Single malt whisky - tasting notes

Sometimes I don’t really get the whisky market. Take this Glenfarclas 1980 for example. It was a single cask release bottled in 2002 for the Belgian market, so you’d think after 12 years it has become impossible to find. However a couple of weeks ago, it suddenly turned up in several stores in Belgium and The Netherlands. Did someone invest in a pallet of Glenfarclas and recently cashed in, or has Filliers cleared part of its forgotten stocks?

It was distilled 23rd of December 1980 – that’s the day before the various 1980 Christmas Editions.

 

Glenfarclas 1980/2002 Dark Oloroso - BelgiumGlenfarclas 21 yo 1980 (53%, OB for Filliers 2002, dark oloroso cask, 574 btl.)

Nose: very big sherry, up to the point where it becomes flinty and almost smoky. Lots of prune juice, chocolate coated cherries, espresso and herbal notes like rosemary and eucalyptus. Tobacco leaves and leather. A whole array of aromas from earthy notes all the way to sour overtones. Mouth: sherried whisky can hardly get more sherried than this. Dried fruits, dark herbal teas. Again a slightly funny smokiness. Leathery notes, lots of herbs as well as liquorice. Dark cocoa powder. Ginger. Quite massive and oaky. Finish: long, still quite heavy, with hints of herbal liqueurs and some woody astringency.

Well it’s certainly interesting to see how far you can go with sherry maturation – this is very herbal and earthy with a hint of smoke and some medicinal edges. Maybe not the best example of balance or complexity, but a big sherried dram nonetheless. Around € 125.

Score: 89/100


When you see “undisclosed Speyside distillery”, a first guess is always Glenfarclas, so we’ll keep it at that. The Nameless One is 18 years old and bottled by The Whisky Mercenary.

 

 

The Nameless One - The Whisky Mercenary‘The Nameless One’ 18 yo 1995 (46,8%, The Whisky Mercenary 2014, sherry cask)

Nose: the fruit cake / stewed fruits kind of sherry. Hints of apricot jam, juicy plums, cherries and baked apples. Gooseberries. Echoes of fruit eau-de-vie. A little vanilla and soft caramel. Buttercups as well – it’s a fairly fatty spirit. Mouth: fresh and fruity again. Orange juice, melons, hints of Pitahaya. There’s something exotic about it that I can’t really put my finger on. Nice anyway. Light oak and spices grow bigger towards the end. Hints of liquorice. Finish: medium long, still fruity, with softly drying notes.

A very pleasant, easy-drinking whisky with a peculiar, really nice sherry influence. Above all nicely fruity. Around € 80.

Score: 87/100


There are now over 50.000 bottles of whisky in the Whiskybase database. They’ve celebrated this event by bottling a Burnside 1989. Burnside, you ask? They are quite open about it, this 24 year-old whisky is actually Balvenie with a teaspoon of Glenfiddich added to it.

 

 

Burnside 1989 WhiskybaseBurnside 24 yo 1989 (51,7%, Whiskybase 2014, barrel #12452, 207 btl.)

Nose: fruity with lots of beehive notes. Apples, kiwi juice, mirabelles. Floral honey and beeswax. Hints of marshmallows. A hint of fresh, minty oak as well. Fairly simple but I love this beehive profile. Mouth: again fruity and sweet. Pears on syrup, apricots and honey. Almonds. Hints of sugared Greek yoghurt. After that, it becomes quite oaky and bourbonny – in a fresh way but not without tannins. Some grassy notes and ginger. A few fragrant, flowery touches as well. Finish: medium long, with the fruity sweetness alongside oaky notes and a hint of vanilla.

A very enjoyable springtime whisky, full of fruits and waxy notes. It feels slightly younger than it is, if not for the noticeable oaky touches. Around € 92 – it went quickly – all sold out already.

Score: 88/100


Cadeanhead’s Small Batch series seems to be a hit. They keep a nice balance of younger and older whiskies from a wide array of ditilleries. Some releases rapidly made a name for themselves.

Here’s a new Tomatin 1978 bottled for their Belgian importer The Nectar. We already saw a similar (general) release last year.

 

 

Tomatin 1978 - Cadenhead's Small Batch - The NectarTomatin 35 yo 1978 (46,5%, Cadenhead Small Batch for The Nectar 2014, hogshead, 216 btl.)

