Single malt whisky - tasting notes

Glenmorangie SonnaltaGlenmorangie Sonnalta PXJohn Hansell’s website announced a new range of Glenmorangie ”private expressions” today. The Glenmorangie Sonnalta PX will be the first release in this series. It will be finished in Pedro Ximenez  casks, the darkest, richest type of sherry with intense notes of raisins and syrup (dessert wine of course).

It’s said to be fruity (raisins, coconut, banana, apple) and light, sort of an aperitif whisky.

Glenmorangie Sonnalta will be available in travel retail only for around € 70.

I will be reviewing most of the current Glenmorangie expressions (Original, Lasanta, Nectar d’Or, Quinta Ruban, Signet) in the next couple of weeks, by the way.


Let’s have another sample from my Advent Calendar. A very old blend, distilled during the reign of King George V: John Haig Gold Label, bottled in the 1940’s!

 Haig Gold label (late George V) 1940's

Haig Gold Label (40%, OB, 1940’s)

Quite a ‘dirty’ colour, hazelnut with a slight green hue. Nose: lots of roasted and burnt notes: really dark caramel, coffee, truffle, ‘beurre noisette’, buttered toast… you get it. Lots of toffee notes and a slight whiff of smoke. It gets ‘darker’ up to the point where a few off-notes become noticeable, like sulphur, dirt bin and some yeast. Special and interesting in its own way, but still a bit weird. Rather weak on the palate, with the same types of flavours. Coffee, burnt caramel, sweet almonds. Some bitter notes, like cloves. The aftertaste is short.

This dram had to grow on me. At first, I was overpowered by the burnt notes and it took me some time to appreciate its profile. Still, I’m grateful for having tasted a part of whisky history.

It would be unfair to score this one. I don’t have any references for this kind of whisky and it wouldn’t matter anyway because this whisky is almost gone. TWE is selling a few bottles (€ 200 – 250).


Glenfarclas has a big tradition of maturing whisky in sherry casks, and the Glenfarclas 105 is one of the current corner stones of this tradition. It was introduced in 1968 and the first commercially available cask strength bottling. 105 means 5 over proof which is 60% alcohol.

A limited, 40 years old version of the 105 is currently available as well. It scores 96 points in Jim Murray’s Whisky Bible and was chosen the single malt of the year in the 40+ category. Unfortunately the retail price is £ 550 so we’ll have to do with the regular 105.

 

 

Glenfarclas 105

Glenfarclas 105 (60%, OB 2007)

This looks like liquid bronze if you see the colour. Nose: intense oloroso sherry with some toffee flavours. Red fruits, apples and grapes. After warming up, it gets ‘darker’ and meatier. Mouth: the sherry again, honey and dark sugar. Raisins. Lots of spicy stuff as well (chili, ginger). There’s liquorice, pear and milk chocolate in the finish. Becomes oakier and much drier.

This whisky has some really intense flavours. Together with the alcohol volume, I’m sure it won’t be appreciated by everyone. For me though, this is a very satisfying and balanced. It’s one of the bottes that I take from the shelf most often.

Around € 45 for a 1 litre bottle. Score: 86/100.


I don’t have a clear-cut opinion on Bowmore. My first experiences were very bad (think of the Dusk, Dawn, Darkest bottlings). Independent releases were always clearly better though, and there seems to have been a turning point in the 1990’s which improved the OB’s as well.

This Single Malts of Scotland bottling is from a sherry butt which is not very common for Bowmore.

 

bowmore

Bowmore 1995 13y
(56,4%, SMOS 2008, sherry butt n°419, 627 btl.)

At first, the nose is closed with only some dusty mineral notes. After a few minutes at hand temperature, it really opens up: pipe tobacco, nice liquorice and old leather books. Also coffee, Oaxaca chocolate (Mexican chocolate, lighter and spicier than the product we know in Europe), pepper and an array of coastal hints. Really complex, no need to taste this too soon! Fantastic balance. Although both components are present, this is not a young peat or smoke bomb on the nose, and it seems older than it actually is. Mouth: really impressive. Instant wave of sweet peat and smoke. After that, a wave of sherry with rich spices (cardamom, cloves, ginger, pepper again) and wet forest notes in the distance. Great how the sherry and the whisky keep fighting, with a nice draw in the end. Finish: slightly bitter notes, a bit salty as well. More chocolate and tobacco. Long aftertaste.

Impressive. Big whisky and magnificent value for money (at around € 60). Score: 91/100.


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?


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  • Tony: I heard last year from a Glendronach rep that there were <10 '71/2 casks left - can't remember the exact number (6 or 8 maybe). And that
  • Tony: May have been 130 Euros in Japan, but was marked up to 279 Euros by the time it reached LMDW!
  • Tudval: Just because canadian whisky 'can' have other stuff in it, doesn't mean it does. Regulation is not the be all and end all. Certainly these days there

Coming up

  • GlenDronach 1990 (PX cask #2970)
  • Highland Journey
  • GlenDronach 1993 Oloroso cask #494
  • Glen Elgin 1985 (Maltbarn)
  • Fettercairn Fior
  • Cardhu 18 Year Old
  • Ben Nevis 2002 (Port cask #334)
  • Tomatin Cuatro series

1615 notes by Ruben

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