The Power Of Negative Thinking

Why look up when you can look down?

A battle of the booze.

Some people just love negativity.

I hasten to add that I am fond of a bit of a black mood but in no way am I going to start becoming hypocritical for one second. Every silver lining has its cloud and so on and so on. However some sectors aren’t immune from using negative or incorrect statements to make themselves look better. As much as this pains me to say this, it has to stop.

I chose this topic because I’ve noticed a few things that made me sit up and think that something wasn’t quite right. If you are going to have a dismal outlook then it’s always better to have it based on fact or something quantifiable that you can show on why you’ve come to an assumption. It’s all very well making statements about whisky, but at least make it fair and be prepared on back it up.

I will say how this particular rant started by feeding back something that was passed onto me from one of my whisky brothers. This is person who I keep in contact to chew the fat, swap the odd sample and also just have a good old burst of negativity in private so I’m not so much a gurning git online. He had visited an Irish distillery where the person doing the tour had mentioned how Irish whisky had to be matured for 3 years yet Scotch only had to be matured for 2 years. This seems to be common amongst proponents of the Irish Whisky Industry where many mistruths are either intentionally or unintentionally propagated. The problem is that sometimes the falsehoods are believed by those who know no better and the erroneous statement keeps going.

Of course, unintentionally making an error is fine, and this can be corrected by education, but needs to be done ASAP. Even I’m not immune, haven fallen foul of misinformation myself with regards a couple of times, sometimes based on a certain year book or a flat capped vBlogger. Best make the correction and move on.

For some strange reason there is some sort of misconception I seem to be aware of, whether it’s anecdotal or something I have directly heard, I can’t remember but there is a tendency for some people supporting the Irish Whiskey industry to say things like “Scotch is peated and smokey, whereas Irish is smooth because we triple distill and they only double distill.” That is obviously a gross misrepresentation of the facts, as the majority of Scotch is not peaty and smokey and at least two distilleries triple distill and a few have utilised a partial triple distillation method.

Why say negative stuff like that? It’s a pretty poor show when you have to knock down another product just to make your own look better. My source revealed that Scotch gets mentioned at a few of the Irish distilleries he’s visited and not always in a positive light. Yet when I visit a Scottish distillery, I’ve yet to hear mention of Irish whiskey.

Yes, there is a difference between Irish and Scotch whisky due to the subtle difference in production. But for some, here is a newsflash – Irish whiskey has traditionally used peat in the past. Even the light and floral Speysiders did, as once upon a time the distilleries would have used the fuel available to them. I mean, how likely is it a nation that has nearly a fifth of its landmass covered by peat not use it as fuel? The Irish weren’t given the nickname ‘Bogtrotters’ because the lived on a land entirely of loamy soil.


Did somebody mention different soil types?” One brand that often gets unfair negativity, though we will skip on before the Dark Lord of terroir springs into life.

The Irish distilled whisky before the Scots. That’s a fact. However the Scots were the ones who where arguably to become more successful in a commercial sense with it – for now at least. That doesn’t make Scotch any better than Irish Whiskey either.

Reddit on Irish Whiskey use of peat

Here’s a thought. Why not just get on producing your whiskey without worrying what other distilleries are doing and just concentrate on making the best whiskey you can? The Irish scene is certainly flourishing now with new craft distilleries coming on line, so if you are wanting to get into Irish whisky now is the time. And a few are making peated spirit.

I’ve been doing an occasional series on different world whiskies. Not once have I compared them to Scotch. It just wouldn’t be fair as everything about them is different from barley sources and water sources, climate and production practices. Just take your whisky as you find it. Let the liquid do the talking and ignore preconceptions. I’ve found the whisky from Scotland’s historical foe to be quite good so far. That doesn’t bother me; all that matters is that I am enjoying what is in my glass. And yet it seems yet another Battle Royale could be in the making. A recent article was published in the Telegraph. The article is paywalled but you’ll get the drift. English Whisky Rivals Scotch

Might be more worthwhile listening if the author was a Wines And Spirits writer?

Anyway. To conclude the battle of whether Irish is better than Scotch, I decided to pitch two common blends against each other, one from each country. As Scotland has more whisky distilleries I thought I’d give the Irish a more fighting chance by allowing it a partner.

In the Red Corner we have Famous Grouse, the most popular blended whisky in Scotland. In the Blue Corner we have Jamesons and his companion Tullamore Dew. Let battle commence!

Famous Grouse

Famous Grouse. Not a lot to grouse about.

