They say nobody makes a bad whisky. I can agree with that with taste being subjective. But in the last review I post for 2020, this agreement been challenged severely for I think I have found the exception. Of course you may like this whisky and I encourage you to try, but while my review may be entertaining, I’d heavily recommend you don’t.
This is a bottle that I managed to get in a group of whisky miniatures that I purchased at auction. It holds absolutely no value to me as a collector, though as a reviewer I thought it would be interesting to do a quick tasting to see if we can learn something from this old blend.
Passport Scotch was first blended in 1965 by Seagrams, which has morphed through the passage of time and big money takeovers to be part of Pernod Ricard, so you can imagine that there will be a good amount of their own products from their vast selection of blend fodder distilleries.
Incidentally, that’s what triggered my interest in this particular blend was the fact that I’m led to believe that there is a good level of Glen Keith whisky in the recipe. Now, as you may recall I didn’t think much of the Glen Keith distillers edition, although I have to confess that I need to perhaps review that again. As the bottle has oxidised a bit, the malt within has had a slight improvement. Maybe a blend made with this whisky will be ok, but I have my reservations.
The Passport Scotch does have its own website, and from the information I could glean from the internet it was the 2nd most popular blended whisky in Brazil. However that is probably because it is shipped in bulk from Scotland and diluted in Brazil to the required 40%. So technically, while this is allowed to happen for blended spirit, it isn’t as Scottish as single malt.
I’m going to skip straight to the whisky now.
Passport Blended Scotch
Region – Blend Age – NAS Strength -40% Colour – Amber (0.7) Cask Type – n/a Colouring – Yes Chill Filtered – Yes Nose -grain, citrus, straw, damp cardboard, vanilla Palate -Sharp and burning arrival. grain, biscuits, honey, vanilla, green apple, smoke, an overtone of bitter oak. Finish – short, sharp with bitterness, intertwined with a hint of sweetness in the background, smoke and vanilla
Well, thank God for small mercies. The finish being short meant I could get beyond this whisky quickly. I’m going to be quite brutal, but this was to coin a Scottish term – ‘Shite.’ This was an abomination that made me think that the one of the distilleries in the blend got their feints receiver and spirit receiver mixed up. I actually wondered if this was going to make me blind. This has to be brake fluid masquerading as Scottish Whisky. If you tried to use a real passport of the same quality, you’d soon be taken aside at customs for a wee chat with the guys who are getting ready to put on the elbow-length rubber gloves prior to a body cavity check. That experience would probably be preferable to drinking this.
This is a whisky that was never meant to be sipped, not even with water. I think a mixer of ginger ale, cola, sulphuric acid or arsenic would be appropriate to make this taste better. There is a good reason that this is a budget blend, however I’d need payment to drink this again.
What is really surprising that during my research, I found that Ralfy reviewed this on his vBlog YouTube channel. And he appeared to like it and give it a basic score of 81/100. See his review #514 to see it for yourself. As much I respect Ralfy’s experience and knowledge, given my experience I really wonder if he had magic mushrooms instead of teabags in the pot for his breakfast beverage. Of course, there could be batch variations, perhaps Ralfy had a cold or maybe my bottle had a severe case of old bottle effect, but if I was to give it a score, getting above 30 would be a challenge.
While this is a generic blended whisky that seems to have a lot of grain spirit in it, this reinforces why I am cautious to these generic blends that turn up in auction lots where I am bidding on the lot for one bottle. This is why I usually send these types of bottles back to auction. I don’t think there is a lot of Glen Keith in this, as despite me not taking to the Distillers Edition, it was nowhere as bad as this. Ah well, every day is a school day.
Let me tell you this. It is definitely this is a Passport you wouldn’t be unhappy to lose. Scotty’s Drams score? Drain cleaner.
Taste Review #65 – Black and White Blended Whisky (1950’s Bottling)
How many times have we heard that things were better in days gone by? It’s certainly something that I’ve heard plenty of times and in some cases there may be a bit of justification in that statement. As a child of the early 70’s, I have very happy memories, but then again I also remember strikes, power cuts, uncollected trash and expensive fuel – so not everything was better. As we have propelled ourselves from the 20th century into the 21st, things are much improved. But is whisky?
Getting us into a sense of perspective, I’d suggest that this may not be true. Having a greater selection doesn’t mean that things are better for the whisky world than they were. Pressures of shareholders and demand have accelerated the need for production resulting I would say there a rising blandness in the whisky world and while none of the whiskies are bad as such, I feel there is much of a muchness.
This week’s sample has come from Cheaper By The Dram, managed by Whisky and Antique specialist Mark Littler. You might remember that I have done a series on cask purchases with his help and have also reviewed one of his other releases, the 12 year old Glenturret. This dram has come as a thank you for some help that I had given Mark – I wasn’t sure what to expect and I was overjoyed to be given a sample of whisky from the 1950’s – Black and White Blend. It has always been my ambition to taste a whisky from that era. An abortive attempt to do so occurred a couple of years ago with the purchase of a Glen Spey blended whisky at auction. I had questions over the provenance and authenticity of the bottling once I received it so had decided to keep it as an oddity rather than a drinking bottle.
