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New Whiskies

Batch 203

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10.168 Cuquillo Black Olives, 13 Years Old (SMWS); 29.260 A Visceral, Elemental Experience, 19 Years Old (SMWS); Aerolite Lindsay, ATOM Brands; Bunnahabhain Mòine French Oak Finish; Finlaggan, Feis Ile 2019, French Oak Matured; Scarabus, Hunter Laing

Islay whiskies remain in the spotlight for a second week, with Becky Paskin and Dave Broom sampling another roundup of indie bottlings for Fèis Ìle, plus new single malts from indie bottlers Atom Brands and Hunter Laing.

Things get off to a zingy start with the first bottling, 10.168 Cuquillo Black Olives, from The Scotch Malt Whisky Society (SMWS). Lemon notes combine with bitter, salty elements that remind Paskin of a Mediterannean breakfast.

The second SMWS bottling for Fèis Ìle is a 19-year-old single malt  matured in first-fill ex-oloroso Sherry butts. Thick flavours of earth, dark fruits and ashy smoke hit fast, before fading all too quickly.

Next up is a 10-year-old Islay single malt, Aerolite Lindsay, from Atom Brands. Punchy nose aside, Broom finds this whisky’s balance and gentle qualities make it a very drinkable dram.

Another Fèis Ìle release this week, this time an official bottling in the form of Bunnahabhain’s Mòine French oak finish. A little time and patience is required to uncover this dram’s balance of sweet spices, fragrant heather and drifting smoke, according to Broom.

Finlaggan’s 2019 Fèis Ìle bottling is a non-age-statement single malt that was matured in French oak ex-red wine barriques – a first for the brand. The oak makes its presence felt, but the smoky notes offer balance.

The final whisky this week is a new no-age-statement single malt from Hunter Laing: Scarabus. Cereal and fruit elements are encompassed by smoke, before reemerging with toffee.  

Blazing electric guitars from Embrace and Roxy Music kick off this week’s playlist, before headbanging is swapped for a moonlight dance set to psychedelic folk from The Incredible String Band.

Scoring Explained

Overview

  • 10.168 Cuquillo Black Olives, 13 Years Old (SMWS)

    Score

    84

    10.168 Cuquillo Black Olives, 13 Years Old (SMWS)
    Price band
    £ £ £ £ £
    ABV
    61.8%
    Production type
    Single malt whisky
    Region
    Islay
    Flavour camp
    Fruity & Spicy
    Nose

    Refreshingly light and buttery with an uplifting kick of zingy, freshly-grated lemon zest, which mellows into lemon curd and toasted meringue. Things then become distinctly savoury, with delicate white fish – cod? – a touch of salinity, a hint of black pepper spice and Belvita breakfast biscuits. With water (which I suggest you add) things become more bready and oily (olive oil), and just a little herbal – think lemon verbena.

    Palate

    A mellow start; some ripe, juicy orchard fruits that are obscured quite quickly by more bitter lemon peel, only this time it’s been salt-baked. A spicy, peppery quality moves into the mid-palate with a charcoal earthiness. Water helps to accentuate the fruit, which become slightly more tropical, and tones down the bitterness. 

    Finish

    Bitter, charred and salty. Black olive pits and brown sourdough.

    Conclusion

    A fiery number that needs taming with a drop of water.

    Right place, right time

    A Mediterranean breakfast Sitting In The Midday Sun.

    (Becky Paskin)

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    29.260 A Visceral, Elemental Experience, 19 Years Old (SMWS)

    Score

    88

    29.260 A Visceral, Elemental Experience, 19 Years Old (SMWS)
    Price band
    £ £ £ £ £
    ABV
    56.9%
    Production type
    Single malt whisky
    Region
    Islay
    Flavour camp
    Smoky & Peaty
    Nose

    The dark, toffee colour already gives away the fact this is a heavily-Sherried dram, and the nose doesn’t disappoint. Thick, chewy, sweaty. There’s an earthiness from cigar butts and fresh leather brogues, with dark, rich fruits in the shape of stewed plums, dried figs, raisins and prunes. A menthol lift from liquorice and sweet mint keeps it from being too boggy. I know this is Laphroaig, but I can’t pick up much smoke.

    Palate

    Thick and sweet, it almost appears two-dimensional and then, suddenly, things become juicy – prune juice, overripe peaches, stewed apples and a dribble of Um Bongo. There’s a slight sour note towards the back, and then… ah! There’s the smoke! It’s all dead ashtray, bonfire embers and ash, ash, ash, but the sweet, earthy, fruity Sherry tags along for the ride.

    Finish

    Ashy and dry, like chewing on discarded, used cigarettes.

    Conclusion

    It’s a big dram, but fades all too quickly.

    Right place, right time

    Kicking around an old leather football as the city burns, its Ashes raining down.

    (Becky Paskin)

    Aerolite Lyndsay (Atom Brands)

    Score

    88

    Aerolite Lyndsay (Atom Brands)
    Price band
    £ £ £ £ £
    ABV
    46%
    Production type
    Single malt whisky
    Region
    Islay
    Flavour camp
    Smoky & Peaty
    Nose

    Kicks off with pretty punchy coastal smokiness, with an added sweet note that then wanders down to the shore (sea-washed pebbles, salinity, dripping-wet crab creels). Away in the back is sweet apple, then comes a pea pod-like element. Although initially it seems a little angular when dosed with water, things settle into a smokier area: moor-burn, with a sweeter element of coconut behind. In time it freshens up and becomes bracingly salty.

