The XL Blend - Batch 1

The Blended Whisky Company has been at the forefront of premium, rare and old whisky blends since bagging first prize for World’s Best Blended Whisky at the World Whisky Awards in 2014. It’s upcoming, much anticipated release The XL Blend (Batch 1) is a 1000 bottle release of blended Scotch whiskies at least 40 years old - hence XL, for those of us unlucky enough to have learnt Latin at school (it’s 40 in Roman numerals for the rest of you).

The whisky is described as Speyside-led, containing ancient grain and sherry cask malt and is set to retail at around £550 per bottle. The sample being reviewed is from Batch 1 and is bottled at 46.2% ABV.

In their own words,

The Blended Whisky Company uses artful blending to prove that a blended whisky can be greater than the sum of its parts. Starting with whiskies from the lost distilleries and continuing with whiskies from the golden age of whisky.

Before we get to nosing and tasting, it should be said that for this reviewer (Andy), the prospect of making sense of a blend of 40+ year old whiskies is a little daunting. I have only ever tasted grain whisky of this age, so I don’t have a reference point for the malts although the sherried Speyside factor is a useful steer. I’d also be expecting mind-blowing for the price tag.

Nose: I have more of a reference point here than I’d hoped. I can almost hear the creaking knees and early retirement plans from the middle-aged grain whiskies and there are a host of complex, sweet fruit-based dessert notes clawing their way over the rim of the glass. It’s a little bit musty, a little bit spicy…very intriguing. I’ve been nosing this dram so much I’m in danger of hyperventilating.

Palate: Do you remember the first time you clutched a 20p piece in your sweaty paw and exchanged it for the luminous treasure behind the sweet shop counter or school tuck shop hatch? The feeling of consumer independence, the illicit thrill of buying food that wasn’t meant to be good for you, that sugar rush. One sip of this whisky will transport you back to that moment and every other moment you held the dessert spoon to the heavens with an affirmative ‘mmm’. There’s also a little bit of spice and smoke for your mature, nostalgic, sherry-dried mouth to chew on. Un-be-lieveably good.

Finish: The grain carries through, the mouth drying lingers with its spicy kick and the sweetness gives way to a bitter char note.

In summary, superb. It’s pricey for sure, you’ll probably have a fight on your hands to secure a bottle of this but I urge you to try this any which way you can.

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You can also read Friend of the Podcast OCD Whisky’s XL-ent review of this whisky here: https://ocdwhisky.com/2018/12/25/the-xl-blend-batch-1-that-blended-whisky-company/

And The Dramble’s review here: https://www.thedramble.com/tastings/blend/the-xl-blend-batch-1/

Review sample provided by Atom Brands

Glen Moray Elgin Classic Sherry Cask Finish

- Ramblings of Andy

At the Whisky Lounge York Whisky Festival in October, we were treated to a special Glen Moray Sherry Finish from 1994 by Sorren Krebs a.k.a @ocdwhisky. You can listen to our round table tasting in our latest podcast episode.

In recent years, the brand is perhaps more often seen on supermarket shelves in the guise of the "Elgin Classic" range, which comes in bourbon cask, peated, port, chardonnay and sherry finish forms. The range, launched in 2014, retails at somewhere around the £22-£26 mark (a little more for the port finish) so it's actually only a handful of coins more expensive than the standard range of blends. In fact, until 2008 most of the whisky produced at Glen Moray was used in blends so it's impressive to have converted from blend producer to a wide range of respected single malts in less than a decade.

I've tried the bourbon cask expression previously which I found to be a little sweet but impressively floral for a budget malt, and I'd heard even better things about the sherry cask finish, not least from Sorren's blog on the matter. It's fair to say the cost benefit analysis on buying a bottle to test out didn't take long and you get a pretty nicely packaged bottle of malt with change from three tenners.

On the nose, it doesn't perhaps "pop" the way a really good sherry finish whisky might but it's got the dark caramel, dried fruits and hint of sweet spice you would look for. The palate is quite slow to begin with but soon washes in on a wave of dark chocolate, ginger snaps and a hint of oak char. The finish is medium length and the sweet spice is what lingers.

Throughout the podcast and occasional blog reviews, I've always tried my best to separate the price of the whisky and its merits as a dram, but from time to time a whisky is so reasonably, or indeed over-priced, that it would be ridiculous not to comment. This is a bottle of whisky that represents breathtaking value for money, I've had sherry cask finish whiskies that triple the price from respected distilleries that had less character about them. 

My recommendation for this whisky is to buy a bottle (try not to giggle with glee at the checkout) and keep it on the shelf to re-visit from time to time. It will serve as both an enjoyable dram and a valuable reminder that good whisky doesn't have to break the bank. It should perhaps also serve as a warning to many other distillers that decent, affordable NAS malt is out there - and you can't fool whisky drinkers.