Advertisement
New Whiskies

Batch 208: Distell Limited Releases 2019

by
Batch 208: Distell Limited Releases 2019: Bunnahabhain 2007, French Brandy Finish; Bunnahabhain 2007, Port Finish; Bunnahabhain 1988, Vintage Marsala Finish; Deanston 2002, Organic Oloroso; Deanston 2006, Fino Finish; Deanston 1997, Palo Cortado Finish; Ledaig 1997, Manzanilla Finish; Tobermory 1999, Marsala Finish

This week, we’re really spoiling you with an extra batch of new whisky tasting notes from Dave Broom, as he gives his full attention to Distell’s eight-strong line-up of Limited Release single malts for 2019, including whiskies from Bunnahabhain, Deanston and the Mull tag-team of Tobermory and Ledaig.

The range covers a lot of bases in terms of cask types, encompassing finishes in Marsala, Port, French brandy, plus a Sherry quartet of fino, manzanilla, palo cortado and oloroso. Variety aplenty.

We open on Islay with a solid trio of Bunnahabhains, the highlight being a ‘rich and complex’ Marsala finish at 31 years of age that evokes memories of marmalade-making.

But, if there’s a standout performance this week, it comes from the sometimes underrated Deanston distillery in the Highlands, which scores a hat-trick of successes and impresses Broom mightily.

The oloroso finish is ‘classy’, the fino finish is ‘bargain of the week’ at £65 a bottle – but the palo cortado finish tops the lot with its extra layers of depth and complexity.

We close with one whisky each from Mull’s double act of Tobermory and peaty Ledaig, but it’s more whimper than bang, thanks to the slightly questionable ‘dirty burger’ qualities of Ledaig and a Tobermory Marsala finish that is ‘neither one thing nor the other’.

The soundtrack ranges from Joan Shelley, Julie Byrne and Linda Perhacs plus, er,  Sonic Youth (all in gentle mood) to upbeat Carla Bley and Sly Stone, while Jackie Leven’s sitting sadly at the back of the pub on Mull. Click on the links in Right Place, Right Time to enjoy the sounds.

Scoring Explained

Overview

  • Bunnahabhain 2007, French Brandy Finish

    Score

    84

    Bunnahabhain 2007, French Brandy Finish
    Price band
    £ £ £ £ £
    ABV
    52.7%
    Production type
    Single malt whisky
    Region
    Islay
    Flavour camp
    Fruity & Spicy
    Nose

    Rather fresh and clean, with gentle apricot, some sweet baking spice that shifts to oxidised fruit, apple, some fruit eaux-de-vie and a background funkiness. Found this one a bit tricky, but it starts to grow on you. Water adds in some pecan pie as the sweet, patisserie elements begin to take over. There’s this slight alcohol burn.

    Palate

    A silky-soft start with yellow fruits galore, some dessert apple, more of the apricot/peach, then some cinnamon toast and Bunna’s mix of sweet mash, hazelnut and ginger. Like many brandy casks, things become slightly rigid in the middle as the finish begins to exert itself, but though it becomes increasingly firm, there’s enough lift and vibrancy there. It needs time and water in order to mellow and bring the two halves together.

    Finish

    Drying, slight brandy butter burn.

    Conclusion

    It starts off very much as a game of two halves, but ultimately it works.

    Right place, right time

    A mix of Wine and Honey.

    Advertisement

    Bunnahabhain 2007, Port Finish

    Score

    83

    Bunnahabhain 2007, Port Finish
    Price band
    £ £ £ £ £
    ABV
    55.7%
    Production type
    Single malt whisky
    Region
    Islay
    Flavour camp
    Fruity & Spicy
    Nose

    Chewy, with red fruits galore – the Port seems to have taken charge in this relationship. Strawberries, redcurrants, a glimmering of something darker – hawthorn jam, perhaps? – in the background. Grows in boldness as it begins to open, adding a savoury edge. Water opens up the sweet trolley to the full.

    Palate

    The generosity of spirit is there from the start, as Bunna’ begins to make its presence more clearly felt. We’re back to hazelnut (but now in a Nutella-esque way), then some cherry pie filling. There’s a surprisingly mature undertone to this – whiffs of cigar lounge and old-style whisky bars – that’s then given a cooked berry fruit lift. Becomes very spicy in the centre, with some burn in the mid-palate, though this is sorted out by a judicious splash of water, though again it’s the finish that’s taking charge here – there’s also a little drying wood.

