New Whiskies

Batch 112

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Batch 112: a battle of blended malt whiskies (plus one blend)

Dave Broom enters the world of blended malts (plus one blend) to find whisky makers enjoying the ability to draw on different elements to produce complex drams that are amazing value for money.

Starting off is a discreet 18-year-old blend from Cadenhead Creations that has him pondering lemon meringue pie, lashings of Chantilly cream and an opportunity to cause havoc in a certain Penrith tearoom.

Next up is the Scotch Malt Whisky Society’s first foray into blended malts – and what a foray it is. A chewy and unctuous palate and PX-like Sherry cask aromas have Broom happily exploring the inner workings of an old antique shop.

The bar-exclusive Smokey Monkey from Monkey Shoulder has him ordering us all down the bar to try out its peat-accented balance, while the splendid new blended malt by Naked Grouse – aimed at ‘older millennials’ – has him salivating over Tunnock's tea cakes and digestive biscuits, and considering a cheeky Bobby Burns.

Finally, Broom tries two new additions to the Wemyss Malts Family Collection. First Treacle Chest – a Highland blended malt with a huge nose and an elegant richness that has him uttering guttural Glaswegian in delight.

Last (and by a few small marks least) on this list is Vanilla Burst, a nevertheless excellent-value blended malt from Speyside, which has him reciting a well-deserved celebratory haiku.

Scoring Explained

Overview

  • Cadenhead Creations, Light Creamy Vanilla, Batch 8

    Cadenhead Creations, Light Creamy Vanilla, Batch 8
    Price band
    £ £ £ £ £
    ABV
    44.6%
    Production type
    Blended Scotch whisky
    Region
    n/a
    Flavour camp
    Fragrant & Floral
    Nose

    On first encounter, there’s more light to this than cream – or vanilla, come to think of it. Vaporous, with white flowers, some ice-cold butter, lemon meringue pie/cream-filled meringues and then meadow grass. Discreet, but you need to work at it – or just add water to bring out more overt American oak – wood shavings and mature elements, albeit within the white fruit/lemon frame. There’s additional herbal touches: lemon thyme, camomile, elderflower.

    Palate

    It’s much fuller on the tongue, and considerably sweeter also: apple sponge and lashings of Chantilly cream. It’s almost too sweet when it’s neat, so the addition of water not only softens, but dries things slightly – the herbs are now joined by some mint, and there’s a pep akin to old-fashioned lemonade.

    Finish

    Creamy, but with green edges.

    Conclusion

    Maybe it lacks massive complexity, but it’s rather delicious and who can (or should) argue with that at under £50?

    Right place, right time

    ‘We want the finest whiskies available to humanity!’

    Exotic Cargo 10 Years Old (SMWS)

    Exotic Cargo 10 Years Old (SMWS)
    Price band
    £ £ £ £ £
    ABV
    50%
    Production type
    Blended malt whisky
    Region
    n/a
    Flavour camp
    Rich & Round
    Nose

    Big, fat and full of the glossy, polished generosity of good Sherry casks, with a nod towards PX-like density. There’s a background of baked fruit (plum compôte) and raisin before you’re taken off to the back room of an antique shop – albeit one that’s burning sandalwood incense. With water, there’s a light burnt element, reminiscent of molasses and a touch of browning meat: goat, methinks. Things have now become more oily and robust.

    Palate

    Chewy and unctuous, the alcohol finally shows itself, making this a bit more of a prickly customer than the avuncular nose suggests. In other words, add water to calm the heat, soften the tannin and bring out treacle toffee, bay leaf, barberry, Agen prunes and a thick, glazed feel like pomegranate molasses.

    Finish

    Chewy, ripe, with light sweet spices.

    Conclusion

    A first blended malt for the Society and a welcome addition to its range – and at a very tempting price. Snap one up.

    Right place, right time

    The highly-polished auctioneer brings down his gavel.

    Monkey Shoulder Smokey Monkey

    Monkey Shoulder Smokey Monkey
    Price band
    £ £ £ £ £
    ABV
    40%
    Production type
    Blended malt whisky
    Region
    n/a
    Flavour camp
    Smoky & Peaty
    Nose

    There’s no attempt to hide the smoke here: it comes straight at you with deep phenols, a little hint of Neoprene, then picks up a fragrant, cherry wood-like perfume before driving forward with scents of pine logs spitting on a fire and a whiff of fresh linoleum. While all of this is going on, there’s a steadily building aroma of cooked fruits, dried flowers and bread-and-butter pudding which, when water is added, moves into Sherry trifle.

