Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Whiskey Wednesday: Back in Black -- Black Bottle

For the final part of our three part series on blended Scotch, I thought I would try one of the more popular new blends.

Technically, Black Bottle isn't a new blend, but it was reformulated several years ago to include malts from all seven working distilleries on Islay: Ardbeg, Bowmore, Bruichladdich, Bunnahabhain, Caol Ila, Lagavulin and Laphroaig. As Islay is hot right now, Black Bottle took off with this new formula and extra dark bottle (see picture - okay, it's not really that dark).

Black Bottle produces two expressions, a ten year old and a younger blend with no age statement. I've never seen the younger version in the US, but the ten year old is widely available at good liquor stores, usually in the $33 range.


Black Bottle 10 year old, 40% abv

This is the first time I've had a blend which, if I had been tasting blind, I definitely would have pegged as a single malt. It has strong island flavors, peat, smoke...not too much in the way of medicine. There's also a pleasant malty lightness to it. In some ways it really is the uber-Islay, with elements of the many complex malts of that island.

At $33, Black Bottle is a great deal and shows that blends can play with the big boys. Check it out.


Unknown said...

I blogged about my recent experience with Black Bottle 10YO as well. (see http://www.whiskysocial.com/blog_entry.php?user=WhiskeyHunter&blogentry_id=77 ) While I enjoyed it, I did not live up to my expectation given some of the more robust Islay Single Malts. Nor did I think it lived up to the marketing on the label. I thought it was lightly peated and smokey. Also, I just picked up the younger Black Bottle in NJ, but haven't cracked it yet.



sku said...

Thanks for your comments WhiskeyHunter. Interesting...I actually thought it did pretty well on the smoke and found it quite enjoyable.

Mind you, it's not a Lagavulin, Ardbeg or PC5, but remember, it's got Bunnahabhain and (probably non-peated) Bruichladdich in it as well. I thought it had good balance.

Unknown said...

Right or wrong, I was expecting a lot of peat, smoke and heat and Black Bottle 10YO just did not live up to this expectation for me.

My expectation was based on the classic/historical definition of a representative Islay whiskey, i.e. intense, massive peat and smoke. I figured that the Ardbeg, Laphroaig and Lagavulin components would overpower the less intense Islay whiskies. On balance, there was a sweetness to it as well.

And I'm not entirely at fault in this disconnect as the Black Bottle label uses words like bold, intense, strong, rich, peaty, smoky.

The irony for me is that I'm not a normally a fan of a lot of peat and smoke. I was just in the mood for it when I cracked the bottle.

(BTW, I really enjoy a lot of the less-peat/more-sweet Bruichladdich offerings).

I have about 100ml left of the Black Bottle 10YO and hope to do a comparison tasting against its younger, ageless sibling soon. I heard that this expression was more 'robust' and averaged about 5YOs.


sku said...

Well, to each their own...I'd be interested in hearing how the younger version is.