Single malt whisky - tasting notes

So far there has only been one ‘black label’ from The Whiskyman, a Caperdonich 1972. It is reserved for extraordinary releases, old whisky that is hard to come by.

Last Friday, at the start of the Lindores festival, a second black label was presented, this Bunnahabhain 1973. Four members of the Lindores whisky club (Dirk, Geert, Christophe and Dominiek a.k.a. ‘The Whiskyman’) have turned 40 years old this year and they selected this cask as their private birthday dram.

The fab four asked me to design the label, and their heads are on the label. Don’t worry though, I’ve spent hours removing the wrinkles, pimples and double chins, it’s now suited for the front row of any whisky cabinet. Just kidding guys, congratulations!

 

 

Bunnahabhain 1973 - The Birthday Dram - The WhiskymanBunnahabhain 40 yo 1973 (48,5%, The Whiskyman ‘Birthday dram’ 2013, 155 btl.)

Nose: utterly fruity. Ripe bananas, almost a trademark of Bunnahabhain 1968 vintages. Juicy pears, mango, apricot and pineapple. Light hints of coconut and Moscatel wine. Honey. Less mineral than the Bunnahabhain 1973 in the Archives series, although the nose is nicely coated with waxy notes. Mouth: sweet and fruity again, much in line with the nose. Full cases of bananas! Oranges, peaches. Stays very sweet and juicy all the way, again less herbal and zesty development than the Archives sibling. Some marzipan and honey. Well balanced oak. Finish: long, elegant and fruity.

This is a great old Bunna, with a similar jammy profile to most of the 1968’s. Although I’ll give it the same score as the Archives release (we don’t do halves), I’d pick this one if I could only choose one. Not officially available in stores – start stalking your closest Lindores friend if you want a bottle. Or head over to the Lindores lounge in Oostende to have a dram. Around € 250.

Score: 92/100


This Deanston 1997 was launched a couple of weeks ago. In the tradition of the bubbly Asta Morris label, we’re expecting an easily drinkable, affordable whisky.

 

Deanston 1997 - Asta MorrisDeanston 15 yo 1997 (48,1%, Asta Morris 2013, ref. AM031, 342 btl.)

Nose: quite ponderous, with a lot of hay and heather honey. Roasted almonds. Not entirely fresh at first, there’s an overripe apple and something of wet cloth or wet leaves, which is not an asset in this case. Some melon and citrus. Buttered toast. A bit of a strange ensemble in my opinion. Mouth: quite a different story. Sweet and fruity, candied and creamy. Honey and caramelized peanuts. Pears in syrup. Hints of gingerbread. Dried apricot. A bit of ginger / pepper from the oak as well. Mocha in the end. Finish: oranges, some chocolate and spices. Medium long.

Entertaining whisky, but not entirely up my alley. It’s meant to be a bang-for-your-buck whisky anyway, so you might as well grab a bottle to see whether it fits your profile. Around € 50.

Score: 82/100


It turns out The Whisky Agency selected a whole set of GlenDronach casks lately. We’ve already reviewed an excellent 2002 cask #710 and 1993 cask #4 earlier and now there’s a 2002 cask #712 and this GlenDronach 1993 cask #13. A double pair!

Too bad we can’t try them head-to-head, it will be a memory game then.

 

 

GlenDronach 1993 cask #13 Whisky FairGlenDronach 20 yo 1993
(52,6%, OB for The Whisky Fair 2013, oloroso sherry butt #13, 668 btl.)

Nose: big notes of dried figs. Walnut cake and sticky toffee, a tad ponderous maybe but very intense. Freshly cut herbs. Similar exotic spices. Cinnamon. Lots of leathery notes. Something of grenadine. Rum & raisins. Mouth: sweet but quite savoury as well (as these herbs and spices). Roasted notes and dates. Coffee and tobacco. Again really heavy and full. A light oaky bitterness. Finish: long, fairly dry with dark chocolate, nutmeg and liquorice.

I can’t stop thinking I liked cask #4 better, but then again it may be more of a memory issue. Quality is high anyway. Around € 150, probably gone soon enough.

Score: 90/100


This Glen Scotia 1991 was bottled for the Spirits in the Sky Festival 2013, just a few days ago in Leuven. It’s a joint bottling by The Whisky Agency and festival organiser The Nectar. Like the other releases in the trio, the label features a scene from Alice in Wonderland.

The Nectar whiskyBy the way, there’s a nicely made Daily Dram Guide 2013-2014 which presents the new and upcoming releases from this bottler. It’s a whopping 111 MB but still worth the download. There’s an addendum with tasting notes as well.

 

 

Glen Scotia 1991 - The Whisky Agency & The NectarGlen Scotia 22 yo 1991
(50,4%, The Whisky Agency & The Nectar 2013, refill hogshead, 279 btl.)

Nose: quite attractive yet not easy-going. Clean, waxy and mineral at first, with some charcoal smoke and tiny farmy notes. Pipe tobacco, cigar boxes. Old fabrics and leather. Hints of flax. Not too austere though, it also shows vanilla and oranges, pink grapefruit and even something of women’s powder. Mint and thyme. It’s quirky and I like it. Mouth: a tad sharper now, with ginger and herbs, as well as some resin. Gentian. Lemon zest. Similar tobacco notes and some earthy notes. Soft vanilla. Paper? Salty and bitter around the edges. Funny hints of tequila añejo. Finish: medium long, herbal and zesty.

An unusual dram, although reading this again could make you think it’s typical. I really like this layered, anti-modern profile, with all its ups and downs. Around € 115.

