...where distraction is the main attraction.

Monday, August 13, 2018

Black Bull 30 year old Blended Whisky (thank you, Jordan!)

In addition to being reviews of well-regarded whiskies, this week's posts are thank-yous to three fellows whose generosity have helped keep this blog going. Sadly, I have yet to figure out how to offer a proper thank you to Florin. Perhaps it would be a ten-part whisky tasting lasting until 4am, as how it usually goes when I visit him. (Damn, that gives me a stupid idea!)

There are many other people who have been very charitable during sample swaps or who have just handed me great stuff from the excellence of their hearts (and whisky bunkers). I can never thank you folks enough.

First up, thank you to Jordan of Chemistry of the Cocktail for including Black Bull 30yo in a sample swap. Apparently, Oregon is its own planet when it comes to liquor retailing. Twice I saw Black Bull 30 selling for $160 in California, but the following year those same bottles were priced above $300. Meanwhile, Oregon had them for closeout under $100.  ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

Jordan is indeed a chemist and his long-form posts are a hell of a thing — and easily readable for those of us who are not scienticians. Whether he's writing about The Physics of Double Retort Pot Stills and Thumpers or questioning the "uncritical valorization of cask strength whiskies", Jordan challenges us to think about what we drink. Also his cocktail recipes are pretty sweet.

As for Black Bull 30yo......The blend of 50% malt and 50% grain was married at birth in the late '70s, then aged in sherry casks for three decades. I'd say that's a damned good approach to making whisky. Serge thought they whisky was "top notch" and "top shelf". Nearly the entire parliament of LAWSers went a step further, declaring it among the best blends in existence (in 2009).

Brand: Black Bull
Ownership: Duncan Taylor
Type: Scotch Blended Whisky
Parts: 50/50 malt/grain
Maturation: Sherry casks
Age: minimum 30 years
Alcohol by Volume: 50%
Bottled: 2009

Mmmmm, dunnage nose. Nutty sherry, orange peel, watermelon rind, and grape jelly. Chocolate covered roasted almonds. Sticky candy meets salty sea air. Something about the palate reminds me of Springbank single sherry casks. Maybe it's just that these were good sherry casks. Anyway, there's citrus, musty oak and French oak baking spices. Limes, toffee, salt and pepper. Light bitterness and a gentle herbal note. It finishes with oranges, salt, grapey sherry, honey and toffee. There's also some bitterness to it, as well as a mineral edge.

DILUTED TO 46%abv, or 1/2tsp of water to 30mL whisky
Baskets full of dried fruit on the nose. Hershey's syrup, roasted nuts and bananas. Ah, but there's earth underfoot. Toasted nuts and toasted oak in the palate. Chocolate + coffee. Lightly sweet. Possibly denser and richer than when neat. The finish has coffee, salt, oranges and minerals.

I tried this up against Old Perth 21yo 1996 vatted malt, which it beat, though not by a lot. It comes pretty close to the 20yo 1994 Exclusive Blended Malt I so adore. All three are examples of very good sherry cask whisky. The Old Perth and Exclusive were all malt, while this was 50/50. As with the Old Perth, the sherry cask(s) dominate Black Bull 30's content. The Exclusive vatting wins out because it's a little dirtier, while also revealing a variety of fresh fruits.

That's mostly nitpicking. Blending a blend from the start is a smart approach. Using good casks is...well...kinda the point. The 50%abv works in Black Bull 30's favor because tinkering with dilution may in fact improve the experience. Overall, the whisky should appeal to any sherried-whisky lover and would taste quite fine on a cold winter night.

Availability - Sold out worldwide, probably
Pricing - it was anywhere from <$100 to >$400
Rating - 89