Single malt whisky - tasting notes

In the context of the recent revamp of Talisker, there’s this new Port wine finished version called Talisker Port Ruighe (prononuced portree).

Matured in refill casks (American and European oak), it was then transferred to deeply charred barrels and yet again transferred to Port wine (or Port wine infused) barrels.


Talisker Port RuigheTalisker Port Ruighe
(45,8%, OB 2013)

Nose: rather dominant wine notes. Think rosewater lokum, a lot of plums and cranberries. Fragrant lemon as well as a slightly acetic sourness. Some chalk. The peat is nicely integrated and is particularly medicinal with the invasiveness of menthol and antiseptics. Coastal notes. Hints of chocolate and oak shavings. Uncommon and surprisingly airy for a Talisker. Mouth: oily but sharp as a knife. Brine, chilli pepper, ginger. Cranberries (including the specific bitterness of their juice). Menthol again. It’s only in the aftertaste that it begins to calm down and show orange liqueur, smoke. There’s also a surprisingly scorched earthy element in the end. Finish: long, with more smoke, dark chocolate and earthy notes.

An unusual Talisker to say the least. Some will find it interesting, others will find it disjointed. It seems I will stick with the traditional Talisker offerings. Around € 50.

Score: 79/100

Did you know Knockando was the first distillery in Scotland to be built with electric lighting in 1898?

This Knockando 12 years old was bottled in 1979 but the expression goes back to the end of the 1950’s when Justerini & Brooks (J&B indeed) bought the company. In fact a 12yo with vintage statement still exists today.


Knockando 12 Dateo ImportKnockando 12 yo 1967
(43%, J&B for Dateo Import Italy 1979)

Nose: light, fairly neutral, with lots of hay and cut apples, maybe grapefruit as well. Hints of waxed paper and dusty old books. Gets a little sweeter over time. Mouth: not too bold, oily, malty and slightly honeyed. Apple flavours again. Oranges. Grassy notes, soft resin and heather. Hints of green tea. Finish: fairly long, with some ginger, grasses, apple skin and cereal notes.

I wasn’t totally impressed with this Knockando, but on the other hand it seems to be more complex than modern bottlings and quite balanced for a standard bottling. Around € 150 in auctions.

Score: 80/100

New Malts of Scotland releases have reached us a bit later than normally. The oldest of the latest batch is this 36 years old Longmorn 1976. Stocks of this praised vintage are quickly drying up.


Longmorn 1976 Malts of ScotlandLongmorn 36 yo 1976 (53,7%, Malts of Scotland 2013, bourbon hogshead, MoS 13029, 143 btl.)

Nose: the typical warm nose that’s full of apricot jam, orange juice and honeydew melon. It’s not the most tropical 1976 but there are still hints of mango and pineapple. Beehive notes like wax, pollen and honey. Soft polished oak. Hints of bergamot after a while. Some brioche and mocha. Nice! Mouth: initially warm, sweet and fruity. Oranges and apricot pie. A second wave is really spicy: ginger and pepper, some mint and plain tannins (a bit more than the 2010-2011 siblings). Returns nicely to honey and the pink grapefruit that we find in many 1976 Speysiders. Finish: long, fruity but also pretty oaky with some resin and wee touches of Nivea cream. Or anti-wrinkle cream for old malts.


A beautiful profile – we knew that already – and great to see another example of that. Generally in line with the previous Longmorn 1976 releases, although the best examples had probably been discovered already. Around € 250 – it seems they are still available in most stores.

Score: 91/100

Once in a while I force myself to buy samples of recent standard releases. I’ll try to find a nice balance with the more expensive stuff, but it’s absolutely true that there are nice value for money drams among the official ranges.

The Glengoyne core range was revised and repackaged a couple of months ago. In Europe this 12 years old expression is the youngest to be bottled at 43% (the younger 10yo is bottled at 40%). The 12 is matured using a mix of first-fill sherry, refill sherry, as well as first-fill bourbon hogsheads, which is a first for this distillery. While the sherry influence may be less obvious than in previous years, it should still be present. It’s chill-filtered.


Glengoyne 12 yearsGlengoyne 12 yo (43%, OB 2012)

Nose: very malty with a lot of caramel sweetness. Sweetened lemon juice and yellow apples. Honey. Hints of hazelnuts. Shows more vanilla after a while. Mouth: medium weight, sweet and malty again with a creamy, slightly buttery mouthfeel. Toffee and a slightly gingerbread spiciness. Hints of vanilla cake. Some light fruity notes of apple and melon. Some hay and almond paste. Finish: medium long, simple and sweet.

A pretty good entry-level malt with a bit of everything, yet so balanced that it remains inoffensive. My score was lower on the nose than on the palate, where it shows a few unique touches and really begins to shine. Around € 40.

