Tag Archive: Blended Malt


The Loch Fyne: The Living Cask 1745 (Scottish Blended Malt Whisky: 43.6% ABV)

Visual: Solid gold. Fast thick streaks.

Nose: Pungent peat. Moss. Aubergine. Brown bread. Dried beef slices. Smooth. Dumplings. Light salt. Solid. Water makes drier. Lightly nutty amongst the peat.

Body: Smooth. Honey. Alcohol warmth. Peppered beef slices. Vanilla toffee. Smooth, mouth filling peat. Water adds caramel, more honey. Even smoother and adds light apricot.

Finish: Fruitcake. Raisins. Salt. Malt chocolate. Oily. Cherries. Port. Falling apart beef and heavy peat. Water keeps fairly similar.

Conclusion: This is bloody smooth. It is honeyed, weighty in thickness but no alcohol burn at all, just a soothing warmness. The peat is meaty and filling, coating the mouth and giving a gentle mossy smoke to everything while the sweeter notes dance. Gentle isn’t quite the right word – more it just oozes into every tastebud so easily that it feels like it was always there. In fact it works so well that I was afraid to add water lest I spoil it.

I shouldn’t have worried, all the water did was make it even smoother still and bring out more sweet character – now bringing toffee notes against the meaty broth imagery.

What is most notable about this whisky is what Islay elements it doesn’t use. There are no medicinal touches, very little salt – it just balances the sweet, thick notes with big meaty peat creating an exceptionally smooth yet booming whisky. It is so different from a lot of Islays – if actually feels like what the already good Elements Of Islay whisky was aiming for – sweet, but peaty – but this actually does it so much better.

Basically, I am very impressed. So, what flaws does this have? Well it is single minded – water soothes but changes very little. What you see at the start is what you get at the end. If you are happy with that as I was, then I can recommend this whole heartedly.

Background: I’ve been intrigued by the Living Cask for a while – a blended malt whisky where the cask is topped up regularly with more malt so it is ever changing and every varying, with some of the malt sticking around each time. A fascinating concept. So, when I saw this mini at The Whisky Shop I thought I would grab it. They had a pretty decent mini selection there – I may have to grab some more for random notes. After a quick google it looks 1745 is their original Islay only blended malt, with the other Living Casks being offshoots where other malts are added. I think. Let me know if I got it wrong please. Put on Massive Attack: Mezzanine for this. Had a feeling it would be a big moody whisky and wanted tunes to match.

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Elements Of Islay: Peat (Scottish Blended Malt Whisky: 45% ABV)

Visual: Very pale with a greenish hint, very slow streaks come from the spirit.

Nose: Medicinal. Salt. Peat smoke punch. Watered down lime cordial. Moss. Water is very similar to neat.

Body: Sweet golden syrup and maple syrup. Salt. Alcohol warmth. Barbecue glazed meat. Cherries. Vanilla toffee. Water makes beefy, peaty and choc limes.

Finish: Cherries. Salt. Medicinal. Vanilla. Creamy soda. Toffee. Beef crisp’s flavouring. Lime jelly. Water adds choc limes, dried beef and oily character.

Conclusion: You know for a whisky called “Peat”, this is smooth as silk. Which is not a contradiction I guess, just not what you would expect. I mean, it is pretty peaty, but does not seem obsessed by it it an Octomore kind of way as you would think.

Initial impression tend toward the Caol Ila side of the Islay island – medicinal, dry, slightly salty but not harsh, The highest amount of peat you are going to get in the whisky comes here as the aroma floats with a nice punch of peat, making you think you are heading into a harsher whisky than it actually is.

The first sip is where your expectations shift – it is peaty and meaty, sure, but the first hit is more syrup touched – almost like maple syrup and that makes the medicinal notes it holds far smoother and easier to slip down. There are soft lime notes, but big sweetness and the kind of smoothness you generally get with a good quality vatted malt.

I feel like the name of this whisky betrays it – it makes you expected a much harsher and more assaulting whisky than the one you get. It still has the medicinal, oiliness and saltiness but smooth- and if you add water it opens up to reveal new levels of smoothness for Islay whisky.