    Finish

    Fruit, light anise, hint of sloe.

    Conclusion

    Easier-going structurally than the brandy, but the three years of extra maturation in Port has the wine in charge. That said, it’s an easy-drinking early evening companion.

    Right place, right time

    The dark enfolding you, then lit with Hits of Sunshine.

    Bunnahabhain 1988, Vintage Marsala Finish

    Score

    87

    Bunnahabhain 1988, Vintage Marsala Finish
    Price band
    £ £ £ £ £
    ABV
    47.4%
    Production type
    Single malt whisky
    Region
    Islay
    Flavour camp
    Rich & Round
    Nose

    This has a rich, almost vinous quality that initially gives off strawberry chews and light plum, but then moves into marmalade, some apple and an earthy, cacao note. There’s some of the dried rose petal you only get with age, along with scented woods and hints of clove oil. Rich and well-balanced. Water adds light, almost maritime notes, initially at least, with a return to the light red fruits: raspberry juice/rose cordial, rhubarb, before it starts to deepen and shape-shift into something darker and more dangerous.

    Palate

    There’s some wood here from the off, alongside that slightly burnt raisin quality which you can get from Marsala casks. As things start to open, you get an intriguing mix of After Eights, ginger (very Bunna’) in syrup, then a huge hit of liquorice allsorts (savoury-sweet, coconut and dried fruit). Water brings out the oak more, drying things down. Things have shifted to the nutty side compared to the first pair and, while there’s still some of the pâtisserie on show (brioche this time), the hazelnut is now toasted. A late flaring of soft fruits gives a nodule of sweetness towards the back, but things start to dry and fade slightly.

    Finish

    More oaky (but hey, it’s 31 years old), with chocolate and a drying, almost ashy finish.

    Conclusion

    Mature, a little oaky, but overall rich and complex.

    Right place, right time

    Stewing things down in the kitchen, making Marmalade.

    Deanston 2002, Organic Oloroso

    Score

    88

    Deanston 2002, Organic Oloroso
    Price band
    £ £ £ £ £
    ABV
    50.6%
    Production type
    Single malt whisky
    Region
    Highland
    Flavour camp
    Rich & Round
    Nose

    Deep, sweet and lightly pruney, with some cereal back notes. Moving towards figginess and tinned prunes. That said, it’s also retained sweetness – there’s a touch of vanilla and buttercream icing and a tiny hint of red fruits, which brings both sweetness and lift, adding to the complexity. Water enhances this steamed figgy pudding quality, alongside more resinous qualities.

    Palate

    As the nose suggests, this is sweet and highly concentrated, starting with deep, heavy chocolate, some tobacco and lots of iced gingerbread. There’s a flare of heat in the middle before it resolves itself back into those figs again. It’s here, in the softly-textured mid-palate, that Deanston’s signature citrus comes in to perk things up, alongside a return of dried raspberry/raspberry leaf. It then progresses into spices: mace, clove especially. With water added, you get some more mature notes (leather), as well as freshness (red cherry). Things remain generous and ripe.

    Finish

    Slight peppery heat. Dried fruit.

    Conclusion

    This started off in recharred casks, then spent some unspecified time in oloroso casks from Montilla-based organic producer Robles. Rather than being dominated by the finish, it is enriched. Classy stuff.

    Right place, right time

    Lying in the open air under the honeyed moon.

    Deanston 2006, Fino Finish

    Score

    89

    Deanston 2006, Fino Finish
    Price band
    £ £ £ £ £
    ABV
    55%
    Production type
    Single malt whisky
    Region
    Highland
    Flavour camp
    Fruity & Spicy
    Nose

    Immediately bright, fresh and fruity, with zingy citrus dominating: spiced orange, tangerine marmalade, light almond and a distinct waxiness reminiscent of scented candle. In time you get some olive playing alongside the fruit syrups. With water, there’s some sweet nut and a light chalkiness. Upfront and energetic.

    Palate

    Warm and soft to start, with concentrated, lightly oxidised fruits and a touch of bran on the sides, before things soften in the middle of the tongue, where it is all butterscotch toffee, thick peach juice and orange blossom honey. As seems to be the case with Deanston, it’s here that the spices start to kick in – and do so fairly dramatically. Has drive and real energy, but is balanced. Water makes things more oxidised and, by calming the spiciness down a notch, makes things more rounded overall.

