New Whiskies

Batch 180

by
Big Peat Christmas 2018, Old Pulteneys Huddart, 15 and 18-year-olds, Port Askaig 33-year-old and Cadenhead's Old Pulteney 12

It’s curtains for 2018, but Dave Broom remains adrift in a sea of whisky. Two Islays, a festive bottling and a US exclusive bookend four Old Pulteneys while the playlist remains as unpredictable as the open ocean.

First up is Big Peat’s annual Christmas blended malt, and it’s all earth, fire and bacon bits. Clean, clear and smoky, Broom rates this perfect mixing material.

Next is the first of Old Pulteney’s new core range, and the Huddart is rated ‘an easy afternoon sipper’ although Broom can’t help but feel it’s just getting started.

A Cadenhead bottling of an OP 12-year-old is light and cool with crisp acidity. However, despite an inherent freshness, the whisky leans heavily on its maritime distillery character.

Things round out with the core range’s 15-year-old, finished in first-fill ex-oloroso Sherry butts. With a little salt and white chocolate on the finish, Broom feels the malt hits its mark with aplomb.

The range’s 18-year-old is matured the same way but there’s more of the cask on the nose, with coconut and dried fruit peeking through. The best-ranked of the bunch, it’s perfect for a sea shanty or two.

Finally, a 33-year-old from Port Askaig moves from dark to peachy, from refined to medicinal. It’s a gentle dram, says Broom, and ‘a lovely way to end the year’.

This week’s playlist ebbs and flows from the rock ‘n’ roll stylings of Link Wray to a burst of freshness from Outkast. Merry Christmas everyone!

Scoring Explained

Overview

  • Big Peat Christmas 2018 (Douglas Laing & Co.)

    Big Peat Christmas 2018 (Douglas Laing & Co.)
    Price band
    £ £ £ £ £
    ABV
    53.9%
    Production type
    Blended malt whisky
    Region
    Islay
    Flavour camp
    Smoky & Peaty
    Nose

    There’s this whiff of a just-lit peat fire with slightly damp socks drying around it, then a cereal note (malt bins) and a seafood platter draped with seaweed. There’s also a sense of some muscle behind what initially appears to be a smoky yet insubstantial dram. With water, you pick out bacon bits and the depth starts to show along with a mix of dry grasses and sweeter fruits.

    Palate

    There’s a cough and a catch of dry smoke before the sweet, head-clearing sensation of a mid-sermon peppermint, then sugared plums before the smoke re-emerges. Has good length and, once again, water shows its fat centre.

    Finish

    Clean and smoky with a mineral crispness.

    Conclusion

    The smoke and the mid-palate softness makes this ideal Highball material.

    Right place, right time

    Be prepared for some Fire and Brimstone.

    Old Pulteney Huddart

    Old Pulteney Huddart
    Price band
    £ £ £ £ £
    ABV
    46%
    Production type
    Single malt whisky
    Region
    Highland
    Flavour camp
    Fragrant & Floral
    Nose

    A mix of porridge and salt – how Presbyterian – backed with light lemon peel and smoke hanging like a sea fog (or haar) over the coast. As the aromas gain momentum so you get amber malt, peanut oil, a corrective touch of lipstick and dried flowers, while with water there’s a firmer edge as younger elements start to protrude.

    Palate

    Good, quite oily feel and with the slight edginess you get on the nose seemingly left behind, you’re left with this unctuous texture alongside low smoke (it’s finished in peated casks), apple, orange zest and sel gris. While things remain in this more developed area than on the reduced nose, the feeling is of a journey started rather than a destination reached.

    Finish

    Bracing and saline, then a hint of smoke.

    Conclusion

    An easy afternoon sipper and never discount the advantages of those.

    Right place, right time

    Sitting on the sea wall as The Haar Rolls In.

    Old Pulteney 12 Years Old, 2006 (Cadenhead)

    Old Pulteney 12 Years Old, 2006 (Cadenhead)
    Price band
    £ £ £ £ £
    ABV
    56%
    Production type
    Single malt whisky
    Region
    Highland
    Flavour camp
    Fragrant & Floral
    Nose

    Once again things are light and fresh. This is reminiscent of a freshly-starched shirt, then meadow flowers next to the sea. There’s a slight tension in here with unripe pineapple, although water allows some oils (and a not unpleasant note of paraffin) to seep through resulting in a hint of there being more body.

