New Whiskies

Batch 77

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New whisky tasting notes Batch 77

New whisky tasting notes are back for another year and Dave Broom has plucked an unctuous 23-year-old Ardbeg from his sample stash for starters. Then, for those of you who enjoy sipping your whisky mixed, listen up because the following two releases should be of interest to you. First is the 2016 Christmas edition of Big Peat – great for those who like a touch of smoke in their glass. Secondly, the newly launched Copper Dog from the Craigellachie Hotel in Speyside: sweet, fruity and great mixed in classic cocktails such as an Old Fashioned. The final three whiskies are sure to generate a high level of intrigue among whisky fans. Bottled by Berry Bros & Rudd on behalf of a Ukrainian bottler, the trio have been aged in Ukrainian oak casks that once held local wines. We’ll let Broom tell you the rest...

Scoring Explained

Overview

  • Ardbeg 23 Years Old (Cadenhead)

    Ardbeg 23 Years Old (Cadenhead)
    Price band
    £ £ £ £ £
    ABV
    47.7%
    Production type
    Single malt whisky
    Region
    Islay
    Flavour camp
    Smoky & Peaty
    Nose

    Cod liver oil from a pewter spoon, then tidal aromas of fresh fish and high water mark, followed by coal tar, cigar ash, and a little lanolin backed with sooty smoke. All the notes you get from old Ardbeg in a relaxed cask, in other words.

    Palate

    A burst of oils on the tongue allows this to become surprisingly unctuous. Sure, there are massive phenols (that coal tar element continues), but there’s also a mix of agave and prickly pear, light bog myrtle, violet and fresh tobacco. Fragments a little with water. 

    Finish

    Old copper coins.

    Conclusion

    If you like your Ardbegs oily then this is for you, but keep it neat. 

    Right place, right time

    Ullapool on a winter’s night. Fish boxes sliding over the pier.

    Big Peat Christmas 2016

    Big Peat Christmas 2016
    Price band
    £ £ £ £ £
    ABV
    54.6%
    Production type
    Blended malt whisky
    Region
    Islay
    Flavour camp
    Smoky & Peaty
    Nose

    I’m not long finished hosting a wild (in both senses) agave tasting, and this smells of Bacanora (which is no bad thing). The smoke is subtle, with touches of slightly green wood, then some empty pipe bowl and a just-dying kiln. Green pepper lies behind, alongside charred broad bean, a little acetone, and almond oil. With water, there’s lime and dry smoke.

    Palate

    Slightly oaty at the start, smoky too, and fairly (not surprisingly) hot; but there is balance here. The peatiness is more overt now, but there’s just sufficient sweetness to balance, along with a light menthol note. Water dries things.

    Finish

    Smoky bite.

    Conclusion

    I’d have this long as a Highball or in a smoky Martini. Restorative and a lot of fun. 

    Right place, right time

    Big Peat and Bad Santa roll out of a cantina on January 6.

    Copper Dog

    Copper Dog
    Price band
    £ £ £ £ £
    ABV
    40%
    Production type
    Blended malt whisky
    Region
    Speyside
    Flavour camp
    Fruity & Spicy
    Nose

    Fresh to start with when neat, with light touches of dry grass, cashew, then light, juicy fruits – pears and sweet apples especially. All of this is given a dry edge by cereal and crisp oak. In time, there’s a touch of white pepper and some citric edges, while the cask influence edges forward – all coconut and char. Becomes sweeter with water. Balanced.

    Palate

    Soft and gentle, with rhubarb fool, dried peels, sultana loaf. That peppery edge comes back, as does the creamy coconut. Rounded, soft and rather delicious; with water there’s more spring-like elements.

    Finish

    Cereal bar: maple syrup sweetness, fruit, crunch.

    Conclusion

    Good neat, but at its best long or mixed – Old Fashioned etc. An absolute belter for the price. 

