Here is a review of the only bottle of very old whisky I have ever owned and very likely will ever own. By “very old” I don’t mean length of maturation but era of distillation. As per people who know far more than me about this sort of thing, this bottle of White Horse was released sometime between the mid-1950s and very early 1960s and probably in the late 1950s. I don’t know how this provenance is established and am only very slightly interested. In the EU bottles like this one circulate regularly–or did anyhow—at auction. How did I come into possession of this bottle, living in the US? Well, about five years ago a friend visiting in Israel emailed me saying he’d come across this bottle at his in-laws’ home and asking if it might be worth anything at auction. I made some inquiries and told him what the likely range of prices might be. It then transpired that in transporting the bottle from Israel to Berlin—his next stop—there had been some leakage resulting in the label coming a bit loose. All of this, I advised him, would probably drive the auction price down. His own interest in pursuing the auction market had dimmed at this point and he ended up offering it to me at the low end of the auction prices I’d initially given him—with a further discount once even more of the whisky leaked on its way to the US in his suitcase. I then wrapped the the spring cap up tightly and, as is my wont, forgot about it for a few years. I think the initial plan had been to save it for an unspecified special occasion. As I’ve noted before, during the pandemic I revised my definition of “special occasions” to now include almost any given day. And so about two months ago I decided to open it to mark the end of term. Here now are my notes. Continue reading
Tag Archives: Blended
Ambassador 25 yo, Blend
This week’s reviews are all of blends of one kind of the other. Monday featured the Campbeltown cask from the Edinburgh Cadenhead store from April 2014. That one was almost certainly all malt whisky, almost certainly all Springbank. But in the absence of specific information we will consider it a blended malt whisky. Today’s whisky is the the type of blend we think of more usually when we think of blended whisky: a blend of malt and grain. But it’s no easier to locate now than that one-off Campbeltown cask. This is a 25 yo from a defunct brand named Ambassador and I know very little about it. The person I acquired the sample from pointed me to this entry on Whiskybase. There is no bottling year listed there but another entry for an identical label indicates it was probably a 1970s bottling—so the whisky in it was distilled in the late 1940s or early 1950s. Apparently Ambassador once contained malt from Scapa and Glen Scotia though I’m not sure if this was still the case for 1970s releases. For more information on the brand I will direct you to Michael K’s review of an Ambassador 25. His review is not of this release though but of a much older bottle from either the 1940s or 1950. Okay, let’s see what this is like. Continue reading
Jameson Irish Whiskey, Bottled Early-Mid 1980s
On Monday I had a review of a malt whisky from a relatively unknown Taiwanese distillery. Here now is a review of a whiskey from the most famous brand name in Ireland: Jameson, made at the Midleton distillery. What do they have in common? Nothing other than the fact that neither is Scottish.
I know very little about Irish whiskey and have reviewed very few Irish whiskies. And I’ve not had very good luck with the few Jamesons I’ve reviewed. Those were all contemporary releases, however, whereas this one was bottled sometime in the early-mid 1980s. I assume it was still made in the same way then, as a blend of grain and pot still whiskey. You are doubtless sick of hearing Scotch whisky geeks go on about how much better single malts and blends were in the 1970s and 1980s. Was the same true of Irish whiskey? Let’s see what this one indicates. Continue reading
Old Blends: Black & White, Late 1940s/Early 1950s
There are a lot of things I post on the blog that most of my old whisky readership has no interest in: recipes, restaurant reviews, pictures of markets, reviews of old blended whiskies. Accordingly, here is a review of a Black & White released sometime in the late 1940s or early 1950s. I expect it will be enjoyed by the tens of visitors who also read my review of a late 1940s/early 1950s Ballantine’s back in December. As for myself, I will be happy if I like this one as much as I liked that one. This is not actually my first review of a Black & White from the days of yore. Back in 2013, just a few months into the blog’s existence, I’d reviewed one from the 1960s. That was an unscored review but my notes indicate that I quite liked it. Let’s see how this one fares.
