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My Handcrafted Opinions on Whiskies, Distilleries and Other Related Stuff

Most Recent Whisky

Most Recent Whisky Review

Russell's Reserve Rye 10 year old

I liked the 6 year version and so have been looking forward to trying the 10 year old / 45% ABV expression but to be honest, while still good, I don’t the extra 4 years in cask did anything for this one. Sometimes older does not equal better, sometimes older just means different.  My notes for the nose were “sugar coated sawdust and rose petals” which sums it up very well. The taste at first was very smooth with a delicious burst of sweet caramel popcorn but then started to turn into diet cola and with time oak, showing the signs of 10 years in cask. The finish had some nice rye notes of peppermint but again the age started show with tannins and spices pushing through. Some water revealed some more milk chocolate and chilli notes but some of the sweetness I liked was lost.

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  • While single malts are the clear leader of the pack when it comes to scotch whisky enthusiasts preference, there are also some, albeit often a minority, including myself who advocate blended scotch whiskies.  However one style of whisky I see very few people championing (with notable exception of Compass Box) is blended malt whisky.  Blended malts are the products derived from the vatting or mixing of multiple single malts but without use the grain whiskies found in blended scotch.  Usually without an age statement and often under some of the more creative whisky names out there, examples of the genre include Monkey Shoulder, Sheep Dip and Blue Hanger.  Some of the high profile blended whisky producers such as Famous Grouse and Johnnie Walker have also included blended malts in their range such as the soon to be defunct Johnnie Walker Green Label.

    The Green Label is my inspiration for this blog, specifically the recent announcement that Johnnie Walker will no longer be producing Green Label.  Johnnie Walker are astute business people, they clearly have sound business reasons for this decision.  I don't know for sure but presumably they must feel that either sales of Johnnie Walker Green are not high enough, in part I suspect because of the market bias for single malts, or perhaps that they can use the malts in the Green Label product in the other products and lines and generate better returns for their shareholders.  Either way it shame because I happen to think Green Label is one of the better products in their range.  So what does this decision mean for the future of blended malts?  Will the continuing expansion of the market for single malts drive other blended malts into the whisky oblivion alongside the other industry red headed step child grain whisky?  I have to say however even grain is getting some support amongst whisky circles, an example being recent interview on www.thewhiskywire.com with Kirsteen Campbell who described grain whisky as the "as the next big thing".  It is a bit worrying for blended malt fans when you hear Nick Morgan of Diageo, Johnnie Walker's parent company, recently describe Green Label as "the odd man out within the line."

    As I look at all my reviews of blended malts to date, they all score very well and are often very good value as blending allows producers to use less aged and therefore cheaper stocks, compensating for any weakness in those products by use of carefully selected stocks of more mature stock.  When done well, as in Monkey Shoulder, it produces a rich and complex dram at a very reasonable price point.  In the case of a more exclusive dram like Blue Hanger from Berry Brothers and Rudd (their iconic London store is the picture accompanying this entry) it is a fine example of the blenders skill, creating a complex amalgam but yet it is often still possible identify a particular distillery's influence on the blend.  They can be best of both worlds of single malt and blended whisky, with complexity, consistency, richness, variety and value.

    Although in the past consumer pressure has altered the behavior of major producers, I suspect nothing I write about here will change the fate of Green Label (although I did propose a campaign slogan in my recent review of the Green Label ... Kill Black Keep Green), as it is not the fate of that product that I am passionate about (I do have an unopened bottle in my collection I will keep) but the fate of blended malts in general.   I really like this genre, and I will continue to support this genre and would encourage anyone (producer, retailer, imbiber) who reads this to do the same.  

    I know my interest in blends is shared as I recently received a sample from a friend of mine he described as "something I blended in my own cask. It is cask strength. It is scotch and bourbon blend with some grain spirit in it".    Look for a review of a whisky I am calling "C" shortly.

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    Random Whisky

    Dodd's Old Tom Small Batch Gin

    Old Tom is a sweeter style of gin that has fallen out of favour compared to the far more common London Dry gins.  I am obliged to mention that Dodd's comes from The London Distillery Company, the same TLDC that I am a Director and shareholder in, so I am not in any way "neutral" when it come to this product line and that is the only reason there is any gin at all on my "whisky" website.  The Old Tom expression is bottled at 46% ABV compared to Dodd's which is bottled at 50% ABV.  The nose is herbal with citrus peel.  The taste is very soft, even creamy, and sweet with more citrus, honey and a hint of caramel.  The finish is, of course, short and clean.  It is not massively complex (it is a white, unaged spirit) but makes a sweeter, excellent G&T especially with a good squeeze of lime to work in harmony with the citrus notes in the gin.   I recently tasted at the distillery a barrel aged verson of Old Tom and I thought the oak worked well with the sweetness and complimented the slight caramel notes of Old Tom.  Go out and buy some.  Please.