Single malt whisky - tasting notes

Springbank distillery is alive and kicking, after the 2008 rumours that it might shut down. They release whisky under three names: Springbank is distilled twice with low peating levels (+/- 15 ppm) whereas the Longrow brand is for heavier peat (+/- 50 ppm) and Hazelburn for triple distilled spirit.

This new Springbank 18 is matured in 80% sherry and 20% bourbon casks, with a limited production of 7800 bottles that sold out almost instantly (just like the Longrow 18y last year).

 

Springbank 18

Springbank 18y (46%, OB 2009)

Nose: complex nose. Sweet start on berries (redcurrant, blueberry, strawberry) with underlying coal smoke and espresso. Slight notes of bubble gum and wax. Grape and apple. Fruit cake. Fresh for its age. Very balanced and very pleasant. Mouth: very fruity again and rather oily. Bubble gum again. Some violets and cassis. Almonds. Smoky undertones with hints of liquorice. Long, candied finish. A bit dusty, with more sherry influence (raisins, chocolate).

Very smooth and beautiful Springbank. A little expensive though. Around € 100.

Score: 88/100


Daily DramBelgian bottler Daily Dram released some very good Laphroaigs over the past couple of years: Hag Rap Oil (distilled in 1998 as well), Aloha Grip and now this brand new Philo Raga.

 

 

Daily Dram Philo Raga Laphroaig ‘Philo Raga’ 11y 1998 
(57,5%, Daily Dram 2009)

Nose: powerful and very direct, starting on coal smoke and smoked ham. Liquid tar. Lots of medicinal notes, antiseptic, phenols, wet wool. A hint of vanilla and apples. Almonds. Slightly grassy and buttery as well, certainly if you compare it to OB’s like the Quarter Cask. Beautiful. Mouth: impressive attack of peat smoke, coal and sea air. Eucalyptus. Some walnuts and pepper. Lemon notes. Finish: a barbecue that’s cooling off. Very ashy and phenolic. Getting slightly salty as well. Lovely notes of marzipan and cocoa in the aftertaste. After ten minutes: cigar.

Very smoky and peaty Laphroaig. It takes the profile of Hag Rap Oil a step further, with more complexity and maturity. Around € 65.

Score: 87/100

What’s next? Agar Pholi, Oral Hag Pi, Goal Phria,
A Girl Hopa…?


Caperdonich was the lesser known ‘backup’ distillery of Glen Grant, before being mothballed in 2002. Both are located in Rothes. Caperdonich is used in the Chivas Regal blend and although it usually has a malty, oaky, fruity profile (check the wonderful Caperdonich 36y 1972 by Duncan Taylor), a few peated versions exist. There was only one official (unpeated) bottling, a 16 year old in the Chivas “cask strength” series (only available at the Chivas distilleries).

Update: there was also an official Caperdonich 5yo in the 1970′s (now extremely rare). Thanks Luc for informing me!

This heavily peated Caperdonich was released by Single Malts of Scotland and is available at The Whisky Exchange (around € 45).

 

Caperdonich 1998 10yo - heavily peated Caperdonich 10y 1998 (58,5%, SMoS 2008, cask #1277, 251 btl.)

Nose: dry and peaty, but without the usual medicinal / coastal associations that you would find in peated Islay whisky. Smoky, very peaty and slightly farmy (wet wool). Grilled bread. Hints of terpentine (oil paint). Nice. Mouth: there’s peat smoke, oil, soft citrus (grapefruit), some oak and bitter tea. Rather hot. Maybe a bit one-dimensional. Peaty finish, with a dry start but getting sweeter. Medium long. Hints of pear. Big coal smoke.

Unusual for a Caperdonich, that’s for sure. Quite pleasant as well although the dry peat is rather dominant.

Score: 83/100


Glendronach 18yoThree weeks ago, GlenDronach launched the new range of 12yo, 15yo and 18yo malts and already the first 3000-bottle consignment has sold out in Belgium, much to the surprise of the GlenDronach team.

GlenDronach’s Belgian importer The Nectar, represented by Mario Grooteklaes, explained: “GlenDronach has always been a well-known brand in Belgium, especially the “old” fifteen-year-old. That, and the good publicity given to the new fifteen and eighteen-year-olds by some Malt Maniacs, and on some forums, made it easy to introduce the new range to about one hundred specialised liquor stores over Belgium in just one week.”

From: http://www.glendronachdistillery.com/news/

Stay tuned for a review of the GlenDronach 15yo, the highly regarded new expression (100% sherry matured).


World Whisky Awards 2009 The results of this year’s WWA09 have been announced:

Best Whisky Liqueur: Wild Turkey American Honey
Best grain whisky: Compass Box Hedonism
Best new release: Highland Park 40 years old
Best blended malt: Taketsuru 21 years old
Best American whisky: Thomas H. Handy Sazerac
Best single malt whisky: Highland Park 21 years old

 

This year, the crown jewels for best single malt have returned to Scotland, after being in Japan in 2008 (for their Yoichi 20y). I’m sure Highland Park 21y is a very decent malt, although I haven’t tried it. I have a bottle that’s still closed. This seems like a good opportunity to open it and see what the fuzz is all about. If you want one yourself, you’ll have to travel, since it’s only available in travel retail.

