Top 5 Blended Whiskies

(reviewed during blended whisky month).

A month of reviewing blended whiskies is over and I thought I’d recap with a “top 5 blends” post. These are the top 5 blends, in my opinion, of those that I reviewed this month. As always with me, price is a factor in this ordering. Click on each link to see the full review.

5. Smokin’ Blended Scotch Whisky

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This was a fantastic little find. A medley of smoke and a soft sweetness at a bargain price. A brand new blend you really need to try!

4. The Tweeddale Blend Batch 3

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The Tweeddale blend is a great story. A recreation of an old family recipe and a blend of just 9 single casks. A small family business producing an artisan product at a great price. I love it!

3. Ballantines 17 Year Old

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Consistently excellent. It really is a great blend. Slightly more expensive than the rest of this list, but so well made and never disappointing. Worth every penny!

2. Nikka From the Barrel

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This was a totally excellent surprise package. Unbelievably spicy and complex and so affordable. This is a blend people need to try!

1. Cutty Sark Cask Strength and Carry On

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With British summer almost here, an excellent lemon bomb outdoor dram has arrived just in time. A blend at cask strength is a brilliant idea. When it tastes this good, it’s a brilliant product. The only thing better than a brilliant product, is a brilliant product at a brilliant price. I only wish it wasn’t a limited edition!

Blended whisky is such a fantastic and varied product. One of the biggest mistakes you can make as a whisky drinker is to focus solely on single malts and believe that blends are not worth your time. You’ll be missing out! I’ve learned my lesson and I’ll be reviewing a lot more blended whisky here in the future.

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Gordon and Macphail

After Benromach distillery in the morning (see earlier post), we made it a Gordon and Macphail day by heading to their shop in ElginThe place reminds me of Harrods from the outside and isnt exactly amongst all the other shops. What a place though. The first thing to say is that it’s not a whisky shop. It’s a Deli with a whisky room. But, what a whisky room!Unfortunately, even though this whisky room is extremely well stocked and was manned with at least one sometimes two people, at no point was i approached by the staff and offered any help. The staff were disinterested and ignored me.
Perhaps i’ve been to too many good whisky shops and have been spoiled, but this annoyed me. A good whisky shop should always seek to find out what type of customer they have, what they like and seek to sell them their best whiskies, perhaps offering samples to help. I’ve never been to a specialist whisky retailer before and been ignored (though i have nipped in and out before anyone has had a chance to approach) so, yes off to a bad start. Anyway, there are good things to say. The range is impressive and very well priced compared to certain whisky chains and, of course they have an impressive selection of Gordon and Macphail whiskies. One of my issues, however, was that i had no way of assessing which G&M expressions might suit me so I felt a little lost. I’d been in the whisky room for over half an hour when Mrs dramstats came to find me to show me the things she’d found in the rest of the shop.This is where the visit improved. The staff in the deli counter and in the general shop were ultra friendly. At the cheese counter a lady came to see if we were OK and insisted we tasted a number of cheeses. We ended up buying a cheese that had been matured in red wine!The chocolate counter was amazing and so tempting. A number of fancy looking chocolates were purchased. Then to the main counter where mrs dramstats was offered a tasting of numerous liqueurs, including rhubarb infused vodka which was ghastly sweet in my opinion, but She loved! Armed with fudge, chocolates, cheese, oatcakes, rhubarb vodka, and fruit cake we were about done when i saw the shop exclusive whiskies and was feeling better about the place.A 23 year old Speyburn at 50% caught my eye so i picked up a bottle, went to the counter and asked someone engrossed in a computer if it was possible to taste this particular exclusive. It was! I was offered a sample, it was excellent, i picked up a bottle. Armed with goodies, we paid and rounded off a pretty good day in Speyside with a pint in the Mash Tun on the way home:)

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More distillery bagging

Wow blogging on your phone is a pain. Got so much to catch up on! Did Gordon and Macphail yesterday as well as Benromach (see my last post). Will write up Gordon and Macphail soon, but will have to be quick. We’re doing Macallan and Glen Grant today! First tour is at 11 at The Macallan so i figured i’d get on my bike and do some more distillery bagging before breakfast. I headed over to Rothes and began the hunt…First up was Glen Spey, unsignposted and just off the main road. From there it was through to this afternoon’s tour destination, Glen Grant.Onwards past the animal feed plant (where they process the draff and pot ales into cattle feed) and up a small road to Speyburn. I bought a bottle of this from G&M yesterday but more on that later.Then it was back past the still makers ForsythsI just couldnt find Glenrothes! After riding around for a while i resorted to google and found it down a road with no signage. It was worth it though. Very picturesque and these ducks look like they’ve been inside and on the good stuff all morning!Lots more whisky fun to be had. Hopefully i wont be too hungover to get back on the bike and bag more distilleries though!

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Speyside distillery bagging

Sunday was our first full day in Speyside. As anyone who’s been here will tell you, many places close in the winter months abd none are open on Sundays 😦 Unable to do an actual distillery tour i thought I’d get on my bike and go “distillery bagging”
First up was Aberlour, right on the doorstep. I then rode through to Craigellachie on the hunt for the distillery of the same name. On the way i foubd this place:Definitely on my bucket list one night this week. Heard good things about their range. Onwards out of Craigellachie and up a 120m accent and still no sign of the distillery. I stopped to take a couple of pictures of the view and then spotted it…How did i miss that?! So back to Craigellachie for some more exploring and finally i found itThings would be easier now i was on the road to Glenfiddich. First up the cooperageThen a few miles down the road, what seemed to be a disused building just before BalvenieThen The Balvenie itselfAnd onto Glendfiddich, home of the best distillery cafe ive been to by far!I was thinking about carrying on, but it was snowing pretty hard and i’d already done 15km. Time to head back and get warm. Bagging to be continued. We passed lots lots more in the car, but i dont think that counts.That night we had dinner booked in the mash tun and much whisky was consumed! I think ill write a new post on that later though, as i have some tasting notes to share. Today we’re touring Benromach and going to Gordon and Macphail. There may be a fair few posts from me this week, stay tuned!

