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

October 19, 2016


More old blends and blended malts

This is probably the most buoyant whisky category these days. Blended malts and quasi-blended malts, that is to say blends with a very low grain content, are managing to convince more and more whisky enthusiasts, partly because they’re usually less expensive than single malts, and partly because they’re often… funnier! Let’s have a few today, from various houses and origins, sorted by ascending strength.

Speyside ‘Whiskyklubben Slainte’ (45.3%, Sansibar, blended malt, butt, 554 bottles)

Speyside ‘Whiskyklubben Slainte’ (45.3%, Sansibar, blended malt, butt, 554 bottles) Four stars This is a ‘very old selection’ for a Swedish whisky club, but what’s a little troubling is that it’s a blended malt taken from ‘a single cask’. Unless that means that it was blended at birth, or sometime during maturation, and then re-racked or married or something. Oh well, do we really need to know? Colour: gold. Nose: it’s probably not tremendously old, it rather noses like late 1980s – early 1990s, but that gives it a perfect vibrancy, with lovely hints of leaves, grasses, green tobacco and branches, as well as whiffs of garden bonfire, burning hay, cider apples, and crushed greengages. So we’re rather on the grassy side so far. Mouth: very solid, firmer than many a ‘single’ Speysider, rather on bitter oranges, candle wax, green pepper, and then the same greengages and green apples as in the nose. Also touches of wasabi, perhaps, do those come from that butt? White pepper, green oak… Finish: long, minty and very spicy, some old wood must have been involved. Spicy wood oils, chillies… Comments: I really enjoy this pretty austere leafy style. Should go well with surströmming. SGP:372 - 86 points.

Fine Blended Malt Whisky ‘Very Old’ (45.2%, Whisky-Fässle, sherry butt)

Fine Blended Malt Whisky ‘Very Old’ (45.2%, Whisky-Fässle, sherry butt) Four stars A rather fair price for some ‘Very Old’ blended malt (€99). Colour: gold. Nose: same dry and pretty austere profile, perhaps is this one a little more herbal and mentholy? There are also more winey notes, and those a pretty lovely, around riesling or something. Touches of mustard and fresh walnuts as well. Mouth: indeed, same family. Green tea, coca leaves, green tobacco, cider apples, green plums… And a touch of juniper and sloe. Not a very common style, for sure, we’re rather more between Clynelish and Pulteney than in Speyside. Finish: medium, rather spicier again. Pepper and horseradish. Comments: another one that hasn’t got much fruitiness, but then again, it’s style that I enjoy. No need to come up with a different score. SGP:372 - 86 points.

The Half Century Blend (45.5%, Blended Whisky Company, blend, 768 bottles)

The Half Century Blend (45.5%, Blended Whisky Company, blend, 768 bottles) Five stars A devilish bottling, since the price is of €666 at time of writing - you never know with the Pound these days - and since its age is of ‘more than fifty years’. What, a 50 yo blend and no moulded crystal, no silver-plated stag’s head, and no embroidered tartan pouch? There is a little laxness in Scotch these days, don’t you agree… Colour: gold. Nose: burst with both orchard and tropical fruits at first nosing, ala old Benriach, with guavas and plums, and gets then rather more cake-y, nutty, praline-like, with pastries and maple syrup. There’s also a grassiness that keeps it relatively dry, around apple peelings and autumn leaves. A little wax polish as well. Deep in the background, notes of coconut, possibly from the old grain they must have been using. Mouth: ultra-sexy, ueber-fruity, luscious, yet never pushy, with notes of old bourbon and old rum, then dried apricots and, yet again, guavas. Juicy ripe nectarines. Finish: medium, still fresh and very lively, with a soft oakiness that never gets drying or too tea-ish. Peaches cooked in honey sauce? A wee Irish side. Pure Pot Still ala old Redbreast – BTW we’ll soon try a 25 yo Redbreast, stay tuned. Comments: more proof that whisky can be immortal. And yet, you see, age does matter. SGP:651 - 90 points.

