Single malt whisky - tasting notes

Now that GlenDronach has been taken over by the Walker family, they are following the BenRiach tradition of yearly special releases. The new owners have shown what they can do for an undervalued distillery so we should have high hopes for these new releases.

This year, there are five single casks:

GlenDronach 1992/2009 cask 1140 GlenDronach 16yo 1992 (57,2%, OB 2009, oloroso butt #1140, 598 btl.)

Nose: big big sherry. Hints of raisins, milk chocolate, worn leather. Maraschino cherries / kirsch. Sweet notes of toffee, even some vanilla. Walnuts. Hints of roasted nuts and smoke in the distance. With water, bang, a fruit explosion: tangerine, lovely raspberry and red currant. Very sweet and juicy. Mouth: prunes, cherry liqueur, some balsamic vinegar. A bunch of fruit jams as well (figs, prunes, blackcurrant). Light cinnamon. In the aftertaste, there is some beef stock and more leather. Finish: amazingly long, on sherry, hazelnuts and spices (cloves and a bit of ginger). Evolves to very dark, slightly bitter chocolate.

Now you have to like heavy sherry of course, but if you do, you will love this GlenDronach. No nasty sulphur effect whatsoever, which can be a problem with heavy sherry bottlings. Clean and complex. Too bad for the oaky bitterness in the end, which I found a bit distracting.

Not available yet, but on its way to the stores as we speak. Around € 90.

Score: 90/100


I’ve had quite a lot of Malts of Scotland bottlings on this blog lately, but I know people are waiting for the first independent reviews of these usually very interesting bottles, so here’s another one.

Laphroaig is generally matured in bourbon barrels from Maker’s Mark. Sherry oak is only used as a short additional finish (e.g. Laphroaig Triple Wood) or for occasional (but usually exceptional) bottlings such as the legendary 1974/2005 for La Maison du Whisky. Based on the cask reference, I guess Malts of Scotland picked their own sherry cask to mature it.

 

Laphroaig 1998/2009 sherry - Malts of Scotland Laphroaig 10yo 1998
(55,5%, Malts of Scotland 2009, sherry cask #MoS 15, 201 btl.)

Nose: great balance between peat smoke and sherry. The result is a big, fruity dram with notes of blood oranges, coffee beans and light hints of matchsticks. Sweet liquorice. Marzipan with a chocolate coating. Some hints of tropical fruits after a bit of breathing (mango) which can usually only be found in older Laphroaig production. Faint hints of cinnamon and insence as well. Mouth: sweet attack, again quite sherried. Fruit tea and almonds. The peat doesn’t win the fight here. A wave of salty liquorice as well. Chocolate. Finish: more classic Laphroaig now, on tar, sweet mint and caramel coated peanuts.

 

A bold dram but very drinkable at cask strength. Excellent stuff, certainly at less than € 60.

Now for the bad news: although this was released very recently (2nd half of July), the German economy has been rising again and our friends bought all of these bottles within a few days. Google results will only lead to “page not found” messages… If you’re into Laphroaig and you happen to find one for sale, don’t hesitate!

Score: 90/100


Highland Park is a regular in the independent bottlings by The Whisky Exchange. Let’s find out how this 13 year-old “duo cask” bottling compares to the OB profile…

 

Highland Park 1995 13y - SMOS Highland Park 13yo 1995 (46%, Single Malts of Scotland 2009, cask #470 & #471, 770 btl.)

Nose: very natural with a kind of mineral profile. Lots of typical heathery notes. Hints of fresh green tea with citrus. There’s a distinct waxiness as well. Very delicate wood smoke, peat and a little honey. Clean and youthful. Mouth: lemon juice with a green, vegetal edge (like chewing on a citrus seed by accident). Hints of marmelade, although not very sweet. A kind of lavender / soapy edge as well that I’ve never encountered in a Highland Park before (interesting but not entirely to my liking, I’m afraid). Getting drier and quite bitter (grapefruit, unripe oranges) towards the end. Finish: medium long, mostly on grapefruit with a peppery tang.

