New Whiskies

Batch 144

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Batch 144: Aultmore, Bunnahabhain, Glen Garioch, Glenmorangie and Teaninich

This week’s road trip of new single malt whiskies starts in Speyside, before briefly heading west to Islay and then up into the Highlands. Along the way, we get to know a range of different distillates, from the fragrant to the richly rewarding.

Dave Broom kicks off with a pair of independently-bottled Aultmores. The example from Cadenhead may be fully 20 years old, but it retains a reticence and gentle charm that rewards patient handling. Meanwhile, the offering from North Star Spirits may be almost half its age, but it’s an altogether bolder whisky that ‘just about hangs in there’ in terms of balance.

We stay with North Star for the third whisky of the week: a fully mature Bunnahabhain distilled in 1980. There’s some age-related richness on show, reports Broom, but this is a gently elegant dram evoking the slow rhythms of Charles Mingus.

If the Bunna’ sets the quality bar pretty high, the next two whiskies more than live up to its example. First a classic Glen Garioch replete with ‘wild funkiness’, then a 1989 Glenmorangie Grand Vintage part-matured in Côte-Rôtie red wine casks. ‘Remarkable,’ enthuses Broom. ‘A classic slow whisky.’

We close with another Cadenhead bottling, this time from Teaninich. It may not exactly scale the heights of the preceding trio of more mature malts, but it brings a lively end to this week’s tasting and, says Broom, is ‘a lot of fun’.

Click on the links in ‘Right Place, Right Time’ for each whisky’s accompanying soundtrack.

Scoring Explained

Overview

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

    Aultmore-Glenlivet 20 Years Old, 1997 (Cadenhead)
    Price band
    £ £ £ £ £
    ABV
    51.8%
    Production type
    Single malt whisky
    Region
    Speyside
    Flavour camp
    Fragrant & Floral
    Nose

    Slightly reticent, with a green grass element (bowling greens after rain, wet moss), with some jasmine, white currant jelly and a touch of elderflower. It seems fragile (but don’t be impatient). In time it starts to gain in confidence and begins to fill out, something helped by the addition of water, which allows it to bloom into florals and fruit blossom, alongside notes of watercress and lettuce. Now it’s in alignment with the palate.

    Palate

    Rounded and more obviously mature, with some ripe apple and then this mix of the jasmine, muguet and foaming butter, all of which add substance, especially on the mid-palate where a slightly oxidised element adds a further layer and texture, deepening the fruits and bringing out a light, thinned, clover honey element, while retaining some of those blossom-like elements.

    Finish

    Long and gentle.

    Conclusion

    Some whiskies just take time. A lovely Aultmore.

    Right place, right time

    You’ve got to give me time. The grass is greener.

    Aultmore 11 Years Old, 2006 (North Star Spirits)

    Aultmore 11 Years Old, 2006 (North Star Spirits)
    Price band
    £ £ £ £ £
    ABV
    53.2%
    Production type
    Single malt whisky
    Region
    Speyside
    Flavour camp
    Fruity & Spicy
    Nose

    A rich colour for a youngish whisky in a refill hoggie. It starts with an aroma like dry leaves, before there’s sweet, cooking fruit (yellow plums and greengages getting smooshed down in a pan), some ripe melon, plantain and the zest of a grapefruit. Rich for its age with toasted oak. Water brings out some char, which grows over time as the Aultmore recedes.

    Palate

    It has good substance, with a toasted element on the tip, then some burnt cream before it starts to move towards the (heavy) floral side of things with the distillery’s pool of fruit grounding things in the centre and allowing an extravagant, high-toned, floral element to sing out, though the wood now has also started to exert pressure, stirring in cashew nuts, and coconut/coir matting, both of which, in time, start to dominate, especially when water is added.

    Finish

    When neat it’s strangely mineralic, then some fruit and then wood, with a little chocolate.

    Conclusion

    A bold Aultmore which just about hangs in there in terms of balance. Bottled at the right time.

    Right place, right time

    Alone Again, Or… maybe not.

    Bunnahabhain 37 Years Old, 1980 (North Star Spirits)

    Bunnahabhain 37 Years Old, 1980 (North Star Spirits)
    Price band
    £ £ £ £ £
    ABV
    44.4%
    Production type
    Single malt whisky
    Region
    Islay
    Flavour camp
    Rich & Round
    Nose

    A mature nose driven by scented woods (sandalwood, even a touch of hinoki) and a heather bell perfume which itself butts up against violet chocolate. There’s a soft touch of stewed rhubarb mixed with ripe red apple and, not for the only time this week, some waxy rancio. Water releases a penetrating note of vetiver before it sinks into oxidised Oolong tea, waxed paper, dunnage and those aromatic woods once more.

    Palate

    There’s a lovely powdery quality here: cinnamon dust/old nutmeg jar/the bottom of a poke of sweets. It still has life, with a surprising lemon barley element and an oiliness which helps to spread the flavours and soften the by now slightly nutty texture. The spirit is quite light and the whisky pretty old, meaning that water has a disruptive rather than cohesive effect, although the roasted tea element is retained alongside some light chocolate, which flirts with bitterness.

