Tuesday, December 23, 2008
Blended Scotch Whisky
£ $ ? can't find a price
The last in a series of blended whiskies I have been running on Dr. Whisky and I have been reassured that blends do not deserve the bad reputation they currently have. Folks who know Dr. Whisky know that he loves blends, their flavour, diversity, and history. Sure, the hundreds of 3 year old no age statement blends branded as Clan ____ and Glen _____ and Royal _____ have tarnished this reputation, but I hope the past few posts have redeemed the category for readers. A blend is often bad, but that is not the nature of the beast. It cannot be said that blends are worse than single malts. As I have said before, the best whiskies I have tried have probably been single malts, but the WORST whiskies I have tried had definitely been single malts. This Grant's Rare Old 18yo is finished in port casks, sort of a marrying period for the blend.
When Pattison's blending house went bankrupt in 1898 it brought down many distilleries and distilling companies with it. The "Pattison Crash" as it came to be known (see THIS for all Dr. Whisky posts that mention this monumental moment in whisky history) left many expecting the end of the whisky industry. William Grant saw an opportunity. He had built to distilleries at that point, Glenfiddich ain 1887 and Balvenie in 1892, and by the end of the century has had started his own blending house and grew into exporting with the help of his son and son-in-law, John and Charles. Charles, famously determined, made his first sale after 181 calls; his second after his 503rd. Meanwhile, John began exporting to The Hudson Bay Company of Canada. Today, Grant's blended whisky is sold in over 180 countries but this particular marque is really hard to find. Unfortunately.
For more info on William Grant and Sons and their whiskies enjoyed thus far on the mission, click HERE.
Thanks to the WG&S folks for getting this for me and to JB for travelling to the US with it.
Grain whisky leads with a sweet breadiness, vanilla wafers, and a deep and provocative oakiness. The malt whiskies are heavy, oily, salty, very Highland in style (Scapa, Dalmore, Clynelish, even Cragganmore from Speyside) and some papaya or tropical fruitiness that lifts the malt density. Meringue, bubblegum, suntan lotion, damp cutting boards, metal like guitar strings, toffee, lime... the aroma is among the most complex I have encountered.
Whoa, different direction. Malt leads with more of an Islay oiliness now, smoke and tar, prunes, woody and aged. Chewy and full, like decadent chocolate brownies, slightly savage and satisfying like grabbing the ass of someone you love and have longed for. Incredibly long oaky finish with heavy grain notes like rye bread, tobacco smoke, and the freshness of cedar. Flavours linger. And linger.
Years ago, Dave Broom wrote the following words about this dram, "So thick and honeyed you could paint it on your lover's body." Brilliant note, and not wholly inaccurate. This is a delicious drop rich with complexity and, as DB implies, sensually smooth.
Avoid ice. I feel the need to say this as the few countries lucky enough to have this bottling in their markets probably drink all Scotch on the rocks or in mizuwari. AVOID ICE. This is blending that should be celebrated and appreciated as a constant reminder that this incredible art, this incalculable skill, is what initially brought the world of whisky to a world of whisky drinkers. We are still here, if you'll have us... we bow in your presence.
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