Single malt whisky - tasting notes

A new batch of Asta Morris bottlings has just arrived in stores. One of the highlights is this Secret Speyside 1990, aged for 28 years in a bourbon cask.

Although the distillery should remain a secret, I can tell you it is in the town of Rothes and that is doesn’t have a tradition of releasing bourbon casks.



Secret Speyside 1990 - Asta MorrisSecret Speyside 28 yo 1990 (40,1%, Asta Morris 2019, ex-bourbon cask, 125 btl.)

Nose: entirely on juicy orchard fruits (plums, peaches), orange blossom and old-style waxy notes and lemon balm that you expect from even older neighbours like Glen Grant or Caperdonich. Reminds of the 1970s actually. Whiffs of tangerine, leather and minty herbs. Delicate floral honey, even a mineral touch. Excellent Mouth: a similar delicate style, a great combination of fresh fruits (peach, lime, oranges), natural vanilla and subtle resinous / mineral notes. The waxiness is there again. A hint of silver polish and ginger. Soft herbal tea. Finish: long, lots of fresh citrus notes and traces of waxy oak.

Just lovely. The freshness, juicy fruits and subtle mineral notes are rarely seen these days. Also don’t be afraid of the low strength, it’s delicate but it’s not diluted: flavoursome and easily drinkable. Around € 190, arriving in stores as we speak.

Score: 91/100

It’s been a while since I’ve had Laphroaig, especially the recent Cask Strength batches. Although this was bottled March 2019, Batch 11 took a while before being distributed.



Laphroaig 10 Years Cask Strength - Batch 11Laphroaig 10 yo Cask Strength
(58,6%, OB 2019, Batch #011)

Nose: great ashy notes and crystal clear malt. Perhaps a little lighter and more focused on bourbonny oak than how I remember the early batches, but still great. A little vanilla ice cream and apple sweetness, lemon curd, then dried herbs, balanced medicinal notes and subtle coastal breeze. Asphalt in the background. Mouth: more medicinal now. Liquorice and oily peat smoke. Tangy brine, making this a little sharper and leaner than the nose suggested. A light grassy bitterness. Returns on sweet citrus and a hint of vanilla towards the end, as well as a hint of mocha and tobacco leaf. Finish: quite pepper, with white pepper and acrid smoke, light minerals and lemon.

A really good one, one of the best batches I’ve had, offering intensity and many different nuances while staying really drinkable. Available from The Whisky Exchange for instance.

Score: 88/100

Chichibu 2011 Coedonado cask for TWE

Chichibu 2011 for The Whisky Exchange

The Whisky Exchange will announce a Chichibu single cask for its 20th Anniversary. This 2011 vintage was matured in a Coedonado cask, a beer that was made by the Coedo (Japan) and Coronado (USA) breweries. It is bottled at cask strength 59.2% ABV.

Of the 224 available bottles, 124 will be sold by ballot, which will run online from Thursday 30th January until Monday 3rd February. It will set you back £ 225. Register for the TWE newsletter to participate. In the meantime check the 20th Anniversary releases overview and stay tuned for my review of this curious whisky.



Bowmore 1989 Black Gold - Wemyss

Bowmore 1989 ‘Black Gold’ (Wemyss Malts)

Wemyss Malts Cask Club members can now order a Bowmore 1989 ‘Black Gold’, matured in a single hogshead for over 30 years and bottled at cask strength 50% ABV. It is said to have a rich combination of dark fruits, toffee and earthy peat smoke.

It is just over € 700. You’ll need to register to access the Wemyss club shop.



Mildeton Very Rare - Dair Ghaelach - Knockrath

Midleton Very Rare – Knockrath Forest

From Irish Distillers comes a new Midleton Very Rare – Knockrath Forest, the third release in the Dair Ghaelach collection which focuses on Irish oak maturation.

In this case it has matured in barrels made from virgin oak frown in Knockrath Forest in county Wicklow. Once felled the trees were shipped to Galicia for processing and then shipped to a cooperage in Jerez. The barrels were lightly toasted and filled with pot still spirit ranging from 13-26 years. After two years the whiskey was ready for bottling.

Available in Ireland, UK, France, US and China for around € 310. Stay tuned for my review.



Also interesting

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

I mentioned this in my weekly news overview the other day: this is a version of Elements of Islay Peat & Sherry exclusive to The Whisky Exchange. We’ve also seen them exclusive to Belgium, Sweden, Germany, La Maison du Whisky and others.

This peated Islay malt (aged for the first time in sherry casks) is a mix of two single malts (our wild guess would be Caol Ila and Bowmore perhaps?), married in a single sherry butt.



Elements of Islay Peat & Sherry - Whisky ExchangeElements of Islay ‘Peat & Sherry’ (56,8%, Elixir Distillers for The Whisky Exchange 2019, 400 btl.)

Nose: nicely leafy and leathery, with hints of barbecued meat, lots of cold ashes and kippers, and some light medicinal notes (iodine and bandages). Hints of walnut cake, chocolate and subtle tobacco. Also fresh citrus, especially blood oranges. At once deeply aromatic and elegant. Mouth: sweet and earthy, bringing out raisins and cocoa as well as cured meat, pickle brine and orange peel. Candy apples. Crushed black peppercorns. Deeper tarry smoke in the end, mixed with some herbal notes and dark brew tea. Finish: drier and leafy now, with slightly acrid smoke and some peppery heat.

