Single malt whisky - tasting notes

The SingletonThe Singleton series combines whiskies from three of Diageo’s biggest distilleries: Dufftown, Glendullan and Glen Ord (in the past other distilleries as well). They’re relatively big but hardly known as most of their production is used in blends like Johnnie Walker. It’s the first time Dufftown appears in Diageo’s Special Releases.

This expression was distilled in 1985 (one of the oldest expressions ever from this distillery) and matured in refill American oak.

 

 

The Singleton of Dufftown 28 Year Old 1985The Singleton of Dufftown 28 yo 1985 (52,3%, OB 2013, 3.816 btl.)

Nose: old Speyside the way I like it. Creamy fruits (apples, pears, grapes) are mixed with heather honey and a good dose of beeswax. Golden raisins. Soft herbal notes, dried flowers and hints of dusty books. Hints of leather. Vanilla in the distance. Mouth: oily and sweet. Garden fruits again, with some oranges, raisins and honey. Quite malty (Frosties). Lots of beeswax again. Then some mint, liquorice and nutmeg comes forward, as well as a new wave of herbal notes. Finish: long, dry, with tons of yellow apples and some pine resin. Also faint hints of smoke.

I love the kind of dustiness and mustiness that old malts like these can possess. Add some balanced fruits and herbs and you have a very nice dram. But it’s overpriced (again): around € 300.

Score: 89/100


This Old Pulteney 2001 was part of the bottlings for the Spirits in the Sky Festival in Leuven this year. A joint bottling by The Whisky Agency and The Nectar.

 

Old Pulteney 2001 (TWA & The Nectar)Old Pulteney 12 yo 2001
(49,2%, The Whisky Agency & The Nectar 2013, bourbon cask, 351 btl.)

Nose: a mineral profile. Chalk, graphite, wet cloths. Unripe fruits (apple, peach). Some seaweed. Hints of pencil shavings. Slight floral notes. Overall a little closed. After a while a candied white fruit note comes out. Mouth: surprisingly sweet, with a young fruitiness (apple liqueur, apricot, grapefruit) but also a nice praline / almond sweetness. Lemon candy. Dark honey. Still a few coastal / briny notes in the background. Liquorice. Finish: long, with lemony notes and the warmer praline.

A fine dram, combining the typically coastal Old Pulteney character with a few warmer notes. Nothing special either. Around € 85.

Score: 83/100


We’re working our way up in the Diageo Special Releases. This year’s Talisker is a 27 years old 1985 vintage. It has been matured in refill American oak casks. I have to say the packaging, with its out-of-centre labels, looks lovely.

 

Talisker 27 Year Old 1985Talisker 27 yo 1985
(56,1%, OB 2013, 3.000 btl.)

Nose: really great, I love the mix of old books (waxed paper), dusty warehouses, orange peel and vanilla. Sea spray. Hints of wet cloths. Good to find some pastry notes as well as red apples and raspberry. Mango. Soft, sweet smoke in the background, with some ashy notes. Balanced and elegant yet powerful. Mouth: sweet and spicy, nicely building up strength. Starts on malty notes, apples and oranges. Soft tropical notes. Then quite some briny notes, liquorice and wood smoke. Ginger and cloves. Oily notes as well. Not much of the trademark pepper but punchy nonetheless. Some resinous notes, tar and dark chocolate. Finish: long, smoky, with some chocolate sweetness and tobacco. Mineral, grapefruity finale.

An excellent Talisker, one of the most powerful old expressions I can remember. Around € 600. This one seems to be still around in most shops, which is strange considering the quality.

Score: 92/100


The yearly Lagavulin 12 Years Old, matured in refill American oak and bottled at cask strength, 55.1% this year.

 

Lagavulin 12 Year OldLagavulin 12 yo
(55,1%, OB 2013, 13th release)

Nose: sweet, slightly youngish aromas at first. Redcurrant, a little banana. A classic lemon and pepper combination. Earthy peat, kind of leafy, with a soft matchstick edge. Some chalk as well, even a few waxy notes. Is it me or did this one grow towards Laphroaig and Ardbeg in the last few years? Mouth: hot and peppery at first (slightly alcoholic), quite dry as well, with some herbal notes / burnt grasses. Deep peat smoke and slightly bitter charred notes. Develops sweeter notes in a second phase. Apples, a little honey. Cocoa. Hints of rubber and tar. Some iodine. Salty liquorice and a citrus top note. Finish: long, ashy and chocolaty.

Lagavulin 12 Years has always been a good, straightforward whisky and this is no exception. Especially the combination of sweetness and heavy peat is nicely done. But the character is slowly changing and maybe not for the better. Around € 95.

Score: 86/100


Cardhu is still the best selling single malt in Spain (and popular in the rest of Southern Europe as well), making it a top-10 malt worldwide, but it’s mostly overlooked by connoisseurs.

This Cardhu 21 Years Old, distilled in 1991, is part of the Diageo Special Releases. The last time that happened was in 2005. The spirit was matured in ex-bourbon American oak casks.

 

Cardhu 21 Years 1991Cardhu 21 yo 1991
(54,2%, OB 2013, 6.000 btl.)

Nose: pretty neutral. There’s orange peel, yellow raisins and apples. Nice enough, but there’s something of sharper fruit vinegar that I don’t like too much. Almonds. Leafy and grassy notes as well as some floral hints. Very light waxy notes. Mouth: clean, malty and fruity in a slightly generic way. Oranges again, green apples, honey sweetness and plenty of spicy notes. Cinnamon, chilli, mint. Soft resinous notes. Rather grassy again, with lots of green notes and some tannins. Liquorice. Finish: long, spicy, with some orange zest and bittersweet herbs.

