Single malt whisky - tasting notes

McGibbon’s Provenance is a series of the recently halved bottler Douglas Laing. Bottlings in this series are labeled according to the particular distillation seasons through Spring / Summer / Autumn / Winter. I could be wrong, but I’ve always had the impression the Provenance series contained more accessible, less outstanding whiskies as their other ranges.

This Miltonduff 2005 was distilled November 2005 and bottled during the Autumn of 2012.

 

Miltonduff 2005 McG ProvenanceMiltonduff 7 yo 2005
(46%, Douglas Laing McGibbon’s Provenance 2012, sherry butt, ref. 9239)

Nose: seems older than the age would suggest. Medium sherried, with spices (chilli and clove) and aromatic oranges (both sweet juices and zesty orange peel). Sweet malt and caramelized peanuts underneath. Some honey as well. Mouth: quite rich again, with raisins and this chilli theme again. Return of the caramelized nuts, now also chocolates with orange filling. Hints of cinnamon sugar. Finish: medium long, suddenly drier. Oak, leather and dark chocolate.

Simply a very pleasant and relatively mature sherried youngster. I’ve seen few disappointing Miltonduffs and even at this very young age they can be convincing. Around € 50.

Score: 84/100


The oldest official bottling of Lagavulin whisky ever released, the Lagavulin 30yo. There are actually two different versions; the Lagavulin 30yo (52.6%, OB, 2340 Bts.) which is destined for the UK and Europe, as well as the Lagavulin 30yo (54.1%, OB) which was available in the USA and international markets.

 

Lagavulin 30 yearsLagavulin 30 yo 1976
(52,6%, OB 2006, 2340 btl.)

Nose: very subtle, at first it doesn’t even seem to be peaty. Immediately waxy, with some shoe polish and lip balm. A little heather. Moving towards sweeter notes: almonds, passion fruits, pineapple, gooseberries… Almost a tropical fruitiness! No heat and probably only half of its power left, but so great. Just soft smoke in the background. Mouth: stronger and peatier, with lots of spices from the oak (pepper, ginger, cardamom). Lots of citrus fruits now (grapefruit, oranges). Almonds again. Finish: long, smoky, with a salty twist in the very end.

Great to see the Lagavulin smokiness coupled to a nice fruitiness, something you rarely see in Lagavulin. I remember to have bought a bottle for my brother in law, back in 2008. Around € 180 in Spain at the time, now around € 1500 from TWE. I guess he owes me a dram.

Score: 92/100


In the latest batch by Whisky-Fässle, there’s a new Bunnahabhain 1990. By the looks of it a similar cask to the previous one.

 

 

Bunnahabhain 1990 Whisky-FässleBunnahabhain 22 yo 1990
(52%, Whisky-Fässle 2013, sherry cask)

Nose: quite a lot of toasted bread to start with. Leather and soy sauce. Big jammy notes (raspberry / strawberry / figs), fading into balsamic notes. Fudge and caramel. Wee hints of sulphur and plastics as well. Maybe a little incense. First fill, high power sherry. Mouth: a sourish kind of sherry, with cough syrup, liquorice and herbal essences. Hints of resin and cloves. Galangal and gentian. Bitter oranges. Over the top in my opinion, I can’t think of many sherry bottlings as invasive as this one. Finish: long, sour and bitter as well now. Fernet-Branca springs to mind.

This could work as a digestive, I’m sure. As a savouring whisky, I prefer the previous Bunnahabhain 1990 from the same bottler. Around € 105.

Score: 79/100


The Balvenie 12 Year Old Single Barrel First Fill is a 2013 addition to The Balvenie’s range, a younger sibling to the 15 year old single cask. These are limited edition bottlings: it’s one of around 300 drawn from a single cask made from American white oak. The sample I purchased comes from the first cask to have hit the British market.

