New Whiskies

Batch 162

by
Famous Grouse Ruby Cask and Bourbon Cask, Bowmore 20 Years Old and Mortlach 25 Years Old (bottled by Adelphi), Glenglassaugh by Bramble Whisky Company and Tomatin 15 Years Old Moscatel finish.

It’s a return to our whisky reviews for indie bottler Adelphi, and it was worth the wait. Dave Broom is captivated by a 20-year-old Bowmore that represents all the Islay distillery has to offer in one single dram. ‘A Neil M. Gunn novel in liquid form,’ he says. Later, a 25-year-old Mortlach bowls him over with its ‘elegant and layered’ palate. ‘Remarkable,’ he says.

The Adelphis sit alongside two new blends from The Famous Grouse’s Cask Series – a Bourbon finish and Port finish. Both are ‘easy drinking’, Broom assesses, with the latter showing off a fatness that would make for a killer Blood & Sand.

While it’s a welcome return for Adelphi, this week’s reviews also include the inaugural release from Edinburgh’s world-famous Bramble bar. A six-year-old peated Glenglassaugh single cask demonstrates the Speyside distillery’s youthful meatiness. ‘Bodes well for the future,’ Broom croons.

Finally, for those with a sweet tooth, a 15-year-old Moscatel finish from Tomatin is a blueberry and peach syrup delight – in small doses, mind.

This week’s accompanying playlist moves from Robert Wyatt to the Stone Roses, via Johnny Cash and some weird folk horror. Check out the links in Right Place, Right Time.

Scoring Explained

Overview

  • Bowmore 20 Years Old, 1997, Cask #2414 (Adelphi)

    Bowmore 20 Years Old, 1997, Cask #2414 (Adelphi)
    Price band
    £ £ £ £ £
    ABV
    56.3%
    Production type
    Single malt whisky
    Region
    Islay
    Flavour camp
    Smoky & Peaty
    Nose

    One of those rolling, slightly maritime Bowmores. The smoke is completely integrated, giving the impression of the inside of a cottage, woollen jumper drying by a peat fire, salt spray in the air outside, a vase of bluebells on the mantelpiece… and then, out of nowhere, peaches, then tar. In time (and with water) wet sand on a gale-blown beach, more smoke but tempted by a honeyed sweetness. Complex, constantly shifting.

    Palate

    Smooth and very elegant with less of the (often baffling) shifts seen on the nose. There’s some chilli heat, bitter chocolate alongside a ripe, soft mid-palate. The addition of water allows the mix of seashore and fruit cake to come through along with some carbolic elements, for those of us who remember such things.

    Finish

    Mint, spice, smoke. Huge and long.

    Conclusion

    It is all of Bowmore compressed into a bottle, a Neil M. Gunn novel (Silver Darlings or The Grey Coast) in liquid form.

    Right place, right time

    A soothing Sea Song.

    The Famous Grouse Bourbon Cask

    The Famous Grouse Bourbon Cask
    Price band
    £ £ £ £ £
    ABV
    40%
    Production type
    Blended Scotch whisky
    Region
    n/a
    Flavour camp
    Fruity & Spicy
    Nose

    Some dry, quite nutty elements to kick off with given initial balance by toffee notes, then dry grass (coumarin), green almond and some nutmeg adding a jangle of spiciness. In time you pick out hazelnuts dribbled in melted caramel, then a glimpse of condensed milk. It’s a little hard. Water brings out balsa notes and hay.

    Palate

    The American oak element is more obvious here, layers of toffee and cream (Toffos, in fact) that morph into millionaire’s shortbread. The smooth mid-palate brings banoffee pie to mind before the nuts crunch back in.

    Finish

    Drying and spicy.

    Conclusion

    Easy drinking but could have done with more of the American oak on the nose just to soften down that dry edge.

    Right place, right time

    It has Dry Bones.

    The Famous Grouse Ruby Cask

    The Famous Grouse Ruby Cask
    Price band
    £ £ £ £ £
    ABV
    40%
    Production type
    Blended Scotch whisky
    Region
    n/a
    Flavour camp
    Rich & Round
    Nose

    A mix of sweet and quite ripe red and black fruits, sloe especially, with a crisp underpinning. Becomes increasingly scented, ripe and generous, with hawthorn jelly and fruit tea prominent. Water brings out red cherry and a touch of cedar. There’s some complexity here, and good balance.

