Single malt whisky - tasting notes

Glenfarclas 105 is one of the first whiskies I ever reviewed on this blog (see here). Around 2008 it used to be one of my favourite daily drams. It never hurts to revisit this kind of stuff, batches are replaced often anyway (although Glenfarclas doesn’t advertise them so it’s impossible to recognize them).

As you know Glenfarclas 105 is their popular high strength expression, it refers to 5 over proof which is 60% alcohol, and it’s supposedly around 8 years old. Since +/- 2010 it comes in an updated (wider) bottle and packaging.

 

Glenfarclas 105Glenfarclas 105 (60%, OB 2013)

Nose: intense sherry, with plenty of raisins, redcurrants, milk chocolate and toffee apples. Some fudge. Sweet but not cloying, there’s a bright hint of raspberry jam and a slight citrus tingle. Hints of mulled wine – some rich spices in the back. Soft tobacco as well. Mouth: powerful but not anesthetizing at full strength (well, maybe a tiny bit). Thick sherry, hints of mocha and orange liqueur. Dried prunes and raisins. Treacle. Cinnamon, pepper and ginger. Some molasses. Still some berry jams, but overall a little on the dry side, although water helps in this respect. Finish: long, rich, sweet and spicy but also a tad nuttier (almonds and hazelnut).

Still a good dram to show how well sherry and whisky can get along. Also a good introduction to high strength whisky. Slightly more modern when compared to the older bottling, but still good value. Widely available. Around € 50 these days, but sometimes a promotion can bring it down to € 30.

Score: 85/100


Elijah Craig is a Kentucky straight bourbon produced by Heaven Hill distilleries (they also produce Bernheim Original among others). The Baptist minister Elijah Craig is credited for having invented the usage of new, charred casks for the maturation of bourbon whiskey.

This expression was bottled for The Nectar in Belgium.

 

Elijah Craig 12 years - The NectarElijah Craig 12 yo (47%, OB ‘full barrel’ for The Nectar 2013, 94 Proof)

Nose: a medium dry nose with lots of sawdust and a typical rye note. Nicely balanced with sweeter corn and pastry notes. A little orange marmalade. Almonds and raisins. Quite a lot of mint as well. Mouth: again on the dry side, lots of mint and eucalyptus at first (slightly medicinal hints even). A rye tingle again, with some leathery notes. Fresh, toasted oak. Vanilla and cinnamon, a little pepper too. Caramel and brown sugar, even a hint of coconut. Dried fruits and spiced honey. Finish: long, with a corn sweetness and some orange flavours alongside the lingering spices.

I’m not an American whiskey expert, but for me this has elements of classic bourbon and rye whiskey. It shows a drier, more oaky and spicy kind of style. Good sipping whiskey for the price. Around € 40.

Score: 84/100


Every whisky deserves a second chance, so even though we’ve had a disappointing Deanston 1997 very recently, we’ll see if this one from the Archives / Fishes of Samoa series is more attractive.

 

Deanston 1997 - ArchivesDeanston 15 yo 1997 (55,8%, Archives ‘Fishes of Samoa’ 2013, hogshead #1959, 327 btl.)

Nose: grassy notes (wet hay) with overripe apples. A little dirty, with decomposing leaves, closely related to the Asta Morris cask in that respect. A lot of butter, some mashy / porridgy notes, some nutty notes too. Heather honey. A slightly sharp, spicy tingle as well. Mouth: sharp and grainy at first, slightly alcoholic, and kind of blend-like actually. A gingery / peppery heat to sharpen the edges even more. It is softened by a more creamy middle, with, vanilla and honey, and a slightly indefinite fruitiness, but it returns to green tea and liquorice. Finish: medium long, dry and spicy, with slightly peaty / salty overtones.

I didn’t really like the Asta Morris version, and this one is just as mashy on the nose and even sharper on the palate. Personally I would have labeled it as blending whisky. Around € 55.

Score: 80/100


This is a very rare bottling. The Whisky Connoisseur, from what I’ve found, was part of a whole series of mail order / web companies (Scotland Direct, Scottish Gourmet, The Home Gift Shop…) run by Arthur J.A. Bell in Thistle Mill, Biggar.

During the 1990’s they seem to have bottled quite a lot of single malts, mostly with concealed (but always consistent) names. My miniature says The Ellisland but the backlabel mentions ‘containing Old Pultney’ (sic). Here’s a list of their naming conventions in case you’re interested.

In 2009 the company was nominated for the award of best online outlet by Whisky Magazine but in the meantime they seem to have disappeared and their website redirects to another mail order company. I’ve read that the founder had to stop due to health problems.

Anyway back to our bottle. It’s a single cask Old Pulteney distilled in 1974. I couldn’t find references to a full bottle, so maybe this was just a miniature release.

 

The Ellisland - Old Pulteney 1974Old Pulteney 18 yo 1974
‘The Ellisland’ (57,8%, The Whisky Connoisseur ‘The Robert Burns Collection’ 1993, cask #1132)

Nose: a big maritime character. Sea air and kelp. Some wet chalk. Also herbal teas, mint and a little chamomile. Buttercups too. I’m quite sure this was peated. Some buttery notes, hay and meadow flowers. Not entirely sexy but a nice surprise. Mouth: punchy, quite a bit sweeter than expected. Honeys and fruit jams. Tinned pineapple and oranges. Vanilla cake. Still a peaty base and these typical maritime notes, as well as some ginger and liquorice. Finish: long, half peaty, half fruity.

A pleasant surprise, both for its relatively peaty profile and for its pleasantly sweet fruitiness.

