Single malt whisky - tasting notes

New Cragganmore expressions rarely hit the market (the last one was four years ago already, not counting the yearly Cragganmore Distillers Edition). This makes it even nicer to find it amongst Diageo’s Special Releases.

Cragganmore 25 Year Old was distilled in 1988 and aged in refill American oak casks.

 

 

Cragganmore 25 Years 1988 (2014 Special Release)Cragganmore 25 yo 1988 (51,4%, OB 2014, refill American oak, 3372 btl.)

Nose: sweet with lots of vanilla, heather honey and hints of honeydew melons. Nice bits of dried mango. The fruitiness is balanced (or muted if you like) by green, spicy oak and liquorice. Soft buttery hints (popcorn). Fresh mint and apple blossom. Mouth: creamy, still rather sweet with some honey and orchard fruits. Nice hints of pineapple and coconut. The oaky notes, ginger, pepper and plenty of vanilla make this one typically American oak, but they also make it seem younger than it is. A lot of distilleries have this profile at half the age and a fraction of the price. Finish: medium long, fruity with zingy spicy notes from the wood.

Good whisky, but youngish in a way, due to active American oak, which makes it seem even more difficult to justify the price. Readily available. Around € 425.

Score: 87/100


Mackmyra Midnattssol was the second release in a new limited range that takes over from the Mackmyra Special series. The series is based on the seasons. Midnattssol means Midnight Sun and represents the summer. Recently it was followed up by Mackmyra Iskristall, the winter edition.

The Swedish distillery produced this expression from a combination of American and Swedish oak casks that previously held sherry and bourbon. About half of the final composition was then finished for about five months in casks that contained Swedish wine made from birch sap. Mackmyra doesn’t mention an age statement but it’s said to be 7 to 8 years old.

 

 

Mackmyra MidnattssolMackmyra Midnattssol (46,1%, OB 2014)

Nose: honey and quite some floral / grassy notes. Lots of berry fruits and banana. Walnuts. There’s also a clear woody side, with freshly cut wood (maybe not oak but rather pine wood), cloves and some resinous notes. Different, quite nice, but a little spirity as well. Mouth: spicy with a spirity touch again. Active wood. Mint and pepper. Fairly dry, but with a little berry and citrus sourness hidden below. Lemon zest. Maybe lime blossom. A couple of herbal notes as well. Finish: settles down a little, with a grapefruit bitterness and wood spices.

I’m not sure what birch wine is like – maybe this unique finish is what makes Midnattssol taste really woody. Interesting experiment and not a bad result. Around € 75.

Score: 80/100


The Whisky ExchangeThe Whisky Exchange has just released a single cask Millstone, produced at the Dutch Zuidam distillery. Founded in 1975, they have been producing single malt whisky since 2007, with some peated examples, finished malts and rye whiskies.

This one is produced from rye grain milled by Dutch windmills, distilled in January 2004 in small pot stills and matured for over 10 years in a new American oak cask.

They say Sukhinder likes this whisky so much that he keeps pinching the sample bottle…

 

 

Millstone rye 10 years - single cask for The Whisky ExchangeMillstone rye 10 yo 2004 (58,6%, OB for The Whisky Exchange 2014, cask #667, 245 btl.)

Nose: an alcohol kick at first, but highly aromatic after that. Typical rye notes: lots of peppery, bready notes and some sour overtones. A slightly bourbonny sweetness underneath, with vanilla pods, caramelized sugar and bananas flambéed. Oranges. Cinnamon and fresh mint. Hints of pencil shavings too. Mouth: richly oaked and spicy. Pepper, ginger and cloves, as well as some (also Dutch) liquorice. Some lightly bitter grassy notes. Burnt toast with maple syrup, coconut and dark chocolate. Finish: long, leaving some heat in the mouth. Pepper, polished oak and still this burnt, bitter edge.

I haven’t been particularly impressed with Millstone single malt whisky so far, but they do know how to make a nice rye. The burnt notes are quite loud on the palate, but it’s definitely up there with Canadian or American rye whiskey. Around € 115, available from The Whisky Exchange.

Score: 87/100


Two sister casks, I presume. Both Maltbarn and Whiskybase / Archives recently presented a Dailuaine 1996. Or maybe they shared the cask, who knows? After all hogsheads usually contain around 250-300 bottles. In any case similar casks have been bottled by Dewar Rattray for instance.