With water light cherries comes out, choc toffee then choc lime. As before it is meaty and brothy in the peat character but the medicinal and salt character becomes smoother and smoother as you add the drops. It feels like an excellent Islay with all the edges polished off. Now the smoothed edges is something I both love and hate – it loses some of the unique charm of Islay but becomes an entity that stands as something special of its own by doing that.

An excellent vatted malt, but it is about a balance of notes of which only one part is the peat of the name.

Background: So, as mentioned in my last whisky notes, it is traditional when one of us holds a whisky night that the rest chip in and grab a bottle for the host – this was the bottle we gave the last host,and he was kind enough to let me borrow it to do notes on a measure. Many thanks. Unlike most elements of Islay, this is a blended malt rather than a single malt with the distillery identified by a pseudo elemental letter. There is also a cask strength version of this going around which I am very tempted to try some time. This was drunk very shortly after the last set of whisky notes, so I was on my second listen through of Frank Carter and the Rattlesnakes – Modern Ruin. Still prefer the first album, which is far more raw, but it is not a bad wee album.

Douglas Laing: Scallywag: 13 Year (Scottish Speyside Blended malt Whisky: 13 Year: 46% ABV)

Visual: Deep bronzed gold.

Viscosity: Fast thick streaks.

Nose: Plums. Some alcohol air. Vanilla fudge. Honey. Treacle. Water adds grapes to the mix.

Body: Smooth but warming. Honey. Raisins. Grapes. Some tannins and oak. Golden syrup. Water makes silky smooth. Adds grapes, quince rakija and pears. More water adds plums and dried apricot.

Finish: Light oak. Slightly peppery. Fig rolls. Tannins and tea bags. Honey. Water adds tart white grapes and pears.

Conclusion: Ok, with and without water is like night and day for this whisky. By which I am not saying that one is good and one is bad – just that they are radically different in emphasis while still having slight reflections of the other in some circumstances.

Neat it is very sherried, from a plum aroma to a tannins and grapes filled body layered over honey sweetness. There are hints of green grapes as well as the more expected red grapes in the there, but generally it is heavy sherried spice added to the native speyside sweetness. Water releases that green fruit so it can come to the fore, still matched with speyside sweetness, now with the plums and raisins at the back as mere sherried hints.

Time lets the two sides come to a compromise – the sherry raisins, pepper and tannins merging with the clear vanilla toffee and green fruit to give a very satisfying and silky smooth whisky. The slight raw alcohol it has neat, while never heavy in the first place, now has completely vanished.

This is a very good example of both the wide range that different Speyside distilleries can bring, the range you can get from blending the malts, and the smooth package that such blending can result in. No real rough edges, but manages to keep a lot of the individual malts character, and give room for water experimentation. I’m impressed.

Background: The first age statement release of the Speyside blended malt from Douglas Laing – this one matured in sherry butts in its entirety. So far their blended malts have impressed me highly – generally keeping the smoothness of the blended malt, without completely losing the character that their malt components bring. This was another of the rarer releases that Independent Spirit had a minis, so I, of course, grabbed one while I could. Felt like some straight forwards metal for music while drinking after being more experimental recently – so went for Shadows Fall – Fear Will Drag You Down.


Douglas Laing: Timorous Beastie: 18 Year (Scottish Highland Blended Whisky: 18 Year: 46.8% ABV)

Visual: Clear pale yellow.

Viscosity: Fast thick streaks.

Nose: Madeira cake and plum pudding. Old sweet shops. Pear drops. Slight alcohol. Hard sugar coating. Water makes similar but with varnish like notes.

Body: Light front, with warming alcohol that builds in intensity quickly. Vanilla toffee and vanilla custard. Oak. Madeira. Lime jelly. Raisins. Water makes more caramel like, and adds red wine. Pears and pear drops.

Finish: Oak notes. Alcohol air. Madeira cake. Raspberry yogurt bits. Water adds sweet red wine. Raisins. Pear drops and slight varnish notes.

Conclusion: As someone who has really enjoyed the various Timorous Beastie takes I have tried recently, I am kind of split on this one. Some of this may be because of the first impressions you get on sipping. The age seems to give it a tad overly light front, but then a stronger than normal alcohol burn quickly rises to overwhelm it. So, when taken neat you only really get hints of the flavours that it may carry, too much burn, and no pay off for that burn. You get the idea there is a tale going on below that, but nowhere near the full story. You need to use some water to get some decent play from this.

