We do like a good blended whisky here on Malt. (Have a read of this interview with whisky legend Charles MacLean on blended Scotch.)
Cheap blends are often looked down-upon, particularly if you’re just starting to explore single malts, but they do provide the backbone of the whisky industry. And that’s why I like to cover them here, too. It’s all right reviewing whiskies worth hundreds and, on occasion, thousands of pounds, but that’s not much good for the majority of whisky drinkers. Particularly after Christmas, when everyone is scratching around for spare change in the sofa in order to make it to payday.
Of cheap blended Scotch, so far I’ve looked at Bell’s Original, Teacher’s Highland Cream, and the Famous Grouse. They were all very mild an inoffensive.
And now it’s time to look at another of the UK’s major blends – Whyte & Mackay Blended Scotch Whisky.
Whyte & Mackay
The company, Whyte & Mackay, has been around a long time. Since 1844. Based in Glasgow, its brands make up around 3% of the UK whisky market. It’s very sought after by corporations, too, and has changed owners quite a few times in recent years. Now it’s owned by a Philippines firm, Emperador, who bought it for a cool £430m. Whyte & Mackay is also the 26th largest blended Scotch brand worldwide.
Their master blender is Richard Paterson, who knows a thing or two about putting good whiskies together. He’s released some astonishing The Dalmore whiskies, and some – in my opinion – not so good Jura whiskies (I just can’t get excited about that spirit). They also own Fettercairn and Tamnavulin, as well as the gargantuan Invergordon single grain distillery.
The Whyte & Mackay Special Blend – the core of their range – is ‘triple matured’. First is the standard maturation of individual single malts. They’re then brought together and married in sherry casks, where they’re matured for a further few months. Then aged grain whiskies are added, where the new blend of whisky matures a little longer. In total, 41 different whiskies are used to make up the blend.
You can pick bottles of this up very cheaply indeed. Small bottles for less than £10 in many places, such as your local supermarket. Although rather bizarrely I won this in a raffle, so it didn’t cost me anything.
Colour: deep copper. I think we can forgive blends for adding caramel colouring, largely for consistency, but interesting to note that it is darker than Bell’s or Famous Grouse.
On the nose: quite confident, creamy, vanilla custard, flashes of dried fruits. Malty. Like a bowl of porridge with a lot of heather honey stirred into it.
In the mouth: flavour! Quite a bit actually. Sweet: dried fruits, molasses or maple syrup. A little bit of woodiness in there too. Malted Milk biscuits. The burnt sugar crust on a crème brûlée There’s something very dark rum-like about it, too. Yes, it’s not complex, not even close, but there’s plenty going on. Compared to Bell’s or Famous Grouse, it’s far more flavoursome. And as with many blends, there’s good texture to the spirit.
I think because this last year I’ve become more a fan of sherried style whiskies than peated whiskies, this one ticks my box. If you’re not a fan of that sweetness then it may not be for you. I can imagine this going one of two ways. If you’re totally new to whisky, perhaps Bell’s – being more mellow and dialling down the flavours – might be the better bet. Whyte & Mackay just has far more flavour, and isn’t shy about it either.
Anyway, of the cheapest UK blended whiskies, I think this is the tastiest. Just don’t go expecting your knees to quiver and your spine to tingle when you take a sip.
so very interesting off to buy a bottle
Couldn’t agree more. This is my go to whisky when the budget is tight. For me it beats bell’s, teachers, grouse by a margin.
Totally agree. This mainstream mixed blend whisky is my go to when budget is tight. I can honestly sip this spirit and appreciate it. Although working previously within a background of whisky tasting I can honestly say I will never show any depreciation to any distillery of whisky as whisky to me is such a diverse art that will never dwindle. There is no such thing as a bad scotch single malt, mixed blend. There is no such thing as a bad Irish whiskey, Japanese whiskey or even American whiskey in other words a bourbon. It’s all about personal preference down to one’s taste pallete. Which in turn brings diversity to the spirit. One day I wish to take myself on the trail of Scotland to embark on the next chapter of my quest in the art of whisky making.
An easy tipple to enjoy and I do.
I only tasted it in a new local recently and was pleasantly surprised.
Thank you !
