New Whiskies

Batch 127

by
Batch 127: Bowmore, Johnnie Walker Blue Label Ghost & Rare, Raasay While We Wait, The Tweeddale

Here at Scotchwhisky.com, we maintain that personal impressions and their verbal description are far more important than scores – but when Dave Broom gives three out of six whiskies a mark of 90-plus, you know you’re in for a treat. Add in the fact that two of those three whiskies are blends, and that treat acquires rarity value.

Three of the whiskies tasted this week are single malts from Bowmore but, while all are very good indeed, only one can claim to be a member of the 90-plus club. That said, Cadenhead’s 14-year-old example offers good value and distillery character, while the Vintner’s Trilogy bottling – its maturation split between ex-Bourbon and ex-red wine barriques – is a bold dram that only misses out on a 90 by a bat’s squeak.

Broom falls over himself in praising the singular, fruit-driven intensity of Bowmore 1966. ‘Just amazing’ he enthuses, before adding an important caveat: the price (£20,000) is ‘utterly ludicrous’.

The two blends are split by the latest ‘While We Wait’ Highland single malt from the nascent Raasay distillery – a ‘fun dram’ that Broom suggests might offer a precursor of what the island single malt could offer in the future.

And those blends? First, there’s Johnnie Walker Blue Label Ghost & Rare, the new limited edition blend built around closed (but soon to reopen) Highland distillery Brora. It is, says Broom, a ‘masterpiece of the art’ of blending – and a timely reminder of that fact in these single malt-obsessed times.

That lesson is further brought home by the final whisky of the week, the latest Tweeddale blend from Raasay owner R&B Distillers. It is, says Broom, ‘great blending, creating a story on the palate’. Anyone fancy going on a bear hunt?

Scoring Explained

Overview

  • Bowmore 14 Years Old (Cadenhead)

    Bowmore 14 Years Old (Cadenhead)
    Price band
    £ £ £ £ £
    ABV
    56.2%
    Production type
    Single malt whisky
    Region
    Islay
    Flavour camp
    Smoky & Peaty
    Nose

    One of those Bowmores which speak (initially at least) of mineral salts rather than peat, or flowers, or fruit. There’s hot sea shells, and a dry, almost sandy quality with hints of seaweed/lettuce, then some light lemon, before green pear comes in and a glancing nod to smokiness. The sweetness is sufficient to maintain the balance. Water shows how distillate-driven things are, while a note of fennel seed takes it off into another area. There’s now slightly more smoke, and a hint of Brasso.

    Palate

    A sweet start, with a herbal, wildflower quality. It seems quite frothy, but pay attention and you realise that there’s a full belly here – more substance than the nose suggests. The smoke is light, while the mineral edge only emerges relatively late. Adding water transforms it totally, adding much more fleshy fruits, while that anise accent becomes more forceful. The zing from the alcohol adds another element, so don’t overwater.

    Finish

    Sweet pear, then salinity. Manzanilla-esque.

    Conclusion

    A refreshing and rewarding dram from this shape-shifter of a distillery.

    Right place, right time

    Walking along the shore, wind blowing sand in the face.

    Bowmore 26 Years Old, The Vintner’s Trilogy

    Bowmore 26 Years Old, The Vintner’s Trilogy
    Price band
    £ £ £ £ £
    ABV
    48.7%
    Production type
    Single malt whisky
    Region
    Islay
    Flavour camp
    Smoky & Peaty
    Nose

    Big, wooded, with autumnal leaf mulch and a mix of dark chocolate, black cherry and, to start with, wood embers. Then it seems as if the act of inhaling has brought the peat fire back to life. The embers glow, smoke (and flame) returns. There’s now a decidedly maritime edge to things, with treacley phenols. The fruits bully their way through, more concentrated now, with a red and black mix: blackberry and hawthorn jam, rosehip syrup. There’s also a hit of meatiness. It’s complex and slightly wood-driven, but also much smokier than you expect from a Bowmore of this age. Water brings out mossier elements and char.

    Palate

    When neat, it’s very rich, thick and liquorous, with mature wood notes, with smoke running through the length of the palate. There’s some leather and then, on the back palate, a light grip, sootiness and the mixed fruits seen on the nose. While water initially softens and sweetens things, in time there’s more acidity and tannin coming into play, which just slightly knocks the overall balance. The wood certainly shows more of itself as it develops – but I’m being super picky.

    Finish

    Ashes and then fresh fruit, more wood and ash.

    Conclusion

    Aged for 13 years in ex-Bourbon, then the same time in red wine barriques, this is Bowmore at its boldest, but with signs on the finish that it is (or was) moving into the third stage of its evolution.

    Right place, right time

    Chestnuts roasting by an open fire (honestly!). Take it away, Nat.

    Bowmore 1966, 50 Years Old

    Bowmore 1966, 50 Years Old
    Price band
    £ £ £ £ £
    ABV
    41.5%
    Production type
    Single malt whisky
    Region
    Islay
    Flavour camp
    Fruity & Spicy
    Nose

    Amazing concentration of fruit. So ludicrous, in fact, that you have to laugh. There’s mango, guava, papaya, lots of kiwi, a hint of rose, some ripe peach, then banana and fragrant quince. Compressed, sweet and explosive. It seems to be whisky, but actually occupies a different space in the world of pure aroma. If the 26-year-old was all about crepuscular, smoke-filled mysteries, this is about sunlight and brightness. It’s open, with a lack of guile or contrivance. It just is what it is. As it develops, there’s this tiny touch of salinity and a mild indication of fade. The bleached oak also begins to nudge its way in on the sides, while the fruits pick up a little more brightness, become more yellow, sharp. Just amazing.

