fbpx
Created by potrace 1.12, written by Peter Selinger 2001-2015

We're just loading our login box for you, hang on!

Master of Malt Blog

Tag: Blended Scotch

Missing in action? The forgotten blends

When was the last time you read about Label 5 Scotch whisky? Or William Peel? Or Teacher’s? Ian Buxton looks at the blends that still bring in the money, if…

When was the last time you read about Label 5 Scotch whisky? Or William Peel? Or Teacher’s? Ian Buxton looks at the blends that still bring in the money, if not the column inches. 

Imagine if you will that you live in a fine country house. It’s well-appointed with many delightful rooms, a range of useful outbuildings and extensive grounds. All in all, it’s perfectly agreeable. What’s more, thanks to your aunt’s endowment and some shrewd investments, there’s a steady flow of income to keep the whole place running. The problem is that the old girl’s more than slightly batty so you have to keep her out of the public’s curious view. It’s the classic problem of the mad aunt in the attic and I’ve been thinking about her quite a lot recently. That’s because I’ve been drinking some blended Scotch whiskies and, for an article I’m writing, trying to get the distillers to talk about them. To summarise: they don’t have a lot to say.

Now my email in-box overflows on a daily basis with news of different single malts.  A constant stream of eager PR agencies and their clients vie for your attention with ever more exotic, expensive and esoteric releases of rare single malts. Often they’re limited to a few hundred bottles and, all too frequently, with a price tag running into four figures.

Dewar's White Label

They don’t make adverts like this any more.

They do, of course, provide easy copy for whisky magazines and bloggers and the proud brand manager is more than happy to see the column inches that result. They don’t, however, really mean terribly much in the grand scheme of things – while they’re the glamorous Spitfire pilots of whisky, the blends (the crews from Bomber Command if you want to keep this rather tenuous analogy going) do the grunt work.  They still account for more than 90% of all the Scotch sold around the world and without them, as I never tire of reminding folk, quite a number of single malt distilleries would have shut years ago.

The volumes of some of these brands are quite remarkable.  You know about Johnnie Walker, of course, and probably realise that blends such as Ballantine’s, Grant’s and Chivas Regal still sell impressive quantities (for the record, they each move considerably more than 4 million cases annually – that’s a lot of hooch).  But what about Passport, Buchanan’s, White Horse or Sir Edward’s? Well, any one of those sells more than 1½ million cases, leaving even the best-selling single malt gasping in their wake. 

In fact, brands that have been more or less forgotten on the UK retail scene such as VAT 69 and even Teacher’s still comfortably break the 1 million club barrier. And the ‘value’ brands that grace French supermarket shelves can clock up some remarkable numbers. Label 5 for example, which you’d be forgiven for not calling to mind, is a powerhouse performer selling close to 3 million cases.  Even more remarkably, the William Peel brand does even better.

So what’s the problem?  Why don’t we hear more about these whiskies? Well, some of it is pure snobbery – especially in the UK and US markets, blends are rather looked down on (not least, it has to be said by whisky writers and bloggers). The rot started with one of my personal whisky heroes, the author Aeneas MacDonald, who back in 1930 with his marvellous polemic Whisky (still in print, incidentally, and still well worth reading) chastised blended whisky drinkers as “the swillers, the drinkers-to-get-drunk who have not organs of taste and smell in them but only gauges of alcoholic content, the boozers, the ‘let’s-have-a-spot’ and ‘make it a quick one’ gentry and all the rest who dwell in a darkness”. Other writers have followed his lead.

Dr Jim Beveridge

Softly-spoken and unassuming, Dr Jim Beveridge from Johnnie Walker

Then there’s the undeniable fact that selling lots and lots of the same whisky day after day makes for rather less compelling copy than a stream of new releases.  There’s only so often that story can be written.

But there are stories to tell about blends and blending, even if blenders by inclination seem to be quite a modest breed, preferring the quiet sanctuary of their blending room to the stage at a large public whisky event. To their credit, Diageo did try some years ago to bring blending to the fore, holding a series of educational seminars for trade and media and releasing late in 2012 an elegant and erudite little pamphlet on The Art of Blending.

