Single malt whisky - tasting notes

Convalmore is one of the distilleries that were closed during the whisky crisis of the early 1980’s. The site is now owned by William Grant and the abandoned buildings are used to store casks of Glenfiddich and Balvenie.

This is the Convalmore 24 Year Old 1978 that was part of the Rare Malts series.

 

Convalmore 24 Years 1978 (Rare Malts)Convalmore 24 yo 1978
(59,4%, Rare Malts 2003)

Nose: interesting, with hints of unripe banana, dried fruits and soft vanilla but also more austere notes. Tarry ropes, wet limestone, a few metallic notes. Lamp oil. Plenty of medicinal touches as well. Hints of almond cream and mint. This style is now extinct. Mouth: again fruity notes and hints of cake, mixed with sharper austere notes. Bitter oranges as well as candied ones. Candied ginger. Oily notes again, waxed oak. White pepper and herbs. Becomes slightly soapy with water. Finish: long, although it’s mainly on spices and herbal notes, with a malty sweetness in the back.

This is far away from modern Speyside whisky, it’s more demanding and has some rough edges. Not quite 90’s material but definitely one to try if you have a chance. Auction value around € 300.

Score: 89/100


There are three new releases by Eiling Lim: a Littlemill 1991, a Clynelish 1997 and – the most uncommon dram if you like – this Ben Nevis 1970.

We’ve seen single blend Ben Nevis 1970 in the past, but this is a single malt.

 

Ben Nevis 1970 - Eiling LimBen Nevis 43 yo 1970
(44,8%, Eiling Lim 2014, 60 btl.)

Nose: smooth and rather fruity, with Williams pears, oranges, bananas and mirabelles. Rhubarb and papaya. There’s also this Ben Nevis je-ne-sais-quoi that I can only describe as half metallic, half lipstick. Some chamomile tea and waxed papers. A little nail polish remover. Floral honey. Maybe a little tiger balm. Lovely hints of spearmint bubblegum as well. Elegant and quite intriguing. Mouth: again very minty from the start. Moroccan mint tea. Whiffs of Earl Grey as well. Hints of walnuts. Chartreuse. A kind of dry bourbon-like oak influence, with quite some leathery notes and spices. In the background there’s still quinces and apricots, as well as a hint of lime. Finish: medium long, on similar resinous notes and tobacco leaves.

A rare chance to try the old Ben Nevis profile. Even though the best ones have already been bottled, this one is still a real pleasure to try. Just over € 300 – intended for the Asian market.

Score: 89/100


A BenRiach 1993, finished in virgin American oak. It was selected by The Whisky Agency – sister cask #7976 had been bottled last year.

 

BenRiach 1993 cask #7977 virgin oak TWABenRiach 20 yo 1993 (52,3%, OB for The Whisky Agency 2014, cask #7977, Virgin American oak finish, 308 btl.)

Nose: intensely oak-infused, but in a very nice way. Dried coconut, waxed leather, mint syrup and vanilla. Traces of grain whisky, traces of rum, traces of American whiskey too. Apricots and bananas. Quite a lot of sawdust and oak polish. Hints of hay and spices. It’s not your classic Scotch, but it’s really enticing. Mouth: thick, sweet and oily, with lots of vanilla and pencil shavings. Actually this could have been made in America. Coconut cream and barley sugars. Mango and green banana. Some biscuity notes. Ginger and pepper. Finish: long, spicy and sweet. Almost a whisky liqueur.

I think BenRiach is one of the only distilleries that really master the art of virgin oak maturation / finishing, in a way that doesn’t hurt the character of the spirit and results in interesting new profiles. At some points surprisingly close to an actual bourbon. Around € 120.

Score: 87/100


In late 1980’s there were a couple of famous Glen Garioch 21 Year Old releases distilled in 1965 (white label with grey / golden / black letters according to the strength). By 1990 they were replaced by a 21yo with a black label.

We’re trying a rare 1973 vintage bottled in 1995 for the US market.

 

Glen Garioch 21 years 1973Glen Garioch 21 yo 1973 (43%, OB for Duggans Distillers NY 1995, 75 cl.)

Nose: flinty and mineral, but elegant at the same time. Waxed papers and linseed oil. Some peat, grapefruit and lemon zest. Leafy notes and eucalyptus. Could be mistaken for a Clynelish or Brora. Mineral, with a camphory / medicinal sharpness, but overall not too austere. Mouth: surprisingly sweet and thick, mixed with peat and liquorice roots. Peppercorns and mint. Hints of menthol and sweetened herbal tea. Some resin-like bitterness and leathery notes. Chalk. Finish: long, slightly sharp, with some smoke and sweet liquorice.

The intensity and boldness of this old-style Glen Garioch 21yo is quite stunning considering the modest 43%. That’s craftmanship. I think we’ve had even more complex (at least wider) 1970’s examples but this is still pretty great. Around € 300 in auctions. Thanks Carsten.

Score: 92/100


Bunnahabhain is without doubt the most widely available Islay distillery among independent bottlers these days. They seem to take advantage of the current shortage and popularity of Islay malt.

This is a heavily sherried Bunnahabhain 1990, like we’ve seen a couple of times recently.

 

Bunnahabhain 1990 ArchivesBunnahabhain 23 yo 1990
(47,9%, Archives ‘Fishes of Samoa’ 2014, sherry butt #52, 201 btl.)

