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Ardnave 'bastard' malt whisky

During the 1990's, the supply of Scotch malt whisky was larger than global demand.
This didn't just keep the prices of most single malt whiskies at (relatively) friendly levels,
it also caused the emergence of quite a few new malt whisky brands with names that
had no apparent relation with any of the existing malt whisky distilleries in Scotland.
 
I felt that the name 'bastard malts' suited these single malts. Because the name of
the distillery where these whiskies were 'born' isn't provided, their provenance can
not be confirmed. During the 1990's these were mostly young and very affordable
bottlings (like the 'Vintage' range which offered a Lagavulin 7yo and Talisker 8yo),
but in recent years we've seen older expressions by independent bottlers as well.
In both cases these bastard malts gave the producers an opportunity to sell their
surplus whisky at fairly low prices without damaging the 'price points' of brands.

The anonymous fate of 'surplus' malt whiskies

Bastard malt whisky brands
brands of blended whisky

Ardnave
Bennachie
Ben Wyvis
Blairfindy
Cairnluish
Cockburn
Glenforres
Glen Foyle
Glentromie
Ileach
Inverarity
Lochindaal
McClelland's
Smokehead
Stronachie
Vintage

It's hard enough to find reliable background information
about many 'proper' single malts and blends because
these days there is not that much distinction between
PR and 'journalism' - both are usually paid for (either
directly or indirectly) by the whisky industry.

Anyway, we see far less 'bastard malts' than we used to these days.
In the new millennium demand for malt whisky quickly outgrew supplies, so
prices skyrocketed and soon there were hardly any more surplus stocks.
These days even single malts from second rate distilleries like Loch Lomond
and Speyside virtually fly off the shelves, so the producers have no more
need for bastard malts - until the whisky bubble bursts, of course...

It's even harder to find out details about the provenance of bastard malts.
The industry is very tight-lipped about this type of whisky and bottlers (and
liquorists) are usually content with spreading hints, rumours & innuendo.

Blended and vatted whisky brands

WILL BASTARDS BE BACK?

The phenomenon of 'bastard
malt whiskies' existed before
the 1980's, but the growth of
the category (especially in the
1990's) was largely caused by
the economic crisis of the 1980's.
This crisis caused a significant
drop in demand for Scotch whisky
and many distilleries had to be
closed down for good.
 
Oddly enough, the credit crisis
that started in 2008 didn't seem
to have similar effects. Demand
in China and other new markets
remained high and a few large
whisky producers even built a
number of brand new distilleries.
 
At the same time, the profile of
the average whisky consumer
changed. Many new customers
(including quite a few collectors)
saw (malt) whisky as a luxury
product and were willing to pay
steep prices to acquire a bottle.
 
If this trend continues it's not
likely that we'll see a big revival
of bastard malts. However, if the
whisky market crashes we may
see more of them in the future.

Blackadder 'Peat Reek' (61.7%, Blackadder / Sun Favourite, Cask BA 10571, 294 bottles, May 2005)
Nose: Sweetish. Hint of grass. Not much else at first. Then a peaty presence emerges. Smoke.
Taste: Sweet peat! Lots of it! Meaty. Lovely. On the fresh side. Excellent mouth feel. Chewy tannins.
Score: 85 points - not the most complex malt I know, but plenty of peat, just the way I like it.
 
Blackadder 'Peat Reek' (62.1%, Blackadder / Sun Favourite, Cask BA 10570, 299 Bottles, May 2005)
Nose: Sharp & peaty. Sweaty. Diesel and a hint of oil, perhaps? Sour? Not a lot of complexity.
Taste: Big, sweet and peaty. Fabulous! Earns some bonus points on the palate. Lovely tannins too.
Bone dry. Nevertheless, this whisky has a brilliant mouth feel.
Score: 87 points - with a nose to match the great palate it might have reached the 90's.
 
Blackadder 'Smoking Islay' (59.7%, Blackadder for Taiwan SMWTA, Cask BA 2005/202, 233 bottles)
Nose: Sweet melon. Strawberry. Every so rich and gentle. A liquid fruit basket. Then peat & spices.
After circa five minutes I got more organics and peat. Some very faint meaty notes in the background.
Taste: What? Peat? I didn't find that much in the nose. Big & peaty. A tad too dry in the finish for me.
Score: 85 points - but I probably should have added some water... This is a heavy overproof malt.
 
Blairfindy 24yo 1980/2004 (55.9%, Blackadder for Sun Favourite Taiwan, C#5984, 182 Bts.)
('Blairfindy' is a name that's often used for 'illegitimate' bottlings from the Glenfarclas distillery.)
Nose: It's almost black! Old coffee and burnt caramel. Empty wine casks. Slowly emerging organics.
Ooooh, that's nice. Big, sweet and fruity. Lovely sherry. Hint of oak. Organics. A classic profile.
At first I had it in the lower 80's, but the spices, organics and 'soupy' smells lift it into the upper 80's.
Taste: It starts out sweet and friendly on the palate too, but grows more serious and woody with time.
Excellent. Heavy, dry & smoky. Woody - but in a good way. Heavy sherry. Sweetening out. Cough syrup.
Lovely tannins too, balanced by the sweetness. In the end it just stops short of the 90's with...
Score: 89 points - although it's almost a tad too extreme for my tastes, can you believe that?