 

 

Dailuaine 1996 MaltbarnDailuaine 18 yo 1996 (48,7%, Maltbarn 2014, bourbon cask, 158 btl.)

Nose: lemon candy and lime, pears and floral honey. Sweet banana ice cream and white grape juice. After that, warmer notes of almond and vanilla cream. It’s quite a sweety but it’s countered by some ginger and a little wax. Mouth: nicely fat and oily (almond oil), still plenty of sweetness in the form of honey, sugary barley and citrus candy. Not boring though, the citrus also brings a subtle sour and bitter note. Some hay. Finish: quite long, a tad drier, fades on lemon, almond and soft grassy notes.

Really pleasant whisky. The aromas or complexity aren’t groundbreaking but its thickness and body makes it very enjoyable. Around € 90.

Score: 87/100

 

 

 

Dailuaine 1996 ArchivesDailuaine 17 yo 1996
(51,9%, Archives ‘Fishes of Samoa’ 2014, hogshead #10607, 71 btl.)

Nose: stupid idea to put these two head to head. Either it’s the same cask or it’s just modern efficiency to have two near identical casks. After all Dailuaine is primarily a blender’s whisky, so consistency is key. See above. Mouth: really, you can stop reading. We could exaggerate the louder gingery notes and a faint hint of mocha towards the end here, but that may well be the higher alcohol speaking. Finish: same.

Almost industrial consistency. This one was slightly cheaper (around € 83) but it’s sold out.

Score: 87/100


So far 1995 has been one of the least available vintages of GlenDronach. The Whisky Agency recently selected cask #4408, an Oloroso puncheon.

 

 

Glendronach 1995 #4408 TWAGlenDronach 18 yo 1995
(52,2%, OB for The Whisky Agency 2014, Oloroso puncheon #4408, 740 btl.)

Nose: different in the sense that it seems drier, oakier in a way than comparable expressions. Wet leaves and hints of a damp, plastered cellar. Nice enough though. A few citrusy side and lots of berries. Raspberry sweets in the background. Mint. Mouth: much sweeter and definitely more candied now. Raspberry and strawberry candy, a little pink grapefruit and potpourri even. Lighter sherry, more ‘modern’ if that makes sense. Some blood oranges, leather and subtle vanilla. If the normal GlenDronach is red, then this is pink. More spicy notes towards the end. Finish: long, candied, with subtle pepper.

This GlenDronach 1995 is a tad different from what we’ve come to expect. Different influences, maybe a re-racked whisky or a different cask seasoning? Nice. Around € 130. Still available in most places.

Score: 88/100


Michter's whiskeyMichter’s is a brand name owned by Joe Magliocco of Chatham Imports.

They’re a “non-distiller”, which means they buy bulk whiskey produced at an undisclosed distillery (some say Kentucky Bourbon Distillers or Brown-Forman, maybe others as well) and bottle it under the Michter’s label.

 

Original Michter’s vs. New Michter’s

Mind that the Michter’s brand is much older. The famous bourbon A.H. Hirsch 16 Years (the best bourbon ever, according to some, distilled in the Spring of 1974) was also produced by a distillery named Michter’s. It was founded in 1753 (as Bomberger’s) in Schaefferstown, Pennsylvania and it closed down in 1989. The trademark on the name expired – it was picked up in 1997 by Joe Magliocco, but except for the name, they’re entirely unrelated. What they’re selling now was not produced at the old Michter’s distillery, not even by the same team or with the same equipment.

It is strange for a new (virtual) distillery to take over an old name, as well as their logo and other elements. The new brand is even claiming the entire history of the old brand which is simply none of its merits in any way. Nonetheless they seem to get away with being extremely vague, making consumers think they are a resurrection of the old company and acting like a proper distillery. I’m not sure this is ethical marketing. The acquisition of someone else’s history even led to a 2012 Distiller of the Year award by Wine Enthusiast. How can you be the best distiller if you’re not actually distilling?

Read more about this over at the Bourbon Truth.

It should be noted that they are now setting up their own micro-distillery. Brand-new stills were installed in October 2014 but there hasn’t been any news about actual operations so far.

At the same time, Michter’s whiskey has a loyal following and is getting excellent reviews, so we should definitely give it an honest chance. Michter’s 10 year-old bourbon is always bottled as a single cask whiskey, matured in fire-charred new American white oak.

