Single malt whisky - tasting notes

Cardhu is still the best selling single malt in Spain (and popular in the rest of Southern Europe as well), making it a top-10 malt worldwide, but it’s mostly overlooked by connoisseurs.

This Cardhu 21 Years Old, distilled in 1991, is part of the Diageo Special Releases. The last time that happened was in 2005. The spirit was matured in ex-bourbon American oak casks.

 

Cardhu 21 Years 1991Cardhu 21 yo 1991
(54,2%, OB 2013, 6.000 btl.)

Nose: pretty neutral. There’s orange peel, yellow raisins and apples. Nice enough, but there’s something of sharper fruit vinegar that I don’t like too much. Almonds. Leafy and grassy notes as well as some floral hints. Very light waxy notes. Mouth: clean, malty and fruity in a slightly generic way. Oranges again, green apples, honey sweetness and plenty of spicy notes. Cinnamon, chilli, mint. Soft resinous notes. Rather grassy again, with lots of green notes and some tannins. Liquorice. Finish: long, spicy, with some orange zest and bittersweet herbs.

The grassy / herbal and spicy notes in this Cardhu are a little loud. It never wins me over completely and the price is hard to justify. Around € 200.

Score: 85/100


Another release in the recent Age Matters series from The Whiskyman is this Littlemill 1992.

Recently prices of Littlemill have taken quite a hike. It’s not totally surprising: this Lowlands distillery has been dismantled since 1997 and the remnants were destroyed in 2004. Stocks are low, and for most bottlers, Littlemill now seems part of the great lost distilleries that will soon become unavailable.

Duncan Taylor recently bottled a 1990 single cask #3045 – it comes in a fancy box and costs € 275. That’s crazy, but it indicates the mindset of bottlers towards this distillery and probably also the lowering amount of casks in stock. After all the recent official 21yo was also quite expensive. Now is the time to stock up on affordable Littlemill if you haven’t done so already.

 

 

Littlemill 21 - 1992 The Whiskyman 'Age Matters'Littlemill 21 yo 1992 (50,2%, The Whiskyman ‘Age Matters’ 2013)

Nose: the typical profile of Littlemill, with plenty of fruits. A little less citrusy this time, more melons, strawberry marshmallows and candied apple. Big vanilla. A little almond oil. Hints of coconut as well, which fades into waxy notes, even notes of Barbour fat. Mouth: oily, again a slightly sweeter attack with more vanilla than usual. After that, plenty of grapefruit, green banana, oranges and apricots. Slightly grassy notes, with firm oaky notes. Cinnamon and ginger. Becomes fairly herbal and zesty. All this covered in a certain old-style waxiness. Finish: long, half waxy, half zesty, half herbal. That’s three halves.

Again: now is the time to stock up on Littlemills that are still affordable. I personally prefer the sherried ones but bourbon versions like this one are more typical and all good. Around € 125.

Score: 88/100


Caol Ila Stitchell Reserve is named after Billy Stitchell, the distillery manager who is retiring this year after almost 40 years. It is the eight edition of unpeated Caol Ila in Diageo’s Special Releases and the most affordable offer in the whole series.

This NAS cask strength Caol Ila was matured in a combination of American oak, rejuvenated American oak and European ex-bodega casks.

 

Caol Ila Stitchell ReserveCaol Ila ‘Stitchell Reserve’
(59,6%, OB 2013)

Nose: sweet and fudgy, but with a surprisingly grassy, almost tannic profile. Corn flakes, some vanilla. Lots of lemons, both zesty and candied ones. Some resinous notes and varnish. Liquorice. Mouth: oily mouthfeel, very sweet again (icing sugar, toffee, fruit jelly candy), but very grassy / oaky as well. Liquorice and herbs. Lemons and yellow plums. Raisins, especially with a few drops of water. Freshly sawn oak, a bit too much if you ask me. Pine sap. Finish: long, grassy with plenty of wood spices alongside the sweet malt and lemon zest.

I’m not entirely sure about this one. It has an attractive sweet side, nice lemon and the firm Coal Ila character (even without peat), but the wood spices are firmly kicking around. There’s little development as well. Around € 75.

Score: 83/100


You will probably remember the Glenfarclas 1953 cask #1674, the 58 years old cask that was bottled in February 2012 for WealthSolutions, a Polish company that provides investment opportunities.

A year later they presented this Karuizawa 1964 cask #3603, which was the oldest Karuizawa at that time (no trace of the 1960 back then). This 400-litre sherry cask was filled on September 1st 1964 and yielded 143 bottles (plus 200 miniatures), all pre-sold to WealthSolutions investors.

