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New Whiskies

Batch 201

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Balvenie 12 Years Old, The Sweet Toast of American Oak; Balvenie 14 Years Old, The Week of Peat; Balvenie 26 Years Old, A Day of Dark Barley; Glendronach 26 Years Old (The Whisky Shop); The Glenlivet 15 Years Old, (Gordon & MacPhail for The Whisky Exchange); The Moffat

Becky Paskin leafs through Balvenie’s new Stories range this week, while Dave Broom weighs in on whisky shop-exclusive bottlings from The Glenlivet and GlenDronach, before finishing with a new blended malt from Dark Sky Spirits: The Moffat.

The youngest whisky in the Balvenie Stories range, The Sweet Toast of American Oak, was finished in double-toasted, virgin American oak casks. Though the wood dominates, according to Paskin, Balvenie’s signature honey and dried fruits distillery character holds its own.

A Week of Peat is a reincarnation of Balvenie’s Peat Week expression, which was released in October 2017. The delicate smoky character works in tandem with the whisky’s apricot and honey qualities, particularly when water is added.

The oldest expression in the Stories range, A Day of Dark Barley, is made using a portion of dark roasted barley. Intense, exotic fruits build in momentum on the tongue, while a chocolatey current carries it away.

GlenDronach’s 26-year-old expression, created exclusively for The Whisky Shop, evolves over time from resins to paprika spice, and then fruitcake. Broom deems this a dram worthy of a special occasion.

Another shop exclusive, this time The Glenlivet 15-year-old by bottler Gordon & MacPhail for The Whisky Exchange. Delicate floral and fruit elements offer a promising start, but the whisky’s overpowering heat cuts them short, even when water is added.

Broom heads to the Lowlands for the last tasting for this week, The Moffat blended malt. Light malty elements and a lemony quality combine to create a dram at home on its own, or in a Highball.

The playlist disco-slides between pop anthems from ABBA, Barenaked Ladies and CAN, and then bobs along to Snow Patrol and Alice Marra, before a Nouvelle Vague cover brings things to a toe-tapping finish.

Scoring Explained

Overview

  • Balvenie 12 Years Old, The Sweet Toast of American Oak

    Score

    80

    Balvenie 12 Years Old, The Sweet Toast of American Oak
    Price band
    £ £ £ £ £
    ABV
    43%
    Production type
    Single malt whisky
    Region
    Speyside
    Flavour camp
    Fruity & Spicy
    Nose

    Full of zingy, toasted wood spices, dry oak and cedar – it’s as engulfing as walking into a sauna. There’s vanilla-rich white chocolate ganache, which floats gracefully above the spicy depths, and while the effect of the virgin oak finish dominates, Balvenie’s signature honey and dried fruits are still there. The fresh oak hasn’t assumed total control at this stage. In fact, the extra toasted wood teases out Balvenie’s often-overlooked dark fruit character – figs and blackberry coulis.

    Palate

    Sweet, and simply vanilla-rich at first glance. Give it time in the mouth for the fruit to develop – raisins, dried citrus peel, some more blackberry coulis and a dribble of clear honey. From there on the wood spice starts to build quite intensely. Now the oak has taken a dominant stance. Water brings out a sweeter side, dampening those spicy tones and allowing more of the fruit to shine through while keeping that dry, oaky, sauna experience.

    Finish

    As the wood spice fades, things become a little dry, with lingering notes of liquorice, menthol and a touch of runny honey.

    Conclusion

    An intriguing finish in virgin oak for Balvenie’s new Stories range, a distillery that’s no stranger to double cask maturation. While the wood slightly dominates, I’d say it’s still one to try.

    Right place, right time

    A round robin in a Swedish sauna: Take A Chance, Take A Chance, Take-a Take-a Chance Chance.

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    Balvenie 14 Years Old, The Week of Peat

    Score

    85

    Balvenie 14 Years Old, The Week of Peat
    Price band
    £ £ £ £ £
    ABV
    48.3%
    Production type
    Single malt whisky
    Region
    Speyside
    Flavour camp
    Smoky & Peaty
    Nose

    Honey-rich and with a sweetly peated character that’s so soft and almost dessert-like – burnt pastry or the heavily flamed sugar crust of a crème brûlée. Then comes the fruit – dried apricots and peaches in honey. There’s a weightiness there, a slightly sour tone, which dances playfully with the smoke.

    Palate

    The peat doesn’t hit you immediately, rather it wades in through sticky honey and fruit crumble, building towards the mid-palate alongside a touch of spice. It never dominates though; it works in tandem with Balvenie’s signature fruitiness. Water heightens the sweetness and softens the smoke further.

    Finish

    Dry with some delicate smoke, which has taken on more of a medicinal, TCP characteristic now.

    Conclusion

    An evolution of Balvenie Peat Week, which was launched in 2017. It’s still balanced, still enjoyable, and still retains that delicate smokiness while maintaining Balvenie’s signature character.

    Right place, right time

    The distillery is engulfed by peat smoke, but just for One Week.

