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New Whiskies

Batch 223

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Method & Madness and four Adelphi whiskies

It’s a week of oddities as four contrasting indie bottlings from Adelphi meet the two latest editions in Irish Distillers’ experimental Method and Madness range.

Becky Paskin starts us off in Speyside with the first of the four Adelphis and a meaty, Sherried, 13-year-old Benrinnes that offers a lesson in balancing distillery character with maturation, with its sticky yet fruity character.

Skipping across to Islay, we meet a 10-year-old Bunnahabhain that, once it opens up, becomes fresh and fruity with oodles of strawberries and cream. It’s a game of hide and seek, Paskin says.

Flitting just down the coast to Caol Ila, Paskin sets her sights on a bizarre nine-year-old offering a combination of lemon meringue pie and smoked cheese. ‘It’s odd, potentially divisive, but super interesting,’ she finds.

The last of the Adelphis is a blended malt comprising whisky from unnamed Dufftown distilleries. Despite a vibrantly fruity nose, the whisky sadly falls apart under scrutiny.

Two single pot still Irish whiskeys from Method and Madness catch Richard Woodard’s attention, the first of which, matured in acacia wood, sees delicate floral notes battle against chilli-chocolate. The acacia influence is a little ‘aggressive’, he surmises.

The second has been finished in cherry wood, and despite being ‘disarmingly pale’, its charm is in its subtlety. ‘Both are well worth tasting,’ he says.

The accompanying playlist this week veers from Green Day, Imogen Heap and Madness to Bob Dylan and the latest masterpiece from Nick Cave. As eclectic a mix as our whiskies.

Scoring Explained

Overview

  • Benrinnes 2006, 13 Years Old, Cask #305385 (Adelphi)

    Score

    92

    Benrinnes 2006, 13 Years Old, Cask #305385 (Adelphi)
    Price band
    £ £ £ £ £
    ABV
    55.5%
    Production type
    Single malt whisky
    Region
    Speyside
    Flavour camp
    Rich & Round
    Nose

    A superbly dark colour, the result of 13 years in a first-fill Sherry cask. Sticky, molasses-rich and dense, loaded with roasted figs, prunes, flambéed banana, rum cake and candied ginger.

    Palate

    Mouth-coating and waxy, a signature Benrinnes trait, with a decadent sweetness of brown sugar, Sherry and blood orange. There’s also plum sauce, sticky toffee pudding and Christmas cake loaded with sultanas and raisins, with a generous layer of marzipan. There’s enough oak to provide grip and to avoid the sweetness from dominating, and while the baking spices sweep across the mid-palate, they subside graciously to finish on an Armagnac-like note.

    Finish

    Slightly dry, but still intensely sticky and fruity.

    Conclusion

    A lesson in balance between distillery character and a cask that can often easily overwhelm the liquid. Just superb.

    Right place, right time

    The perfect toast. I hope you had the Time of Your Life.

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    Bunnahabhain 2009, 10 Years Old, Cask #900023 (Adelphi)

    Score

    89

    Bunnahabhain 2009, 10 Years Old, Cask #900023 (Adelphi)
    Price band
    £ £ £ £ £
    ABV
    59.3%
    Production type
    Single malt whisky
    Region
    Islay
    Flavour camp
    Fruity & Spicy
    Nose

    Quite fusty and heavy at first, even after just 10 years in cask. Lots of oak spice, dried fruit wheels and sultanas, with this overriding, substantial leathery quality that threatens to stamp out a glimmer of energetic youthfulness. Give it time, and the leather blanket lifts to reveal fresher, fruitier aromas of strawberries and cream, baked apples, figs drizzled with Mānuka honey, and orange oils.

    Palate

    Strawberry mousse, salted caramel sauce and baked apples, but then the spice takes hold. Cinnamon, anise, pepper… it gets quite spicy quite rapidly. Water calms things considerably. Now the fruit is discernable: there’s stewed apples, orange zest, berry fruits, even a touch of unripe banana. The mouth-coating texture holds, even with water, and although the wood spice remains, it’s happy to play a supporting role.

    Finish

    Burnt caramel and toffee apples.

    Conclusion

    A firecracker of a whisky, this Bunnahabhain has taken that first-fill Sherry influence and run with it, after only 10 years. Worth seeking out.

    Right place, right time

    Playing Hide and Seek in the tannery.

    Caol Ila 2010, 9 Years Old, Cask #311713 (Adelphi)

    Score

    85

    Caol Ila 2010, 9 Years Old, Cask #311713  (Adelphi)
    Price band
    £ £ £ £ £
    ABV
    55.4%
    Production type
    Single malt whisky
    Region
    Islay
    Flavour camp
    Smoky & Peaty
    Nose

    Gentle and sweet, with a soft waft of peat smoke entwined with aromas of fresh lemon meringue pie, barley sugar and hay. There’s a hint of sweaty cheese – Emmental, I think – but don’t get me wrong, it’s not unpleasant; it adds some savoury balance and weight.

