Blended Scotch Whisky

Review: Great King Street Glasgow Blend Blended Scotch Whisky (Compass Box) by Jason Hambrey

ABV
43%
Aging
N/A
Recipe
Malt and Grain Whiskies (see below)
Distiller Multiple (Scotland)

I, like most whisky connoisseurs, love Compass Box - a company focused on premium blended Scotch whisky - both blended malt whiskies (i.e. a mix of single malts) and blended whiskies (a mix of single grain and malt whiskies). They always release terrific information as to the makeup of their blends, and the quality is high across the board. Their products, to boot, are all bottled without colouring or chill-filtration (providing better mouthfeel).

Great King Street is Compass Box’s brand for their blended scotch, and this Glasgow blend only recently came into their core line alongside the terrific Artist's Blend. The whisky’s inspiration comes from the big-bodied style of many of the 19th century blending houses, blended particularly with smoke and sherry notes. The blend is bottled at 43%, without colour or chill-filtration.

A typical vatting to compose this blend: 34% grain whisky from a Cameron Bridge in a first fill American oak barrel, 35% Benrinnes from a sherry butt, 17% Laphroaig from a rejuvenated hogshead, 8% Clynelish from a first fill American oak barrel, 2 % miltonduff from a first fill American oak barrel, and 4% of a blend of clynelish, teaninich, and dailuaine in a custom toasted oak hybrid barrel (i.e. American oak base and French oak barrel heads).


Review (2015)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: L18 02 15 3 09:43 B9

  • Bottling Date: ~2015

Nose: Chocolate, peat, rubber, vanilla, cacao, lemon peel, and a bit spicy too – quite complex, and very nicely integrated.

Taste: A bit ashy-smoky, with candied lemon and orange peel, and a good dosage of almonds and raisins underpinning the background. There’s also a bit of spice along with buttery vanilla on the end….it’s like fruitcake by a fireplace.

Finish: Full and well rounded, with vanilla, smoke, malt, oat cakes, and earth. It dies out fairly quickly though, but the tannins are still lightly felt. The peat lingers for a bit.

Fairly complex, and very well integrated – it could only gain from a little depth and a bit more complexity. You can tell, though, because of the integration – this is some good blending going on. At a recent tasting this was a favorite even put up against some other great whiskies which I’ve rated over 90.

Highly Recommended (48% of all whiskies I’ve reviewed to date get this recommendation or higher).

Value: High. A good catch.


Review (2019)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: ~2018

A classic! Rich, sherried aromas – baking spice, smoke, nuts, apples, raisins – the palate leads in with sharp smoke, offset lightly by smoke and a terrific richness in terms of mouthfeel. The above review stands for this bottle – but this time around I’m more impressed with the focus of the peat smoke – it comes in a rich flash, then fades to everything else – the sweet grain, the fruity, nutty sherry, and more dried fruit. It is integrated masterfully.

A terrific blended Scotch whisky.

Highly Recommended (48% of all whiskies I’ve reviewed to date get this recommendation or higher).

Value: High, if you can find it.


Review: Johnnie Walker Green Label Blended Scotch Whisky by Jason Hambrey

Johnnie Walker Green Label 1.jpg
ABV
43%
Aging
15 Years
Recipe
Blend of Single Malts
Distiller Multiple (Scotland)

This whisky is probably my favorite Johnnie Walker, and it's only recently back after being off the shelf for a number of years. Unlike the rest of the lineup, it is a blended malt, meaning that it is composed of a blend of single malts with no grain whisky. Moreover, it carries a 15 year old age statement, is bottled at 43%, and lists many of the core malts used – talisker (wood smoke, pepper, oak, and rich fruits), linkwood (fruit, flower, and cedar), cragganmore (malty taste, slight smoke, and sandalwood), and caol ila (rich fruit, drying sea salt, and peat smoke). Moreover, an attractive bottle and a cork.


Review (2017)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: L7234DN001 00038026

  • Bottling Date: 2017

The nose presents a broad mix of fruits – apples, poached pears, mandarins, and peaches -  with toffee, honey, light smoky charcoal, maple, and touches of floral notes. Broad, lightly elegant, and easy – with soft edges. The fruits just grow, and grow – and the lightest touch of peat is brilliant. If you ever doubt this just add water – you can smell just about every non-tropical fruit you find in scotch whisky here. The palate starts sharp and lightly smoky, with drying pepper and loads of toffee and fruits to back everything up. The peat is nice – lightly smoky and vegetal – but it is so nicely integrated into the whole toffee-laden and fruity palate. Light finish with light spices and loads of fruit and toffee, fading relatively fast to a sweet, spicy, and slightly dry finish with a few nuts. Overall, it’s still a fairly light whisky so there must be some lightly flavored base here.

