Google A bag of the best bastard malts

Serge whiskyfun
Thousands of tastings,
all the music,
all the rambligs
and all the fun


Facebook Twitter Logo
Guaranteed ad-free
copyright 2002-2017


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

October 3, 2018


A bag of the best bastard malts

That's how we used to call these amongst the Malt Maniacs. It's true that there’s more blended malt around, it’s a good mean of building your own brand while not relying on distillers too much, but of course you have to start from scratch then. Let’s see what we have on the table…

Mackinlay’s Shackleton (40%, OB, blended malt, 2018)

Mackinlay’s Shackleton (40%, OB, blended malt, 2018) Three stars
A sequel to the previous limited editions that have been both pretty good, and finely Glen-Mhory, whether there was actually some Glen Mhor inside or not. I think there was some in the very first ‘replica’ bottling, having said that. This very one isn’t a replica anymore, it was given a new, albeit pretty ‘retro’ packaging. Colour: white wine. Nose: Well, they managed to keep an old-school Highlands profile indeed, with some minerals, chalk, damp gravel, lemons, a touch of leather, green apples… Tends to become rounder though, more on sweets, marshmallows… So that old-Highland-ness was a bit temporary. Mouth: certainly feels bigger than just 40% vol., and indeed, starts sooty and chalky yet again, before it starts to shift towards green apples and lemons, and then some fruitier notes. Bonbons, plus the smallest pack of liquorice allsorts ever as well as a little heather honey. And it would not nosedive, despite the low strength. Finish: medium, still very chalky, with a lemony aftertaste. Grassier aftertaste, very grassy actually. Comments: well composed given that this is a larger-volume vatted malt.
SGP:461 - 82 points.

Johnnie Walker ‘Blue Label Brora & Rare' (46%%, OB, blend, 2017)

Johnnie Walker ‘Blue Label Brora & Rare' (46%%, OB, blend, 2017) Four stars and a half
I know, this is not a blended malt, but it says Brora, so that’s kind of the same thing in my book. No? So indeed there is some Brora in this blend, but I don’t know how much, while there are also malts Pittyvaich, Clynelish, Glenkinchie, Glenlossie and Royal Lochnagar, as well as grains Cameronbridge and Cambus. Well I know what I would have done if I had been in charge (God forbid!)… That’s right, I’d have only used Brora and Clynelish, even if the end result would have been a little incestuous then, which may not be the main point of a blended whisky. Colour: gold. Nose: it’s firm and earthy, with a rather lovely combination of old inks with papers, autumn leaves, sandalwood, and rather heather honey ala old HP. Do we get the Brora part? But of course we do! Erm, sadly not, but it’s a top-notch nose, while there sure is some form of parentage. Mouth: it is very malty, I do not quite find any coconutty or popcorny flavours from the grain whiskies. Some parts also remind me of that excellent old blend they were having at Ainslie’s & Heilbron’s, Glen Brora. Soot, chestnut and heather honeys, a touch of dried meat, some smoke for sure, and then a little demerara sugar plus hints of coal. Perhaps a pinhead of salted fudge. Finish: medium, perfectly coherent (doesn’t lose itself while many blends do at this stage, in my experience), always a wee bit sooty, with some marmalade in the aftertaste as well as more demerara sugar. Marmalade works in any finishes, doesn’t it. Comments: we could always argue that this is a waste of Brora. Well, I don’t think so, after all Brora was made for blending, originally. Perhaps the best blend I’ve tried this year, but the year isn’t over.
SGP:552 - 88 points.

Back to malts…

Rock Oyster ‘Sherry Edition’ (46.8%, Douglas Laing, blended malt, +/-2018)

Rock Oyster ‘Sherry Edition’ (46.8%, Douglas Laing, blended malt, +/-2018) Four stars
From DL’s very smart new lines. The regular Rock Oyster was excellent – only tried the first batch, WF 87. Colour: straw. Nose: the sherriness is under control here, do not expect any bursts of sour walnuts and grape skins, nor any slightly vulgar PXness. Quite the contrary, this is clean, maritime, peaty, kilny, very barley-y, and feels just ‘natural’. No quibbles. Mouth: indeed, and maybe am I dreaming, but I’m finding echoes of Uigeadail now (not the first batches though). You feel that the whole’s been slightly sweetened (sultanas) but the spirit is firm and tense enough and couldn’t get buried this easily. Finish: rather long, sweet and peaty. Smoked currants. Comments: good, ‘of course’ I prefer the unsherried sibling, but I’m still finding this easier version extremely good.
SGP:556 - 85 points.
More of this fashionable highly cluttered design please...

