New Whiskies

Batch 181

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Aberfeldy Madeira finish, Cu Bocan 1990, Springbank 21, Auchroisk and Dailuaine 11 Year Olds from James Eadie

Dave Broom’s first tasting since the New Year rang in demonstrates why cask finishing is a trickier process than one might imagine.

It’s a slow start, as two 16- and 21-year-old travel retail exclusives from Aberfeldy distillery fail to shine through a 12-month finish in ex-Bual and ex-Malvasia Malmsey casks (Madeira to the uninitiated). Deemed ‘flabby’ and ‘bland’, Broom surmises ‘there’s no sense of maturity or direction’.

The first of two James Eadie bottlings picks up the pace. An 11-year-old Auchroisk matured entirely in an ex-Bourbon cask, Broom deems it ‘altogether lovely’, and a complex dram despite a young age.

Separating the Eadies is a limited edition peated single malt from Cù Bòcan, distilled at Tomatin distillery. Though despite its use of peated malt, and finish in ex-Islay whisky casks, its smokiness – and substance – is aloof.

The second of the Eadies presents a richer and rounder flavour profile, being an 11-year-old Dailuaine finished in ex-Pedro Ximinez Sherry butts. The distillery’s signature meatiness is prominent, with the PX spreading blackberry jam across the palate. Sadly, Broom laments its lack of depth and direction.

Finally, a 21-year-old single cask Springbank, bottled by Master of Malt, is ‘distinctly rich and meaty’ with a savoury finish and the grip Broom has missed from the rest of this week’s tasting.

Still, he proclaims this week’s playlist to be a pretty good one, with tracks from The Smiths, The Beach Boys and Tom Jones.

Scoring Explained

Overview

  • Aberfeldy 16 Years Old, Madeira Finish

    Aberfeldy 16 Years Old, Madeira Finish
    Price band
    £ £ £ £ £
    ABV
    40%
    Production type
    Single malt whisky
    Region
    Highland
    Availability
    Travel Retail Exclusive
    Flavour camp
    Fruity & Spicy
    Nose

    Quite vinous with some marzipan, cooked fruits, light citrus peel and the dreamy smell of blueberry syrup on hot pancakes. There’s even more fruit in time with a spread of apricot jam on a warm croissant as well as a little oak. What’s not to love? With water an almost smoky element develops, though the cooked fruits are still there along with more overt almond and stewing citrus.

    Palate

    Soft. Very soft in fact. Those cooked fruits seem to disappear as it flumps into the mouth and flops around like a fat man learning how to swim. Water simply maintains this as well as thinning the effect out.

    Finish

    Light, sticky, then cloying.

    Conclusion

    More alcohol? More time? More... Aberfeldy? Whatever, it’s flabby with a lack of centre, structure or progression of flavour.

    Right place, right time

    What Difference Does It Make?

    Aberfeldy 21 Years Old, Madeira Finish

    Aberfeldy 21 Years Old, Madeira Finish
    Price band
    £ £ £ £ £
    ABV
    40%
    Production type
    Single malt whisky
    Region
    Highland
    Availability
    Travel Retail Exclusive
    Flavour camp
    Fruity & Spicy
    Nose

    Some oak influence from the off. The smell of a pine sauna along with cooked plum. Things are firmer than the 16-year-old, but with a similar stewed quality – and the marzipan – though this time there’s a tingle of mulberry vinegar. Overall though, it’s dry with a sappy element. Water amplifies this – simultaneously green and spruce-like (unusual for two decades in wood) as well as sweet fruits. Eating plums while sitting on an old woodpile.

    Palate

    Again things are pillow soft and, again, the finish has dominated, not just making things sweeter, but also more bland, as if there simply wasn’t sufficient complexity in the original spirit to work with. Water does initially add a perky lift, and some hope, but it collapses quickly.

    Finish

    Sweet and short.

    Conclusion

    There’s no sense of maturity or direction here, it’s all about the sweetening effect of the wine which is itself strange as great Madeira is multifaceted, complex and famously acidic.

    Right place, right time

    It’s a Do Not Disturb sign on the door in a rundown mountain hotel. Old-time Cabinessence.

    Auchroisk 11 Years Old, 2007, Cask #805594 (James Eadie)

    Auchroisk 11 Years Old, 2007, Cask #805594 (James Eadie)
    Price band
    £ £ £ £ £
    ABV
    59.5%
    Production type
    Single malt whisky
    Region
    Speyside
    Flavour camp
    Fragrant & Floral
    Nose

    Sweet and quite juicy fruit with gooseberry and uncooked rhubarb, as well as sugared almond, fresh-baled meadow grass and a delicate floral background. In time things sweeten and deepen with notes of butterscotch sweets, developing into apple sponge cake. Water adds slightly more crisp elements, hints of amber and all the time a building of complexity, stirring in light coconut, flowers and a hint of acorn. Complex yet young and fresh.

