Single malt whisky - tasting notes

This is Bowmore Bw5, the fifth expression from this distillery in the Elements of Islay series and the best one so far, according to the TWE staff.

It is a vatting of 1995 and 1996 casks, and as you know these have been excellent years for the distillery (see The Whisky Agency’s Faces release).



Bowmore Bw5 - Elements of IslayBowmore Bw5
(50,2%, Elements of Islay 2015, 50 cl)

Nose: a very classic, clean and balanced Bowmore. There’s medium smoke and medium coastalness, on the same level as the rich sweetness. Creamy vanilla. Lemon candy, tinned pineapples and faint tangerine. Also a nice fresh minty note. Mouth: coastal start, slightly hesitating, but then a great wave of pink grapefruit, mango and sweet lime comes along. Almost as if they vatted a few litres of Irish whiskey as well. Excellent, especially because the usual peat smoke, pepper and kippers make some way. Sweet and fruity Bowmore. Finish: maybe not that long, but rounded and smooth.

Perhaps too sweet with too little smoke for some, but I love this style. Recommended stuff. Too bad it’s also quite expensive: around € 125.

Score: 90/100

This is the second official release of Port Ellen, and the one with the highest alcohol strength. It’s also the widest release, if I’m not mistaken, with 12.000 bottles, and therefore one of the least expensive yearly releases.



Port Ellen 2nd release (1978)Port Ellen 24 yo 1978 ‘2nd release’ (59,35%, OB 2002, 12.000 btl.)

Nose: one of the sharp and austere noses. Cutting phenols, vegetal oils and plenty of grassy notes. Lemon. Moves towards camphor and even a hint of ammonia. Eucalyptus. Farmy notes in the background. After some time a very light fruity / honeyed note comes out. It’s quite sharp alright but it also shows a remarkable finesse in a way. Mouth: a tad hot, but also chewier and sweeter than expected. Oranges and pears, lemonade. Medium peat and a good dose of salt. Actually more ashes than real peat. Still a farmy edge that hints towards Brora. A bit of coffee (this may be the alcohol), a little wax and liquorice too. Finish: long, slightly bittersweet, with sweet peat and some wood.

Judging by the nose, I was afraid it would be too harsh and one-dimensional, but on the palate it really showed its complex aromas and balance. Maybe not my favourite release but definitely not the worst. Around € 1000 in auctions.

Score: 91/100

Just a review for an easy Monday morning…



Tomatin 1997 - Liquid LibraryTomatin 17 yo 1997 (51%, Liquid Library 2014, refill hogshead, 268 btl.)

Nose: totally naked Tomatin. Plenty of garden fruits like apples and peaches but also sweeter green melon and hints of mango. Some greener notes as well, like apple seeds and grasses. Hints of leather. Mouth: very sweet, almost syrupy if not for the peppery touches and grassy notes again. Juicy pears, pineapple, peaches on syrup. Hints of candy sugar. Tiny hints of dough and vanilla. Finish: rather long, with liquorice, subtle herbs and zesty lemon.

No fuzz, just well made and straightforward Tomatin with some old-style touches. Very good card players whisky, as they say. Around € 90.

Score: 86/100

This Laphroaig 1998 is another new exclusive for The Whisky Exchange, bottled by Signatory Vintage. Again it is not a completely undiscovered series, adjacent sherry butts have been bottled for La Maison du Whisky and others.



Laphroaig 1998 - Signatory Vintage - The Whisky ExchangeLaphroaig 16 yo 1998
(59,9%, Signatory Vintage for TWE 2015, refill sherry butt #700389, 585 btl.)

Nose: a very sooty kind of Laphroaig. Lots of earthy smoke and leafy notes, wet limestone and leather. Exhaust fumes and hints of matches. There’s a dark sweetness to it as well, with lacquered roast meat and beef jerky as well as something of prune sauce. Peppery chocolate and subtle medicinal notes. A very dark style. Mouth: really dark smoke again, with tarry notes and mineral notes. The charred raisins on the outside of a raisin roll. Liquorice and Pu’ehr tea, with some cough candy. Espresso. A nice mintiness (After Eight) and sweet tobacco lift it up a little. Finish: long, still very smoky and leathery, with some salted almonds and cinnamon.


An interesting, dense and dark Laphroaig. The spirit overpowers the sherry in this case, but that is obviously not so bad. As you know sherried Laphroaig doesn’t come cheap these days: around € 170. Available from TWE.

Score: 88/100

This is Batch 4 of the GlenDronach Cask Strength, matured in Pedro Ximénez and Oloroso sherry casks. Shops keep selling this as a ‘sherry bomb’ but based on the colour, we expect a slightly lighter, fruitier dram.



