Jul 292012
 

Black Bottle

40% abv

Score:  76/100

 

At one time Black Bottle, one of the flagship whiskies coming out of the Bunnahabhain distillery on Islay, boasted that it was composed of malts from all of the Islay distilleries.  I’m not convinced that is the case anymore.  One, because Kilchoman is simply too young and biting to be an integral blending comonent as yet.  And two, because I don’t believe certain distilleries, such as Ardbeg, are really letting any casks go for blending nowadays.  If you know more…feel free to correct me.

Forgive my sloth in covering this one.  Such a storied blend deserves more than the seeming afterthought status I would appear to have given it.  Truth be told, this only recently became available in my locale (well…a few months back anyhow).  I drank it in gulps and guzzles on Islay a while back, but that was more an opportunity to get to know this oft-referenced blend than it was out of any sense of appreciation.

So why the solid rep and rather shining reviews from most?  To be honest…I’m not sure.

This blend is nothing more than ok.  Perhaps this is a batch variance issue.  I have seen a couple different bottlings (packaging and all), so who knows?  This, as I sit sipping, however is malty and feinty.  Very much like the smells in an Islay distillery.  Not surprisingly…some light smoke and very raw peat.  More restrained than you might imagine though.  I’ve read that the component malts are thought to be at least seven years old.  That should give you an idea as to how subtlely this will sit upon the nose/palate.  I’m sure digging a little deeper might elicit a fruit or two, but then again…maybe not.  Who cares though?  I don’t think that was the point.

A wee bit peat-healthier on the palate.  Salty.  I would guess this recipe is highly dependent on the Bunnahabhain for its profile.  Some very restrained fruitiness (though which fruits I couldn’t tell you) and a gooey honeyed sweetness round this one out.

Not bad.

Caveat!  Caveat!  Caveat!  Most of us are used to our Islay whiskies bold and as pungent as old gym socks.  Errrr…maybe just ashtrays and seaweed.  Either way, don’t expect that big mule kick to the noggin that ‘Islay’ usually infers.  This is much subtler, and pulls a Phantom act.  Half of its face is there to be admired….the other half hidden behind a mask of grains.

Overseas this stuff is cheap as borscht.  That certainly adds to the appeal when budget is a factor.  Here in Canada…~$50-55.  You can buy better for that kind of price point.

 

– Reviewed by:  Curt

– Photo:  Curt

 Posted by at 11:06 am

  5 Responses to “Black Bottle Review”

  1. I was able to pick this up the other day for $23 in the US. For that price it’s not bad. I have had the ten year old version that they no longer make and it was far superior.

    • Okay. I think this is awful swill, but I did something daring today. After trying to like it over the past 6 months, I decided to put a little Ardbeg 10 in it. I have had a dram or so left in a bottle I didn’t think was up to the usual Ardbeg quality, so I thought “What the hell!” and put a few drops in a dram. Wow! Total change in the nose and palate. Just about 7-8 drops in a dram made a huge difference. I didn’t need to pour this out like I have all the other drams I have poured over the past 6 months. I went ahead and poured the dram left in the Ardbeg into the Black Bottle and will check back in a few weeks. (Got to give it time for a honeymoon!).

  2. Okay, it’s been over two weeks and I can definitely smell and taste a huge improvement. Almost a decent blend now! This makes me wonder how much malt was originally in it, as all I could taste before was poor quality grain. Maybe Ralfy loaned them his old straw to use for dripping in the malts in the bottles exported to the US. Actually fairly enjoyed the dram and could pick out a hint of Bunna. I’ll try it again soon and make tasting notes. Maybe I’ll even drip in some Bunna 12! Wow! Maybe I can start my own whisky blending company!

  3. I’m guessing that dropping the age statement (ten years old) was the end of this dram… Maybe they hoped nobody would notice?

    • Sort of like what JW did, dropping the 18 age statement from the Gold and moving it to the Platinum. For all the wonderful things that NAS can supposedly do, I guess improving established labels isn’t one of them.

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