    Finish

    Lightly acidic. Mandarine Napoléon.

    Conclusion

    Only £65? Bargain of the week – and marked in its competitive set. There’s only 268 bottles though…

    Right place, right time

    A Frisky little number.

    Deanston 1997, Palo Cortado Finish

    Score

    90

    Deanston 1997, Palo Cortado Finish
    Price band
    £ £ £ £ £
    ABV
    51.8%
    Production type
    Single malt whisky
    Region
    Highland
    Flavour camp
    Fruity & Spicy
    Nose

    Opens with the pleasant fuzziness you occasionally get from good Sherry-casked whiskies. Working your way through that, you can pick out fruit salad, overripe melon, soft dried fruits (sultana especially) and citrus peels. The waxiness seen on the fino is more overt here: beeswax-polished wood. Everything is ripe and mellow. There’s some nougat-like nuttiness when water is added, alongside hints of toffee which provide another layer to the mix of (now dried) citrus peels, banana skin, fruit trifle and black cherry.

    Palate

    Chewy, sweet and rich to start, with sweetness taking off to the extent that you wonder if it’s got enough grip and acidity to balance. There’s fruit trifle, ripe nectarine, then the date. The mid-palate remains soft and tongue-coating, but here the mature elements and the wax start to spread out. There’s some country house elements, light leather, dried fruit while, when the spices come in, they have the earthy pungency of cumin and the acidic brightness of sumac. When water is added, there’s more orchard fruits layered on top, as well as Seville orange peels giving a twang of bitterness.

    Finish

    Peaches and spices, then some chocolate.

    Conclusion

    Deanston is on fire with this trio. This has more depth and complexity than the fino and is less heart-on-the-sleeve than the oloroso. Classy.

    Right place, right time

    All is in balance.

    Ledaig 1997, Manzanilla Finish

    Score

    80

    Ledaig 1997, Manzanilla Finish
    Price band
    £ £ £ £ £
    ABV
    52.9%
    Production type
    Single malt whisky
    Region
    Islands
    Flavour camp
    Smoky & Peaty
    Nose

    Big and smoky, with the smell of an old copper coin/just polished brass, then a whiff of stable/tack room and linseed oil. No real manzanilla influence, as far as I can see. When water is added, you get some rubbery notes; then cigarette ash and kippers – the stale yet pungent smell of the breakfast room in a rundown Hebridean hotel.

    Palate

    Big, oily, slightly earthy and meaty and, as ever, teetering on the brink of being grubby, but this time it saves itself with a mid-palate hit of minty sweetness and rich, cooked red fruits. The wood and the smoke are integrated; some woodsmoke, smoked cereal, some treacle-cured bacon and tar. With water, thick, briny and oily.

    Finish

    Tarry. The first Gitanes of the day.

    Conclusion

    A dirty burger that’s been saved by the barbecue sauce.

    Right place, right time

    Wiping the Greasy Gravy off your chin.

    Tobermory 1999, Marsala Finish

    Score

    82

    Tobermory 1999, Marsala Finish
    Price band
    £ £ £ £ £
    ABV
    55.7%
    Production type
    Single malt whisky
    Region
    Islands
    Flavour camp
    Fruity & Spicy
    Nose

    Quite a funky opening: all stewing fruit, old citrus peels and almond, with a slight meatiness behind. There’s a distinct weightiness here. When water is added, you get more wet, earthy notes, alongside vegetable stock cube then finally the concentrated, raisined fruits. The distinctive whiff of an old bookshop, stuffed with leather-bound, slightly foxed tomes.

    Palate

    Starts with rich, fruity weight, some peachiness, touches of raisin and then the slightly singed/liquorice signature from the Marsala cask. As it relaxes, so you can pick out more soft plummy weight, though that runs alongside the artificial flavour of an isotonic drink. It needs water, which brings out fresh orange, more sweetness, riper fruits and, finally, some camphor.

    Finish

    Drying and short.

    Conclusion

    It’s neither one thing nor the other.

    Right place, right time

    In a quiet corner, Grievin’ at the Mishnish.

Advertisement
Scroll To Top