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New Whiskies

Batch 198

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Benrinnes 21-year-old by Cadenhead; Caol Ila 7-year-old by Asta Morris; Craigellachie-Glenlivet 9-year-old by Cadenhead; Linkwood 10-year-old by James Eadie; Port Askaig 10-year-old 10th Anniversary; Port Askaig 28-year-old

An abundance of bottlings from Cadenhead, Asta Morris and James Eadie are assessed in Dave Broom’s whisky reviews this week, while Port Askaig brings up the rear with its limited edition 10th anniversary expression and 28-year-old release.

The tasting begins with a 21-year-old Benrinnes from Cadenhead. While the Speyside whisky is a popular choice for blenders, Broom finds it a complex, meaty and mature dram that shines on its own.

Indie bottler Asta Morris flexes its muscles again with a seven-year-old Caol Ila that offers a weird-yet-wonderful combination of smoke, soap and soot.

A young Craigellachie from Cadenhead pendulates between sulphur and fruit, leaving Broom feeling it needs a few more years in the cask.

After spending 20 months in an oloroso Sherry butt, James Eadie’s 10-year-old Linkwood bottling offers rich notes of apricot jam balanced by the whisky’s easy-going distillery character.

Islay single malt brand Port Askaig celebrates a decade of working with the island's peaty spirit with its 10-year-old anniversary expression. Moving between fruit, smoke and salt, Broom finds it a delicate dram with a calmness that belies its complexity.

Finally, Port Askaig’s 28-year-old malt, a Europe and Asia exclusive, brings waves of oil and fruit, youth and maturity that requires time for the whisky to come fully into its own.

The playlist this week shifts from the laid-back pastoral sounds of Jakes Xerxes Fussell, Nick Drake, and Donovan before ending up on the coast in the company of Nick Cave. Don Cherry and Swamp Dogg add bounce. Click the links in Right Time, Right Place.

Scoring Explained

Overview

  • Benrinnes 21 Years Old (Cadenhead)

    Benrinnes 21 Years Old (Cadenhead)
    Price band
    £ £ £ £ £
    ABV
    53.7%
    Production type
    Single malt whisky
    Region
    Speyside
    Flavour camp
    Fruity & Spicy
    Nose

    Mature, slightly oily, pulpy fruits with typical Benrinnes weight. Things move toward peach cobbler and some vanilla custard, but with this weighty, elegant honeysuckle/clover honey undertow that sits alongside tiny hints of meatiness. When water is added, it’s filled with beeswax, heather honey and slightly drier oak. Complex and rich.

    Palate

    Smooth and satin-like, with a sweet start that then dips immediately into a massive mix of super-ripe and cooked tropical fruits. By the mid-palate there’s sweet spices and still the hefty mature weight. The tannins are supple, almost slippery. Towards the back you get the citric buzz of sansho. Water accentuates the satin-like quality alongside fruit syrups, cloudberry jam, sweet persimmon, sweet potato, honey and meaty elements.

    Finish

    A flicker of spice, then ripe fruits.

    Conclusion

    A classic, old, mature whisky. Ripe, long, complex and balanced. You can’t ask for much more.

    Right place, right time

    Have You Ever Seen Peaches Growing on a Sweet Potato Vine? Not til now…

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    Caol Ila 7 Years Old (Asta Morris)

    Caol Ila 7 Years Old (Asta Morris)
    Price band
    £ £ £ £ £
    ABV
    55.9%
    Production type
    Single malt whisky
    Region
    Islay
    Flavour camp
    Peaty & Smoky
    Nose

    Burnt and surprisingly meaty to start: hot-smoked salmon, the grease in an old bacon smoker, then a herbal quality plus lots of allspice, garam masala, cumin, some coal tar soap, cigar leaf and gingerbread. The smoke is big, but fully integrated. With water added you get a more baked, exotic element, with an upping of the more resinous elements: bog myrtle, eucalyptus, bay, sage, resin and, eventually, a whiff of castoreum (beaver secretion).

    Palate

    Burning wood along with compressed black fruits, then treacle-cured bacon. Smoke is part of it all. You can now pick out some violet, as well as that coal tar soapiness, before things become oily and resinous in the centre. Water shows the dram’s muscle and heft, along with pine and terpene, some lavender and the constant smoke.

    Finish

    Tar and salt. Medicinal.

    Conclusion

    They’ve done it again. Remarkable complexity and integration for its age. The slight soapy thing is a bit weird but who can find fault with that at this age? A must-try.

    Right place, right time

    Such character at this age? Brings Total Destruction to Your Mind.

    Craigellachie-Glenlivet 9 Years Old (Cadenhead)

    Craigellachie-Glenlivet 9 Years Old (Cadenhead)
    Price band
    £ £ £ £ £
    ABV
    55.1%
    Production type
    Single malt whisky
    Region
    Speyside
    Flavour camp
    Fruity & Spicy
    Nose

    One of those boisterous younger Craigellachies where the almost smoky distillery sulphur is still in evidence. Its estery fruits are just peeking out, along with melting butter and day lily. The overcooked cabbage element wins out though. With water there’s some cereal, fresh ginger and hints of sweet fruit, but the fug doesn’t lift.

