The Malt Nuts have gathered one again, but instead of tackling a single distillery we had something else set in our sights… blends. I know what you’re thinking, but being the Malt Nuts we didn’t tackle your typical bottom shelf blends. Oh no, we saddled up next to some “old and older blends”. By that I mean the entire night was devoted to blends that were at least 20 years of age, or were bottled 30+ years ago.
Under a summer’s night sky in balmy Los Angeles we ate some tasty grilled meats courtesy of our gracious host and then delved into the weird world of blends. As usual it was all done blind and broken down into specific categories.
- 70’s and 80’s blends
- 80s Cluny dance off
- 20+ Year blends (Grangestone + Annasach)
- Cutty vs Cutty and 20 Year Pure Malt blend vs an 80s Pure Malt blend
- Exclusive Blends Face off
- Ballantine’s vs Ballantine’s
I apologize for not having the photos grouped like I usually do, but it just didn’t work out that way this time. I did the best that I could with what I ended up getting and I promise it’ll be back to usual next time. Now, on to the blends!
70’s and 80’s blends
1A: Harvey’s Special Blended Scotch: 40% – 1970s
- Nose: Caramel syrup, spice, grain, touch smoke, touch fruit, lots of OBE (Old Bottle Effect).
- Palate: Caramel, acid, grain and ash.
- Finish: Medium -> Ash, acid, grain and alkaline
- Overall: C (73-76) We had a different bottle of Harvey’s at the Aultmore tasting and I liked it a lot more than this one. This one was bitter and acidic compared the smooth sweetness of the other bottle.
1B: King George IV: 43% – 1970s
- Nose: Caramel, grain, citrus, honey, fruit and OBE.
- Palate: Caramel, ashy char, fruit, smoke and toffee.
- Finish: Medium -> Smoke, acid, honey, caramel and grain.
- Overall: C+ (77-79) Ooh I kinda liked this one. If it weren’t for the sharp acidity it might have been a B-. It’s been in the bottle for about 40 years so it might open up after a bit and turn into a decent whisky.
1C: Pinch 12 Years: 40% – 1980s
- Nose: Sharp, chalky sherry (paxarette-like), caramel grain, acidic, fruit, caramel, spice.
- Palate: Sharp grain, caramel, citric acid, dried fruit and vinegar.
- Finish: Medium -> Grain whisky, caramel, dark fruit, citric acid and mint.
- Overall: C (73-76) Not really my thing, it tasted a bit off to me.
1D: Catto’s Gold Label: 43% – 1970s
- Nose: Grain, acid and perfumy dried mango.
- Palate: Tasted like my great-grandma’s room smelled. Musty / mothballs, floral perfume and hard candy.
- Finish: Medium -> Perfumy, musty and grainy.
- Overall: D+ (67-69) So perfumy. I heavily considered a D, maybe it was the great-grandma memory that kept me from doing it.
I want to take a quick break here and mention that after doing this first round I felt like my palate might be a bit off. I was finding a lot of acid in these whiskies and that was such a weird coincidence to come across. I cleansed my palate with alternating sips of black coffee and water and revisited them but kept getting that acidic note. As you’ll see I didn’t get that in the rest of the whiskies, so take this added knowledge into consideration.
80s Cluny dance off
2A: Cluny Blended Scotch: 40% – 1980s
- Nose: Apricot, honey, malt, biscuits, chlorine, fruit and honey.
- Palate: Musty (OBE), honey, grain, biscuits, alkaline, stale dried fruit.
- Finish: Short -> Caramel, OBE, grain and alkaline.
- Overall: C (63-66) Musty caramel and stale dried fruit is the overall character. It’s not undrinkable, but I didn’t take a second either.
2B: Cluny 12 Years: 43% – 1980s
- Nose: Malt, sherry, dried fruit, brown sugar and citrus.
- Palate: Sherry, fruit, touch smoke, brown sugar and dark fruit.
- Finish: Medium -> Sherry, malt, smoke and dark sweets.
- Overall: B- (80-82) I was blown away that this was the Cluny 12 when we did the reveal. I’d tried another bottle at the SCWC Tax-Strip Scotch event and it was awful.
20+ Year blends (Grangestone + Annasach)
3A: Grangestone 30 years: 40% – Modern
- Nose: Fruit candy, honey, dried apricot and malt.
- Palate: Fruit candy, brown sugar, malt and spice.
- Finish: Medium -> Hay, malt, brown sugar and plastic.
- Overall: B- (80-82) It wasn’t bad until the finish when that plastic note hit. It it weren’t for that it would have been at least a B.
3B: Grangestone 25 years: 40% – Modern
- Nose: Cough syrup, bitter caramel, stale spice and floral perfume.
- Palate: Fruit, grain alcohol, bitterness, malt and spice.
- Finish: Short -> Grain and brown sugar fade out to bitterness.
- Overall: C- (70-72) Oh man this one did not agree with me. I’d like to revisit it later though, maybe it needs time to open.
3C: The Annasach reserve 25 years: 40% – Modern
- Nose: Malt, spice, peat, caramel, dark fruit, caramel and toffee.