What’s more, their signature Johnnie Walker blend has proved adept at stealing malt whisky’s PR clothing. For proof, look no further than the recently released John Walker Last Cask.  There are just 330 bottles available worldwide (that’s if the Chinese leave us any, as it’s released there first) at approximately £2,500 each. 

So come on whisky marketers!  Let’s hear it for the engines of whisky’s success!  Let’s hear it for the mad aunt in the attic!

Though he has neither a beard nor any visible tattoos or piercings, Ian Buxton is well-placed to write about drinks.  A former Marketing Director of one of Scotland’s favourite single malts, his is a bitter-sweet love affair with Scotland’s national drink – not to mention gin and rum, or whatever the nearest PR is pouring. Once, apparently without noticing, he bought a derelict distillery. Follow his passionate, authentic hand-crafted artisanal journey on the Master of Malt blog.  Or just buy his books.  It’s what he really wants.

No Comments on Missing in action? The forgotten blends

New Arrival of the Week: Compass Box No Name No 2

Today we have a smoky blended malt so special that it doesn’t even have a name! It could only be a release from those crazy cats at Compass Box. Until…

Today we have a smoky blended malt so special that it doesn’t even have a name! It could only be a release from those crazy cats at Compass Box.

Until recently, the components of most blended whiskies were a closely-guarded secret. It was all about the brand, one didn’t want to confuse the customer with too much information. But this is changing: just look at Johnnie Walker’s new Black Label Origins, a series of blends based around regions and distilleries. Part of the credit for this opening up has to go to Compass Box.

This small scale blender was founded in 2000 by John Glaser, an American who had previously worked with Johnnie Walker. Since then his company has won Whisky Magazine’s Innovator of the Year prize six times by pushing the boundaries of what is possible or even legal with Scotch whisky. You know you’re doing something right when you get into trouble with both the EU and the SWA.

John Glaser Compass Box

‘You can find the perfect blend’, John Glaser

The company buys a mixture of aged stock, and new make spirit which is then aged. To spice things up, Glaser and his team also acquire casks of ready-aged blends which are genuine mysteries, not even the people selling them know what they were made up of. Whereas some blends might contain more than 40 component parts, Compass Box bottlings tend to be much simpler. 

The company tries to be as transparent as possible but in the past they have run up against EU regulations that forbid whisky producers from advertising the age of the component parts. You’re only allowed to state the age of the youngest part. And with the Spice Tree blend they incurred the displeasure of the SWA because it used new French oak staves placed within the cask. Compass Box managed to get around the regulations by fitting new oak ends to an old cask. 

But this was nothing compared with Affinity released earlier this year which indulged in some cross-category canoodling by blending whisky with Calvados. And it worked beautifully. Compass Box products look striking too, with packaging by Stranger & Stranger, and names inspired by art and literature, or sometimes no name at all! Which brings us on to our New Product of the Week. 

The first No Name was a limited edition released in 2017 and so-called because no name could do justice to the smoky character of the whisky. Or perhaps Compass Box just ran out of ideas. Now the follow-up is here, No Name No 2! It’s a blend of  Caol Ila aged in sherry casks, Talisker aged in charred hogsheads, some Clynelish and then a mysterious element, a blend of Highland malts finished in new French oak. It’s bottled at 48.9% ABV. So what does all this add up to? Pretty much everything we have ever tried from Compass Box has been delicious and this is no exception. It’s a combination of the smoky and salty with the custard, clove spices, and both dried fruit and fresh fruit like apples and cherries, and it’s absolutely gorgeous. See full tasting note below. Now all it needs is a name.

No Name No 2, nice label

Tasting notes from The Chaps at Master of Malt:

Nose: Lots of smoky peat with some salty saline notes, vanilla and custard with cloves, sweet floral notes and orange peel.

Palate: Really creamy, crème brûlée, with bonfire smoke, black pepper and salt, all the time with fresh apples and dried apricots.

Finish: Lingering wood smoke with red cherries and a touch of tannin. 

