Advertisement
New Whiskies

Batch 219

by
Bruichladdich Islay Barley, Bere Barley and 100% Organic, Gordon & MacPhail Longmorn, Dallas Dhu and St Magdalene Private Collection malts

Dave Broom finds this week’s whisky reviews split into two very different camps – while Bruichladdich looks into one of whisky’s possible futures with its Barley Exploration series, Gordon & MacPhail celebrates the past with its unrivalled archive of aged whiskies.

First up is an eight-year-old Bruichladdich made using rare bere barley, a strain with a ‘desperately low yield’. It’s full of fresh cereal notes with sugared porridge and climber’s chalk. ‘Bere’, concludes Broom, ‘continues to be a revelation’.

Next, a six-year-old malt distilled entirely from barley grown on Islay shows promise for a young whisky. ‘Already showing great concentration and balance,’ Broom finds, admiring the difference in distillery character achieved with the grains.

Bruichladdich’s final bottling, a seven-year-old made with organic barley, smacks of ‘light fruit and syrup that drifts into elderflower cordial’. It’s fresh, soft and vibrant – all reasons for the distillery to continue playing mad scientist.

From Gordon & MacPhail’s formidable back catalogue comes a 50-year-old Dallas Dhu. ‘A rare beast indeed,’ says Broom, ‘and one which has held up remarkably well’. A bottle, however, will cost £6,950.

Things skew even older, with a 53-year-old Longmorn providing ‘big, bold and heavily Sherried’ notes and ‘a concentrated quality akin to Marmite’. Love it or hate it, you’ll be lucky to snap one up, as less than 400 bottles exist.

Finally, the 37-year-old St Magdalene is believed to be the ‘oldest ever’ released from the distillery. Even after all these years, Broom finds it ‘balanced, refined and untroubled by oak’ and therefore filled with a sense of liberation.

The playlist moves from the Fourth World music of Jon Hassell to the chill realm of Schubert’s Winterreise, finishing with a burst of optimism courtesy of Lorraine Hunt Lieberson.

Scoring Explained

Overview

  • Bruichladdich Bere Barley 8 Years Old, Distilled 2010

    Score

    90

    Bruichladdich Bere Barley 8 Years Old, Distilled 2010
    Price band
    £ £ £ £ £
    ABV
    50%
    Production type
    Single malt whisky
    Region
    Islay
    Flavour camp
    Fragrant & Floral
    Nose

    First up is a fresh cereal note with light dusty earthiness, closely followed by demerara sugar on porridge and dried pineapple. Then things swing back towards the grain, with cashews and grilled hazelnut, while the dry elements shift to an undertone of baking powder and climber’s chalk. It swings around once again: now it’s pollen and some lemon with unripe banana. Water takes things off into this sweeter area, with pear, apricot and peach blossom.

    Palate

    There’s a sweetness on the tip of the tongue as the light fruits make their mark before, once again, toasted nuts begin to move in. Just before it dries completely there’s a release of oils which help to stretch the flavours out. Now there’s some mace-like spice added to the delicate fruits and, finally, some sweet oak. Water brings out green sencha tea and buttercups without losing any intensity.

    Finish

    Orchard fruit, then as it dries, peanut brittle emerges for one last time.

    Conclusion

    Bere continues to be a revelation. This somehow seems to move in opposite directions while remaining balanced. Remarkable for its age and, like all of this range, marked in its competitive set.

    Right place, right time

    A sense of Time and Place.

    Advertisement

    Bruichladdich Islay Barley 7 Years Old, Distilled 2011

    Score

    88

    Bruichladdich Islay Barley 7 Years Old, Distilled 2011
    Price band
    £ £ £ £ £
    ABV
    50%
    Production type
    Single malt whisky
    Region
    Islay
    Flavour camp
    Fruity & Spicy
    Nose

    The most robust of the trio. Once again, there’s a cereal note, but this time it’s more bakery-like with rising bread dough. Then comes a buttery quality which initially seems to come from the oak – there’s added hot gorse and lactone – but is as much driven by the distillate as it is by wood. Behind all of this is the bright intensity of yuzu and a herbal-floral element that brings to mind meadowsweet and stewed apple.

    It steadily becomes fatter and funkier. Add water and this breadth of character becomes more overt, mixing butter tablet with silage, pear, hay and, in time, tallow.

    Palate

    That sweet fudge element kicks things off alongside a mix of lemon, grapefruit peel and a little banana before it thickens and becomes more silky. There’s hints of almond and coconut oil, a prickle of peppery heat and some maltiness. Water helps to bunch up the spicy elements which start to sizzle in butter.

    Finish

    Relaxes into soft fruits.

    Conclusion

    Already showing great concentration and balance. Yes, there’s oak playing its hand here, but the distillate character is very different to both the bere and the organic.

    Right place, right time

    Andmoreagain.

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

    Bruichladdich The Organic 8 Years Old, Distilled 2010

    Score

    87

    Bruichladdich The Organic 8 Years Old, Distilled 2010
    Price band
    £ £ £ £ £
    ABV
    50%
    Production type
    Single malt whisky
    Region
    Islay
    Flavour camp
    Fragrant & Floral
    Nose

    The sweetest and most lifted of the set. You’re straight into apple danish, honey and apricot jam. It then starts to open into estery notes of pineapple chunks, melon, greengage jam and that recurring apple note. Water pulls things down a little, adding depth, a hint of vanilla, sweet fruits and a touch of steamed green tea leaves.

