Tuesday, May 3, 2011
Review: Black Bottle Blended Scotch Whisky
Spring is here! The birds are chirpin' and the sun actually is warming as it shines down on my pointed head. There may be a nip in the air and my lawn is still recovering from winter kill, but these are merely telltale signs that another season of golf is about to begin!
There are two scotch whiskies that I associate with this time of year. Glenfiddich 12 years and Black Bottle. Why? Many years ago, in the very early Spring, I played a round of golf on a very cold and windy day. When I and some friends shook hands on the 18th hole following our inaugural round of the season, I was spent. Wind burnt face, tired and in dire need of something to warm me up, and not knowing anything about scotch, I ordered the only malt in the clubhouse: Glenfiddich 12 years.
It warmed me up, made me think of pine needles and to this day I can remember it like yesterday. Just one of those moments I have never forgotten. Some people can tell you the price they paid for their first car, not me, finances are a blur, details that do not interest me. Ask me when I first tried this or that scotch and I will give you a level of detail that might make you question whether I have just gone completely over the deep end. We all have our callings. Forensic accountants attention for detail is valued a helluva a lot more by society than mine.
So, because of that first experience, Glenfiddich is invariably the choice malt, an ol' favorite for that first golf outing of the year. But, after the first round, there will be another malt on days of inclement weather. On those wind whipped days, often accompanied by intermittent lashings of rain, it is an Islay that calls my name. Not a single malt, but a blend, a special blend: Black Bottle. In the clubhouse, after 18 holes, I want comfort scotch, warmth and flavor, but not an Islay single malt (ie. Lagavulin) that makes me feel I am wasting it because I am not paying enough attention to it. Hence, Lagavulin and other great Islay are not suitable for such a setting.
Malty! For an Islay blend, I was expecting more smoke and peat, but what I sniff initially is malt. Not bad at all, just a little surprising. After the pleasant malt flavor, the scotch does reveal peat and smoke, but very restrained. This is not a screaming Archie Bunker in Edith's face smoke and peat scenario. No Ardbeg style nose here. This is subdued. It's Ricardo Montalban smoothly talking about the "soft corinthian leather" in that 1975 Chrysler Cordoba advertisement:
The smooth Cordoba ride continues onto the palate with a sweet entry of malt followed by soft smoke and gentle peat. Hardly any peat. This is very soft. Extremely quaffable. A bottle that is disappearing far too quickly! A great introductory blend to anyone who wants to learn about Islay scotch or are convinced that they do not like Islays.
Pencil shavings, malt, cardamon and of course smoke and peat.
In the category of "blended scotch whisky," Black Bottle is outstanding! This scotch whisky has something for everyone. The newbie will delight in the gentle, smooth texture while the scotch nut (like moi) will marvel at the great balance between smoke, peat and sweetness. Damn! this is good! And warming too on those cold blustery days when I walk off the 18th hole!
Note: This is a review of Black Bottle prior to the 2013 relaunch of this iconic blend. Accordingly my tasting notes apply to bottle prior to the 2013 relaunch. The relaunch has changed the flavor profile of this blend considerably. The new bottling places less emphasis on Islay and more on traditional Speyside sherry, dark plum notes. The relaunched version is a shadow of its ancestor. A good article on this can be found here: here
Copyright © Jason Debly, 2009-2011. All rights reserved. Any and all use is prohibited without permission except for video cap above that was taken from the 1975 Chrysler Cordoba advertisement as it belongs to the owners of Chrysler. I do not own any rights to the Chrysler Cordoba advertisement which is posted for the purposes of nostalgia and entertainment.