New Whiskies

Batch 150

by
Batch 150: Balblair, Caol Ila, Daftmill, Eden Mill, Miltonduff, Tormore

Two areas of focus for this week’s batch of new whisky releases: a four-strong ‘introductory’ range of single malts from Gordon & MacPhail (G&M), plus a brace of maiden releases from new distillery ventures in Fife.

G&M’s new Discovery Range is billed as an entry-level introduction to different cask types and distillery characters. So we have Balblair and Tormore to portray the impact of Bourbon cask maturation, Miltonduff to illustrate ageing in a Sherry cask, and Caol Ila as a signature smoky malt.

Accompanying this quartet of established single malts is a much newer pair from Fife: Daftmill and Eden Mill. While the latter’s first spirit ran from the still as recently as 2014, Daftmill has been distilling for well over a decade now, with no apparent rush to launch its first release.

But which of these malts are the feelgood hits of the summer? Read on to find out – and don’t forget the Spotify soundtrack that accompanies the whiskies (click on the links in ‘Right Place, Right Time’).

Scoring Explained

Overview

  • Balblair 12 Years Old, Discovery Range (Gordon & MacPhail)

    Balblair 12 Years Old, Discovery Range (Gordon & MacPhail)
    Price band
    £ £ £ £ £
    ABV
    43%
    Production type
    Single malt whisky
    Region
    Highland
    Availability
    UK & Europe
    Flavour camp
    Fragrant & Floral
    Nose

    An immediate impact of fresh, green apple/apple blossom, accompanied by sweet grass, elderflower cordial and early season rhubarb. There’s just a hint of chalkiness, giving it all the sensation of a Mosel Riesling. While delicate and highly approachable, there is a cool and restraint to this and, even when water is added, it remains calm and ordered: light lemon, William pear, green melon and finally some perfumed elements which nod towards lemongrass and green mango.

    Palate

    Spring-fresh with a frothy, almost lacy texture and those estery fruits giving a mouthwatering start. There is a feeling that it’s hiding more than it lets on, with the sense of some fuller, more rounded fruitiness (white peach purée) on the very back-palate. You do lose that impact when water is added.

    Finish

    Lightly citric and fresh.

    Conclusion

    Ice this down and serve as a white wine. The perfect summer aperitif.

    Right place, right time

    Lazing in the sun at Grantchester Meadows.

    Caol Ila 13 Years Old, Discovery Range (Gordon & MacPhail)

    Caol Ila 13 Years Old, Discovery Range (Gordon & MacPhail)
    Price band
    £ £ £ £ £
    ABV
    43%
    Production type
    Single malt whisky
    Region
    Islay
    Availability
    UK, Europe, Asia, Oceania, Americas (excluding US)
    Flavour camp
    Smoky & Peaty
    Nose

    A peat-forward and slightly oily/resinous Caol Ila, with the distillery’s mix of wild herbs, a touch of smoked ham and the sensation of a bracing dip in the sea. Mixes saltiness, basil, gammon steak (with pineapple) and olive oil. There’s more smoke released when water is added, along with sweet fruit salad elements.

    Palate

    Actually, after all of the smokiness of the nose, it becomes more sweet and fruity on the palate: Galia melon, banana, apricot dotted with fresh mint. The smoke is very subtly woven throughout. With water, there’s more lemon zest and sweet spice, while steadily the fire starts to burn, bringing more smoke into play.

    Finish

    Scallops with lemon juice.

    Conclusion

    Hugely approachable, with more weight and complexity than many of the peely-wally smoky brands out there.

    Right place, right time

    Fresh, upbeat, a touch of herbal smoke. Time to Cool Down the Pace.

    Daftmill 2005, Inaugural Release

    Daftmill 2005, Inaugural Release
    Price band
    £ £ £ £ £
    ABV
    55.8%
    Production type
    Single malt whisky
    Region
    Lowland
    Flavour camp
    Fragrant & Floral
    Nose

    Although this has a fair amount of nose prickle, at its heart it is light and fragrant with floral touches, along with peppermint, then lovage and, in time, some lily and lemon zest. Water is needed in order to tease these out when, as well as a more heady aroma akin to a florist’s stand, there’s an added sweet touch of cake icing, ripe pear, whitecurrant jelly and sweet barley (malt bin), stirred together with fresh herbs and a hint of rapeseed oil in the background.

    Palate

    There’s a gentle elegance to this. Light and quite sweet, but don’t embark on it neat as it’ll just scald your tongue. A judicious amount of water brings out floral edges, some of the citrus and a buttery note to the mid-palate. Like the Balblair (see above), there’s a hidden depth here. As it develops, so there’s an increasing amount of night-scented flowers, while the cereal elements add an oat-like creaminess and a crunch of hazelnut.

