Single malt whisky - tasting notes

Like the Port Ellen 1983, this Glen Grant 1972 was bottled in 2012 and released by Maltbarn just recently. Like the neighbouring Caperdonich 1972, it’s one of the old delights that seem to have disappeared from the market almost entirely.

 

Glen Grant 1972/2012 MaltbarnGlen Grant 40 yo 1972 (51,6%, Maltbarn 2012, sherry cask, 49 btl.)

Nose: the joys of whisky. Different kinds of fruit jams (apricots and greengages), mixed with wonderful beehive notes (pollen, beeswax, honeycomb) and fine polished oak. Very light mineral notes, as well as a minty freshness. Quite brilliant. Mouth: spicy, with a faint oaky bitterness, but luckily there’s still plenty of fruity sweetness. Oranges and yellow plums. Fruit cake. Honey pastry and beeswax. Evolves on Early Grey teas. Finish: fruit tea indeed. Long, honeyed, with very mild tannins considering the age. A little aniseed in the very end.

Yes, I love this profile. Just a handful of bottles left, I guess. These Glen Grant 1972’s have become expensive but they’re still wonderful. We should be thankful someone can still offer them. Around € 400.

Score: 92/100


No, I didn’t win the lottery that was used to randomly assign bottles of this Karuizawa 1984 cask #3663 to potential buyers. I think The Whisky Exchange came up with a pretty fair solution for the problem of high demand that has become hard to avoid with Karuizawa releases.

On the other hand, I think this is mostly a solution for the problem of high server load, which most online retailer are not capable of handling. Buying Karuizawa has always been a lottery, maybe not openly so, but a lottery of getting information and being awake at the right moment nonetheless.

 

Karuizawa 1984 cask 3663 for TWEKaruizawa 29 yo 1984 (56,8%, OB for The Whisky Exchange 2013, first fill sherry cask #3663, +/- 250 btl.)

Nose: quite meaty at first, and full of oriental wood as well. Cedar oak and polished sandalwood all over. Roasted notes, some damp earth and wet leafs, and cinnamon bark. Used leather. Faint asphalt / rubber too. Dark tea and liquorice. Mouth: starts on lots of plum syrup and cloves, black cherries, coffee beans, toffee and dark cocoa bars with raisins inside. Some sourness as well, in between a leafy sourness (tobacco) and citrus. Charred oak and coal smoke. Nutmeg. Finish: very long, spicy and sour, with plenty of sweet oak and coffee.

Very big, charred, sweet & sour Karuizawa. With all this power, it’s clear that it misses some of the elegance and perfectly layered structure of other bottlings. Lottery price: around € 400. Thanks for the sample, Joeri!

Score: 91/100


Compass BoxCompass Box Delilah’s is an homage to Delilah’s, Mike Miller’s legendary punk rock whisky bar in Chicago, to celebrate the bar’s 20th anniversary in 2013. The late Michael Jackson called it the most important bar in America.

Delilah’s is a blended whisky, developed by John Glaser and Mike Miller as an expression of their shared vision on great whisky. It’s a mix of 50% malt whisky (our guess would be Longmorn and Teaninich) and 50% grain whisky from Cameronbridge. The blend was aged in ‘experimental’ new American oak barrels and rejuvenated American oak hogsheads.

Funny remark: the press release claims it was created to be perfect served as a shot with a beer. That’s not how we enjoy our whisky, but let’s try it anyway.

 

 

Compass Box Delilah'sDelilah’s 20th Anniversary
(40%, Compass Box 2013, 6324 btl.)

Nose: truckloads of vanilla, sweet cereals (Honey Pops) and something of a fruit syrup. Peach, a little mango. Apple and lemon sweets. Hints of white chocolate. Lots of barley sugars with subtle new oak spices. Mouth: smooth and really fruity again. Pretty much the same creamy vanilla, honey and biscuits. Not too soft at 40%. Gentle spices again and no harsh grainy notes. It lacks a little complexity but it’s well composed. Finish: more grainy notes now, hints of grated coconut and a gentle oaky dryness.

It’s a fun whisky, easy to drink and quite undemanding. That’s exactly what they were aiming for, I guess. A perfect card player’s whisky. Around € 70.

Score: 84/100


Ezra Brooks 15 years

24 Jun 2014 | * USA

Ezra Brooks is a sour mash Kentucky straight bourbon. It was first produced in the 1950’s by the Medley distillery in Owensboro, Kentucky. The brand has been sold a number of times and today it is marketed by Luxco and distilled by Heaven Hill Distilleries (Elijah Craig, Evan Williams, Parkers Heritage, Bernheim Original, Georgia Moon, Rittenhouse…).A “rare old sippin’ whiskey” according to the label. While it was typically bottled at 90 proof, this one is an older version bottled in the 1970’s at 101 proof (50,5%).

Nowadays the brand has degraded a little, with a 12yo and a cinnamon flavoured version as the top expressions, but back then it was a premium bourbon.

 

 

Ezra Brooks 15 yearsEzra Brooks 15 yo (101 proof, OB 1970’s, Italian import)

Nose: quite superb, almost a sherried bourbon. Dried prunes, figs, quite some coffee and milk chocolate… Baked apple and cinnamon sticks. Cigar leaves. Lots of nutty notes as well as waxed furniture. Mint, eucalyptus and pine resin (I think this cures a blocked nose). Verbena and other herbs. Excellent complexity. Very oaky but this is just great. Mouth: really herbal. At first there are still fruity notes (apple and plums) but they quickly make place for cardamom, mint, cinnamon and pepper. Some balsamic notes, then also gentian, heavy liquorice and a medicinal (cough syrup) theme. Bittersweet burnt caramel. Makes me think of the lovely Fernet Branca and other vermouth. Overinfused chamomile tea. Finish: long and dry, spicy oaky notes and a vague sweetness.

