The Half Century Blend

Bottled: 2016
Number of Bottles: 768
ABV: 45.5%
More Info: WhiskyBase

Far back in the mists of time, there existed an extraordinary era of whisky production where distilleries were unbridled by accountants and the constant demand for efficiency.

Whiskies produced in the 1960s and before display altogether different properties whether long-aged in barrel or in antique bottlings. The spirit production was slower with smaller yields but this more considered approach lead to a style of whisky that people are increasingly pining for.

To quote the chaps at The Blended Whisky Company,

“The result of all this inefficiency, waste and lost commercial-opportunity? Flavour, subtlety, poise, an incredible depth of fruit-character and a beguiling, ethereal quality sadly missing from many of today’s whiskies.”

This isn’t their first foray into exquisitely old and rare blends. Their Lost Distilleries blend and “The Golden Age” have each won multiple awards over the years so they really do know what they’re doing. This time around they’re decidedly tight-lipped as to the constituents. Maybe if we ask nicely they’ll give us a clue…

This blend is comprised entirely of whiskies aged for fifty years or more. That’s bonkers. You simply don’t get many chances to taste something like that. The challenging question is: is fifty years too much? Can the spirit stand up to that much oak?

God, I can’t wait to find out…

Colour: Amber – not as dark as you might expect for the age.

Body: Very viscous – thick beads and long legs.

Nose: Fruity and resinous. Apple blossom, brandied cherries, crème anglaise. Very clean, like fresh laundry, but with a spirity marker pen edge. As it opens up, there’s a little milk chocolate, sultanas, allspice, and fragrant wood resin. Cor, this is well layered.

Palate: Beautiful soft delivery with a promise of pepper that never quite stands up to the velvety oak. Yes, the decades in the cask has certainly left this feeling oaky but certainly not tired. There’s sweet satsuma, malty toffee, fiery gingerbread, warm strudel and viscous ice cream.

Finish: It just goes on… Warm, chewy oak with toasted coconut flakes and vanilla cream. Twenty minutes later and I can still taste it.

This is absolutely delicious. Very easy to drink (I found it needs no water) with a lot of classy whisky notes and plenty of character left after such an extended maturation. A tumbler of this in a wingback chair by an open fire and you’d be left wanting for nothing.

This stunning blend is available from today for the very reasonable price of £599.95 from those lovely chaps at Master of Malt. You can also find it at Amathus, Amazon, Harvey Nichols, Hedonism, and Ocado.

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Douglas Laing’s Epicurean

Screen Shot 2016-04-29 at 20.02.38Bottler: Douglas Laing
Region: Lowlands
Age: Unknown
More Info: WhiskyBase

Here’s the latest regional blend from indy bottler, Douglas Laing.

“The Epicurean” steps up to represent the Lowlands region, alongside “Big Peat” for Islay, “Scallywag” for Speyside, “Timorous Beastie” for the Highlands and “Rock Oyster” for the Islands.

Some of them are completely up-front about their blending components and some aren’t. The Epicurean remains enigmatic about the source malts that have gone into this blend but the Lowlands region isn’t exactly stuffed full of distilleries so maybe we can work it out…

Nose: Very young. Grappa and yeast, sourdough, rock salt. Lots of unripe fruit – crab apples and green bananas. After breathing, some stewed baking apple and even a whiff of smoke and cured meat.

Palate: Grassy and green with barley sugar and sour cherry. Touch of banana bread then becoming quite hot and spicy. Numbing cinnamon and cloves with a milky chalkiness akin to those candy necklaces you get in sweet shops.

Finish: Quite short with liquorice root and a little peppermint tea.

Dear, oh dear. As a fan of Laing’s blends on the whole, this one falls flat for me.

This chap’s far too young to be an epicurean. It’s just barely beyond new-make spirit in terms of flavour profile and really lacking in the regional traits that I know the Lowlands for – floral, buttery, delicate and subtle.

As for which distilleries may be in the blend… given the price tag of this, I doubt whether much malt from silent distilleries has made its way into the blending tun. Perhaps a minute splash of Littlemill, like the dab of Port Ellen they put into the Big Peat.

Daftmill have never yet sold any of their whisky and Annandale spirit isn’t legally whisky until 2018. That leaves Ailsa Bay, Auchentoshan, Bladnoch, or Glenkinchie.

Given the slightly smoky nose, cinnamon palate and youthfulness I’d wager there’s a fair chunk of Ailsa Bay in this blend. It is a little grassy to start with, which makes me think Bladnoch’s in there too.

Wherever the components came from, I can see this being a lot more interesting after more time in the barrel.

