Tag Archives: blended

Lost Distillery Whisky Reviews

Lost Distillery Auchnagie (Archivist Collection) – Producer: Lost Distillery Company. Distiller(s): undisclosed. Region: Highlands (in theory–see below). ABV: 46%. No age statement. Price:

Lost Distillery Stratheden (Archivist Collection) – Producer: Lost Distillery Company. Distiller(s): undisclosed. Region: Lowlands (in theory–see below). ABV: 46%. No age statement. Price:

Lost Distillery Gerston (Archivist Collection) – Producer: Lost Distillery Company. Distiller(s): undisclosed. Region: Highlands (in theory–see below). ABV: 46%. No age statement. Price:

There’s no shortage of independent bottlers finishing, bottling, and/or blending big-name (or obscure) single malts in interesting ways. The Lost Distillery Company takes a different approach.

The name suggests they might be about tracking down malt from shuttered distilleries and bringing it to market. What they actually do is more interesting: giving shuttered distilleries a speculative life-after-life by sourcing and blending malts meant to approximate their styles.

Speculative is the key word here. The Lost Distillery Company is up-front about what they do and don’t do:

We don’t have a warehouse full of old forgotten whisky, we don’t have a secret recipe or DNA analysis and we don’t have plans to reopen any of these lost distilleries. The answer to what we do lies in the history books…

An “Archiving Team” headed up by Professor Michael Moss from The University of Glasgow determines what it can about the key components that would have made up a given lost distillery’s products: era, water, barley, still, wood, etc.

Our Archivists and Whisky Makers, along with a panel of selected ‘noses’, attempt to bring to life the evidence before them. They create a blend of single malts from different distilleries and with different flavour profiles, tweaking the composition to sit easily with both the evidence of the archivist and the interpretation of the whisky makers.

Naturally, there’s quite a bit of guesswork in the process. And there’s no one around from 1910 to say, “Eh, you need about 10% more peachiness on that Towiemore, mates.”

That said, the Lost Distillery Company does impress with the depth of their research into the distilleries whose names they use, presented in great detail on their website.

The big question, of course, is whether they impress with their malts. Read on…

Lost Distillery Auchnagie

Auchnagie
From lost-distillery.com

Auchnagie had a century-long run in the Highlands from 1812-1911. The nose of the Lost Distillery Company’s recreation has lovely canned fruits in light syrup, with something salty and savory behind it–smoked ham?–and a fragrant wood note.

The palate is quite intense , with a play of light (bourbon-cask fruit) and dark (mature wood) notes. Quite sharp at first, though it softens with time and a few drops of water. There’s a hint of white smoke that suggests a very small peated component (this, like all LDC releases, is a blend of single malts), or healthy barrel char. The finish is pleasantly sooty. Salt lick. Lemon peel. Leather.

Very enjoyable, distinctly old-fashioned. Recommended.

Lost Distillery Stratheden

Stratheden
From lost-distillery.com

Stratheden (1829-1926) was a Lowland distillery founded by one Alexander Bonthrone, who was so dedicated to the craft that he ran the stills nearly to his death–at the age of 92!

The nose on the LDC Stratheden has a rubbery, tarry note that’s quite unusual in the absence of peat, but not unwelcome. A little heat. Sweet mustiness. Freshly polished shoe leather. Orange saltwater taffy. I enjoy the nose so much that I’m in no rush to sip.

Palate is salty, with blackberry syrup and balsamic vinegar  reduction. The finish is long, complex, and intriguing. Think mulled wine with heavy dry spice, especially allspice, and clove.

Every bit the equal of the Auchnagie.

Lost Distillery Gerston

Gerston
From lost-distillery.com

Gerston is a recreation of the malt of two Highland distilleries, Gerston One (farm-scale, 1796-1882) and Gerston Two (industrial-scale 1886-1914).

The LDC Gerston comes on with quite a sweet nose. Vanilla, marshmallow, cotton candy. Distant hint of peat. Butteriness that gives a strong suggestion of some Pedro Ximenez influence in there. Musty, old fashioned in a way that’s familiar now after the Auchnagie and Stratheden.

The palate is more savory than sweet: mustard barbecue chicken. Quite mild peat that registers mostly as spiciness. Dried apple with cinnamon. The finish balances dying embers with lingering spice.

