Single malt whisky - tasting notes

Bunnahabhain There are three Bunnahabhains in the 2009 range from The Whisky Agency. They’re all from the 1970’s and sherry matured, although they’ve used different types of sherry casks:

A nice opportunity to taste them head-to-head and evaluate the differences. Starting tomorrow with the youngest one.


The Fettercairn distillery is not highly regarded and doesn’t have a history of great releases. It’s currently owned by Whyte & Mackay and only has one official release, the 12 year old Fettercairn 1824.

This bottling is part of The Whisky Agency’s ‘Perfect Dram’ series. It’s pretty unusual to find such an old bottling (33 years old). As a matter of fact, independent bottlings are rare altogether. It was matured in an ex-bourbon hogshead.

 

Fettercairn 33y 1975 Fettercairn 33y 1975 (58,3%, The Whisky Agency 2008, Perfect Dram I, 143 btl.)

Nose: when I first opened my sample, I was surprised to find a few off-notes. Mushrooms, rancid butter, that kind of stuff. But they disappeared almost immediately after pouring it into my glass. Well, there’s still a buttery / nutty undertone, but that’s nice enough, so let’s forget about it. It’s also nicely fruity, grainy and spicy. A bit of cumin, some cinnamon and cloves. Hints of sour cream? Interesting. There’s also some speculoos and cookies. Apple and pear. Mouth: starting a bit sharp and sour (ginger, orange peel, tannins), but getting more powerful and fruity. Big, juicy grapefruit! Really nice. Some apricot, kumquat and tangerine. Still some cumin as well. Finish on grapefruit, again a bit sour and slightly bitter. Oranges. Christmas cake and unripe mango in the aftertaste.

A difficult dram, it goes in different directions which is confusing but interesting at the same time. It does have a unique character though. Around € 160.

Score: 82/100


Hag Rap Oil - Laphroaig 1998 - Daily Dram Hag Rap Oil is yet another wicked anagram for Laphroaig. If you’re interested, compare my notes with the Aloha Grip that was released earlier by Daily Dram and the distillery bottling Laphroaig 10y Cask strength – all three are young Laffies at cask strength.

 

Hag Rap Oil – Laphroaig 9y 1998
(56,7%, Daily Dram 2007, 450 bottles)

Nose: iodine, peat, phenols. Smoked fish. Fresh leather. More tobacco than smoke, pretty complex. If you place it next to the 10y CS, this one is much more buttery and oily, less oaky with fewer notes of lemon but more vanilla. I would say this one is more feminine. Mouth: more smoke now, more oil. Sweeter notes too. Vanilla again. Finish: drier, with a pinch of salt. Sweet smoke.

Very vivid, punchy Laphroaig. Especially the nose is wonderful. Sold out, but The Bonding Dram still seems to have some stock (€ 55).

Score: 85/100.


I always had the impression that the Quarter Cask and 10y Cask Strength are the most popular Laphroaigs. Well, I haven’t tried them all, but the 10y CS definitely is a classic Laphroaig. It’s said the recent batches are really good, at the same level of the older (“Green stripe”) bottlings. Let me see…


Laphroaig 10y Cask strengthLaphroaig 10 yo Cask strength
(55,7%, OB 2007)

Nose: lovely deep smoke with tarry notes and lots of phenol. Balanced with sweet vanilla, a bit of brown sugar and some fruity notes. Medicinal. Seaweed. A bit of lemon, burried somewhere underneath. Mouth: powerful start, very robust and quite peppery. The best ashtray ever! Becomes sweeter (toffee, caramel) with a salty edge. Finish: long and hot. Phenols again. Smoky with a hint of gasoline.

This is very very good whisky. Among the best standard bottlings on the market. This punchy classic is a must-have for every Islay enthousiast. Around € 45.

Score:

89/100.
 

 A small note: Laphroaig announced that they will release different batches of the 10yo CS in the future. So instead of trying to reproduce the same flavour profile over and over again, they will allow some variations in the profile and the alcohol volume. It seems to become trendy to do this (Lagavulin 12yo, Springbank 1997, Aberlour A’bunadh…), and one of the reasons may be that it may convince enthousiasts to buy all the different batches and see how they compare. Edition n°1 will be bottled shortly.



The Whisky Agency The Whisky Agency is a group of whisky enthousiasts that are trying to offer whiskies of maximum drinking quality. Some of the people behind this brand are also managing the Limburg whisky festival in Germany. This Longmorn 1976 is part of their 2009 line-up and was matured in an ex-bourbon hogshead. There are wonderful old Longmorns out there, so this should be interesting.


 

Longmorn 32y 1976 Longmorn 32y 1976 
(53%, The Whisky Agency 2008, 120 btl.)