Highly Recommended (48% of all whiskies I’ve reviewed to date get this recommendation or higher).

Value: Average, at $80.


Review: Black Bottle Blended Scotch Whisky by Jason Hambrey

Black Bottle 1.jpg
ABV
40%
Aging
N/A
Recipe
Scottish Malt and Grain Whiskies
Distiller Multiple (Scotland)

This whisky used to be quite a smoky blend, but in 2013 Burn Stewart reverted to a slightly older style with less smoke and more richness. After blending the whiskies, they recask into new virgin oak. Components include tobermory, ledaig, bunnahabhain, and deanston. By the way, Distell (who own all of those distilleries) do a terrific job - they are generally transparent about what is going into the whiskies, and, so it would appear, they value their connoisseur consumers - rare, these days.


Review (2018)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: P037414 L3 09:04 16039

  • Bottling Date: ~2017

The nose is a mix of light fruit, heavy dried fruit notes, nuts, and smoke: apple, hard pear, prune, raisins, roasted almond, wood charcoal, clove, black pepper, and banana bread. The palate continues from the nose – golden syrup, malt loaf, light orchard fruit, dried apricot, charred new oak, a peppery sulphur-y spiciness, light smoke, and some more hard, green pear. The finish is lightly smoky, with dried fruits (apricot and raisin), nutmeg, and a bit more charred oak. Lightly tannic, too.

Hard to do better than this in Scotch at this price.

Recommended (81% of whiskies I’ve reviewed to date get this recommendation or higher).

Value: High, at $30. It might be the best bottle of Scotch in Canada under $40.


Review: The Peat Chimney 12 Years Old Blended Malt Scotch Whisky (Wemyss) by Jason Hambrey

ABV
40%
Aging
12 Years
Recipe
100% Malt Whisky
Distiller Multiple (Scotland)

This whisky is a blended malt, based on 16 different malts, with a focus on Islay (and peat!) from Wemyss - a company focusing on blended malts.


Review (2015)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: ~2014

Nose: A bit buttery and lightly floral, with light ashy and medicinal smoke sitting atop everything else. Vanilla is in the mix, but the nose is a bit light overall. Lightly nutty, orange. Slightly sour as well, and continues to develop as it sits.

Taste: More smoke here, of an ashy and slightly vegetal character. There is a good butterscotch sweetness which balances out the smoke, and its mainly these two characters at play on the palate. Lightly dries out to spices and smoke.

Finish: Smoke, primarily, with a bit of vanilla, malt character, and some earthiness from the peat. There is a bit of sweetness in the finish as well, though sometimes it takes on a bit of a sweetener feel to it. It has a bit of an oily feel in the mouth, too.

Not a peat or smoke bomb, but there is smoke in this. The blending work to balance out all the elements - good but it’s a bit simple at times.

Recommended (81% of whiskies I’ve reviewed to date get this recommendation or higher).

Value: Low, based on $78.


Review: Big Peat Christmas Edition Blended Islay Malt Scotch Whisky by Jason Hambrey

ABV
~55%
Aging
N/A
Recipe
100% Malt Whisky
Distiller Multiple (Islay, Scotland)

This is a cask strength, beefier version of Big Peat - released annually for Christmas every year by Douglas Laing. It has many admirers - I originally picked it up because it won Whisky Advocate's Blended Malt of the Year in 2013. It is not only high ABV, but also higher grade whiskies going into this - so not only is it bigger than Big Peat, but also better. And, great bottle!


Review (2016)

  • Batch: 2013 (54.9%)

  • Bottling Code: L 29 08 13 3 10:40 88 BATCH53

  • Bottling Date: 2013

Medicinal, tarry peat, and quite sharp throughout. Thick, indeed, with peat, and some vanilla and creaminess poking its head through. Largely, it would appear, it's the two camps - the creamy vanilla and intense, complex peatiness (both earthy and smoky) which are integrated together. Vegetal undertones, like green pepper and asparagus. Follows through on the palate, showing dark earthy chocolate as well...with the smoke and vanilla and sweetness all balanced quite intricately. Oily too, and has the rawness and power of younger whisky. Long, ashy finish. The complexity comes out in bulk if water is added, and the nose comes alive. dried leaves on the finish, and drying...umm....terrific blending. It is young, which I actually like here and don't like.

Highly Recommended (48% of all whiskies I’ve reviewed to date get this recommendation or higher).

Value: Average, based on $102.