Overall

You could call the LDC mission quixotic, but the results are undeniable. When you’ve had your fill of the rivers of young, bright, uniformly honeyed malts from the big names–when you’re in a bit of a musty, old-fashioned, leather-library-binding mood yourself–try a Lost Distillery Company release. I think you’ll be glad you did. And be sure to share your thoughts.

Slàinte, friends! – BO

A company representative graciously provided samples for review. As always, our opinions are 100% our own.

Great King Street Artist’s Blend Review

Compass Box Great King Street Artist’s Blend – Producer: Compass Box. Distillers: undisclosed. Regions: Speyside & Highlands. ABV: 43%. No age statement. Price: $35-40.

The Great King Street Artist’s Blend was my first Compass Box whisky a few years back, and it opened my eyes to how good a blend can be. Founder and master blender John Glaser calls it “blended Scotch for whisky geeks,” which is just about the perfect description.

In line with Compass Box’s usual eye for quality, the Great King Street Artist’s Blend is just under 50% malt (an unusually high proportion), and matured in first-fill bourbon, sherry, and new heavily toasted French oak casks. It’s 43% ABV, not chill filtered, and priced at an exceedingly reasonable $35-40.

It has a gorgeous nose with strong wild honey. Sweet oak, new leather, vanilla tobacco, dried apple. The honey leads the palate too, but is beautifully integrated with the grain whisky backbone–sufficiently mature to add weight and heft. Canned peaches and pears. Surprisingly long finish with sweet leather and tobacco predominant.

A whisky geek’s blended Scotch, a blended Scotch skeptic’s blended Scotch…this one can win over just about anybody. Three cheers for Compass Box! – BO

Buy Compass Box whisky online from Mash + Grape

Compass Box Peat Monster Review

Compass Box Peat Monster – Producer: Compass Box. Distiller: various (see below). Region: Islay/Islands/Highlands. ABV: 46%. No age statement. Price: $55-65.

I have a special weakness with Compass Box whiskies. The Flaming Heart 2015 was my favorite whisky of that year, and I have yet to write a review. I went through an entire Christmas bottle of Compass Box Peat Monster without writing a review. The problem is that they’re so good, and in such a particular way–which I attribute to the blending genius of founder John Glaser–that I get too absorbed in them to take notes. I just want to enjoy.

But revisiting the Peat Monster, I managed to get my act together. This beauty is a blended malt (also known as a pure malt), meaning it’s a mix of single malts, with no grain whisky. The malts come from Laphroaig, Caol Ila, Ardmore, Ledaig, an unnamed Highland distiller.

The peat is intense, but there are many peatier whiskies on the market by far. The priority here is on balance and nuance.

Nose: lively, fresh, grassy, but with the density and richness that only come from a fair proportion of older malt in the mix. Minimal sweetness. Dark vanilla. Almond flour. Mesquite. Lemongrass. Dry vermouth herbaciousness. I could nose it all night.

Three kinds of peat intertwine on the palate: briny, toasty, and savory/BBQ. The Laphroaig brings the ashiness and brine; the Caol Ila light lemony fruits, tilting from lemon to lime to grapefruit. Charred pear and watermelon candy later on. The finish is very long, with grapefruit rind, grenadine, white ash, and salty sea spray.

The Compass Box Peat Monster should be a staple in any peat lover’s cabinet. Sure is in mine.

Cheers, friends! – BO

Buy Compass Box whisky online from Mash + Grape

Bushmills Red Bush Review

Distiller: Bushmills. ABV: 40%. No age statement/3+ years. Price: $18-22.

In my snobby younger days, I would routinely turn my nose up at the standard Irish blends. The Jameson and Powers never did it for me, and the only one I could routinely endure was Bushmills.

Now, of course, the last few years have seen massive growth in the complexity and quality of the Irish whiskies available in the U.S. I’d put Teeling and the Spots (Green and Yellow) up against the best in  the world. Bushmills’ higher-end offerings, like the 16-year-old single malt, are delectable.

So when I saw the new Bushmills Red Bush at my favorite convenience store, I was intrigued to see how the lower-end offerings of this venerable producer had changed with the times.

The verdict is…not much. It’s a bit mysterious what’s new about the Red Bush, as it’s prominently marketed as “matured in bourbon casks”–but so is the standard Bushmills White Label. (The Black Bush adds some sherry maturation.) The few existing reviews of the Red Bush I’ve read, along with Bushmills’ own patter, repeat the dreaded moniker “smooth,” which for me is usually shorthand for forgettable.

The Red Bush isn’t quite that bland. There’s a whisper of flora on the nose, and you’ll find some honey and vanilla if you try hard enough. The palate, as you’d expect from a blend aged entirely in ex-bourbon casks, has elements of the oaky BBQ, along with traces of vanilla, but the flavors are so faint that it’s difficult to discern much of anything. And the finish doesn’t deserve the name. By the time you’ve finished the first sip, you’ve already forgotten what you were drinking.

I’m tempted to say that for around $20, you could do worse, but there are so many better options at or just above this price point in the Irish whiskey world (think West Cork), the bourbon world (think Old Granddad,) and the single malt world (think Glen Moray) that there’s no reason to try this fairly mediocre blend.

Here’s to demanding more from those we love. Cheers, friends! – TM

Black Grouse Review

Producer: Famous Grouse/Edrington Group. Distiller: various. ABV: 40%. No age statement. Price: $25-30.

Over the holidays I needed a blended whisky to serve as a cocktail base, and it was the perfect occasion to assess the Black Grouse. It’s a mix of the Famous Grouse blend and unspecified peated single malts–Josh at The Whiskey Jug suspects Caol Ila, Famous Grouse’s website mentions “a rare version of Glenturret”…it’s a bit of a mystery.

On to the notes. The nose is malty and a bit waxy, with a core of tree fruit and tropical overtones. No hint of peat I could detect. The tropical fruit comes to the fore on the palate: mango and lychee. It’s only 40% ABV, so it’s a mild affair overall, but it’s sufficiently rich to hold a cocktail together. The peat comes through on the finish, warming though still quite soft, and lightly spicy.

The Black Grouse has recently been repackaged as “Famous Grouse Smoky Black,” with mixed reviews at places like Master of Malt, though some buyers unhelpfully compare it to Laphroaig or Ardbeg. That’s a mistake. It’s a mid-range blend, and isn’t meant to stand up to single malt peat monsters. But as a standby mixer that a single malt drinker can respect, I’d give it a solid recommendation.

Cheers, friends! – BO

Loch Lomond Reserve Review

Distiller: Loch Lomond. Region: Highlands. ABV: 40%. No age statement. Price: $18.

I’ve had a soft spot in my heart for Loch Lomond–the lake itself–ever since Mrs. McDram and I spent a romantic weekend on it back in 2008. I was dimly aware at the time that there was a Loch Lomond distillery nearby, but I neither visited it nor saw much evidence of it on the shelves.

Fast forward to 2014, when a private equity group called Exponent swooped in and bought the on-again-off-again distillery–along with Campbeltown’s Glen Scotia distillery–and began a revamp of the brand. The Loch Lomond Reserve blended whisky is one of the results.

Loch Lomond is rare among Scottish distilleries in having a wide range of stills to work with in-house: traditional copper pot stills, pot stills with rectifying columns, Coffey stills for making grain whisky, and the rare Lomond still, which is also in use at Scapa and Bruichladdich. If you can dream it up, Loch Lomond can make it. (And they’ll have to make a little more than usual after spilling $1.2 million worth of whisky this summer.)

That makes this base blended whisky, the Loch Lomond Reserve, a good place to start. I’ll come right out and say it: this $18 whisky is better than it has any right to be. I enjoyed it more than blended scotch whiskies that cost 2-3 times as much.

It’s on the lighter side at 40%, but the nose lets you know there’s plenty of substance to work with: vanilla, peach, apple, candied grapefruit, and peanut brittle.

The palate is lemony and creamy, nicely balanced, with no bite. Nice oak vanillins. Again, on the lighter side, but never watery. A touch of chicken with orange glaze comes late–then the finish brings a delicate smokiness. Then lemon pepper and ground ginger.

I’ve found that the better blends are great for accompanying food–far better than most single malts, to my taste. The Loch Lomond Reserve fits this bill nicely. It may fall a bit short of the standard of the excellent Usquaebach blended whiskies, but it also costs less than half of what they do.

A great before dinner dram, during dinner dram, or surprise hit at a party. Well done, Loch Lomond! – BO

The Loch Lomond Group graciously provided a sample for review. As always, our opinions are 100% our own.