Showing posts with label Blended Scotch Whisky Review. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Blended Scotch Whisky Review. Show all posts

Compass Box The Circus Review

“There’s No Business Like Show Business”

Whisky Review # 644

Country: Scotland
Brand: Compass Box The Circus (Limited Edition)
Type: Blended Whisky
Age: NAS
Alcohol By Volume (ABV): 49%
Maturation: Pre-Blended and then married in Sherry Butts
Chill Filtration: No
Price Range: US$ 250-300 (September 2017)
Buying Advice: 😒 Interesting but too expensive for what it offers.

Colour: Golden Amber - Bronze (Natural Colour)

Nose: Much lighter than I expected. My first impressions are Sweet Wood, Hay, and Cherry-Flavoured Cough Syrup. A little Varnish as well. Make sure to give The Circus enough time in the glass. The Grain Alcohol is clearly noticeable but certainly not in an aggressive way. The overall impression is a little Dusty & Musty with both Sweet and Sour notes. After a while I find Apple Strudel with a generous portion of Rum or Brandy-Soaked Raisins and Sultanas. I also identify Toasted Nuts and Cereals, Buttered Toast, Caramel, Vanilla, Brown Sugar, Nougat, Blackberry Jam, Dusty Road, Orange Liqueur, Peaches with Whipped Cream, Cinnamon, Ginger and hints of Tobacco and Leather. It's not bad and certainly interesting but there is an old and slightly tired feel to the nose of The Circus.

Palate: Again not as intense as I was expecting. The Grain Alcohol is certainly more noticeable now. I find Toasted Cereals, Toasted Hazelnuts, Dried Fruit like Sultanas and Apricot, Caramel, Butterscotch, Brown Sugar, Nougat, Sugared Strawberries, Vanilla, Treacle, Dusty Road, Apple, Pear, Orange Liqueur, Cocoa Powder, Pepper, Ginger, Cinnamon, Nutmeg, Varnish and some hints of Leather, Tobacco and Espresso.

Finish: Light, a little Sharp and on the Short side. Sweet at first but with quite a few Bitter Wood notes towards the Dry end. I find Toasted Cereals, Caramel, Vanilla, Dried Fruit and Toasted Nuts, Orange Liqueur, Grapefruit Juice, Menthol, Ginger, Pepper, Cinnamon, Clove and hints of Tobacco, Polished Leather, Bitter Chocolate and Espresso.

Drinking Advice:
I added a few drops of Water and some of the Fruity notes on the Nose open up.  Tinned Peach and Pineapple come to my mind. The added Water reduces the impact of the Alcohol in the Finish. On the Palate it becomes a little Thin though despite the high ABV. You can certainly experiment with a few drops at a time.

Rating: 83

Nose: 21.5 - Taste: 20.5 - Finish: 20 - Overall: 21

General Remarks:

The Circus was launched in March 2016. It is named after the 1928 Charlie Chaplin silent movie. Like a Circus, this Blend seeks to offer a moment of magic! It's a very limited Edition and only 2490 bottles went to the market. Compass Box is known for its battle with the Whisky authorities as it favours the total disclosure of Blended Whisky components. This is not the case here however. Like The General, launched in 2013, The Circus was blended at a young age and subsequently married in Sherry Butts for 1/3 (Grain) and 2/3 (Blends) of the total maturation time. There are 4 main components in this Blend. Blended Scotch Whisky represents 57.2% and was married in Refill Sherry casks for a long time. Blended Scotch Grain Whisky represents 26% and was married in Refill Sherry casks for a long time. A Benrinnes Single Malt Whisky represents 15.4% and matured most likely for around 10 years in a First Fill Sherry butt. The last component representing 1.4% is a second batch of Blended Scotch Whisky and was married in Refill Sherry butts for a long time. I would roughly guess that the Grain content totals 60-65% and the Malt content 35-40%. Not much is known about the contents of the Blended part, not even to Compass Box themselves. It is possible that Single Malt from Glen Ord is part of the recipe. The Circus will be difficult to find these days.

