New Whiskies

Batch 107

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New whisky reviews: Ardmore, Benrinnes, Tullibardine, Tomatin, Scallywag, Timorous Beastie

It’s a week for independent bottlings, as Becky Paskin explores a pair of Scotch Malt Whisky Society (SMWS) expressions, two Douglas Laing blended malts and a duo of fruity Highland single malts.

Starting out, a challenging nine-year-old Ardmore bottling by the SMWS not so much flirts with flavour as jolts the palate, although an ‘intriguing’ nose alludes to more.

Following is a rich and fruity 16-year-old number from Benrinnes; a lesser-spotted SMWS bottling of the Diageo-owned distillery that has Paskin lapping up its ‘unctuous’ jam doughnut qualities.

She then moves into Douglas Laing territory with a bottling of Sherried Scallywag; a rich and full-bodied 13-year-old variation from the Glasgow-based stable.

Timorous Beastie 18 Years Old – a vatting of Highland single malts – follows: a well-structured, peachy dram that is anything but beastly.

Next up is an estery and surprisingly youthful 21-year-old Tomatin bottled by Hunter Laing, which despite providing a nostalgic sweetie box of flavours, leaves Paskin with a bitter taste in the mouth.

Finally a rancio-ridden, floral 23-year-old Tullibardine bottling from Cadenhead leaves our editor heading straight for the garden shed.

Scoring Explained

Overview

  • Ardmore 9 Years Old, 66.101 Flirting With Flavour (SMWS)

    Ardmore 9 Years Old, 66.101 Flirting With Flavour (SMWS)
    Price band
    £ £ £ £ £
    ABV
    60.1%
    Production type
    Single malt whisky
    Region
    Highland
    Flavour camp
    Smoky & Peaty
    Nose

    An intriguing nose, initially intense with soft smoke, before giving way to dried apricots and papaya, Jelly Babies skin (crystallised fruit-flavoured sugar), and waxy lemon peel. A smoky earthiness is apparent in the form of white tea leaves and toasted coconut. 

    Palate

    Hot and ethanol-rich. The warmth does subside (eventually), but reveals a waxy, tannic and bitter palate, with subtle notes of citrus peel and pine (where’s the fruit from the nose?). Some toasted oak joins for the ride, bringing just a smidge of vanilla sweetness. It does better with water, which softens the heat, enhances the smoke, enriches the sweetness and provides a thicker texture. But still no fruit.

    Finish

    Smoky, and I can’t feel my cheeks.

    Conclusion

    Flirting with flavour? This dram is so shy it’s running in the opposite direction.

    Right place, right time

    Spurned by his lover, he shoved a hot poker in his mouth. 

    Benrinnes 16 Years Old, 36.132 A Warm Treat (SMWS)

    Benrinnes 16 Years Old, 36.132 A Warm Treat (SMWS)
    Price band
    £ £ £ £ £
    ABV
    58%
    Production type
    Single malt whisky
    Region
    Speyside
    Flavour camp
    Rich & Round
    Nose

    Plummy and malty. Signature Benrinnes fruits intertwine with the effect of the Sherry butt: grilled pineapple, freshly baked jam doughnuts dusted with cinnamon and cooked bananas. Wood polish emerges after some time in the glass.

    Palate

    Rich and fruity, with a thick, unctuous texture (a classic sign that this is a Benrinnes). There’s a whoosh of spice on the mid-palate, then fruitcake, laden with morello cherries, figs and walnuts, and old armchair leather.

    Finish

    Long, a touch smoky and dry.

    Conclusion

    Rich and warming (as the name rightly suggests). A surprising amount of fruit remains after maturation in a virgin oak hogshead for 16 years.

    Right place, right time

    Licking cake crumbs off the settee.

    Scallywag 13 Years Old

    Scallywag 13 Years Old
    Price band
    £ £ £ £ £
    ABV
    46%
    Production type
    Blended malt whisky
    Region
    Speyside
    Flavour camp
    Rich & Round
    Nose

    Rich PX sweetness, dates and stewed pears, caramel sauce and spices toasted in clarified butter – it’s an approachable Sherry bomb.

    Palate

    The sweetness of the nose continues through to the palate, with dark chewy toffee, soft brown sugar and sticky dates. Baking spices – nutmeg, cinnamon – provide warmth, while toasted oak and notes of fruitcake rich in walnuts and sultanas add grip.

    Finish

    Sweet and mild, the spice lingers.

    Conclusion

    Sweet, rich and full-bodied. Would Scallywag’s Sherried older brother be anything but?

    Right place, right time

    Doggy snuggles under a blanket.  

    Timorous Beastie 18 Years Old

    Timorous Beastie 18 Years Old
    Price band
    £ £ £ £ £
    ABV
    46.8%
    Production type
    Blended malt whisky
    Region
    Highland
    Flavour camp
    Fruity & Spicy
    Nose

    Furry peach skin opening up to tinned peach syrup, gooseberries and fizzy Pink Lady apples. It’s a refreshing fruitiness anchored by a malty backbone and light toffee fudginess, which in time exudes vanilla cream.

    Palate

    Silky and fruit-forward, only this time the orchard’s bounty has been baked – Bramley apples and peaches dominate, encapsulated by shortcrust pastry and crème brûlée with an over-torched surface. Oak provides much needed weight. There’s a slight sulphuriness on the mid-palate, which thankfully calms with time – let it breathe for a few minutes after pouring.

    Finish

    Tight, medium length, quite pleasant. 

    Conclusion

    Well constructed, an easy drinker.

    Right place, right time

    Eating a juicy, messy peach in an empty, dusty malt bin. 

    Tomatin 21 Years Old, 1995 (Hunter Laing)

    Tomatin 21 Years Old, 1995 (Hunter Laing)
    Price band
    £ £ £ £ £
    ABV
    50%
    Production type
    Single malt whisky
    Region
    Highland
    Flavour camp
    Fragrant & Floral
    Nose

    Stunted, aside from a light dusty maltiness, like the bottom of an empty Shreddies box. Time reveals pear drops, fresh lemons, mango sorbet and… Blu Tack.

    Palate

    Unexpectedly bitter, which is heightened by an intense heat. Stick with it to find sherbet pips, lemon drops, and, eventually, toasted coconut shavings. Water dampens the heat and goes only some way to sweetening the bitterness. 

    Finish

    Estery. Bitter grapefruit peel and green grass. 

    Conclusion

    So bitter my black tea tastes sweet. A victim of KCS (knackered cask syndrome).

    Right place, right time

    Richard Ashcroft takes a long walk.

    Tullibardine 23 Years Old, 1993 (Cadenhead)

    Tullibardine 23 Years Old, 1993 (Cadenhead)
    Price band
    £ £ £ £ £
    ABV
    47.1%
    Production type
    Single malt whisky
    Region
    Highland
    Flavour camp
    Fragrant & Floral
    Nose

    High estery notes of green apple skin and lemon zest – still demonstrating Tullibardine’s distillery character after 23 years. There’s some rancio hanging around. It’s intense on first nose but calms after resting, allowing some oaky vanilla to peep through.  

    Palate

    Sweet, soft orchard fruit starting to turn – it’s not unpleasant. Think rotting wood in a damp dunnage warehouse. Water reveals a fleeting floral injection of sweet jasmine, before the cask begins to takeover – vanilla and dry oak wash over the mid-palate, dominating the fruit. The rancio, however, remains a constant.

    Finish

    Short, dry and oaky with some spice.

    Conclusion

    A dram of two halves.  

    Right place, right time

    Huddled in the garden shed under an old tweed blanket, listening to the rain.

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