Single malt whisky - tasting notes

New Archives releases have arrived. After the fishes of Samoa, the label of this Littlemill 1988 is adorned with another sea creature, some kind of crab. The series is called Voyage dans l’Amérique Méridionale.

 

 

Littlemill 1988 ArchivesLittlemill 25 yo 1988 (51,9%, Archives 2014, bourbon hogshead #12, 134 btl.)

Nose: starts on the grassier side of Littlemill, with a bit of oak dust and chalk. The some waxy and grainy notes before moving to fruits. Red apples. Peaches, grapefruits and green banana. Hints of limoncello. After a while, a nice soft strawberry note and vanilla. Mouth: quite typical again. This time the creamy fruits come out first. Banana and sweet pear, followed by sharper and more bitter notes. Ginger, lemon zest, grapefruit. Resin and anise, maybe even something synthetic in the background (glue). Finish: long, bittersweet, in line with the rest.

Really good, what did you expect? I didn’t really get a ‘Holy Crab!’ experience though. Around € 135, available from the Whiskybase shop.

Score: 88/100


In the upper regions of the Johnnie Walker range, this Platinum Label is the only one to have an age statement: all of its components are 18 years old.

It sits just under the most expensive Johnnie Walker Blue Label and above the Gold Label Reserve, which has now lost its previous 18yo statement and seems to be discontinued altogether in some countries. Not sure how the marketing guys explain all this shifting around, to me it just seems confusing…

 

Johnnie Walker Platinum LabelJohnnie Walker 18 yo Platinum Label
(40%, OB 2013)

Nose: subtle, as you would expect from 40%, but quite nice. Fruity core: apricots, pears, a hint of pineapple, golden raisins. Also a citrusy note. Soft leathery notes that hint towards older Speyside whiskies, and a very subtle touch of wood smoke in the background. Quite rich for a blend – the biggest compliment is probably that it noses like a (light) single malt. Mouth: smooth, although disappointingly smooth now. Sugary and watery – no recognizable fruits. Evolves towards herbal notes and bittersweet caramel towards the end. More typical blend notes (grains) now, and still a hint of smoke. Not bad, but less convincing than the nose. Finish: medium long, sweet, malty and peppery.

A sweet and spicy Johnnie Walker. Platinum Label has a really nice nose, sure it’s soft, but it’s hardly recognizable as a blend. The palate is too bland and caramelly to convince me and certainly less complex than a single malt of the same price. Around € 60 but price differences between shops tend to be high.

Score: 81/100


I don’t know about you, but I’m not willing to spend today’s prices for new Port Ellen releases… easily € 600 even from independent bottlers. No matter how rare they now are, that’s well above my personal limit.

Luckily we have a small stock hidden away, bought in better times. Like this one, a Port Ellen 1982 single cask bottled by Douglas Laing for The Nectar in 2009.

 

Port Ellen 1982 - Douglas Laing for The NectarPort Ellen 26 yo 1982 (56,2%, Douglas Laing OMC for Daily Dram 2009, refill hogshead, ref. 4900, 193 btl.)

Nose: quite vibrant. One of these Port Ellens that strike a nice balance between coastal sharpness and vanilla smoothness. Above average medicinal notes, rather than plain peat. Pine needles and wet tree leafs. Bright citrus notes. Nice grassy notes, evolving towards peppery notes. A fresh orange / banana / apple fruitiness in the background. Very complex. Mouth: more power, more peat, more sharpness. Very punchy, with pepper, salt, lemon and peat smoke. Still some sweetness (oranges, honey, vanilla). Fades on grassy notes and ginger. Finish: very long, quite sugary, with a few maritime notes and lemon peel.

Simply excellent Port Ellen. Douglas Laing owned a large number of casks from this distillery, and The Nectar surely knew which one to pick. Intense, but showing a marvelous amount of tiny notes and delicate refinements.

Score: 93/100


Jura Diurach’s Own

23 May 2014 | Jura

Isle of Jura - DiurachsDiurachs are the inhabitants of the Isle of Jura – their symbol is stamped on the bottle. Like the people, the whisky is said to have a strong character.

Most official Jura releases now have a nickname. Jura 10 Year Old is Jura Origin. The limited 12 Year Old is called Jura Elixir. The peated versions are Superstition and Prophecy. Jura Duirach’s Own is the 16 Year Old.

Jura Diurach’s Own is first matured in American white oak and spends the last two years in Oloroso sherry casks (Amoroso actually). We’re trying the European version at 40%. It seems the US version is bottled at a higher 43%.

 

Jura Diurach's Own - 16 Years OldIsle of Jura ‘Diurach’s Own’
(40%, OB +/- 2014)

Nose: pretty rich. There’s a honeyed base with fudge and caramel. A few hints of mixed berries and chocolate. Subtle coastal notes and a clear note of pine trees and resin. Sweet (caramel) and sour (citrus) combination. Mouth: really sweet, very caramelly. Butter pastry. Vanilla custard. Maple syrup. A bit too sticky sweet for me, although it returns nicely to spiced oak and Mexican chocolate. Subtle clove. Finish: hesitating between the milk chocolate sweetness and drying oak.

Diurach’s Own is really okay – probably the best of the core range bottlings. On the other hand I can’t say it’s complex or really balanced. For milk chocolate lovers. Around € 50.

Score: 82/100


The Whisky Fair means new releases by The Whisky Agency. One of them is yet another Littlemill, distilled in 1989.