    Finish

    Finally, the ginger. Here it’s a gingerbread man.

    Conclusion

    A gently elegant and multi-faceted Bunna’. Well worth a gander.

    Right place, right time

    Slow jazz with a fractured edge: Fables of Faubus.

    Glen Garioch 17 Years Old, The Renaissance, 3rd Chapter

    Glen Garioch 17 Years Old, The Renaissance, 3rd Chapter
    Price band
    £ £ £ £ £
    ABV
    50.8%
    Production type
    Single malt whisky
    Region
    Highland
    Flavour camp
    Rich & Round
    Nose

    Has all of Glen Garioch’s mealy pudding and chips cooked in beef dripping or, if you are more of a sophisticate, roast bone marrow. Don’t think that means there’s not an elegance at work here as well, because under this is polished oak (a high-end antique shop) leather and some toffee. The food connection continues with added aubergine and tomato. Everything teeters on the edge of being off, but it has this generosity and wild funkiness which draws you in. With water there’s more red fruits, some suet and barley.

    Palate

    Fat on the start, with a burnt, nutty, cereal accent, before relaxed, rich, dried fruits come through. The fats emerge fully on the mid-palate, carrying things forward towards dried sweet fruits and light oak. It’s more orthodox in the mouth than on the nose. Water brings the tannins out to play, so keep it on the side.

    Finish

    Black fruits and sweetness. Great length.

    Conclusion

    Missed this when it first came out, or rather the sample was somewhat delayed. Blame the Christmas post. Figured you’d like to know about it though.

    Right place, right time

    Eating a white pudding supper in the back of a car with Aidan Moffat and RM Hubbert. Car Song.

    Glenmorangie Grand Vintage 1989

    Glenmorangie Grand Vintage 1989
    Price band
    £ £ £ £ £
    ABV
    43.1%
    Production type
    Single malt whisky
    Region
    Highland
    Flavour camp
    Rich & Round
    Nose

    Extra-mature Glenmorangie is always interesting, as it shifts from the sunny, upfront fruits of its earlier life into something more richly concentrated and, in this case, more waxy. There’s a ridiculous amount of semi-dried tropical fruits, baked orchard fruits, stewed apple, backed with tonka bean, vanilla pod and blood orange. It opens steadily, but slowly, into cherry syrup, quince, then sweet potato and membrillo. There’s even a slight smokiness that’s given lift by the sweetness of carrot cake and fruit jellies before it darkens again towards cassis and cacao. Really complex and layered. Water? A drop only to bring out a Cognac-like fatness to the delivery and a rich, deeper mystery. In time, there’s sealing wax, cooking medlar, and this sweet earthiness, as well as the gloopy syrups. After two hours (!) in the glass it opens fully to to apricot and mint without losing any of the rich, fruity underpinnings.

    Palate

    A fruit bomb. The enormous initial impact seems to deliver all of the complexities on the nose instantly to the palate. Thankfully it mellows, with the slightly cedary, mature elements calming everything down. There’s more spice here, which adds a tingling bite to the thick and syrupy feel. Initially it doesn’t seem to achieve the same level of complexity as the nose, but give this plenty of time and out come light tropical fruits and green fig jam. The tannins start to surface and grip when water is added, so be careful. A drop will, eventually, reveal blackberry, summer pudding, then cinnamon and mint chocolate.

    Finish

    Now the mature and woodier elements begin to have their say alongside sloe berry.

    Conclusion

    A remarkable glass and well worth trying. The price alone will mean you take your time – which is essential. A classic slow whisky.

    Right place, right time

    As heavy and sultry as a Cuban night: Eleggua.

    Teaninich 11 Years Old, 2006 (Cadenhead)

    Teaninich 11 Years Old, 2006 (Cadenhead)
    Price band
    £ £ £ £ £
    ABV
    55.2%
    Production type
    Single malt whisky
    Region
    Highland
    Flavour camp
    Fragrant & Floral
    Nose

    Very Teaninich, with that distinctive lemon, grassy, Żubrówka-esque opening, which nuzzles close to sencha tea. As it settles you can pick out a dab of cream and some Haribo (gummy bears), as well as birch sap. There’s a little (and I mean a little) more cask effect with water, with light vanilla, larch and, in time, lemon leaf. Sharp, direct and slightly flinty.

    Palate

    Has a soft immediacy (softer than you might expect) and is much sweeter than the nose. There’s a little touch of bamboo shoot on the tip of the tongue, then the grassiness comes through, along with green apple and lemon. Water accentuates the needling edginess.

    Finish

    Bone-dry to start with, then a tiny burst of yellow fruit.

    Conclusion

    It’s all on the surface, but a lot of fun. Treat as an enlivener.

    Right place, right time

    I like the pungent taste. Hot wasabi!

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