Single malt whisky - tasting notes

Bruichladdich says Port Charlotte Islay Barley is a milestone. Perhaps for the first time in the island’s history, a heavily-peated single malt has been distilled using Islay-grown barley.

The barley had been harvested in September 2008 from the farms at Coull, Kynagarry, Island, Rockside, Starchmill and Sunderland, peated to 40 PPM, then distilled in December of the same year and bottled towards the end of 2014.



Port Charlotte Islay BarleyPort Charlotte 2008 ‘Islay Barley’ (50%, OB 2014)

Nose: a salty and malty nose, with sweet liquorice and plenty of soot. Rather clean and elegant, rather rounded as well, compared to other Islay whiskies. Sweet lemon candy in the background. Something of mentholated oils. Mouth: rather dry now, with a leathery feel and some herbal hints. Dark toasted bread. A bit of sea spray and kippery notes. There’s a slight bitter edge to it, as well as a peppery heat. And always a sweet layer underneath. Finish: long, slightly hot, with ashes, plenty of salt and still these herbal (Fernet) touches.

I’m personally not very fond of this one. It seems less focused and less powerful than its Octomore sister and the herbal bitter side is quite loud. There have been better PC’s, but of course they don’t have a terroir story behind them. Around € 75.

Score: 85/100

Whisky in 2014


Happy New Year to everyone! Best wishes for 2015.

We’ve had a succesful year on this website again. In terms of visitors, 2014 was roughly at the same level as 2013, with over 2 million pageviews. However there have been more prominent highs and lows. The summer months were quieter this year but the last two months have been consistently record-breaking, with 15% more visitors than in the same period of 2013. That means more daily visitors than ever before, with significant increases from Germany, The Netherlands, Norway, Singapore…

GlenDronach is still the most popular distillery, with Ardbeg closely behind. When looking at specific pages / drams, the comparison of Johnnie Walker Red Label and Black Label is the most popular. My reviews of the Macallan Ruby and Lagavulin Distillers Edition are next.



The best whiskies of 2014

Among the new releases, the highlight of the year was probably the Glen Grant 1948 bottled by Gordon & MacPhail for WealthSolutions. A stunning whisky, but probably more of an emotional tasting.

I also had the privilege to try past stunners like the Isle of Jura 1972/1991 SMWS 31.4, the Karuizawa 45 Year Old 1967 or the wonderful Glen Grant 21yo bottled in the 1960’s. That Glen Grant was definitely the best whisky I tried in 2014.

When looking specifically at the 2014 releases, I had the impression the last few months were much more interesting than the beginning of the year. These ones stood out in a really positive way:

For everyone’s cabinet: Benromach 10

For those on a budget, the renewed Benromach 10 Year Old was a great surprise, as well as its higher strength sibling: Benromach 10 Year Old 100° proof. Great, old-style drams that are well priced. Probably the best value drams on the market today.



Overall feeling

Somehow I thought 2013 was a bit depressing: prices were going over the top, NAS releases were a new trend, and top quality was sometimes hard to find.

In 2014, prices were certainly not lower (just look at the ridiculous pricing of Diageo’s Special Releases – and notice that we’ve only bothered to review two or three) but I think we’ve become accustomed to buying less and letting more bottles gather dust on the shelves. I’d say the general quality from respected sources was okay: the excellent (and once readily available) 1970’s are gone for good, but at least we’ve discovered a couple of distilleries that are also good at lower ages. Let’s keep it at a status quo, and let’s be happy with that.

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We already tried this Linkwood 1984 at Spirits in the Sky in November, but it took us some time to get a second sample to confirm. It’s part of the latest Early flying series from The Whisky Agency.



Linkwood 1984 - The Whisky AgencyLinkwood 30 yo 1984 (49,2%, The Whisky Agency ‘Early flying’ 2014, refill hogshead, 174 btl.)

Nose: smooth, fruity nose. Honeydew melon, apple and a bit of peach jam. Green banana. Whiffs of verbena. Buttercups. It’s quite complex but also quite compact. Old-style polished furniture. Hints of mint and leafy notes in the background. Mouth: smooth and fruity again, but less emphatically so, with more oily notes and dryness now. Tobacco leaves. Some funnier notes as well, something in between potpourri and marihuana (reminds me of the undisclosed 60 year-old from Master of Malt). Herbal honey, mint liqueur, green tea. Settles on oranges and apricot. Beautiful mix of fruity notes and soft herbs. Finish: long, oaky, with lots of oranges and pepper.

It’s funny how this reminded me of another whisky that’s twice as old. Now that I think of it, that could have been Linkwood as well. In any case: this is a nice, complex and unique whisky. Around € 225.

Score: 91/100

Spirit of Freedom 30 Year Old is a blend produced by J & A Mitchell (the owners of Springbank), to commemorate the 700th anniversary of the Battle of Bannockburn in 1314.

It is composed of 75% malt whisky (from five distilleries) and 25% grain whisky – a mix of bourbon and sherry casks.



Spirit of Freedom 30 YearsSpirit of Freedom 30 yo (46%, Springbank 2014, 2014 btl.)

Nose: herbal and floral at first. Heather honey. Becomes wider and sweeter, with nougat but also slightly exotic fruits (guava, banana). Nicely waxy, with some coconut oils. Mineral touches as well, it’s easy to detect some Springbank in there. Mouth: creamy and surprisingly fruity. Slightly exotic fruits indeed: pineapple, orange and papaya. Balanced herbal notes and waxed furniture. Vanilla. Honey. Pretty old-school, how nice to find this in a blend. Hardly any grainy notes. Finish: long, some grains now, hints of oak as well, but also fruity sweetness.

