Single malt whisky - tasting notes

The other day I was invited to a Mortlach press dinner in Brussels, where the three new core expressions of The Beast of Dufftown had their Benelux premiere. I was a bit surprised, as the revamped Mortlach have been available internationally since April 2014. Such regional differences are difficult to enforce when everyone has access to the internet and is buying pretty much everywhere, right?

See my post about the Mortlach 18 Year Old for more background information.


Georgie Bell (c) Mathias Roelants


It was a great experience with nice people and some good food pairing (I liked the coffee sauce with the guineafowl, okay?) and a charming presentation by the international brand ambassador Georgie Bell.


Mortlach Ice Stamp (c) Mathias RoelantsIt was interesting to try their new Mortlach ice stamp, a metal stamp that allows you to “burn” the family crest of the distillery founders George and Alexander Cowie onto a (big) block of ice, simply with the heat of your hand. A gimmick maybe, but it worked well.

The audience seemed to prefer the whisky without the ice, but I can imagine bloggers, bartenders and retailers are not representative for the general whisky drinker.



With its typical 2.81 times distillation, Mortlach is technically always a vatting of spirit produced in different stills, which results in different layers of character. The distillery has always been known for its meaty, savoury style but it can really go in different directions when coupled to certain cask types.

The new range was inspired greatly by history. For example the bottling strength of 43,4% refers to early 1900’s US bottlings of Mortlach that were 86.8 proof. Also the style of the bottles was inspired by Art Deco craftmanship, with specifically shaped glass combined with ornate metal elements.


Mortlach whisky (c) Mathias Roelants


For this review, we’ll focus on the top of the range, the Mortlach 25 Year Old. It is made up of refill American oak hogsheads. Like the other bottles in the range, it is only available in 50cl.



Mortlach 25 Year OldMortlach 25 yo (43,4%, OB 2014)

Nose: fresh and vibrant. A very fruity core, including oranges, apricots, honeydew melon and a faint hint of passion fruits. Also nice honey and floral scented candles. Then a little toffee and vanilla. Hints of exotic woods and incense. It seems the typical meaty side is less prominent here and we’re seeing more of the old American oak character here. Mouth: again not as fat as some other Mortlachs, but nicely energetic. Quite sweet, with peaches on syrup, plums and a hint of Turkish delight. Soft mint and eucalyptus (cough drops indeed). Still some honey and polished wood. Speculoos. Nice star anise too. Finish: rather long and honeyed, becoming more spicy and earthy now (pepper, liquorice).

A very rich, complex dram with a character that’s more classical and slightly less typical for this distillery. The perfect highlight in a very solid range, but now for the bad news: it’s around € 770 for 50 cl.

Score: 90/100

Another Aultmore, this time distilled in 1997 so roughly twice the age. It was bottled by Berry Bros & Rudd, who have bottled several sister casks in the past few years (3581, 3582, 3584…).



Aultmore 1997 - Berrys' Own SelectionAultmore 17 yo 1997 (46%, Berrys’ Own Selection 2014, cask #3591)

Nose: lots of freshly cut grasses at first. Slowly becomes more fruity, mainly common garden fruits. Pears, gooseberries, greengages. Also a hint of green banana. Hints of sweet barley and honey as well. Mouth: sweet and fruity again, with a buttery texture. Banana and vanilla. Apples. Nice hints of wild strawberries and melons as well. Picks up more grassy notes, one or two walnuts and a little toasted oak. Fairly simple and easy-going. Finish: good length. Herbal honey and thick fruity sweetness.

This is a different side of Aultmore, much more naked and a delight for blenders. Or single malt drinkers for that matter. Great cardplayers whisky. Around € 120.

Score: 86/100

The latest release in the Archives series is this Aultmore 2007, bottled at a whopping strength of 67,4%.



Aultmore 2007 ArchivesAultmore 8 yo 2007
(67,4%, Archives ‘Fishes of Samoa’ 2015, sherry butt #900016, 172 btl.)

