New Whiskies

Batch 79

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New whisky tasting notes Batch 79

This week’s whisky offerings have Dave Broom musing the influence – or otherwise – of casks, what is ‘old’ and what is ‘young’, and why acidity is important. Plus, if you like your drams meaty, this week’s selection of Scotch will not disappoint. First, a spring-like, 19-year-old Aultmore bottled by Cadenhead, which is succeeded by the first of three meaty entries: a 12-year-old Balmenach. Next comes more meat liquor in the form of GlenDronach Cask Strength Batch 6, before things take a floral twist with a 23-year-old Glen Keith. An ‘old’-style whisky is the penultimate dram this week, a 12-year-old Glenrothes from Douglas Laing, before a 25-year-old meaty Macallan brings this week’s tastings to a close.

Scoring Explained

Overview

  • Aultmore 19 Years Old (Cadenhead)

    Aultmore 19 Years Old (Cadenhead)
    Price band
    £ £ £ £ £
    ABV
    54.2%
    Production type
    Single malt whisky
    Region
    Speyside
    Flavour camp
    Fragrant & Floral
    Nose

    Little doubt this is Aultmore. William pears float down the Buckie Road. Estery with some cucumber, Lily of the Valley and a light puff of scented talcum powder, before some freshly cut green grass and apple. For a second, when water is added, there’s a touch of immaturity, but it then settles back into its fresh, spring-like air.

    Palate

    Light acetone and high (yet balanced) acidity, which brings to mind gooseberry chutney. It does come across as sweeter than the nose suggests, with extra texture. A soft mid-palate until those green acids kick in towards the back palate alongside that scented, rose petal-perfumed rouge.

    Finish

    Fresh, zesty and lime-accented. A Margarita.

    Conclusion

    The low cask influence works well here, allowing the delicate distillery character to be the major player.

    Right place, right time

    A soprano drying her nails while singing along with the birds.

    Balmenach 12 Years Old (Cadenhead)

    Balmenach 12 Years Old (Cadenhead)
    Price band
    £ £ £ £ £
    ABV
    54.4%
    Production type
    Single malt whisky
    Region
    Speyside
    Flavour camp
    Rich & Round
    Nose

    The first of this week’s meaty trio, this opens with roast beef (specifically deglazing the roasting tin), but mixed somewhat strangely with a marshy, earthy, boot-sucking quality. In the background there’s preserved lemon, spice and fresh almond. It needs a bit of work and some water when those wet boots re-emerge. 

    Palate

    Fresher than the nose, with pea and ham soup, then the lash of leather – but there’s also acidity, which cuts through the heaviness and growing grip. Chewy and more aromatic (almost fragrant) with water, but that deep, meaty weight is always there.

    Finish

    Rich and long.

    Conclusion

    A good, mid-weight Balmenach, which will act as a decent introduction to a fascinating distillery.

    Right place, right time

    Venus in Furs.

    GlenDronach Cask Strength Batch 6

    GlenDronach Cask Strength Batch 6
    Price band
    £ £ £ £ £
    ABV
    56.1%
    Production type
    Single malt whisky
    Region
    Highland
    Flavour camp
    Rich & Round
    Nose

    Meat raffle, part two. While you notice the higher strength, the aromatic density doesn’t allow it to dominate. Beech and oak forest after rain, roasted coriander, cigar, then frankincense, dates and dried fruits. All exotic and savoury, with light meaty notes. Balanced and complex. Water brings out varnish.

    Palate

    Rounded and surprisingly soft for the strength (showing the cask’s influence). A balance struck with the heaviness of the spirit. Dried fruits, gamey venison, with damson sweetness, stewed Darjeeling tea, then some chunky Seville marmalade and some nut. Layered. With water, some chocolate truffles and a little strawberry. Works with water, but it’s probably best on the side.

    Finish

    Savoury, earthy, rewarding and balanced bitterness.

    Conclusion

    Complex, characterful, layered and balanced. That’s all you want from a dram, to be honest. It’s not a lot to ask for, is it?

    Right place, right time

    ‘Well hung?’ he asked the waiter. There was considerable confusion.

    Glen Keith 23 Years Old (Cadenhead)

    Glen Keith 23 Years Old (Cadenhead)
    Price band
    £ £ £ £ £
    ABV
    51.2%
    Production type
    Single malt whisky
    Region
    Speyside
    Flavour camp
    Fragrant & Floral
    Nose

    Delicate, with dry cereal elements and a little edginess. Travel sweets, Loire Chenin, damp mutt, then old muesli in hessian sacks/pet shop and green malt. Water allows the cask to rouse itself and add some sweetness, and a hint of creaminess at the back. Seems ‘young’.

    Palate

    A steely lemon element shows that those youthful notes remain. It dries quite quickly. Water improves things and, while it remains light – which, after all, is the distillery style – and slightly edgy, some floral elements begin to bloom. 

    Finish

    Dry and short.

    Conclusion

    Like the Aultmore there’s no great wood influence here either, but the dry element of the distillery character needs some more interaction to add softness and balance. A fair starter though. 

    Right place, right time

    Though it was a sopping Thursday, the dog still needed a walk.

    Glenrothes 12 Years Old (Douglas Laing)

    Glenrothes 12 Years Old (Douglas Laing)
    Price band
    £ £ £ £ £
    ABV
    48.4%
    Production type
    Single malt whisky
    Region
    Speyside
    Flavour camp
    Rich & Round
    Nose

    Deeply hued, showing big cask activity. Touch of well-tended compost heap (this is a good thing), nuts and a vegetal element that brings to mind an aged agricole rum. A slight funkiness alongside rasps and chocolate, then comes roast chestnut and raw chocolate. Water amplifies all of this. Promising, if not odd… 

    Palate

    Dry and structured. Immediately, it moves quickly into the chocolate, but with some Brazil nut creaminess. This firmness necessitates water being added to soften those tannins. Time, as always with Rothes, brings out dried fruits while the sweetness, blinking as it emerges from its oaken cave, brings some baking spices along with it.

    Finish

    Drying and spicy.

    Conclusion

    While the Glen Keith and Aultmore (where low cask activity meant they were distillery-dominated) seemed ‘young’, this, though pretty much half their age, could pass for ‘old’ thanks to massive interaction with a very active cask. Read between the lines, guys. Good as a single malt, but probably would play a more significant role in a blend/vatting.

    Right place, right time

    Tired after the climb, he sits down on a pile of damp redwood logs.

    Macallan 25 Years Old (Douglas Laing)

    Macallan 25 Years Old (Douglas Laing)
    Price band
    £ £ £ £ £
    ABV
    51.5%
    Production type
    Single malt whisky
    Region
    Speyside
    Flavour camp
    Fragrant & Floral
    Nose

    The final meaty dram. This too is light in colour, which makes you anticipate high distillery character. While there’s some oiliness – the hot copper pans you get in some Macallans – it’s fairly delicate, almost refined and aloof. A light, meaty edge (roast grouse, appropriately enough). With water, fresh cold pastry.

    Palate

    More textural than hugely aromatic or flavoursome. Oily, mouth-coating, slightly acidic and hot – another aspect of low wood influence. Fresh, but with light grip. With water, you get more of the top notes and an even greater sense of pent-up energy.

    Finish

    Light and slightly hot.

    Conclusion

    Has structure and feel, but lacking in layering and complexity.

    Right place, right time

    Lunch on 13 August. 

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