Nose: fruity. Hey, what did you expect? A slightly ‘greener’ fruitiness than most 1976’s though. A little more bubblegummy too, but really nice nonetheless. Oranges, stewed rhubarb and banana. Hints of yoghurt and quite some spearmint. A light, grassy oakiness. Aniseed. Oh wait, after some time it becomes even more aromatic, with some classic tangerines and pink grapefruit. Really good. Mouth: even more fruity. Bananas, tangerines, orange candy, pineapple. Hints of mango and strawberry candy. Rather sweet from the start, which makes this a great lemonade. Some candy sugar before it fades to pepper and cinnamon. An echo of the grassy notes as well, but no loud oak, nor any excessive dryness. Finish: long, slightly drying now but still pleasantly fruity and sweet.

Now that the legendary 1976’s are gone (?), this is probably the closest we can get to their profile. Slightly more bourbonny but overall a very similar, sweet fruit bomb character. Around € 270.

Score: 91/100


What if… you took some quality gin, produced in Belgium, and finished it in a whisky cask? This is the concept behind the NOG! Gin which is set to be launched next week. The label calls it ‘whisky infused gin’.

NOG! stands for No Ordinary Gin, but nog also means more! in Dutch. After his whisky and rum releases, this is another brainchild of Bert ‘Asta Morris’ Bruyneel.

The first edition was finished in the cask that previously contained his Dalmore NAS whisky. We can already give away that there will be a second edition soon, basically the same gin but finished in different cask previously bottled by Asta Morris.

Let me warn you that I do appreciate a gin & tonic as an aperitif (when there’s no decent dry sherry available), but I’m certainly not an experienced gin taster.

 

 

Nog! gin - Asta MorrisNog! gin
(46%, Asta Morris, batch n°1)

Neat. Nose: quite assertive, with juniper, big lemon notes, hints of mint and liquorice. A floral touch as well. Enticing and bright, a very nice nose. Mouth: slightly less assertive at first, with a fairly neutral, sweet grainy note. Then some spices (pepper, liquorice, maybe coriander) but overall not very pronounced compared to the nose.

With Fever Tree Mediterranean. Nose: Again very aromatic and highly seductive on the nose. It’s almost as if you’ve added a bit of lime and mint to make a perfect summery drink. I’d say pineapple cubes as well. A piece of grapefruit zest is recommended as a garnish – makes sense. It balances the nice candied fruity note in the background. Mouth: the candied theme keeps going. Sweet, with some vanilla and marzipan – not what I expected and definitely amplified by the tonic. This must be the wood talking, but again I’m not an expert when it comes to (aged) gins. Lime. Sugar cane, a faint hint of caramel? A soft floral bitterness as well, but the sweetness is definitely bigger.

I love the clarity and wide aromatic profile of the nose. I had some difficulty with the sweetness of the palate, especially when you’re aiming for a (dry) aperitif, but that’s partly because aged gins are new to me, I guess. The vanilla and marzipan certainly add complexity that you will rarely find in commercial gins. I would say this is very much a sipping gin, one I’d have with different garnishes but without tonic. No ordinary gin for sure.

Nog! gin will be presented at QV.ID – 2nd of May and Crombé – 3rd of May. Probably in other stores soon after. Around € 50.


Bowmore Small Batch was launched in May 2012 as Small Batch Reserve, but last year it was renamed Small Batch. Originally a UK exclusive, it has recently started to pop up in other European countries as well.

It is entirely matured in first- and second-fill bourbon casks and supposedly the lightest, most delicate expression of Bowmore so far. It is vatted in limited quantities, although there doesn’t seem to be a mention of the batch number or the amount of bottles on the label.

Bowmore & Montezuma's chocolateBowmore Small Batch is also one of two expressions that have now been reinvented into chocolate, together with the 15 Years Old ‘Darkest’. British chocolatier Montezuma’s created two 60% dark chocolate bars inspired by (and infused with) these whiskies.

The chocolates will be available to sample at different whisky fairs and at the distillery. Or you can buy a bottle of Bowmore Darkest from TWE and get one for free.

 

Bowmore Small BatchBowmore Small Batch
(40%, OB 2014)

Nose: starts a bit gristy, with raw barley notes, but quickly develops fruity notes. Stewed peach, youngish banana and lots of white grapes. Some vanilla cream and honey. Cinnamon cookies. Subtle smoke as well, but overall rather light and fresh indeed. Soft floral notes. Simple but really pleasant. Mouth: almost surprisingly light-bodied and fruity, with lots of youthful notes. Peaches, lime, hints of coconut. Even a tropical hint of passion fruit that reminds us of the great Bowmore 1993 expressions. Then some salty notes and seaweed. A modern touch of oak, always with vanilla in the background. Finish: medium long, the smoke returns while the creamy vanilla stays strong. A hint of mint in the very end.

I couldn’t note any whisky in the chocolate. It’s a dark chocolate bar with a softer milk chocolate filling with hints of vanilla toffee, honey and salt. It’s more of an inspirational, complementing flavour pairing, rather than just a praline filled with whisky, if you know what I mean. It’s a tasty combination although the chocolate may be too rich and intense for such a delicate whisky.

