New Whiskies

Batch 101

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New whisky tasting notes Batch 101

Lidl nearly broke the internet last month with the launch of its new series of single malt Scotch whiskies – hardly surprising when you learn that they cost just £17.49 each. But are they any good? Well, though each whisky drinker will have their own opinion, Dave Broom is pretty impressed overall by this bargain line-up. Broom begins with Lidl’s Highland bottling, which has notes of chocolate, espresso and citrus fruits – all working together to deliver an ‘easy-drinking, everyday dram’.  

Next is a ‘belter’ of an Islay bottling from the discount supermarket, with flavours of candied hazelnut, brine and steak rub. This is followed by a fruity Speyside Scotch, rich with raisins, rhubarb tart and cinnamon.

This week’s tasting notes then take a ‘fresh’ turn with a 28-year-old Fettercairn from indie bottler Cadenhead, which would have been perfect for this week’s summer heatwave in the UK.  

Highland Park Valkyrie is poured next, with earthy notes combined with chocolate brownie, fragrant peat and ‘exemplary balance’.

Finishing Batch 101 is the second release in Johnnie Walker’s experimental Blenders’ Batch range, Johnnie Walker Blenders’ Batch Bourbon Cask & Rye Finish, which is made up of more than 200 whiskies. It might make you rethink everything you thought you knew about Scotch… 

Scoring Explained

Overview

  • Ben Bracken Highland (Lidl)

    Ben Bracken Highland (Lidl)
    Price band
    £ £ £ £ £
    ABV
    40%
    Production type
    Single malt whisky
    Region
    Highland
    Flavour camp
    Fruity & Spicy
    Nose

    Some mild heat. Fruity, citric and slightly oaty. A youthful edginess is apparent before cooked-down red fruits start to come through. Water brings out praline, hot sawdust, syrup, a sappy element and char. Benefits from some time. 

    Palate

    A sweet start and pretty thickly textured with those cooked citrus fruits re-emerging. Bitter chocolate/espresso grounds come in early doors, along with a burnt toast element. Slightly jumbled in the middle, but highly drinkable and enjoyable. Water lightens things a lot and adds in dry oak, so be careful when diluting. 

    Finish

    Still thick when neat. Blackberry and apple pie filling (tinned, of course).

    Conclusion

    A rock-solid, easy-drinking, everyday dram. 

    Right place, right time

    Paddington was left on his own to make breakfast.

    Ben Bracken Islay (Lidl)

    Ben Bracken Islay (Lidl)
    Price band
    £ £ £ £ £
    ABV
    40%
    Production type
    Single malt whisky
    Region
    Islay
    Flavour camp
    Smoky & Peaty
    Nose

    Big smoke from the off. It’s like hoiking a kipper straight from the kiln onto the breakfast table and having it with fried banana and Scotch pancakes (also fried, of course). A briny element lurks in the background. The smoke dominates when water is added, as you are dragged inexorably towards a stormy sea.

    Palate

    This has the same chewy texture as the Highland. To begin with, there’s a refreshing lemon and green apple lift, along with a hint of candied hazelnut. As the smoke pulls back, there’s elements of pimentón and steak rub on the back palate. It’s fairly dry. Water adds a touch of brine, more smoke and an increasingly drying effect.

    Finish

    Thick and a little oily when neat. Massively spicy. Dry.

    Conclusion

    Bold and smoky. Though there’s not quite enough mid-palate sweetness for me, it’s another belter for the price. 

    Right place, right time

    He wondered why no-one else had applied for the position of chief kipper wrangler.

    Ben Bracken Speyside (Lidl)

    Ben Bracken Speyside (Lidl)
    Price band
    £ £ £ £ £
    ABV
    40%
    Production type
    Single malt whisky
    Region
    Speyside
    Flavour camp
    Fruity & Spicy
    Nose

    Light mashy notes to start with, alongside crisp oak and lilac. Soon, however, they are overtaken by banana chews and thick, creamy vanilla. There’s a little rum & raisin ice cream in the mix, suggesting that there’s a Sherry cask or two lurking in the depths. It seems juicy and fruity, but give it time and a little water and things become delightfully floral, with heady jasmine and night-scented flowers. Worth the wait. 

