New Whiskies

Batch 3

by
The whiskies being tasted by Dave Broom in Batch 3.

The Highlands dominate this week's new launches, including a quartet of Balblairs, a no-age-statement Dalwhinnie and a solitary Speysider from Tamdhu.

Scoring Explained

Overview

  • Balblair 2003

    Score 6.5/10
    Scoring explained >
    Balblair 2003
    Price band
    £ £ £ £ £
    ABV
    46%
    Production type
    Single malt whisky
    Region
    Highland
    Flavour camp
    Fragrant & Floral
    Nose
    Light in colour, suggesting low cask interaction. It’s fresh and slightly hot, with a lightly singed note that brings to mind burning hair, but is more likely to be distillery sulphur. There’s also some light vanilla, which also seems to be part of the distillery character, rather than coming from oak. In time, and with water, you get sweet white peach, but also more of the sulphur.
    Palate
    Gentle and considerably different to the nose. Now fruit syrups come through, while dry spices emerge on the back palate.
    Finish
    Peppery.
    Conclusion
    In many ways, Balblair can be seen as a northern Craigellachie. A similar fleshy floral weight, thick feel – and that sulphur background in youth.
    Right place, right time
    Lighting a summer fire, but getting too close to the flames for comfort.

    Balblair 1999 second release

    Score 8.4/10
    Scoring explained >
    Balblair 1999 second release
    Price band
    £ £ £ £ £
    ABV
    46%
    Production type
    Single malt whisky
    Region
    Highland
    Flavour camp
    Fruity & Spicy
    Nose
    Richer in colour than 2003 and more luscious in character, with immediate, and massive, tropical and pulpy fruit notes: peach, mango, passion fruit. Then come layers of cinnamon, chocolate mint (rather than mint chocolate) and cream. Elegant and balanced, with mature notes drifting towards whisky rancio.
    Palate
    As the nose suggests, it is sweet and spiced to start, before a peach yoghurt flavour develops. It’s thick, sweet and lightly waxy with a silky, sensual feel. It needs water, which brings out some cask notes and moves the spices forward. The inevitable consequence of this is that you lose the feel slightly – I’d leave it alone.
    Finish
    Long and fruited.
    Conclusion
    A must for lovers of this style.
    Right place, right time
    On the beach in Bahia with Gilberto Gil’s 1968 in the background.

    Balblair 1990 second release

    Score 7.5/10
    Scoring explained >
    Balblair 1990 second release
    Price band
    £ £ £ £ £
    ABV
    46%
    Production type
    Single malt whisky
    Region
    Highland
    Flavour camp
    Fruity & Spicy
    Nose
    Initially, the most closed of the quartet. Deep, with light resined notes alongside polish and beeswax, but there’s still the distillery’s tropical/pulpy fruit character, though here it’s in dried form. Some crème de pêche, a burst of toffee. Rich and deep, but in a fruity way. There’s even a pleasing hint of fruit vinegar bringing in a shrub-like, savoury element.
    Palate
    Has a more robust structure and mouth-filling quality. Light tannins, sandalwood, a hint of coffee and tobacco. More cask- than distillate-driven.
    Finish
    Long, then the fruits burst through.
    Conclusion
    Balblair in powerful, if gentlemanly, guise.
    Right place, right time
    A relaxed walk and talk with Robert Louis Stevenson. Donkey optional.

    Balblair 1983

    Score 8.6/10
    Scoring explained >
    Balblair 1983
    Price band
    £ £ £ £ £
    ABV
    46%
    Production type
    Single malt whisky
    Region
    Highland
    Flavour camp
    Fragrant & Floral
    Nose
    Quite pale. What you have here are wholly oxidative-driven aromas – it’s conceivably what the 2003 might end up like. Now you get heady florals: linden, night-scented stocks and, again, blond tobacco. As it opens, you get lemon-infused double cream. Really discreet and shy.
    Palate
    Maybe surprisingly, the thickness is there, as is the spice, but instead of fruits out comes a lovely rose note similar to Turkish Delight dusted with icing sugar. Subtle and gentle compared to the relative power of the 1990.
    Finish
    Sweet and gentle.
    Conclusion
    It needs time, it needs quiet, it needs utter concentration. Give it all of that and you will be rewarded.
    Right place, right time
    A time-lapse film of a snowdrop opening.

    Dalwhinnie Winter's Gold

    Score 6.9/10
    Scoring explained >
    Dalwhinnie Winter's Gold
    Price band
    £ £ £ £ £
    ABV
    43%
    Production type
    Single malt whisky
    Region
    Highland
    Flavour camp
    Fruity & Spicy
    Nose
    Very identifiably Dalwhinnie from the off, with heather honey to the fore. There’s also sweet linoleum, polished brass, dried apple, orange and toasted oak. Of the distillery’s sulphury new make character not a sight is seen.
    Palate
    Thick and textured, making this as much of a whisky of feel as flavour. Some creamy toffee, then light currant leaf, tangerine and ripe fruits.
    Finish
    Milk chocolate.
    Conclusion
    Another member of Diageo’s apparently never-ending stream of NAS variants to its age statement malts, and with a name like a romantic novel. Loses a little drive and character with water, but this is a very good alternative.
    Right place, right time
    High tea at your granny’s. Or, to be strictly accurate, at my granny’s. You’re all invited.

    Tamdhu Batch Strength

    Score 8.6/10
    Scoring explained >
    Tamdhu Batch Strength
    Price band
    £ £ £ £ £
    ABV
    58.8%
    Production type
    Single malt whisky
    Region
    Speyside
    Flavour camp
    Rich & Round
    Nose
    You couldn’t exactly call this a discreet or subtle malt. It’s Sherried, but it is also sweet. In fact, it’s really sweet. There’s caramel and kumquat, stewing citrus (like making marmalade) and the sultana notes of light Amontillado Sherry. It becomes deliciously funky with water.
    Palate
    Classic, but not oppressive, Sherried characters. The sweetness seen on the nose now comes across like sucking on a barley sugar (do they still make them? – Ed), giving it sufficient balance and even oiliness to counteract the grip of the tannins. With water there’s dark chocolate, praline and some cereal – even a hint of what seems like smoke drifting through.
    Finish
    Long, rich, generous. Still sweet.
    Conclusion
    This is what great Sherried whiskies should be like. A class act.
    Right place, right time
    Bottle and glass on the side, Parliament’s Motor Booty Affair on the sound system.
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