Single malt whisky - tasting notes

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


Oban 21 Year Old

03 Jan 2014 | Oban

The last Oban I’ve tried was like three years ago. It’s not a distillery which makes a lot of noise. This Oban 21 Years, a natural cask strength version, was matured in rejuvenated American Oak and second-fill ex-Bodega casks.

 

Oban 21 YearsOban 21 yo
(58,5%, OB 2013, 2860 btl.)

Nose: nice sweet toffee and buttery pastry notes at first. Honey. Maybe sugarcane. Then going towards waxy notes, grasses and finally also full-blown coastal notes like dried seaweed. Some leafy notes and mint. Hints of linseed oil and cinnamon as well. A great maritime nose, nicely balanced with sweetness. Mouth: again sweet and honeyed at the beginning, with some vanilla, but quickly turning spicy and surprisingly salty, while retaining its oily character. Mint chocolates. Dried citrus peel. Liquorice and ginger. Walnuts. Finish: long and slightly tangy. Salty and spicy, with brine but also nice echoes of fruits.

I really liked this one for its coastalness, sweetness and a special je-ne-sais-quoi that sets it apart from other coastal distilleries. One of the better value offerings in the 2013 selection. Around € 280.

Score: 91/100


Best whiskies of 2013

Happy New Year to everyone!

When looking at last year’s statistics, it has been a good year for this little blog. An increase of 28% in terms of unique visitors and almost twice the number of page views (well over 2 million now).

GlenDronach is the most popular distillery again, with Ardbeg now in second place. Among the specific drams, after four years, Laphroaig Triple Wood has lost some of its popularity, and Johnnie Walker ‘The Gold Route’ is now the most visited review (by far), followed by Ardbeg Galileo and Glenmorangie Ealanta. The Johnnie Walker Red Label vs. Black Label is also popular.

Other popular pages were the overview of Diageo’s Special Releases and my article Whisky is dying that has been read by more than 6.000 people. I won’t be looking back at trends of the past year, as I feel I already summarized them in this article. 2013 was simply another year with prices rising out of proportion, declining stocks of old whisky, more No Age Statement whiskies and lowering individuality among modern drams. I fear these trends will dominate 2014 as well.

 

Karuizawa 1964 cask #3603 for PolandHere are my highlights of the whisky year that was 2013 (only counting new releases):

 

 

If you spend hundreds, even thousands of euros a bottle, quality is still available, but in my opinion the real problem is in the category just below: whiskies that are expensive but still accessible to regular people with ‘normal’ budgets. People that aren’t looking for wealth solutions…

Some figures to explain what I mean. The last couple of years, my personal maximum had been around € 200 a bottle, for truly exceptional whisky. This year, it was around € 250-300. I simply can’t justify paying more, no matter what the quality is like. The thing is, in 2011-2012 I could still buy my favourite whiskies of the year, scoring 95 points back then. In 2013 though, the best I could get for my (higher) budget was whisky of 91-92 points. I guess everyone will see this decline, no matter how you set your personal limits.

Let’s also mention my highlights of this ‘affordable premium’ category:

Other highlights are of course the ever expanding list of great (but easy to miss) Karuizawa expressions, the very good (and plentiful) GlenDronachs, the middle-aged Bowmores, and a few surprising outsiders like the Strathmill 22 yo 1991 from Asta Morris which probably gave you the best whisky for money this year. Let’s see what 2014 brings. Slàinte!

Tags: , ,

We’re seeing a lot of single cask Kavalan releases these days, bottled for different retailers around the world, mostly #S060821… casks. There’s cask #S060821049 that received a Gold medal in the recent Malt Maniacs Awards, sister cask #…047 bottled for LMdW among others and this #…045 for the Belgian whisky shop TastToe.

It’s quite surprising they are all said to be natural strength yet exactly 57,8%. Maybe Taiwan allows of higher deviations for alcohol measuring, and printing the same tube is cheaper? Or maybe the processes are meticulously executed, the Asian way.

