I’ve quickly established Ardroil as my new home from home. Everything I want is here:
- Rugged tranquility
- Phenomenal [and accessible] coastal and mountainous countryside
- A distillery round the corner!
More about all that later. For now, it’s yet more rest & relaxation. After those smoking’ drams the other night [WLP#10 ], I’m in the mood for more. I decide on a late lunch followed by a whisky flight from The Spirits Embassy. Hosted [online] by Fergus Simpson, ‘Reek of Peat’ was an extremely well-priced flight predominantly consisting of discontinued/previously released stock, as well as a couple of new [perhaps even unreleased?] expressions from Duncan Taylor/Battlehill.
Battlehill website tells us: ‘Originally the range was our finest 6 to 10 year old single malt whiskies that have been selected for their exceptional characteristics. The range includes whiskies from Imperial, Auchentoshan, Miltonduff amongst others. The range has evolved and several older bottlings are now available such as 18yo Macallan and Aberlour 16yo‘.
We start with a 4yo Bunnahabhain. At time of writing, there were 69 bottles listed under the Battlehill moniker on Whiskybase. The list includes many Bunna’s, some Craigellachie’s & Glenallachie’s, Glentauchers, and a small selection from various other distilleries.
I’ve noticed a flurry of young [<5yo] age-stated single malts on the market ever since Ralfy in conjunction with The Good Spirits Co., bottled a 4yo Ben Nevis [whiskyreviews.com] as part of his 10th-year celebrations. And why not?!
- N: A lovely young nose, very welcoming. Not particularly distinctive but wholly appropriate as a sighter. This possesses that lovely summery fruity sweet profile that many distillates hold on to during their developing years. The gentle yet encompassing/supportive farmy salty peatiness hasn’t detracted from these summery charms either.
- T: Begins ethereally soft, farmy < barley-savoury < sweet, then only moderately vegetal and > sooty smoky. If I’d been told this was a partial column-still < pot still mix/blend, I wouldn’t have be surprised. Bourbon-esque sugars blend well with the vegetal > farmy aspect.
- F: More sooty vegetal action with a peppery aniseed-y touch and a remarkable luscious beeswax=Vaseline mouthfeel at the tail. Light coppery and bourbon-y at the death.
- C: A very good 4yo. Nothing particularly stands out, at first. Just a nice young ‘un that, after coming back to after everything else tonight, I was rather partial to.
Scores 84 points
Benriach 2011/2019 8yo DT Dimensions Sherry cask #7474008 [btl #307/402] 54% WB74.33
From a distillery that’s rarely on my radar, I can’t remember when I last tried a Benriach let alone one that featured at a tasting.
- N: A ‘pickleback’ start, bourbon-y brine shows right away, suggesting the credited sherry cask is a latecomer. Becoming peatier and farmier later on, this shows a fine amount of vegetal and manure-like funk. We are close to some salty crisps flavours here, sour cream & chive the closest reference with a few salt n < peppered crisps thrown in for good measure, accompanied with a small slice of brie.
- T: Adding water aplenty doesn’t mess with the profile one iota. Either way, there isn’t a great deal to talk about. This one’s biggest attribute is the mouthfeel and steady Linkwood-esque form, coupled with a reliably familiar Caol Ila-esque, squidgy-sweet peatiness – little smoke, no farminess,….. far more towards brine again.
- F: Rather salivating with water, we’ve a lingering light clean-off finish, save for the briny saltiness.
- C: Perfectly ‘ready’ peated whisky. A firm session dram.
Scores 84 points
Highland Park 2008/2019 11yo DT Octave 53.1% WB0
Another distillery I rarely engage with ever since the PR Viking nonsense began some years ago now. And then, there was the sudden profile change, almost as if they’d replaced their old-style [transport] sherry casks with the syrup seasoned jobs, overnight.
- N: Contemporary raisins [of course], yet bone-dry, a touch coppery, lactose-y, and yeasty too. Perhaps we’re not too far from contemporary sherry-ish [12yo] Bowmore?
- T: This really works at strength, but even better with a little water which promotes the squidgy spirity-soft sultana profile towards a clean sherried slightly coppery lactose corner [a la, the nose], but it’s the bone-dry nature that continues to impress.
- F: That’s about it. The spirit is clear cut, the cask merely the vessel [no pun intended].
- C: A rather clean simple HP that does a few things rather well. Perhaps a little monotone to want for a full bottle, but I’m certainly good for one or two drams.
Scores 83 points
Islay Blended Malt 1997/2017 19yo DT Dimensions cask #76915 [btl #245/332] 54%
I had no idea DT had bottled so many Islay Blended Malts [WB] – all single cask vintages, presented at cask strength.
- N: Being very salty, we aren’t far away from [the infamous] pickled onions, gherkins, wild rocket, watercress,… After an hour, it’s still emitting plenty of detail.
- T: On the palate, we’ve a sweet salty briny vegetal profile into savoury-vegetal-sweet dry [faded] > briny old-rope < bitter/sour plastic coal [a fantasy taste I imagined Hornby railway coal to taste like. Without any info regarding this blended malt, the un-practised blender in me replicates this in my head using plenty of Ardbeg, a generous glut or two of Laphroaig and perhaps a modest Coal Ila base.
- F: Slightly weak at the tail, but I’m quibbling given what’s already been received.
- C: An excellent blended malt that gives you a lively bite of Islay. A good ‘way in’ for those priced out by similarly-aged disclosed/official bottlings.
Scores 87 points
Last one of the flight is, appropriately, the oldest [by just two years].
Laphroaig 21yo  Battlehill 50.2%
- N: Gentile compared to the bold 19yo blended malt. Only a shade salty and briny at first, this one talks more of ice cream cones. Give it time, however, and it proves it’s no softy. Becoming rather more farmy later, this confirms [to me] just how Laphroaig-y the last dram was [though I’m probably wrong].
- T: Funny, it’s like a soft-cut/tempered version of the previous blended malt. Staying fairly sweet into vegetal, there’s a nice briny waxy oiliness,….. eventually turning citrus-sour.
- F: After a fairly decent travel, there’s a slight disintegration of form/body into a sour-to-bitter vegetal-dry > vanilla ashy/cinder-y finish, not uncommon with highly-aged phenolic malts.
- C: Don’t mind me. This is a very good whisky. Context, however, is everything and this doesn’t sing quite as agreeably as the previous blended malt.
Scores 85 points
If there is to be one more – there’s always more – it has to be an Octomore that hadn’t caught my fire when first opened. Let’s prop it up against tonight’s ‘Reek of Peat’ flight and see how it stands up.
[Bruichladdich] Octomore 3.1 5yo  Ob. [18000 bts] 59%
- N: Similar to the vegetal saltiness of the ‘Reek of Peat’ flight, overall, yet the blended /consolidated nature of this presentation sets it apart – one of the main appeals of Octomore. Whatever happens hereafter, we’ve a lovely Islay-encapsulated nose.
- T: Despite the majority of the previous drams falling within the 50% bracket, you just know you’ve stepped up another abv gear after sipping this beast. Sweet dry/smoky > rum? [wow] vanilla,… slowly turning to briney-barley juice,…
- F: ,… into to an ever-vegetal bitter < sour > succulent ashy conclusion.
- C: Aside from that passing rum vibe, there’s little ‘magic’, but that’s because I’m always hankering after the 6.2 that I paid stupid money for in 2013/14, back when Octomore was like Bimber is now.
Provisionally scores 86+ points, easily [full bottle report to follow].