Other prize winners in some of the sub-categories: Tyrconnell single cask as the best Irish single malt, Lagavulin 16y as best Islay peated malt, Glenlivet Archive 21y as the best Speysider, Mackmyra First Edition as best “Other” single malt… In fact, there are so many sub-categories that your favourite malt has probably won some prize or another!


The third Bunnahabhain from The Whisky Agency is a 34 year-old matured in an oloroso sherry cask. You could have easily guessed that, this one is intensely copper coloured instead of the golden hue of the other two.

Bunnahabhain 34yo 1974 - Whisky Agency Oloroso sherry can be really sweet (e.g. Solera 1847 by Gonzalez Byass) or dry (e.g. Alfonso by Gonzalez Byass or the 30 year-old Apostoles).

Bunnahabhain 34y 1974 (59,3%, The Whisky Agency 2008, Perfect Dram I, 300 btl.)

Nose: whoaa, terrific sherry influence! Leather and dried fruits (prunes, dates). Chocolate. Tobacco, cigar box. Some hints of a dusty cellar with refreshing mint at the same time. Nutty flavours as well. Dark sugar. With some water, slightly floral notes appear. Very complex and extremely well balanced. Wonderful. Mouth: really intense and mouth coating. Starting sweet, with a bit of brown sugar and dried fruit. A tad herbal (is that thyme?). Walnuts. Clearly marked by the wine but very smooth. Getting drier in the end. Finish: long, lingering aftertaste on dark chocolate and dried apricots.

This kind of dram makes my day. I’m a fan of old, sherry matured whisky and it fits the Bunnahabhain perfectly. Easily the best whisky of the three. Also the most expensive at € 180.

Score: 91/100

subcat5 Bunnahabhain 32y 1976 (fino sherry)
subcat5 Bunnahabhain 35y 1973 (refill sherry)

ps/ If you want to try these sherried 1970’s Bunnahabhains yourself, Luc Timmermans’ Whiskysamples.eu can provide you with a 3cl sample. There are lots of wonderful offerings in his store, fairly priced and perfectly delivered. Worth checking out.


Bunnahabhain 35yo 1973 - Whisky AgencyThe oldest Bunnahabhain in this series, a 35 year-old, matured in refill sherry wood.

 

Bunnahabhain 35y 1973 (50,1%, The Whisky Agency 2008, Shark series, 509 btl.)

Nose: oh boy. While there are certainly nice aspects to this dram, like the sherry sweetness and notes of raisins and honey, I’m afraid I can’t get over the dirty notes. It smells like cooked cabbage, wet forest and mushrooms. Now I love mushrooms, but this is rather unpleasant. The thing is, once you notice it, it’s really hard to appreciate other flavours, because it doesn’t even disappear after 30 minutes in the glass. Mouth: better, starting sweet with floral notes and honey. But still a background of mushrooms. Growing more bitter towards the end. Finish: notes of tonic, like in the Bunnahabhain 1976, and some rubber as well.

I think this was good spirit matured in a less than perfect sherry butt. Second and third fill sherry casks are more prone to sulphur treatment, could that be the reason? Not my kinda dram anyway. Around € 175.

Score: 75/100

ps/ Serge at Whiskyfun seems to like it, even with the dirty notes.


This 32 year-old Bunna was matured in fino sherry casks. Fino is the lighter, fresher and usually bone-dry type of Jerez wine (think of the Tio Pepe brand). In contrast to the Oloroso or Amontillado sherry, fino develops under a layer of flor, a type of yeast that prevents it from oxydizing and adds a savoury, mineral tang to the wine.

 

Bunnahabhain 32yo 1976 - Whisky Agency It’s quite rare to find fino-matured whisky but Bunnahabhain seems to have used this type several times. I know of one other 1976 release in the Murray McDavid Mission series last year (maybe a sister cask?)

 

Bunnahabhain 32y 1976 (55,7%, The Whisky Agency 2008, Shark series, 300 btl.)

Nose: dry-sweet. Nicely floral and fruity. Guava, apple, tangerine. Some notes of wax. Pollen. Fresh sea breeze. Not extremely expressive, but still rather complex and delicate. Mouth: medium-sweet attack, starting on fruit (oranges), with some spices (cloves). Walnuts. After a while, getting drier with notes of tonic and even aspirine. Not entirely balanced, I would say. Grapefruit and more oak.

Good whisky, but the bitterness prevents it from being a real winner. Around € 150.

Score: 85/100


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  • Roberto Sikora: This is really a great, great bottling. One of my favourite Littlemills so far... :-) Thank you, Ruben for this review!
  • george: i see you have tried st magdalene and say it is harder to find i am a collector of st magdalene and i have 40 bottles i am selling these date from 196
  • sjoerd972: I wish the guys at Bushmills would demand the labels to say "Northern Ireland" so we didn't have to speculate on the booze's origins.

Coming up

  • Bowmore Devil's Casks - Batch 2
  • Tomatin 1988 (Malts of Scotland)
  • Aberfeldy 12 Year Old
  • Blair Athol 2002 (Hepburn's Choice)
  • Fettercairn Fior
  • Bowmore Laimrig 15yo
  • Ben Nevis 2002 (Port cask #334)

1600 notes by Ruben

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