Single malt whisky - tasting notes

This Karuizawa 1984 was bottled last year. Although it is bottled by Number One Drinks (like all others) it has a unique label that sets it apart from ‘official’ releases. It was selected by Cask Norway and Cask Sweden, which are part of the Nordic Group, a distributor of wines, beers and spirits.

Cask #7802 was a European oak Oloroso butt.



Karuizawa 1984 cask #7802Karuizawa 29 yo 1984 (56,7%, OB for Cask Norway & Cask Sweden, Oloroso butt #7802, 577 btl.)

Nose: great. Clean, with lovely whiffs of tobacco leaves and worn leather up front. Cigar boxes. Very warm. Black tea. Classic dried fruits (prunes, raisins) with cinnamon and forest fruits jam. Old roses. Quite a lot of eucalyptus, cloves and dried herbs after a while. Turns very medicinal. Smoky wood in the background. Possibly the best 1984 nose I’ve had. Mouth: oily mouthfeel, less monolithical than some others. The dried fruits are still there, but I’m mostly picking up all kinds of high-quality herbal liqueurs. Think Fernet. Some vermouths as well. Sweet mint liqueur. Aniseed, cumin, cloves, pepper. Walnuts. Mind that it’s savoury but not excessively dry or tannic. Finish: very long, earthy, spicy and sappy but still quite jammy too.

You gotta love Fernet-Branca for this one. One of the most herbal Karuizawas I can think of. Lovely. The original price was around € 475. Current day collectors value is around € 2500. Many thanks, Kjetil.

Score: 93/100

Bunnahabhain Eirigh Na Greine is the travel retail replacement for Darach Ur. The name means ‘morning sky’ in Gaelic.

Eirigh Na Greine contains a significant proportion of whiskies matured in Italian and French red wine casks. The whiskies were of various ages so the end result is another NAS expression.



Bunnahabhain Eirigh Na GreineBunnahabhain Eirigh Na Greine (46,3%, OB 2014, travel retail)

Nose: a sharp, grainy onset, quickly rounded off by a toffee and raisin / raspberry / red berry sweetness. Not unlike some PX finishes, which I generally like better than red wine finishes. Fragrant and candied. Almonds, ginger, cinnamon rolls. Plenty of vanilla too. A slight salty edge. Mouth: a lot of spices and plain oak, making it sharp and rather dry. Punchy pepper, ginger, cloves, hints of wood bitterness as well, even though there’s still a wave of boiled (red) sweets underneath. Maybe too winey (as opposed to sherried, I mean) after all. Mulled wine? Finish: medium long, gingery and salty. Raspberries with a raw edge, that pretty much sums it all up.

I tend to advice people to be careful with travel retail exclusives. They’re rarely the highlights of what distilleries have on offer. Around € 70.

Score: 76/100

This is not a luxury whisky - Compass BoxThe most interesting whisky release of this week for me was the new This is not a luxury whisky from the boutique whiskymaker Compass Box.

It is a blended Scotch inspired by our Belgian artist René Magritte who created the concept piece ‘The treachery of images’ in 1929, better known as Ceci n’est pas une pipe.

Whiskymaker John Glaser explains: “Over recent years, we’ve seen a growing trend in the Scotch industry towards super-premium releases that position Scotch whiskies as ‘luxury goods’ or status symbols to be displayed and traded – rather than as liquids to be consumed and enjoyed. As Whiskymakers, we wanted to release a product that would encourage people to question what it is that makes a luxury whisky a luxury”.

Four parcels of whisky were used to create the blend: 19 year old Glen Ord, 40 year old Girvan and Strathclyde grains, and a portion of 30 year old Caol Ila. It is bottled at 53,1%. Around 5000 bottles will be available in October for around € 200.


ps/ There’s also a new Compass Box Flaming Heart limited edition coming up (around € 140), a blended malt which contains 30yo Caol Ila, 20yo Clynelish and some other Highland malts.

