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New Whiskies

Batch 215

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Campbeltown Blended Malt, 5 Years Old, Cuvee 2014 (Thompson Bros); Glen Scotia 20 Years Old (The Whisky Shop); Ledaig 13 Years Old (Single Malts of Scotland); Rock Island 10 Years Old (Douglas Laing); Rock Island 21 Years Old (Douglas Laing); Springbank 1994 XOP Black Series (Douglas Laing)

This week’s whisky reviews see Dave Broom sail up and down Scotland’s west coast, finding everything from the fragrant and ethereal to the heavy and meaty, and all points in between.

First up is a five-year-old Campbeltown blended malt from indie bottlers Thompson Brothers. Floating floral elements intersperse with an ethereal quality to create a whisky Broom brands ‘a lovely surprise’, particularly given its age and price.

Sticking in Campbeltown, Glen Scotia’s 20-year-old expression, a single cask bottled exclusively for The Whisky Shop, kicks up the heat, before softer notes of waxy fruits and fragrant neroli and wood give the single malt added complexity.

Veering north now to the Isle of Mull, a 13-year-old Ledaig bottled by Single Malts of Scotland delivers some muscle with elements of tarry smoke, burnt toffee and liquorice. Broom calls it ‘the best Ledaig I’ve had in ages’.

Bottler Douglas Laing & Co. hops around the coast with two new additions to its Rock Island range, 10-year-old and 21-year-old blended malts. While smoke clouds the 10-year-old’s more obscure notes, Broom finds it lends more fragrance and complexity to the 21-year-old expression.

Douglas Laing ends Broom’s west coast voyage in Campbeltown, with a 1994 Springbank vintage bottled as part of the XOP Black Series. The effect of the cask is evident here, with a bold start of chocolate and forest-like aromas giving way to bitter, leathery elements from the tannins.   

The playlist is also carried by the tides, drifting under skies with Gong, Pink Floyd, Carla Bley, Otis Redding and Nils Øklund.

Scoring Explained

Overview

  • Campbeltown Blended Malt, 5 Years Old, Cuvée 2014 (Thompson Bros)

    Score

    89

    Campbeltown Blended Malt, 5 Years Old, Cuvée 2014 (Thompson Bros)
    Price band
    £ £ £ £ £
    ABV
    50%
    Production type
    Blended malt whisky
    Region
    Campbeltown
    Flavour camp
    Fragrant & Floral
    Nose

    Lightly perfumed with lychee, banana milkshake and lemon, with a little bready note. Let it open, and you get white peach, medlar jelly and William pear eau de vie, while a drop or two of water makes it even more ethereal and perfumed with almond oil, jasmine, light chamomile and green florals.

    Palate

    As you might expect, it’s bright, sweet and seemingly ethereal, with those floral elements floating around, but there’s enough soft weight to just hold things in the centre of the tongue, adding in a green leafy quality. Water helps to build a silky texture with more of the white peach plus iced Moscato grapes. In time, there’s meadowsweet and a hint of aspirin.

    Finish

    Light and bright.

    Conclusion

    A lovely surprise. Young, but not immature. It’s five years old, it’s under £40. What are you waiting for? Marked in its competitive set.

    Right place, right time

    Gazing up into blue skies with just a Sprinkling of Clouds.

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    Glen Scotia 20 Years Old, Distilled 1999, Single Cask #455

    Score

    88

    Glen Scotia 20 Years Old, Distilled 1999, Single Cask #455
    Price band
    £ £ £ £ £
    ABV
    58.4%
    Production type
    Single malt whisky
    Region
    Campbeltown
    Availability
    The Whisky Shop Exclusive
    Flavour camp
    Fruity & Spicy
    Nose

    Unsurprisingly, given the strength, this is pretty poky on first sniff. It has a light vegetal quality with overripe pear, some thick maltiness and a piney, botanical edge – it’s actually oddly genever-like. Water stirs in vanilla, powdered lemon and balsa wood.

    Palate

    A rather soft start with a little heat and this mixture of waxy fruits, peach juice, overripe banana and peanut butter giving some complexity. By the middle, things are quite oily, then comes some fragrant wood, neroli and then crème de violette.

    Finish

    Workbench, then botanicals unfold at the end.

    Conclusion

    If genever sometimes tastes like whisky then why can’t it work the other way round?

    Right place, right time

    Wandering in The Physic Garden.

