Single malt whisky - tasting notes

This is a 14 years old single cask Springbank 1998, bottled for the Belgian importer The Nectar. One of the new releases presented at the 2013 Spirits in the Sky festival.

 

Springbank 14yo 1998 single cask for The NectarSpringbank 14 yo 1998 (58,2%, OB for The Nectar 2013, fresh bourbon cask, 132 btl.)

Nose: a complex nose. It’s peaty and coastal, with some wet dogs and the typical Springbank chalkiness, but also plenty of fruity notes. Tangerine, lemon, grilled pineapple, even some strawberries. Surprisingly tropical. A bit of vanilla. Subtle floral notes. Quite some hidden depths. Mouth: punchy, again very complex. Very fruity (pineapple, coconut, maybe mango), nicely balancing the smokiness and peat. A big pinch of pepper as well as some sweet liquorice. Finish: long, fruity with echoes of coconut and oak.

Excellent Springbank, with a boost of fruity notes alongside the typical peaty and maritime aromas. I’m not an unconditional fan of the modern Springbank output but I sure love this one. Around € 90, but sold out as far as I know.

Score: 90/100


Master of Malt - 60 yoMaster of Malt is presenting quite a tour de force with a 60 years old single malt distilled and matured at an undisclosed Speyside distillery. They already had a line-up of 30yo, 40yo and 50yo expressions.

 

It costs £ 1000, which seems fair in a climate of premium whiskies of this age being sold for anything from £ 8000 to £ 100.000. It’s still expensive, but at least here you don’t pay for crystal bottles, wooden cases or fancy marketing (besides a sample for a couple of bloggers). They don’t even stress how limited it is, how cool is that?

 

Master of Malt - 60 Year Old SpeysideUndisclosed Speyside distillery 60 yo
(42,5%, Master of Malt 2014, 1st Edition)

Nose: quite beautiful, mellow, with a gentle profile of sweet apple, oranges and white grape. Nice waxy touches of old candles. A mint and lemon combo. There’s also a buttery quality to it, like soft vanilla cake. Behind this there is a floral note and refined oak. Delicate but surprisingly complex, after a while I picked up apricot jam, musty books and a soft toasted note / roasted nuts. Mouth: again very smooth and subtly fruity at first. Coconut oils, a bit of the candle wax again. Tobacco leaves and cinnamon. Then it becomes herbal, with a funny note keeping the middle between balloons and marihuana (someone told me how this tastes *cough*). Master of Malt calls it tomato stems in their notes. Slightly potpourri-ish, with a sour oaky edge, but well within limits. Finish: not too long, which is understandable, but totally graceful. Herbs (mint) and tobacco juice.

This is a class of malt on its own, and few of us will be able to compare. It’s pleasantly fruity and waxy, remarkably elegant and nicely oaky without being tannic. Around € 1200, available from Master of Malt (samples as well).

Score: 91/100


Tomatin Cù Bòcan

06 Mar 2014 | Tomatin

Cù Bòcan is the name of a legendary dog-like creature that has stalked residents of the remote Highland village of Tomatin for centuries. It gave its name to the recent Tomatin Cù Bòcan, a lightly peated whisky (15 ppm) matured in a combination of bourbon, sherry and virgin oak casks.

Tomatin distillery only produces peated spirit during one week of the year, good for about 60.000 litres. The peated part of the whisky is aged 8 years, but the whole composition doesn’t have an age statement).

 

Tomatin Cu BocanTomatin Cù Bòcan
(46%, OB 2013, 18.000 btl.)

Nose: sweet and citrusy. Oranges, lemons, grapefruit, both sweet juice and slightly tangy zesty notes. Some biscuity notes – that’s the younger spirit talking. Hints of ginger and grasses. Smoke is only found in the background. Mouth: a little more smoke now, with slightly sharpish grains and quite a big emphasis on new oak. Youngish and unbalanced. Chilli pepper. Ginger, cloves and aniseed. Finish: quite long, but a tad harsh and spicy.

I’m not sure what to make of this. It’s peaty but in a summery way that doesn’t fit the image of a haunting creature. The regular Tomatin fruits are drowned in pepper and virgin oak. A missed opportunity for Tomatin. Around € 50.

Score: 77/100


Montgomerie's Rare SelectAngus Dundee started as a blending company in London but in recent years they’ve acquired distilleries like Tomintoul and Glencadam, and they launched labels like Old Ballantruan. They also sell independent bottlings under the names Mackillop’s Choice and Montgomerie’s Rare Select.

Today’s dram is a 27 years old Dalmore 1986. Sister casks #3090 and #3096 have been bottled in the Mackillop’s series. What’s interesting is that you rarely see independent Dalmore. Most blenders tend to exchange new spirit though, so this may have been an exchanged parcel.

 

 

Dalmore 1986 - Montgomerie's Rare Select #3093Dalmore 27 yo 1986 (46%, Montgomerie’s Rare Select 2013, cask #3093)

Nose: fairly neutral with lots of sweet cereals. Some apples, fresh oranges and orange blossom. Nutmeg and wet sawdust as well. Hints of hay. Mouth: quite punchy, with lots of citrus notes (both sweet orange and slighty sharper grapefruit zest) but also plenty of oak now. Pepper, ginger, some vanilla. Very faint hints of coconut and pineapple, but hidden behind the grainy facade. Finish: medium long, compact and malty with a lingering sweetness.

It’s not a bad whisky, with nice orange notes, but overall too malty and neutral for my taste. Not worth the asking price of around € 145 in my opinion.