So, onto trying with water then. Water does help, and there is more play from the flavours here with more sherried notes coming out in an understated but rewarding way. It matches red wine and raisin notes that feel sherry influenced to pear drop flavours that remind me of younger, cleaner spirit. However even with water it feels a tad rough, with a slight varnish like touch. Normally I can dig rough edges, as long as they give extra layers of complexity. This has a decent range of complexity, with fresh lime jelly sweetness and Madeira mixing, but doesn’t create something special that feels like a reward for the need to use the slight varnish like notes.

Now it has promise, but it seems either too light, or too varnish touched, depending on when you have it – it feels like the promise of this is delivered in their far superior, and excellent dram that is the 21 year sherry cask version, for which this feels like an inadequate replacement for that one’s vanishing.

So, this has lots of good notes – a nice mix of spirit influences, and nice use of sherry cask ageing, but has a few too many off notes to be great – odd, especially for a blended malt where usually they usually mix things to within an inch of the most smooth it can be.

Ok, but far from top bombing.

Background: This was grabbed in a mini from Independent Spirit – as before they have a bunch of rarer limited edition minis of the blended whisky range. I’ve been enjoying them a lot so far, so grabbed this one to give a try. I drank this post watching the piece of shit that is the Netflix adaptation of Death Notes, and I have to admit I think I was a bit distracted so these aren’t my best notes. Tried to tidy them up on write up before posting, hope they are ok.

Douglas Laing: Rock Oyster 18 Year (Scottish Island Blended Malt Whisky: 18 Year: 46.8% ABV)

Visual: Pale gold.

Viscosity: Slow thin streaks.

Nose: Wet rocks. Sherried raisins. Alcohol tingle. Sea breeze. Brown sugar. Salt. Water adds more grit.

Body: Very smooth but warming. Brown bread. Honey. Sour dough. Slightly light at the front. Quince. Dried mango. Water makes lightly medicinal. Vanilla. Apricot. Beef slices. Peach.

Finish: Salt. Sherried raisins. Crushed rock dust. Light peat smoke. Sour dough. Dried beef slices. Tart grapes. Very light liquorice. Water makes a lightly medicinal air. Vanilla. Orange crème.

Conclusion: This took a lot of examining before I felt happy writing this conclusion. By which I mean I spent time drinking whisky. Such hardship. Such pain. Still, it is a difficult one to sum up.

Initially it seemed simple enough; The rocky, slightly salty touched air that comes with Island whisky was there, but here matched by sweet sherry and raisin notes that enhances what is normally a quite clean character. As is to be expected it is nowhere near as harsh as the Islays, despite sharing a few notes, instead walking the line of sweet notes and salty island character well. Here it is slightly empty up front in its smoothness, despite slightly rocky character – it is impressive in what it matches together but not overly exciting.

Water changes it a little, time changes it more. Water adds an Islay medicinal touch together with vanilla notes – quite lightly done but recognisable – more harsh is the additional grit and rock notes added to it along with a hint of beef slices and peat. Time, well, time is what made me look at this again with new eyes. Soft creamy fruit from peach to orange comes out – carefully used sweet notes against the more medicinal character before. It gives a whole new rewarding layer that takes this from impressive in what it does, but not great, to a genuinely good experience.

As time goes on the more medicinal notes take the fore again, but by that point it has taken you on a worthwhile taste journey. Not an instant classic, but earns its keep.

Background: I enjoyed the Douglas Laing range a while back at a tasting at The Hideout, and since have been trying to grab examples to do notes on. This one is a bit special, being an 18 year old limited edition take on their standard Rock Oyster – the vatted malt made up of spirits from the varied Island distilleries. I found it at Independent Spirit as part of their range of miniatures – which makes it very easy to try, which is awesome. Drunk while listening to some Willy Mason – not listened to him for a while, but awesome gentle, but meaningful folk style music to sink into while enjoying whisky.

Douglas Laing: Timorous Beastie (Scottish Blended Malt Highland Whisky: 46.8% ABV)

Visual: Pale grain with greened edges.

Viscosity: Quite fast thick streaks.

