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A new spin on Blended Scotch?
Turntable Spirits is a new blending house based in Glasgow. Founded by brothers Gordon and Ally Stevenson, the company produces and bottles blended Scotch whiskies.
The vast majority of Scotch blends are designed to appeal to a mass audience and that tends to lead to bland, homogenous products but the Stevenson brothers set out to create flavour-driven blends that put the emphasis on whiskies with character and personality. This is something I’m really keen to see more of. The whisky world is a little too focused on the single malt market and with pricing in that area continuing to spiral, affordable blends deserve more of our attention.
Transparency also appears to be high on the agenda for Turntable. A complete breakdown of components is provided for each blend, albeit without an age statement so as to avoid the wrath of the SWA. It’s a wise move for a blender looking to compete with single malts that thrive on an agenda of provenance and terroir. The music-inspired branding and vibrant, lively packaging won’t do any harm either. The bottles certainly stand out on the shelf.
So Turntable seem to be doing a lot of the right things but that won’t matter if the whisky isn’t any good. Fortunately, I recently had the opportunity to take part in a Tweet Tasting hosted by Steve Rush of The Whisky Wire. Since the samples issued by Turntable Spirits were most generous, I decided I’d look at them in more depth in a proper review.
*Full disclosure: the samples featured in this review were sent to me free of charge. As always, I will strive to give and honest opinion about the quality of the dram and the value for money it represents.
- 13% Knockdhu Virgin Oak Barrel
- 20% Benrinnes Chinkapin Barrel
- 18% Invergordon Ex Cognac Barrel
- 8% Blair Athol Bourbon Barrel
- 30% Unnamed Speyside Virgin Oak Barrel
- 11% North British Virgin Oak Barrel
Paradise Funk is bottled at 46% ABV.
Smell: I’m getting lots of oaky spice – which isn’t a surprise given the inclusion of several virgin oak and chinkapin barrels. Wood varnish. Toffee. Honey. Cinnamon. A bit bready. Some ginger. Orange zest. Peach liqueur. Lots of baking spice character.Some apple and pear in there too but feels a bit smothered by some very active casks.
Taste: Caramel and toffee with lots of seasoned oak influence. Some fruits in there, pineapple, orange and lemon. Wee bit of apple too. Nice weight on the palate and some reassuring misting in the glass. Around the mid-palate things turn dry and increasingly oaky although a good splash of water helps to find the fruity spirit underneath.
Thoughts: Turntable certainly aren’t shying away from putting some flavour in the glass but this one came across a bit over-oaked for my tastes. The recipe breakdown shows some really interesting spirits in the blend but the abundance of virgin oak stops them from shining through. Things improve when water is added and more spirit character breaks through but virgin oak is something I prefer to see deployed sparingly. Others who enjoy the virgin oak effect will find a lot to appreciate here.
Price: £50. This might be more than some people are used to paying for a blended Scotch but there’s as much flavour as is in any single malt and the quality is there, even if not to my personal preference.
- 22% Craigellachie PX Puncheon
- 17% Blair Athol Virgin Oak Barrel
- 21% Craigellachie Oloroso Butt
- 21% Balmenach PX Puncheon
- 19% North British Virgin Oak Barrel
Bittersweet Symphony is bottled at 46% ABV.
Smell: Some of that virgin oak spice again but this time it mingles with sultanas and dark chocolate. The spices start to give more of a festive, wintery vibe with nutmeg and clove and star anise – like a pack of spices for mulled wine. Also glacé cherries. Wee bit of raspberry as well. Almonds. Bakewell Tart. Dr Pepper!
Taste: Arrives with citrus and dried fruits and dark chocolate. Tangy oak around the sides that draws in the cheeks. The sweet sherry on the arrival returns on the finish. Getting that cherry note again. Toffee. Brown sugar. There’s a char note that gives off a slight sulphury vibe.
Thoughts: This one appealed to my own tastes a little more. It’s still very much cask-led but there’s more of a balance to be had – like the sherry has enough muscle to match the virgin oak. Interestingly, it felt lighter on the palate but fuller and more complex in terms of flavour when compared to the previous dram. It’s not a sherry bomb but there’s enough of the wine on show to please that audience. A real character dram.
Price: £50. Once again, priced at a level that will entice people to buy and drink the thing.
- 21% Knockdhu PX Puncheon
- 18% Caol Ila Bourbon Barrel
- 24% Craigellachie PX Puncheon
- 9% Caol Ila Red Wine Barrel
- 28% North British Virgin Oak Barrel
Smokin’ Riff is bottled at 46% ABV.
Smell: Slightly burnt caramel. Floral honey. Red berries. Campfire ash. There’s a perfume note to the smoke. Slightly floral. Parma violets. Struck matches. Raisins. Cherry. Also some vanilla and honey. Wee bit of malty biscuit as well.
Taste: Dark chocolate at first (proper high cocoa content stuff). The burnt caramel note again. Oak char. Toffee and vanilla. Some gentle sherry influence and a touch of raspberry jam. The smoke grows in power the longer it sits on the palate and then explodes in a real burst on the finish.
Thoughts: This one achieved perhaps the best balance between spirit and cask. That may be as a result of the Caol Ila peat smoke, punching its way through. Virgin oak once again plays a role but it isn’t allowed to dominate and the oaky spice adds some seasoning rather than overpowering with too much heat. Once again, there’s plenty of flavour but it’s far from a one-trick pony with elements coming from each component.
Price: £50. Whiskies from Islay are getting increasingly expensive so an alternative and affordable way to access the desired peat smoke hit is always welcome.
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For more on Turntable visit here: https://turntablespirits.com/