While Kavalan’s bottles and tubes don’t mention ages or vintages directly, this information can be decoded from cask numbers and bottling codes. For instance #S060821045: S for Sherry, distilled 21st of August 2006, and the 45th barrel that day. The sticker at the back mentions the bottling date and hour, so you can deduct the age (just below 7 years in this case).

 

 

Kavalan Solist sherry for TastToe #S060821045Kavalan Solist sherry 2006 (57,8%, OB for TastToe 2013, sherry cask #S060821045)

Nose: an intense sherry nose which starts exclusively on polished oak, with hints of turpentine / oil paint varnish and eucalyptus. Really elegant. After a while these notes disappear and it grows wider, with lots of raisins and cherry jam. Redcurrants, plum juice and mirabelles. Cassis. Very fruity although the polished oak remains present, and brings some cinnamon and walnut skins. Mouth: again very intense. Balsamic notes alongside strawberries, black cherries and rum and raisins. Bananas flambéed. Prunes and blackberries. Big spices (cloves, ginger, cardamom, cinnamon bark) up to the point where it becomes velvety and rather tannic (although I’ve had worse from Kavalan in this respect). Dark chocolate, coffee and whiffs of menthol. Finish: long, dry, oaky, with bitter chocolate and herbs.

A sherry powerhouse, very dense and highly influenced by the wood. Impressive for a 6 year-old, I guess most of the quality is achieved by selecting an excellent cask. The dry palate made me hesitate to go up to 90 points, but the nose is just too good. Around € 150.

Score: 90/100


This is 16 years old Strathisla 1970, bottled by Gordon & MacPhail as a semi-official release for the Italian market. The spirit was distilled 29.09.1970 and bottled 29.06.1987 at natural strength. There’s also a version at 40%.

Intertrade was a company run by Ferdinando “Nadi” Fiori in Rimini, Italy. He owned the restaurant “Taverna degli Artisti” (famous among politicians, actors, directors… back then) and started in the 1970′s as one of the first Italian importers of whisky. He was one of the pioneers, not just for whisky which wasn’t very popular back then, but also for concepts like ‘cask strength’ bottlings.

He had excellent contacts with Gordon & MacPhail and sourced a lot of his bottlings from their warehouses. Most of his legendary releases (e.g. the Port Ellen 15 yo 1969) were bottled in the 1980′s. Later, Intertrade was restarted as Turatello for a short time until it evolved to High Spirits which is still active in whisky & rum as we speak. Mr. Fiori turned 70 this year by the way.

 

 

Strathisla 1970 G&M for Intertrade 16yoStrathisla 16 yo 1970 (61,3%, Gordon & MacPhail for Intertrade 1987, sherry wood)

Nose: dried prunes and black cherries. Hints of walnut liqueur. Coffee and chocolate. It’s got the old-style sherry character, including the hints of beef stock and jerky. Some earthy, slightly sulphury notes too. Mouth: very raisiny, with loads of dark chocolate. Mint. Star anise and cloves. Something of over-infused tea and strong liquorice. Quite heavyweight and a tad too bitterish and dirty for my taste. Slightly better when diluted but still… Finish: not too long, herbal, peppery and chocolaty.

The sherry is all over this whisky. Robust, dry and herbal, including an old-school dirtiness. Love it or hate it, I guess. Thanks Jens.

Score: 85/100


Categories

Calendar

September 2014
M T W T F S S
« Aug    
1234567
891011121314
15161718192021
22232425262728
2930  

Coming up

  • Tomatin 1988 (Malts of Scotland)
  • Aberfeldy 12 Year Old
  • GlenDronach 1994 PX cask #3397
  • GlenDronach 1994 PX cask #326
  • GlenDronach 1993 Oloroso cask #494
  • Blair Athol 2002 (Hepburn's Choice)
  • Fettercairn Fior
  • Bowmore Laimrig 15yo
  • Ben Nevis 2002 (Port cask #334)

1601 notes by Ruben

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