Who doesn’t love a bargain? The longer I spend listening to feedback that we receive here, various trends become apparent: the desire to win at retail, where prices of whisky are spiralling upwards and the quality is at best in limbo, and to find a worthwhile whisky, a nugget in a treasure chest full of fake gold.
On many occasions when I do see something that is too good to be true, I deem it to be so. A buoyant market means whisky sells—even inept casks or those with traces of sulphur or soap. I recall the official Balvenie single cask that Mark and I reviewed recently. It was frankly poor, and you had to question the logic from Balvenie in putting their name on such a bottling. Surely amongst their warehouse of whiskies, something better would reside? Such apprehension means you often step back and wait for a review, or word of mouth from friends. With so many whiskies hitting the market nowadays, we’re unable to keep up. Neither can you, I expect. I’m far more selective nowadays. What money I do have (and time) needs to be deployed on worthwhile whiskies.
Then something lands, and you think, why not? Such was this commemorative release from the His Excellency range to celebrate a decade of Bartels Rawlings International Limited. Good value options are increasingly limited, and we’ve been picking out independent bottlers of note throughout this year. When this release was announced, it was a simple decision. Just £36 (including postage) for a 17-year-old blended malt—what can go wrong?
Feeling lucky, we made an immediate purchase thanks to our Patreon supporters, and with an outturn of just 50 bottles, I’m still surprised that at the time of writing 14 bottles remain online. Do we not want a bargain? Are we tightening our purse strings in this pre-Brexit-OMG environment? Do we not trust a small-scale bottler, or are we turned off by the mere mention of a blend?
It’s even a sherry-matured, which is another box ticked in our current market that is increasingly obsessed by all manner of casks. Mark can call me a traditionalist, or other things beside in private. But I don’t really care. The humble, pure—call it whatever you will—bourbon cask is the greatest and best vessel for whisky. A chat with a recent enthusiast underlined this, as he highlighted his belief that such casks are ideal for those who learn to appreciate more complex flavours with interesting distillate character. Sherry casks, he believed, do a good job at entertaining people who look for a less complex flavour profile.
It is an interesting theory. I’m faced by more and more whiskies that could have come from any number of distilleries. This doesn’t really interest me. I want to learn and appreciate the subtle differences of distillery A versus distillery B. Not a lick of sherry taint, or the latest piece of aggressive French oak. The wood isn’t totally to blame for the eradication of the distillery character, but it is the knockout blow. After all the enhancements and efficiency gains, we’ve seen the centralisation of maturation, standard yeast rushed fermentation, grain delivery and so on. The essence of each individual distillery has become slowly eroded, so it is easy to become downhearted and retreat into the whiskyfun unicorn whiskies; if only.
I only mention this because it is easy to become tangled in such things. In many ways, those days are gone now, and we won’t be seeing the old character revived. We will have new modern takes from distilleries focused on restoring a character and style of whisky we rarely see. Even the terroir zealots have us believing that they are the answer. In the end, I’m tired by it all, and what better way is there to relax and enjoy a dram with a well-priced whisky that delivers a worthwhile experience?
This His Excellency blended malt comes from cask #11 and was filled on 7th November 2001 before being bottled on 12th March 2019. We don’t know the distilleries that form this blend, but there is obviously no grain element. This underlines the £36 price once again. It is non-chill filtered and of natural colour. We were able to purchase this whisky thanks to our Patreon supporters, and I sent off a healthy sample to Phil to join me in reviewing this release.
His Excellency Blended Malt Scotch Whisky 17 year old – Phil’s review
Colour: dark Gold
On the nose: smells mature but lively at the same time. Sweet honey and toffee tempered by a dry, dusty spiciness. Then fruity – green apple peel, orange segments and milk chocolate. Clove and a light dusting of pepper with leather and oak. Chamomile and furniture polish.
In the mouth: slightly thin body wise with a fairly soft arrival. Well honeyed with a decent maltiness apparent. The clove and chamomile are here along with pine needles. Orange oil, fruit and nut chocolate with some black breakfast tea. The finish doesn’t last terribly long but is a bit sour like grapefruit and stewed tea.
Unfortunately the palate just can’t quite match the rather lovely nose. Sadly that fullness of aroma doesn’t fully translate when it hits your mouth and the finish is disappointingly short. That being said its solid enough and I could gladly nose a glass all night. All in all for £36 it’s a decent effort.
His Excellency Blended Malt Scotch Whisky 17 year old – Jason’s review
Colour: bashed copper.
On the nose: a light orange oil, ginger and black peppercorn vibe. There’s cherrywood, fudge and green apples. An element of cheese? Some green jelly sweeties, coffee beans and butterscotch. Water showcases toffee and a gentle floral nature.
In the mouth: initially woody and a little flat. The bottle, or glass, benefits from time. Cloves, more peppercorns, walnuts and a light silky texture. Blackcurrants, nutmeg, dried fruits, stewed tea and ginger. There’s also chocolate digestives and a short finish. Water reveals a nutty pine and more dark chocolate with memories of treacle. Either way the finish is shorter than Boris Johnson’s reign as Prime Minister.
A fair price for a fair whisky. Nothing to grumble about here whatsoever and I can only imagine what some independents would charge for a release such as this. For once we’re all winners and content with the transaction. This doesn’t happen too often nowadays. Sometimes throwing caution to the wind, and making an impulse purchase works out.