Single malt whisky - tasting notes

The Whisky Fair means new releases by The Whisky Agency. One of them is yet another Littlemill, distilled in 1989.

 

Littlemill 1989 Liquid LibraryLittlemill 24 yo 1989 (48,7%, Liquid Library 2014, refill hogshead, 199 btl.)

Nose: fruity fruity! Mangos, oranges, apples. Lime and banana. A good dose of vanilla as well. Less of the mineral / grassy notes we saw in similar casks, or so it seems. Maybe a little beeswax. Mouth: excellent. A slightly Irish fruitiness, with banana, maracuja and tangerines. A hint of pink grapefruit bitterness. More than a hint of tropical fruits, you get it. Lemon pie and a hint of barley sugar. Quite some grassy notes / green tea as well. Finish: long, more zesty fruits with a hint of aspirin sharpness.

I’ve reviewed +/- 20 ex-boubon Littlemill 1988-1992 expressions in the last two years and this is one of my favourites. Recommended. Around € 150.

Score: 90/100

ps/ Picture is slightly different, waiting for the new label, sorry.


This Ardbeg 21yo was finished for three months in a tiny 50 litre Pedro Ximénez cask. It’s part of the Darkness! series by Master of Malt, but… well… it isn’t dark at all. They say it has taken over the dark character of the sherry cask though. Another funny thing is the low ABV – I suppose it’s cask strength, which probably means the cask had to be emptied due to exceptional angel’s share?

 

Darkness Ardbeg 21 YearsDarkness! Ardbeg 21 yo (40,1%, Master of Malt 2014, P.X. finish, 50 cl.)

Nose: maybe not a classic sherry influence, but rather a deep sweetness coating the usual Ardbeg spirit. Apple butter, sweet lemonade, peaches on syrup and blackberry jam. It’s so thick it manages to get on top of the Islay character. Sooty notes, sweet tobacco and just tiny hints of olive brine are in a second row. Mouth: very thick and sweet again, which helps to mask the relative softness. Semi-dried plums, golden raisins and caramelized apple. Melon candy. Lots of sugared almonds. Still a background of smoke and sweet peat. Hints of lacquered bacon as well. Fades on milk chocolate. Finish: not very long, chocolaty and candied.

You really have to have a sweet tooth to appreciate this one. Very sugary, really candied. I wouldn’t call this dark, at least not darker than regular Ardbegs… but tasty it is. Around € 150 – sold out seconds after its release last week.

Score: 88/100


This is one of the festival bottlings of the The Whisky Fair 2014 held in Limburg, Germany last weekend. It is a peated Isle of Jura 1989 bottled by Signatory Vintage. There’s also a sister cask #30725 which was bottled at 46%.

 

Isle of Jura 1989 - Signatory Vintage for Whisky Fair LimburgIsle of Jura 24 yo 1989 (58,8%, Signatory Vintage for Whisky Fair 2014, peated bourbon barrel #30724, 193 btl.)

Nose: the peat isn’t too heavy, which also means complexity is high. Sooty notes, wet newspaper, also quite a lot of coastal notes. Olive juice, kelp, a little iodine… Soft earthy notes and grass. Burnt heather. Ginger. After a while, some creamier notes emerge, really nice ones like ripe gooseberries and strawberries. Toffee too. Great. Mouth: oily, really salty and definitely more peaty / less mellow than the nose suggested. Grapefruit and softly bitter (burnt) herbs. Also a punchy antiseptic side. Sharp brine. Smoked, salted fish and oysters. Still some sweet lemon and vague white fruits underneath. Finish: long, quite sharp and briny again, with grasses, herbs and liquorice.

This Jura 1989 starts really balanced on the nose and becomes a little sharper, more medicinal and peatier on the palate. Nice evolution, nice complexity. Around € 125.

Score: 88/100

 

ps/ Cask #30725 comes at a lower strength of 46% (213 btl.). That one shows even more creaminess and fruitiness on the nose. It also rounds off some of the sharpness and herbalness of the palate. In the end it will come down to personal preferences, but complexity is pretty much the same for both versions, and nothing beats 46% in terms of drinkability. Around € 100.


