Single malt whisky - tasting notes

The oldest whisky from Batch 16 of the GlenDronach single casks. It seems we’re about to run out of the 1970s and 1980s entirely. Bottled from a Pedro Ximénez puncheon: GlenDronach 1989 cask #5476.

Its sister cask #5475 was already bottled as part of Batch 7 back in 2012.



GlenDronach 1989 - PX cask 5476GlenDronach 28 yo 1989
(49,9%, OB 2017, Pedro Ximénez puncheon #5476, Batch #16, 546 btl.)

Nose: sweet and dark. Lots of earthy notes, moss and mint leaves, as well as heavy roast coffee and dark chocolate truffles. Toasted walnuts and hints of forest fruits jam. A hint of sawdust, but I’m missing a bit of varnished oak here, the caramel sweetness seems to have flattened it a little. Mouth: dark toffee and chocolate again, with brown bread and plenty of oak spices. Nutmeg, pepper and cloves. A little orange peel and camphor. A whiff of smoke and roasted nuts. Quite savoury overall. Finish: long, spicy, with treacle, cinnamon and a charred note.

Really good, but very dark and spicy, lacking a bit of the bright fruits and polished notes that lift the best GlenDronach single casks. Expensive: originally around € 375.

Score: 88/100

The Balvenie stories 12 / 14 / 26 Years

‘The Balvenie Stories’ series

The Balvenie is working on three new expressions or Stories about craftsmen and their experiences, and how they produce the true character of the spirit:

  • Balvenie 12 Years ‘The sweet toast of American oak’ (43%), focused on the fruitier, sweeter style of Balvenie, made with a batch of ex-bourbon casks transferred to virgin oak barrels for a finishing period
  • Balvenie 14 Years ‘The Week of Peat’ (48.3%), produced during the one week each year that the distillery uses peated malt
  • Balvenie 26 Years ‘A day of Dark Barley’ (47.8%), produced with dark roasted brittle barley more commonly used to make stout beer.



Nikka Days

Nikka Days

Nikka Days is a new blended Japanese whisky, combining grain whisky (Miyagikyo) and lightly peated malt (Yoichi). It’s meant to be smooth, delicate and fruity. Bottled at 40% ABV and available for around € 40. Could be a nice everyday drinker.



Gordon & MacPhail Private Collection

Gordon & MacPhail Private Collection

Gordon & MacPhail has unveiled the new look of its Private Collection range with the launch of two new releases:

  • Inverleven 1985 (57,4%, refill bourbon barrel #562, 130 btl.) – £ 1000
  • Glenrothes 1974 (49,5%, refill sherry puncheon #18440, 276 btl.) – £ 1250

Watch out for my reviews – working on it as we speak.



Glenlivet Founder's Reserve - American oak selection

The Glenlivet Founder’s Reserve ‘American oak selection’

This is a new version of the base expression Glenlivet Founder’s Reserve. It is supposed to contain first-fill ex-bourbon casks only. Bottled at 40% ABV. Basically the same recipe as what they did to the Nadurra range, focusing on specific cask types – maybe there will be an Oloroso matured Founder’s Reserve in the future?



Also interesting

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

Christmas Malt 17 Years (TWE)

Similar to the Black Friday deal of last year, The Whisky Exchange has just released a Christmas Malt, matured for 17 years in Oloroso sherry butts and showing the essential Christmas character at a fair price.

It was distilled in the Speyside region and the combination with sherry casks naturally leads us to an iconic family led distillery…



Christmas Malt 17 Years - The Whisky Exchange‘A fine Christmas Malt’ 17 yo
(58,7%, The Whisky Exchange 2018, Oloroso sherry butts, 1800 btl.)

Nose: classic, balanced sherry surrounding the malty core. Raisins, vanilla, buttery brioche and a hint of red berry candy. Plenty of toffee notes. Stewed apple with cinnamon. Hints of apricot cake. Rather candied with some aromatic oak in the background. Mouth: punchy and sweet, with a juicy fruitiness on one side (apricots, oranges, pears) and spicy oak on the other side (pepper, clove, cinnamon). Christmassy indeed. Hints of plum wine. Growing nutty notes and charred oak towards the end. Finish: quite long, on glazed cherries, a little spicy heat and a drying, leafy note.

