Single malt whisky - tasting notes

This Caol Ila 1983 is the first official 30 Year Old (as far as I know), bottled as part of the Special Releases 2014. We’ve had a whole list of early 1980’s releases from independent bottlers, so we’re curious to see how the official release compares.

It is a mix of refill American and European oak.



Caol Ila 30 Year Old 1983 - Special ReleaseCaol Ila 30 yo 1983 (55,1%, OB 2014, Special Release, 7638 btl.)

Nose: a maritime / medicinal version at first sight. Iodine impregnated gauze, seaweed, with some leather and soot. On a second level, there are rounder, fruitier notes: sweet lemon, melon and sugared almonds. Hints of latte and vanilla. A rather complex version, but the more coastal / austere notes win in the end. Mouth: more intense, sharp and focused, with a big medicinal side again. Menthol and camphor. Aniseed and salt. Leathery notes. Kippers and olive brine. Quite hot actually, with earthy peat, bitter almonds and a good deal of oak. Just a few hints of vanilla to round things off. Finish: long, on liquorice, lemon & salt and soot.

A really big expression of Caol Ila that seems to have lost none of its power. Reminds me of the Coal Ila 1982 for Limburg Whisky Fair of last year, but it’s bolder and rougher. And much more expensive than indie versions. Around € 550 (ouch).

Score: 91/100

Aberlour a’bunadh is the cask-strength expression matured exclusively in Oloroso sherry casks, released in different batches (usually 5 or 6 a year). It is said to contain different profiles, from casks ranging between 5 and 25 years old.

I tried quite a few in 2008-2009 but later on I seemed to turn to other heavily sherried expressions. Today we’re trying the latest batch (if I’m not mistaken), batch n°49.


Aberlour A'Bunadh #49Aberlour a’bunadh
(60,1%, OB 2014, batch n°49)

Nose: quite open and very sherried. It’s a modern kind of sherry maturation, with some winey overtones. Raspberries and orange peel. Sultanas and honey. Soft mint. Quite aromatic and fragrant, before the drier notes come out. Walnuts and pecans. Leather. A peppery tingle as well. Just a light hint of struck matches, which is highlighted when you add water. Mouth: sweet and spicy. Lots of toffee, caramel and dried fruits (dates, apricots). Fresher fruits as well (raspberry again). Liquorice. A darker side of roasted coffee beans and bitter chocolate that becomes a tad too loud for me. Finish: long, spicy but also fairly dry. Liquorice, wood and walnuts.

This is a well-made, full-flavoured sherry bomb. I would say this was a real stunner if not for the faint struck matches and the oaky dryness. One of the nicer batches though. Prices tend to go from € 45 to € 65.

Score: 88/100

Aberfeldy Bits of Strange is a 16 year old single cask whisky, bottled at cask strength from a sherry-seasoned cask. It was launched to commemorate a homecomings tour of two Scottish bands, King Creosote and FOUND, in November 2012.


Aberfeldy 16 Years - Bits of StrangeAberfeldy 16 yo ‘Bits of Strange’
(55,1%, OB 2012, 318 btl.)

Nose: rather unique and very intriguing. There are huge waxy notes hitting you up front, as well as some tobacco leaves and echoes of pine wood refresher and mint. On a second level: dried apricots, backed apple and honeysuckle. Dried flowers. Vanilla and cinnamon. Nicely aromatic, with the sherry influence being rather subtle. Mouth: quite oaky, but in a nice way. Firm spices (pepper, clove) but also fruitcake and blood orange. Again bags of mint, and eucalyptus. A toasted side / burnt sugar. Walnuts. Finish: long, spicy and slightly dry. Orange peel and nuts.

A fairly hot and oaked whisky, especially when taken neat. Nonetheless the toasted wood makes it boldly aromatic and interesting. Around € 185 at the time.

Score: 88/100

This Glenrothes 1997 is among the latest bottlings from Kintra in the Netherlands.


Glenrothes 1997 - KintraGlenrothes 16 yo 1997 (53,2%, Kintra 2014, bourbon hogshead #15720, 137 btl.)

Nose: malty and fruity. Stewed fruits, ripe yellow plums, fresh apples and peaches. Citrus. Hints of dusty oak and dried flowers. Vanilla cake. Soft honey and mint as well. Not very complex but natural, nicely integrated and not too modern. Mouth: a surprisingly punchy attack, again fruity at first (grapes, apples, lemon), with hints of vanilla cream, but slowly drying and showing more bitter notes. Caramel and mocha, then some grapefruit zest and herbal notes. Ginger. A toasted, almost smoky hint in the background. Finish: medium, sweet but with a peppery edge.

A very natural Glenrothes, with good fruits and punchy spices. A stronger version of the official expressions, I’d say. Around € 90.

Score: 85/100

Strathmill 1988 as part of Diageo’s Special Releases 2014. It was the first year that the Strathmill distillery appeared in this series and the first official release in a very long time. It was matured for over 25 years in refill American oak.



