Single malt whisky - tasting notes

The General is an uncommon blend. In fact it’s a ‘blend of two blends’. It consists of casks from two parcels, of unknown provenance but both containing malt and grain whisky, blended at a very young age and then matured together for many years. One parcel was 33 years old (ex-sherry butts), the other supposedly around 40 years old (ex-bourbon barrels).

These super-mature blends were recently offered to Compass Box and John Glaser worked to find the right balance of both. The General has a very high price tag for a blend, but remember it’s an old, ‘small batch’ blend and the story is just as awesome as the packaging.

 

Compass Box The GeneralThe General
(53,4%, Compass Box 2013, 1698 btl.)

Nose: a rich, old nose with plenty of finesse. Reminiscent of a 1970’s Glenfarclas. Lots of polished furniture, dried figs and toffee. Medium sherried. Sultanas and red fruits. Some mint and cinnamon. A faint whiff of toasted oak in the background. Fruit cake. Hints of coconut. Complex and elegant. Mouth: some sweet fruits, oranges and a gingery kick at first. Soft floral notes. A little varnish. Aniseed. From the nose you would never have guessed this was a blend, but now the grains are louder. Soft pepper and nutmeg. Fades on lemons and eucalyptus. Finish: medium long, very minty with a slightly peppery heat and zingy oak.

There’s something aristocratic about this blend. It has a lot of personality and almost manages to make you forget it’s not a single malt. Around € 230.

Score: 90/100


It’s been a while, but you might remember my report of a legendary birthday party in Ostend. This is one of the morning-after drams. There were too many beauties for one evening, so we had a couple of “leftovers” the next day right after breakfast. Some party…

It’s a Clynelish 1974 bottled by Signatory Vintage.

 

 

Clynelish 1974 Signatory Vintage #2570Clynelish 27 yo 1974 (55,7%, Signatory Vintage 2001, cask #2570, 229 btl.)

Nose: starts waxy and mineral, a little closed even, but then moves to bags of guava. Some oranges and apples as well. Dried yellow flowers, hints of charcoal and a bit of library dust. Faint peaty notes and leather in the background. Quite great. Mouth: perfect balance of peat and fruits again. Lots of waxy and fatty notes, some frankly salty notes and hints of mustard. Fresh herbal notes. Holding the middle between Clynelish and Brora, but the fruity hints that keep coming back are fantastic. Finish: long, slightly resinous, with lingering fruits, salted liquorice and hints of pepper.

Another great 1970’s Clynelish. Waxy, peaty and slightly farmy, but showing a big fruitiness as well. Just great. Rarely seen in auctions.

Score: 93/100


Auchentoshan has a small series of 1970’s expressions. There has been a 1975 bourbon, a 1977 sherry and now this 1979 from oloroso sherry butts. The casks have been filled in October 1979 and bottled after more than 32 years, at natural strength.

 

 

Auchentoshan 1979Auchentoshan 32 yo 1979 (50,5%, OB 2012, first fill Oloroso butts, 1000 btl.)

Nose: very aromatic. It’s nice to see a classic sherry influence alongside the fresh, citrusy spirit. Lovely tangerines, pink grapefruits and passion fruits. Orange zest. Moving towards golden raisins and bramble jam. Beeswax and leather. Cinnamon sticks and mint. Great stuff, hinting towards the fruity profile of BenRiach 1976. Mouth: a little light but very elegant. Again a lovely bright fruitiness, the sherry goodness is certainly not overpowering the delicate spirit. Honey, orange marmalade and pink grapefruit, before turning to cigar leaf, dried figs and chocolate. Fruit cake. Then quite some tannins, nutmeg and liquorice, a little on the dry side. Finish: long, again fairly dry, with mostly liquorice, spices and tobacco standing out.

A delicious Auchentoshan. I love its subtlety and bright character combined with the juicy sherry. I would have gone higher if only the oakiness on the palate were a little less pronounced. Expensive though: € 400.

Score: 91/100


 

Laphroaig 1998 - The Whisky AgencyLaphroaig 15 yo 1998
(52,7%, The Whisky Agency ‘Reflections’ 2013, refill hogshead, 261 btl.)

Nose: clean and sharpish Laphroaig. Very coastal (seaweed, wet beach, some smoked fish). Hints of antiseptics. Some camphor. Wet wool and hints of canvas. Little fruitiness or roundness, apart from some lemon in the background. Ferns. Mouth: oily, chiselled and focused again, though sweeter and definitely rounder than on the nose. Marzipan and more fruits. Salted almonds. Liquorice. Kippers. Again quite medicinal. Finish: very long, peaty, grapefruity and salty.

A Laphroaig of the slightly sharper type. Just really faultless. Not that we’re surprised, mind you. Around € 110, still available in most shops.

Score: 88/100


Cadenhead has a nice revival with its retro Small Batch series. They’ve got stock from 102 different distilleries, ranging from 2 to nearly 50 years old. It’s no surprise they have plenty of things in the pipeline, a 40 years old Glenfiddich for example…

 

mortlach-1992-cadenhead-small-batchMortlach 21 yo 1992 (55,2%, Cadenhead Small Batch 2013, sherry cask, 228 btl.)

Nose: the fruity kind of sherried Mortlach. Pears, raisins, fresh figs. Candied red apples. Caramelized peanuts and almonds. There’s a spicy tingle as well as a balsamic edge. Milk chocolate in the background. Leather. Hardly any meaty notes, no dirtiness either. Mouth: now the slightly heavy character of Mortlach moves forward, although the fruity sherry is still there to support it. Raspberries, Mon Cheri, a little cassis jam. Cinnamon. Chocolate and leathery notes again. Kirsch. Liquorice and more woody dryness towards the finish. A faint hint of eucalyptus. I like it even more with a drop of water. Finish: dry, with orange zest, cough syrup and chocolate.