Finlaggan NAS 'Old Reserve' (40%, Vintage Malt Whisky Co, Bottled +/- 2005)
Nose: Peat. A little 'dirty' but sweeter, fruitier overtones as well. First impression: a Kildalton malt. Meaty - salami, to be precise.
Not too much development over time, but the profile is very appealing - it's just my kind of malt whisky.
Taste: Peat again. More and more smoke. Not as sweet on the palate, but a nice, solid Islay malt.
Score: 84 points - although I have to admit this is a fairly 'emotional' score. Simple but effective.

Glen Gordon 15yo (40%, G&M, 75cl, 'Bastard Malt', Bottled Mid 1980's)
Nose: Sweet and fruity with a hint of antiquity. Beeswax. Faint hint of oil. Lots of depth. Quite lovely.
Taste: Dry. Tannins. Quite bitter and astringent in the finish, losing quite a few points. That's too bad.
Score: 77 points - it might have made it to the 80's on the nose alone. Let down by the palate.

John, Mark & Robbo NAS 'The Rich Spicy One' (40%, Bottled +/- 2005)
Nose: Aaaah... Sweet, creamy and sherried. Beeswax. Lovely fruits. Smells like a pastry bakery.
Superb - so many things going on that I can't find the time to write it all down. becomes quite peculiar.
Taste: Sweet and fruity as well, with some smoke and organics lurking beneath the surface. Winey. Lovely!
Score: 83 points - but it might not be to everybody's taste. Wine finished? Seems 'doctored' somehow.

John, Mark & Robbo NAS 'The Smoky Peaty One' (40%, Bottled +/- 2005)
Nose: Starts off with a whiff of oil, followed by fruits. Lemon drops. Grows fruitier and fruitier. Some peculiar organics.
Hints of mud and organics in the background. Very enjoyable, I must say. Great development over time as well.
Taste: A little watery in the start. Thin in the middle as well. Too little 'body' - it almost seems pre-diluted.
Smoke. Dry with a hint of liquorice. There is a suggestion of sherry and grapes but it doesn't really deliver.
Score: 79 points - A promising and highly enjoyable nose let down a bit by the relatively simple palate.

John, Mark & Robbo NAS 'The Smooth Sweeter One' (40%, Bottled +/- 2005)
Nose: Sweet and grainy. Werther's Original. Lemon and weird organics after a few minutes. A dirty whisky - which is a good thing...
It didn't impress me too much at first, but it grew on me. Not impressive at first, but given time the nose becomes just GREAT!
Coffee. Metallic? This is really unique. Faint hint of sake? Brazil nuts! A real adventure for the nose.
Taste: Phew... Bitter start. Sweetens out in the centre, but remains grainy. Watery. Winey finish.
Just like the nose, it needed some time to grow on me. It never becomes nearly as pleasant, though.
Score: 80 points - not especially enjoyable on the palate, but a 'you really have to sniff this' nose.

Master of Malt Islay 12yo (40%, Bottled 2008, cask sample)
Nose: Hungarian dried salami, smoke and medicinal notes. At first sight I'd say this is Laphroaig.
Tar and creosote. Just my kind of profile; not terribly complex but exactly the 'style' I adore.
Taste: much more restrained than the nose suggests - almost watery. That's slightly disappointing.
After a lot of breathing tar became the dominant factor on the palate as well. hangs around in the finish.
Score: 82 points - but I should add that it's a very 'personal' score; I just love the medicinal profile.

Port Askaig 17yo (45.8%, Specialty Drinks Ltd., Bottled +/- 2009)
Nose: Peaty, smoky and metallic with a hint of bad breath. Quite unique. Unlike any other Caol Ila I know.
The style reminds me of the MoM Islay 12yo - which could mean they make a 'Kildalton' style malt now.
Taste: Salmiak. Smooth and salty. Feels quite hot at this proof. Everything hangs together very well.
Score: 84 points - but this is the score for a freshly opened bottle, so it might climb a few points later on.

Port Askaig 25yo (45.8%, Specialty Drinks Ltd., Bottled +/- 2009)
Nose: An obvious family resemblance with the 17yo, but lighter in style. Slightly chalky and salty.
Slightly dusty. It grows more 'veggy' after a few minutes. The profile changes after some breathing.
Peat disappears, Chloride. Not as extremely 'Kildaltony' (medicinal, tarry) after some more breathing.
Taste: Feels quite hot for a few minutes. Becomes more accessible but the finish remains hot.
Menthol or eucalyptus? Pine? Just like the nose, it changes quite a bit over time on the palate.
Score: 81 points - not really medicinal enough for my tastes. I have to admit I prefer the 17yo myself for being more extreme.

