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October 20, 2014


A little bag of Scottish blends

We like to have a go at a few blends from time to time, always a good occasion to recalibrate our palate, and maybe to make good use of the full 100-scale ;-). 

Rob Roy (40%, OB, blend, +/-2005)

Rob Roy (40%, OB, blend, +/-2005) One of Morrison-Bowmore’s brands. Not too sure they still make it, but let’s see if we can find a Bowmoreness inside… BTW I found this cheap baby at Cava Benito in Andorra, excellent selection but very unfriendly place. Make sure you’re in a good mood and unarmed before entering the place. Colour: pale gold. Nose: ouch, this is very spirity and light at the same time, with notes of kirsch straight from the still and then rather wood alcohol, paint thinner and, well, sawdust. This is very, very un-Bowmore to say the least. Mouth: somewhat nicer, but this bubblegum, the raw wood, the notes of cheap fruit liqueur and the odd notes of burnt toast just don’t work too well. Finish: short, but a little maltier. Comments: very cheap lower-shelf stuff. It just couldn’t be Morrison-Bowmore, it couldn’t, no it couldn’t… SGP:231 - 40 points.

Usquaebach 'Reserve' (43%, OB, blend, +/-2010)

Usquaebach 'Reserve' (43%, OB, blend, +/-2010) I believe it’s composed by an independent company, and I believe it’s rather aimed at the American market. Colour: gold. Nose: nothing too brilliant again, but I seem to find both more depth and more roundness than in the humble Rob Roy. I do enjoy these whiffs of wet earth and the notes of marmalade and toasted pastries. Mouth: not quite. Some parts are pleasant for sure (this earthiness again) but the odd fruitiness is a tad embarrassing. Banana and pineapple drops, sawdust, caramel and a little shoe polish. Finish: short, with these notes of ‘Tesco’s fruit drops’ (or Carrefour, or Walmart, or Lidl, whatever.) Comments: certainly ‘better’ than Rob Roy, but it’s very average juice in my opinion. A good example of a 50-points whisky. SGP:431 - 50 points.

Right, let’s try to find bigger blends… (rummage)…

The Black Grouse ‘Alpha Edition’ (40%, OB, blend, +/-2014)

The Black Grouse ‘Alpha Edition’ (40%, OB, blend, +/-2014) Two stars and a half This baby’s supposed to be a much peatier (and much more expensive) version of Grouse, let’s see. Colour: full gold. Nose: it is a little smokier for sure, earthier as well, with pleasant notes of cigars and crystallised oranges, then old leather and old papers. ‘Old attic’ and a few drops of our beloved pu-erh tea. Mouth: the peat is much more obvious, and the whole is rather reminiscent of Islay Mist, with also notes of tequila and more earth. Liquid smoke? Also ashes, leather, caramel… Finish: rather long given the strength. Ashtray. The aftertaste is a bit drying. Comments: a kind of baby Islay. I think it’s a nice composition, a kind of peatier Black Label. I could quaff this. SGP:344 - 79 points.

Ballantine's 17 yo (40%, OB, blend, +/-2014)

Ballantine's 17 yo (40%, OB, blend, +/-2014) Two stars and a halfThe 17 has always been navigating around the 80-mark in my book. Let’s try a newer batch… Colour: gold. Nose: yes, what I enjoy in this one is the ‘polished’ side and the greasy/oily touches. Beeswax, incense, light pipe tobacco, cough syrup, sultanas… All that is nice, of course. Mouth: a rather fat blend, with much smoke (but less smoke than in the Black Grouse), tobacco, tea, gingerbread… The body’s fine, it’s just that I find that it’s becoming a little too grassy/tea-ish. That would be green tea then, I suppose. Finish: loses steam and coherence a bit, while becoming a little too cardboardy for my taste. Comments: (high) ups and downs. Without the finish I’d have gone way above 80. And sadly, this wasn’t a ‘43%’ version. SGP:352 - 79 points.

Ballantine's 17 yo ‘Glentauchers Signature Edition’ (40%, OB, blend, +/-2014)

Ballantine's 17 yo ‘Glentauchers Signature Edition’ (40%, OB, blend, +/-2014) Two stars and a half When I first saw these babies – there are also a Scapa, a Miltonduff and a Glenburgie – I had thought they were single malts, but in fact they’re blends where one component has been ‘pushed up’. In this case, Glentauchers. Colour: deep gold. Nose: a rather more sherried version of the 17, more floral as well. I find peonies and roses, for example. Also blood oranges. It’s rather more expressive, I’d say, but indeed we remain within the family. Rather more leather as well, a touch of cedar wood… Mouth: same feeling, exactly. More oranges, Turkish delights, then maybe redcurrants and pink grapefruits. I find the juice pretty excellent, but the low strength makes it a little too flabby for me. Finish: rather short but very nicely ‘oriental’. These Turkish delights again. Comments: bottling such a nice combo at 40% is almost murder. Your palate is looking for more oomph, makes me think of my iPhone when reception is poor. I know what I’m trying to say. SGP:441 - 79 points.

I have the other ‘Signatures’ at hand but I need more presence. So, let’s try to find an older one… And since we were talking ‘bout Johnnie Black…

Johnnie Walker 'Black Label' (43%, OB, blend, +/-1958)

Johnnie Walker 'Black Label' (43%, OB, blend, +/-1958) Four stars and a halfColour: deep gold. Nose: oh my, this is something else indeed. Probably distilled immediately after WWII, so rather smokier than ‘normal’ since more peat was used than right before the war again, with a magnificent range of phenolic and smoky notes. That would be old engine oil, garage, old tools, then old orange liqueur, tamarind, camphor, beeswax, leather polish, a drop of maraschino, a touch of cinnamon, a touch of lard, Spanish ham… This nose is totally entrancing! Mouth: astounding – for a while. Smoked pinesap liqueur, artisan cider, verbena, some kind of peppery wax, overripe pears, a drop of plum spirit, then more acrid ashes, liquorice… Sadly, it tends to become a little bitter, and that may be ‘the taste of glass’, but other than that, bingo! Finish: long, sappy and earthy, with a bitterish and drying aftertaste. Comments: forget about the finish, this is just a great old blend, complex and talkative. But then again, OBE might have improved it a bit. I mean, a lot. Mind you, 1958! SGP:562 - 88 points.

Session over (with thanks to Ron)

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



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