Single malt whisky - tasting notes

Velvet Fig is the latest NAS release from Wemyss. It’s a limited edition blended malt, matured entirely in Oloroso sherry casks. It’s also the first blended malt from Wemyss to be non-chill-filtered and bottled at 46%.

 

 

Velvet Fig - WemyssVelvet Fig (46%, Wemyss Malts 2014, blended malt, 6000 btl.)

Nose: starts just slightly meaty and too caramelly maybe, but it clears up nicely, leaving a thoroughly sherried whisky. Lots of blackberries, forest fruit jam, black cherries, Christmas cake and indeed… dried figs. Sticky toffee. Spicy notes too, mainly cinnamon and clove. Mouth: very thick, sweet and spicy. Lots of caramelized apple, rum-soaked raisins and cherry liqueur. Muscovado. Dates, dried apricots and fig bread. Light pepper and nutmeg. Fruit cake. Hints of glühwein. Some woody notes and walnut skin towards the end. Finish: long, warm, with roasted chestnut and

Despite the obvious youngness of the ensemble, this is packed with first-fill sherry cask flavours. A little on the sticky sweet side for me, but a suited dram for the upcoming Christmas season. On its way to stores. Around € 45.

Score: 82/100


Cù Bòcan is Tomatin’s latest (lightly) peated expression. With the standard Tomatin Cù Bòcan comprising sherry, virgin oak and bourbon casks, this is the first of three upcoming limited editions highlighting the flavours derived from each cask type.

Tomatin Cù Bòcan Sherry Cask is fully matured in first fill sherry butts.

 

Tomatin Cu Bocan SherryTomatin Cù Bòcan Sherry Cask (46%, OB 2014, 6.000 btl.)

Nose: a bit confusing at first, with lots of pastry dough and dominant toffee. Moves towards sugary malty notes, surprisingly big vanilla (American oak sherry… of course), candy apple, cinnamon and lots of sweet red plums (PX sherry maybe?). Not an immense dose of peat – the same is true for the amount of sherry. Mouth: sweet and spicy, again no massive peat. Sugared cereals, brown sugar and milk chocolate. Coffee coated Café Noir biscuits. Hints of pineapple cubes. A drier chili / paprika combo as well. Finish: rather short, with the spices and roasted notes keeping strong.

Quite good, it’s a sherry + peat combination that’s totally different from what the Islay distilleries tend to offer. Lighter in a way, much more fruity as well. Very drinkable. Around € 55.

Score: 84/100


The new releases from The Whisky Agency and the Liquid Sun series were also present at Spirits in the Sky. While the Liquid Sun labels have an astronomy / astrology theme, the TWA labels seem to depict scenes from early hot air balloons and other airships (update: it’s called Early Flying). We’ll start with this Glen Garioch 1989.

Also new from The Whisky Agency: Littlemill 1991, Linkwood 1980 and a fourth one that I don’t remember (update: Bunnahabhain 1980). The Liquid Sun series includes Littlemill 1988, Glen Spey 1988, Tobermory 1994 and Longmorn 1992.

 

 

Glen Garioch 1989 - The Whisky AgencyGlen Garioch 25 yo 1989 (50,3%, The Whisky Agency ‘Early flying’ 2014, refill hogshead, 246 btl.)

Nose: similar to the Glen Garioch 1989 in the Perfect Dram series, which is good news. A ripe fruitiness (stewed apples and melons), with a chalky, mineral side and something in between mint and pine trees. Some waxy notes. Surprisingly sweet and austere at the same time, with traces of Clynelish indeed. Mouth: more austerity now. Chalk, lots of (half burnt) grassy notes and grapefruits. One or two aspiring tablets. Ginger. More medicinal notes and a faint hint of smoke. Pretty raw but a style that’s rarely seen any more. Finish: medium long, grassy, with lemon zest and mineral notes.

Very much in line with the Perfect Dram bottling. Seductive on the nose, rather austere on the palate. Really interesting whisky. It should arrive in stores later this month. Around € 140.

Score: 88/100


Glenfiddich Excellence is a new 26 years old expression aged exclusively in ex-bourbon American oak casks sourced from the Kelvin Cooperage in Kentucky (which happens to be owned by a Scottish family). Actually it’s the first whisky in the core range of Glenfiddich to be entirely matured in bourbon casks.