They also have sour mash whiskey and straight rye. The base range is called US*1 – the rest is limited production from 10 to 25 years old.

 

 

Michter's 10 Year Old BourbonMichter’s 10 yo bourbon (47,2%, OB 2014)

Nose: a very candied, sweet nose. A lot of vanilla cream and sweet molasses. Hints of maple syrup and sugar coated dried fruits. Some nail polish and pretty fragrant oak (a little potpourri). There’s also something rummy about it, a coconutty aroma. Although the sweetness is prevalent, the charred oak, cocoa and leather add some dryness. Mouth: thick, with an impressive combination of flavour intensity and smoothness. Raisins, toffee and chocolate. Also a minty dryness and hints of fresh oak – think pencil shavings. Sandalwood, a slightly perfumy touch again. A soft herbal bitterness (dried herbs), nutmeg and cinnamon. Fades on coffee and roasted nuts. Finish: a bit short maybe, but again balancing nicely between dry oaky notes and a lingering sweetness.

If you don’t mind the fake pedigree and the mist around this whiskey, then you will find a very nice bourbon in your glass. In fact one of the nicest I know. Around € 115 – pretty expensive for what’s basically a white label 10 year-old.

Score: 89/100


The Glenrothes Sherry Cask Reserve is the first release from this distillery to be matured entirely in first-fill sherry casks – predominantly European oak. Unlike most of the others, it doesn’t have a vintage indication, nor an age statement.

Glenrothes, and the rest of the Edrington distilleries like The Macallan and Highland Park, have more or less a monopoly on new European oak casks, produced to their standards in Jerez from oak that is being cut in Galicia in the North of Spain.

 

 

Glenrothes Sherry Cask ReserveGlenrothes Sherry Cask Reserve (40%, OB 2014)

Nose: raisins and plenty of all-spice / gingerbread notes. Oranges with cloves. Cinnamon. Some nutty notes too (hazelnut, almond). Honey in the background. Mouth: woody in the sense that it revolves around ginger, nutmeg, cinnamon and other spices. Toasted oak, roasted nuts and a big sugary side, mainly caramelized sugar. Lacks a bit of a sparkle maybe. Finish: not too long with very similar flavours.

To me this should have been called European Oak Reserve. It does show the spicy side of these casks, but not the true glory of first-fill sherry in my opinion – it’s pretty flat. A missed opportunity. Around € 50.

Score: 76/100


James MacArthur is a Scottish independent bottler established in 1982. Although the original aim of the Old Masters series was to present casks from little-known or lost distilleries, this concept has been widened a little.

We’re trying a Macallan 1980 bottled in 2001. Although the label doesn’t mention the cask type, a sister cask #16447 was bottled by Jack Wiebers in 2010 and that was said to be a sherry butt.

 

 

Macallan 1980 - James MacArthur Old MastersMacallan 1980 (57,8%, James Mac Arthur Old Master’s 2001, cask #16457)

Nose: lots of yellow (slightly overripe) apples, mixed with dusty grains and old books. Quite some nutty notes (walnut husks) as well as hay and a little shoe polish (could be the time spent in glass). A vague sweetness underneath. Not the typical Macallan sherry profile in any case. Mouth: strange one. There’s a grainy harshness, walnuts again and this undefined sweetness (I’d still pick apple if you made me choose). Liquorice and damp wood. Something in between paraffin and shoe polish again. Finish: long, but slightly sharp, grassy and bitter. Ginger and grapefruit zest.

This is an interesting Macallan, but not something you associate with the classic profile. Not the most attractive profile either. Maybe these casks didn’t meet the official standards? Auction material. Thanks Joeri!

Score: 78/100


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Coming up

  • Irish Single Malt 27yo 1988 (The Nectar of the Daily Drams)
  • Irish Single Malt 16yo 1999 (The Nectar of the Daily Drams)
  • Bunnahabhain 1987 (Maltbarn)
  • Glen Garioch 1993 (Maltbarn)
  • Glenlivet 42yo (Cadenhead)
  • Auchentoshan 1994 (Whisky Agency)
  • Blended Malt Extra Old (Whisky Agency)
  • Woodford Reserve Master's Collection
  • Teeling 26yo Vintage Reserve
  • Springbank 2001 vintage

1862 notes by Ruben

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