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Wednesday, November 29, 2023

Black Bull 12 year old blended whisky (old label)

"Black Bull" carries a Testosterone-filled Grrrr Manly Grunt connotation, so it worked as a strong visual brand name for a Scotch whisky back in the 1860s, when the reality of the Scottish bovine was actually the shaggy, gorgeous stoner Highland Coo.

The Black Bull brand experienced peaks and valleys until it was purchased by Duncan Taylor in the 1990s. DT then gave the brand a reboot in the 21st century, offering NAS, 12yo, 18yo, 21yo, 30yo, and 40yo blends. Nearly all of the whiskies younger than 40 flexed a 50%abv, sherry casks, and a high malt content at a competitive price.

I reviewed the first batch of the 30 year old, which was nigh on divine, back in 2018, and thought I'd also reviewed my sample of the 12 year old. But to my surprise this year, I found that 12yo sample still filed away. So here it is, nearly nine years after it was bottled by Mr. Chemistry of the Cocktail himself:

Just a few things have changed since February 2015, but is the sample among those things???

Brand: Black Bull
Ownership: Duncan Taylor
Type: Blended Whisky
Parts: 50/50 malt/grain
Maturation: Malts: refill sherry European oak butts and refill ex-bourbon American oak hoggies. Grains: ex-bourbon American oak barrels.
Age: minimum 12 years
Alcohol by Volume: 50%
Chillfiltered? No
e150a? No
(thank you, Jordan!)


Some bright produce appears in the early nose: cantaloupe, honeydew, cucumber, and orange peel. Marzipan, maple, and cinnamon rolls fill the middle. And a whiff of steel wool stays in the back. The palate arrives simple but solid. Barley sugar, honey, and lemon candy play up front, but never get too sweet. Quieter notes of peppercorns, herbal bitterness, and tannin spice it up a little. The sweetness and bitterness balance out in the finish, with peppercorns and lemon candy lingering on the tongue.

DILUTED to ~43%abv, or 1 tsp of water per 30mL whisky

At this more standard blend strength, the nose comes in more floral (mostly orange blossoms), and with a more noticeable Oloroso side. The palate picks up a zippier zing (an actual note I wrote), with menthol, ginger, and a bit more tannin. The finish keeps the light sweetness, but the oak takes up a little more space.


At 50%abv, this is much better than any standard 12yo blend on the market, though that's not saying much nowadays. There's no raw heat present (possibly due to its nearly nine years in the sample bottle), and it's well-balanced with the casks doing just enough without crowding the spirits. So it's very drinkable. At 43%, it starts drifting closer to its 12yo contemporaries, but not too tragically. I hope Duncan Taylor hasn't tinkered with their recipe too much because I'd certainly consider getting a bottle of the current BB12.

Availability - this batch has likely sold out
Pricing - current batches: $40 - $60
Rating - 85 (neat)

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