I don’t understand 2 lions though?
Hi Nick – thanks for stopping by! It’s very difficult to find a bad whisky, I agree. (Although some like the Fujikai 10 are pretty poor and weird!) And there is personal preference involved, although I would say that some whiskies are better assembled than others, some are rip-offs for what’s gone in, some show the use of poor casks. So whilst it’s all good, there are levels of goodness if there’s criteria around it – if you see what I mean.
“There is no such thing as bad whisky. Some whiskys just happen to be better than others.”
– William Faulkner
Having drunk W & M for years I think I’m qualified to ask why the bottle we opened last night (Tesco £12.00) smells of cellar steps and tastes fusty. I’d appreciate your comments, please.
‘Whyte and Mackay’ is a very decent cheap blended mainstream whisky. I’ve never been minted, quite the opposite in fact. And since my budget is tighter than ever before, I’ve decided to look out for serviceable to very good and affordable Blended Malts, and for me ‘Whyte and Mackay Blended Scotch’ is really quite nice for the asking price. As you say, it’s won’t blow you away, but it has a decent range of flavours, the sherry hints shine through for me in particular. A good whisky. Though I’d recommend ‘Queen Margot 8 Years’ and ‘Highland Black 8 Years’ first, especially as both of these are fantastic blends for the price of £12.99 70cl at my local Lidl and Aldi respectively!
The Whyte and Mackay is indeed one of the tastier blended whiskies. However a recent example of travel retail Grant’s has now upped the ante. Recently, at an Asian airport I came across a travel exclusive Grant’s called the ‘Distillery Edition’ and, believe it or not, was bottled at 46.3%. It was only one dollar more than the blended whiskies on the shelf, things like J & B, White Horse, Haig, Whyte and Mackay, etc. so it was not a cynical attempt at fooling people to fork over more money. I have not had a Grant’s for many years but from what I recall this Distillery Edition is much better. It is bolder, richer and the added alcohol makes a difference. Grant’s is to be congratulated.
It has taken me over 20 years to appreciate Whisky, I’m no expert and certainly struggle with the complex tastes of single malts especially the island variety but have learnt to savour and enjoy some highland, lowland and speyside but only after perseverance and over some considerable time. Whyte & Mackay was a good entry point as the sherry hints to other spirits and is a staple in my drinks cabinet now.
Morrisons currently have a litre on spesh at £15. I mean, you couldn’t buy it for that!
As a big fan of honey, fruit, toffee and cream this Speyside-by-the-numbers dram hits the spot every time for me.
Yes, it’s not complicated, and you don’t get a hugely long finish, but there is lots and lots of flavour even if it isn’t multi-dimensional.
At 15 notes for a litre why would t you??
A nice fully malty taste. Good on the rocks, with soda and if you like mixers then go for it. It stands up to a dab of ginger ale or a slug of cola.
On a Par with the Lidl Glen Orchy Brand for uniqueness and richness.
I love tracking down the tastiest cheap whisky, whiskey and bourbon.
I have been enjoying Whisky for many years, I like a few top of the range blends such as Chivas Regal blend and the Johnny Walker blends. I do like the Islay peaty malts. My favourite malts are Talisker and Oban.
I explained to friends that I could tell the area of Scotland by the taste and I was challenged this week when I glass of Whyte and McKay was given to me. I have never tried it before, but I was immediately impressed by its smooth and fruity taste which tasted better than a cheap blend. I guessed it was a single malt from the West Coast and maybe Oban, I wasn’t right but the distillery is only 100 mile south of Oban
Whilst I appreciate single malts greatly, I am predominantly a whisky drinker and enjoy it in all its guises. Before discovering W&M, my go to blend was Chivas – a lovely drink but also great marketing! I am always learning and was so pleased to discover this ‘cheap’ blend about a year ago. It really makes me feel good. I love its character, sweetness, and find it, quite frankly, rude for the price. I place it with Jameson’s for sheer pleasure and value; I also have a very soft spot for Irish triple distilled whiskeys.
One could argue that there should be more focus on taste and less on price but then, maybe drink like this would go up! so, happy for this maker to keep pumping this wonderful liquor out at £20 per litre and for the status quo to remain…right here, right now.