Affordable Adults – Blair Athol 27 year 55.7%

Last in our ‘no brainers’ set of affordable adult whiskies was a Blair Athol.

Now for some, spending $160 for a whisky is not actually affordable. However when you consider it was matured for 27 years and bottled at cask strength… well… in some folks books this remains in the realm of ‘reasonable’.

From the Highlands, Blair Athol  is by far the boldest of the bunch sampled, known for nutty, sherry and spicy whiskies.

What did we find?

Blair Athol 27 Year

Blair Athol 27 year (1988/2016) 55.7%

Distilled 14 Oct 1988, bottled on 16 May 2016, matured in refilled sherry butt Cask No 6845, outrun 565 bottles from Signatory’s Cask Strength series.

Here is what we found:

  • Nose – Bold sherry elements – raisons, plums, rum toffee sweetness, musty old world oak, hint of mint
  • Palate – Heavy and full bodied, chocolate nuts & raisins bar, candied citrus orange peel, christmas plum pudding, let it settle and a more vegetal quality emerges from beneath all the sherry berry elements
  • Finish – Long and very dry with sweet spices
  • Water – A dash brought out a cinnamon spice

This is a robust whisky, no mistaking the clear sherry stamp. If such a style appeals to you, then this is indeed a solid example. For one member, sweet sherry whiskies is right up his ally. For another, he prefers less obvious drams, where there is a more subtle balance between the elements.

Here is what The Whisky Exchange folks share:

A 27-year-old whisky from Blair Athol, matured in a refill sherry butt, specially selected by The Whisky Exchange and bottled exclusively for us. It’s a rich and obviously sherried dram, with balanced fruit and spice.

Dense and dark and an exemplary Blair Athol –  Dave Broom, Scotchwhisky.com
  • Blair Athol 27 close-upNose: Sharp aromatics leap out of the glass immediately after pouring – green leaves, freshly cut grass, and sweet and sappy oak – but they quickly burn off to reveal more sweetness underneath. Toffee and butter shortbread are joined by lemon drizzle cake, mixed fruit jam, apple sauce and thickly buttered fruit loaf slathered with lemon curd.
  • Palate: Intense sweetness fades to reveal savoury notes – oatcakes and dry toast. Sweetness builds again, with toffee and spiced apple purée becoming almost overpowering, before revealing a core of sweet green leaves, caramel and citrus peel. The intensity softens, leaving floral and soft leafy notes.
  • Finish: Sharp spice fades to honey and green leafiness.
  • Comment: Intense but worth the ride – layers of sweet and savoury, focusing on the cask character.
Thanks Duncan at The Whisky Exchange for the recommendation!
Others in our ‘Affordable Adults‘ evening included:

From time to time, you can also find other whisky related updates and activities on:

Affordable Adults – Linkwood 25 year 43%

Next in our ‘no brainers’ set of affordable adult whiskies was a Linkwood. I will admit I still regret passing up a Gordon + MacPhail Linkwood at Heathrow Airport last year, however admittedly it did NOT qualify as affordable at the time.

Linkwood is another Diageo distillery that is better known as an element in blends like Johnnie Walker and White Horse than as a single malt. However for some time it has found its way to whisky aficionados through independent bottlers, then Diageo’s Flora and Fauna series, followed by official bottlings in 2008.

What did we find with this particular 25 year old Linkwood?  After the rather disastrous introduction to the Benrinnes… anything would have an improvement! Thankfully this Linkwood was a beauty…

Linkwood 25 year

Linkwood 25 year 43% (G&MP)

Here is what we found:

  • Nose – Lovely stewed fruits, apple brandy like Calvados, figs, citrus, little nutmeg, hint of smoke with some toast and wood
  • Palate – Soooo silky smooth, beautiful with just a hint of peat to keep things interesting, more apples with a touch of light pepper, sweet, smokey yet light
  • Finish – Long and smooth
  • Water – None were tempted… it was perfect as is

Overall it was such a welcome change from the Benrinnes – light, bright with just the right touch of peat. While clearly sherry, this element was not overpowering, instead we found a subtle balance between the different elements – neither too much sherry, nor too much peat and so dangerously delicious and easy to drink!

As I babbled on about how Gordon & MacPhail (G&MP) has yet to let me down… I was teased for my ‘whisky crush’ on these independent bottlers.

Bottom line – I have yet to ‘meet’ a whisky from G&MP where I felt ‘cheated’ or ‘let down’ by the experience. Sure I don’t expect a $10,000 whisky for a $100 price, however their different ranges can meet most avid whisky fan’s requirements.

I’ve reached the stage where can blindly say when someone asks for a recommendation “Look for something bottled by Gordon & MacPhail… see if the style described fits what you like and just buy it!”

Case in point, this 25 year old stunner retails for only $110. That is exceedingly good value for quality in my books.

