Monday, February 5, 2018

Whisky Review: Rattray's Selection No. 1 19 Year Blended Malt

A.D. Rattray, an independent bottler whose owner is part of the family that used to own Bowmore, released a number of blended malts in the early-2010s that more or less slipped under the radar. Most of this has to do with the fact that anything with the word 'blend' in front tends to get a lot less traction with whisky geeks unless it comes from Compass Box, which in this case means that they really missed out. Getting a full strength whisky at almost two decades old composed entirely from sherry butts for under $100 would be almost unthinkable right now and was still a steal when it was released in 2010.

This whisky was constructed from four sherry butts - Auchentoshan 1991 (Cask 495), Balblair 1990 (Cask #1142), Benriach 1989 (Cask #50064), and Bowmore 1991 (Cask #2073) - that were married together and bottled at 55.8% without coloring or chill filtration.

Thanks to Michael Kravitz for this sample.

Rattray's Selection No. 1 19 Year Blended Malt

Nose: balanced sherry and mossy/ashy peat with solid intensity, savory malt, fresh baked bread, caramel, mild oak, and floral perfume. After adding a few drops of water the sherry is toned down, allowing the malt to becoming roughly equal, vanilla comes out, and it is much more savory overall.

Taste: a fair amount of alcohol heat through, sweet sherry up front, syrupy/salty with green fruit (apples, pears) and floral overtones in the middle, slowly transitioning into bittersweet with a prickle of peat and savory oak at the back. After dilution it becomes bittersweet throughout with more savory sherry and peat up front plus some ashes and stronger near the back.

Finish: lingering sherry residue, balanced malt and oak, wood ash

I really wish I had more time with this one. Even when I have a hard time teasing out the details, it's a really enjoyable whisky that neatly balances its constituent parts. It would be great if we could get more of these kinds of blended malts where peat is an element, but not as strongly as a full Islay single malt. With so few distilleries currently producing medium peated malts, this is one of the few avenues we have for enjoying those kinds of whiskies.

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