherry than you would expect from first-fill casks. Around € 50 (1 liter). I like the Glenrothes Select Reserve better, and it’s about the same price.

Score: 79/100


Until 1955, when they entered the Japanese whisky industry, Karuizawa was a vineyard. The distillery is very old-fashioned, sticking to Scottish traditions and focusing on small-scale production. Karuizawa uses 100% Golden Promise barley, wooden washbacks, small stills and sherry casks sourced from Spain.

The distillery composed an epic whisky last year when releasing the oldest Japanese whisky ever, the Karuizawa 1971. Now there is a slightly younger follow-up, the 36 years old 1972.

 

Karuizawa 1972/2008 Karuizawa 36yo 1972
(65%, OB 2008, cask #7290, Japanese wine cask, 528 btl.)

Nose: the alcohol really hits you, but it’s still very expressive. Big sherry (well, Japanese wine) influence. Wonderful tobacco notes, like a recently opened cigar box. Plums. Kirsch. Spicy chocolate (cinnamon) and orange marmalade. Some leather. A light hint of smoke. Very complex, very good. Mouth: wow, very powerful and hot. Water needed here (and I don’t say that very often). Very intense, with a peppery attack. Fruity notes (lemon and tangerine) with a strong woody dimension. Raisins. Hints of smoke. Finish: very long finish on oak and spices. Warm and drying.

Again a true classic. Not cheap but simply excellent. Expect to pay around € 185.

Score: 92/100


Another release in the 2009 line-up from The Whisky Agency. The previously reviewed Longmorn 32y 1976 was from their Shark series (brown label), while this Caol Ila is from the Perfect Dram series (yellow label). Thumbs up by the way for the clean design. You may also want to check out the Bunnahabhain from these series.

Most of Caol Ila’s production goes into the Johnnie Walker blend. Only around 5% is reserved to be bottled as single malt. While there is a warehouse at the distillery on Islay, most of today’s production is shipped to the mainland and stored there. This 26 years old was matured in an ex-bourbon hogshead.

 

Caol Ila 1982 26yo - Whisky AgencyCaol Ila 26y 1982 (63%, The Whisky Agency 2009, Perfect Dram I, 120 btl.)

Nose: quite some alcohol, you need to warm it up considerably or add some water to release the flavours. Quite some iodine and medicinal associations. Sea breeze, seaweed. The usual peat and coal smoke. Rather sharp and tingling. A tad grassy as well. Faint notes of a rather sweaty salami. With water: fresher notes. Lemon, apples and walnuts. Some leather. Very good and rather typical Caol Ila, I would say. Mouth: much sweeter with lots of vanilla. Some smoked bacon or lomo ibérico. Tarry notes. With water: less sweet, more grassy. Liquorice. Green tea. Long and smokey finish. Hints of smoked fish, salted almonds and cocoa.

Nicely coastal, well balanced and certainly one of the more complex Caol Ilas I’ve had. Around € 130.

Score: 88/100


Highland Park recently said that they can’t sustain the high strength of the current Highland Park 21 years old, because it was very popular and stocks at that alcohol level are limited (do they really have difficulty finding 20+ year old casks over 47,5% – hard to believe). They will be lowering the strength to 40%.

In fact, they say they had already changed the whisky that won the World Whisky Awards this year, although there’s actually no proof of that. Why doesn’t the WWA jury publish the full details of the winners, just to avoid these kind of problems?

Also, Highland Park doesn’t mention a price reduction for the 21yo, so the lower volume could easily be seen as a disguised price increase. Sad news!


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Coming up

  • Benromach 10 Year Old
  • Benromach 1976 vintage
  • Littlemill 1991 (Eiling Lim)
  • Jura 1972 SMWS 31.4
  • Balblair 2002
  • Jura Origin
  • Kavalan Solist sherry (for LMdW)

1572 notes by Ruben

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