This Teeling 2002 is a single malt Irish whiskey bottled from a single Port cask. Port casks are one of the five types that are used to finish the Teeling whiskeys (alongside Sherry, Madeira, white Burgundy and Cabernet Sauvignon).

It is a light whiskey with a noticeable salmon hue that is so typical for Port wine finishing.



Teeling 2002 single Port cask #905Teeling 13 yo 2002 Single Cask
(54,2%, OB 2015, Port cask #905)

Nose: a very fragrant nose, with the classic Irish elements like melons, bananas and sweet pears, but also raspberries and redcurrant jam from the Port. Soaked sultanas. Almond paste and vanilla. Whisky candy really. Mouth: again very sweet. There’s still a nice glimpse of the original tropical side (banana, litchi, pink grapefruit) but it’s coated with lots of cotton candy, powder sugar and strawberry jam. Honey and marzipan. Vanilla cake. Very creamy and jammy, almost a liqueur, definitely for people with a sweet tooth. Finish: long, sweet, on red fruits but with a slight spirity edge. Can stand a few drops of water, if you like lemonade.

Few single malts are a match for Teeling when it comes to expressiveness and fruitiness, especially when taking into account the price. This one is a very candied version, almost a dessert malt. Around € 60.

Score: 86/100

Royal Brackla whisky


In 1835, King William IV visited Brackla distillery and was so taken by the spirit that he bestowed the ‘Royal’ status to the distillery. It became the first ever Scotch to garner a royal warrant, later followed by Lochnagar and Glenury.

The distillery is working with traditional production methods and aims for a high level of fruitiness by allowing the fermentation stage to take 80 hours or more and running the stills at a slow pace.

As part of the “Last great malts” campaign, its owners John Dewar & Sons have recently launched a new core range, which includes a 12 Year Old, 16 Year Old and 21 Year Old. After the initial maturation all spirit is finished in first-fill Oloroso casks.



Royal Brackla 12 YearsRoyal Brackla 12 yo
(40%, OB 2015)

Nose: lots of grain cookies, muesli and plain malt. Apples, hints of vanilla cake and quite some nutty notes. Almonds and Macadamia nuts. Nicely rounded, but also relatively dry and therefore slightly unmodern, which is a good thing. Mouth: light, with a tart apple / grape taste up front, followed by vanilla and some drier notes. Dusty grains, dark chocolate coated cookies. A touch of honey. Finally also sherry spices, mainly pepper. Finish: not too long, still dry with mild spices and chocolate coated almond.

A decent entry-level malt. There are plenty of these of course, but it certainly makes me look forward to trying the older expressions. Around € 65.

Score: 81/100

This limited edition Laphroaig 21 Year Old was distilled throughout 1993, then poured into first fill ex-bourbon barrels to age. Both kiln-dried and air-dried American oak barrels were used to reflect the subtle changes in flavour that occur with the changing seasons.

It is part of the 200th Anniversary releases and was first sold to Friends of Laphroaig members by ballot, but apparently that wasn’t a huge success. After the initial storm, it’s now available for anyone through the Laphroaig website.



Laphroaig 21 Year OldLaphroaig 21 yo 1993
(48,4%, OB 2015, first-fill bourbon, for Friends of Laphroaig, 35 cl.)

Nose: as expected, a rather mild nose, with medium peat and rather discreet medicinal notes. It’s more on the bourbonny notes, with a fresh but subtle tropical fruitiness. Pineapple, melon and mango. Subtle spices, especially mint and cinnamon. Vanilla. Linseed oil. Hints of leather and plenty of seaweed. Mouth: again a mature, smooth, fruity profile that most people may actually not immediately recognize as Laphroaig (after all, old versions are now very hard to come by). Maritime notes. Mango, apricots and fresh citrus. More peat smoke and oak spices than on the nose though, this is still clearly Laphroaig. Sweet liquorice, iodine, tar and ginger. Finish: medium long, with honeyed ashes, a little sea salt and some dried seaweed notes.

