Single malt whisky - tasting notes

Here’s another Glenmorangie in disguise, or rather an almost pure Glenmorangie, with a few teaspoons of another malt being added (usually Glen Moray). Westport is a common name for this, remember independent bottlers can’t use the name Glenmorangie on their labels.

 

Westport 1999 Liquid LibraryWestport 13 yo 1999 (52,1%, Liquid Library 2014, refill hogshead, 156 btl.)

Nose: aromatic nose. Vanilla and blood oranges. Fruity lokum (apricot / orange) and powder sugar. Hints of golden raisins and honey. A ginger / alcohol tingle, as well as some kiwi and fresh mint. Mouth: thick, oily and very sweet, with lots of fruity notes (fresh ones and tinned / candied ones) and honey. Cointreau. Marzipan and vanilla custard. Followed by balanced spices (ginger, pepper, clove) which give it a pleasant bittersweet edge in the end. Hints of sweet liquorice too. Finish: still this fruity / spicy combination. Lots of honey.

A similar sweet and fruity profile, easily drinkable though not as intense as the North Highland 18yo. Around € 90, still available in some places.

Score: 85/100


Swedish bottler Svenska Eldvatten is not giving us a distillery name this time, only the indication North Highland. This 18 years old malt from a first fill sherry cask is said to come from a distillery rarely bottled by independents. Make a guess and read on.

 

North Highland 1995 - Svenska EldvattenNorth Highland 18 yo 1995 (56,1%, Svenska Eldvatten 2013, first fill sherry butt #233123, 428 btl.)

Nose: toffee apples and rhubarb compote. Sweet and sour. Berries, oranges and vanilla. Some hay and soft minerals. Dried apricots too. A profile that’s very open and inviting but complex at the same time. After a while it gets more leathery with hints of eucalyptus oil, camphor and a hint of polished cedar which I find rather ‘Japanese’ if you know what I mean. Mouth: punchy, oily, nicely sherried, with syrupy fruits, red apples, raisins and hints of candy. Some drier, grassier notes as well as cloves and grape pits. Muscovado sugar. A mintiness like on the nose. Finish: medium long, fruity with some cocoa and toasted notes.

Could this be a sherried Glenmorangie? I don’t see why not. It surely fits their wood engineering skills, resulting in an interesting (American) sherry oak expression. Maybe a little woody but very flavoursome. Around € 100, still available.

Score: 87/100


Balblair 2002

05 Aug 2014 | Balblair

Balblair 2002 is not the first young Balblair I’m trying: I’ve already had the Balblair 2000 and I’ve even reviewed its successor, Balblair 2003. Now there’s also a duo of Balblair 2004 available in travel retail, one bourbon matured and the other sherry matured (only in Asia).

Balblair 2002 is made up of ex-bourbon casks.

 

Balblair 2002Balblair 2002 (46%, OB 2013)

Nose: malty and sweet, with lots of sugared cereals and quinces. Fairly youngish, with some esthery fruitiness of banana. Lemon and white grapefruit. Sponge cake. A grassy / minty note too. Mouth: malty, sweet and sour. Lemon drops, pear and grapefruit again. Some tangy / zesty notes coming out as well. Lemon verbena. Green apple and honey. There’s an obvious sweetness going on (icing sugar) but it’s mixed with bitterness and sourness. A hint of moccha in the end. Finish: rather short, zesty, slightly metallic. Still sweet honey too.

I like this one more on the palate than on the nose, where I think it’s slightly unbalanced and flat. Overall a fairly light, decent young whisky, not a one-trick pony but nothing extraordinary either. I do like the fact that each of these young vintages has its own character though. Around € 40. Thanks Joeri.

Score: 80/100


Another new release from Malts of Scotland: a Tullibardine 1980.

 

Tullibardine 1980 Malts of ScotlandTullibardine 34 yo 1980 (48,3%, Malts of Scotland 2014, sherry hogshead, ref. MoS 14023, 146 btl.)

Nose: a bit robust at first, but it unfolds slowly. Varnish and paraffin at first. Hay, a little chalk and flinty notes. Quite some floral notes as well. Spicy oak shavings and eucalyptus. In between there are restrained gusts of fruitiness that are hard to define. Mouth: oily, starts spicy and slightly herbal again. Mint and pepper. Waxy notes. Nutmeg. The nicest part is the shot of pink grapefruits and apricots that comes towards the end, as well as a trace of smoke. Oh, and the floral notes are still present. Finish: long, fairly dry, with mint and liquorice, herbs and oak.

Sure, there’s a fair bit of oak in this old Tullibardine, but it’s quality oak. Really multi-faceted, with ups and downs. Around € 200.

Score: 87/100


This is not the legendary Ardbeg 1972 ‘Ardbeggeddon’ for the Plowed society, but a similar release by Douglas Laing in their Old Malt Cask series, bottled a couple of months earlier in August 2001. It was finished in a sherry cask for six months before being bottled.


Ardbeg 1972/2001 29yo DL OMCArdbeg 29 yo 1972 (50%, Douglas Laing OMC 2001, sherry finish, 432 btl.)

Nose: marvellous, a great mix of gentle old peat, spearmint, asphalt and a Brora-esk farminess (stables) in the background, although this fades away. Constantly balancing between a fat (vanilla) creaminess and maritime sharpness. Tarry ropes and sweet seaweed. Smoked bacon. Some diesel. Very rich and classy, and certainly lifted by the sherry notes. Mouth: a marriage of peat and sweet sherry again. Honey, some brown sugar and toast. Apples again. Then back to seaweed and saltwater. Hints of coal tar soap and sweet rubber. Candied liquorice. Lime and lemon candy, slowly fading to sugared grapefruit juice. Very subtle oak. Finish: very long, smoky and slowly drying.

