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New Whiskies

Batch 216

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Pl6 and Lp10 from Elements of Islay, Kilchoman STR Cask Matured, Lagavulin 10, Ardbeg 19 Traig Bhan, Caol Ila 14 from Gordon and MacPhail

Dave Broom returns to Islay to sample some of its latest offerings, taking in Caol Ila, Lagavulin, Kilchoman and Ardbeg’s familiar funk, capping off with the discovery of a duo of new Elements.

First up is Ardbeg’s new 19-year-old Traigh Bhan expression, a permanent addition to the distillery’s lineup. ‘Boisterous and fat’ Broom states, with complexity built on classic Ardbeg notes.

Broom moves on to Caol Ila for an ‘easy-going’ 14-year-old bottled by G&M for The Whisky Exchange. He finds sweetness and coastal qualities hiding an ‘aspirin-like minerality’ and a menthol finish.

Things become more robust with a Kilchoman matured in shaved, toasted and recharred red wine casks. The seven-year-old is ‘bold and multifaceted’, commanding the highest score of the bunch.

The travel retail-exclusive Lagavulin 10 fails to impress with its catch-all approach. ‘By trying to widen Lagavulin’s remit,’ Broom reckons, ‘you’ve ended up with the equivalent of Radiohead turning into Take That.’

The first of a pair of bottlings from Elements of Islay, Lp10 is rated ‘a decent and approachable example’ of Laphroaig, but Broom concludes water strips it of its vitality.

Finally, the Pl6 – a Port Charlotte distilled in 2011 – is said to be full of ‘tangerine marmalade and juicy fruits’ on the palate and a ‘lightly fatty’ quality on the nose. However, it’s another one best kept neat.

This week’s playlist mashes up Suicide, the Jayhawks, Link Wray and even, er... Iggy Pop singing Edith Piaf in French. Click on the links in ‘Right Place, Right Time’ to hear more.

Scoring Explained

Overview

  • Ardbeg Traigh Bhan, 19 Years Old

    Score

    90

    Ardbeg Traigh Bhan, 19 Years Old
    Price band
    £ £ £ £ £
    ABV
    46.2%
    Production type
    Single malt whisky
    Region
    Islay
    Flavour camp
    Smoky & Peaty
    Nose

    This is simultaneously big and rooty. It’s lifted and ester-laden, with barbecued pineapple to the fore before the slightly funked-up smoke begins to dominate. It mixes deep fig jam sweetness and some chocolate with the lanolin-heavy scents of the shearing shed, with slippery seaweed to finish. Rich and oily. Water slides some of these apart, bringing in touches of smoked fish, light fresh fruits, some salt, hemp and more oils.

    Palate

    As the nose suggests, this is boisterous and fat with a rewarding oiliness, then it builds and reveals its complexity. Liquorice adds an earthy sweetness, light touches of cereal give it a crunch to offset the oil, while citrus and mint ride on top adding fragrance and lift. Water makes things more relaxed and gentle albeit still with those earth tones, though I’d keep it neat to have the full effect.

    Finish

    Long. New leather, light chocolate and smoke.

    Conclusion

    A new permanent age statement which is filled with old-style Ardbeg filthiness.

    Right place, right time

    Dream Baby Dream… it’s real.

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    Caol Ila 14 Years Old (Gordon & MacPhail)

    Score

    83

    Caol Ila 14 Years Old (Gordon & MacPhail)
    Price band
    £ £ £ £ £
    ABV
    54.5%
    Production type
    Single malt whisky
    Region
    Islay
    Availability
    The Whisky Exchange Exclusive
    Flavour camp
    Smoky & Peaty
    Nose

    A pretty and sweet start, with a remarkable amount of citrus peels giving it the quality of lightly smoked Lilt (with ‘the totally tropical taste’). That initial sweetness starts to recede in time, introducing a slightly leaner and more obviously coastal quality with mineral salts and a light chalkiness. Water triggers the softer elements once more and you’re back into vanilla and smoked cashews.

    Palate

    As expected, it starts softly this time with an added herbal or piney element, then the citrus zest with toasted almonds and sweet fruits. The smoke ripples through gently, as the chalkiness seen on the nose moves towards an aspirin-like minerality, before white pepper and menthol round things off. Water makes things softer and it sweetens up once again.

    Finish

    Gentle and lightly smoked. Fruity.

    Conclusion

    Easy going and relaxed.

    Right place, right time

    A relaxed day in the Sound of Islay, Waiting For The Sun.

