Blended malt ought to be the pinnacle of Scotch whisky. That sounds contentious – of course it does – but it’s not really me talking. That’s the opinion of George Malcolm Thomson, writing under the nom de plume of Aeneas MacDonald, presented in the most beautifully written whisky book of all time.
As is so often the case, I lent my copy to a friend and It Was Never Seen Again. So I can’t give the direct quote, but basically Thomson/MacDonald – after railing poetically about his hatred for grain whisky – talks about how much he loves blends. The inference, naturally, being that he’s talking about blended malt – an inference lent particular weight by his conclusion, in which he fondly hopes of being presented, one day, with the perfect blend. In modern practice, however, commercially blended malt doesn’t make many waves. There’s nothing suitably sexy about the term ‘blended malt’, and ever since the SWA issued their edict against the term ‘vatted’, it’s all become very confusing.
Furthermore, in this era of whisky, distilleries aren’t really inclined to let their really good stuff go to blends of any sort. So, in the grand scheme of things, there isn’t much great blended malt about.
There’s the Big Peat/Timourous Beastie series by Douglas Laing, most of which I’m not a massive fan of, and there’s the stuff put out by Compass Box and Wemyss, which I like a bit more. The most obvious BM is Johnnie Walker Green, which I do think is pretty great, and then there are a few other bits and pieces here and there.
Nothing, however, that really sits in ‘pinnacle of whisky’ territory.
Today’s pour was vatted (sod ‘blended’) in 2013 by Neil Ridley and Joel Harrison. Formerly of caskstrength.net, and latterly of Distilled, and of redefining the boundaries of whisky hipsterism.
It was the 4th in their A-Z series, and therefore a blend of three distilleries beginning with ‘D’. Indeed they took their dedication to D a step further and opted solely for distilleries owned by Diageo.
That ruled out Deanston (the best ‘D’, in my book) and ushered in Dalwhinnie, Dailuaine, and Dufftown. I have a few epithets beginning with ‘D’ for some of the whisky to come out of a couple of those distilleries, but let’s not get catty just yet.
Randomly, Ridley and Harrison ended the series at ‘D’. Perhaps they looked into the future and wondered what the hell they’d do for X. Perhaps they decided life was simply too short. In any event, this 3D blended malt was their swan song. Bottled at 56.4%, and yours for c.£50 if you can still find it. But would Aeneas MacDonald have approved?
Caskstrength and Carry On 3D blended malt – review
On the nose: Pretty light on the intensity of aroma given that this is cask strength stuff. Hay,
grass, vanilla. A smatter of vanilla sponge cake after a little while. Flutters of fruit in pear and dried lemon form. If I’m being harsh it’s a smidge one-dimensional considering the name…
In the mouth: Oh dear me, no. Still the grassy hay character, and the apples and pears have
become more pronounced, but the booze is vicious and a great deal of bitterness – no, sourness – has crept in. Seems off-key and inharmonious; the potentially pleasant fruitiness distracted from and overwhelmed. That sourness leads into something combining the worm tub-induced boiled-cabbage sulphur of immature Dalwhinnie with the somewhat unclean, mechanical aspect of Dufftown. Makes you rather miss the nondescript nose.
The whole ‘3D’ thing struck me as a tad gimmicky, but I like the idea of blended malt, and – come to that – I like Distilled as well.
I don’t like this though.
Dalwhinnie is a distillery which needs time, and its component in this blend has not been given that. Dufftown is pretty grim fare at best, and its worst qualities seem to loom here, particularly on the finish. God knows what Dailuaine is bringing to the table; I’m not sure it’s given a chance to bring anything.
So this blended malt isn’t for me, I’m afraid. I guess, like Aeneas, I’ll just have to keep waiting. And hoping.
Thanks to Jordan for the sample. Sorry I’m not more of a fan!
Image kindly provided by Just Whisky