Single malt whisky - tasting notes

Abbey Whisky is a Scottish whisky retailer founded in 2008. They focus on rare, collectable and old whisky and they’re also working on two series of own bottlings: The Rare Casks (with limited edition single malts) and The Secret Casks (a trio of undisclosed 30yo, 40yo and 50yo Speyside whiskies).

One of their latest releases is this Glencadam 1991.

 

Glencadam 1991 Abbey WhiskyGlencadam 22 yo 1991
(55,3%, Abbey Whisky ‘The Rare Casks’ 2014, refill bourbon cask, 96 btl.)

Nose: very fruity and aromatic. Lots of meadow flowers. Barley sugars and juicy plums. Frosted cereals, warm vanilla, with hints of marshmallows, but also bright notes like lemon and mint. Waxed oak. Feels slightly older than it actually is, in a good way. Mouth: creamy, still very fruity. A classic ex-bourbon profile, I would say, with Highlands power. Greengages, peaches, plenty of honey. Hints of green banana. Some malty / biscuity notes and a balanced peppery kick from the oak. Subtle bitter ‘sappy’ notes. Finish: quite long, warming and sweetish. Half fruity, half spicy. Some liquorice in the very end.

In a way, this Glencadam is quite discreet yet powerful at the same time, focusing on the quintessential qualities of bourbon-matured Highlands whisky. It has a slightly modern profile, but well succeeded. Around € 95.

Score: 88/100


Mortlach is a distillery that I can’t really get to grips with. Differences between ages, casks and profiles tend to be big, which makes it difficult to say “I like Mortlach” or “I don’t like Mortlach”.

I don’t like the heavy, meaty, sometimes sulphury sherry matured Mortlach, but recent ex-bourbon releases are much brighter and more to my liking. Let’s see what this Mortlach 1996 from Sansibar whisky is like.

 

 

Mortlach 1996 SansibarMortlach 18 yo 1996 (51,2%, Sansibar 2014, bourbon cask, 186 btl.)

Nose: rich and sweet. Lots of juicy gooseberries, apples and orange peel. Also a nice (cooked) banana / coconut combo. Hints of vanilla cake. Soft hints of Scottish tablet and barley husks. Just a touch of mint as well. Mouth: oily mouthfeel. Compared to the nose, the palate goes slightly off the beaten track. Still subtle fruity hints (more apple / orange blossom than the actual fruits now), but also lots of salty liquorice and other herbal notes. Almost peaty. Tobacco leafs. Soft lemon zest and a bit of a tequila sharpness. Finish: medium long, spicy and herbal, with some walnuts.

Definitely not one of the bad Mortlachs, but not entirely balanced either, in my opinion. The nose seems bright and inviting, whereas the taste is more about herbs and sharper notes. Around € 100.

Score: 84/100


There are all kinds of special variations on the blended whisky The Famous Grouse. Some are limited, some are parts of the core range. There’s The Snow Grouse (blended grain designed to be drunk chilled), The Black Grouse (a slightly smokier version), The Naked Grouse (sherried deluxe version), The Famous Vanilla, etc.

The Black Grouse ‘Alpha Edition’ is intended to be an even richer, smokier version of the already smoky The Black Grouse. It still contains the original base malts (Glenturret, Macallan, Highland Park) but it revolves more around peated Islay whiskies as well. Originally a travel retail exclusive, it’s now widely available.

 

The Black Grouse - Alpha EditionThe Black Grouse ‘Alpha Edition’
(40%, OB 2013)

Nose: surprisingly smooth – even a little bland for a blend that is intended to be smoky. Sweet honey and toffee up front. Popcorn. Plenty of orange peel. Hints of sweet oak. Some toasted notes in the background. Mouth: fruity sweetness, with almonds and caramel. The more grassy notes, and a grainy harsh note which evolves towards liquorice and peat. Aniseed as well. Finish: medium long, with dark chocolate, charry dryness and some peat smoke.

I suppose some blend drinkers may think this is the real Islay style, but it isn’t. It stays too much on the docile side to be exciting. Add in some bitterness and grainy harshness and you’ve got something I don’t really appreciate. Around € 35.

Score: 72/100


We’re always keen to try old Ben Nevis, and the German bottler Alambic Classique has a reputation for having bottled some of the best expressions.

This is one of the latest (and probably last) bottlings: Ben Nevis 1966 cask #3640.

 

Ben Nevis 1966 #3640 Alambic ClassiqueBen Nevis 47 yo 1966 (45,9%, OB for Alambic Classique 2013, sherry cask #3640, 128 btl.)

Nose: I love this profile. It’s fully oaked, in a very nice way, and really smooth. Furniture polish and old leather. Trademark bananas and beeswax. Coconut oil which makes it slightly tropical. Hints of lipstick. Darker fruits as well (plums, black cherries) before it becomes softly spicy and herbal. Verbena tea, aniseed, bergamot. Subtle gingerbread in the background. Topped by some eucalyptus. Very complex and quintessential for old Ben Nevis. Mouth: bittersweet fruits (orange zest, banana, sour berries) with some drying oak. Earl Grey, mint and ginger. Eucalyptus. Hints of smoke as well. Plenty of herbal notes and leather, which makes it quite rummy in combination with the exotic fruitiness. Fragrant waxy notes. A salty edge towards the finish (liquorice, salted butter toffee). Late hints of espresso and pipe tobacco. Finish: long, spicy, slightly bitter and dry like a strong fruit tea. A leather / toasted oak combination that reminds us of bourbon whiskey.

Unusual whisky, like Ben Nevis usually is. Some rare flavours and with a curious rummy / bourbonny side. Excellent stuff if you’re open to some oak on the palate. Still available for around € 500.