    Palate

    Light and delicate, with bonfire smoke wafting in and out, dancing around estery top notes of banana leaf and lemon squash. Soft and sweet at first, some alcohol spice lifts and lowers, playing its own role in the dance. Then things take a savoury turn with notes of thyme and barbecued cheese.

    Finish

    Smoked cheese. The one that comes as a sausage. It lingers.

    Conclusion

    I really like this one. It’s odd, potentially divisive, but super-interesting.

    Right place, right time

    Fighting over the last piece of Edam in the Hall of the Mountain King.

    Distilled in Dufftown 1999, 20 Years Old, Cask #2140 (Adelphi)

    Score

    79

    Distilled in Dufftown 1999, 20 Years Old, Cask #2140 (Adelphi)
    Price band
    £ £ £ £ £
    ABV
    58%
    Production type
    Blended malt whisky
    Region
    Speyside
    Flavour camp
    Fruity & Spicy
    Nose

    Tons of fresh green fruit: Granny Smiths, gooseberries, kiwi. Lots of top citrus notes, lemon zest and mandarins, layered over deeper tones of barley sugar, caramel, vanilla and clotted cream.

    Palate

    Soooo fruity! Baked apples, sultanas and poached pears, then along comes a zap of mouthwatering wood spice almost blowing the fruit away. It falls apart a little with water and becomes much drier, the oak and fruit separate, making things a little muddy and confused, while a bitter grapefruit note sweeps in on the tip of the tongue.

    Finish

    The fruit disappears quite quickly, leaving just a tingle of anise. Disappointingly flat.

    Conclusion

    If you can handle the heat, don’t add water.

    Right place, right time

    Clutching hold of a flower in a Hurricane.

    Method and Madness Acacia Wood

    Score

    85

    Method and Madness Acacia Wood
    Price band
    £ £ £ £ £
    ABV
    46%
    Production type
    Single Pot Still
    Region
    Ireland
    Flavour camp
    Rich & Round
    Nose

    Light copper in colour, this is at first somewhat heavy and unyielding, before dark honey and dripping wood resin come to the fore. Hints of peppery florals and rich mandarin, then honeysuckle and, in time, more conventional aromas of pot still spice with an edge of sour cherry. It’s at once precise and uncompromising. Give it longer in the glass and you get a more welcoming rich creaminess. Water tames and soothes, allowing more of that pot still character to shine through.

    Palate

    Dark forces at work. The floral aspect tries briefly to assert itself, but has to give way to a drying, bitter dark chocolate kick. There’s a Jalapeño-like heat to this, which combines nicely with that persistent, brooding chocolateyness. Water brings out more cereal and hazelnut, but the bitterness becomes a little too much.

    Finish

    Long, exotically fruited, but dry.

    Conclusion

    Single pot still, matured in ex-Bourbon and Sherry, then finished in acacia casks, and it’s almost too bold for its own good. Acacia can be quite a subtle influence on white wine, but it’s almost aggressive here.

    Right place, right time

    It rises from the deep like a Leviathan.

    Method and Madness Wild Cherry Wood

    Score

    88

    Method and Madness Wild Cherry Wood
    Price band
    £ £ £ £ £
    ABV
    46%
    Production type
    Single Pot Still
    Region
    Ireland
    Flavour camp
    Fragrant & Floral
    Nose

    Disarmingly pale, wafting fresh-mown hay, a pinch of dry spice and white pepper. That peppery character slowly builds, accompanied by a note of clipped laurel. There’s a youthful zip to everything. All is light, lifted, but with some slightly brittle weight and structure beneath. Intriguing. Water is a little dumbing, accentuating that sensation of youth. There’s orange cordial, but always a slightly drying vegetal kick.

    Palate

    A sunlit meadow carpeted in wild flowers, before a precise and pungent retronasal aroma of lily takes hold. The pot still spice is uncharacteristically restrained here. The lily note apart, this isn’t an obvious whiskey, and that’s a major part of its charm. Water brings roundness, but neutralises much of the floral aspect while allowing more of the pot still to come through.

    Finish

    Prickling heat, pleasing acidity.

    Conclusion

    Single pot still, matured in ex-Bourbon and Sherry, then finished in (rather porous) French wild cherry casks. You might need time to get to know this. I did. It’s idiosyncratic, but what I first took for rawness now feels more like subtlety, and there’s a lot more flavour here than you might think. This is as shy and elusive as the Acacia finish is assertive – and together they offer a kind of yin and yang of Irish Distillers’ continued pushing of the boundaries with its Method and Madness range. Both are well worth tasting.

    Right place, right time

    Flavours cascade like Bright Horses.

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