    Palate

    Again, this is sweet to start with and takes its time to open. There’s some runny honey, while hints of cinnamon and Bakewell tart add another layer. Though it lacks a little definition, it’s got real enthusiasm. There’s rhubarb tart, caramel and some elegance when it’s diluted.

    Finish

    Long, with a light raisin element.

    Conclusion

    A knockout at the price. Form a queue. 

    Right place, right time

    Saturday mornings, midsummer. All together now...

    Fettercairn 28 Years Old (Cadenhead)

    Fettercairn 28 Years Old (Cadenhead)
    Price band
    £ £ £ £ £
    ABV
    55.4%
    Production type
    Single malt whisky
    Region
    Highland
    Flavour camp
    Fragrant & Floral
    Nose

    Hugely fresh. Green bananas to open with, which swiftly move into pineapple, complete with a light, clove-like edge, before melon rind, gingery heat, then lemongrass. There’s glimmerings of weight, especially with water, which adds subtle hints of cask and old apple cores.

    Palate

    Intense and effervescent. Strawberry chews, elderflower cordial, Yellow Chartreuse (though not so sweet). Delicious and summery. Water brings out grapefruit.

    Finish

    Lightly chalky, medium length.

    Conclusion

    Probably at its best neat, chilled, served in a Champagne flute. The perfect summer dram. Over to you, Whyte & Mackay! 

    Right place, right time

    ‘Judy Henske and Jerry Ester, did you say?’

    ‘No, Yester.’

    ‘That’s what I said, Ester.’

    Ach never mind, just listen.’

    Highland Park Valkyrie

    Highland Park Valkyrie
    Price band
    £ £ £ £ £
    ABV
    45.9%
    Production type
    Single malt whisky
    Region
    Islands
    Flavour camp
    Smoky & Peaty
    Nose

    Sweet and quite soft. Initially it reminded me of spotted dick and custard, with any smoke low in the mix. There’s some lemon and then hints of chocolate and cooked damson as some Sherried muscle begins to flex itself. Add water and there’s more turfy smoke with some of the funkiness of a fino en rama.

    Palate

    More revealing than the nose. Things are still sweet, but balanced and gentle to start, then around the middle of the tongue you get the impression of clouds gathering and a storm building. There’s an increased earthiness, with the peat building, adding fragrance and depth rather than overt smoke. Some of those depths are diminished with water, but the exemplary balance is retained.

    Finish

    Chocolate brownie, Seville orange, then cracked black pepper.

    Conclusion

    A rather considerate Valkyrie (they get a bad press), but still with sufficient edge to make you treat her with due deference. 

    Right place, right time

    Less Wagner, more Maya Beiser.

    Johnnie Walker Blenders’ Batch Bourbon Cask & Rye Finish

    Johnnie Walker Blenders’ Batch Bourbon Cask & Rye Finish
    Price band
    £ £ £ £ £
    ABV
    40%
    Production type
    Blended Scotch whisky
    Region
    n/a
    Flavour camp
    Fruity & Spicy
    Nose

    Straight rye accents from the off: allspice, red fruits, anise, pomegranate, menthol and cocktail cherries, but just as you begin thinking of Kentucky, a green, ferny/oak moss/vetiver perfume comes in, snapping the focus back to Scotland. Hints of vanilla, flowers and strawberry, while with water things become softer and fruitier, with added marzipan, saffron and, in time, resinous elements.

    Palate

    Barley sugars to start, rather than rye’s crackling spices. Soft grain adds a calm mellowness to the mid-palate, bringing out milk chocolate and crème brûlée. A light touch of sweet spice begins to develop towards the finish, along with lemon. Water makes things surprisingly delicate.

    Finish

    Long, rye-accented.

    Conclusion

    The second in the Walker team’s re-imaginings of what Scotch could be. Is this a new direction? Yes. Identifiably Scotch? Yes – just not as you’ve perhaps imagined it. Try with ginger ale or an ice ball. Can’t help wondering what it would have been like at 46% though…

    Right place, right time

    Dreaming of bluegrass, doused in Old Spice, he headed off to the Goth in Cardenden.

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