    Balvenie 26 Years Old, A Day of Dark Barley

    Score

    91

    Balvenie 26 Years Old, A Day of Dark Barley
    Price band
    £ £ £ £ £
    ABV
    47.8%
    Production type
    Single malt whisky
    Region
    Speyside
    Flavour camp
    Fruity & Spicy
    Nose

    Dusty malt barn (you can really imagine the distillery workers lugging sacks of chocolate malt up to the loft, as per the expression’s backstory) with notes of dark chocolate and a solid, bitter stout. Things turn more exotic, with crystallised ginger, dried papaya and fresh pineapple, all laced with honey, of course, and dotted with dark chocolate chips.

    Palate

    Viscous and sweet; it really envelopes the tongue. It’s a quiet start, all honey and malt and a touch of wood spice, but those exotic fruits begin to build, throwing papaya, mango and passionfruit at your palate, all the while growing in intensity. A thick, sweet, chocolatey current carries it through, but there’s enough wood spice to anchor the sensation. A proper saliva starter.

    Finish

    Quite long and chocolatey, but faint. Like the memory of a pleasant dream.

    Conclusion

    Stunning. A real journey of a dram on the tongue. Old Balvenie can demonstrate beautiful exotic fruitiness, but that 10% of chocolate malt in the mash gives it a richer, darker quality.

    Right place, right time

    On a dreich day. With a square of Chocolate.

    Glendronach 26 Years Old (The Whisky Shop)

    Score

    90

    Glendronach 26 Years Old (The Whisky Shop)
    Price band
    £ £ £ £ £
    ABV
    50%
    Production type
    Single malt whisky
    Region
    Highland
    Flavour camp
    Rich & Round
    Nose

    Rich, Sherried and highly resinous: a mix of rosin, boat varnish and shoe leather, then clove, cooked blackcurrant and a gaminess which opens to the aromas of an old-growth forest. The richness of the distillery character is there alongside this big cask influence. It has real complexity. As it develops you get masses of dark chocolate and raisin, while the addition of a little water (be careful) brings out more dried fruit and some damson, while never losing its gaminess.

    Palate

    The cask has more influence here, opening with pimentón-like smokiness and then some lightly gripping tea-like tannins, which loosen when water is added. Robustly elegant, with walnut, then spiced black fruits and a tiny suggestion of a struck match. Leave it in the glass for a while and it develops a more layered, sweet, fruitcake quality with added prune and hard toffee.

    Finish

    Boldly fruity, then drying.

    Conclusion

    A belter of a Sherried ‘Dronach. Recommended for that special occasion.

    Right place, right time

    The sort of dram that makes you say, ‘I Want More’.

    Available to buy from The Whisky Shop. It may also be stocked by these other retailers.

    The Glenlivet 15 Years Old (Gordon & MacPhail)

    Score

    82

    The Glenlivet 15 Years Old (Gordon & MacPhail)
    Price band
    £ £ £ £ £
    ABV
    59.4%
    Production type
    Single malt whisky
    Region
    Speyside
    Flavour camp
    Fragrant & Floral
    Nose

    Clean and quite delicate: a mix of pear and phlox [North American floral plant] with a suggestion of grassiness but fizzing with alcohol, which gets in the way slightly. In time though, there’s some dog rose, cherry blossom and apple. Water makes things a little softer: that apple is now in a sponge topped with Chantilly cream.

    Palate

    Things are now sweetly concentrated and have moved into Poire William territory, but there’s real heat here, meaning that the subtleties of the distillate remain obscured. Water helps to show the delicacy and precision, but despite the glimmerings of promise, it remains closed.

    Finish

    Fragrant and hot.

    Conclusion

    An odd one. Everything is in its right place, but hidden behind the alcohol. Rather than being shy, it’s repressed.

    Right place, right time

    Locked indoors on a sunny Sunday afternoon in Stornoway looking out at a garden of flowers. Someone’s Chained Up The Swings.

    The Moffat

    Score

    83

    The Moffat
    Price band
    £ £ £ £ £
    ABV
    40%
    Production type
    Blended malt whisky
    Region
    n/a
    Flavour camp
    Fruity & Spicy
    Nose

    This starts softly with light malt elements (bran flakes and peanut shell) and a sweetness peeking out from behind. Some crisp linen then meadow hay, with a touch of physalis and peach in the background. Water brings out a bready note mixed with limoncello and (slightly green, leafy) floral notes. In time, there’s a little more weight.

    Palate

    A light and also quite nutty start with a subtly sweet sultana-accented mid-palate, with added lemon icing balancing those dry (almond) and malty edges. The flavours hold well at the front and middle when a little water is added – maybe try with ginger ale in a Highball? In time you get more juiciness in the centre, and sweet oak, but it does fade.

    Finish

    Light spice and nuttiness, with raisin and coffee.

    Conclusion

    The rapid fade makes me wonder if a higher bottling strength might have been beneficial but this is a decidedly drinkable dram – one for a session (are you allowed to say that these days?)

    Right place, right time

    Easy drinking? I Just Can’t Get Enough.

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