It’s not often I enjoy a bottle of Scotch yet in the last year or so I’ve had three on the go. As is customary, I shall start with the contemporary release before descending down the decades.
Wine Society Blended Scotch Whisky  Ob. 40% [100cl] WB0
At £22 for a litre of blended Scotch, I’m not expecting fireworks. I am looking/hoping for a modest BFYB experience from the Wine Society whose reputation as an independent bottler of whisky has rightly grown for their older single malt expressions in recent years [WB].
- N: The savoury grain element is soon enough accompanied by an underlying creamy toffee-d even coffee-d/caramel maltiness, a touch of pepper & wood spice, sweet root veg [swede, parsnip,.. a hint of broccoli] that doffs its cap to a fresh phenolic component- a decent dose of Caol Ila, perhaps? – and a fair dose of caramel colourant too?
- T: The authenticity ABCD’s aside, given the price point, there are no glaring flaws. Profile-wise, we are entertained with light toffee/caramel-y (Nestle) Easter Egg confectionary chocolate with a husky-dry peatiness, and in keeping with the parsnips & broccoli, we may add gravy and smoky bacon. Really, this blend has relatively generous yet softly integrated phenolic levels as seen in Old Parr [coming up]. Body-wise, it’s watery and soft and arrives as you’d expect from a 40% abv grain > malt blend. The delivery is more of a determined fade albeit with an unexpected perseverance. The trick is to layer up your palate, adding a teeny drop of water with which to bring out more of the cereal notes and a hint of honey – barley sugar a given.
- F: Gritty/grist-y/coppery malty-citrus-sour with a soft resinous spice into ground black peppery caramel alongside the now slightly eggy vegetal gravy. It’s the coppery grain that brings the end to proceedings with a [Werther’s Originals] toffee over smoke to sweeten the deal.
- C: Better some days than others, dialling into the peat element altered my whole perspective of this blend. With more here than meets the eye, we’ve a firm alternative to Famous Grouse [WLP78] and the like though competition at this price point is fierce. Good job Whisky Society.
Scores 80 points
Travelling back 40-50 years:
Grand Old Parr 12yo Ob./Macdonald Greenlees ‘De Luxe Scotch Whisky’ 40% [0.75l] [WB]81.11 WF~WM SW Ralfy86 ‘,…the 12yo is where Old Parr is at’.
Old Parr 12 is an early seminal blended Scotch I often forget to acknowledge. Misrepresented by many, there’s certainly no shame in Old Parr, largely only available in South America. Indeed SW told us;
‘Old Parr has not been available in the UK or Europe since the 1980s’. They go on to say ‘Old Parr has always been a deluxe aged blend, starting with a 12-year-old which claimed to have 52% of the entire Colombian Scotch whisky market in 2010. ‘,… a deluxe blend in a square, crackled brown glass bottle with Cragganmore malt at its heart’.
I bought my first [and only] bottle in Mexico around 2015/16 (see pic), and have remembered it fondly ever since. As chance would have it, a seldom-seen bottle appeared at auction in 2022 and I snapped it up for very little. Sporting a Macdonald Greenlees label, I believe this to be an older 1970s bottling, perhaps released just after the imperial 70 proof was replaced by abv (outside of the UK) and perhaps a Danish import given the label reads ’farven justeret med karamel’ which Google translated as ‘color adjusted with caramel’.
- N: A little jaded/faded yet talkative all-rounder with a [peanut] nutty, [coffee~caramel/apricot & ginger camembert] sweet lactic, [malt extract/Vegemite/biscuit-y] malty, [indeterminate/jammy] fruity, light yet perfectly poised charcoal/peat-smoked profile from a varied cask mix and a few OBE extras. Surprisingly, perhaps, we’ve a blended nose to savour.
- T: Just as I’d remembered it from that aforementioned contemporary bottle enjoyed eight or so years ago, here we’ve an intact example from its era that delivers surprisingly well considering bottle age and abv and in comparison to other blends of its ilk. Somewhat rough ‘n’ ready at first, we’ve a rather keen/undeterred malty-sweet fizzy nutty fruity phenolic-malty flabby oak-aged tannic blend yet with a relative fatty chewy weight to the spirit that belies/harks to the quality of this one’s underlying components. Indeed, Old Parr makes me re-evaluate/respect Cragganmore some more.
- F: With a little raisin-y grainy coffee note, we’ve a typically short finish though that chew in the middle more than compensates.
- C: Remaining an emotive dram, this is very much one of the better blends – and sporting an age statement – with a desirable makeup that has retained its profile consistency throughout the decades.
Scores 85 points
Back another four decades or so:
Dewar’s White Label [1930s] Ob./John Dewar & Sons ‘Finest Scotch Whisky of Great Age’ No abv stated [Half bottle] [WB]90 WF[1940s]84
White Label is the beating heart of Dewar’s whose Royal Warrant was granted in 1893, six years before White Label was created [SW]. Though Aberfeldy remains White Label’s primary component – ‘for more than a century’ [MWYB:2023] – as many as 40 malts and grain whiskies are involved in its construction. I couldn’t find any info on that recipe but for historical reading, see diffordsguide.
- N: Drats, a broken cork [see pic],… but as the cap of the cork thankfully came away without much trouble, trapped air expelled with fervour as if escaping from a mini Ark of the Covenant. Nosing would confirm that this half bottle is desirably intact. Moving in, there’s a blissful first contact that never wanes. I focus on the dry sooty > smoky phenolic malt-forward bedrock followed by rotting fallen apples, heather-dry, [Forget Me Knots] wild flowers and flower petals, old salty leather, hazelnuts & walnuts, honey~syrup, creamy milk, corned beef > spam [fritters], marjoram, mace, spearmint, …. the nose more and more giving as it opens up in a Blenders Glass [recommended].
- T: It comes in soft and sharp all at once. Reflective of the nose and forgiving its understandable faded/jaded shape, we’ve a relatively satisfying malt-forward bitter-sweet textural experience. Again, it’s noticeably sooty with a light yet zingy creamy zestiness,… drying, yet with a chocolate-y chew.
- F: A slightly bitter malty finish towards a discrete fade, still fresh, still a little dry, still malty and ever desirably phenolic in keeping with whisky-making practices adhered to at the time.
- C: Ups & downs aside, don’t miss the opportunity to try a consistently underrated intact pre-WW2 release, a night & day experience in comparison to – fast-forward 90 years – today’s offerings.
Scores 86 [academic] points