    Palate

    A fatter mouthfeel than the American Oak with a mix of plum and cherry fruits. 

    Finish

    Spicy, then drying.

    Conclusion

    Plump, but not flabby, and well integrated. Very good on its own (probably without water) but would make an interesting base for a Blood & Sand. Just sayin’.

    Right place, right time

    Open this too early and you’ll be Drunk By Noon.

    Glenglassaugh 6 Years Old (Bramble Whisky Company)

    Glenglassaugh 6 Years Old (Bramble Whisky Company)
    Price band
    £ £ £ £ £
    ABV
    53.5%
    Production type
    Single malt whisky
    Region
    Highland
    Flavour camp
    Smoky & Peaty
    Nose

    There’s smoke from the off, peatiness mixed with dried herbs (hyssop, thyme and sage) which have been thrown athwart the fire, as well as luscious, sweet dried fruit. There’s a tiny spark of a Zippo lighter, suggestive of youth, and then things move steadily towards hickory and cypress, then raisin and toffee. Water is a good idea: it brings out more peat and a note akin to smoked biltong.

    Palate

    Some light smoke starts things off and sticks with you all the way, but there is a good balance struck in the middle of the palate where the thick, dried fruits are massed before a note of spent bonfire emerges. Water again brings the meaty element forward. Dark and mysterious.

    Finish

    A tense youthfulness but then a release of smoke.

    Conclusion

    The first bottling from Edinburgh’s legendary Bramble Bar. Bodes well for the future.

    Right place, right time

    Lost in the woods, the fire going out, shapes in the trees, drums begin to beat, a chant starts… ‘Diana, Diana’.

    Mortlach 25 Years Old, 1993, Cask #4466 (Adelphi)

    Mortlach 25 Years Old, 1993, Cask #4466 (Adelphi)
    Price band
    £ £ £ £ £
    ABV
    56.3%
    Production type
    Single malt whisky
    Region
    Speyside
    Flavour camp
    Rich & Round
    Nose

    Mature and initially fruity, then you pick up tobacco pouch, game pie with redcurrant jelly, peaches in brandy, a tiny hint of cereal, then red liquorice and an increasingly funky element. Grows and deepens, becoming ever more complex so that it can encompass the sweetness of Manuka honey, beeswax-polished furniture, leather-bound books, roast venison, and baked fruits. Water increases the gravitas and concentration, while smoke from an incense stick flutters in the background.

    Palate

    Elegant and layered. A big, rich, multifaceted dram which holds its strength well. You pick up melted chocolate, heavy black fruits, balanced by a (very Mortlach-like) sweet earthiness. In time, there’s some Seville orange, then pipe tobacco. As with the nose you are overwhelmed by a fluxing, shifting mix of the sweet and the savoury, the light and lifted, and the rooted and heavy. There’s a huge retronasal mix of venison and dry leaves, while a drop of water adds lift and a dusty exoticism that brings to mind dried rose petal and treacle toffee.

    Finish

    Burnt meat, then sweetness once again.

    Conclusion

    Remarkable. Whiskies like this don’t come along very often. You know what to do.

    Right place, right time

    God bless The Beast In Me.

    Tomatin 15 Years Old, Moscatel Finish

    Tomatin 15 Years Old, Moscatel Finish
    Price band
    £ £ £ £ £
    ABV
    46%
    Production type
    Single malt whisky
    Region
    Highland
    Flavour camp
    Fruity & Spicy
    Nose

    Sweetly scented with an initial mix of baked apricot, fresh yellow plum and, in time, tangerine marmalade and crystallised fruits. It has the fresh drive typical of the distillery, with a light, dry element behind the dusky, fragrant fruits (nectarine and dried apricot especially). Water brings out a funkier base note alongside old apples, bletted medlar and considerably more sweet spice. Becomes heavily Moscatel-driven.

    Palate

    Sweet and very fruity start – all light peachiness, with a thick, almost cloying blueberry syrup mid-palate before spices suddenly rip in then recede, allowing mint chocolate and darker, damson-like fruits to come through. Water makes it even more perfumed (orange blossom, Zibbibo grapes). The Moscatel is in charge.

    Finish

    Scented, fruity and slightly flabby.

    Conclusion

    It’s almost too much. I’d find it hard to have more than one dram – but I’d enjoy those few sips.

    Right place, right time

    Frothy and as sweet as my Sugar Spun Sister.

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