Drinking Experience Neat: Interesting but lacking balance.

Conclusion: The Circus might be a perfect name for this Blend but perhaps not quite the way Compass had in mind. Because while this Blend is certainly quite interesting to nose and taste, it also seems to miss balance and direction. It's a bit like the horses and other animals running around in circles in the ring. It's nice to watch but they aren't going anywhere. This is the general feeling I have after having nosed and tasted The Circus. There are some nice notes there but also Varnish, Sharp Alcohol and Bitter Wood. It's a bit of a mixed bag I must say. And much lighter than I expected. Certainly not a Sherry Bomb. So while I enjoyed the tasting experience it's hard to recommend buying a full bottle as it's quite expensive. I was never much of a Circus guy anyway and this Blend hasn't changed my mind.

Jan van den Ende                                                             September 18, 2017

Benrinnes Distillery - Visit May 2014

Hankey Bannister Regency 12 Years Review

“Sir Winston Liked It”

Whisky Review # 625

Country: Scotland
Brand: Hankey Bannister Regency
Type: Blended Scotch Whisky
Age: 12 Years
Alcohol By Volume (ABV): 40%
Maturation: Ex-Bourbon Casks   
Chill Filtration: Yes
Price Range: US$ 30-40 (July 2017) 
Buying Advice: 😐 Neutral. Reasonable Blend if priced at +/- US$ 30.

Colour: Golden Amber (Artificially Coloured) 

Nose: Light but certainly not unpleasant. The Grain Alcohol is of course quite present. I can't say that the Aromas are jumping out of the glass. You will need some patience with the Regency. After a while I find Toasted Cereals, Buttered Toast, Caramel, Brown Sugar, Dusty Straw, Heather-Honey, Vanilla, Nutella, Dried Fruit, Caffe Latte, Orange Peel, Fresh Coriander, Cinnamon, light Pepper, light Ginger, Apple and a hint of Tinned Pineapple in Syrup.


Palate: Light but acceptable. This should have been bottled at 43%. This Blend deserves that. The Grain Alcohol is there but not at all in an aggressive way. I find Toasted Cereals, Toasted Oak, lightly Buttered Toast, Dusty Straw, Vanilla, Caramel, Toffee, Dried Fruit, Orange-Peel, Nutella, Heather-Honey, Apple, Caffe Latte, Pepper, Cinnamon, Ginger and perhaps the faintest whiff of Smoke.   

Finish: Medium Long. Sweet and Spicy at first. Dry in the end when a light Bitterness pops up. I find Grain Alcohol, Toasted Cereals, Refill Oak, Caramel, Vanilla, Toffee, Treacle, Sultanas, Heather-Honey, light Lemon and Orange Peel, Pepper, Cinnamon, Ginger, Milk Chocolate-covered Nuts and the faintest hint of Smoke.


Drinking Advice:
I only Nosed and Tasted this Hankey Bannister neat as I merely had a very small sample at my disposal. It's certainly drinkable neat and I suspect it will do nicely over Ice as well.

Rating: 82     

Nose: 21 - Taste: 20.5  - Finish: 20 - Overall: 20.5

General Remarks:

Hankey Bannister & Co was founded in 1757 by Beaumont Hankey and Hugh Bannister. Winston Churchill was a fan of this Whisky. Currently, the Blend is owned by Inver House Distillers (Thai Beverage PLC). Next to the 12 Tear Old Regency, the range also includes the NAS HB Original and the 21, 25 and 40 Years. The Regency is made with 70% Grain Whiskies (Mainly North British and Port Dundas) and 30% Malt Whisky. The Balblair distillery forms the heart and additional Malts are, amongst others, sourced from Knockdhu, Balmenach and perhaps a touch of Old Pulteney as they are all owned by Inver House. The 12 Year old Regency matures in Ex-Bourbon casks and presents a reasonable Price Quality ratio. 

Drinking Experience: Good.


