Online retailer Master of Malt had a nice idea for creating a new whisky. They sent over a blending kit with samples of 10 different kinds of whiskies to ten whisky bloggers around the world. With these base whiskies they were asked to create a recipe for their ideal blend.
A couple of weeks ago, the blogger’s blends were available from Master of Malt for around € 35 (a set of 10x 3cl samples, but already sold out). We were supposed to judge them and vote for the best result. The winning blend will be released in full bottles.
A great idea, although I suggest to rethink their selection of bloggers next time… (just kidding)
By now I’ve tried all ten. It doesn’t make much sense to review them in depth, we wouldn’t know who to congratulate anyway. Therefore, I’ve used a three star ranking for nose and palate and not my usual scoring. The price mentioned will be the price of a full bottle, in case it wins the competition.
- A – £ 48 (*****)
N: fruit, spices, pleasant oak and subtle smoke
T: spicy, round sweetness, vanilla
- B – £ 36 (**)
N: toast, raisins and slightly dirty sherry
T: artificially sweet, toffee, dried fruits
- C – £ 68 (***)
N: grains, soft sherry, distant smoke
T: spicy, fruity, faint ashes
- D – £ 40 (****)
N: dried fruits and caramel, faint smoke
T: dried fruits, smoke, slightly harsh
- E – £ 43 (***)
N: citrus, nuts, honey and and grains
T: neutral, grains, sweet
- F – £ 37 (***)
N: caramelized apples, honey, cinnamon
T: lots of grains, toffee, artifically sweet
- G – £ 40 (*)
N: toffee, fruits, cereals, hay
T: grassy, sharp grains, toffee
- H – £ 52 (***)
N: pastry sweetness, vanilla, toffee
T: slightly shy, neutral, soft spices
- I – £ 55 (*****)
N: tar, sweet bacon and smoke
T: peat, rather dry, Coal Ila-esk, pepper
- J – £ 40 (**)
N: toffee, dried fruits
T: shy, soft chocolate, slightly chemical
I was surprised by the relatively small deviation. They’re pretty similar to other blends on the market and pretty similar to each other (only one of them has peat in the foreground for instance). The details that set them apart are fairly small, so I can imagine the sample comparison is pretty boring for inexperienced tasters. My girlfriend would probably say most of them are the same whisky. Because of this, I felt I had to exaggerate my scores a litte.
Also, it’s clear that the price isn’t always an indication of quality. The most expensive blend (C) comes out in the middle of the pack and some of the cheapest blends (especially D and F) are very well made. My favourites (A + I) are among the more expensive blends though.
For me, (A) stands out because of its punchy spices and fresh oak while maintaining a nice all-round character. And (I) stands out for nicely integrating peaty / smoky elements. (D) is the well-priced all-rounder (some sherry, some smoke) in my top-3.
Update: it turns out blend I won the contest. It comes as no surprise that the most typically Islay style won, but it has to be said it was a well-composed and enticing blend!