Single malt whisky - tasting notes

When it opened not so long ago, Kilchoman was the first new distillery to be built on Islay in 124 years. It’s very small and unique in that their Optic barley is grown on the farm and malted, distilled and matured at the distillery. The release of their first real whisky, a 3yo with 50ppm phenols (like Ardbeg) and a 5 month oloroso finish, was a highly anticipated event.

 

Kilchoman 3y inaugural Kilchoman 3yo ‘Inaugural release’
(46%, OB 2009, 8450 btl.)

Nose: I was a bit disappointed because it’s still close to the last new-make samples, with the usual hints of (artificial) banana and rhubarb. I liked the new-make but my expectations for the extra years were too high, I guess. Full of coal smoke / bonfire of course. Some medicinal associations. Quite some vanilla as well. Hardly any sherry. Mouth: not very punchy at first and a bit unbalanced, but it grows bigger. The full flavours only come out in the aftertaste. Big, both in terms of peatiness and sweetness , although the oak brings some dryness as well. Peppery and smokey. Again no sherry that I can get. Hardly any fruit either for that matter. Finish: very long. Ashtray with some sweet vanilla.

Unlike the new-make releases, this 3yo is in the big boys class now, but I prefer to wait a couple of years longer before getting this for my cabinet. I see potential but given its very limited complexity, I can’t give the current product a whopping score like most other reviewers do, just because of the potential. Anyway, it took about 3 seconds to sell out, so it doesn’t really matter what I say… Around € 55.

I’m still looking forward to a mature Kilchoman by the way!

Score: 75/100


Dalwhinnie 15y

24 Sep 2009 | Dalwhinnie

Dalwhinnie represents the Central Highlands in the Classic Malts series of Diageo. It is one of the highest situated distilleries of Scotland (326m above sea level) and among the top-15 of most sold Dalwhinnie 15single malt whisky worldwide. Production and releases are limited though, there’s only the 15 years old and the 17 years old Distiller’s Edition (15 years + 2 years in oloroso sherry casks).

 

Dalwhinnie 15yo (43%, OB 2007)

Nose: light, malty (beer and cereal notes) and very honeyed. Slightly phenolic. Fruity (peach, citrus). Rather expressive, I must say. Mouth: quite malty and honeyed. Oily. Some heather and vanilla. Lemon. Again a little more smoke than I expected. A few roasted and sugary notes. Slightly herbal towards the end. Finish: falls down a bit. Rather grassy.

A good middle-of-the-road dram: full-bodied, clean and sweet without being cloying. Indeed a representative of the Highlands style and great quality for the price.

Score: 84/100


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


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  • Inchgower 1975 (Maltbarn)
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1681 notes by Ruben

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