They really need to give this little bruiser some time to get potty trained, colour in some books, discover music, rebel against the establishment, dye its hair, move out, discover tweed and armchairs and settle into a dusty bookshop with its long term partner, Graham.

Andy’s Pick ‘n’ Mix

Thanks to Andy for these samples. I drained these ages ago but I’ve finally typed up my tasting notes…!

Producer: Hamish Robertson & Co
ABV: 43%
Age: 5 years old
More Info: Master of Malt

These are always fun – a blended whisky from the 1960s. You can find bottles like this on a lot of auction sites and they tend to sell for a lot less than you might imagine, taking a backseat to all the high flying single malts.

Nose: Malty caramel, candle wax,  menthol, and pears. A gentle floral edge develops after a while.

Palate: Syrupy! Very rich and rounded malty flavour with more menthol and a little pepper mint.

Finish: Quite short with black pepper.

This, as with many blends, is all about the core malt flavour. It’s soft and sweet, like nectar with no hard edges or dominating notes. Very drinkable and smooth, much moreso than modern low-end blends where the malt content has dropped dramatically since the 1960s.

 

Royal Culross 8 year old Blended Malt 1972

Distillery: Glen Scotia
ABV: 43%
Distilled: 1972
Age: 8 years old
More Info: WhiskyBase

Don’t know a great deal about what’s in this, besides it being put together by the Glen Scotia distillery in Campbeltown in the seventies…

Nose: Orchard smells of ripe apples and pears, with desserty notes of custard. There’s a dessert-wine character to the aroma too – sweet juicy grapes.

Palate: Very appley. Tart and crisp cider, with cinnamon spice and ripe barley grain. Reminiscent of Irish whiskey, with a gristy, unmalted barley note.

Finish: Toasted nuts and warm oak with a lingering apple edge and a touch of pepper spice.

I wonder if there’s any Macallan in this… Very nice malt, and quite three dimensional for a blend.

 

Longmorn 20 Year Old Single Cask

Distillery: Longmorn
Bottler: Whisky Broker
Bottled: 2012, Distilled: 1992
ABV: 55%
Age: 20 years old
Cask: Sherry Hogshead
More Info: WhiskyBase

Good old Whiskybroker. You can get some very nice whiskies (by the cask, as well as by the bottle) at very reasonable prices indeed. This one’s a sherried Longmorn.

Nose: Orange candy, pine resin, pencils, barley mash, freshly ground hazelnuts and a pinch of ginger.

Palate: Crystalised white grape sugar, malty bread, and toasted oak with rising nutmeg and anise spices. Becomes drying and fruitier with water – a plummy note comes through.

Finish: Tingly and peppery.

Great nose on this, and the palate gets better with water. At 55% ABV it’s a little too fierce but maybe watered down to 45%-50% and it’s perfect.

 

Springbank 19 year old (Master of Malt)

Distillery: Springbank
Bottler: Master of Malt
Bottled: 2012, Distilled: 1993
ABV: 55.2%
Age: 19 years old
More Info: WhiskyBase

I love an indy bottling of Springbank! MoM’s single cask bottlings usually sell out quickly and have a good reputation for quality cask choice.

Nose: Sticking plasters, cough syrup, and leather with smoked caramel and pebble beach.

Palate: Oily, sweet, and salty with rich malt and cinder toffee. Cinnamon in custard, with a slow-rising, lip-tingling chilli oil burn.

Finish: Oak and smoke, with hazelnuts.

Balls to salted caramel latté – if you want an oily, malty, coastal zing then this is the whisky for you. My word, do they know how to do whisky at Springbank. Another cask well chosen, chaps!

 

Caol Ila G&M 2001 Cask Strength

Distillery: Caol Ila
Bottled: 2013, Distilled: 2001
Bottler: Gordon & Macphail
ABV: 59.2%
Age: 12 years old
Cask: Refill sherry butts
More Info: WhiskyBase

Gordon & Macphail have a ridiculously large catalog of whiskies. One of Scotland’s oldest independent bottlers, they’re still owned and managed by the Urquhart Family. Well worth a look at their offerings, and the prices are usually very reasonable.

Nose: Beach bonfire, salty clifftops, sawdust, motor oil, buttery kippers.

Palate: Coal dust, cough drops, with custard creams and sweet milky fudge.

Finish: Salty black liquorice.

Yummy – great coastal peat notes here. No citrus, which is unusual for Caol Ila. Tasting blind I think I’d have pegged this as an Ardbeg – that coal dust flavour’s really full-on, like you’ve actually licked a coal scuttle.

 

All done! Thanks again, Andy – some cracking drams there.