Spice Tree Extravaganza (46%, Compass Box, blended malt, 12,240 bottles, 2016)

Spice Tree Extravaganza (46%, Compass Box, blended malt, 12,240 bottles, 2016) Four stars An older and more sherried Spice Tree, containing Ord, Benrinnes, Allt-A-Bhainne, Clynelish, Dailuaine and Teaninich in various proportions. They also give you details about the various casks that they’ve used (charring, toasting and such), like they sometimes do in America. Colour: gold. Nose: ah, yes, Allt-A-Bhainne is very obvious in the mix. Of course I’m joking. Many white and yellow garden fruits, vine peach, sweets, raspberries, Williams pears… There is some oak as well, but we’re never going over the top, this is not some oaky whisky. Neither is it extremely spicy on the nose. Mouth: very soft, as fruity as some fruit salad, with plenty of pears again, plums, quinces… It’s only after a few more seconds that more straight oak appears, around black tea and black tobacco. Yes, Gauloise. Once again, I do not find this baby particularly spicy. Finish: medium, really fresh, with soft pink grapefruits. Okay, a little cinnamon, and bitter chocolate in the aftertaste. Comments: really very super good, even if I’d have poured more Clynelish into the vatting tank. But that’s me… Certainly gentler than I had thought it would be. SGP:551 - 86 points.

Sansibar are on again…

Speyside 35 yo 1980/2015 (47.3%, Sansibar, blended malt, sherry butt, 387 bottles)

Speyside 35 yo 1980/2015 (47.3%, Sansibar, blended malt, sherry butt, 387 bottles) Four stars No mention of a single cask this time. Colour: deep gold. Nose: bursts with honeys and ripe fruits at very first sniffs, but all that is soon to get back in line, while more waxy/grassy notes appear, not unlike in that Swedish ‘Whiskyklubben’ bottling. So no wham-bam watch my fruits old whisky, but what it’s got is elegance and balance. Mouth: a tad gritty and green, but I like these notes of dried litchis and longans, which remind me of… China. Jujubes. Notes of blond tobacco, mirabelles, apricot pie, all that being covered with quite some white pepper and cinnamon. A drop of spearmint oil, then more raw artisan cider, like former hippies still make in Brittany. Perhaps a little paraffin, not obligatorily welcome in this context. Finish: medium, rather fruity (oranges), with green spices from the oak. Caraway? Some fudge and molasses in the aftertaste. Comments: totally and plainly all right. SGP:551 - 85 points.

And a last one, let’s try to make it official…

Linn House Reserve 35 yo (51.6%, Chivas Bros., blend, batch #LH35001, 2005)

Linn House Reserve 35 yo (51.6%, Chivas Bros., blend, batch #LH35001, 2005) Four starsFrom Chivas’ high-octane series, their Rare Malts in a way, except that this is an undisclosed blend. Oh well… Colour: deep gold. Nose: vanilla and sawdust at first nosing, as well as many tinier aromas, around mushrooms, forest leaves, linseed oil, humus, overripe apples, wild flowers, pollen, ale… It’s all rather complex, and very elegant, I think. With water: some lovely whiffs of old coins and other metallic stuff. Wulong tea. Mouth (neat): very very good, citrusy at first, with some oranges and some lemon balm, and then with honeys and beeswax, with a rather perfect peppery base. Raw apple juice and white cherries. Tends to become a tad tannic and drying, but that’s almost nothing. With water: careful, there’s a little saponification taking place, but other than that, citrus up! Oranges, tangerines… Finish: rather medium, well balanced, rather fresh. Oranges and apples on sweet bread. Comments: no huge personality, and you wouldn’t think it’s 35, but this blend from when Chivas were still thinking ages were paramount sure is excellent, in a fairly natural, un-caramelised style. SGP:561 - 85 points.

(And gracias again, Tom!)







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