 

 

No Comments on New Arrival of the Week: Compass Box No Name No 2

BBR unveils photography-inspired Perspective Series

Berry Bros. & Rudd (BBR) has released The Perspective Series, a collection of blended Scotch whiskies, in collaboration with award-winning Scottish photographer Lindsay Robertson. We were invited to the brand’s…

Berry Bros. & Rudd (BBR) has released The Perspective Series, a collection of blended Scotch whiskies, in collaboration with award-winning Scottish photographer Lindsay Robertson. We were invited to the brand’s famous home at 3 St. James’ Street, London to check it out.

If you know us at all, you’ll be aware that a collectable range of limited edition blended Scotch whiskies with serious age was always going to be of interest to us. But, London wine and spirits merchant Berry Bros. & Rudd (BBR) didn’t just have sublime Scotch to present last night, but some remarkable photography, too.

The Perspective Series, Berry Bros. & Rudd master blender Doug McIvor explained, “is all about the use of our senses”. That’s where Robertson comes into the picture. He was approached by BBR with a task: to adorn each bottle in the range with images of majestic Scottish landscapes. Having seen these images in person, it’s fair to say he met his brief.

Robertson himself began life as an advertising photographer, where he often found himself snapping promotional shots for Bell’s. Now, all these years later, he’s gone full circle, creating images that portray a visual metaphor of each whisky’s flavour. Combine this with McIvor’s experience in expertly blending Scotch, and you’ve got yourself a range that’s all about artistry, inside and out.

Perspective Series

The lone cottage on Rannoch Moor, the striking image that was chosen to pair with the 35-year-old expression.

“Photography is to see,” Robertson explained. “The art of being aware of our natural surroundings which are the raw ingredients to compose the image – that image is then captured within a moment in time. Whisky is similar in that it is the taste which is the art… using the same raw natural ingredients, composing and distilling these ingredients in time, then patiently awaiting the day of maturity with anticipation.”

McIvor added: “Absorbing the spectacular images on the label whilst taking a sip of the amber dew provides a powerful combination that can amplify and instil joyful memories of a time and a place. Visual beauty is emotive, and I look for balance and complexity, maturity and texture in the whisky. It is the task of the blender to bring all these elements together to create extraordinary landscapes of aroma and flavour.”

The Perspective Series will be available from Master of Malt soon. In the meantime, let’s check out the range:

Perspective Series

The 21-Year-Old Blended Scotch Whisky

21-Year-Old Blended Scotch Whisky

First in the selection is a 21-Year-Old Blended Scotch Whisky, bottled at 43% ABV and set to retail for £89.00. We were seriously impressed by this one, which could prove quite the bargain for a spirit of its age.

Producer Tasting Note: Fresh, vibrant fruit is undercut by delicate oak and spice, gracefully interwoven with vanilla and honey. A lingering finish caps the experience.

Label image: Sandwood Bay, a natural bay on the north-west coast of mainland Scotland best known for its remote mile-long beach.

Robertson says: “The last shot of the day. I can still hear the cliffs resounding with the timeless echo of the waves. The combination of the creamy, subtle tones of the ocean crashing onto the fine, granular structure of the sand capture the soulful and beautiful peace exuded by the area.”

Perspective Series

The 25-Year-Old Blended Scotch Whisky

25-Year-Old Blended Scotch Whisky

Next up is 25-Year-Old Blended Scotch Whisky, bottled at 43% ABV and priced at £145.00. An intriguing blend, the 25-year-old features a stunning snap of The Cuillins as its label art.

Producer Tasting Note: The nose exudes soft, ripe autumnal fruit and fresh citrus with waves of honey and prickles of spice. The palate is full, viscous, fresh and lively, leading to a long, satisfying finish.

Label image: The Cuillins, a range of rocky mountains located near Talisker’s home on the Isle of Skye.

Robertson says: “The light danced around the mountains, creating interesting shapes and textures over the rugged terrain, and eventually all the elements came together for that one moment. Pure in its simplicity, it captures the vastness, ruggedness and subtlety of nature.”

Perspective Series

The 35-Year-Old Blended Scotch Whisky

35-Year-Old Blended Scotch Whisky

We felt the standout of the range (narrowly edging out the 21-year-old), was this 35-Year-Old Blended Scotch Whisky, bottled at 43% ABV and priced at £250.00. It’s absolutely sublime, and also features our favourite image of the image of the night as its label art.