This is certainly not a usual Highland Park. Good nose, but it’s missing some trademark honey sweetness, and I’m afraid many people will find it a tad too bitter on the palate. If you want to broaden your view on HP however, this could be an interesting bottle. Around € 52.

Score: 81/100


A second single cask Glengoyne by Malts of Scotland, bottled in June 2009 and released a couple of weeks ago. It’s four months younger than the Glengoyne 1972 sherry cask and matured in ex-bourbon oak this time. Malts of Scotland bottlings are easily found in Germany, not so much in the rest of Europe, but I’m sure this will change if they keep up their high standards.

 

Glengoyne 1973 36y - Malts of Scotland Glengoyne 36yo 1973 (55,1%, Malts of Scotland 2009, cask #677, 138 btl.)

Nose: very fragrant (slightly flowery). Charles McLean identified it as “ladies powder” and although I wouldn’t have come up with this myself, it’s actually well described. Unique. Again lots of fruit jams (tons of raspberries). Some warm, yellow apple with whiffs of cinnamon. Honeysuckle (lovely). Juicy and sugary, with red candy and vanilla. More malty notes than the 1972. Mouth: the same fruity sweetness, but fresher and slightly more sourish. Oily mouth-feel and very balanced. Vanilla again. Fruit cake and tangerine. Finish: sweet, on apples and lots of spices. Hints of pink grapefruit.

The 1972 and 1973 share quite a lot of qualities even though they’re matured in different cask types (the sherry influence was less typical and leaning towards the bourbon cask). Also, none of the oak types interfere. They enable the distillery character to shine through, instead of overpowering the spirit. The 1973 Glengoyne is probably a tad more vibrant, but in the end they’re equally great. Same price: around € 180.

Score: 91/100


This Glengoyne is part of the second batch from German bottler Malts of Scotland. While independent Glengoynes are not very common, MoS managed to release three casks at the same time, a 1997 sherry butt, a 1973 bourbon barrel and this 1972 refill sherry butt.

 

Glengoyne 1972 36y - Malts of Scotland Glengoyne 36yo 1972 (52,8%, Malts of Scotland 2009, cask #3195, 305 btl.)

Nose: beautiful sherry influence, which is not at all “in your face” but gentle and well integrated. Great hints of fruit candy (tangerines with more tropical fruits – guava, pineapple) and all sorts of jams. Some grapefruit. Notes of polished oak, vanilla and soft cinnamon. No signs of over-ageing or sulphury sherry whatsoever. Mouth: again very tropical and slightly candied. Prune jam. Tangerine. Passion fruit. Rich honey with more wood influence now and more spices (mostly cinnamon and cloves). With water, there’s some coconut. Getting slightly drier and tannic in the end. Finish: long, sweet, fruity and slightly nutty.

This Glengoyne has a lot to offer. The big fruitiness is terrific and the whole is remarkably fresh and lively after 36 years. Totally flawless. Not cheap though: around € 180.

Score: 90/100


This was the second blind sample from the Cask Six session.

There are quite some private owners of Bruichladdich’s Port Charlotte casks. Most are small bloodtubs (32 liter) but this one is from a bigger cask (first fill sherry hogshead) shared by three Italian guys (Giorgio d’Ambriosio, Franco di Lillo & Nadi Fiori, who was behind Intertrade and is now behind High Spirits). The spirit was matured for 5 years and filled into 3x 134 bottles with 3 resembling labels.

