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

smokin

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

tweeddalebatch3

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

ballantines-17-year-old-picture

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

nikkafrombarrel

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

CuttyCS

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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The Tweeddale Blend Batch 3

I tasted this (and met its creator) at the Edinburgh whisky festival. It was at Alistair’s Tweeddale blend stand that I learned much more about how the Tweeddale is made. It is a blended whisky, sure, but it is a batch blend and is put together using only 9 casks of whisky (one of which is a grain).

Of course, Alistair wouldn’t say which malts and grain is used, but I was impressed that this is a blend of single casks. It makes the Tweedale feel, at least to me, like a “single cask blend”, though I understand how this sort of labelling might be difficult to clear with the Scotch Whisky Association.

For this batch 3, there was a new cask of grain and a new cask of the core malt. Some of the casks had some left from previous batches (one might imagine these are the highly smokey/sherried “flavour” malts). My notes may seem more sparse than usual here as I was busy talking to Alistair when tasting and because I only had a 10ml sample. Still, you’ll get the idea…Here are the dramstats:tweeddalebatch3

  • Price £34.99
  • Age 12 years
  • ABV 46%

Nose: Malty at first with some nice aged grain notes (biscuity and spicy). Then things get fruity and there is a subtle minty note in the background.

Palate: Malty, fruity and a really fantastic mouthfeel.

Finish: A spicy oak and pepper hit, then fruity with grapes and pears before the mouthfeel gets “creamy”.

Verdict: I preferred this to batch 2. I think the Tweeddale blend is going from strength to strength on this evidence and I’m actually quite taken with both the whisky, the people that make it and the way it is made. I will be picking myself up a bottle of this soon and I’ll be buying it directly from the Tweeddale guys from here.

Cutty Sark Cask Strength and Carry on

I’ve got a couple of reviews left from Blended whisky month. I did these reviews in April and then lost my notebook (hence no posts for a week). Luckily it turned up (I had notes for a 50 year old in there!), so I’m going to put up the last few reviews for blended whisky month in the next couple of days and then we will be back to normal.

This blend is particularly good. A limited edition made by the guys at caskstrength.net as the ‘C’ in their cask strength and carry on series of bottlings. The series previously produced a limited edition Arran and a Ben Riach. This Cutty was made to mark the 90th anniversary of the creation of the blend and was put together by the Cutty master blender Kirsteen Campbell in partnership with Neil and Joel from caskstrength.net. I wonder what whisky ‘X’ will be…

A cask strength blend was a fantastic idea and I have really been enjoying this. Each bottle is labelled “1 of 500”, so don’t worry, I didn’t drink a fortune away! Here are the dramstats:

  • CuttyCSABV 51.4%
  • Price £34.95

Nose: Roasted nuts, sea spray and wort on a first sniff. Then huge citrus, lemon opal fruits (starburst for the kids), grated lime and lemon meringue pie (the meringue note is particularly nice).

Palate: Lemon opal fruits, roasted peanuts and fresh bitter lemon.

Finish: Some oak, lemoncello, and a touch of white pepper.

Verdict: This is excellent and at a totally bargain price. There are still some left and I am seriously thinking about buying another one. It’s particularly good for enjoying outdoors. Great of the summer!

Review: Nikka from the Barrel

Blended whisky month is coming to a close but I still have around 3 reviews left to post. (I say around as Im at Edinburgh whisky festival tomorrow and I might try some there!)

Today it’s another dram from my friend Adrian Barnett (@mynameisgone) and it’s Japanese. Nikka from the Barrel. A cask strength blend from the geniuses over at Nikka. Here are the dramstats:

nikkafrombarrel

 

  • Price £27
  • ABV 51.4%
  • Country: Japan
  • 50cl

Nose: Some decent spicy grain here, lots of spice and sweet vanilla. Rye-esque at first. Black pepper, rye bread, cinnamon and anise. A real spice bomb! Muscavado sugar, cola bottles. There is something unique about the spice here that I can’t put my finger on. Wonder if it is Japanese oak?

Palate: Vanilla, liquorice and brown sugar with oak before a huge wave of spice begins a long finish.

Finish: Spicy spice gets spicy! There is oak, pepper, anise, cinnamon, ground ginger, cola and it keeps coming!

Verdict: Terrific stuff and unique. Even though it’s 50cl (grrr Nikka, grrr!), I think this is a bargain and a brilliant drop. I will be purchasing a bottle.

