I often read people saying not to ignore blends, and that blends can be very good; I have probably said it myself too. What we do know about blends in nearly all instances, is that the grain component is a way to make what’s in the bottle cheaper to produce. Grain whisky is cheaper, and I don’t think that’s a bombshell to anybody.
There are also the countless number of budget supermarket blends which don’t do a lot for me. Johnnie Walker Black Label was always a staple on my shelf in the earlier years, but either my palate changed as I expanded my horizons, or the quality has dropped significantly, and I no longer enjoy drinking it; I suspect its a combination of the two. Possibly its main rival, Chivas Regal 12, is another that i’d place in the same bracket of bland banality. Bell’s, Famous Grouse, Teachers etc. can be added to the list. The flavour just isn’t there in my view. The brand and keeping the price down appears more important than the liquid in the bottle. These whiskies may have done a lot to help people get into the spirit, but I also think there is an argument that they have put those of us further on in the journey off blends. You move onto malts and rarely look back.
I’ve recently tried some blends at a slightly more premium end of the market, and I have really enjoyed Islay Mist 21 in the past year or so, which was not too much of a surprise when it includes 21 year old Laphroaig, and we know older grains can be very good too. Then there was Adelphi’s Private Stock Reserve Peated Blend. Presented at cask strength and with a decent malt content, it was an absolute treat. It is the main reason I took a chance on this bottle, but then you start to think, is a £20 blend going to put me back in the realms of the bottom shelf supermarket fodder that i’ve had negative experiences with? We’ll get to that shortly.
The label of this bottle depicts a cartoon from Punch magazine in 1853, in which then Chancellor of the Exchequer and future Prime Minister William Gladstone is dancing over an ear of barley, after passing a law which stated revenue could only be raised on whisky left in the cask after maturation, not the original fill level. This paved the way for whiskies to be matured for much longer, as the dreaded Angel’s Share was a little less of an issue.
This wasn’t the only law Mr Gladstone passed when it came to Scotch whisky. He was responsible for signing the Spirits Act of 1860, which allowed the blending of malt and grain whisky for the first time. He also passed legislation to allow whisky to be sold in glass bottles. I wonder how much of this was influenced by his family’s ownership of the Fettercairn distillery at the time? Politicians serving their own interests would be nothing new that’s for sure. However, there is no doubt these new laws and legislations helped other distillers too. The man wasn’t without his controversy’s either, but that goes a little beyond the scope of a light-hearted whisky review.
Anyway, let’s get back to the whisky, which is matured using a solera vatting system, with an apparent high percentage of well aged malts and grain from Speyside, Islay and Campbeltown. At the price this is pitched at, i’d be surprised if there is much whisky of any great age in there. Being in a solera, there would be an argument that there is some old whisky in the mix, as it is unlikely to be fully emptied before being topped up. That older content would surely be negligible with the regular disgorging and refilling with the younger whisky. It is available from Master Of Malt and House Of Malt at time of writing, priced at £20.94.
Adelphi Blended Whisky – Review
Nose : Burning leaf fire smoke, wood ashes and dusty earth are coming out at me initially, but this isn’t a peat monster, its quite delicate. Sweet citrus, with lemon zest, demerara sugar and vanilla cream coated tinned peaches. There’s some polished mahogony, sheeps wool, licorice root and smoked, salty bacon.
Palate : Sweet orange marmalade and honeyed vanilla sponge start off proceedings, before the peat quickly makes itself known and adds a nice savoury and smoky seasoning, with some bacon frazzles, and whispy bonfire smoke on a salty sea breeze. I then get raisins, bitter chocolate, gingery spice, slightly bitter oak, and a nutty creaminess. There is a lot more of the licorice from the nose, but this time it reminds me of black jack chew sweets. All the while, the savoury sea air and light smoke lingers. The sweet notes become a little too artificial sweetener as it develops, which feels like it is from the grain component – almost bubblegum.
In the finish, I get some freeze dried raspberries, vanilla cream, more of the savoury meaty notes, more of the leafiness, a touch of lingering smoke and salt.
Conclusions : This isn’t the simple low cost blend you’d expect for the money. There’s a journey of flavours and sensations which make it a much more intriguing dram, with a nice balance of sweet and savoury with the peat and fruit notes. If it wasn’t for that artificial sweetness which develops on the palate, i’d be scoring this a touch higher. It doesn’t ruin things by any means, but its not an ideal note for my tastes. For £20-ish i’d thoroughly recommend you try it. When you take into account the price point, it deserves an above average score. Worthwhile whisky at this price can be hard to find.
Score : 6/10 Good
Three Word Review : Sweet. Leafy. Smoky.
(Score descriptions can be found in the About page)
ABV : 40%
Non-chill filtered : No
Natural Colour : No
Maturation : Matured in casks and then married together in a Solera system
Region : Multiple regions of Scotland
Colour : Amber