Score: 93/100


Ardbeg Auriverdes

09 Jun 2014 | Ardbeg

Ardbeg Auriverdes logoAs a yearly tradition, Ardbeg releases a new limited expression for Ardbeg Day. This year, the result is Ardbeg Auriverdes.Its name is inspired by Brazil: Auri means golden (the liquid) and verde is green (the bottle). I really, really don’t care for these kind of half-baked marketing tricks – come on, Ardbeg tied in with a World Cup – why?

Ardbeg Auriverdes is a ‘designer whisky’. It has been distilled in 2002 and matured in second fill American oak casks, with custom toasted lids. Ardbeg has done some pretty successful experiments with toasted oak before (think of Ardbeg 1998 cask 1189 and cask 1190). In this case one cask head was toasted lightly (to invoke vanilla flavours) and the other one more dark (to invoke mocha).

You could buy Ardbeg Auriverdes at one of the Ardbeg embassies, but you’ll have a hard time chasing it now.

 

Ardbeg AuriverdesArdbeg Auriverdes
(49,9%, OB 2014, 6660 btl.)

Nose: Ardbeg alright. Typical iodine, peat and a pickled green pepper / mustard sharpness. Burnt toast and tarry ropes. Smoked fish. Soft citrus. Hints of coffee, although I’m not getting the big emphasis on mocha aromas that Ardbeg is promoting. Peppery notes. A tire shop. Chalky notes. Also a roundness – I wouldn’t call it fruity but there are estery notes and vanilla nonetheless. Complex and balanced. Mouth: starts with a slight sweetness (sweet bacon) before it turns to big smoke and lots of medicinal notes. Also faint bitter notes: grapefruit zest, roasted coffee beans. A little more narrow than the nose. The mocha does come out in the aftertaste. Mouth: really long, sooty, with some dark chocolate and a pronounced oakiness.

Great nose, with maybe a little too much sharpness on the palate to be entirely stunning, but it’s way better than what I expected from what’s essentially a result of clever marketing. One of the best modern Ardbegs in my opinion. Around € 100.

Score: 89/100


Another Glen Garioch – 1992 this time. Bottled just now, as part of the new Liquid Library series.

 

Glen Garioch 1992 - Liquid LibraryGlen Garioch 21 yo 1992 (51,6%, Liquid Library 2014, refill hogshead, 227 btl.)

Nose: again a rounder version, with tangerines, lemon liqueur and honey. Light vanilla (orange cake) and almonds. Grassy notes in the margin, a few mineral touches and metal polish. Mouth: oranges again, then darker notes (toffee, caramel), moving towards burnt toast. Maybe peat? Candied ginger as well. Pear jelly beans. And back to more austere notes, rooty notes and zesty grapefruit. Interesting combination. Finish: medium long, partly sweet, partly zesty, with a decent amount of herbs and some cold ashes.

An entertaining Glen Garioch again, I’m quite convinced by this mix of different elements. Around € 115.

Score: 87/100


 

Glen Garioch 1991 - Whisky-DorisGlen Garioch 22 yo 1991 (52,9%, Whisky-Doris 2013, bourbon hogshead #5754, 259 btl.)

Nose: a rather rounder version than other 1991 casks I could try. Buttercups, honey and vanilla. Some coconut cream. Nice oranges and pineapple. Marzipan. Soft herbs in the background. A faint hint of metal polish as well, which works nicely on the fruity backbone. Maybe a hint of eucalyptus. Mouth: much spicier now (pepper, nutmeg), with more (green) oak. Less exotic fruits – just apple now. Becomes more earthy and zesty, with bittersweet elements. Finish: medium long, still bittersweet with some briny echoes.

The Glen Gariochs from these years can be quite austere, but this one strikes a good balance and adds a nice fruitiness. Around € 110.

Score: 87/100


Not all new Archives releases have crab labels. It seems the fishes of Samoa series is still getting new expressions as well. Here’s the new Glen Spey 1988.

 

 

Glen Spey 1988 - ArchivesGlen Spey 25 yo 1988 (47,3%, Archives 2014, bourbon hogshead #356079, 163 btl.)

Nose: very fruity, with melon and papaya, and hints of icing sugar. Sweet apple, tangerine and peach. A bourbonny hint of oak. Orange peel. Marzipan. It’s not all sweetness, it’s balanced by soft grassy notes. Mouth: sweet and creamy. Still some citrus but the fruitiness is less pronounced. It shows more of a custard sweetness. Cinnamon and marzipan. Zesty notes (grapefruit bitterness) and ginger towards the end. Finish: medium long, with light oak, coconut oil and touches of white pepper.

A fairly classic, no-nonsense Speysider, with a creamy bourbon oak influence and a nice fruitiness on the nose. Around € 85 (fair price I’d say), available from the Whiskybase shop.

Score: 86/100


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  • Roberto Sikora: This is really a great, great bottling. One of my favourite Littlemills so far... :-) Thank you, Ruben for this review!
  • george: i see you have tried st magdalene and say it is harder to find i am a collector of st magdalene and i have 40 bottles i am selling these date from 196
  • sjoerd972: I wish the guys at Bushmills would demand the labels to say "Northern Ireland" so we didn't have to speculate on the booze's origins.

Coming up

  • Bowmore Devil's Casks - Batch 2
  • Tomatin 1988 (Malts of Scotland)
  • Aberfeldy 12 Year Old
  • Blair Athol 2002 (Hepburn's Choice)
  • Fettercairn Fior
  • Bowmore Laimrig 15yo
  • Ben Nevis 2002 (Port cask #334)

1600 notes by Ruben

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