New Whiskies

Batch 138

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Batch 138: Aultmore, Benriach, Bladnoch, Glenallachie, Glen Spey, Hedonism The Muse

Tasting duties are shared this week between Dave Broom and Becky Paskin, with the headline whiskies a new Compass Box Hedonism bottling and a celebration of Lowland distillery Bladnoch’s 200th birthday.

Before that, though, we kick off with the first of three single malts from independent bottler Cadenhead: a 20-year-old Aultmore that makes up for its lack of challenging elements by being, well, tasty. It also sets Broom off on a musical journey that continues with the other three whiskies he samples this week.

Paskin takes over for the next two malts, beginning with a 42-year-old BenRiach from Single Malts of Scotland that wears its considerable age lightly, with balance the watchword.

Then comes that Bladnoch Bicentennial bottling, a vatting of two oloroso Sherry hogsheads that was finished for 14 months in Moscatel wine casks. An ‘absolute delight’, enthuses Paskin – although she is less sure about the £5,000 price tag.

Back to Broom and another couple of Cadenheads: a big, if not entirely balanced, Glenallachie, and then a Glen Spey that never quite manages to reconcile spirit delicacy with cask influence.

Broom closes with the latest Compass Box Hedonism blended grain whisky. Hedonism The Muse. Inspired by the fact that women now outnumber men in the Compass Box workforce and released to coincide with International Women’s Day yesterday (8 March), it’s lauded by Broom for its great balance and for bringing a ‘more serious and contemplative’ side to the Hedonism concept.

Scoring Explained

Overview

  • Aultmore-Glenlivet 20 Years Old, 1997 (Cadenhead)

    Aultmore-Glenlivet 20 Years Old, 1997 (Cadenhead)
    Price band
    £ £ £ £ £
    ABV
    53.9%
    Production type
    Single malt whisky
    Region
    Speyside
    Flavour camp
    Fragrant & Floral
    Nose

    The alcohol gives a light buzz alongside some dry notes that initially slightly obscure the tinned pear juice. It begins to open out, however, adding in apple sauce, green tomato and tahini. Continues to pulse between this sweet fruit and the drier elements, as if undecided which way to fall. Becomes lightly yeasty with water, with daisy-like aromatics and then wet, cut grass.

    Palate

    Very soft, sweet start, with a touch of flour, then comes the juicy white fruit, mixing with honey on a warm muffin, before a greener, zestier element comes in to enliven the back-palate. The cask sits in the background, only adding a very light grip. When water is added, you get more of the floral elements retronasally. Approachable and light, but still with the distillery’s soft mid-palate.

    Finish

    Starts citric and fresh, then slightly sugary.

    Conclusion

    It might not be challenging, but it sure is tasty.

    Right place, right time

    Pop with a clever edge.

    Dave Broom

    Benriach 42 Years Old (Single Malts of Scotland)

    Benriach 42 Years Old (Single Malts of Scotland)
    Price band
    £ £ £ £ £
    ABV
    41%
    Production type
    Single malt whisky
    Region
    Speyside
    Flavour camp
    Fruity & Spicy
    Nose

    Noticeably vibrant for a 42-year-old, pointing to maturation in a refill cask, and intensely appley – sour green apple skin, dried apple pieces and cloudy apple juice – with a refreshing mintiness. As it opens in the glass, a more tropical note develops – mangoes and passionfruit, and dried pineapple.

    Palate

    Round and drier than the nose suggests, though the tropical flavours develop as it warms the tongue. Things are a touch earthier here – dried pineapple slivers, damp wood – with a consistent, bitter grapefruit peel note. Vanilla cream and milk bottle sweets add a more whimsical character.

    Finish

    Dry and long, that tropical fruit lasting and lasting.

    Conclusion

    Well-constructed and meticulously aged. A perfect example of balance between distillery character and wood over the decades.

    Right place, right time

    Passionfruit cream sodas all round.

    Becky Paskin

    Bladnoch Bicentennial 29 Years Old

    Bladnoch Bicentennial 29 Years Old
    Price band
    £ £ £ £ £
    ABV
    41.2%
    Production type
    Single malt whisky
    Region
    Lowland
    Flavour camp
    Fruity & Spicy
    Nose

    A delightful harmony of Bladnoch’s grassy distillery character kissed by fruity sweetness of Sherry casks. Dusty malt bins and freshly cut hay are at the fore, but only briefly conceal juicy, fuzzy peach skin, dried apricots in syrup, figs and sultanas in honey, and a sparsely-fruited sponge cake. There’s a deliciously rich Sherried sweetness.

