Blended whisky has a bit of an image problem.
Thanks to some brilliant marketing over the decades by the Scotch Whisky Association and others, consumers have “learned” that the really good whisky is the pure single malt (the older, obviously, the better) and that blended whisky is really only good for the servants.
This is, of course, nonsense and for a number of reasons.
Firstly, most “single malts” are in fact blends, in that they are composed of whiskies from different casks at the distillery – and often different ages – that have been selected by the distillery’s master blender to work together to produce a given taste. It’s done that way for the simple reason that whisky is a living product – each cask will mature in a subtly different way, and if you want to sell a consistent single malt year after year, you need to take all those subtle variations and bring them together in a blend that produces the perfect flavour.
Secondly, and more importantly, blended whisky is ultimately a sum of it’s parts. Yes, if you put cheap whisky into a blend then you will end up with a cheap blended whisky. But what if you took some properly premium casks and gave them to a master blender instead?
This, then, is very much a premium blended scotch from The Blended Whisky Company – The Lost Distilleries Blend – Batch 4, a 50.9% ABV whisky at a substantial £350 at Master of Malt. The name gives a hint as to what makes this a rather special – if pricey – dram; it’s a blend of whiskies from a half-dozen great distilleries that have all now ceased production (in some cases, a long time ago).
Whisky from Rosebank, Littlemill, Imperial, Mosstowie, Glen Keith and Port Ellen are combined to produce something sufficiently special as to have won the award of World’s Best Blended Whisky 2014 at the World Whisky Awards. But can it live up to the promise?
The initial nose is gently sweet and clean; crisp green apples and pears with just a touch of warm spices. As it sits in the glass, more aromas start to appear – soft, worn leather and a hint of brown sugar, and the fruit becomes slightly tropical.
Water knocks back the fruit and sweetness, and reveals some more coastal notes; just a suggestion of sea spray along with a sharp lemon sherbet.
In the mouth, it’s smooth and almost creamy. There’s a golden-syrup sweetness dancing with some ripe, red apples. There’s a delicate, worn oak and a subtle peat warmth that starts to come through with some slightly citrus, exotic fruit notes, and it’s only in the finish that the alcohol really becomes noticeable.
Water once again reduces the sweetness, and a little of the creamy mouthfeel. The complex layers of flavour are still there, but they are more on top of each other, rather than leading your tongue on the journey that the undiluted spirit delivers.
This is a simply delicious dram, and I don’t think it matters if it started life in one distillery or six. The price point – although justified, given some of the distilleries that appear in the blend – probably pushes it into the realm of the true whisky aficionado (or at least, those with more disposable income than I) but it still comfortably earns 4.5 stars.
Many thanks to the folks at Master of Malt for this sample.