Single malt whisky - tasting notes

Eiling Lim whiskySome of you may know Eiling Lim as a Malaysian blogger writing about food, wine and whisky (among other things) but I have the impression we might remember her more as a whisky bottler in the future. For the selection of casks she’s assisted by ex-Malt Maniac / Glenfarclas collector / former independent bottler Luc Timmermans, her newly-wed husband and obviously a respected name to have on your label.

This is her (their) first release, a Littlemill 1990. Only 68 bottles are available, it’s no secret this is from a shared cask. The release is intended for the Malaysian market, her home country, which is still slightly immature when it comes to whisky. Eiling Lim is officially the first independent bottler in Malaysia.

I’ve had the pleasure of translating Eiling’s ideas into a label design, I hope you like it. It combines retro elements like the diagonal ribbon with some up-to-date typography. The whisky was a pleasant surprise for me as well.

 

 

Littlemill 1990 - Eiling Lim (Malaysia)Littlemill 23 yo 1990
(49,8%, Eiling Lim 2013, cask selected by Luc Timmermans, 68 btl.)

Nose: needs ten minutes in the glass. It starts on grasses, sweet grains and apples, which may seem a tad generic, but it would be short-sighted to stop there. After a while it becomes warmer than most other Littlemills, and wider: quite some vanilla, marzipan and buttercups. The typical, half-tropical fruitiness too: pineapple, all kinds of citrus, hints of creamy papaya and top notes of passion fruits. Excellent, especially with the added beeswax. Mouth: more directly fruity. Lots of tangerines, pink grapefruits, green mango and peaches. Vanilla again (bourbon cask?), sweet almond paste and honey. Some polished oak and minerals, ginger and a little green tea with lemon. Finish: long, with some bitter lemon, sweet oak and grapefruit.

Another great Littlemill, utterly fruity with a balanced layer of Lowlands minerality. Among the best non-sherried Littlemills I know (on the same level as the one bottled by The Whiskyman for Lindores some time ago) and a perfect start for a start-up bottler. Should be available in a couple of weeks. Around RM900.

Score: 91/100


Ecurie Ecosse Black BullDuncan Taylor’s Black Bull brand is sponsoring Ecurie Ecosse, a motor racing team with a great history that goes back to the 1950’s. The team had a 2011 revival and will now be driving a BMW Z4 GT3 in the British GT championship and the Blancpain Endurance series.

To celebrate this sponsorship, they’ve launched a Black Bull Racer’s Reserve, a 21 years old blend. Apparently the racers chose the whiskies, but the actual blending was left to the specialists at Duncan Taylor.

 

 

Black Bull 21yo Racer's ReserveBlack Bull 21 yo ‘Racer’s Reserve’ (50%, Duncan Taylor 2013)

Nose: quite a neutral, half grainy / half citrusy nose. Nothing harsh, just lots of muesli and cereals. Stewed fruits and lemon peel. A little fresh oak and mint. Less sherry than we’re used to seeing in Black Bull blends. Disappointingly generic. Mouth: again a rather fresh but also slightly dull blend with hardly any sherry. Lots of oranges. Yellow raisins. Cinnamon and pepper from the oak. Faint toffee notes. Again a little mint. It’s smooth and harmless. Finish: medium long, a bit more spices. As expected.

You can’t deny the fact that the Duncan Taylor team knows how to compose a blend and filter out the roughness of the grains. It’s smoothly polished, but on the other hand nothing stands out either. It’s just a normal blend which doesn’t fit the dynamics of racing in any way. Bringing together two nice brands isn’t enough to ask € 180. Only available from selected UK retailers.

Score: 75/100


We saw a wave of Glenturret 1980 and 1977 bottlings in 2012 already, from different German bottlers. Here’s one that left behind, now bottled in the new Old Times Diving series.

 

Glenturret 1980 (The Whisky Agency)Glenturret 33 yo 1980
(42,8%, The Whisky Agency ‘Old Times Diving’ 2013, refill hogshead, 253 btl.)

Nose: lots of orange juice, then orange blossom and apricot, evolving towards bergamot oils and Earl Grey. Stewed apples. Lovely hints of passion fruits and lemon grass as well. I love this kind of fruitiness. Slightly ethereal, and not a lot besides fruits, I admit, but very attractive. Mouth: such a juicy fruit bowl! This is the closest you’ll get to the Irish kind of fruitiness. Lots of pineapple, passion fruits, guavas, bananas , lime and pink grapefruit. It’s Glenturret with a dash of BenRiach 1976 and 1960’s Bowmore really. Not very punchy but lovely. Mid-palate it becomes a bit duller (wet newspaper) and just very lightly soapy but it picks up freshness towards the end. Finish: more of the same. Nothing but fruit teas and tropical sherbets. A little peppery oak as well.

Great stuff. Lots of shades of bright, slightly tart fruits! I’ve had pretty quirky Glenturrets from the same era but this is just very smooth vitamin juice. Available soon. Around € 190.

Score: 90/100


Another one of these redesigned Liquid Library releases. Something that has become a ‘must-have’ or even a semi-permanent offering for most independent bottlers: Clynelish 1997.

 

 

Clynelish 1997 / 2013 (Liquid Library)Clynelish 16 yo 1997 (52,6%, Liquid Library 2013, refill hogshead, 129 btl.)

Nose: quite a round Clynelish, with some lemonade touches and lime juice. Buttercups and other flowers. Green banana. Less waxy and mineral than comparable Clynelish, although there’s surely some brine and waxy notes in the background. Soft peppery hints too. Mouth: again a clear fruity side (oranges, crystallized grapefruit, lemon) with a sweetish vanilla coating. Then it grows oilier and waxier, with louder zesty notes. Increasing sharpness. Ginger, a little juniper and nutmeg. Fades on grassy notes. Finish: long, waxy, lightly salty and peppery. Still showing some fruity elements.