Classic Ballindalloch, I wouldn’t mind finding this under my tree. Now available from The Whisky Exchange for around € 85. I’m sure this will fly off the shelves.

Score: 87/100

Holy Dram is a Facebook group with whisky aficionados in Israel. They’re discussing spirits but also organizing local tastings and such. They already invested in a cask of Milk & Honey spirit and now they’ve selected a single cask Inchmoan 2004 exclusive to Israel.

Cask #68 was a recharred hogshead filled with peated Inchmoan spirit. They are currently preselling it in the local market.



Inchmoan 2004 for Holy Dram ILInchmoan 14 yo 2004
(54,2%, OB for Holy Dram IL 2018, recharred hogshead #68, 220 btl.)

Nose: this particular blend of robust ashy peat and a bit of an Irish fruitiness. Lime, sweet bananas, roasted pineapple. Then back to antiseptic cream and old ashtrays. Some fresh eucalyptus and spicy aromas (nutmeg, pepper). Vanilla. Waxy notes. The lightest hint of caramel. Mouth: creamy, with this lovely fruitiness again (mirabelles, pineapple cubes, mango) mixed with ashes, mint and chilli. Mezcal smoke. Hints of toffee and cinnamon syrup. Some charred wood and vanilla again. Finish: quite lengthy, with sweet apple, peppery smoke and zesty lime.

Pretty excellent: this slightly tropical fruitiness is lovely and combines well with the ashy smoke. Now on pre-sale, contact Gal for more info.

Score: 88/100

There have been a number of Springbank 1996 bottlings in the Archives series before. Now there’s two more: cask #55 and cask #56, both ex-bourbon hogsheads.



Springbank 1996 - Archives cask 55Springbank 22 yo 1996 (54,9%, Archives ‘Shells from the Bay of Caracas’ 2018, bourbon hogshead #55, 259 btl.)

Nose: quite a juicy version, with mineral notes, grassy touches and fresh oak on the one hand, and garden fruits on the other hand. A little pinewood and apples. Candle wax. Classic Springbank, though not really exceptional. Mouth: great now, it’s much more fruity, with peaches, oranges, hints of mango and a Clynelish-style waxiness. Multivitamin juice. Very light peat and a little pepper, as well as a bit of active wood. Finish: long, the grassy notes are back, lemon rind, wax and oak spice.

Lovely Springbank although the unique touch only comes out on the palate. Nice combination of fruits and minerality, good selection work. Available from Whiskybase for € 365.

Score: 90/100




Springbank 1996 - Archives cask 56Springbank 22 yo 1996 (55,8%, Archives ‘Shells from the Bay of Caracas’ 2018, bourbon hogshead #56, 277 btl.)

Nose: this one has a certain aroma of apricots on syrup / guava juice that jumps right out of the glass. Turkish delight, maybe some litchi. There is gravel too, beach sand and wet sheep wool, but more in the background. A little leather and a whiff of soot too. Perfect combination and more complex than its sister. Mouth: opposite casks really. While the nose was fruity, the palate is now briney, sharp and very mineral, with a zesty bitter edge. Plenty of chalk. Grapefruits, grassy notes, green fruits. Still a flash of tropical fruitiness but harder to appreciate. Mint, some iodine and smoke. Very chiselled. Finish: drying, a little acrid and salty. Perfect sharpness.

On the nose I would have sworn this would win hands down. On the palate the tables have turned slightly, so do you prefer nosing whisky, or drinking whisky? Though question. I still prefer this one for its higher complexity. Same price, also from Whiskybase.

Score: 91/100

No such thing as too much Caol Ila, even though it’s already the most reviewed distillery on this blog, just ahead of GlenDronach and Bunnahabhain. We’re now trying a Caol Ila 2000 that was part of the latest series of single cask bottlings by Master of Malt.



