This is probably the most 'confusing' category of Scotch whisky.
The invention of blended whisky (a mix of malt and grain whisky)
in the middle of the 19th century was a blessing for both whisky
drinkers and whisky producers. On the one hand, the consumers
gained access to a more affordable product without some of the
rough edges of the sometimes 'primitive' malts of the time which
had a little too much 'character' for some. And on the other hand,
blending helped whisky producers to manufacture a much more
consistent product - which turned into the first whisky brands.
But you don't HAVE to use the 'inferior' grain whisky for a blend.
You could also use only single malts for blending - the result of
which is called vatted malt whisky. Or rather, it used to be called
vatted malt whisky - a few years ago the official classification
was changed to blended malt whisky by the Scotch Whisky
Association (the lobby organisation behind most of the larger
Scotch whisky conglomerates). They spent a lot of money and
effort 'massaging' lawmakers and media in order to change the
name of vatted malt whisky because they claimed that it was
confusing for customers. Yeah, right...
Burn of Speyside
Century of Malts
If you ask me, the name 'blended malt whisky' is far
more confusing than 'vatted malt whisky' because it
blurs the lines between malt whisky and blended
whisky. I actually think that confusion is exactly what
the SWA was trying to achieve, perhaps because a
growing number of customers began to perceive
malt whisky as superior - and blends as inferior.
Because blended whisky is still the 'bread & butter'
of the industry, it could benefit from some of the
shine and lustre of high quality malt whiskies.
(40%, Bottled +/- 1995)
Nose: Soft and round with overtones of chocolate and chloride. Not very big on aroma, actually.
Taste: Very pleasant and sweet. Not very complex, but the finish is warm and very long.
Score: 43 points - not one of the highest scoring vatted malt whiskies, but it offers great value.
Blue Hanger 25yo (45.6%, Berry Bros, Glen Grant/Glenlivet vatting, Bottled +/- 2004)
Nose: Mellow and fruity start, quickly followed by sweets and organics. Impressive.
Spices and maybe a hint of soap perfume. Solid, but little development over time.
Taste: It's not as big and bold on the palate - and it turns bitter rather quickly.
It shows some faint fruits, but not the deep sweetness that often comes with it.
Preliminary impression: Lower 80's. Once again the palate lets me down after a big nose.
Second sampling: The nose holds back for a few seconds before it bursts open. Nice.
The profile is very accessible, but quite light - and there isn't a lot of development.
It's rather dry on the palate. Hot as well. A little fruity, but altogether quite dry.
Score: 83 points - the nose is polished and accessible, but falls apart in the mouth.
PURE OR BLENDED?
In the past you could often find
the phrase 'pure malt' on a
bottle of vatted malt whisky.
Unfortunately, that phrase was
also used by some brands (for
example Glenfiddich) on their
bottles of single malt whisky.
That means that the 'pure malt'
classification was indeed
Fortunately, new rules and
regulations that were introduced
in recent years prohibit the use
of the phrase 'pure malt' on
bottles of Scotch single malt
whisky these days.
Compass Box 'Eleuthera'
(46%, Compass Box, K5073, Bottled +/- 2005)
Nose: Very faint whiff of toilet freshener. Hint of glue. Sweetish and very subtle.
Veggy and something smoky. A tad herbal as well. Not much else going on, it would seem.
Taste: Soft start with a growing peaty power towards the middle. Dries out quickly. Dry, woody finish.
Score: 77 points - No major flaws, just lack of character. But I have to admit the palate grew on me.
Compass Box 'The Peat Monster'
(46%, Compass Box, K5064, Bottled +/- 2005)
Nose: Light and grainy. After a while some distant peat emerges. Sweet dough in the background.
Taste: Peat, but not a lot. Hint of soap? The feeling of tannins in my cheeks, but not the taste.
Not very complex. Very dry and a bit gritty. The peaty component comes to the foreground over time.
Score: 78 points - not quite potent enough for me, but it grows over time. Almost recommendable.
