Single malt whisky - tasting notes

This Bunnahabhain 1980 was released by Eiling Lim in early 2015, alongside a Littlemill 1990. It’s her first Islay release.

Both are sold out and I’ve heard a big part of the yield was shipped to Lim’s birth country Malaysia, which is a good thing as this proves original concept (introducing high-quality independent bottlings there) is successful.

 

 

Bunnahabhain 1980 - Eiling LimBunnahabhain 34 yo 1980
(46,2%, Eiling Lim 2014, 50 btl.)

Nose: a hugely elegant, pleasantly discreet profile, which needs some time. Leathery notes and a hint of eucalyptus and menthol. Also subtle fruity notes underneath, light jams, figs, ripe gooseberries and meadow flowers. Nice waxy touches and honey. All this with some subtle sea spray. Pretty great but you have to be patient. Mouth: apricots and oranges at first, light honey again, with some greenish, sappy oak moving in. Light heather honey. Hints of green tea. mooth and old-fashioned. Also a light herbal touch, getting close to hoppy or marihuana-like flavours. Really. Finish: long, with some bitterness from the oak and the return of the orange (peel) and green tea.

It was the right time to bottle this while the mature oakiness is not yet a problem. Now it’s just a lovely old-fashioned Bunna. Around € 250.

Score: 89/100


This is a Clynelish expression at cask strength that was only for sale at the distillery. It is believed to be a version of the standard Clynelish 14 Year Old at natural strength. It was a one-off bottling, I don’t think the concept of ‘distillery only’ bottlings has been repeated.

 

 

Clynelish 'distillery only' - Cask StrengthClynelish ‘available only at the distillery’ (57,3%, OB 2008)

Nose: very naked, with lemon, yellow apple, dried grass and a lot of waxy notes. Wax candles, buttery notes. Mineral and sharp, but it becomes more aromatic after a while, with subtle but impressive lime and raspberry notes in the background. Candied ginger. Mouth: oily and creamy, with vanilla custard and apples / apple pie. Pineapple. Then peppery notes, ginger and more wax. Becomes coastal and frankly salty as well, but the candied side never goes away. Finish: long, waxy, on grapefruit skin and salty liquorice.

A really nice dram. The typical elements of the Clynelish 14 are preserved but the whole is more powerful – a little wild even. Originally priced £ 80, and for £ 5 extra you could have it signed by all thirteen distillery managers and operators.

Score: 88/100


Glen Mhor, Millburn, Pittyvaich, Brackla, North Port… those are the five distilleries I have the least experience with (except for completely lost ones of course). Here’s a rare opportunity to try the Glen Mhor 1966 in the Old Malt Cask series.

 

 

Glen Mhor 1966/2000 - Old Malt CaskGlen Mhor 34 yo 1966 (50%, Douglas Laing ‘Old Malt Cask’ 2000, 396 btl.)

Nose: high octane sherry. I get some rich forest fruit jam, raspberry coulis and Heering Cherry liqueur, but also less expected things like bananas and apricots. Then a big herbal side (liquorice, mint) with tobacco, moving towards polished furniture and big hints of cigar boxes. Also a slightly oriental twist (something like incense or smoky temples). Pretty glorious. Mouth: even more herbal now, coating and drying your mouth entirely. Still some figs, but mostly chestnuts, earthy notes, eucalyptus, ginger and liquorice. High on tannins and herbs. Dark roast coffee. Not unlike the heaviest Karuizawa expressions. Finish: long, dry, herbal, peppery, you get it.

This Glen Mhor has a glorious nose, showing very aromatic sherry. However on the palate you would say it spent too much time in the cask, becoming an oak infusion. Therefore hard to score.

Score: 87/100


This is the second new Signatory bottling for The Bonding DramDailuaine 1997. The yield is shared with Maison Baelen, Toby Vins and restaurant De Cluysenaer.

 

 

Dailuaine 1997 - Signatory Vintage - The Bonding DramDailuaine 17 yo 1997 (52,1%, Signatory Vintage for The Bonding Dram 2015, hogshead #7188, 215 btl.)

Nose: fairly naked and malty, with sweet apples, meadow flowers and linseed oil. Subtle spices. A bit of heather honey. Slightly overripe oranges. Also hints of asparagus. Hmmmokay then. Mouth: fruitier and quite oily. Stewed apples and pears, oranges again, with lemon candy. Some biscuity notes (vanilla) with candy sugar before moving onto strong spices (quite some pepper and ginger, a little nutmeg) and light nutty notes. A hint of buttery mocha towards the end. Finish: long, creamy with a salty touch. Liquorice and soft herbs.