- Palate: Peat, malt, cinnamon, dark fruit, toffee, brown sugar and spice.
- Finish: Long -> Malt, peat, vanilla and toffee.
- Overall: B+ (87-89) I don’t know if it was just because it was sitting next to the last one, my senses had adjusted or if I was dead on all night and this is just a good whisky, but I really enjoyed this one. I snuck myself another splash of this one and moved the glass to the back of the row to revisit at the end of the night. I found myself still enjoying it then as well.
Cutty vs Cutty and 20 Year Pure Malt blend vs 80s Pure Malt blend
4A: Cutty Sark: 43% – Early 1980s
- Nose: OBE, cinnamon, caramel, fruit, grain, cocoa and spice.
- Palate: OBE, cinnamon, caramel, fruit, grain, cocoa, spice and mint.
- Finish: Medium -> Malt, grain, spice and mint.
- Overall: B- (80-82) I pegged this one as being an old blend immediately, but one I enjoyed and was pleasantly surprised to see it was the 80s Cutty. There’s a plethora of those here in Los Angeles.
4B: Cutty Sark 12 Years: 43% – 1970s
- Nose: Spice, malt, citrus peels, caramel, dark fruit, dried apples and smoke.
- Palate: Fruit, peat, touch dark fruit, citrus, smoke and a touch of mint.
- Finish: Long -> Malty, fruity, smoky and a touch of mint.
- Overall: B+ (87-89) Ooh yeah, I liked this and again I was pleasantly surprised that it was the old Cutty 12. The folks in this group have bought up every bottle we could find of it in LA over the last couple years and for good reason. This is tasty stuff.
4C: Cadenhead Creations 20 Years: 46% – Modern
- Nose: Fruit, butterscotch, graham, malt, vanilla and spice.
- Palate: Fruit, cinnamon, graham, malt, mint, vanilla and a light herbal character.
- Finish: Medium -> Fruit, mint, spice and malt.
- Overall: B (83-86) Definitely on the higher end of the B scale. This one stood out as quite a decent whisky this evening.
4D: Glen Turner Pure Malt 12 Years (UK): 43% – 1980s
- Nose: Fruit, malt, nuts, graham and saline.
- Palate: Fruit, malt, nuts, toffee, graham and saline.
- Finish: Long -> Fruit, honey, malt and spice.
- Overall: B+ (87-89) This was wonderful. It wasn’t exactly a bastion of complexity but it was rich and fruity. It reminded me a lot of some of the old Glenfiddichs I’ve had.
Exclusive Blends Face off
5A: Exclusive Blend 21 Years: 46% – Modern
- Nose: Fruit, toffee, butterscotch, malt, spice, graham and soap.
- Palate: Fruit, graham, buttery malt, spice and cocoa rum balls.
- Finish: Medium -> Brown sugar, malt and dried fruit.
- Overall: B (83-86) Decent stuff.
5B: Exclusive Blend 20 Years: 46% – Modern
- Nose: Sherry, sulfur, dried dark fruit and toffee.
- Palate: Toffee, cinnamon, malt and a touch of sherry.
- Finish: Short -> Light. Malt and caramel.
- Overall: B- (80-82) Light overall. Not overly interesting, but not terrible either.
5C: Exclusive Blend 35 Years: 46% – Modern
- Nose: Sherry, nutty, ashy, toffee, dried dark fruit, citrus and spice.
- Palate: Sherry, nutty, ashy, toffee, dried dark fruit, citrus spice and a creamy strawberry note.
- Finish: Medium -> Strawberries and cream, spice and a touch of menthol.
- Overall: B (83-86) Nicely balanced, but the finish felt muddled and weak despite its length. Still, I’d happily sip on this any time.
Ballantine’s vs Ballantine’s
6A: Ballantines 17 Years: 43% – 1970s
- Nose: Watery fruit, alcohol, wet graham and watery toffee.
- Palate: Grain whisky, watery malt, vanilla, smarties and acid.
- Finish: Short -> Caramel, grain and bitter young citrus.
- Overall: C- (70-72) Yeah no. Definitely didn’t like this one.
6B: Ballantine’s 17 Years: 43% – 1950s
- Nose: Stewed prunes, dark sweets, sulfur, leather, saline and bitter alcohol.
- Palate: Alcohol, leather, coconut husks, dried fruit, a bitter minerality and a touch of smoke.
- Finish: Medium -> Alcohol, caramel syrup, bitterness and herbal anise.
- Overall: C- (70-72) This whisky felt tight, like it needs to open and after seeing it was the 50’s Ballantine’s I’m fully in that camp. I have one of these at home and I’m going to open it up see if air and time help it out.
I mentioned this above, but I think I was a bit off that night so feel free to mentally bump everything up a notch if you’d like. I thought about doing that myself when writing this up, but decided its better to report it exactly as a I experienced it, make the caveat and then let you make the call from there on how you’d like to interpret what I’ve written.
It was a fun event as always and I’m already looking forward to the next one.