Compass Box 'The Spice Tree'
(46%, Compass Box, Inaugural Batch, 4150 Bottles, 2005)
Nose: Lemon & spices. Light but fragrant. A brilliant summertime malt. Faintest hint of smoke? Light.
It gains more depth after some breathing. Very nice. After a few minutes more spices and organics.
Taste: Oy, that's too bad... A little bit weak in the start. Grape skins. Woody and tannic. Flat and bitter.
Score: 83 points - the bitter finish almost pulls it down but it's saved by the great developing nose.
Corriemhor NAS 'Cigar Reserve'
(40%, Whyte & Mackay, composed by master blender Richard Paterson, +/- 2001)
Nose: Started out very restrained - at least in a Malt Whisky Society glass. It seemed very flat, like a blend.
After a few minutes it strongly reminded me of Tia Maria. It becomes stronger with time - more fruits.
In a larger glass, the smoke was much more obvious. All in all, the nose performed a little better in the big cognac bowl.
Sweetness, sourness and a hint of coffee. Fruit. Chloride. Soy sauce. Still not very exciting, though.
Taste: Ooh... A very smoky start. Heavily smoked ham. Liquorice. Dry. Fragmented. Tia Maria again!
The palate has indeed something that reminds me of cigars. That being said, it's too flat and chemical to mess with the big boys.
For a moment I was even afraid it would end up in Loch Dhu territory.
Score: 62 points - as far as vatted malts go, I've tasted worse. But I've tasted better too; I personally prefer the Black Bottle.
Duncan Taylor Big Smoke 1999/2005 '40'
(40.1%, Duncan Taylor, DTC-5/139, Bottled 1/7/2005)
Nose: Meaty and peaty. Not so much smoky at first sight. There's a gentler, sweeter side to it as well.
Then smoke starts emerging - but it's a gentle 'smoked salmon' smoke rather than an actual fire. Very nice.
Taste: Sweet start, with peat emerging after a few seconds. Brilliant big centre that lasts for a long time.
Finally the smoke apears in the dry finish, together with a 'Buysman' bitterness. Falls apart a bit in the finish.
Score: 83 points - a solid, peaty whisky that feels stronger than 40%. Just lacks some 'finesse' on the palate.
You wouldn't believe it's just 40% if you taste it - it feels quite potent on the palate.
If I had to guess (with a gun to my head) I'd say there's Caol Ila and Bowmore in the mix, but it's hard to tell.
Duncan Taylor Big Smoke 1999/2005 '60'
(60.1%, Duncan Taylor, DTC-5/135, Bottled 22/6/2005)
Nose: Surprisingly light and fruity in the start. Not a lot of definition in the start. Let's add some water.
No, not much happening. This is strange; the 40% version seemed to have more character and depth.
Taste: Hot but lighthearted on the palate. A very hot and smoky centre, growing drier and hotter.
Metallic. After I added some water it became a little smoother in the start; not much change otherwise.
Score: 77 points - the power keeps this one above 'average', but the '40' is my clear personal favourite.
That being said, if you're looking for raw power during a winter walk in the woods, this will do just fine.
Famous Grouse 'Vintage Malt Whisky' 1992/2004
Nose: A gutter smell. Oil and vomit. The harshest notes disappear over time, leaving little else.
Youch! Something metallic. Granted, it wasn't THAT bad in the nose when I tried it a second time.
Taste: Wasted. Another bad finish? Beer. 'Blendy'. An odd feeling I can only describe as 'fake tannins'.
Score: 51 points - pretty worthless. I emptied my glass in the sink. Definitely not my cup of tea.
Nothing that impresses me much, although I'll admit it actually does have some pleasant sides to it.
Harrod's Pure Highland Malt from Speyside 12yo
(70° Proof, Gordon & MacPhail for Harrods, Bottled in the late 60's)
Nose: Antique. Sherry and organics. Big & fruity. Farmy. Sellery. Lots & lots of sherry.
Taste: Not quite as big and bold as the nose. Hey, there's some peat on the palate!
Score: 89 points - if it's a vatted malt, it's the best one I've tried so far. What a fabulous dram.
Samaroli No'Age Edition 2001
(45%, Samaroli, Italy, 1596 Bottles)
Nose: Light and grainy with Cointreau liqueur in the back of the nose. Hint of smoke in the back of the nose.
Some odd organics develop after a minute. Whiff of the sea. Fairly subtle but there's a lot going on there.
Taste: Lemony and fruity on the palate as well. It grows more powerful over time. Pretty good mouth feel.
Score: 81 points - it's a good whisky but nothing really stands out. Loses just a few points in the finish.
Sheep Dip 8yo
(40%, Bottled +/- 2000, 'This Whisky is Much Enjoyed by the Villagers of Oldbury-on-Severn.')
Nose: Very spirity. Sweetish. Rotting apples? Cough syrup? Vague malty and fruity notes.
Quite flat. Coffee beans? Grainier after a few minutes with whiffs of something oily.
Notable improvement after 15 minutes; sweeter, nuttier and more balanced.
Taste: Oofff... Weak, sweetish start, followed by a chemical burn. Flat.
A little oily at first, sweeter after a few seconds. Gritty and metallic finish.
Score: 43 points - with time the nose mellows out. The taste is utterly unremarkable, but has no major faults.
(40%, Bottled +/- 1995)
Nose: No complexity at all until you add quite a bit of water. Not nearly as much character as most other vatted malts.
Taste: Not very interesting. Rather bland, but 'sharp' at the same time. Hardly any finish to speak of.
Score 39 points - which is an underwhelming score for a vatted malt whisky. It's a very affordable whisky, though...
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
information for (relative) beginners and the 'Distillery Data' section has profiles for over a hundred malt whisky distilleries.
Clicking on one of the links below will take you directly to the distillery profile of that particular whisky distillery in Scotland.
Aberfeldy - Aberlour - Ailsa Bay - Allt A' Bhainne - Ardbeg - Ardmore - Arran - Auchentoshan - Auchroisk - Aultmore
Balblair - Balmenach - Balvenie - Banff - Ben Nevis - Benriach - Benrinnes - Benromach - Ben Wyvis - Bladnoch
Blair Athol - Bowmore - Brackla - Braeval - Brora - Bruichladdich - Bunnahabhain - Caol Ila - Caperdonich - Cardhu
Clynelish - Coleburn - Convalmore - Cragganmore - Craigellachie - Daftmill - Dailuaine - Dallas Dhu - Dalmore
Dalwhinnie - Deanston - Dufftown - Edradour - Fettercairn - Glen Albyn - Glenallachie - Glenburgie - Glencadam
Glencraig - Glen Deveron - Glendronach - Glendullan - Glen Elgin - Glenfarclas - Glenfiddich - Glen Flagler
Glen Garioch - Glenglassaugh - Glengoyne - Glen Grant - Glengyle - Glen Keith - Glenkinchie - Glenlivet - Glenlochy
Glenlossie - Glen Mhor - Glenmorangie - Glen Moray - Glen Ord - Glenrothes - Glen Scotia - Glen Spey - Glentauchers
Glenturret - Glenugie - Glenury Royal - Highland Park - Imperial - Inchgower - Inverleven - Isle of Jura - Kilchoman
Killyloch - Kinclaith - Kininvie - Knockando - Knockdhu - Ladyburn - Lagavulin - Laphroaig - Ledaig - Linkwood
Linlithgow - Littlemill - Loch Lomond - Lochnagar - Lochside - Longmorn - Macallan - MacDuff - Mannochmore - Millburn
Miltonduff - Mortlach - Mosstowie - North Port / Brechin - Oban - Old Pulteney - Pittyvaich - Port Ellen - Pulteney
Rosebank - Royal Brackla - Royal Lochnagar - Saint Magdalene - Scapa - Speyburn - Speyside - Springbank - Strathisla
Strathmill - Talisker - Tamdhu - Tamnavulin - Teaninich - Tobermory - Tomatin - Tomintoul - Tormore - Tullibardine