Single malt whisky - tasting notes

Laphroaig Cairdeas (pronounced more or less like ‘gorgeous’ and gaelic for ‘friendship’) was a limited edition for the 2008 Feis Ile (Islay festival). It’s a blend of quarter casks (up to 9y) with a few older sherry butts (17y).


Laphroaid Cairdeas

Laphroaig Cairdeas (55%, OB 2008, 3600 btl.)

Nose: condensed, with relatively subdued peat and smoke. The fireplace is softened by vanilla, sweet barley and hints of marzipan. Lemon and salt as well. Mouth: barbecue, the usual medicinal and peaty notes but everything seems to be covered in a layer of toffee, caramelized almonds and lemon candy. The aftertaste is sweet as well but gets a lot drier after a while.

It’s a rich dram but in my opinion a little bit out of focus. The nose is nice but relatively shy, the taste is quite sweet, the finish quite dry. Some say this is one of the best Laphroaigs of the last couple of years. I’m not one of them, I’m afraid.
Score: 84/100.

Investment tip: TWE still has stock (£ 50) while on eBay it is sold for more than 100 euro.


The Whisky Exchange With the current rate of the British Pound, I decided to place an order at The Whisky Exchange, which has a huge choice of current as well as older bottlings. Not to forget their excellent range of Single Malts of Scotland releases.

TWE publishes delivery estimates on its website: 3-4 business days for Western Europe.  After a few days, it was clear that they couldn’t keep that promise: the online order tracking kept telling me that my order was being printed and processed. After 5 business days I called the (very friendly) sales department and a few hours later everything was being shipped. I suppose it took them so long because some bottles were out of stock (why don’t they give any information on that?), or maybe the packaging guy fell asleep. Some detailed explanation (or simply stock indications on the site) would have been helpful.

The package was delivered within 48 hours after the shipping confirmation (7 days after placing the order). I’m not complaining; it was an example of careful handling, each bottle having its own compartment in the box. More than 20 whiskies are now waiting for a review…


Belgian whisky lovers are proud of The Nectar, our independent importer / bottler that is slowly gaining popularity in other countries as well. Mario Groteklaes and his companions are bringing us good (most of the time excellent) whisky. They have a great nose for outstanding casks and prices are reasonable, so most bottlings are sold out pretty soon.

In 2007, they introduced a new bottle design for the Daily Dram series. Good old Guy Boyen once told me Malt Maniac’s Serge was responsible for the label template, and who am I to question my whisky godfather. Serge reviews most of their bottlings so it could be right.

Daily Dram has a tradition of turning the distillery name into an anagram. Adieu Lina  obviously stands for Dailuane.

 

Adieu Lina (Daily Dram)

Dailuaine ‘Adieu Lina’ 1973 35y (47,6%, Daily Dram 2008, 150 btl.)

You could guess from the colour that this is from a sherry cask, and the smell immediately confirms this. Nose: sherry notes with christmas cake, oranges, raisins, figs and spices (lots of cinnamon, some cloves). Some flowery notes and wood polish as well. Interesting notes of rhubarb. Very good balance. With water: lovely notes of raspberry jam. Taste: much sweeter than on the nose: candied fruit, a bit of honey, orange (marmalade) again. Some vanilla. Aftertaste on pear, cloves and wood with a hint of caramel. The pear remains for a long time.

There aren’t many Dailuaines around, and most of them are not really special. This one has a lot to offer. Very nice, and good pricing as well given the age (€ 140).

Score: 88/100.


A few months ago, Bruichladdich released a private batch of its Octomore at 80 ppm phenols. After that, the public batch of Bruichladdich Octomore was the heaviest peated whisky in the world at 131 ppm. A liquid ash tray.

 

supernovaArdbeg Supernova

Yesterday, Ardbeg announced to launch its own peat monster: Ardbeg Supernova at “over 100 ppm”.

Some official tasting notes: “deep earthy peat oils, smoky coal tar, rolling tobacco, camomile, cedar and heather bloom. Hot, sizzling and gristy sensations effervesce on the tongue while pepper pops with chilli and chocolate.”

Looking forward to tasting it. Looking forward to the Octomore as well by the way. After several months of rumours it has become one of those bottles everyone’s talking about but nobody has been able to buy. Just another marketing trick from Bruichladdich?


Advent calendar

12 Jan 2009 | * News

I’m suffering from a serious cold, so tasting whisky is not one of my priorities. Instead, let me tell you something about a few samples that I’ve reviewed lately (and still more to come from the same series).

