Regulars will know I do enjoy bidding in auctions for old blends. I’ve been stockpiling a few of these with the intention of kicking off a new series of historical blend reviews. With whisky becoming ever more expensive and computerised, blends offer true value for money and an appreciation of older styles and palates. To find other entries in the series then search for ‘historic blend’ on Whisky Rover.
First up is this Haig blended Scotch whisky from John Haig & Co Ltd from Markinch. During these articles I should clarify the state of the bottle itself as you will find these blends in a variety of conditions. This 13.3fl oz (37.8cl) bottle is in excellent shape with only a little damage to the rear label, however it does suffer from a low fill level which is around half of its original level. This could be due to a poor seal (just a metal cap) as you see a similar problem with miniatures on a regular basis. The other possibility is poor storage. Fingers crossed that the contents have survived!
Few blends have a rich and prolonged history to match the Haig name. From humble origins on the family farm it went on to conquer the world of blends before falling under the ownership of DCL and now Diageo, where it still resides. Now a spent force in the major markets, it has slowly faded into the history books although it can be found in some minor markets outwith the UK. A sad graveyard shift for what once was a popular and important brand.
Colour: burnt caramel
Smell: a very faint nose but what remains is a dash of sweet butterscotch, melted dark chocolate actually transforming into a light After Eight note, ending with cinnamon. Restrained, understated and mysterious.
Taste: well this is why you have to be wary of low fill levels. Sometimes you can get away with a little reduction but if it is significant (in this case) then it can have dire consequences. A very unpleasant taste now resides in what is left of this Haig bottle and it would be unfair to go any further.
Thankfully this example only cost a couple of pounds and I’m left with a nice old bottle. Dating blends can be surprisingly difficult as records are poor and you’re left to investigate the variables. This includes the label style, seal and numbers on the bottom of the glass bottle. For the UK we can also use the type of measurement as if it is non-metric then you’re already looking before the 1970’s. If however the bottle features non-metric and metric then you can switch your search towards the late 70’s. A bottle with just metric will be 1980 onwards.
Despite using all these variables blends can still be difficult to pin down exactly. While I know that this Haig bottle is from the late 1970’s, you’ll see many blends at auctions where only a suggested decade is provided. At times you’ll have to do your own research or tap into your own knowledge to confirm whether the suggestion is right or wrong.
Update: since writing this last week, Diageo have unveiled their master plan for a new Haig bottling made from 100% grain, complete with celebrity endorsement. It’ll be an interesting bottle to check out in due course.