    Palate

    Although the smoke is everywhere, there’s an integration and balance here which means that one element never totally dominates. A lift of soft fruit is accompanied by burning sage and rosemary, before some peachiness comes through in the mid-palate, along with vanilla and coconut. Spices begin to be released on the end.

    Finish

    Peppery, a hint of barbecued pork.

    Conclusion

    The key here is the balance struck between smoke and sweetness. Bartenders will love this and, as it’s only available in those establishments, it’s best to belly up.

    Right place, right time

    Is it smoke, or haar rolling in?

    The Naked Grouse

    The Naked Grouse
    Price band
    £ £ £ £ £
    ABV
    40%
    Production type
    Blended malt whisky
    Region
    n/a
    Flavour camp
    Rich & Round
    Nose

    A rich and fairly malty start – like a health food store with sacks full of bran and raisins. Then comes sticky toffee pudding cut with light bitter orange elements. Things now veer towards the sweet counter: moist Jamaica ginger cake, melting Tunnock’s caramel wafer, blackcurrant pie, but always this firm backbone adding some cedar and maltiness. With water, things become more toffee-like, with added plump red fruit.

    Palate

    Big, gentle and soft. Things start sweetly; this time it’s Demerara sugar-topped semi-dried fruits, blueberry muffins and chocolate digestive biscuits. It dries towards the back palate as the light tannins, oak and malt (giving some Assam tea notes) begin to rise in the mix again, but without disrupting the (excellent) balance. Water reveals the complexity. On one hand, there's gentle fruit: sultana, mixed peels; a spicy mid-palate: mace and cumin; then a clear oak structure. Really rather splendid.

    Finish

    Long, fruity, with a grating of cacao.

    Conclusion

    How good will this be in a Rob Roy or Bobby Burns? Highly drinkable – which you’re probably not allowed to say any more, but think of it this way: there are contemplative drams which are intellectual exercises, and there are some which are targeted straight at the pleasure zones. This is one of those, and at £25 you’d be daft not to try it.

    Right place, right time

    A vegan has a crisis of conscience outside the Tunnock’s factory.

    Treacle Chest, Family Collection (Wemyss Malts)

    Treacle Chest, Family Collection (Wemyss Malts)
    Price band
    £ £ £ £ £
    ABV
    46%
    Production type
    Blended malt whisky
    Region
    Highland
    Flavour camp
    Rich & Round
    Nose

    Big. No, huge. A massive, resinous opening like a luthier’s workshop: all wood glues, oil-soaked cloth and a heady beeswax drowsiness. Then comes the scent of old Calvados (with added pear), which rises and then recedes as cherry pie tobacco/old pipe bowl aromas begin to develop. Complex, in other words. Water enhances all of this, adding a little more roundness and further depth. Multi-dimensional and seriously good.

    Palate

    As you’d expect from that nose, the richness hugs the tongue, but as well as the resins there are new layers of exotic fruits, bitter chocolate and a touch of smoke like burning juniper wood. The tannins remain soft and, in time, there’s a chestnut honey sweetness.

    Finish

    Long, thick, complex.

    Conclusion

    This is from first-fill Sherry hoggies – and you know I’m a sucker for those. Elegant, layered, rich and balanced – and again for less than 50 notes. I’ve had whiskies at five times this price which weren’t as good. For all of youse [Glaswegian grammar alert] who say there’s no value in whisky, think again.

    Right place, right time

    Walking in rain-soaked old growth pine woods, which seems a good time to ask you to help save the Caledonian forest.

    Vanilla Burst, Family Collection (Wemyss Malts)

    Vanilla Burst, Family Collection (Wemyss Malts)
    Price band
    £ £ £ £ £
    ABV
    46%
    Production type
    Blended malt whisky
    Region
    Speyside
    Flavour camp
    Fruity & Spicy
    Nose

    The ‘vanilla’ is on the clotted cream side of things, and comes with added spice and a fine dusting of powdered ginger. There’s some crisp oak and a tiny, muguet-like floral element before green apple tales the lead, along with cut grass and unripe peaches. With water there’s a light lavender scent – an old lady’s chest of drawers – and almond paste. It remains quite intense.

    Palate

    Better delivery on the palate, with a lightly grippy structure and more overt vanilla alongside this clean, dry oak element. There’s a burst of green grape, lemon and apple in the middle of the tongue, with a higher-than-expected spiciness which makes it just a little spiky.

    Finish

    Spicy, then oak.

    Conclusion

    I won’t go on about price again [er, you just have – Ed], but this ticks all the boxes.

    Right place, right time

    Freshly mown grass
    Clinging to my shoes
    My muddled thoughts

    Well done Gracie Starkey!

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