Almost three years ago I looked at Mackinlay’s Shackleton Rare Old Highland Malt Whisky – a superb, really tasty whisky. The ghost of Shackleton has risen up once again with Whyte & Mackay.
There’s an interesting quote in the press material around the Shackleton Blended Malt, from Stuart Bertram, Head of Whisky Development Brands at Whyte & Mackay.
“With the accessibility of a blend and the craft credentials of a malt, this unique, storied brand is set to bring modern spirits drinkers into scotch as well as providing a new, premium alternative for the blended whisky occasion for those existing Scotch whisky fans.”
In many ways, I believe a whisky like this – if one was to come back in time to 2017 – is going to be highly representative of the new era’s thinking in terms of marketing and promotion. We have: accessibility, the watch-word of the mass-market. Then we have the craft credentials of a malt: that malt whisky is inherently perceived as better, to appeal to the more discerning drinker. And then, a storied brand – stories are everywhere in marketing, a sign of the digital age where people make buying choices on intriguing sentiments as much as fancy packaging. And the story element – borrowing heavily on the Explorer Ernest Shackleton – has been amplified even further. Tim Jarvis, the British explorer and environmentalist, will act as Global Brand Ambassador: so now we’ve moved far on from whisky specialists, far on from wheeling out pretty young people: today we engage people with storytelling.
So, a premium blend, drawing on malt’s credentials, with a story: something, then, for absolutely everyone. Everything about the Shackleton Blended Malt is a highly considered release, building upon the success and the heritage of the previous editions, which were more simply about recreating the past. Anyway, if you’d like to know more about the Shackleton whisky story, take a read of my previous post. (It is actually rather interesting.)
This whisky is absolutely representative of the modern industry. And you know what? It’s only £40 too, which is a very fair price I believe for a 1 litre bottle of whisky. This will be available at travel retail, one of the most important sales ‘territories’. The vatting is composed of Highland single malts, which have then been married in a combination of ex-bourbon American white oak barrels and Spanish Sherry butts. (No details of the distilleries or the ages of the whiskies involved.)
Shackleton Blended Malt Scotch Whisky Review
On the nose: now that’s really quite lovely. An oily, earthy undertone; malted barley, fresh and yeasty. Lemon curd and toffee. Baked apples, cinnamon and golden syrup begin to show. Then this lightly peated note returns – pleasant.
In the mouth: it echoes the nose closely: malty, with baked apples, cinnamon. Digestive biscuits. Some grapefruit acidity; and that barley-driven note mingles with light peat; and then gives way to vanilla and pears, and creamy buttermilk. Layers of honey follow, with gentle spices and a nice herbal note. The peat drifts about wonderfully – not dominating, just underscoring that malty core.
Think about it too much and the depth isn’t quite there: the finish fades too quickly, leaving a silky – and surprisingly grain-smooth texture that’s a fraction simple. But thinking isn’t always the point of blends: as a session dram, to share with friends, it’s a tasty whisky. Good fun. There’s probably some young stuff in here, but the overall product is pleasant.
There’s enough flavour here (although I cannot help but be critical about anyone who puts forward 40% ABV these days, when just 3% more gives a heck of a lot more life). But the Shackleton Blended Malt is decent stuff, and you should pick up a bottle. I mean, it’s £40 right? And a contribution this goes to the Antarctic Heritage Trust, towards the towards the ongoing preservation of Shackleton’s 1907 basecamp.
For the single malt connoisseurs among you, actually there’s plenty to enjoy, but I can’t help think you’d be a lot happier with the previous releases, which was much more of a special thing.