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New Whiskies

Batch 200

by
Caol Ila 16 Years Old, 2003, Connoisseurs Choice (Gordon & MacPhail); Glenburgie 21 Years Old, 1998, Connoisseurs Choice (Gordon & MacPhail); Ledaig 13 Years Old, 2006, Connoisseurs Choice (Gordon & MacPhail); Highland Park 30 Years Old, 1989, Connoisseurs Choice (Gordon & MacPhail); Highland Park Twisted Tattoo, 16 Years Old; GlenDronach Boynsmill 16 Years Old

Gordon & MacPhail’s (G&M) Connoisseurs Choice collection takes centre stage in our 200th batch of new whisky reviews, ably supported by a fruit bomb of a GlenDronach and the latest twist in the Highland Park saga.

A 16-year-old Caol Ila bottled by G&M starts us off, combining its familiar Islay coastal elements with a herbal twist. Smoke ebbs and flows throughout the whisky, making this one long, layered dram.

G&M’s 21-year-old Glenburgie bottling darts between ripe barley and green fennel, and then acidic fruits and creamy desserts when water is added. ‘Two whiskies for the price of one,’ says Dave Broom.

GlenDronach’s new travel retail exclusive, Boynsmill, is a 16-year-old malt matured in ex-Sherry and ex-Port casks. Dense, vinous fruits give the whisky a sweet, bouncy quality – a real crowd-pleaser.

Having matured in casks seasoned with Rioja wine and in first-fill ex-Bourbon barrels, Highland Park’s Twisted Tattoo malt offers citrus fruits that glide between zesty and cooling. Is this really Highland Park? Broom asks.

Continuing with Highland Park, this time with a 30-year-old bottling from G&M. Desserts, overripe fruits and savoury elements combine, enabling the whisky to bridge the gap between fresh, fruity and mature.

Ledaig gives this week’s tastings a muscly, oily send-off with a 13-year-old bottling from G&M. This dram is a big, greasy skillet of barbecued meat and hot fat – even water fails to entirely mellow it.

The playlist is blues based (in its loosest sense), kicking off with Neil Young on the beach and ending with Tom Waits stumbling drunkenly into the night. In between, Charlie Parr, Archie Shepp, Joni Mitchell and Howe Gelb add their thoughts on life.

Scoring Explained

Overview

  • Caol Ila 16 Years Old, 2003, Connoisseurs Choice (G&M)

    Caol Ila 16 Years Old, 2003, Connoisseurs Choice (G&M)
    Price band
    £ £ £ £ £
    ABV
    55.7%
    Production type
    Single malt whisky
    Region
    Islay
    Flavour camp
    Smoky & Peaty
    Nose

    Unusually for Caol Ila, this starts with a distinctly medicinal character (iodine, TCP) before there’s some wet Japanese denim and then seaweed, before it drifts into a more familiar mix of drying crab shell, hot sea-washed pebbles, grass and a light smokiness. With water things take on a more herbal twist, with some green olive, garrigue and an increase of the smoke.

    Palate

    Lighter than you might expect from the nose; fresh, crisp and quite breezy. Some classic smoky bacon (Frazzles) to start with before the light oiliness comes forward with hints of squid ink. Some slight heat. Water adds in more oiliness and tinned pear. It gives the impression of being very calm and quiet, until the whisky hits the back of the mouth and then rebounds to ignite the smoke once again.

    Finish

    Lightly minty. Smoked salt.

    Conclusion

    Layered, long and energising.

    Right place, right time

    Getting down On the Beach. Take it away Neil.

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    Glenburgie 21 Years Old, Connoisseurs Choice (G&M)

    Glenburgie 21 Years Old, Connoisseurs Choice (G&M)
    Price band
    £ £ £ £ £
    ABV
    55.3%
    Production type
    Single malt whisky
    Region
    Speyside
    Flavour camp
    Fragrant & Floral
    Nose

    Things start with fresh, light cereal accents (Rice Krispies?), a tiny touch of scented soap and the aroma of a ripe barley field after rain. It then becomes greener: spruce, grass, herbs and green beans. Water brings out more estery fruits, green apple, unripe pear and bitter melon.

    Palate

    When neat it’s pretty hot, with a fizzing quality (sherbet lemon) and then marzipan, before you pick out a little floral note, some acidity and the green notes seen on the nose (green fennel seed now). As with the nose, things change significantly when water is added, becoming sweeter with a mix of fondant fancies and raspberry ripple ice cream. Creamy notes.

    Finish

    Jangling and acidic when neat, vanilla slice when diluted.

    Conclusion

    Two whiskies for the price of one. There’s a sense that things are still coming together. Never fully relaxed.