Nose: Alcohol touch. Lime. Caramel. Orange crème. Hint of smoke. Dry raisins soaked in sherry. Water gives grain fields. Dry sherry. Red cherries.

Body: Slight beefy character. Slight alcohol air. Slight musty character. Malt chocolate. Raisins. Water adds light liquorice. Dry sherry. Light orange skin. Slightly vinous. Green grapes. Slightly waxy. Marzipan and almonds.

Finish: Dried beef. Slight raisins and fruitcake. Musty character. Water adds fruity red wine. Black cherry. More fruitcake and some Madeira cake. Slightly waxy. Slight sour grapes touch. Almonds. Light custard slices.

Conclusion: Ok, this is completely opposite to what I said in the “Big Peat” tasting, but this vatted malt is definitely better with water. Odd how these things work out.

Neat this is ok – it has a lot of evidence of dry sherry notes that show its oak ageing well. However despite that it is a bit closed – slightly dusty, musty and with some alcohol notes that – while not harsh – do seem to obscure the flavours a touch. Still not bad, but a sub optimal way of enjoying this whisky.

So, let’s add some water and concentrate on enjoying this the way it should be enjoyed! All hail the water! Now the sherry is definitely the core at the centre. Very evident, very fruitcake, raisins and cherry in the notes as you would expect. While not as awesome in this as the Sherry Cask 21 year Beastie, it is also far cheaper. Which does have a lot to say for it.

What I find very intriguing though is that this also has some of the odder edges that typified the 40 year old. Some of that unusual take on light tart gapes, some waxy texture to which it adds a similar, but distinct set of notes in a mix of light marzipan and almonds around the edges. All very light, lightly fresh notes around the sherried core. While they are fresher notes the intrinsically very dry sherry character of the core is what really shines through.

This is good – not quite enough to be called great – but good. A lot of depth and room for water, just not quite distinct enough to stand out. However a very solid, above average whisky.

Background: Another whisky I have run into a few times before – tried this at both an independent Spirit and a Hideout tasting over the years – neither time with my notebook with me. I also got to try the excellent 21 year Sherry Cask Timorous Beastie, and the 40 year at another of Independent Spirit‘s tasting. So, quite a history. Anyway, the self same Independent Spirit kindly provided this sample for me to do some notes on. Much appreciated. Anyway this was drunk while listening to Hate In The Box again – this time the “Under The Ice” album.

Douglas Laing: Big Peat (Islay Blended Malt: No age statement: 46% ABV)

Visual: Very pale grain touch and with hint of brackish green.

Viscosity: Very slow thin puckering.

Nose: Lightly medicinal but clean. Salt and moss. Light alcohol air. Peat smoke. Water makes slightly harsher medicinal but cleaner alcohol with more moss.

Body: Beef. Vanilla and toffee. Light chocolate to praline notes. Salt. Crushed nuts. Peat. Light alcohol air. Water makes smooth – caramel and fudge notes. More water makes slight golden syrup.

Finish: Peat smoke. Smoked beef slices. Light cherries. Chocolate. Salt. Lightly medicinal. Nutty. Water makes more beefy and peaty.

Conclusion: The odd thing I find with vatted malts is that, unlike single malts or standard blended whisky, they often can work best without water. It is a miracle! I guess since they have more room to design the exact nature of the whisky it may be easier to get just the balance they want.

Anyway, that is to say, this is a good whisky with water, but best tried neat.

This is, well – not a simple whisky, but a fairly straightforward whisky if you get the difference. It seems very clean, but despite that a typical Islay style on the aroma. Not heavily done, smooth as vatted malts often are, but balances the peat, salt and medicinal notes.

The body is the biggest difference from an Islay single malt – it is very sweet for an Islay. Most Islay have some sweetness, but this has a thicker toffee, caramel or even fudge character depending on the level of water used, and behind that some chocolate notes mixed in there. A much more solid base in the sweetness. From that the peat, beef smoke and salt that the Island is famous for seem much more well contrasted and a smoother experience because of that.

So, why do I say it should be drunk with no water? Well, without water it feels more intense and – despite the alcohol being slightly noticeable – it still seems less harsh in the medicinal notes that with a little water. Now, if you add a lot of water, rather than a little water, then it gains the caramel character and becomes very smooth indeed in all things, however that comes at the cost of a lot of what you came here for – the peat. So, yep, without water is the way for me.