Producer Tasting Note: Rich, mature notes of fruit and malt are augmented by a lively crispness from the grain. Candied fruit emerges, carried on waves of honey and balanced by judicious hints of oak. The finish is long and relaxed.

Label image: Rannoch Moor, an expanse of around 50 square miles of boggy moorland notable for its wildlife.

Robertson says: “Below the distant Grampian mountains, silence and solitude reigns, with the deer, heather and bog myrtle all contributing to this desolate no-man’s land fashioned by nature. One thousand feet above sea-level, the light and shadow play against the lone cottage on Rannoch Moor.”

Perspective Series

The 40-Year-Old Blended Scotch Whisky

40-Year-Old Blended Scotch Whisky

The final expression in the range is the impressive 40-Year-Old Blended Scotch Whisky, bottled at 40.1% ABV and set to retail for £450.00. This is the only bottling with a peat-forward profile, so if that’s your kind of thing don’t miss out on this beauty.

Producer Tasting Note: Plentiful soft, ripe tropical fruit combines with hints of vanilla, coffee beans and subtle yet uplifting spice. A rich, textured, lively palate builds in luxuriance towards a deliciously long, lingering and rewarding finish.

Label image: Buichaille Etive Mòr, a mountain at the head of Glen Etive in the Highlands of Scotland.

Robertson says: “The sentinel of Glen Coe displays its majestic dominance over the landscape in a striking yet sympathetic way. The early morning light, coupled with the winter morning air, rendered an absolute clarity and sharpness not normally seen.”

1 Comment on BBR unveils photography-inspired Perspective Series

How J&B Scotch charmed Hollywood’s Rat Pack

Created by London wine merchants Justerini & Brooks, J&B Rare Scotch whisky was the drink of choice for world-famous casino crooners The Rat Pack, travelling more than 5,000 miles to…

Created by London wine merchants Justerini & Brooks, J&B Rare Scotch whisky was the drink of choice for world-famous casino crooners The Rat Pack, travelling more than 5,000 miles to make it into their tumblers. Here, writer Damian Barr explains just how Dean Martin, Frank Sinatra and company got their mitts on the liquid…

Before tux-clad entertainers Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Sammy Davis Junior, Peter Lawford and Joey Bishop took the Las Vegas casino scene by storm in the 1950s and ‘60s, the city was little more than “a patch in the Nevada Desert,” Barr explains, speaking at London bar Oriole during J&B’s Rat Pack Redistilled event.

“The Rat Pack turned it into what it is now – for better and for worse,” he continues. “They liked to gatecrash one another’s shows, and often if you were going to a show for one of the members it would say over the marquee, ‘Dean Martin, maybe Frank, maybe Sammy’, because they just never knew who was going to turn up.”

J&B and America, a special relationship

So, how did the high rollers of Hollywood wind up quaffing what was, in fact, a wine merchant’s whisky? It all started with the ‘J’ in J&B – an Italian master distiller, blender, and creator of what were then referred to as ‘foreign cordials’, Giacomo Justerini, when he arrived in London from Italy back in 1749.

“He didn’t have much money, but he had lots of charm and a recipe which he copied on the back of a notebook and brought from his uncle in Bologna,” says Barr. “He needed a business partner so he set about finding one, and found Dr Samuel Johnson.”

Justerini set up as a wine merchant with Johnson’s nephew, George, at 76 Haymarket – the business remains nearby today – until eventually George sold his share of the business to Albert Brooks, paving the way for the J&B recognisable today.

“By the early nineteenth century, a huge interest increased in the number of private members clubs and they all opened up around St James’s,” says Barr. “Great whisky barons like [creator of Old Vatted Glenlivet] Andrew Usher and Tommy Dewar noted the increased demand and decided to improve their recipes. Every other whisky maker on the block – including Justerini and Brooks – decided to up their game.”

Brooks approached Usher – the first person to commercially blend whisky – and tasked him with creating a smoother blend. Usher, together with his business partner James Anderson, developed J&B Club, the precursor to J&B Rare. The duo was so enamoured with it, they decided to buy the business from Justerini and Brooks.

