Single malt whisky - tasting notes

Remember NOG! – the gin matured by Asta Morris? Back then we already mentioned there would be a second release soon. Here it is.

It’s the same distillate but matured in a different cask (BenRiach this time) for a slightly longer time.

 

NOG gin - batch 2N.O.G. gin
(46%, Asta Morris, batch n°2)

Neat Nose: less assertive than #1. The lemon and minty top notes are muted and the profile is a little warmer. It seems more compact, maybe more complex but with the flavours closer together. Mouth: sweeter than expected (orange), with some boozy heat and a big spiciness (pepper, aniseed). Also a hint of rosemary or eucalyptus, which gives it a fragrant edge that I don’t like.

With Fever Tree Mediterranean Nose: again a more interwoven nose, more narrow. The citrus, lime, liquorice and spices are all there, but they’re more on the same level. Oh, and I do get a sense of whisky now. Mouth: similar findings. Marzipan now, rather than vanilla. The sweetness and classic juniper notes are on par, which makes it seem more balanced and complex but also more silent overall.

More complex, more balanced… I prefer this batch over the first one. Around € 50, available in most respectable whisky stores in Belgium.


This is an old Bunnahabhain 1968 released in 2012 in the Sea Life series by The Whisky Agency. I don’t recall other sherry butts for this vintage.

 

 

Bunnahabhain 1968 Whisky AgencyBunnahabhain 43 yo 1968
(47%, The Whisky Agency ‘Sea Life’ 2012, refill sherry butt, 498 btl.)

Nose: fruity and honeyed. The fruits are more indigenous than tropical: pears, plums, figs, apricots. Indeed “sherry fruits”, including a vegetal, slightly dirty aroma which takes away some of the magic. Light resinous notes, floral notes and leafy notes. A little leather in the distance. Very elegant, a slightly drier, sherried version rather than the tropical goodness of the bourbon casks. Mouth: fresh and minty with hints of tobacco and resin. Yellow plums at first, then oranges (both sweet and bigarade varieties). Dashes of pine tree honey and hints of soft pepper. After a while the oak grows stronger, grassy but it’s never too dry. Finish: medium long, a little more herbal and dry, with some green tea notes.

A great nose, and a vivid palate, although I think I’ve had better Bunnahabhain 1968 even from the same bottler. We’ve been spoiled. Around € 225.

Score: 89/100


English Harbour is a top-quality molasses-based rum distilled by the Antigua Distillery and named after the town on the island briefly inhabited by our own Horatio Nelson during the 18th century.

Distilled in 1981 and bottled in September 2006 – this is the oldest rum from the Antigua distillery. It was matured in used Jack Daniels barrels. About two pounds of oak chips are added to each barrel to provide more colour and flavour. Only 600 bottles are released each year.

 

 

English Harbour 25 Year Old 1981English Harbour 25 yo 1981 (40%, OB 2006)

Nose: complex nose, very integrated with lots of tiny aromas. Cake, pencil shavings, honey and milk chocolate. Almonds. Clove and vanilla. Brown sugar and cinnamon. Blackcurrants and dried figs. Subtle smoky notes. Mouth: very thick and very smooth at the same time, with dried fruits (banana, apricot, raisins), caramelized nuts and honey. Lots of toffee. Very subtle herbal notes. Hints of toasted oak. Fades on Mexican chocolate. Finish: medium long, toasty, still pretty sweet, with more oak now and eventually dry hints of cinnamon bark and tobacco.

A great rum. I love its subtlety and layered structure. Excellent balance of sweetness and spiciness too. On the other hand it’s really expensive (around € 185) – too much for me in terms of value for money.


A trio of Littlemill expressions was added to the Archives series in a very short timespan. This Littlemill 1989 is a joint bottling with The CasQueteers, a Dutch group of whisky enthusiasts constantly looking for the best casks (or parts of casks). They regularly sit together to try cask samples, they also buy new make spirit and split the costs when a certain whisky is bottled.

