New Whiskies

Batch 63

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Batch 63 Scotch Whisky tasting notes

There’s a real array of flavours to suit all palates this week, and as the saying goes: ‘Slow and steady wins the race.’ At least that’s the advice from Dave Broom when tasting the most recent Ardbeg release from the distillery’s ‘darker days’ – a slow burner, but nonetheless rewarding if you’re willing to give it time. Broom swiftly makes his way through a 2007 Benromach, before enjoying an ‘intense’ 26-year-old Bunnahabhain. Then things turn peaty again with a mezcal-like six-year-old Caol Ila, before taking a fragrant and floral twist with a 1997 Glenrothes, and then it’s over the finishing line with a fruity Wolfburn bottling. You see – we told you it was varied. 

Scoring Explained

Overview

  • Ardbeg Twenty One

    Score 8.7/10
    Scoring explained >
    Ardbeg Twenty One
    Price band
    £ £ £ £ £
    ABV
    46%
    Production type
    Single malt whisky
    Region
    Islay
    Flavour camp
    Smoky & Peaty
    Nose

    Once it is allowed to breathe (be patient, Ardbeggians), this is considerably more subtle than you might expect. Ok, the peatiness is direct and dominant, but its effect is tempered by the fact that it has this slightly marine aspect, (imagine a beach after a gale), cooking mussels and clams, a hint of hot railway sleepers, white pepper, waxed leather, then lanolin. It’s a style I like, as it shows how complexity still grows in the absence of heavy oak influence. Water brings out more smoke, then wormwood and rain-moistened moss.

    Palate

    Instant spicy attack – that white pepper again – then a burst of peppermint/Polo mint before it turns to eucalyptus. The peat fire blazes away, but there is sufficient vanilla softness to keep things under control. Touches of calamus, then kelp, samphire, bay leaf and peat.

    Finish

    Dry, smoked.

    Conclusion

    Take it slow and you will be rewarded.

    Right place, right time

    Safe back into harbour, he wipes his fishy hands on his jumper.

    Benromach 2007 Hermitage

    Score 5/10
    Scoring explained >
    Benromach 2007 Hermitage
    Price band
    £ £ £ £ £
    ABV
    45%
    Production type
    Single malt whisky
    Region
    Speyside
    Flavour camp
    Fruity & Spicy
    Nose

    Pink, orange sunset colour. Opens with a charred note – Benromach is pretty smoky in its 10-year-old guise – but also sulphur. Just as you bring it up to the lips, you pick up some mulberry and cherry. I tried to get the sulphur to fly off, but it stayed locked in – and became amplified with water. 

    Palate

    The cordite continues. Frustratingly, the texture is perfect with all of Benromach’s silky softness, with hints of its floral fruitiness given an extra twist of black pepper and red fruit. Becomes grippy with water and the sulphur never leaves.

    Finish

    Smoke and struck matches.

    Conclusion

    Let’s just move on, eh?

    Right place, right time

    Quentin Tarantino organises a Guy Fawkes party.

    Bunnahabhain 26 Years Old (Hunter Laing)

    Score 7.6/10
    Scoring explained >
    Bunnahabhain 26 Years Old (Hunter Laing)
    Price band
    £ £ £ £ £
    ABV
    49.8%
    Production type
    Single malt whisky
    Region
    Islay
    Flavour camp
    Fruity & Spicy
    Nose

    A little hotter than the Wemyss, but with slightly more cask elements coming through – orange and rose petal, a little cereal, sweet pea, then it opens with very subtle smoke: wood ash in a fire pit.

    Palate

    There’s tight wood on the start, but its influence overall is very discreet. There’s lemon leaf, then green olive to start with, and this gentle smoke that drifts away as a creamy mid-palate develops. Water balances things and brings out more structure.

    Finish

    Jalapeño. Light grip.  

    Conclusion

    Intense, but balanced. I like it.

    Right place, right time

    A Catalan farm in late summer.

    Caol Ila 6 Years Old (Hunter Laing)

    Score 6.3/10
    Scoring explained >
    Caol Ila 6 Years Old (Hunter Laing)
    Price band
    £ £ £ £ £
    ABV
    46%
    Production type
    Single malt whisky
    Region
    Islay
    Flavour camp
    Smoky & Peaty
    Nose

    We’re into mezcal-like territory here, which is no bad thing in my book (Tobala to be precise). There’s some sweetness and pear elements, alongside dusty, green notes, ivy and horseradish, and a garden bonfire. The smoke slowly increases, especially with water, where dried sage and angelica also lurk. More mineral notes (and Brasso) in time. 

    Palate

    Light cereal in the front, then Caol Ila's oils and soft fruits come through. It’s pretty much done after that mid-palate burst, even though the smoke lingers. Its youth is exposed with water and becomes a little naked, apart from some parsnip-like sweetness (no, I don’t know where all these vegetables are coming from this week). 

    Finish

    Brine.

    Conclusion

    Fresh and young, but has real charm.

    Right place, right time

    Dust on the boots, machete catches the sunlight.

    Glenrothes 1997 Lime Tree Infusion (Wemyss Malts)

    Score 6.9/10
    Scoring explained >
    Glenrothes 1997 Lime Tree Infusion (Wemyss Malts)
    Price band
    £ £ £ £ £
    ABV
    46%
    Production type
    Single malt whisky
    Region
    Speyside
    Flavour camp
    Fragrant & Floral
    Nose

    Very airy and spring-like, with Rose’s Lime Marmalade, cut grass and pear blossom. There’s an intensity here which isn’t always seen with ’Rothes. In time, a light oaty (vanilla and cereal) element begins to develop. With water, there are more baked goods and the acidity is more apparent.

    Palate

    The vanilla element is strong and ushers in a subtle start, but just as you are enjoying the slow, subtly creamy progression there’s a sudden rapier thrust of acid, which knocks the overall balance. Water smooths this slightly.

    Finish

    Sharp, then nutty.

    Conclusion

    Lovely to see ’Rothes in this slightly unfamiliar guise. Though it is a bit abrupt in its shift from one element to another, I do like it – especially with water. Exclusive to the Kingsbarns distillery.

    Right place, right time

    Spring breakfast on the lawn of Rothes House. 

    Wolfburn Aurora

    Score 8/10
    Scoring explained >
    Wolfburn Aurora
    Price band
    £ £ £ £ £
    ABV
    46%
    Production type
    Single malt whisky
    Region
    Highland
    Flavour camp
    Fruity & Spicy
    Nose

    Some citric vibrancy and chilli heat, then a touch of cut capsicum opens things, but immediately this is swept away by estery fruits: fresh pear, Russet apple. Then comes lawnmower box, dewed grass and lightly Sherried warmth rises: nuts and fruit cake mix. With water, proving dough – then the pears again.

    Palate

    Very gentle, fruity palate with excellent feel. Shows impressive palate weight for such a youngster. The wood is handled lightly. In fact, there’s as much creamy vanilla and soft fruits as there is overt Sherry. Already well-balanced. With water it is all about feel and, while it shows its youth slightly at the end, that’s no drawback to its enjoyment. Recommended.

    Finish

    Light spice.

    Conclusion

    I continue to be blown away by this newcomer; marked in its competitive set.

    Right place, right time

    Cutting the grass for the last time, air filled again with spring.

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