 

Balvenie 12 years Single BarrelBalvenie 12 yo Single Barrel (47,8%, OB 2013, first fill bourbon barrel #12742)

Nose: fresh, clean, sweet, modern, youngish. Quite cereally, with a big candied sweetness: pear drops and lemon candy. Vanilla. It’s not all sweetness though, as the new-sawn oak and accompanying spices (cinnamon, ginger) are clearly present. A light yeasty note as well. Mouth: on the light side, with similar flavours. Lots of malty notes, a little honey, some coconut. Baked apple and cinnamon sugar. Fades on gentle citrus zest and oak. Finish: a bit short. Citrusy and cereally. Ever more spicy notes as well.

The Balvenie has always had high standards, so it comes as no surprise this is a well-produced, smooth dram, but a slightly boring one as well. What would have been a nice profile for a standard 12 year-old, is just not enough to be bottled as a single cask. I can only assume it was deliberately kept simple and aimed at ‘single cask beginners’, hence hollowing out the single cask concept a little. Around € 50.

Score: 82/100


I get a lot of PR e-mails that are deleted as soon as they arrive. The majority are cocktail recipes that are said to be much better when made with this or that specific brand of whisk(e)y. Most of them seem to be related to American holidays, assuming the whole world lives up to Memorial Day or Kentucky Derby. The last one was about some barbecue professional, but hey, somewhere down the line he marinates meat with whiskey. This blog is not a lifestyle magazine, sorry!

 

Cutty Sark & AppletiserAnyway, sometimes the PR is done right. They’ve actually seen your website and they send you something you can use, even when it’s not my core business, so to speak: not just a recipe but a ready-made whisky cocktail. The other day Cutty Sark sent me a miniature of their newish Cutty Sark Storm, together with a can of Appletiser. It doesn’t seem to have a global distribution, so for those of you who don’t know the brand: it’s a sparkling apple juice soft drink, originally from South Africa.

 

I have to admit I didn’t know what to expect. I like a whiskey sour or a Blood & Sand, but this could be too sticky. Not true: both drinks are complementary. The Cutty Sark Storm is a vibrant blend with fruity notes of apple and gooseberries and these go well with the sparkling apple juice. Pineapple is highlighted as well. The benefit of using whisky instead of other mixers is the influence of the oak of course, which brings a certain dryness instead of making it excessively sweet. Taken with enough ice, a very refreshing combination indeed.


The Macallan 1824 series is in the eye of the storm when it comes to recent evolutions in the whisky industry. After years and years of telling customers that colour didn’t matter (as it could be faked) and that more mature was better, they are now claiming the opposite, releasing No Age Statement whiskies that are named after… their colour. Quoting the press release:

A whisky doesn’t need to be 30 years old to taste like a 30 year old.

Is The Macallan wrong? Not entirely at least. Of course the colour of a whisky – when not troubled by caramel – does tell us a few things about its maturation and possibly also its taste. And of course a 20 year-old can be as mature as a 30 year-old. But in the end it is a symptom of declining old stocks, thus a need for creative marketing in order to sell a younger spirit that tastes like older spirit, preferably at a higher price than the age would justify.

It’s a fact that consumer education (or confusion) is sometimes tricky, and focusing on colour may backfire as it’s not a linear element like age. Obviously using only first-fill sherry casks (like Ruby) will give you a lot of colour in no-time, but refill casks (part of the recipe of the other three) can be a lot more complex and elegant. Moreover, while the concept of colour sorting may work within the Macallan range, you will find other first-fill drams darker than Ruby sitting in the same shelf, with an old-fashioned (comforting) age statement as a bonus, and some of them at half the price.

Speaking of price. It’s easy to say older whisky is more expensive: it takes more investment, more care, and it’s more rare. But in this case, theoretically Ruby could be a younger mix than Sienna. On what grounds will they claim it should be more expensive? Because the distillery thinks it has a better taste?

Anyway it’s a complex matter – we’ve only scratched the surface here – and it’s not a move without risk for the distillery. Let’s see what the resulting whisky is like. The Macallan Ruby is the oldest darkest of the series, after Gold, Amber and Sienna. It is aged exclusively in first-fill Spanish oak sherry casks.

