Single malt whisky - tasting notes

Aerolite Lyndsay 10 Years

Aerolyte Lindsay 10 Year Old

Atom Drinks, the company behind Master of Malt, That Boutique-y Whisky and other brands, has launched a new range called The Character of Islay Whisky Co. The first release is an undiclosed Islay single malt called Aerolite Lyndsay (an anagram for ‘ten year old Islay’).

It’s already available from Master of Malt. Stay tuned for our review.

 

 

The Glenrothes Halloween 13 Years

The Glenrothes 13 Years ‘Halloween Edition’

 

The Glenrothes started a tradition of releasing a 13 year-old expression for Halloween. This year it comes in a beautiful white frosted bottle.

It is matured in bourbon and sherry casks, with an additional finish in casks that previously held peated whisky for a delicate smoky touch. Only 5000 bottles will be available.

 

 

The Glenlivet Spectra

The Glenlivet Spectra

The Glenlivet seems to be working on a new edition of its ‘puzzle’ malts (remember Glenlivet Cipher, Glenlivet Code and others). The new release is called The Glenlivet Spectra.

Spectra is the plural form of spectrum. The label contains three triangles (one of which is highlighted) and it says ‘bottle 01’. Coupled to the fact that it is bottled in 20 cl glass probably means it will be a series of three expressions, showcasing a ‘spectrum’ of different aromas and flavours?

 

 

Also interesting

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


Method & Madness whiskey - Acacia & Cherry

Mildleton distillery launched two new expression in their experimental Method & Madness series.

Both are matured in a combination of bourbon and sherry oak, but they are finished in two wood types that are rarely used for the maturation of whiskey. The first one is Wild Cherry Wood, never used before, which is characterised by its porousness and greenish hue.

The other one is finished in Acacia wood, famous for ageing French white wines, and already used by Bushmills some time ago. This type of wood has a much tighter grain and a redder colour.

Obviously this is where Irish whiskey distillers can colour outside the lines set by Scotch regulations. Good idea to take advantage of this and come up with something new.

 

 

Method & Madness Wild Cherry woodMethod & Madness ‘Wild Cherry Wood’
(46%, OB 2019, 2500 btl.)

Nose: a lot of bananas, both green ones and banana ice cream. Also pine cones and carpenter workshop, a hint of potpourri and bergamot tea. Coconut flakes. Ginger cookies. Very aromatic, in a solventy, woody way but really interesting. Mouth: like a very active first-fill bourbon cask at first. Gingery notes, pencil shavings, pepper and fruit tea. There’s a creamy banana / vanilla syrup sweetness to keep it in check though. Increasing minty / eucalyptus notes. Finish: medium, on pears and peppery oak.

A green, aromatic kind of woody character here, which matches the spirit. A successful experiment in my opinion. Available in Ireland, the UK, travel retail and a couple of other markets.

Score: 83/100

 

 

 

Method & Madness Acacia WoodMethod & Madness ‘Acacia Wood’
(46%, OB 2019, 2500 btl.)

Nose: this is drier, with less brightness. There’s tobacco and plenty of herbs and spice (Colombo spice, clove). Still a firm, slightly musty woodiness – I would still say sandalwood but that’s silly in this case. Hints of caramelized almond / hazelnut pastries and cocoa powder. A light rummy touch too. Mouth: this feels much rougher. Nice mocha, toasted nuts and burnt sugary notes but also a pungent grainy side and lots of wood spice. Less balanced. Hints of peppered dark chocolate. Finish: quite long, lots of clove and charred wood.

Closer to a sherry cask maturation, with generous spices that make it a little less balanced in my opinion. Available only from Celtic Whiskey Shop.

Score: 79/100


The latest release in the Asta Morris range is a Glen Moray 1989. I tried a cask sample of this whisky a couple of months ago, and I was immediately convinced.

 

 

Glen Moray 1989 - Asta MorrisGlen Moray 29 yo 1989 (53,2%, Asta Morris 2019, ex-bourbon cask, 204 btl.)

Nose: fresh and full of orchard fruits, with secondary notes of apricots and guava. Juicy with a slightly floral edge (orange blossom). Lots of polished oak, manuka honey and a little sunflower oil. Mouth: mirabelles, lime and pear, as well as a little coconut liqueur. Mixed with some cinnamon and vanilla this makes it quite bourbonny, as in American whiskey-like (without the sweetness). Aromatic wood, hints of ginger and pepper. Still some honey. Finish: long, with fruit tea, barley sugar, lime and wildflowers.

