Single malt whisky - tasting notes

Did you know Blair Athol was named Aldour first? I didn’t. The only official release is the 12yo Flora & Fauna. Luckily independent bottlers have a couple of casks lying around. Today: Blair Athol 1993 bottled by The First Editions.

 

 

Blair Athol 1993 - First EditionsBlair Athol 20 yo 1993 (57,8%, The First Editions 2013, sherry butt, 512 btl.)

Nose: nice start, fruity sherry (cherry, plums), rum & raisins and milk chocolate. Caramel. Becomes drier after a while, moving towards herbs and grasses, Seville oranges, some yeasty sharpness as well as a little wood glue. Mouth: great cherry notes (the kind of candy you used to hang around your ears as a kid). Some Heering. Plum jam and raisins. Hints of honey and tangerines. Quite sweet, although there is a herbal bitterness behind it. Finish: medium, more citrusy.

It’s funny how this one has such fruity notes despite (or alongside) the woody notes. Difficult to score, but I think it’s pleasantly unboring. Between € 100 and € 120, depending on the country apparently.

Score: 85/100


Where do they find all these Littlemill casks when we hadn’t seen a single bottle for years? Moreover, it seems they keep getting better. Today: Littlemill 1990 bottled by Whisky-Fässle.

 

 

Littlemill 1990 Whisky-FässleLittlemill 23 yo 1990
(51,2%, Whisky-Fässle 2014, hogshead)

Nose: after the initial grassy and surprisingly minty wave has passed, this one shows a very candied profile. Banana jellies, pink grapefruits, papaya. Less of the acidic notes (passion fruits) this time. Instead lots of milky vanilla, with some marzipan as well. Also lovely waxy notes, paraffin, almost the old Ben Nevis-style lipstick notes. After a while the mint / eucalyptus oil returns. What a great nose. Mouth: utterly fruity, very tropical, with lots of warming and exotic fruits. Papaya, guava, banana, pineapple and coconut. Mid-palate it gets a little greener, with some tobacco leaves, green tea and oak. Again really waxy. I can’t stop thinking of the unique Ben Nevis style, only much fruitier. Finish: long, with fruit tea and salty oak.

This pretty much blew me away, just like the sherry casks that were bottled in 2012. It’s such a wonderful whisky and this particular example is more complex and more unique than the already great bourbon casks of the last few months. Around € 135. Sold out.

Score: 92/100


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


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Coming up

  • Kilchoman PX cask for TastToe
  • Cardhu 18 Year Old
  • Port Askaig 19 Year Old
  • Ledaig 2005 (Maltbarn)

1662 notes by Ruben

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