GlenDronach Cask Strength - Batch 4GlenDronach Cask Strength (54,7%, OB 2015, Batch #4, 17.806 btl.)

Nose: more stewed fruits than dried fruits. Fig compote, honey and yellow raisins. Cinnamon pastry, peppery oak and a hint of herbal tea. Apricots. Roasted nuts. A slightly lighter, but very juicy version of GlenDronach’s sherry character. Mouth: spicy attack (ginger / pepper combo) followed by apricots and prunes. Sultanas and gingerbread. Cinnamon cookies and honey. A nice, spicy sherry influence with big juicy fruits underneath. Finish: long, showing the same spices and fruits, with touches of peppery oak.

A really good GlenDronach, with a fruitiness that comes close to batch #1. Not entirely what I call a sherry bomb, but definitely a very nice, sherried whisky. Around € 75.

Score: 89/100

The latest release from Eiling Lim is an Auchentoshan 1992. In general I don’t get excited when I see this distillery, but this one turned out a bit different.



Auchentoshan 1992 - Eiling LimAuchentoshan 23 yo 1992
(45,7%, Eiling Lim 2015, 132 btl.)

Nose: a light, flowery and rather ethereal nose. Blossoms in spring, nectarine, unripe apricots, green banana and light tropical fruits. Hints of bubble gum and jawbreakers. Very fresh, with some menthol and quite a lot of waxy notes (lipstick). A bit of vanilla. Mouth: starts fruity and sweet, with lots of unripe fruits again. White nectarine, oranges, melon. A subtle Irishness. Light ginger and touches of green oak, making it slightly bittersweet. Some waxy notes again – it’s rather perfumed in a good way. Finish: fairly long, with citrus, green apple and a light grassiness.

The Lowlands are not my favourite region and Auchentoshan not my favourite distillery, but this is nicely different, very refined and just very good within its style. Definitely a spring whisky.

Score: 88/100

Bushmills 21 Year Old is matured in Oloroso sherry casks and bourbon casks. After that it’s finished for two years in Madeira casks. This is the top of Bushmills’ core range.



Bushmills 21 Year OldBushmills 21 yo
(40%, OB +/- 2014)

Nose: a nice, warm fruitiness of banana, fresh figs, mango and tangerine. Floral honey. Quite thick, with creamy white chocolate and some vanilla latte. Subtle grassy notes. Mouth: classic Irish fruitiness, think banana, guava and bright hints of passion fruits. Also a sweet metallic note. Fresh and juicy. Gets warmer (almond paste) and drier towards the end, with coconut shavings, leafy notes / tea. Finish: long, really sweet, on mint syrup, sugared tea, berries and tobacco.

A convincing Irish whiskey, with the typical tropical fruits alongside darker elements. A bit underpowered at 40% but still quite flavoursome. Around € 90 – beware for huge price differences.

Score: 86/100

It has taken a while but now the Elements of Islay series finally includes an Octomore Oc1, the highly peated spirit distilled at Bruichladdich. In fact this is one of the first independent Octomore releases ever.



Octomore Oc1 - Elements of IslayOctomore Oc1 (65,4%, Elements of Islay 2015, 50 cl)

Nose: quite compact and dense, with initial aromas of eucalyptus and medicinal notes of antiseptics and iodine. Brine. Then some sour apples, becoming sweeter with hints of peach and marzipan. Lots of mineral notes, some sourdough as well. Mouth: really heavy peat. I’ve had Octomores that were surprisingly soft but this one is rather gobsmacking. Very ashy, barbecued and sharp, again with a slight yeasty side and lots of herbal notes, like gentian, ginger and burnt thyme. Salty notes too, bread crust and chili heat. Hints of lemon. Finish: long, thick, warm and smoky, with a sweet herbal edge.

This is a version of Octomore in which the peat is big and powerful, but it gets away with it by adding lots of sweetness and some herbal notes too. Very good but pretty expensive compared to the official bottlings (around € 250 for 50 cl). Available from TWE.

Score: 88/100



September 2015
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Coming up

  • Irish Single Malt 16yo 1999 (The Nectar of the Daily Drams)
  • Bunnahabhain 1987 (Maltbarn)
  • Glen Garioch 1993 (Maltbarn)
  • Glenlivet 42yo (Cadenhead)
  • Blended Malt Extra Old (Whisky Agency)
  • Woodford Reserve Master's Collection
  • Teeling 26yo Vintage Reserve
  • Springbank 2001 vintage

1865 notes by Ruben

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