Single malt whisky - tasting notes

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


Another dram from GlenDronach’s single casks Batch #10, a 1992 vintage this time, bottled from cask #199. Sister cask #195 was released as part of Batch 9, and cask #200 went to Taiwan some time ago.

 

GlenDronach 1992 Oloroso cask 199GlenDronach 22 yo 1992
(59,4%, OB 2014, Oloroso sherry butt #199, 576 btl.)

Nose: heavy sherry, with classic coffee and dark fruit cake. Dates and raspberry vinegar. Slightly heathery, which evolves to waxed oak and polished leather. Lots of toasted notes, walnuts and chestnuts. A bit of chocolate. Good balance of darker, smoky sherry and fruitier top notes. Mouth: thick and pretty wide again, although a bit on the dry side. Tobacco leaves and cedar wood, dark chocolate, strong espresso, stewed prunes. Plenty of herbal / roasted notes and walnut skin. A hint of rubber and burnt hay as well. Finish: long, fairly herbal, with plenty of oak spices and dark, bitter chocolate.

A good one, especially if you like them dark and roasted. Around € 170, still available in most places.

Score: 88/100


After the Blair Athol 1993 First Editions, a younger version this time, bottled by Hepburn’s Choice in 2013. Probably not from a sherry cask. They bottled a similar 11yo version earlier this year.

Hepburn’s Choice is named after William Hepburn, the grandfather of Langside Distillers’ director, and it’s part of the Hunter Laing business.

 

 

Blair Athol 2002 - Hepburn's ChoiceBlair Athol 10 yo 2002
(46%, Hepburn’s Choice 2013, 378 btl.)

Nose: rather youngish. Pear drops, apples, cereals and dusting sugar. A bit of popcorn and soft vanilla biscuits. Not bad, but not the nose of a mature Scotch whisky. Mouth: clean, creamy, but rather flat. Fruity notes again, mainly pears but there’s a faint tropical edge to it. There’s also a milky element, like whipped cream. Finish: medium long, sweet and fruity, with hints of vanilla fudge.

A bit disappointing, though technically faultless. It’s easy to drink but still too simple and too young to be out on its own, in my opinion. Around € 55.

Score: 76/100


 

Tomatin 1988 | Malts of Scotland

Tomatin 25 yo 1988
(53,7%, Malts of Scotland 2014, sherry hogshead, MoS 14026, 265 btl.)

Nose: nicely fruity. Some ‘obvious’ fruits like green apples and white nectarines, but also more exquisite hints of pink grapefruit, green mango / banana. A bit on the unripe side of the fruity spectrum. Some ‘green’ oak and hay. Blonde tobacco. There’s also a slight hint of air refreshener (pine needles) but it’s actually an asset. Soft herbs. Overall really fresh and quite complex. Mouth: quite gentle given the ABV. Wood spices at first, as well as some dusty notes. Then a slightly leathery hint with the kind of fruitiness of a triple beer. Citrus mostly, some peach. A minty / zesty edge which brings a lot of freshness again. Nutmeg and pepper. Finish: long, drier (green tea and oak), some mentholated notes and echoes of fruit.

Less sweet than similar releases of the past. A very enjoyable all-round malt, quite natural (hardly any sherry) with lots of freshness. Very fruity, but not a fruit bomb like in the 1970’s. Around € 130.

Score: 87/100


Aberfeldy whiskyThe Bacardi group – which owns Aberfeldy, Aultmore, Craigellachie, Macduff and Royal Brackla – are planning a major boost for their whisky brands (owned by their subsidiary John Dewar & Sons). Each of these distilleries will get new core range expressions, and in 2015 a list of high-end expressions will follow, including single casks and small batch releases. Top of the bill: a 35 years old Brackla for around $ 15,000.

The first presentation of new bottlings will be at the end of September, but we can already have a look at the new packaging for Aberfeldy (a black label with bronze lettering). We’re trying the new batch of Aberfeldy 12 Year Old.

Other new expressions of Aberfeldy will include a 16yo heavily sherried version and a 30yo Marsala finish. As an interesting side note, every new release will carry an age statement and be caramel-free.

 

 

Aberfeldy 12 Year OldAberfeldy 12 yo (40%, OB 2014)

Nose: malty but in a rather fresh and aromatic way. Honey, some sourish green apple and sweet toffee notes. Golden raisins and hints of roasted almonds. Subtle floral notes. Mouth: creamy, sweet and malty, although it’s a little underpowered. Plenty of honey and apple pie. Cereals. The aftertaste is its biggest asset, a warm wave of caramel coated nuts and Nocciola with hints of gingerbread. Soft traces of spices and peat smoke in the background. Finish: medium long, nutty with smoked toffee, orange zest and cinnamon.

A good base malt, pleasantly harmless, lifted by a nice smoky twist in the end. An outsider choice for beginning malt lovers. Around € 35.

Score: 81/100


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Coming up

  • Macduff 1980 (Golden Cask)
  • Karuizawa 45 Year Old (cask #2725)
  • Cardhu 18 Year Old
  • Craigellachie 13 Years
  • Port Askaig 19 Year Old
  • Ledaig 2005 (Maltbarn)

1659 notes by Ruben

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