 

Littlemill 1989 Archives & CasQueteersLittlemill 24 yo 1989 (53%, Archives 2014, joint bottling with CasQueteers, bourbon hogshead #42, 178 btl.)

Nose: typical Littlemill fruitiness. Peach, pear, liters of apple juice. Moving towards tropical fruits as well. The usual grassy / mineral side seems a bit more gentle here. Vanilla and buttercups. Hints of beeswax. All the ingredients for a lovely bourbon-aged Littlemill, I’d say. Mouth: utterly fruity again, with more exquisite tropical notes. Tangerines, mango and passion fruits. Some sweet almond cake and honey. Beautifully juicy, and the waxy notes blend in nicely. Subtle citrus tea, dusty grains and white pepper towards the end. Finish: long, with a little more typical Lowlands grassiness, grapefruit and mint.

Excellent Littlemill, probably the best of the new Archives trio. Well done for both Whiskybase and the CasQueteers. Around € 130, but sadly sold out as far as I can tell.

Score: 91/100


Like the Port Ellen 1983, this Glen Grant 1972 was bottled in 2012 and released by Maltbarn just recently. Like the neighbouring Caperdonich 1972, it’s one of the old delights that seem to have disappeared from the market almost entirely.

 

Glen Grant 1972/2012 MaltbarnGlen Grant 40 yo 1972 (51,6%, Maltbarn 2012, sherry cask, 49 btl.)

Nose: the joys of old whisky. Different kinds of fruit jams (apricots and greengages), mixed with wonderful beehive notes (pollen, beeswax, honeycomb) and fine polished oak. Very light resinous notes, as well as a minty freshness and cinnamon. Quite brilliant. Mouth: spicier, with a faint oaky bitterness, but luckily there’s still plenty of fruity sweetness. Oranges and yellow plums. Fruit cake. Honey pastry and beeswax. Evolves on Earl Grey teas. Finish: fruit tea indeed. Long, honeyed, with mild tannins considering the age. A little aniseed in the very end.

Yes, I love this profile. Just a handful of bottles left, I guess. These Glen Grant 1972’s have become expensive but they’re still wonderful. We should be thankful someone can still offer them. Around € 400.

Score: 92/100


No, I didn’t win the lottery that was used to randomly assign bottles of this Karuizawa 1984 cask #3663 to potential buyers. I think The Whisky Exchange came up with a pretty fair solution for the problem of high demand that has become hard to avoid with Karuizawa releases.

On the other hand, I think this is mostly a solution for the problem of high server load, which most online retailer are not capable of handling. Buying Karuizawa has always been a lottery, maybe not openly so, but a lottery of getting information and being awake at the right moment nonetheless.

 

Karuizawa 1984 cask 3663 for TWEKaruizawa 29 yo 1984 (56,8%, OB for The Whisky Exchange 2013, first fill sherry cask #3663, +/- 250 btl.)

Nose: quite meaty at first, and full of oriental wood as well. Cedar oak and polished sandalwood all over. Roasted notes, some damp earth and wet leafs, cigars and cinnamon bark. Used leather. Faint asphalt / rubber too. Dark tea and liquorice. Mouth: starts on lots of plum syrup and cloves, black cherries, coffee beans, toffee and dark cocoa bars with raisins inside. Some sourness as well, in between a leafy sourness (tobacco), medicinal acidity and citrus. Aniseed. Charred oak and coal smoke. Nutmeg. Finish: very long, spicy and sour, with plenty of sweet oak and coffee.

Very big, charred, dry & sour Karuizawa. With all this power, it’s clear that it misses some of the elegance and perfectly layered complexity of other bottlings. Lottery price: around € 400. Thanks for the sample, Joeri!

Score: 91/100


Compass BoxCompass Box Delilah’s is an homage to Delilah’s, Mike Miller’s legendary punk rock whisky bar in Chicago, to celebrate the bar’s 20th anniversary in 2013. The late Michael Jackson called it the most important bar in America.