Very good, actually one of the best Mortlach expressions I’ve come across lately. Around € 80, but it seems to be sold out.

Score: 88/100


The regular Sheep Dip is a vatted malt, a marriage of 16 malt whiskies brought together by Richard Paterson. The name refers to a time when farmers hid their homemade whisky in casks that said “Sheep Dip” (a kind of fungicide for sheep) to avoid having to pay taxes to the revenue man.

This Sheep Dip 1999 Amoroso is a funny experiment. The whisky inside had been matured in Scotland for 3 years in ex-bourbon hogsheads, and was then shipped to Jerez, Spain – the capital of the Sherry triangle. The renowned Bodegas Romate poured it into Amoroso sherry butts (a sweetened type of Oloroso). Originally it was only supposed to stay there for two years, but something went wrong, the cask was forgotten about and the whisky stayed there for an extra 9 years.

It’s not Scotch whisky anymore, as SWA rules dictate Scotch whisky needs to spend its whole maturation period in Scotland. Needless to say Andalusia’s climate is slightly different from Scotland, which makes this experiment quite interesting.

 

 

Sheep Dip 1999 AmorosoSheep Dip 1999 (41,8%, OB 2012, Amoroso Oloroso, matured in Spain)

Nose: utterly sweet, like a freshly opened bag of strawberry marshmallows. Amarena cherries. Plenty of vanilla as well as some honey. Limoncello. A buttery hint of white chocolate. Bramble preserve. Very candied. Mouth: very sweet again, with lots of marshmallow notes, big big vanilla and something of bubblegum. Pears in syrup. Raspberry candy. Toffee sweetness. Soaked raisins and sweet rhubarb compote. Liqueur bonbons. And pretty much everything that you can find in a candy store. Finish: the same overwhelming sweetness, although there’s a growing spicy warmth in the background.

This is almost like a fruit liqueur or a marshmallow infusion. A children’s dram? No seriously, it’s really not too bad as a post-dinner drink, even though it’s unlike any other whisky. It’s great to convince inexperienced whisky drinkers, especially women, but you shouldn’t approach it like a traditional single malt whisky. Around € 45.

Score: 78/100


This post has only one purpose: I bought a bottle of this Talisker 25 Year Old back in 2007 (when prices still allowed you to buy a blind bottle once in a while) and I’ve never got the chance to taste it. Now I bought a sample and could find out if it was a smart purchase. Thanks Jeroen.

Talisker 25 Year Old is a classic and in 2006 it was still bottled at cask strength, whereas the latest version (bottled 2011) was brought down to Talisker’s traditional strength of 45,8%. It was matured in refill American oak.

I suppose this (almost) yearly release is now finished and replaced by randomly aged special releases like the recent Talisker 27 Year Old 1985? It’s perfectly possible that the crisis of the 1980’s brought lower production and provided insufficient stocks to maintain strict 20/25/30 statements.

 

Talisker 25 years 2006Talisker 25 yo
(56,9%, OB 2006, 4860 btl.)

Nose: in fact this equals the complexity of the 27 Year Old. Relatively fruity (quinces, damsons, hints of passion fruits) before the peat arrives – gently and balanced. Some floral notes even. Some lovely dusty, earthy notes in the background. Walnuts and cinnamon. A faint Brora-esk waxiness. Coastal hints (seaweed, damp wood) and ethereal, medicinal notes too. Very subtle vanilla and lemon if you add a drop of water. Mouth: very powerful, assertive and slightly sharp. Peaty and peppery, with lots of liquorice and lemon. Really salty. Plenty of smoke and rooty notes. Hints of coffee in the background. Then the fruits emerge: apples and raisins. Growing spicier and hotter. Again not unlike some Brora. Finish: very long, with deep smoke, spices and zesty lemon.

Personally I may not have paid enough attention to these 20yo and 25yo expressions of Talisker. They are so beautiful. I bought mine for € 120 (a lot of money back then) – now easily € 300 if you can find one. I wish I bought more.

Score: 91/100


Official Highland Park releases tend to be sherry matured, but independent bottlers like Gordon & MacPhail manage to show bourbon oak version as well. Today a 2001 vintage in the recently redesigned Cask Strength series.

 

 

Highland Park 2001 (Gordon & MacPhail)Highland Park 10 yo 2001 (57,7%, Gordon & MacPhail ‘Cask Strength’ 2012, first fill bourbon barrel #2998)

Nose: juicy barley notes, lots of pear drops and vanilla. Akin towards tropical fruits, with a fresh floral note as well. Rather candied, modern, bright and fairly simple. A shy smoky note in the background. Mouth: sweet and fruity at first, but a toffee sweetness and a Starbucks white chocolate mocha take over. Very malty. Also strawberry notes – funny but nice. A bit of liquorice in the end, as well as a subtle zestiness. Finish: medium long, still sweet but more peppery as well. Still a faint smoky note.

An original and enjoyable Highland Park. Youngish and fairly simple, but the rather unique combination of flavours makes it good value for money. Around € 55.

Score: 85/100


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Coming up

  • Tomatin 1997 (Whisky-Fässle)
  • Littlemill 1988 (Liquid Treasures)
  • Tomatin Cuatro series
  • Ben Nevis 2002 (Port cask #334)
  • Cardhu 18 Year Old
  • Old Pulteney 1990 (lightly peated)

1621 notes by Ruben

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