Thursday, September 18, 2014

Review: Buchanan's "Finest Deluxe" 12 year old Blended Scotch Whisky

(please double click on the screen above for full size video)

I am always on the look out for an affordable blended Scotch whisky.  So, I thought I would try Buchanan's 12 year old.  This blend has tough competition with Johnnie Walker Black Label 12 yrs and Chivas Regal 12 yrs, so let's see how Buchanan's fairs:

"Nose" (undiluted)
Initially, I am confronted by a whiff of strong alcohol, so I push the glass away, catch my breath and make another eye-watering attempt.  This time I note some sweet grain, dandelion, malty notes too.  Not an impressive aroma coming from the glass, but given the price point I was not expecting much either.  It could still be a delight.

"Palate" (undiluted)
Sweet grains, malty, grapefruit, flat 7-Up, day old Alpenweiss wine, stale oak, before the once sweet grains take on the taste of caramelized onions, a taste that belongs in a frying pan with a steak, not in my Glencairn glass!

"Finish" (undiluted)
Stale, acrid cigarette smoke, extremely grainy lemon-lime flavored Fresca like flavors, and other over ripe citrus notes emerge.

General Impressions
Bleh!  Car sickness comes to mind or how I feel when I reach for an air sickness bag on a long air flight with lots of turbulence.

What really bothers me is the number of gold and silver medals this blend was awarded at past San Francisco World Spirits Competitions, which frankly draws into question that malt whisky arms race.  Consider how Buchanan's 12 scored in the 12 year old blended Scotch category:

2013 - Gold medal
2012 - Gold medal
2011 - Silver medal
2010 - Gold medal

If this blend can get those medals then I think I will whip up my own concoction of 7-Up, discount boxed allegedly German wine, mix with windshield washer fluid and I should be in the running too!  I mean really, this is why I started blogging about Scotch whisky in the first place.  I live to expose absurd awards for truly mediocre and subpar whiskies touted as the Second Coming in the malt world.  That, my friend is my raison d'etre!

Ridiculous Packaging Claims
I really get ticked off when I read the packaging this embalming fluid came in.

Buchanan's spiritual home is Dalwhinnie Distillery in the heart of the Scottish Highlands, the highest distillery in Scotland.  Dalwhinnie Distillery produces a gentle highland malt whisky.

The Buchanan's name and packaging stand for authenticity, quality, integrity and tradition.  The original red seal on the bottle is a guarantee of absolute quality.

Let's start with the first paragraph.  What is actually being said?  "Buchanan's spiritual home is Dalwhinnie Distillery . . ."  What defines a spiritual homeland?  I think of immigrants coming to a strange new country who end up spending a lifetime there, but in there hearts they are still deeply attached to a village outside Prague, Beijing, Mexico City, Dublin, etc.

Can a whisky have a spiritual homeland?  I suppose if the blend pays serious homage to one of the core malts that make it up, as would be the case with say Teacher's Highland Cream and say Ardmore single malt.  But, does Dalwhinnie even constitute one of the many malts that are blended with grain whiskies to make Buchanan's?  I couldn't find any evidence on the net or in many of my whiskies books stating that Dalwhinnie is in this blend.  Moreover, I cannot detect a scintilla of the signature Dalwhinnie flavor profile and character in this cheap bath water blend that could easily double as rubbing alcohol for skid row junkies at their local injection site.

So, what is the connection between Dalwhinnie and Buchanan's?  The only fact linking the two is James Buchanan was an owner of Dalwhinnie at one point.  This single malt was used in a blend he marketed "Black and White" (still available today).  Again, no mention of it in his 12 year old blend.  Spiritual home?  I guess a bad blend can aspire to taste as good as a brilliant single malt.  In short, disregard the packaging and judge the whisky by its taste, a taste that is truly unexceptional and bordering on bad, at least judging from my gag reflex.  However, it is really appropriate to consume on Halloween if you are seeking a good fright.

Jason Debly