Wonderful whisky, like most Ardbeg 1972’s in fact. I swallowed the last drop more than half an hour ago and I’m still vividly enjoying the aftertaste. In stock at The Whisky Exchange, around € 1500.

Score: 94/100


Malts of ScotlandThe last time this blog featured the independent bottler Malts of Scotland was exactly one year ago. Somehow they weren’t brought to my attention, but I’m happy to have tasted a couple of new releases again.

 

Images is a relatively new series. The distilleries aren’t mentioned on the label because most casks were intended for the blending industry. However each bottle bears a characteristic image of the production region and this is sometimes enough to narrow down the possibilities.

Ayrshire doesn’t have a lot of active distilleries and the link with Ailsa Bay was easily made. It’s a recent distillery, owned by William Grant, operational since September 2007 and housed within the Girvan site. The distillery produces unpeated, mildly peated and heavily peated whisky, all used for blending. This Images of Ayrshire may well be the first single malt release from Ailsa Bay!

Images releases are usually bottled at 53,2% but this time it’s kept at cask strength, a whopping 68,3%. It is said to be just 3 years old.

 

Images of Ayrshire - Malts of ScotlandImages of Ayrshire ‘Dalrymple Bridge’ 3 yo (68,3%, Malts of Scotland 2014, sherry hogshead, 328 btl.)

Nose: aromatic, young, raisiny sherry. Pretty fierce at first, even with some water, but nice. Raisins, candied apple, oranges, raspberry and a few winey / rummy undertones. Fresh red plums. Pecan nuts and hints of tobacco in the background. Mouth: sweet and highly oak-driven. Juicy fruits but also loads of spices (pepper, vanilla, clove). Kirsch and marinated raisins. Underneath seems to be a heavy, slightly meaty spirit. Mexican chocolate and toffee. Dry tannins as well. Finish: long, with chocolate, raisins and a spicy heat.

It’s easy to see similarities with young Glenfarclas, sherried Arran or Glenmorangie Sonnalta.  In fact, it reminds me of any clean spirit in a great sherry cask, if not for the added weight on the palate. Relatively low complexity but an intense, interesting dram. Definitely ahead of its age. Around € 80.

Score: 86/100


After the excellent surprise that was the Benromach 10 Year Old, we’re now trying another release from the same distillery (Speyside’s smallest operational distillery by the way). It’s the Benromach 1976, part of the Heritage collection which also includes the 30 Year Old and a 1969 vintage.

Benromach vintage 1976 was matured in first fill and refill sherry hogsheads. Obviously it was produced by the previous owners and even made with different equipment – Gordon & MacPhail installed new stills when they reopened the distillery.

 

Benromach 1976 vintageBenromach 1976 (46%, OB 2012)

Nose: creamy start. Tinned peaches and oranges, with quite some sourish kiwi and subtle hints of passion fruits. Very fruity, in a rather candied way. Honey pops. Polished wood. Traces of vanilla, coconut and menthol. Some gentle sherry influence in the background (fresh figs). Mouth: a bit soft but still quite fruity, not unlike some Longmorn or BenRiach from the same era. Apricot, pink grapefruit, passion fruit and plenty of oranges. Gains weight after a while, with some milk chocolate, ginger and pepper, as well as some leather and tobacco. A few floral notes. Coriander. Nutty sherry. More oak now, but still refined. Finish: quite long, beautiful tobacco notes and still lots of lingering fruits and spices.

Pretty great again, a complex Benromach with the fruity smoothness of old Speysiders but also extra sophistication. Benromach 10 still wins the value for money award though, this one costs around € 550.

Score: 91/100


Liquid Art is a project that originated in Mol, Belgium. Although their mission statement also includes beer and regional specialties, the first three releases are whisky bottlings.

The first one is this single cask Glen Elgin 1995, selected by Bert Dexters and Serge Reijnders of whisky club Cask Six. The label is designed by Raymond Minnen and features a stag beetle, a native of the Lowlands but a nice hint towards Scotland as well.

Glen Elgin is not a big name – it’s mostly known as the base malt for the legendary White Horse blend. By the way, did you know the distillery was powered and lit by a kerosene engine until the 1950’s? Not the best choice: this engine alone cost them one full-time employee…

 

Glen Elgin 1995 | Liquid ArtGlen Elgin 19 yo 1995
(49,3%, Liquid Art 2014, 94 btl.)

Nose: sweet and fruity. Lots of apples, pears, stone fruits and orange. Candy sugar and plenty of honey. Fresh and creamy. Moving to more ‘modern’ marshmallow, vanilla and hints of tropical fruits (tinned pineapple, hints of pomegranate). Sweet corn flakes. Hints of wax in the background, as well as light cardamom and cake dough. Mouth: very sweet again, almost lemonade. Barley sugar, vanilla custard and all kinds of fruit candy (pineapple cubes, lemon). Tropical notes again. Very honeyed, with a minty freshness on a second level. Finish: not too long, but nicely fruity. Light, creamy oak and some citrus zest.

A really nice Glen Elgin, easy to love especially if you have a sweeth tooth. Easy to drink, and the nose has a special something. Around € 75, already sold out.

Score: 88/100


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Coming up

  • Highland Journey
  • GlenDronach 1993 Oloroso cask #494
  • Glen Elgin 1985 (Maltbarn)
  • Fettercairn Fior
  • Cardhu 18 Year Old
  • Ben Nevis 2002 (Port cask #334)
  • Tomatin Cuatro series

1615 notes by Ruben

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