New Whiskies

Batch 100

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New whisky tasting notes Batch 100

Are we at Batch 100 already? How time flies. It seemed appropriate to mark this milestone in some fashion. The top-scoring whiskies seemed a little too obvious – and anyway, as we’ve said many times before, scores are always less important than words – so I thought I’d pick out a few which intrigued me in different ways, taken from Scotchwhisky.com’s first 99 batches of tasting notes.

Blends: Oishii Wisukii (Batch 41)
A remarkable bottling from the Highlander Inn.

Innovation: Glenfiddich IPA (Batch 61)
Taking Scotch in a new flavour direction.

Surprise package: Wolfburn (Batch 32)
Superb quality at such a young age.

Confession: Tomintoul Five Decades (Batch 25; retasted for Batch 100)
Fresh bottle, fresh verdict on this beautiful malt.

Value For Money: Lagavulin 8 Years Old (Batch 31) and Kilkerran 12 Years Old (Batch 57)
Does value still exist in single malt? You bet it does.

Scoring Explained

Overview

  • Oishii Wisukii 36 Years Old (Highlander Inn)

    Oishii Wisukii 36 Years Old (Highlander Inn)
    Price band
    £ £ £ £ £
    ABV
    46.2%
    Production type
    Blended Scotch whisky
    Region
    n/a
    Flavour camp
    Rich & Round
    Nose

    Mature, immediately elegant, complex, and rancio accented. There’s ripe and dried fruits, turps and a fatty quality that manages to mix the decadent sweetness of apricot and mango pulp with resinous leathery suppleness. The waxiness of age grows throughout. In time, there’s a little touch of creosote and toasted nut. Water makes this waxier, with just a little more oak.  

    Palate

    This is caught at the point when the energy of youth has been spent and all of the elements settle and soften into satisfied contemplation. Gentle and layered with much more chocolate. Water brings out more of the top notes, osmanthus, mace, and still that silky waxiness. It does everything a blend should – offer a complete and sometimes contradictory picture.

    Finish

    Long and fruited. 

    Conclusion

    There’s been a recent clutch of old blends which have been left in a marrying cask. This one was discovered by Tatsuya Minagawa of Craigellachie’s Highlander Inn. Oishii is Japanese for delicious – and this is. £115 is a trifling amount of money for a whisky of this class. You’d be a fool to miss out. Remarkable.

    Right place, right time

    Pour yourself a dram and listen to Archie Shepp playing, appropriately enough, Sophisticated Lady.

    Dave Broom says: ‘It can’t be repeated often enough: blends need to be taken seriously. Although they were overwhelmed in terms of number of whiskies tasted by single malts, some classics passed over the tasting table. Only last week, the new Shackleton (Batch 99) immediately became one of my go-to house blends, joining Johnnie Walker Red Rye (Batch 66). The same house’s stellar Private Collection series (Batches 21 and 83) continues to broaden the possibilities of blending and are must-tries, as is Ballantine’s 21-year-old Signature Oak (Batch 21).
    ‘There was also Compass Box’s decadent This is Not a Luxury Whisky (Batch 9), but the one(s) I have returned to regularly, for wee sips as they were limited editions and sold out speedily, were Highland Inn owner Tatsuya Minagawa’s Oishii Wisukii (see also Batch 83). The only sad element about this is that bottles are appearing on auction sites, meaning that real whisky lovers have been deprived of remarkable 30-year-old(-plus) blends, which were deliberately sold at a reasonable price so everyone could enjoy them.’

    Glenfiddich IPA

    Glenfiddich IPA
    Price band
    £ £ £ £ £
    ABV
    43%
    Production type
    Single malt whisky
    Region
    Speyside
    Flavour camp
    Fruity & Spicy
    Nose

    Distinct whiff of hops – slightly herbal and citric with a brightness that works well with the crisp cooking apple. In time, there’s more of a resinous note. Water brings out apple sponge with custard, or is it spotted dick? Intriguing, balanced and refreshingly different.

    Palate

    Fatter, with an almost oily start. A richly textured ’Fiddich, which never loses its freshness. The hop element comes through, with more of that custard element and a slow creep of hop. Bold, balanced and identifiably Glenfiddich.