    Palate

    There’s quite a change from the nose with a light, nutty undertow, then gomme-like sweetness followed by a mouth-freshening effect, akin to Arm & Hammer toothpaste mixed with seaside rock. Water shows more perfume and there’s that zest and minerality balancing the pillowy mid-palate.

    Finish

    Crisp with brisk acidity.

    Conclusion

    Quite a transformation between nose and mouth, but again very distillery-forward.

    Right place, right time

    So Fresh, So Clean.

    Old Pulteney 15 Years Old

    Old Pulteney 15 Years Old
    Price band
    £ £ £ £ £
    ABV
    46%
    Production type
    Single malt whisky
    Region
    Highland
    Flavour camp
    Fragrant & Floral
    Nose

    An intriguing, oily, pine sap element mixed with furniture polish (or more precisely, yellow dusters impregnated with the same) and some lightly floral element that moves into boiled sweets. Things remain bright with touches of light vanillin and a bready aspect. The citrus here is grapefruit/yuzu and with water you pick up a long-discarded banana skin, more oak and a dab of Vaseline.

    Palate

    There’s (slightly) more oak in here, giving the initial impression of a pear panna cotta with custard on the side and a touch of sultana. This is quickly balanced by that zingy acidity which cuts through this softness, allowing the more fragrant elements to come into play. Things lighten with water, so be careful not to drown it. There’s a restraint here.

    Finish

    The creamy elements return, along with white chocolate and a sprinkle of salt.

    Conclusion

    Balanced, clean, easily approachable. It achieves exactly what it sets out to do.

    Right place, right time

    Gently getting used to the Ebb and Flow.

    Old Pulteney 18 Years Old

    Old Pulteney 18 Years Old
    Price band
    £ £ £ £ £
    ABV
    46%
    Production type
    Single malt whisky
    Region
    Highland
    Flavour camp
    Fruity & Spicy
    Nose

    A range of confectionary here: pineapple cubes, rosy apples, tangerine and powdered ginger. While things remain refreshing, there’s a sense of greater maturity and, once again, a light touch on the oak. In time there’s the nose prickle of kombucha, lemon verbena and a little more cask influence with coconut and some dried fruit. Water dries things slightly, adding in a mirin-like note, some frangipane tart and just a hint of wax.

    Palate

    A fat, lightly oily palate. There’s perhaps no surprise that this is the chewiest of the new OP range. There’s a little bit of hazelnut in there along with more spiciness and just a hint of raisin adding more weight.

    Finish

    A jag of acid, then firming up with touches of dried fruit.

    Conclusion

    Once again well balanced with a focus on the distillery, not the oak. There’s a clear progression in the range. All are highly approachable.

    Right place, right time

    Joining in with a Drinking Song.

    Port Askaig 33 Years Old

    Port Askaig 33 Years Old
    Price band
    £ £ £ £ £
    ABV
    50.3%
    Production type
    Single malt whisky
    Region
    Islay
    Availability
    US Exclusive
    Flavour camp
    Smoky & Peaty
    Nose

    An elegantly mature mix of waxed paper, ripening cheese, estery tropical fruits and wholly integrated smoke. Layered, mature and relaxed. In time, you get waxed jacket, scented wood, heather bells and honey, with old pear and apple peel. After that comes barbecued chicken dripping with juices and always the fragrant smoke. Finally, you move into the depths of an old-growth forest, while with water you can pick out a mix of sandalwood incense and myrrh (how appropriate), refined smoke and more of that meaty undertow.

    Palate

    The smoke rises gently from its mossy bed, scented and also more phenolic (creosote, hot tar, and peat reek) before the fruits come through, mixing the dark and the peachy. Multi-dimensional. I’d leave water on the side: while its addition adds a more medicinal element to the mix, there’s a drier quality and a slight loss of complexity.

    Finish

    Long, slightly oily, smoked.

    Conclusion

    There’s no sense of things being forced here, just nature being allowed to gently take its course. What a lovely way to end the year.

    Right place, right time

    Sitting by a River in the Pines.

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