Single malt whisky - tasting notes

Whisky-Fässle and Whiskybase / Archives were already related in the sense that both bottlers / retailers were selling each other’s whiskies. They are regularly releasing similar casks and now they’ve even shared one, a 23 years old Auchentoshan 1990.

I really like the way they also ‘exchanged’ animals on the labels. The Archives bottle features a duck while the Whisky-Fässle version now has an exotic fish. The duck of Samoa, is it? Really nice guys.

 

 

Auchentoshan 1990 - Archives & Whisky-FässleAuchentoshan 23 yo 1990 (47,7%, Whisky-Fässle & Whiskybase 2014, hogshead #6850)

Nose: light and inviting but not just clean or dull. There’s a nice fruity side of oranges and sweet pear, with hints of pineapple syrup. Soft hints of vanilla. On the other hand there are also notes of linseed oil and dusty wood. Hints of lime blossom. Quite fragrant after a while. Mouth: sweet and creamy at first (vanilla cake) but these flavours quickly make place for zesty (grapefruit skin) and grassy notes. Herbal teas. Clove, a bit of aniseed. A few salty touches too. A little austere maybe. Finish: not too long, still on the herbal and bittersweet side. Some pepper as well.

Auchentoshan… still hit and miss for me. I liked the nose, but the palate is less my style. Not bad, but these bottlers have better stuff to discover. Around € 135.

Score: 82/100


The youngest member of the Early Flying series from The Whisky Agency is this Bunnahabhain 1990.

 

 

Bunnahabhain 1990 - The Whisky AgencyBunnahabhain 24 yo 1990
(48,3%, The Whisky Agency ‘Early flying’ 2014, refill hogshead, 190 btl.)

Nose: pine needles and mint, as well as some flinty notes and wet sand. Apple peelings. Sunflower oil and waxy notes. Hints of cigar boxes as well. Less honeyed than we would expect. Maybe a few dried mushrooms in the background. Mouth: plenty of apple peelings again, hints of cider apples too. A slightly earthy profile, very natural with less fruity or rounded notes, just a little honey. Hay. Green spices and liquorice. Some leafy notes and grapefruit tea. Finish: takes the herbal notes a bit further. Tobacco, a little ginger and green oak.

This Bunnahabhain 1990 is not showing my preferred side of this distillery, but it’s an interesting dram nonetheless. Around € 140.

Score: 85/100


This Springbank 12 Years Old is nicknamed Green. It is made from naturally farmed barley, but as the distillery itself doesn’t have the right certificates, the resulting whisky can’t officially be called organic. Hence green.

It’s matured entirely in bourbon casks. Springbank is preparing a 13 yo Green for next year, matured in sherry casks.

 

 

Springbank Green - 12 YearsSpringbank 12 yo ‘Green’ (46%, OB 2014, batch 14/488, 9000 btl.)

Nose: a true Springer, fresh, aromatic, with coastal and earthy undertones. Maybe a little more peat than usual. Also white peaches, citrus and freshly cut green apple. Sweet vanilla cake. Soft pepper. Hints of wet stones. Not too austere though, it’s rather creamy and easy to like. Mouth: starts bright and citrusy, then some creamy barley and vanilla biscuits. Honey. Becomes oilier and ashier. On to some grapefruit zest, walnuts and youngish cereal notes. Hints of peat as well as pepper. Just a slight bitter tang. Finish: medium long, with grainy notes, a lemon and salt combo and liquorice.

I haven’t been a huge fan of recent entry-level Springbanks, but I liked this one almost immediately. I’ve tried it a few times already and it’s a nice treat. Around € 70 – in stores now.

Score: 87/100


The ever expanding list of Elements of Islay bottlings includes seven Caol Ila expression already. This is Cl7, the latest release.

Originally sold by The Whisky Exchange, it’s found in plenty of whisky shops around Europe.

 

Caol Ila Cl7 - Elements of IslayCaol Ila Cl7 (58,5%, Elements of Islay 2014, 50 cl)

Nose: a fairly expressive but also balanced nose. Medicinal notes, lots of coastal things (beaches, shells, hints of wet rope). On the other hand also soft hints of almond oil, sweetened lemon juice, even traces of butter biscuits and barley sugars. I tend to like ‘em like this. Mouth: certainly sharper and highly medicinal. Antiseptics, iodine, menthol. Quite salty, one of the most mouth-watering whiskies I’ve come across lately. Liquorice and salted nuts. Cough syrup and herbal potions. Fernet-Branca. Impressive bitterness and saltiness. Finish: long, still quite savoury. Lots of salmiak and earthy notes.

While the nose could make you think it’s a rounded, gentle Coal Ila, the mouth is very intense, herbal and salty. Interesting bottling from an otherwise very “narrow” / predictable distillery. Around € 85.

Score: 87/100


This Bunnahabhain 1980 in the Perfect Dram series says on the label Selected and approved by Master Taster F. Thomas. Does anyone know him?

There has been a whole series of Bunnas from this vintage, released over the last few years, mainly by German bottlers. I don’t recall any bad ones.

 

 

Bunnahabhain 1980 Perfect DramBunnahabhain 34 yo 1980
(47,1%, The Perfect Dram 2014, refill sherry butt, 504 btl.)