The Hankey Bannister Regency is certainly better than your average Scottish Blend. There are no real off-notes. The Grain is there but it doesn't quite punch you in the face like in most Bottom-Shelf blends. The casks are slightly better as well and I suspect a mix of 2nd and 3rd Refill Ex-Bourbon casks. It could surely do with a higher ABV. So while the Hankey Bannister Regency is not at all a bad Blend, it's also utterly forgettable. After five minutes or so, you will have some difficulties in remembering it if you get my drift. It's a drinking Whisky, not a Sipping Whisky. You can safely buy it at around 30 US Dollars though as it will not disappoint you at this price level.  

Jan van den Ende                                                                       July 15, 2017


Antiquary 21 Years Review

“A Semi-Precious Stone”

Country: Scotland
Brand: The Antiquary (Gold Box)
Type: Blended Whisky
Blended By: J & W Hardie Ltd, Glasgow (Tomatin)
Age: 21 Years
ABV: 43% 
Chill Filtration: Yes 
Whisky Review # 615
Buying Advice: 😐 Neutral. Good Blend. Negative Price/Quality Ratio.

Colour: Light Golden (Artificially Coloured)

Nose: There is a nice balance between the Bourbon - and Sherry casks but the Grain Alcohol is still quite noticeable. It's rather Light and Clean for a 21 Year old Blend. Sweet, Medium-Dry and Malty with very distant hints of Grassy Peat and light Smoke. I also pick up Sweet Cereals, Buttered Toast, Vanilla, Caramel, Toffee, Heather-Honey, Straw, Dried Herbs, Dusty Road, Banana Flavoured Candy, Citrus, Black Currant Jam, Cooked Apples, Cinnamon, light Menthol, Aniseed, Refill Oak casks and traces of Pepper and Nuts. Most of the Aromas are merely impressions and it takes quite some time to identify them. You would expect some clearer notes after 21 Years which leads me to the conclusion that (most of) the casks weren't very active. After more than an hour I also got an additional Tropical Fruit note but I can't pin it down. Honey Melon perhaps. 

Palate: Slightly Bland and Thin Delivery. An ABV of 46% would have been more adequate. On the Palate, the Antiquary is mainly Sweet with clear notes of Malt, Cereals, Fruit and Spices. the Impressions of Flavours include Sweet Cereals, Buttered Toast, Toffee, Caramel, Straw, Heather-Honey, Cooked Apples, Citrus, Dried Figs, Melon, Cinnamon, Pepper, Nutmeg, Aniseed and a mere hint of Peat.

Finish: Long, Fruity and Pleasantly Sweet. Quite Mineral towards the end. I find Red Apples, Banana, Melon, Pear, Heather-Honey, Vanilla, Fudge, Cinnamon, Pepper, Nutmeg, Oak, Walnuts, Grain Alcohol , Aniseed, Menthol and a very faint hint of Peat. My favourite part of this Blend.    

I added a little Water and the Nose becomes extra Fruity - and Floral. Palate and Finish don't take the water quite as well.

Rating: 84       

Nose: 21 - Taste: 20.5 - Finish: 21.5 - Overall: 21

General Remarks:

The Antiquary Blend was produced for the first time in 1888 in Edinburgh by John & William Hardie. The name derives from a novel by Sir Walter Scott. The diamond-shaped bottle and presentation are quite nice. J & W Hardie Ltd in Glasgow was bought in 1995 by the Tomatin Distillery Company Ltd. The Blend contains around 55% Malt Whisky, a high percentage. All in all some 30 Grain - and Malt whiskies are used for the Antiquary. The heart of the Blend is Speyside, represented by a/o Glenrothes, Mortlach, Benrinnes, Linkwood and Cragganmore. Highland malts include Tomatin, Royal Lochnagar and Clynelish while the Lowlands are represented by Glenkinchie. A touch of Bowmore takes care of the subtle peated part of the Blend. The Grain Whiskies are from Camaronbridge and Port Dundas. Maturation takes place in a mix of Ex-Bourbon and Ex-Sherry casks. The average price of the Blend lies around 90 US Dollars (May 2017).

