Single malt whisky - tasting notes

We already tried this Linkwood 1984 at Spirits in the Sky in November, but it took us some time to get a second sample to confirm. It’s part of the latest Early flying series from The Whisky Agency.



Linkwood 1984 - The Whisky AgencyLinkwood 30 yo 1984 (49,2%, The Whisky Agency ‘Early flying’ 2014, refill hogshead, 174 btl.)

Nose: smooth, fruity nose. Honeydew melon, apple and a bit of peach jam. Green banana. Whiffs of verbena. Buttercups. It’s quite complex but also quite compact. Old-style polished furniture. Hints of mint and leafy notes in the background. Mouth: smooth and fruity again, but less emphatically so, with more oily notes and dryness now. Tobacco leaves. Some funnier notes as well, something in between potpourri and marihuana (reminds me of the undisclosed 60 year-old from Master of Malt). Herbal honey, mint liqueur, green tea. Settles on oranges and apricot. Beautiful mix of fruity notes and soft herbs. Finish: long, oaky, with lots of oranges and pepper.

It’s funny how this reminded me of another whisky that’s twice as old. Now that I think of it, that could have been Linkwood as well. In any case: this is a nice, complex and unique whisky. Around € 225.

Score: 91/100

Spirit of Freedom 30 Year Old is a blend produced by J & A Mitchell (the owners of Springbank), to commemorate the 700th anniversary of the Battle of Bannockburn in 1314.

It is composed of 75% malt whisky (from five distilleries) and 25% grain whisky – a mix of bourbon and sherry casks.



Spirit of Freedom 30 YearsSpirit of Freedom 30 yo (46%, Springbank 2014, 2014 btl.)

Nose: herbal and floral at first. Heather honey. Becomes wider and sweeter, with nougat but also slightly exotic fruits (guava, banana). Nicely waxy, with some coconut oils. Mineral touches as well, it’s easy to detect some Springbank in there. Mouth: creamy and surprisingly fruity. Slightly exotic fruits indeed: pineapple, orange and papaya. Balanced herbal notes and waxed furniture. Vanilla. Honey. Pretty old-school, how nice to find this in a blend. Hardly any grainy notes. Finish: long, some grains now, hints of oak as well, but also fruity sweetness.

A very nice surprise, especially for a blended whisky. Well composed, interestingly old-style and very reasonably priced: around € 110.

Score: 89/100

I try to get a wide variety of distilleries on this website, but Bunnahabhain is pretty much incontournable when talking about independent Islay releases. While most of the other Islay whiskies are hard to get for independent bottlers, Bunna is still readily available.

Asta Morris’ latest release is a Bunnahabhain 1987.



Bunnahabhain 1987 | Asta MorrisBunnahabhain 27 yo 1987
(50,8%, Asta Morris 2014, AM039, 124 btl.)

Nose: punchy and coastal, with some brine and various oily notes. Leathery notes. Grasses. There’s a vague aromatic sweetness in the background, but not enough to call it fruity. Well, grapefruit maybe. Soft mint and a faint touch of smoke. Mouth: rich, much more fruity now, with less austerity and mineral notes. Ripe apple, some honey and berries, a little tangerine and banana. Still some earthy hints in the back, a little pepper and salt. Very rich. Finish: medium long, still quite sweet and fruity, almost candied with a mild earthy note and  brine.

Excellent Bunnahabhain (like most other 1987’s I must add). It combines a punchy, coastal side with a big fruitiness on the palate. Around € 170.

Score: 90/100

Most of the Private Stock bottlings from The Whisky Agency go by pretty unnoticed, simply because they’re in high demand and yields are usually very low. This recent Glenrothes 1980 still seems to be available though.



Glenrothes 1980 - TWA Private StockGlenrothes 34 yo 1980
(48,5%, The Whisky Agency ‘Private Stock’ 2014, refill hogshead, 180 btl.)

Nose: a relatively light nose, starting on honey and almonds and slowly developing a nice fruit basket. Butter pear, nectarine, malon, freshly squeezed oranges, soft hints of guava. Subtle waxy notes too. Classic old Speyside. Mouth: rather sweet and fruity again, with apples, peaches, papaya and a little tangerine. Soft hints of cinnamon and ginger, enough to add depth but not drying. Quite oily, with hints of beeswax and polished oak. Floral honey. Finish: long, with a lime & mint combo and some resinous oak.

Really good, very bright, fruity and easy-going. Maybe not the most complex whisky ever, but it’s a rare example of the aged style of this Speyside distillery. Around € 290.

Score: 89/100

Merry Christmas everyone!

Having another Ardbeg 1974 single cask is always a treat, but with only 76 bottles this is also one of the rarest 1974’s around. Cask 3328 was released for the Italian market in September 2006.


Ardbeg 1974 cask #3328 for ItalyArdbeg 32 yo 1974
(53,5%, OB for Italy 2006, bourbon cask #3328, 76 btl.)

