New Whiskies

Batch 133

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Batch 133: Glenmorangie Spios, Tomatin Metal and Water, Tullibardine 1962, Auchroisk and Auchentoshan from Cadenhead

The Highlands dominate this week’s new whisky reviews, with examples from Glenmorangie, Tomatin and Tullibardine demonstrating the art of maturation and wood’s role in the creation of flavour.

But first to the Lowlands, where a rum-finished 18-year-old from Auchentoshan (courtesy of independent bottler William Cadenhead) has all the makings of a great whisky, if it weren’t for a metallic, blood-like element.

Next, a fat, sweet and floral Auchroisk, also from Cadenhead’s, sweeps us up the country further into Speyside. Perhaps not the finest example of this little-seen distillery, but Dave Broom is still envisaging its involvement in a before-dinner treat.

The annual Glenmorangie Private Editions are always an anticipated release and this year’s was no exception. Known for not always being a fan of Scotch matured in ex-rye casks, Broom is impressed by the layered flavours of fruit and spice in Glenmorangie Spìos – a ‘clever’ dram, he says.

The final two expressions in Tomatin’s Five Virtues series follow – Metal, which tastes anything but metallic, and Water, a boisterous, Sherried drop which again couldn’t be further from the watery, diluted whisky its name suggests.

Finally to Tullibardine, where the effect of maturation in (possibly several) refill casks over an extended period is fully demonstrated in the Perthshire distillery’s 1962 vintage. At 52 years old you’d expect the wood to dominate, but not so here, says Broom, where a subtle, waxy maturity plays a supporting role to the lingeringly fragrant and floral distillery character. As graceful as a ballerina, he remarks.

Scoring Explained

Overview

  • Auchentoshan 18 Years Old, 1999 (Cadenhead)

    Auchentoshan 18 Years Old, 1999 (Cadenhead)
    Price band
    £ £ £ £ £
    ABV
    55%
    Production type
    Single malt whisky
    Region
    Lowland
    Flavour camp
    Fruity & Spicy
    Nose

    This has spent its final three years in rum cask, though this isn’t immediately apparent. In fact, it is slightly hard to get into, with a rigidity (possibly from the high level of alcohol) that sits over light orchard fruit, then come more ‘rummy’ elements of lime cordial and sugar syrup. As it develops, so a beautiful aroma akin to Muscat de Beaumes-de-Venise and barley sugar starts to develop, but there’s a metallic touch, as well as the feeling that the alcohol is holding it back. When water is added, it shifts into a molasses-rich mix of iron and blood, along with some singed cereal.

    Palate

    Sweeter than you would expect on the neat nose, with a malt extract element and a burnt edge which could be molasses creeping forward. Water makes it drier and nuttier, before it opens into some soft fruit.

    Finish

    Tobacco leaf. Drying.

    Conclusion

    All of the elements to make this a great whisky are there, but would that metallic element have gone or just built with more time in the cask? Impossible to say now.

    Right place, right time

    A pirate’s treasure chest bound with iron bands.

    Auchroisk 29 Years Old, 1988 (Cadenhead)

    Auchroisk 29 Years Old, 1988 (Cadenhead)
    Price band
    £ £ £ £ £
    ABV
    44.6%
    Production type
    Single malt whisky
    Region
    Speyside
    Flavour camp
    Fragrant & Floral
    Nose

    Very creamy toffee, Toffos in fact, with a fatness. In an echo of the Auchie there’s a steely element here which seems to clamp down on things becoming too effusive – a Presbyterian dram. There’s some raspberry and then warm plastic – kid’s ball pit – then some well-fired white bread and butter and some white fruits. Water helps to fill things out and bring the elements closer together, but that steeliness never goes away fully.

    Palate

    A soft, floral start with iced gems and some sweetness, though the firmness grabs the tongue in the mid-palate, reducing the pear-like and cereal elements. Water does, however, fill things out.

    Finish

    Light acidity. Sweet, then dries quickly.

    Conclusion

    There’s not enough Auchroisk on the market and, while this never quite springs into life completely, it would make a simple and refreshing aperitif.

    Right place, right time

    The minister’s on the prowl.

