New Whiskies

Batch 12: Diageo Special Releases 2015

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Diageo Special Releases 2015

This year's much-awaited line-up includes some familiar – and some not so familiar – names. There's a Port Ellen (of course), a Brora, a Lagavulin, a Clynelish, a Caol Ila and a Dalwhinnie. But there's also a Dailuaine, a Pittyvaich and a venerable single grain from Caledonian. Dave Broom runs the rule over them all.

Scoring Explained

Overview

  • Brora 37 Years Old

    Score 8.4/10
    Scoring explained >
    Brora 37 Years Old
    Price band
    £ £ £ £ £
    ABV
    50.4%
    Production type
    Single malt whisky
    Region
    Highland
    Flavour camp
    Smoky & Peaty
    Nose
    A clean and, on first meeting, a low-peat Brora. There’s a background note of sweet new leather, waxed paper and a lightly briny/halibut oil element. It has the pleasant, slightly faded quality of very old whiskies. With a drop of water, some spent bonfire, sweet cicely and a sharp fruit vinegar note moving inexorably towards waxiness.
    Palate
    Slightly more smoky than the nose, with that sharp note now coming across as whitecurrant. When reduced, there are touches of melon, pear, a little grassiness and a gentle, oxidised cask influence.
    Finish
    Gently fading.
    Conclusion
    Elegant and graceful. You know it’s limited, you know it’s finite, you know there is huge demand. The price is therefore set accordingly. Different rules are now applying to these sorts of whiskies.
    Right place, right time
    A summer breeze comes off the sea. You’re walking with your old collie. He starts to frolic.

    The Cally 40 Years Old

    Score 7.7/10
    Scoring explained >
    The Cally 40 Years Old
    Price band
    £ £ £ £ £
    ABV
    53.3%
    Production type
    Single grain whisky
    Region
    Lowland
    Flavour camp
    Fruity & Spicy
    Nose
    Rich, but not overly woody. Crystallised lemon, vanilla, light spice, banana peel, some dried soft fruits and nutmeg, before red fruits (cherry/Maraschino) come through along with a note of black butter. With water you get coconut, wine gums and Lucozade, then cream and rhubarb fool. There’s some hot sawdust and more of a rummy aroma.
    Palate
    Has real elegance. Creamy, some Crunchie bars, fat fruits and lower spice. Generous and soft.
    Finish
    Clean and a little short.
    Conclusion
    Great to see this almost forgotten distillery emerging from the mists.
    Right place, right time
    Listening to ‘Sunshine on Leith’ by The Proclaimers. I know the Cally wasn’t in Leith, but give me some latitude, guys…

    Caol Ila 17 Years Old Unpeated

    Score 8.3/10
    Scoring explained >
    Caol Ila 17 Years Old Unpeated
    Price band
    £ £ £ £ £
    ABV
    55.9%
    Production type
    Single malt whisky
    Region
    Islay
    Flavour camp
    Fragrant & Floral (with some smoke!)
    Nose
    Green and fresh. The aroma of sunlight on skin. Crunchy fruits, bison grass (lemongrass as well) and a little puff of smoke. Becomes broader with more pear-like aromas, then basil/tarragon mixed with stewed apple.
    Palate
    Intense, with the grass now drying and bringing a slight – but still bright – chalky/sandy aroma that drifts into the aroma of a high-class sushi restaurant. The fruits become more dominant with water.
    Finish
    Very clean and zesty.
    Conclusion
    This is simply lovely and is very decently priced.
    Right place, right time
    Fishing trip, fresh fish, sunshine on the water.

    Clynelish Second Release (NAS)

    Score 6.8/10
    Scoring explained >
    Clynelish Second Release (NAS)
    Price band
    £ £ £ £ £
    ABV
    56.1%
    Production type
    Single malt whisky
    Region
    Highland
    Flavour camp
    Fruity & Spicy
    Nose
    This is big, open and direct, with lots of oily/waxy notes: sealing wax, flamed orange peel, a twist of mandarin and a little kumquat bitterness. It becomes very OTT in terms of waxiness, especially with water, and the more water you add, the more wax pours out, leaving you with an aroma of snuffed candle and soot on the fingers.
    Palate
    Unctuous, ripe and very soft, with a good, clean lift of tingling, white pepper-like spice. It opens into citrus, pink grapefruit, marmalade and blood orange.
    Finish
    Long, clean and fruity.
    Conclusion
    I wasn’t sure initially, but with water – and time – I fell for its charms, big time. A definition of waxiness. There again, I wouldn’t shell out over £500 for it.
    Right place, right time
    A glass or three when watching Vincent Price in ‘House of Wax’.