    Palate

    There’s light fruit (and some syrup) to start with that drifts into elderflower cordial and ginger, with a hint of calming chamomile that links itself to the subtle touches of oak. There’s a bite of citrus in the centre – more tangerine than the lemon seen in the others – before things once more become creamy and soft. Water helps to further promote this yielding quality and while things remain soft and perfumed, there’s still a bright estery quality.

    Finish

    Fragrant. Abernethy’s salted butter.

    Conclusion

    Fresh yet fruity, soft yet vibrant. All three are clearly related, yet all are significantly different. The exploration continues.

    Right place, right time

    We enter The Gentle Softness.

    Longmorn 53 Years Old, 1966, Private Collection (Gordon & Macphail)

    Score

    86

    Longmorn 53 Years Old, 1966, Private Collection (Gordon & Macphail)
    Price band
    £ £ £ £ £
    ABV
    46%
    Production type
    Single malt whisky
    Region
    Speyside
    Flavour camp
    Rich & Round
    Nose

    Big, bold and heavily Sherried, this immediately hits you with balsamic, tamari soy sauce, walnut, raisin and prune. In time you notice a nodule of sweetness – black cherry chocolate, chestnut honey – then an earthy element starts to build. You’re in the woods in winter and the last berry is hanging there on the briar. In time, the scene switches indoors, sipping Sherry in a cigar lounge.

    Palate

    Dried fruit starts things off along with oil of clove, espresso and a concentrated quality akin to Marmite. The tannins come out to play early on, but they’re not overly fierce or astringent. Keep things unwatered and you can pick out earthy, fungal notes, clinker and dried fruits.

    Finish

    Drying. Figs, calamus.

    Conclusion

    Marmite on the palate and in the mind as well. For me, Longmorn’s fruits are long gone.

    Right place, right time

    Time continues to press onwards, ‘…he lets it go on, everything, just as it will, turns the wheel…’, Der Leiermann.

    Dallas Dhu 50 Years Old, 1969, Private Collection (Gordon & Macphail)

    Score

    88

    Dallas Dhu 50 Years Old, 1969, Private Collection (Gordon & Macphail)
    Price band
    £ £ £ £ £
    ABV
    43.1%
    Production type
    Single malt whisky
    Region
    Speyside
    Flavour camp
    Rich & Round
    Nose

    Rich and elegant with chocolate leading the way, before things take an exotic, spicy turn with the arrival of five spice and tamarind along with light Sherried funkiness. As it settles, so you pick out dried fruits, coffee cake and oak. Like any ancient whisky it needs time (and hey, at this price you’re not going to shoot it) and this allows a slightly waxy element to develop along with (weirdly) pickled rhubarb. In time, you get more classical mature notes of cigar, hinoki and roasting coffee beans. A drop of water reintroduces those exotic notes of scented woods, incense and fig, but as we’ll see it plays havoc with the palate.

    Palate

    An expansive and lightly resinous start with the dried fruits now mixed with hawthorn jam. There’s tannins for sure, but they remain pretty supple although things do begin to dry towards the back palate, becoming almost smoky – think pu-erh tea. Water flattens the effect and brings out more bitterness, so don’t add it.

    Finish

    Rich. Liquorice and dark fruits.

    Conclusion

    A rare beast indeed and one which has held up remarkably well.

    Right place, right time

    ‘I dreamt of colourful flowers that blossom in May… you’re surely laughing at the dreamer who saw flowers in winter’, Frühlingstraum

    St. Magdalene 37 Years Old, 1982, Private Collection (Gordon & Macphail)

    Score

    90

    St. Magdalene 37 Years Old, 1982, Private Collection (Gordon & Macphail)
    Price band
    £ £ £ £ £
    ABV
    53%
    Production type
    Single malt whisky
    Region
    Lowland
    Flavour camp
    Fragrant & Floral
    Nose

    This couldn’t be more different to the other pair. Lifted and softly fruited: overripe canteloupe melon, dried flowers and still a memory of meadow hay. Yet there’s also evidence of long maturation in a slightly disinterested cask: wax crayon, peach stone and fennel pollen, then a burst of dried citrus peels. When water is added, you get a burst of waxiness, golden syrup and linen freshness – even some unripe pineapple – before its age is revealed once again as a suede-like element emerges. It’s flirting with rancio - but isn’t quite there yet.

    Palate

    All of those still remarkably sharp, almost sherbety, citrus elements are there at the front before things soften into fruit syrup with that grass/vetiver quality you (or, to be more precise, I) get from old St Magdalene in the background which adds an almost smoky edge to the sweet and by now lightly oxidised fruit. With water there’s hints of manzanilla pasada, pear and melon panna cotta and hints of tropical fruits.

    Finish

    Gentle, quiet and fruity.

    Conclusion

    Balanced, refined and untroubled by oak and therefore filled with a sense of liberation.

    Right place, right time

    New Scenes Of Joy come crowding on…’

This article contains affiliate links, which means we may earn a small commission if a reader clicks through and makes a purchase. All our journalism is independent and is in no way influenced by any advertiser or commercial initiative.
Advertisement
Scroll To Top