Single malt whisky - tasting notes

The Whisky Show – Old & Rare will take place this weekend in London. Like previous years, there is a show bottling: a Clynelish 36 Year Old, bottled by Elixir Distillers in their Single Malts of Scotland – Director’s Special range.

A leftover 1982 cask perhaps, which have been bottled by Elixir before?

Now I was under the impression independent Clynelish could not be named Clynelish any more. It even got me thinking the recent undisclosed Highlanders could be Clynelish (at least they have a similar profile). Maybe Elixir Distillers has special contacts that can make exceptions, or maybe the rule isn’t as strict as I thought. Anyway this is proper Clynelish, the oldest from this era in my book.



Clynelish 36 Years - Director's Special Clynelish 36 yo (47,1%, Single Malts of Scotland ‘Director’s Special’ for Whisky Show 2020, 124 btl.)

Nose: all the beeswax, buttercups and pollen you’d expect from a well-aged Clynelish. Also ripe pineapple, juicy apricots and mirabelles. Lemon candles. Vanilla cake and ice cream in the background, as well as hay, a little mint and dried herbs. Also a subtle dustiness (old books) which I like. Quite warm and beyond reproach. Mouth: yeah. Lots of waxy notes again, mixing nicely with lemon peel and green tea, subtle grassy notes. Fruity notes too: apricots and dried pineapple. Mint and aniseed. Coconut pudding. Drops of honey. Finish: quite long, with more fruit tea and wax, as well as some zippy oak spice.

A superb Clynelish: complex, with fruits, trademark wax and a nice dusty / mineral side. It will be launched at the Show and remaining bottles will be available online from this page on The Whisky Exchange after the week-end.

Score: 92/100

Whisky Works is the innovation division of Whyte & MacKay. Whisky maker Gregg Glass creates experimental whiskies.

Some of the latest ones were Quartermaster, a blended whisky matured in four different casks, and this Speyside single malt from an unnamed (but silent) distillery, finished for seven months in cognac barriques from the Bourgoin Estate.

They say this was one of the last batches produced at the distillery in September 1998, leading us to… (make a guess before you read on)



Speyside Malt 20 Years - Whisky WorksSpeyside Single Malt 20 yo 1998
(47,1%, Whisky Works 2019, cognac finish, 1593 btl.)

Nose: typical for this distillery indeed, very vibrant and aromatic. Fresh banana, lemon and melon. Hints of parma violets and jasmin green tea. Rubbed mint. Some candy floss. Really nice, and little cognac to be found so far. Mouth: more fruits, and more sweetness now. Mirabelles, greengages, soft vanilla and hints of mint again. There is a certain spicy / buttery / oaky touch that hints towards cognac, but in a balanced way. Hints of ginger and lemon peel, as well as light toffee. Finish: medium long, on sawdust, green banana and a hint of wax.

Nice whisky, like most Imperial. The cognac finish gives it a special touch, and while it may not have been necessary per se, it certainly didn’t hurt either. Not cheap, but coming from a silent distillery and from White & Mackay it’s not excessive. Available from The Whisky Exchange and Master of Malt for instance.

Score: 87/100

I was recently offered a sample of a ‘new’ Kavalan bottling released in the US, filled in 2006 and bottled in 2014.

This was a forgotten bottling, it was imported to the US but the owner changed his mind, it was sent back to Taiwan and so on. To cut things short, it was offered to Whisky Sifu and the San Francisco Whiskey Bourbon & Scotch Society who recently distributed it with a Golden Gate Sunset back label.

As a side note, earlier this week it was announced that master blender Ian Chang will be leaving Kavalan soon. I’m curious whether this would change the future of the distillery.



Kavalan 2006 - Golden Gate SunsetKavalan 2006 ‘Golden Gate Sunset’ (58,6%, OB for Whisky SiFu & SFwbss 2014, 479 btl.)

Nose: total sherry immersion, in a very aromatic way. Truckloads of juicy plums and figs, with Portuguese Ginja as well as some eucalyptus scents and old roses. Hints of sherry brandy, even cognac. Chocolate coated raisins. Precious exotic wood. The sherry cask took over the spirit but you cannot deny they picked excellent casks to do just that. Mouth: a similar hyper-active profile. Raisins, figs, and more towards blackcurrants and cocoa powder now. Cedar wood. Drunken prunes. Dried herbs and black tea. Finish: very long, slightly tannic, with lots of dark chocolate, hints of tobacco and dark forest fruits.

You might say Kavalan makes engineered whisky, often closer to sherry than to the spirit, but this has an intense profile and an impeccable juiciness. Way too good to be forgotten in any case! I believe bottles are sold out but you may still find it at bars and retailers in the area. Thanks, Roland!

Score: 90/100

Here’s a Glen Elgin 1995 from the latest series of Whisky Agency releases. These middle-aged Elgins are usually very good.



Glen Elgin 1995 - Whisky AgencyGlen Elgin 23 yo 1995 (48,2%, The Whisky Agency 2018, bourbon hogshead)

Nose: a simple but very inviting fruitiness. Green melons, peaches, greengages and ripe apples. Banana dessert. Something lightly floral, maybe elderflower. Citrus green tea. Also a hint of sunflower oil and chalk. Mouth: again quite fruity (apples, citrus, gooseberries), now with a more pronounced waxy side, even a Clynelish-like side. Some malty notes and shortbread. A light peppery tingle, even a light hoppy edge. Finish: fairly long, with lingering fruits and a more green-ish kind of oak now.

