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New Whiskies

Batch 221

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Bladnoch 30 Years Old (Cadenhead), Imperial 24 Years Old (Thompson Bros.), Littlemill 27 Years Old (Cadenhead), Macallan-Glenlivet 30 Years Old (Cadenhead), 38 Year Old Blend (Thompson Bros.), Williamson-Laphroaig 9 Years Old, Càrn Mòr (Morrison & MacKay)

Dave Broom loses himself in some old drams with the help of another selection of indie bottlers, experiencing the highs, lows and surprises that life – and off-the-beaten-track whisky – often bring.

First to a 30-year-old Bladnoch bottled by Cadenhead that debuts as the batch’s highest scorer with dried, fruity overtones that proves just shy of bring an overt Sherry bomb.

From dried dark fruits to fresh orchard ones, Broom moves to a surprisingly youthful-feeling 24-year-old from closed distillery Imperial. It’s ‘a caress on the tongue’ ‘becoming fattier and creamier over time. One to dwell on.

Next up is a 27-year-old from the second closed distillery of the batch, Littlemill, and another expression bottled by Cadenhead. Full of mango and guava notes backed by oil and leather on the palate, it’s a classic Littlemill in the sense that you’re never quite sure what’s next.

From the Lowlands, Broom moves to Speyside with a Glenlivet that’s been wizened by its 30 years in oak. ‘You get the sense that it’s always been a quiet performer,’ says Broom, ‘only now getting its big chance.’

A 38-year-old blended whisky from Thompson Bros. is on its last gasp, with a greenish tint, a distant nose and a melancholy ending. Farewell.

Never one to end on a low note, Broom returns to last week’s glut of Càrn Mòrs for the final whisky, a Laphroaig named after former distillery owner and manager Bessie Williamson. Its ‘excellent balance’ clears all away.

This week’s soundtrack rambles through Sandy Denny, Brighde Chaimbeul and Lankum’s radical reworking of Wild Rover, plus a diversion into the desert with Giant Sand. Hit the links in ‘Right Place, Right Time’ for more.

Scoring Explained

Overview

  • Bladnoch 30 Years Old (Cadenhead)

    Score

    90

    Bladnoch 30 Years Old (Cadenhead)
    Price band
    £ £ £ £ £
    ABV
    40.8%
    Production type
    Single malt whisky
    Region
    Lowland
    Flavour camp
    Rich & Round
    Nose

    Soothing and resinous with a real sense of time. There’s also a distinct note of leather – Dunhill store, or what I imagine John Lobb’s might smell like – with a subtly dried fruitiness that veers more to the citric side. In time, this morphs into a sophisticated chocolate orange with dried tangerine peel and high cocoa solids. Things get slightly waxy now, but still with some of Bladnoch’s airy qualities which stop it becoming a Sherry bomb.

    Palate

    There’s more of a sense of grip here which is only to be expected. There’s also a light lavender note and initially things seem slightly hollow in the middle – that low alcohol making things a little fractured. A wetting of the lips is what’s needed, turning the whisky into more of a vapour than a liquid. Now you get the citrus, some dried berries, the light leatheriness and lastly a late autumn leaf pile.

    Finish

    Starts nutty and then, minutes after, fresh blackcurrants.

    Conclusion

    Opens dramatically and ends wistfully. Such is life, eh?

    Right place, right time

    Who Knows Where The Time Goes?

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    Imperial 24 Years Old (Thompson Bros.)

    Score

    87

    Imperial 24 Years Old (Thompson Bros.)
    Price band
    £ £ £ £ £
    ABV
    53.1%
    Production type
    Single malt whisky
    Region
    Speyside
    Flavour camp
    Fragrant & Floral
    Nose

    Some apple puree with a classic Imperial American cream soda softness. Lilies are in the distance, with summer meadows and ripe pear dribbled with single cream (or coconut cream for the vegans). In time slightly aldehydic (Chanel No. 5) with white peach and waxed fruits. A slow builder and you need to be canny with the water; a drop reveals how fresh it remains, even after all this time.

    Palate

    A caress on the tongue with pear dominating, becoming fattier and creamier in the centre before suddenly getting spiky, more so than on the nose. This bright raciness continues all the way to the finish. In time you can discern some oxidised elements. It’s slightly firmer than expected from the nose, but not when you take into account the time spent in cask. Water makes things more floral.

    Finish

    After the flare, a softer resolution.