    Palate

    Rounded, with lots of creamy vanilla and a light alcohol buzz. In the mid-palate there’s a hit of cereal, then the floral elements come through towards a hotter dry spice towards the back. Surprisingly drinkable neat given the high strength. Water helps to calm down the more effervescent elements, adding a powdery quality, some rose and light citrus. Really well balanced.

    Finish

    Best with water where it is all flowers and green fruits.

    Conclusion

    Altogether lovely. More like this please.

    Right place, right time

    Pull back the curtains, look: it’s Another Sunny Day!

    Cù Bòcan 1990, 28 Years Old

    Cù Bòcan 1990, 28 Years Old
    Price band
    £ £ £ £ £
    ABV
    52.9%
    Production type
    Single malt whisky
    Region
    Highland
    Flavour camp
    Smoky & Peaty
    Nose

    The start is slightly reedy, grassy and lean with hints of tinned lychee, melon and dried oregano. There’s a sense of substance, but it’s aloof. In time, slowly you get the smell of mulched grass, fresh lime, then waxed paper while with water gently smoked vegetable (daikon) and pear. Scented? Yes. Smoky? Slightly. Ethereal? Definitely.

    Palate

    There’s a touch of smoke at the start and then the intense apple typical of the distillery comes though. There’s a blurred effect, suggesting that it’s best to add water early on in the investigation. This adds a tongue-clinging quality with a mist of light phenols drifting around light citrus and fresh orchard fruit. Only with a fair amount of time do things begin to form out of the smoke, allied with a fresh natural acidity.

    Finish

    Softens. Lightly smoked.

    Conclusion

    Tomatin finished in Islay peated casks. Can’t help feeling that the relationship between the two is just too fleeting so the smoke is never fully integrated, but remains wraith-like.

    Right place, right time

    Given it’s named after a mythical monstrous dog I’d lined up Hellhound On My Trail. Instead it’s more What’s New Pussycat?

    Dailuaine 11 Years Old, 2007, Cask #310570 (James Eadie)

    Dailuaine 11 Years Old, 2007, Cask #310570 (James Eadie)
    Price band
    £ £ £ £ £
    ABV
    54.3%
    Production type
    Single malt whisky
    Region
    Speyside
    Flavour camp
    Rich & Round
    Nose

    Soft, and slightly earthy, almost meaty in fact with damp leather (in a good way) fresh chestnut and the aroma of the inside of a hot tent. Then, bafflingly, a mix of hot oil and fruit trifle, suggesting that things are pulling in two directions at the same time. With water the rich soft mulch comes through, allied to raisin and roasted cereal. Deep but with a little edge.

    Palate

    Given what’s going on in the nose things are strangely dumb to start with, the PX finish spreads its generous glossiness liberally over the tongue. Sweet raisin, blackberry jam in everywhere. The depth and subtle grunt is lost as things start to glide. It’s missing grip and depth as the spirit struggles to be heard.

    Finish

    Concentrated and sweet.

    Conclusion

    It’s been a week of finishes and, sadly, none have worked. They should add a twist, add a new dimension to a spirit pulling out new accords, adding complexity but not dominating and dampening things down. Integration, subtlety, extra complexity should be the watchwords. This is nice, but there’s a lack of direction.

    Right place, right time

    I’m Stuck In The Middle With You.

    Springbank 21 Years Old, 1996, Single Cask (Master of Malt)

    Springbank 21 Years Old, 1996, Single Cask (Master of Malt)
    Price band
    £ £ £ £ £
    ABV
    55.2%
    Production type
    Single malt whisky
    Region
    Campbeltown
    Flavour camp
    Rich & Round
    Nose

    Distinctly rich and meaty (smoked ham) from the off, with a touch of light smoke (smoked venison maybe?) some walnut oil, then treacle toffee, Old Dundee marmalade, and a little touch of sulphur. Water adds to the oiliness, then liquorice, coffee grounds and that sulphur note.

    Palate

    Fireworks and rice crackers come in first, then a stinging bite of alcohol. There’s grip (much missed this week) and things move into this slightly savoury back end with the meatiness coming through mid-palate. Tangerine peels, allspice, damson sauce with touches of waxed saddle. A mature Springbank with the distillery’s slightly dangerous qualities to the fore.

    Finish

    Flamed citrus, spice, light smoke (but still the sulphur).

    Conclusion

    Sometimes you need some raunch in your whisky and while some might find the sulphur too overt, for me it helps with the overall feeling of being in a dockside dive bar at 4am. The bill is hefty, though.

    Right place, right time

    ‘At the white sea wall, waves crash and crash again.’ Head back to the bar, wave Goodbye to Beauty.

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