Maybe not the sales success Laphroaig hoped for, probably due to a heavy price, but a great whisky nonetheless. Fruity, elegant, mature Laphroaig. Around € 130 (for a half bottle).

Score: 91/100

The Ultimate is a series developed by the Dutch importers Han and Maurice van Wees. They’re all single casks and they have a good reputation when it comes to fair pricing vs. quality.



Longmorn 1992 - van Wees #48497Longmorn 23 yo 1992 (46%, van Wees ‘The Ultimate’ 2015, hogshead #48497, 264 btl.)

Nose: very bright and fruity, with some elements that hint towards balanced sherry maturation (golden raisins, strawberries) and others that are more typical for bourbon casks (vanilla, dried coconut). Lots of apples, some gooseberries and a slightly tart side. Quite some mint as well. Mouth: really fruity again, almost fruit eau-de-vie, showing apples, pears, red berries and prunes. Also some greener notes, peppery oak and aniseed. Finish: medium long, hints of kirsch and plums, with a coconutty dry note.

All good. Very much what I expect from The Ultimate: good sipping whisky with decent complexity and an affordable price tag. Around € 75.

Score: 85/100

Suddenly a new Japanese single malt appeared, Fujikai 10 Year Old. It is produced at the Monde Shuzo distillery, a wine producer at the foot of Mount Fuji (hence the name) which occasionally makes some whisky as well. They also seem to have an Isawa blend, an Isawa 10yo single malt and a vintage 1983.

The packaging and label says “10 ans” among the Japanese blurb, I guess the spirit was bought by the French importer Whiskies du Monde and bottled / labeled in Europe.

Japanese whisky is hot and when some forgotten stock is found, it would be stupid not to develop a proper brand around it. It’s ten years old and matured in ex-bourbon casks, but other than that we can only guess what this really is, when or how this is made and whether there’s more of it. In the press release, this is translated as the full production details are held back by the Master Distiller. It’s marketed as an artisanal micro-brand, but that seems hard to believe coming from a winery that produces up to 20.000 bottles of wine per day!



Fujikai 10 Year OldFujikai 10 yo
(43%, OB 2015, 8808 btl., 50 cl.)

Nose: a dusty, musty start, with some wet cardboard, a sports shop (new sneakers, quite overpowering) and diesel-like aromas, as well as a hint of antiseptics. Peated, I guess? Lots of pine tree aromas, with whiffs of burnt herbs. Hints of mezcal. Acetone. Underneath is some vanilla and something of plum eau-de-vie or apple cider, even sake (although I’m no expert). Mouth: yes, this would be peated. It’s tarry and earthy, quite dry with a herbal, slightly bitter edge. Even though this may sound muscular, it feels rather lightweight and somehow disconnected / synthetic. Plastics again, a little nail polish. Some rough alcoholic notes. Walnuts. Sweet malt and apples underneath. Finish: rather short, earthy, with a metallic aftertaste.

As long as it’s Japanese, put it in a bottle and you’ll make money, even though the quality is nowhere near the traditional Japanese distilleries. In fact shops are calling it the next collector’s item, it sold like hotcakes and people are already trying to sell it for twice the price or more. They must be kidding. Around € 50.

Score: 71/100



October 2015
« Sep    

  • Tony: The Brora at 1500 Euros seems to recognise that last years similarly priced just hasn't sold, so no increase there (and even a slight drop). Then agai
  • kallaskander: Hi there, I remember that Bacardi said all the Last Great Malts would carry an age statement. Which is true. I thought they promised they would all b
  • WhiskyNotes: It looks like this will not be part of the official selection this year. Maybe an upcoming standalone release.

Coming up

  • Bunnahabhain 1987 (Maltbarn)
  • Glen Garioch 1993 (Maltbarn)
  • Royal Brackla 16 Year Old
  • Teeling 26yo Vintage Reserve
  • Kavalan Podium

1893 notes by Ruben

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