New Year Dram 2015: The Exclusive Blend 1980

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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 the year and the first of the next. 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 that suited the occasion. Something a little luxurious perhaps, something which stands out from the rest…

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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 sometimes lack the character of a single malt, but while this can certainly be true of the most common blends, it is a statement that doesn’t 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 its parts. It is safe to say, that the Exclusive Blend 1980 is a rather fine example of just such a blend.

This is not made to appeal across the board, this is a luxury product with as much character as any single malt…

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.

Thoughts: At £95 a bottle I may be stretching my “affordable” remit a little but having said that, this is a whisky 35 years in the making. It was distilled the same year I was born. I don’t know if £95 is too much to pay for such an old spirit. Try finding a 35-year-old single malt for a two-figure sum! In any case, it’s a fantastic whisky. Old but not too old, woody but not too woody. Plenty of sherry. It’s just diving and to be honest, worth every damn penny of that asking price. 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 everyone 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.

Slàinte mhath.

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