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Blended Whiskey

Double Gold Blended Scotch From SF Spirits Competition

Blended Scotch whisky is a broad and diverse category, encompassing some seriously amazing blended Scotch, while also being the category most rife with clunkers from the bottom shelf up. To put it bluntly, a lot of blended whisky is where big companies hide the barrels that didn’t make the cut for better blends and single malts. That means that when you do find a killer, cheap, blended scotch, it’s kind of a miracle and worth talking about. To that end, I’ve compiled a list of all the double-gold-winning blended Scotch whiskies from this year’s San Francisco World Spirits Competition (SFWSC).

Basically, the blend scotch division at the SFWSC breaks down into four categories: Blended Malt Scotch Whisky; Blended Scotch – No Age Statement; Blended Scotch – Up to 15 Years; and Blended Scotch – 16 Years and Older. There were dozens of blended scotches entered this year, but only 11 took home the coveted double gold medal, which means that every judge at the table anonymously yet unanimously gave that bottle a gold medal. Translation: the whisky was good enough not only to stand out but to grab the judge’s attention.

For this list, I’m listing each bottle and adding tasting notes where I can. While I was a judge this year, I wasn’t on a blended scotch panel, so in places where I wasn’t able to taste, I’ve pulled in notes from the bottler, blender, or distiller where necessary. Let’s get into it!

Also Read: The Top 5 UPROXX Scotch Whisky Posts of The Last Six Months

Blackhound Blended Malt

Black Hound Scotch
Black Hound Scotch

ABV: 40%

Average Price: $42

The Whisky:

This blended malt is made for the Australian market. There’s not a whole lot of information about it other than it’s a blend of the “finest” Highland malts.

Tasting Notes (from the bottler):

“This whisky is approachable and accessible — fruity and framed by a great balance of spice and vanilla and finishes with a subtle smoky aroma.”

Bottom Line:

Well, the next time that I’m in Oz, I’ll keep an eye out for this one.

Dewar’s 18 Years Old Blended Scotch

Bacardi

ABV: 40%

Average Price: $80

The Whisky:

The heart of Dewar’s is Aberfeldy whisky. This blend is a testament to Master Blender Stephanie MacLeod’s prowess in bringing good whiskies together to make great whisky. The juices are aged for 18 long years in American oak before they’re vatted into a large oak tun and allowed to rest before proofing and bottling.

Tasting Notes:

There’s that signature Aberfeldy honey on the nose with hints of almonds, stone fruits, and red berries. The palate dials all of that in, with a marzipan vibe next to more honey, bruised apricot skins, and dark chocolate-covered red berries. The end is soft, silky, and brings a final bite of sweet oak with a slight tobacco chew.

Bottom Line:

I keep this around for a nice end-of-the-day, on-the-rocks pour. It’s easy drinking, sweet and nutty, and really has a nice softness on the palate. This is easy to see as a winner.

Dewar’s Double Double 32 Blended Scotch

Dewar's 32
Bacardi

ABV: 46%

Average Price: $170 (half bottle)

The Whisky:

Master Blender Stephanie MacLeod really hits it out of the park with these blends. This one starts with 32-year-old barrels of both single malt and single grain whiskies. Then all the single malts are blended and re-barreled in an “exhausted” barrel (meaning the barrel has aged its last whisky and would otherwise be repurposed). MacLeod does the same with the grain whiskies. Those grain and malt whiskies are then blended and put into another exhausted barrel for a spell. Finally, those barrels are blended and filled into an ex-Pedro Ximenez sherry barrel for a final maturation.

Tasting Notes:

The nose opens with a rich sticky toffee pudding full of black-tea-soaked dates, sharp cinnamon, nutmeg, buttery toffee sauce, and vanilla ice cream with hints of orange zest, wicker, and an old leather tobacco pouch. The palate largely delivers on the nose’s profile with meaty dates, figs, and prunes countered by woody spice, dark fruit leather, and a touch of honey barrel staves. The finish is shorter than expected with all that dark and dried fruit leaving you with a sweetened and wintry vibe.

Bottom Line:

Yeah, this is delicious. A single rock or a few drops of water really open this one up to deeper wintery vibes with creamy eggnog, pumpkin pie, and a hint of savory herbs lurking behind that honey.

Dewar’s Double Double 36 Blended Malt

Dewar's 36
Bacardi

ABV: 46%

Average Price: $1,800 (Asia-Pacific Duty Free Only)

The Whisky:

This whisky goes through a similar process as the 32 above. In this case, all the 36-year-old whiskies are single malts from Speyside, Highlands, and Islay which are then blended and re-barreled twice before the final maturation in ex-Madeira barrels, creating a Speyside and HIghland/Islay hybrid of sorts.

Tasting Notes (from the blender):

“This voluptuous blend features notes of vanilla, coconut oil, and ripe peaches.”

Bottom Line:

I’ve yet to get my hands on this one but am pretty excited to give it a shot, though the price is a little intimidating.

Johnnie Walker Green Label Blended Malted

Diageo

ABV: 43%

Average Price: $63

The Whisky:

This whisky was actually taken off the market in 2012 and people lost their shit. Diageo came to its senses and brought it back by 2016. The juice is a blend of single malts only, making it a “pure malt” and not a “blended scotch whisky” (that’s blended malts and grain whiskies). The juice primarily comes from Speyside, Highland, Lowland, and Island malts with a focus on a minimum of 15-year-old Talisker, Caol Ila, Cragganmore, and Linkwood.