    Palate

    On first sip it seems to reverse the normal flow: starting dry and smoky, then getting progressively sweeter (sugared almond and nougat). On second sip, with the mouth coated, the smoke covers the palate along with a rather lovely balancing creaminess: poached pear, hibiscus, smoked crowdie and that green note seen on the nose just hanging around in the background. It copes well with water (making it good Highball material) which also accentuates its gentle qualities and overall balance: trifle, then a tickle of flames at the end.

    Finish

    Smoke and a little tweak of buttermilk (in the nicest possible way).

    Conclusion

    Another great Islay dram to share during a drinking session. Glasses, friends, throw the cork away.

    Right place, right time

    Sam Simmons dressed as Mr Darcy emerges from the water. Oh The Thrill Of It All!

    (Dave Broom)

    Bunnahabhain Mòine 11 Years Old, French Oak Finish, Fèis Ìle 2019

    Score

    87

    Bunnahabhain Mòine 11 Years Old, French Oak Finish, Fèis Ìle 2019
    Price band
    £ £ £ £ £
    ABV
    54.7%
    Production type
    Single malt whisky
    Region
    Islay
    Flavour camp
    Smoky & Peaty
    Nose

    Has Mòine’s dry, calamus/gentian/heather root style of smoke, allied to bay and camphor (almost Vick’s Vaporub) on the back, along with spurge and a cardamom back note alongside fresh almond. Becomes slightly ashier in time. Water brings out driftwood, hazelnut and more of the now heathery smoke.

    Palate

    The smoke rolls in as quietly as a sea fog, adding perfume to the mix of paprika-dusted roast almonds, and walnut oil. I needed to add water to reveal fully its sweet side. Now there’s sweet spices, iced gingerbread and the mix of honey and fragrant dustiness you get when running through heather. The smoke is now hanging back, scenting everything.

    Finish

    It all blooms into life here with a huge spicy attack of hickory and barbecue coals (South American asado style) before all of the sweet heathery elements concentrate into caramelised syrup.

    Conclusion

    It might take time (and a little coaxing) to get going, but you will be rewarded for your patience. A really well-balanced Mòine.

    Right place, right time

    Look and you can find Angels of Ashes.

    (Dave Broom)

    Finlaggan, Feis Ile 2019, French Oak Matured (Vintage Malt Whisky Co.)

    Score

    88

    Finlaggan, Feis Ile 2019, French Oak Matured (Vintage Malt Whisky Co.)
    Price band
    £ £ £ £ £
    ABV
    52%
    Production type
    Single malt whisky
    Region
    Islay
    Flavour camp
    Smoky & Peaty
    Nose

    A bold (yet attractive), slightly oily character from the off. The smoke has real impact in a highly-scented, incense-like fashion, though initially it sits slightly behind caramelised fruits before bursting into flame along with that cardamom (again), clove, myrrh, bitumen, carbolic soap and cypress. In time and with water there’s fresh bok choi, then grass clippings on a garden bonfire (though you should always compost instead, folks) and that core of wood resin and smoke.

    Palate

    Not quite as ferocious as the nose suggests. In fact, it starts very gently with barley sugar/orange barley water, then roasted spices and the sappy elements, as the smoke steadily builds. There’s decent complexity here: salty molasses and a North African miasma of leather, spice, smoke and resins. With water, it becomes massively oily.

    Finish

    Robust, lightly leathery, smoky, oaky and long.

    Conclusion

    There’s big oak, but the smoke balances. Punchy yet elegant: less Marvin Hagler and more Thomas Hearns.

    Right place, right time

    A celebration for The May Queen.

    (Dave Broom)

    Scarabus (Hunter Laing)

    Score

    85

    Scarabus (Hunter Laing)
    Price band
    £ £ £ £ £
    ABV
    46%
    Production type
    Single malt whisky
    Region
    Islay
    Flavour camp
    Smoky & Peaty
    Nose

    Unusually for an Islay whisky, this opens with light maltiness (mash tun) and a hint of muesli, with raisins and pineapple dotted about the bowl. Behind, there’s a balancing, sweet fruitiness. The smoke emerges steadily and kiln-like, with an element of sphagnum moss and a sprinkle of brine. With water, there’s more toffee, cooked fruits and (wet) Assam tea leaves.

    Palate

    The nose suggests it will be dry, smoky and nutty. Instead there’s a good deal of richness mixed with light white pepper notes, before the all-enveloping smoke surges forward, mixing with berry fruits and then, finally, that nutty malt. When water is added you get (smoky) treacle toffee and crême caramel.

    Finish

    Smoky and sweet malt.

    Conclusion

    Named after an area of farmland close to Bridgend. It’s family tradition that when we drive past we sing, ‘Scarabus, Scarabus will you do the fandango?’ This is more of a quiet waltz.

    Right place, right time

    Take your partners for the Waltz of the New Moon.

    (Dave Broom)

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