Single malt whisky - tasting notes

This is the oldest GlenDronach in their 10th Batch of single cask releases. No 1970’s bottlings (not sure whether we can still expect some?), no 1980’s either (they were hardly available anyway). Let’s not moan about better times, we’ll just try GlenDronach 1990 cask #2970 - a P.X. puncheon.

 

GlenDronach 1990 cask #2970GlenDronach 24 yo 1990
(51,3%, OB 2014, Pedro Ximénez puncheon #2970, 630 btl.)

Nose: a nice, deep fruitiness, reminding me of the best 1970’s casks. Poached pears, raspberry gums, quinces, alongside the obvious figs and raisins. Very jammy. There’s also a roasted / earthy note in the background, think coffee beans and wet leaves. Nice top notes of polished oak and leather. Mouth: sweet, but there’s more emphasis on the darker notes now – the fruits are on a second level. Walnuts, dark chocolate, toasted hazelnut. Hints of pipe tobacco. Burnt brown sugar. Sweet and sour. Some slightly bitter, herbal notes, cardamom and eucalyptus. Towards the end black cherries and forest fruits come out. Finish: long, still some toasted notes and Mon Cheri.

One of the better releases in this 10th Batch. I already liked sister cask #2966 and this one is just as complex. Around € 200.

Score: 89/100


Liquid Art is the Belgian label that released the Glen Elgin 1995 ‘Stag Beetle’. Now there’s a second bottling, a Bunnahabhain 1987 ‘The Osprey’. One more label will follow designed by local artist Raymond Minnen, then they introduce a new artist.

 

Bunnahabhain 1987 Liquid ArtBunnahabhain 1987
(51,3%, Liquid Art 2014, 115 btl.)

Nose: quite lovely. It’s fresh and tense, oily, with some brine and waxed papers. Also crushed mint leaves and a little linseed oil. Faint earthy notes. Fino cask? The best part however – and this grows over time – is the underlying fruitiness, a bright one, showing sourish apples and grapefruits but also more tropical-style fruits like melons and apricots. Just great. Mouth: rich and oily, again a perfect balance of coastalness and fruitiness. Salty notes, subtle pepper, then ripe apples, different berries, blackcurrant leaves and a bit of vanilla custard. Nectarine too. Impressive. Finish: medium long, sweet and fruity, with hints of mocha and very little oak.

A wonderful Bunna 1987, from the same family as the Bunna 1987 Mollusc & Medusa, I’d say. These guys know their whisky. Around € 150. Only around 25 bottles left, I’ve heard.

Score: 90/100


Have you noticed the diminishing amount of independent Laphroaig and the sudden rise of Ardmore? With the current high demand for whisky in general and the relatively limited supply of Islay whisky, heavily peated Ardmore is being pushed as the alternative for Laphroaig – both distilleries are owned by Beam / Suntory.

We’re trying a young one: Ardmore 2000 in the Liquid Library series.

 

Ardmore 2000 Liquid LibraryArdmore 14 yo 2000 (49,8%, Liquid Library 2014, refill hogshead, 289 btl.)

Nose: ashy and peaty, Islay-style indeed. Older Ardmore can have a tropical side to it – this one doesn’t, but it does show a fruity sweetness of peaches and pears. Some hay and walnut skin. Buttered toast. Not very complex but really enjoyable. Mouth: sharper now, with a sour / bitter attack and then heavy ashes. Rather dry and peppery. Burnt grass, soot, liquorice, grapefruit skin. A vague sweetness in the background, but otherwise it’s pretty assertive, not to say a little hardcore. Finish: long, dry, with an agave touch and hints of tar.

A straightforward, austere Ardmore that isn’t quite up there with Laphroaig, although the effort is worthwhile. Around € 85.

Score: 82/100


Ichiro's Malt - Hanyu cardsHanyu distillery, which was started by the grandfather of Ichiro Akuto in 1946 and which produced whisky since the 1980’s, was halted in 2000. Although Ichiro’s father sold the distillery, he decided to store the remaining casks in a warehouse.

After a while, he started bottling them in a series called Ichiro’s Malt, better known by its nickname, the Cards series. Each bottling has a playing card on the label, and after 53 cards it was time to release the final expression, The Joker.

 

Actually there are two Jokers. The first one has a coloured label and is a vatting of 14 casks, filled with six vintages of Hanyu (1985, 1986, 1988, 1990, 1991 and 2000). The style of casks is very wide – it includes hogsheads, sherry butts, puncheons, cognac casks, Madeira hogsheads, bourbon barrels and chibidaru casks (a Japanese version of the quarter cask).

The other Joker has a monochrome label and is from a single cask #1024 filled in 1985 (Mizunara oak finish).

 

 

Hanyu The Joker - Ichiro's MaltHanyu ‘The Joker’
(57,7%, OB 2014, multi-vintage, 3690 btl.)

Nose: a typical oriental Hanyu profile. Turkish delight, a little eucalyptus, quite some floral notes (rose petals and a mild potpourri effect) and plenty of sandalwood. Hints of fragrant herbs, toffee apples, raisins and plums. Hints of polished leather. Some gingerbread and vanilla as well. Very rich and complex, and extremely elegant. Mouth: again really exotic and pleasantly sweet & sour. Lots of spices (cardamom, ginger and five-spices powder), some yuzu peel and then classic dried fruits (bramble, figs and dates). Kaffir lime. Polished oak and mint. Aniseed. Some wood smoke and sweet tobacco in the background. Hints of vermouth or Fernet as well. Finish: long, spicy, herbal, with tea and honey.

Quite a kaleidoscopic Hanyu. I’m sure the different wood types brought something specific to the table, but it manages to make it into a nicely integrated ensemble. A fascinating end to this series. Originally around € 130. Now sold out in Japan, leading to auction prices of € 700 and more.

