Single malt whisky - tasting notes

Glen Flagler is one of the rarest names in the modern Scotch whisky history. It’s actually not a distillery but the name for a set of stills within the Moffat distillery complex, traditionally a grain whisky production site built by Inver House.

The oldest pair of stills produced grain whisky (Garnheath) and two pairs of pot stills produced malt whisky (under the names Glen Flagler, Killyloch and Islebrae, in order of peatiness). One pair of malt stills only worked from 1965 until 1970, the ones used for Glen Flagler kept running until 1985.

Since only a handful of expressions exist, Glen Flagler is a collectors whisky rather than a drinkers whisky.

Some bottles of Glen Flagler are ‘pure malts’, vatted or blended malts. This one says ‘all-malt Scotch’ which, frankly, could mean the same. Some would say we’re not necessarily trying a single malt. On the other hand, it probably indicates malt whisky made in different still sets within the same distillery. Sounds like a single malt to me.

There’s a similar label that says ‘5 years old’. The one we’re trying doesn’t have an age statement but it’s probably of a similar age. Also, this is the older version (pre-1979) with red print (instead of white) at the bottom.

 

 

Glen Flagler 'all malt' 1970'sGlen Flagler ‘all-malt’ (70° proof, OB pre-1979, black & red shield, 1 2/3 fl.oz.)

Nose: starts a little harsh with hints of hair spray, but it settles nicely. Lots of malty notes. Quite grassy and lemony, in the Lowlands tradition, but it also includes nice barley sugars and vanilla. Hints of pear eau-de-vie. Banana. Not too bad actually. Mouth: light and gentle, with a lot of citrus again, both zesty and candied notes. Grassy notes, hints of dried herbs. Hints of vanilla and toasted wood, but overall fairly thin. Light mocha. Finish: medium long, slightly grainy, not very interesting.

When compared to other similarly aged malts from the same era (say Glen Grant 5yo), it’s really not bad. Usually around € 200 in auctions, although some stores value it at € 600.

Score: 77/100


1994 is the year in which Braes of Glenlivet was baptised Braeval. Like The Glenlivet, the distillery was owned by Chivas Brothers and they wanted to avoid confusion.

Braeval is one of these distilleries that are released more often in the last two years. There’s more demand for whisky in general, and bottlers start looking for lesser known names to fill the gap, I guess. This Braeval 1994 is bottled by Tasting Fellows.

 

Braeval 18 years - Tasting FellowsBraeval 18 yo 1994 (55,3%, Tasting Fellows 2013, barrel #165661, 170 btl.)

Nose: ripe, local fruits like apples and peaches. Mirabelles. A fair dose of citric fruits as well. Vanilla and faint honey. Also a faint waxiness and soft leathery notes. Sweet barley. Fruit eau-de-vies. A natural dram. Mouth: punchy, with apple and citrus again, also a few greener, maltier notes. Sweet beer. Lemon candy. Vanilla. Hints of grapefruit skin and traces of virgin oak. Finish: medium long, on apples and a Littlemill-like green fruitiness.

Good whisky, clean, fairly simple and typical for its region. No surprises. Around € 90, still available from Tasting Fellows, Whiskybase or Whisky-Fässle.

Score: 85/100


Another Irish malt, why not? A younger version this time, distilled in 2003 and hand-picked by Whisky-Fässle.

 

Irish Malt 2003 (Whisky-Fässle)Irish Single Malt Whiskey 10 yo 2003 (49,5%, Whisky-Fässle 2014, hogshead)

Nose: again really fruity, but in a sweeter, more candied way. Banana candy, pear liqueur, mirabelles. Also a strawberry bubblegum note. Vanilla. Quite creamy, slightly buttery even, with less of the bright maracuja notes. Mouth: sweet and candied on all levels, Piña Colada style. Bananas of course. Nutmeg, pepper and ginger, which indicate some active wood. Malt whiskey that’s not too far from certain grains. Finish: long, but the fruitiness fades quickly and makes place for wood spices.

Nice stuff. Lots of fruity sweetness and fair amount of (bourbon) oak spices. Somewhere in between Irish malts and grains. Out soon.

Score: 84/100


This one simply has Ireland written on the label. It’s a single malt whiskey, so it could be Bushmills or Cooley. We had a similar one from the same stable a few months ago, the Irish Malt 1991 Liquid Library. We think it’s Bushmills alright.

 

 

Irish Malt 1991 - The Whisky FairIrish Single Malt Whiskey 22 yo 1991 (49,2%, The Whisky Fair 2014, Bourbon barrel, 184 btl.)

Nose: oh this typical Irish fruit basket, even brighter than in other expressions, just lovely. Passion fruits, ripe banana and mango sherbet. Hints of mint and lime leaves. Some vanilla. Mouth: same, same. Very tropical, full of maracuja, pink grapefruit and sweet banana puree. A lot of sweetness, but bright sour hints as well. Shows some eucalyptus and a leafy note in the end. Finish: long, fruity, with a tad more oak and vanilla now.

Irish malt whiskey can be easy-going and fairly simple but so damn seductive! Sure, it’s expensive, but remember such old Irish whiskey is very rare. And most Scotches need even longer to develop this kind of profile. Around € 170.

Score: 89/100


Royal Lochnagar whiskyRoyal Lochnagar is part of the Classic malts since 2005 (part of the second wave that also included Caol Ila, Cardhu and Clynelish) and the Distillers Edition was introduced in 2008. It is finished in old Muscat wine casks.

Lochnagar is the training distillery of the Diageo group, a lot of distillery managers are trained there before being transferred. Maybe this is why it’s not being promoted very much, nor released often.

