Single malt whisky - tasting notes


Glen Elgin 1985 - Maltbarn

Glen Elgin 29 yo 1985 (45,6%, Maltbarn 2014, bourbon cask, 122 btl.)

Nose: fresh, plenty of gooseberries, vanilla cake and apple. Also a nice lime / mango combination. Beehive notes (beeswax, honey) and subtle oak and leather. After a while more floral notes come out, as well as mint. Mouth: fairly soft attack, revolves more around spices, mainly ginger and aniseed, with a little vanilla and the fruity notes at medium intensity now. Some grassy notes. A slight metallic edge. Plenty of waxy notes again. Finish: not too long, with some coconut oil and ginger.

On the nose, this Glen Elgin is an impressive example of bourbon maturation. Fresh, fruity and aromatic. On the palate, as expected, the oak spices come out more. A nice dram. Around € 150.

Score: 87/100

Highland Journey

23 Sep 2014 | * Blends

Highland Journey is a brand-new blended malt from Hunter Laing & Co. It’s inspired by a train journey in the 1950’s, when Stewart Laing’s father took him to the Highlands to visit distilleries, igniting his passion for whisky.

Highland Journey includes only malt whiskies from Highland distilleries such as Blair Athol, Clynelish and Teaninich, matured in both bourbon and sherry casks.


Highland Journey - Hunter LaingHighland Journey (46,2%, Hunter Laing 2014, blended malt)

Nose: starts a bit mashy / porridgy before sweeter notes appear. Toffee, light caramel and youngish Williams pear eau-de-vie. Apple pie and subtle grains. A bit of almond milk and hay. Mouth: creamy vanilla and apples alongside the malty, grainy notes. Light plums, some fudge and subtle spices. Subtle waxy notes. Not very sherried and none of the components stand out too much, we’re closer to a blend now. Finish: medium long, malty, a little mocha.

It may lack a bit of character to appeal to experienced malt drinkers, but nonetheless it’s a nice step up for blend drinkers. Around € 45. Arriving in stores as we speak.

Score: 78/100

This is the oldest GlenDronach in their 10th Batch of single cask releases. No 1970’s bottlings (not sure whether we can still expect some?), no 1980’s either (they were hardly available anyway). Let’s not moan about better times, we’ll just try GlenDronach 1990 cask #2970 – a P.X. puncheon.


GlenDronach 1990 cask #2970GlenDronach 24 yo 1990
(51,3%, OB 2014, Pedro Ximénez puncheon #2970, 630 btl.)

Nose: a nice, deep fruitiness, reminding me of the best 1970’s casks. Poached pears, raspberry gums, quinces, alongside the obvious figs and raisins. Very jammy. There’s also a roasted / earthy note in the background, think coffee beans and wet leaves. Nice top notes of polished oak and leather. Mouth: sweet, but there’s more emphasis on the darker notes now – the fruits are on a second level. Walnuts, dark chocolate, toasted hazelnut. Hints of pipe tobacco. Burnt brown sugar. Sweet and sour. Some slightly bitter, herbal notes, cardamom and eucalyptus. Towards the end black cherries and forest fruits come out. Finish: long, still some toasted notes and Mon Cheri.

One of the better releases in this 10th Batch. I already liked sister cask #2966 and this one is just as complex. Around € 200.

Score: 89/100

Liquid Art is the Belgian label that released the Glen Elgin 1995 ‘Stag Beetle’. Now there’s a second bottling, a Bunnahabhain 1987 ‘The Osprey’. One more label will follow designed by local artist Raymond Minnen, then they introduce a new artist.


Bunnahabhain 1987 Liquid ArtBunnahabhain 1987
(51,3%, Liquid Art 2014, 115 btl.)

Nose: quite lovely. It’s fresh and tense, oily, with some brine and waxed papers. Also crushed mint leaves and a little linseed oil. Faint earthy notes. Fino cask? The best part however – and this grows over time – is the underlying fruitiness, a bright one, showing sourish apples and grapefruits but also more tropical-style fruits like melons and apricots. Just great. Mouth: rich and oily, again a perfect balance of coastalness and fruitiness. Salty notes, subtle pepper, then ripe apples, different berries, blackcurrant leaves and a bit of vanilla custard. Nectarine too. Impressive. Finish: medium long, sweet and fruity, with hints of mocha and very little oak.

A wonderful Bunna 1987, from the same family as the Bunna 1987 Mollusc & Medusa, I’d say. These guys know their whisky. Around € 150. Only around 25 bottles left, I’ve heard.

Score: 90/100

Have you noticed the diminishing amount of independent Laphroaig and the sudden rise of Ardmore? With the current high demand for whisky in general and the relatively limited supply of Islay whisky, heavily peated Ardmore is being pushed as the alternative for Laphroaig – both distilleries are owned by Beam / Suntory.

We’re trying a young one: Ardmore 2000 in the Liquid Library series.


Ardmore 2000 Liquid LibraryArdmore 14 yo 2000 (49,8%, Liquid Library 2014, refill hogshead, 289 btl.)