The Duke of Windsor J&B

The Duke of Windsor enjoying a glass of J&B

Not long later, during world war one, Anderson’s son met a exceedingly charismatic young man called Eddie Tatham in the trenches. He joined the company immediately after the war ended, and soon became a director. With the advent of cinema, film actors became friends with Tatham, who was “very outgoing and well-dressed… a party boy”.

“Eddie was a charmer, he was the kind of man that you’d want to be on out with on a night that might take unexpected turns,” says Barr. “His tactic was to choose top restaurants, top bars, top hotels, what became known as the tip of the trade. He received a bonus not long after joining of £200, which equates to £12,000 in today’s money, and set sail for America.”

There he met blender Charlie Julian, who is responsible for creating Chivas Regal among other whiskies. Together, they begin the blending process for what would eventually become J&B Rare: a blend of at least 42 single malt and grain Speyside whiskies, including liquid from Knockando, Auchroisk, Strathmill and Glen Spey. After Prohibition was repealed, Tatham set about “importing the good stuff from Scotland for the thirsty of America”.

With the help of distributor Abe Rosenberg, Tatham decided to target the national markets; Las Vegas, Palm Springs, Palm Beach, New Orleans, Newport. “Of these, the biggest was Las Vegas; big gamblers, big singers, big comedians, all playing the casinos,” says Barr. Performers like the Rat Pack, who he became very good friends with.

“Abe Rosenberg had this trick – he would send half a gallon of J&B to the dressing room of a star who had a show on and say, ‘I enjoyed your show very much, have one on me’,” says Barr. “Even if he was in New York or Rome or Paris! Apparently he was trying to give away up to 1,000 cases of Scotch every single year.”

The most loyal of J&B’s Rat Pack admirers was Dean Martin, the ‘amiable drunk’ persona, which he honed at the Sands Hotel in Vegas. “Introduced with the words ‘…and now, direct from the bar’, he would bound on stage, taking a Scotch from somebody’s table on the way,” says Barr. “There was often a bar on stage, and he’d ‘top-up’ his glass before launching into the final rendition of That’s Amore. He used to tell his audiences, “I don’t drink any more… I don’t drink any less, either’.”

Entertaining as it was, Martin’s intoxication was a little more than a stage act. “His son Ricky said that while it was true [his] Dad drank, the drunky routine was an act,” explains Barr. “On stage, and later on his TV show, he did have a J&B Scotch and soda but it was almost always a weak one – and sometimes it was just an apple juice.”

Dean Martin J&B

Dean Martin, that’s actually apple juice in his glass. No, really!

 

No Comments on How J&B Scotch charmed Hollywood’s Rat Pack

Our take on booze trends for 2019!

New year, new drinks. Here’s what we reckon we’ll be debating, writing about and, most importantly, sipping in 2019. Tasting glasses at the ready… There’s nothing we enjoy more here…

New year, new drinks. Here’s what we reckon we’ll be debating, writing about and, most importantly, sipping in 2019. Tasting glasses at the ready…

There’s nothing we enjoy more here at MoM Towers than a good old chinwag about delectable spirits. And with the earth completing another full circuit round the sun, what better excuse to surmise, debate and generally theorise about the state of booze in 2019? Read on for the lowdown on ten drinks trends we think will influence what and how we consume in the coming 12 months. Enjoy!

2 Comments on Our take on booze trends for 2019!

Diageo to transform Glenkinchie Distillery

Lowland malt distillery Glenkinchie, an important component in Johnnie Walker blended Scotch, has just been granted planning permission for a new visitor centre. Located just over 15 miles from Edinburgh,…

Lowland malt distillery Glenkinchie, an important component in Johnnie Walker blended Scotch, has just been granted planning permission for a new visitor centre.

Located just over 15 miles from Edinburgh, Glenkinchie is one of very few Lowland malt whisky distilleries. Being so close to the capital means that the distillery has huge potential as a tourist attraction, something that Diageo is now looking to build upon. We have just received news that East Lothian Council has granted permission for development work on the distillery.