Drinking Experience Neat: Good  

Conclusion: The Antiquary 21 years is certainly a very big step forward when compared to the Antiquary 12 Years I reviewed earlier. The 21 Years is a good Blend as it should be given the spicy price-tag. But it's not an exceptional blend and there are two main reasons for that. First of all I suspect that the Malts used did not mature in very active casks. And secondly, as a result, the Grain Alcohol remains quite prominent despite the high Malt content. On the outside the Antiquary 21 years indeed shines like a Diamond with its nice packaging and bottle. The Whisky itself is more like a semi-precious stone. Good but not Great! 

Jan van den Ende                                                                      May 30, 2017


Logan Heritage Review

“Never Judge a Whisky By the Cover”

Country: Scotland
Brand: Logan Heritage
Bottled by: White Horse Distillers, Edinburgh (Diageo)
Type: Blended Whisky
Age: NAS (Said To Be Around 8 Years)
ABV: 40% 
Chill-Filtration: Yes 
Whisky Review # 590
Buying Advice: 😐  Neutral. Not Good enough to sip neat. Okay over Ice. 

Colour: Light Amber (Artificially Coloured)

Nose: Young, Light and mainly Sweet. The Alcohol is quite noticeable and so are the Refill Ex-Bourbon casks. The dark colour of this Blend suggests a decent portion of Caramel colouring. I also detect a very faint Peat Smoke but it's clear that the Lagavulin part in this Blend is very limited. In addition, I find Toasted Cereals, Buttered Toast, Toffee, Caramel, light Vanilla, light Heather-Honey, Salted Nuts, Dried Fruits, Cooked Vegetables, Green Apple and hints of Ginger, Cinnamon and Leather. There are no real off-notes but the Grain Alcohol tends to dominate the relatively weak Malt Aromas.     
Palate: Young, Light and quite Sweet. The delivery is on the Thin side. I find Toasted Cereals, Caramel, Sugar, light Vanilla, Grain Alcohol, very Light Smoke, Refill Wood, Pepper, Cinnamon, Ginger, Licorice, Green Apples and Light Honey. On the Palate it's clear that the Heritage Blend does not have the same quality as the discontinued Logan 12 Years that I reviewed earlier.

Finish: Short and Sweet with Toasted Cereals, Refill Wood, Grain Alcohol, Sugar, Licorice, Nut Shells, Pepper, Ginger and slightly Sour Green Apples. A whiff of Smoke. Medium-Dry towards the end. 

I added a little Water and on the Nose some Floral Soap Aromas develop. Palate and Finish become too Thin. 

Rating: 78  

Nose: 20 - Taste: 19.5 - Finish: 19 - Overall: 19.5

General Remarks:

The Logan Blend was first introduced in 1903 and was named after James Logan, a one time Scotch Whisky blender. The Logan Heritage was launched in 2014 in Portugal by Master Blender Caroline Martin to celebrate the 111th Birthday of the Brand Name. At the same time it replaced the Logan 12 Years Old Blend. Logan is said to use 24 Grain- and Malt Whiskies for this Blend including Lagavulin (Islay) and Glen Elgin and Craigellachie (Speyside). The Heritage Blend is not very expensive and usually sells in the 20-30 US Dollar range (January 2017).

Drinking Experience Neat: Below Average

Drinking Experience on the Rocks: Okay

Conclusion: It's a real pity that Diageo discontinued the Logan 12 Years as it was a simple but quite enjoyable, highly drinkable and sufficiently matured Blend at a reasonable price. That's why it had to go of course. It has now been replaced by the Heritage, a NAS Blend that can't stand in the shadow of its former big brother. Despite the Classy, though Old-Fashioned presentation and bottle, the Heritage is in fact a relatively cheap Bottom Shelf Blend. There is nothing interesting going on and it's not suited to sip neat. Over Ice this Blend is okay though nothing special. The 12 Years will be sorely missed!

