Themed tastings

Whiskies of the Year 2018: Dave's picks

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Dave Broom's whiskies of the year 2018: Glen Elgin 1997, Mortlach Adelphi and Caol Ila 7

It’s never easy to choose a trio, especially in what has been a bumper year which saw a brace of brilliant Balblairs, a strong showing from Glenmorangie, the first stirrings of Glenallachie, the ongoing development of Octomore, and a couple of welcome revamps from Jura and the Beast of Dufftown. We had the first Daftmill (at last!), the continuing development of Scottish rye, and what of Ncn’ean and Lindores’ botanical adventures?

The independent sector was equally strong with Adelphi, Cadenhead and G&M all showing extraordinary consistency in quality, while North Star, Valinch & Mallet, the Whisky Illuminati and Asta Morris all coming on to my radar with some cracking bottlings.

I could have cast the net wider – to Starward for example and its sterling work in building the next wave of Aussie whiskies, in similar fashion to what the team at Westland is doing for American single malt and, closer to home, Cotswolds, TOAD, and The Lakes are showing fantastic potential.

Diversity, a sense of enquiry and investigations into place will be the themes for 2019 and onwards; Scotch no longer has the field all to itself.

But a choice had to be made. Here’s three which would please any whisky lover. Unbelievably, each, when re-tasted, also had a Christmassy theme. Who would have thought that? The great Aidan Moffat and R. M. Hubbert provide a suitably seasonal the soundtrack. Buy their album!

Merry cheer to one and all.

Scoring Explained

Overview

  • Caol Ila 7 Years Old (Asta Morris)

    Caol Ila 7 Years Old (Asta Morris)
    Price band
    £ £ £ £ £
    ABV
    56.1%
    Production type
    Single malt whisky
    Region
    Islay
    Flavour camp
    Smoky & Peaty
    Nose

    It’s Boxing Day. Time to walk off the indulgences, lay aside the walnut whips and head out. In the old apple orchard a fire has been lit. The ground is softening after the hard frost. The smell of earth rises. You pop a peppermint in your mouth.

    Palate

    The path loops around the cliffs. Thank goodness you remembered to pack a sustaining bacon sandwich. For all the head-clearing, nose-chilling brightness of it all, you are secretly looking forward to getting home, closing the door, putting your feet up by the fire and eating iced gingerbread. You wrap your scarf more tightly and the rich, cosy warmth seeps into your bones. 

    Finish

    A blast of cold wind brings the scent of the sea, dusts your lips with salt.

    Conclusion

    A new name in the IB world to me and what a start.

    Right place, right time

    Thinking of The Fir Tree back at home dressed in silver and gold.

     

    Glen Elgin 20 Years Old, 1997, Connoisseurs Choice (G&M)

    Glen Elgin 20 Years Old, 1997, Connoisseurs Choice (G&M)
    Price band
    £ £ £ £ £
    ABV
    55.7%
    Production type
    Single malt whisky
    Region
    Speyside
    Flavour camp
    Rich & Round
    Nose

    You’re steeping the dried fruits and peels for the clootie dumpling, there’s mince pies in the oven, while elsewhere in the house some frantic polishing is going on as guests are imminent. One understanding soul pours you a Sherry and hands you a plate of dried apricots. At the same time, another hands you a mug of Orange Pekoe tea. That’s Christmas for you.

    Palate

    It’s later in the afternoon on Christmas Eve and you are flumped contentedly on the sofa. There’s still a waft of sage and onion stuffing in the air (maybe it’s grandad), coffee is being made and you idly nibble on preserved fruits and nuts. The cake is brought out – you peel off the marzipan and give it to your sister-in-law. It’s the season for giving after all.

    Finish

    Time for some mulled wine rich with allspice, clove, and orange peel.

    Conclusion

    I was at the bar in Elgin’s Mansefield Hotel when David King gave me a dram of this to kick off an evening of whisky talk and Turkish food. I’m always a sucker for Glen Elgin and it was immediately apparent that this was a belter. I tasted it again the day after at a more formal tasting, then again at home. For me it’s the whisky which encapsulates the start of a new era at G&M.  

    Right place, right time

    Happy by the Fireside.

    Mortlach 25 Years Old, 1993, Cask #4466 (Adelphi)

    Mortlach 25 Years Old, 1993, Cask #4466 (Adelphi)
    Price band
    £ £ £ £ £
    ABV
    56.3%
    Production type
    Single malt whisky
    Region
    Speyside
    Flavour camp
    Rich & Round
    Nose

    Some folks are fortunate to celebrate Christmas Day in their country house. Others sit down to watch some Agatha Christie mystery set in one. Whether the experience is vicarious or not you are plunged into a world of roast venison and game pie sitting on a silver salver on a beeswax-polished table. The colonel is filling his pipe in anticipation of a smoke once the blasted meal has been consumed. His sister, forever lost in the 1960s, wafts in trailing the scent of incense.

    Palate

    Dessert is arrayed on the sideboard under the heavily-scented flowers. Peaches in brandy, chocolate cake, treacle tart. Time slows. All are anticipating the afternoon snooze. Then, a sudden scream. All rush to the library. There, prone on the tiger skin rug, a leather-bound tome still clutched in his hand, is the vicar…

    Finish

    Next to him lies the second haunch of charred venison used as a bludgeon. The servants’ children, unaware of the tragedy, begin to sing sweetly outside.

    Conclusion

    It’s been quite a year for Mortlach. The new OB range is a return to former glories. This Adelphi bottling was stellar.

    Right place, right time

    Agatha or the Recurrence of Dickens.

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