There has been a distillery on the site since 1837, but the current Glenkinchie set-up dates back to 1890. As part of Diageo’s plans, its Victorian red brick warehouse will become a new all-singing, all-dancing visitor experience which including a shop, a bar, a cocktail classroom, and tastings rooms. The new visitor centre will also show off Glenkinchie’s unique asset, a scale model of the distillery built for the 1925 Empire Exhibition (watch this short film to see the model in all is magnificence.) Work will begin on the expansion early next year.

No Comments on Diageo to transform Glenkinchie Distillery

Whisky Advent 2018 Day #7: Smokey Monkey

It’s the first Friday of Advent! Got that weekend feeling? You will once you discover the dram squirrelled away behind Door No.7 of Drinks by the Dram’s Whisky Advent Calendar……

It’s the first Friday of Advent! Got that weekend feeling? You will once you discover the dram squirrelled away behind Door No.7 of Drinks by the Dram’s Whisky Advent Calendar…

Much excite in these parts today. Not only is it Friday, but there’s a right treat awaiting discovery in the Whisky Advent Calendar today.

But first! Some background. Scotch whisky cocktails are DELICIOUS. But historically (and this is an attitude that can linger in some circles today), single malts have been seen as ‘too good’ for mixing. What’s that all about?! A great drink needs flavour, character and balance, and single malt Scotches tend to have that dream trio in the bucket-load.

2 Comments on Whisky Advent 2018 Day #7: Smokey Monkey

Glen Moray parent buys Cutty Sark blended Scotch whisky brand

La Martiniquaise-Bardinet, the company that owns Glen Moray single malt, has boosted its Scotch portfolio with the acquisition of blended whisky Cutty Sark from Macallan parent Edrington. In a statement…

La Martiniquaise-Bardinet, the company that owns Glen Moray single malt, has boosted its Scotch portfolio with the acquisition of blended whisky Cutty Sark from Macallan parent Edrington.

In a statement released this morning, Edrington said it was ‘pleased’ that it had sold the brand to La Martiniquaise-Bardinet, but didn’t disclose how much the French drinks group had paid for the whisky.

It’s set to be a pretty swift transaction, with all the legal and regulatory stuff expected to be complete within a month. As part of the deal, Edrington says it will continue to help with bottling, blending and other practicalities during a transition period.

1 Comment on Glen Moray parent buys Cutty Sark blended Scotch whisky brand

Raise a glass to delicious discounts on some of our favourite drinks!

Fancy treating yourself to something tasty? Getting a head start on gathering those Christmas provisions? We have news. We’ve lopped a chunk off the price of some of our very…

Fancy treating yourself to something tasty? Getting a head start on gathering those Christmas provisions? We have news. We’ve lopped a chunk off the price of some of our very favourite bottlings. Hurrah!

It seems like #WhiskySanta’s jolliness has well and truly rubbed off on us all here at MoM Towers. We’re spreading good cheer to all of legal drinking age with these incredible deals on some of our most beloved bottlings!

And why wouldn’t we? We love deliciousness and know you do too. It’s like a celebration of the most delectable drinks!

No Comments on Raise a glass to delicious discounts on some of our favourite drinks!

10 of the best super spooky Halloween spirits!

Whether you’re attending a party full of deadly debauchery or spending a quiet night at home treating yourself, we’ve got the tipples to tickle your festive fancy this Halloween… Halloween…

Whether you’re attending a party full of deadly debauchery or spending a quiet night at home treating yourself, we’ve got the tipples to tickle your festive fancy this Halloween…

Halloween has come around again, promising a day of ghosts and ghouls, spiders and scares and all things frightening and foul. But there is truly nothing more terrifying than the idea of enduring the endless barrage of begging children or the heaving town centres without a decent drink in hand (severed or otherwise)…

So, let us set the scene for spooky celebrations and paranormal partying this year. Spare yourself the tricks and instead treat yourself to these spooktacular offerings. We’ve compiled a list of spine-tingling spirits, each with the scariest of serves, from peculiar punches to creepy cocktails.

So come and join us – if you dare – and cast your eyes upon the most bewitching boozes around. Oh – and be sure to check out our Halloween 2018 page for more ghastly greats… Mwahahaha!

No Comments on 10 of the best super spooky Halloween spirits!

Type on the field below and hit Enter/Return to search