Jan van den Ende                                                                 January 19, 2017

Glen Elgin

MacArthur's Select Review

“Good Fighters, Mediocre Blenders”

Country: Scotland
Brand: MacArthur's Select
Type: Blended Scotch Whisky
Bottled By: J. MacArthur & Co. (Interbev Group)
Age: NAS 
Chill-Filtration: Most likely
ABV: 40%
Whisky Review # 558

Colour: Golden (Artificial Colouring might have been applied) 

Nose: Grain Alcohol and Refill (Ex-Bourbon) casks are all over the place. The MacArthur's Blend has a young and light Nose with some Cereals, a little Malt, Toast and Margarine, Nutshells, Straw, Vanilla, Sugar, light Honey, Pear, a bit of Pepper and some Citrus notes (Mandarin). It's all quite simple but I also don't detect annoying off-notes.  

Taste: A little Sharp and Sugary Sweet with Cereals, Nut Shells, light Grass and Honey, a little Barley, Citrus (Mandarin and Lemon), Caramel, light Toffee, light Orchard Fruit and Pepper.        

Finish: Short, a little Sharp and Sugary-Sweet with quite some Bitter Refill Oak popping up in the end. I find Sugar, Caramel, light Toffee, light Vanilla, Lemon, Mandarin, Pepper, Nutmeg and traces of Cigarette Ashes.  

Added Water does diminish the Grainy Fire somewhat and enhances the Barley. It also becomes very thin though.   

Rating: 72  

Nose: 18.5 - Taste: 18 - Finish: 17.5  - Overall: 18

General Remarks: This blend of Grain - and Malt whiskies was first released in 1877. It is named after the MacArthur clan of Argyllshire in Scotland that fought alongside Robert the Bruce in the war for Scottish independence. It probably contains malt from distilleries like Balblair, Old Pulteney, An Cnoc (Knockdhu) and Speyburn as these also belong to the Interbev Group. Mac Arthur's Select is quite cheap at around US$ 20. I have seen even lower prices on the Internet (September 2016).

Drinking Experience Neat: Okay/Below Average 

Conclusion: I certainly do not consider myself a Whisky snob and I quite enjoy my JW Black on the rocks on a regular basis. But it's cheap Blends like the one I am tasting today that make me desperate sometimes. Because while I can't find any real Off-Notes, I also can't find any reason why I should consider drinking this neat. And with added Water and/or Ice it becomes quite Thin. So the only reason to really consider MacArthur's is the price. Low prices however can't produce whiskies with great Aromas and Flavour. I keep repeating myself when I say that Bourbon producers do a much better job in this respect. To sum it up, the MacArthur's Select is drinkable but it doesn't offer any pleasure. Therefore, I can't recommend it.

Jan van den Ende                                                             September 14, 2016

Knockdhu (Picture Credit: Scotchwhiskynet)

Old Keeper Review

“Please Keep This Away From Me“

Country: Scotland
Brand: Old Keeper
Region: Distilled and Blended in the Highlands
Type: Blended Scotch Whisky
Produced By: Abbeyhill Distilling Co. Ltd, Edinburgh, Scotland 
Age: NAS (3-5 Years)
Chill-Filtration: Yes
ABV: 40%
Whisky Review # 551

Colour: Light Golden (Artificially Coloured)

Nose: Young, Sharp, Dusty and not very pleasant. Grain Alcohol and something I can only describe as a mixture of Varnish and Nail Polish are the main drivers. I also find Sugar, Burnt Grass, Refill Oak, Sweaty Feet and traces of rotten Fruit, Bitter Herbs and Vanilla.

Taste: Young, Sharp, Bitter and Sugary Sweet. I find Grain Alcohol, Bitter Herbs, Refill Oak, Burnt Grass, Pepper and a little Honey and Vanilla.       

Finish: Short and Sharp with Alcohol, Bitter Herbs and Pepper leading the way.

Added Water does not improve anything. 

Rating: 65 

Nose: 16 - Taste: 17 - Finish: 15.5 - Overall: 16.5

General Remarks: The Old Keeper is sold in Germany by the Supermarket Chain Aldi (Sud). It´s very cheap with prices between 10 and 15 US Dollars (July 2016). I´m sure it contains at least 70% 3 Year Old Grain Alcohol. It´s not possible to determine any specific Malt Whiskies used in this Blend.

