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Hi, this is one of our (almost) daily tastings. Santé!

February 11, 2016


Blended madness

(a session that did not quite go according to plan)

Blends. Let’s have them at random for a funnier experience. There will be new ones and there will be old ones. Unless we fail and start to follow a pattern, as we often do. You see, these things are hard to control…

House of Lords 12 yo (40%, OB, blend, France, +/-1980)

House of Lords 12 yo (40%, OB, blend, France, +/-1980) Three stars A blend related to Edradour at that time, as it’s base address was Glenforres-Glenlivet Distillery, that is to say Edradour. This particular one used to be imported by Champagne Besserat de Bellefon. Colour: gold. Nose: very dusty, very dry. Flour, chalk, cardboard, artichokes, then rather leather, black tea, a touch of soap, and something feinty. As they say, the jury’s still out. Mouth: better than expected, rather meaty and salty, with roasted chestnuts, tobacco, and chocolate in the aftertaste. Gets then even meatier, with this feeling of drinking miso soup, or rather Chinese chicken soup. Solid body, feels more like 43%. Finish: quite long, salty and smoky. Smoked chicken soup ;-). Comments: typical characterful old blend. Not much nose, but a potent palate. SGP:362 - 82 points.

Wait, I have an idea (oh, no…)

Chivas Regal 18 yo ‘Gold Signature’ (40%, OB, blend, +/-2015)

Chivas Regal 18 yo ‘Gold Signature’ (40%, OB, blend, +/-2015) Three stars and a half It says ‘Gold Signature’ but I believe it’s the regular 18 yo. Colour: orange gold. Nose: nice! Starts with whiffs of earl grey tea, goes on with malty cereals, and goes on with touches of oloroso, then raisins and warm croissants. There’s a little marmalade as well, some honey, some vanilla, and a little gingerbread. Very nice nose, rounded but talkative and present. Mouth: rather polished, with some apple pie, roasted nuts, toasted bread, maple syrup, and some spicy chocolate. Weetabix, praline, some smoother milk chocolate, and perhaps one or two ripe mirabelles. Tends to become maltier over time, and perhaps a little less complex. Finish: medium, smooth, very malty again. Ovaltine and dried pears, a touch of honeysuckle… The aftertaste is a little drier, though, but that could be the caramel talking. Comments: goes down very well, a very nice ‘smooth’ composition. Classic! SGP:541 - 83 points.

Chivas Regal 25 yo (OB, blend, 113cl, +/-1915)

Chivas Regal 25 yo (OB, blend, 113cl, +/-1915) Five stars That’s right, pre-prohibition Chivas with a driven cork, that was distilled in the 19th century and bottled between 1910 and 1920, so roughly one hundred years ago. This baby was on pour at the crazy Auld Alliance in Singapore. This 25 yo was the very first Chivas ‘Regal’, a brand that’s been launched in 1908 or 1909. As you can see, age statements were all the rage at that time ;-). Colour: gold. Nose: totally malty, I doubt there was much grain in this. Only thinking about all the long-closed Alfred-Barnard-time distilleries that may have been used in this blend will put sparkles in your eyes! What’s amazing is that it’s highly expressive, totally not contemporary, and fantastically earthy and mentholy. Rosewood, thuja, verbena, wormwood, old cough syrup, chartreuse, honeydew…

Then old books, antique shop, long forgotten clothes in an old wardrobe in an old attic (yes, in an old country house), cigars… And, surprisingly, fresh overripe strawberries. Really! Mouth: amazing. What’s fantastic is that while quite a lot of old Chivas Regals bearing corks are now, well, corked, this one’s virtually untainted. The flavours are more or less the same as in the nose, with this resinous honey, these herbal tones, then soft marmalade, dried fruits, figs for sure, and a very funny salty touch that keeps playing with your lips and the tip of your tongue. Perfect conservation. As for the strength, the label wouldn’t say but it feels like more or less 45% vol. Finish: medium, with a little more old bottle effect (wee metallic touches), and a few PX-like raisiny touches. Some menthol too. The aftertaste is very fresh, and would just make you want more.

Probably my favourite Chivas ad, circa 1965.
Not sure they'd still run it these days ;-)

Comments: totally impressive, one of the best very old bottles of whisky I’ve ever tasted, if not the best. And imagine what may have been included, Dalaruan, Auchtermuchty, Ardlussa, Stromness, old Longrow… Aaaah, aaahhh, aahhhh… A plainly and utterly superb – and historical - old bottle of Scotch whisky. SGP:462 - 93 points.

Oh well, I had planned to taste quite a few novelties today, but how could they survive in the shadow of this grand old Chivas Regal? Better have other older bottles, if you don’t mind… And that would be some...

