Single malt whisky - tasting notes

Islay barley, from Bruichladdich’s own Lorgba field at the Octomore farm, was used to create this Octomore 06.3. It was distilled in 2009 and bottled earlier this year.

A massive 258 ppm of phenols, that’s almost 100 ppm more than the fourth or fifth edition of this dram. The world’s most heavily peated whisky at the moment.

 

 

Octomore 06.3 - Islay Barley - 258ppmOctomore 06.3 ‘Islay Barley’ (64%, OB 2014, 258 ppm, 15.000 btl.)

Nose: surprisingly farmy, something that I didn’t get from previous releases. Wet animal fur, hay and wet leaves. I also get thyme, grapes and burnt heather. Hints of yeast. Lots of dark bread crust as well as some vanilla pastry. Hazelnuts. Quite nice, more flavoursome than you would expect from a peat monster. Mouth: very peaty and ashy of course and overall maybe a bit alcoholic. Burning wood. Hints of warm vanilla in the background. Herbal liqueurs. Sharp grapefruity notes too. Salty liquorice and salted nuts. Not very complex but quite enjoyable nonetheless. Finish: very long, tarry, peppery and quite a sweet hint of chocolate and vanilla.

There’s a good deal of flavour in this whisky, despite its high strength and monstrous peat level. Around € 180.

Score: 87/100


Remember the rather wonderful Irish single malt 1991 – The Nectar of the Daily Drams? Belgo-Malaysian bottler Eiling Lim selected a similar cask.

It’s produced at the same distillery, from the same 1991 batch of casks. We’ve heard it was also double distilled (!) as well as being peated spirit. Peated Bushmills, almost.

I happen to have bottles of both, so I can compare them directly.

 

Irish single malt 1991 - Eiling LimIrish single malt 22 yo 1991 (48,6%, Eiling Lim 2014, 116 btl.)

Nose: my first impression was a slightly bigger peatiness, but this levels out over time. This one is maybe slightly less sweet on the nose, but it does have a clear buttery / toffee note that the TNOTDD doesn’t have. Similar fruitiness (pear, maracuya, mango, banana) alongside the subtle peat and ever so light medicinal notes (menthol). Mouth: almost identical to the other cask, hard to set apart. A sweet, tropical fruitiness mixed with subtle peat that seems older than it actually is (1960’s Bowmore anyone?). Minty notes, a little walnut. Fades on creamy mocha. Finish: long, slightly earthy, still very fruity with a soft peppery touch.

You could say 2014 was a year of excellent independent Irish releases (both peated and non-peated), thanks to the Teeling family and a couple of bottlers with great noses. A must-try.

Score: 92/100


This Inchgower 1975 was bottled in 2013 but it hasn’t been released by Maltbarn until just now. It’s a strategy we saw before from this bottler, avoiding the moment when everyone seems to launch them and selling it when it’s not available any more.

 

Inchgower 1975 - MaltbarnInchgower 38 yo 1975 (47,3%, Maltbarn 2013, bourbon cask, 54 btl.)

Nose: starts waxy, with paraffin, linseed oil and polished oak, as well as some mint. Green apples, later also warmer fruits like melon, pear and pineapple. Soft passion fruits too. Hay. Subtle flowery notes. I love this kind of profile. Mouth: rather mellow and creamy. Vanilla custard, honey and malty notes, alternating with tropical fruits like tangerine. Soft spices and herbs (ginger, chamomile, a pinch of salt) as well as some citrus green tea. Finish: long, warm, on malty notes with oaky touches.

Very good Inchgower, on par with sister casks released in 2011-2013, in a warm, waxy and fruity style that’s hard to find these days. Around € 250.

Score: 90/100


The other day I was given I was given an early Christmas gift by my lovely parents: a box of chocolates by the famous Belgian chocolatier Pierre Marcolini. The selection is called Rare Whiskies and Rums – it includes six different chocolates with a filling based on whisky and rum.

The starting idea is that liqueur-filled chocolates are always based on a nameless spirit, probably not the best one around, which is a shame when you’re working with top quality chocolate like Marcolini. This time, a lot of effort was put into matching a specific whisky / rum to a specific type of chocolate.

Pierre Marcolini chocolate - Rare whiskies and rums

These are the whisky combinations:

  • Aberlour / Ecuador & Java fondant ganache with Cuban chocolate coating
  • Oban / Vanilla caramel ganache with Chuao chocolate coating
  • Ardbeg / Piedmontese hazelnut praliné with Ecuador chocolate coating
  • Yamazaki / Ecuador & Java fondant ganache with Mexican Porcelana coating

At this level, I think the actual expression should have been mentioned. We can assume Marcolini used Oban 14 Years and Ardbeg 10 Years, but for Aberlour and Yamazaki this is less clear. There’s a huge difference between Aberlour 10, Aberlour 16 or Aberlour a’bunadh for example.

The Aberlour and Yamazaki combinations are nothing special. I mean, you can’t fault the chocolate in itself, but the whiskies are probably too bland to stand out. For me, this is still a middle-of-the-road liqueur praline (something I don’t like in general, I should add). I know the whiskies and I wasn’t able to recognize them.

The Ardbeg combination with hazelnut praliné works well though. The smokiness stands out and overall it brings out more flavours than just vague alcohol. To a lesser extent this is also true for the Oban combination, which has a slightly salty touch, and salt + chocolate is always a winner. However I think reducing both whiskies to just a whiff of smoke or salt is not doing justice to these fine drams.

The rum bonbons couldn’t win me over either. Overall I was disappointed, especially since I’m a fan of Marcolini in general. The box holds 16 small chocolates and is not worth € 50. My idea of pairing whisky with chocolate is still to have an actual glass of whisky and a quality bar of chocolate on the side.


Balblair 1983

19 Dec 2014 | Balblair

Balblair 1983 replaced the popular 1975 vintage at the end of 2013. It was matured in ex-bourbon barrels.

 

Balblair 1983 - 1st releaseBalblair 1983
(46%, OB 2013, 1st release)

Nose: a nicely fruity, almost tropical nose. Fresh banana, sweet quinces and apricots, as well as a sourish hint of pineapple and passion fruit. Bright floral notes. Albariño comes to mind. Vanilla ice cream. Very subtle hints of old oak and almonds. Excellent. Mouth: quite lovely again. There are warm fruity notes (pears, plums) balanced by the same juicy acidity (kiwi) and soft, elegant spices (ginger, clove). Liquorice and cinnamon. Some freshly sawn, bourbonny oak touches, but without the dryness. Finish: medium, half fruity, half spicy.

Great stuff, with a fresh fruitiness, pleasant acidity and spices, all integrated into an elegant composition. The best bourbon matured Balblair I’ve had. Around € 250.

Score: 89/100

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This Caol Ila 1983 is the first official 30 Year Old (as far as I know), bottled as part of the Special Releases 2014. We’ve had a whole list of early 1980’s releases from independent bottlers, so we’re curious to see how the official release compares.

It is a mix of refill American and European oak.

 

 

Caol Ila 30 Year Old 1983 - Special ReleaseCaol Ila 30 yo 1983 (55,1%, OB 2014, Special Release, 7638 btl.)

Nose: a maritime / medicinal version at first sight. Iodine impregnated gauze, seaweed, with some leather and soot. On a second level, there are rounder, fruitier notes: sweet lemon, melon and sugared almonds. Hints of latte and vanilla. A rather complex version, but the more coastal / austere notes win in the end. Mouth: more intense, sharp and focused, with a big medicinal side again. Menthol and camphor. Aniseed and salt. Leathery notes. Kippers and olive brine. Quite hot actually, with earthy peat, bitter almonds and a good deal of oak. Just a few hints of vanilla to round things off. Finish: long, on liquorice, lemon & salt and soot.

A really big expression of Caol Ila that seems to have lost none of its power. Reminds me of the Coal Ila 1982 for Limburg Whisky Fair of last year, but it’s bolder and rougher. And much more expensive than indie versions. Around € 550 (ouch).

Score: 91/100


Aberlour a’bunadh is the cask-strength expression matured exclusively in Oloroso sherry casks, released in different batches (usually 5 or 6 a year). It is said to contain different profiles, from casks ranging between 5 and 25 years old.

I tried quite a few in 2008-2009 but later on I seemed to turn to other heavily sherried expressions. Today we’re trying the latest batch (if I’m not mistaken), batch n°49.

 

Aberlour A'Bunadh #49Aberlour a’bunadh
(60,1%, OB 2014, batch n°49)

Nose: quite open and very sherried. It’s a modern kind of sherry maturation, with some winey overtones. Raspberries and orange peel. Sultanas and honey. Soft mint. Quite aromatic and fragrant, before the drier notes come out. Walnuts and pecans. Leather. A peppery tingle as well. Just a light hint of struck matches, which is highlighted when you add water. Mouth: sweet and spicy. Lots of toffee, caramel and dried fruits (dates, apricots). Fresher fruits as well (raspberry again). Liquorice. A darker side of roasted coffee beans and bitter chocolate that becomes a tad too loud for me. Finish: long, spicy but also fairly dry. Liquorice, wood and walnuts.

This is a well-made, full-flavoured sherry bomb. I would say this was a real stunner if not for the faint struck matches and the oaky dryness. One of the nicer batches though. Prices tend to go from € 45 to € 65.

Score: 88/100


Aberfeldy Bits of Strange is a 16 year old single cask whisky, bottled at cask strength from a sherry-seasoned cask. It was launched to commemorate a homecomings tour of two Scottish bands, King Creosote and FOUND, in November 2012.

 

Aberfeldy 16 Years - Bits of StrangeAberfeldy 16 yo ‘Bits of Strange’
(55,1%, OB 2012, 318 btl.)

Nose: rather unique and very intriguing. There are huge waxy notes hitting you up front, as well as some tobacco leaves and echoes of pine wood refresher and mint. On a second level: dried apricots, backed apple and honeysuckle. Dried flowers. Vanilla and cinnamon. Nicely aromatic, with the sherry influence being rather subtle. Mouth: quite oaky, but in a nice way. Firm spices (pepper, clove) but also fruitcake and blood orange. Again bags of mint, and eucalyptus. A toasted side / burnt sugar. Walnuts. Finish: long, spicy and slightly dry. Orange peel and nuts.

A fairly hot and oaked whisky, especially when taken neat. Nonetheless the toasted wood makes it boldly aromatic and interesting. Around € 185 at the time.

Score: 88/100


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Coming up

  • Yamazaki 12 Year Old
  • Langatun Old Bear peated
  • Laphroaig An Cuan Mor
  • Fettercairn 1990 (Liquid Library)
  • Tomatin 1997 (Liquid Library)
  • Karuizawa 1981 (cask #6207)

1732 notes by Ruben

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