Quite big without overdoing it. This offers serious complexity and great value for money. Only from The Whisky Exchange.

Score: 87/100

The last of my Special Releases reviews. This Glen Ord 18 Year Old has been drawn from freshly charred American oak hogsheads where it matured for the full ageing period.

It is the first time that Ord is bottled as part of the Special Releases – most of the production is used for Johnnie Walker and Dewar’s.



Singleton of Glen Ord 18 YearsSingleton of Glen Ord 18 yo 2000
(55%, OB ‘Special Releases’ 2019)

Nose: sweet red apples up front, with generous baking spices. Vanilla cake with orange peel, nougat and buttery cocoa. Malty notes. Cinnamon. After some time it develops a more grassy / floral side as well. Mouth: good texture but otherwise a similar ‘middle-of-the-road’ impression. Malt, garden fruits and spice. Leathery notes and bitter grapefruit peel. Some peppery prickle, cinnamon and nutmeg. Creamy vanilla too, but it turns towards harsher ginger and grassy tree bark. Finish: quite long but becoming dry, peppery and malty.

Well indeed you may not get many Glen Ord bottlings, especially at cask strength, but put into perspective this feels a tad underwhelming. Available from MoM or TWE among others.

Score: 83/100

After the excellent Tamdhu we’re keen to try this GlenDronach 2007 cask #6756 – another single cask selected by the German retailer They’ve gone for an Oloroso sherry puncheon.



GlenDronach 2007 #6756 for Dein WhiskyGlenDronach 12 yo 2007 (58%, OB for 2019, Oloroso puncheon #6756, 640 btl.)

Nose: young but nice, with plenty of orange peels and a modern, slightly brandy-like profile. Leather and aromatic herbs (cinnamon, thyme) as well as a light mentholated touch. Candied ginger. Hints of walnuts. Bergamot. Also a slightly fragrant oaky note (akin to French oak) which is highlighted if you add water. Not very typical, interesting. Mouth: quite straightforward and rather alcoholic now. Raisins and lots of caramel notes, with some sticky toffee pudding and (newish) oak spice. Plenty of nuts and herbs. Thinner, less flavoursome than it should be. Finish: medium, on oak spice, hints of leather and herbs.

An interesting cask – I enjoyed the aromatic nose. Somehow the Oloroso feels a bit thin on the palate and focuses on herbal notes, leaving room for the spirit to express its alcoholic side as well. Available for around € 90 from

Score: 82/100

Among the summer releases in the Single Malts of Scotland series there was this Glenburgie 1998, matured for two decades in a single hogshead. Sounds similar to TWE’s Black Friday deal, remember?



Glenburgie 20 Years 1998 - Single Malts of ScotlandGlenburgie 20 yo 1998
(51,1%, Single Malts of Scotland 2019, hogshead #900899, 248 btl.)

Nose: very natural, with creamy vanilla, lemon cake, melons and hints of yellow plums. A little mint and toffee. Grassy spice. Hints of banana peels and sunflower oil as well. Mouth: great fruity character, with tropical hints. Plenty of grapefruits, peaches, passion fruits and mirabelles. Hints of guava. Minty notes again, as well as light pepper and lemongrass. Herbal touches and pine wood towards the end. Finish: long, on zesty citrus, green mango, hints of coconut shavings and light grassy oak.

An IPA type of whisky, in a way. Fresh and bursting with fruits, especially on the palate. A tad less tropical than the Black Friday whisky, but so easy to like again. Available from The Whisky Exchange among others.

Score: 88/100

Arran Sherry Cask

20 Jan 2020 | Arran

I already mentioned the Arran Sherry Cask while reviewing its bourbon counterpart called Arran Barrel Reserve. It is part of duo that has no age statement and no fancy finish either – it is meant to express the cask influence of bourbon and sherry.

The sherry version has a similar age (7 years old) but it comes from first-fill sherry hogsheads and it is bottled at cask strength.



Arran Sherry Cask - BodegaArran Sherry Cask ‘The Bodega’ (55,8%, OB 2019, first-fill sherry hogsheads)

Nose: rich sherry, perfectly clean. Fresh figs and cherry liqueur, some orange peel and cinnamon. Also pepper and hints of hay. Minty notes and crystallized ginger. Subtle vanilla and floral notes too, in fact it’s rather light and youthful, not as heavyweight as some others. Mouth: more depth, still nicely sherried, but now more on the greenish side. Ginger, pepper and clove. Oranges, raisins and red berries underneath. Then some dark chocolate and treacle, as well as hints of tobacco. Finish: quite long, with some bittersweet notes, baking spice and hints of oak char.

An enjoyable Arran again, especially on the nose. It’s not intended to be a sherry bomb and that’s a good thing. A fine introduction to full sherry maturation. Available from The Whisky Exchange or Master of Malt for instance.

Score: 85/100

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Whisky reviews coming up

  • Secret Speyside 1990 (Asta Morris)
  • Balmenach 15 Years (TBWC)
  • Chichibu 2011 (Coedonado cask for TWE)
  • Longrow 21 Year Old
  • Bruichladdich Black Art 7.1
  • Highland Park Valfather
  • Tamdhu 12 Year Old
  • 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

3190 notes by Ruben

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