New Whiskies

Batch 117

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Whisky reviews Highland Park Magnus Balvenie Peat Week, Dewar's 25, the whisky exchange art of whisky

Maybe it’s the change in seasons, a sense of the slowing down of things as the leaves turn brown, but Dave Broom detects a distinctly gentle theme in this week’s tranche of new whiskies.

Balvenie Peat Week, a 14-year-old peated malt from the Speyside distillery, barely offers a whisper of smoke amid its peachy, nutty sweetness, while a low abv reveals a slightly timid palate for Highland Park Magnus. Dewar’s 25 Year Old, meanwhile, displays an attractive fatness while retaining a soft, creamy and ‘Dewarsy’ character, managing to be both upfront and subtle at the same time.

Three expressions in the new Whisky Exchange Art of Whisky series continue the theme: a beautifully synchronised Clynelish 21-year-old, a ‘refined and soporific’ Glenrothes 27-year-old and a 24-year-old malty, fruity, citrussy, minerally wild ride of a dram from Springbank. Gentle and hypnotic. Don’t read these whisky reviews while operating heavy machinery.

Scoring Explained

Overview

  • Balvenie Peat Week 14 Years Old

    Balvenie Peat Week 14 Years Old
    Price band
    £ £ £ £ £
    ABV
    48.3%
    Production type
    Single malt whisky
    Region
    Speyside
    Flavour camp
    Smoky & Peaty
    Nose

    Is this smoky? Not really. I mean, there’s certainly some cigar ash, but it’s hardly in your face. Rather it seems to work with the light cereal character to make this drier than some Balvenies. In time, a peachy and honeyed element comes through, alongside hay and sweet oak. The smoke reappears for a second (smoked almond), then it sweetens.

    Palate

    The nutty elements are there, with the sweetness sitting in the centre. Give it a little time in the glass and there’s warm, smoked maltiness. Dilution adds peach skin, but the dry grip is never far away. Water allows things to soften, with some wildflower honey and then the smoke – and so it continues.

    Finish

    Balanced, with light smoke. Burnt stick.

    Conclusion

    It’s balanced, it’s highly enjoyable, but the peatiness seems to flicker off and on, making it slightly disconcerting.

    Right place, right time

    A beehive being smoked. Has something of the glitchy quality of Fennesz’s Endless Summer.

    Clynelish 21 Years Old, The Art of Whisky (TWE)

    Clynelish 21 Years Old, The Art of Whisky (TWE)
    Price band
    £ £ £ £ £
    ABV
    56.1%
    Production type
    Single malt whisky
    Region
    Highland
    Flavour camp
    Fruity & Spicy
    Nose

    Although the nose is quite discreet, it has a classic distillery character of scented orange (neroli), some sweet grass and a touch of coconut flesh, pineapple, then just-snuffed candle. There’s a refreshing, almost herbal, green edge. Things become increasingly perfumed with water, along with wax crayon and freshly squeezed orange juice.

    Palate

    Much the same story on the palate as the nose: the controlled burst of fruit, a discreetly scented quality and then the waxiness which coats the entire mouth. There’s a slight stutter as the alcohol kicks in, but this is easily sorted by adding water. In fact, not doing so you miss out on a beautiful, balanced and rounded ball of flavours – soft, almost tropical fruits, a hint of ginger and that waxiness.

    Finish

    Lively and zesty. 

    Conclusion

    A great Clynelish with all of its elements working beautifully together.

    Right place, right time

    The end of a long dinner party, candles smouldering, dessert dishes littering the table, children’s drawings on the tablecloth.

    Dewar’s 25 Years Old

    Dewar’s 25 Years Old
    Price band
    £ £ £ £ £
    ABV
    40%
    Production type
    Blended Scotch whisky
    Region
    n/a
    Flavour camp
    Fruity & Spicy
    Nose

    A soft and very Dewarsy (does such a word exist?) opening with light caramel toffee, cereal, apple purée, gooseberry jam and then berry fruit syrup. In time, you get sandalwood and drying spice, a light Sherried element and the (wet) leather aroma that’s suggestive of maturity. Water amplifies the soft, rich, honeyed core, as well as pineapple rum.