Black & White (43.4%; Late 1940s/Early 1950s release; from a bottle split)
Nose: Mild sweet notes (orange) mixed with putty and a decent whack of peat (though not medicinal). The peat gets more organic as it sits (dead rat). Some brine in there too with time. Gets maltier with a few drops of water and some mildly honeyed notes emerge as well. Continue reading
Old Blends: Old Rarity 12
A few summers ago I posted a number of recipes for home-made jams. These were not popular with my whisky readership. Do you know what is even less popular with said whisky readership, or whatever remains of it? You guessed it: my reviews of blended whiskies released many decades ago. And interest in them goes down with each one I post, rather than the other way around. Accordingly, I am pleased to present this review of a rather obscure blend. Well, obscure to me. I believe this bottle was from the US market—though I doubt Old Rarity was only released in the US. The source of the sample estimates that the bottle might date from the 1960s. That is the extent of my non-knowledge about Old Rarity. I’ll add only that the name of this whisky suggests that the practices of adding the word “old” to things that aren’t very old and of suggesting things are rare by calling them things like “rarity” are obviously not innovations of our time. Continue reading
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. Continue reading
Old Blends: Haig & Haig 12, 1940s Release
After a week off, here is the latest installment in my slow-motion series of reviews of old blends (blends released a long time ago, that is). (I have previously reviewed a Dewar’s White Label from the 1940s/1950s, a Hudson’s Bay “Best Procurable” from the 1950s, and a King George IV from the 1940s/1950s.) This is a Haig & Haig 12 yo that was released sometime in the 1940s. It is a 12 yo, and I think it may have been an US release. I assume its marketing back in the day included David Beckham’s old timey equivalent. I know very little about these old blends so can’t really shed any light on the subject of the importers of these whiskies back in that era or what the market as a whole was like. Frankly, I’m not even sure how people date these old blends to particular decades, but I do trust the source of this bottle split (who is also the source of all the other old blends I have reviewed, and will be reviewing in this series). Continue reading
Old Blends: Hudson’s Bay “Best Procurable”, 1950s
Here is the third in my slow motion series of reviews of blended whiskies from earlier eras. (See here for my review of an old Dewar’s White Label, and here for a review of a King George IV bottled in the 1940s or 1950s.). I don’t know much about this Hudson’s Bay brand, except that I think it was made for the US market and that while this particular bottle was released in the 1950s, the brand is still around. And if it ever had a strong reputation, it’s not exactly high-end whisky now: you can get a 1.75 liter bottle of the current Hudson’s Bay for not much more than $20. (I am, of course, assuming it’s the same brand.) Then again, I really liked the older Dewar’s White Label despite finding the current version to be bordering on undrinkable; and so I’m not assuming anything about this one. Well, let’s see what it’s like.
Old Blends: King George IV, 1940s/1950s
Here is the second in my slow-motion series of reviews of old blends—old as in distilled and released a long time ago, not in terms of age (though I do have a couple coming that fit both descriptions). I rather liked the old Dewar’s White Label that I reviewed last week, finding it altogether maltier and peatier than the current unremarkable incarnation, and also possessed of a much better texture at a low strength than even most contemporary malts of similar abv. I’m hoping this one will be as good.
I’m very far from being an expert on these old blends. and I don’t know anything about this particular brand. And though my small share of this bottle split is from a trusted source, the info on the label is a bit confusing as well: the abv is listed as 43.4% but the Whiskybase i.d. also listed is for a bottle at 43%. Meanwhile, other old King George IV bottles seem to be at 40%. I’ve asked the bottle splitter to confirm what the abv of this bottle was; but, in the meantime, if anybody else knows more about the different releases of this whisky, please do write in below. Continue reading
Old Blends: Dewar’s White Label, Late 1940s/Early 1950s
Some of you would like me to review more blends. You will accordingly be pleased to know that starting this week, for the next two months or so, I will be posting one review of a blended whisky per week. You may be less pleased to know that these are all blends released many decades ago.
