A few months ago when it was much cooler, and one could drink whisky without the need of A/C 24 hours a day, The whisky Israel tasting society convened for an evening of Bring your own whiskies. The Theme was Blended Malts (Or Vatted Malts like we used to call them before the SWA messed things up). Each brought a bottle, and thanks to our host Raviv, we sat down for a nice evening of whisky and cheeses. Some of the whiskies were new to me and some I’ve had on previous occasions, but its always nice to return to a dram and compare it to others in a different context, right?
We decided to go with the Nikka Black, an entry level blended malt from Nikka. I know that the Nikka white is supposed to be blended with peated scotch whisky, but this one apparently has no peat whatsoever.It’s Blended since it contains whisky from Nikka’s Yoichi and Miyagikyo distilleries.
Nose: Fruity, and a little woody with a bit of orange zest,vanilla and butterscotch.
Palate: Cumin powder(I know this sounds odd), followed by pepper, vanilla and spicy wood.
Finish:Medium on Malty notes and fruit.
Not a bad dram,but nothing extraordinary. I know Jim Murray scored this one at the 90’s but In my opinion it’s in the lower 80’s. Nothing exciting, but well made.
Next came Monkey Shoulder. A Blended malt from William Grant and containing malt from its distilleries (guess which…). Monkey shoulder is the name given to a temporary injury suffered by the malt men when turning the barley by hand. Today most distilleries do not do their malting, but some still do so…
Nose: This one has a great nose! with a lot of vanilla, pears, sweet malty goodness, wood spices and a dash of Cinnamon.
Palate: The palate is a bit rough in my opinion : It’s quite malty, creamy but not very complex, and is a bit of a let down after the promising nose.
Finish: Bitter wood and some mint.
At this price it offers a great nose with a mediocre palate. Bottle presentation with the little monkeys is also cool. But, it’s not one of my Favorites.
The next malt was completely new to me, and I must say I have not even heard about this one. It’s available mostly in South Africa, where my friend Richard picked it up on one of his many business trips to the black continent. Made from Highland Park, Glenrothes, Bunnahabhain and Tamdhu and winner of the 2005 San Francisco World Spirits Competition, it shows great promise.
Nose: Very nice! A lot of toffee the Werthers Original candy kind of, very rich with some fruit: mainly Apricot. Add sprinkle of spice, wee honey and traces of sherry and you’ve got yourself a winner here.
Palate: Spicy stuff! pepper, some bitter espresso, with earthy notes and a lot of sherry influence on the 2nd wave of flavors.
Finish: Pepper, Sherry, and dried fruits. Medium long.
The best of the bunch so far, and winner of the best Blended malt of the evening. I really liked this one, and It’s a shame the price is so high. I know It cost much less, and surely it’s not cheap at over 90 quid for a 0.5 L bottle. but, Top quality.
The next whisky was from the well known and famous: The famous grouse. at 18 years of age, it contains only malt whiskies at least 18 years of age.
Nose: Big Sherry. Very Macallan-esque with butter and toffee on top.
Palate: The palate is also influenced by sherry , dried fruit, and some malt and spice. It’s not very impressive, but nice.
Finish: Dried fruit and cocoa.
A nice daily dram, but not over complex, and for malts aged 18 years one would expect a little more.
Off to the Sheep dip 1990 , one whisky I was looking forward to trying. This lovely whisky contains malts from : Ardbeg, Dalmore and Fettercairn, which are then married for 10 years in first fill casks. What an interesting combination. And at last, some peat influence in our blended malts.
Nose: A lovely combo of peat smoke, sherry goodness, and malty backbone. the peat is gentle (like the 25 year old Ardbeg that Is supposed to be inside) and I not overpowering, but gives this a lovely touch.
Palate: Peat up front, Caramel, and wood spices, with touches of blood oranges, some sherry influence and wood. The Ardbeg coexists very nicely with the Fettercairn and Dalmore. A holy trinity.
Finish:Ash, Sweet sherry, and dark chocolate.
An Ace. Head to head with the Rich and spicy one. I really really liked this one. Good stuff, and too bad it’s not easy to come by today , all gone from major online whisky shops.
At this stage we made a wee detour to taste two single malts. The first the Royal Lochnagar DE, and the second the new Laphraoig PX cask which I reviewed a few weeks ago. And after tasting those two, it was clear to me I better not try any more that evening as I had to drive back home and it was quite late by then too… The Big peat I brought I’ve tasted previously and the Black Face I’ve also tasted before, and preferred to skip that one (It’s ok, but not great as you can expect). So, notes about those in future posts.
A very enjoyable evening all in all, with two big winners. The Sheep Dip, for those who love a bit of peat in their whisky, which was excellent, and the surprise of the night: the Rich and spicy one. What a great little whisky that one is. Blended whiskies rock, and you should give them a try. Don’t be a single malt snob! blended malts and belnded whisky in general can be great!