Single malt whisky - tasting notes

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

Let’s pair yesterday’s GlenDronach 1994 cask #3397 to a very similar cask, also bottled in Batch 10 of the single casks: GlenDronach 1994 cask #326.

It’s surprising that this cask only yielded 452 bottles, while #3397, also a PX puncheon, filled two months earlier, had an output of 644 bottles. Anyway puncheons can have different dimensions and GlenDronach isn’t always telling us the complete history of a cask. Maybe it’s a re-racked cask, as the cask numbers aren’t chronological either.


GlenDronach 1994 - pedro ximenez - cask #326GlenDronach 19 yo 1994
(53,5%, OB 2014, Pedro Ximénez puncheon #326, 452 btl.)

Nose: this one is slightly earthier and drier than cask #3397. It’s less straightforward and some of the brighter sour notes have been capped. More sandalwood this time. More leather, liquorice and tobacco as well. Feels slightly more classic in a way. Mouth: again a fairly dry attack, quite peppery. The obvious dried fruits are here, but it’s not as sweet as you may think from a cask that held PX. Blood oranges and heavy syrup. Then back to tobacco leaves, leather, espresso and very dark chocolate. Just a hint of sour rhubarb and lots of earthy notes underneath. Finish: long, earthy, almost smoky. Still notes of espresso and chocolate.

Better than the other 1994 cask, although I’m still missing a bit of bright fruitiness to get a real cracker. Good stuff nonetheless. Around € 140.

Score: 87/100

The latest batch of GlenDronach single casks, Batch 10 already, only includes 1990’s casks and one bottling from 2002. The wonderful 1970’s and sometimes very good 1980’s are gone?

We’ll focus on 1993 and 1994, vintages that have already proven their qualities. First up: GlenDronach 1994 – Pedro Ximénez puncheon #3397. I’ll compare it to the other 1994 P.X. cask tomorrow.


GlenDronach 1994 - pedro ximenez - cask #3397GlenDronach 19 yo 1994
(53,8%, OB 2014, Pedro Ximénez puncheon #3397, 644 btl.)

Nose: the very aromatic kind of sherry. Lots of dried fruits including raisins and figs, plenty of cinnamon. A few rummy notes, some vanilla (American oak?). Hints of polished oriental wood, before it becomes frankly oriental with herbs and spices like cardamom, but also hints of rosewater and patchouli. After a while, a slightly dirty edge comes out. Mouth: sweet dates and figs. Milk chocolate and nutty notes. A faint sulphury note in the background, not so great but not extremely distracting either. Fading towards herbal notes and a gingery heat. Finish: quite long, herbal and spicy. Some late orange zest and honey.

Not my favourite cask, I would say. It goes in different directions and they’re not equally nice. Some parts are really good though. Around € 140.

Score: 83/100



November 2014
« Oct    

  • WhiskyNotes: You're right, it is a refill bourbon cask. Sorry if I suggested otherwise, but I believe a single cask can never be 80% sherry and 20% bourbon like th
  • Tabrulavubeg: I've tried the 18yo Single Cask yesterday. It's really quite good, but from Ruben's conclusion "an exquisite version of this already really good dram"
  • Johan Andersson: Yes this cask is really fantastic. If you did the Cadenhead Warehouse tasting with Grant MacPherson in Campbeltown 2013 and until Open Day in May 2014

Coming up

  • Smooth Ambler Old Scout 7yo
  • Highland Park 1973 (Mackillop's Choice)
  • Kavalan bourbon cask for Belgium
  • Cardhu 18 Year Old
  • Glenrothes 1997 (Kintra)
  • Bladnoch 1992 (The Nectar)
  • Ledaig 2005 (Maltbarn)

1665 notes by Ruben

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