New Whiskies

Batch 171

by
Johnnie Walker White Walker, Cameronbridge, Caledonian and Port Dundas expressions from Cadenhead, Girvan single cask bottling from Lady of the Glen and Compass Box Flaming Heart 2018 Edition

Dave Broom road tests a gaggle of grains this week, accompanied by two drams from opposite sides of the scale – one which celebrates the cold, the other the heat of the fire.

First up is a Caledonian, the first of three Cadenhead single grain bottlings. With lots of bananas and milk chocolate on the nose, Broom finds it delicious, even if the palate doesn’t quite match the nose’s body.

It’s Cameronbridge next, and the stronger, oiler spirit reminds Broom of orange Spangles and raspberry ripple ice cream. The confectionary doesn’t end there, with a long, white chocolate finish. ‘Supple, well-balanced and powerful,’ Broom concludes.

Moving away from single grain, Compass Box Flaming Heart’s 2018 edition is big, bold and sweet. It’s a rich, punchy blended malt with ‘big toffee and smoke’ notes all the way through the palate, with a little peat fire to ensure it lives up to its name.

Independent bottler Lady of the Glen shows up to present its 1991 single cask Girvan offering. It’s a light, spirity grain whisky with a ‘floral edge’, but it’s dry enough to leave Broom scratching his head. ‘Why not just keep it in a cask for longer?’ he muses.

Completing the song of ice and fire started by Flaming Heart, Johnnie Walker’s White Walker gets two tasting notes: one at room temperature and one from the freezer, which is the whisky’s recommended serve. Broom actually prefers it ice cold, but concludes the experiment’s probably been done to a strict brief.

It’s another old single grain to finish off, as Broom grapples with a ‘chunky’ Port Dundas that’s all roasted corn and maple syrup. He decides it’s worth seeking out, and even takes the time to provide a pronunciation lesson should you want to order your own.

This week’s playlist veers from the haunting folk of Bon Iver to the unlikely duo of Yoko Ono and the Pet Shop Boys. Chalk and cheese? More like fire and ice.

Scoring Explained

Overview

  • Caledonian 30 Years Old, 1987 (Cadenhead)

    Caledonian 30 Years Old, 1987 (Cadenhead)
    Price band
    £ £ £ £ £
    ABV
    48.5%
    Production type
    Single grain whisky
    Region
    Lowland
    Flavour camp
    Rich & Round
    Nose

    Very Cally in its lusciousness and lift. There’s even still a hint of acetone among the mix of fresh varnish and fruit syrups. As it develops, so more oak influence surges forward, with heavy vanilla pod, bananas and milk chocolate, then Amalfi lemon and tonka bean that moves into orange blossom water, frangipani and sandalwood. In other words, there’s real complexity here. With water you get more oak, cherry Tunes, green apple, anise, clove and rose petal.

    Palate

    A curveball from the word go. Is it Scottish or Canadian? The mix of creamed corn, vanilla, apple and spice suggests the latter. As it opens so things become more aromatic, with potpourri elements, Morello cherry and bitters. Athough it doesn’t quite have the heft suggested by the nose, resulting in its fading a little towards the back, it is a delicious mouthful. Water brings that lift back, along with significantly more spice.

    Finish

    Nutmeg and clove.

    Conclusion

    That’s grain for you. Lighter in character and therefore more malleable than malt. Is this from Edinburgh, or Ontario? Does it matter?

    Right place, right time

    I could drink A Case Of You.

    Cameronbridge 28 Years Old, 1989 (Cadenhead)

    Cameronbridge 28 Years Old, 1989 (Cadenhead)
    Price band
    £ £ £ £ £
    ABV
    59%
    Production type
    Single grain whisky
    Region
    Lowland
    Flavour camp
    Fruity & Spicy
    Nose

    Quite hot, but also thick and slightly oily. There’s a softness to things which adds to a general shyness of delivery. There’s touches of iced buns, strawberry jam, and raspberry ripple ice cream, but things remain on the more restrained side. Water makes things a little more expressive, upping the red fruits and bringing in creamy toffee, then nutmeg. Things eventually become crisp, and quite crunchy.

    Palate

    Starts softly before some sweet, oaky elements come forward – coconut especially – while a spoonful of golden syrup adds to the silky, tongue-coating quality. It expands nicely with redcurrant fruit before the heat returns with a slight rigidity to the back palate. As with the nose, water makes the delivery much more expressive, with some caramel toffee, orange Spangles and zippy acidity.

    Finish

    The brightness of sumac, mixed with white chocolate. Long.

    Conclusion

    Supple, well-balanced and characterful.

    Right place, right time

    An ice cream sundae in Largs.