Now, on that note, for something call Big Peat it is, well, moderate peat on the Islay scale. So, not one in you want it super intense and peaty. However as a smooth, balanced, sweet and peaty whisky it is very good. So, not as super intense as the name suggests but that does not make it bad in any way at all.

Background: Had a few run ins with this one, first at a tasting session at Independent Spirit, then a Douglas Laing tasting at The Hideout. I never had my tasting note kit on me though,I was going for more social nights out at the time. So now, finally I get to do my notes as Independent Spirit kindly donated a measure of it for doing some notes on. Many thanks. This is an Islay vatted malt made with Ardbeg, Caol Ila, Bowmore and the closed distillery Port Ellen whisky! It was drunk while listening to some Meshuggah – hard music for heavy peat. Also drunk after watching some new Doctor Who, so in a generally good frame of mind. Also, because we are childish, at the first tasting note we were amused by the idea of having some of Big Peat in our mouth. Also we were drinking, which may explain it. Also that works better when said rather than written down.

timorous-beastie-40-year

Douglas Laing: Timorous Beastie: 40 Year (Scottish Blended Malt Whisky: 40 Year: 54.7% ABV0

Visual: Custard gold.

Viscosity: Slow thick streaks.

Nose: Very floral. Slight menthol. Vanilla. Oily and waxy. Heather. Light smoke. Battenberg. Grapes. Cream soda. Water adds sour grapes and sulphur. Butterscotch.

Body: Grapes. Caramac sweet bars. Definite alcohol. White wine. Cream soda. Water makes more marshmallow front and citrus back. Apples in a calvados style comes out over time.

Finish: Strong alcohol. Gin. Elderberry. Grapes. Waxy. Cream soda. Drying. Tropical fruit and white chocolate. White wine. Water adds more grapes and a slight make spirit style fruitiness.

Conclusion: This is not what I expected of a 40 year old whisky, not at all. It has all the vibrancy of a young whisky – especially a fruitiness that hints to make spirit, but it is matched with a smooth character and a very white wine style character that speaks of its age. It even has a very unusual cream soda style side of sweetness. It matches very vinous notes with butterscotch and even a slight sharpness in the fruitiness in a way that is very rarely seen in whisky.

There are elements that range as wide, and are as unexpected as a waxy battenberg, a sharp butterscotch, and a vinous soda. Combinations of words that you would not expect to be seen together, even less so to work as well as they do. It is very distinct and different. Most old whiskies I try are good, but feel so smooth as to be understated – the strong abv of this means that it is still forceful in its odd complexity.

Water integrates the notes and smooths it out a lot, but it still keeps a slight sharpness – what gets brought out is more white chocolate and tropical fruit – really emphasising the bourbon ageing influence.

A spritzy, unusual, gin influenced, winey, butterscotch whisky. It feels like it has been influenced by far more spirits than it can possibly have been – white wine, grappa, gin, rakia, calvados. So many styles resulting in a whisky unlike any other. It does have slight rough edges at times of sourness and alcohol, but I have not seen many spirits this fascinating and unique. So, not the best, but unique and that earns it a heck of a place in itself.

Background: 300 whisky tasting notes! I actually had a bottle set aside for this, but ended up hitting the 300 at Independent Spirit‘s uber whisky tasting. A 40 year old blended malt is one well worth the 300 mark, so what a wonderful coincidence! Sorry the photo is a bit rubbish on this – I started drinking then realised I hadn’t done the photo yet so it is a bit hurried and half empty. My bad. As before as this was a social event with five different whiskies my notes may be shorter and more scattershot than normal but I do my best.

timorous-beastie-21-year-sherry-edition

Douglas Laing: Timorous Beastie: 21 Year Sherry Edition (Scottish Blended Malt Whisky: 21 Year: 46.8% ABV)

Visual: Dark gold.

Viscosity: Very slow thick streaks.

Nose: Strawberry yogurt. Blackcurrant. Moderate oak. Vanilla. Mince pies. Dry. Water adds dried apricot and stewed fruit notes. Treacle. Oily character. Later you get red wine, port and more blackcurrant.