Nose: full-bodied nose, with juicy fruits and lots of sweet Oloroso sherry. Black cherries, rum & raisins, blackberries… Sweet but also quite spicy, with pepper and hints of curry. Nice tobacco too. Touches of balsamic and soy. Also the typical flinty and (subtle) gunpowder note that’s often found in heavily sherried Bunna. Mouth: full of raisins, figs and dark chocolate. Starts sweet and fruity – quickly turns towards spices. Think cloves and nutmeg. Walnuts. Slightly tannic / leathery in the end. Finish: medium length, with liquorice, coffee and cinnamon powder.

The nose is sweet, intense and entertaining. On the palate the dry side is quite heavy, which makes this release end a little lower than I initially expected. Around € 105, available from Whiskybase.

Score: 86/100


Among the many bottlings for The Whisky Fair 2014, there were no less than three Arrans: this Arran 1997 (sherry cask), a bourbon cask Arran 2001 and a peated Arran 2005.

 

Arran 1997 for Limburg Whisky FairArran 16 yo 1997 ‘Private Cask’
(50,1%, OB for Limburg Whisky Fair 2014, sherry hogshead #518, 246 btl.)

Nose: a kind of light, elegant sherry that leaves room for the original spirit. Some oranges, peaches, rhubarb and leather. Fruit stems. Hints of thyme honey and orange blossom. More and more flowers actually. Mouth: again a mix of round fruitiness (tangerines, cherries, berries), with some orange marmalade, lemon zest and a hint of bitterish oak around the corner. Pleasant flinty notes and cardamom. Parts of this remind me of fruit eau-de-vie. Quite different and pretty naked when compared to heavily sherried Arran from the same period. Finish: long, citrusy, with some pepper and a pinch of salt.

Nice, clean Arran, showing a naked, fruity spirit and just echoes of sherry notes. A kind of Arran that’s slightly different from the others. Around € 80. Available from eSpirits.

Score: 86/100


Some time ago, Belgian importers and shopkeepers went on a joint trip to the Signatory warehouses, which is why there’s a whole list of Signatory releases for Belgian companies at the moment.

This Bunnahabhain 2003 was split amongst five shops: The Bonding Dram, Dims Dram, Comptoirs des Vins, Maison Baelen and Maison Demiautte.

 

Bunnahabhain 2003 (SV for The Bonding Dram)Bunnahabhain 11 yo 2003
(58,8%, Signatory Vintage for The Bonding Dram and others 2014, sherry butt #1152, 627 btl.)

Nose: not your classic sherry influence, in the sense that there’s more toffee, brown sugar and buttery toast than the usual dried fruits. Maple syrup. It shows a nice hint of dusty warehouses as well, even faint farmy touches. Gingerbread. Roasted chestnuts and lovely hints of honeycomb. Mouth: strong, initially there’s a similar caramel sweetness but this gradually makes place for mineral notes and spices. Walnuts, orange peel and some salt. More toast. Then the spices, including nutmeg, vanilla, clove and especially juniper. A peppery heat as well. Finish: medium long, leathery and spicy, slightly grassy, but always with an underlying chocolate sweetness.

I like this one for being different and balancing Bunnahabhains typical coastalness to a dark sweetness and spicy side. Even better with a drop of water. Around € 75, available from The Bonding Dram of course.

Score: 87/100


This Glengoyne 14 Year Old is a limited edition for Marks & Spencer in the UK. It was launched in April 2011 but we’re trying the graphically updated version of late 2013. It was matured in casks that previously held Oloroso sherry (both first-fill and refill).

 

Glengoyne 14 Years for Marks & SpencerGlengoyne 14 yo
(40%, OB for Marks & Spencer 2013)

Nose: toffee caramel, sweet lemon and apples sprinkled with cinnamon. Sweet barley notes and brown sugar. Also poached pears. Hints of butter pastry and honey. Golden raisins. For a sherried malt, it’s a bit too malty (and slightly musty) for me, but overall quite nice. Mouth: sweet and smooth, with a buttery mouthfeel. Yellow apple and raisins again, with a soft underlying tingle from the oak spices. It’s all about smoothness, with an easy caramelly maltiness and balanced nutty sherry notes. Finish: not too long, very malty, a little drier, with some lingering nutmeg and pepper.

This Glengoyne 14 Years is a smooth malt, well in line with the rest of the Glengoyne range and pretty good value for money. Only available at Marks & Spencer. Around € 45. Thanks for the sample, Martin.

Score: 81/100


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  • Roberto Sikora: This is really a great, great bottling. One of my favourite Littlemills so far... :-) Thank you, Ruben for this review!
  • george: i see you have tried st magdalene and say it is harder to find i am a collector of st magdalene and i have 40 bottles i am selling these date from 196
  • sjoerd972: I wish the guys at Bushmills would demand the labels to say "Northern Ireland" so we didn't have to speculate on the booze's origins.

Coming up

  • Bowmore Devil's Casks - Batch 2
  • Tomatin 1988 (Malts of Scotland)
  • Aberfeldy 12 Year Old
  • Blair Athol 2002 (Hepburn's Choice)
  • Fettercairn Fior
  • Bowmore Laimrig 15yo
  • Ben Nevis 2002 (Port cask #334)

1600 notes by Ruben

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