Single malt whisky - tasting notes

I know some people like Fettercairn, but the ones I’ve had so far were always a tad below par. I still have to try one of these newer official bottlings though. This middle-aged version was bottled by Signatory a couple of years ago.

 

Fettercairn 1995 Signatory #405 #406Fettercairn 16 yo 1995 (59,9%, Signatory Vintage 2011, bourbon barrels #405+406, 368 btl.)

Nose: fairly sweet, malty and fruity (apples, gooseberries), quite modern in that respect. A little vanilla. Some spices (pepper) and fresh oak. Not much to say really, this isn’t too bad but it’s very neutral and not very expressive in the first place. Mouth: strange, with chalky notes, a beer-like note, some bread and a pretty big rubbery note (not sherried rubber, but something of a fresh cleaning glove). Also a lemony note that evolves into soap or toilet refresher. Lots of herbal notes and a bitter zestiness in the end. Not sure what to make of this, it’s a challenge. Finish: green herbs, pine wood and grapefruit zest.

Very strange whisky, especially with the rubber / soap. Around € 70, still available in some places. I can understand some drams are not within my preferred profile, but this comes close to faulty production if you ask me.

Score: 69/100


Edradour, the smallest distillery in Scotland, with the smallest stills as well, is now owned by Signatory. So it’s no surprise they are sharing this straight “Ibisco” decanter with the wide stopper.

Marsala, Bordeaux, Port, Madeira, Sauternes, Chardonnay, Sassicaia, Barolo, Moscatel… Edradour will use virtually any type of cask they can lay their hands on. You could even say this first fill bourbon expression is quite a rare “experiment”! Probably the only distillery that can be experimental using very traditional oak…

 

Edradour 2003 Decanter bourbonEdradour 2003 (57,4%, OB 2013, first fill bourbon cask, Ibisco decanter 4th release)

Nose: lemon and vanilla. Some grassy notes and mint. Floral notes too, white flowers and rose petals. Not too bad, not sulphury or anything, quite bright but not very complex. Mouth: intense, with plenty of alcohol. A firm fruitiness of gooseberries, apples and lemon. Again floral hints, even slightly soapy hints now, hmmm. Fresh, slightly tangy oak. Pepper, ginger and mint. Some mineral notes. Heather honey. Better with water: less fierce, the honey comes out more, and there’s a nice vanilla custard note. But I find the oaky bitterness and floral hints a little distracting. Finish: quite long, with lemon tea, mint and lots of fresh, bitterish oak.

Good things, bad things… Even though it’s not as boringly modern (or modernly boring) as some other first fill bourbon whiskies, it falls between many stools in my opinion. Around € 65.

Score: 80/100


Gordon & MacPhail have bottled several Coleburn 1972 expressions, bottled in the 1990′s with the beige map label. This is a rather early one from 1993.

 

Coleburn 1972 / 1993 G&MColeburn 1972 (40%, Gordon & MacPhail Connoisseurs Choice 1993, old map label)

Nose: really old-style, with lots of grist and dust. Hints of gravel. Hay. Dried flowers. Also grains, hazelnut and a little eucalyptus. Some sweet apple, but I wouldn’t call this fruity. Mouth: very sweet now, oakier as well. Very malty, lots of Frosties. Cinnamon chewing gum. Ginger. Tobacco. A slight peaty note in the back? Finish: medium long, with an oaky dryness, nutmeg and a tonic bitterness.

Well, not a real highflyer and definitely whacky in some respects. On the other side, I really like this kind of dustiness and it’s quite interesting. It seems to get really bad scores here and there but it’s worth trying. Thanks Joachim.

Score: 80/100


The Whisky Mercenary seems to have reached a higher gear, with new bottlings coming out regularly. There has been a Clynelish 1997 for Beproefd.be, and the latest one, that will be available in stores in a few weeks, is this Dailuaine 1992. Almost certainly from a bourbon cask, if you ask me.

 

Dailuaine 1992 - The Whisky MercenaryDailuaine 21 yo 1992
(53,3%, The Whisky Mercenary 2013)

Nose: aromatic and very fruity. Truckloads of Granny Smith and peaches, some mirabelles and hints of banana. Estery, with some solventy notes as well. Marshmallows (love that). Lemon custard with soft vanilla. Seems more youthful than 21 years. Fennel seeds and gingerbread in the back. Hints of toasted oak as well. Quite easy, very entertaining. Mouth: oily, very sweet and rather feminine. Apple sweets, candied ginger, lemon syrup. Hints of coconut. Some floral / waxy notes as well. Grapefruit. White pepper and honey. The grassiness and firm spices hint towards freshly sawn oak, but again there’s a toasted element too. Finish: long, still fruity and spicy, with ginger and honey.

Simply very good whisky. I almost wrote: very good young whisky. Modern and not very demanding, but a lovely bright drinking whisky with a few uncommon touches.

Score: 88/100


Big Peat is a regular amongst the heavily peated blends. This cask strength Islay blended malt includes Ardbeg, Bowmore, Caol Ila and Port Ellen – I suppose this last distillery still helps it fly off the shelves although it may be a very limited amount. It also includes two other malts from the south side of the island (Laphroaig and Lagavulin).