    Palate

    As the nose suggests, gentle, chewy and slightly creamy, with low tannins and plenty of ripe, honeyed fruits. It is, however, fatter than the nose suggests, with a steady unfolding of dried orchard fruits, mocha and a little more oak than initially suspected. Everything is pretty upfront and imbued with a subtle, mild complexity.

    Finish

    Light spice. Now some chocolate comes through.

    Conclusion

    It’s seamless and balanced and rather beautiful, but I was somehow expecting more fireworks, more heft, more of the sense of a life lived.

    Right place, right time

    Dorian Gray (rather than his portrait).

    Glenrothes 27 Years Old, The Art of Whisky (TWE)

    Glenrothes 27 Years Old, The Art of Whisky (TWE)
    Price band
    £ £ £ £ £
    ABV
    51.1%
    Production type
    Single malt whisky
    Region
    Speyside
    Flavour camp
    Fruity & Spicy
    Nose

    Buttery and creamy, and reminiscent of hot milk on porridge. There’s added apple syrup and a dusting of cinnamon powder, then pears poached in sweet wine. In time you get big coconutty-like oak, while the water adds some oxidised elements without losing any freshness.

    Palate

    Plump, soft fruits are given balance by crisp(er) cereal and oak lactone a-plenty. The fruits remain hunkered down in the middle of the tongue, while the back palate has plenty of breezy spiciness. Water accentuates this relaxed nature, though it does also confirm that it’s another dram which is quite front-loaded. Still lovely, though.

    Finish

    A late perking up, with considerable spice.

    Conclusion

    A slow, refined and almost soporific Rothes. 

    Right place, right time

    Rothes in the sunshine (it does happen… apparently it was on 13 June this year).

    Highland Park Magnus

    Highland Park Magnus
    Price band
    £ £ £ £ £
    ABV
    40%
    Production type
    Single malt whisky
    Region
    Islands
    Flavour camp
    Smoky & Peaty
    Nose

    Sherried notes kick things off: yeasty and flor-like, moving towards Vin Jaune, backed with a nutty, IPA-esque element with some fruity, orange accents. The smoke is low in the mix. As it develops, you get more concentrated fruits and an exotic hint of myrrh and ginger. Water nudges up the smoke a little as well as a rummy element, then comes cookie dough with dried fruit.

    Palate

    Gentle (this week’s theme, it would seem) and, though it loses impact in the middle, things pulse back into life on the back-palate, when some dried fruits (sultana, sweet date) come in, along with turfy smoke, turned earth and heather bank. Water tries to push all of this forward, but it remains reticent until that late burst of yeasty sweetness.

    Finish

    Drying, then apple and smoke.

    Conclusion

    A slightly hollow middle – the result of a low bottling strength? It’s balanced, it’s well-made, but I’m not sure what this adds to an already rapidly expanding portfolio. 

    Right place, right time

    The cookie monster in the bodega.

    Springbank 24 Years Old, The Art of Whisky (TWE)

    Springbank 24 Years Old, The Art of Whisky (TWE)
    Price band
    £ £ £ £ £
    ABV
    51.7%
    Production type
    Single malt whisky
    Region
    Campbeltown
    Flavour camp
    Rich & Round
    Nose

    Profoundly Springbank in the slightly chaotic way it veers between normally contradictory aromas. There’s a tiny hint of smoke, then old Barbour jackets, a mineral edge, then fresh silage, chocolate limes and a vinous element; then you steer towards the pierhead before water pulls you back, with earthy dunnage notes and vetiver.

    Palate

    Big certainly, but it’s also soft, almost fat with a roasted maltiness, red fruit, sweet pepper and, after a sudden detonation of salty meatiness (reduced stock), there’s a burst of acid which in turn leads to red liquorice. It has lift, drive, bite and a slow flow. Nothing is lost in terms of body when water is added, though you can more easily see the clean line of fruit.

    Finish

    Extra grunt and weight. Supple and flexing.

    Conclusion

    It’s quite a ride. I’d recommend you go on it. 

    Right place, right time

    The liquid equivalent of Mogwai.

     

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