Single malt whisky - tasting notes

Another one of these redesigned Liquid Library releases. Something that has become a ‘must-have’ or even a semi-permanent offering for most independent bottlers: Clynelish 1997.

 

 

Clynelish 1997 / 2013 (Liquid Library)Clynelish 16 yo 1997 (52,6%, Liquid Library 2013, refill hogshead, 129 btl.)

Nose: quite a round Clynelish, with some lemonade touches and lime juice. Buttercups and other flowers. Green banana. Less waxy and mineral than comparable Clynelish, although there’s surely some brine and waxy notes in the background. Soft peppery hints too. Mouth: again a clear fruity side (oranges, crystallized grapefruit, lemon) with a sweetish vanilla coating. Then it grows oilier and waxier, with louder zesty notes. Increasing sharpness. Ginger, a little juniper and nutmeg. Fades on grassy notes. Finish: long, waxy, lightly salty and peppery. Still showing some fruity elements.

Very good Clynelish, like the vast majority of the 1997’s, right? Clean Highlands whisky, this time with an attractive roundness. Around € 90.

Score: 88/100


Founded in 2012, Gaiaflow is a relatively new player in the Japanese whisky market. They’re acting as an importer for various spirits, mostly smaller brands.

They’re also releasing private bottlings like this Glentauchers 1992 from Asta Morris which has just arrived in Japan.

 

 

Glentauchers 1992 Asta Morris & GaiaflowGlentauchers 21 yo 1992 (48,2%, Asta Morris for Gaiaflow 2013, ex-bourbon cask, 305 btl.)

Nose: sweet and bright. Plenty of fruits: gooseberries, green apples and pineapple cubes. Hints of honeysuckle. Some mineral notes, maybe a little mint and ginger as well. Over time soft vanilla comes out. Simple yet fresh and faultless. Mouth: really sweet again. Oranges, peaches and apples. Sweet barley. Lemon drops. Shy hints of fruit tea. A little oak in the background, slowly growing stronger. Finish: medium long, more mint now and spicy notes. Balanced warming oak too.

Good no-nonsense whisky. Simple pleasures. Around € 85, available from Gaiaflow’s online store Whisky Port. Hard to find in Belgium, although apparently some cases fell off the back of the truck…

Score: 86/100


I have a couple of 1990’s GlenDronach expressions lined up, all from the latest Batch n°9 of single cask releases (October 2013). We’ll start with the 1991 cask #5405.

 

GlenDronach 1991 P.X. #5405GlenDronach 21 yo 1991 (49,9%, OB 2013, Pedro Ximénez puncheon, cask #5405, 702 btl.)

Nose: slightly overweight sherry. Bags of prunes and sticky dates. Caramel and pear syrup. Rather heavy, lacking a hint of brightness, especially since there’s also overripe oranges and a sulphury, vegetal edge that I really don’t like. Not my favourite GlenDronach so far. Mouth: walnuts and rubber, with meaty notes and a heavy caramel sauce. Dark chocolate and dates. Again a tad sulphury. Boo. Breathing and a few drops of water can’t save it. Finish: slightly too long, mostly on rubber, chocolate and pepper.

One to avoid. It’s just too bulky and fleshy, with an unpleasant flatness and a disturbing meaty side. Around € 150.

Score: 78/100


Liquid Library - new labelThe Whisky Agency’s Liquid Library series has a redesigned label. The old minimalist white / orange label is gone and replaced with a bamboo-coloured label featuring exotic animals. I’m not sure whether this is a permanent style or a theme that will change each time a new set is released.

We’re trying an undisclosed Irish single malt distilled in 1991. Of Ireland’s distillers, only Bushmills and Cooley produce single malt whiskey.

 

 

Irish single malt 1991 - Liquid LibraryIrish single malt 22 yo 1991 (52,4%, TWA Liquid Library 2013, refill barrel, 191 btl.)

Nose: it’s definitely Irish for its slightly bubblegummy fruitiness (apricots, quinces, green banana in the background) but it’s rather subdied and they’re mixed with subtle Highlands elements (mineral notes, wax and oily notes). Traces of vanilla and grains with a floral edge. Mouth: more typically Irish. Lots of maracuja ice cream, really nice. Bananas. Growing grassier and spicier. Lemon green tea. Gets faintly medicinal towards the end – think eucalyptus or menthol – funny but nice. Finish: medium length, with some peppery oak and a lingering fruitiness.

Very nice drinker’s whiskey. Bright, fruity, but not a one-trick pony. I’m no Irish whiskey expert but my guess would be Tyrconnell (Cooley). Should be available in a couple of weeks. Around € 170.

Score: 87/100


Whisky Agency - Old Times DivingThe latest series from The Whisky Agency is nicknamed Old Times Diving. On the labels we see people with antique diving helmets and old-style oxygen systems.

Contrary to previous series – that always tried to combine whiskies of different genres and with different flavour profiles – the new series revolves around ‘fruitiness’. We can’t be against fruits, can we? There’s a Glenturret 1980, Ben Nevis 1995, an undisclosed Irish malt 1988 and this 21 years old Glen Keith 1992. All ex-bourbon if I’m not mistaken.

 

 

Glen Keith 1992 - The Whisky AgencyGlen Keith 21 yo 1992
(51,4%, The Whisky Agency ‘Old Times Diving’ 2013, bourbon barrel, 177 btl.)