Score: 82/100

By now we all know the great and highly popular Balvenie Tun 1401. There’s also an Asian counterpart, called Balvenie Tun 1858, sold exclusively in Taiwan. This first batch was made up of 9 casks (3 sherry butts and 6 bourbon casks), filled between 1966 and 1975 so aged between 37 and 46 years. As with the 1401, they were married for a few months in Tun 1858.


Balvenie Tun 1858Balvenie ‘Tun 1858’
(50,4%, OB 2012, batch #1, Taiwan)

Nose: quite aromatic. There’s straw and leather, but also ripe oranges and some juicy apricots in the back. Some herbal teas and acacia honey. Mint and eucalyptus. Maybe a little tobacco. Also a floral, slightly potpourri-like touch but it works really well here. As with the Tun 1401, the real tour de force lies in controlling the inevitable wood. David Stewart did a good job again. Mouth: a slightly sourish entry, not quite as creamy as I would have hoped. More on oak, bergamot tea and citrus (zest). Quite a leathery texture. There’s a nice sweetness in the background by the way, but it’s not thick enough to really stand out. No excessive dryness though. Spicy end: nutmeg, mint and cinnamon powder. Finish: medium long and medium soft. Oak, soft spices, and lingering sherry fruits.

The price is too heavy compared to the Tun 1401 releases, but of course these are some of the oldest casks of The Balvenie. Around € 750. Not available in this part of the world. Thanks Jack.

Score: 90/100

Whisky is dying

23 Jul 2013 | * News

Or at least part of the whisky community seems ready for palliative care.


<start rant>

There is a huge community of whisky geeks in Western Europe, as well as the US and some other countries. We don’t mind being called geeks, after all we’re constantly looking for interesting bottles and doing anorak comparisons to find the best Tomatin 1976 for example. Of course we’re just peanuts compared to the turnover of the total whisky market, but a loyal and dedicated part of it nonetheless. A thriving community that needs enough interesting whisky to survive.

On the other hand there’s no denying the fact that we have been spoiled. The Whisky Agency started in 2008, Malts of Scotland in 2009. Both bottlers built their reputation on excellent 1970’s whisky. Very high quality for reasonably high prices. Even the 1960’s – though rare already – were still within the reach of enthusiasts back then. In two or three years, this situation has changed dramatically. Old whisky is getting thin on the ground (I’m not talking about the ultra-premium expressions here). There are a couple of reasons behind this change:

  • Stocks of old whisky are really low. They were already low and now bottlers are struggling to find available casks. On top of this, the 1980’s have been a period of crisis for the whisky industry, so there comes a point in time where even the distilleries that survived the crisis will have to deal with at least a decade of significantly lower production. One, maybe two years ago, suddenly the 1970’s expressions didn’t appear on the market as they did before, and 1980’s were rare anyway so that brings us immediately to the 1990’s. This is sold as premium whisky now.
  • New markets like Russia, Taiwan, Japan and other Asian countries have suddenly discovered whisky. Not only are they buying / collecting long gone bottles (old Macallan springs to mind), they are also bringing a lot of new bottlings of old whisky to their countries. Old Pulteney 40 years old, Bunnahabhain 40 years old, Highland Park vintages, the new GlenDronach 1968… they are all aimed at these markets, with prices that shout “prestige” rather than “value for money”.
  • Scots are smart people. They are holding back the old whisky that is left, as they hope to sell most of it to emerging markets. Of course, why would they sell it to European geeks who are complaining that old whisky is getting too expensive? New Port Ellen releases for instance are very rare and they have suddenly become too expensive for enthusiasts, even from independent bottlers. Most closed distilleries are going down this path, and it’s not just old whisky. Bottlers can hardly find medium-aged Islay whisky these days.


To overcome this situation of a currently booming whisky market with high demand and stocks that haven’t been continuous, more and more (healthy) distilleries and bottlers are focusing on No Age Statement releases or simply younger expressions. I’m not totally judging this, I’ve liked most of the Decades concepts that were launched by several distilleries and I’m convinced there is good whisky made in the 1990’s. Lately we’ve been discovering young beauties from distilleries that had previously been overlooked. In fact some parts of the whisky spectrum have not been investigated enough and independent bottlers will surely present us with nice whisky. But lately I’ve made a couple of observations related to this:

  • The new GlenDronach single casks releases used to contain several casks from the 1970’s, 80’s and 90’s. The latest batch contained one 1971 cask, all the rest were 1990’s until 2002 vintages.
  • We’ve seen Teaninch 1973 and Glencadam 1973 from German bottlers lately. That’s about it from the 1970’s.
  • At a recent presentation of the new Gordon & MacPhail bottlings for Belgium, there were four 1990’s releases and three 2000’s. G&M used to be a reference for old whisky.


