Distillery Bottlings

Posted 19 June 2020

Even in times of restrictive upheaval, new business opportunities emerge. As it is now, when whisky clubs and producers have seized their captive audience and sent out more Zoom invites than any single liver could cope with. As it was then, when the 1920-1933 prohibition of alcohol in the United States destroyed some brands but opened the door for others. Cutty Sark was a new brand created in 1923 so it was considered less likely to be counterfeited than the established likes of Johnnie Walker and Chivas Regal. The story goes that it benefitted from the seal of approval of its importer Bill ‘Real’ McCoy. This enabled the brand to grow even while it was prohibited.

Posted 22 January 2020

There’s a little excitement today at Dramble Towers as we’ve reached the dizzyingly heights of our 1000th review. You’ve likely noticed already that we’re not going to be celebrating this milestone in quite the same way that most whisky sites would approach it. No legendary bottlings, no unobtainium liquid – not even an expensive snow globe that we’ll dare to open up, contrary to its secondary market ‘value’. Nope. For our 1000th review I’ve decided to go back to where it all began for me – not the first whisky I ever tried (that moment is lost to the annuls of time), but certainly the first whisky that I remember trying. And thinking about. The whisky which started me on my path to wider malt appreciation and exploration. A significant moment and with a salutary lesson attached – it’s important to always remember our whisky roots.

Posted 21 July 2017

Chivas Regal Scotch is big business - you'll see it simply everywhere. Even some of my non-whisky drinking friends own a bottle in amoungst their oft-times unusual booze cupboards. It's therefore no surprise that its the market leading Scotch, aged 12 year and above, across both Europe and Asia Pacific. The 18 year old 'Gold Signature is a blend of over 20 single malts and grains from across Scotland - a large portion of the blend coming from Strathisla distillery in Speyside, which Chivas Brothers purchased in 1950.

Posted 09 April 2018

Ballantine’s is the world’s second best-selling Scotch whisky (Johnnie Walker holding the top spot for many a year). Established in 1827 by George Ballantine, the blend is comprised of 50 single malts, and four grain whiskies, but draws its flavour profile primarily from Speysiders Glenburgie and Miltonduff. Currently owned by big boy Pernod Ricard, the core range of expressions is quite broad, covering NAS’s ‘Finest’ and ‘Limited’ and then extending from 12 years of age all the way to 40 with a fair few pit stops on the way.

Posted 30 April 2018

Chivas’s Royal Salute 21 year old has been around for quite some time – 1953 to be precise. Introduced to commemorate Queen Elizabeth II’s coronation, the name derives from a gun salute – a barrage of cannons or artillery fired as a military honour. The ‘basic’ salute is 21 rounds (which ties rather nicely to the age of this particular whisky) fired at 10 second intervals. Though in certain locations (Royal Parks, London’s Tower of London etc) extra rounds are fired, meaning that for something as significant as a royal coronation, both 41 and 62 gun salutes would take place. Earplugs at the ready.

Posted 24 May 2018

The Antiquary 21 year old is a primarily a blend of Speyside and Highland whiskies (and being owned by Tomatin, no prizes for guessing one of the big constituents – 30% I’ve read) with a dash of something smoky from Islay to make up a total malt content of over 50%. The remaining half of the blend comes from a selection of grain whiskies. It’s bottled at 43% ABV and costs around £80.

Posted 27 June 2017

In 2015 William Grant & Sons launched the travel retail 'House of Hazelwood' series of blended whiskies. The three age-statement blends were inspired by the life of Grant family member Janet Sheed Roberts who lived in 'Hazelwood House', an art deco property close to Glenfiddich distillery. The bottles were designed to not only celebrate the life of Sheed Roberts, but also to hark back to the 1920's which was both a peak for Scotch drinking and the time when fashion and design entered the modern era.

Posted 24 May 2018

The limited edition Antiquary 35 year old was launched in September 2015. Just 800 bottles of this very well aged whisky were produced at an RRP of £300 – which you’ll still be able to find as of writing. A little research suggests that this blend might just have two components – 50% Tomatin single malt, 50% Girvan single grain – though take that with a pinch of salt – the Internet rarely being the font of 100% accurate knowledge. Nevertheless, there is one thing which I can tell you with absolute confidence – this whisky demands that you rest it. Those with patience will be justly rewarded.