    Finish

    Sweet spice, scone mix, cold (unsalted) butter and a touch of malt. Great balance.

    Conclusion

    In a world where whisky distillers wait impatiently for their spirit to reach its third birthday, the fact that Francis Cuthbert has waited a further decade to release his first whisky should be applauded – an analogue whisky-maker in a digital world. The intention was always to start releasing it when he deemed the whisky to be ready and this, one of the most anticipated releases of the year, does not disappoint. It might be lighter than some expect, but this is Daftmill. It has always confounded expectations.

    Right place, right time

    Beside a chalk stream in summer. The Trout rising.

    Eden Mill First Bottling

    Eden Mill First Bottling
    Price band
    £ £ £ £ £
    ABV
    47%
    Production type
    Single malt whisky
    Region
    Lowland
    Flavour camp
    Fruity & Spicy
    Nose

    A faintly surprising, deep colour. A mix of mandarin peel and cereal with a perfumed note behind. Young and slightly spirity, and quite New World in its mix of upfront, sappy wood and hot, oily fruit. With water, there’s more eau-de-vie-like yellow fruit elements, some plain wood, tobacco and lightly scented candle.

    Palate

    Considerably different (and better-balanced) than the nose; sweet and rounded and, while the oiliness is there, there’s a touch of melting milk chocolate (Fruit & Nut). Ok, there’s some evidence of an undeveloped element in the back, and there’s a yet-to-be-reconciled tussle between the oak and the spirit, but there’s a sweet, scented quality and a dusting of white pepper. Water helps considerably, adding in some red fruit, extra sweetness and a balance is (just about) achieved.

    Finish

    Hot when neat, spicy and fruity with water.

    Conclusion

    The use of virgin American and French quarter casks aligns this more closely with the new whiskies from Australia. Strip the wood away and there’s an interesting spirit working away at the core. Allowing it time to develop and integrate is the next stage. Marked in its competitive set.

    Right place, right time

    Who knows? It could be the Feel Good Hit of the Summer.

    Miltonduff 10 Years Old, Discovery Range (Gordon & MacPhail)

    Miltonduff 10 Years Old, Discovery Range (Gordon & MacPhail)
    Price band
    £ £ £ £ £
    ABV
    43%
    Production type
    Single malt whisky
    Region
    Speyside
    Availability
    UK, Europe, Asia, Oceania, Americas (excluding US)
    Flavour camp
    Rich & Round
    Nose

    Evidence of Sherry cask maturation from the off, with sweet, oxidised notes, an earthy funk, plump raisin, orange peel and iced gingerbread. These are accompanied by honey and a touch of bread-and-butter pudding. As it opens, you pick out a mix of dried flowers and linseed oil. The sweetness is retained when water is added, along with some hot bread and a more nutty, Sherried element mixed with light green fig, sultana and, in time, even a hint of beeswax.

    Palate

    A sweet start, with semi-dried fruits, then a Sherried note, powdered ginger and coriander-like spiciness. When water is added, more of the distillery’s floral aspects come out, along with caramel toffee and that nutty note, but only a touch is needed. Even then, I’d leave this neat.

    Finish

    Figs, clove and chocolate.

    Conclusion

    The most substantial of the Discovery quartet, and a great introduction to Sherry cask maturation.

    Right place, right time

    In the tutor’s study on a hot summer day, drinking amontillado Sherry and listening to Brahms’ String Quartet No 1.

    Tormore 13 Years Old, Discovery Range (Gordon & MacPhail)

    Tormore 13 Years Old, Discovery Range (Gordon & MacPhail)
    Price band
    £ £ £ £ £
    ABV
    43%
    Production type
    Single malt whisky
    Region
    Speyside
    Availability
    Asia, Oceania, Americas (excluding US)
    Flavour camp
    Fragrant & Floral
    Nose

    A big, cereal-accented aroma, mixing warm Horlicks, apple pieces in muesli, sweet hay and, in time, some slightly musty cereals in old hessian sacks. After that has blown away, you realise it’s been obscuring an aromatic delicacy of tinned pineapple, peach and star fruit. Disconnect? It’s a Tormore thing.

    Palate

    Light in weight, it starts with ginger beer and lime, giving heat, fizz and aroma as the order of the nose is reversed: first out are the delicate aromatic fruits, then comes dry cereal/nuttiness at the back-palate. Water softens things.

    Finish

    Fresh baguette, gooseberry and lemon.

    Conclusion

    The nose is slightly odd, but the palate is better-integrated.

    Right place, right time

    Zippy, fresh and poppy. That’s Tormore in Black and White.

Scroll To Top