Regular readers have probably noticed a relative lack of blends in my reviews and I give no apology for the fact that I don’t drink them often. That’s because I strive to find a character in a distillery through its single malt and that’s something that I look for. I’m not a snob and do not think that blends are inferior, but they don’t appeal to me so much. A telephone conversation with Mark led him to put the supposition ‘that a single malt is like a virtuoso violinist, yet a decent blend is like a whole orchestra’ with all the components in its correct place for maximum enjoyment. So I had to smile when I saw the cover note with this latest CBTD delivery. See below.
And I have to say there may be a grain of truth in that, but we will see later whether or not this will be true in this case. Speaking of cases, this one arrived in its usual secure packaging with minimal information contained within. This is partly to discourage re-sale of these bottles at auction and to me it helps provide focus to the whisky itself, partly like a blind tasting where few if any details are known about the spirit.
Black and White is amongst of the oldest whisky blends still being produced . It’s owner, James Buchanan supplied blended whisky that was made by Glasgow blenders W.P Lowrie. It was initially marketed as Buchanan’s, and was packaged in darkened bottles with white labels and was commonly known as Black and White whisky (which was to become the official name of the blend from 1902.) From 1885 this was supplied to the House Of Commons and was renamed Buchanan’s House of Commons Fine Old Highland whisky.
By the early 1900’s the logo of the whisky was to become an Aberdeen Terrier (also known as a Scottie Dog) and a West Highland Terrier. To help provide more whisky for his popular blends, Lowrie and Buchanan founded the Glentauchers Distillery beside Keith and also eventually obtained Convalmore Distillery in Dufftown when Buchanan bought out Lowrie in 1906. The whisky that Buchanan was producing was good enough to obtain Royal Warrants from Queen Victoria, the Prince of Wales and the Duke of York in 1898.
By 1915, Buchanan had joined forces with Dewars, becoming known as Buchanan Dewars in 1919. By 1925 they merged with John Walker & Son and Distillers Company Limited (DCL), now part of Diageo.
As we know, blended whisky was made as an alternative to low quality single malts. Blended whisky was smoother, more consistent and easier to drink. After the invention of the Coffey Continuous Still, grain whisky was easier and more efficient to make. When the law changed in 1860 to allow the sale of blended of malt and grain whiskies, single malt fell out of favour. Even now, blended whisky outstrips consumption of single malt. It may shock you to know that roughly 90% of Scotch whisky goes into blends.
So, is this whisky any good now, and how does it compare to current blends? There is only one way to find out….
Region – BLEND Age – NAS Strength – 40% Colour – Burnished.Nose – Old linen, vanilla, strawberry, apple, walnut. Palate – Very light. Slight smoke in the back ground. Apple, oak, slightly tannic. Finish – Wood spices, light peat, brine, lemon, slightly drying and warming.
I started this article by wondering if things were truly better in the past. I’m still none-the-wiser as to whether this can be verified. What I can tell you is that this is a dram that is definitely unlike a lot of whisky that I have drunk recently. It definitely has that old fashioned feel to it; light but with a certain amount of meatiness. Fruit is in the fore, and one wonders if this is an influence of stock from Convalmore, a now silent distillery that had long fermentation and slow distillation.
And it is when I think of Convalmore, I had a slight epiphany. This is a blend made in the 50’s. The whisky in it may have been made in the 1930’s or 40’s. As a consumer we do not know exactly what whisky is actually in the blend, but I got a slight Highland peat (as opposed to Islay) and a brine note. It is highly likely we are drinking a blend that contains substance from more than one silent distillery and using a process long consigned to history. At this point nearly every distillery would have been using traditional malting floors, so perhaps it does make a difference. Other whiskies that are known to be in this blend are Dalwhinnie, Port Dundas, Glendullan and Clynelish. Perhaps the latter gave the brine note?
The nose of old linen takes me back to my first review of a CBTD whisky, the 12 year old Glenturret from the 1980’s which had a musky taste about it too. It took a bit of getting used to, but once I realised it was just a more traditional style, I really enjoyed it. The nose in this case was just a linen note that provoked evocative memories of my childhood visiting my great-grandparents in their croft on the outskirts of Aberdeen. This old style whisky conjured up happy memories of a bygone age and that is sometimes what tasting a whisky as an enthusiast is about – letting the aroma and tastes play in your mind as you try to describe them as you recall the occasions you last experienced these sensations.
Putting my thoughts into a neat package, the only recent whisky that I can truly compare this whisky to is the Lost Distilleries Blend. While that was a cask strength blend consisting only of silent distilleries, not all of the whisky in that blend is likely to be relatively old, circa the 1980’s. I didn’t really enjoy that blend for what it cost – a full bottle is £300+. But it’s been blended for modern tastes. Black and White is from a different era – where men were men and didn’t have top knot hairstyles or man bags, children were supposed to be seen and not heard and wives only had to do housework and have their husbands tea ready for when they come home. Yes, not everything in the past was better, but this relatively uncomplex blend gives us modern whisky drinkers a glimpse into whisky past – something that is essential to do for those of us on a whisky journey of discovery. For it is true that it is harder to appreciate the present and the future without a good grasp on what has gone before.