Magnus Fagerström is a Swedish collector with a huge BenRiach collection. At regular times, he’s also hosting tastings so he buys a lot of other brands as well. Each year in November, 24 interesting / old / unique / expensive / rare bottles are selected for his advent calendar. They are divided into 2cl samples that people can buy. The total value of the bottles is around € 8000 so you can imagine it’s not a cheap set of samples. But since I don’t get this kind of opportunity every day, I decided to join the club!

The advent calendar is a blind tasting. The samples simply wear a number, and each day before Christmas, the picture of the corresponding bottle was posted on his website. A fun way to train my senses and test my knowledge. I have to admit that I usually can’t pin down the brand, but hey, there are so many distilleries that I haven’t tasted yet… and some of the bottles were purposely chosen to be different from the regular distillery profile (are those enough excuses to keep my dignity…?).

Read some of my advent calendar tasting notes, and be sure to come back now and then, because the majority of the samples has not been reviewed yet. Thanks again to Magnus for his unique choice of Christmas whisky!


Canto Cask was an experiment in which the same malt whisky was finished in different cask types (American & French oak) with varying toasting levels (each cask was flamed during a different period). The result is a series of 16 variations and each of those was sold by its own distributor.

cantocaskThe original whisky was a “triple malt”, a blend of just three single malts: Clynelish, Dailuaine and Teaninich, all 12 years old. After 18 additional months in the different casks, they were bottled at cask strength (52-55%). It’s interesting to see that only new oak was used, which is rather unusual for scotch whisky. The one I’m reviewing here was matured in an American oak cask, toasted to level 5 on a scale of 10.

 

Canto Cask 36 (54,3%, Compass Box for Bresser & Timmer, 2007, 257 btl.)

The nose starts on vanilla, apples and a bit of wax and varnish. Some spicy notes as well (nutmeg and cloves). Smooth oakiness. Mouth: really powerful, gets quite hot and toasty but stays elegant and sweet at the same time. Seems older than it actually is. The same spices return, oak and toffee as well. Warm finish with some bitter notes (cloves, walnuts, liquorice). The slightest hint of smoke. Score: 85/100.

I like this a lot, it’s complex yet accessible and I support the idea of experimenting, especially when we’re invited to evaluate the different results. I have a Canto Cask 15 (bought in Spain) as well, matured in French oak with a higher toasting level. I’m hoping to open it soon and do a head-to-head.


The Black Grouse

04 Jan 2009 | * Blends

black_grouse In Jim Murray’s Whisky Bible 2008, The Black Grouse was chosen as the best blend of the year. This recently introduced and peated version of The Famous Grouse was well received by critics. It’s true that only a few blends put peat and smoke in the spotlight.

 

The Black Grouse (40%, OB)

Powerful nose with lots of malt and cereal. Smoke is nearly absent. Fruitiness (apple, peach). A bit more smoke in the taste, but still very subtle. Oak wood with some fruity notes. Creamy delivery. Very sweet finish on brown sugar and citrus. Score: 75.

I’m not really impressed by this. The smoke is quite faint and is certainly not in the spotlight. Most of all, I miss the deep warmth that I associate with peated whiskies. A decent dram considering the price (around € 20), but in the end it’s still a small grouse, not a powerful black falcon.


Buffalo Trace

29 Dec 2008 | * USA

When it comes to American whiskey, there are three major types: those made from rye, from wheat and the ones that use corn, called bourbons. In fact they all use a mixture of grains, but they have to contain at least 51% of the main ingredient.

Buffalo Trace is bourbon from the distillery with the same name, based in Kentucky . It was the first brand to release ‘single barrel’ bourbon and ever since, they are trying hard to be seen as a progressive, ‘connoiseurs’ distillery of high quality.

230406501Apart from the flagship ‘Buffalo Trace’ they have a couple of other products with different names: Elmer T. Lee, George T. Stagg, Blanton’s, Eagle Rare, Sazerac…

 

Buffalo Trace (45%, OB)

Nose: both grains and sweet corn can be clearly distinguished. Some caramel and pine wood as well. With a drop of water, citrus fruit is coming out. Taste: very spicy, with notes of sweet honey and brown sugar. Mint and vanilla too. Hints of leather. Finish with sweet vanilla and dry oak notes, nicely balanced.

A quality bourbon with an unbelievably low price  (€ 25). I’d rather get this bottle as a gift than any Scottish supermarket malt or blend of the same price. Don’t expect huge single malt complexity, but still a very interesting range of flavours.

84/100.


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Coming up

  • Convalmore 1978 (Rare Malts)
  • Littlemill 1991 (Eiling Lim)
  • Glen Moray 1959/1989
  • Jura 1972 SMWS 31.4

1571 notes by Ruben

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