First up is a Dewar’s White Label released sometime in the late 1940s or early 1950s. I’ve previously reviewed the current Dewar’s White Label and I don’t think it is an exaggeration to say that I found it barely drinkable (in fact, I barely drank it). This doesn’t make me nervous about this incarnation of the whisky though. My (limited) experience with old blends has led me to expect a much higher malt content and also a higher peat content. At the least, I expect it will be interesting. Continue reading
Home Blend 35, 1980 (Wilson & Morgan)
This blended whisky was put out by the Italian bottlers, Wilson & Morgan. I’m not sure how it was made—other than noting sherry cask maturation the label does not specify. Was it one of those rare cases of a grain whisky and a malt whisky being combined at distillation and matured as a blend for the full term? Or was it two separate casks married together at the age of 35? Unless the sherry cask was merely a “finishing” or “marrying” cask I’d expect it to be blended at birth (so to speak), as I’m not sure how common maturing grain whisky in sherry casks would have been in 1980. It’s also the case that they released three separate casks of a 35 yo blend in 2015, all from the 1980 vintage. This might suggest that they were all single casks. I assume they came across these casks in someone’s moldering inventory and snapped them up—Wilson & Morgan don’t seem to have released any other such blends at any rate.. If you know more about the antecedents of these casks please write in below. Continue reading
King’s Legend “Old Special” (Ainslie & Heilbron)
You’re not really a whisky blogger till you’ve reviewed at least one blend that was bottled before you were born and about which not much is known. Here I am with my first; now I can finally retire—what a relief! Well, I guess I should say I don’t know much about this blend; somebody else may well know a lot. If you are that somebody, please write in below. All I know is that it is thought to have been bottled in the 1950s, that its strength is unknown and that Ainslie & Heilbron (now defunct) were once the owners of Brora/Clynelish. This last probably means this harbours some quantity of very old Clynelish, though it probably bears little resemblance to contemporary Clynelish. Bottles of this seem to have (re)appeared recently. Serge reviewed it in February and I got a sample as part of a bottle split a few months ago. How this has come to be I’m not sure either. Did some collector unload a stash? Anyway, let’s get to the whisky itself! Continue reading
Vintage 1979 (Svenska Eldvatten)
This is a somewhat unusual whisky. It is a blend but apparently a single cask blend: what this means is that malt new make and grain new make were blended into a cask upon distillation in 1979 and married in the cask for the entire period of maturation. And this period of maturation was long indeed: 33 years. As to whether the malt and grain components were distilled at the same distillery, I don’t now. If so, that would narrow the source considerably as there are not very many distilleries that are/were set up to distill both malt and grain. It’s also not clear who initiated this single cask blend (a distillery? an independent blender?) or to what purpose. What we do know is that this cask was bottled by Svenska Eldvatten, who have bottled a number of other vintage releases of uncertain origin. The cask is said to be sherry but this release was of only 197 bottles. Given everything else that’s unusual about this it is possible that this was a sherry hogshead. Continue reading
Faultline Blended Scotch Whisky
K&L released this blend under their Faultline label earlier this year (or was it late last year)? I wasn’t very interested in it at first but when Michael K. suggested a bottle split I decided to give it a go. It’s cheap to begin with and a quarter of the bottle was really cheap. He then suggested we review it simultaneously and roped Jordan D. of Chemistry of the Cocktail in as well. And so here I am. If all goes according to plan Michael and Jordan’s reviews should go up at the same time, and I’ll link to them when I’m awake in the morning. (Here and here.)
I know nothing about this whisky or of what David D. said about it, but I’m sure it’s the very best blended whisky anyone has ever made. I think I remember Sku liking it a lot, so I guess it has a decent ceiling; at worst, the rest’ll get used up in my vattings. Continue reading
Black Bull 30
I don’t really know too much about the Black Bull blends. I know the brand is owned by Duncan Taylor and that this 30 yo was blended at origin in the 1970s and then matured for the full term in an ex-sherry cask. So while this has grain whisky in the mix the grain component is also 30 years old and has been marrying with the malt the whole while (and I believe it’s 50/50 grain and malt whisky). That’s all pretty unusual for blends which are usually heavier on the grain and generally blended after the component casks have matured and then married for only a few months before bottling. As to what the sources of the components are, I have no idea. But I’m sure somebody more knowledgeable than me will be along shortly to fill in the details. I think this was released in the late 2000s and that it’s no longer part of the range (makes sense as one would imagine it would be hard to replicate).
I split this, and some other bottles, with friends some months ago. One of those people, Jordan Deveraux of Chemistry of the Cocktail coincidentally posted his own review a few days ago. I have studiously avoided looking at it and will do so only after this review has posted. [And here it is.] Continue reading