Single malt whisky - tasting notes

There are very few independent Lagavulin bottlings. Most of them are sold under a different name (e.g. Classic of Islay, Vanilla Sky).

Lagavulin 1979 MMDThe label on this bottle contains a misprint. It says “distilled: January 1979 – bottled: May 1988” but also “19 years old”. It was released in 1998 instead of 1988.

 

Lagavulin 19y 1979 (46%, Murray McDavid 1998, cask #MM8593, bourbon cask)

Nose: dense peat, but also rather sweet and perfumy at first. Vanilla. After that, more typical notes of diesel oil and seaweed. Camphor. Some lemon. Hazelnut. Interesting but not overly complex. Mouth: sweet attack, fruitier than official Lagavulins. Soon becoming grassier and drier, with the peat taking over. Not overly powerful. Some cardamom. Rather bitter towards the finish (cloves, grapefruit). Finish: medium long, peaty and smokey. Iodine. Slightly metallic. The bitterness is still here. A pinch of salt.

Good nose, but the taste lacks some complexity. I like most of the original Lagavulin expressions better.

Not available any more. Score: 83/100


In the 1970’s, Tomatin was the biggest distillery in Scotland. In the 1980’s it went downhill and encountered some serious financial problems. After that, it was the first Scottish distillery to be acquired by a Japanese company. Nowadays it’s a healthy but rather small producer.

Oat Mint - Daily DramThis 43 year-old Tomatin ‘Oat Mint’ is one of the oldest drams I was able to try so far. The price (around € 175) is relatively low considering its age.

 

Tomatin 1965 ‘Oat Mint’
(48,1%, Daily Dram 2009, 210 btl.)

Nose: wonderfully creamy and fruity. It reminds me of a baby fruit puree (banana, apple, orange and a “Vitabis” grain cookie – delicious). Honey. Some frangipane and vanilla. Fresh flowers. Mango. Waxy notes and quite some mint as well. Great how the anagram really works here. Excellent complexity. Mouth: less fruity, much more spices. Nutmeg, mint again, vanilla, pepper, cinnamon. Still some banana, peach and strawberry candy. Oaky, but in a really mellow way. Finish: again some oak and spices (cinnamon and cloves). Hints of bergamot. Long, warm aftertaste.

Very punchy for its age. Great stuff.

Score: 90/100

 

ps/ Three new Daily Dram releases coming up.
A Caol Ila, a Highland Park and a Auchroisk 34yo (“Auk’s Choir”).


The Balvenie Signature was launched in 2008 to celebrate David Stewart’s 45 years in the William Grant company. He’s the award winning Malt Master who composed some wonderful Glenfiddich and Balvenie. This 12 year-old Signature should be the proof of his knowledge and qualities.

It is made up of different casks: sherry oak, first fill bourban and refill sherry.

 

Balvenie 12yo Signature Balvenie 12y ‘Signature’ 
(40%, OB 2008, batch n°1)

Nose: wonderfully aromatic and rich. Immediately fruity: peaches on syrup, apricot, oranges. Balvenie’s trademark honey. Vanilla. Some floral notes as well. Very light influence of sherry, noticeable in notes of dried fruits (raisins). After a while, there’s a wave of toffee. Mouth: quite soft. Again quite fruity (marmalade) and spicy (cinnamon, bergamot, nutmeg). The lightest whiff of smoke. Rather short finish on oak and spices. Slightly dryish in the end.

Very smooth and integrated. Delicious nose, but the mouth-feel is a bit less due to the low alcohol. Around € 40. Recommended.

Score: 87/100


Auchentoshan is a lowland malt and currently the only triple distilled whisky in Scotland (well, apart from Hazelburn and other ‘experiments’ outside of the regular ranges). They’ve had some extra publicity lately due to their new brand identity. The design of the bottles improved greatly, and the range of expressions was revised: the 10 year old was renamed ‘Classic’ and an 18 year old was added to the line.

The Three Wood is matured in different casks: at least ten years in bourbon wood, one year in oloroso and six months in the sirupy Pedro Ximénez.

 

Auchentoshan Three Wood Auchentoshan Three Wood 
(43%, OB 2008)

Nose: it’s possible to distinguish the different casks. There is clear sherry influence with notes of raisins, plums, dates and oranges. Bourbon associations as well. Some vanilla, apricot, apple and cinnamon. Toffee. Tobacco. In a way, it’s interesting to have the different influences, but on the other hand, it doesn’t work together as a whole. Too much oak to be refined. Mouth: sweet, lots of toffee and chocolate. Caramel and nuts. Quite “dark” with some burnt sugar and even some rubber (although it’s not unpleasant). Liquorice as well. The finish shows some bourbon-type flavours: cedar and pine wood, mint and spices. With water: lemon grass. Quite dry.

Sometimes I don’t mind unbalanced whiskies, because they dare to be different and tend to have a unique character. But this is a bit too rough and completely overpowers the Lowland character. Around € 45.

