New Whiskies

Batch 157

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Batch 157: Balblair, Cambus, Glentauchers, North British, Strathclyde

This week’s batch of new whisky reviews from Becky Paskin is split equally between three single malts and three single grains, all with fairly high bottling strengths – only one whisky dips below 50% abv.

We begin on a high point, with a ‘delightfully decadent’ Balblair bottled by Gordon & MacPhail for its Connoisseurs Choice range, before the first of the grains takes a bow: a James Eadie bottling from the closed Cambus distillery, which bears an uncanny resemblance to Jamaican rum.

Then it’s off to Speyside, and a contrasting pair of independently-bottled Glentauchers single malts that span the flavour spectrum from florally fragrant to richier, earthier tones.

Back to grain to close, and representatives from Scotland’s two big cities, including a sweetly indulgent North British from Cadenhead, plus a venerable Strathclyde that has maintained some of its character after 27 years in cask.

Scoring Explained

Overview

  • Balblair 1993, Connoisseurs Choice (Gordon & MacPhail)

    Balblair 1993, Connoisseurs Choice (Gordon & MacPhail)
    Price band
    £ £ £ £ £
    ABV
    51.6%
    Production type
    Single malt whisky
    Region
    Highland
    Availability
    Selected countries, excluding UK, US & Europe
    Flavour camp
    Rich & Round
    Nose

    Thick and syrupy; you’d be forgiven for thinking this was drained slowly from a jar of molasses. Sticky, sweet and sultry, it’s all prune juice and dates, roasted hazelnuts and marzipan. There’s a meatiness in well-aged PX Sherry and honey roast ham. Delightfully decadent. With a nose like that, I’m nervous that it won’t translate to the palate…

    Palate

    …but it does. Hallelujah. Thick, waxy and meaty with a leathery quality, like swish, new, box-fresh brogues. More prunes and dried figs, raisins and apricots soaked in oloroso and honey. That bitter nuttiness persists in roasted chestnuts and flaked almonds, alongside a dry oakiness that provides backbone. Toward the end there’s a fading sense of dusty old cloth-bound books.

    Finish

    Meaty, dry and lingering.

    Conclusion

    Sink into this one and savour every mouthful.

    Right place, right time

    Succumb to the Darkness.

    Cambus 24 Years Old, Cask #48093 (James Eadie)

    Cambus 24 Years Old, Cask #48093 (James Eadie)
    Price band
    £ £ £ £ £
    ABV
    54.9%
    Production type
    Single grain whisky
    Region
    Lowland
    Flavour camp
    Fruity & Spicy
    Nose

    A peppery hit on the nose, with a sweet, creamy, butterscotch intensity. The sweetness moves into marshmallows and Haribo hearts, with a hefty sprinkling of confectioner’s sugar, while just a hint of shy fruit emerges as toffee apples and poached pears.

    Palate

    Rather spiritous up front, quite metallic and peppery with a chilli heat, which is overcome by a sweet oiliness in the middle. The heat builds before unexpectedly subsiding into warming. rummy tones – muscovado sugar, molasses, tingly oak spice. The similarity to Appleton Estate 12 is remarkable. Water enables some of those green apple notes to peep through, but you lose some of that delicious rumminess.

    Finish

    Still more rum, a dash of PX, charred oak.

    Conclusion

    A rum lover’s single grain.

    Right place, right time

    Sipping on an iced tea under a palm tree, watching Three Little Birds go by.

    Glentauchers 21 Years Old, 1996 (Valinch & Mallet)

    Glentauchers 21 Years Old, 1996 (Valinch & Mallet)
    Price band
    £ £ £ £ £
    ABV
    46.7%
    Production type
    Single malt whisky
    Region
    Speyside
    Flavour camp
    Fragrant & Floral
    Nose

    Wonderfully floral, fruity and malty all at the same time – green apple with a hint of rose; citrus zest and malt dust; underripe (green) strawberries and jasmine. It’s a beautiful mess.

    Palate

    Here the three elements untangle and are more discernible, with luscious fruits to the fore – peach, pear, grilled pineapple and apricots. A malty undertone lifts the fruit up, while floral top notes of rose and lavender float above the throng.

    Finish

    Slightly dry, and doesn’t stick around as long as you’d like.

    Conclusion

    A curious, tangled drop.

    Right place, right time

    Everything All at Once.

    Glentauchers-Glenlivet 27 Years Old, 1990 (Cadenhead)

    Glentauchers-Glenlivet 27 Years Old, 1990 (Cadenhead)
    Price band
    £ £ £ £ £
    ABV
    54.4%
    Production type
    Single malt whisky
    Region
    Speyside
    Flavour camp
    Fruity & Spicy
    Nose

    A vastly different drop to V&M’s Glentauchers bottling, Cadenhead’s release has a more earthy feel, with notes of cumin and ground coriander seed. All that fruit and fragrance is somewhat hidden away.

    Palate

    The spices translate to the palate, providing a fragrant yet weighted sensation, but here the fruit picks up – it’s cooked this time, richer and more decadent in character with sultanas, raisins, stewed figs and conference pears. Some tannic, dry oak provides support. Water makes things sweeter and enhances the fruitiness.

    Finish

    Dry and medium-length.

    Conclusion

    Classically Glentauchers, a solid dram.

    Right place, right time

    Tucking into apple pie in your mother’s kitchen, feet firmly on the Ground.

    North British 32 Years Old, 1985 (Cadenhead)

    North British 32 Years Old, 1985 (Cadenhead)
    Price band
    £ £ £ £ £
    ABV
    55.2%
    Production type
    Single grain whisky
    Region
    Lowland
    Flavour camp
    Rich & Round
    Nose

    Beautifully rummy and fudgy, with a rich, deep caramel sweetness. It’s brimming with baked goods, including cinnamon cookies, gingerbread and Go Ahead cake bars. There’s still a deep fruitiness in fig jam and stewed apples.

    Palate

    Oily and round, with more stewed Bramley apple, juicy sultanas and spotted dick. This creamy oatiness endures as whisky- and honey-laced porridge, while oak spices add a touch of heat and some grip.

    Finish

    Juicy, but drying towards the end.

    Conclusion

    An indulgent single grain; pour one with afternoon tea or a luxury brekkie.

    Right place, right time

    Paired with your porridge at Breakfast.

    Strathclyde 27 Years Old, Cask #110036 (HAH)

    Strathclyde 27 Years Old, Cask #110036 (HAH)
    Price band
    £ £ £ £ £
    ABV
    55%
    Production type
    Single grain whisky
    Region
    Lowland
    Flavour camp
    Fruity & Spicy
    Nose

    Far more delicate than the Cambus, with more top notes of orange zest and green apple. The caramel is fudgy – soft and melty. A wafer cone heaving with two scoops of ice cream – real vanilla, and rum-and-raisin drizzled with a warm caramel sauce. There’s still some slight prickle from the high abv.

    Palate

    I’d expect it to be spicier, given the strength. Still, the palate is enveloped in cinnamon, cassia and liquorice, with lots of raisins and dried fruit. It becomes cakey – bread-and-butter pudding and an overcooked sponge.

    Finish

    Sweet and long.

    Conclusion

    The oak can often dominate older grain whiskies, so it’s nice to see that some of Strathclyde’s fruitiness remains.

    Right place, right time

    Sitting on the banks of the Clyde. This is Glasgow.

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