New Whiskies

Batch 134

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Batch 134: Benrinnes, Dailuaine, The E&K, Highland Park, Mortlach, Timorous Beastie

The rich and meaty side of Speyside is displayed by three of the whiskies tasted by Dave Broom this week – all independent bottlings from William Cadenhead, and all living up to their billing.

The power and poise of Benrinnes, Dailuaine and Mortlach, spanning ages from 13 to 29 years, broadly impresses Broom – and it sets something of a theme for the week.

There’s richness and power also on display with the innovative E&K by Adelphi, a blended malt whisky combining distillates from Amrut in India, and Speyside’s Glenrothes and Ardmore. ‘Fascinating and successful,’ remarks Broom.

Highland Park has been a regular feature on these pages – sometimes it feels as if barely a week goes by without another new release from the Orkney distillery – but Broom is happy to applaud a return to form with its new 17-year-old limited edition, The Dark.

Darkness, richness, power, meatiness… We end with a much-needed palate cleanser: the new Timorous Beastie 10-year-old small batch blend from Douglas Laing. A light and fragrant close to this week’s proceedings.

Scoring Explained

Overview

  • Benrinnes 20 Years Old, 1997 (Cadenhead)

    Benrinnes 20 Years Old, 1997 (Cadenhead)
    Price band
    £ £ £ £ £
    ABV
    55.5%
    Production type
    Single malt whisky
    Region
    Speyside
    Flavour camp
    Rich & Round
    Nose

    An intriguing mix of sugared almond and meat stock, stirred together with a perfumed, heathery element (lunch at a twee Highland gift shop). There’s just a hint of distillate sulphur in the background, but it adds to the overall complexity. Things slowly drift towards waxy, with growing meatiness that’s now cut with Iron Buddha tea. Water mellows things out, as well as introducing some golden syrup-like sweetness.

    Palate

    Medium-weight with a soft, tongue-clinging, syrupy start that adds in a mix of fresh walnut and barley sugar. It’s only now that you discern the heat, but by the middle of the palate this has spread into this complex mix of the sweet (baked apple), the spicy (cinnamon) and the meaty, giving the overall impression of a joint of slow-cooked pork doused in Calvados. A more vinous thickness takes over on the back-palate (Vin Jaune?), along with rosemary. All of this is amplified by water, giving an overall sense of length and elegant power. There’s a balance here that doesn’t allow the meatiness to overwhelm the sweeter elements.

    Finish

    Savoury and almost burnt (deglazed pan), then black fruits.

    Conclusion

    Overall, a rounded and balanced example from the Ben. Recommended.

    Right place, right time

    Geordie MacTaggart not knowing his own strength.

    Dailuaine 13 Years Old, 2004 (Cadenhead)

    Dailuaine 13 Years Old, 2004 (Cadenhead)
    Price band
    £ £ £ £ £
    ABV
    57.7%
    Production type
    Single malt whisky
    Region
    Speyside
    Flavour camp
    Rich & Round
    Nose

    Here’s Dailuaine in woody and bosky guise: green fir and larch, and, while there is some weight, there is less meatiness and more aromatic lift. In fact, after a short time there’s this surprising burst of Parma Violet, then rosebud tea. This dies down, allowing suggestions of cereal, slightly dry oak. When water is added you get more of a sense of youthfulness, or rather low cask interaction.

    Palate

    Now the weightiness of the distillate shows though, as with the Benrinnes, this is balanced well by sweetness. It starts quite delicately, albeit with a slightly plain aspect. That depth only starts to come over in the middle of the tongue, along with some lime eclairs which add balancing acidity, that then deepens into burnt toffee (maybe the meatiness finally showing?). Not surprisingly, given the strength, there’s some heat, so it needs water, though when it’s added it’s not necessarily welcome as once again it shows the low cask influence.

    Finish

    Back to rosewater, then toffee.

    Conclusion

    Brace yourself and keep things neat. You will be rewarded. Worth a look.

    Right place, right time

    Eating Turkish Delight among the conifers.

    The E&K by Adelphi

    The E&K by Adelphi
    Price band
    £ £ £ £ £
    ABV
    57.8%
    Production type
    Blended malt whisky
    Region
    n/a
    Flavour camp
    Rich & Round
    Nose

    Opens with fruit cake, a touch of blueberry, then some sweet biscuit and very light coconut in the background. It’s not as hot as you might imagine, given the strength, with only a light nose burn, but has real depth. Its complexity grows as it develops: now there’s Jaffa Cakes, cedar, plantain chips and subtle roasted spices. This, in time, deepens into more Sherried elements, some bitter cherry and a herbal/rooty element. Water adds more lift, with a lemon blossom top note.

    Palate

    Rounded, medium-weight and seamless in its transition from one flavour to the next. The tannins are supple and soft. It starts with a light, sweet touch – there’s some cereal, milk chocolate-covered raisins, then peach jam and dried soft fruits. The middle of the palate is where it goes deep, adding structure and an aroma like a top luggage retailer’s showroom. That gentle but inexorable drive towards the dark continues with sultana, black fruits and hedgerow jam. A complex mouthful.