 

Port Charlotte 2002 - Nadi Fiori Port Charlotte 5y 2002
(46%, Nadi Fiori 2009, first fill sherry)

Nose: peat and barbecue ashes but with a fruity, sherried side (citrus, tangerine, melon). Hints of wet stones, slightly burnt bacon and eucalyptus. Tobacco. Very powerful and expressive but I thought it was a tiny bit young (read new-makeish) maybe, in the same way PC7 was better than PC5. Mouth: quite clean smoke with a salty edge. Sweet peat, some pears covered in chocolate. Lemon juice with lots of sugar. Keeps getting sweeter. Finish: long, sweet and peaty. Notes of roasted peanuts with a sugar coating. Barbecue ash again.

The peat in this Port Charlotte is really countered by the very sweet sherry. If Glenfarclas was ever to produce a heavily peated bottling, could it be similar? An interesting battle between two powers. Around € 115.

Score: 86/100


Some may notice that this score is slightly higher than the blind score I gave earlier. I know most reviewers tend to pursuit “objective” scores (i.e. based on the liquid regardless of distillery, price, age, packaging or “uniqueness”) but personally I find it justified to give one or two bonus points if it turns out to be exceptional value for money or unusual / invidiual whisky compared to its region or age. Think of it as school results: a first grader can get the same score as a sixth grader, although “objectively” they don’t have the same level of knowledge of course.


I was able to taste this as part of a recent Cask Six blind session where the participants could taste two blind samples and guess the region, distillery, alcohol volume and age. My guesses may not have been succesful, but it was interesting whisky anyway, so here are my tasting notes.

Amrut is an Indian distillery that has been producing some very interesting stuff and keeps getting better (check the Amrut Fusion which uses a mixture of unpeated Indian and peated Scottish barleys – review coming up), even more so if you take into account their incredibly young ages (Amrut is generally 3-5 years old).

 

Amrut Blackadder BA 5/2009 Amrut NAS (46%, Blackadder 2009,
cask BA 5/2009, 295 btl.)

Nose: very sweet and fruity (pink grapefruit, peach, pear, banana). Hints of bees wax and honey. A touch of mint as well. After a while, more influence of wood and spices (cinnamon, faint pepper). Fruit cake. Very very nice. Mouth: more of the same basically. Fruit marmalade, citrus. More wood influence (slightly tannic), more spices as well (cloves, nutmeg, white pepper). Grapefruit again. Finish: medium length, warm and quite spicy.

The nose could really make you think this was a 20 year old Speysider (although the alcoholic side is a bit too present for that to be true). Balance and evolution are very nice, it starts fruity and develops on the spices. Top quality at this age. And only € 40!

Score: 87/100


Old Bothwell is a company specializing in personalized gifts (whisky, cognac, liqueurs… with your own label). You may think the contents of those kinds of products is of very low importance, but recently they’ve made the news with a couple of single cask Port Ellen releases.

This particular Port Ellen was bottled for the Lindores Whisky Society (Belgium) who celebrated their 5th anniversary on May 31st 2009. Only 11 bottles were made available (one for each member) which makes it by far the most exclusive whisky I’ve ever tasted (where’s the rest of this cask? Luc, Dirk… whose basement is it in?).

 

Port Ellen 1979 Old Bothwell - Lindores 1654 Port Ellen 29yo 1979 (52%, Old Bothwell for Lindores 2009, cask #1654, 11 btl.)

Nose: one of those “green” Port Ellens, with notes of cut grass and olive oil. Wet limestones and lemon peel. Reminds me of aspirin as well. Also quite maritime on oysters and seashells. Ink. Relatively low-key peat / tar / smoke. This description may not appeal if you read it, but the nose is complex and very convincing, albeit quite austere and not for beginners I would say. Mouth: starts off a bit sourish with lots of lemon. Much more peat now. Again grassy and a bit herbal. Oysters with a bunch of pepper. Soft saltiness towards the finish. Finish: long, a peaty backbone with lemons and salt.

This cask has a similar profile as the Port Ellen Norse Cask Selection cask QW1311. Not a rounded whisky nor a peat bomb, but clean, natural and rather excellent. Not for sale.

Score: 91/100


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Coming up

  • Lagavulin 12yo (2014 release)
  • 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.