Nose: sweet and spicy, like gingerbread. Red fruits (raspberry, strawberry). Caramel and molasses. Light vegetal hints (tomato plants) as well as some fresh oak shavings. Mouth: drinkable at full strength, but rather closed. Sweet, showing red fruit candy and pomegranate. Pepper. With water more jammy fruits, milk chocolate and fig syrup. Rum and raisins. Mocha. Noticeable oak, with a minty / peppery edge. Finish: long, sweet fruits and spicy oak.

Another high pressure youngster from a very active cask. I think the Daily Dram version was slightly better, this one needs some fiddling with water to get it right. Available from Whiskybase, around € 65.

Score: 85/100

Spey 18 Year Old

13 May 2015 | Speyside

SPEY is a brand created by Harvey’s of Edinburgh, a Scottish company with a history in whisky that goes back to the 18th Century. They owned Dundashill, Yoker, Bruichladdich and Aultmore and for instance. It’s still a family business with a presence that’s biggest in Asia (especially Taiwan).

A few years ago the family bought the Speyside distillery which is also responsible for the Cu Dhub whisky and brands like Drumguish.

The range seems to change according to your location. The core range seems to consist of a Spey 12 Year Old, this Spey 18 Year Old and the Port-finished Spey Tanné. I’ve also found references to a Spey Chairman’s Choice, Royal Choice, Lord Byron’s Choice, Golden Choice and a Michael Owen Limited Edition (this former football player acts as a global ambassador for the brand).

Spey 18 Year Old is a limited edition of 1500 bottles, matured in fresh sherry casks.



Spey 18 Year OldSpey 18 yo
(46%, OB 2014, 1500 btl.)

Nose: nice actually. Creamy fruits (gooseberries, pears, caramelized figs). A lot of honey as well as some pleasant waxy notes. Vanilla custard. Vanilla fudge. Sweet walnuts too. Mouth: again sweet and creamy, smooth and approachable. Vanilla cream, orange candy. Too bad it becomes a little bland and rough after a while, with spicy notes and a bitter edge. Finish: long, but the roughness remains.

All this Michael Owen marketing tends to have an adverse effect on me, but on the nose I was pleasantly surprised by by the simple, attractive aromas. The palate is a bit less convincing. Not bad but € 105 isn’t cheap of course.

Score: 80/100

Cadenhead is still going strong. They release some older malts that few other independent bottlers have in their warehouses. Today we’re looking at a single cask Glenburgie 1985, almost thirty years old.



Glenburgie 1985 - Cadenhead Small BatchGlenburgie 29 yo 1985 (55,3%, Cadenhead Single Cask 2014, bourbon hogshead #95/36/10, 222 btl.)

Nose: quite lovely. Very aromatic hints of vanilla marshmallows and green banana skin. Stewed fruits (apples, oranges) with cinnamon. Honey. Dried flowers. Hints of exotic polished woods, not unlike what you sometimes get in bourbon-aged Karuizawa actually. Just lovely. Mouth: thick and very fruity (citrus, hints of banana and pineapples, figs). A minty kind of oak. Honey and vanilla cake icing sugar. Again a lightly marshmallowy / Turkish delight kind of aroma. Very pleasant. Finish: long, with brown sugar, sweet berries and light spices.

An excellent Glenburgie, you only get this kind of profile from long ageing in a great bourbon cask. Still a few bottles available – recommended. Around € 170.

Score: 90/100

GlenDronach bottled a 9 year-old for Professional Danish Whisky Retailers last year. It was matured in Pedro Ximénez casks, but I doubt it was a full maturation, rather a finished / re-racked whisky.

This bottling is often referred to as Darth Vader because of the uncommon black labeling.


glendronach-9-years-denmarkGlenDronach 9 yo
(48%, OB for Denmark 2014, Pedro Ximénez casks, 3000 btl.)

