...where distraction is the main attraction.

Friday, February 23, 2018

Rattray's Selection Batch No. 1, 19 year old Blended Malt

I was really excited when this whisky appeared on shelves in early 2012. Of course, back then I was enthusiastic about every new release. My cynicism was but a dewy glaze at the time, having not yet hardened into an opaque shell.

But I also liked all the Rattray single casks I'd had. The Bowmores were great. The Auchentoshans were.......fascinating. Plus this vatted malt was bottled at cask strength.

My interest waned when I saw the $90-$100 price tag. No other blended malt at the time was priced that high and there was no way to try the whisky before buying. Four years later, many of these bottles were still on retailers' shelves. By then, whisky prices had swollen. A 19 year old cask strength malt under $100 was now a bargain. And when batch two arrived — with mostly low-demand malts in its makeup — it was priced at $150. So, when I found a shop trying to rid itself of batch 1 for $79.99 I nabbed a bottle for an upcoming private whisky event.

Auchentoshan 1991 sherry butt #495
Balblair 1990 sherry butt #1142
Benriach 1989 sherry butt #50064
Bowmore 1991 sherry butt #2073

Upon opening, the whisky was difficult, tasting like steel wool in liquid form. Thus it wasn't terribly popular at the event. But it changed with time. This sample is from the second half of the bottle.

The nose is great! Molasses, toffee pudding, salty air and a moderate Highlands-like peat. Then apple pastry, baklava and banana pudding. There's something 'old whisky' about it. Yes, I know that's vague. The palate has a thick, oily texture. At times cigar smoke; other times it's sooty herbal smoke. Lots of salt and toasted oak spice (nutmeg?). Flowers and fried plantains. A hint of dish soap. It finishes warm, sweet and salty. A little acidic, a little bitter. The oak notes expand. Dish soap. Ashy peat lingers the longest.

DILUTED TO ~46%abv
Beautiful old sherry notes on the nose. Damp tobacco, salty toffee. Rich honey, ocean air and delicate peat. The palate is much different than the nose. Bitter smoke, lots of pepper. Hints of soap and toasted oak spice. Lemons, shortbread and butterscotch. It finishes with oak spice, salt, soap, fruity sherry and tart citrus.

DILUTED TO ~40%abv
The sherry notes get even heavier in the nose, though so does an acetate note. Cherry candy and caramel popcorn. Thankfully the acetate fades out. The palate is woody and sweet. More vanilla, more pepper oil. Less soap, less peat. It finishes similar to the palate.

Firstly: How grand is that nose? Very grand. It shifts gears nicely when diluted just a little, too.

Secondly: The soap. I'm apparently hypersensitive to soap notes. No one else has found that characteristic in this whisky. So if you ignore the s-word, you may see some positive palate descriptors. Because I can't ignore the s-word, it took a lot of time to see/taste past it. So the palate can't compete with the nose, for me.

Two weeks ago, Jordan reviewed a sample pulled from around the same part of my bottle. He liked the whisky quite a bit. We found many similar characteristics to it, but he enjoyed it more because......no soap. Ralfy liked it too, and no soap for him. So, I'm a putz, I guess.

Because of its age and full strength, Batch 1's original $90-$100 pricing no longer looks as crappy as it once did. And, as Jordan mentions in his review, it would be great to see more moderately-peated, well-aged blended malts like this out here in The States.

Availability - US and European retailers once upon a time
Pricing - anywhere between $90 and $125, if you can find it
Rating - 83 (if not for the soap, this would've been in the high 80s)