Single malt whisky - tasting notes

Old Ballantruan is distilled at Tomintoul distillery. This peated version was first launched in 2009 without age statement, and the 10 year old followed in 2012.

 

Old Ballantruan 10 yearsOld Ballantruan 10 yo
(50%, OB 2012)

Nose: sweet and a little light, with plenty of oak spices, both soft vanilla and sharp ginger. Sharpish peat as well, the yeasty / leafy kind. Sweet bread. Some hints of banana and vanilla, signs of its youth. Mouth: tangy peat with a very sweet, malty core. Grain biscuits. Liquorice and kippers. Vanilla again. Lots of pepper and ginger. Punchy, young and a little rough. Finish: long, slightly hot and tangy with ginger and grassy notes.

Old Ballantruan 10 is pretty much okay. It’s peaty and rough, kind of a brash youngster. Around € 55.

Score: 82/100


We’ve seen a lot of Tomintoul 1967-1968 in the last few years, but only one or two Tomintoul 1972’s that I can think of: the Perfect Dram and one in the Private Collection by Gordon & MacPhail, with a ridiculous price.

This one is part of the new releases by Maltbarn. Only available from Maltbarn directly or Whiskybase in the Netherlands, there is no more importer for Belgium.

 

Tomintoul 1972 MaltbarnTomintoul 40 yo 1972
(48,5%, Maltbarn 2012, bourbon cask, 47 btl.)

Nose: like most old Tomintouls, very subtle. Fresh lemony notes, waxed oak and hints of floral honey. Underneath are warm fruity notes, say whitecurrant and dried banana. Hints of buttercups and light mint. Very good but soft. Mouth: nice fruits at first. Melon, orange sweets, lime and quinces. Almond notes. Apple pastry. Sweeter than expected actually. Nice Mānuka honey. The oak slowly appears, but the amount of nutmeg and liquorice is well controlled. Soft herbal touches in the end. Finish: medium long, minty and spicy. Still lots of honeyed notes.

This is a nice Tomintoul, a little fuller and sweeter than most of the other oldies. Highly drinkable – good selection. Around € 220.

Score: 89/100


Johnnie Walker Double Black is supposed to be a more extreme version of Johnnie Walker Black Label which I reviewed before. Some of the spirit used was matured in deeply charred casks, and the proportion of peaty Islay malt should be higher.

It’s a fairly recent addition to the Johnnie Walker range. It used to be a Duty Free exclusive but it’s now widely available.

 

 

Johnnie Walker Double BlackJohnnie Walker Double Black
(40%, OB +/- 2013)

Nose: indeed this is clearly Islay influenced. Smoke and ashed, even a slightly medicinal touch. Mineral notes too. Toasted almonds. The citrus and malt of the regular Johnnie Walkers are still there, as is a hint of vanilla and something of a pine wood air freshener. Mouth: oily, lots of Caol Ila character here and hardly noticeable grains. Plain peat. Some salty butter, surprisingly briney actually. A vague sweetness. Mint. Finish: long, fades on salty liquorice and malt. Some cold ashes as well.

I don’t think this is Johnnie Walker Black Label in an amplified version. It’s a style on its own. I think Black Label is too smooth and sweet to be called a smoky blend, but Double Black really is smoky. It’s much closer to single malt Islay whisky than I expected. A blend that’s really well put together – too bad this isn’t at 43%. Around € 35 in my local supermarket – sometimes under € 30 if you look out. Good value for money.

Score: 83/100


Coopers Choice is a Scottish independent bottler founded in 1992. I can’t say I’ve tried a lot of their whiskies but we’re familiar with the distillery of course, and the simple fact that The Whisky Fair selected this Caol Ila 1982 already means something.

 

Caol Ila 1982 - Coopers Choice - Whisky FairCaol Ila 30 yo 1982
(52%, The Coopers Choice for Limburg Whisky Fair 2013, bourbon hogshead #4721, 275 btl.)

Nose: hello there! Lovely nose, starts off in a fruity way (ripe bananas, tangerines). Very oily, greasy peat. Waxy crayons and plasticine. Leather. Almond oil. Not too sharp, nor too briney, very well balanced. Subtle hints of petrol and seaweed. Really elegant. It even becomes slightly farmy (stables, wet wool). Actually it comes quite close to the latest Brora 35yo’s. Enough said. Mouth: clean and well rounded. Again a sweet peaty layer but less prominently fruity now (maybe crystallized oranges). Gets slightly punchier and more coastal. Lots of medicinal notes: camphor, iodine. Wax again, garage aromas, wet gravel, aniseed and liquorice. Salted almonds. Finish: long, coastal and leathery.

Caol Ila can be boringly good, if you know what I mean. This one is special, it stands out with its waxy old-style profile and its Brora-esk farmy hints. Not the cheapest Caol Ila but not as insanely priced as Brora either. A wonderful dram, I love it. Around € 200.

Conservative score: 92/100


Glen GariochYou may have seen my ‘mystery sample’ posts about this on my Facebook page. It is the upcoming Glen Garioch Vintage 1999, a small batch release matured in Oloroso sherry casks, which is not too common for Glen Garioch.

