Single malt whisky - tasting notes

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).


Ah, 2006… a time when cask numbers were still disclosed and 1970’s casks were still readily available.

Today: Longmorn 1974, a sister cask of a Scottish Castles release I reviewed a couple of years ago. Distilled in April 1974 and bottled for The Whisky Fair in Limburg. They also had a wonderful Clynelish 1974 at the same time. Now tell me the whisky landscape hasn’t changed…

 

 

Longmorn 1974 - The Whisky Fair #3494Longmorn 31 yo 1974
(49,8%, The Whisky Fair 2006, bourbon hogshead #3494, 135 btl.)

Nose: ah, that lovely 1970’s profile of Longmorn (and neighbouring distilleries). Beehive notes, honey and wax. Apricots, honeydew melon, quinces and pineapple. Beautifully warm and creamy, with nice vanilla and polished furniture. There’s a minty / gingery note as well. Mouth: sweet and spicy. The apricots are back, yellow plums and a glimpse of BenRiach 1976-like grapefruits. The first half is nothing but fruits, the second half is the oak talking. Pepper and peppermint, a little nutmeg. Then also plain oak, including a slight bitterness. Finish: long, minty and peppery.

This one made me a little melancholic. Maybe it’s not the best whisky ever, but it’s exactly the profile that got me hooked. Sadly it’s gone – it was already quite oaky back then, so even if another cask turned up, it would be over the top.

Score: 91/100


This whisky has a very interesting recipe and it’s rather well documented. It’s a blended malt, but contrary to the vast majority of blended malts, it wasn’t blended just before bottling, but back then in 2001.

In that year, low-proof (probably quite old) leftovers from Glenrothes and Tamdhu bottlings were poured together. As they couldn’t fill an entire sherry butt, it was topped up with new make (*) spirit from a Speyside distillery that cannot be named (Glenfarclas perhaps?). This mix has been maturing for over 13 years and was now bottled at cask strength in the Archives series.

Three distilleries in one bottle, and all three have a great reputation for sherried whisky.

* Update: it seems the whiskies were blended in 2003, with 3yo spirit. So all components were already legally whisky when the blend was created.

 

 

Speyside region 2001 - Archives / WhiskybaseSpeyside region 13 yo 2001
(44,7%, Archives ‘Fishes of Samoa’ 2015, sherry butt #117, 180 btl.)

Nose: fragrant, juicy sherry. Raspberry, cherries (including a little kirsch) and oranges. A bit of redcurrant jam. Gentle vanilla notes and some nice mint. Mouth: medium bodied sherry, full of rum & raisins and quite some honeyed notes. Nice hints of orange liqueur and kirsch again. Fresh plums. Cinnamon. Fruit teas as well as some herbal notes and green oak, which may well come from the much older Glenrothes / Tamdhu components. Finish: long, on red fruits and a green oakiness.

An uncommon recipe that works very well. You get a good dose of well-aged elements, including the oak, but it’s mixed with younger, brighter notes. More of these mash-ups please. Around € 70.

Score: 88/100


The latest trip to the Signatory Vintage warehouses resulted in this Ledaig 2004, as well as a Dailuaine 1997 which we’ll review soon. Quite some Ledaig releases out there but few of them are from a sherry cask.

 

 

Ledaig 2004 - Signatory - The Bonding DramLedaig 10 yo 2004 (46%, Signatory Vintage for The Bonding Dram 2015, first fill sherry butt #15/453, 379 btl.)

Nose: very tarry and ashy with lots of tobacco notes up front. Slightly acrid smoke and motor oil. A lot of wet wool / canvas as well. Anchovies in salt. Becomes sweeter after a while, with almonds, blood orange and toffee apples. Well integrated peat and sherry. Mouth: intense sooty notes again, but the strength is perfect, I think. Sweetened Lapsang. Big salted caramel and liquorice too. It’s really peaty but the candied / caramelized undertones make it really moreish. Also it highlights the buttery texture. Always (pipe) tobacco and blood oranges in the background. Finish: slightly capped by the lower alcohol, but nice. Sweet and ashy.

You know, I think I like this kind of profile better at 46% than at cask strength. The sweetness really stands out and helps to round the edges of this powerful dram. Well done and very well priced: around € 45.

Score: 87/100


Yellow Spot is part of the Spot series of Single Pot Still Irish Whiskeys produced at the Midleton distillery. For now there’s Green Spot (NAS) and Yellow Spot 12 Year Old. A Blue Spot and Red Spot might follow in the future.

 

 

The series is inspired by the original Yellow Spot which was last bottled in the early 1960s. The colours were derived from Mitchell & Son’s practice of marking their casks of maturing whiskey with a mark or daub of coloured paint to determine the age potential of the whiskey.

Yellow Spot has been matured in three types of casks: American ex-bourbon barrels, Spanish sherry butts and Spanish Malaga casks.

 

 

Yellow Spot 12 Year OldYellow Spot 12 yo
(46%, Mitchell & Son +/- 2015)

Nose: pretty much ticks all typical Irish boxes. Some grassy notes and hay at first, but it develops a nice sweetness. Honey, cinnamon pastry, apricots and yellow fruit candy. Hints of citrus green tea. Unripe banana and coconut. Mouth: grainy attack but rather smooth, with the same combination of sweet fruits and greener, grassy notes. Honey-coated apple, a bit of crème brûlée and burnt toast. Green tea again, with a light grape skin dryness. Vanilla, lemon and a light hint of beer. Finish: medium long, sweet, with coconut and pineapple.

A really nice Irish whiskey. Maybe the price is a bit high for the complexity on offer, but still it’s classy and certainly easy to like. Around € 75.

Score: 83/100


Categories

Calendar

September 2015
M T W T F S S
« Aug    
 123456
78910111213
14151617181920
21222324252627
282930  

Coming up

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

1865 notes by Ruben

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