Let’s close the month with a Scotch whisky that is neither a single malt nor a blend. Yes, it’s in everybody’s favourite confusingly named category: blended malt whisky! Once known more clearly as “vatted whisky”, this category comprises vattings of malt (but no grain) whiskies from more than one distillery. There’s not very many of these out there from big name producers—William Grant & Sons’ Monkey Shoulder comes to mind, as does Diageo’s Green Label. Otherwise, this category is mostly the province of people like the bespoke suit-clad gents at Compass Box. This Glencoe 8 is a product of the owners of Ben Nevis and it’s barely a blended/vatted malt. The story seems to be that it is made up of malt from Ben Nevis and one other distillery (which one? I don’t know). The even more unusual things about are its age statement, proof and price. Normally you’d expect a distillery to dilute something like this down well below 50%, swap out the age statement for words such as “Reserve”, “Select”, “Pride” or something in Gaelic and sell it for a very high price. Good on the Ben Nevis brain trust for not doing any of those things. Well, that last part is true in the UK where this goes for £40 or so; the few listings I found for the US were closer to $100. This sample comes from a bottle released a couple of years ago with a label different from the current iteration—which is in line with the new Ben Nevis house label; the whisky in the bottle itself has apparently not changed. But what is that whisky in the bottle like?
Glencoe 8 (58%; from a sample from a friend)
Nose: Big Ben Nevis nose with malt, powdered ginger and old-school medicine bottle rubber gasket (yes, I know). Some raisiny sherry below which begins to edge soon towards yeasty, dry, more fino-like notes. With a bit more time there’s more of the raisins, a bit of caramel—but the dry notes are still there too. With a few drops of water it gets fruitier with ripe pineapple and makrut lime.
Palate: As indicated by the nose—a little sweeter at first but the yeasty malt comes swirling up from below. There’s a hint of sherry separation off the top but it comes together as I swallow. Pretty hot at full strength but approachable. Let’s see if it mellows with time. Saltier with each sip and the whole remains pretty dry. Not much change with time. Okay, let’s see what water does. The yeast/dry notes back off some with water here too but it’s not as fruity.
Finish: Medium. The malt/yeast combo is the top note here as well. As on the palate with water.
Comments: Well, I don;t know what else is in here but it is hard for me to tell it apart from regular Ben Nevis single malt. I’d guess it’s the predominant component of the vatting by far. Now given how much I like recent Ben Nevis this would seem to be a good thing but neat, it’s the yeasty side of Ben Nevis that dominates here. Water makes the nose much more interesting but doesn’t do as much for the palate.
Rating: 82 points.
Thanks to Michael for the sample. You can read his review here.