New Whiskies

Batch 54

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Batch 54 Scotch whisky tasting notes

Age is just a number, as this selection of youthful drams demonstrates. First up for assessment by Dave Broom is a 12-year-old Ardbeg, followed by an eight-year-old Benrinnes and surprisingly young in character 19-year-old Blair Athol. Next come two smoky Caol Ila bottlings, finishing with a fruity nine-year-old Glentauchers. 

Scoring Explained

Overview

  • Ardbeg 12 Years Old (That Boutique-y Whisky Company)

    Score 8.1/10
    Scoring explained >
    Ardbeg 12 Years Old (That Boutique-y Whisky Company)
    Price band
    £ £ £ £ £
    ABV
    52%
    Production type
    Single malt whisky
    Region
    Islay
    Flavour camp
    Smoky & Peaty
    Nose

    On first nosing this is like Yellow Chartreuse. On second, it’s like Green – saffron, Thai basil, galangal, fennel pollen, angelica – oh and smoke, but not a lot of it. With water there’s nettles and more intense herbal notes. Really strange – in a nice way.

    Palate

    Now things become slightly mentholated, with the herbal elements remaining and the smoke begins to up its presence, albeit very gently. Water gives more focus and triggers a fizzy, space dust-like texture.

    Finish

    Light smoke. Slightly sweet. 

    Conclusion

    You’ll never have tried an Ardbeg like this. 

    Right place, right time

    Discovering the recipe for a magic elixir buried at Kildalton church.

    Benrinnes 8 Years Old (Douglas Laing)

    Score 6.8/10
    Scoring explained >
    Benrinnes 8 Years Old (Douglas Laing)
    Price band
    £ £ £ £ £
    ABV
    46%
    Production type
    Single malt whisky
    Region
    Speyside
    Flavour camp
    Fruity & Spicy
    Nose

    Very pale in colour, with lightly meaty aromas – it has the floral note of cooked goat mince – with hints of lemon and a carrot-like sweetness, but there’s also a leathery underpinning, like newly-soled shoes. When diluted you get more evidence of its youth. It’s still meaty, but now lying on a cold butcher’s slab. 

    Palate

    A sweet and surprisingly concentrated start, with some solidity that suggests it has plenty of potential (were it to be kept in cask). Gentle fruits begin to develop alongside the thump of leather, meat and acidity too. When diluted, the palate has a better feel but also an extra sharpness.

    Finish

    Fresh and tingling.

    Conclusion

    It’s not mature, but neither is it immature. Instead, it’s on the cusp between the two. A brave decision to bottle it now, but a good one.

    Right place, right time

    A goaty feast. So here’s some more from the marvellous Swedish collective of the same name…

    Blair Athol 19 Years Old (Cadenhead)

    Score 5.8/10
    Scoring explained >
    Blair Athol 19 Years Old (Cadenhead)
    Price band
    £ £ £ £ £
    ABV
    54.5%
    Production type
    Single malt whisky
    Region
    Highland
    Flavour camp
    ££
    Nose

    Very pale, indicating no great cask influence. It’s slightly metallic to start with and from there on stubbornly refuses to open. In time, you get a touch of scone mix: flour, butter, bicarbonate of soda and then potato scones.

    Palate

    A good – if very hot – palate because there’s no chance of any oak softening things. You get lemongrass and bird’s eye chilli. It might sound stupid, but it’s clearly young in its demonstrative nature and lack of complexity. The palate remains hot when reduced, with some burnt grass and black pepper. 

    Finish

    Some classic Blair Athol malt loaf elements.

    Conclusion

    I went quite heavy on the dilution and finally released some sweetness. 

    Right place, right time

    Sitting on buckets in the smirr, eating tattie scones with Oor Wullie.

    Caol Ila 5 Years Old (Douglas Laing)

    Score 6.7/10
    Scoring explained >
    Caol Ila 5 Years Old (Douglas Laing)
    Price band
    £ £ £ £ £
    ABV
    46%
    Production type
    Single malt whisky
    Region
    Islay
    Flavour camp
    Smoky & Peaty
    Nose

    As you’d expect, this has a hugely vibrant opening, albeit with low smoke. Rather, there are mineral elements, salty pebbles and a whiff of a (good quality) fishmonger’s shop. In time a little touch of bread and butter pudding. Water makes it slightly more phenolic with some smoke wisping up from kindling, then comes salt and cider vinegar.

    Palate

    The palate is well controlled and tightly focused – drawing a line down the centre of the tongue, with some sweetness on the tip. With water things remains light and precise, and slightly lacy in texture. Has some charm. 

    Finish

    Slightly ashy.

    Conclusion

    Fresh and fun, albeit with low complexity.

    Right place, right time

    Waiting in a queue at a fish market. 

    Caol Ila 8 Years Old (Signatory for The Whisky Exchange)

    Score 6.9/10
    Scoring explained >
    Caol Ila 8 Years Old (Signatory for The Whisky Exchange)
    Price band
    £ £ £ £ £
    ABV
    55.7%
    Production type
    Single malt whisky
    Region
    Islay
    Flavour camp
    Smoky & Peaty
    Nose

    Very different to the Laing bottling below with more cask activity, which adds weight. There’s less smoke, and what is there is more ember-like. Some sweet meaty elements and then a drying quality like blackboard dusters. With water there’s some Elastoplast.

    Palate

    Burning charcoal to start with on the tip of the tongue, then barbecued pork, with background melon-like sweetness. It does remain tight and slightly numb when undiluted. Water brings the fruits forward along with summer grass, a bracing blast of cool sea mist.

    Finish

    Smoke and chalkiness once again.

    Conclusion

    Light complexity and decent balance. 

    Right place, right time

    On the beach at Beachy Head on a windy day.

    Glentauchers 9 Years Old (Douglas Laing)

    Score 7/10
    Scoring explained >
    Glentauchers 9 Years Old (Douglas Laing)
    Price band
    £ £ £ £ £
    ABV
    46%
    Production type
    Single malt whisky
    Region
    Speyside
    Flavour camp
    Fruity & Spicy
    Nose

    Gold colour. Quite intense with lightly sweet fudge notes, banana chews and some heat. It turns into a mix of polish, just-sawn redwood, dried lemon, then gentle fruits, lime leaf, bay rum and vanilla. Calmed by water. Cleaner and lighter with water – I miss the intensity though.

    Palate

    Sweet and slightly candied quality to begin with before this almost lime pickle element begins to creep in, followed by spice and a surprising oiliness. Water brings out flowers and fruit and then a creaminess. 

    Finish

    Fresh oak.

    Conclusion

    These youngsters all have a certain bravado. They’re eager to please, but often water shows that there’s not a lot behind this front. This, however, shows the start of wood influence and is the best of the bunch. 

    Right place, right time

    Munching on sweets while waiting in a wood-panelled barber shop. 

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