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New Whiskies

Batch 199

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Benromach 10 Years Old, 2008, Cask Strength Batch 1; Cameronbridge 34 Years Old (Cadenhead); Carsebridge 45 Years Old (Thompson Brothers); Coleburn 38 Years Old, 1981, Private Collection (Gordon & MacPhail); Isle of Arran 22 Years Old (Cadenhead); Port Dundas 30 Years Old (Cadenhead)

Three grains, three malts; all cask strength, most old and many sharing some facet of honeyed sweetness.

Things get off to a heated start with Benromach’s 10-year-old 2008 vintage, which is set to replace the distillery’s standard 100 Proof expression. The whisky might pack an eye-watering punch of smoke and spice, but its lack of substance makes it miss the mark.

Cadenhead offers a sweet respite with its Cameronbridge 34-year-old bottling. Peaches, citrus and tropical fruit combine with a light spice to create what Dave Broom calls ‘a classically-framed old grain’.

Single grains stay in the spotlight, with a Carsebridge bottling from that Dornoch distiller and bottler, the Thompson Brothers. At 45 years old, a drop of water is recommended to fully reveal the whisky’s depths of maturity.

Moving on to Coleburn 1981, a new addition to Gordon & MacPhail’s Private Collection. The whisky’s lusciously perfumed nose contrasts sharply with its oaky palate, giving the expression a slightly fragile element.

Cadenhead returns with a zesty 22-year-old bottling from the Isle of Arran. With citrus fruits, sweet teas and fragrant blooming flowers, it’s a summer dram.

A 30-year-old expression from Port Dundas by Cadenhead brings this week’s tastings to an under-ripe and slightly metallic close. ‘You can see how this would work in a blend,’ says Broom, ‘...but it’s exposed when on its own.’

The playlist starts with suitably heavy Black Sabbath but soon starts to sweeten and lighten thanks to Archie Shepp, Bobbie Gentry, Jackson Browne and the marvellous Josephine Foster. Stir in some Arvo Part and eclecticism is the theme.

Scoring Explained

Overview

  • Benromach 10 Years Old, 2008, Cask Strength Batch 1

    Score

    78

    Benromach 10 Years Old, 2008, Cask Strength Batch 1
    Price band
    £ £ £ £ £
    ABV
    57.9%
    Production type
    Single malt whisky
    Region
    Speyside
    Flavour camp
    Smoky & Peaty
    Nose

    Hot and boldly assertive, with a mix of smoke and charred wood (spent bonfire), then barley sugar and crunchy chocolate, with a slightly oily undertow. A little blunt. Water accentuates that oiliness and brings out more scented qualities and a hint of apple and rhubarb pie (overfired), before the sensation of a bonfire in a timber yard returns.

    Palate

    Hot, and then the smoke belts out alongside a leatheriness. The power of the oak and the smoke gives any sweetness little room to breathe. Water brings out some pepper and there’s touches of red fruit at the back, while the foreground is dominated by charred red peppers on a dry hot plate.

    Finish

    Alcohol comes through.

    Conclusion

    A fiery, punchy, smoky whisky that’s weirdly like a lot of smoky whiskies from Australia. There’s a lack of balance here. Trying a little too hard for me.

    Right place, right time

    And so we head Into the Void.

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    Cameronbridge 34 Years Old (Cadenhead)

    Score

    88

    Cameronbridge 34 Years Old (Cadenhead)
    Price band
    £ £ £ £ £
    ABV
    52.8%
    Production type
    Single grain whisky
    Region
    Lowland
    Flavour camp
    Fruity & Spicy
    Nose

    Oaky, but peachy as well. Initially, it’s almost Cognac-like with golden syrup, a little hint of pomegranate seed, cooked apricot, coconut, nutmeg and a sprinkling of Sugar Puffs. Clearly mature. In time, there’s some peach flesh and dried orange peel. With water added you can see the richness that’s been added by time, with a burst of spice, caramel toffee ice cream and sweet and syrupy fruits. Delicious.

    Palate

    A soft, very sweet and syrupy start, with some fresh tangerine on the very tip, and then thickens out into Frosties, juicy, honeyed, almost rummy tropical fruits, before it dries out a little at the back. Again, water shows its mature depth alongside a light grip of toasty oak, sweet spices and more of the light caramel.

    Finish

    Bright and fragrant.

    Conclusion

    A pretty classically-framed old grain, with a sense of sweetness and oak, while throwing sidelong glances to other spirts. Warm and gentle.

    Right place, right time

    Takes you into a world of Easy Living.