Independent Bottlings

Atom Brands

Posted 13 July 2020

Throughout the wider, less educated (I.E. ‘normal people’) world, peat smoke and Scotch whisky is synonymous. Whilst only a mere faction of the overall whisky output of the country *is* actually peated, perceptions can be both a boon or a buggerance. You don’t have to travel all that far to find this inaccuracy being spouted first-hand – often as a means to artificially define a sector which is already quite well-defined thank you very much. Nevertheless this false opinion persists – and brings with it all manner of expectations not only on flavour profiles, but on pricing.

Posted 03 January 2019

Blends are the oil that keeps the wheels of the whisky industry turning – responsible for more global sales than single malts several times over. But, that doesn’t mean that all blended whisky need be boring bottom shelf glass filler, and The Blended Whisky Company spends its time trying to prove that blended whisky can be greater than the sum of its parts.

Berry Brothers

Posted 27 February 2020

The world outside of enthusiast circles still often views blending with something of an upturned nose. There’s a lack of knowledge, and to some degree a lack of education around what is and what isn’t blending. On a base level, all but single cask releases are indeed something of a blend – the often rolled out adage of “I don’t like anything that’s been blended – just single malts” simply doesn’t hold any water, let alone any whisky. Long held misconceptions can be hard to unpick. But on the flip side, there are instances when blending takes on forms which are outside of the conventional norms even for most whisky lovers. Blending aged stock is one thing – blending from birth is quite another.


Posted 16 October 2020

Mystery blended malt that’s been matured in a sherry butt for the best part of two decades. Rather good value at £79.95 from TWE.


Posted 21 November 2017

The annual circus that is Diageo’s Special Releases always gets people talking. Now into its 16th year, whisky enthusiasts are greeted with a Brora and Port Ellen that both cost the price of a second hand car, a selection of other expressions from Diageo-owned distilleries often at higher ages and therefore eye-watering prices, and a slightly more affordable Caol Ila and Lagavulin. There’s also oft-times something a little bit left-field included in the selection. 2017’s oddball bottling is Collectivum XXVIII, the first time a blended malt has appeared in the Special Releases and composed from whisky taken from each of Diageo’s 28 currently active distilleries.

Posted 23 October 2017

Unless you’ve already moved to the Off-World colonies, you’ll probably be aware of a little low-budget film called Blade Runner 2049. The acid rain soaked world of Blade Runner has long been associated with both high rise neon branding, and booze – after a hard day of retiring replicants, what better way to unwind than to imbibe for some product-placed Johnnie Walker Black Label? Deckard reached for the Black Label in the 1982 original – served in a stunningly designed, weighty, but completely impractical glass designed by Cini Boeri, and, of course accompanied by some sultry Vangelis on sax. Well it’s now 2049 and rest assured, Diageo haven’t missed a marketing opportunity.

Posted 13 November 2018

By-the-by I have few problems with marketing tie-ins. They’re largely harmless (often tenuous) attempts to raise the visibility of a brand or to try to sell you pizza whilst you watch Chester-set soap opera buffoonery. The world of whisky is no stranger to tie-ins -many a golf tournament has had an official bottling produced for it. Powerhouse Diageo have chosen the big and small screens for several of their recent tie-in products – from 2017’s Blade Runner 2049 inspired Johnnie Walker Black Label Director’s Cut, to this year’s extensive Game of Thrones partnership. Fortunately, due to a range of sensible advertising laws, we’re unlikely to see a 2020 celebratory bottle of Cbeebies Brora the Explorer.

Douglas Laing

Posted 20 April 2018

Something strange has happened over the last couple of days. The sun, that much elusive celestial body (at least to the British) has decided to make an early appearance. Only a few weeks ago, parts of the country were under a thick layer of snowmageddon, and much of the rail infrastructure had gone in its oh so predictable ‘adverse conditions’ week-long coffee break.  Spring appears to be entirely missing in action – it’s positively summery - plants and animals are not doubt starting to look a touch confused – “…do we come out now, or are you just tricking us?” I sadly suspect the latter, but, regardless this early tease of warmth has made for ideal conditions for a summer sipper - queue Douglas Laing’s Epicurean.