Caol Ila 17 Years - Master of MaltCaol Ila 17 yo 2000
(68,6%, Master of Malt 2018, bourbon cask)

Nose: very briney, with lots of salted almonds, seaweed and anchovies. Iodine. A light hint of apple vinegar. Grassy notes. Green olive tapenade. Oak char and coffee beans. After a while there’s more flax, leather and a sweet buttery note in the background. Sharp as a blade, proper Islay style. Mouth: sharp again, very medicinal with big pepper, ashy smoke and herbal notes. Hints of resin. A little chinchona. With water: anise and liquorice, perhaps more citrus as well. Finish: long, slightly bitter and herbal, with grassy smoke.

Wow, this is one of the most coastal, sharp and briney whiskies I’ve had in a long time. But it works. With this profile and alcohol level though, not for the faint-hearted. Available from Master of Malt.

Score: 86/100

Glenfiddich Winter Storm was the third bottling in the Experimental Series, after Project XX and IPA.

It was matured for 21 years in standard American oak barrels, and then finished for 12 weeks in French oak Ice Wine casks sourced from Peller Estates Winery in Canada. The first edition was very popular so they quickly released this second batch.



Glenfiddich Winter Storm - 21 YearsGlenfiddich 21 yo ‘Winter Storm’
(43%, OB ‘Experimental series’ 2018, Ice Wine finish, 8000 btl.)

Nose: lots of candied fruits, apricots and candy apples, mixed with vanilla and whiffs of potpourri. Some tropical notes (pineapple, papaya) and subtle fresh oaky notes. Sweet and winey, but in a nicely fruity way. Mouth: same fruitiness with runny honey, a hint of Moscatel and vanilla. Quite tropical indeed, even some lychee, but also balanced with some zesty citrus and marmalade. Herbal oak towards the end, with a light bitter edge. Finish: quite short, with caramel notes, wine and some oak tannins.

They suggest to have this in an ice cold glass and while I didn’t try it, I suppose it may help to reduce the sweetness even further. For those with a sweet tooth: nicely tropical whisky. Available from The Whisky Exchange or Master of Malt.

Score: 86/100

Compass Box Stranger & Stranger

Compass Box Stranger & Stranger

A new blended malt with 1% non-Scotch whisky, that’s Compass Box Stranger & Stranger, a limited edition to celebrate ten years of collaborations with the package design company Stranger & Stranger.

The blended malt contains a one year old grain spirit they used to season some experimental barrels. It is said to contain intense wood spice and exotic shades of vanilla. Bottled at 46% ABV, with 4802 bottles available.


Compass Box Peat Monster

Compass Box will also launch a new version of its Peat Monster. Some time ago I already mentioned the fact that the Peat Monster recipe would be updated as some of the key components were too hard to get. It will be the same style as before but with a slightly different character, hence also a new label.



Signatory 30th Anniversary

Signatory 30th Anniversary

Signatory Vintage celebrates its 30th Anniversary (1988-2018) with an impressive series of special releases, some of which are truly extraordinary. Here are a few of the highlights:

Click to see the entire 30th Anniversary selection.



WhiskySanta - Master of Malt

WhiskySanta giveaway

Master of Malt has started its yearly Christmas giveaway again. Over £ 250,000 of spirits will be given for free with customer orders (samples, gift vouchers…) and on social media (mainly full bottles). You simply have to wish for your favourite present through their website or by sharing a link with the #WhiskySanta hashtag on Twitter, Facebook and other platforms.

Occasionally there are also Super Wishes for special gifts. Read more about it on their website.



Also interesting

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



November 2018
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Coming up

  • St Magdalene 1982 (Malt Musketeers)
  • Highland Park 1992 for Crann
  • Laphroaig Obsession
  • Port Askaig 33 Years for Impex USA
  • Lagavulin 21 Years 1997 'Select Cask'
  • Bowmore Springtide
  • Octomore 09.1 / 09.2 / 09.3
  • Peat's Beast 25 Years
  • Clynelish 1971 (Premier Malts)
  • Glenlossie 1993 (Cadenhead's for TastToe)

My article about sherry casks

2827 notes by Ruben

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