Single malt whisky - tasting notes

Cadenhead, Scotland’s oldest independent bottler, recently revised most of its packaging. They introduced a new dumpy bottle style, a Cadenhead Creations range (also dumpy) and a cask strength Small Batch range with rectangular bottles.

It seems they wanted to celebrate this small revival with a bang, releasing whiskies that have become thin on the ground these days (Banff 1976, Caperdonich 1977 and Littlemill 1977). Some of the new bottlings received quite some praise so we’re eager to try them.

We’ll start with the 35 year old Caperdonich 1977. Never tried this vintage, let’s hope it comes close to the legendary 1972.

 

 

Caperdonich 1977 Cadenhead Small BatchCaperdonich 35 yo 1977 (50,2%, Cadenhead Small Batch 2013, sherry butt, 384 btl.)

Nose: starts in a rather fierce way, with polished oak and an alcohol tingle blocking most of the nose. Underneath is some beeswax and mint. Oranges and spices (ginger). A few drops of water highlight citrus and some peach jam. Mouth: a similar fruity core (apricot, citrus) alongside heavy spicy notes (pepper, ginger, mint, eucalyptus). A few waxy notes. Herbal tea and plain oak as well. Water doesn’t change it much, it stays on the resinous / minty / tannic side. Finish: more oak and spices. Drier and less thick.

Funny how Caperdonich follows its sister Glen Grant when comparing vintages. This late 1970’s production has some loud oak and doesn’t have the same amount of jammy fruitiness and beehive notes as the 1972’s. Nonetheless it’s still attractive. Around € 300 - a heavy price.

Score: 88/100


Next in the Stamps series by The Whisky Agency: Bowmore 1998 from a refill sherry butt, featuring a stamp by the Hungarian Post.

 

Bowmore 1998 Whisky Agency StampsBowmore 15 yo 1998 (52,1%, The Whisky Agency ‘Stamps’ 2013, refill butt, 719 btl.)

Nose: earthy peat with firm smoke. Leather. Some iodine. Red fruits, raisins and oranges underneath. Technically very good, and most people will welcome the combination of big peat and sherry, but I feel it’s a tad simple. There’s not much evolution. Mouth: very intense. That means a lot of smoke and earthy peat again. Quite some honey sweetness as well, so everything stays balanced. Something lemony. Herbal hints (sweet liquorice) and sugar coated nuts. Tobacco leaves as well. Finish: long, fairly sweet, smoky and spicy.

All good – find a bottle if you’re into peat and sherry. In this case I especially liked the palate for its higher complexity. The nose is clean and balanced but lacks a tiny bit of complexity in my opinion. Around € 95.

Score: 87/100


Here they are, the latest Whisky Agency releases. The new series is nicknamed Stamps and features postage stamps from different countries like the Republic of Dahomey (never heard of that one actually).

Be sure to follow my Facebook profile to stay up-to-date. Announcement of new series, the latest Diageo Special Releases and other news will only be featured there, not on this site.

 

Littlemill 1990 Whisky Agency StampsLittlemill 23 yo 1990 (52,4%, The Whisky Agency ‘Stamps’ 2013, refill hogshead, 332 btl.)

Nose: grassy and mineral notes for starters. Apple peelings, some walnuts. Meadow flowers. But after a while it moves to sweeter notes. Big marzipan, eventually also a jammy, slightly tropical fruitiness. Tangerines, lemon candy, apricot jam. Buttercups as well. Vanilla cake. Some candy sugar syrup. The slightest whiff of smoky oak in the background. Excellent. Mouth: sweet entry, immediately joined by zesty notes. Lemon zest. Hints of ginger, grasses and liquorice. Grapefruit and tangerines again, maybe a little mango in the background. Becomes quite waxy towards the end. Finish: quite long, sweet and spicy.

Nicely complex and grassy Littlemill, with a citrusy sharpness that comes close to Rosebank, while showing some balancing candied fruitiness as well. Around € 130.

Score: 89/100


McGibbon’s Provenance is a series of the recently halved bottler Douglas Laing. Bottlings in this series are labeled according to the particular distillation seasons through Spring / Summer / Autumn / Winter. I could be wrong, but I’ve always had the impression the Provenance series contained more accessible, less outstanding whiskies as their other ranges.

This Miltonduff 2005 was distilled November 2005 and bottled during the Autumn of 2012.

 

Miltonduff 2005 McG ProvenanceMiltonduff 7 yo 2005
(46%, Douglas Laing McGibbon’s Provenance 2012, sherry butt, ref. 9239)

Nose: seems older than the age would suggest. Medium sherried, with spices (chilli and clove) and aromatic oranges (both sweet juices and zesty orange peel). Sweet malt and caramelized peanuts underneath. Some honey as well. Mouth: quite rich again, with raisins and this chilli theme again. Return of the caramelized nuts, now also chocolates with orange filling. Hints of cinnamon sugar. Finish: medium long, suddenly drier. Oak, leather and dark chocolate.

Simply a very pleasant and relatively mature sherried youngster. I’ve seen few disappointing Miltonduffs and even at this very young age they can be convincing. Around € 50.

Score: 84/100


The oldest official bottling of Lagavulin whisky ever released, the Lagavulin 30yo. There are actually two different versions; the Lagavulin 30yo (52.6%, OB, 2340 Bts.) which is destined for the UK and Europe, as well as the Lagavulin 30yo (54.1%, OB) which was available in the USA and international markets.