The grassy / herbal and spicy notes in this Cardhu are a little loud. It never wins me over completely and the price is hard to justify. Around € 200.

Score: 85/100


Another release in the recent Age Matters series from The Whiskyman is this Littlemill 1992.

Recently prices of Littlemill have taken quite a hike. It’s not totally surprising: this Lowlands distillery has been dismantled since 1997 and the remnants were destroyed in 2004. Stocks are low, and for most bottlers, Littlemill now seems part of the great lost distilleries that will soon become unavailable.

Duncan Taylor recently bottled a 1990 single cask #3045 – it comes in a fancy box and costs € 275. That’s crazy, but it indicates the mindset of bottlers towards this distillery and probably also the lowering amount of casks in stock. After all the recent official 21yo was also quite expensive. Now is the time to stock up on affordable Littlemill if you haven’t done so already.

 

 

Littlemill 21 - 1992 The Whiskyman 'Age Matters'Littlemill 21 yo 1992 (50,2%, The Whiskyman ‘Age Matters’ 2013)

Nose: the typical profile of Littlemill, with plenty of fruits. A little less citrusy this time, more melons, strawberry marshmallows and candied apple. Big vanilla. A little almond oil. Hints of coconut as well, which fades into waxy notes, even notes of Barbour fat. Mouth: oily, again a slightly sweeter attack with more vanilla than usual. After that, plenty of grapefruit, green banana, oranges and apricots. Slightly grassy notes, with firm oaky notes. Cinnamon and ginger. Becomes fairly herbal and zesty. All this covered in a certain old-style waxiness. Finish: long, half waxy, half zesty, half herbal. That’s three halves.

Again: now is the time to stock up on Littlemills that are still affordable. I personally prefer the sherried ones but bourbon versions like this one are more typical and all good. Around € 125.

Score: 88/100


Caol Ila Stitchell Reserve is named after Billy Stitchell, the distillery manager who is retiring this year after almost 40 years. It is the eight edition of unpeated Caol Ila in Diageo’s Special Releases and the most affordable offer in the whole series.

This NAS cask strength Caol Ila was matured in a combination of American oak, rejuvenated American oak and European ex-bodega casks.

 

Caol Ila Stitchell ReserveCaol Ila ‘Stitchell Reserve’
(59,6%, OB 2013)

Nose: sweet and fudgy, but with a surprisingly grassy, almost tannic profile. Corn flakes, some vanilla. Lots of lemons, both zesty and candied ones. Some resinous notes and varnish. Liquorice. Mouth: oily mouthfeel, very sweet again (icing sugar, toffee, fruit jelly candy), but very grassy / oaky as well. Liquorice and herbs. Lemons and yellow plums. Raisins, especially with a few drops of water. Freshly sawn oak, a bit too much if you ask me. Pine sap. Finish: long, grassy with plenty of wood spices alongside the sweet malt and lemon zest.

I’m not entirely sure about this one. It has an attractive sweet side, nice lemon and the firm Coal Ila character (even without peat), but the wood spices are firmly kicking around. There’s little development as well. Around € 75.

Score: 83/100


You will probably remember the Glenfarclas 1953 cask #1674, the 58 years old cask that was bottled in February 2012 for WealthSolutions, a Polish company that provides investment opportunities.

A year later they presented this Karuizawa 1964 cask #3603, which was the oldest Karuizawa at that time (no trace of the 1960 back then). This 400-litre sherry cask was filled on September 1st 1964 and yielded 143 bottles (plus 200 miniatures), all pre-sold to WealthSolutions investors.

 

Karuizawa 1964It comes in a box of dark black fossil oak – extremely old wood recovered from Polish swamps – quite appropriate as Karuizawa means swamp.

 

 

 

Karuizawa 1964 cask #3603 for WealthSolutionsKaruizawa 48 yo 1964
(57,7%, Number One Drinks for WealthSolutions 2013, cask #3603, 143 btl.)

Nose: well rounded and fruity. There’s blood orange and melon, apricot preserve, even a hint of pineapple alongside the obligatory juicy plums and cherries. Spanish fig bread. Chocolate notes. Impressive for this age. A second layer is darker, more earthy, with moss and high class Pu Erh. Cinnamon and rose pepper, some overtones of mint as well. The most delicate layer is leathery and shows oriental incense / waxed exotic woods, typical for old Karuizawa. Mouth: a similar basket of red fruits, black cherries, Seville oranges, guava, fresh figs… Surprisingly tropical, honeyed and very juicy. Well balanced oak tannins and walnut liqueur, together with the waxy notes. Pepper. Some liquorice too. Finish: very long, drying but impressively full with echoes of sweet fruit jams, chocolate and spices.

It’s too easy to say this is amazingly fresh for a 48 years old. I would say it’s mature rather than fresh, but it managed to retain such a great sweetness and fruitiness. For me the first Karuizawa that matches the wonderful 1967. Sold for € 10.000 a bottle. There’s one available from Master of Malt, with some inflation.

Score: 95/100


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Coming up

  • Benromach 1976 vintage
  • Littlemill 1991 (Eiling Lim)
  • Jura 1972 SMWS 31.4
  • Balblair 2002
  • Jura Origin
  • Kavalan Solist sherry (for LMdW)

1573 notes by Ruben

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