New Whiskies

Batch 158

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New whisky reviews: Glenfiddich Fire & Cane, Talisker 40, Mortlach 12, 16 and 20, and Macallan Edition No 4

This week’s new whisky reviews are a real treat, with four new Scotch single malts scoring above 90 points.

But first, Scotchwhisky.com editor Becky Paskin gets acquainted with the fourth expression to join Glenfiddich’s Experimental Series – Fire & Cane. A no-age-statement peated malt finished in ‘Latin’ rum casks – a curious rarity in Scotch – she finds it fruity, sweet and smoky, but lacking integration. ‘A whisky of two halves,’ she surmises.

Sticking in Speyside, Paskin moves onto Macallan’s Edition No 4, an expression matured in both European and American oak casks that’s designed to explore the structure of the whisky. ‘Glorious,’ she says, adding that at £80/US$110 a bottle you might want to seek one out quickly.

At the heart of this week’s reviews is the new core range from Mortlach, the ‘Beast of Dufftown’. It’s a trilogy of waxy, meaty whiskies – a 12-, 16- and 20-year-old – that leaves Paskin delighted with Diageo’s decision to relaunch the distillery’s range. ‘A real descent into the belly of the Beast,’ she remarks.

Finally, up north to Skye, where one of the oldest expressions from Talisker has been bottled as the first in a series of Sherry-focused expressions. The 40-year-old, distilled in 1978, which has been matured in refill American oak barrels and finished in amontillado Sherry casks from Delgado Zuleta, whisks her away on a salty sea breeze to the Mediterranean coast. Talisker excels in Sherry casks, she says, and this is ‘no exception’.

Scoring Explained

Overview

  • Glenfiddich Fire & Cane

    Glenfiddich Fire & Cane
    Price band
    £ £ £ £ £
    ABV
    43%
    Production type
    Single malt whisky
    Region
    Speyside
    Flavour camp
    Smoky & Peaty
    Nose

    The name gives away a certain level of expectation, which the nose lives up to. Yes, there’s smoke, but it’s a dying disposable barbecue, grilled orchard fruits and banana. It’s earthy for a Glenfiddich, with the richness of Demerara sugar and molasses, but the distillery’s trademark red apple and pear signature is written all over, an element that’s amplified with a few drops of water.

    Palate

    Soft and sweet, muscovado sugar now, with an earthy rumminess, though it’s not quite agricole territory. There are baking spices and toasted marshmallow with a hint of nuts. The smoke isn’t overwhelming at first, letting the sweetness speak for itself, but there’s a metallic soapiness tied into the smoke that soon assumes control.

    Finish

    Sweet – almost goaty – smoke.

    Conclusion

    Glenfiddich describes the latest addition to its Experimental Series as a whisky that ‘will divide you’. A peated malt that’s finished in rum casks, it certainly does feel like a whisky of two halves.

    Right place, right time

    Striking a match at a rum distillery. Fire meet Gasoline.

    Macallan Edition No 4

    Macallan Edition No 4
    Price band
    £ £ £ £ £
    ABV
    48.4%
    Production type
    Single malt whisky
    Region
    Speyside
    Flavour camp
    Rich & Round
    Nose

    Reassuringly complex, with lots of oak and wood spice at the fore, surrounded by sweet acacia honey and toffee. This alluring, zesty, citrus baked sweetness, like a lemon drizzle cake or key lime pie, is captivating. I could sit and nose this for hours.

    Palate

    Cakey and nutty, muscovado sugar and black pepper. The wood’s effect is very much apparent – fresh oak shavings and a polished sideboard – but it’s not overdone. Sticky caramel and Jamaica ginger cake take centre stage as the wood spice builds. However, there’s enough citrus zestiness – lime peel and orange juice – to keep the spark going.

    Finish

    Is that a touch of smoke? Perhaps a heavy char. Either way, it lingers, with a chewy, sticky fruitiness, like reduced blood orange juice.

    Conclusion

    Edition No 4 is designed to showcase the ‘structure’ of Macallan. This is an absolute bargain. Just glorious.

    Right place, right time

    You can’t talk about the structure of Macallan without referencing its new architectural marvel of a home. A Design for Life.

    Mortlach 12 Years Old ‘The Wee Witchie’

    Mortlach 12 Years Old ‘The Wee Witchie’
    Price band
    £ £ £ £ £
    ABV
    43.4%
    Production type
    Single malt whisky
    Region
    Speyside
    Flavour camp
    Fruity & Spicy
    Nose

    Immediately waxy, with a chewy toffee caramel sweetness. That said, it’s very fruit-driven, with fuzzy peach skin, dried apricots and red apples, which move into dried cranberries and nuts – almonds and walnuts. Some milk chocolate now, a Cadbury’s Fruit and Nut bar, and toasted marshmallow. The oak is light – think wood shavings and sawdust.