    Carsebridge 45 Years Old, 1973 (Thompson Brothers)

    Score

    82

    Carsebridge 45 Years Old, 1973 (Thompson Brothers)
    Price band
    £ £ £ £ £
    ABV
    53.5%
    Production type
    Single grain whisky
    Region
    Lowland
    Flavour camp
    Fruity & Spicy
    Nose

    This is more on the leafy, citric side, with some honeycomb chocolate (Crunchie bar) and firm, yet sweet, wood. In time a more waxy heat (warm massage oil) comes over, along with juicy fruits. As with the Cameronbridge, a drop of water reveals its mature depths: baked, sweet orchard fruits and a sense of weight. There’s some darker qualities in here (and some Turkish Delight).

    Palate

    As thick as the Cameronbridge, but with more blackcurrant syrup. It’s more firmly structured and has some grip, with light sandalwood, and then starts to dry down from the mid-palate onwards – albeit with some Canadian-esque fatness, light milk chocolate and citrus oils. Just as it seems to relax and open into more oxidised elements, it fades quite dramatically. With water it becomes more musky and mysterious, with a thick oiliness up front.

    Finish

    Short. Dries quickly.

    Conclusion

    A lovely nose but falters on the back palate.

    Right place, right time

    A dram which makes you wonder what it would have been like If Bach Had Been a Beekeeper.

    Coleburn 38 Years Old, 1981, Private Collection (Gordon & MacPhail)

    Score

    88

    Coleburn 38 Years Old, 1981, Private Collection (Gordon & MacPhail)
    Price band
    £ £ £ £ £
    ABV
    55.9%
    Production type
    Single malt whisky
    Region
    Speyside
    Flavour camp
    Fruity & Spicy
    Nose

    Aromatic with a thick, lusciously perfumed sweetness, masses of quince (tea/membrillo), medlar, floral honey and then mead. An astonishing concentration that brings to mind old Sauternes with a touch of Vin Santo. In time (and with a drop of water) you get mint chocolate and things get waxier.

    Palate

    As with the Cameronbridge, now the sense of time is revealed. The oak is there alongside the scents of dunnage and autumnal earth. Fruits appear at the start, then hang back a little, their sweetness masked by the oak and a cocktail bitters-like quality that adds a slight astringency.

    Finish

    A touch of smoke (burning coal?) and calamus-accented bittering agents.

    Conclusion

    The nose is astonishing but the palate is more fragile than you might expect.

    Right place, right time

    Time the Conqueror.

    Isle of Arran 22 Years Old, 1996 (Cadenhead)

    Score

    86

    Isle of Arran 22 Years Old, 1996 (Cadenhead)
    Price band
    £ £ £ £ £
    ABV
    49.6%
    Production type
    Single malt whisky
    Region
    Islands
    Flavour camp
    Fruity & Spicy
    Nose

    Very Arran. Citrus up front: zesty sweet orange, tangerine, light grapefruit, some guava and pineapple, and then lilac blossom, sweet pea and light Oolong tea. Altogether rather lovely. In time there’s crisp green apple, cinnamon bread and balancing notes of light cereal and oak. Water brings out tarte tatin, more of the orange juice, some pancake batter and finally spiced apple juice.

    Palate

    A gentle, soft start, albeit with a little powdery quality before you get set honey, ginger, squishy citrus elements and some crème caramel. You’re more aware of the oak now adding light cedar touches. Water adds more brightness: lemon and grapefruit at first, before the mature ripe fruits show.

    Finish

    Light, then some macadamia nut.

    Conclusion

    A delicious, fruity, citric summer dram. It maybe needs a little more weight in the middle of the tongue, but that’s quibbling.

    Right place, right time

    Playing among the Marigolds and Tangerines.

    Port Dundas, 30 Years Old (Cadenhead)

    Score

    79

    Port Dundas, 30 Years Old (Cadenhead)
    Price band
    £ £ £ £ £
    ABV
    51.3%
    Production type
    Single grain whisky
    Region
    Lowland
    Flavour camp
    Fruity & Spicy
    Nose

    There’s some of the distillery’s roasted weight here, and also a slightly nutty element: peanut butter and cashew. Slightly plain and still, and oddly green around the edges: linseed oil, green almond and grass. In time there’s a slight metallic quality. With water you get unripe citrus.

    Palate

    Things here are considerably softer than the needling nose. There’s a generous solidity which starts with coffee creamer but then moves to heavy honey and a light amber malt quality in the centre. Things do dry from the mid-palate onwards, becoming spicier (almost peppery) while water brings back that green apple element, and more wood. It gets more metallic in time.

    Finish

    Spicy, with red liquorice and oak.

    Conclusion

    You can see how this would work in a blend; some freshness to the nose, some substance to the palate. But it’s exposed when on its own.

    Right place, right time

    Another old grain? Yes but Sugar Pie, I’m Not the Same.

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