Grant's 'Liqueur Scotch Whisky' (OB, blend, early 1930s)

Grant's 'Liqueur Scotch Whisky' (OB, blend, early 1930s) Five stars Another historical bottle. The label tells us about this brand’s home distilleries, which were ‘The Glenfiddich and Balvenie-Glenlivet Distilleries’. Not much has changed, has it? I’ve seen this bottle advertised in an Australian newspaper dated 1932, so the rotation matches. Some experts are saying that early Grant’s whiskies were vattings of only Glenfiddich and Balvenie, so this baby may well be a blended malt, let’s see… Colour: gold. Nose: I’d swear Balvenie is recognisable, with these apricots, mirabelles, all-flower honey, and ripe pears. There’s even some natural vanilla ‘from the spirit’, that is to say not vanillin from the oak. Other than that, there’s a beefy touch but that may OBE, although the whole remained bright and vibrant. A little menthol and aniseed as well, as often. Perhaps a notch less complex than the old Chivas, but it’s probably younger as well. Mouth: ho-ho-ho, this is very fine! It’s smokier than contemporary malts, and even quite ashy, and would unfold on smoked meat, cocoa, tobacco, and some kind of umami. Lovage, a drop of soy sauce, more tobacco, some salt, smoked tea… It’s really perfect, balanced, firm, rather more ‘Highlands’ than its contemporary siblings, and never just ‘smooth’. As for its strength, it does rather feel like 40% vol. Finish: medium, still salty and ashy, with bitter oranges and more herbs. Perhaps a little tarragon, just for fun? Comments: quite amazing. I’ve got some contemporary Grant’s at hand, but out of Christian charity, we won’t have it just now (not saying it’s bad, it’s just not in the same league). SGP:352 - 90 points.

So, no modern Grant’s, what shall we do? Perhaps this…

Grant's 'Stand Fast' (70° proof, OB, blend, early 1930s)

Grant's 'Stand Fast' (70° proof, OB, blend, early 1930s) Three stars A very early Stand Fast that, I think, used to shelter some grain, while the liqueur did not. It seems that the owners recently tried to replicate this baby, pretty much like Whyte & Mackay tried to replicate Shackleton’s Mackinlay, but since we haven’t got the replica anyway, let’s not wait needlessly and focus on the original. Better like this, I suppose… By the way, as the old label tells us, ‘Stand Fast’ is the slogan of the Clan Grant. Colour: gold. Nose: it is a little lighter than the Liqueur, and indeed it could be grainier and a tad rougher and a little less complex. Perhaps a little more metallic and cardboardy as well, with hints of ink, brand new book, and hay. But it’s a very fine nose! Mouth: same comments, this is rougher, less complex, grittier, and more, say ‘rustic’. I had rather replicated the ‘Liqueur’ if you ask me ;-). Flour, paper, tapioca, tea, then more citrus, but the background remains cardboardy and dry. As almost always with these old bottles, there’s also a little meat with some mint. Typically English ;-). Finish: rather short, a little dry. Some nuts and some ashes. Comments: either it’s lost its fruits, or it was already very dry when it was issued. We’ll give it a fair score, because after all, it’s an historical bottle, but I wouldn’t say there’s much pleasure to be had. SGP:262 - 80 points.

Oh well, let’s keep this ‘pre-war’, with…

Old Angus (OB, blend, 1930s)

Old Angus (OB, blend, 1930s) Five stars Old Angus used to be a whisky that, according to some old ads, used to be ‘gentle as a lamb’. It is ‘liqueur blended scotch whisky’, bottled by Train & McIntyre, a company that later acquired Glenlochy, and that was bought by the D.C.L. in 1953. It seems that the Old Angus brand is extinct. Colour: pale gold. Old Angus
Nose: this is something different. It’s got more fruits, around grapefruits and not-too-acidic lemons, and then many more floral and tea-ish notes, around lime tree blossom, lemongrass… So it’s globally fresher, and I do notice notes of mineral riesling, which just cannot be bad. It’s really the freshness that’s most impressive here, there’s not one ounce of OBE. Mouth: a-m-a-r-i-n-g. I know I got one letter wrong. This is a peaty blend, like, say a Talisker-grade peatiness, with a feeling of coal dust, some hessian, tarry ropes, oysters, and all that. It’s actually somewhat Ardbgeggian, but at times it also makes me think of old Islay Mist. It is quite fantastic, this Old Angus, but they should have fired that adman. Gentle as a lamb? Come on! Finish: rather long, superbly peaty and candied, very coastal. Salty aftertaste. Comments: I’d kill to be able to get a list of the malts that have been used in this glorious old peaty blend. Yeah, dream on… Sometimes, I couldn’t not think of Old Clynelish…SGP:454 – 92 points.

It’s all going very well, isn’t it. Oh, and Old Clynelish? Why not have one of their blends?...