 

Karuizawa 1964It comes in a box of dark black fossil oak – extremely old wood recovered from Polish swamps – quite appropriate as Karuizawa means swamp.

 

 

 

Karuizawa 1964 cask #3603 for WealthSolutionsKaruizawa 48 yo 1964
(57,7%, Number One Drinks for WealthSolutions 2013, cask #3603, 143 btl.)

Nose: well rounded and fruity. There’s blood orange and melon, apricot preserve, even a hint of pineapple alongside the obligatory juicy plums and cherries. Spanish fig bread. Chocolate notes. Impressive for this age. A second layer is darker, more earthy, with moss and high class Pu Erh. Cinnamon and rose pepper, some overtones of mint as well. The most delicate layer is leathery and shows oriental incense / waxed exotic woods, typical for old Karuizawa. Mouth: a similar basket of red fruits, black cherries, Seville oranges, guava, fresh figs… Surprisingly tropical, honeyed and very juicy. Well balanced oak tannins and walnut liqueur, together with the waxy notes. Pepper. Some liquorice too. Finish: very long, drying but impressively full with echoes of sweet fruit jams, chocolate and spices.

It’s too easy to say this is amazingly fresh for a 48 years old. I would say it’s mature rather than fresh, but it managed to retain such a great sweetness and fruitiness. For me the first Karuizawa that matches the wonderful 1967. Sold for € 10.000 a bottle. There’s one available from Master of Malt, with some inflation.

Score: 95/100


I opened this sample on a lazy Friday afternoon and I have to say I didn’t know what to expect, well… except for the fact that 1960s whisky is always interesting so it deserves quite some time to investigate. Oh boy what a surprise. It’s only afterwards that I found out this Lochside 1966 bottled by the Scotch Malt Whisky Society is said to be one of the best Lochsides ever.

Most Lochsides from this era are single blends by the way (the distillery produced both malt and grain whisky) – this is a single malt version.

 

Lochside 1966 SMWS 92.7Lochside 32 yo 1966
(61,2%, SMWS 1998, ref. 92.7, 224 btl.)

Nose: perfect sherry goodness from Ye Olden Days. In order of appearance: mint, Ginjinha, warm sand, cedar oak, chocolate ganache, lovage, cigar box, Amontillado sherry, old furniture, maple syrup, caramel flan, liquorice, Pan de Higo and an overall nuttiness. Huge sherry, but such a deep fruitiness and such elegance! The exotic oak and deep sherry push it in the direction of Karuizawa, while the mint and liquorice add some vermouth character. Mouth: thick, dry, concentrated, herbal sherry. Blackcurrant, lovage again, caramel toffee, herbal honey, walnuts, black cherries, coffee powder, dark chocolate, spearmint. All kinds of old oak. So intense that it comes close to tarry, medicinal notes. Touches of Fernet-Branca in that respect. Finish: heavy and looong, dry but not over the top. Plenty of spices.

Complex, stunning stuff. Maybe not typical Lochside, this could have been Strathisla or Macallan or Glenfarclas or Karuizawa, but who cares? Heavy on the oak as well, but I love it. TWE has had it on sale for around € 600.

Score: 95/100

One more birthday dram…


Again an oldie, Glengoyne 1969 this time, one of these green bottles in Cadenhead’s Authentic Collection, topped with a golden seal. Although it has an excellent reputation among Belgian whisky enthusiasts, it seems to be much less appreciated in other circles. Always make up your own mind.

There is another version at 62,8% which is 27 years old. Both seem to have similar profiles.

 

Glengoyne 1969 / 1996 CadenheadGlengoyne 26 yo 1969 (63%, Cadenhead’s Authentic Collection 1996, Chairman Stock)

Nose: very jammy fruits: apricot jam, quince jelly, whitecurrants, mirabelles, gooseberry pie… Stewed fruits, but also fresh and fragrant apricots and strawberries. Hints of marshmallow / rosewater lokum. Peonies. A little vanilla. Some fruit tea and late harvest wine. Also lots of polished oak and beeswax, mixed with pollen, honey and other beehive notes. Very elegant oak. Mouth: quite oily and again, such a fruit basket! In line with BenRiach 1976, Longmorn 1969 or Caperdonich 1972. Apricots, oranges, greengages, pink grapefruit, white cherries… Juicy yellow raisins. Honey and these lovely waxy notes again. Moves towards cinnamon and mint, exotic woods (cedar?) and blonde tobacco. Some pepper and an oaky dryness towards the finish but what a delicious palate. Finish: long, half spicy, half fruity, with traces of menthol.