Body: Strawberry. Lots of sherry. Dried spice. Thai 7 spice jars. Dry. Sultanas. Water makes sweeter and spice raisins.

Finish: Blueberry. Mince pies. Dry. Vanilla. Sultanas. Thai 7 spice. Water makes much more spicy. Slight marzipan. Red wine.

Conclusion: This is very sherried, emphasising the drier end of the spectrum as well. It seems sweeter on the nose than it actually turns out to be – on the aroma it promises almost strawberry yogurt kind of notes. However this sweetness doesn’t really penetrate the body. Instead you get darker fruit, mince pies, Christmas spices and dry wine – it gives quite the intense but not harsh character.

There are some light sweet notes – some vanilla, and some parts of the blueberry are sweet, but these elements are rounding ones, not the notes emphasised.

It is nice enough like that – a bit one note but I was enjoying it – water however brings out a slight stewed fruitiness that gives it that tiny hint extra sweetness it needs. Now it is very rewarding, balancing and giving a huge range of flavour within the sherry style.

Then if you give it just a bit of time it rewards you yet again – giving much more red wine and dark fruits amongst the suet mince pie dryness. It is a brilliant example of sherry work here, emphasising it to heavy degree without become so overpowered by it that it becomes one note and dull which can be a flaw on heavily sherried whisky.

It is just fruity enough to let that re-emphasise the dry spiciness. Very nice and complex. I heartily approve. As a vinous, fruity, drying and sherried whisky in equal measure this is a big one I have no hesitation in recommending if you can afford it.

Background: So, Independent Spirit did another one of their Uber whisky tastings – their last one was the first of their tastings I went to and was sensational, so of course I jumped on this one. This is the first of five whiskies had that night. As it was a social event, and due to having more whisky back to back than I normally do for notes these may be slightly shorter and more scattered notes that usual. I did my best for you all though. Kicked off big with a 21 year blended malt. Don’t think I have ever tried standard Timorous Beastie – however its existence led to me winning a pub quiz once as the image of the mouse on the front meant that I knew what animal the term refers to. See? Drinking is good for knowledge.

spencerfield-spirits-company-sheep-dip-blended-malt

Spencerfield Spirits Company: Sheep Dip: Blended Malt (Scottish Blended Malt Whisky: 40% ABV)

Visual: Deep gold.

Viscosity: Fast thick streaks.

Nose: Honey and peach. Smooth. Light alcohol. Smoke. Slight chalk. Water adds pencil shavings.

Body: Custard and peach. Honey. Rising peat and beef. Slight salt. Thin back. Smooth. Sweet grapes. Apricot. Water brings out more grapes.

Finish: Salt. Golden syrup. Slight smoke. Slight chalk. Slight malt drinks. Raisins and Madeira. Slight caramel. Water adds grapes.

Conclusion: Oh, so close. So very close. This has a lot going for it. Despite its heavy duty sounding name, the smoke and peat brought into play in this is carefully measured – subtlety adding to rather than overpowering the sweet smooth body. For the most part the emphasis is on the fruity, easy drinking body – with a few salty, peaty notes rounding it out. The sweet base does a lot to give enough flavour for this to work – a sweet mix from custard to caramel. So, decent amount of variety, balanced well.

So, what does it get wrong? Well it feels like it could do with a few more points of abv, or a thicker choice of whisky in it, just something to give it a bit more grip. Oddly enough, up front it actually has the grip – and up front is usually where things have their thin point. Instead, here it is the back end to finish that feels too light. Water adds a bit of green fruit, but keeps the slight lightness. The main change is the smoke feels a bit more present in the finish.

So, despite that flaw the flavour is well balanced for sipping, and it comes in at a decent price. The extra peat gives a different style to the usual sipping whisky, without harming the ease of drinking.

So, a bit light but not bad all things considered.

Background: Second of the two pack of Spencerfield Spirits Company whiskies I picked up recently – this one the blended malt of the batch – made up of 16 different single malts. This was grabbed from Independent Spirit before Christmas, and drunk while listening to even more music from Grimes. Yes I am listening to her a lot. Good stuff. Not much more to say, mainly grabbed as I keep an eye out for decent whiskies that are on the cheaper end of the spectrum. Prices are going up a lot these days.

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