King’s Legend ‘Old Special’ (OB, Ainslie & Heilbron, blend, spring cap, +/-1955)

King’s Legend ‘Old Special’ (OB, Ainslie & Heilbron, blend, spring cap, +/-1955) Five stars I know, we’re now after the war, but these sessions are unpredictable. It is an old bottle, there’s no ABV, so maybe was it bottled even earlier. As all WF readers know, Ainslie were the owners of old Clynelish (AKA Brora). This should shelter quite some Old Clynelish, let’s see… Colour: deep gold. Nose: yes, it’s very sooty, ultra-dry, mega-austere… Think plasticine, lamp oil, coal, soot, hay, and paraffin. I know, sounds horrible, and yet… But let’s not exaggerate, this baby won’t win Booze Mag’s best nose of the century competition. Also some old copper (coins) and quite some engine oil. I’m even finding a little castor oil. Mouth: of course. I knew it reminded me of another whisky I used to sip, and that’s the famous Glen Brora blend. Well, not that famous. It is the same whisky, actually, I’m dead sure about that. Greasy, ashy, sooty, slightly metallic, with some pepper, some grapefruits, this feeling of quaffing engine oil (not quite like that guy in one of the latest James Bond movies, eh) while eating cigar ashes… And all that is covered with some kind of citron liqueur, Corsican style. Only gunpowder is missing ;-). Very oily mouth feel, but I doubt the strength would be higher than 40%, perhaps 43% vol. Finish: medium, very sooty and ashy, but with a liqueury coating. Some kind of sweet oil. Comments: another great old blend with an incredible personality. Nothing to do with contemporary blends, except a few by some indies such as Compass Box, DL, and a few others. It’s Rembrandt vs. Jeff Koons! SGP:453 - 91 points.

Good, before this gets too political, let’s have a very last one and call this a tasting session…

Fifesay 10 yo (20 U.P., OB, bottled 1920s)

Fifesay 10 yo (20 U.P., OB, bottled 1920s) Five stars Everything is to love here. Like this mention, ‘strength about 20 under proof’, so about 80° proof. Or the fact that this is another proof that age statements were much in use in the early 20th century (yet the industry wants us to believe that that was a recent, temporary thing), or even the back label, that I shall now copy integrally for your pleasure. “This Whisky is bottled at the distillery (oops, so it is probably a single malt!) under the most scrupulous and unremitting care. Absolute freedom from all trace of anything deleterious IS GUARANTEED, and, after most searching and exhaustive chemical analysis, medical experts (ha, reminds us of White Horse and old Lagavulin!) pronounce it to be of the highest PURITY, THOROUGHLY MATURED (yeah!!!!), and of particularly fine flavour, and recommend it with every confidence, as a wholesome and reliable stimulant. TEN YEARS OLD.” Capital letters not mine!

Beats both Emily Dickinson and Oscar Wilde, doesn’t it! Sadly, I couldn’t find any information about this whisky, the distillery, or the company behind it. Could be any of those long-forgotten closed distilleries – ooh I’d sure kill again to be able to know more about this wee baby… But let’s proceed… Colour: gold. Nose: sure it hasn’t got the oomph and the presence of the old Ainslie’s, but it’s got a coastal freshness that mingles to perfection with a greasy and almondy side. The whole’s rather light, having said that, and as Kurt Weill would have said, it speaks rather low. Love these touches of machine oils and gun grease, though… Mouth: not so fast! It was a bit shy on the nose, but it rocks on your palate. It’s even a little harsh after all these years, acrid, very sooty, smoky and salty for sure, and immensely medicinal. There are no tropical fruits, otherwise I’d have said this could be old Laphroaig. A kind of concoction made with eucalyptus syrup, charcoal ashes, caraway liqueur (say Linie aquavit), lime juice, and a few drops of the heaviest Jamaican rum. And boy this rocks! Forgot to mention salt – but there’s no salt in whisky, naturally. Finish: long, herbal, smoky, salty, sooty, getting a little drying, with even a wee feeling of shoe polish… Truly fantastic. More mentholated things in the aftertaste. Comments: a poem indeed. Good, any distinguished reader who’d send me any bits of information with regards to this bottle will win an autographed photo of WF’s new official mousers, Zooloo and Aston. Shipping fees mine. Deal? SGP:354 - 93 points.

Update: Angus, of many fames, just sent me an update about the Fifesay. It was a brand that belonged to an English Wine merchant. The ‘Fife’ part may refer to one of the old Fife distilleries. There were three still active into the 1920s: Grange, closed 1927, Auchtertool, closed 1927, and Auchtermuchty/Stratheden, closed around mid-1920s. So since the Fifesay was definitely a single malt, it could conceivably be one of these distilleries ‘but it is a bit of a leap’.


(With hugs to Angus and Emmanuel)

More tasting notes Check the index of all blends I've tasted so far






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