 

 

Royal Lochnagar 2000 Distillers EditionRoyal Lochnagar 2000 ‘Distiller’s Edition’ (40%, OB 2012, Muscat finish, RL/00-12W)

Nose: a floral nose that starts on bergamot and evolves towards leather and fruits. Yellow plums, grapes. Growing sweeter on apricot jam. Nice interaction of grassy and fruity notes. Very light toasted oak. Mouth: quite mild and fruity again, very sweet and relatively oily. Vanilla cake, malty sweetness and sugared cereals. Soft pepper and the return of floral citrus notes. Hints of honeyed Arizona green tea. Finish: rather short, with the same leafy tea notes and sweet grassy notes.

Classic spirit, quite a wide range of aromas, from floral notes to toasted ones. A relatively gentle finishing and a light dram altogether. Around € 45.

Score: 81/100


This new Arran 1996 from Malts of Scotland was matured in a sherry butt for almost 18 years, but its colour indicates it’s not the usual Oloroso / PX influence. The same bottler already released a similar cask last year (ref. 13002).

 

Arran 1996 - Malts of Scotland - 14029Arran 17 yo 1996
(54,9%, Malts of Scotland 2014, sherry butt, ref. 14029, 612 btl.)

Nose: fresh but quite discreet at first, in the sense that you get grains and acacia honey at first, not much more. After a while there’s a lot of apple, some vanilla and soft spices. The best part is a nice grapefruit / mint combo. Pretty naked, with a chalky / waxy edge. A Fino butt? Mouth: more intense: fruitier (lemon, grapefruit, apple peel) and spicier at the same time (ginger, pepper, clove). Lemon sherbet and green tea. Bittersweet but also a little dry at some point (sawdust). Finish: long, surprisingly floral, with the omnipresent apples, a little honey and lemon zest.

A fairly neutral Arran, a bit of a Lowlands version. Is it me, or are the best Arrans bottled by the distillery these days? Around € 75.

Score: 83/100


Jura 1972 (SMWS 31.4)

18 Aug 2014 | Jura

Try to look for Jura 1972 and you’ll probably only find two casks distilled December 1972 and bottled by The Scotch Malt Whisky Society in March and August 1991. That’s about all there is. This is SMWS 31.4, the latter of the two. Rare Jura bottlings, hardly ever seen in auctions or collections.

 

Jura 1972/1991 SMWS 31.4Isle of Jura 18yo 1972
(55,5%, SMWS 1991, ref. 31.4, 75 cl.)

Nose: starts like a 1960’s-1970’s Islay whisky, with almost no peat but a camphory note, tobacco, cigar boxes and minty dental floss. Leafy notes. A superb fruitiness too, with mainly cavaillon, papaya and apricots that stand out. Half tropical, half maritime. Light toasted oak and soft spices. Mouth: hints of the wonderful 1960’s Bowmore fruitiness but with more complexity as there’s also an earthy sharpness and plenty of tiny nuances. Peppercorns, coriander seeds, liquorice. Cedar oak, soft resinous hints. Peat smoke and tiny medicinal notes. Amazing combination. Finish: long, again this fruity side with the Jura sharpness. Liquorice root and green pepper.

Delightful whisky really – easy to see that Jura is so close to Islay. And remarkable how it developed this kind of complexity – this is just 18 years old. A pretty unique find. Thanks Carsten.

Score: 94/100


Bowmore Tempest, the 10 years old cask strength expression, is a hit. A big part of this success was due to the excellent first batch released in 2009. There seemed a general consensus that subsequent batches were less cracking, though still really good.

Today we’re placing two batches head-to-head. In our left corner, there is Bowmore Tempest Batch 4, in the right corner is the latest Batch 5. Both of them were the first to be composed by master blender Rachel Barrie. While you’ll still find Batch 4 in most stores in Europe and the US, Batch 5 has just started to appear in stores, especially in the UK. Around € 60.

 

 

Bowmore Tempest - Batch 4Bowmore 10yo Tempest (55,1%, OB 2013, first fill bourbon casks, Batch #4)

Nose: medium entry, with sea air and brine. Even a slight spirity prickle. Lemon. Grows wider and sweeter: butter biscuits, vanilla cream, coconut flakes and the same fragrant strawberry notes I picked up in the first batch. Hints of canvas and oak dust. Mouth: a straightforward mix of citrus (lemon juice, grapefruit zest), spices (ginger and pepper) and brine. Slightly stormy indeed. Hints of leather. Great glimpses of tangerine and some vanilla in between, but everything seems to happen at the same time. Finish: still some fruity sweetness, alongside growing sooty notes and tobacco.

Slightly fierce in some places, but also one that shows the nice strawberry and mandarin fruitiness that I really like.

Score: 87/100

 

 

Bowmore Tempest - Batch 5Bowmore 10yo Tempest (55,9%, OB 2014, first fill bourbon casks, Batch #5)

Nose: starts a little more direct, with some added menthol on top of the briny notes. Soft aniseed, white grape juice and lime. The same biscuity sweetness and vanilla, but less of the interesting strawberry – more towards sweet oranges this time. Overall a little rounder, showing less of the dusty dryness. Mouth: a more gradual evolution, slightly rounder at first (mild vanilla, sugared corn flakes), then slowly going towards zesty bitterness and gingery sharpness. Also a floral note that comes out. Finish: long, sweeter than batch 4, with some honey but less smoke.

Batch 5 seems less full-bodied than batch 4, showing a little less complexity. I liked this one less, but keep in mind this is my personal preference, both are really nice whiskies.

Score: 86/100


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Coming up

  • Lagavulin 12yo (2014 release)
  • SIA Blended Scotch
  • Ardmore Legacy
  • Cardhu 18 Year Old
  • Clynelish 21yo 1992 (Cadenhead)
  • Ledaig 2005 (Maltbarn)
  • Aberlour 8yo (cube, small cork)

1644 notes by Ruben

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