    Right place, right time

    Ok, it’s about a kettle rather than a dog, but there’s an illicit whisky link – and it’s Gillian Welch singing, so don’t moan!

    Linkwood 1997 Scyfion Choice (Troyanda Zakarpattya Cask Finish)

    Linkwood 1997 Scyfion Choice (Troyanda Zakarpattya Cask Finish)
    Price band
    £ £ £ £ £
    ABV
    46%
    Production type
    Single malt whisky
    Region
    Speyside
    Flavour camp
    Fruity & Spicy
    Nose

    Shows pleasant, mature notes and an immediate balanced elegance. Soft and lightly fruity, with some green grape and Victoria plum jam. Linkwood’s apple orchard taken to Calvados levels, with an added scented element akin to jasmine and cooking medlars. In the background there’s a touch of ginger. Water makes it a little more vinous.

    Palate

    Pure fruit to start, then the distillery character comes through, alongside cooked orange and roasted quince in the clinging, ripe centre. A little stewed pineapple in time. At its best neat.

    Finish

    Light ginger and cinnamon.

    Conclusion

    The first of a trio bottled by Berry Bros for a Ukrainian bottler, finished for 18 months in a selection of Ukrainian oak casks which had held local wines, in this case the dessert wine Troyanda Zakarpattya. Yes, it’s a first for me as well – and I love it.

    Right place, right time

    A heady summer dream.

    Mannochmore 1999 Scyfion Choice (Muscat Dniprovskiy Cask Finish)

    Mannochmore 1999 Scyfion Choice (Muscat Dniprovskiy Cask Finish)
    Price band
    £ £ £ £ £
    ABV
    46%
    Production type
    Single malt whisky
    Region
    Speyside
    Flavour camp
    Fruity & Spicy
    Nose

    Again, mature and quite deep. The Muscat has the upper hand here, adding quite solid, sturdy weight to the distillery’s existing light fruitiness. There’s some slightly dusty oak in time, and with water it blooms into a rather lovely oiliness. Becomes considerably more aromatic as well. 

    Palate

    As with the nose, this is quite cask-forward with considerable spicy elements, some chocolate and some green notes underneath (chilli pepper/sour apple). Thicker with water, where you pick up more of the mace-like spiciness. Lightly structured, with some char.

    Finish

    Orange Pekoe tea.

    Conclusion

    This grape grows on the banks of the Dnieper river, close to the Black Sea. Again, ageing was for 18 months. The oak is also Ukrainian. Decent enough balance here, but slightly wine-heavy. 

    Right place, right time

    It’s late. The wine flows gently into late-night drams. 

    Mortlach 1996 Scyfion Choice (Odesskoe Chernoe Cask Finish)

    Mortlach 1996 Scyfion Choice (Odesskoe Chernoe Cask Finish)
    Price band
    £ £ £ £ £
    ABV
    46%
    Production type
    Single malt whisky
    Region
    Speyside
    Flavour camp
    Rich & Round
    Nose

    Soft and deep with an instant savoury element that’s mixed with cooked black cherry, sour plum and damson jam. There’s a whiff of asafoetida and horseradish leaf, and then polished oak and a little walnut. Mortlach is there, but has been gently moulded into a new shape. Water ups the exotic elements without any loss of depth or character.

    Palate

    A mix of meatiness with red and black fruits, pomegranate, molasses and roasted pepper. Thick, caramelised sweetness with almost jellied fruits. Rich, unusual and complex. Again, I’d keep this neat. 

    Finish

    Long and densely fruited. Savoury. 

    Conclusion

    This grape is a Cabernet Sauvignon/Alicante Bouschet cross, which grows on the northern coast of the Black Sea. The finish was 18 months, this time in French oak. All of these are sensitively handled and offer a really exciting development. Not in the UK – but surely it’s only a matter of time. 

    Right place, right time

    Eating roast venison with a cherry and plum sauce.

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