Single malt whisky - tasting notes

Redbreast 12yo

09 Jul 2009 | * Ireland

Redbreast is not a single malt, but pure pot still whiskey. It’s made from a mixture of both malted and unmalted barley. It’s not strictly a blend either, because the mixture is distilled at once instead of blending them afterwards. Although it’s typically Irish, nowadays the tradition is taken over by malt whiskey.

 

Redbreast 12yo Redbreast 12y (40%, OB 2008)

Nose: creamy and fruity. Pear, banana and peach, with a layer of sweet honey. A bit of marzipan. Very rich vanilla pudding. Fresh cake and hints of sherry. Slightly waxy. Some red pepper in the distance. Mouth: oily mouth-feel, fruity again (cassis, strawberry). Coconut with peach. Gingery notes as well. Finish: growing spicier with hints of liquorice. Pears and honey. Quite some nutmeg, and a slightly winey aftertaste.

The nose is very attractive. On the palate it slows down a bit, but it’s still a very decent Irish whiskey at a great price.

Around € 35.

Score: 83/100


This 12 year-old Talisker was bottled in 2007 but it re-appeared in some FOTCM stores a few weeks ago. It seems they didn’t manage to sell all of their bottles? This release was matured in European Oak.

 

Talisker 12y Classic MaltsTalisker 12yo (45,8%, OB 2007, for Friends of Classic Malts, 21.500 btl.)

Nose: unmistakably Talisker. Grilled notes, freshly baked bread. Some peat. Hints of sherry, a wee bit of sulphur maybe. Some spices, mostly pepper and chilli. Slightly maritime (sea-weed, oily fish). Mouth: in the same league as the standard Talisker 10yo, but sweeter at first. Honey. Spices and toasted notes. Sugar coated nuts. White pepper. Hints of mustard. Finish: getting more salty. Slightly peaty and smokey. Some sweet oak influence.

Compared to the standard Talisker 10yo, this one is a little less spicy with a more generous dash of honey. Creamy but not really worth the extra cash.

Score: 82/100


Tomatin is an active Speyside distillery founded in 1897. It had a period of rapid expansion during the 1960’s and was working at full capacity between 1975 and 1980. After bankrupcy in 1985, it is currently owned by a Japanese group.

This 31 year-old Tomatin was distilled in November 1976 and matured in a refill sherry cask.

Tomatin 1976 Scotch Single Malt Circle Tomatin 31y 1976 (49,6%, Scotch Single Malt Circle 2008, cask #19085, 336 btl.)

Nose: ooh, honeyed and tropically fruity like old Speysiders (let’s say Glenrothes or Linkwood) or even old Bowmore can be. Exotic fruits: mango, pineapple, tangerine marmelade. Demerara sugar. Banana. Strawberry. Hints of cigar box and lavender. Slight waxy notes and silky vanilla. Just marvellous. Mouth: still very fruity (banana, apple, berries) but a lot more wood now. Hints of kirsch / rum. Resinous notes. Slightly tannic and sourish. Fading towards grapefruit. Finish: rather long, more wood, half fruity / half spicy with a faint bitterness. Even a salty edge (liquorice).

The nose of this Tomatin is tropical perfection, but on the palate there are a few less gentle (out of tune?) notes that counter-balance the overall fruitiness. A real treat anyway. Around € 155.

Score: 90/100


Ardbeg Blasda

06 Jul 2009 | Ardbeg

This Ardbeg Blasda caused a bit of a shockwave among afficionados. For the first time, the distillery would release a virtually unpeated whisky (8 parts per million instead of 24 ppm). The fans feared that it would be a light “Fanta” version (also because it is bottled at just 40% strength).

 

Ardbeg BlasdaArdbeg Blasda (40%, OB 2008)

Nose: light and very clean. Quite fruity with juicy apple, fresh lemon and some kiwi. Still noticeably peaty, more than you would expect, with notes of ashes. Slightly coastal as well. Mint. Mouth: again light and clean. Sweet peat, peaches on syrup, lemon. A bit too shy in my opinion. It’s probably too young to have a lot of character. Finish: spicy, peaty, lemony. The nose, the palate and the finish are really playing in the same field here. You could call that harmonious, or you could call that a bit boring.

Let’s try to evaluate this without Ardbegs tradition in mind, as a new brand so to speak. It’s decent whisky, but not exciting. Light and easy, a good choice for a hot summer day. All in all, I guess there are better examples of lightly peated drams, but I’d love to taste this after a few extra years in the cask. Around € 55.

An extra point for the elegant packaging!

Score: 80/100


Auchentoshan is a lowland distillery, now part of the Japanese Suntory group. This 1991 vintage was finished in a red wine cask by Château Montrose, a winery in the Haut Médoc region (Bordeaux, France). They produce highly regarded wines with notes of cassis and vanilla. As a result of this, the whisky has a rather uncommon pink hue.