Here’s what the folks over at Gordon & MacPhail have to say:

Without water:

  • Aroma – Burst of freshness – hay like notes, with a defined hint of well Linkwood 25 year G+MPtoasted malt. Some candied fruits emerge and a subtle Sherry influence lingers. Herbal with a touch of Rosemary.
  • Taste – Mouth watering with a sweet and creamy edge. Some delicate hints of bonfire embers develop. Vanilla emerges and a hint of peppery warmth comes to the fore.

With water:

  • Aroma – Toasted malt, with a Sherried sweetness. Hints of citrus notes (lemon zest) linger and a defined vanilla edge becomes apparent.
  • Taste – Initially sweet and warming with hints of mixed spices and a defined dark chocolate nose. A subtle touch of peat smoke lingers in the background.
Thanks Duncan at The Whisky Exchange for the recommendation!
Others in our ‘Affordable Adults‘ evening included:

PS Our Whisky Ladies had an opportunity to sample this courtesy of our BMC contributor… their impression was largely consistent with the gents… described as romping through the meadows (on the nose), a bit sharp then earthy moss, charred wood (on the palate), a little spice and nutmeg in the finish. The overall impression? We liked!!

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Affordable Adults – Imperial 20 year 54.8%

First up in our ‘no brainers’ set of affordable adult whiskies was an offering from Imperial distillery. Never heard of it?

That could be because it was closed much of its existence – four times, last in 1998 and then demolished in 2013.  Rumour has it the owners of the brand (Chivas Brothers aka Pernod Ricard) have plans of opening a new distillery at the ill-fated Imperial’s site in Carron, Speyside under a new avatar – Dalmunach.

That could also be because it seems to have had only one official bottling – a 15 year – with the balance going into blends or limited independent bottlings. Such as the one we acquired from Signatory.

And why Imperial? The name was inspired by the distillery’s construction in 1897  which coincided with Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee.

Yet it was clearly a ‘no brainer’ as how often can you buy a cask strength 20 year whisky from a discontinued distillery for under $100 that also happens to be rather drinkable?

Imperial 20 year

Imperial 20 year (1995/2016) 54.8%

Distilled on 18 September 1995, bottled on 04 Mar 2016 at cask strength, matured in hogsheads Casks No 50254 + 50256 and bottle 251 of 495, part Signatory’s Cask Strength Collection.

Here is what we found:

  • Nose – Immediate impression of a light, refreshing, floral whisky, meadows, honey, yet slightly astringent, think pear drops… however the beauty of this whisky is it did not remain in that space alone… With water, the sweetness was dampened making way for hint of spice, gooseberry, citrus, light new wood like balsa… let it air even longer and more woodsy, malty elements emerges with cereals, leaves yet still a freshness
  • Palate – Boiled sweets, all sweetness and light on the tip of the tongue with no depth, no body, no finish… initially… 2nd sip is a little harsher yet still sweet… then wait… as you settle in with this whisky is slowly reveals other dimensions, gently, a little tasty yet bitter sour quality emerged. With water, the almost too sweet candied element was dulled, making way for betel nut, lemon rind, dark bitter chocolate, toast and tea
  • Finish – Most remarkable transformation… first sip and most confidently pronounced ‘no discernible finish’. However let it open, add a few drops of water and voila! A seriously long finish, slightly bitter with a mix of lemon zest and a woody quality.

Overall this is a very approachable dram, subtle, yet with enough going on to keep you company for some time. One that you may initially dismiss as being too lightweight and sweet when first opened yet give it time to slowly unfurl… and you will not regret your patience.

Our opinion was slightly divided with some preferring it neat, not wanting to mess with the sweet sweet sweet quality in its natural state… Others felt its complexity and true character only surfaced with a few drops revealing beneath the gorgeous sweet a more nuanced creature with bitter edges.

In short, a brilliant discovery, one only a few can enjoy with under 500 bottles in existence. If I was popping to London any time soon, this would be the kind of whisky I’d snap up and keep – perhaps grabbing the Gordon & MacPhail bottle or the a related Signatory if this Signatory Vintage Cask Collection bottle is no longer available.

It may not be the most remarkable whisky ever but it is more than just a decent dram and a unique nip of whisky history worth appreciating.

Imperial 20 year closeup

Here is what The Whisky Exchange folks have to say about a related bottle (ours was Signatory Vintage – Cask Collection):

Soft, sweet and floral whisky from closed Imperial – complex and perfect for relaxed summer evenings. 
  • Nose: Honeysuckle, candy necklaces, Victoria sponge, rose water, Battenberg cake and hints of freshly cut grass. Biscuity notes build – Nice and custard creams vie for attention – along with resinous and sappy touches. Spicy candied ginger sits at the back.
  • Palate: The floral notes from the nose burst on to the palate, with a side order of toasted raisin bagels and creamy butter. Sharper and sweeter flavours develop, with autumn leaves, grass and bark balanced by golden syrup and lemon sherbert.
  • Finish: Woody spices fade to green leaves and sweet earthy notes.
  • Comment: Light, delicate and floral on the nose, with a kick of complexity on the palate.
Thanks Duncan at The Whisky Exchange for the recommendation!
Others in our ‘Affordable Adults‘ evening included:

From time to time, you can also find other whisky related updates and activities on: