Matt’s Blended Tasting – Six at Seatoun

Matt is a long-time whisky taster.

He is also a very knowledgeable whisky connoisseur. So the prospect of Matt holding a tasting of blended whiskies made my ears prick up.  A lot.

The majority of my whisky education has come from listening to people who know more than me – which is a big group of people! Matt is very deservedly in that group.

I’ve sat in the room with him at a lot of whisky tastings over the years. In recent times many of those tastings have involved reasonably esoteric Single Malt bottlings.

While drinking esoteric single malts is all very fine and ego-building, they are generally harder whiskies to find. And they tend to be at a higher price point if you do!

As a rule, blends tend to be more accessible – and more affordable, especially if you need to buy petrol too.

Single Malts v Blends

I don’t want to be lecturing on the difference between single malts and blended whiskies.

Suffice to say that – in exceptionally broad terms – a blended whisky is a combination of two or more whiskies that have been distilled in different distilleries and then put together in one bottle. That’s a very simplistic description – there a considerable number of variations on the theme!

I greatly admire whisky makers. They do stuff that I couldn’t do: I’m happy to let them do it and leave me to reap the benefits three to thirty years down the line.

Examples of blended whiskies include the Johnny Walker range, Chivas Regal, and Famous Grouse whiskies.

Making blended whisky

Any single malt whisky is the combination of a set of given ingredients and circumstance – the materials (grain, water, yeast), the manufacturing equipment and process, the duration of maturation, the type of cask used. Within these parameters the outcome is reasonably predictable, but the results can also vary widely.

I greatly admire whisky makers. They do stuff that I couldn’t do: I’m happy to let them do it and leave me to reap the benefits three to thirty years down the line.

But whisky blenders are a different breed! Their task is to produce a whisky that noses, tastes and feels the same as the one they produced last year and the years before that.

Like making the same chocolate cake each birthday.

But the whiskies the blenders took to get make last year’s cake may not be available this year. Eggs can’t be got and the chocolate supply has dried up. The blender is left to source other component whiskies that she/he can blend in different ways and quantities to produce a cake that is indistinguishable from last year’s.

That’s skill!

The Tasting

Matt had six blends for the tasting. All of them are reasonable available if you shop around a bit.

The Line-up

As usual, five of the whiskies were known to the tasters and the sixth was a “mystery”, the drams were presented “blind”.

The tasting notes and scores by glass are mine from the evening. Any resemblance to the overall results at the bottom is purely coincidental!

Glass 1:  Naked Malt, 40% 19yo, Naked Grouse without the grain component

Nose: Brown-bread toast, grassy (straw), chocolate
Palate: Sweet and soft, then pepper corns
Finish: oily residue on tongue & lips
Conclusion: OK, but not startling. First fill oloroso casks
Score: 7.1

Glass 2:  Monkey Shoulder “Smokey Money” Batch 9, 40%

Nose: There’s the peaty one! Raw bacon in a crepe bandage, banana-flavoured lollies.
Palate: Watery & thin.
Finish: Peat stays on … and on. Oily.
Conclusion: A bit disappointing. I’ve had other Monkey Shoulder expressions that left a better impression. The peat gets in the way here.
Score: 6.8

Glass3:  The Mystery (revealed as Johnny Walker Blue Label)

Nose: Nose prickle, sherried, and hint of smoke. Honey and Solvol soap.
Palate: Tannic and a bit non-descript.
Conclusion: I didn’t pick it as a JW.
Score: 7.2

Glass 4:  Whisky Trail “Rockabilly Hoedown” 19yo, 45%. Sherry Butt .

Nose: Potato crisps and poached stone fruit.
Palate: Sweet & soft, inoffensive.
Finish: Berries and brown sugar. Long!
Conclusion: Nice!  This whisky is from Elixir Distillers, who’s other brands include Port Askaig and Elements of Islay. At 19 yo the Rockabilly Hoedown may be the combination of two purchases of raw spirit that have been casked and matured together. Could be a teaspooned Longmorn?
Score: 8.1

Glass 5:  North Star SuperSonic Mach 4, 7yo, 60%. 2 Sherry Butts

Nose: Slight nose of kerosene, like a Riesling wine. Buttery, with good legs, citrus marmalade, Honey & sawdust and brown sugar.
Palate: Rich and vegetal (not in a bad way), coffee and goes hot with a tannic edge.
Finish: Sack-y, sherry, hot, dark chocolate
Conclusion: Want to buy one!
Score: 8.5

Glass 6:  Adelphi Private Stock Reserve, 57%

Nose: “Hell of a good nose”, medicinal and bandages, smoke and marine, buttery bacon.
Palate: Salty, peaty, sweet bacon.
Finish: Warming.
Conclusion: Lives much more to the promise of the nose than a lot of earlier Ardnamurchans.
Score: 8.5

Group Results

The results for “Best Nose” are:
Glass 1: Naked Malt: 7 Votes (3rd Place)
Glass 2: Smokey Monkey: 6 Votes (4th Place)
Glass 3: Johnnie Walker Blue Label: 2 Votes (5th Place)
Glass 4: The Whisky Trail: 9 Votes (2nd Place)
Glass 5: Super Sonic Mach 4: 12 Votes (1st Place)
Glass 6: Adelphi Peated” 1 Vote (6th Place)

The results for Overall Favourite with the average score from the toom are:
Glass 1: Naked Malt: score 6.24 (4th Place)
Glass 2: Smokey Monkey: score 6.14 (5th Place)
Glass 3: Johnnie Walker Blue Label: score 6.06 (6th Place)
Glass 4: The Whisky Trail: score 7.86 (1st Place)
Glass 5: Super Sonic Mach 4: score 7.24 (2nd Place)
Glass 6: Adelphi Peated: score 7.14 (3rd Place)

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