I have long relied on Johnnie Walker’s 12-year old ‘Black Label’ blended whisky (aka JWB) as a standard everyday drinking whisky and a standard of quality against other blends. I’ve compared JWB to Ballantine’s, Johnnie Walker’s Green Label and special releases, various other ‘two Jackson‘ ($40) whiskies, a Compass Box blend, and Dewar’s Ancestor. And today we’re at it again, comparing the Johnnie Walker ‘Double Black’ to the venerable JWB.
Note: if you came here for scurrilous photos (searching for ‘naked’ are you?) you will be disappointed….nothin’ but whisky here.
Completely serendipitously, I find myself with two blended malt whiskies. These were purchases of opportunity. They are ‘Naked,’ imported by Edrington (the outfit behind Highland Park and Macallan), and Copper Dog, from the Craigellachie Hotel in the town of the same name, imported by Diageo.
First off, what is a blended malt? It is a blend of only malt whiskies, which can be from different distilleries. I like buying blended malts like Monkey Shoulder because for about the same price as a blend, you are getting pot-stilled malt whiskies, with no column-distilled grain alcohol (as you will find in even a nicely aged blend like Johnny Walker Black). What you usually do not get with a blended malt is an age statement, so the downside of a blended malt is that you may have some more aggressive, younger spirits in the mix.
Note: this is third in a series of 3 single-cask reviews.
On our visit to The Balvenie, we had the opportunity to valinch a small bottle (200 ml) from one of a few barrels they had set aside for that purpose. After a quick, slurped taste out of my hand, I chose the 14-year-old sherry cask. Each bottle we valinched was £15, which is not too crazy considering a 5 cl bottle of Tomintoul cost me £10 in a shop! In fact, the three retired insurance company execs we toured with made off with armloads of these little bottles from The Balvenie.
I still have about half of my valinched bottle, as I’ve only broken it out for a couple special occasions. As I happened to review two single-barrel selections this month, I thought, why not compare this single barrel? How does the random ‘guest cask’ at the distillery tour compare to the malt master’s selected single cask release? And what better comparison than from Review 103, the Balvenie First Fill, Single Barrel?
Note: this is second in a series of 3 single-cask reviews
I have to admit, before being presented this bottle (a gift, due to a long incumbency with my company), I had not heard of GlenAllachie. This is despite having visited its locale (Aberlour, Speyside) when I was in Scotland. We had actually walked halfway there (to Linn Falls) along the burn; what a missed opportunity! GlenAllachie is a fairly new distillery, being founded in 1967, changing hands a couple times, most recently by a private company which re-opened it in 2017. With but two wash and two spirit stills, it is a modest operation, producing about 4M liters a year. That compares well to Aberlour just down hill at about 3.5M liters a year.
The spirit under consideration today is their single cask ‘sherry bomb’ of 15 years maturity, and I am quite excited about it. It is bottled with a cask strength of 59.1% ABV and of course no chill filtering or added colors, as befits a special release. I like to have a comparison dram, and fortunately I still have some of the 14-year-old Balvenie I valinched from a sherry cask during our visit there.
Note: this is first in a series of 3 single-cask reviews. Skip to Review 105 for a comparison to a ‘guest cask’ from The Balvenie.
I like that the William Grant organization is a family firm and that they maintain the full breadth of skills in whisky-making at The Balvenie. They also give an excellent distillery tour. So when I spotted this bottle of Single Barrel, First Fill (SBFF) in the local shop, not long after a payday, I plunked down a C-note. Single cask is always a risk, as the malt master has no leeway in mixing in anything else to fill holes in a spirit’s flavor profile or to dilute a flavor that’s over the top. But I have very nice memories, and some remaining samples, of spirits valinched from casks during our tour. There were some odd ones!