 

Auchentoshan 1991 - Malts of Scotland Auchentoshan 18yo 1991 (59,3%, Malts of Scotland 2009, cask #492, 301 btl.)

Nose: a lot of wine influence. The grapes are not well integrated with the whisky, so it seems. Quite dry and mono-dimensional. Also rather eggy, sulphury notes. Not attractive or simply not my cup of tea (although there are interesting notes of cassis and red berry jam). Mouth: starts off very sweet (raisins, sweet malt, muesli). Very hot as well (59,3%) but water immediately drowns the flavours. Too bad. Oranges maybe? Getting slightly tannic and bitter in the end (gin tonic, cloves). Finish: still bitter. Some chocolate.

Different, that’s for sure. But also one of the least appealing drams I’ve tasted lately. The delicate lowlands character is suffocated by the wine. Well, I guess not everything Malts of Scotland touches is gold. Around € 75.

Score: 68/100


It’s not a shame if you haven’t heard of Hillside. It’s another name for the Glenesk distillery (Highlands), closed and dismantled since 1985 and now used as maltings. It’s extremely difficult to find one of the three Rare Malts bottlings that Diageo released between 1995 and 1997.

 

Hillside Rare Malts 1970 Hillside 25y 1970 (60,1%, OB 1996)

Nose: malty and quite grassy. There’s some honey and grapes but they seem to be burried in the alcohol. Some solventy notes. Terpentine. With some water: better, more grape and some peach. Mouth: again rather strong on alcohol. Quite oaky, herbal and spicy (pepper). After a few moments, there is a wonderful wave of smoke, mixed with dark caramel. Water doesn’t add much, but it accentuates the smoke. Finish: slowly fading smoke. Rather sweet and fruity aftertaste, with the oak getting drier in the end.

Not all Rare Malts are excellent whiskies. This Hillside 1970 is very powerful but not entirely balanced. The bottle is worth around € 400 so better suited for collectors than drinkers. The smoke made it worth trying though.

Score: 78/100


Clynelish is a Diageo distillery that’s appreciated by many connoisseurs for its subtle, lighter style with lots of waxy notes and the usage of lightly peated malt. Clynelish (sister of the wonderful Brora) tends to be a bit unusual, but always rewarding. This 1996 distillation was from a sherry butt.

 

Malts of Scotland - Clynelish 1996 Clynelish 12yo 1996 (58,1%, Malts of Scotland 2009, cask #8245, 304 btl.)

Nose: prickly nose but it opens up with some hand warmth, there’s lovely apricot captured by Clynelish’s typical wax. Hints of gin tonic and cut grass. Some oranges and almonds. Hints of violets. Lots of character really. Mouth: wonderful violet candy mixed with other fruity notes. Very sugary lemon juice. Sweet as marshmallows. So beautiful. Becoming oily and resinous. Oranges with nutmeg. Finish: medium length, balancing between waxiness, fruitiness and spiciness.

If you like vibrant, candied Clynelish, this is highly recommended. Around € 50 which makes it an absolute stunner! Thumbs up for Malts of Scotland. Find a shop in Germany that ships outside of the country.

Score: 90/100


Longmorn was founded by John Duff who also started the BenRiach and Glenlossie distilleries. It is one of the few distilleries who never stopped production during the 20th century. The spirit is seen as one of the better blending malts, and the heavily sherried independent releases from the 1970’s are brilliant. At the moment, there is one official bottling, the 16 years old which is just so-so.

 
Longmorn 14y 1994 - Douglas Laing Longmorn 14y 1994
(50%, DL OMC 2008, ref. 4804, 352 btl.)

Nose: fresh on citrus and barley. Also sweeter notes of honey. Hints of cake. Balanced oak influence (cigar box) with some spicy touches (vanilla, ginger, cinnamon). Mouth: very spicy (peppery) attack. As soon as this calms down, there’s a huge vanilla wave. Bitter oranges. Finish on vanilla with hints of cherries. Citrus and oak again. Quite sweet at first, gets more bitter towards the end. Apple cake.

Quite good, this Longmorn from a refill hogshead has character and a firm taste.

Score: 82/100.


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  • Tudval: Just because canadian whisky 'can' have other stuff in it, doesn't mean it does. Regulation is not the be all and end all. Certainly these days there
  • Gal(WhiskyIsrael): Just tasted this one. WOW. i am very very impressed Ruben. Amazing BFYB for 40 euro. this feels much older and so complex. WOW again. dang!
  • bakerman: I will look for the cheaper unpeated Caol Ila as I am interested to compare it with the younger versions released earlier (8 and 12 years). I will als

Coming up

  • GlenDronach 1990 (PX cask #2970)
  • Highland Journey
  • GlenDronach 1993 Oloroso cask #494
  • Glen Elgin 1985 (Maltbarn)
  • Fettercairn Fior
  • Cardhu 18 Year Old
  • Ben Nevis 2002 (Port cask #334)
  • Tomatin Cuatro series

1614 notes by Ruben

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