gavin smith

 home    about    forum    tasted    features    whisky A-Z    directory    books    links    sign-up    beer    wine

    stories features


Recent releases, November 2006

November saw a slew of releases, both single and blended malts.

Balvenie, Roasted Malt 14-Year-Old (Scotland)
The latest release from Balvenie distillery in Dufftown is The Balvenie Roasted Malt, the first single malt Scotch whisky to be made using a batch of dark, roasted malted barley, more commonly used in the production of stout. In the summer of 1992, a batch of barley was germinated over 24 hours (as opposed to the usual five days) before being kiln dried. It was then heated in a roasting drum at a temperature of 200oC and mixed with traditional malted barley, prior to the mashing stage. The barley was completely roasted to between 1600 and 1800 European Brewing Colour (EBC) units. Normal malted barley only reaches around 30 EBCs. Made from a single batch of just 43 casks, The Balvenie Roasted Malt is a limited edition, and is not chill-filtered prior to bottling. On the nose, this expression exhibits the classic fruity, floral and honey notes that are the hallmarks of The Balvenie, along with overtones of spice, toasted oats, and a hint of vanilla. Smooth, rich and malty on the palate, with delicious spicy, vanilla sweetness, plus orange marmalade and fudge. The finish is long and beautifully balanced between sweetness and drying oak. Another exceptional release from this great Speyside distillery. 47.1% ABV, 70cl, £45.00, specialist whisky merchants.
Bruichladdich, 125th Anniversary (Scotland)
Bottled to celebrate Bruichladdich’s 125th anniversary, this expression is 35 years old, and contains spirit distilled in 1970, "the best Bruichladdich ever," according to the distillery’s Lynn McEwan. Matured in Alsace Pinot Grigot casks, considered to be some of the finest in the world, only 2,500 bottles have been released onto the market. The nose is fruity, with peaches to the fore, and Bruichladdich’s characteristic fresh, zestiness is never far from the surface. Slightly smokier, darker notes develop with time. Stewed fruit, barley and ginger dominate the palate, which dries steadily with distinctly winey and spicey tones. 40.1% ABV, 70cl, £300, distillery website, specialist whisky merchants.
Bruichladdich, Blacker Still (Scotland)
Following on from last month’s review of Bruichladdich’s new PC5, we have selected another two ‘Laddie’ bottlings from their latest batch of eight new releases. Blacker Still takes its name from the apparently common expression among old distillery workers, "The blacker the still the better the whisky." This bottling may not be black but it is certainly dark in colour, betraying the fact that it was exclusively matured in Sherry casks, filled in 1986. Just 2,500 bottles have been released worldwide. The early nose is comparatively sweet, with big wafts of Sherry and leather, followed by Sherry, cough drops and subtle spices on the palate. Toffee and liquorice characterise the long, stylish finish. A fascinating Bruichladdich for the Sherry Head. 50.7% ABV, 70cl, £100, distillery website, specialist whisky merchants.
Famous Grouse, Bourbon Cask Finish Blended Scotch Whisky (Scotland)
The Famous Grouse blend numbers among its constituent malts some great names such as The Macallan and Highland Park, and the latest ‘Grouse family’ offering is a limited edition expression finished in Bourbon casks. The nose is delicate and floral, and just a touch sweeter than the standard blend, offering milk chocolate and coconut notes. On the palate there is fresh fruit, ginger and vanilla, but the vanilla does not overwhelm. The finish is quite long and spicy. Finishes, as a genre, are often treated with a degree of scepticism, but this is a genuinely interesting and valid range extension rather than any kind of gimmick. Definitely one to try for yourselves. 40.0% ABV, 50cl, £13.99, Tesco.
Glenrothes, 1975 Vintage (Scotland)
As with all expressions of The Glenrothes, the 1975 Vintage is released in keeping with the policy of bottling selected casks at their point of optimum maturity and maximum flavour. This approach allows for some fascinating variations from vintage to vintage, and the new 1975 bottling is very different from the 1994 reviewed here last month. The nose is nutty and fruity, in particular oranges, with herbal and vanilla notes. Rich and spicy on the palate, with more vanilla, grapefruit and hazelnuts. The finish is lengthy and medium sweet. Another distinguished offering from Malt Master John Ramsay and the rest of the Glenrothes team. There is an out turn of just 3,708 bottles of this vintage. 43.0% ABV, 70cl, £400, specialist whisky merchants.
Three from Whyte & Mackay

Not quite in Bruichladdich's league in terms of the generosity of their new release policy, but Whyte & Mackay don't linger far behind just now, with several new aged blends about to hit the market and some vintage Dalmore and Jura expressions due before the end of the year.

Following on from the release of their 13-year-old blend (see Tastings), the Glasgow-based company now offers 19 and 22-year-old expressions to replace the previous18 and 21-year-olds, while the 30-year-old, formerly available only in Far East markets, will in future receive considerably wider distribution.

The malt components of both the 19 and 22-year-olds have benefited from an extra year of marrying in Sherry wood prior to bottling, and according to Master Blender Richard Paterson, "This brings through the silky smooth character and continues on from what we did with the 13."
Whyte & Mackay, 19 Years Old Blend (Scotland)
Paterson remarks that "The Nineteen is bold and majestic, firm and positive, with a strong backbone emanating from the Highlands, softened by the inclusion of Speyside malts." Malt and a hint of liquorice on the nose, with a suggestion of Oloroso Sherry. The palate is fruity, with molasses and Sherry notes, while the long finish combines drying Sherry, liquorice and oak. Complex, well balanced, and notably smooth. 40.0% ABV, 70cl, £34.99, specialist whisky merchants.
Whyte & Mackay, 22 Years Old Blend (Scotland)
"This contains fewer malts than the 19 Years Old," says Master Blender Richard Paterson, "but the proportion is greater compared to the grains. It has a similar backbone to the 19-year-old, but more Sherry wood is used in it. Sip and savour." A less malty nose than the 19, more soft toffee and floral notes, with a hint of oak. Bigger on the palate, with a greater concentration of Sherry, plus marmalade, honey and ginger. A rich, deep maltiness lingers right to the end. Again, perfectly balanced and seductively silky. 40.0% ABV, 70cl, £49.99, specialist whisky merchants.
Whyte & Mackay, 30 Years Old Blend (Scotland)
"This takes us to another dimension," declares Master Blender Richard Paterson, "Here selection has become even more critical to avoid the obvious woody notes that could arise at this age. Although we state 30, the whiskies in it are anything from 30 to 36 years old." Malt, Sherry, figs and raisins on the nose of this profound and confident blend. Mouth-coating and full-bodied, with caramel, citrus notes, marzipan and liquorice. A lovely, lengthy interplay between malt and Sherry on the finish. A veritable Christmas pudding of a whisky. As Paterson insists, "A blend of this age must be drunk with respect - slow, not hurried. Each flavour must be given time to reveal its many fine qualities - rich and mellow, elegant and distinguished." 40.0% ABV, 70cl, £150.00, specialist whisky merchants.


 home    about    forum    tasted    features    whisky A-Z    directory    books    links    sign-up    beer    wine