Single malt whisky - tasting notes

Whisky-Doris has two new releases: Bowmore 2003 and Bunnahabhain 1980. It has been matured for 33 years in a sherry butt.

 

Bunnahabhain 33yo 1980 Whisky-DorisBunnahabhain 33 yo 1980 (45,6%, Whisky-Doris 2013, sherry butt #92, 460 btl.)

Nose: a delicate nose, on dried flowers, soft honey and allspice. A subtle fruitiness of orange peel and lemon cake. Candied ginger. Overall rather dry and waxy. Some old-style oak and walnut husks. The lightest hint of sea breeze as well. All rather discreet, but pretty complex, it grows on you. Mouth: dry with lots of herbal notes, liquorice and a load of oak juice and nuts (without becoming astringent though). Yellow apples and orange peel again, mixed with soft pepper and a pinch of salt. A bit of bitter grassiness towards the end. Maybe Fino sherry? Finish: medium long, dry, with apple peel, liquorice root and nutmeg.

A herbal, oak-infused Bunnahabhain that steps out of the box at times but manages to keep you interested. It could be mistaken for an old-style, discreet Speysider. Around € 170.

Score: 87/100


This GlenDronach 1992 cask #195 was part of the 9th batch of GlenDronach single casks. It was bottled from an Oloroso butt. I already tried sister cask #161 a couple of years ago and I like it a lot.

 

 

GlenDronach 1992 cask #195GlenDronach 21 yo 1992 (59,8%, OB 2013, Oloroso butt #195, 566 btl.)

Nose: very dense, even a little closed at first. Dark chocolate and coffee liqueur. Some roasted chestnuts and toasted bread crust. Some oak spices (pepper, clove). It’s only after a while that brighter red fruits and kirsch gets noticeable. Also an earthy and rubbery side. If I remember correctly, cask #161 was more open and accessible. Mouth: quite fiery, with lots of black prunes, liquorice and roasted nuts. Plenty of herbs, cloves and walnut skin. Again a rubbery edge, pfff. Black coffee and dark chocolate. Slightly oaky and lacking a bit of brightness, although there are some oranges to be found. Finish: long, dry with prunes and lots of spicy notes.

I may have picked the wrong single casks this year. Although better than the 1991 cask #5405, it feels overweight and bulky again. Let’s hope the 1993 vintage can live up to its name. Around € 150.

Score: 82/100


Another Glentauchers 1996, this time in the Liquid Library series. The colour of this one is slightly lighter than the Glentauchers 1996 bottled by Tasting Fellows. Let’s see where the differences are.

 

Glentauchers 1996 - Liquid LibraryGlentauchers 17 yo 1996 (51,4%, Liquid Library 2013, refill barrel, 178 btl.)

Nose: lots of fresh barley again, but less candied and with less vanilla. More mineral notes (limestone). The fruity notes are still there, but they’re ‘greener’. Lemon and grapefruit, unripe gooseberries and green banana. Still slightly rummy in a way, but less tropical. Mouth: the fruity notes and sweet spirit come are louder here, they get more room as the oak is less obvious. Green banana again, lemon sweets, something bubblegummy, before the grassy notes set in and the whole gets a bitter edge. Finish: medium long, very close to the barley, with some grassy notes and fresh oak.

This one seem a tad younger than the Tasting Fellows cask (refill vs. first fill?), but mainly because the oak spices are less pronounced. This will come down to personal preferences. Around € 90.

Score: 86/100


There’s a new series of releases from Tasting Fellows, and there’s good news. The German shop Whisky-Fässle will distribute their bottlings, so this will make them available outside of Germany as well.

They seem to have a preference for fruity Speysiders. This time there’s Glen Keith 1992, Glenburgie 1992, Braeval 1994, Mortlach 1996 and Glentauchers 1996. All bourbon casks if I’m not mistaken.

 

 

Glentauchers 1996 - Tasting FellowsGlentauchers 17 yo 1996 (57,2%, Tasting Fellows 2014, barrel #1160, 146 btl.)

Nose: sweet barley and plenty of vanilla at first, with some marzipan and latte notes. Apples and peaches. There’s a bubblegummy side to it, something between  tropical bubblegum and fruity rum (soft coconut). Faint minty notes. Mouth: bold attack, sweet and very creamy. Still fruity, mainly fresh plums, but with a rapidly growing spiciness. Say pepper and nutmeg, evolving towards herbal notes and a slightly bitterness. Some leathery notes and faint hints of bourbon whiskey. It takes water quite well, in fact I recommend you add a few drops. Finish: long, still a tad bitter and oaky.

Well-made whisky, with a nice rummy fruitiness. Very powerful due to its alcohol volume. Be sure to play around with water. Around € 90.

Score: 87/100


This Arran Millennium Casks was distilled on the 31st of December 1999 and filled on both sides of the millennium switch (so technically a multi-vintage release). It is a composition of 45 casks: 35 ex-bourbon hogsheads and the rest ex-sherry. The label is decorated with a picture of Janus, the two-headed Roman God.

The release was intended for charity: £1 of each sale goes to the Arran Trust, which funds projects that deal with landscape preservation and environmental care on the Isle of Arran.

 

arran-millennium-casksArran Millennium Casks
(53,5%, OB 2013, 7.800 btl.)

Nose: classic apple notes and candied citrus, with sweet barley. Fruity, vibrant and clean, like most Arran these days. Some whitecurrant and vanilla cake. A growing hint of oak as well. Mouth: fresh, lots of oranges and apples again, maybe tangerine liqueur too. Sweet melons. Honey. Cinnamon. Quite sweet and creamy, faultless whisky really. I would say it’s mostly the bourbon casks doing the talking. Finish: medium long, still very pleasantly fruity, leaving an oaky warmth and toffee sweetness.

