Old Blends: Haig & Haig 8, Five Star

Following last week’s old Haig & Haig 12, here is a Haig & Haig 8 yo that is four years younger but may have been released half a decade earlier. Again, I know very little about these old blends and can therefore tell you very little about their antecedents or history. My interest is only in seeing, in the aggregate, what the qualities of whiskies from earlier eras were like. I’m not likely to have much chance to taste single malts released in the 1940s and 1950s, so samples of these old blends are pretty much my only window to the era. It’s true that with many decades spent sitting in bottles—plus the uncertainties of storage—there’s no guarantee that what we are tasting now is very close to what these whiskies were like when consumed upon release, but there’s no solving that conundrum. My limited sample size does suggest, however, that whisky drinkers of the mid-century (synonymous then with blend drinkers) drank much better than current blend drinkers, and that there was much more peat, and likely much more malt whisky in blends of that era. That said, I didn’t like the Haig & Haig 12 quite as much as some of the other old blends I’ve reviewed but I did like it. Let’s see what this 8 year old is like. 

Haig & Haig 8, Five Star (43.4%; 1940s release; from a bottle split)

Nose: None of the rubber that was in the 12 yo and it’s not as intensely malty either. Instead, there’s some prickly smoke and some cream; a hint of lemon too. Get smokier (a dry smoke, reminiscent of contemporary Caol Ila) and more lemony with time. With more time still the citrus moves from lemon to orange. Water pushes the fruit back.

Palate: A damped down version of the nose: that is to say, dry smoke, some citrus. The texture is a bit thin. Smokier still with time but no other development as such. Water brings out more of the cream and some milky cocoa and some oaky bite.

Finish: Medium-long. The smoke is the main story here. Not much change here with water but the finish gets longer.

Comments: Not as interesting as the 12 yo but also has fewer off-notes. I think I’d score them about the same. This seems to me to be in the territory of current Johnnie Walker Black. As such, an interesting piece of history but not really a style of blended whisky that’s not around anymore—though it obviously has a much larger malt component than contemporary blends.

Rating: 84 points.

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