I’m worried that the average quality (and individuality) is getting lower, simply because we’re looking for complexity and age matters big time in this respect, no matter what distilleries are trying to tell us. In my view, modern whisky is always well-made but usually less interesting / individual as well (the outcome of the thorough optimization and quest for consistency of the industry). I don’t have conclusive evidence for this, but my general impression is that I’m seeing far less 90+ drams than before. Even the rare 1970’s vintages that do appear, don’t seem as stunning as they once were.

This also worries me for whisky enthusiasm in general. Personally I’ve always bought much more whisky than I had been drinking. A lot of these were ‘last chance’ purchases, i.e. the kind of whisky profile that would not appear on the market for a long time. When I buy a bottle of Scapa 2001 on the other hand (just a random example), the reason would be its instant drinking quality and not its future value. I’m not talking about investment value here, I’m simply saying that I don’t want to secure my share of Scapa 2001 for the future, contrary to Brora 30 or BenRiach 1976 for instance. I will only buy as much Scapa 2001 as I’m planning to drink right now (virtually none), whereas I’ve bought multiple bottles of my other examples. I’ll tell you even more: I’ve bought surprisingly little whisky altogether during the last few months (only counting new releases). There simply weren’t that many whiskies that made me grab my wallet. I feel that part of what got me interested in whisky is now disappearing.

As a side note, I’ve seen a lot of friends on Facebook talk about beer lately (Geuze and others), all sorts of premium gins and tonics, rum has been popular for a long time as well… In fact I’m planning to set up a second website about a different drink as well, more about that later. We could blame the hot weather for this change of interest but maybe something else is breeding. Whisky just doesn’t offer the value for money it used to.

Is whisky dying? The kind of whisky that I’ve come to adore, definitely is. It may seem contradictory in times of a flourishing worldwide whisky industry, but indeed there is a good chance that the Golden Age of whisky anorakism as we knew it, is coming to an end. The Times They Are a-Changin’.

<end rant>


Disclaimer: this may come accross as an exaggerated opinion. Sure, it’s based on my personal situation and my particular whisky community - maybe you drink younger, more standard drams already and you won’t notice the change. In any case I don’t expect my interest in whisky (or this website for that matter) to end completely anytime soon, but it is a fact that I’ve been worrying about the current state and the near future of the whisky world.

I hardly ever ask for comments, but this time, please share your personal views and comments!

The latest members of the Classic label series by The Whiskyman is a Glen Grant distilled in 1992.



Glen Grant 1992 | The Whiskyman | MassenGlen Grant 21 yo 1992
(48,4%, The Whiskyman for Vinothek Massen 2013, ex-bourbon cask, 118 btl.)

Nose: all the fruity brightness we expected. Juicy pears, apples with soft cinnamon and hints of pineapple. Lemon candy and Frosties. Some buttercups and freshly cut grasses. Vanilla custard. In the background, there’s also a buttery / waxy note. Very fresh and aromatic and nicely summery. Mouth: sweet and candied. Pear and apple galore again, mixed with citrus and a herbal sharpness (ginger, mustard, pepper). The barley and yeast shines through – very natural whisky. Fades on grapefruit zest and tonic bitterness. Finish: medium long, clean and fruity, with a slightly eau-de-vie kind of alcohol tang.

In summer I’m not looking for heavy, complex drams, so this will work out fine. Around € 80, only available from Vinothek Massen.

Score: 87/100


Ben Nevis 1996 TheWhiskyCaskBen Nevis 16 yo 1996
(53%, TheWhiskyCask 2012, hogshead)

Nose: a fruity profile with alcoholic overtones. Apple eau-de-vie, even apple vinegar. Marzipan. Becomes a little gentler over time, especially with a few drops of water. Papaya and grapefruit. Vanilla. Mouth: there’s a very nice, tropical fruitiness at the core of this malt, even some bubblegummy notes, but somehow it’s also packed with sharper notes of lemon zest and resin. A little chilli heat, ginger and maybe curry. Some beer-like notes. Salty almonds and liquorice. Finish: medium long, going back to slightly synthetic fruity notes.

Overall this is nice (though slightly straightforwardly modern) whisky, but I found the sharp and alcoholic notes a bit disturbing. Around € 65. Still available from TheWhiskyCask.

Score: 80/100



April 2014
« Mar    

Coming up

  • Arran 17 Years Old
  • Glen Grant 1992 (Old Particular)
  • Glen Grant 1992 (Le Gus't)
  • Auchentoshan 15yo (Kintra)
  • Lagavulin 1997 Distillers Edition
  • Ben Nevis 1997 (Maltbarn)
  • Tomatin 1978 (Cadenhead / Nectar)
  • Aultmore 2007 (Daily Dram)
  • Glenglassaugh 1978 (Madeira)
  • Karuizawa 45 Year Old (cask #2925)
  • Glengoyne 1999 (Palo Cortado)

1503 notes by Ruben

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