...where distraction is the main attraction.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

NOT Single Malt Report: Cutty Sark Blended Whisky

Ah, the blended whisky reports begin.  Let's start with one of the classics.

Brand: Cutty Sark
Ownership: The Edrington Group (previously Berry Bros. & Rudd)
Distilleries: Many (though Glenrothes-centered with some Macallan and Highland Park)
Type: Scotch Blended Whiskey
Age: minimum 3 years
Alcohol by Volume: 40%

Named after one of the last great British tea clipper ships, Cutty Sark Blended Whisky was created in 1923 by Francis Berry and Hugh Rudd.  Berry and Rudd wanted to fashion this whisky for the international market, specifically for the US (whenever the Americans' damned Prohibition would end).  Because Berry and Rudd were foremost wine merchants, they also wanted to create a blend for their wine clientele.  A whisky lighter and fruitier than other blends, and naturally colored.

During Prohibition, bootlegger Captain William McCoy, known for bringing in only the best of the best (hence, "The Real McCoy"), introduced America to this brand.  Apparently everyone's efforts worked.  By 1961, Cutty Sark had become the top selling blended Scotch in the US (though it no longer holds that position).  In 2010, The Edrington Group (owners of Macallan and Highland Park) bought the brand from Berry Bros. & Rudd and have been distributing it since.

There's a peated Cutty (known as Cutty Black), a blended malt, and a series of aged blends (12, 15, 18, and 25 years).  But the flagship (so to speak) product is the young basic blend.

DISCLAIMER:  I have the utmost respect for Berry Bros. & Rudd, The Edrington Group, as well as Cutty Sark's important place in Scotch Whisky history.  But I have my doubts that the blend recipe for the current product is anywhere close to what it used to be.

I'll list the tasting notes, then comment.

Color - Very light gold
Nose - grain heavy, overripe bananas, brown sugar, but mostly a rush of derelict wino whisky vomit
Palate - Grass, moonshine, the sad sours, turpentine (aka The Turps)
Finish - I wish it would finish

Nose - like a grainier(!) oakier version of Black&White with a hint of rotting flesh
Palate - creamy, nillas, and The Turps
Finish - mercifully brief

Palate - a little more vanilla and saccharine, but it's raunchy no matter how much ice is added

Like skunk funk or vomit or other glandular secretions, Cutty's palate cannot be scrubbed away with water.  It gave me terrifying flashbacks to college-era toilet-hugging puke-scapades, and I'm not even sure those were my memories.

I'm not alone in this judgement.  To quote the glowing reviews of the Los Angeles Whisky Society:
"Nose is fruity, with pee.  Palate is initially awful.  Then it doesn't get better.   I don't like anything about this and can barely drink it.   Barely."  "Bottled sewer water."  "I think maybe this tastes like pee, not that I know what pee tastes like, but if I did drink pee, I think this is what it would taste like."  "It tastes like flat beer with Splenda.  This is vile, hideous stuff."
This is the stuff that ruins blended whisky for beginners.  Blends do not have to taste like this.

It's not the worst whisky I've had (though it's close to making the bottom 5), but I had such a hard time understanding how this could be appealing.  I have to believe that it was better once, back before mass production, when malt contents were higher and better.  Having heard many whisky fans bemoan the quality decline of many blends, I have to believe that this is another one that's been tarnished.

I'm very thankful that I didn't buy a 750mL bottle just because the price was right.  The $2.99 for a 50mL was thus a worthwhile expense.

Availability - Everywhere  :(
Pricing - Fair(?) at $17-$20
Rating - 60