    Finish

    Argan oil, light spices and an added bite.

    Conclusion

    A fascinating and successful blending of Indian single malt (from Amrut) and ‘Scottish single malts’ named after Victor Alexander Bruce, 9th Earl of Elgin and ‘The Walking Viceroy’ of India. Seek it out.

    Right place, right time

    Reading a leather-bound book while sipping Darjeeling tea.

    Highland Park 17 Years Old ‘The Dark’

    Highland Park 17 Years Old ‘The Dark’
    Price band
    £ £ £ £ £
    ABV
    52.9%
    Production type
    Single malt whisky
    Region
    Islands
    Flavour camp
    Smoky & Peaty
    Nose

    Big and robust, almost to the point of being slightly blunt. Huge, oxidised, Sherry-driven aromas, dry amontillado-style nuttiness, fig rolls and a touch of sulphur coming through, though when neat it’s low enough to give a lift. There’s less smokiness initially, and more of an earthy element reminiscent of peat-slathered wellies. Allow it to open and a balsamic (high-quality Sherry vinegar) element emerges, mixed with fresh wood, some bungcloth and a cooperage floor. This oiliness then moves towards a savoury and almost meaty element (game stock), then shifts back to leather luggage. I wouldn’t add water as it raises the sulphur levels.

    Palate

    As on the nose you get an immediate mix of concentrated savoury sweetness, with ripe black berry fruits, bitter orange and, at last, peat smoke. This power continues on the mid-palate with more nuts, some bitter edges, light oak and earthiness – Pontefract cakes. The peatiness is now smoky ember mingling with those dunnage-like aromas seen on the nose. Things begin to soften towards the finish, with some sugared espresso dregs and marmalade. Water builds the nuttiness, but also the sulphur.

    Finish

    Long, with some clove, smoke and sweet fruits.

    Conclusion

    After an often baffling splurge of releases, this sees Highland Park going back to its roots and, consequently, right back on form.

    Right place, right time

    The earth shakes.

    Mortlach 29 Years Old, 1988 (Cadenhead)

    Mortlach 29 Years Old, 1988 (Cadenhead)
    Price band
    £ £ £ £ £
    ABV
    55.1%
    Production type
    Single malt whisky
    Region
    Speyside
    Flavour camp
    Rich & Round
    Nose

    Rich and deep, with a slightly tweedy, dry start, then gravy granules, a hint of smokiness, treacle toffee, roasting chestnuts and a deep savouriness. There’s also a honeyed element which adds sufficient sweetness to stop things becoming too wild and feral, though without losing any of the thrilling menace. In time, there’s some overripe fruits, windblown apples, old cider press and then a rooty, humus-like power reasserts itself. Water helps to bring out the sweet core, but not at the expense of a fresh liquorice root element, before the aroma of sweet, charred flesh rises.

    Palate

    Immediately savoury and palate-coating, with the roasted elements charging forward alongside a spiciness, some gentian, then macadamia and chestnut. It continues to become richer, so that by the middle of the tongue you’re getting the full force of grilled red pepper, sultana bread and allspice, although all the way through there’s this sweet quality which rounds off the tannins and gives balance. By the time it’s reached the back of the palate, the roasting meat is in full cry, beefy and powerful. Water makes it slightly lighter (but these things are relative), with some added citrus.

    Finish

    Roasted nuts, charcoal and cordite.

    Conclusion

    A complex mix of the potentially brutal with this gentle sweetness, but always the hint of danger. The beast of Dufftown in full cry.

    Right place, right time

    Just as you thought it was easing off… then the hammer came down.

    Timorous Beastie 10 Years Old Small Batch

    Timorous Beastie 10 Years Old Small Batch
    Price band
    £ £ £ £ £
    ABV
    46.8%
    Production type
    Blended Scotch whisky
    Region
    n/a
    Flavour camp
    Fragrant & Floral
    Nose

    Fresh, with fondant icing-like sweetness along with raspberry, green pear, apple and light celery salt. It’s very cool and poised, becoming floral (freesia, then hyacinth), along with the buzz of Flying Saucers (sherbet sweets, not UFOs). It blooms with water, with an amplification of the floral elements, though it still seems slightly fragile. You need to (and should) concentrate on this.

    Palate

    A soft start, though it has the sweetness you expect from Timorous Beastie, along with a lacy texture. Very fresh and slightly green to kick off with – Fox’s Glacier Mints, apple and cucumber – and, though it doesn’t carry through as dynamically in the middle of the tongue, the back-palate is lively and floral, with a hint of dill. Water pulls this together more effectively, wrapping things together sweetly.

    Finish

    Light, with some lemon verbena.

    Conclusion

    Not exactly timorous, but certainly shy. After the power of the rest of this week’s releases, this came as a refreshing pleasure. Have as a quiet aperitif.

    Right place, right time

    Wild flowers know where they grow. Take it away, Dolly, Emmy and Linda.

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