5 Tasting Notes – A’bunadh, Asyla, Glenmorangie Quinta Ruban and LaSanta, and Laphroaig 10 Year Cask Strength

Hi all.

I’m honored to be posting here. I’m very new to the world of Uisge, but love to throw back drams with WhiskyParty and the DodgyDrammer. I hope to get much better at posting tasting notes, but figured I’d put down what i have from a night with friends. We decide to taste unchill filtered scotches and/or cask-strength scotches. My favorite of the night was the Laphroaig.

Tasting, April 28th, 2009.

Aberlour a’bunadh, Unchill-filtered Cask Strength
Color : dark amber. Blood dripped in water.
Legs : Medium, Quick
Nose: sandalwood, sherry
Taste : Dark Cherries, chocolate covered blueberries, field grass
Finish: sharp, long, no smoke, puckering

Asyla (compass box)

Color : clear, very pale yellow
Legs : Thick, quick legs.
Nose : Paint remover, vanilla, burnt sugar
Palette:rock candy, glazed donut, fresh cut grass, citrus
Finish : Short, bitter, not extremely satisfying

Glenmorangie The LaSanta (Sherry Cask)

Color : Reddish pale gold
Legs : thick and quick. Dumps like a truck.
Nose : French Toast, rotten strawberries, rhubarb
Palette : Wine, plum tart, saltiness
Finish: Short, late
Sherry overpowers.
Nose: greens/grass comes out, running lawn mower (engine overheat?)
Palette: Not much else. Even less. Maybe a bit more fruit
Finish: Nothing, bitter after a couple of seconds.

Glenmorangie, The Quinta Ruban (port cask)
Color: auburn gold, really wants to be golden but reflects the dark red
Legs:medium beads, medium slow.
Nose: sweet, dark chocolate, PORT!!!, opens ups into port with water.
Palette: Cherries
Finish: building finish, ends with spice, really doesn’t quit, gets fruity after the spice.

Michael Couvreur
Color: muddled brown water from leaves, rust
Legs: small beads, quick
Nose:Chalk Dust, Blunt
Palette: sweet, sharp, earthy
Finish: bright finish, one firework and then out, not too complex.

Laphroaig 10 year cask strength

Color: pinkish yellow, orange
Legs: small and slow
Nose: engine oil, leftover campfire
Palette: coal, complex, Phenols!, I just ate a cough drop while discovering coal deposits in my back yard after smoking a pig in my smoker, iodine
Finish: coughing smoke. A lingering biting finish. A


Best in Blog: New Tasting Notes from the Whiskysphere

Did you know that May is Scotch Whisky Month? The Scotts have all the luck . . . I think we here in the States should officially declare May whisky month as well (not least because it’s my b-day in a few weeks and a few local dram festivals around my birthday sounds perfect).

Some of our favorite whisky blogs have new tasting notes posted. Be sure to check out these links on a lazy Sunday:

  • The Whisky Exchange Blog has tasting notes on yet another independent bottling of a cult favorite: Old Bothwell Port Ellen 1982 Cask 2729.
  • Malt Advocate’s John Hansell notes that the Highland Park 21 Year Old is going to drop from 47.5% ABV to 40% ABV. He advises HP fans to buy their bottle at the traditional ABV now while they still can.
  • WhiskyFun has two new tastings on their website: a comparison of two unusual blends, and an EXCELLENT post comparing four Laphroaig 18 Year Olds. Those of you stateside will likely know that the Laphroaig 15 year old (my favorite) is being discontinued and the 18 year old will soon take it’s place, retailing at about $100. In this post, he compares the new Official Bottling to three independent bottlings from Hart Brothers, Signatory and Berry Bros. Rudd.

World Whisky Awards

Here’s the 2009 winners, posted over at the Scotch Malt Whisky forum:


That Highland Park 21, winner of best single malt, I’m pretty sure is only available at World Duty Free, so stay on the look out, travellers.