Nose: ashy and peaty, Islay-style indeed. Older Ardmore can have a tropical side to it – this one doesn’t, but it does show a fruity sweetness of peaches and pears. Some hay and walnut skin. Buttered toast. Not very complex but really enjoyable. Mouth: sharper now, with a sour / bitter attack and then heavy ashes. Rather dry and peppery. Burnt grass, soot, liquorice, grapefruit skin. A vague sweetness in the background, but otherwise it’s pretty assertive, not to say a little hardcore. Finish: long, dry, with an agave touch and hints of tar.

A straightforward, austere Ardmore that isn’t quite up there with Laphroaig, although the effort is worthwhile. Around € 85.

Score: 82/100

Ichiro's Malt - Hanyu cardsHanyu distillery, which was started by the grandfather of Ichiro Akuto in 1946 and which produced whisky since the 1980’s, was halted in 2000. Although Ichiro’s father sold the distillery, he decided to store the remaining casks in a warehouse.

After a while, he started bottling them in a series called Ichiro’s Malt, better known by its nickname, the Cards series. Each bottling has a playing card on the label, and after 53 cards it was time to release the final expression, The Joker.


Actually there are two Jokers. The first one has a coloured label and is a vatting of 14 casks, filled with six vintages of Hanyu (1985, 1986, 1988, 1990, 1991 and 2000). The style of casks is very wide – it includes hogsheads, sherry butts, puncheons, cognac casks, Madeira hogsheads, bourbon barrels and chibidaru casks (a Japanese version of the quarter cask).

The other Joker has a monochrome label and is from a single cask #1024 filled in 1985 (Mizunara oak finish).



Hanyu The Joker - Ichiro's MaltHanyu ‘The Joker’
(57,7%, OB 2014, multi-vintage, 3690 btl.)

Nose: a typical oriental Hanyu profile. Turkish delight, a little eucalyptus, quite some floral notes (rose petals and a mild potpourri effect) and plenty of sandalwood. Hints of fragrant herbs, toffee apples, raisins and plums. Hints of polished leather. Some gingerbread and vanilla as well. Very rich and complex, and extremely elegant. Mouth: again really exotic and pleasantly sweet & sour. Lots of spices (cardamom, ginger and five-spices powder), some yuzu peel and then classic dried fruits (bramble, figs and dates). Kaffir lime. Polished oak and mint. Aniseed. Some wood smoke and sweet tobacco in the background. Hints of vermouth or Fernet as well. Finish: long, spicy, herbal, with tea and honey.

Quite a kaleidoscopic Hanyu. I’m sure the different wood types brought something specific to the table, but it manages to make it into a nicely integrated ensemble. A fascinating end to this series. Originally around € 130. Now sold out in Japan, leading to auction prices of € 700 and more.

Score: 91/100

This Littlemill 1990 is part of the new releases from Maltbarn. There’s also a Glen Elgin 1985 and Coal Ila 1995, of which I’ll publish some notes later.


Littlemill 1990 - MaltbarnLittlemill 24 yo 1990
(50,6%, Maltbarn 2014, 158 btl.)

Nose: classic lemon jellybeans, peardrops and meadow flowers up front. Some guava juice and grapefruit. There seem to be a little more green tea and earthy / waxy notes in this one. Whiffs of eucalyptus. Very crisp, I like its warmth but I think it’s slightly less complex than some others I’ve had. Mouth: really really fruity, and one of the most tropical versions I’ve come accross. Guavas, bananas, excellent passion fruits, pineapple sweets, apricots… A creamy, vanilla infused expression. Hints of cake and white chocolate, with some warming oak and earthy touches towards the finish. Finish: long, fruity, with hints of green tea and resin.

This Littlemill 1990 draws the card of tropical fruits and warm vanilla, whereas some other vintages can be more about zesty fruits and minerals. Of course I’m a fan of this profile, but even then I think it’s one of the best examples. Around € 130.

Score: 92/100

Diageo Special Releases 2014


It’s that time of the year again. Diageo announced its Special Releases 2014. This year the list contains 11 bottlings. They’re always highly anticipated but I feel the interest has lowered. Lots of aficionados started to feel a little indifferent since prices skyrocketed around 2011-2012.


Left to right in the above overview:


Prices are likely to be a bit higher still. They are based on the UK price and in the past this turned out to be lower than the European equivalent.

There’s no doubt this is a wide selection, with whiskies of all kinds of styles. I suppose only two of them are within reach of most whisky enthusiasts, the rest is investment material more than anything.

It’s the first time we’re seeing a Strathmill and Glendullan in the Special Releases – 2014 is also the first time a high-end Clynelish is bottled without an age statement.

For me personally, I’m especially interested in the Rosebank 21 Year Old and Coal Ila 30 Year Old, which should have an interesting profile and seem to have undergone a (relatively) modest price increase compared to past editions.



May 2015
« Apr    

Coming up

  • Irish malt 1991 (Whisky Mercenary)
  • Aberlour a'bunadh Batch #50
  • Bowmore Gold Reef
  • Tomatin 1997 (Liquid Library)
  • Springbank Vintage 2001
  • Mortlach Rare Old

1793 notes by Ruben

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