Single Speyside Malt 40yo 1966/2007 (52.4%, The Whisky Fair, Oloroso, 150 Bts.)
Nose: A heavy, sweet sherry attack. Classic sherry profile with a touch of smoke. Candy sweets. Tea?
Some spices later on. Definitely my kind of profile - but I can see how it's too extreme for some people.
Taste: Surprisingly smoky on the palate. Loads of wood as well, obviously - almost like an old cognac.
With some more sweetness to balance out the wood this would have been a perfect malt.
Score: 89 points - perhaps a tad too extreme for a score in the 90's. A primal scream.
Although it can't be officially announced, this is most likely a Glenfarclas.

Single Speyside Malt 41yo 1965/2007 (53.5%, The Whisky Fair, sherry)
Nose: Alcoholic pinch, quickly settling down. Opens up to beautiful polished wood notes.
Very much like an old cigar store on the surface with many subtleties in the undercurrent.
A wonderful journey for the nose; furniture polish, old fruits, some organics, some leather. Some OBE?
Taste: Sweet start, followed by wood and then loads of smoke. Leather and fruits later on. Great!
Maybe even a hint of something medicinal in the background. Still, a tad more accessible than the 40yo.
Score: 92 points - making it one of the very best Glenfarclasses (Glenfarcli?) I've tried so far.
This is a true beauty - but perhaps not suitable for relative novices in the malt whisky world...

Speyside 1990/2005 'Armagnac Finish' (54.4%, Celtique Connexion, 297 Bottles)
Nose: Sweet and just a tad 'chemical'. Not terribly expressive. Some smoke and oil beneath the surface?
I just burned my nose. Must be an overproof malt. If so, it's remarkably tight-lipped. Better in the summer?
Seems a little sweeter and maltier in the nose during my second try. Spicy prickle in the back of the nose.
The nose shows more depth after some breathing. On closer inspection I'd have to put this above average.
Taste: Touch of peat in the start? Very dry - and quite flat. Malty. Quite hot, sweetening out. Quite light.
Grows distinctly more winey towards the finish. The finish itself is a tad bitter. Feels quite young.
Score: 80 points - it's a potent whisky, but it lacks some depth and complexity. A very young malt, perhaps?

Vanilla Sky 14yo 1992/2006 (53%, The Whisky Fair, 297 Bts.)
This is most likely a Lagavulin (see the anagrammish name), but since it doesn't say so on the bottle we don't know.
Nose: Hmmm... Is my nose burning out? Clearly a clean peat monster with loads of depth, but I feel I missed the subtleties.
Taste: Great mouth feel. Peaty, dusty and slightly peaty on my palate. Reminds me of a MurMac bottling I tried years ago.
Score: 88 points - I feel pretty confident about my score on the enjoy-o-meter, but don't have very detailed notes...

The Whisky That Cannot Be Named 1953/2003 (54.3%, Adelphi, Cask #1668, 501 Bottles)
Nose: That's much more like it; a malt with a good dose of sherry. Organics. Salt? Wow!!! This is really something.
Oriental spices. A fantastic nose. A few drops of water knocked it out for a few seconds, but it came back to life again.
Quity heavily sherried, yet wonderfully balanced. Spicier. Something medicinal in the nose as well; what a knockout whisky!
Taste: Sweet, fruity start. Raspberries? Lovely mouth feel. Drier towards the finish. Holly? Now I get coconut!
Pineapple, passion fruit and liquorice root. Peat. Brilliant performance on nose AND palate.
Score: 95 points - the very best 'bastard' malt I tried in my life, that's for sure! A superb kick-ass whisky indeed.
Too bad a bottle will set you back some 500 pounds....

The ZDFbeg 1988/2005 (55.5%, Whiskykanzel, Bottled 04/2005, 500ml) was an Islay malt. If you know that the ZDF is one of Germany's TV channels and ARD is another one, it's not hard to guess that this is actually an Ardbeg. What's more, the Germans actually do seem to have some sense of humour. They know how to select their casks as well, because this had all the sweetness and peat I love in Ardbeg in the nose, even after just seven years in the cask. It's meaty and dusty as well, giving it a complexity that would suggest a much higher age. It performed very satisfactory on the palate as well. A very good young Islay malt that's wise beyond its years - 86 points it is.
 

Tasting Notes for a few bastard whiskies

A few bastard whiskies
Laphroaig 1974
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'Bastard' malt whisky (undisclosed origins)

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This 'Deviant Drams' section is a mere diversion from the main focus of the Malt Madness website: single malt (Scotch) whisky.
My knowledge of and experience with world whiskies and other alcoholic beverages is relatively limited, but I have plenty to say
about single malt Scotch whisky. For example, there's a Beginner's Guide to Single Malts with 10 pages filled with lots of useful
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Clicking on one of the links below will take you directly to the distillery profile of that particular whisky distillery in Scotland.
 
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