A lovely bourbon really. Dried fruits and big oaky notes, up to the point where it becomes medicinal. Rarely seen in auctions but one to watch. Thanks Johan.

Score: 90/100


Enough independent Bunnahabhain 1987 to fill my bathtub these days. Here’s one of my personal favourites.

 

Bunnahabhain 1987 (The Whisky Agency)Bunnahabhain 26 yo 1987 (50,4%, The Whisky Agency ‘Mollusc & Medusa’ 2014, refill hogshead, 210 btl.)

Nose: nice to see so many fruit notes. Orange wine gums, Cointreau, apricot and Cantaloupe. Some yellow flowers and beeswax. Floral honey. There’s a soft edge of linseed oil and coastal references. Really nice, its style hints towards the 1980 casks (and much older ones). Mouth: rich, very bright and fruity again, slightly candied. Apricot jam, plums, apple peel, rhubarb, maybe a little nectarine, although the coastal side caps a few of the tropical hints. Impressive freshness, and a nice combination with gentle brine and a gingery sharpness. Finish: quite long, with honeyed notes, brine and liquorice.

These Bunna’s from 1987 can be totally different. I’ve had austere and briny Fino casks, Karuizawa-style dark sherry casks and now a bright, rather fruity version – which is my favourite. Check it out, I find it quite excellent. Around € 165.

Score: 90/100


We already tried Bowmore Small Batch with its accompanying chocolate made by Montezuma’s.

Montezuma's chocolateBowmore 15 Year Old Darkest was released in 2007. I tried it back then and wasn’t really impressed, as the sherry was not entirely fresh. But this is a totally different batch of course.

Bowmore Darkest is finished in Oloroso sherry casks for three years. It’s also coloured with caramel to make it darker than it actually is.

 

Bowmore Darkest 15 YearsBowmore 15 yo ‘Darkest’
(43%, OB 2013)

Nose: quite nice, a classic combination of smoke and sherry. Subtle smoky bonfire rather than heavy peat. The sherry is slightly bigger, I would say. Raisins, hints of coffee beans, caramelized nuts. Clean sherry, if slightly winey. Subtle coastal notes too. Mouth: fruity, lots of berries and forest fruits. Sweet and sour. Leathery notes. Nuts and treacle. Also a slightly floral (not to say fragrant) hint, not quite FWP but you see where it comes from. Subtle smokiness again. Finish: long, with tar and walnuts.

As for the chocolate, I have the same remarks as with Bowmore Small Batch. The chocolate is really nice, the combination is nice, but I wouldn’t say it has special advantages over a standard dark chocolate bar. And the chocolate tends to overpower the whisky.

 

On its own, you should remember Bowmore Darkest is not all that dark, it’s not as smoky as other Bowmore, much sweeter and there’s a hint of violets on the palate. A fair entry-level sherried Islay whisky. Around € 50.

Score: 80/100


In the Singleton series that was originally made for travel retail, the Singleton of Dufftown offers three expressions: 12 Year Old, 15 Year Old and 18 Year Old. This year, two new NAS expressions were launched: Tailfire and Sunray.

 

The Singleton of Dufftown 15 Year OldSingleton of Dufftown 15 yo
(40%, OB 2013)

Nose: much nicer than expected. There’s an uncommon mix of lipstick wax, orange blossom and a dark beer-like malty sweetness. Works surprisingly well. Apple pie and toffee, oranges and honey. Also a certain dustiness. Maybe soft tobacco. I quite like this. Mouth: fairly soft, too bad, with a generic sweetness. Bummer. The profile is still rather nice though. Sweet nuts, pears and a balanced oaky spiciness. Honey. Finish: long, sweet and malty, with lots of mocha and honey.

I have to say the nose of this Singleton of Dufftown 15yo was a nice surprise. Nice character, interesting aromas. A really nice entry-level malt. If only it were bottled with a little bit more power. Around € 45.

Score: 83/100


After the Glen Grant 1948, here’s another side of Gordon & MacPhail…

The Belgian retailer The Bonding Dram picked this Caol Ila 2006 from the Gordon & MacPhail stocks. It was a joint bottling with the Flemish Malt Whisky Society, a whisky club based in the same region.

 

Caol Ila 2006 (Gordon & MacPhail - The Bonding Dram)Caol Ila 7 yo 2006 (56,5%, Gordon & MacPhail for The Bonding Dram & FMWS 2014, refill sherry hogshead #306202, 309 btl.)

Nose: very straightforward. Lots of coastal notes, deep soot, burnt heather. Also quite some medicinal notes, iodine, camphor, a little asphalt. Intense peat. But there’s also a loud sweetness that fights back. Baked apple, molasses, peaches on syrup. Powerful ensemble. Mouth: again sweeter than expected, although the peat is hard to tame. Baked bananas, candy apple, caramel (burnt). Overtaken by soot, camphor and punchy chilli peppers. Some gingery heat. Heather, herbs, slowly getting drier (cayenne pepper tea and liquorice confectionery). Yes, lots of black liquorice candy really. Finish: very long, herbal, camphory and smoky.

A slightly extreme dram – screaming and kicking around. Luckily the sherry cask brought enough sweetness to maintain the balance. Around € 55.

Score: 87/100


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Coming up

  • Ardbeg 1972 (Douglas Laing OMC)
  • Jura 1972 SMWS 31.4
  • Balblair 2002
  • Kavalan Solist sherry (for LMdW)
  • Tullibardine 1980 (Malts of Scotland)
  • Ardbeg 1998 (Malts of Scotland)

1578 notes by Ruben

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