    Finish

    Lightly bittered, but balanced.

    Conclusion

    A good and valid experiment. I’d rather drink this (with a rock) than many new style IPAs.

    Right place, right time

    I bet this was playing in Mr Kinsman’s head when he was putting this together.

    Dave Broom says: ‘The idea of innovation is a strangely vexed one within Scotch. Often what is called “innovative” is little more than a less than subtle tweak on the norm. Sometimes, however, there are glimpses of the deep thinking which is taking place (Red Rye cask, for example). There were the examinations of oak within the fantastic Macallan Editions (Batches 32 and 73), both of which should be on any self-respecting whisky lover’s shelf.
    ‘Glenmorangie’s Bacalta (Batch 81) and Milsean (Batch 25) pushed double maturation ever further, as did a remarkable range from Ukraine, all of which were finished in local wine casks giving new, but balanced, flavours (Batch 77). There was the start of what will hopefully be a series of releases from Ailsa Bay (Batch 27), but the whisky which really did take Scotch into a new direction flavour-wise was Glenfiddich IPA.’

    Wolfburn

    Wolfburn
    Price band
    £ £ £ £ £
    ABV
    46%
    Production type
    Single malt whisky
    Region
    Highland
    Flavour camp
    Fragrant & Floral
    Nose

    Light and soft with poached pear and a hint of clove and vanilla, then some smoky wood/ burnt bannocks. Becomes more scented, with elements of privet and cherry blossom, then lemon balm and a huge hit of fresh mint. Becomes increasingly like a quality reposado Tequila which is no bad thing in my world. 

    Palate

    Well balanced. A peppery start – there’s that reposado again. Sweet, softly fruited, but feisty, and even at 46% it needs water. This reveals the youth, but the spirit is clean and characterful, soft and slightly unctuous and showing good weight, which will allow it to grow.

    Finish

    Medium length. Lightly smoky.

    Conclusion

    Aged in quarter casks (from an Islay distillery) to give a quick boost to a young spirit. I’ve been impressed with Wolfburn’s quality from the word go and this doesn’t disappoint. One to watch. The score reflects its competitive set. 

    Right place, right time

    Lost in a Mexican herb garden.

    Dave Broom says: ‘By “surprise package” I mean distilleries which are perhaps (wrongly) overlooked and have not yet reached the status they richly deserve. Arran, Balblair, Tomatin and Kilchoman all deserve greater recognition and all consistently released examples brimming with quality and character. The revival of Glen Scotia and Loch Lomond has also been exciting, as was the coming-of-age of Octomore and Port Charlotte, but the revelation for me was the remarkable quality already emerging from Thurso’s Wolfburn (see also Batch 63).’

    Tomintoul Five Decades

    Tomintoul Five Decades
    Price band
    £ £ £ £ £
    ABV
    50%
    Production type
    Single malt whisky
    Region
    Speyside
    Flavour camp
    Fruity & Spicy
    Nose

    Soft and with masses of tropical fruits, which you get from a lot of older Tomintouls. Head-filling and expansive: honeyed peaches, apricot, mango, toffee apple, banana and a whiff of nemesia, along with subtle apple blossom. Complex.

    Palate

    Slightly lighter than you expect, but the texture suggested by the nose is there, adding a certain sticky thickness to the mid-palate. Some apricot and ripe banana when water is added. This also pulls out a floral note. 

    Finish

    Gentle and relaxed.

    Conclusion

    A vatting of whiskies from, you guessed it, five decades of the distillery’s life. Of course, technically they’re not allowed to tell you that, but what the hell. Don’t over-water, as the oak grips slightly and you lose the gentle, elegant flow.

    Right place, right time

    Swaying in a hammock under Telford’s bridge thinking hard about Barbados.