 

All these Maniacs who think this is worth 88 points, I’ll take your bottles please, thank you very much. This is just excellent Glengoyne, full of (tropical) fruits and beehive notes (a combo that always does it for me). Thanks Luc.

Score: 94/100


Let’s have a few more legendary drams to celebrate the 5th anniversary of this little blog

Bunnahabhain 1968 ‘Auld Acquaintance’ is probably the most legendary Bunnahabhain ever bottled. It’s a Hogmanay dram, i.e. it was distilled on the 31st of December.

At the time of bottling during the Islay Jazz Festival in 2002, it was the third in a series of limited editions of Bunnahabhain single malt (after a 1965 and 1966), and it cost £ 100.

 

Binnahabhain 1968 Auld AcquaintanceBunnahabhain 34 yo 1968
‘Auld Acquaintance’ (43,8%, OB 2002, 2002 btl.)

Nose: very expressive and delicate at the same time. Juicy sherry notes, prunes and raisins mostly. Citrus and red berries. Christmas cake. What makes it special, is the additional layer of wet stones and dusty books, as well as a big amount of waxy notes. Frankly it’s more than waxy, it’s fat and greasy (I’m thinking used Blanc de Boeuf) which works very well. Soft spices (pepper, mint) and a hint of smoke. Some darker notes as well (coffee, cocoa, tar). Mouth: creamy and mildly sweet again, with a profile that’s much more influenced by herbal notes and spices now. Liquorice roots, herbal teas, a faint salty note and a hint of cough syrup. Mint chocolates. Still some berries but overall less fruity. A bit of a coastal old Macallan, with an excellent balance of sweet / dry / bitter. And a subtle hint of smoke again. Finish: long, with some dry oak, chocolate, red berries and spices.

A very rich and inspirational Bunnahabhain, maybe the best one ever made. The combination of Bunnahabhain’s relatively gentle Islay profile with this kind of old-style sherry is pretty exceptional. Popping up in auctions once in a while – today’s value seems to be around € 800.

Score: 94/100


WhiskyNotes' 5th birthday

 

Diageo’s Special Releases 2013 have started to arrive in stores (at least in the UK), so what better way to celebrate 5 years of WhiskyNotes than with the new Brora 35 Year Old?

 

Brora 35 2013While last year’s Brora 35yo (2012) was a mix of 1976 / 1977 casks, all refill American oak, I’ve been told the new one is composed of casks filled in 1977, and both refill American oak and European oak.

Even with the € 900 price tag, shops don’t seem to have problems in selling their allocation…

 

 

Brora 35 Years 1977 - 12th release 2013Brora 35 years old 1977 (49,9%, OB 2013, 12th Annual release, 2944 btl.)

Nose: starts fresh and lively, very much old Clynelish style. Honey, apricots / pineapple, a little vanilla and lots of trademark waxy notes. Polished furniture, hints of coconut oil. Then it changes with some emerging herbal notes, peat and earthy notes. Sharpish lemongrass and seaweed. A little wet wool in the background, as well as a whiff of smoke, but it’s not the farmy Brora of earlier in the 1970s. Mouth: first a wave of coastal / earthy notes (seaweed, hay) and herbs. Quite salty. Only a bit later do the fruits appear: lemon (both zest and candy) and some yellow grapefruit. Smokier and slightly more severe than last year – which means none of the tropical fruits of last year. Waxy / resinous notes. Ashes and a late chocolate sweetness. Liquorice and menthol, eucalyptus, getting quite medicinal towards the end. Finish: long, sharper with a leathery dryness. Mint and ashes with plenty of wood spices.

 

When comparing it to my notes of last year’s Brora, I think this is a move towards more minerals, more wood, more peat smoke. Some would say back to Brora after a few Clynelish years. Nonetheless the lower complexity and bigger austerity make me prefer the former version. But still an excellent Brora and an extraordinary whisky altogether.

Score: 93/100


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Coming up

  • Tomatin 1988 (Malts of Scotland)
  • Aberfeldy 12 Year Old
  • GlenDronach 1994 PX cask #3397
  • GlenDronach 1994 PX cask #326
  • GlenDronach 1993 Oloroso cask #494
  • Blair Athol 2002 (Hepburn's Choice)
  • Fettercairn Fior
  • Bowmore Laimrig 15yo
  • Ben Nevis 2002 (Port cask #334)

1601 notes by Ruben

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