Nose: not the thick sherry I expected. It’s fairly mineral, with some wet limestone and a hint of gunpowder up front. Roasted nuts. Behind this you get more classic notes like dried apricots and creamy toffee. Orange peel and spices (pepper, ginger) as well as some oak shavings. Mouth: sweet and spicy. Berries, figs and a hint of molasses. Stewed fruits. Pepper and ginger again. More oak-driven and less sherry-driven, always with this mineral edge which makes it feel a little thinner. Finish: long, dry, mainly on pepper and oak.

Interestingly, this 9 year-old feels slightly older than it actually is, but also less fully sherried than most GlenDronach releases. Clearly a relative of GlenDronach Octarine in that respect. Around € 60. Thanks, Wim.

Score: 83/100

At the time when this was bottled, most of the whisky that was used for the BenRiach 16 Years was significantly older, due to erratic production in some years. Around 80% was 18 years old BenRiach and the other 20% were second and third fill casks of 20 years old.

I’m not sure how this situation has evolved in the meantime, I haven’t tried more recent versions. In any case it also contains some peated BenRiach.



BenRiach 16 Years

BenRiach 16 yo (43%, OB 2008)

Nose:  light, with the same elements as the younger versions. Rather grainy, with notes of dark bread and toast. Less fruity. Instead more nutty notes and grasses. Some honey. Mouth: quite a nice, spicy start. There’s some very light peat smoke, but hardly recognizable and well integrated. Toffee and apples. Some peach. Finish: quite herbal now, with clear oak influence. Vanilla with a hint of green banana.

Pleasant and gentle but lacking some punch, like the rest of the base expressions. A pretty harmless Speyside profile for an interesting price. Around € 40.

Score: 80/100

Laphroaig 200 years AnniversaryLaphroaig distillery is celebrating its 200th Anniversary in 2015. All kinds of bicentennial events are planned throughout the year and we can expect no less than seven special editions (how about a 21 Year Old in August and a Laphroaig 32 Year Old in autumn?). First up is this Laphroaig 15 Year Old 200th Anniversary edition.

It’s a revival really, as Laphroaig 15yo (the favourite whisky of Prince Charles, apparently) was first launched in 1980. It was discontinued in 2009 and replaced by an 18 Year Old, but now we can enjoy it once again.



Laphroaig 15 Year Old - 200th AnniversaryLaphroaig 15 yo ‘200th Anniversary’ (43%, OB 2015, 72.000 btl.)

Nose: nice. It’s a slightly unmodern style, which means less peat and more (subtle) fruits. Ripe banana, nice papaya / mango and a hint of grapefruit. Lots of dried seaweed and antiseptic. Tobacco notes, a little flax. Vanilla and honey. I really like this nose, despite or because of the peat smoke being a bit restrained. Mouth: again quite smooth and rounded, with a creamy mouthfeel. Sweet tobacco. Lime and pear syrup. Drier after a while, with a peppery kick. Sooty notes in the background, with liquorice and a hint of brine. Finish: medium long, with some salt water and smoky honey.

Fans of the modern, more intensely peated Laphroaig profile may find this underpowered and lacking in smokiness. I really like it for its old-style fruitiness and complexity. I think it may have reached 90 points with a slightly higher strength. Around € 100. Due to arrive in stores globally.

Score: 89/100



November 2015
« Oct    

Coming up

  • Amrut 2009 (cask #2701)
  • Lagavulin 12 Years (2015)
  • Lindores 2015 festival bottling
  • Old Blended Malt (Eiling Lim)
  • Glenlivet 1981 (#9468 for TWE)
  • Talisker Distillers Edition (2015)
  • Laphroaig 32 Year Old
  • Glen Grant 65yo 1950 cask #2747 for Wealth Solutions
  • Mortlach 1959/1960 (G&M Royal Wedding)

1929 notes by Ruben

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