On a wickedly cold February night, in my hometown, somewhere in Canada, I went to a scotch tasting. After sampling many fine and some not so fine single malts, the bar owner tossed an inebriated me and my friend, George, tiny 50ml bottles of Whyte & Mackay Special Blended Scotch Whisky. Now you thought the previous sentence would end differently like: "the bar owner tossed an inebriated me and my friend, George, on to the street." Not!
As I was saying, we sampled quite a few drams and by the time the Whyte & Mackay was proffered we were well on our way. We drank the tiny bottles (ya know, those airplane minis) and thought they were very good. Matter of fact, I scribbled a tasting note and made a mental note to investigate this blend further when I had some semblance of sobriety.
Strong whiff of sherry and nutmeg. Very malty too. Smells cheap and simple.
The body is rounded but not in a good way . . . kinda like Roseanne Barr in a thong. Plenty of sherry to start. This is sweet though it tapers off a little, but not to the point of drying.
Cocoa turning a little green to the point of ginger; over ripe tangerine sherry oakiness with black pepper linger like a stray cat on your doorstep.
I was not expecting this to be incredible. I mean this is bottom shelf blended scotch whisky. However, I did expect more. Big disappointment is what this is. This blend is totally devoid of peat and what the distiller calls "smoke" is actually (in my opinion) poor quality whisky that has spent too much time in refill sherry casks. In the same price point, Teacher's Highland Cream is clearly superior to Whyte and Mackay.
What astonishes me is that if you visit the International Wine and Spirit Competition website and do a search of Whyte & Mackay Special (just use the search term "Whyte") it scored a silver medal in the no age stated blended scotch category. How? If they are giving silver for this, then I would imagine Hawkeye Pierce from MASH would get a bronze for his enema bag distillate in his musty army tent. Such a ranking draws into question the reliability of the International Wine and Spirit Competition ratings. From my visit to the site and Wikipedia's write-up on it (click here), it appears to be an organization populated by whisky industry types. Much is made of blind tastings but doesn't seem to translate into accurate reviews. In fact they handed out ten (10) silver medals in the no age statement blended scotch category! What kind of a competition has ten second place winners other than in kindergarden? Don't believe me? Click here. Anyway, the problems with the IWSC is a subject for another discussion or rant in the learned tradition of Dennis Miller.
Now what can I say about Whyte & Mackay Special that is positive? Well, if I really stretch the bounds of my imagination and abandon my personal moral compass I could point out possible attributes that some scotch novices might find attractive: (1) There is no bite. (2) For those who dislike peaty or smoke flavors, this blended scotch will get points. (3) You will taste smooth sherry and a maltiness that is ok. (4) It's simple but that's ok I suppose if you just want to put your mind in neutral and watch TV. (5) Not offensive but that spoiled tangerine flavor on the finish does border on the repulsive. (6) It is very cheap and I would imagine would make a good ingredient in a mixed drink that called for blended scotch.
Would I buy this again? No. Never. Under no circumstances could I, in good conscience, recommend it. When I am shopping for a bargain basement blended scotch, I would first reach for Teacher's Highland Cream or Johnnie Walker Red Label. Stay away from Whyte & Mackay "Special" Blended Scotch Whisky because there is nothing 'special' about it.
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