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

    Ledaig 13 Years Old (Single Malts of Scotland)

    Score

    87

    Ledaig 13 Years Old (Single Malts of Scotland)
    Price band
    £ £ £ £ £
    ABV
    57.3%
    Production type
    Single malt whisky
    Region
    Islands
    Flavour camp
    Smoky & Peaty
    Nose

    Muscular. Roasted malt/granola with some sultana, then a sinus-clearing hit of wintergreen, burnt toffee and background smoke. In time, there’s walnut and sesame oil, hot wok, and black banana. Add some water to reveal sweeter, almost caramelised elements: chestnut and baked apple.

    Palate

    Because the level of smoke seems lower than most Ledaig malts, you get more of the dried fruits (apricot, sultana especially) and boiled sweet/hard candies. The maltiness remains, now moving towards nuttiness while the phenols are just on the right side of tarry. Water once more brings out the apple note, along with roast vegetable, liquorice and a meatier element.

    Finish

    Roast chestnuts and tarry smoke.

    Conclusion

    The best Ledaig I’ve had for ages. It’s still got the whiff of the barbecue pit, but it’s meaty rather than feinty, and has enough sweetness to balance. I knew this day would come.

    Right place, right time

    Happily licking your fingers post barbecue, getting the last of that sweet Greasy Gravy.

    Rock Island 10 Years Old

    Score

    84

    Rock Island 10 Years Old
    Price band
    £ £ £ £ £
    ABV
    46%
    Production type
    Blended malt whisky
    Region
    Islands
    Flavour camp
    Smoky & Peaty
    Nose

    As clean and briny as an early-morning fish market. There’s tiny touches of peppermint hiding in there, then it starts to deepen and pick up a wet wool note – hiking socks drying beside a peat fire. Add water, and a grassier, more herbal element comes out before you return to that mineral (and now slightly yeasty) starting point.

    Palate

    There’s smoke (and some oiliness) to begin with, along with a pinch of sel gris, but the other details are blurred by foggy smoke. Water helps the fug to recede, revealing a slightly more flinty quality, along with moss, cereal (brand tub) and some pear.

    Finish

    Short and lightly smoky.

    Conclusion

    Balanced. A nice contrast between neat and diluted.

    Right place, right time

    Heading towards the coastline, sky now Obscured By Clouds.

    Rock Island 21 Years Old

    Score

    90

    Rock Island 21 Years Old
    Price band
    £ £ £ £ £
    ABV
    46.8%
    Production type
    Blended malt whisky
    Region
    Islands
    Flavour camp
    Smoky & Peaty
    Nose

    While there’s still a maritime edge to it (lobster creels), this older expression also has robust but scented smoke, then mature notes of vetiver and lavender. As it opens, it becomes increasingly sleek and silky; there’s the delicacy of smoked trout and grilled oyster. Adding water shows green tomato, garden twine and a similarly herbal touch to the 10-year-old.

    Palate

    A subtly complex mix of fragrant smoke, sweet apricot and apple sauce to start. By the middle of the tongue the oils begin to flow, before the peat returns. Layered and mouth-coating. Adding water doesn’t disrupt the balance. If anything, it adds further layers by bringing mineral salts and acidity into the mix. There’s a more phenolic element as it relaxes with some ripe orchard fruits and a lightly pepperiness on the back palate.

    Finish

    Pear and smoky bonfire.

    Conclusion

    There’s a sense of calm maturity here. The smoke is a contributor, rather than being either separate (or dominant). Balanced and complex. Recommended.

    Right place, right time

    A Drøm of a dram.

    Springbank 1994 XOP Black Series (Douglas Laing)

    Score

    86

    Springbank 1994 XOP Black Series (Douglas Laing)
    Price band
    £ £ £ £ £
    ABV
    47.4%
    Production type
    Single malt whisky
    Region
    Islands
    Flavour camp
    Rich & Round
    Nose

    A bold mixture of chocolate, stewed black fruits, raisin and heady, forest-like aromas of petrichor and mushroom. The hint of prune nods respectfully towards Armagnac before smoke hooks you back to Scotland. Old-style west coast whisky. A drop of water doesn’t change the levels of concentration, rather there’s a little more sweetness, alongside grilled peppers, and smoke.

    Palate

    A very thick start, with chocolate and leaf mulch coming over first; then the tannins start to tighten, making things more leathery with some bitter coffee grounds, then the smoke. Water allows elements to expand slightly – there’s raisin fruit, blackcurrant, treacle toffee and red barley miso, but it’s still gripping and drying.

    Finish

    Gentian and calamus.

    Conclusion

    The nose is sensational, but the palate is cask-dominated.

    Right place, right time

    I’ve Been Loving You A Little Too Long.

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