Delilah’s is a blended whisky, developed by John Glaser and Mike Miller as an expression of their shared vision on great whisky. It’s a mix of 50% malt whisky (our guess would be Longmorn and Teaninich) and 50% grain whisky from Cameronbridge. The blend was aged in ‘experimental’ new American oak barrels and rejuvenated American oak hogsheads.

Funny remark: the press release claims it was created to be perfect served as a shot with a beer. That’s not how we enjoy our whisky, but let’s try it anyway.

 

 

Compass Box Delilah'sDelilah’s 20th Anniversary
(40%, Compass Box 2013, 6324 btl.)

Nose: truckloads of vanilla, sweet cereals (Honey Pops) and something of a fruit syrup. Peach, a little mango. Apple and lemon sweets. Hints of white chocolate. Lots of barley sugars with subtle new oak spices. Mouth: smooth and really fruity again. Pretty much the same creamy vanilla, honey and biscuits. Not too soft at 40%. Gentle spices again and no harsh grainy notes. It lacks a little complexity but it’s well composed. Finish: more grainy notes now, hints of grated coconut and a gentle oaky dryness.

It’s a fun whisky, easy to drink and quite undemanding. That’s exactly what they were aiming for, I guess. A perfect card player’s whisky. Around € 70.

Score: 84/100


Ezra Brooks 15 years

24 Jun 2014 | * USA

Ezra Brooks is a sour mash Kentucky straight bourbon. It was first produced in the 1950’s by the Medley distillery in Owensboro, Kentucky. The brand has been sold a number of times and today it is marketed by Luxco and distilled by Heaven Hill Distilleries (Elijah Craig, Evan Williams, Parkers Heritage, Bernheim Original, Georgia Moon, Rittenhouse…).A “rare old sippin’ whiskey” according to the label. While it was typically bottled at 90 proof, this one is an older version bottled in the 1970’s at 101 proof (50,5%).

Nowadays the brand has degraded a little, with a 12yo and a cinnamon flavoured version as the top expressions, but back then it was a premium bourbon.

 

 

Ezra Brooks 15 yearsEzra Brooks 15 yo (101 proof, OB 1970’s, Italian import)

Nose: quite superb, almost a sherried bourbon. Dried prunes, figs, quite some coffee and milk chocolate… Baked apple and cinnamon sticks. Cigar leaves. Lots of nutty notes as well as waxed furniture. Mint, eucalyptus and pine resin (I think this cures a blocked nose). Verbena and other herbs. Excellent complexity. Very oaky but this is just great. Mouth: really herbal. At first there are still fruity notes (apple and plums) but they quickly make place for cardamom, mint, cinnamon and pepper. Some balsamic notes, then also gentian, heavy liquorice and a medicinal (cough syrup) theme. Bittersweet burnt caramel. Makes me think of the lovely Fernet Branca and other vermouth. Overinfused chamomile tea. Finish: long and dry, spicy oaky notes and a vague sweetness.

A lovely bourbon really. Dried fruits and big oaky notes, up to the point where it becomes medicinal. Rarely seen in auctions but one to watch. Thanks Johan.

Score: 90/100


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  • Tony: I wonder if the rest of the cask is the TWE 1981 just released with no cask number (and a similar though not identical strength)...
  • john marrinan: That is true, but to all intents and purposes a score of 87 is the same as a score of 90. I wouldn't be surprised if some of the maniacs scored it the
  • WhiskyNotes: It's not so much a matter of trusting a score as it is a matter of being able to relate to it.

Coming up

  • Langatun Old Bear 2009 peated
  • Miltonduff 2005 (DT #837112)
  • Clynelish 1997 (Liquid Art)
  • Clynelish 1997 (Whisky Mercenary)
  • Clynelish 1997 (Maltbarn)
  • Laphroaig An Cuan Mor
  • Fettercairn 1990 (Liquid Library)
  • Yamazaki 12 Year Old
  • Tomatin 1997 (Liquid Library)

1734 notes by Ruben

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