The Story of the Spaniard (43%, Compass Box, blended malt, 2018)

The Story of the Spaniard (43%, Compass Box, blended malt, 2018)
I find it a little surprising that they would have bottled this new expression at 43% vol. and not at 46. As the name suggests, there’s a good proportion of sherry casks inside.  Colour: light gold, so no big first fill wood. Nose: we’re very far from a sherry monster, this is rather a slightly buttery, pastry-ish malt with nice whiffs of oranges (several kinds) and apple pie, stewed apricots, a hint of rhubarb pie… and, well, more and more cooked rhubarb. Which I always enjoy! Mouth: excellent. I was a little afraid, but I was wrong. Maple syrup, honeys, oranges, more rhubarb, and just a touch of cherries. Morellos. The 43% vol. work well, actually. Finish: medium, rather on honeyed pastries. Baklavas and assorted oriental compadres. Comments: it appears that there is a lot of Clynelish inside this well-mannered blended malt, but I don’t think the famous Highlander is very dominant. Anyway, the chef seems to have stayed in the kitchen (I know what I’m trying to say).
SGP:541 - 87 points.

Flaming Heart 2018 (48.9%, Compass Box, blended malt)

Flaming Heart 2018 (48.9%, Compass Box, blended malt) Five stars
Absolutely loved the previous editions, so there’s no reasons this would be different, especially if some perfect Caol Ila keeps leading the pack. Colour: white wine. Nose: yes, it’s extremely fresh and pretty elegant, with green apples and kiwis, as well as oysters and kippers on a bed of fresh kelp. Over all that, some finely squeezed Sicilian lemons, as well as a few slices of green apples, grapes and green gooseberries. There’s something sauvignony to this nose. There, Pouilly-Fumé. Mouth: relatively easy, very coherent, quite waxy, gently bitter at times, and extremely well composed, you could almost believe this is some 20 yo single malt, you just wouldn’t recognise the distillery. Smoke, apples, lemon, crushed almonds, touches of anchovies, a little sunflower oil… Finish: rather long, with some sweeter and rounder fruits. Stewed apples, a touch of beeswax, just a hint of custard. Comments: typical John Glaser work, made with the right malt whiskies. If you want to recreate Led Zeppelin, better have Robert Plant and Jimmy Page on board, I suppose.
SGP:545 – 90 points.

Do we have room for a last one? Yes we do…

Epitome 24 yo 1993/2018 (53.2%, Maltbarn, Blended Malt, sherry cask, 170 bottles)

Epitome 24 yo 1993/2018 (53.2%, Maltbarn, Blended Malt, sherry cask, 170 bottles) Four stars and a half
These single cask blended malts could well be single malts in disguise. BTW did you know that actually, you can’t by law call a single malt ‘blended malt’? And that some actual blending (or teaspooning) should have taken place in real life or you’ll have to call your whisky ‘single malt’? That’s new to me… Colour: gold. Nose: it’s a relatively soft, very cake-y malt, cruising somewhere between Glenmorangie and Balvenie as far as styles are concerned. Quinces and mirabelles, custard, cereals, a spoonful of beer, certainly a little hops, and some brioche. With water: malted barley, beer, vanilla cake. How natural is that? Mouth (neat): butterscotch and IPA, croissants, brioche, Golden Grahams, hops again (a lot), fudge, apricot jam… With water: oranges and plums coming out, all for the (even) better. Finish: rather long, with some tinned fruits this time. Pears? Cornflakes. Comments: excellent, as malty as malt whisky can be. Indeed, some kind of epitome. PS: there’s also something Balblairy.
SGP:651 - 89 points.

Oh and there’s this just in as well…

Cladach (57.1%, OB, Special Release, blended malt, 2018)

Cladach (57.1%, OB, Special Release, blended malt, 2018) Four stars and a half
I have to say the very idea of some NAS blended malt amongst Diageo’s prestigious Special Releases sounds a little strange to me. Well it used to until I saw that they had vatted Caol Ila, Clynelish, Lagavulin, Talisker, Oban and Inchgower. Which, in my book, sounds a bit like some truffle, foie gras and lobster salad. They’ve also used several cask types. Colour: gold. Nose: I don’t know if they’ve used those malts in equal proportions, probably not in fact, but this is a very smoky nose for sure, with something very medicinal. We’re talking tinctures and mercurochrome. There’s also quite a lot of sherry, and one cannot not think (bang, double negations kill, S.) of Lagavulin’s latest Distiller’s Editions. I think there’s more and more smoked meat as well – in Cladach. With water: a little menthol, while Talisker seems to take a stronger lead. Mouth (neat): it’s clearly a peater while we’re rather going towards margarita as far as the other flavours are concerned. Tequila, grapefruit, salt, lime… One raisin for good measure, a touch of ginger and gentian. With water: an even bigger peater. I find it funny that many official tasting notes for actual peaters seem to describe much smoother and mellower spirits (according to this humble taster). Perhaps do they all hire the same taster/writer? Story short, I think this Cladach is much peatier than what they say in brochures, web pages and leaflets. Finish: long and more Caol-Ila-y this time. But why always try to find about the core ingredients? (and usually fail?) Comments: they were clearly going to achieve something with this one.
SGP:466 - 88 points.

More tasting notesCheck the index of all Blended malts we've tasted so far






Whiskyfun's Home