Single malt whisky - tasting notes

QV.ID, the Belgian drinks shop between Leuven and Brussels, has a family history of 115 years, but the makeover and focus on whisky took place exactly five years ago.

To celebrate, Koen selected an anniversary bottling, a Benriach 1991 from the Malts of Scotland stocks.

 

BenRiach 1991 for QV.ID - Malts of ScotlandBenRiach 23 yo 1991 (50,8%, Malts of Scotland 2014, bourbon barrel, ref. MoS 14031, 177 btl.)

Nose: quite a typical, fruity Benriach nose. Summer fruits: watermelon, peach, sweet pear. Hints of marshmallow. A coconut / vanilla combo. Honey and marzipan. A soft grassy / minty edge as well. Nice and clean, really aromatic. Mouth: very bright and fruity again. Honey, vanilla cream, pears and tangerines. Hints of cake. Added weight is achieved through pepper and liquorice from the oak. Quite some floral hints as well. Ginger. Even a very light saltiness. Finish: long, still fruity (some grapefruit now), plus some spices.

Good, fruity Benriach. Pretty naked and with a balanced influence from the oak. Available from QV.ID of course. Good news for foreign visitors by the way: they’ll open a web shop in November.

Score: 88/100


There are different versions of Ardbeg 1973 bottled by Sestante in Italy. They’re all 14 or 15 years old, some are bottled in clear glass, others in green glass. The best ones are bottled at cask strength, this one is at 43%.

 

Ardbeg 15yo 1973 SestanteArdbeg 15 yo 1973
(43%, Sestante 1988, 75cl.)

Nose: very very gentle, like a herbal tea (chamomile, tilia). Some wet paper, dusty books, old chalk. Soft fruity notes like apples and melons. Sweet almonds. Dried seaweed, hints of canvas. Coastal hints as well. Mouth: incredible smoothness with more cold ashes than actual peat. Very sweet, almost pastry-like notes and mint syrup. Marzipan and nougat. Something of cough drops. Sweet liquorice root and honey. Some anise seeds and candied ginger. Quite lovely but not the peaty kick you might expect from Ardbeg (even for 1970’s standards it’s very suble). Finish: not too long, on mint and cocoa. Return of the chamomile.

Such a gentleman’s Ardbeg, with the soft ashes and plenty of honey. Rather atypical but really lovely. I can see why the higher strength versions became legendary. Around € 1000.

Score: 92/100


There are three new Maltbarn releases: Clynelish 1997, Ledaig 2005 and this Burnside 1989. Three references that lots of independent bottlers are offering these days.

Most of these teaspooned Balvenies seem to come from a batch of #1244x and #1245x casks filled in June 1989.

 

Burnside 1989 MaltbarnBurnside 25 yo 1989 (50,9%, Maltbarn 2014, bourbon cask, 167 btl.)

Nose: aromatic whisky, very fresh and vivid. It has taken quite a lot from the wood, but nicely so. Lots of garden fruits and light honey. Greengages and pear. Gooseberries. Yellow flowers. Vanilla. Lovely waxy notes and varnish too. Mouth: totally revolves around peaches, plums and honey again. Then some pepper and liquorice from the (active) oak, as well as a certain ‘greenness’. Vanilla and ginger. Pollen. Nice twist towards toffee and mocha in the end. Finish: medium long, similar green, grassy notes. Some green tea and echoes of fruits, mainly apples now.

Really enjoyable, fresh whisky from active casks. Simply well-made Balvenie. Around € 125.

Score: 88/100


The Manager’s Dram series was selected by and bottled for distillery managers of the United Distillers group (now Diageo), but it came to an end when a lot of employees started selling their rare bottle to gain some extra income. I’ve already reviewed the Caol Ila 15yo Manager’s Dram in the past.

Last Monday I had a whisky tasting with the Fulldram club and this Glen Ord 16 Years ‘Manager’s Dram’ (distilled around 1975) was my favourite of the evening (and the group winner). Just to give you an idea: it defeated an Ardbeg 1973 and a Caperdonich 1972.

 

Glen Ord 16 Years - Manager's DramOrd 16 yo ‘Manager’s Dram’
(66,2%, OB 1991, refill cask)

Nose: starts fairly neutral, vaguely fruity, on sweet malt and pears. My first thoughts were ‘I really like this, but I can’t really tell why’. It opened up nicely, with polished leather, subtle pineapple cubes and Toblerone Fruit & Nut. A little heather honey and eucalyptus. Bergamot oil. Membrillo. Becomes much fruitier over time. Lots of subtleties eventually. Mouth: very drinkable at cask strength, with a burst of fruitiness (melon, oranges, apricots) and leather. Chocolate notes. A noticeable saltiness as well. Some herbal notes before turning back to fruits and toffee sweetness. Finish: maybe not the longest ever, but very nice.

A great surprise (well, not really). A benchmark bottling for Glen Ord, simple as that. The Whisky Exchange has it available for around € 500.

Score: 93/100


After the pleasant surprise that was the new Benromach 10 Year Old, I have to say I became interested to try other expressions. This entry-level Benromach Traditional was the first new bottling after the distillery was re-opened in 1998 after a 15-year break. Traditional is a mix of 80% bourbon casks and 20% sherry.

 

Benromach TraditionalBenromach Traditional
(40%, OB +/- 2014)

Nose: lighter and less characteristic than the 10. Surprisingly grainy and gristy. Dried grass, dusty books. The lightest touch of peat. Lemon oil. Some acacia honey in the background. Hints of green banana skin too. Mouth: sweet and malty, not very bold. Neutral sugared cereals, a bit of vanilla, caramel and liquorice root. Finish: not too long, malty, citrusy and lightly smoky.