    Conclusion

    A lovely and remarkable youthful Imperial. Botox finish?

    Right place, right time

    The Old Woman dances while a Skylark sings.

    Littlemill 27 Years Old (Cadenhead)

    Score

    87

    Littlemill 27 Years Old (Cadenhead)
    Price band
    £ £ £ £ £
    ABV
    49.8%
    Production type
    Single malt whisky
    Region
    Lowland
    Flavour camp
    Fruity & Spicy
    Nose

    Slightly closed to start, but there’s some biscuity aromas before you pick up a burnt note of sealing wax, then mealie pudding and (I know this is weird) a note which reminds me of an uncooked haggis. There’s also a real sweetness behind that’s all mango and guava. It flits, as Littlemill can do, between the industrial and the soft fruits of its late years.

    Palate

    You get the same effect here. Slightly numb and oily to begin with, then opens to those half-obscured tropical fruits. If anything it reminds me of an Irish single pot still; oil and leather, fruits and a tight cereal-accented finish.

    Finish

    Nutty, then the oils return.

    Conclusion

    Classic Littlemill. You never quite know what you’ll get.

    Right place, right time

    All things Return To Earth.

    Macallan 30 Years Old (Cadenhead)

    Score

    89

    Macallan 30 Years Old (Cadenhead)
    Price band
    £ £ £ £ £
    ABV
    42.8%
    Production type
    Single malt whisky
    Region
    Speyside
    Flavour camp
    Fruity & Spicy
    Nose

    Big and only gently wooded, allowing Macallan’s earthiness to show along with a tiny touch of spice that moves into some baked apple. All the time there’s a lightly nutty back note with some greengage jam and citrus peel. Water adds in more dry oak, cassia and mossy log before opening into heavy florals and apricot skin. Increasingly fruity.

    Palate

    A softer start than anticipated – age has mellowed it. There’s low wood, allowing Macallan's oiliness and depth to show more fully above a steely core. Briefly becomes heavily fruited – peachy now – in the centre (and retronasally), but then things start to fade. You get the sense that it’s always been a quiet performer, never showy, only now getting its big chance.

    Finish

    Lightly nutty, but short.

    Conclusion

    A great example of a relaxed, mature Macallan.

    Right place, right time

    The old Wild Rover comes in for the last time

    38 Year Old Blend (Thompson Bros.)

    Score

    80

    38 Year Old Blend (Thompson Bros.)
    Price band
    £ £ £ £ £
    ABV
    44.9%
    Production type
    Blended Scotch whisky
    Region
    n/a
    Flavour camp
    Impossible to place
    Nose

    The greenish-yellow colour shows this is a venerable whisky, long in cask. Nose it and there’s a sensation that everything has turned sepia – old books, worn leather, distant red fruits. Surprisingly, this is easier to pick out when a drop of water is added, but things remain distant.

    Palate

    As the nose suggests, this is fragile, offering up fragments of its life: some cedar, some raspberry, a touch of toffee, faded petals. It softens on the tongue and then it’s gone – a ghost, a memory. Lean in and you can just hear its last breath.

    Finish

    Slips away.

    Conclusion

    The end of a whisky. Melancholy.

    Right place, right time

    A Dusted farewell.

    Laphroaig 9 Years Old, ‘Williamson’, Càrn Mòr (Morrison & MacKay)

    Score

    86

    Laphroaig 9 Years Old, ‘Williamson’, Càrn Mòr (Morrison & MacKay)
    Price band
    £ £ £ £ £
    ABV
    47.5%
    Production type
    Single malt whisky
    Region
    Islay
    Flavour camp
    Smoky & Peaty
    Nose

    This isn’t the only dram this week which has an oiliness, but here it’s more distinctly linseed oil. There’s also a touch of new trainers, then fresh-baked bread and lemon juice. Then you get the image of oatcakes being made on a griddle, heated over a peat fire. With water comes a scented rose element, some sweetness but more overt phenols and tarriness.

    Palate

    Immediate drying smoke from peat and coal, then felt, the dustiness of an old attic but with sufficient sweetness at its core. Initially it seems more straightforward here than on the nose. Water is needed to show its excellent balance: slightly dry, slightly salty, definitely smoky, but also sweet.

    Finish

    A return to the oatcakes as well as a brininess.

    Conclusion

    Like all of the Morrison & MacKay whiskies in this batch, this has fantastic balance.

    Right place, right time

    A High Tide clears it all away.

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