Posted 03 February 2020

Have you heard the blended whisky musical metaphor? It goes that single malts are soloists who spend most of their time working together in a blended whisky orchestra. The idea is that master blenders are like great composers, creating blends that like orchestras are greater than the sum of their parts. Whisky shop shelves are full of solo artists and orchestras – single malts and blended brands. Where, though, are the whisky equivalents of bands, groups, and duos?

Posted 20 August 2018

Timorous Beastie’s older brother was released by Douglas Laing towards the end of 2016. The blended components hail from Blair Athol, Dalmore, Glengoyne and Glen Garioch (which I believe is the same constituents as both the NAS and 18 year old versions) and are delivered at a high strength of 54.7% ABV. Big numbers on whisky bottles always tends to open eyes, and with an RRP of £200 you can probably guess how quickly this bottle sold out - much faster than the 8mph average speed of a house mouse.

Elixir Distillers

Posted 25 July 2018

Whilst the Elements of Islay range was introduced in 2008, it was not until 2016 that the series expanded to include a blended malt – simply titled ‘Peat’. Initially bottled at a higher strength (‘Full Proof’), the ‘Pure Islay’ edition was released shortly after at a lower ABV of 45%. Peat Pure Islay is still bottled in the 50cl chemical flask style glassware that the Elements range is known for, but with the alcohol reduced down it allows those that prefer an ABV closer to golden strength the opportunity to explore the series sole blended expression. It’s priced at £29.95 and is currently available from the Whisky Exchange with some neat label personalisation for no additional charge.

Posted 24 January 2020

The whisky industry’s use of sherry casks goes back to an age before even our grandparents were born. Their use being a factor of the economic realities of time, as much as for the flavours the would imbue into Scotch whisky. And yet, the combination of natural, elemental peat smoke with juicy, rich, sweet sherry has endured as an extremely popular style in its own right since. Sit down at any gathering of enthusiasts and I guarantee you there will be some form of split between peat-heads and sherry-monsters. And yet, present both of these groups with something drawn from right out the middle of their flavour preferences and you’ll likely find fans willing to cross the divide.

Posted 25 July 2018

The Elements of Islay range focusses on showcasing cask strength single malt whiskies from across Islay’s distillers – at least, it did until 2016 when the first blended malt ‘Peat’ was introduced – effectively forming a blended core range of permanently available expressions. Bottled ‘Full Proof’ (avoiding any issues around the changed SWA definition of cask strength), Peat clocks in at a very pokey 59.3% - so, whilst it was the series’ first blended expression, the high strength of the previous single cask releases was still maintained though into Peat. The whisky is drawn ‘from across the island’ – I.E. you’re going to have guess which Islay distilleries have been utilised in this blend – for my money, I’d be looking to the North East of the island. Each batch is made up of a vatting of around 60 casks  - with the resulting 50cl bottles being available from the Whisky Exchange for £38.95.

Gleaan Mor

Posted 22 November 2019

It’s a jungle out there. The number of new independent bottlers is growing exponentially. Every person and their dog seems to want to give the independent bottling lark a crack – there’s certainly money to be made. But I wonder how many of these newer bottlers are going to last the distance. There’s countless knackered casks out there ready to be snapped up by an unsuspecting and ill-educated fledgling bottler – and it doesn’t take too many duff releases for reputations to be set across the minds of consumers. But, thinking more widely about the independent bottling world, it is sometimes not just the liquid quality which defines a bottlers fate – visibility in a particularly crowded marketplace is vital.

Malts of Scotland

Posted 13 May 2019

As the French novelist Gustave Flaubert (author of Madame Bovary in case you were wondering) once wrote – “There is no truth. There is only perception.” Value is in the eye of the beholder – as consumers we evaluate the merits of a product or service based on its ability to meet our needs and expectations, as compared with its peers. Any concept of value is an entirely personal assessment – open to variance, open to discussion. Not fixed in stone. Nor fixed in time. We purchase ‘stuff’ because a products’ proposition (which includes the price) aligns to our individual perceptions of value, worth and importance.

Murray McDavid

Posted 05 June 2017

Whilst the Coleburn Distillery in Elgin was closed in 1985 the site is not as silent as some forgotten distilleries. Independent bottler Murray McDavid have turned the distillery into their HQ and still use the Victorian dunnage warehouses to mature their growing stock of malt whisky. According to their website there is currently over ninety single cask and single grain whiskies slumbering up at Coleburn. Today, we're in effect looking at several of them at the same time - as its time for a blend review in the form of the Bodach Aislig 35 year old.

