New Whiskies

Batch 104

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New whisky tasting notes: Batch 104

There’s a rich, sweet element to this week’s tasting notes which leaves Dave Broom somewhat concerned about his blood sugar levels. The theme is set with an impressive young Glenrothes bottled by the Scotch Malt Whisky Society (SMWS) – a ‘cracker’, but one that Broom is glad to taste sitting down.

Then we’re off down to Glasgow and the innovative Bartender’s Malt released last week by Auchentoshan. Yes, sweetness abounds, and Broom is wary of the risks of whisky-making by committee, but the overall result is a positive one.

A trio of Port-finished Dalmores simply adds fuel to the fire, combining that stickily fruity distillate with the influence of ex-tawny Port casks supplied by Graham’s. There’s some guilty pleasure here for Broom and, despite some reservations over price, a general thumbs-up for the trilogy of vintage single malts.

It’s not often that Highland Park is considered a palate-cleanser, but a tasting of the distillery’s 10-year-old bottling released to mark the 30th anniversary of Ian Rankin’s crime fiction creation John Rebus provides a savoury finish to this week’s proceedings. It’s a ‘highly sessionable’ dram that would delight the curmudgeonly detective, says Broom.

Scoring Explained

Overview

  • 30.97: Dancing on a Volcano (Glenrothes 9 Years Old, SMWS)

    30.97: Dancing on a Volcano (Glenrothes 9 Years Old, SMWS)
    Price band
    £ £ £ £ £
    ABV
    64.7%
    Production type
    Single malt whisky
    Region
    Speyside
    Flavour camp
    Rich & Round
    Nose

    A lightly oily opening and just a tad hot (though, at 64.7%, it’s not as if you weren’t warned). It’s the start of what becomes this week’s theme: how fruity and sweet can you make things? Big, fortified tones are in here: dried fruit, sultana pricked with mint and a beeswax element surprising in one so young. In time you get a mix of chestnut nougat and chocolate. The impression is of thick dried fruits, tonkatsu sauce (or Stokes Brown Sauce) with some wild fruit edges. With water you get cooked Puy lentils, Lustau East India Sherry and meadow hay.

    Palate

    An overpowering impact of alcohol-laden, dense flavour making me glad I was sitting down when I tasted it. Chewy and supple tannins with a slight astringency. Dense and briary instead, with some coffee grounds. Water makes it more salivatory.

    Finish

    Rich, long, walnuts and raisins.

    Conclusion

    Impressive for one so young. Plucked from the cask at exactly the right moment. A cracker.

    Right place, right time

    Sir Henry, beard dribbled with the detritus of lunch, struck a match and watched Rawlinson End being cleaned.

    Auchentoshan The Bartender’s Malt

    Auchentoshan The Bartender’s Malt
    Price band
    £ £ £ £ £
    ABV
    47%
    Production type
    Single malt whisky
    Region
    Lowland
    Flavour camp
    Fruity & Spicy
    Nose

    A sweet start alongside steaming draff (Ready Brek), then a sudden, pleasing lift of rose and geranium, and strawberry. Citrus zips in, while deeper fruits grunt away in the background. Becomes more perfumed with a big vetiver hit, then bulrush, and a hint of glue which sticks around (if you’ll pardon the pun) when water is added.

    Palate

    Winey notes from the off, and that mix of ripe red fruits adds perfume and soft length. Mid-palate you get a light touch of balancing oak, then green strawberry, angelica and some shiso. When water is added there’s exotic woods and a huge hit of Luxardo Maraschino. Sweetness abounds.

    Finish

    Mix of cooked red and black fruits.

    Conclusion

    Whisky making by committee is always fraught with danger. This, however, works really well. A great initiative and a lovely dram.

    Right place, right time

    Drinking wine for breakfast, thinking of last night’s gin cocktails.

    Dalmore Vintage 2001 (15 Years Old, tawny Port finish)

    Dalmore Vintage 2001 (15 Years Old, tawny Port finish)
    Price band
    £ £ £ £ £
    ABV
    40%
    Production type
    Single malt whisky
    Region
    Highland
    Flavour camp
    Rich & Round
    Nose

    Dalmore has an affinity with Port – it’s that blackcurrant thing. This is sweet with a tiny savoury hint in the background, along with some oak and macadamia. Concentrated fruits dominate: black cherry, plum and blue fruits. More oak and citrus become apparent when water is added.