Drinking Experience Neat: Unpleasant

Drinking Experience on the Rocks: Borderline drinkable but without providing any satisfaction. 

Conclusion: The only positive aspect of the Old Keeper is its low price. I´ve seen it as low as 7 Euros. Other than that, this Blended Whisky is better left alone. If you are low on cash, Bourbon and Vodka are much better options. It really hurts to know that some Single Malt(s) are used for the Old Keeper!

Jan van den Ende                                                                   July 18, 2016

Label 5 Classic Black Review

“On the Border”

Country: Scotland
Brand: Label 5 Classic Black
Type: Blended Whisky
Produced By: Glen Turner Company, Bathgate, Scotland 
Age: NAS
ABV: 40%

Colour: Light Gold (Artificially Coloured) 

Nose: Light, Sweet and Young with Sugared Breakfast Cereals, Grain Alcohol, Toast and Margarine, Dough, Refill Oak, Straw, Forest Soil in Autumn, Toffee, slightly Sour Apples, Brown Sugar, Nut Shells, Cooked Vegetables/Potatoes, light Floral tones and a little Ginger. There is a very faint hint of Woodsmoke. The Alcohol is quite noticeable. There are no real Off-Notes but neither do I find interesting Aromas.

Taste: Thin and Sugary Sweet. The Young Grain Alcohol is all over the place. I find Sugared Breakfast Cereals, a little Malt, Straw, Toffee, light Vanilla, Dirty Earth, Tea, Green Apple, Lemon, Pepper and Ginger.      

Finish: Short and Sugary Sweet. Slightly Bitter in the end. I find Grain Alcohol, Malted Cereals, Brown Sugar, Refill Oak, Pepper, Ginger, Lemon, Dirt, Rusty Iron and a distant hint of Factory Smoke.

With a little Water, the Label 5 becomes very Thin but also a little Cleaner and less Rough. You might consider adding a few drops in this case. Or better, serve it over Ice or use it in Cocktails. 

Rating: 70  

Nose: 18 - Taste: 17.5 - Finish: 17 - Overall: 17.5 

General Remarks: La Martiniquaise, located in France, was founded in 1934 by Jean Cayard and developed into an importer and distributor of Spirits like Rum, Cognac, Kirsch, Calvados, Madeira, Port and, since 1969, whisky. Initially, the whisky was bought in Scotland from third parties and blended and bottled in France. But in 1981 a Scottish subsidiary (Glen Turner) was founded but only started operations in 2004 when a Maturation/Bottling facility was constructed in Bathgate (West Lothian). In 2008, the Group bought the Glen Moray distillery from Glenmorangie and a new Grain Distillery was developed in Bathgate with production starting in 2011. Label 5 Blended Whisky was launched in 1969 and is the world's 9th Best Selling Scotch Whisky (May 2016). The core range also includes the 12 Years Extra Premium, the 18 Years Extra Rare and the Gold Heritage. Glen Moray and other Speyside Malts form the heart of the Label 5 Blend while the Grain Whisky is of course produced at the Grain distillery Glen Turner. Label 5 is really cheap and sells at between 18 and 25 US Dollars (May 2016).

Drinking Experience Neat: Below Average

Drinking Experience on the Rocks: Okay

Conclusion: Label 5 is one of the best selling Whiskies in the world. This shows that many Whisky consumers are driven by price and use the product as a basis for their cocktails or sip it on the rocks. In that case Label 5 is indeed a good option as it's very cheap in most places and without real noticeable off-notes. If you're looking for interesting Aromas and Flavours however, you should look elsewhere. It's almost impossible to detect the Glen Moray that must be buried somewhere in this Young Grain Alcohol. And that was, as Lou Bega sang a while ago: "Ladies and Gentlemen, Label Number 5"!

Jan van den Ende                                                                      May 26, 2016