Like last year, Douglas Laing created a Big Peat Christmas Edition. It’s supposed to be an even more wintery version.

 

Big Peat Christmas EditionBig Peat ‘Christmas Edition’ 2013 (54,9%, Douglas Laing 2013)

Nose: surprisingly youthful. Young peated malt, full of pear drops and smoked grains. Heathery peat, porridge, big phenols and some antiseptic. Briny Caol Ila up front, maybe some 2000’s Bowmore in the middle and young Ardbeg sweetness underneath. Clean, bold, but with some new-makeish notes. Mouth: very peaty again. Pepper. A similarly young (synthetic) pear fruitiness. Some rubbery notes and tar. Quite some medicinal notes as well, and a hint of black coffee and cocoa towards the end. Rather straightforward. Finish: long, with some liquorice and ashes.

It didn’t impress me as much as the original Big Peat, but it’s still a nice Islay vatting, just a little youngish. Around € 60.

Score: 84/100


Another one of these Karuizawa releases that went directly to Taiwan. Cask #6568 distilled in 1980.

 

Karuizawa 1980 cask 6568Karuizawa 31 yo 1980
(56,4%, OB 2011, sherry butt #6568)

Nose: one of those burnt sugar / dark honey / tarry noses. Overripe – not to say rotting – melons. Quite some wet leaves and moss in there. Fungi. Undeniable gunpowder and sulphury spent matches as well. Raisins. Roasted nuts. Over time it develops some acidity, sour red fruits compote with overtones of raspberry vinegar. Not the best start. Mouth: big and dark, smoky and again not without gunpowder / sulphur notes. Dates. Coffee and liquorice. A woody astringency as well, tannins and the acid sherry notes again. A nice honey / plum liqueur theme in the background though, too bad it doesn’t get a chance. Allspice and incense towards the end. Finish: powerful and spicy. Lots of liquorice.

Firecrackers, rotting organics and highly acidic sherry… Too bad for the nicer red fruits and honeys that are buried underneath. This is definitely the bad side of Karuizawa, maybe even the worst I’ve tried. Originally around € 360.

Score: 78/100


The Sovereign is one of the ranges of Hunter Laing, the company of Stewart Laing and his sons Andrew and Scott, since Douglas Laing was split between the two brothers in February 2013. Some of their better known ranges are Old Malt Cask and Old & Rare Platinum.

Cameronbridge is a grain distillery which was established in 1824 as the Haig distillery. In 1826 it became the first distillery to produce grain whisky using the column still concept. For some time it produced both grain and malt whisky, until it shifted exclusively towards grain in 1929. The current still house is much younger, it was expanded and reopened in 2000.

Nowadays Cameronbridge is owned by Diageo and it’s the largest grain distillery in Scotland. Their grain production is a key element in the Johnnie Walker blends, but they produce other spirits like Pimm’s, Smirnoff, Tanqueray and Gordon’s gin as well.

 

Cameronbridge 23yo 1990 Hunter LaingCameronbridge 23 yo 1990
(59,2%, Hunter Laing ‘The Sovereign’ 2013, ref. 9860)

Nose: grainy and oaky at first. Vanilla, quite some oak varnish and a whole warehouse full of freshly sawn wood. Pencil shavings. White pepper. Underneath is some icing sugar. Also typical coconut notes. Mouth: sweet and spicy, with a big alcohol / wood kick. It’s simply too hot. With some water, fruity notes come out (slightly synthetic pineapple and banana, also lemon sweets and tinned peach). Vanilla and coconut cream. The oak stays pretty loud: clove, pepper and an oaky bitterness. Finish: medium, warm, sweet with some zesty grapefruit.

Slightly difficult to assess. Some nice grain whisky notes, but the palate needs water. At the same time this makes the nose a little tame. Also the oak is hard to filter out. Around € 100.

Score: 80/100


Maltbarn has a new agreement for Belgium. Bottlings are now available through Dram242. Of course you can also contact Maltbarn directly or Whiskybase in Holland.

This Caol Ila 1979 is 33 years old and part of the recent batch by Maltbarn.

 

 

Caol Ila 1979 MaltbarnCaol Ila 33 yo 1979 (52,7%, Maltbarn 2013, ex-bourbon cask, 55 btl.)

Nose: starts in an assertive way, with lots of seaweed, hessian and camphor. Oysters and walnuts. Hints of mercurochrome. Quite bold. Some wet stones. Some embering hay. Linseed oil. It may seem really austere, but in fact it is very attractive in all its power. Mouth: oily, salty, zesty and medicinal. Again a bold example of this style. Some antiseptic and iodine. Quite peaty for Coal Ila as well, hints of tar and soot. Liquorice. Hints of bitter grapefruit and aspirin in the background. Evolves on herbal liqueur. Alive and kicking. Finish: long, clean, with liquorice and citrus zest.

We love gentle old Coal Ila but this is great as well. Coastal, punchy, pleasantly austere. Around € 220. Available since yesterday.

Score: 91/100


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  • Benromach 1976 vintage
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1577 notes by Ruben

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