Very good Clynelish, like the vast majority of the 1997’s, right? Clean Highlands whisky, this time with an attractive roundness. Around € 90.

Score: 88/100


Founded in 2012, Gaiaflow is a relatively new player in the Japanese whisky market. They’re acting as an importer for various spirits, mostly smaller brands.

They’re also releasing private bottlings like this Glentauchers 1992 from Asta Morris which has just arrived in Japan.

 

 

Glentauchers 1992 Asta Morris & GaiaflowGlentauchers 21 yo 1992 (48,2%, Asta Morris for Gaiaflow 2013, ex-bourbon cask, 305 btl.)

Nose: sweet and bright. Plenty of fruits: gooseberries, green apples and pineapple cubes. Hints of honeysuckle. Some mineral notes, maybe a little mint and ginger as well. Over time soft vanilla comes out. Simple yet fresh and faultless. Mouth: really sweet again. Oranges, peaches and apples. Sweet barley. Lemon drops. Shy hints of fruit tea. A little oak in the background, slowly growing stronger. Finish: medium long, more mint now and spicy notes. Balanced warming oak too.

Good no-nonsense whisky. Simple pleasures. Around € 85, available from Gaiaflow’s online store Whisky Port. Hard to find in Belgium, although apparently some cases fell off the back of the truck…

Score: 86/100


I have a couple of 1990’s GlenDronach expressions lined up, all from the latest Batch n°9 of single cask releases (October 2013). We’ll start with the 1991 cask #5405.

 

GlenDronach 1991 P.X. #5405GlenDronach 21 yo 1991 (49,9%, OB 2013, Pedro Ximénez puncheon, cask #5405, 702 btl.)

Nose: slightly overweight sherry. Bags of prunes and sticky dates. Caramel and pear syrup. Rather heavy, lacking a hint of brightness, especially since there’s also overripe oranges and a sulphury, vegetal edge that I really don’t like. Not my favourite GlenDronach so far. Mouth: walnuts and rubber, with meaty notes and a heavy caramel sauce. Dark chocolate and dates. Again a tad sulphury. Boo. Breathing and a few drops of water can’t save it. Finish: slightly too long, mostly on rubber, chocolate and pepper.

One to avoid. It’s just too bulky and fleshy, with an unpleasant flatness and a disturbing meaty side. Around € 150.

Score: 78/100


Liquid Library - new labelThe Whisky Agency’s Liquid Library series has a redesigned label. The old minimalist white / orange label is gone and replaced with a bamboo-coloured label featuring exotic animals. I’m not sure whether this is a permanent style or a theme that will change each time a new set is released.

We’re trying an undisclosed Irish single malt distilled in 1991. Of Ireland’s distillers, only Bushmills and Cooley produce single malt whiskey.

 

 

Irish single malt 1991 - Liquid LibraryIrish single malt 22 yo 1991 (52,4%, TWA Liquid Library 2013, refill barrel, 191 btl.)

Nose: it’s definitely Irish for its slightly bubblegummy fruitiness (apricots, quinces, green banana in the background) but it’s rather subdied and they’re mixed with subtle Highlands elements (mineral notes, wax and oily notes). Traces of vanilla and grains with a floral edge. Mouth: more typically Irish. Lots of maracuja ice cream, really nice. Bananas. Growing grassier and spicier. Lemon green tea. Gets faintly medicinal towards the end – think eucalyptus or menthol – funny but nice. Finish: medium length, with some peppery oak and a lingering fruitiness.

Very nice drinker’s whiskey. Bright, fruity, but not a one-trick pony. I’m no Irish whiskey expert but my guess would be Tyrconnell (Cooley). Should be available in a couple of weeks. Around € 170.

Score: 87/100


Whisky Agency - Old Times DivingThe latest series from The Whisky Agency is nicknamed Old Times Diving. On the labels we see people with antique diving helmets and old-style oxygen systems.

Contrary to previous series – that always tried to combine whiskies of different genres and with different flavour profiles – the new series revolves around ‘fruitiness’. We can’t be against fruits, can we? There’s a Glenturret 1980, Ben Nevis 1995, an undisclosed Irish malt 1988 and this 21 years old Glen Keith 1992. All ex-bourbon if I’m not mistaken.

 

 

Glen Keith 1992 - The Whisky AgencyGlen Keith 21 yo 1992
(51,4%, The Whisky Agency ‘Old Times Diving’ 2013, bourbon barrel, 177 btl.)

Nose: starts clean and narrow, with fresh apples and subtle grassy / minty notes. Then gets wider, with more candied fruits (pineapple, nectarine) and hints of strawberry bubblegum. Vanilla cake. Hints of buttercups and some mineral notes (gravel) in the background. Maybe even a hint of smoke? Mouth: fruity notes, in a very slightly tropical way (tinned pineapple, coconut, yellow plums). Again balanced by grass, ginger and a little grapefruit skin. A little vanilla, pepper, soft herbs and traces of oak. Finish: long, with some fruity eau-de-vie and a peppery heat.

A very easy-going, bright Glen Keith. A perfectly clean example of the simple, fruity pleasures American Oak can bring to a modern whisky, but still a bit more than just fruits. On its way to stores as we speak. Around € 115.

Score: 88/100


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Coming up

  • Cardhu 18 Year Old
  • Benriach 1991 (MoS for QV.ID)
  • Blair Athol 1991 (Wemyss Malts)
  • Ledaig 2005 (Maltbarn)
  • Ardbeg 15yo 1973 (Sestante)
  • Aberlour 8yo (cube, small cork)
  • Balblair Millennium

1639 notes by Ruben

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