New Whiskies

Batch 80

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New whisky tasting notes Batch 80

Dave Broom is headed for the islands this week, where he finds everything from greasers to refined ladies, tea-drinking Chinese sages and an unfortunate encounter with Jeremy Clarkson. Starting at Bruichladdich with a big, buttery, ‘butterscotchy’ whisky, he then progresses to a 36-year-old Caol Ila before making a brief stop at Deanston on the mainland to sample the new 40-year-old release. Then it’s back over to Islay to round off the birthday celebrations for Lagavulin with the distillery’s charitable 1991 bottling. A 19-year-old Ledaig finished in Marsala wine casks follows – one for the ‘petrol heads’ – before a 21-year-old Tobermory brings Broom’s island expedition to a close.

Scoring Explained

Overview

  • Bruichladdich 25 Years Old (Douglas Laing)

    Bruichladdich 25 Years Old (Douglas Laing)
    Price band
    £ £ £ £ £
    ABV
    54.6%
    Production type
    Single malt whisky
    Region
    Islay
    Flavour camp
    Fruity & Spicy
    Nose

    Big, buttery, even butterscotchy (is that a word? – Ed) Bruichladdich with daffodils, lemon crème brûlée, with Demerara sugar topping, Silver Shred Marmalade, nougat and a little dry wood on the back, which will balance out these fatter flavours. Despite the strength, water kills this ripe feel so I’d leave alone.

    Palate

    Has the distillery’s texture and ripeness, with plump fruits coming through, along with some spiced apple and, strangely, some clove, alongside the dusting of nutmeg. As on the nose, water isn’t overly friendly, adding a chewed grass stalk/green almond edge.

    Finish

    Gentle fruits. 

    Conclusion

    Good strength for this age and a bold example.

    Right place, right time

    With a cry of ecstasy, Gwyneth fell off the wagon and onto the dessert trolley. 

    Caol Ila 36 Years Old (Douglas Laing)

    Caol Ila 36 Years Old (Douglas Laing)
    Price band
    £ £ £ £ £
    ABV
    57.4%
    Production type
    Single malt whisky
    Region
    Islay
    Flavour camp
    Smoky & Peaty
    Nose

    Amazing strength for its age and, perhaps unsurprisingly, there’s some heat here, but it’s tempered by deck and linseed oils with light hints of wormwood, horseradish and elegant smoke. A biggie. A little water makes things a lot fruitier – Tooty Frooties in fact – some strawberry, lime and dry grass. Delicious either way.

    Palate

    Luxuriously soft start with old Caol Ila's tongue-coating quality. Some sweet potato to start and then the heat hits in the centre, but recedes slightly as the smoke moves into pole position, scented with rosemary and a meaty edge underneath. Water reduces the impact but it remains slippery, yet still spicy and complex.

    Finish

    Long and peppery.

    Conclusion

    Everything you want from a mature Caol Ila: elegance, balance, character, freshness, integrated smoke and depth. Just great.

    Right place, right time

    Oiling a cricket bat on a yacht.

    Deanston 40 Years Old

    Deanston 40 Years Old
    Price band
    £ £ £ £ £
    ABV
    45.6%
    Production type
    Single malt whisky
    Region
    Highland
    Flavour camp
    Fruity & Spicy
    Nose

    Immediately grand, with mature elements on show: dried guava and mango, showing a move into rancio along with a (full) cedar wood cigarette case and a nutty, almond-like surround, suggesting some structure. Elegant; all plumped-up satin and velvet cushions.

    Palate

    It hides its age well on the nose, but when you taste it you can tell that it is slightly frailer than it lets on. The fruit – and now more honey – remains, however. This elegant lady may be old, but she is not admitting it. While more structured, it’s all rather gorgeous. Leave water well away.

    Finish

    Gentle, fading and lightly fruited. 

    Conclusion

    A gorgeous, old, but still balanced example. 

    Right place, right time

    Sophia Loren in old age.

    Lagavulin 1991

    Lagavulin 1991
    Price band
    £ £ £ £ £
    ABV
    52.7%
    Production type
    Single malt whisky
    Region
    Islay
    Flavour camp
    Smoky & Peaty
    Nose

    A massive, but gentle start; the sort of nose which draws you in to its depths. Wild, dark berries and integrated smoke, chocolate, concentrated miso, roasting chestnut and then heavily pine-scented Lapsang Souchong. Becomes increasingly resinous and deep. With a drop of water it becomes more medicinal with some sandalwood and roasting coffee beans.

    Palate

    As you might expect from such a nose, this is huge, mouth-filling and concentrated, but with immediate sweetness rather than smoke. There’s the merest smear of Germolene in there, then a thick stout character as a burnt, roasted edge comes through alongside heavy pipe smoke. The water adds some crackling flames alongside more maritime edges – After Eights being passed around a beach bonfire.

    Finish

    Dry, long, powerful. A bitter note balances the sweetness of the start.

    Conclusion

    A box of many treasures. Quite a way to finish the birthday party.

    Right place, right time

    Sitting next to a fire pit in a Chinese tea house.

    Ledaig 19 Years Old Marsala Finish

    Ledaig 19 Years Old Marsala Finish
    Price band
    £ £ £ £ £
    ABV
    51%
    Production type
    Single malt whisky
    Region
    Islands
    Flavour camp
    Smoky & Peaty
    Nose

    Marsala is a big, quite nutty and often slightly singed fortified wine. Here, it’s paired with Ledaig’s classic smokiness, which always brings burning pyres at a racetrack to mind. There’s some figginess, hot oil and then out of nowhere the guilty pleasure of the smell of a spicy kebab with lashings of chilli sauce. 

    Palate

    Dry smoke. In fact, this is dry all the way, and oily and tarry as well. It does need water to kill the heat, which brings out a more feral quality, but it then drifts ever deeper into feintiness.

    Finish

    Smoky.

    Conclusion

    Maybe this is for petrol heads (of which I am not one).

    Right place, right time

    Jeremy Clarkson, stonewashed jeans stained by kebab sauce, picks a fight at a speedway meet.

    Tobermory 21 Years Old Manzanilla Finish

    Tobermory 21 Years Old Manzanilla Finish
    Price band
    £ £ £ £ £
    ABV
    54.4%
    Production type
    Single malt whisky
    Region
    Islands
    Flavour camp
    Rich & Round
    Nose

    Big, oaky and malty. There’s bran flakes, raisin, wet earth then some hazelnut and sweet walnut. As it opens, so a more robust, autumnal character comes through, alongside light farmyard notes, welly boots and mashed neeps. Gets bigger, funkier, more like amontillado Sherry – and simply better – when water is added.

    Palate

    Oilier than the nose. Hot campfire skillet, dense toffee sweetness that moves into a not unpleasant, treacle-like bitterness. Nutty. Again, a vast improvement with water where there’s sweet dried fruits and a better balance.

    Finish

    Slightly astringent with a creep of oils.

    Conclusion

    Add water and a different beast emerges.

    Right place, right time

    An outdoor Burns supper.

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