North Star Spirits

Posted 31 March 2020

The British apparently spend nine months of their lives bargain-hunting. That equates to two hours a week, or four days and 8 hours a year, spent solely in pursuit of a good deal. I’d posit that this figure is likely much higher for whisky enthusiasts – hours whiled away searching through auction listings (where bargains are now far rarer than they used to be), days spent scouring online retailers for discounted or end of line listings – or even just the tease of free shipping. It’s an entirely predictable thing – for some people, it’s simply the love of the chase. But, for others, hunting out the next deal is likely a far stronger addiction.

North Star Spirits

Posted 13 August 2018

Independent bottler North Star Spirits have not been on the block all that long, but have already made plenty of waves in the whisky world. Founded by Iain Croucher (formerly AD Rattray’s Brand Ambassador) in 2016, North Star have released several batches (35 bottles and counting) of well-regarded single malts, single grains and blends. The company’s ‘Vega’ blended malt series launched last year with a 23 year old that had many of my fellow writers and bloggers noting not only the quality of the liquid, but also the highly reasonable asking price. Few were prepared for what Iain had in store for the second edition.


Posted 23 October 2019

Whenever someone asks me for my top tips for writing about whisky I always offer up the same advice - research, integrity and passion. To my mind, these tenets should hold true no matter the topic of writing. Putting in the ground work, ensuring a fair and balanced view, and writing in a manner which shows the reader that you care. But what about style? What about flair you ask? Well, those comes later. And they take practice.

Pernod Ricard

Posted 24 January 2018

Towards the latter part of 2016 Chivas produced their very first blended malt (i.e. a marriage of single malts from different distilleries, but without the addition of a grain element) in the form of Chivas Regal Ultis. Ultis is presented in a snazzy bottle, housed in a snazzy box and has some snazzy marketing behind it - a story of the five master blenders who have preserved the Chivas house style since 1909.

Scotch Malt Whisky Society

Posted 01 September 2017

The Single Malt Whisky Society has seen more change in 2017 than in any other year since its creation. At the start of 2017 came a complete brand overhaul, then, over the summer, new single cask spirits (gin, cognac and rum) were released, widening the Society’s brief into what they describe as ‘the finer things in life’. Then there was whisky ice-cream – it’s delicious you should try it. Now, the SMWS has decided to risk cries of sacrilege by introducing their first blended malt – Exotic Cargo.

Posted 09 August 2019

There’s a growing symbiotic relationship in whisky which is extending outside of the bounds of the industry itself. We’re all aware of the connection between the US bourbon industry and the Scottish malt whisky industry – the former using fresh barrels once, the latter requiring a constant source of pre-seasoned wood for a number of fills and refills. A perfect rapport. But, there’s another type of cooperation which is growing in both significance and occurrence - cask sharing.


Posted 07 October 2020

Last year saw a confounding number of self-proclaimed authorities on parliamentary practice. 2020 has revealed a staggering number of armchair epidemiology and virology experts. But rest assured dear readers, since time immemorial, everyone and anyone has believed that they can ‘do marketing’. Its genesis can be traced back to antiquity, and its early professional practice was solidified during the time of the industrial revolution. Unlike some career functions, marketing is everywhere you look – both inside and outside of your workplaces.  And this ubiquity has resulted in everyone thinking they’re a marketeer – particularly now, in an interconnected world that has provided us with the platforms, tools and voice to freely share our opinions. But as the whisky world can regularly attest to – turning hype into hyperventilation is still a skilful endeavour.

That Boutique-y Whisky Company

Posted 17 December 2017

Day 16 in the Boutique-y Advent calendar offers us a slightly mysterious 6 year old blended malt. The label indicates that once again we’re into teaspoon territory (so a blend only in technicality), and the scene of Time Square in New York offers us sights of many other Boutique-y labels both past and present. I wonder if this cask has been ‘spooned’ with a tiny selection from across many different Boutique-y bottlings? Part of the fun of these bottlings is working out the visual label codes! Our blended malt is a 6 year old and is bottled at 53.6% ABV.

Posted 14 December 2018

Blended Malt #4 6 year old Batch 1 is the only whisky in the 2018 Boutique-y Advent calendar to have been recycled from last year’s edition. Far from shabby – there’s 23 new bottles of liquid joy for anyone who’s coming back for a second year. But, of all the drams to reuse it pains me that it’s this one - I seem to have developed an inescapable relationship with my lowest scoring Boutique-y whisky.

