Google A Pair Of Old Blends

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

September 9, 2017




Angus's Corner
From our casual Scottish correspondent
and guest taster Angus MacRaild

A Pair Of Old Blends

It’s always fun to go rooting through the annals of liquid history via the medium of ancient blended whiskies. Remember prior to the 1950s blends generally had a much higher malt content so, after all these years in bottle, it tends to be the more powerful malt aspects that shine the brightest which gives a wonderful, broad brush stroke picture of the ‘generic’ character of Scottish malts in decades gone by...


Unless of course they’ve turned to strange, capsule tainted, vegetable soup and old coins inside the bottle. Lets try a few at random...  


White Horse 1922 (ABV unknown, OB)

White Horse 1922 (ABV unknown, OB) The constituent malt for White Horse was, of course, Lagavulin which means we’re expecting more than a little peat with this one, some of these old pre-war White Horses can be magisterial, although I understand the level on this one was a little low when opened so we keep expectations realistic... Colour: Straw. Nose: The peat is unusually shy in this one. It’s more towards soot, lanolin, coal hearths, earth and a whole pantry of dried herbs. There’s some hay, some stables, dunnage, camphor and paraffin and this delicate phenolic prickle in the background. I wonder if it lost some of its peatiness throughout the years, not impossible. Some old bottle notes of iron filings, steel wool and old tool boxes; a suggestion of rust amongst it all.



Mouth: There’s the peat! It’s still very subdued, what we have here is more of a peat and herb liqueur. Fat, syrupy and hugely oily, despite an obvious slight loss of ABV. Graphite oil, various waxes and medical tinctures along with dried mushroom powder, vegetable stock and a kind of generic umami flavour. Quite beautifully savoury even though there is a lick of sweetness and apple peeling from the grain component, which feels oddly more vivid than some of the later 1930s and 40s bottlings. Some mustard seed, more camphor and resinous notes and still more elegant herbal aspects with traces of bay leaf, rosemary and oregano. Finish: Surprisingly decent length despite the fact the spirit is obviously a tad tired. There is a saltiness in the finish with more herbs, camphor, dusty phenols and a serene olive oil note. Comments: These kinds of ancient liquid time capsules are tough things to score. Parts of hauntingly beautiful and deeply emotional, but at the same time it bears obvious wee flaws. Having said that, overall, I still find it an excellent and enlightening old blend. The kind of whisky that can quite easily boggle the mind when you think of the journey it must have been on to arrive in your glass. SGP: 155 - 85 points.  


Old Smuggler (ABV unknown, OB, US Import, 1920s)

Old Smuggler (ABV unknown, OB, US Import, 1920s) This ancient bottle comes with a very strange ceramic pourer which I’ve only ever seen once before on a very old Dimple also bottled for the US around the 1930s. Colour: Amber. Nose: Radically different to the White Horse. This is far fresher and full of wood resins, sap, ointment, various teas, oils, some old fruitcake, aged cognac, raisins, rancio and roasted chestnuts. I never smelled an old blended whisky like this before. Wonderful complexity on the nose, develops a marvellously leafy, earthy and nervous edge with more dark fruits - think dates, prunes and sultanas - notes of pipe tobacco and old leather. There is some kind of wondrous sherry sloshing about in here no doubt.



Cork Mouth: an old dry sherry like Amontillado mixed with a whole Christmas of nuts, oranges and some bitter chocolate. This is really an unusual old blend. You can feel it’s a blend but there is a big and dominating sherry/wine influence. Notes of aged Pinot Noir, various farmyard aspects and then some very delicate medicinal touches such as lanolin, carbolic and aspirin. Some pencil shavings, herbs and notes of muesli and molasses. Finish: Long, earthy, slightly salty, drying, nutty and herbaceous. More resounding sherry characteristics. Quite remarkable really. Comments: I don’t think I ever tasted an old blend quite like that. The sherry was almost too drying for me and, again, you could tell you were drinking a blend and not one of these more ambiguous ‘maybe pure malt’ type blends. The whole was so surprisingly fresh and vigorous. Another one that is very difficult to score. At least one thing is for sure: it’s anything but boring and it’s certainly not bad. SGP: 352 - 88 points.  


(Many thanks Chris and Marcus!)  







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