A bit of a middle-of-the-road nose, but overall an engaging whisky with a good body and lots of different characteristics (which means nobody will be disappointed). Around € 85, available from The Bonding Dram and the others..

Score: 85/100


The BenRiach 35 Years Old, according to the distillery, is designed to compliment its award-winning 25 years old which came out in 2006, as a replacement for the 30 Year Old.

If we count back in time, the casks used for this whisky must have been filled in 1979 or earlier. Excellent years for The BenRiach (which was owned by Glenlivet back then), so I have high expectations.

It is a mix of bourbon and sherry casks.

 

 

BenRiach 35 Year OldBenRiach 35 yo (42,5%, OB 2014)

Nose: pretty wonderful. A big fruity core of ripe banana, dried apricots, oranges and raisins. Also the classic pink grapefruit and papaya that are so typical for BenRiach 1976, though more subtle. Pineapples in syrup. Hints of eucalyptus and mint. Lovely vanilla marshmallow in the background. Maybe dried flowers. Light spices (pepper and nutmeg) but the thick, sweet fruits are certainly up front. Mouth: a little thinner, with more polished oak than on the nose. Some resinous / waxy notes. Milk chocolate and cinnamon. A slightly dry attack, but the second part of the palate is much better. The oaky notes disappear and what’s is left is just wonderful passion fruits, apricots, guava and tangerine. Finish: long, fruity, with more chocolate and delicate oak spices.

This is the result of an exercise in balance. BenRiach has 1970’s casks with heavy sherry as well as from bourbon oak, there’s the unique fruitiness of 1976 and the minty / oaky profile of older vintages. This BenRiach 35 Year Old combines all of this in a harmonious expression. Well done. Around € 600.

Score: 91/100


Mortlach Rare Old

29 Jun 2015 | Mortlach

This is the new entry-level expression for Mortlach (in terms of pricing several steps below Mortlach 18 Years and Mortlach 25 Years). It is a mix of their three styles of spirit (delicate, medium and meaty) matured in a series of different casks: first-fill American and European oak casks, as well as some refill and rejuvenated casks.

 

 

Mortlach Rare OldMortlach Rare Old
(43,4%, OB 2014)

Nose: I get three main layers. A big malty core, a floral top note and an earthy base. The malty core also brings some biscuits, vanilla and raisins. The floral note moves towards orange oils and cinnamon, and finally these earthy / leafy hints. Mouth: rather punchy. Raisin sweetness and honey but also pepper, ginger and other oak spices. Sweet toffee and caramel. Less complex than the nose, but really not bad. Finish: medium long, spicy with a honey sweetness.

This Mortlach Rare Old is quite robust for an entry-level dram, with an above average complexity. Around € 65 – a bit expensive for a 50cl bottle.

Score: 82/100


Glenfarclas - The legend of Speyside

 

Glenfarclas – The Legend of Speyside is a small series of three bottlings, originally for the German market but now also available elsewhere.

Alongside Passion and Springs, it is a tribute to important elements in the history of this family-owned distillery.

 

 

These expressions are matured in Oloroso sherry casks provided by the Spanish cooperage José & Miguel Martin, a long-time partner of Glenfarclas and other whisky distilleries around the world. It’s based in the province of Huelva, outside of the official sherry triangle. That means their wines cannot be called sherry (hence how would you call their casks?) but let’s not go into that.

The youngest whisky in the mix is eight years old.

 

 

Glenfarclas - The legend of Speyside - TeamGlenfarclas ‘The Legend of Speyside’ – Team (46%, OB 2014, Oloroso sherry casks, 6000 btl.)

Nose: a slightly thinner kind of sherried whisky, with mostly oranges and apples. Fruit eau-de-vie. Some rhubarb. There’s a prevalent sourness instead of the usual sweetness. Something of white balsamic and soft spices. Mouth: very similar. Oranges and orange liqueur, plus fruit teas and soft herbal notes. A sweet and sour combination. Also hints of apricots and raisins. Some liquorice and oak. Finish: a bit short, with only the oak spices and a hint of bitter herbs and coffee standing strong.

A slightly funny Glenfarclas, somehow quite thin and not as rich as other releases. An honest dram, but not exactly a must-have. They’re presented as ‘collectibles’ but I don’t see much potential there either. Around € 35.