    Palate

    Actually, it’s very sweet to start with; the feel is silky, and the weight is already there in the middle of the tongue where there’s tinned fruit salad, light white pepper spiciness, even some pineapple and cream. In time the sulphur comes through. When water is added all sins are forgotten, and it becomes sweeter and more cake-like with some cream, oily fruits and even a touch of white miso, but guess what…?

    Finish

    …The sulphur comes back.

    Conclusion

    It’s a frustrating dram, because you can see what it is becoming – indeed after an hour in the glass the muscle and sweet fruit come in strongly, but who wants to wait that long? Another couple of years in the cask wouldn’t have gone amiss.

    Right place, right time

    Drinking this is like Walking on Eggs (hardboiled).

    Linkwood 10 Years Old (James Eadie)

    Linkwood 10 Years Old (James Eadie)
    Price band
    £ £ £ £ £
    ABV
    57.9%
    Production type
    Single malt whisky
    Region
    Speyside
    Flavour camp
    Fruity & Spicy
    Nose

    This has that slight musky quality of cream Sherry, but also the baked apple and pie crust of Linkwood. Fresh and lively, there’s some apricot jam, then a dab of fresh paint and the apple. In time, there’s a daffodil-like aroma, some hot cross bun, rouge and dried rose petal, while with water you get a more vinous quality: cooked blue fruits, and Moscatel.

    Palate

    There’s good balance here between the finish and the distillery character; the Sherry adds more softness and weight, but does not dominate, therefore allowing Linkwood’s fresh fragrant elements a chance to show themselves. Things become riper in the middle and towards the back; the apricots are now dried, and there’s some sultana. Again, water makes it much bigger and chewier, with a more overt sweet Sherried character.

    Finish

    Orange zest, mace and sultana.

    Conclusion

    Very James Eadie in its approachability and ease. If you want things more vinous then add water. If you like them easy-going, rounded and sweet, then this is for you.

    Right place, right time

    Lying under a Fruit Tree.

    Port Askaig 10 Years Old, 10th Anniversary

    Port Askaig 10 Years Old, 10th Anniversary
    Price band
    £ £ £ £ £
    ABV
    55.9%
    Production type
    Single malt whisky
    Region
    Islay
    Flavour camp
    Smoky & Peaty
    Nose

    To start with you get a mix of light fruit and marzipan, with a creamy underpinning. There’s smoke here, but it’s subtle. In time there’s some wet slate, a touch of bay oil, light lemon and sea salt. It needs water to bring out the barbecued ham and further punchiness, with the smoky element being upped, along with some mineral qualities and pickled herring. The first thread of smoke from a peat fire.

    Palate

    Fresh and ozone-accented cleanliness to start with, then some menthol and peppermint, with light smoke all the way. Slightly salty, like a seafood platter. When water is added that cooling element is retained. Everything is under control. Water brings out smoked meats, a light-green herbal element, cornichons, then the sweetness of (smoked) scallop flesh and lemon. Delicate, yet mouth-filling.

    Finish

    Smoke and salt.

    Conclusion

    Balanced and with substance, but so calm that you would easily miss its complexities.

    Right place, right time

    Down on the beach next to the Sand and Foam.

    Port Askaig 28 Years Old

    Port Askaig 28 Years Old
    Price band
    £ £ £ £ £
    ABV
    45.6%
    Production type
    Single malt whisky
    Region
    Islay
    Flavour camp
    Smoky & Peaty
    Nose

    Oily and fruity but still with some smoke though, initially at least. The nose is dominated by pear and, surprisingly, a crisp green apple element that moves into watercress. In time (and this dram needs time) you begin to glean the more mature notes with softer, oilier fruits. Water produces more olive oil (and green olive) as a herbal element begins to show through: bay oil once more, bog myrtle, Oolong tea. Complex, yet subtle.

    Palate

    A very gentle, understated start; all salt-washed rocks, seashells and oyster brine, all allied to this oily, mature mid-palate. The almost heathery smoke emerges in puffs along with some juniper/pine. Water brings out wood smoke, as it almost reluctantly starts to show its muscle and weight. The green apple has long gone; now it is salt, fish oils and a presence in the centre. Things fade slightly in time, leaving behind touches of lemon, light smoke, grass and fishing nets. An old boat in the harbour.

    Finish

    Pinot Blanc, then this strong retro-nasal wave of oils and pulsing waves of smoke and fruit.

    Conclusion

    It is the opposite of the Asta Morris. Youthful bravado and mature calm. This is all about the feel.

    Right place, right time

    Standing at the Water’s Edge.

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