New Whiskies

Batch 124

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Batch 124: Benrinnes, The Gauldrons, Glenburgie, Glentauchers, Linkwood and Miltonduff

This week’s batch of new whiskies is a mixed bag in more ways than one, comprising a pair of Wemyss single malts, a rarely spotted Campbeltown blended malt and a trio of single malts trespassing on blended territory by sporting the Ballantine’s brand name.

The latter confuses our chief engineer Dave Broom somewhat, and it’s fair to say that he’s less than convinced by the 15-year-old threesome – the keystone Ballantine’s malts of Glenburgie, Glentauchers and Miltonduff. An exercise that could have emphasised their respective distillery characters has instead blunted them, he believes.

Ironically, you can’t say that about Douglas Laing’s The Gauldrons, even though this is a blended malt. Its success says much about the existence of a distinct Campbeltown style – and the capturing of that style in this bottling.

Both Wemyss releases also put distillery character on show – to a fault in the case of a Benrinnes expression that could have done with a bit more cask activity to balance its unmistakable distillate.

The other Wemyss offering is a Linkwood christened ‘Under the Lemon Tree’, which gives a clue to its fragrant, floral, fruity flavour profile. While it may not be the weightiest single malt out there, Broom reckons it’d make a cracking aperitif.

Scoring Explained

Overview

  • Benrinnes 1997 ‘Liquorice Potion’ (Wemyss Malts)

    Benrinnes 1997 ‘Liquorice Potion’ (Wemyss Malts)
    Price band
    £ £ £ £ £
    ABV
    46%
    Production type
    Single malt whisky
    Region
    Speyside
    Flavour camp
    Fruity & Spicy
    Nose

    Heavy (in terms of distillate style) and quite meaty, with some of the distillery-derived sulphur still hanging around. There’s a smoked meat element, some boggy earth and wet moss, and while you get glimpses of a sweet core, there’s not inconsiderable nose burn. The sulphur element persists when water is added, though now the heavier elements take on the aroma of a chocolate mole (that’s Mexican food, not some weird Scottish confectionery).

    Palate

    A sweet start, but it’s hot. There’s some some sugared almond and those light, sweet fruits at the centre, along with a grounded richness, but the heat interferes with flavour progression and development. It’s considerably better with water, with more earthy/meaty elements coming through – but there’s also that sulphur.

    Finish

    Hot.

    Conclusion

    The Ben is a sulphury new make, but in time this flies off to reveal its complex, meaty core. The fact that this new make element is still there, along with the relatively high heat, suggests the cask has been somewhat relaxed in its job. A more active cask – or more time – would have helped. That said, there’s personality here.

    Right place, right time

    A style that would appeal to Francis Mallman.

    The Gauldrons (Douglas Laing)

    The Gauldrons (Douglas Laing)
    Price band
    £ £ £ £ £
    ABV
    46.2%
    Production type
    Blended malt whisky
    Region
    Campbeltown
    Flavour camp
    Fruity & Spicy
    Nose

    An abundance of lemon notes to start with, backed by a ghee-like element, wet raffia/rushes. Then deeper fruits and liquorice allsorts come through, alongside cinnamon balls and, finally, some saline, maritime elements. Water brings out a slight cream cheese element. 

    Palate

    A smokiness now develops and, though it is in the background, it adds a counterweight to the oily texture. If anything, it needs some water to disturb the smooth sheen. The smoke moves steadily towards an applewood-like, scented, singed edge. Water shows more juiced fruits, that salty pickle-like element and spice. Very well-composed, but at the same time discreet.

    Finish

    Liquorice once more. Maybe just a little short.

    Conclusion

    It’s Campbeltown all right. A new series to watch and enjoy.

    Right place, right time

    Campbeltown’s ‘Bay of Storms’.

    Glenburgie 15 Years Old ‘Ballantine’s’

    Glenburgie 15 Years Old ‘Ballantine’s’
    Price band
    £ £ £ £ £
    ABV
    40%
    Production type
    Single malt whisky
    Region
    Speyside
    Flavour camp
    Fruity & Spicy
    Nose

    A quite dry, almost starchy nose (laundry starch), then honeycomb wax mixed with blackberry and black butter. Some hefty cask involvement, adding heavy vanilla overtones, some millionaire’s shortbread and pears poached in red wine. With water, there’s caramel toffee and oak.

