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Thursday, October 2, 2014

NOT Single Malt Report: William Lawson's Finest Blend

Yesterday, I reviewed Grand Old Parr 12 year old, a pleasant tasty alternative to Chivas, though at a higher price.  Today, I venture down down down down to a lower shelf.

William Lawson's Finest Blend is one that is not sold in The States.  Florin (a prince) brought a bottle back from his recent voyage behind the Iron Curtain to Poland.  Adjusting for exchange rates, a 700mL bottle often sells for $10-$15 in much of Europe.  So keep in mind the price territory here.

The William Lawson's brand has an XTREME-styled website, seemingly designed for adults who still crush Mountain Dews.  Their commercials are of the loud sort as well.  Aside from the (NAS) Finest Blend, there's a 13 year old which used to be a 12 year old (upwards!) and a Super Spiced flavored product sold in (and designed for?) the US market.

Master of Malt says that William Lawson's is a high-malt whisky.  Meanwhile, William Lawson's official site makes it pretty clear that Macduff is a main ingredient.  That would make sense since Macduff (known as Glen Deveron in its single malt form) distillery and Lawson's are both owned by Bacardi.

What makes this blend of greater interest to me is the gap between the opinions of Ralfy Mitchell and Serge Valentin.  Ralfy likes Lawson's a lot, giving it an 85.  Serge thinks it is poor, giving it a 56.  That's not a casual difference of opinion, even considering that Ralfy grades blends versus blends within their own category while Serge grades everything together.  Let's see whose side I'm on.

Ownership: Bacardi
Type: Scotch Blended Whisky
Age: not stated
Blend: malt and grain whiskies (Macduff is a main ingredient)
Alcohol by Volume: 40%
Chill-filtered? Yes
Caramel Coloring? Yes

HIGHBALL (1:2 whisky to club soda ratio)
Lots of cereal grains, yeast, and lightly ripened bananas.  No real finish but very refreshing.

The color is light gold, much lighter than the Old Parr.  The nose is intense, rosy, full of flowers and stewed apples.  Lots of exotic overripe fruit odors, some sort of combination of citron, mango, and cantaloupe.  BUT these notes fade out after ten minutes or so, replaced by caramel and burnt raisins.  The palate has one of the thickest textures I've ever felt in a 40% ABV whisky.  The bananas from the highball have now been flambeed.  There's a hint of smoke, possibly from the barrel.  In fact it's like smoked caramel.  Some saltiness, along with cracked pepper and lime.  The weird grain notes often found in young blends are kept to a minimum here.  The finish is sorta short.  There's salt, spice, and savory stuff.  More caramel.  It can get a little cloying, but that much.

Firstly, Ralfy vs. Serge:  Ralfy, as he always does, reviews his own bottle.  In this case don't know if Serge is grading from a sample or a bottle, but I don't recognize any of his notes.  Perhaps he had a corrupted sample?  I do recognize many of Ralfy's notes, though he found even more positives than I did.

For a $10-$15 blend, this is at the head of the pack.  The nose is good if you don't allow it to oxidize.  The texture is impressive.  No turpentine, acetate, or weird crap in the nose or mouth.  If Bacardi sold this in The States, in that price range, I would keep a bottle on hand.  I'm not saying this is excellent whisky, but it's much better than its popular stablemate Dewar's White Label and at half the price.

Availability - Continental Europe and Latin America
Pricing - $10-$15
Rating - 78


  1. I distinctly remember finding a William Lawson's ad on Youtube featuring the ageless Sharon Stone and a shirt-less man in a kilt. Basically Sharon Stone was there so that we could get the Basic Instinct reference that was the punchline of the ad.

    1. It seems like William Lawson's falls into the same category as Vat 69 and Passport which are blended whiskies unintentionally or intentionally tailored for warmer climates. Hence why they are big sellers in South America.

      As a big fan of Band of Brothers, I have to say it's too bad Vat 69 is so hard to find in the US. I'd love to try a new bottle even though the blend has probably changed a lot since the 1940s.

    2. Yeah, their ads are entertaining. Haven't seen the Sharon Stone ad, but will definitely look for it.

      Vat 69 can be found, but you're going to have to seek out liquor stores you may not normally frequent. I have a bottle from 1980 (red paper seal intact and all) that I found last month in a particularly difficult neighborhood. $13 was its price. The cashier looked at me like I was cuckoo. He was correct to do so.

    3. When I drink rum, I typically categorize them as either a mixer or a sipper following other rum enthusiasts. Older rums tend to fall in the latter while white or young rums fall in the former. I'm a bit surprised the whisk(e)y community hasn't adopted a similar classification with blends. Though it seems in many cases good blends can fall in either category.

    4. Regarding anoraks: I think a good portion of us do not mix whisky nor put anything in it due to what we think is a purist mentality, but could also be seen as myopic or unnecessarily limiting one's hedonism. So I think there's sort of a snobby category; you know, there's Whisky and then there are those blends. This blog probably helps further that snobbery because I test everything out neatly. It's only with blends or lower-priced single malts that I'll make a highball, but that is due to my financial limitations.

      But 90+% of the world uses whisky as a mixer, especially with soda, or dumps a bunch of ice in it. That's the excuse behind Johnnie Walker Red Label. The brand has always made a point to say that it's for casual mixing. I still don't think that's an excuse for producing a crummy tasting & smelling product. A young whisky or a cheap whisky doesn't necessarily need to be awful on its own.

  2. Become a whisky expert in 58 seconds - thats what i like best about Lawson :P

    1. They try very very very hard to act like they're the common man's best pal. They've priced the whisky right at least.