New Whiskies

Batch 148

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Batch 148: AnCnoc, Benrinnes, Macallan, Macduff, Tullibardine

If you want diversity, you’ve come to the right place. From an uncharacteristically peaty anCnoc to a chalk-and-cheese pair of Macduffs; from two esoteric wine finishes to a £25,000 Macallan, ‘eclectic’ is the mot juste to describe this week’s batch of new whisky reviews.

Some are more successful than others: Dave Broom has high praise for the ‘delightful and highly mixable’ anCnoc Peatheart, and also admires a Benrinnes finished in an American oak cask previously used to mature a Ukrainian wine blend of the Kifesia, Ekim Kara and Saperavi grape varieties.

Richard Woodard steps in to review the latest high-end Macallan. The 50-year-old bottling is ‘sublime’ with a finish that is ‘endless’, he discovers – but will the lucky (and wealthy) few who buy a bottle ever open it?

The theme of contrasts continues with a pair of independently bottled single malts from Macduff. Broom enjoys the ‘easy-going’ 11-year-old from Cadenhead, but says the ‘aromatic and frivolous’ 20-year-old offering from Valinch & Mallet couldn’t be more different.

We close not with a bang, but something of a whimper. Tullibardine’s The Murray 2005 was finished in some pretty illustrious wine casks from Châteauneuf-du-Pape, but that wood has a vice-like grip on the distillate, says Broom.

Once again, click on the links in ‘Right Place, Right Time’ for a Spotify playlist to accompany this week’s whiskies.

Scoring Explained

Overview

  • AnCnoc Peatheart

    AnCnoc Peatheart
    Price band
    £ £ £ £ £
    ABV
    46%
    Production type
    Single malt whisky
    Region
    Highland
    Flavour camp
    Smoky & Peaty
    Nose

    A scented, apple-wood smokiness emerges first, along with some moor-burn, balanced by a sweet, fragrant lift, while underneath a pleasing musky note is added, before mustard oil and green leaves emerge. It welcomes water eagerly, which gives a green, mossy effect, touches of spruce tips, as well as a fresh, lime-like acidity. The gentle smoke remains.

    Palate

    To start with, this is more about the distillery’s estery elements – all pineapple, citrus and grassiness, with the smoke in the background. This reverses itself by the middle of the tongue, when the peated element adds a drying, gentian-like note. Water brings out marshmallows being toasted over a bonfire, and an added sweetness.

    Finish

    Grassy, smoky, light pine.

    Conclusion

    Delightful and highly mixable, not overly dominated by smoke.

    Right place, right time

    Singing around the campfire, wood crackling, feeling the Will to Love.

    Dave Broom

    Benrinnes 20 Years Old, 1997, Artania Cask finish (Scyfion Choice)

    Benrinnes 20 Years Old, 1997, Artania Cask finish (Scyfion Choice)
    Price band
    £ £ £ £ £
    ABV
    46%
    Production type
    Single malt whisky
    Region
    Speyside
    Flavour camp
    Fruity & Spicy
    Nose

    The cask is immediately apparent, adding an extra mix of late summer fruit, red berries, dried apricot and golden raisin, with mature notes of dry toffee and varnish. Initially sweeter than your average Ben, water brings the distillery character out more, adding a truffle-like meatiness and an oxidised element.

    Palate

    Heady and rich, with a jammy (greengage and plum), thick feel, while the Ben’s earthiness adds some dry elements and weight. There’s a touch of cloudy apple juice and perry in the softly textured mid-palate. Water allows the wine elements more of a say, as well as adding in mashed banana and sweet orange with just enough of that meaty core to anchor.

    Finish

    Quince.

    Conclusion

    A thick, vinous quality, well-balanced by a rich distillate. Not sure where you’ll find it, but worth trying if it pops up in a bar near you.

    Right place, right time

    Munching on fresh fruits and sipping an Orange Crush.

    Dave Broom

    Macallan 50 Years Old

    Macallan 50 Years Old
    Price band
    £ £ £ £ £
    ABV
    44%
    Production type
    Single malt whisky
    Region
    Speyside
    Flavour camp
    Rich & Round
    Nose

    Warm aromas of wood-derived spices, particularly ginger and nutmeg, then things deepen and broaden, moving into well-polished antique furniture and the lighter dried fruit of an aged Cognac. Several minutes in, there’s very dark honey, then a dunnage note that shifts into rich loam with a smouldering, smoky edge. Water dials up this earthiness and brightens the fruit, but doesn’t reveal anything startling.