Score: 76/100.


Linkwood produces mostly for blends like Johnnie Walker and White Horse. Although there are very few official releases, independent bottlings are much more common.

La Maison du WhiskyThis first-fill oloroso cask was bottled by Gordon & MacPhail, exclusively for La Maison du Whisky. They already had a similar Linkwood 1990 in 2006. A few hundreds of bottles are available.

 

Linkwood 1990 LMdW G&M Linkwood 18yo 1990 (46%, Gordon & MacPhail for La Maison du Whisky 2009, cask #6962)

Nose: heavily sherried. Lush notes of plums and raisins. Kirsch. Some balsamic syrup. Hints of meat (tajine lamb) and soy sauce. Dark chocolate. Very exuberant, thick sherry. Mouth: quite uncommon. Starting sweet on orange marmalade, but getting more woody and very sweet & sour. Rather sharp. Very dark, bitter chocolade. Hints of sweet vinegar. Roasted nuts, even slightly tarry. Finish: long and drying, with hints of candied lemon and walnuts. Some espresso. Quite some liquorice as well.

Difficult whisky, very intense and a tad sharp. But very interesting and as sherried as whisky can get. We’re really on the edge of tasting an old (dry) oloroso here. Still available from LMdW at this moment. € 78.

Score: 86/100


This is called the “resurrection dram” because it was the first distillation after Bruichladdich was re-opened by its new owners, on 23/10/2001. It was made from medium peated barley (10 ppm instead of the usual 3-5 ppm).

 

Bruichladdich 2001 Resurrection Bruichladdich 2001 ‘Resurrection’ 
(46%, OB 2008, 24000 btl.)

Nose: heavier peat than expected. Also quite farmy (wet dogs, not unlike some Broras) and even medicinal (iodine). Slightly smokey. Mouth: again rather peaty and coastal with a salty tang. Pretty far from the usual, fruity Bruichladdich profile. Lots of spices, mostly pepper and mint. With water, there are hints of coffee and peanuts. Finish: rather hot, starting on cocoa and evolving to more grassy / vegetal notes. Peanuts again.

A manifestation of Bruichladdich’s geographical roots (on Islay, the peaty island), rather than its historical roots (as the fruity distillery). Around € 45.

Score: 83/100


Ardbeg Supernova

29 May 2009 | Ardbeg

A lot has been said about the Ardbeg Supernova. First there was the announcement shortly after the Bruichladdich Octomore. Then there was the Committee sale that ended within 2 hours after its start. Now there is the general ‘Stellar’ release which is still rather short in supply.

As you know, it’s the peatiest Ardbeg to date at over 100 phenolic parts per milion.

 
Ardbeg SupernovaArdbeg Supernova
(58,9%, OB 2009)

Nose: gristy, tarry peat. Smokier than the Ardbeg 10yo (duh). Very earthy but rather sweet as well. Some lemon. Camomile and heather. Tobacco and espresso. Nice. Mouth: oily, thick and coating. Coal smoke. Again rather grassy. Develops on white pepper and liquorice. Finish: lovely espresso with a little chocolate. Some citrus. A pinch of salt and slight hints of rubber. Endless peat smoke.

A powerful cask-strength Ardbeg. Maybe less extreme than expected and a tad less “experimental” than the Octomore, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Around € 85.

Score: 85/100


Here’s another St. Magdalene that I’ve tasted alongside the St. Magdalene 1982 26y by Douglas Laing. Did you know the St. Magdalene distillery was built at the site of a former lepers colony?

This Rare Malts release is pretty rare, the 1979/1998 version is a lot more common. If you’re able to spot a bottle, expect to pay around € 300.

 

St. Magdalene Rare Malts 1970 St. Magdalene 23y 1970 (58,1%, RM 1994)

Nose: powerful and direct. Fruity but… quite some sulphur as well. Too bad really. I decided to let it air for 20 minutes. That helped, but the off-notes didn’t disappear completely. There’s definitely peat on the nose, and some burnt caramel / toffee. Some orange candy, but nothing like the femininity of the 1982 Douglas Laing St. Magdalene OMC. I, fact, this one didn’t appeal much to me. Mouth: powerful and rather grassy (burnt grass even). Slightly nutty (almonds). Oil, marzipan, herbs. Finish: very long and chewy. Herbal notes again, light peat and dry oak.

I find it difficult to evaluate this one. It definitely has some qualities, but I’m missing some finesse. I think “obscure” fits this bottling well. I prefer the Douglas Laing.

Score: 78/100


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Coming up

  • Macduff 1980 (Golden Cask)
  • Karuizawa 45 Year Old (cask #2725)
  • Cardhu 18 Year Old
  • Craigellachie 13 Years
  • Port Askaig 19 Year Old
  • Ledaig 2005 (Maltbarn)

1659 notes by Ruben

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