Nose: nicely aromatic, with a deep, gentle fruitiness of apricot, melon and oranges. Gooseberries. Hints of honey and fragrant meadow flowers. It’s not just fruity though, there’s a coastal side to it, as well as a minty / resinous side. Plenty of polished oak too. Mouth: a honeyed fruitiness again. Fresh fruits (plums) and dried fruits (golden raisins) in equal amounts – although the sherry influence is quite moderate. Orange cake and almonds. Hints of green tea with passion fruit. A bit of cinnamon and leather from the oak. The lightest hint of salt. Finish: long, fairly dry and oaky, with hints of honey, apple peelings and ginger.

A very nice profile, combining a mellow fruitiness and beehive notes with a subtle coastalness. To think this was a mere € 100 just three years ago. Now around € 250.

Score: 89/100


This is the third batch of Arran single malt bottled by That Boutique-y Whisky Company. The typical graphic-novel-style illustrations shows the artist, Emily Chapell, and a friend stranded on a desert island after a kayaking trip gone awry. Arran’s eagle and the Waverley ship (Glasgow – Arran) also play a part in it.

 

Arran Batch 3 - That Boutique-y Whisky CompanyArran batch #3
(51,5%, That Boutique-y Whisky Company 2014, 728 btl., 50 cl)

Nose: typical clean Arran, very citrusy (grapefruit, lemon) with hints of ginger. There’s also a slightly more earthy / roasted note in the back, think roasted malt and bread crust. Dried coconut flakes and soft mineral notes. Mouth: sweet and fruity (plum syrup, fruit biscuits), slightly synthetic / new-makeish at times. Goes on with malty notes and almonds. Some zesty grapefruit, as well as a bit of cocoa. Finish: medium long, with chocolate and green fruits.

Pretty standard, all-round Arran. Just a good showcase for this distillery. Around € 55 – only 50cl bottles available.

Score: 84/100


Bruichladdich says Port Charlotte Islay Barley is a milestone. Perhaps for the first time in the island’s history, a heavily-peated single malt has been distilled using Islay-grown barley.

The barley had been harvested in September 2008 from the farms at Coull, Kynagarry, Island, Rockside, Starchmill and Sunderland, peated to 40 PPM, then distilled in December of the same year and bottled towards the end of 2014.

 

 

Port Charlotte Islay BarleyPort Charlotte 2008 ‘Islay Barley’ (50%, OB 2014)

Nose: a salty and malty nose, with sweet liquorice and plenty of soot. Rather clean and elegant, rather rounded as well, compared to other Islay whiskies. Sweet lemon candy in the background. Something of mentholated oils. Mouth: rather dry now, with a leathery feel and some herbal hints. Dark toasted bread. A bit of sea spray and kippery notes. There’s a slight bitter edge to it, as well as a peppery heat. And always a sweet layer underneath. Finish: long, slightly hot, with ashes, plenty of salt and still these herbal (Fernet) touches.

I’m personally not very fond of this one. It seems less focused and less powerful than its Octomore sister and the herbal bitter side is quite loud. There have been better PC’s, but of course they don’t have a terroir story behind them. Around € 75.

Score: 85/100


Whisky in 2014

 

Happy New Year to everyone! Best wishes for 2015.

We’ve had a succesful year on this website again. In terms of visitors, 2014 was roughly at the same level as 2013, with over 2 million pageviews. However there have been more prominent highs and lows. The summer months were quieter this year but the last two months have been consistently record-breaking, with 15% more visitors than in the same period of 2013. That means more daily visitors than ever before, with significant increases from Germany, The Netherlands, Norway, Singapore…

GlenDronach is still the most popular distillery, with Ardbeg closely behind. When looking at specific pages / drams, the comparison of Johnnie Walker Red Label and Black Label is the most popular. My reviews of the Macallan Ruby and Lagavulin Distillers Edition are next.

 

 

The best whiskies of 2014

Among the new releases, the highlight of the year was probably the Glen Grant 1948 bottled by Gordon & MacPhail for WealthSolutions. A stunning whisky, but probably more of an emotional tasting.

I also had the privilege to try past stunners like the Isle of Jura 1972/1991 SMWS 31.4, the Karuizawa 45 Year Old 1967 or the wonderful Glen Grant 21yo bottled in the 1960’s. That Glen Grant was definitely the best whisky I tried in 2014.

When looking specifically at the 2014 releases, I had the impression the last few months were much more interesting than the beginning of the year. These ones stood out in a really positive way:

For everyone’s cabinet: Benromach 10

For those on a budget, the renewed Benromach 10 Year Old was a great surprise, as well as its higher strength sibling: Benromach 10 Year Old 100° proof. Great, old-style drams that are well priced. Probably the best value drams on the market today.

 

 

Overall feeling

Somehow I thought 2013 was a bit depressing: prices were going over the top, NAS releases were a new trend, and top quality was sometimes hard to find.

In 2014, prices were certainly not lower (just look at the ridiculous pricing of Diageo’s Special Releases – and notice that we’ve only bothered to review two or three) but I think we’ve become accustomed to buying less and letting more bottles gather dust on the shelves. I’d say the general quality from respected sources was okay: the excellent (and once readily available) 1970’s are gone for good, but at least we’ve discovered a couple of distilleries that are also good at lower ages. Let’s keep it at a status quo, and let’s be happy with that.

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Coming up

  • Glenglassaugh 1972 (Carn Mor)
  • Danica whisky (Braunstein)
  • Laphroaig Lp6 (Elements of Islay)
  • Bruichladdich 1964 (G&M #3676-3677)
  • Scallywag Cask Strength
  • Woodford Reserve Master's Collection
  • Highland Park 1990 (Master of Malt)
  • Springbank 2001 vintage

1841 notes by Ruben

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