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Greetings from Speyside!

Guess where I am!But I’m not just staying in Aberlour, I’m actually right on top of the distillery! Our back garden overlooks the Aberlour maturation warehouses. So that means it has a very specific smell: maturing whisky! I dont have wireless but i have 3G on my phone so ive been working out hiw to blog from there. During the next week ill be posting revoews of tours at glenfarclas, glendronach, benrommach and the macallan if not more!For now im going to the pub roubd the corner. A place that just so happens to have the entire glenfarclas family cask series!

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Dramstats news

February will see some exciting posts and developments here on dramstats. Most exciting will be a series of distillery and whisky bar reviews “live from Speyside”.

I’m heading up to Speyside on the 9th and I’ve rented a cottage in Aberlour for a week. I’ll be going to Glendronach, Glenfarclas, Benromach, The Macallan, Gordon and Macphail and, if you have any suggestions for other whisky locations North of the Cairngorms, do drop me a comment and I’ll try to fit them in and blog about the experiences.

We also have a number of exciting dram reviews in the pipeline, the highlight of which will be 50 years old! I’ll also be reviewing a series of releases from Master of Malt as part of their “That Boutique-y Whisky Company” range and this brings me to some news.

Regular readers will notice that I’ve tweaked the appearance of dramstats and that I’ve added a banner for Master of Malt to the homepage.

This is because I have agreed to become an affiliate of Master of Malt. You may remember this post, in the run up to Christmas, and that might give you some indication of the regard I hold for this company. I also bought the Whisky Advent Calendar from them and reviewed each of the drams inside on here.

Being an affiliate has two main benefits for this blog:

  1. Occasionally I will be able to sample new Master of Malt products and offer my opinion.
  2. If people buy from Master of Malt having linked to them from dramstats, I get a small commission. If I do earn any commission I intend to invest it in the blog in some way. Either by upgrading the blog, maybe by buying a reader voted for dram to review on here, or, most likely, running a reader competition or two. I’d be interested in any ideas you guys have.

I’ll make it clear when I’ve been sent a sample of a whisky I’m reviewing. I’ll still give my honest opinions and I’ll still say whether I would buy a(nother) bottle of whatever I am reviewing, and you can factor the source of the dram when weighing my comments if you wish.

Enjoy your weekend and look out for some exciting posts here on dramstats in the coming month!

Master of Malt

It’s early December and it’s time to buy your Christmas presents. I’ve been doing a mini blog series on christmas drams and presents for whisky lovers, and, as part of it, I want to recommend a great place to buy whisky gifts. In particular, I want to share my experience of my favourite retailer, Master of Malt.

Now, I don’t work for any whisky companies and I’m not saying “only shop here” (I certainly don’t). I just think this company gives great customer service and stocks a great range of whisky related gifts.

Master of Malt is an online spirits retailer specialising in whisky (but they do sell lots of other things). You can find a link to their website here. When you type in your favourite whisky into google (other search engines are available) and you see the top 3 cheapest prices it is available at online, Master of Malt is often one of the places listed.

First thing’s first, Master of Malt is a great place to shop for a whisky lover. Not only do they stock good whisky (that’s kind of a given) they also make their own spirits and cocktails. Their website is well designed and user friendly. They bottle their own single malts under a variety of different identities. They sell sample whisky in 3cl wax sealed bottles. They put together gift sets, tasting kits, blend your own whisky kits, mature your own whisky kits, and, if you’ve been reading this blog for a while, as you’ll know, a whisky advent calendar!

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Some of their products are just pure cool. The advent calendar, you know about. The sample bottles are a great way to try whisky without committing to a whole bottle. One of their brands, “That Boutique-y Whisky Company”, bottles single malt with cool artist designed labels. Check this one out:

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That’s right! A raptor fighting a shark! Need I say more?

The customer service is the best I have received from an online retailer.

MoM e-mail you when you place an order. They also e-mail you in when the order is sent. The whisky they send is very safely packaged. They use cool inflatable cases to house the whisky so that it doesn’t get damaged. They offer two kinds of postage. A rapid service that costs slightly more and a normal service. For example, the rapid service might say “Guaranteed by Monday” and the normal service might say “Guaranteed by Thursday”. Every product I’ve ever bought from them arrived at least 1 if not 2-3-4 days early.

They have always responded to questions by e-mail and via twitter quickly. Once, I bought a bottle of 18 year old Ardbeg. I completed the order then decided I wanted another one. So I ordered again but I had to pay just under £5 postage again. I figured it was my mistake so didn’t hold out much hope, but I asked the guys at MoM if they wouldn’t mind catching my order, putting both bottles together, and refunding me for half of the postage. Not only did they do it, but they got back to me within 15 minutes and they guaranteed the order by Thursday yet delivered it 4 days early.

These are small touches, but they add up, over time, to customer trust. I trust MoM, I love their products and I find their prices to be competitive. They are certainly worth browsing when shopping for that whisky lover in your life this christmas.