This is not bad whisky, but it’s slightly bland and therefore a typical entry-level whisky. So far away from the uniqueness of Benromach 10 Year Old – I wouldn’t trade 10 bottles of Traditional for one Ten. Around € 30.

Score: 77/100


This limited edition Old Pulteney 1990 vintage says lightly peated on the label, but contrary to what you would expect, it’s not made from peated malt. Instead it was classic (unpeated) Old Pulteney spirit matured in ex-bourbon and ex-sherry casks that previously held heavily peated spirit.

Although the distillery is not giving further information about the provenance of the casks, I’m wondering how this relates to the Old Pulteney 1990 cask #5253 that I’ve tried (a cask bought from Laphroaig) and the Balblair 1990 cask #1463 (Balblair and Old Pulteney are part of the same group). Apparently both distilleries did the same experiment at the same time.

 

Old Pulteney 1990 (Lightly Peated)Old Pulteney 1990 ‘Lightly Peated’ (46%, OB 2014, Limited edition, 900 btl.)

Nose: not much peat so far, more like a gentle smokiness. Otherwise very malty and rather sweet, with apple, peardrops and honey. Sweet citrus. Also a leafy, slightly dusty side and a very hints of sour dough and pepper. Mouth: much more peat now. It seems to highlight Old Pulteney’s coastal, bitterish, oily Manzanilla-like character. Plenty of grapefruit zest. Underneath there are sweeter notes of honey and berry fruits. Finish: long, with a similar bitterness, some woody notes, coastal elements and light smokiness.

An interesting variation on the original Old Pulteney character. The leafy, coastal side pairs well with the gentle peat but seems to clash with the sweet fruitiness of the spirit. On par with the single cask version I tried before, although the harshness surprised me a little. A nice curiosum. Around € 150.

Score: 85/100


Here’s the second part of the duo: Irish single malt 1989, reviewed alongside the Irish single malt 1989.

 

Irish single malt 1991 - The Nectar of the Daily Drams / La Maison du WhiskyIrish Single Malt Whiskey 22 yo 1991 (46,6%, The Nectar of the Daily Drams & La Maison du Whisky 2014, rum cask #10657)

Nose: starts more waxy, much more rummy as well. The fruits are just as tropical, but maybe a tad greener and fresher. Green mango, white peaches. Clear herbal notes as well (especially mint, some thyme as well). Littlemillian grapefruits. On the nose, I prefer this one over its older brother. The rum seems to work better here. Mouth: similar to its older brother, maybe just a tad more muted although we’re splitting hairs. Mango, maracuja, pear, the whole fruit basket. Liquorice, a little dried coconut as well, fading towards a sweet grassiness. Nougat too. Finish: long, fruity, with citrus green tea.

Very good as well. I think the 1989 is certainly better on the palate, but the rummy notes work better for the 1991 in my opinion, especially on the nose. Score-wise very similar, but the 22yo is better value so I’d buy that one. Around € 140.

Score: 90/100


We’ll publish a small series of Irish whiskey if you don’t mind. There’s a sudden wave of (undisclosed) Irish single malt releases – a lot of them from the 1988-1991 period but also younger versions. We can’t be against that of course – most of them are attractive tropical fruit bombs.

Some suggest a link between these casks and the growing activities of the Teeling family. Also it’s becoming clear that a lot of them are probably Bushmills production.

That guess makes sense, especially for two new releases by The Nectar of the Daily Drams together with La Maison du Whisky. Why? Because they’re matured in rum casks, something that has only been done in Ireland by Bushmills as far as I know.

Today we’re trying the Irish single malt 1989, tomorrow its younger brother distilled in 1991. Both were presented at the recent Whisky Live in Paris.

 

Irish single malt 1989 - The Nectar of the Daily Drams / La Maison du WhiskyIrish Single Malt Whiskey 24 yo 1989 (42,2%, The Nectar of the Daily Drams & La Maison du Whisky 2014, rum cask #16262)

Nose: very creamy, with lots of vanilla crème. Banana, juicy pear, ripe mango and golden raisins. Faint hints of marshmallow and marzipan. Some buttery notes in the background, as well as a sharper note (white balsamic). Floral notes, pollen. Mouth: an explosion of tropical fruits, although I think the Irish Malt 1988 TWA beats it in terms of fruitiness. Mango, banana, maracuja. Some bramble. After a while, there’s a slight grassy sharpness as well as a fragrant hint of bergamot. Liquorice. Soft caramel. Hints of green tea. Finish: long, the oak is more clear now, there’s a soft pepperiness but also lingering fruits.

Good stuff. This one is particularly great on the palate. On the nose I have some difficulty with the sharper edges. Around € 190.

Score: 90/100


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  • Tabrulavubeg: I've tried the 18yo Single Cask yesterday. It's really quite good, but from Ruben's conclusion "an exquisite version of this already really good dram"
  • Johan Andersson: Yes this cask is really fantastic. If you did the Cadenhead Warehouse tasting with Grant MacPherson in Campbeltown 2013 and until Open Day in May 2014
  • Gal(WhiskyIsrael): Agreed. I was quite disappointed with this one as well as the 17 (nicer but still way too expensive for what it offers). the olders ones are the ones

Coming up

  • Master of Malt Firecrackers
  • Smooth Ambler Old Scout 7yo
  • Kavalan bourbon cask for Belgium
  • Cardhu 18 Year Old
  • Port Askaig 19 Year Old
  • Bladnoch 1992 (The Nectar)
  • Ledaig 2005 (Maltbarn)

1664 notes by Ruben

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