Springbank 21 Year Old is a classic, and we were quite fond of the bling-bling re-release introduced in 2011. It has been a yearly bottling since then and we’re now trying the latest 2013 edition.

Springbank’s warehouses only contain a few casks of 20 years or older. No matter what cask in was in before, all of these 20+ casks are reracked into sherry casks, in order to have the required profile of the 21 Year Old.

 

 

Springbank 21 Years (2013 edition)Springbank 21 yo (46%, OB 2013, 1680 btl.)

Nose: quite subtle, with more fruity notes than obvious sherry. Pears and melons, nectarines, maybe a bit of mango. Sweet barley and honey. Some floral notes (rose petals). A hint of wax and new leather. Mouth: oily and easy-going. Never really punchy. Garden fruits (pear, apple peel, unripe apricot), with waxy / mineral notes behind them. Gentle brine and nutty notes. Aniseed and clove. A little tobacco, even a hint of peat. Finish: quite long, on crystallized fruits with minerals and a soft oaky touch.

A fine but quite reticent Springbank. It shows a nice sense of subtlety and oldness, but it’s way behind the old bottlings and also behind the 2011 edition. Good but not worth the asking price. Around € 275 if you can still find a bottle.

Score: 89/100


With an average score of just 45 points, this Edradour 1968 bottled by Signatory Vintage in 1990 is among the lowest rated whiskies on the Malt Maniacs Monitor.

In any case, it is one of the only 1960’s single malt expressions from this distillery.

 

Edradour 1968 - Signatory Vintage - 1990-1994Edradour 21 yo 1968 (46%, Signatory Vintage 1990, cask #1990-1994, 1300 btl.)

Nose: well yes, a bit weird, but not foul or anything. Malty notes and something metallic. Vegetal oils. Hay and dried flowers. Maybe a little plastic. Mouth: totally wrecked now. Holds the middle between a jawbreaker candy aroma, parma violets, lavender soap, cologne and fabric softener. I’m tempted to find out whether this whisky would make my laundry easy to iron. Finish: way too long, way too bizarre.

In terms of distillation errors (specifically FWP scents) this is a perfectly educational bottling. Otherwise: avoid at all cost. One of the worst whiskies I’ve ever tried. Don’t even think of tasting something else the same day.

Score: 30/100


Svenska Eldvatten is an independent bottler in Sweden, run by Tommy Andersen and Peter Sjögren. Their bottlings (whisky and rum), with nice minimalist labels, have a decent reputation in Sweden and start getting noticed abroad.

Today we’re trying a 1979 single cask blend. That means the malt and grain components were blended at birth in November 1979, and matured together in a sherry butt for over 33 years.

 

Svenska Eldvatten 1979 single cask blendVintage 1979 – 33 yo blend (52,2%, Svenska Eldvatten 2013, 197 btl.)

Nose: very nuanced. Subtle plums and raisins, as well as some redcurrants / blueberries. Some nutty notes and very soft vanilla. A nice sense of oldness too: precious woods and wax candles. The grains are hardly noticeable, or rather very well integrated (a very subtle pineapple / coconut combination). All very subtle but very good. Mouth: great, that subtle tropical side comes out even more now. A little mango and passion fruit (Irish style). Apricots. Oranges and banana. Definitely less sherried than on the nose. Some green tea, gingery heat and a few zesty notes, but no excessive dryness or woody notes. Pink grapefruit, a little vanilla and honey. Finish: long, with a fruity sweetness, chocolate and soft hints of walnuts.

A really good blend that is not a blend. Around € 155. Available from the Swedish state liquor shop but also from Master of Malt or the Whiskybase shop.

Score: 89/100


Whisky-Doris is 11 years old – an event the shop is celebrating with this Anniversary Malt bottling. It’s a blended malt whisky, made up of one 2001 cask and some others that were significantly older. They were blended and then married for a couple of years in a refill sherry butt.