It may not have a big complexity, but fruits and waxy notes always form a winning team. Still available from The Whisky Exchange for instance.

Score: 88/100

Springbank regularly releases rum barrels, in this case for the entire recipe of the new Springbank 15 Year Rum Wood, but sometimes also a few in a larger mix. Does this have to do with the many rums that are bottled by Cadenhead perhaps?



Springbank Rum Wood 15 YearsSpringbank 15 yo – Rum Wood
(51%, OB 2019, 9000 btl.)

Nose: rum sweetness (hints of banana), yellow apple and aniseed. Coconut flakes. Grassy notes, a hint of sharp and earthy peat as well. Flinty notes and clay. Gentle brine. A slightly rounder, less funky version of the classic Springbank profile. Mouth: even more of the rummy banana sweetness, with a slightly syrupy texture, but also the salty crispness and very subtle bonfire smoke. Crème brûlée, yellow apples, hints of olive oil and leather. Earthy notes again. A peppery / gingery kick and a slightly green woody note too. Finish:

The rum maturation is nicely balanced here. Maybe I wouldn’t have guessed without knowing but it does highlight some of the typical rum fruits while still letting the classic Springbank markers express themselves. Really good. Sold out in most places, I believe.

Score: 88/100

Macallan Edition No.6

Macallan Edition No.6

The Macallan Edition No.6 has popped up in the TTB database. This time they worked with Hardy, the world’s finest fly fishing brand, to celebrate the river Spey and support the Atlantic Salmon Trust.

Like last year, Macallan submitted a black label, hiding the actual colour. With all the references to the ‘inspiring river’ and salmon we’ll guess at something blue-ish, we haven’t had blue in the series so far…



Bowmore Timeless Series 27 Years

Bowmore Timeless Series 27 Years

Bowmore is working on a new Timeless Series, which will probably include some well aged whisky, starting with a 27 Year Old selected from the famous No.1 Vaults. Only 3000 bottles will be available, filled at cask strength 52.7% ABV.



Karuizawa Sapphire Geisha

Karuizawa Sapphire Geishas

The fifth instalment in the Karuizawa Geisha series has been released by Elixir Distillers and The Whisky Exchange. Two single sherry casks of 31 and 36 years of age.

I must say the tasting notes sound wonderful, and only 105 / 146 bottles are available through an online ballot. Register over at TWE.



Tomatin 21 Years - travel retail

Tomatin 21 Year Old (travel retail)

Tomatin expanded its travel retail range with a Tomatin 21 Years. It is matured in first-fill bourbon casks, which is said to bring out tropical fruits. It is bottled at 46% ABV and retails for € 175.



Also interesting

Things that may not have been widely announced but that grabbed my attention in shops recently…

A new undisclosed Speyside whisky bottled by Svenska Eldvatten. It is 27 years old and comes from a single cask.



Old Speysider 27 Years - Svenska EldvattenThe Old Speysider 27 yo 1992 (46,3%, Svenska Eldvatten 2019, refill bourbon hogshead, 257 btl.)

Nose: a great mix of yellow plums, gooseberries and pineapple, with mint and herbs. A good dose of wax and resin too. Honey and almond biscuits. Some bready notes too, alternating with banana and vanilla. Mouth: more tropical now, highlighting the pineapple as well as mango and a little passion fruit sorbet. Lime and lemon, a touch of jasmin and Earl Grey. Herbal touches and white pepper. Waxy notes. Vanilla and honey (of course). Finish: medium length, still on pink grapefruit and papaya, herbal notes and peppery oak.

Fans of tropical fruits, this one is for you. Actually it’s rather close to these undisclosed Irish 1991s in a way. Recommended. Around € 210, mainly found in Sweden and Germany.

Score: 90/100

I found a sample of this Macduff 10 Years in a whisky advent calender from Master of Malt. A rather humble distillery – its most enjoyable production was matured in sherry casks, I would say.



Macduff 10 Years - That Boutique-y Whisky CoMacduff 10 yo (50,2%, That Boutique-y Whisky Company 2019, 1160 btl.)

Nose: very mashy, with soaked cereals, hints of ale, porridge and crème caramel. Some apples and vanilla. Toasted bread. Light nutty notes. Not very exciting. Mouth: again very whisky-like whisky, if you know what I mean. Grains, muesli, barley sugars. Now with more pronounced baked apples, some oranges and raisins. A honeyed note. White pepper, quite a lot of it. Growing Mexican chocolate towards the end. Finish: medium, on oak spice and herbal tea. Always with lots of grains at its core.

Nod bad whisky per se, just a little raw and uninspired. Available from Master of Malt, but they have plenty of better options. My humble opinion as always.

Score: 76/100

Whisky distilleries

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Whisky reviews coming up

  • Bruichladdich Black Art 7.1
  • Springbank 15 Years Rum (2019)
  • Glen Scotia 2007 (TWE exclusive)
  • Glenfiddich Grand Cru 23 Years
  • Royal Brackla 2008 (Mossburn)
  • Ben Nevis 1996 (Single Malts of Scotland)
  • Glenugie 1977 (Signatory Vintage)

My article about sherry casks

3215 notes by Ruben

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