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Posted 3 months, 16 days ago by Tobi Piwek, Douglas Laing's Fellow

Writing Tasting Notes for an Old Particular Single Cask

Tobi Piwek from Germany is one of our Fellows - a group of Whisky experts and fanatics who are noted for their passion, knowledge and commitment to the world of Scotch Whisky, and of course Douglas Laing too. We recently asked Tobi to write the tasting notes for an upcoming release of Old Particular, and in this guest blog, he tells us all about the experience.

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Now and again, Douglas Laing ask their Fellows to compose the official tasting notes for an upcoming whisky release. So far, they got me on board for this twice. Once in mid-2017, when I was still new to the Fellows. And once in November of last year. The first time I savored a Benrinnes 11yo from the Provenance series and the second time I sipped a Strathclyde 29yo from the Old Particular range. In the following I will explain how I approached, analyzed and described the latter

In general, writing tasting notes is nothing new to me. On my blog BarleyMania I have done this many times over the years. However, as a Whisky blogger I am but one voice in a big, loud choir. Here, I found myself in the position of a sole singer on a vast stage. I would be the first to pin down this well-aged Single Grain’s aromas and flavors; my tasting notes would appear prominently on the Whisky’s tube and label – and they would probably also be part of the promo material shared with Douglas Laing’s business partners. Thus, I knew right from the start that my scribblings would reach a fair amount of people: Mail-orders would use them to describe the product. Potential buyers would study them carefully. Tasting hosts would recite them, and so on. This added quite a bit of extra weight to the affair. On the one hand, I had to do this fine Whisky justice. On the other hand, I had to present it to my fellow drammers in a way that’s mouthwatering and appealing, but also genuine and sincere.

To get to know the Whisky (which had yet to be bottled when I first degusted it), I was given a 6cl cask sample that sufficed for two drams. As the ABV of the sample and the ABV of the final product only differed by 0.4 per cent, I did not have to water it down too much. I drank the Whisky attentively and without too many interruptions or derivations, fully focusing on the sensations that tickled my brain. Also, I split the degustation over two evenings, thus making sure that my impressions were not based on the form of the day.

When I brought my notes to paper, space presented a special challenge. In theory, my blog posts can be infinitely long. The text on a Whisky label can’t. To make sure that my description had the right length, I used another Old Particular bottling from my collection as reference. Regarding the style, I tried to stay in line with the model, but also add my own touch. And concerning the aromas and flavors, I tried to paint a vivid picture and cover a broad range of qualities. Though I only had limited space available, I wanted to share as many of my findings as possible. Here is what I came up with:

  • Nose: Fluffy scones with quince marmalade. Also: apple chips, coconut flakes & warming spices.
  • Palate: Sweet & creamy. Hazelnut chocolate, caramel mochachino, cheesecake with sea-buckthorn sauce.
  • Finish: Very delicate with millionaire's shortbread, banana split and nougat crème.

With a little editing from the Douglas Laing team, this is the text that made it onto the label:

  • Nose: Fluffy scones with marmalada, plus apple chips, coconut flakes and warming spices
  • Palate: Sweet and creamy plus hazelnut chocolate, caramel mochaccino and cheesecake
  • Finish: Very delicate with millionaire's shortbread, banana split and nougat crème. 

I hope my description fits this creamy, yummy and savoury Strathclyde well. If you have already tasted it yourself, feel free to tell me how you found it. And if you also write tasting notes for the drams you sip, let me know how you do it. Let’s talk some Whisky, gals and guys!

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