    Dave Broom says: ‘How often have we tasted a dram one day, then drunk it the night after with friends and thought it showed a completely different aspect? Context, the other whiskies being tasted, time of day – all can affect your taste buds and perception, and you miss out on something potentially great. My tasting routine tries to eliminate this happening, but when it does you have to say: “Sorry, I got it wrong.” In this dram’s case, to be fair, the sample I got was less than fresh, but by the time I realised it, the note was out there.
    ‘So, Tomintoul Five Decades, I apologise. Re-tasting a fresh bottle revealed what a truly great whisky you are.’

    Lagavulin 8 Years Old

    Lagavulin 8 Years Old
    Price band
    £ £ £ £ £
    ABV
    48%
    Production type
    Single malt whisky
    Region
    Islay
    Flavour camp
    Smoky & Peaty
    Nose

    Immediate mezcal cues: soft pear like fruits, herbs, smoke and glittering minerality. Then there’s the strangely welcoming aroma of a warm, sea water wet woollen sock and a whiff of a boat’s engine. In time you’ll get peaty draff, violet, milky oyster, and hot crab shell. Light, and fresh it has an evanescent airiness. Water makes things a little more focused: sifted flour and a more overtly phenolic smokiness. 

    Palate

    Though intense from the off, it’s also sweet, yet oily, bursting like seaweed on the tongue releasing smoking beechwood, seared scallops, menthol, and laurel. That fizzing mineral element is retained and there’s a massive retronasal effect that’s like a sea dragon coming up for air. Low wood influence but not immature.

    Finish

    Salty and sweet, then dies into light smoke.

    Conclusion

    It’s Islay in a glass. Well done Diageo for celebrating an anniversary with a dram that’s affordable to all. It’s been marked in line with its competitive set.

    Right place, right time

    Flat calm off the Kildalton coast. A sea mist rises as you stand on a yacht’s deck in the cool morning.

    Dave Broom says: ‘I wanted to do a value for money award just to prove to the naysayers out there that there are bargains to be had. As it transpired, this was the most heavily-populated selection, which proves a point, methinks.
    ‘Some distilleries already mentioned are here: Arran’s The Bothy (Batch 14) and Balblair 1999 (Batch 3), while independent bottlings were well-represented; take a bow, James Eadie (Batch 84), Wemyss’ Peat Chimney (Batch 6), while Cadenhead and Douglas Laing regularly offered great-value small-batch releases. There were really strong showings by GlenDronach (Batches 25 and 79), while the first batch of stablemate BenRiach’s tropical fruit-laden Cask Strength (Batch 34) was a thing of beauty. They all joined The Laddie Ten (Batch 76) and Tamdhu Batch Strength (Batch 74) on my shelves.
    ‘But they were pipped by, first, Lagavulin 8-year-old – not only a fantastic dram which delivered Lagavulin’s character with brio, but amazing value for money. Every home should have two – which was the point.’

    Kilkerran 12 Years Old

    Kilkerran 12 Years Old
    Price band
    £ £ £ £ £
    ABV
    46%
    Production type
    Single malt whisky
    Region
    Campbeltown
    Flavour camp
    Fruity & Spicy
    Nose

    Sweetly perfumed, with an immediate soft touch of nutmeg, bouquet garni, sweet hay loft and a little Plasticine. It then becomes the olfactory equivalent of a custard slice – vanilla, almond, icing and pastry. It’s slightly hot when neat with a touch of smoke. Water makes it more buttery, with a hint of copper coins. Just lovely.

    Palate

    A gentle start, but with more oiliness than the nose suggests. The spices come forward – cassia and pepper being added to the mace and nutmeg. Gently pear-like mid-palate, but it does need a drop of water to allow all these elements to bind together. Water adds more smoke and also orange to the existing lemon zest. 

    Finish

    Pickled pears. 

    Conclusion

    A mix of ex-Bourbon (70%) and ex-Sherry (30%), this shows Kilkerran reaching a new level of maturity after the always fascinating Work In Progress. The palate weight bodes well for further development. Marked within its competitive set.

    Right place, right time

    A sneaky sweetie and Woodbine behind the bike sheds.

    Dave Broom says: ‘My second value for money whisky is Kilkerran 12-year-old. Not only a statement in terms of where the distillery is at and how its character is evolving, but a statement that value still exists within single malts.’

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