 

 

 

Glenfiddich Excellence 26 Year OldGlenfiddich 26 yo ‘Excellence’
(43%, OB 2014)

Nose: delicate but very fruity and uplifting. It’s got some nice apricot and white nectarine aromas, pineapple, as well as some floral honey. Lovely bergamot, a little jasmine tea. Orange blossom. Vanilla biscuits. Soft mint and spices. A subtle leathery hint as well. Pretty great. Mouth: very gentle but not weak, quite creamy but definitely more spiced now (pepper, ginger) before coming back to the fruity notes. Pineapple and lemon sherbet. Some grassy notes, liquorice and toasted oak. Finish: not too long. You can still get the fruits and pepper but they’re fading quickly.

 

This Glenfiddich 26 Year Old is all about elegance. Especially the nose is great – on the palate it fails to deliver the same level of tropical fruitiness and it would have benefited from a bit of extra strength. It’s priced for prestige markets but you can’t deny it’s well-made. Around € 450.

Score: 90/100


Springbank whiskySpringbank has a few interesting things coming up, some of which were available to try at the latest Sprits in the Sky festival, still the best whisky festival we have in Belgium.

Springbank Green 12 Years Old

 

 

There’s Springbank Green 12 Years, an organic whisky although not entirely. It’s made from organic barley but the distillery doesn’t have the necessary certificates to release the whisky as entirely organic. So it’s called ‘green’ instead. It’s fully bourbon-matured and I thought it was quite good.

I’ve heard some rumours about a new, more heavily sherried Springbank 17 Year Old due in January, Springbank 18 Years Single Cask - The Nectarbut I couldn’t find that one at the festival.

There’s also a Springbank 18 Years Single Cask bottled for The Nectar in Belgium (58,7%). An exquisite version of this already really good dram, very fruity, with lots of oily notes and seemingly more smoky notes than expected.

 

 

Today we’ll review the new top expression for the core range: Springbank 25 Year Old. A few casks from the first batch of the new Springbank 21 Years have been kept back (four casks to be correct, a mix of bourbon and sherry casks) and finished in Port casks for a couple of months to form this 25yo. I can’t stop wondering why they would put such an old whisky in Port casks…

They can keep it available each year but batches will be very small (this year 1200 bottles, next year not even 1000 bottles). It follows the strange glossy style of the 21yo label, but with a silver background and red accents.

 

 

Springbank 25 Year Old (2014)Springbank 25 Years
(46%, OB 2014, 1200 btl.)

Nose: quite fruity (baked apples, oranges, lots of berries) with some waxy notes and a subtle dose of sherry and Port (going towards plums, strawberries and fragrant raspberries). Touches of paraffin, damp cellar and whiffs of brine. All quite subtle and slightly modern / winey. Not bad at all but not a match for old bottlings either. Mouth: a fair deal of wine again, but not exactly powerful and slightly vinous. Raspberries are back, some cassis, plums and candied oranges. Gingery notes, cinnamon and liquorice. Leathery and earthy notes too. Finish: medium long, on crystallized fruits, with oak and brine.

This new Springbank 25 is not bad at all, but it feels strange and a bit restrained – I expected more, especially when the price will be around £ 300. I was much more impressed with the excellent 18 Year Old Single Cask which I believe to be around € 140.

Score: 86/100


Earlier this year, Suntory launched two NAS expressions as part of the core ranges of Hakushu and Yamazaki, both named Distiller’s Reserve. Hakushu Distiller’s Reserve joins the 12 Year Old to form the standard range of this Japanese distillery.

As a NAS expression, the Distiller’s Reserve contains different spirits: young lightly peated malts (8 years and older), heavily peated malt and whisky matured in American oak for around 18 years. All the casks have been hand-picked by Suntory’s Master Blender, Shinji Fukuyo.

 

Hakushu Distiller's ReserveHakushu ‘Distiller’s Reserve’
(43%, OB 2014)

Nose: very fruity and aromatic with plenty of vanilla. Unripe pears and apples, melon and lemons. There’s also a grassy / minty note (slightly new-oakish) as well as something of cucumber. A subtle smokiness in the background. Pine wood. Mouth: again a bright fruitiness, but with more oak and more herbal notes now. Lots of zesty notes, slightly bitter, especially grapefruit. Again some pine wood and gingery notes, as well as earthy overtones. A little on the young side now. Finish: medium long, soft smoke, green fruits and wood.