Score: 80/100


David Stewart and Tun 1401The eighth release of the hugely successful Balvenie Tun 1401 found its way to Belgium at the end of 2013.

Batch 8 brings together the largest number of casks in the series so far, 9 American oak bourbon casks and 3 European oak sherry butts. One of them was filled in 1991, two in 1981 and 1982, but all the rest is 1970’s whisky. It’s the darkest Tun 1401 I’ve come across, a first hint of its character?

 

 

 

Balvenie Tun 1401 Batch 8Balvenie Tun 1401 (50,2%, OB 2013, batch 8, 2.700 btl.)

Nose: it seems immediately different from the others. Rather more overtly sherried. But stunning notes of American whiskey as well. I would say it’s fuller and warmer than the ones I’ve tried before. Mirabelles on syrup, black cherries, ripe banana and candy apples. Plenty of acacia honey and beeswax. Creamy vanilla. Cinnamon sticks and leather. Faint mocha. Excellent. Mouth: richly sherried again. There’s more cinnamon, dried fruits and strawberries, as well as top notes of orange peel and ginger cake. Vanilla pods and chocolate. Some woody spices, wax and pine resin in the end. Finish: long, leathery. Still some plums alongside the oaky touches. A tad too tannic to be truly heavenly.

 

Excellent Tun 1401, slightly different from the others, with a slightly ‘darker’ sherry influence, and my favourite batch so far (although batch 5 comes close). I believe the official price was around € 200 but as always with these kind of whiskies, some shops are not afraid to ask € 300 or more.

Score: 92/100


The last whisky I’ll review from the GlenDronach single casks batch 9. The 1991 and 1992 were not very convincing, let’s hope the 1993 cask #5 can fulfil its promises.

 

GlenDronach 1993 single cask 5GlenDronach 20 yo 1993
(53%, OB 2013, oloroso cask #5, 645 btl.)

Nose: excellent. Lots of fresh figs and juicy plums, with a bright top note of orange blossom and rose petals. A slightly rummy / brandy-like aroma as well. Soaked raisins. Lovely pipe tobacco and cigar boxes. Hints of incense. Almonds and vanilla cake. Soft hints of those chocolate-covered coffee beans. Mouth: rich, initially sweet but growing drier and spicier in a nice evolution. Figs and dates again, raisins and chocolate. Cinnamon and cloves. Lacking a tad of body in the middle, but still very good. Ginger and herbal notes (mint). Finish: long, quite dry and rather ‘darker’, with hints of dried fruits, dark chocolate and mild oak.

I’ve said it before, but those GlenDronach butts filled on the 15th of January 1993 are just great (casks #1-#35 more or less). Around € 130.

Score: 91/100


The Yamazaki Puncheon is matured in American oak puncheons (large 480 litre casks, often even larger). Larger casks, so slower ageing and supposedly elegant and spirit-driven. While puncheons are usually seasoned with sherry or rum, apparently the ones Yamazaki used had previously contained bourbon whiskey. I hadn’t heard of bourbon puncheons before.

It has been released in 2011 and 2012 already, and the 2013 version is said to be the final release.

 

Yamazaki Puncheon 2013Yamazaki Puncheon
(48%, OB 2013)

Nose: fresh and fruity, with lots of American oak influences indeed. Pears, peaches and vanilla, with nice hints of pineapple and banana. A little bubblegum. Hints of floral honey. Quite some fresh oak as well. Overall it’s bright but also a little youngish. Mouth: bright, malty and fruity again. Yellow plum, peach and orange. Pear drops and lime. Coconut. Vanilla ice cream. Becoming fragrant, a tad too floral maybe. Exemplary for American oak, very predictable as well. Finish: medium long, sweet and slightly gingery.

Well made, clean and fruity whisky that’s easy to like. On the other hand its ambition doesn’t reach beyond showcasing the wood it was matured in. Between € 105 and 125.

Score: 84/100


The Auld Alliance is a high-class whisky bar in Singapore which boasts one of the largest collections in South-East Asia. It is run by Emmanuel Dron, a Frenchman who worked for La Maison du Whisky before.

Since 2013, Auld Alliance also has its own line of whisky bottlings. This Littlemill 1992 is the fourth release.

 

 

Littlemill 1992 - Auld AllianceLittlemill 20 yo 1992 (52,2%, Auld Alliance 2013, bourbon hogshead, 216 btl.)

Nose: maybe not a full fruitiness this time. There’s apple, pear and marzipan sweetness at first, but also linseed oil and lots of waxy notes: wax candles and paraffin. Vanilla cake and soft herbal notes. In the end it turns towards the typical citrusy notes and lemon balm. Whiffs of marshmallows too. Mouth: oily, starts on these waxy notes and minerals again, before the nice burst of lemons, pink grapefruits and lime. Hints of lemon grass and, well… normal grass. Quite resinous towards the end. Finish: long, with the same lemon theme. Lime zest, grapefruit and the lingering grassy notes.

Highly enjoyable Littlemill again, with slightly bolder waxy and zesty notes this time. Really good stuff.

Score: 89/100


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Coming up

  • Benriach 1991 (MoS for QV.ID)
  • Bowmore 2003 (The Whiskyman)
  • Ardmore Legacy
  • Balblair 2000 single casks
  • Lagavulin 12yo (2014 release)
  • Craigellachie 17 Year Old
  • Cardhu 18 Year Old
  • Clynelish 21yo 1992 (Cadenhead)
  • Ledaig 2005 (Maltbarn)
  • Aberlour 8yo (cube, small cork)

1639 notes by Ruben

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