Score: 88/100


I tried a 3yo Glentauchers bottled for Càrn Mòr and I thought it was rather promising. Now a cask from the same period has been bottled in the Archives series, a Glentauchers 2005.

 

Glentauchers 2005 ArchivesGlentauchers 7 yo 2005
(52,5%, Archives ‘Fishes of Samoa’ 2013, sherry butt #900392, 167 btl.)

Nose: gristy at first, but it becomes sweeter and fruitier over time. Oranges, raisins and tinned pineapple. Red apples. Still youngish (hints of cake, muesli and pear drops) but again quite nice. Rather creamy too, with some almond cream. Soft cinnamon and buttery fudge in the background. Mouth: malty and honeyed, slightly bigger than you would expect. Stewed fruits and apple pie. Light coconut. Soft peppery notes, as well as liquorice and herbal hints. Finish: medium long, sweet with some spices from the oak.

Quite good although it’s pretty mainstream. You get value for money though: around € 45 which is significantly less than what other bottlers are asking for similar casks.

Score: 83/100


Convalmore distillery is located in Dufftown and it has been mothballed since 1985. Although it was owned by DCL (later Diageo) until the end, the site is now part of William Grant & Sons, who use it as a warehouse for Glenfiddich and Balvenie whisky.

Diageo now released this European refill cask matured Convalmore 1977. It rounds off our series of reviews from the Diageo Special Releases 2013. Yes, they can keep the Port Ellen, thank you.

 

Convalmore 36 Years 1977Convalmore 36 yo 1977
(58%, OB 2013, 2980 btl.)

Nose: fairly restrained, even a little quiet, considering its alcohol volume. It shows soft fruits (orange lemonade, apples, kiwi, maybe green mango). Some almonds and waxed oak. Honey. Big minty notes. In the background also a little moss and very soft herbs. Quite elegant, sure, but… Mouth: a similar (slightly unripe) fruitiness, with more grapefruit and lemons now. Blossom honey and a creamy, biscuity sweetness. A little paraffin. The first part of the palate is where this whisky really shines. Then it grows sharper and goes towards moss again, some earthy notes, liquorice. Mint. Heavy spices towards the end (pepper, ginger, nutmeg). Finish: long, with warming spices, apples and fresh lemons.

It’s not very fruity, it’s not very spicy, it’s not very sweet, each element comes in waves and changes quickly after. Overall a complex but subtle whisky that’s very tasty yet never blew my socks off. Very expensive: around € 800.

Score: 91/100


After the Kavalan, here’s another bottling for TastToe, this time a joint bottling with Drankenshop Broekmans, both shops related to The Nectar. It’s a Laphroaig 1998 from the Signatory stocks.

 

Laphroaig 1998 (SV for TastToe / Drankenshop)Laphroaig 15 yo 1998
(57,4%, Signatory Vintage for TastToe & Broekmans 2013, hogshead #5570, 300 btl.)

Nose: this nose achieves a very nice balance between peatiness, coastalness and roundness. It’s very warm, with soot and ambering ashes. A little vanilla, camhor, honey, hot sand… A little candy sugar and marzipan as well. Hints of leather. Round, complex, just excellent. Mouth: slightly hot, but very impressive again. Deep peat, sweet lemon and honey, hints of pears, limoncello… Great ashy notes, a bit of chocolate, liquorice. Medicinal notes. Marzipan again. Vanilla latte. Finish: long, rounded yet powerful.

Laphroaig is good anyway, but this one strikes the right chord. It’s firm and heavily peated but also candied and complex. They did a nice job selecting their bottlings at TastToe. Around € 120.

Score: 90/100


This Glen Grant is part of the 1959/1960 mini-series by Gordon & MacPhail to commemorate the marriage of Prince Andrew to Sarah Ferguson. We’ve tried the matching GlenDronach a couple of weeks ago and there’s more to come from the same series.

 

Glen Grant 1959/1960 Royal Marriage (Gordon MacPhail)Glen Grant 1959/1960
(40%, Gordon & MacPhail 1986, Royal Wedding)

Nose: great fruity notes alongside waxy notes (a combination that we love in Glen Grant). Oranges, mango, hints of pineapple and tangerine. Quite a bit of smoke (not peat smoke, but the kind of subtle hint of smoke that was common for that era). Some mint and subtle oak spices. Maple syrup and juicy raisins. Honey. Mouth: still really fruity. Mainly apricots, juicy pear and tangerine, with lots of honey glazing. Fruit cake. Almond cream. Pink grapefruit and melon. Wonderful, too bad this wasn’t bottled at a slightly higher strength. Surprisingly fresh and juicy. Finish: medium long, still a great fruitiness with a balanced dryness (hints of fruit tea).

Excellent stuff, much better than the marriage itself… It’s gentle, fruity and very lightly smoky. An old-style gem. Around € 350 in auctions.

Score: 92/100


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  • Roberto Sikora: This is really a great, great bottling. One of my favourite Littlemills so far... :-) Thank you, Ruben for this review!
  • george: i see you have tried st magdalene and say it is harder to find i am a collector of st magdalene and i have 40 bottles i am selling these date from 196
  • sjoerd972: I wish the guys at Bushmills would demand the labels to say "Northern Ireland" so we didn't have to speculate on the booze's origins.

Coming up

  • Blair Athol 1993 (First Editions)
  • Ben Nevis 1997 (Abbey Whisky)
  • Blair Athol 2002 (Hepburn's Choice)
  • Tomatin 1988 (Malts of Scotland)
  • Ben Nevis 2002 (Port cask #334)

1597 notes by Ruben

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