A very nice surprise, especially for a blended whisky. Well composed, interestingly old-style and very reasonably priced: around € 110.

Score: 89/100

I try to get a wide variety of distilleries on this website, but Bunnahabhain is pretty much incontournable when talking about independent Islay releases. While most of the other Islay whiskies are hard to get for independent bottlers, Bunna is still readily available.

Asta Morris’ latest release is a Bunnahabhain 1987.



Bunnahabhain 1987 | Asta MorrisBunnahabhain 27 yo 1987
(50,8%, Asta Morris 2014, AM039, 124 btl.)

Nose: punchy and coastal, with some brine and various oily notes. Leathery notes. Grasses. There’s a vague aromatic sweetness in the background, but not enough to call it fruity. Well, grapefruit maybe. Soft mint and a faint touch of smoke. Mouth: rich, much more fruity now, with less austerity and mineral notes. Ripe apple, some honey and berries, a little tangerine and banana. Still some earthy hints in the back, a little pepper and salt. Very rich. Finish: medium long, still quite sweet and fruity, almost candied with a mild earthy note and  brine.

Excellent Bunnahabhain (like most other 1987’s I must add). It combines a punchy, coastal side with a big fruitiness on the palate. Around € 170.

Score: 90/100

Most of the Private Stock bottlings from The Whisky Agency go by pretty unnoticed, simply because they’re in high demand and yields are usually very low. This recent Glenrothes 1980 still seems to be available though.



Glenrothes 1980 - TWA Private StockGlenrothes 34 yo 1980
(48,5%, The Whisky Agency ‘Private Stock’ 2014, refill hogshead, 180 btl.)

Nose: a relatively light nose, starting on honey and almonds and slowly developing a nice fruit basket. Butter pear, nectarine, malon, freshly squeezed oranges, soft hints of guava. Subtle waxy notes too. Classic old Speyside. Mouth: rather sweet and fruity again, with apples, peaches, papaya and a little tangerine. Soft hints of cinnamon and ginger, enough to add depth but not drying. Quite oily, with hints of beeswax and polished oak. Floral honey. Finish: long, with a lime & mint combo and some resinous oak.

Really good, very bright, fruity and easy-going. Maybe not the most complex whisky ever, but it’s a rare example of the aged style of this Speyside distillery. Around € 290.

Score: 89/100

Merry Christmas everyone!

Having another Ardbeg 1974 single cask is always a treat, but with only 76 bottles this is also one of the rarest 1974’s around. Cask 3328 was released for the Italian market in September 2006.


Ardbeg 1974 cask #3328 for ItalyArdbeg 32 yo 1974
(53,5%, OB for Italy 2006, bourbon cask #3328, 76 btl.)

Nose: starts a bit heavy and heady, it’s definitely not a softie. Sharp lemon zest, walnut skins and plenty of medicinal notes. Brings along some sweeter notes like sugared almonds, herbal honey and wax candles. Great evolution and even better with a drop of water: it becomes smoother with lots of vanilla. Mouth: very powerful again. Huge sooty notes, hot ashes and a kippery side. Leather. Then some sweet and herbal notes, becoming slightly bitter as in herbal liqueur or cough syrup. Dark roast coffee. I prefer this with a few drops of water again, it seems a little unbalanced at full strength. Finish: very long, with vanilla notes, earthy peat and hints of grapefruit.

Another wonderful Ardbeg 1974, but it takes some fiddling with water to find the optimal strength to unleash its magic. Around € 2300 if you find one.

Score: 94/100

Islay barley, from Bruichladdich’s own Lorgba field at the Octomore farm, was used to create this Octomore 06.3. It was distilled in 2009 and bottled earlier this year.

A massive 258 ppm of phenols, that’s almost 100 ppm more than the fourth or fifth edition of this dram. The world’s most heavily peated whisky at the moment.



Octomore 06.3 - Islay Barley - 258ppmOctomore 06.3 ‘Islay Barley’ (64%, OB 2014, 258 ppm, 15.000 btl.)

Nose: surprisingly farmy, something that I didn’t get from previous releases. Wet animal fur, hay and wet leaves. I also get thyme, grapes and burnt heather. Hints of yeast. Lots of dark bread crust as well as some vanilla pastry. Hazelnuts. Quite nice, more flavoursome than you would expect from a peat monster. Mouth: very peaty and ashy of course and overall maybe a bit alcoholic. Burning wood. Hints of warm vanilla in the background. Herbal liqueurs. Sharp grapefruity notes too. Salty liquorice and salted nuts. Not very complex but quite enjoyable nonetheless. Finish: very long, tarry, peppery and quite a sweet hint of chocolate and vanilla.

There’s a good deal of flavour in this whisky, despite its high strength and monstrous peat level. Around € 180.

Score: 87/100



October 2015
« Sep    

  • kallaskander: Hi there, Winter Gold gives the impression of a lost concept from the Cold War between whisky and vodka. That war is over, whisky won and the Drinks
  • WhiskyNotes: Obviously there are new articles each year (see my post about last year's edition) and the latest releases / statistics are added each year. If you've
  • Nate: I've never bought a copy. Is each year very different or is just buying the most recent sufficient?

Coming up

  • Bunnahabhain 1987 (Maltbarn)
  • Glen Garioch 1993 (Maltbarn)
  • Royal Brackla 16 Year Old
  • Irish malt 1991 'Maria' (The Nectar)
  • Teeling 26yo Vintage Reserve
  • Kavalan Podium

1891 notes by Ruben

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