And that is not a bad thing.
Availability of this 3cl dram which costs £14 fromCheaper By The Dram is now limited. Given the full size bottle can be around £300 on the auction sites, this is very little to spend to enhance your whisky experiences. Black And White does not seem to be available for sale in the U.K. at the moment, but the modern equivalent is available cheaply in Europe, in some cases only £12-£15 a bottle. Keep an eye out for this at auction, but if you are quick, you may just get the last samples at Cheaper By The Dram store. Perhaps Mark / CBTD may obtain more in the future and for those of us who want to compare old style whisky to new style, this would make a most excellent comparison. Should more become available I’d certainly be willing to drink it again. As I don’t score my whisky, this would get a “recommended and would buy again” comment instead. And that is definitely high praise.
Thanks go to Mark Littler for supplying this sample. I wasn’t that optimistic about a blend to start with when I saw it arrive, but I’m really glad I did not miss out as it was delicious and a worthwhile journey into the past. Remember, sip don’t flip!
Taste Review #55 – The Lost Distilleries Blend, Batch 10
Welcome to this week’s whisky review, and we continue to work through my rather large stash of miniatures to bring you tastes throughout Scottish Whisky (and beyond – but not just yet!). This one is a superlative whisky, and I will almost have to call it a unicorn whisky though it is a lot more than that. For this review, the blend I will be reviewing is a blend of several unicorns!
When thinking of the lost distilleries, my mind cast back to one of the more famous, or infamous signs in Aberdeenshire, that of Lost. This road sign has been stolen countless times, to the point that the sign arm is now welded to the pole, and more substantial concrete put around the base. For you that do not know, Lost is actually a farm close to Strathdon, and you could be forgiven for feeling lost when you don’t find anything substantial. There are certainly no distilleries here, although the A944 through Strathdon takes you through the Cairngorms and joins onto the A939 Cockbridge to Tomintoul Road. Essentially the back door to Speyside going over the ski route to the Lecht resort. With a change of direction at Corgaff towards Braemar opens up the opportunity to visit some of the Perthshire Highland distilleries over another ski-route through Glenshee, officially the highest main road in the U.K.
So, now it is time to refocus on whisky. Why did I pick this dram? As per usual, I was doing my usual troll through the auction sites to see if there was anything worth buying in the bargain basement, and two small samples of this came up, and I got them for an absolute steal given the normal price for the drams.
Let me just list the distilleries that are in this blend.
Port Ellen (Islay / to be reopened)
Brora (Highland / to be reopened)
Glen Mhor (Highland / demolished)
Rosebank (Lowland / to be reopened)
Caperdonich (Speyside / demolished)
Imperial (Speyside / demolished)
Mosstowie (Speyside – distilled in now decommissioned Lomond Stills at Miltonduff)
Glenisla (Speyside – experimental peated whisky reportedly made at Glen Keith Distillery)
Glenlochy (Highland – demolished)
Craigduff (Speyside – experimental peated whisky reported to be either Strathisla or Glen Keith)
Port Dundas (Lowland – Single Grain Whisky / demolished)
That is some roll call of whisky, so let’s get cracking on it!
Slightly solvent to begin with – wood polish moving quickly onto vanilla, chocolate, cafe latte, almonds. A hint of smoke
Oily mouth feel. No large kick considering its strength. Sweet to start with, with raisin and vanilla notes, Toffee building into some spicy oak notes. Light smoke
Quite long. The spicy oak continues, almost like curry spices. Warm and tempered with a creamy feel. A slightly bitter note at the end.
This dram confuses me a bit. There is an impressive roll call of spirit in this dram that is never going to be seen again. Lets face it, even with some of the distilleries being rebuilt will not result in an identical spirit of the past. Given this fact, one has to wonder why they have done this, as the individual character of each malt has been lost. I have to say though, the oily mouth feel made me think of Clynelish, so I am wondering if this is a remnant of the Brora component in this mix.
The solvent and polished oak are clearly from the grain whisky, and given my experience previously with the Invergordon 42 year old excited me a bit, but most of it got lost until the end when a spicy oak built up.
There is an elephant in the room. A 70cl bottle of this dram costs around £350. I hate to say it, but this is not worth that at all. I do realise that you cannot get any of the component parts cheaply at the moment, and in any case, a 70cl bottle of any of them would probably cost as much as this blend. So I’m left feeling kind of lost. I think if I had a chance to buy a blend with lost distilleries in it, I’d more likely be buying a bottle of Johnny Walker Blue Label Ghost.
But my friends, let us find an upbeat note. Master of Malt charge £26.65 for a 3cl nip of this. To me that is still not good value. However, I was lucky enough to pick up 2 of these samples at Whisky Auctioneer for £16.80. Now that is a bargain. Sadly, this blend wasn’t really to my taste, so I may be looking for a new home for the second sample.
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Whisky Photographs – author’s own.
Roadsign to Lost Farm – Stanley Howe / Creative Commons licenceCC BY-SA 2.0