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

    Kilchoman 7 Years Old, STR Cask Matured 2019

    Score

    91

    Kilchoman 7 Years Old, STR Cask Matured 2019
    Price band
    £ £ £ £ £
    ABV
    50%
    Production type
    Single malt whisky
    Region
    Islay
    Flavour camp
    Smoky & Peaty
    Nose

    Starts in an unusually robust and peaty way for Kilchoman: there’s a complex mix of grassiness, drying herbs and a little garden bonfire, then wet sand – all mixed with light cherry and raspberry that’s given a smoky intensity by the all-pervading smell of burning wood. In time there’s some walnut oil and even a little dubbin. Water brings out some resin, burning driftwood, cockles and char.

    Palate

    While Kilchoman’s signature sweet elegance sits in the centre, the key here is the way it opens in different directions: there’s sweet, almost caramelised fruits and a whiff of sweet spice, while the herbal note picked up on the nose is now shifted to a Cynar-like bitter twang with added wormwood fronds and calamus. All the time, the smoke is coming in off the coast laden with salty notes. Water adds in peppers, cinders, more red fruit and a new earthy depth.

    Finish

    Balanced between sweetness and still assertive smoke, with touches of elderberry.

    Conclusion

    A bold multifaceted Kilchoman. Recommended.

    Right place, right time

    Off the coast comes a Rumble.

    Lagavulin 10 Years Old

    Score

    79

    Lagavulin 10 Years Old
    Price band
    £ £ £ £ £
    ABV
    43%
    Production type
    Single malt whisky
    Region
    Islay
    Availability
    Travel retail exclusive
    Flavour camp
    Smoky & Peaty
    Nose

    Big cask influence here: toasty, sweet with overpowering notes of smoked ghee and toffee. Somehow the wood has managed to dominate the distillery. In time you can pick out some of the bog myrtle and rockpool aromas, but they are low in the mix. Water accentuates the fatty qualities along with a surprising maltiness.

    Palate

    No surprise that it’s soft and sweet, but that buttery caramel-laden quality is so prominent that it has become the focus. There’s no nuance or subtlety or surprise, just a weirdly bland and flabby monotone. That said, in time the spirit starts to cut through and heads towards the sea as if trying to restore itself in the waves. There’s also a richer maltiness than you are used to with Lagavulin. Water helps to bring out the smoke but it remains blowsy and thick.

    Finish

    Lightly smoky. Sweet.

    Conclusion

    It might have been made to be a crowd pleaser, but it’s not the same crowd that usually buy Lagavulin. Perhaps that’s the aim, but if you don’t like Lagavulin’s boldness then try something else. That, surely is the point of single malt and the fundamental difference between it and blends. By trying to widen Lagavulin’s remit, you’ve ended up with the whisky equivalent of Radiohead turning into Take That…

    Right place, right time

    Iggy Pop singing La Vie En Rose.

    Lp10, Elements of Islay

    Score

    83

    Lp10, Elements of Islay
    Price band
    £ £ £ £ £
    ABV
    53.9%
    Production type
    Single malt whisky
    Region
    Islay
    Flavour camp
    Smoky & Peaty
    Nose

    There’s a distinctly maritime element here – kelp or kombu – that’s stirred in with eucalyptus and bay, then sprinkled with salt. As it opens there’s more of the phenolic elements of peat such as tar, oils and iodine alongside pine and Vicks VapoRub. Water brings out some estery notes and lemon posset.

    Palate

    An intense opening with chlorophyll and mossy, vegetal elements, the smoke tickling the back of the throat. There’s a sprig or two of mint in the mix, then bright citrus which in turn link to the green elements. Is that a hint of hops? The smoke is hanging back, shifting to coal tar. It loses vitality if water is added.

    Finish

    As, finally the smoke is extinguished, you’re left with sweetness.

    Conclusion

    Decent and approachable example of Lp – as long as you keep it neat.

    Right place, right time

    We’re heading back to the sea on a Green Rocky Road.

    Pl6, Elements of Islay

    Score

    84

    Pl6, Elements of Islay
    Price band
    £ £ £ £ £
    ABV
    55.3%
    Production type
    Single malt whisky
    Region
    Islay
    Flavour camp
    Smoky & Peaty
    Nose

    There’s sweet, bonfire-like smoke to start with, along with a slightly beachy quality. Then comes macadamia and extra virgin rapeseed oil and brioche. The smoke then shifts to heather blossom and recedes when water is added – though you do get extra angelica, candied fruits, apricot and a lightly fatty quality.

    Palate

    Once again, the smoke kicks things off along with a wet grass note and some oiliness, though by the middle of the tongue things have sweetened dramatically into tangerine marmalade and juicy fruits. Here, the smoke seems to depart, its job done. Water brings out pear, apple and melon but as the effect is slightly flattened I’d keep things neat.

    Finish

    When untouched by water there’s red fruits, wood ash and a mineral note.

    Conclusion

    Decent balance and character when neat.

    Right place, right time

    A mix of Raw Silk and Uncut Wood.

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