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Syndicate 58/6 is a blended scotch brand of somewhat mysterious origin. The official marketing bumf tells the tale of an unusual discovery in the dusty old warehouses of William Muir Ltd in the historic Port of Leith, Edinburgh. Back in 1958, someone stumbled upon 10 casks which were found to contain a blend created four years earlier from a recipe that dated back to the 1800’s.
How you choose to interpret this version of events is entirely up to you but personally I have a bit of trouble with it. Firstly, the notion of forgotten casks in dark corners of the warehouse is a trope often used in marketing but something I suspect happens rarely, if ever, in the real world. Even in the 1950’s you would imagine that every drop of liquid in the warehouse would be rigorously catalogued for tax purposes. Secondly, the date the casks were filled was apparently known, as was the recipe used to create the blend – not exactly a mystery.
It is probably much more likely that these casks had been filled for a specific purpose, the need for which disappeared for one reason or another, leaving owners William Muir Ltd with ten casks of blended scotch they had no use for. In the end, the spirit was allowed to mature until it reached 12 years of age, at which point managing director Donald Smith and chairman Alastair McIntosh created a syndicate with four of their colleagues. A portion of the whisky was then bottled and distributed among each of the six men, hence the name – whisky discovered in 1958, shared between 6 men = Syndicate 58/6.
The ten casks were never emptied however, rather they were topped up with new stocks of 12 year old whisky, a system that has apparently continued ever since. Each time some of the whisky is bottled, it is replaced so that newer spirit can marry with the ever-dwindling proportion of the original blend, a system not dissimilar to the famous sherry soleras of Spain.
Over the years, the syndicate expanded as more and more members were invited to join and nowadays the name is applied to a blended scotch brand that has diversified into multiple expressions, one of which is an export version aged for 12 years, married in sherry casks and bottled exclusively for Glasgow-based blender and bottler, Douglas Laing & Co.
*Full Disclosure: I was sent this sample by the fine folks at Douglas Laing. As always I will strive to give an honest and impartial opinion on the inherent quality of the spirit and the value for money it represents.
Syndicate 58/6 12 year old Export is bottled at 40% and retails for £30.
Smell: Orange & vanilla cream. Aniseed. Apple & pear. Toffee. Almond. A little touch of sherry in the form of dried fruits.
Taste: Caramel. A little touch of cinnamon and ginger. Orange creams. Vanilla. Marzipan. Sherry – raisins, prunes – subtle though, by no means does the fortified wine dominate.
Value for Money: A blend of good quality that carries a decent age statement is always welcome but at this price point there is a fair bit of competition and I’m not sure it has anything so unique that it would convince me to send my money in its direction above all else. If you’re a blend lover however, or buying for one, this is a lesser known brand of arguably better quality than some of the big names.
I have so many questions about this brand because there seems to be very little available information about it. Even the official website devotes a grand total of four sentences to its history. For one thing, who created the original blend that was filled into the ten casks in 1954? Surely if the recipe is known, the person or persons who put it together must be known? Or, is that information withheld because it contradicts the narrative of the “mysterious discovery” so beloved by the marketing department? Are all four currently available versions pulled from the same solera system and does this still comprise of the ten original casks “found” back in 1958? If new 12 year old whiskies are added to the solera, then withdrawn to be married in ex-oloroso casks for 12 months, wouldn’t the whisky now be older than 12 years old?
What we do know is the signature of Richard Patterson, legendary master blender of Whyte & Mackay adorns the label, and the recipe apparently comprises of 18 single malts and 4 single grains. Whether or not that matches the original recipe or was a more recent reconstruction of the flavour profile by Mr. Patterson isn’t clear. It has to be said however, this is a very enjoyable dram of better quality than most of the blended scotch you’ll find in your local supermarket.
*If you would like to pick up a bottle of Syndicate 58/6 you can buy it from Master of Malt here. Please be aware that as an affiliate I can be paid commission should you choose to buy anything from a link on my page. Several other excellent retailers are available.
Feel free to learn nothing by visiting the Syndicate 58 / 6 website here.