Strathmill 25 Years 1988 - Special ReleaseStrathmill 25 yo 1988
(52,4%, OB 2014, 2.700 btl.)

Nose: very malty, with lots of grainy biscuits, plain gristy notes and sugar coated corn flakes. On a second level, there is soft vanilla, ginger and a nice dusty side that keeps the middle between hay and dried flowers. Honeysuckle and orange zest. Coffee with cream. Mouth: again sweet cereal bars, roasted oats, brown sugar and ginger cookies. Growing hints of latte and toffee. Not really fruity, but there’s some honey and maybe baked apple in the background. Faint floral notes and eucalyptus too. Finish: medium long, malty, with vanilla, milk chocolate and lingering spices.

This Strathmill is strangely neutral, almost an exercise in maltiness, yet it does have a nice weight to it, and a few less common touches. Good, but more ‘interesting’ than immediately charming, and too expensive anyway. Around € 350.

Score: 87/100

With just 59 bottles, this Littlemill 1992 in the Archives series was very limited and indeed already sold out. Cask #44 has also been bottled by them in 2012.


Littlemill 1992 - ArchivesLittlemill 22 yo 1992 (46,7%, Archives ‘Voyage dans l’Amérique Méridionale 2014, hogshead #43, 59 btl.)

Nose: starts fairly malty sweet at first, with some dusty vanilla and plenty of paraffin. Linseed oil, bread dough. Hay and soft hints of hazelnut paste. Less fruity than some other Littlemills, but after a while it shows melons and grapefruits. Also the kind of coconutty aroma that you sometimes get from bourbon oak. Mouth: complex but again not as aromatic and fruity as we’d like. In no particular order: vanilla, caramel, waxy notes, grapefruit, a grassy / green tea bitterness, lemons and lots of grains. Zesty notes, some mineral and herbal touches as well. As I said, complex but maybe not an immediate charmer. Finish: long, zesty and mineral, with coconut oil and smooth oak.

In my opinion, similar to cask #44 with an above average complexity but a tad below the other ones in terms of fruitiness and overall attractiveness. We’re spoiled by all these Littlemills. Around € 160.

Score: 87/100

This is quite a rare Highland Park 1973 bottled by Mackillop’s Choice. Sister cask #8396 was bottled by Jack Wiebers in 2003.

Mackillop’s Choice was founded by Angus Dundee Distillers (Tomintoul, Glencadam) in 1996 and bottlings have been released since 1998. All releases are single casks selected by Lorne Mackillop – originally a Master of Wine – and bottled at 43% or 46%.


Highland Park 1973/2007 - Mackillop's ChoiceHighland Park 1973 (43%, Mackillop’s Choice 2007, cask #8395)

Nose: starts a little shy and mostly malty / nutty, but folds open so nicely. Juicy oranges, whiffs of mint and pine resin. Eucalyptus honey and nice beeswax. Subtle fruity notes, rhubarb and sourish pear. Some floral notes as well (orange blossom). Quite delicate, not extremely wide but very elegant. Mouth: oily and waxy, with resinous notes and some pepper at first. Sweet lemon and mint. Quinces jam. Hints of green banana too, a little pineapple, slightly surprising but nice. Then onto bags of (white) grapefruit and a little oak. Finish: long, fruity, oaky, still on grapefruit and mint.

Great old Highland Park, quite neutral in a way but showing plenty of complexity and delicacy. I liked this very much, but it doesn’t seem to show up in auctions regularly.

Score: 91/100

After my subtle hints while talking about the new Springbank 25 Year Old, some people have been waiting for my review of this one: Springbank 18 Year Old, a single cask version, distilled October 1996 and bottled for The Nectar.

It’s rare to see a bourbon cask version of a well-known dram that relies on sherry casks for around 80% of its composition.



Springbank 18 - single cask - The NectarSpringbank 18 yo 1996
(58,7%, OB for The Nectar 2014, refill bourbon, single cask, 210 btl.)

Nose: starts with the typical dusty, grainy Springbank note, alongside coastal notes. Vague oily notes (wax candle). A little pepper and mint. Grated coconut. Walnut husks. Over time it becomes clearly fruitier, with lots of gooseberries and rhubarb, strawberries and the lightest tropical touch of papaya. A smoky side as well, not exactly peat smoke but more like toasted oak. Mouth: big and spicy, again quite oily and waxy with lots of briny notes. In a second wave, there are beautiful fruits – bright, lightly tropical again, say sweet oranges, mango and pineapple. Almonds. Green tea. Dusty, earthy smoke. Finish: rather long, on zesty notes, oak spices and that faint smoky edge.

The oily fruitiness works very well with the maritime character and the smoky notes in this Springbank 18. As I said before, an exquisite version of an already really good dram. Now that I think of it, it’s totally in line with last year’s 14 Year Old as well. Around € 140.

Score: 91/100



July 2015
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Coming up

  • Balmenach 2001 (Liquid Treasures)
  • Auchentoshan Heartwood
  • Elements of Islay Lp6
  • Strathisla 1948/1961
  • Benromach 15 Years

1823 notes by Ruben

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