    Palate

    Super-soft, pillowy, but chewy. Things kick off with rich dried fruit and Amalfi lemon zest. We take a creamy detour before a pleasant, permeating spiciness develops across the mid-palate, adding grip. An earthy liquorice root note develops underneath, urging on old Cognac quality, then…

    Finish

    …a burst of dried fruit supported by those spice pillars, still peppered by a dusty maltiness. A touch of dunnage warehouse and leather saddle sweep over, leaving lingering notes of liquorice root, eucalyptus and lime zest.

    Conclusion

    Wonderfully balanced, an absolute delight, but the price is a kicker.

    Right place, right time

    Relaxing in a hay cart in Jarnac.

    Becky Paskin

    Glenallachie-Glenlivet 24 Years Old, 1992 (Cadenhead)

    Glenallachie-Glenlivet 24 Years Old, 1992 (Cadenhead)
    Price band
    £ £ £ £ £
    ABV
    54.2%
    Production type
    Single malt whisky
    Region
    Speyside
    Flavour camp
    Rich & Round
    Nose

    The colour suggests a first-fill cask, while the length of the maturation has also added in oxidised elements, some wet chalk, bruised apple, wet dog and a light nuttiness – with some mint thrown into the mix for good measure. Initially, things are a little jumbled, but then become dominated by a creamy aroma like Tibetan tea and cultured butter that’s slightly on the turn. Water makes it more manageable, with added praline, toffee and a more obvious oakiness. Begins to show its age.

    Palate

    A soft, almost flabby arrival, reminiscent of butter cookie crumbs. The toffee comes through here as well, alongside some perky alcohol that mixes with citric elements and some Brazil nut. Things become chewy in the centre. Water shows it to have weight and substance, but now the oak has come forward and grips firmly. Be careful though, as excessive dilution makes it woody.

    Finish

    Jalapeño, then dry wood.

    Conclusion

    Big in terms of oak influence, but there’s not quite enough from the distillate to fully balance. But if you like ‘em big then it’s one for you.

    Right place, right time

    Sitting around a Tuvan campfire drinking tea and listening to throat singing.

    Dave Broom

    Glen Spey-Glenlivet 21 Years Old, 1995 (Cadenhead)

    Glen Spey-Glenlivet 21 Years Old, 1995 (Cadenhead)
    Price band
    £ £ £ £ £
    ABV
    57.7%
    Production type
    Single malt whisky
    Region
    Speyside
    Flavour camp
    Fruity & Spicy
    Nose

    Richly coloured, suggestive of a first-fill cask, and certainly there’s plenty of dry oak, dry grasses, granola and then an artificial lemon note, though balancing elements start to claw their way back, with honeyed pecan. Although water doesn’t shake off the cask-driven elements, there’s some fruity, mature elements lurking, along with some more oak.

    Palate

    Expansive, tongue-coating and with considerably more substance – and heat. A hazelnut and corn starch element adds to the textural elements, offsetting some light mid-palate oiliness. There’s slightly more complexity with water, along with red fruits (pomegranate especially), but the oak comes in from the mid-palate on.

    Finish

    Firm.

    Conclusion

    There’s a constant tussle here between some delicate elements and the cask that’s never quite fully resolved.

    Right place, right time

    Here’s how to balance the soft and the firm.

    Dave Broom

    Hedonism The Muse (Compass Box)

    Hedonism The Muse (Compass Box)
    Price band
    £ £ £ £ £
    ABV
    55.3%
    Production type
    Blended grain whisky
    Region
    n/a
    Flavour camp
    Fruity & Spicy
    Nose

    Light beehive notes (wood, plus wax, plus honey), followed by some dried oregano and hyssop, lemon drizzle cake and honey-roast almond. In time, some roast corn, while the higher than normal alcohol adds in some extra brightness. As it develops, it deepens into Terry’s Chocolate Orange and an increasing indication of maturity. When water is added, there’s a new pigskin leather element, while the green edge is upped and shifts towards a pine forest. In time you get a dusty smell like the baize of an old snooker table.

    Palate

    As you maybe expect, there’s plenty of sweetness and honeyed elements, especially in the mid-palate, but the strength allows it to pop and fizzle in the mouth, while those mature, caramelised elements mingle with dried, sweet soft fruits. The overall effect is like the healthy option at a breakfast bar in a high-end hotel. Water makes it all softer and more rounded, with some nuttiness alongside the juicy fruits, fennel leaf and an attractive green edge like parsley stalks.

    Finish

    Cashew and custard, then drying into the piney/herbal element again.

    Conclusion

    Great balance and showing a more serious and contemplative side to Hedonism.

    Right place, right time

    A siren as much as a muse.

    Dave Broom

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