Sherry Monster: Mortlach 17 Year (malt trust)

As party of my recent bachelor party, Dodgydrammer picked up a bottle of Mortlach 17 year bottled by Malt Trust. It’s been collecting dust for a few months now and I thought it was well past time to pull it out for a proper tasting (we were all much to drunk, with shot palettes from some tasty Laphroaig 15 year – my favorite single malt – to make good tasting judgments when we first cracked the bottle).

Here’s what I got recently in a second go-round:

Mortlach 17 Year

Mortlach 17 Year

Mortlach 17 Year bottled by Malt Trust
Single Barrel, Natural Cask Strength
Cask #4718, Bottle Number 380
Distilled November 1988, Bottled March 2006.

Nose: All sherry. Not quite as smooth as The Macallan, more attacking. At 59.6% ABV, you can’t get your nose in too close or the alcohol kills you. Other tasters suggest spice and a hint of fruit, and the official notes say spice and coffee, but I’m not getting them.
Color: Amber/Bronze
Taste: Hugely sherried – it’s the only taste that can overcome the hotness of the ABV.
Palate: syrup, substantial and very hot
Finish: Long, slow fade on the sherry, very prickly from the high ABV. Almost distractingly so.

With a dash of water added:

Nose: It’s still a sherry monster, but a few coffee notes have crept in as the alcoholic edge takes a back seat.
Taste: Sherry continues to dominate, but it is quickly followed by warm spicyness. Rather than attacking, the dram is now warm and inviting.
Finish: Not quite as long with the sherry and spices fading to a light caramel before disappearing altogether. With just a tiny amount of water, the pricklyness is also gone.

The ABV on this bottle is a little prohibitive to enjoying a glass neat, but it opened up nicely with a little water. Still, it’s not a hugely complex scotch as the sherry continues to dominate the nose, taste and finish.

youth to power, or too powerful?

Here’s an article we liked about the new prevalence of younger whiskies among distillery expressions:
Four Year Old Whisky Comes of Age.

I think this is a great trend. Laphroaig is on top of it with the genius of the Quatercask bottling (a vatting of whiskies 5-9 years of age). These younger, (sometimes) cheaper bottles balance out the trend toward rising prices in general.

But I think it is indicative of several things:

    1. whisky is more popular overall, and since the response-time of the industry to trends is considerable (eg, Laphroaig just now released its response to the ca. 1990 popularity of the Macallan 18), having a ready supply of whisky is critical while the whisky boom lasts.
    2. more people are more familiar with whisky and whisky appreciation; whereas folks used to judge a whisky by its age (due to lack of understanding, often), now the informed whisky consumer knows that age is not the determining factor of a whisky’s quality.
    3. And yes, more care is being put into younger whiskies than might have been a long time ago (again, see Quatercask, Ardmore Traditional Cask, etc). Wood has been much more carefully considered over the past half-century, enough that distilleries are realizing that just a few years is enough to round out the spirit in the right kind of cask.

I’m a fan, but what about those high-priced, premium young whiskies (the Supernovas, Port Charlottes, and Octomores)? Gimmickry, or simply the high-end of the young-whisky market and worth the cash?

Comment request: your favorite whiskies 9 years old and younger.

Also, stay tuned for a review of some young Laphroaigs later in the week.

Two Indie Highland Park 13 years

During my run of HP tastings, I decided to indulge in a couple of independent bottlings of the stuff. The first is from Signatory’s Un-chillfiltered series. The second is by an excellent bar in Chicago, Delilah’s, done specially for their 13th anniversary (and, thusly, only available to you if you visit the Windy City’s northside).