 

Review: Mackinlay’s Shackleton Rare old

Today I’m reviewing a special blend as part of blended whisky month, and a big thank you to Sean Foushee (@whiskymarks) for sending me this one.

This is Shackleton’s whisky. Buried for over a century in Antarctica following Ernest Shackleton’s ill-fated expedition to the south pole, this whisky was found and then, eventually, recreated by Whyte and Mackay.

W&M were given permission to fly 3 bottles back to Scotland where there were  analysed by the W&M team and then recreated by master blender Richard Patterson. The recipe does include some old 30 year old whisky (1983 Glen Mhor), and there is no doubt, with the back story, that this is a special whisky.

Here are the dramstats:

mackinlays

 

  • Price £98 plus shipping
  • ABV 47.3%
  • Age 100+ 😉

Nose: This is interesting. Some of the qualities of the lost Tartan Prince blend from my last review. In particular the fruity notes which I can only describe as “sea kelp shower gel” that I used to buy (can’t pin down the actual fruits). There is a hint of savoury smoke and roasted nuts. It is surprisingly woody for what would have been a relatively inexpensive blend back in the day. Sour grapefruit and honey sweetness, then some sultana and salt chocolate in the background. Definitely some sherry in here.

Palate: Fruity with woody, sultana, white grape and savoury notes.

Finish: Right at the death there is an earthy peaty note with roasted nuts (like a springbank type of peat), with smoke and sea salt.

Verdict: It reminds me of what Benromach are doing at the moment, yet it is much more complex, at least on the nose. I think I’d need much more than a 35ml sample to get to the bottom of this one. I feel I missed a lot of the story on the palate, though it’s not an easy one to read. Now to the part of the review where I discuss price. Well there is no doubt that nearly £100 for a blend is expensive (I rarely break the £100 for a bottle of whisky though I sometimes do). For me to spend this much, the whisky needs to wow me, and based on only this one dram, I was not wowed. However, there is more to this whisky than just the liquid for the pleasure of drinking. This is a piece of history and it has obviously been an arduous task recreating it. The packaging is lovely and it all leads to the feeling that when drinking this you are looking back to the past, both to the history of scotch whisky and to that hut in Antarctica over 100 years ago. This is not a marketing gimmick, nor a collectors price. This is a fairly priced product in my view. Sometimes whisky is about more than nose and taste and this is one of those times.

 

Review: Tartan Prince Blended Scotch Whisky

This is a lost blend. So lost I couldn’t even find a picture of it! My friend Adrian Barnett kindly sent me a sample of this lost blend (last bottled in 1992), and I’m very glad that he did. A really different experience.

Here are the dramstats:

  • ABV 40%
  • Price? (maybe available and inexpensive at auction).

Nose: Sea kelp shower gel! Walnuts and brazil nuts and nougat.

Palate: Seaweed? Sea kelp, inside of a snickers bar (without the chocolate or caramel). Kiwi fruit juice.

Finish: More of a standard finish to this with some vanilla, custard creams and a brief crackle of oak. Short.

Verdict: It’s very pale and it was a former house blend, but it doesn’t taste young. It’s really quite interesting and I really dig this sea kelp shower gel note. Weird and wonderful! Thanks Adrian!

 

Review: Boxes Blend

Blended whisky month on dramstats rolls on with Boxes Blend, from Master of Malt. By way of full disclosure I was sent this sample by the chaps at master of malt, and I am very grateful.

Boxes Blend was created by Athlete bassist Carey Willets, named after his solo project “Boxes”. I wonder if he created it entirely on his own or if he had expert guidance? I’d love to create a blend… Anyway, I digress, here are the dramstats:

boxes-blend

 

  • ABV 40.9%
  • Price £55.95

Nose: Initially floral with creamy toffee and werthers original. Becomes quite woody with coriander seeds and pepper. Fresh.

Palate: Treacle toffee, peppery spice, creamy and buttery, hint of honey then wood sap.

Finish: Buttery toffee sauce, pepper, oak, drying but with fading caramel sweetness then a final hint of smoke.

Verdict: It’s lovely. Complex and I’d probably need another dram or three before I really got to the bottom of it. Slightly on the woody side from these first impressions, and I’m not entirely sure I want to buy a full bottle in order to get there. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed the dram a lot. But this is one of the most expensive blends I’ve tasted so far this month, and I preferred a number of the others.