Nose: starts clean and narrow, with fresh apples and some grassy / minty notes. Then gets wider, with more candied fruits (pineapple, nectarine) and hints of strawberry bubblegum. Vanilla cake. Hints of buttercups and some mineral notes (gravel) in the background. Maybe even a hint of smoke? Mouth: fruity notes, in a very slightly tropical way (tinned pineapple, coconut, yellow plums). Again balanced by grass, ginger and a little grapefruit skin. A little pepper, soft herbs and traces of oak. Finish: long, with some fruity eau-de-vie and a peppery heat.

A very easy-going, bright Glen Keith. A perfectly clean example of the simple, fruity pleasures American Oak can bring to a modern whisky, but still a bit more than just fruits. On its way to stores as we speak. Around € 115.

Score: 88/100


Now that Amrut has straightened the path for Indian whisky, Paul John is quickly gaining recognition.

The company has been running since 1992, but their single malt production didn’t start until 2008. Distilled in Goa in copper pot stills, two single cask releases were introduced in 2012. They’re now followed by two regular expressions: Paul John Brilliance (unpeated) and Paul John Edited (a combination of peated and unpeated spirit). Brilliance is matured in ex-bourbon casks for about 3 to 5 years.

We already know Indian barley (Himalayan 6-row grain) and their extreme climate can produce an attractive “high-pressure-cooked” whisky that is certainly different from classic Scotch.

 

Paul John BrilliancePaul John Brilliance (46%, OB 2013)

Nose: a peculiar nose, not as warm and sweet as expected. It starts almost entirely on apple jenever and freshly cut green apples. Some malty notes. Burnt grass and sawdust. Also a weird hint of buttermilk, as well as a refreshing minty / floral aroma. Mouth: fairly simple. The same overload of apple flavours, but again a slightly mineral / sour profile rather than the expected tropical sweetness. Sawdust, cinnamon and ginger. A little coconut. A couple of disturbingly raw, woody notes towards the end. Finish: not too long, focusing on new oak with hints of grass and vanilla.

I had been looking forward to trying Paul John for over a year. Maybe my expectations were too high. It has some great elements, but it’s not entirely convincing (yet?). Around € 45.

Score: 79/100


Travellers Liquors is a distillery in Belmopan, Belize. They have a whole range of rums, brandies, vodka, gin…  I must admit I had never heard of them, but apparently they have 60 years of experience as importers / blenders and 25 years as distillers.

Travellers produces double-distilled rum in column stills, which is aged in charred casks. Their best known brands are One Barrel, Five Barrel and Don Omario. This one is a single barrel filled in 2005.

 

 

Travellers rum 2005 Whisky AgencyTravellers 8 yo 2005 (49,5%, The Whisky Agency 2013, single barrel rum, 282 btl.)

Nose: clean and aromatic, with a surprisingly dry profile (considering rums in that area can be very sweet). In fact its woody profile reminds me of some bourbon whiskeys. Vanilla and caramel. Sweet berries and peaches. Some latte notes. Roasted chestnuts. Mouth: again not too sweet. Nutty and spicy, with cinnamon, nutmeg and just a hint of roasted coconut. Hazelnut. Showing some bitter oranges towards the end. Finish: medium long, still rather dry and oaky. Leathery notes and tobacco leaves, with some tannins and alcohol heat.

It’s surprising to see such a dry rum with decent complexity from a seemingly commercial distillery. It’s not the best rum I’ve had, but it’s definitely worth a try and I can imagine it appeals to bourbon drinkers as well. Around € 55.


The General is an uncommon blend. In fact it’s a ‘blend of two blends’. It consists of casks from two parcels, of unknown provenance but both containing malt and grain whisky, blended at a very young age and then matured together for many years. One parcel was 33 years old (ex-sherry butts), the other supposedly around 40 years old (ex-bourbon barrels).

These super-mature blends were recently offered to Compass Box and John Glaser worked to find the right balance of both. The General has a very high price tag for a blend, but remember it’s an old, ‘small batch’ blend and the story is just as awesome as the packaging.

 

Compass Box The GeneralThe General
(53,4%, Compass Box 2013, 1698 btl.)

Nose: a rich, old nose with plenty of finesse. Reminiscent of a 1970’s Glenfarclas. Lots of polished furniture, dried figs and toffee. Medium sherried. Sultanas and red fruits. Some mint and cinnamon. A faint whiff of toasted oak in the background. Fruit cake. Hints of coconut. Complex and elegant. Mouth: some sweet fruits, oranges and a gingery kick at first. Soft floral notes. A little varnish. Aniseed. From the nose you would never have guessed this was a blend, but now the grains are louder. Soft pepper and nutmeg. Fades on lemons and eucalyptus. Finish: medium long, very minty with a slightly peppery heat and zingy oak.

There’s something aristocratic about this blend. It has a lot of personality and almost manages to make you forget it’s not a single malt. Around € 230.

Score: 90/100


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Coming up

  • NOG! gin #1 (Asta Morris)
  • Tomatin 1978 (Cadenhead / Nectar)
  • The Nameless One (Whisky Mercenary)
  • Auchentoshan 15yo (Kintra)
  • Ben Nevis 1997 (Maltbarn)
  • Aultmore 2007 (Daily Dram)
  • Karuizawa 45 Year Old (cask #2925)
  • Glengoyne 1999 (Palo Cortado)

1508 notes by Ruben

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