    Palate

    A burst of fruits, but what else were you expecting? It’s almost Cognac-like, but without the headiness; this is fruits reduced to an essence, but not caramelised or in any way losing their individual identities. That acidity seen on the developed nose is here as well, while there’s a slight sour green mango edge that’s needed to add balance and an extra layer of complexity, as well as an anise note.

    Finish

    Fades, leaving flavours of caraway and apple shrub.

    Conclusion

    A sip is enough (a sip is all most people could afford). A farewell – or maybe a precursor of what will once again emerge? The price is utterly ludicrous, however. Is there a solution to this?

    Right place, right time

    On some faraway beach. Slipping away.

    Johnnie Walker Blue Label Ghost & Rare

    Johnnie Walker Blue Label Ghost & Rare
    Price band
    £ £ £ £ £
    ABV
    46%
    Production type
    Blended Scotch whisky
    Region
    n/a
    Flavour camp
    Fruity & Spicy
    Nose

    Gentle, complex and almost understated. Softly fruity, with a waxy maturity, yet subtle, layered and enigmatic, it seems to flit between the fruit, a kind of silky creaminess, some smoke – even a mineral note – soft citrus, old cedar wood, dried raspberry leaf and agave syrup. Totally relaxed, and comfortable in its skin but, unlike the Bowmore, this is somehow veiled, hard to pin down and, as a result, there’s an intrigue to its development. Initially it seems fresh and sweet, but then you notice the evidence of maturity. There’s a patina to it, the aromas less driven by oak and more by air and time. Fresh white fruits, with a blast of cold spring air, birch sap and banana skin and, in time, fragrant smoke, light camphor, then tangerine marmalade. You keep coming back for more. Each time it shifts further away.

    Palate

    Thick and mouth-clinging, it’s like drinking silk. There’s some jellied fruits then, just as they seem to be rising to take the upper hand, in come the marine notes. Subtle, layered and with finesse. A little water pushes things in the middle and back palate without losing any of the textural qualities. If anything, it amplifies them, making you realise that this is as much about feel as flavour. In the same way as the nose never quite reveals itself fully, you get the blandness of poached pear, heathery smoke, and then a sweet spot in the middle where fruits and syrups rest. A slight acidity gives a Bellini-like sparkle before it shifts again and the beeswax returns, clinging and unctuous with this floral, Viognier-like quality.

    Finish

    Long and – dare I say – haunting.

    Conclusion

    This is about movement and time, flashes like memories rising then receding as others take their place. You can only get this effect by blending. In fact, it is what blending is about, and this is a masterpiece of that art.

    Right place, right time

    Slow, ever-changing, hard to pin down. It’s the liquid equivalent of The Necks.

    Raasay While We Wait, 3rd Release

    Raasay While We Wait, 3rd Release
    Price band
    £ £ £ £ £
    ABV
    46%
    Production type
    Single malt whisky
    Region
    Highland
    Flavour camp
    Smoky & Peaty
    Nose

    Pale onion skin colour, indicative of the red wine cask finish, which also comes through in the aromas of fresh raspberry. There’s a hint of smoke to start with, but it’s more about light green pear, sherbet dabs and candied fruit. There’s some light citrus and some creaminess, then the smoke steadily becomes more overt. Water brings out a slight youthful edginess, with the smoke now like your clothes the morning after a bonfire.

    Palate

    A new, lightly nutty (almond/panforte) element, some more red fruits and plenty of smoke from the off. Each element – fruit, peat, oak – has its own say, but there’s decent balance. Water is beneficial, bringing out some more mature elements, while the fruits are allowed to spread across the tongue. In time, the smoke comes back with an appetising, smoky bacon quality.

    Finish

    Light spice and some smoke.

    Conclusion

    If it could benefit from slightly more integration, it’s a fun dram and indicative of the possibilities of the Raasay approach.

    Right place, right time

    A blaze at the ‘pick-your-own’ berry farm.

    The Tweeddale The Evolution 28 Years Old

    The Tweeddale The Evolution 28 Years Old
    Price band
    £ £ £ £ £
    ABV
    52%
    Production type
    Blended Scotch whisky
    Region
    n/a
    Flavour camp
    Fruity & Spicy
    Nose

    Mature and elegant, with some spiced honey, freshly applied varnish, chocolate ganache, cherry brandy and cedar oil. It lightens slightly in time, with elements of peach and sugared almond giving a lift before it plunges once more into a mix of dried fruit, sweet date and black, berry fruits. Immediate and quite intense. Water brings out creamy, minty toffee (Murray Mints), some cinnamon, nutmeg and chocolate.

    Palate

    A sweet start, with fresh fruits (apricot especially), which then become more syrupy and mingle with the gentle caramel toffee in the mid-palate, before a darker, slightly earthier depth reveals itself: raisin, fig, bitter chocolate. The bite from the alcohol adds a certain frisson. All of those elements roll into each other beautifully. Water brings up the grain, adding a fat, slightly rummy element with melting milk chocolate. You lose the sense of a journey, but gain a sweeter impact – take your choice.

    Finish

    Juicy fruits. Long.

    Conclusion

    Is it me, or does there seem to be one too many Ds in Tweeddale? That aside, this is great blending, creating a story on the palate. Recommended.

    Right place, right time

    We’re going on a bear hunt…

Scroll To Top