Bottle Name: Blended Malt No.1 18 Year Old Batch 3
ABV: 47.3% Bottler: That Boutique-y Whisky Company Age: 18
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?
Over the last decade, teaspooning has often been adopted by marketeers as something new and interesting to promote (as has pretty much anything and everything), but its actual origins lie in the historic trading of blending liquid and the protection of what distilleries see as their character. In essence – inhibiting independent bottlers ability to distribute whiskies which distilleries feel are not necessarily indicative of their brands. Its not neccessarily fancy - more a facet of the realities of selling bulk liquid.
You can totally understand why a distillery would want to control the customers perceptions of the quality and spirit character of their liquid. Blending single malt 'X' directly with single malt 'Y' is fundamentally different to maturing single malt 'X' in casks previous utilised to mature single malt 'Y'. Whilst the processes of blending/vatting and maturation are, of course, different - the resulting combined flavour profiles might not actually be poles apart. But, only one can be legally labelled a single malt. Rules be rules.
Door number 14 of the 2020 Boutique-y Advent calendar offers up one of the bottlers semi-regular teaspooned blended malts in the form of #1 18 year old Batch 3. There’s no obvious hints on the label as to the primary single malt – just cheering crowds all hailing a giant halo-wearing spoon in scenes somewhat reminiscent of the Statue of Christ the Redeemer. But word on the street seems to be pointing to Burnside - one of my favourite teaspooned malts. The expression is a release of 1,049 bottles (so a vatting of 3/4 casks) bottled at an ABV of 47.3%. They can be acquired from Master of Malt for £64.95 a pop.
Nose: Pear drops, pear juice and pear tart tatin (there’s a theme here) sit alongside barley water, golden syrup and honey – some immediate cues for the weight of the distillate. Sultanas and malt loaf emerge, backed-up by toasted almonds and freshly baked bread. Further development through a short period of resting reveals a leafy quality, alongside tree resin, and a scattering of orange peels. The addition of water initially makes things less expressive, losing coherence – however this is restored in time with cake-like qualities of sponge and lemon zest.
Taste: Soft and syrupy on the arrival – more pears and golden syrup and then milk chocolate, pain aux chocolate, brioche and tart cases. Spicing perks through in the mid-palate with crystalline ginger and pepperiness alongside tart red apples, burnt pan sugars and oaked toffee. Running throughout – gentle polished tables and bright peels. Reduction, similarly to the nose lowers definition, and requires a few minutes for the liquid to unravel fully – then tinned juicy fruit salad, cream buns and lemon balm.
Finish: Medium with well-judged souring fruits, pepperiness and a scattering of coffee grounds.
Blended Malt #1 18 year old Batch 3 seems initially somewhat hydrophobic – however, with a modicum of patience it quickly becomes apparent that the spirit is simply a little taut and requires the nurturing of time. Both neat and reduced (after resting) this offers plenty of intrigue, with a changing profile in the glass as it oxygenates and estery-forward aromas and flavours throughout. All rather enjoyable.
For Sorren's thoughts on spooning head over to OCD Whisky
N.B. This piece was posted on the 9th December 2019 as part of last year's Dramble Advent rundown. It remains largely as it was originally written.
Review calendar provided by Atom Brands.
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