Posted 09 December 2019

Adding a tiny amount of single malt whisky from one distillery to a cask of single malt from another distillery means it is no longer 100% one thing or another – and technically now a blended malt. But, if you think about it, any whisky that’s come from a refilled cask is going to contain elements of its precursor liquid. On the one hand we have distilleries dumping whole bottles of sherry into tired casks to ‘season’ them, and still being able to label and sell the result as a single malt. On the other, adding a few centilitres of 'foreign' single malt means the whisky is now legally a different thing altogether. But, of these two examples which do you think will have changed the underlying profile of the whisky the most?

Posted 10 December 2019

I’m still surprised by how many people turn their noses up at blended whiskies. Not only are blends the oil that keeps the wheels of the whisky industry turning (selling more than single malts globally many times over), but they’re oft-times far from boring bottom shelf glass filler. Any yet, adding grain into malt still always seems to turns off a certain constituent. Baffling snobbishness in my view – there’s more than enough exceedingly high quality blended whisky to win over any waverers should they really want to waver. Nevertheless, the art of blending is far from well understood, even by the folks who do enjoy the broad diversity of styles that whisky has to offer.

Posted 11 December 2017

Boutique-y have a well-aged blend for us behind door number 10 in their 2017 Advent calendar in the form of their Blended Whisky #1 35 year old Batch 3. Bottled at 46.5% this one sold out in no time at all.

Posted 22 December 2017

On to door number 21 in the Boutique-y Advent calendar and some rarely seen 50 year old grain – in the form of Boutique-y’s yet to be released Blended Grain No.1 50 year old Batch 1. No specific information is given on which distilleries outputs are involved in this blend, but our label is adorned with a coconut laden tall ship and seagulls who’s bodies have been replaced with a wide variety of fruits. As you do. Let’s get stuck in…

Posted 27 December 2017

Merry Christmas and seasons greetings to all! We hope you have a wonderful festive break and find plenty of time for drams and laughs with your family and friends. So, here we are, the final day of the Boutique-y Advent calendar and it's actually a bottle we've previously reviewed on The Dramble. So whilst we put our feet up for a few days, here's our thoughts (unedited from before) on a very old blended Scotch.

Wemyss Malts

Posted 26 October 2017

Treacle Chest is a blend of two unspecified Highland single malts that have matured in fourteen 1st fill ex-sherry hogsheads. It’s bottled non-chill filtered, naturally coloured and at an ABV of 46%. 6,300 bottles were produced and it’s available for a shy under £47 from Master of Malt.

Posted 26 October 2017

Vanilla Burst is a blend of two unspecified Speyside single malts that have matured in fifteen 1st fill ex-bourbon barrels. It’s bottled non-chill filtered, naturally coloured and at an ABV of 46%. 4,800 bottles were produced and it’s available for a shy over £43 from Master of Malt.

Whisky Exchange

Posted 25 September 2019

If you’ve been following the independent bottling scene over the last couple of years (particularly on the European side) you’ll have likely observed a number of well-aged blended malts (often from a base of Edrington malts) hailing from 1973. This Whisky Show exclusive bottling sounds immediately like one of these well-regarded expressions – however, its UV light reveal highlights a different journey. The component malts (of an unspecified number, but hailing from Speyside) were matured separately until 2005, and then married (in Glasgow it says in glowing fluorescent light) in a single refill sherry butt (#6) for an impressively long finishing period.

Whyte & Mackay

Posted 29 July 2020

“Nothing lasts forever, so live it up, drink it down, laugh it off, avoid the drama, take chances & never have regrets, because at one point everything you did was exactly what you wanted.” – Marilyn Monroe

Posted 28 September 2020

Grain whisky is underappreciated, under-valued and often misunderstood. Despite a total lack of education into what grain whisky is, and what grain whisky isn’t – the common or garden consumer is likely to have already formed an opinion on this much maligned of categories. And, it’s a mark of the success of “single malt” marketing that despite an absence of knowledge, folks will still readily proclaim grain whisky as a to be avoided ‘additive’ to their precious single malts. And yet offer these same folks a renowned wheat whisk(e)y or high percentage corn-based product and the penny almost never drops.



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