Single malt whisky - tasting notes

 

Laphroaig 1998 - The Whisky AgencyLaphroaig 15 yo 1998
(52,7%, The Whisky Agency ‘Reflections’ 2013, refill hogshead, 261 btl.)

Nose: clean and sharpish Laphroaig. Very coastal (seaweed, wet beach, some smoked fish). Hints of antiseptics. Some camphor. Wet wool and hints of canvas. Little fruitiness or roundness, apart from some lemon in the background. Ferns. Mouth: oily, chiselled and focused again, though sweeter and definitely rounder than on the nose. Marzipan and more fruits. Salted almonds. Liquorice. Kippers. Again quite medicinal. Finish: very long, peaty, grapefruity and salty.

A Laphroaig of the slightly sharper type. Just really faultless. Not that we’re surprised, mind you. Around € 110, still available in most shops.

Score: 88/100


Cadenhead has a nice revival with its retro Small Batch series. They’ve got stock from 102 different distilleries, ranging from 2 to nearly 50 years old. It’s no surprise they have plenty of things in the pipeline, a 40 years old Glenfiddich for example…

 

mortlach-1992-cadenhead-small-batchMortlach 21 yo 1992 (55,2%, Cadenhead Small Batch 2013, sherry cask, 228 btl.)

Nose: the fruity kind of sherried Mortlach. Pears, raisins, fresh figs. Candied red apples. Caramelized peanuts and almonds. There’s a spicy tingle as well as a balsamic edge. Milk chocolate in the background. Leather. Hardly any meaty notes, no dirtiness either. Mouth: now the slightly heavy character of Mortlach moves forward, although the fruity sherry is still there to support it. Raspberries, Mon Cheri, a little cassis jam. Cinnamon. Chocolate and leathery notes again. Kirsch. Liquorice and more woody dryness towards the finish. A faint hint of eucalyptus. I like it even more with a drop of water. Finish: dry, with orange zest, cough syrup and chocolate.

Very good, actually one of the best Mortlach expressions I’ve come across lately. Around € 80, but it seems to be sold out.

Score: 88/100


The regular Sheep Dip is a vatted malt, a marriage of 16 malt whiskies brought together by Richard Paterson. The name refers to a time when farmers hid their homemade whisky in casks that said “Sheep Dip” (a kind of fungicide for sheep) to avoid having to pay taxes to the revenue man.

This Sheep Dip 1999 Amoroso is a funny experiment. The whisky inside had been matured in Scotland for 3 years in ex-bourbon hogsheads, and was then shipped to Jerez, Spain – the capital of the Sherry triangle. The renowned Bodegas Romate poured it into Amoroso sherry butts (a sweetened type of Oloroso). Originally it was only supposed to stay there for two years, but something went wrong, the cask was forgotten about and the whisky stayed there for an extra 9 years.

It’s not Scotch whisky anymore, as SWA rules dictate Scotch whisky needs to spend its whole maturation period in Scotland. Needless to say Andalusia’s climate is slightly different from Scotland, which makes this experiment quite interesting.

 

 

Sheep Dip 1999 AmorosoSheep Dip 1999 (41,8%, OB 2012, Amoroso Oloroso, matured in Spain)

Nose: utterly sweet, like a freshly opened bag of strawberry marshmallows. Amarena cherries. Plenty of vanilla as well as some honey. Limoncello. A buttery hint of white chocolate. Bramble preserve. Very candied. Mouth: very sweet again, with lots of marshmallow notes, big big vanilla and something of bubblegum. Pears in syrup. Raspberry candy. Toffee sweetness. Soaked raisins and sweet rhubarb compote. Liqueur bonbons. And pretty much everything that you can find in a candy store. Finish: the same overwhelming sweetness, although there’s a growing spicy warmth in the background.

This is almost like a fruit liqueur or a marshmallow infusion. A children’s dram? No seriously, it’s really not too bad as a post-dinner drink, even though it’s unlike any other whisky. It’s great to convince inexperienced whisky drinkers, especially women, but you shouldn’t approach it like a traditional single malt whisky. Around € 45.

