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My Handcrafted Opinions on Whiskies, Distilleries and Other Related Stuff

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Most Recent Whisky Review

Red River

This is a Texas bourbon finished in Pinot Noir red wine casks at the Western Son distillery in Pilot Point Texas.  If you haven't heard of Pilot Point, dont worry about it,  neither had I and I have lived and / or worked in Texas for over quarter of a century!  The nose has some red berry fruits and sweet port wine along with the usual suspects of corn and sawdust.  The taste is smooth on palate with some oak, brown sugar and cola.  The finish has white pepper, green oak and ends with drying wine notes.  It's good... but for me this 42.1% ABV expression misses the fruit from the nose in the taste and finish that would help balance out the bitter / oaky notes of the finish.

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  • Tuesday, 17 April 2012 16:24

    Blended Malts: The Whole Can Be Greater Than the Sum of The Parts

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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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