Review (2016)

  • Batch: 2014 (55.7%)

  • Bottling Code: L 15 08 14 3 09:12 88 BATCH61

  • Bottling Date: 2014

Sharp, chiseled peat, it would seem. A bit more wood, and a bit calmer, than in 2013, and a bit more balance right off the bat. Some bourbon notes, tar, custard, asparagus, agave, lemon zest, banana. Pepper, and a good dose of creamy and buttery notes as in the standard big peat – only, bigger. Finishes with a good dose of earthy smoke with light wood tannins. Thick with vegetal notes – asparagus (as with the 2013), green pepper, celery, and lots of mineral notes, quite reminiscent of rockpools. Terrific tannins on the finish. Oh, and lots of smoke! Finishes with roasted black pepper, wood smoke, peat (the dirty, vegetal notes of the actual stuff), and creamy banana custard. More charcoal and smoke than 2013, though, it would seem, a tad less complex. I wasn’t gonna bump it up to 90, except for a beautiful dry, smoky, and sweet finish that I just can’t get enough of. And, great balance and minerality – a quality I quite like with my peat. Beautiful stuff.

Very Highly Recommended (18% of all whiskies I’ve reviewed to date get this recommendation or higher).

Value: Average, based on $102.


Review: Big Peat Blended Islay Malt Scotch Whisky (Douglas Laing) by Jason Hambrey

ABV
46%
Aging
N/A
Recipe
100% Malt Whisky
Distiller Multiple (Islay, Scotland)

This is just what you might expect - lots of blistering peat - commendably bottled non-chill filtered and without added colouring by the independent bottler Douglas Laing.


Review (2016)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: ~2015

Lots of young, bold peat here. Fairly sweet, with some creamy, buttery notes – vanilla cream pudding, stewed pears, charcoal, celery, and lots of vegetal notes as well. The palate is soft and sweet at first, before mineral, sea-weed like peat (think laphroaig) kicks in, with some vanilla and creaminess and banana holding everything in balance too. Quite peaty, and yet still quite easy due to the creaminess and the sweetness. Banana cream pie on the finish, alongside some light ash and minerality and a slight tannic drying of the mouth. It is, for a peat monster, a bit too sweet and easy for me. I prefer the cask strength Christmas expressions…a bit more oomph and spice amidst the sweet buttery-ness.

Recommended (81% of whiskies I’ve reviewed to date get this recommendation or higher).

Value: Average, at $82.


Review: Monkey Shoulder Blended Malt Scotch Whisky by Jason Hambrey

ABV
40%
Aging
Ex-Bourbon Casks
Recipe
100% Malt Whisky
Distiller Multiple (Scotland)

Traditionally, and still performed in some distilleries, the barley germinates on a floor into malt. While it does so, it must be continually “turned” or shovelled over so that it doesn’t grow into a solid carpet of barley plants. “Monkey Shoulder” refers to a condition that some men picked up after long shifts turning the barley by hand, where the work caused one of their arms to hang down a bit like a monkey. It is a blend of three speyside single malts, Kininvie (rarely seen as a single malt), Balvenie, and Glenfiddich – all owned by William Grant and Sons. All of the whiskies going into this blend is matured in ex-bourbon casks, and each batch is made from 27 casks.


Review (2015)

  • Batch: 27

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: ~2014

Nose: Baked apples with a brilliant buttery toffee base. Quite fruity, too, with notes of green pear and some fresh orange- overall it’s well integrated into the rest with good balance. It has some of that rich corn character found in some bourbons. There is really nice subtlety here, especially if it is sought out – bits of vanilla, light baking spices (cinnamon particularly), barley earthiness, and light brown sugar.

Taste: More malt driven than I expected from the nose, and quite malt-centric. The malt is soft at first before drifting to some more earthy components and some pear. It develops fairly slowly, which works well. The toffee and the fruit are still present, but it is the grain which dominates here. At times, it tastes young, which detracts.

Finish: A light peppery spicy feel on the finish, with the lightest touch of bitterness which isn’t the most pleasant. The barley notes remain central on the finish and the earthiness from the grain is very present, with some apple and pear too. A bit of a mishmash – lots of flavour, but it’s not particularly well put together.

I was hoping that some of the subtlety on the nose would be more present on the taste, but the malt blend seems to go downhill after the nose. I do quite like the embracing of the barley, and how it is presented on the palate.

Value: Average, at $46.