Score: 78/100


This post has only one purpose: I bought a bottle of this Talisker 25 Year Old back in 2007 (when prices still allowed you to buy a blind bottle once in a while) and I’ve never got the chance to taste it. Now I bought a sample and could find out if it was a smart purchase. Thanks Jeroen.

Talisker 25 Year Old is a classic and in 2006 it was still bottled at cask strength, whereas the latest version (bottled 2011) was brought down to Talisker’s traditional strength of 45,8%. It was matured in refill American oak.

I suppose this (almost) yearly release is now finished and replaced by randomly aged special releases like the recent Talisker 27 Year Old 1985? It’s perfectly possible that the crisis of the 1980′s brought lower production and provided insufficient stocks to maintain strict 20/25/30 statements.

 

Talisker 25 years 2006Talisker 25 yo
(56,9%, OB 2006, 4860 btl.)

Nose: in fact this equals the complexity of the 27 Year Old. Relatively fruity (quinces, damsons, hints of passion fruits) before the peat arrives – gently and balanced. Some floral notes even. Some lovely dusty, earthy notes in the background. Walnuts and cinnamon. A faint Brora-esk waxiness. Coastal hints (seaweed, damp wood) and ethereal, medicinal notes too. Very subtle vanilla and lemon if you add a drop of water. Mouth: very powerful, assertive and slightly sharp. Peaty and peppery, with lots of liquorice and lemon. Really salty. Plenty of smoke and rooty notes. Hints of coffee in the background. Then the fruits emerge: apples and raisins. Growing spicier and hotter. Again not unlike some Brora. Finish: very long, with deep smoke, spices and zesty lemon.

Personally I may not have paid enough attention to these 20yo and 25yo expressions of Talisker. They are so beautiful. I bought mine for € 120 (a lot of money back then) – now easily € 300 if you can find one. I wish I bought more.

Score: 91/100


Official Highland Park releases tend to be sherry matured, but independent bottlers like Gordon & MacPhail manage to show bourbon oak version as well. Today a 2001 vintage in the recently redesigned Cask Strength series.

 

 

Highland Park 2001 (Gordon & MacPhail)Highland Park 10 yo 2001 (57,7%, Gordon & MacPhail ‘Cask Strength’ 2012, first fill bourbon barrel #2998)

Nose: juicy barley notes, lots of pear drops and vanilla. Akin towards tropical fruits, with a fresh floral note as well. Rather candied, modern, bright and fairly simple. A shy smoky note in the background. Mouth: sweet and fruity at first, but a toffee sweetness and a Starbucks white chocolate mocha take over. Very malty. Also strawberry notes – funny but nice. A bit of liquorice in the end, as well as a subtle zestiness. Finish: medium long, still sweet but more peppery as well. Still a faint smoky note.

An original and enjoyable Highland Park. Youngish and fairly simple, but the rather unique combination of flavours makes it good value for money. Around € 55.

Score: 85/100


Glenturret, beside being the spiritual home of Famous Grouse, is known for mashing its grist by hand and for having some of the longest fermentation times, over 100 hours.

The distillery has only one official bottling, a 10 years old (which used to be a 12 years old). Now they’ve worked with Hunter Laing to create a kind of semi-official “licensed bottling”. It’s a Glenturret 1986, 26 years old and bottled entirely from bourbon casks, selected by Master Distiller Gordon Motion.

 

Glenturret 26 years 1986 | Hunter LaingThe Glenturret 26 yo 1986
(46,8%, Hunter Laing 2013, refill bourbon casks, 2400 btl.)