 

 

Macallan Ruby - 1824 seriesThe Macallan Ruby (43%, OB 2013, 1824 series, first-fill sherry casks)

Nose: overall quite delicate, it shows a nice profile but it’s a little shy. Notes of fresh figs, red plums and oranges. Baked apple with cinnamon. Rum & raisins. Dried apricots. Nice overtones of sharper citrus zest. It shows a light, youthful freshness rather than a mature body. Mouth: not too punchy, some honey and red berry notes but mostly spicy notes. Nutmeg, cinnamon, ginger and soft pepper. Soft tannins from the oak too. Still some zesty oranges and raisins, but less fruity than the nose suggested. Fades on toffee, chocolate and something of apricot syrup. Finish: quite long, spicy with oranges and lingering apricot.

The Macallan Ruby is a decent, modern dram but I wasn’t entirely convinced of its premium status. I’ve had NAS drams with a similar colour that had a fuller body and more juicy fruits on the palate. Hey, even an entry-level Macallan bottled in the 1990’s held more quality sherry inside. Around € 140 – too expensive in my opinion.

Score: 84/100


Glenlivet Nàdurra (Gaelic for natural) is matured in first fill ex-Bourbon American oak casks. Available since 2005 at 48% abv, a cask strength version was launched in 2006.

The cask strength Glenlivet Nàdurra is bottled in fairly small batches (which means this review may not be 100% representative for your specific bottle, but differences should be small). The batch indication on the labels tells us when it was bottled: 0512T stands for May 2012. The letter simply goes up with every batch: the first batch was 0606A and the newest batch seems to be 0712U.

 

Glenlivet Nadurra 16yo cask strengthGlenlivet 16 yo Nàdurra
(54,3%, OB 2012, batch 0512T)

Nose: very fresh, creamy and oaky in a nice way. Sweet oak, and truckloads of honey. Big vanilla notes, some melon, juicy pear and banana fruitiness. Candy sugar. White chocolate. Muscat grapes and hints of strawberry marshmallows. Gentle spices. Very bourbonny and seductive. Mouth: quite rich. Malty core, with sweet lemon juice, cooked apple and a bit of its peels as well. Citrus green tea. Soft hazelnuts. Lots of ginger and white pepper. Its oakiness is again really close to an actual bourbon, and I find its floral / potpourri notes a little disturbing at times. Finish: quite long, quite oaky. Aniseed and ginger.

This kind of hyperactive bourbon oak has its advantages and its drawbacks, I’m afraid. It’s seductive, fruity and spicy, but it balances on the edge of becoming potpourri-like and plankish. Nonetheless a good score due to a great nose. Around € 55.

Score: 86/100


Jura 1988 (Mo Òr)

14 Aug 2013 | Jura

Over the last two years we’ve seen a lot of Isle of Jura 1988 releases (sister cask #752 Archives to name just one). All really good. The one we’re having today was bottled back in 2010 in the premiumized Mo Òr collection.

It must have been one of the first bottlings from this batch of casks, and as far as I can see it’s also the only one reduced to 46%. Let’s see whether that has an effect.

 

Jura 1988 Mo Òr CollectionIsle of Jura 22 yo 1988
(46%, Mo Òr 2010, bourbon hogshead #756, 352 btl.)

Nose: of course similar to all its sister casks. Big notes of hay, leather and tobacco. Some waxed papers. Really farmy as well (stable aromas, horse dung), even more so than the others, or so it seems. Hints of exhaust fumes. Overripe oranges in the background. Some seaweed. Unusual but by now you know I really like this. Mouth: thick and oily, fairly peaty and peppery. Not harmed by the lower strength. Close to Islay whisky. Some resinous notes, salty liquorice and ginger. Dryness of walnuts. Tobacco and leather. Some lemon zest to round it off. Finish: long, quite herbal now. Still these notes of lemon zest.

I love these Brora-like casks of Jura 1988. This one combines tangy, herbal notes with an oily palate and the typical farmy notes. Around € 120.

Score: 90/100


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Coming up

  • Auchentoshan 15yo (Kintra)
  • Lagavulin 1997 Distillers Edition
  • Ben Nevis 1997 (Maltbarn)
  • Tomatin 1978 (Cadenhead / Nectar)
  • Aultmore 2007 (Daily Dram)
  • Karuizawa 45 Year Old (cask #2925)
  • Glengoyne 1999 (Palo Cortado)

1506 notes by Ruben

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