    Palate

    Mouth-coating waxiness and more of those fruit notes which have become caramelised and stewed now. There’s a bitter orange marmalade note in the middle, with a hint of dark bitter chocolate and a classic Mortlach meatiness. Some earthy, herbal spices take hold towards the end – liquorice and cassia, with a touch of anise and bay.

    Finish

    Delicately spiced, and a touch dry.

    Conclusion

    A welcome return for Mortlach at an accessible price. A perfect introduction to the Beast of Dufftown.

    Right place, right time

    The tentative hunting party stumbles across the Original Beast.

    Mortlach 16 Years Old ‘Distiller’s Dram’

    Mortlach 16 Years Old ‘Distiller’s Dram’
    Price band
    £ £ £ £ £
    ABV
    43.4%
    Production type
    Single malt whisky
    Region
    Speyside
    Flavour camp
    Rich & Round
    Nose

    Shy at first, although there’s a sense of greater maturity and depth than the 12-year-old. Given some time in the glass, it becomes dark and pruney, with stewed plums, sticky dates and black treacle. Dried currants and raisins, some dried exotic fruit too, like papaya and apricots, which lend an almost leathery, meaty quality. Furniture polish emerges after more time still.

    Palate

    Dried exotic fruit again, and grilled pineapple. Then things deepen. It gets waxy and polished, sinking into an old armoir, dark molasses and treacle. Then bitter dark chocolate and berries – a dense Black Forest gâteau, accompanied by a peppery, dark Shiraz. There’s so much depth here.

    Finish

    Meaty and sweet, but there’s a surprising hoppiness right at the close.

    Conclusion

    A real journey, and perhaps even an improvement on the much-loved Flora and Fauna Mortlach 16.

    Right place, right time

    Diving further into the dark waters. Before you know it, you’re Rolling in the Deep.

    Mortlach 20 Years Old ‘Cowie’s Blue Seal’

    Mortlach 20 Years Old ‘Cowie’s Blue Seal’
    Price band
    £ £ £ £ £
    ABV
    43.4%
    Production type
    Single malt whisky
    Region
    Speyside
    Flavour camp
    Rich & Round
    Nose

    Very polished at first, and unusually scented (fir and pine), but it’s weighted by some heavy, meaty bass notes, dark chocolate and Christmas cake spices – cinnamon, nutmeg and anise. It’s intriguing, with a sense that it will develop over time, becoming richer and deeper, pulling you in. The waxiness becomes meatier still, almost gamey, moving into umami flavours now – porcini mushrooms and ceps – with a rich blackberry sauce.

    Palate

    Soft and light at first, surprisingly so, with fleeting top notes of citrus zest and polish, before a wave of rich intensity envelops the palate. Overripe plums, dark chocolate and sticky marmalade, all contained in a mouth-coating velvety oiliness. The depth takes you to a much-loved leather jacket and dusty bookcase, before moving into soft oak spices, and those decadent umami notes of dried mushroom and black pepper.

    Finish

    Dry, lightly sooty and umami.

    Conclusion

    Deeper, waxier and meatier still, a real descent into the belly of the Beast.

    Right place, right time

    Becoming deeper, and more contemplative with age, Wisely & Slow.

    Talisker 40 Years Old, 1978, ‘The Bodega Series’

    Talisker 40 Years Old, 1978, ‘The Bodega Series’
    Price band
    £ £ £ £ £
    ABV
    50%
    Production type
    Single malt whisky
    Region
    Islands
    Flavour camp
    Smoky & Peaty
    Nose

    Up front is an intense salinity carried by wisps of bonfire smoke, but this fat, juicy sultana and white grape note lends a mouthwatering quality. The oak is subtle, with light sandalwood, vanilla, cinnamon and toffee vibes. Despite the coastal intensity, there’s a real delicacy to the liquid. I imagine this would pair excellently with grilled fish.

    Palate

    Juicy and sweet – lots of plump white grapes, greengages and a medium-sweet Riesling. White pepper adds some lift and warmth, before things get salty and herbal with grilled mackerel and fennel. The smoke lifts its head towards the back, bringing with it chewy liquorice, before bowing back down once more.

    Finish

    Salty, bitter and smoky, with a zing akin to having chewed on a Szechuan peppercorn.

    Conclusion

    In my opinion, Talisker always excels when matured in Sherry casks, and this is no exception.

    Right place, right time

    A Quiet Town on the Mediterranean coast calls, a cold glass of amontillado awaits.

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