Nose: starts very fruity, typical for old Longmorns. Banana, pears, apple skin, some apricot and citrus. Quite some waxy notes and delicate oak. Very light coal smoke underneath. Soft vanilla. Mouth: very punchy with a nice mouthfeel. Again really fruity (banana, yellow plums, oranges, hints of Cointreau) but also a bit spicier (vanilla, herbal tea) and honeyed. The wood is much more present now. Finish: very long, probably because of the oak. Hints of cake and lots of spices (nutmeg, vanilla, cinnamon).

Again a proof of Longmorn’s possibility to age well.
This whisky is anything but tired at 32 years old, although maybe a tad woody. Around € 165.

Score: 88/100


Bruichladdich Octomore 5yoOctomore is a hefty peating experiment. At the time of launch, it had the highest level of peat ever to be found in whisky: 131 parts per million of phenols. Only 6000 bottles were released, and you had to know your shopkeeper very well to get a bottle. I know shops that didn’t even sell their bottles but thought they’d better keep them.

The original price was around € 100. If you want one now, prepare to pay at least twice as much on eBay. That’s a really nice profit for a 5 years old whisky, less than 6 months after its launch.

 

Octomore 01.1The Octomore has a magnificent packaging. The bottle is black with a matte finish and shiny black print. Very minimal and an instant classic.

 

Bruichladdich Octomore 01.1 5y 2001
(63,5%, OB 2008)

Nose: barbecue with olive oil. Some marine notes (seaweed), lemon and heather. Of course, these flavours are dominated by the ashes, the peat smoke and the alcohol. Although, I have to say, the peat is not that huge as I thought it would be. Really tarry though. With water, you get more garage associations: motor oil and diesel. Cigars. Grassy notes. Mouth: very powerful impact, creamy with a strong peatiness. It’s not often that whisky burns my throat, but this one managed to do it. There is a wave of white chocolate and roasted nuts which I found quite impressive and unexpected at the same time. Very unusual. A bit of salt as well. Tar again. With water, walnuts and lemon. Slightly peppered. Finish: barbecue with salty liquorice. Long aftertaste, rich and “condensed” peat.

I’m afraid this Octomore experiment was a starting point and the end at the same time, because it’s on the edge of becoming too peaty. There’s no room for further evolution unless they’re going to soften it and allow more flavours – I’m sure a lot of people will find it unpleasant already. Overall I appreciate the experiment and the end result.

Score: 87/100

 

  Bruichladdich 3D3
  Port Charlotte PC6


Port Charlotte is a distillery in the town with the same name. Built in 1829 and also known as Lochindaal, it was closed in 1929. It served as a youth hostel but the warehouses remained intact and were used by Bruichladdich.

Since May 2001, Bruichladdich distills new spirit under the name Port Charlotte while at the same time building a completely new distillery, 2 km. away from the Bruichladdich distillery.

In 2006, the first public release of Port Charlotte was named PC5 (five years old – bourbon / sherry finish). After that, we’ve had PC6 (madeira finish) and currently PC7 (American oak finish). PC8 is coming up in October this year.

Feel free to compare with the Bruichladdich 3D3 which contains some Port Charlotte together with regular Bruichladdich and heavily peated Octomore.

 

 

PC6 Port Charlotte Port Charlotte 2001 ‘PC6’
(61,6%, OB 2007)

Nose: less fresh than the 3D3. More smoke, less lemon. The PC6 has a more buttery smell, with notes of mashed potato. Also slightly rubbery and fishy. A lot of peat of course. Charcoal. Wet wool. Some sweeter, fruity notes (apricot and pear), although hard to discover. Anise and burnt vanilla. When you go back to the 3D3, it’s clear that both are playing in the same league, but the 3D3 is a lot fresher, with more apple and lemon notes. The PC6 is a bit flatter, warmer and deeper. Mouth: hot attack, on pepper and smoke. Very peaty. Again some rubber. Some pear and mint if you dig a little deeper. Less sweet than the 3D3, more intense and smokey (even when brought down to the same alcohol level). Finish: rather creamy with light notes of fruit. A small pinch of salt.

A challenging spirit, like going “off-road” in a peatland. Still approachable despite the high alcohol volume, but again, only if you’re really into smokey, peaty flavours. Sold out, but the PC7 is still available.

Score: 87/100


Daily Dram - Philo Raga Daily Dram - Oat Mint Quick news: 2 new bottlings in the Daily Dram range. An 11 year-old Laphroaig ‘Philo Raga’ from 1998 (57,5%) and a 43 year-old Tomatin ‘Oat Mint’ from 1965 (48,1%).

The Laphroaig should be an interesting replacement for Hag Rap Oil and Aloha Grip.


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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.