Single malt whisky - tasting notes

Whisky-Fässle announced three new releases with a duck label: Tamdhu 1988, Bunnahabhain 1990 and this Bowmore 1995 from a sherry cask.

According to the label, it was a private bottling done for Malt Monkey. Not sure who that is, but I can tell you he has a good taste.

 

Bowmore 1995 Whisky-FässleBowmore 18 yo 1995 (54,9%, Whisky-Fässle for Malt Monkey 2013, sherry cask)

Nose: coal stoves and soot with elegant sweet pipe tobacco. Some chalky notes and walnuts. Also a zesty sourness of oranges. Dried seaweed and leather. Brown candy sugar in the background. I also detected some pink grapefruits but these notes seem to go quickly. Roasted coffee. It made me think of the Bowmore 1995 SMoS but that one is less sour and has a more old-style profile. This one is still very good though. Mouth: rather sweet peat at first. Marmalade alongside kippers. Zesty lemons, tobacco and leather. Fading on ginger and pepper. Again a mere hint of grapefruit in the back. A big palate. Finish: very long, showing Lapsang tea, lemon and liquorice.

An excellent sherried Bowmore. Recommended, but I’m not sure that means anything if the bottle is not available in stores.

Score: 91/100


I remember to have tried the Bunnahabhain 25 year old (or Bunnahabhain XXV as it tends to be called) very early in my whisky career. It was pretty much the oldest dram I had tried at that point, and I liked it. Back then it was still bottled at 43%, but since 2011 it is 46,3%, unchill-filtered and natural colour (yay).

 

Bunnahabhain 25 year oldBunnahabhain 25 yo
(46,3%, OB +/- 2013)

Nose: a slightly unfresh start, you know, the kind of dirtiness that is sometimes present in sherry bottlings. Airing helps, so don’t worry too much, but it never disappears completely. Opens up on brighter orange and tangerine, yellow raisins and fragrant lemon balm. Some floral notes. Mint and soft herbs. Leather. Cinnamon. Mouth: sherried again, and quite woody actually, with a sharpish winey edge. Not many fruity notes, more like overinfused fruit tea. Behind that there are hints of raisins, malty spirit and walnuts. Cardamom, ginger and cloves. A little lightweight and harsh at the same time. Finish: fairly dry, spicy (nutmeg) and slightly tannic.

I could be wrong, but I have a feeling some overage casks were blended away here, as well as some sherry overstock. Too bad, especially since 1980’s single casks can be great. Around € 270.

Score: 84/100


Teeling WhiskeyTeeling Whiskey Co. is headed by Jack Teeling, the former Master Distiller of Cooley distillery. However the family’s whiskey heritage dates back to distilling in Dublin in 1782.

Beginning of 2013 they launched a new small batch Teeling Whiskey and they are currently exploring the opportunity to open their own distillery in Dublin [Update 21/08/2013: they've just bought Dundalk brewery from Diageo]. Just to be clear though, for now the company has supply contracts with Cooley for new make and aged spirit, but is also sourcing specific casks from other suppliers.

Their latest release is a 21 year-old distilled in 1991, named Silver Reserve. Triple distilled and initially matured in bourbon barrels, the Silver Reserve was finished in sauternes wine casks. It comes from an undisclosed supplier (but if we are allowed to make an educated guess, we would say Bushmills).

The Silver Reserve is part of a larger Vintage Reserve series and will be followed by a Gold Reserve 25 years and a Platinum Reserve 30 years old in the coming months. For now it is only available in Ireland but it will soon be rolled out to Western Europe, New Zealand and Canada.

Update: a well deserved Thumbs Up Malt Maniacs Award 2013 for this one!

 

 

Teeling Silver Reserve 21 year oldTeeling 21 yo 1999 ‘Silver Reserve’ (46%, OB 2013, 5.000 btl.)

Nose: a very rich fruitiness, with lots of Charentais melon, litchi, white grapes, papaya and raspberries. Maybe old roses. Also, if you like the BenRiach 1976 kind of sweet pink grapefruit aroma, this shows it twice as strong. Hints of frangipane. But it’s not all sweetness, it is balanced with grassy / earthy notes and soft spices (pepper and mint). There’s nice beeswax as well. Mouth: again slightly spicier than expected (pepper, cinnamon and fresh oak), but the fruitiness is still very big. Grape jelly, pink grapefruit, peach pit, banana and litchi. Some honey. Fades on leafy notes. Overall a bit on the light side maybe. Finish: medium long, with a lingering jammy fruitiness and some drying elements.

A very nice offering: it shares the slightly exotic fruitiness with other Irish whiskey, but it’s more complex and spicy. Around € 160.

Score: 89/100


Arran 16 years

09 Aug 2013 | Arran

Released earlier this Spring, the Arran 16 years is the oldest official release yet from this distillery and a limited releases of 9000 bottles. It is part of a trilogy: it will be followed by a limited 17 years in 2014, leading up to the release of a core range 18 year old expression in 2015.

Arran 16 is a selection of 70% American Oak bourbon casks and 30% Spanish Oak sherry hogsheads.

 

Arran 16 Year OldArran 16 years
(46%, OB 2013, 9000 btl.)

Nose: very bright and fruity. Banana, oranges, raspberries and tinned pineapple to name a few. Lots of honey notes and vanilla. Sweet but nicely balanced with soft ginger and grassy notes. There’s also a perfumed edge but it doesn’t harm the overall feel. Medium complexity but quite big in terms of fresh appeal. Mouth: sweet and candied. Starts on the bright side of the spectrum (oranges, apples, floral notes) and evolves to dried fruits, almonds and milk chocolate. Hints of crème brûlée and Café Latte. Some oak and spices like cloves and ginger around the edges. Finish: quite long, creamy, with the chocolate and spices keeping strong.