A very solid dram, very tasty and full-bodied. The Millennium thing may be a gimmick but at least you can’t fault the whisky. Around € 80.

Score: 86/100


Eiling Lim whiskySome of you may know Eiling Lim as a Malaysian blogger writing about food, wine and whisky (among other things) but I have the impression we might remember her more as a whisky bottler in the future. For the selection of casks she’s assisted by ex-Malt Maniac / Glenfarclas collector / former independent bottler Luc Timmermans, her newly-wed husband and obviously a respected name to have on your label.

This is her (their) first release, a Littlemill 1990. Only 68 bottles are available, it’s no secret this is from a shared cask. The release is intended for the Malaysian market, her home country, which is still slightly immature when it comes to whisky. Eiling Lim is officially the first independent bottler in Malaysia.

I’ve had the pleasure of translating Eiling’s ideas into a label design, I hope you like it. It combines retro elements like the diagonal ribbon with some up-to-date typography. The whisky was a pleasant surprise for me as well.

 

 

Littlemill 1990 - Eiling Lim (Malaysia)Littlemill 23 yo 1990
(49,8%, Eiling Lim 2013, cask selected by Luc Timmermans, 68 btl.)

Nose: needs ten minutes in the glass. It starts on grasses, sweet grains and apples, which may seem a tad generic, but it would be short-sighted to stop there. After a while it becomes warmer than most other Littlemills, and wider: quite some vanilla, marzipan and buttercups. The typical, half-tropical fruitiness too: pineapple, all kinds of citrus, hints of creamy papaya and top notes of passion fruits. Excellent, especially with the added beeswax. Mouth: more directly fruity. Lots of tangerines, pink grapefruits, green mango and peaches. Vanilla again (bourbon cask?), sweet almond paste and honey. Some polished oak and minerals, ginger and a little green tea with lemon. Finish: long, with some bitter lemon, sweet oak and grapefruit.

Another great Littlemill, utterly fruity with a balanced layer of Lowlands minerality. Among the best non-sherried Littlemills I know (on the same level as the one bottled by The Whiskyman for Lindores some time ago) and a perfect start for a start-up bottler. Should be available in a couple of weeks. Around RM900.

Score: 91/100


Ecurie Ecosse Black BullDuncan Taylor’s Black Bull brand is sponsoring Ecurie Ecosse, a motor racing team with a great history that goes back to the 1950’s. The team had a 2011 revival and will now be driving a BMW Z4 GT3 in the British GT championship and the Blancpain Endurance series.

To celebrate this sponsorship, they’ve launched a Black Bull Racer’s Reserve, a 21 years old blend. Apparently the racers chose the whiskies, but the actual blending was left to the specialists at Duncan Taylor.

 

 

Black Bull 21yo Racer's ReserveBlack Bull 21 yo ‘Racer’s Reserve’ (50%, Duncan Taylor 2013)

Nose: quite a neutral, half grainy / half citrusy nose. Nothing harsh, just lots of muesli and cereals. Stewed fruits and lemon peel. A little fresh oak and mint. Less sherry than we’re used to seeing in Black Bull blends. Disappointingly generic. Mouth: again a rather fresh but also slightly dull blend with hardly any sherry. Lots of oranges. Yellow raisins. Cinnamon and pepper from the oak. Faint toffee notes. Again a little mint. It’s smooth and harmless. Finish: medium long, a bit more spices. As expected.

You can’t deny the fact that the Duncan Taylor team knows how to compose a blend and filter out the roughness of the grains. It’s smoothly polished, but on the other hand nothing stands out either. It’s just a normal blend which doesn’t fit the dynamics of racing in any way. Bringing together two nice brands isn’t enough to ask € 180. Only available from selected UK retailers.

Score: 75/100


We saw a wave of Glenturret 1980 and 1977 bottlings in 2012 already, from different German bottlers. Here’s one that left behind, now bottled in the new Old Times Diving series.

 

Glenturret 1980 (The Whisky Agency)Glenturret 33 yo 1980
(42,8%, The Whisky Agency ‘Old Times Diving’ 2013, refill hogshead, 253 btl.)

Nose: lots of orange juice, then orange blossom and apricot, evolving towards bergamot oils and Earl Grey. Stewed apples. Lovely hints of passion fruits and lemon grass as well. I love this kind of fruitiness. Slightly ethereal, and not a lot besides fruits, I admit, but very attractive. Mouth: such a juicy fruit bowl! This is the closest you’ll get to the Irish kind of fruitiness. Lots of pineapple, passion fruits, guavas, bananas , lime and pink grapefruit. It’s Glenturret with a dash of BenRiach 1976 and 1960’s Bowmore really. Not very punchy but lovely. Mid-palate it becomes a bit duller (wet newspaper) and just very lightly soapy but it picks up freshness towards the end. Finish: more of the same. Nothing but fruit teas and tropical sherbets. A little peppery oak as well.

Great stuff. Lots of shades of bright, slightly tart fruits! I’ve had pretty quirky Glenturrets from the same era but this is just very smooth vitamin juice. Available soon. Around € 190.

Score: 90/100


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Coming up

  • Littlemill 1992 (Whisky Mercenary)
  • Strathisla 8 Years Old (1970s)
  • Glen Grant 1992 (Old Particular)
  • Auchentoshan 15yo (Kintra)
  • Lagavulin 1997 Distillers Edition
  • Johnnie Walker 18yo Platinum Label
  • Ben Nevis 1997 (Maltbarn)
  • Karuizawa 45 Year Old (cask #2925)
  • Glengoyne 1999 (Palo Cortado)

1500 notes by Ruben

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