 

Lagavulin 30 yearsLagavulin 30 yo 1976
(52,6%, OB 2006, 2340 btl.)

Nose: very subtle, at first it doesn’t even seem to be peaty. Immediately waxy, with some shoe polish and lip balm. A little heather. Moving towards sweeter notes: almonds, passion fruits, pineapple, gooseberries… Almost a tropical fruitiness! No heat and probably only half of its power left, but so great. Just soft smoke in the background. Mouth: stronger and peatier, with lots of spices from the oak (pepper, ginger, cardamom). Lots of citrus fruits now (grapefruit, oranges). Almonds again. Finish: long, smoky, with a salty twist in the very end.

Great to see the Lagavulin smokiness coupled to a nice fruitiness, something you rarely see in Lagavulin. I remember to have bought a bottle for my brother in law, back in 2008. Around € 180 in Spain at the time, now around € 1500 from TWE. I guess he owes me a dram.

Score: 92/100


In the latest batch by Whisky-Fässle, there’s a new Bunnahabhain 1990. By the looks of it a similar cask to the previous one.

 

 

Bunnahabhain 1990 Whisky-FässleBunnahabhain 22 yo 1990
(52%, Whisky-Fässle 2013, sherry cask)

Nose: quite a lot of toasted bread to start with. Leather and soy sauce. Big jammy notes (raspberry / strawberry / figs), fading into balsamic notes. Fudge and caramel. Wee hints of sulphur and plastics as well. Maybe a little incense. First fill, high power sherry. Mouth: a sourish kind of sherry, with cough syrup, liquorice and herbal essences. Hints of resin and cloves. Galangal and gentian. Bitter oranges. Over the top in my opinion, I can’t think of many sherry bottlings as invasive as this one. Finish: long, sour and bitter as well now. Fernet-Branca springs to mind.

This could work as a digestive, I’m sure. As a savouring whisky, I prefer the previous Bunnahabhain 1990 from the same bottler. Around € 105.

Score: 79/100


The Balvenie 12 Year Old Single Barrel First Fill is a 2013 addition to The Balvenie’s range, a younger sibling to the 15 year old single cask. These are limited edition bottlings: it’s one of around 300 drawn from a single cask made from American white oak. The sample I purchased comes from the first cask to have hit the British market.

 

Balvenie 12 years Single BarrelBalvenie 12 yo Single Barrel (47,8%, OB 2013, first fill bourbon barrel #12742)

Nose: fresh, clean, sweet, modern, youngish. Quite cereally, with a big candied sweetness: pear drops and lemon candy. Vanilla. It’s not all sweetness though, as the new-sawn oak and accompanying spices (cinnamon, ginger) are clearly present. A light yeasty note as well. Mouth: on the light side, with similar flavours. Lots of malty notes, a little honey, some coconut. Baked apple and cinnamon sugar. Fades on gentle citrus zest and oak. Finish: a bit short. Citrusy and cereally. Ever more spicy notes as well.

The Balvenie has always had high standards, so it comes as no surprise this is a well-produced, smooth dram, but a slightly boring one as well. What would have been a nice profile for a standard 12 year-old, is just not enough to be bottled as a single cask. I can only assume it was deliberately kept simple and aimed at ‘single cask beginners’, hence hollowing out the single cask concept a little. Around € 50.

Score: 82/100


I get a lot of PR e-mails that are deleted as soon as they arrive. The majority are cocktail recipes that are said to be much better when made with this or that specific brand of whisk(e)y. Most of them seem to be related to American holidays, assuming the whole world lives up to Memorial Day or Kentucky Derby. The last one was about some barbecue professional, but hey, somewhere down the line he marinates meat with whiskey. This blog is not a lifestyle magazine, sorry!

 

Cutty Sark & AppletiserAnyway, sometimes the PR is done right. They’ve actually seen your website and they send you something you can use, even when it’s not my core business, so to speak: not just a recipe but a ready-made whisky cocktail. The other day Cutty Sark sent me a miniature of their newish Cutty Sark Storm, together with a can of Appletiser. It doesn’t seem to have a global distribution, so for those of you who don’t know the brand: it’s a sparkling apple juice soft drink, originally from South Africa.

 

I have to admit I didn’t know what to expect. I like a whiskey sour or a Blood & Sand, but this could be too sticky. Not true: both drinks are complementary. The Cutty Sark Storm is a vibrant blend with fruity notes of apple and gooseberries and these go well with the sparkling apple juice. Pineapple is highlighted as well. The benefit of using whisky instead of other mixers is the influence of the oak of course, which brings a certain dryness instead of making it excessively sweet. Taken with enough ice, a very refreshing combination indeed.


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Coming up

  • Littlemill 1992 (Whisky Mercenary)
  • Glen Grant 1992 (Old Particular)
  • Auchentoshan 15yo (Kintra)
  • Lagavulin 1997 Distillers Edition
  • Johnnie Walker 18yo Platinum Label
  • Ben Nevis 1997 (Maltbarn)
  • Karuizawa 45 Year Old (cask #2925)
  • Glengoyne 1999 (Palo Cortado)

1501 notes by Ruben

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