Review: MacKinlay's Rare Old Highland Malt - The Discovery by Jason Hambrey

ABV
47.3%
Aging
N/A
Recipe
100% Malt Whisky
Distiller Multiple (Scotland)

This is quite the whisky. Yes, this is it – a replica of the whisky left in Antarctica by Sir Ernest Shackleton during his Antarctic expedition between 1907 and 1909 - this whisky was later found and brought to Whyte and MacKay to be recreated. The whisky was recreated down to the very last detail by blender extraordinaire Richard Paterson. About 40 different samples of trial and error were developed in the process. If you want to see what it would be like to taste this with him, check out this video.

The final replica bottle of Mackinlay’s blend contains whiskies from Speyside, the Island, and the Highlands, and the recipe even includes some very rare 1980 Glen Mhor - a distillery which shut down in 1983! There is a good bit of 8-10 year old Dalmore as well in this.

This was the first version to be recreated. Since then, another release has come out - "The Journey" - which is made to be similar but is a different whisky.


Review (2016)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2011

A rich, complex nose with smoke, dried pear, mineral notes, peach, and yet quite fresh. Creamy, smoky, toffee, honey...

The palate has brilliant feel with coal, dark roasted coffee, tingly spices, creamy fruit, and lingering smoke. It’s brilliant! Toffee, pear, raisin, currant, spicecake, apple, pear, creamy peach, even a bit of candycane on the finish.

The finish is mostly carrying forward with that smoke and some light fruit and a bit of a mineral character. And some tea, and a bit creamy. Really great stuff; this.

Very Highly Recommended (18% of all whiskies I’ve reviewed to date get this recommendation or higher).

Value: Low, at $202.


Review: Blue Hanger Blended Malt Scotch Whisky 9th Release (Berry Bros. & Rudd) by Jason Hambrey

ABV
45.6%
Aging
7-23 Years
Recipe
100% Malt Whisky
Distiller Clynelish, Glen Elgin & Bunnahabhain (Scotland)

This is a very well known connoisseurs Scotch. It is a blended malt produced by Berry Bros & Rudd who own Glenrothes but bottle a lot of other sourced malt. This is a yearly blend, varying from year to year - often with raving reviews. This release had less sherry and more peat than previous releases - it is a mix of a 17 y.o. Clynelish, 18 y.o. Glen Elgin, 23 y.o. Bunnahabhain, and 7 y.o. Bunnahabhain.


Review (2016)

  • Batch: 9th Release

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2013

The nose is full of mineral and smoke – brilliant, in fact. And there’s lots behind it – peach, wood, guava – the fruit is rich and succulent. It does smell young – but you can tell that the quality of the spirit is brilliant. Some wax, great earth integration, and oak.

The taste has a lot of smoke, with some fruit backing the show – and the smoke comes in waves, appearing at first before fading to some slightly vegetal and stewed fruit notes before coming back and stealing the show again. I like the interplay. On the end, smoking fall leaves, mineral character – I quite enjoy it and find it very intriguing. A very complex finish, with smoke, apple sauce, and slight acidity which makes you want just a bit more. Roasted malt. Dense peat and smoke on the finish.

Highly Recommended (48% of all whiskies I’ve reviewed to date get this recommendation or higher). At the top of the category, too.

Value: Average, based on $137 CAD.


Review: Grand MacNish Blended Scotch Whisky by Jason Hambrey

ABV
40%
Aging
N/A
Recipe
Scottish Malt and Grain Whiskies
Distiller Multiple (Scotland)

To be honest, I wouldn’t have picked up this whisky just solely based on the bottle (yes; sometimes I judge a book by its cover…).However, it came as a sampler on a different bottle...


Review (2013)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: ~2012

Nose: It has lots of pear, apricot, peaches, and caramel, lemon, orange, and a slightly grassy character overall. There’s a nice bit of brown sugar backdrop and vanilla too - very fruity and clean overall. I find as I search a little deeper that there is some underlying dried fruit, prunes in particular, alongside some malt.

Taste: Slightly tart….the malt comes right through before the spices settle slightly with some black pepper before the malt comes back through again with some juiciness – likely seeming so because it is a touch tart/acidic. There is a slight backdrop of vanilla throughout as well. I find it’s quite earthy towards the end along with some minerality, which I quite appreciate.

Finish: Finishes with earthiness and then slight malt, backed by a light fruit character and great mouthfeel. Oddly, I found after a time a slight bit of hot spice developed like cayenne pepper. Intriguing.

Pleasant, and I wouldn’t have a problem drinking this – but I think it could go a bit deeper with flavours. Light whiskies really have to do well with their flavours and subtlety to impress me, particularly with balance and depth.

Value: Low, even at a relatively low price. you can do better at bottom shelf prices, especially in North American whiskies.