Super good, fruity Glen Moray with nice traces of actual bourbon. Totally my style. Around € 240, being distributed to stores as we speak.

Score: 90/100


Cù Bòcan Signature & Creations

The Cù Bòcan range of lightly peated whiskies (+/- 15 ppm), produced in Winter for one month at Tomatin distillery has recently been relaunched. It now contains three expressions, presented in a nicely reworked bottle:

  • Cù Bòcan Signature: a combination of ex-bourbon, ex-Oloroso and virgin American oak casks (same as before)
  • Cù Bòcan Creations #1: matured in Black Isle Imperial Stout casks and Bacalhôa Moscatel de Setúbal wine casks
  • Cù Bòcan Creations #2: matured in ex-Shochu and virgin European oak casks

These last two have pretty funky recipes. More Creations will follow in the future.

 

 

Cu Bocan SignatureCù Bòcan Signature
(46%, OB 2019)

Nose: nice balance of carpenter notes, citrusy fruits and gentle smoke. Hints of vanilla, orchard fruits and a little toffee. Some heather honey and light aniseed. Mouth: a nice citrusy brightness again, then also juicy pear and vanilla custard. Fairly light smoke again, hints of toffee and mocha towards the end. Cinnamon. Pepper and minty notes too. Finish: good length, on smoke malt and oak spice.

Although the recipe is the same, this is better than how I remember the first Cù Bòcan releases. A bit youngish but a good option if you’re into soft peat. Already available from Master of Malt.

Score: 82/100

 

 

Cù Bòcan Creation #1Cù Bòcan Creation #1 (46%, OB 2019, Stout & Moscatel casks)

Nose: much more subtle than I expected, the finishing is not overdone, good. Light hints of coffee in the background, as well as leather. Red apples and hints of cassis. Orange juice and marmalade. Light chocolate and earthy smoke. Wider than the Signature. Mouth: same combination of oranges, leather, espresso and peat smoke. Jaffa cakes. Cedar wood. Some herbal, bitter notes too. Finish: long, still a bit acrid. Also hints of chocolate and clove.

I really liked the added character on the nose, but it feels less balanced on the palate. Bonus point for trying something unique though. Available from The Whisky Exchange or Master of Malt among others.

Score: 83/100

 

 

Cù Bòcan Creation #2Cù Bòcan Creation #2 (46%, OB 2019, Shochu & European virgin oak casks)

Nose: grassy notes, plenty of lime and grapefruit juice. Zesty freshness. Green apples and hints of freshly cut green herbs. Like in the others, light wood smoke, nothing medicinal here. A little gingery prickle, walnuts and echoes of tequila. Mouth: this seems slightly more narrow and slightly less powerful than the others. You get this citrus high note, a floral touch and European oak spice (clove, ginger) with light smoke, but it’s a bit silent in the middle . Finish: long, clean and slightly floral, on walnuts and spice.

Somehow this is a very clean, minimal version of Cù Bòcan which amplifies certain characteristics but on the other hand narrows it down. Available from The Whisky Exchange or Master of Malt among others.

Score: 78/100


After months of preparation, this is the first release from a brand-new Belgian bottler called The Whisky Jury. The name refers to the fact that owner Joeri considers himself a jury for casks, only acquiring those that get a 90/100 score in his book. Read more on the Whisky Jury website.

It’s a Ben Nevis 1995 presented with a beautiful label. We’ve had several excellent expressions from this period, mostly 1996 and 1997.

 

 

Ben Nevis 1995 #970 - The Whisky JuryBen Nevis 23yo 1995 (51,2%, The Whisky Jury 2019, hogshead #970, 245 btl.)

Nose: the typical Nevis waxiness is prominent, nice start. Balm, oak polish, then green bananas and peaches. Pineapple cubes, citrus and a touch of floral honey. Marshmallow. Crushed mint leaves. Whiffs of chalk and sage. Top notch. Mouth: oily texture, again mixing lovely fruity notes (pineapple, guava, lime, slightly tropical indeed) with green tea, herbs and light mineral notes. Verbena. Wax again. Finish: long, oily and sappy, with fruity echoes, greasy notes, pepper and a herbal edge.

A perfect bottle to get your name out there: very characterful Ben Nevis, right up with the best. Around € 140, available from TastToe, Wine4You and other shops soon.