Score: 82/100


The Perfect whisky glass: Glencairn? Bugatti? Copita?

 

Well… rather… my favourite whisky glasses. I am being asked about my preferred whisky glass regularly, and I was planning to write about this for a long time.

In the picture we have seven glasses. I have used them regularly and they all have advantages and disadvantages in my opinion. Let’s have a look, but first, I’d like to stress this is not a scientific comparison. I haven’t tried the exact same whiskies in all of the glasses to see which one works better for which type of whisky, for instance. It’s just a rough summary of several years of experience. Somehow I keep going back to the same glasses.

 

I’m moving left to right:

 

1. Tulip without stem

Not sure what the official name is. Mine are from the Belgian bottler Daily Dram, but other brands like Glen Grant and Arran also have them. Its form is similar to the Glencairn glass, but smaller and without the base.

I like this one. A small glass has something cosy, and the aromatic performance is still very good, even when you only have a small amount of whisky inside. Obviously you will slowly warm up the whisky while holding this glass, but personally I don’t mind – I tend to try most whiskies at slightly different temperatures anyway. It’s also very solid and easy to clean.

 

2. Glencairn

A good all-rounder. I hardly ever use this glass myself, except on occasions where I can’t choose (tastings, festivals…). Easy to clean and very sturdy. I’m not against it and I do appreciate the effect it has on the whisky scene in general – it’s a hundreds times better than a tumbler. Compared to other specialized glasses, I sometimes feel its aromatic performance is a bit under par though.

 

3. Distillery Taster / Copita

Supposedly inspired by a sherry glass (but serious sherry tasters will now tell you to use a bigger wine glass!). Anyway it’s rather concentrating which is nice for delicate whiskies but it tends to accentuate the alcohol which makes it less appealing for modern, high-strength whiskies in my opinion.

Not easy to clean, and probably the easiest to break in this series.

 

4. Lower copita

Not sure about the official name, it is the official Scotch Malt Whisky Society glass but I bought the Master of Malt version. Its bowl is virtually identical to number 3, just a little wider and with a lower stem. More charming maybe, but the same advantages / disadvantages. It performs well.

 

5. Bugatti Kelch

My day-to-day whisky glass and used for almost all of my reviews. I think the cup has the perfect size (slightly smaller than a Glencairn again), especially when trying smaller amounts of whisky.

It amplifies old, complex malts in a nice way, but not to the extent where it becomes too loud for high-strength whisky. A balancing glass so to speak. Maybe the slightly outward ‘chimney’ makes it such a good performer?

Also, it’s easy to clean. Around € 4-5 per piece.

 

To finish two of the more exotic options:

 

6. Chef & Sommelier Open Up Spirits Ambient

Kwarx glasses with an uncommon ‘angle’ in the kelch, which is considerably wider at the bottom, compared to a Glencairn / Bugatti. This is supposed to help oxygenation. Unfortunately this glass is designed for a specific fill level, indicated by the edge in the glass: 6 cl. That’s simply too much for me, I use 2-3 cl for a review and in that case this glass is not a great performer.

Quite difficult to clean. There’s also a slightly smaller version (Open Up Spirits Cool). I would like to try that one as well, maybe it’s better suited for whisky. Around € 9 each.

 

7. Schott Zwiesel / LMdW ‘No Ice’

A Tritan crystal glass, designed by Schott Zwiesel and the perfect whisky glass according to La Maison du Whisky. Obviously the glass with the longest and most narrow ‘chimney’. Extremely difficult to clean, also difficult to swirl.

A very good performer – possibly over-accentuating some of the more delicate aromas but that’s exactly how I use it: as a magnifying glass for silent drams. I would use it more often if it weren’t such an impractical glass. Around € 9 each.

 

It would be great if you commented and let me know your personal favourite(s).


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Coming up

  • Highland Park 1995 (Whisky Mercenary)
  • Irish Single Malt 27yo 1988 (The Nectar of the Daily Drams)
  • Irish Single Malt 16yo 1999 (The Nectar of the Daily Drams)
  • Bunnahabhain 1987 (Maltbarn)
  • Glen Garioch 1993 (Maltbarn)
  • Glenlivet 42yo (Cadenhead)
  • Auchentoshan 1994 (Whisky Agency)
  • Blended Malt Extra Old (Whisky Agency)
  • Woodford Reserve Master's Collection
  • Teeling 26yo Vintage Reserve
  • Springbank 2001 vintage

1861 notes by Ruben

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