Nose: starts a bit heavy and heady, it’s definitely not a softie. Sharp lemon zest, walnut skins and plenty of medicinal notes. Brings along some sweeter notes like sugared almonds, herbal honey and wax candles. Great evolution and even better with a drop of water: it becomes smoother with lots of vanilla. Mouth: very powerful again. Huge sooty notes, hot ashes and a kippery side. Leather. Then some sweet and herbal notes, becoming slightly bitter as in herbal liqueur or cough syrup. Dark roast coffee. I prefer this with a few drops of water again, it seems a little unbalanced at full strength. Finish: very long, with vanilla notes, earthy peat and hints of grapefruit.

Another wonderful Ardbeg 1974, but it takes some fiddling with water to find the optimal strength to unleash its magic. Around € 2300 if you find one.

Score: 94/100

Islay barley, from Bruichladdich’s own Lorgba field at the Octomore farm, was used to create this Octomore 06.3. It was distilled in 2009 and bottled earlier this year.

A massive 258 ppm of phenols, that’s almost 100 ppm more than the fourth or fifth edition of this dram. The world’s most heavily peated whisky at the moment.



Octomore 06.3 - Islay Barley - 258ppmOctomore 06.3 ‘Islay Barley’ (64%, OB 2014, 258 ppm, 15.000 btl.)

Nose: surprisingly farmy, something that I didn’t get from previous releases. Wet animal fur, hay and wet leaves. I also get thyme, grapes and burnt heather. Hints of yeast. Lots of dark bread crust as well as some vanilla pastry. Hazelnuts. Quite nice, more flavoursome than you would expect from a peat monster. Mouth: very peaty and ashy of course and overall maybe a bit alcoholic. Burning wood. Hints of warm vanilla in the background. Herbal liqueurs. Sharp grapefruity notes too. Salty liquorice and salted nuts. Not very complex but quite enjoyable nonetheless. Finish: very long, tarry, peppery and quite a sweet hint of chocolate and vanilla.

There’s a good deal of flavour in this whisky, despite its high strength and monstrous peat level. Around € 180.

Score: 87/100

Remember the rather wonderful Irish single malt 1991 – The Nectar of the Daily Drams? Belgo-Malaysian bottler Eiling Lim selected a similar cask.

It’s produced at the same distillery, from the same 1991 batch of casks. We’ve heard it was also double distilled (!) as well as being peated spirit. Peated Bushmills, almost.

I happen to have bottles of both, so I can compare them directly.


Irish single malt 1991 - Eiling LimIrish single malt 22 yo 1991 (48,6%, Eiling Lim 2014, 116 btl.)

Nose: my first impression was a slightly bigger peatiness, but this levels out over time. This one is maybe slightly less sweet on the nose, but it does have a clear buttery / toffee note that the TNOTDD doesn’t have. Similar fruitiness (pear, maracuya, mango, banana) alongside the subtle peat and ever so light medicinal notes (menthol). Mouth: almost identical to the other cask, hard to set apart. A sweet, tropical fruitiness mixed with subtle peat that seems older than it actually is (1960’s Bowmore anyone?). Minty notes, a little walnut. Fades on creamy mocha. Finish: long, slightly earthy, still very fruity with a soft peppery touch.

You could say 2014 was a year of excellent independent Irish releases (both peated and non-peated), thanks to the Teeling family and a couple of bottlers with great noses. A must-try.

Score: 92/100

This Inchgower 1975 was bottled in 2013 but it hasn’t been released by Maltbarn until just now. It’s a strategy we saw before from this bottler, avoiding the moment when everyone seems to launch them and selling it when it’s not available any more.


Inchgower 1975 - MaltbarnInchgower 38 yo 1975 (47,3%, Maltbarn 2013, bourbon cask, 54 btl.)

Nose: starts waxy, with paraffin, linseed oil and polished oak, as well as some mint. Green apples, later also warmer fruits like melon, pear and pineapple. Soft passion fruits too. Hay. Subtle flowery notes. I love this kind of profile. Mouth: rather mellow and creamy. Vanilla custard, honey and malty notes, alternating with tropical fruits like tangerine. Soft spices and herbs (ginger, chamomile, a pinch of salt) as well as some citrus green tea. Finish: long, warm, on malty notes with oaky touches.

Very good Inchgower, on par with sister casks released in 2011-2013, in a warm, waxy and fruity style that’s hard to find these days. Around € 250.

Score: 90/100



September 2015
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Coming up

  • Bowmore Mizunara cask finish
  • Irish Single Malt 16yo 1999 (The Nectar of the Daily Drams)
  • Bunnahabhain 1987 (Maltbarn)
  • Glen Garioch 1993 (Maltbarn)
  • Glenlivet 42yo (Cadenhead)
  • Blended Malt Extra Old (Whisky Agency)
  • Woodford Reserve Master's Collection
  • Teeling 26yo Vintage Reserve
  • Springbank 2001 vintage

1865 notes by Ruben

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