New Whiskies

Batch 105

by
Bunnahabhain Glentauchers North Star Spirits Vega Ben Nevis

For this week’s newly released whisky reviews, Dave Broom turns his attention to a consignment of independently-bottled single and blended malts.

Starting out in the Highlands with a pretty funky number from Ben Nevis, bottled by Douglas Laing as part of its new Consortium of Cards range, Broom moves onto a rancio, roasted pineapple-laced 30-year-old Bunnahabhain by new bottler North Star Spirits.

He heads to Speyside for two Glentauchers – a wood-dominated eight-year-old from Duncan Taylor, and a fruity 26-year-old from Cadenhead, before the battle of the blended malts begins. Duncan Taylor introduces The Huntly, a 19-year-old fruity number, while North Star Spirits puts forward its 23-year-old Vega (named after the star, not the Street Fighter II character or the American singer-songwriter). 

Scoring Explained

Overview

  • Ben Nevis 20 Years Old King of the Hills (Douglas Laing)

    Ben Nevis 20 Years Old King of the Hills (Douglas Laing)
    Price band
    £ £ £ £ £
    ABV
    50%
    Production type
    Single malt whisky
    Region
    Highland
    Flavour camp
    Fruity & Spicy
    Nose

    Smacks you around the nose with a mix of stinky washed rind cheese, and asafoetida funkiness. Heavy spirit with tannery elements and this sulphurous belch. Water calms things down and brings out an agave-like element – raicilla for those who know such things. It’s, er, very Ben Nevis, with little cask. 

    Palate

    Much less pungent. In fact, there’s an oily smoothness which is just disrupted a little by the alcohol. There are flavours of sawdust and butcher’s shop. The sulphur has pretty much gone, but there’s not quite enough from the cask to add another dimension.

    Finish

    Oily and leathery again. 

    Conclusion

    Exhibits that fascinating effect of smelling something which should be off-putting (smelly cheese, stinky tofu), but which on tasting is rather pleasing. The only issue here is the lack of cask influence. 

    Right place, right time

    Peeling your sock off after hiking 30 miles through a bog.

    Bunnahabhain 30 Years Old (North Star Spirits)

    Bunnahabhain 30 Years Old (North Star Spirits)
    Price band
    £ £ £ £ £
    ABV
    52.6%
    Production type
    Single malt whisky
    Region
    Islay
    Flavour camp
    Fruity & Spicy
    Nose

    There’s a touch of rancio from the off: passion fruit, crystallised ginger and then a mix of old and semi-dried soft fruits. A breezy minerality then begins to pick up, alongside waxiness, mint and verbena. Really complex and showing classic relaxed maturation. Water adds a further layer of orchard fruits.

    Palate

    A sweet start. For a second it’s less effusive than the concentration seen on the nose, but by the time it’s in the middle of the mouth there’s a huge retronasal mix of spice and a savoury, baked fruit element that pulls towards crème brûlée, roast pineapple. Elegant and supple. Water increases the thickness and also brings out a new spiciness.

    Finish

    Long and layered. 

    Conclusion

    As good a Bunna’ as I’ve had in ages. Quite a start for this new bottler.

    Right place, right time

    Nebulous nearnesses, mangoes, pomegranates and planes. It’s the ISB again... 

    Glentauchers 8 Years Old (Duncan Taylor)

    Glentauchers 8 Years Old (Duncan Taylor)
    Price band
    £ £ £ £ £
    ABV
    46%
    Production type
    Single malt whisky
    Region
    Speyside
    Flavour camp
    Rich & Round
    Nose

    Huge colour and a thick spread of cocoa/shea butter from the off, along with wood oils, then set honey. It's all about the rambunctious oak. There’s more of the same with water, alongside flat Lucozade, barley sugar and, in time, Starbucks coffee beans and char.

    Palate

    Big, sweet and thick with a massive chocolate/praline hit and tiny touch of baked fruit in the centre. Chewy, with some sticky toffee pudding and chocolate orange. The oak comes through more assertively with water.

    Finish

    Chocolate. Tight though, and firm.

    Conclusion

    A lot of fun, but not complex. Instead it’s wood-dominated.

    Right place, right time

    As eager to please as a spaniel.

    Glentauchers 26 Years Old (Cadenhead)

    Glentauchers 26 Years Old (Cadenhead)
    Price band
    £ £ £ £ £
    ABV
    52.6%
    Production type
    Single malt whisky
    Region
    Speyside
    Flavour camp
    Fragrant & Floral
    Nose

    Slightly hot to start, but there’s a grassy sweetness alongside ripe pear and canteloupe melon, with added, lightly caramelised apricot and balanced oak. In time there’s Calvados notes, a tiny touch of currant leaf, then quince. More oakiness comes out with water, along with soft fruits and polished brass.

    Palate

    Sweet, with light barley and a little heat in the middle. Gooseberry jam and apricot integrate well alongside lavender. Water calms the heat, adding more gently luscious layers. Rather delicious.

    Finish

    Aromatic, long and surprisingly thick.

    Conclusion

    A certain refinement.

    Right place, right time

    A spring walk in Normandy.

    The Huntly 19 Years Old (Duncan Taylor)

    The Huntly 19 Years Old (Duncan Taylor)
    Price band
    £ £ £ £ £
    ABV
    51.9%
    Production type
    Blended malt whisky
    Region
    n/a
    Flavour camp
    Fragrant & Floral
    Nose

    Creamily buttery, with a light, leafy green edge, some dry spice and then pineapple, Williams pear, and fruit eau-de-vie. Becomes increasingly floral and scented: osmanthus and daylily. With water you get the same progression from butter to fragrance.

    Palate

    Soft, yet precise. The mid-palate is all gentle elderflower blossom. Give it time as it grows ever more pleasing. I’d probably have it neat as you lose that clarity and definition when you dilute.

    Finish

    Kiwi fruits. Tingling.

    Conclusion

    Subtle, balanced. Lovely.

    Right place, right time

    Deceptively light, but complex. Cue Tracey Thorn.

    Vega 23 Years Old (North Star Spirits)

    Vega 23 Years Old (North Star Spirits)
    Price band
    £ £ £ £ £
    ABV
    51.1%
    Production type
    Blended malt whisky
    Region
    n/a
    Flavour camp
    Rich & Round
    Nose

    Rich, ripe and dried fruits, with sweet leather (Dunhill store) and a touch of heat. Things move towards sultana and dried strawberry, but you do have to work at it. In time, there’s some heavier, mature oak and cigar. When water is added there’s cacao, and a heather moor dryness.

    Palate

    Much thicker and slightly more expressive. Some chewy depth, blackberry jam/stewed plum/pomegranate molasses, but the heat detracts from this. Water softens things and adds to the rich, Demerara-like sweetness in the middle of the tongue. 

    Finish

    Tobacco. Short.

    Conclusion

    A good dram, just lacking a little length.

    Right place, right time

    Being ushered into Don Corleone’s office.

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