New Whiskies

Batch 7

by
Whisky glasses

A strong line-up of single malts includes a threesome of age-stated Royal Bracklas, venerable Tomatin and Arran, and a mizunara-finished Bowmore. Something for everyone?

Scoring Explained

Overview

  • Arran 18 Years Old (Douglas Laing)

    Score 8.4/10
    Scoring explained >
    Arran 18 Years Old (Douglas Laing)
    Price band
    £ £ £ £ £
    ABV
    48.4%
    Production type
    Single malt whisky
    Region
    Islands
    Flavour camp
    Fruity & Spicy
    Nose
    Though the strength is surprisingly low, this has a fine Sherried nose with lots of walnut whip – fondant cream, nuts, dark chocolate – and then deep citrus. It shifts into hot tiles before very subtle soft fruits pop up at the back, which open into cantaloupe melon/tinned fruit salad/Opal Fruits.
    Palate
    Amazingly sweet with a huge rose petal/confectionery start. Although it shows a little grip, the mid-palate is fulsomely rich. In time you’ll get cocoa nib. With water it becomes more vinous with touches of tobacco.
    Finish
    Lightly drying, then the fruits return.
    Conclusion
    Remember the days when people said Arran would hit its peak at 12 years old? Think again. This is a seriously excellent dram. Seek it out.
    Right place, right time
    Spending large in a high-class pâtisserie.

    Bowmore Mizunara

    Score 7.2/10
    Scoring explained >
    Bowmore Mizunara
    Price band
    £ £ £ £ £
    ABV
    53.9%
    Production type
    Single malt whisky
    Region
    Islay
    Flavour camp
    Smoky & Peaty
    Nose
    Immediate notes of incense, with the smoke from the incense sticks noticeable as well as the scented wood aroma. Then comes a rich peaty/loam note that’s quite earthy for Bowmore, alongside pepper (rather than saltiness). In time, a touch of vanilla and leather before the oak pulls back, leaving singed notes alongside apricot and mango.
    Palate
    Real purity with a paprika element and a tight, tart acidity. It deepens in the middle of the tongue, shifting into date and fig, before it lifts again. The smoke is well-integrated.
    Finish
    Gentle, relaxed, then a mix of vanilla, red fruit and a little smoke.
    Conclusion
    It was only a matter of time before mizunara (Japanese oak) began to appear in Scotland. Chivas released a decent example last year, now this – appropriately enough, given Suntory’s ownership of Bowmore and vast experience with mizunara. Very well-made, but is it £650-worth of well-made? No.
    Right place, right time
    Guiltily walking past a temple on the way to the beach.

    Royal Brackla 12 Years Old

    Score 7/10
    Scoring explained >
    Royal Brackla 12 Years Old
    Price band
    £ £ £ £ £
    ABV
    40%
    Production type
    Single malt whisky
    Region
    Highland
    Flavour camp
    Rich & Round
    Nose
    Medium-weight, soft and fruited. Here are chestnut and ripe apple, light blanched almond, and a little twist of tangerine. In time, malt loaf, black grapes and a little pollen. With water there’s more spiciness and dried fruit.
    Palate
    Rounded, sweet and balanced with a gentle richness. The distillery’s natural acidity gives balance and saves things from being too cask-dominated and flabby.
    Finish
    Long and sweet.
    Conclusion
    The Sherried route taken by Brackla seemed initially surprising, given how estery the distillery character is, but this is well-balanced. The most straight ahead of the trio, which makes commercial sense.
    Right place, right time
    Hallowe'en at Cawdor Castle. Three figures huddle in the garden. Cackling.

    Royal Brackla 16 Years Old

    Score 7.7/10
    Scoring explained >
    Royal Brackla 16 Years Old
    Price band
    £ £ £ £ £
    ABV
    40%
    Production type
    Single malt whisky
    Region
    Highland
    Flavour camp
    Fruity & Spicy
    Nose
    The lightest of the trio in terms of colour – and character – though there is still some pleasing sultana-like fuzziness on the nose, along with some creaminess and soft, pulpy fruits. Quite shy, with a light dusting of that pollen seen on the 12. Added bready notes, but has retained sweetness.
    Palate
    The discretion seen on the nose gives way to a fuller palate with good intensity. The green estery notes now begin to come through, once again cutting through the Sherry. Water allows more richness from the cask to come through, adding some weight.
    Finish
    Fresh and vibrant.
    Conclusion
    More distillery-driven than the 12.
    Right place, right time
    Chasing bees in a summer orchard.

    Royal Brackla 21 Years Old

    Score 7.5/10
    Scoring explained >
    Royal Brackla 21 Years Old
    Price band
    £ £ £ £ £
    ABV
    40%
    Production type
    Single malt whisky
    Region
    Highland
    Flavour camp
    Rich & Round
    Nose
    A massive hit of almond, then some Turkish Delight mingling with an aroma like a freshly mown meadow. Then the mature characters emerge – old bookshops, vinyl record stores.
    Palate
    Chewy and ripe tannins. The fruits here are more hedgerow-like and there’s a hint of cocoa adding a certain dryness. It is a little flat in the middle, however. In time – after a long time, to be honest, so be patient – there’s some tropical fruits and a dribble of wax. It’s best with water on the side. Complex.
    Finish
    Long, Sherried and sweet.
    Conclusion
    The only criticism here is that I’d have liked just a little more life on the palate. Bottling at 40% has conceivably flattened the impact – 43% or 46% would have been better.
    Right place, right time
    A grand library in Cordoba.

    Tomatin 36 Years Old

    Score 9.3/10
    Scoring explained >
    Tomatin 36 Years Old
    Price band
    £ £ £ £ £
    ABV
    46%
    Production type
    Single malt whisky
    Region
    Highland
    Flavour camp
    Fruity & Spicy
    Nose
    A truly glorious, sensual mix of apricots in syrup, guava, green mango and passion fruit. Seductively sweet. In time there’s some delicate, perfumed peach skin added to the mix, all evidence of relaxed maturation in refill. A sip acts as an elixir. Lovers of tropical fruit whiskies look no further.
    Palate
    More discreet than the nose and showing a slight fragility, so leave the water alone. Reminiscent of great old Cognac in its effusive, waxy fruitiness and floral notes.
    Finish
    Gentle and sweet.
    Conclusion
    Surely Tomatin is one of the most criminally underrated distilleries? It's not cheap, I know, but it is quite superb.
    Right place, right time
    A Moroccan seraglio.
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