Score: 91/100


This Littlemill 1990 is part of the new releases from Maltbarn. There’s also a Glen Elgin 1985 and Coal Ila 1995, of which I’ll publish some notes later.

 

Littlemill 1990 - MaltbarnLittlemill 24 yo 1990
(50,6%, Maltbarn 2014, 158 btl.)

Nose: classic lemon jellybeans, peardrops and meadow flowers up front. Some guava juice and grapefruit. There seem to be a little more green tea and waxy notes in this one. Whiffs of eucalyptus. Very crisp, I like its warmth but I think it’s slightly less complex than some others I’ve had. Mouth: really really fruity, and one of the most tropical versions I’ve come accross. Guavas, bananas, excellent passion fruits, pineapple sweets, apricots… A creamy, vanilla infused expression. Hints of cake and white chocolate, with some warming oak towards the finish. Finish: long, fruity, with hints of green tea

This Littlemill 1990 draws the card of tropical fruits and warm vanilla, whereas some other vintages can be more about zesty fruits and minerals. Of course I’m a fan of this profile, but even then I think it’s one of the best examples. Around € 130.

Score: 92/100


Diageo Special Releases 2014

 

It’s that time of the year again. Diageo announced its Special Releases 2014. This year the list contains 11 bottlings. They’re always highly anticipated but I feel the interest has lowered. Lots of aficionados started to feel a little indifferent since prices skyrocketed around 2011-2012.

 

Left to right in the above overview:

  • Brora 35 yo 1978 (48,6%, 2964 btl.) – € 1500
  • Rosebank 21 yo 1992 (55,3%, 4530 btl.) – € 400
  • Lagavulin 12 Year Old (54,5%, 14th release, 31428 btl.) – € 100
  • Caol Ila 15 yo 1998 unpeated (60,39%, 10668 btl.) – € 90
  • Port Ellen 35yo 1978 (56,5%, 14th release, 2964 btl.) – € 2800
  • Strathmill 25 yo 1988 (52,4%, 2700 btl.) – € 350
  • Benrinnes 21 yo 1992 (56,9%, 2892 btl.) – € 300
  • Cragganmore 25 yo 1988 (51,4%, 3372 btl.) – € 400
  • Caol Ila 30 yo 1983 (55,1%, 7638 btl.) – € 550
  • Clynelish Select Reserve (54,9%, 2964 btl.) – € 650
  • Singleton of Glendullan 38 Year Old (59,8%, 3756 btl.) – € 1000

 

Prices are likely to be a bit higher still. They are based on the UK price and in the past this turned out to be lower than the European equivalent.

There’s no doubt this is a wide selection, with whiskies of all kinds of styles. I suppose only two of them are within reach of most whisky enthusiasts, the rest is investment material more than anything.

It’s the first time we’re seeing a Strathmill and Glendullan in the Special Releases – 2014 is also the first time a high-end Clynelish is bottled without an age statement.

For me personally, I’m especially interested in the Rosebank 21 Year Old and Coal Ila 30 Year Old, which should have an interesting profile and seem to have undergone a (relatively) modest price increase compared to past editions.


Abbey Whisky secured its own cask of Kilchoman. This Kilchoman 2009 was matured in a fresh bourbon barrel for four and a half years, before being transferred to a Pedro Ximénez cask for a four month finish.

 

Kilchoman 2009 cask #285 | Abbey WhiskyKilchoman 5 yo 2009
(58,3%, OB for Abbey Whisky 2014, cask #285/09, P.X. finish, 270 btl.)

Nose: the cask induced a vanilla biscuit sweetness, more than the classic dried fruits. Nicely rounded, with yellow fruit gums and marzipan. Sugarcane. Some strawberry jam. Behind the sweetness, there’s obvious peat smoke, but a mild version. Hints of iodine. Mouth: more peat now, fairly dry peat, but the sweetness is bigger again. Icing sugar and fruit candy. Sultanas and caramel. Hints of strawberries again. Gets a tad spirity / liqueur-like in the end, also showing spices from the wood. Finish: long, ashy, still very sweet.

A nice Kilchoman, peaty but not too much, and balanced by loads of strawberries and confectionary notes. Around € 100.

Score: 87/100


Bowmore Laimrig (Gaelic for pier) has been matured in ex-bourbon casks, finished for about a year in Oloroso sherry butts and bottled at cask strength. Originally a 4500 bottle limited release for Sweden (which were finished in sherry oak for much longer) there have been annual widely available batches since 2011.

I’m trying Bowmore Laimrig bottled in May 2014. Contrary to previous editions, it doesn’t seem to mention the batch number or the number of bottles.

 

Bowmore Laimrig 15 Year OldBowmore 15yo ‘Laimrig’
(54,1%, OB 2014)

Nose: seems more than just a sherry finish. It’s packed with caramel, red fruits, raisins and smoke (a combination of regular peat smoke and gunpowder from the sherry). There’s also a prickle of antiseptics and a slightly winey touch. Some chocolate. Mouth: a bit fierce at first. Plenty of smoky tar and liquorice, but it also reveals roasted nuts, raisins and lots of spices (pepper and ginger). Big saline notes too. Fades on tobacco notes and herbs. Finish: long, slightly winey again, with ashes and dried fruits.

A good one, very punchy and straightforward. There seems to be a bigger than usual whisky underneath the (also big) veil of sherry. Between € 75 and € 100, be sure to look around.

Score: 87/100


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Coming up

  • Cardhu 18 Year Old
  • Port Askaig 19 Year Old
  • Ledaig 2005 (Maltbarn)

1663 notes by Ruben

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