New Whiskies

Batch 42

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Batch 42 new whiskies

As the 32nd Fèis Ìle gets under way, Dave Broom picks six new whiskies united by their Islay origins. Peat fiends will have a field day, but the presence of Bruichladdich and Bunnahabhain broadens the range on offer.

Scoring Explained

Overview

  • 127.44: Cantina Mexicana 12 Years Old (SMWS)

    Score 8.0/10
    Scoring explained >
    127.44: Cantina Mexicana 12 Years Old (SMWS)
    Price band
    £ £ £ £ £
    ABV
    65.9%
    Production type
    Single malt whisky
    Region
    Islay
    Flavour camp
    Smoky & Peaty
    Nose

    Robust and heavy. Cows munching on seaweed. Chestnut and cherry pipe tobacco, giving a thick, almost earthy weight to the integrated smoke. There’s a little hint of sour cream in the background. Has a burly complexity.

    Palate

    Earthy, with charred tomato and chocolate, then some barley sweetness, spent fire, remnants of barbecued meat and beard oil. A massive and smoky beast of a dram, slathered with muck.

    Finish

    Long, slightly hot and smoked.

    Conclusion

    This is Port Charlotte in its most animalic, feral guise.

    Right place, right time

    As the byre bursts into flames, the beasts with their hides aflame flee into the fields, bellowing.

    Big Peat Fèis Ìle 2016 Edition

    Score 6.5/10
    Scoring explained >
    Big Peat Fèis Ìle 2016 Edition
    Price band
    £ £ £ £ £
    ABV
    48%
    Production type
    Blended malt whisky
    Region
    Islay
    Flavour camp
    Smoky & Peaty
    Nose

    Pale in colour. Starts with oyster brine, a little touch of verbena, a whiff of violet. Manages to be light but punchy. Opens out to sweetness, pear drop and green apple. Very bright and bracing.

    Palate

    Immediate smack of smoke, then apple and melon rind. Needle-sharp with well-balanced peat, some smoke and a light mineral element which becomes increasingly strong.

    Finish

    Light smoke. Clean.

    Conclusion

    It’s not complex, but it’s fun and would make a great highball.

    Right place, right time

    Eating oysters beside a rockpool.

    Bowmore 16 Years Old Fèis Ìle 2016 (Douglas Laing)

    Score 8.3/10
    Scoring explained >
    Bowmore 16 Years Old Fèis Ìle 2016 (Douglas Laing)
    Price band
    £ £ £ £ £
    ABV
    48.3%
    Production type
    Single malt whisky
    Region
    Islay
    Flavour camp
    Smoky & Peaty
    Nose

    Low smoke to start with. Instead you’re greeted with kumquat and scented peach skin, before a hickory-scented flame begins to lick among the concentrated orchard fruits. Has character, complexity and elegance. Like it.

    Palate

    A soft and again slightly smoked start before the slow opening of the fruits. There’s more structure than you might expect from the nose. It begins to dry towards the back, where there’s salted crackers. Water makes it very juicy, with the exotic fragrance of long pepper.

    Finish

    The smoke detonates.

    Conclusion

    A really rather lovely and quite oily Bowmore. Well worth a look.

    Right place, right time

    The first chilly autumn night. You eat the year’s fruits and light the fire.

    Bruichladdich Bere Barley 2009

    Score 6.0/10
    Scoring explained >
    Bruichladdich Bere Barley 2009
    Price band
    £ £ £ £ £
    ABV
    50%
    Production type
    Single malt whisky
    Region
    Islay
    Flavour camp
    Malty & Dry
    Nose

    Surprisingly sharp, even for 50%, with sweet cereal notes and a nutty, porridge-like element, then some lemon. Water brings out daffodil and nut, but it remains slightly raw and sterile.

    Palate

    A young, vibrant thing with a bite that’s like a scone with too much bicarb of soda in the mix. The mid-palate though has a promising, soft, oat-like silkiness, then some light orange peel. When diluted, that sweetness remains, as do the nuts but there’s now a touch of unbaked pastry.

    Finish

    Short, intense.

    Conclusion

    I don’t mind intensity in a dram, but there’s an immaturity here as well. Saved by the texture. Treat it as a work in progress…

    Right place, right time

    An off-day at The Great British Bake-Off. Mary Berry frowns.

    Bunnahabhain 2005 (Adelphi)

    Score 8.3/10
    Scoring explained >
    Bunnahabhain 2005 (Adelphi)
    Price band
    £ £ £ £ £
    ABV
    56.5%
    Production type
    Single malt whisky
    Region
    Islay
    Flavour camp
    Rich & Round
    Nose

    There’s a very light smokiness to start with that mingles with a funky, cask-driven note reminiscent of the warming smell of a well-tended compost heap (that’s a positive in my mind, by the way). Then comes tea-soaked digestive biscuits and a whiff of wet kilt, before it all relaxes into polished brass and plum.

    Palate

    Starts again with this slightly smoky element with some spices behind. Has real weight and length with a rich solidity to it. There’s heather and chewy fruit leather notes, while water shows more Brazil nut.

    Finish

    Long and soft.

    Conclusion

    Has the weight that Bunna’ gets from a great cask. At its best without the water. Recommended.

    Right place, right time

    The gardener rests and looks happily at his day’s work. The rain still falls.

    Caol Ila 1980, The Admiral’s Beacon (Wemyss Malts)

    Score 7.8/10
    Scoring explained >
    Caol Ila 1980, The Admiral’s Beacon (Wemyss Malts)
    Price band
    £ £ £ £ £
    ABV
    46%
    Production type
    Single malt whisky
    Region
    Islay
    Flavour camp
    Fragrant & Floral
    Nose

    Identifiably Caol Ila from the word go, with that halibut oil touch, a mineral catch, putty, then angelica ginniness. That said, it is slightly restrained initially – stony even – and needs water to bring out russet apple, mirabelle, pear and a little grassiness. The maritime elements remain.

    Palate

    A clean start with more weight than the nose. There’s a squirt of oils from the mid-palate onwards. The smoke is negligible. If it were a wine it would be a Loire Sauvignon Blanc. Water softens the fruits down a little. 

    Finish

    The brine sneaks back in. Fresh and, indeed, refreshing.

    Conclusion

    As ever, Caol Ila delivers. Perhaps not the most complex bottling, but a good one nonetheless.

    Right place, right time

    Memories of Lal Waterson while sitting beside the Sound of Islay.

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