New Whiskies

Batch 27

by
Ailsa Bay, Benromach, Spey Byron's Choice, Cadenhead and Douglas Laing.

The first bottling from William Grant & Sons’ Ailsa Bay arrives on Dave Broom’s doorstep this week, alongside a 35-year-old Benromach, a Spey wedding celebration, a very rare Garnheath from Douglas Laing and two indie malt releases from Cadenhead (Linkwood and Tullibardine).

Scoring Explained

Overview

  • Ailsa Bay

    Score 8.2/10
    Scoring explained >
    Ailsa Bay
    Price band
    £ £ £ £ £
    ABV
    48.9%
    Production type
    Single malt whisky
    Region
    Lowland
    Flavour camp
    Smoky & Peaty
    Nose

    I found this, like a foundling child, on the doorstep earlier this week. On opening, there’s gentle, but pervasive, smoke, and very sweet smoke at that. In time some chestnuts, firelighters, smoked almonds dusted with paprika, honey, and grass clippings.

    Palate

    It really comes into its own here as the smoke recedes, smouldering slightly into the mix as the soft fruits and syrup begin to move forwards alongside cream, poached pear and just a touch of cereal giving some crunch. Water shows how well the smoke is integrated and how it works alongside rather than in opposition to the soft, thick, mid-palate.

    Finish

    Gently smoky but still sweet.

    Conclusion

    We’ve all been waiting for this, but never guessed what would emerge would be a dram which vats together two different levels of peaty spirit (how Japanese!) and then ages in a frankly extraordinary manner, kicking off in small ex-Hudson casks then transferring to larger. Keenly priced. If I were you, I’d snap up a couple. This is one to watch. 

    Right place, right time

    Waking up outdoors to find the smell of last night’s campfire lingering on an abandoned cashmere cardigan.

    Benromach Heritage 35 Years Old

    Score 8.9/10
    Scoring explained >
    Benromach Heritage 35 Years Old
    Price band
    £ £ £ £ £
    ABV
    43%
    Production type
    Single malt whisky
    Region
    Speyside
    Flavour camp
    Rich & Round
    Nose

    Light amber with green glints. Refined and elegant, with mature leathery notes alongside bletted fruits and some very light smoke. Rich without being oaky, smoky without being obtrusive, dried fruit, but also zesty citrus. 

    Palate

    Clean, soft, gently sweet. Generous mix of dark berry fruits, beeswax, classic old Speyside oiliness, resin and a blast of fresh fruit salad. Just a touch of sweetened Moroccan mint tea. Layered and complex mixing heavy mature elements (cedar, cigar) with the light (pear and citrus). I wouldn’t water it as you lose impact and pick up a little too much oak. 

    Finish

    Long mature and spicy. 

    Conclusion

    This behaves as if the distillate has folded in on itself, creating a mass of different complementary layers. It is, as these whiskies should be, a totality rather than a succession of aromas.

    Right place, right time

    Sitting at a gentleman’s writing desk: leather, woodsmoke, old books.

    Garnheath 41 Years Old (Douglas Laing)

    Score 8.7/10
    Scoring explained >
    Garnheath 41 Years Old (Douglas Laing)
    Price band
    £ £ £ £ £
    ABV
    48.9%
    Production type
    Single grain whisky
    Region
    Lowland
    Flavour camp
    Fruity & Spicy
    Nose

    Vanilla toffee drenched in apricot yoghurt. Then comes soft ripe peaches, green apple skin, some delicate dried clementine peel pricked with cloves.  A waft of jasmine gently whistles past a garden shed drying out in the sun. Serenely sublime.

    Palate

    Soft and creamy butterscotch, juicy sultanas, dried figs and sandalwood shavings. More than 40 years in a good refill American oak cask has imparted the perfect level of wood character. However it becomes rubbery with water which emphasises that wood spice and loses the delicate fruity notes of Garnheath. Don’t add water. 

    Finish

    A hint of tongue-drying sawdust kisses the palate, leaving a gentle zingy spice of Szechuan pepper and a wonderfully buttery vanilla flavour.