    Right place, right time

    This Mama Too Tight.

    GlenDronach Boynsmill, 16 Years Old

    GlenDronach Boynsmill, 16 Years Old
    Price band
    £ £ £ £ £
    ABV
    46%
    Production type
    Single malt whisky
    Region
    Highland
    Availability
    Rich & Round
    Nose

    This is a massive fruit bomb from the off. Cherry brandy, creme de mȗres, damson jam, some blueberry and a mix of sweet raisins and a Moscatel-like fragrance. Things continue with variations on this hugely vinous richness, getting ever denser. Water allows it to show its mature qualities and while the cooked fruits are always present, there’s now a touch of oak and depth.

    Palate

    Fruit-forward, luscious and overripe (well, what did you expect?) but that mature note is now more obvious alongside the raisins and plum pudding. The tannins are velvety. Should you desire a little more grip and solidity, then add a little water.

    Finish

    Sweet dark fruits. Full-on Pedro Ximénez.

    Conclusion

    A big, sweet, bouncy crowd-pleaser. Really, is there anything wrong with that?

    Right place, right time

    For those who like Rich Food and Easy Living.

    Highland Park Twisted Tattoo, 16 Years Old

    Highland Park Twisted Tattoo, 16 Years Old
    Price band
    £ £ £ £ £
    ABV
    46.7%
    Production type
    Single malt whisky
    Region
    Islands
    Flavour camp
    Fruity & Spicy
    Nose

    An immediate hit of orange pith and zest, hot tiles, lemon drizzle cake and even a hint of pineapple before you pick out turmeric, cider vinegar and then, as things dry, oatcake and oak, and lemon barley water. When diluted there’s a certain delicacy on show, with a little charred element.

    Palate

    A clean, cooling start; all vanilla and chocolate pudding, then the citrus peels off along with a little toffee and the tiniest touch of smoke. All the action is in the buttery sweet mid-palate. Water pulls out a little more smoke and a hint of strawberry jam. It then starts to thicken and more spice is added into that central sweetness.

    Finish

    Cinnamon, aniseed and ginger, then a drying element.

    Conclusion

    A perfectly nice, pleasant, medium-bodied, sweet whisky. Is it Highland Park? Maybe these days it is.

    Right place, right time

    Twisted tales at bedtime.

    Highland Park 30 Years Old, 1989, Connoisseurs Choice (G&M)

    Highland Park 30 Years Old, 1989, Connoisseurs Choice (G&M)
    Price band
    £ £ £ £ £
    ABV
    51.1%
    Production type
    Single malt whisky
    Region
    Islands
    Flavour camp
    Rich & Round
    Nose

    Rich and mature: a mix of Madeira cake, tiramisu, sultanas, brown butter and Seville orange/marmalade before a savoury element starts to develop. Elegantly bridges the gap between the fresh, the fruity (black banana) and the mature. With water it becomes more dessert-like: tutti frutti, clotted cream ice cream, cacao, honey and, finally, that savoury quality.

    Palate

    Rounded with a silky feel and integrated smoke, and a distinctly roasted, spicy quality. There’s a chewiness to the mid-palate along with the release of some berry fruits, all balanced by light tannins. Keep the water on the side. In time you get cigar ash, cedar, rich mature fruits and some beeswax.

    Finish

    Thick and slightly honeyed, with a little smoke.

    Conclusion

    Long and elegant. Lingering, rounded and spicy.

    Right place, right time

    Great spirit, great cask and time: That’s How Things Get Done.

    Ledaig 13 Years Old, 2006, Connoisseurs Choice (G&M)

    Ledaig 13 Years Old, 2006, Connoisseurs Choice (G&M)
    Price band
    £ £ £ £ £
    ABV
    58.2%
    Production type
    Single malt whisky
    Region
    Islands
    Flavour camp
    Smoky & Peaty
    Nose

    Starts promisingly with thick, heavy treacle toffee, chocolate digestives and a gentian-like back note. There’s a muscularity to it. When water is added heavy oils come through, though the richness of the cask seems to manage to balance things, adding in liquorice, treacle scones and smoked ham.

    Palate

    Now you get barbecued meat and hot fat rising from a greasy skillet mixed with dried fruit, sweet chestnut and charred oak. The oils are oozing out by the middle of the palate. Water shows it to be a little feinty.

    Finish

    Meaty; oily.

    Conclusion

    It’s Ledaig, and though the oak mellows things out it remains big, oily, meaty and smoky, which some folk love.

    Right place, right time

    A Nighthawk heading in the vague direction of home with a late night kebab, using parking meters as walking sticks.

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