 

Glen Garioch 1999 sherryGlen Garioch 1999
(56,3%, OB 2013, sherry matured)

Nose: very aromatic, with orange zest and mint. In the middle there is lots of toffee. Hints of red berry candy and plums. Butter caramel and hazelnuts covered in milk chocolate. Some pepper and cinnamon. Subtle hints of hay. This kind of sherry reminds me of Glenrothes and Dalmore, with a few hints of rubber. Mouth: punchy and spicy, with lots of toffee again. Figs and dates too. Oranges. Plenty of spices like ginger and pepper. Some resinous notes and eucalyptus, even a light salty edge. Better than the nose. Finish: long, on liquorice, Seville oranges and toffee.

This Glen Garioch takes the path of ‘modern’, spicy and slightly tangy sherry influence. I may not be the biggest fan, but it does represent the Highlands style pretty well. Not sure when it will be available and how much it will cost, Glen Garioch will probably reveal more details later.

Score: 84/100


Another dram from the new Old Particular range by Douglas Laing: Glen Scotia 1992 from a refill barrel.

 

 

Glen Scotia 1992 - Douglas Laing Old ParticularGlen Scotia 21 yo 1992 (51,5%, Douglas Laing Old Particular 2013, refill barrel)

Nose: quite a balanced, elegant Glen Scotia. Far away from the rubbery sherry casks. Sweetish pastry notes. Raisins and nuts. Peaches. Nice blackcurrants and pink grapefruit (volatile though). Not at all ‘in your face’ – it’s gently balanced with subtle cigar leaves and leather as well as some sea spray. Mouth: anything but subtle now. Punchy, dry, leathery again and very herbal. Gingerbread. Plenty of mint liqueur and pepper. Quite some salty notes. Aniseed. Liquorice and strong herbal teas. Chocolate. A bit on the dry side. Finish: medium long, herbal, with nutty and salty notes.

I haven’t been impressed by previous Glen Scotia 1992 releases, but this one I like. Expect a particularly punchy, extractive whisky balanced by some sweeter notes. Around € 100.

Score: 87/100


Springbank 12 Year Old Cask Strength was launched in 2010. For its maturation they use sherry hogsheads (60%) and refill sherry butts (40%). The fifth batch was released at the beginning of 2013.

 

Springbank 12 Year Old Cask StrengthSpringbank 12 yo ‘Cask Strength’
(53,1%, OB 2013, Batch 5)

Nose: very mineral, with lots of graphite. A little austere, with some garage smells and dusty grains. Light peat. Wild flowers and hay. Hints of ginger. After time it makes place for a few rounder notes like sugared corn flakes and vanilla. Mouth: spicy and oily, still the typical Springbank austerity with soft resinous notes but definitely more roundness now as well. Oranges and vanilla. Sweet peat and liquorice. Grain biscuits. Hints of toffee and fruits. Finish: long, dry and spicy with some lemon zest and maybe a hint of aspirin.

I didn’t find much sherry in this batch, and as you may know, I’m not a big fan of the flinty, austere Springbank profile. It’s well made but I prefer their rounder sherry releases. Around € 50.

Score: 84/100


Number One Drinks released a series of outstanding Karuizawa with Geisha labels, as an homage to these Japanese young girls / artists who are professionals in music, singing, dancing and social networking. Geisha are well respected in Japan and seen as safeguards to Japanese traditional art.

This Karuizawa 1977 cask #3584 was bottled for Taiwan.

 

 

Karuizawa 1977 #3584Karuizawa 34 yo 1977 (64,1%, OB for Taiwan 2011, sherry butt #3584, 169 btl.)

A very brown colour – much less reddish than we’re used to see. Nose: huge notes of dried prunes and blackberry jam. Lots of different berries actually. Dark chocolate. Tobacco leaves and cigar boxes. Mint and eucalyptus, giving it quite a medicinal, almost ethereal profile. Burnt sugar. Cedar oak. Hints of oil paint. Also a pungency of balsamic vinegar or brandy. Fresh herbs. Mouth: raisins and berries again. Big peppery notes and some tannins (grape skin). Again a clear earthy side. Complexity is a lot lower here, as if it closed down. Water makes it a little more fruity but still not particularly wide. Finish: not too long, on oak and slightly bitter, leafy notes.

A heavyweight, high strength Karuizawa that’s very condensed as well, which makes it a little difficult to fully enjoy. Intriguing though, and a highly rewarding nose.

Score: 90/100


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Coming up

  • Glen Grant 1992 (Old Particular)
  • Glen Grant 1992 (Le Gus't)
  • Auchentoshan 15yo (Kintra)
  • Lagavulin 1997 Distillers Edition
  • Ben Nevis 1997 (Maltbarn)
  • Tomatin 1978 (Cadenhead / Nectar)
  • Aultmore 2007 (Daily Dram)
  • Glenglassaugh 1978 (Madeira)
  • Karuizawa 45 Year Old (cask #2925)
  • Glengoyne 1999 (Palo Cortado)

1503 notes by Ruben

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