    Palate

    Light, crisp wood elements here as well, though they add a certain grip to a thick, bunched-up mid-section. Manages to be light in terms of distillate, yet ponderous and thick. Water doesn’t alleviate this effect and things remain bulked-up. On the back palate it splits, with the sweetness heading one way and a bitter edge developing.

    Finish

    The light, sweet, gentle element of distillery character finally comes through for a second before oak and bitter notes return.

    Conclusion

    Apparently this has been ‘matured in carefully selected oak casks’, which begs the question how random the normal process is. An oddly unsatisfying dram and not what I expected from Glenburgie.

    Right place, right time

    Fighting in a sumo suit.

    Glentauchers 15 Years Old ‘Ballantine’s’

    Glentauchers 15 Years Old ‘Ballantine’s’
    Price band
    £ £ £ £ £
    ABV
    40%
    Production type
    Single malt whisky
    Region
    Speyside
    Flavour camp
    Fruity & Spicy
    Nose

    Sweet and juicily fruity to start with. Quite bold and fat for ‘Tauchers with a gentle undercurrent of raspberry (jam skimmings), a background of freshly planed wood and, in time, cheesecake base. When diluted (and be careful with the water), it becomes more creamy with some butterscotch before drying.

    Palate

    A buttery opening, with some light red fruits, and the same sort of fat, sweet, caramelised element seen on the Glenburgie. Here, though, there’s a touch of Jaffa Cakes. The middle this time has a certain hollowness and lack of definition. Water shows it to be a light-bodied spirit surrounded by toffee, hot chocolate powder and then blackcurrant. Everything seems blurred.

    Finish

    Chocolate-covered raspberries. Slight bitter touch.

    Conclusion

    ‘Matured in traditional casks’, which begs the question what else is being used. Something non-traditional might have given a more exciting result. Easy-drinking, yet forgettable.

    Right place, right time

    A carpenter’s elevenses.

    Linkwood 1995 ‘Under The Lemon Tree’ (Wemyss Malts)

    Linkwood 1995 ‘Under The Lemon Tree’ (Wemyss Malts)
    Price band
    £ £ £ £ £
    ABV
    46%
    Production type
    Single malt whisky
    Region
    Speyside
    Flavour camp
    Fragrant & Floral
    Nose

    Fragrant from the off. Light apple and a natural sweetness that moves towards fruit syrups. The typical Linkwood purity is to the fore, adding a charm and gracefulness with delicate hints of flowers, then sakura (cherry blossom) liqueur. Water continues the orchard theme with some hot apple pie, then lemon verbena and ginger tea. Rather lovely.

    Palate

    Lifted and lightly perfumed, with clean acidity. There’s a jag of Amalfi lemon that is heading towards almost yuzu-like intensity before things settle into a more controlled and relatively soft progression. Water shows the low wood influence and brings back the zest before osmanthus and lily come back. Just might lack a little substance.

    Finish

    Surprisingly dry. A little short.

    Conclusion

    There’s good, identifiable distillery character on show and, while it might just lack a little weight and length, this is a lovely dram. Best served chilled as an aperitif.

    Right place, right time

    Entertained by a geisha in Elgin.

    Miltonduff 15 Years Old ‘Ballantine’s’

    Miltonduff 15 Years Old ‘Ballantine’s’
    Price band
    £ £ £ £ £
    ABV
    40%
    Production type
    Single malt whisky
    Region
    Speyside
    Flavour camp
    Fruity & Spicy
    Nose

    A mix of dried flowers and a distant, slightly dry spiciness. Then comes some toffee (again) and a developing aroma like a traditional Scottish ale with caramelised malt and some heavy florals. Water thins it out, so I’d leave alone.

    Palate

    Fat and sweet – so in line with the Glenburgie and the Glentauchers – but there’s some fragrant elements as the distillery tries to poke through, only to be blocked by thick toffee and black fruits. The spice tries to fight against this, but by the time it hits the mid-palate everything has lost definition. Water shows some grassy elements and brings in some dry wood, with the sweetness coming. Again there’s this sense of a splitting of the elements.

    Finish

    Black fruits, then bitterness.

    Conclusion

    I must confess that I don’t get the blurring of lines between single malt and blend, which I fear will just cause confusion. That aside, I can’t help but feel that this is a missed opportunity to show three really excellent distilleries. Their individual characters have been blunted instead of emphasised. The result is that all three are blandly interchangeable. A shame.

    Right place, right time

    Driving in a rainstorm, windscreen wipers malfunctioning.

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