Tasting Notes:

Cedar boxes full of sweet fruits lead the nose toward black peppercorns and vanilla pods with an underlayer of sweet green grass. That soft cedar leads the taste with support from grilled tropical fruits, dried roses, spiced malts, and chewy apple tobacco. The mid-palate sweetens with a honeycomb vibe as earthy smoke, singed cedar bark, dark cacao nibs, dry reeds, and an echo of sea spray round out the finish.

Bottom Line:

This is one of my all-time favorite Scotch whiskies. It’s damn near perfect (for its category), especially on a rock or two.

Naked Grouse Malt

Edrington Group

ABV: 43%

Average Price: $30

The Whisky:

This whisky from the very popular Famous Grouse is a dialed-in expression. The juice in the bottle is a blend of sherry-cask-finished whiskies from The Macallan and Highland Park. The whisky is then cut down to a very accessible 80 proof and then bottled in a nicely understated bottle.

Tasting Notes:

There’s a sweet malt buried under a buttery scone dripping with raspberry jam with a touch of light spice lurking in the background. The sherry really kicks in on the palate with big notes of dates soaked in black tea next to creamy caramel, vanilla cake, and a touch of dry raisins. The end doesn’t overstay its welcome and leaves you with a lovely note of chocolate-covered cherries with a sweet/dry vibe.

Bottom Line:

I really dig mixing with this. It’s a great cocktail base. You can make a pretty dope old fashioned with this or go full Rob Roy with a little sweet vermouth and bitters.

Clansman Blended Scotch

Clansman
Clansman

ABV: 40%

Average Price: $13

The Whisky:

This blended scotch from Loch Lomond is as bottom shelf as you can get in the U.S. That said, this blend takes barrels of grain and malt whiskies from the famed Loch Lomond distillery and leans them towards a fruity and sweet nature before proofing and blending.

Tasting Notes:

A slight note of bourbon vanilla shines through on the nose with hints of citrus, almonds, and watered down honey — kind of like stirring honey into a tepid glass of tap water. The palate has a mix of dried fruits — raisins, prunes, and maybe dates — with more watered down honey syrup, a touch of Almond Joy, and a hint of mulled wine. The end leans into the dried fruit and mulled wine spices with a final note of what feels like smoked honey.

Bottom Line:

This isn’t great, but it’s amazing for a $13 bottle of whisky. Everything is relative, right? The key to this blend is that there’s very little astringency. It’s easy drinking, albeit a little watered down for my palate.

Hankey Bannister Heritage Blend Scotch

Hankey Bannister
Hankey Bannister

ABV: 46%

Average Price: $36

The Whisky:

This blend is a throwback of sorts to 1920s blended whiskies. The juice is a blend of sweeter malts and grain whiskies with a touch of peated malt to add that small layer of smoke under the fruit orchards.

Tasting Notes (from the distiller):

NOSE: Sweet smoke, with traces of burnt orange and green apple, spicy notes of vanilla and caramel. TASTE: Full-bodied with hints of honey and butterscotch, with a long complex finish.

Bottom Line:

This sounds pretty interesting. I might have to pick up a bottle and put it up against Johnnie Green to see how it stands up.

Pure Scot Midnight Peat

Pure Peat
Pure Peat

ABV: 44.5%

Average Price: $80

The Whisky:

This is another Scotch whisky that’s blended and bottled for the Australian whisky market. The malt and grain whiskies are blended and then finished in barrels that held spice and peat-forward whiskies. That whisky is then blended, proofed down, and bottled as-is.

Tasting Notes (from the bottler):

NOSE: Creamy toffee, floral with citrus apples. PALATE: Rich campfire smoke with toffee apples, honey, and custard. FINISH: Medium with spicy, sweet mouthfeel and tingle from the campfire smoke.

Bottom Line:

This is another label I’ll keep an eye out for the next time I’m Down Under. At the very least it’s a cool bottle.

Barrowman’s 12-Year Superior Scotch

Barrowman's
Barrowmans

ABV: 40%

Average Price: $32

The Whisky:

This blend is a marriage of 14 grain and malt whiskies aged in American and European oak. Those barrels are blended and proofed way down with local water before bottling.

Tasting Notes:

There’s a pretty distinct nose full of bourbon vanilla, roasted almonds, almost burnt toffee, and wintry spices. The palate is basic but leans into the nose’s profile with hints of butterscotch, vanilla cookies, malted oat milk, and a hint of dry wicker. The end is pretty short with dark spices mingling with toffee, nuts, and a hint of dark chocolate.

Bottom Line:

For an 80-proof blended whisky, this isn’t bad. I’d only really use it for mixing highballs, but that’s fine for what it is.

Old Parr 12 Year Old Blended Scotch

Diageo

ABV: 40%

Average Price: $33

The Whisky:

This old-school blend is built around Cragganmore and Glendullan single malts. The whiskies mellow for 12 years before they’re vatted and proofed for this bottling.

Tasting Notes:

There’s cinnamon apple cookies on the nose with a touch of honey, nuts, and dry malt. The taste is very malty with a touch of cedar, tobacco spice, and more honey/apple/cinnamon. The end is warm, malty, and slightly sweet thanks to the honey.

Bottom Line:

This is another great highball candidate. Other than that, I don’t really see this as a sipper unless you have a lot of rocks in the glass — or maybe taking as a shot with a beer.

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