    Flaming Heart, 2018 Edition (Compass Box)

    Flaming Heart, 2018 Edition (Compass Box)
    Price band
    £ £ £ £ £
    ABV
    48.9%
    Production type
    Blended malt whisky
    Region
    n/a
    Flavour camp
    Smoky & Peaty
    Nose

    Bold and sweet, with masses of clover honey (with comb) and not for the only time this week a sense of density, with some added smoke in the background. There’s layered aromatics, mixing apricot jam on warm sourdough toast, tarte tatin, cedar, sultana and, as it develops, an upping of peat. Water brings out herbs, mastic, a little cow gum and dried fruits, but things have slightly dampened down.

    Palate

    Big toffee and smoke from the off. It’s drier and more structured than you might expect from the nose with a smouldering quality that lasts for the duration, bringing in Seville orange thrown on the embers of a peat fire. An unctuous, creamy, honeyed quality kicks in from the mid-palate on, mixing with the balanced smoke and a savoury edge which adds a sense of intrigue. Water brings out burning fruit wood, some allspice, but again it loses some impact.

    Finish

    Long and fruit-filled when neat.

    Conclusion

    Rich, balanced and rewarding, but leave the water on the side.

    Right place, right time

    We sit by as the Flames Go Higher.

    Girvan, 26 Years Old, 1991, Cask #54459 (Lady of the Glen)

    Girvan, 26 Years Old, 1991, Cask #54459 (Lady of the Glen)
    Price band
    £ £ £ £ £
    ABV
    43.2%
    Production type
    Single grain whisky
    Region
    Lowland
    Flavour camp
    Fragrant & Floral
    Nose

    Light and slightly spirity. Unusually, there are nutty elements in here: a mix of crushed hazelnut and the nibbly bits at the bottom of a packet of peanuts. Some crisp oak, then some white bread. It’s pretty wispy. With water you get some powdered milk and crepe bandage.

    Palate

    Very gentle, with a tiny floral edge, but most of all this is ultra-clean spirit that has some fizzing heat, even at relatively low strength. The low cask involvement means there’s only a tiny amount of creaminess, although the mid-palate does show some interesting textural qualities. Water accentuates its citric bite, as well as that slightly milky quality. Dries, then flies away.

    Finish

    Lemon leaf. Dry.

    Conclusion

    It’s one of those head-scratching ones. Why not just keep it in cask for longer, or if you want to use it, put it in a blend because its character would give a lot of energy and feel.

    Right place, right time

    A Skinny Love.

    Johnnie Walker White Walker

    Johnnie Walker White Walker
    Price band
    £ £ £ £ £
    ABV
    41.7%
    Production type
    Blended Scotch whisky
    Region
    n/a
    Flavour camp
    Fragrant and Floral
    Nose

    Frozen: Light cashew nut, some honey, orange oil, lime leaf and cinnamon with hints of steamed syrup pudding (in common with the Cameronbridge above), oak and red cherry. A certain tightness.
    Room temperature: The nutty elements move forward along with the hard rummy elements. There’s also some fried banana and pancake batter. Water makes it lean and green with a slight metallic edge.

    Palate

    Frozen: Very rummy (young Cuban rum) and quite edgy, but the mid-palate has a mouth-coating creamy, nougat-like quality along with pistachio ice cream (plus wafer).
    Room temperature: Like a kiwi fruit cheesecake with a squeeze of lime juice. Very light and all very front and centre, becoming very tight on the back. Water pulls out more feel.

    Finish

    Short and aggressive.

    Conclusion

    I much preferred it ice cold, but for all the learnings the blending team may have gleaned from this, you can’t help but feel that they’ve been working under strict orders. In Westeros there’s some mutant dog whose tail is wagging its body(*).

    (*) I’ve never watched Game of Thrones, so haven’t a clue whether such a thing exists.

    Right place, right time

    Walking on Thin Ice.

    Port Dundas 29 Years Old, 1988 (Cadenhead)

    Port Dundas 29 Years Old, 1988 (Cadenhead)
    Price band
    £ £ £ £ £
    ABV
    50.7%
    Production type
    Single grain whisky
    Region
    Lowland
    Flavour camp
    Fruity & Spicy
    Nose

    A chunky Port Dundas in its robust and almost earthy style with petrichor, or a football pitch after a game, with an added (and surprising) burnt element. Roasted corn and charred wood add a layer to the bruised apple, black banana and new suede shoes. With water comes an oxidative, dried fruit element.

    Palate

    Fat and chewy. That ashy quality is unusual for a grain, and it’s scented with some maple syrup, dry leaves and a hit of aspirin before salted caramel takes over. When water is added, that almost smoky element is retained along with the nutty, oxidised aspects reminiscent of dry Marsala. Continues to dry, and then falls away.

    Finish

    Heat and ashes.

    Conclusion

    Never had a grain like it. While it’s drier than you might expect from the nose, it’s worth seeking out. When you order one, remember: it’s Port DunDAS not DUNdas.

    Right place, right time

    Playing football in autumn, Bonfires around.

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