Black Bottle’s story begins back in 1879, when Aberdeen tea blender Gordon Graham put together a blended scotch whisky. Their blend used some whiskies from Islay, making the final product a bit peaty. Fast forward to now, and apparently the blend has changed. According to whiskey vlogger Ralfy, the blend lost its Islay charms in the past few years. I haven’t tasted the blend from years back, so I’m starting with a clean slate here. Press materials state that Black Bottle is made from four single malts, including Bunnahabain from Islay, Deanston from the Highlands, and Tobermory and Ledaig from the Isle of Mull. Due to it labeled as a blended whisky and not a blended malt whisky, there is grain whisky present as well.
This whisky is presented in its distinctive black glass bottle. Nice looking, might I add. As of January 2016, Black Bottle is available primarily in New York, New Jersey, California, Illinois, Connecticut, and Florida. It’s also available in parts of Oklahoma, Arizona, Texas, Maryland, Delaware, Kentucky and Georgia. Suggested retail price is $20-$25.
I can best describe the nose of Black Bottle as rich, sweet and slightly smoky. Upfront is creamy toffee alongside a touch of vanilla pudding and oak. The small smoky note lingers in the background, and simply adds a layer of complexity. Stewed fruit shows up with a little airtime in the glass. The entry is a little soft, probably due to the low alcohol percentage (40%). Thankfully, however, it retains a thicker body than expected. The rich, creamy vanilla and fruit notes from the nose carry over onto the palate. Honey is also present, providing some sweetness. Just like on the nose, smoke is a supporting player here. Unfortunately, the finish doesn’t last too long, and you’re left with a hint of clove honey and ash.
This is a $20 blend?? Smack me on the head. Had I not had the pricing information in front of me, I’d easily guess this was a $40 whisky. It tastes more expensive than it actually is. Given the price and the quality of this blend, I can easily recommend it. Black Bottle would make a great addition to a spread of whiskies you’d give to someone interested in “smoky” Scotch. I’d actually serve this before Johnnie Walker Black Label. Black Bottle not as smoke-forward as that blend. Rather, it’s richer and more balanced. Solid pour. Nicely done!