    Palate

    Sweet and then sweeter still. The distillate weight is there, along with a hint of nuttiness on the side, but basically this is a fruit bomb of a dram which, for a moment, teeters on the brink of being a whisky-finished Port. Black cherry, currants and orchard fruits reduced to syrup. Water shakes out some savoury notes before things sweeten again.

    Finish

    Rosehip syrup.

    Conclusion

    A guilty pleasure and, to be honest, I could only manage half a glass.

    Right place, right time

    For once he was glad that the Bishop of Norwich had been invited (a little Port joke for you all).

    Dalmore Vintage 1998 (18 Years Old, tawny Port finish)

    Dalmore Vintage 1998 (18 Years Old, tawny Port finish)
    Price band
    £ £ £ £ £
    ABV
    44%
    Production type
    Single malt whisky
    Region
    Highland
    Flavour camp
    Rich & Round
    Nose

    A light roseate hue and a heavier and slightly more earthy quality to the nose compared to the 15-year-old, with animal and fruit leathers combining before things deepen into pomegranate molasses, damson jam, Olde English marmalade, wild hedgerow fruits. Robust.

    Palate

    This has more complexity than the 15-year-old. The Port seems better-integrated, with extra spice and fine tannins, while the savoury edge has been brought forward, alongside light meatiness. That grip is needed as this is still sweet, though the fruits are becoming overripe and sightly decayed – which makes things much more interesting flavour-wise. Lush and a burly elegance.

    Finish

    Light acidity. Rowan berry jelly on venison. Still sweet.

    Conclusion

    Has structure and balance, but is a tad steep price-wise.

    Right place, right time

    Rejoicing that the King was saved, they dined on the stag’s heart (a little Dalmore joke for you there).

    Dalmore Vintage 1996 (20 Years Old, tawny Port finish)

    Dalmore Vintage 1996 (20 Years Old, tawny Port finish)
    Price band
    £ £ £ £ £
    ABV
    45%
    Production type
    Single malt whisky
    Region
    Highland
    Flavour camp
    Rich & Round
    Nose

    This has more Sherried tones than Port, the fruits have shifted into the dried realm and become more concentrated, moving into raisin, Dundee cake and a mix of prunes and Ribena. Slightly higher in alcohol – which adds a certain lift and energy, along with some nuttier, oxidised notes drifting towards roasting coffee beans –  a further step into mature funkiness.

    Palate

    Rich and, you guessed it, sweet with flavours now into the realm of liquorice and black fruits alongside a bosky woodland element, akin to super-ripe Cabernet Franc. Massively concentrated (again), with sloe berry bitterness twanging away and adding a much-needed balancing, off-dry element. Water brings out slight astringency and more dried peels.

    Finish

    Thick, long and rich with a savoury edge.

    Conclusion

    Is it make Dave diabetic week or something?

    Right place, right time

    Sloe whisky, anyone?

    Highland Park Rebus30 (10 Years Old)

    Highland Park Rebus30 (10 Years Old)
    Price band
    £ £ £ £ £
    ABV
    40%
    Production type
    Single malt whisky
    Region
    Islands
    Flavour camp
    Smoky & Peaty
    Nose

    Initially things are fresh and tense – impatient even – with fairly assertive smoke in the background and a mineral element which you don’t often see in Highland Park. It steadily shifts towards light nuttiness with a squeeze of lemon and sandalwood before mossy peatiness begins to grow. By the time it’s fully opened there’s earth tones and a whiff of fresh linoleum. When diluted, things become all warm and fuzzy.

    Palate

    Soft, light and creamy to start – all cup cakes and Victoria sponge –  before that green element comes through alongside smoke and coriander spiciness. All the time there’s a grumble of peat muttering away in the background, adding depth, weight and a little menace.

    Finish

    Lightly citric with dark undertones.

    Conclusion

    A highly sessionable dram – which Rebus would approve of.

    Right place, right time

    Once young and full of hope, now there’s a growing sense of curdling despair. He pours another glass. Time for some John Martyn. Stormbringer, Side 2, last track (33.52 in today’s money).

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