    Conclusion

    A wonderful grain from a forgotten distillery. You don’t see many of these around. Buy one now.

    Right place, right time

    Lying on a knitted rug beneath an apple tree with your beau. 

    Linkwood 28 Years Old (Cadenhead)

    Score 8.9/10
    Scoring explained >
    Linkwood 28 Years Old (Cadenhead)
    Price band
    £ £ £ £ £
    ABV
    55.4%
    Production type
    Single malt whisky
    Region
    Speyside
    Flavour camp
    Fruity & Spicy
    Nose

    With a colour of light gold, suggesting understated cask influence, this shows oxidised, mature notes of classic Linkwood distillery character where linseed oil, and (weirdly) polished linoleum mingles with apple and plum. The high strength does mean it needs a little water to bring out an intense oiliness that drifts into thinned varnish and reminds you slightly of a smoke-free Brora. 

    Palate

    Beautiful. The requisite thick texture is here mixed with nose tickling pollen and the distillery’s fragrant orchard blossom. Water thickens the palate causing the whisky to cling to the mouth, reluctant to leave. Time and a judicious drop or three of water adds a faded, almost soporific quality in which you can feel the yellow fruits slowly decaying. Ripe, long, and supple. Finish: Thick and oily. 

    Finish

    Elegant and compellingly odd. Recommended.

    Right place, right time

    One bottle, a decent glass, small jug of water. Aphex Twin Ambient Works Vol II.

    Spey Byron’s Choice ‘The Marriage 1815’

    Score 5.7/10
    Scoring explained >
    Spey Byron’s Choice ‘The Marriage 1815’
    Price band
    £ £ £ £ £
    ABV
    46%
    Production type
    Single malt whisky
    Region
    Speyside
    Flavour camp
    Fruity & Spicy
    Nose

    The colour of a Tavel rosé – I was a big fan of Tavel rosé, we sold loads of it in my Oddbins days. Maybe we just drank it all. Anyway, there’s a slightly malty nose here, think Shredded Wheat dotted with freeze-dried raspberries and then very light creaminess. In time, it becomes harder and slightly green (unripe pear).

    Palate

    Direct and with some heat, even at 46%, suggesting not a lot of cask involvement. Clean though and softer than the developed nose suggests, but remains a little thin. Lacking in Byronic gusto. 

    Finish

    Short. 

    Conclusion

    I’m really, genuinely, interested to see the written evidence from 1815 that shows how the cash-strapped Lord Byron, who married Anne Isabella Millbank in that year in order to clear his gambling debts, spent what little money he had sending someone else (albeit the King) a present of a cask from a distillery which doesn’t appear to have existed at the time. (The marriage only lasted a year).

    A light, clean, and straightforward dram that’s less Don Juan and more Don Estelle.

    Right place, right time

    An overcast lunchtime in Provence.

    Tullibardine 22 Years Old (Cadenhead)

    Score 7.2/10
    Scoring explained >
    Tullibardine 22 Years Old (Cadenhead)
    Price band
    £ £ £ £ £
    ABV
    47.3%
    Production type
    Single malt whisky
    Region
    Highland
    Flavour camp
    Malty & Dry
    Nose

    Upfront. Light gold, with a whiff of primed canvas and box-fresh trainers that quickly moves into freshly-cut white bread over a chalky background. As it opens it develops more of a nutty quality: powdered hazelnut, muesli and hot milk. With water the aroma of proving spelt bread.

    Palate

    Gentle, thick, and quite sweet, the cereal always being balanced by a little mintiness and light banana. Flows well with some complexity in the middle before it straightens out again on the finish. With water, it dries a lot and becomes much firmer. 

    Finish

    Dries into nuttiness. 

    Conclusion

    Balanced, and while slightly low on the complexity stakes it’s well worth a look. 

    Right place, right time

    Young boy, birthday morning, keen to get out and ruin his new shoes in the park needs to have breakfast first. 

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