Now that Christmas is out of the way, thoughts inevitably turn to the New Year and more importantly, the huge excuse for a party known in Scotland as Hogmanay. Each year at this time, whisky drinkers everywhere find themselves faced with the toughest of questions… What to drink at midnight. This is a special moment after all, the last sip of one year and the first of another! This is no time for cheap grog, something altogether more celebratory is required in order to set the tone for the year ahead.
I thought it might be fun to make a feature of this. I’m not really interested in selecting a ‘best whisky of the year’ as such, because I have come across so many interesting drams over the last 12 months. Instead, I thought it might be fun to mark the end of each year with a dram which suited the occasion. Something a little luxurious perhaps, something which stands out from the rest…
This time around, I have decided to toast the arrival of 2016 with a relatively old blend from the Creative Whisky Company. Founded in 2005 by David Stirk, The Creative Whisky Company specialises in the bottling of single cask whiskies, sourced from all over Scotland. Named ‘Creative’ for their willingness to experiment with cask varieties, the bottler’s Exclusive Malts range has become a label to look out for but today I am sampling instead, The Exclusive Blend 1980, a blend of Highland and Speyside whiskies, distilled in 1980 and matured for 35 years.
Back in my first review I wrote that blended scotch can lack the character of a single malt, but while this can certainly be true of the most common blends, it is a statement which doesn’t truly apply across the board. When done well, a blend can be sensational, with the right combination of spirits, both malt and grain, matured in the right combination of casks coming together to create something entirely greater than the sum of it’s parts. It is safe to say, that the Exclusive Blend 1980 is a rather fine example of just such a blend.
It’s safe to say that what is going on here is the latter. On the nose there’s a lot of Sherry with dried fruits like Raisin and Sultana. There’s Almond and Honeycomb and it’s a wee bit Beefy… like a chargrilled Steak. Meanwhile on the palate, there’s Sherry again, Dark Chocolate, Highland Toffee and Brown Sugar. It’s got a satisfying oily mouthfeel and goes cloudy with water added – a sure sign that chill filtering has been avoided. This is not a blend made to appeal across the board, this is a luxury product with as much character as any single malt.
The Scores: About the Scoring System
Smell: Sherry with Dried Fruits – Raisins and Sultanas. There’s Almond and Honeycomb, with a meaty weight to it.
Taste: Sherry again, Dark Chocolate, Highland Toffee and Brown Sugar. Satisfyingly oily mouthfeel – a sure sign that chill filtration has been avoided.
Value: At around £95 a bottle, I may be stretching the definition of affordable a little but having said that, this is a dram 35 years old, distilled in the same year I was born. For me it doesn’t seem too much to pay for a dram that will be savoured over many visits, especially when it tastes so damn good.
Total: 46 / 50.
It’s certainly not every day that I help myself to a whisky that costs the best part of £100 but for something of this age and quality I think it’s well worth it. Perhaps try finding a 35 year old single malt, bottled at 46% for a similar price and the great value of this offering may become a little clearer. Besides, what is the festive season if not an opportunity to bask in a little indulgence.
Before I conclude this little review, I’d just like to add that I am incredibly grateful for every one who has stopped by my site and read a review or two. I’ve been completely humbled by the response since the site launched in October and I look forward to sharing many more drams with you in the months and years to come.
I wish each of you a very Happy New Year and all the best in 2016.