 

Littlemill 1989 Liquid LibraryLittlemill 24 yo 1989 (48,7%, Liquid Library 2014, refill hogshead, 199 btl.)

Nose: fruity fruity! Mangos, oranges, apples. Lime and banana. A good dose of vanilla as well. Less of the mineral / grassy notes we saw in similar casks, or so it seems. Maybe a little beeswax. Mouth: excellent. A slightly Irish fruitiness, with banana, maracuja and tangerines. A hint of pink grapefruit bitterness. More than a hint of tropical fruits, you get it. Lemon pie and a hint of barley sugar. Quite some grassy notes / green tea as well. Finish: long, more zesty fruits with a hint of aspirin sharpness.

I’ve reviewed +/- 20 ex-boubon Littlemill 1988-1992 expressions in the last two years and this is one of my favourites. Recommended. Around € 150.

Score: 90/100

ps/ Picture is slightly different, waiting for the new label, sorry.


This Ardbeg 21yo was finished for three months in a tiny 50 litre Pedro Ximénez cask. It’s part of the Darkness! series by Master of Malt, but… well… it isn’t dark at all. They say it has taken over the dark character of the sherry cask though. Another funny thing is the low ABV – I suppose it’s cask strength, which probably means the cask had to be emptied due to exceptional angel’s share?

 

Darkness Ardbeg 21 YearsDarkness! Ardbeg 21 yo (40,1%, Master of Malt 2014, P.X. finish, 50 cl.)

Nose: maybe not a classic sherry influence, but rather a deep sweetness coating the usual Ardbeg spirit. Apple butter, sweet lemonade, peaches on syrup and blackberry jam. It’s so thick it manages to get on top of the Islay character. Sooty notes, sweet tobacco and just tiny hints of olive brine are in a second row. Mouth: very thick and sweet again, which helps to mask the relative softness. Semi-dried plums, golden raisins and caramelized apple. Melon candy. Lots of sugared almonds. Still a background of smoke and sweet peat. Hints of lacquered bacon as well. Fades on milk chocolate. Finish: not very long, chocolaty and candied.

You really have to have a sweet tooth to appreciate this one. Very sugary, really candied. I wouldn’t call this dark, at least not darker than regular Ardbegs… but tasty it is. Around € 150 – sold out seconds after its release last week.

Score: 88/100


This is one of the festival bottlings of the The Whisky Fair 2014 held in Limburg, Germany last weekend. It is a peated Isle of Jura 1989 bottled by Signatory Vintage. There’s also a sister cask #30725 which was bottled at 46%.

 

Isle of Jura 1989 - Signatory Vintage for Whisky Fair LimburgIsle of Jura 24 yo 1989 (58,8%, Signatory Vintage for Whisky Fair 2014, peated bourbon barrel #30724, 193 btl.)

Nose: the peat isn’t too heavy, which also means complexity is high. Sooty notes, wet newspaper, also quite a lot of coastal notes. Olive juice, kelp, a little iodine… Soft earthy notes and grass. Burnt heather. Ginger. After a while, some creamier notes emerge, really nice ones like ripe gooseberries and strawberries. Toffee too. Great. Mouth: oily, really salty and definitely more peaty / less mellow than the nose suggested. Grapefruit and softly bitter (burnt) herbs. Also a punchy antiseptic side. Sharp brine. Smoked, salted fish and oysters. Still some sweet lemon and vague white fruits underneath. Finish: long, quite sharp and briny again, with grasses, herbs and liquorice.

This Jura 1989 starts really balanced on the nose and becomes a little sharper, more medicinal and peatier on the palate. Nice evolution, nice complexity. Around € 125.

Score: 88/100

 

ps/ Cask #30725 comes at a lower strength of 46% (213 btl.). That one shows even more creaminess and fruitiness on the nose. It also rounds off some of the sharpness and herbalness of the palate. In the end it will come down to personal preferences, but complexity is pretty much the same for both versions, and nothing beats 46% in terms of drinkability. Around € 100.


Springbank 21 Year Old is a classic, and we were quite fond of the bling-bling re-release introduced in 2011. It has been a yearly bottling since then and we’re now trying the latest 2013 edition.

Springbank’s warehouses only contain a few casks of 20 years or older. No matter what cask in was in before, all of these 20+ casks are reracked into sherry casks, in order to have the required profile of the 21 Year Old.

 

 

Springbank 21 Years (2013 edition)Springbank 21 yo (46%, OB 2013, 1680 btl.)

Nose: quite subtle, with more fruity notes than obvious sherry. Pears and melons, nectarines, maybe a bit of mango. Sweet barley and honey. Some floral notes (rose petals). A hint of wax and new leather. Mouth: oily and easy-going. Never really punchy. Garden fruits (pear, apple peel, unripe apricot), with waxy / mineral notes behind them. Gentle brine and nutty notes. Aniseed and clove. A little tobacco, even a hint of peat. Finish: quite long, on crystallized fruits with minerals and a soft oaky touch.

A fine but quite reticent Springbank. It shows a nice sense of subtlety and oldness, but it’s way behind the old bottlings and also behind the 2011 edition. Good but not worth the asking price. Around € 275 if you can still find a bottle.

Score: 89/100


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Coming up

  • Convalmore 1978 (Rare Malts)
  • Littlemill 1991 (Eiling Lim)
  • Glen Moray 1959/1989
  • Jura 1972 SMWS 31.4

1572 notes by Ruben

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