There’s a nice evolution in these Arran editions. I like this one better than then Arran 14 years so let’s keep our eyes open for the 18 years. Around € 70.

Score: 87/100


A couple of weeks ago, Asta Morris released the Dalmore NAS and this Strahmill 1991 almost simultaneously. It turns out I got to try the best one last.

 

Strathmill 1991 Asta MorrisStrathmill 22 yo 1991 (50,3%, Asta Morris 2013, ref. AM025, 239 btl.)

Nose: a big, fruity nose. Yellow apple, ripe banana, papaya and pineapple cubes. Thick honey and vanilla. Pollen and beeswax. Lots of butter pastry notes. Almond paste. Cinnamon and mint. Very bourbonny, so much that at a certain point it seems a crossover of Scotch malt, grain whisky and American whiskey, with leathery notes and maple syrup. Hints of dried coconut. Faint grassy notes as well. Very complex actually, yet direct and seductive at the same time. Mouth: creamy, warm fruity notes (dried banana, pineapple, apple) merge with brighter citrus notes. A bigger grassy nervousness now. Beeswax. Gentle oak (nutmeg, pepper and soft herbs). Even better with a few drops of water. Finish: long, sweet with herbal touches.

If you know Strathmill 1974, it’s easy to see where this is coming from (or going to). If you don’t count the BenRiach selections, this is my favourite Asta Morris release so far. Around € 80. Still available in the shops of The Nectar, I’ve heard.

Score: 91/100


 

Caperdonich 1995 Tasting FellowsCaperdonich 17 yo 1995
(52,3%, Tasting Fellows 2012, refill sherry hogshead #95073, 136 btl.)

Nose: youthful with a sweet and sour fruitiness. Gooseberries, apples, unripe plums and lemons. Honeydew melon. Pretty big flowery notes. Hints of vanilla and honey. Faint grassy notes and mint. Mouth: starts sweet and remains very close to the barley. The same kind of fruits, but this time coupled to a peppery heat and a bold zestiness (grapefruit skin, lemon oils). A little aspirin and sour wood as well. Quite some heat but a few drops of water make it slightly rounder. Finish: not very long, with apples alongside grassy and gingery notes.

Another summery dram. Bright fruits and nervous spices, as found in lots of modern drams. Honestly made and simply good. Around € 75, only available from Tasting Fellows directly.

Score: 83/100


Gordon & MacPhail have bottled several Port Ellen 1969 expressions. It started with 10 years old releases in the Connoisseurs Choice series (famous black label with red letters), then three or four 15 and 16 years old releases (CC gradient brown labels as well as Sestante labels), plus two cask strength 1969/1985 versions with cream labels (including a legendary one for Intertrade).

Actually we can’t say with 100% certainty which one we’re reviewing here. I recently bought this miniature with a gradient brown label but contrary to full bottles that display the age in a light circle towards the top of the label, G&M CC miniatures of that era mention the year of distillation in that spot. Based on the font used for ‘Distilled 1969’ though, which is different in both labels, I am quite confident this is the 16 years old version. Whiskyfun has a review of the same miniature.

Remember Port Ellen distillery was reopened in April 1967 after it had been silent since 1929 and rebuilt in 1966. A 1969 distillation is not something you get to try every week and we probably can’t go further back in time than this.

 

Port Ellen 1969 G&M Connoisseurs ChoicePort Ellen 16 yo 1969 (40%, Gordon & MacPhail Connoisseurs’ Choice +/- 1985)

Nose: far better than I was expecting (after all it’s young and PE was meant to be a blender’s whisky). Very expressive given the low alcohol volume, and very balanced as well. Very maritime (Caol Ila style) with kelp and oysters, but quite fruity at the same time. Lots of cut apples, lime and tangerine. Hints of metal polish. Some marzipan. Mint. Soft medicinal notes and warm tar. Clean young Port Ellen, but the subtlety and the balance with the fruits is just excellent. Mouth: rather light, yes, but expressive. Again much sweeter and fruitier than expected. Sweetened grapefruit juice, lime and kumquats. Mixed with grassy peat and liquorice, a bit of smoke and plenty of kippers. Hints of moss. Hints of Yunnan pu-erh. Such a brilliant combination. Finish: long, half ashy and half coastal (smoked fish).

I’m sure the cask strength versions of these casks are even more stellar, but this is a highly drinkable Port Ellen with an outstanding balance. I like these fruitier versions a lot. Rarely seen in auctions, but TWE has a bottle of the 15yo for around € 1000.

Score: 92/100


In March 2013, Tullibardine announced a total makeover of its single malt range – a logical move after the distillery had been sold to the French Picard company. In line with the state of the whisky market, most of them are NAS (no age statement) versions.

 

Tullibardine whisky

 

Tullibardine Sovereign is the new entry level expression. This is a first fill bourbon barrel matured version. There’s also an aged 20 and 25 year old, as well as three ‘core’ finishes: 225 Sauternes, 228 Burgundy and 500 Sherry. The numbers relate to the size of the casks in this case.

 

 

Tullibardine SovereignTullibardine Sovereign (43%, OB 2013)

Nose: malty nose with pear drops and creamy white chocolate. Fresh cereal notes. Vanilla custard. Very soft gristy and mineral notes. Undemanding, modern whisky. Mouth: still very malty. Lots of apples and pears. Quite a lot of spicy notes now: cinnamon, pepper, mint and ginger. A faint potpourri edge as well. Finish: medium long, more malt and ginger, with soft nutty notes.

Even though it’s slightly uninspired, this is not an entry level whisky to be ashamed of. It’s a fresh and properly made spirit, which was not always the case for previous distillery bottlings. Around € 35.

Score: 79/100


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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.