    Dailuaine 34 Years Old

    Score 9.1/10
    Scoring explained >
    Dailuaine 34 Years Old
    Price band
    £ £ £ £ £
    ABV
    50.9%
    Production type
    Single malt whisky
    Region
    Speyside
    Flavour camp
    Fruity & Spicy
    Nose
    Immediate marzipan, some nose prickle and the richness of distillery character with just a hint of smoke. Then come ripe, fat fruits, cooked red plums and a meaty undertow that slowly gives way to a sweet, complex mix of dried citrus peels, angelica flower, hot chocolate.
    Palate
    Ripe and rich, with that chocolate note continuing. Shows great balance and maturity. Long, with some tropical fruits, mixed with almond. It slowly builds and becomes more weighty with that meatiness underpinning.
    Finish
    Long and fruity.
    Conclusion
    My personal favourite of this year’s releases and, given the market, this is also a fair price. Well worth a look.
    Right place, right time
    A lamb tagine in Marrakesh.

    Dalwhinnie 25 Years Old

    Score 6.3/10
    Scoring explained >
    Dalwhinnie 25 Years Old
    Price band
    £ £ £ £ £
    ABV
    48.8%
    Production type
    Single malt whisky
    Region
    Highland
    Flavour camp
    Fruity & Spicy
    Nose
    Hard honey/toffee apple mixed with red fruits. A light, oxidised vin jaune-esque element alongside a herbal/grassy note. Water brings out lightly browning apples and more sappiness. Direct, with slightly plain oak, then some magic marker/glue stick.
    Palate
    Sweet, with some anise and a quite fat mid-palate with some honey. It’s tight without water but dilution brings back that slightly dumb oak element. Light desiccated coconut.
    Finish
    Quick, drying oak.
    Conclusion
    A pleasant enough Dalwhinnie from the brief condenser era.
    Right place, right time
    Dooking for apples in a wooden tub at Hallowe’en.

    Lagavulin 12 Years Old

    Score 7.9/10
    Scoring explained >
    Lagavulin 12 Years Old
    Price band
    £ £ £ £ £
    ABV
    56.8%
    Production type
    Single malt whisky
    Region
    Islay
    Flavour camp
    Smoky & Peaty
    Nose
    As pale as usual. This has a sweet, almost pancake mix aroma and and very subtle smoke. Lightly grassy with some wet slate, reminiscent of a Mosel/Saar Riesling. As it develops you get wet wool, more weight and sweetness. Water produces the smoke alongside wax crayon scribbles.
    Palate
    Clean and quite peppery, with lemon and a little sulphur in the background, where it mixes with the smoke. With water some braised fennel. All very clean, quite sweet, intense. Water allows a delicate seashore note and, finally, the fullest expression of the smoke.
    Finish
    Long but quite refined.
    Conclusion
    Expressive, balanced and, for Lagavulin, quite restrained. Good price as well.
    Right place, right time
    Clambering up the cliffs of the Oa in search of the illicit still you swear you can smell.

    Pittyvaich 25 Years Old

    Score 6.8/10
    Scoring explained >
    Pittyvaich 25 Years Old
    Price band
    £ £ £ £ £
    ABV
    49.9%
    Production type
    Single malt whisky
    Region
    Speyside
    Flavour camp
    Rich & Round
    Nose
    Ripe and quite heavy, with quite dense mix of nuts, bran, Christmas cake mix, a hint of tobacco then, out of nowhere, pea pod and a soy-like brewed note behind heavy, Blair Athol-style cereal weight.
    Palate
    Dense and hinting towards Marmite, but even then there are some black fruits. This intriguing, weirdly pleasant singed note – which was the distillery character – gives real richness, but with water there’s raspberry leaf, hops and green apple. More nutty with the water, but the freshness on the finish adds life.
    Finish
    Clean and surprisingly lifted.
    Conclusion
    A fair price for a real one-off.
    Right place, right time
    A Marmite sandwich in a hop field.

    Port Ellen 32 Years Old (15th Release)

    Score 8.9/10
    Scoring explained >
    Port Ellen 32 Years Old (15th Release)
    Price band
    £ £ £ £ £
    ABV
    53.9%
    Production type
    Single malt whisky
    Region
    Islay
    Flavour camp
    Smoky & Peaty
    Nose
    This has come from refill European oak casks, which were also filled at high strength. A hint of seaweed, burning paper, woodsmoke, semi-dried fruits, fragrant smoke and a light oiliness. The fruits sweeten with water as genuine peatiness begins to develop.
    Palate
    Considerably more extract than you often get with Port Ellen. This shows touches of walnut, sultana, balanced oak and great maturity – which again isn’t always the case. With water a whiff of firelighters and smoke.
    Finish
    Sweet, then smoke.
    Conclusion
    Mature, profound and sophisticated. The price? I know. I know, but the comments for Brora stand here.
    Right place, right time
    A just-lit fire in a library by the sea.
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