Highland Park Signatory Un-chillfiltered 13 year (dist. 1993)
Bottle no. 34/339, matured in a Hogshead
Alv/vol: 46%
Color: very pale gold, like a white wine
Legs: medium beads, pretty slow drop
Nose: floral, rose petals, sea salt and brine, alcohol, cold biscuits, honey and cranberries developing with time
Palette: warm honey up front, lots of rotted wood, a smokey note buried in there (what I imagine used charcoal tastes like), some apple turning to apple cider, then to vinegar.
Body: medium-full bodied, slightly metallic feeling
Finish: medium-long finish, woody
Overall: I remember liking this one more… maybe it went bad in the bottle (but after just one year opened?) Still, good nose.
Score: 5.75/10

Highland Park 13 year old, special Delilah’s bottling from a 2nd fill sherry butt
Proof: 115.4
Color: deep cherry red
Legs: sm. beads, med. drip
Nose: cherries, marshmellows, orange creamsickles, alcohol
Palatte: lots of berries, honey, malt, and a light smokeyness with definite hints of bacon; the sherry fruitiness is balanced nicely by the honey to create a deep berry flavor, rather than just light fruit.
Body: full with a slightly rounded mouthfeel despite the alcohol
Finish: nice, long, leaves the stain of cherries, strawberries, and other berries, along with some charred oak just behind the tongue.
Overall: Great. Much more enjoyable than the Signatory. Complete opposite, straight away from the color on down. So much sherry, what with the straight bottling from a 2nd-fill cask and all. But, the HP flavor profile (deep and intense) was able to handle all that sherry quite nicely, providing a very berried but yet balanced treat. So if you’re ever in Chicago…
Score: 8.6/10

Highland Park 12, 18, and 25

There had been some debate between friends at the Whisky Party whether Highland Park, the northern-most distillery in Scotland, produced scotch that is good, great, or (imagine this), average. I am personally an HP apologist, and I sat down over the last week to taste a handful of their Orkney-born products. One thing that became even more apparent than usual is that HP is anything but usual. With the softest water in Scotland, peated maltings, Orcadian sea breezes, sherry casks, and loads of heather in the stream beds, even their affordable and accessible 12-year is a whisky unto itself.

Highland Park 12 (new packaging)

Alc/vol: 43%
Color: deep golden (amber, I think they call it)
Legs: med.-large beads, medium-slow drip
Nose: big heather, sweet flowers, touch of grass, hints of some subtle fruit
Palate: malty, honeyed, and smokey, with movement toward soft milk chocolate and berries
Body: oily and pleasant; medium bodied
Finish: subtle but long, very enjoyable without being very intense; a grass-fire smokey ending
Overall: a very nice, complex, balanced, and relaxing drop. not challenging, but it never stops offering flavor. So good.

Score: 8.75/10

Highland Park 18 (older packaging)

Alc/vol: 43%
Color: copper
Nose: Lemon zest, saltiness, oak, a touch floral, becoming creamy vanilla with maybe an old blueberry after time in the open air.
Palette: toffee, smokey oak, almonds, pine nuts, salt.
Body: firm and just a tad buttery, with flavor happening all over.
Finish: still going… touch of smoke turns to intense mocha that just lasts forever.
Overall: There’s so much to this; one of the most complex and pleasurable drams around, for my taste.

Score: 9.25/10

Highland Park 25 (older packaging)

Proof: 101.4
Color: crimson gold
Legs: sm.-med. beads, deathly slow Nose: butterscotch, plums, nuttiness, banannas & fudge, all ensconsed in raw honey
Palette: cinnamon, nutmeg, pepper, fudge, bananna-nut bread, fresh coffee beans, and more
Body: Medium-full; spicy and hot mouthfeel.
Finish: Honey into different nuts, oak, etc, that keeps moving while it lasts and lasts.
Overall: Wonderous, but tending away from the playful honey and smoke of the 12 and developing the nuttier, earthier flavors present in the 18. Definitely similar to the 18, but with even more complexity (if that is possible) and a depth of flavor all its own. The nose was ridiculous, and I didn’t even have a decent glass for nosing. If I had, it might have been sensory overload.

Score: 9.4/10

Next up: two 13-year single-barrell independent bottlings of Highland Park.