One of the advantages of a NAS is the ability to bring together aromas that are normally linked to different ages. This is the first time that I think this idea actually works well, at least on the nose. On the palate you can’t stop thinking it’s young whisky trying to feel older. Nonetheless decent stuff, reasonably priced. Around € 50.

Score: 84/100


The square or cube shaped bottles of Aberlour 8 Year Old have a great reputation for being relatively easy-to-get, nicely old-style whisky. From 1957 until 1985, most Aberlour was filled into this type of bottle, most importantly for the Italian market but also for France, Germany and the USA.

There’s definitely batch variation and it’s quite difficult to know which version you’re dealing with. Some of them have a distillation and/or bottling year on the front or neck label. Some of them say “8 Year Old”, others “8 Years Old”, “Over 8 Year Old” or “Over 8 Years Old”. Some of them have screw caps, others have a (small) cork stopper. Early bottlings say “Est. 1828” while later versions say “Est. 1845”. Some of them are bottled at 43%, others at 50%.

The one we’re trying today is supposedly one of the best versions. It says 8 Year Old, Est. 1828 and has a small cork stopper.

When I tried it at a recent Fulldram tasting I had a lot of difficulty with the aromas. Despite its fame, I thought it was the worst whisky of the evening. Very dirty at first, lots of sulphury notes and cooked cabbage which I personally hate in sherried whisky. Aeration helped, but somehow the dirty side didn’t go away before the evening was over. I decided to pour most of my dram into a sample bottle and take it home, where I tried it again two weeks later. To my surprise, the nose had almost entirely cleared up.

 

 

Aberlour 8 Years, square bottle, small corkAberlour 8 yo (50%, OB early 1970’s, Italian market, cube shaped bottle, small cork stopper)

Nose: very different indeed. Still old-style, with some shoe polish and a good deal of rubbery hints, but it’s mostly nice sherry now. Slightly greasy, with quite some fruity sweetness, marzipan and a surprising level of vanilla. Brown sugar, leather. Hay. Some smoky notes in the background. After a while, it becomes frankly tropical, such a great twist. Mouth: punchy and well-balanced. Sugar coated peanuts, smoked almonds, heather honey and dried fruits. A little mint. Vanilla cake. Then something in between liquorice and tar liqueur. Bitter oranges and herbal tea. Finish: long, with more oak. Sweet and sour notes with a salty edge.

This shows that old whisky needs more time to assess, and some bottles need days after opening to show their best expression. Anyway I can see why this earned its fame, it’s a good example of old-style sherried whisky.

Score: 91/100


In the Small Batch series from Cadenhead there is this 21 years old Clynelish 1992. In fact there is also a 50,4% version specifically bottled for The Nectar in Belgium (a ‘Christmas bottling’ of 222 bottles) but we’re now reviewing the general release.

We haven’t seen much Clynelish 1992 lately (1996-1997 is all over the place) but quite a few 1992’s have been bottled around 2005-2007. I wonder whether this is a leftover cask or the first of a new wave?

 

Clynelish 21yo 1992 - Cadenhead Small BatchClynelish 21 yo 1992
(51,6%, Cadenhead Small Batch 2014, bourbon hogsheads, 792 btl.)

Nose: powerful, even a bit spirity and closed at first. More open after a while, with almonds and lemons, a bit of orange honey and green apple peelings. Sweet lime juice. Vanilla cake. A very slight coastal side, as well as hints of chalk and waxed paper. In the background also echoes of dried herbs. Nicely balanced and increasingly complex. Mouth: oily mouthfeel, clean, very citrusy, mixed with waxy notes. Medium sweet with hints of vanilla and lime candy. Sweet oak. Then the herbal side returns, alongside peppery notes and a delicate earthiness. Finish: long, drier, with a slightly bitter edge and lots of citrus.

Simply a great Clynelish. The sweet touches and rounded waxy notes make it very seductive. Around € 110.

Score: 90/100


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Coming up

  • Dos Maderas 5+3
  • Karuizawa 1988 (Whisky Fair)
  • Glenglassaugh 1972 (Carn Mor)
  • Laphroaig Lp6 (Elements of Islay)
  • Bruichladdich 1964 (G&M #3676-3677)

1839 notes by Ruben

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