To follow on from my general review of the night, which can be found by clicking here, I shall spend the next few days going through the whiskies that were on show and giving you all some of my personal opinions on them.
First up, for the evening, we headed in the direction of Scotland to sample arguably the best Scottish Blend on the market today and a newish release from the Island of Islay.
The whiskies I'm alluding to are Johnnie Walker Black Label 12yr old and Bowmore's Small Batch Reserve.
Johnnie Walker Black Label 12yr old is without doubt one of the most famous blended whiskies in the world and has been a cornerstone for this great brand since the early 1900's. All in all it is a blend of around 40 different whiskies and is bottled at 40% ABV.
It would be remiss of me not to also mention that Jim Murray has, for the past 3 years, published his iconic whisky bible showing this blend to have the whopping score of 95.5/100. Only a handful of Scottish blends get awarded more.
Nose - Poured from a freshly opened bottle the initial creamy vanilla moves aside to allow a beautiful light peat smoke to come to the fore. Red berries, fruitcake and mixed spice lie within the glass and move through the air with a great richness.
Palate - First to hit the taste buds is the warm mixed spices which ease into amazing dark red fruits, more cake arrives but appears as Christmas cake with a healthy dollop of vanilla cream. The gentle spice remains throughout but serves to keep the dram beautifully warm and rich and the slight smoke just about shows through.
Finish - Rich but relatively short with more fruit coming through but this time in the form of crunchy red apple and light peach.
Overall this is an amazing blend and certainly beats my previous two reviewed blends of Ballantine's Finest and Grant's Family Reserve but, obviously, I could confidently say that this is mostly down to the 12yr old age statement. It is well rounded with a perfect mix of Islay/Speyside nose, Speyside/Highland/Islay palate and Speyside/Highland finish.
Next up was the Bowmore Small Batch Reserve. No age statement and bottled at 40% ABV led me to guess that this was going to be a wild, rough, hot, beast of a young malt but surprisingly I was completely wrong. A small amount of research would also show that this single malt has been aged in 1st and 2nd fill bourbon casks, and married for an extended period of maturation.
Nose - Unbelievably light and fresh. Light, gentle, almost fruity smoke turning into wafts of nearly invisible earthy peat. Toasted oats, soft vanilla and toffee. Still sea breeze and some sweet honey malt also appear here.
Palate - This is so clean and fresh. The lightest hint of peat smoke combines with lemon and honey to provide an amazing taste in the mouth. The smoothness is undeniable and I have to keep reminding myself that this is a young "NAS" malt. There is simply no hot nip of alcohol present.
Finish - Is unfortunately short but the turf smoke continues in it's lightest form with some slaty sea air.
Overall this is an Islay whisky like none I've tried before. The lightness and freshness makes this seem more like a lightly peated young Highland malt (thinking young Balblair). It is incredibly smooth and a cracking dram to sip away at. Given the lack of alcoholic nip it would be interesting to see this bottled at 46% to see if it could get away with it and maybe add some extra young spirit complexity.
When first being presented with these two drams to start the "Whiskey Club" evening I was worried that my taste buds were going to be peated away to nothing but nothing could have been further from the truth. We were only getting started…
Next up I shall touch on the Irish contingent of the night where we sampled two of my favourite Irish whiskies.
Until next time,