The Exceptional whisky

The Exceptional Malt, Grain and Blend from Don Sutcliffe and former Managing Director of The Macallan Willie Phillips launch in the UK.

Available on Master of Malt today are three new Scotch whiskies from American independent bottler Sutcliffe & Son, brought to the UK by Number One Drinks. Called ‘The Exceptional’, the chaps behind them are none other than Willie Phillips, who was Managing Director of The Macallan between 1978 and 1996 (crucial years for the development of this famous single malt, of course) and Craft Distillers Managing Director Don Sutcliffe who worked with him to grow The Macallan in the US back in the late 1980s. Friends for 25 years, The Exceptional is something of a passion project for them both, working also with Master Blender Bill Arthur.

The whiskies selected to create these small-batch releases are said to span four decades in terms of vintages and are then married in first-fill Oloroso Sherry casks. The Exceptional Grain first launched in the US back in 2013, with The Exceptional Malt and Blend following in 2015. Now, the latest editions of each have reached our shores…

The Exceptional Grain

The Exceptional Grain – 3rd Edition – 43.0%

For the grain, whiskies come from North British, Strathclyde, Cameron Bridge, Loch Lomond and Carsbridge.

Tasting Note for The Exceptional Grain – 3rd Edition:

Nose: Toffee popcorn, coffee cake, flaky milk chocolate, fruit flapjack. Dry Oloroso spice, tobacco and aromatic leaf develop.

Palate: Pecan, vanilla, creamy milk chocolate build to chewy, oaky praline.

Finish: Custard, cocoa and caramelised pear slices.

Overall: A woody, nutty, slightly fruity, spicy caramel treat.

The Exceptional Malt

The Exceptional Malt – 2nd Edition – 43.0%

Glenfarclas, Ben Nevis, Balvenie, Kininvie, Glenfiddich, Allt-á-Bhainne, Auchroisk, Glenallachie, Westport, Speyside and (of course) Macallan are all used for the malt.

Tasting Note for The Exceptional Malt – 2nd Edition:

Nose: Pleasantly meaty at first with Dolly mixture, touches of toastiness (almost peaty for a moment) then into swathes of brandy butter. Orange peel and sweet dried fruit develop.

Palate: Thick and nutty. Peanut skins and some corn notes too with anise spice throughout and gingerbread also.

Finish: Into mixed nuts now, slightly dry and lip smacking before red berries linger.

Overall: Plenty of tasty nutty Oloroso influence here with the malt doing its best work on the nose.

The Exceptional Blend

The Exceptional Blend – 1st Edition – 43.0%

Last but certainly not least, the blend is made up of grains from North British, Strathclyde and Cameron Bridge alongside malts from Glenfarclas, Ben Nevis, Balvenie, Kininvie, Glenfiddich, Allt-á-Bhainne, Auchroisk, Glenallachie, Westport, Speyside and Macallan.

Tasting Note for The Exceptional Blend – 1st Edition:

Nose: Nutty Oloroso and toffee’d grain goodness, toffee brittle, some zesty marmalade. Stuffing notes then develop – sage, parsley, savoury doughy notes – with caramel never too far away. Good stuff.

Palate: Light toffee notes, soon becoming honeyed with honeycomb, white pepper and a touch of strawberry.

Finish: Scones and echoes of that fruit from the palate.

Overall: Well put together and enjoyable with notes reminiscent of a fine Auchroisk. Whether a higher proportion of this malt is used here or it’s simply a result of the blend, it’s certainly no bad thing!

For me, the blend is the pick of the bunch here. These are three solid whiskies though, especially if you enjoy some nutty Oloroso character.