    Glenmorangie Spíos

    Glenmorangie Spíos
    Price band
    £ £ £ £ £
    ABV
    46%
    Production type
    Single malt whisky
    Region
    Highland
    Flavour camp
    Fruity & Spicy
    Nose

    There’s rye all right, coming over as allspice, clove and pepper, and its impact has shifted ‘Morangie (initially at least) into the red fruit area, with some light chocolate sitting in the background. A full and developed nose with some coconut, then tangerine marmalade. As it develops, so the balance shifts towards the distillery character, but retaining the rye’s green apple and fennel leaf elements. Water lightens the impact somewhat, so ca’ canny (go easy).

    Palate

    The nose reversed. Gentle, syrupy and surprisingly softly fruited to start, with the structure gripping lightly, then adding in chocolate and roasted poblana chilli from the mid-palate on, as the spices start to pick up in intensity with that added apple/fennel element. When water is added, it’s this element which is pulled forward, making things layered rather than linear.

    Finish

    Dry-roasted five-spice. Red fruit. Peach. Drying.

    Conclusion

    Clever stuff – and fun too. Old Fashioned and Sazerac material.

    Right place, right time

    A Scotsman watches Townes van Zandt and dreams of Texas.

    Tomatin Metal, Five Virtues Series

    Tomatin Metal, Five Virtues Series
    Price band
    £ £ £ £ £
    ABV
    46%
    Production type
    Single malt whisky
    Region
    Highland
    Flavour camp
    Fragrant & Floral
    Nose

    Very pale colour, with low cask impact giving things a slightly distant air with only a light green bite and a tiny hint of cow gum in the very back. While delicate and frothy, it’s somewhat insubstantial, something that’s not helped by dilution.

    Palate

    Much, much better. A sweet and much more expressive start. There’s some lemon curd, banana, green apple – all of the distillery’s estery elements beginning to emerge. Ok, it’s still on the light and ethereal side of things, but it’s pleasantly textured with all of the elements flowing together. Water adds a gentle juiciness, some (very) light vanilla and a zesty end.

    Finish

    Fresh, but short.

    Conclusion

    Whispering certainly. Am not sure about the metal analogy.

    Right place, right time

    A shy teenager at a grown up’s dinner party.

    Tomatin Water, Five Virtues Series

    Tomatin Water, Five Virtues Series
    Price band
    £ £ £ £ £
    ABV
    46%
    Production type
    Single malt whisky
    Region
    Highland
    Flavour camp
    Rich & Round
    Nose

    Sherry dominates the nose, with lots of fig jam and light pickling spices that move things towards the chutney realm. Sweet, dried fruits, but there’s just enough estery energy behind to cut through and give needed balance. Bold and earthy (rather than watery), with developing cooked fruits, clootie dumpling and dark chocolate. Water amplifies the Sherry.

    Palate

    Soft in terms of tannic grip, but this is still a big and bouncy boy, with a robust, fruit-laden mid-palate. There’s more prune now, though again the acidity helps to balance. As it opens on the back palate you pick up coffee, anise and black cherry. Water stops the palate development in its tracks so, although the nose is enhanced, I’d keep things neat.

    Finish

    Cooked dried fruit.

    Conclusion

    Cask-rich and with a certain sweet, boisterous energy.

    Right place, right time

    A confident businessman mid-way through a long lunch.

    Tullibardine 1962, 52 Years Old

    Tullibardine 1962, 52 Years Old
    Price band
    £ £ £ £ £
    ABV
    40.1%
    Production type
    Single malt whisky
    Region
    Highland
    Flavour camp
    Fragrant & Floral
    Nose

    Light in colour, suggesting a (multiple?) refill cask which, as we know, isn’t necessarily a bad thing for extra-long maturation. A bright opening, mixing sugar-topped porridge with cut flowers. It’s when you compare it to the others that you notice the subtle, mature depth as a clover honey element which begins to develop, along with light waxiness and then a herbal essence element like milk thistle extract or meadowsweet. Calm and gorgeous like a mature ballerina en pointe.

    Palate

    As soft as you’d expect, given the nose, but there’s some tone to the structure here, meaning that it doesn’t simply fly away. The tip of the tongue is where the flowers are, along with some thinned honey, while the mid-palate is where you detect the subtle structure, the waxy maturity. The back-palate perks up once more, allowing it to finish on a bright note. It does fade slightly in the glass compared to the nose, but that gentle concentration in the middle of the tongue persists. Then it seems to disappear behind a gauze veil.

    Finish

    Slips behind a veil and disappears.

    Conclusion

    40.1%? Wow, that’s lucky! Hard to believe this was made in ‘62. A lovely dram.

    Right place, right time

    Tamara Rojo in her prime.

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