Region – Scottish Blend Age – NAS Strength – 40% Colour – Amber 0.7 Cask Type – N/A Colouring – Not stated Chill Filtered – Not Stated Nose – Malt, Buttery, Caramel, Werthers Originals, a hint of grain, Orange peel Palate – Quite sweet. Light to medium mouthfeel. Burst of alcohol burn on first sip but quickly subsides to leave flavours of malt, sultana, butterscotch, hint of ginger nuts and a very slight smokiness. Finish – Medium and pleasant. Malt continues with a slight drying in the mouth. Digestive biscuits with a suggestion of grain whisky

Jamesons Blended Irish

Jamesons

Region -Irish Blend Age – NAS Strength – 40% Colour -Deep Gold (0.8) Cask Type -N/A Colouring – Not stated Chill Filtered – Not Stated Nose – Sweet Malt, almost like a frosted breakfast cereal. Stone fruit, Apricot, tinned peaches, chocolate raisins. Palate – quite mild and approachable. Slightly oily mouthfeel with the grain components being immediately available. Sweet biscuity taste, a little spice from ginger and nutmeg. No strong burn, the sweetness reminds me of a candy that I can’t quite remember the name of. Almond also in there. Finish – Not that long and complex. The sweet components hang on in there. Nutty, candied almonds rings a bell, possibly the candy I was thinking of in the palate. A bit of grain remains with apricot in the finish and a hint of mint.

Tullamore D.E.W

Tullamore D.E.W. Why is it legendary? Maybe because this sample wasn’t great.

Region – Irish Blend Age – NAS Strength – 40% Colour – Pale Gold (0.3) Cask Type – N/A Colouring – Not stated Chill Filtered – Not stated Nose – Buttery biscuits, custard cream, honey Palate – Harsh alcohol, grains, Malt, vanilla, pink peppercorn spice, blackcurrants, slight citrus Finish – hot finish with more tannic spice, burning alcohol, drying, hint of lemon in the end.

Conclusions

Did Ireland beat Scotland? No. Not at all. It was like comparing oranges to a combine harvester. However in the battle of the blends, the Tullamore was like the mate who can’t fight trying to help you in a square go. Why is it legendary? Well perhaps to cut it down to brass tacks, is it because this bottle was totally pish. In its defence it was an old bottle and slightly evaporated but it only just missed going down the sink. As I drunk it while in quarantine in Colombo I was just grateful for the booze.

The Grouse had more body, the Jamesons was lighter and smoother, and to my palate was boring and bland. But that’s just me. It wasn’t bad, but wasn’t great either. The competition it faced was Grouse. Hardly the best in the world either.

While technically Scotland should win on points as Jameson was founded by a Scot, the true result is a draw. Just go where your palate takes you as the best whisky of the time is the one you enjoy the most. Be it Bourbon, Scots, Japanese, English, Welsh, Irish or even Icelandic, it really doesn’t matter.

Negativity has its place. Just not here.

Yours In Spirits

Scotty

Index of tastings here

Index of articles here


Photo Credits

All Photos – Authors Own

A Fraudulent Passport

Taste Review #84 – Passport Blended Whisky

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.


Passport Blended Scotch. Slight evaporation from bottle

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.

Details

Passport Blended Scotch


The Dram

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 


From above. I think somebody has replaced the whisky with wee-wee.

Conclusions

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.

Yours In Spirits

Scotty

Index of tastings here

Index of articles here


Scotty’s Drams encourages responsible drinking. To find out the facts about drink, and where to find help if you need it visit Drinkaware.co.uk by clicking on the link.

Photo Credits

All Photos – Authors Own

Some things ARE Black And White

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.


The orchestra is tuning!

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.


Secure packaging

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….


The sample

Details

RegionBLEND Age – NAS Strength – 40% ColourBurnished. NoseOld 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.


The dram

Conclusions

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 from Cheaper 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!

Yours In Spirits

Scotty

Index of tastings here

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Scotty’s Drams encourages responsible drinking. To find out the facts about drink, and where to find help if you need it visit Drinkaware.co.uk by clicking on the link.

Photo Credits

Photos – Authors Own

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Getting Lost Isn’t So Bad

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.


One of Aberdeenshire’s more famous roadsigns

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!


The sample

Region

Blend

Age

NAS

Strength

51%

Colour

Golden Straw

Nose

Slightly solvent to begin with – wood polish moving quickly onto vanilla, chocolate, cafe latte, almonds. A hint of smoke

Palate

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

Finish

Quite long. The spicy oak continues, almost like curry spices. Warm and tempered with a creamy feel. A slightly bitter note at the end.


The Dram

Conclusion

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.

Slainte Mhath!

Scotty

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Scotty’s Drams encourages responsible drinking. To find out the facts about drink, and where to find help if you need it visit Drinkaware.co.uk by clicking on the link.


Photo credits

Whisky Photographs author’s own.

Roadsign to Lost FarmStanley Howe / Creative Commons licence CC BY-SA 2.0