    Palate

    All the richness you’d expect from a Macallan of this seniority, but a surprising elegance too. Those spices return – ginger cake topped by treacle – with liquorice and clove now putting in an appearance. The flavours of rich earth and smoke threaten to dry things out, but a sudden jag of blackcurrant comes to the rescue. Much later, dark chocolate and more of that earthy smoke. Water reveals some quite lively tropical fruit, but has little else to add.

    Finish

    Endless. Coal smoke wisping from a chimney on a cold autumn night; hints of darker, Stygian forces.

    Conclusion

    Sadly, the asking price (£25,000) and the rarity of this sublime whisky (200 bottles globally) put it beyond the reach of all but a handful of wealthy individuals. If you’re one of the lucky ones, open and share. Please?

    Right place, right time

    Entrava ella fragrante, mi cadea fra le braccia…’ E lucevan le stelle.

    Richard Woodard

    Macduff 11 Years Old, 2006 (Cadenhead)

    Macduff 11 Years Old, 2006 (Cadenhead)
    Price band
    £ £ £ £ £
    ABV
    46%
    Production type
    Single malt whisky
    Region
    Highland
    Flavour camp
    Malty & Dry
    Nose

    Slightly hot to start, then it becomes nutty with some berries giving an aroma akin to trail mix. Rounded and quite robust, there’s an evident physicality here, with gutsy cereal accents. As it develops, so you get milk chocolate, while with water added there’s extra cashew and roast hazelnut, but always with nougat-like softness behind, then sweet hay.

    Palate

    As with the nose, there’s this mix of mealy cereal and sweetness giving an effect like hot porridge with Demerara sugar and berries, plus a dry (balancing) element with a suety/oily element on the mid-palate which nods towards Glen Garioch. Water adds to the sweetness and stirs in a roasted cereal element. It seems to bulk up on the back-palate as the creaminess from the cask comes through.

    Finish

    Burnt notes, fennel.

    Conclusion

    Balanced and easy-going. A good Macduff.

    Right place, right time

    Bank Holiday weekend at Jack McDuff’s with a Hot Barbeque.

    Dave Broom

    Macduff 20 Years Old, 1997 (Valinch & Mallet)

    Macduff 20 Years Old, 1997 (Valinch & Mallet)
    Price band
    £ £ £ £ £
    ABV
    51.3%
    Production type
    Single malt whisky
    Region
    Highland
    Flavour camp
    Fragrant & Floral
    Nose

    Light and very fragrant. In fact, extremely shy until you add some water. Although it remains restrained, there’s lemon meringue pie, lime jelly and fruit blossom elements, which slowly morph into bubblegum and cherry.

    Palate

    A slightly surprising and highly scented start, with Parma Violet and rose petal sweets, and an almost effervescent quality that gives it a frothiness. Quite floral (think freesia) and with much more impact than the neat nose. Water dulls this slightly, meaning that you lose that intensity, but the upside is added citrus and the red fruits already evident on the diluted nose.

    Finish

    Perfumed.

    Conclusion

    An aromatic, frivolous aperitif. Couldn’t be further away from the Cadenhead’s bottling if it tried.

    Right place, right time

    As sweet as Jack McDuff’s Rock Candy.

    Dave Broom

    Tullibardine ‘The Murray’ 2005, Châteauneuf-du-Pape Finish

    Tullibardine ‘The Murray’ 2005, Châteauneuf-du-Pape Finish
    Price band
    £ £ £ £ £
    ABV
    46%
    Production type
    Single malt whisky
    Region
    Highland
    Flavour camp
    Fruity & Spicy
    Nose

    Dawn-pink in colour, with some firm oak which adds a light mushroom element and potentially the struck match note that hampers the development of the strawberry tarts and sweet spices which are glimpsed behind. This effect is amplified when water is added, with more sulphur, a musty edge and dry oak masking the fruits.

    Palate

    While the wood remains tight, here the fresh fruits finally begin to show, along with dry leaves and marzipan. Overall, though, it is dry – and drier still when water is added.

    Finish

    Rhubarb and custard. The fruits seem to finally break free of their oaken casket.

    Conclusion

    Sadly, the wood is in charge here.

    Right place, right time

    Hey, That’s No Way to Say Goodbye.

    Dave Broom

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