Score: 90/100


The Arran owns a couple of casks that come straight from working sherry soleras at Bodegas Tradición. Arran used them to finish the Arran Lochranza Castle 21 Year Old, the second whisky in their Explorers Series.

The 45 year-old Amontillado VORS is arguably the best wine from Tradición. However keep in mind that a solera system will also contain much younger versions of the wine (the youngest being 10-15 years in this case) so we can’t be sure what we’re getting exactly. The cask itself will be really old though.

 

 

Arran Lochranza Castle - 21 YearsArran 21 yo ‘Lochranza Castle’ (47,2%, OB ‘The Explorers Series’ 2019, sherry hogsheads + Amontillado finish, 9000 btl.)

Nose: good, fairly dry and spicy nose which shows caraway seeds, eucalyptus and ginger. Also a little damp earth, dusty cellar and sandalwood. Light vanilla and almonds in the background. Mouth: apples, hints of pineapple and raisins, but still mostly on oak spice (ginger, cinnamon, all-spice) with a herbaceous edge. Plain malty notes, a little salted caramel and marmalade bitterness. Finish: quite long, on herbal tea, a little tobacco and wood spice.

Really good, autumnal whisky, with a lot of wood character (fine now but at this rate I’m not particularly looking forward to a 30 year-old). It was popular with collectors – now hard to find but still available from The Whisky Exchange.

Score: 87/100


Lagavulin 21 Years - Islay Jazz Festival 2019

Lagavulin 21 Year Old – Islay Jazz Festival 2019

A 21 year-old Lagavulin at cask strength, if that doesn’t get you excited, then what does? It is released for the Islay Jazz Festival 2019, to celebrate the 21st edition.

Matured in a combination of refill American oak hogsheads and freshly charred hogsheads, the tasting notes mention dried fruits, briny smoke, sandalwood, bacon and a hint of gunpowder. There will be 2004 bottles, available at the distillery only for £ 395.

 

 

The Whisky Jury

New bottler: The Whisky Jury

Belgium has a new independent bottler called The Whisky Jury, looking for great casks. After months of selection work the first release is available soon: a Ben Nevis 1995 single cask. Stay tuned for my review, in the meantime check the website for more information.

 

 

The Whisky Show 2019 bottlings

Whisky Show bottlings

On 28 and 29 September The Whisky Show 2019 will be held in London. Four special festival bottlings are bottled by The Whisky Exchange in a series called The Magic of the Cask.

  • Caol Ila 9 Years (Gonzalez & Byass sherry cask)
  • Ben Nevis 22 Years (refill sherry)
  • Imperial 23 Years (refill bourbon)
  • Blended Whisky 45 Years (refill sherry)

 

Also interesting

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


Launched at the very end of 2018, not long after the Ardmore 20 Years, this Ardmore 30 Year Old is the oldest official bottling so far, I think. An important release, yet it was launched without the usual marketing trumpets.

It was distilled in their direct coal-fired stills back then (ended in 2001 after a fire), matured in refill bourbon casks and finished in first-fill bourbon casks.

 

 

Ardmore 30 Years 1987Ardmore 30 yo 1987 (47,2%, OB 2019, refill + first-fill bourbon)

Nose: plenty of hay and grasses, with waxy and spicy hints (pepper, nutmeg), cold ash and a little coffee. Then the fruity notes come out, gentle pineapple and baked apple. Menthol, leather, some almonds and machine oil. Mouth: still this engine / garage-style character, with creamy fruits (roasted pineapple, melon, golden raisins) mixed with eucalyptus, dried herbs and gentle peat smoke. A little pepper and damp earth. Liquorice. Light hints of salted toffee towards the end. Finish: quite long, half smoky, half fruity. Citrus zest and oak spice.

A very warm, complex and sophisticated Ardmore which reminds us of some Brora expressions. The price is reasonable: Gordon & MacPhail asked 60% more for its 1987 bottled a few months earlier. Still available from The Whisky Exchange.

Score: 90/100


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Whisky reviews coming up

  • Daftmill 2006 Summer vs. Winter batch
  • Aerolite Lyndsay 10 Years
  • Ballechin 15 Years (TWE exclusive)
  • New Artful Dodger bottlings
  • Highland Park Valknut
  • Glen Moray 1989 (Asta Morris)
  • Cotswolds 3 Years (TBWC)
  • Fettercairn 12 Years PX Cask
  • Bruichladdich Islay Barley 2011 / Bere Barley 2010

My article about sherry casks

3087 notes by Ruben

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