Score: 89/100


It’s been a while, but remember Kintra? A Dutch bottler, managed by Erik Molenaar. Since 2009 he has been selecting casks from all over Scotland.

 

Blair Athol 1989 KintraBlair Athol 23 yo 1989 (50,8%, Kintra 2013, bourbon hogshead #6465, 117 btl.)

Nose: very natural, a bit malty, a bit grassy. Underneath is a nice layer of honey sweetness and peach preserve. Grows sweeter and sweeter. Apple syrup, muesli, candied ginger, some pineapple after a while. Hints of butter cream. Some fresh garden herbs. Mouth: a malty core again, with a general fruity sweetness. Cake. Vanilla. Almond cream. Then more herbal notes again. Herbal honey. Liquorice and pepper. Finish: quite long, slightly hot with plenty of spices and sweet oranges in the very end.

A pleasant Blair Athol, combining a malty sweetness with a spicy kick from the cask. Be sure to give the nose some time. Around € 95.

Score: 86/100


The guys from De Tongerse Whiskyvrienden, a whisky club in the Eastern part of Belgium, hunted down this cask of Laphroaig 1997 in the stocks of Signatory Vintage. The remaining part of the sherry hogshead went to Vinothek Massen in Luxemburg.

 

Laphroaig 1997 Signatory - Tongerse WhiskyvriendenLaphroaig 16 yo 1997
(55,4%, Signatory Vintage for De Tongerse Whiskyvrienden & Vinothek Massen 2013, refill sherry hogshead #3369, 292 btl.)

Nose: the higher sweetness points to sherry, but other than that, it’s not a sherry bomb like some 1989’s or 1991’s for example. Obvious peat, some red apples and walnuts. Classic Laphroaig medicinal notes. Olive juice and seaweed. Grows more coastal over time. Maybe some plums in the back. Mouth: thick, again fairly sweet. Enters on coffee, mocha, praline, these kind of flavours, before it turns the heat up. Pepper and liquorice. Tingling ginger as well. More peat and earthy elements than on the nose. Some menthol in the aftertaste. Finish: medium long, losing some of its sweetness and going back towards olive juice, liquorice and lemon zest.

This is just a refill sherry, so what you get is still pretty classic Laphroaig with an added sweetness. Good like most Laphroaig. Around € 100.

Score: 87/100


At each Spirits in the Sky festival there is always a new selection of The Nectar of the Daily Drams releases.

Among others: Auchroisk 1990, Glen Keith 1992, Glenturret 1977 and this 25 year-old Glenrothes 1988. There were also three joint bottlings by The Whisky Agency & The Nectar, as well as a series of officials for The Nectar (Bowmore 2001 Blackadder, Arran 2001, Jura 1989 SV, Glenburgie 1983 SV, Kavalan sherry, Elijah Craig…).

 

Glenrothes 25yo 1988 - Nectar of the Daily DramsGlenrothes 25 yo 1988 (50,6%, The Nectar of the Daily Drams 2013, refill sherry)

Nose: quite full, with a spicy sherry character rather than a dried fruits profile. Candied ginger and pepper. Oranges (both juice and zest) and yellow plum compote. Caramelized pear. Lots of floral honey. Hints of almonds. Mouth: sweet and very citrusy. Grapefruits (pink and yellow ones), lemon marmalade and oranges. Again a honeyed pastry note with some vanilla custard. Some nutmeg and cinnamon towards the end. Finish: medium long, now strictly spicy (ginger, pepper, nutmeg) with oaky notes and sweet herbal tea, although there’s still a sweet echo in the back.

Good Glenrothes, with a focus on honey, citrus and spices. Around € 115-130. That’s 40% more than similar ones released last year.

Score: 86/100


You know these ‘urban’ dictionaries on the internet these days, to look up slang words? I didn’t know the word Scallywag, so I looked it up and I found this:

A person who is known to be a treacherous lying son-of-a-bitch, and usually smells bad.

Funny! I’m quite sure the name wasn’t chosen based on the smell of the whisky…

Scallywag is the latest product from Douglas Laing. It’s a small batch vatted malt, created using only Speyside malts, including Mortlach, Macallan, Glenrothes and others. Kind of a Speyside version of the Big Peat concept.

The packaging (very well executed if you ask me!) was inspired by the long line of Douglas Laing family Fox Terriers, which are renowned for being sweet yet rather mischievous dogs. Sweet wee Scallywags indeed.

 

Scallywag (Douglas Laing)Scallywag
(46%, Douglas Laing 2013)

Nose: very malty, with Frosties and grain biscuits. Very heavy on sticky toffee notes. Some honey, icing sugar and dried grasses. Vanilla custard. Macadamia nut brittle ice cream. Spices like cinnamon, candied ginger. Some overripe orange in the back. Mouth: sweet and spicy. Raisins, oranges again, revolving around a core that screams young malt. Sugared cereals and caramel. Abundant spices: pepper, ginger, as well as a vanilla woodiness. I think there’s quite some sherried Glenrothes in there – not everyone likes that. Finish: medium long, grainy with a slightly harsh / bitter edge and a dry end.

A very decent vatting. I’m missing a bit of the bright fruity side here – to me that’s more typically Speyside than the caramelly, malty and spicy profile shown here. Sweet but slightly mischievous indeed. Around € 45 – on its way to stores as we speak.

Score: 81/100


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Coming up

  • Benromach 1976 vintage
  • Jura 1972 SMWS 31.4
  • Balblair 2002
  • Kavalan Solist sherry (for LMdW)

1577 notes by Ruben

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