Black Bull is a brand of blended Scotch whisky that’s been around since 1864. However, there’s none of this 40% abv nonsense found here. Like it’s namesake, the strength is in the proof. All of their whiskies are bottled at 50% abv. When the brand was founded, it was made up of 50% malt whiskies and 50% grain whiskies bottled at 50% abv. That still holds true. Current owner Duncan Taylor has kept the tradition going.
Let’s get to it.
BLACK BULL KYLOE
This one’s the entry whisky in their core lineup. There’s no age statement to be found, but that’s not an issue. The malt whiskies in this blend are from Speyside, and are matured in mostly refill bourbon casks with some sherry casks for depth. On the nose, younger sherried malts show alongside light toffee, raisin, vanilla and a slightly sharp, herbal note. The whisky’s high proof shows itself on entry, with strong notes of vanilla creme and berries. Raisins, sweet malt, and spice round out the palate. The finish is long and carries that sweet sherried malt note. Not bad. Not bad at all! Bigger and punchier than most standard blends, while carrying its high alcohol content well. It never burns. Instead, such a high proof helps this Kyloe maintain a nice richness. 7/10
BLACK BULL 12-YEAR-OLD
Black Bull Kyloe is nice, but here’s where things start getting really interesting. The 12-year-old blend contains Highland and Speyside malt whiskies, along with lowland grain whiskies. All were aged in either refill Sherry European Oak butts or refill bourbon hogsheads. Based on the nose, I assume most of the maturation happened in bourbon casks. Rich vanilla and toffee dominate, with waves of sherry and ripe pear becoming a larger part of the equation the longer the whisky opens up. Taste-wise, I get sweet and sour orange and creamy toffee, followed by hints of vanilla extract, cinnamon apple and a fruit tart. The finish is oily and heavy, sweet and long. Like it’s younger sibling, Black Bull 12-year-old’s high alcohol content doens’t impede the enjoyment of the whisky. Quite the opposite. The high proof helps carry those wonderful flavors, leading to a rich, robust tasting experience. 8.5/10
BLACK BULL 21-YEAR-OLD
Rounding out the core lineup is the “legally able to buy a drink” Black Bull 21-year-old. This one breaks tradition a bit. It’s made up of 55% malt whiskies, instead of the standard 50%. The malts hail from Highland, Speyside and Islay. The nose smells like a spice rack. Big clove, nutmeg and allspice notes hit hard, alongside tangy red fruit and nuts. This whisky is nothing but sweet and spicy. Nay. Elegantly aged sweet and spicy. I best describe the taste as orange zest and apple that’s been simmering in brown sugar, nutmeg, and cinnamon all poured over homemade vanilla ice cream with a sprinkle of freshly cracked black pepper. Those spices have to come from a combination of old oak casks and whatever Islay malts are being used here. The finish carries a little heat, which quickly fades into a long, slightly drying spiced sweet caramel. Wow. This is an unforgettable and utterly fantastic blended whisky. Kudos to the blender at Duncan Taylor for this wonderful blend. 9/10
Three whiskies that seem to get better with age. Where else can you drink 21-year-old whisky at 100 proof for that price? I was so impressed after tasting Black Bull’s core range that I went out and purchased their limited edition 40-year-old whisky. Once I get around to that, you can bet I’ll share my experience with that expression! As for the subject of this post, the 12- and 21-year-old come with a very high recommendation, especially for the price. Black Bull Kyloe is fine, but I think I’d rather pay the extra $20 and upgrade to the 12-year.
Thanks to Shand Imports and Duncan Taylor for the samples. As always, all thoughts and opinions are my own.