Nose: in line with what we saw from 1977 casks. Bright and fruity at first, green apples and pineapple, maybe green banana. Citrussy notes (kumquat), moving towards blossomy and grassy notes. Honey and soft toffee. A bit of polished wood and hay. Hints of tobacco and popcorn. Mouth: again fruity, with apples and crystallized oranges. Vanilla. Plenty of waxy notes again. Yellow raisins. Some salted toffee, herbal / grassy notes and liquorice. Mint and eucalyptus. Ginger. Slightly fizzy but there’s also a warmer, nutty background. Finish: medium long, with lemons, ginger and a bit of oak.

Based on this you would think Glenturrent is clean and fresh, but it’s not always the case. A pleasant dram in any case, and a big first step towards older official bottlings perhaps? Around € 300.

Score: 89/100


Whiskybroker is a rather small company started by Martin Armstrong, the son of Bladnoch’s Raymond Armstrong. He seem to be doing well, regularly bottling interesting whiskies and always under the market value. Whether or not selling under the market value is a good thing is prone to discussion, but a lot of aficionados are happy to find such good value in days of price levels set by marketing departments.

This Macallan 1990 is a quirky little whisky. Except, it’s not whisky. It only contains 34,9% of alcohol so it’s technically underproof “spirit”. Probably a leaking cask.

 

Macallan 1990 WhiskybrokerMacallan 23 yo 1990 (34,9%, Whiskybroker 2013, hogshead, 20cl.)

Nose: very odd. It shows a nicely sweet (but also slightly youngish, after 23 years?) fruitiness of apricot, whitecurrant and pineapple. Honey glazing and some vanilla. It quickly gets overpowered by bags of sawdust and hints of pine tree air refresher. A carpenter’s workshop really. Some eucalyptus, up to the point where the oak gives you a slightly soapy smell, if you know what I mean. Mouth: watered down whisky with a generous dash of pine sap. Completely overtaken by oak flavours. Totally flat, with some of the harshness of grain whisky. Ginger maybe, nutmeg, and some sweetness of soaked white bread. Takes water well (just kidding). Finish: very short, and the wood is all that comes out.

Have you ever left a bit of whisky in a glass and tried to drink it the morning after? That’s more or less what this is. Apart from the fact that it’s not whisky, it’s obviously from a defective cask that let essential flavours disappear and let excessive amounts of wood juices get into the spirit.

Very weak (in different ways) and a self-respecting bottler should have poured it away. Still available from Whiskybroker. Around £ 18.

Score: 18/100


Here’s another one of these interesting Karuizawa expressions bottled for Taiwan. Karuizawa 1984 with one of the wonderful Geisha labels. Thanks again, my Taiwanese friend!

P9 is a wine and liquor store in the Shillin district of Taipei. They are well known for their whisky range and occasionally they have exclusive bottlings.

 

Karuizawa 1984 #3186 for TaiwanKaruizawa 28 yo 1984 (58%, OB for P9.com.tw 2012, sherry butt #3186, 540 btl.)

Nose: great fruity notes with a layer of varnish / glue and menthol. Redcurrant and cherry jam, raspberry jelly, fresh figs, also hints of balsamic vinegar. Dried apricot. Cedar oak as well as hints of graphite. Cinnamon and ginger. Quite juicy and perfectly clean. Mouth: rich, quite herbal and dry from the beginning. There’s certainly fruit cake and forest fruits but it’s a bit overpowered by grape pips, cloves and black pepper. Sandalwood. Pine resin and ginger. Tobacco. A little camphor as well. Finish: long and dry, with chocolate and a hint of smoke.

On the nose this really announced an excellent example of the best Karuizawa traditions, but the palate is a little woody and brings the score down for me. Sold out of course.

Score: 91/100


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Coming up

  • Glen Flagler (70° proof)
  • Ben Nevis 1997 (Abbey Whisky)
  • Blair Athol 1993 (First Editions)
  • Blair Athol 2002 (Hepburn's Choice)
  • Braeval 1994 (Tasting Fellows)
  • Tomatin 1988 (Malts of Scotland)
  • Ben Nevis 2002 (Port cask #334)

1594 notes by Ruben

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