On its own, Bowmore Small Batch is a lively but also surprisingly light and floral Bowmore. Quite uncommon – Islay for dummies? Worth trying though, as the flavours are really pleasant. Just don’t expect a lot of complexity or an intense kick. Around € 35-45.

Score: 83/100


Among the different double matured Distillers Editions, I’m sure Lagavulin P.X. is the most popular. It is basically the Lagavulin 16 Year Old which spent the last few months in a sweet Pedro Ximénez sherry cask.

This is the latest 1997 / 2013 edition, which comes in an updated bottle with a new, minty green label. Classy and totally in line with the special editions.

 

 

Lagavulin Distillers Edition 1997/2013Lagavulin 1997 ‘Distiller’s Edition’ (43%, OB 2013, P.X. finish, lgv. 4/502)

Nose: I rather love this. It has the classic Lagavulin smoke, soot and a leathery dryness, but also a thick, medium sweet coating of Mon Cheri cherries, prune jam and brown sugar. Honey-glazed almonds. Cinnamon. Fresh floral / herbal top notes. Quite some coastal notes too (seaweed, very subtle iodine). Sweet tobacco. Complex and balanced. Mouth: sweet and surprisingly shy entry, maybe we were expecting a higher ABV to highlight the intense flavours. Smooth, starting on the common Lagavulin 16 elements: earthy peat, liquorice, Lapsang tea, smoked fish… Then some spices (pepper) and growing fatty notes – it takes a while before it tilts towards sherry, figs, with chocolate, honey and a dark sweetness, say Turkish coffee. Finish: very long, on ashes, chocolate and peat smoke. A drier, more oaky hint as well.

I was slightly surprised by the soft entry on the palate, but I still think this is an excellent wine finished Lagavulin. Maybe too sweet for die-hard Islay fans, but it adds complexity and a certain decadency. A must-have. Between € 65 and € 90 depending on which shop.

Score: 90/100


Massandra wines - GlenglassaughMassandra is the oldest winery in Crimea. It has been producing fine wines for more than 110 years and won international acclaim for its quality. The winery tends to mimic some of the greatest styles like Port, Tokay or Madeira. Moreover, they own one the largest collections of rare wines (over 1 million bottles), some of which were once in the collection of the Russian Tsars.

Back in 2012, Glenglassaugh released five old expressions, all finished in ex-wine casks from Massandra. One of them was a 33 year-old 1978 vintage finished in a “Madeira style” cask.

For a recent tasting organized by the Belgian shop TastToe, Douglas Cook brought a cask sample of another Madeira finished 1978 vintage, now 35 years old. This ‘sample’ was presented in the new single cask bottle, with a printed label and everything. It was taken directly from the bottling line and it should hit the market in the near future. I’m not sure whether this was the same cask that was reused after 2012.

 

 

Glenglassaugh 1978 Madeira finishGlenglassaugh 35 yo 1978 (41,7%, OB 2014, Rare Cask series, Massandra Madeira puncheon)

Nose: pretty much like a sherried old Glenglassaugh. Lots of tobacco leaves and humidors, as well as different nutty notes (walnut cake, cashew). Aniseed. Leather. Figs, melons and raisins with a bright, slightly acid top note (raspberry vinegar). Overall rather dry and a little shy maybe. Mouth: more fruity and sweet now. Red fruit jams, pomegranate, sweet rhubarb, baked apple with cinnamon and candied ginger. Faint notes of marzipan. Also a rummy / molasses side. Nice. Fades on sweet herbal notes. Finish: long, medium sweet, quite rounded with jammy notes (plum), herbs and a touch of smoke.

Really nice whisky, with a wine influence that’s close to regular sherry, but with a few twists. Not overdone – good. Something to look out for, although probably € 350 – 400 when released.

Score: 90/100


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  • SK: And just to prove a point, all of the bottles are still available in places where they usually run out. Lets see how many will be still available whe
  • SK: 2 years ago I tried the Caol Ila 1982 from Archives. What a fantastic whisky. Since then I always try to stock these Caol Ila from the 80s. Sadly no
  • WhiskyNotes: The real problem is that Caol Ila isn't selling (mature) casks to independent bottlers any more, from what I've heard, so chances are low we'll see mo

Coming up

  • Inchgower 1975 (Maltbarn)
  • Octomore 6.3 258ppm
  • Peated Irish 1991 (Eiling Lim)
  • Ardbeg 1974 for Christmas
  • Spirit of Freedom 30 Years
  • Elements of Islay Cl7
  • Benromach 5 Year Old

1681 notes by Ruben

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