For what it’s worth, there have been similar bottlings (casks #113 and 114) that were said to contain Glenrothes, Tamdhu, Glengoyne and Glenfarclas.

 

11th Anniversary Malt - Whisky-Doris11th Anniversary Malt
(45,1%, Whisky-Doris 2013, sherry butt #115, 595 btl.)

Nose: inviting scents. Lots of berries and stewed fruits. Yellow raisins and greengages. Tinned apricots. Sweet oranges. Nicely fruity and honeyed, with soft vanilla and aromatic rose pepper. Mouth: definitely older than 2001. Less fruity now, although the apricots and stewed plums are still present. More on spicy notes (pepper, clove, liquorice) with some oaky hints and zesty citrus towards the end. A few leafy notes too. Finish: medium long, zesty fruits and red apple peelings, alongside the older oaky notes.

A really nice, rich blend of different profiles. In a way this feels like an entry-level Balvenie Tun 1401. Great value for money at € 60 a bottle. Available from Whisky-Doris.

Score: 87/100


Darkness! Sherry finish whiskyDarkness whisky

 

 

Master of Malt / Maverick Drinks has a new sub-brand called Darkness! It’s a range of sherry finished whiskies, “sherry monsters” if you like.

 

To get this dark sherry profile, the whiskies are finished for three months in 50-litre Octave casks.

Some of them, like the Ardbeg 21yo PX or the Macallan 15yo PX, are actually not very dark at all, but they’re said to have taken over the typical sherry profile nonetheless. Of course it depends on the type of maturation it received before the finishing period.

We’ll start with the darkest of all, a Benrinnes 15 Year Old that is available in an Oloroso version and a Pedro Ximénez version. I’m not entirely sure, but I hope the base whisky was the same for both versions, so that we can really see the effect of the sherry.

 

 

Darkness Benrinnes 15 yo OlorosoDarkness! Benrinnes 15 yo (52,9%, Master of Malt 2014, Oloroso finish, 50 cl.)

Nose: very jammy, fruity sherry. Plum and blackberry jams, cherry preserve. Sultanas. Fruitcake and chocolate. Big sherry indeed. There’s also a hint of burnt bread crust and peppercorn. A bright top note of sourish fruits and mint as well. Very good. Mouth: punchy. Slightly winey as well, with some grape skin and peach pits. Raisins. Some dry woody notes. Aniseed and nutty notes. Feels a little “high pressure cooked”. Finish: long, quite dry and slightly sour.

On the nose: great, pretty much what we’re looking for in a sherried dram. On the palate: very modern, slightly winey, less to our liking. Around € 75.

Score: 84/100

 

 

Darkness Benrinnes 15 yo Pedro XimenezDarkness! Benrinnes 15 yo (53,3%, Master of Malt 2014, P.X. finish, 50 cl.)

Nose: on first sight, just as jammy and juicy. But it feels slightly capped by a little more dusty oak and a few matchstick notes. At the same time slightly more candied as well (cherry candy). Fudge and hints of burnt sugar. It misses some of the brightness of the Oloroso version. Mouth: same effect. There’s a sharp, winey side to it, which may seem quite contradictory with the sticky, overly sweet character of PX. Same dried fruits, raisins, walnuts and liquorice. Big wood influence already, with a bittersweet tang. Finish: long and fairly dry, on pepper, clove, wood and lingering dark fruits

I do think it’s the same whisky finished in different cask. But not all that different – after all it was only three months. The Oloroso version wins because of the nicer nose. Around € 75.

Score: 82/100


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Coming up

  • Irish Malt 1991 (The Whisky Fair)
  • Glen Flagler (70° proof)
  • Ben Nevis 1997 (Abbey Whisky)
  • Blair Athol 1993 (First Editions)
  • Blair Athol 2002 (Hepburn's Choice)
  • Braeval 1994 (Tasting Fellows)
  • Tomatin 1988 (Malts of Scotland)
  • Ben Nevis 2002 (Port cask #334)

1592 notes by Ruben

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