Intoxicating Harmony: The Creative Whisky Co.’s The Exclusive Blend 21 Year Old Blended Scotch Whisky

IMG_20140606_010903_854~2All of the top Scotch whisky brands, at both entry level and prestige pricing, are blends. And blends account for at least 90% of sales in the entire Scotch whisky industry. You’ve already been told this a thousand times by Scotch ambassadors and reps, typically during tastings at which blended Scotches are nowhere in sight – because blends aren’t “unique” like single malts, and blends are old fashion, a drink for “squares,” for stodgy old bankers, neo-conservative ideologues, aspiring corner office mangers or other well-dressed capitalists. And blends are “light” and “smooth” and “round” and thus, surely, less manly and freethinking than the craggy potencies of our dear monadic single malts.

The exceptions to this rule among independent bottlers would include Meadowside Blending, whose ambassadors whet your whistle with a splash of their appealing Royal Thistle blend before hunkering down to more serious fare with their excellent but pricey The Maltman line, and the subject of this review: The Exclusive Blend 21 Year Old from The Creative Whisky Co., best known in this country for its consistently exceptional The Exclusive Malts line of single cask, cask strength single malt Scotch whiskies. In this case, The Exclusive Blend is not trotted out as an appetizer to prepare the palate for the “real” (i.e., the single malt) entrées; rather, at both Exclusive Malts tastings I’ve attended, The Exclusive Blend was offered as an equal to the other bottles in the line – which is, I contend, as it should be.

The Whisky

This blended Scotch whisky consists of 80% malt whiskies and 20% grain, all of them distilled in 1991 and matured in oak ex-sherry casks for 21 years. It has been bottled with an ABV of 46%, is un-chill-filtered and untainted by the mendacious E150a caramel coloring. I have searched extensively to discover the constituent whiskies making up this blend, but I can find nothing on the subject. Still, why not hazard a guess? I suspect this is made up primarily, if not exclusively, of Speyside malts. My first guess would be Tormore, with perhaps some Braeval or Glen Moray, maybe a spoonful of Mortlach and just a dropper of Auchroisk for spice. Maybe some Longmorn or Glenlivet for dressing? If there is a non-Speyside whisky involved, I’ll conjecture that it may be Clynelish – a northern Highland whisky just across the Moray Firth from Speyside. I could be completely wrong about all of this, of course, and I probably am…

The Nose

First impression: I’m getting whiffs of the classic Speyside battle between solvent and pear drop aromas, but the pear drops are winning. There’s a sweet but dry maltiness that I like. Dried apple, dried pear, banana chips, all floating in a glass of cream soda. There is also a breeze of oaky, nutty rancio coming from this elixir’s long stay in an ex-sherry cask – which I suspect, based on the golden amber hue, was neither a first fill nor a nearly exhausted refill butte, but rather something that still had much, but not too much, to offer the whisky inside it. In any case, the longer you keep your nose over the glass, the more prominent the influence of the wine appears to be. Not that this is by any means a so-called sherry bomb – it isn’t. The sherry is one constituent aroma, not a bully pushing other fragrances back. There is also just a hint of sulfur here – I’m not Jim Murray, so that doesn’t even begin to blemish this whisky for me – and also a very, very slight, ghostly presence of smoke that makes me suspect there could be, just maybe, perhaps, more than a dribble of Craigellachie (yup, that’s another Speyside malt) blended into the mix here. (23/25)

The Palate

There’s a malty sugary center to this, as in many Speysides, but it is modified in one direction here by a cool candy apple caramel creaminess and in another direction by a mild but fulsome spice – a mix of nutmeg, black pepper, hot pepper and oaky tannins that slowly but surely grows in prominence. This is all very nicely balanced with dried apricots, Brazil nuts and tamarind, giving every part of the tongue a flavor partner to dance with. I wish this potion were a bit thicker and creamier, but perhaps that’s because some of the flavors here remind me of thicker, creamier malts – Glencadam, for example (an eastern Highland malt that shares some characteristics with Speyside). (22/25)

The Finish

There are two ways to look at this. If you swallow this blend soon after pouring it past your lips, the mild but fulsome spice broadens and intensifies after you’ve swallowed, so you get to taste the malty nutty caramel cream before the spice overwhelms it. If you allow the whisky to linger on the tongue for very long, however – as long, say, as a whisky blogger who is tasting for review and thus savoring the savory juice a bit longer than your average anorak might – the spice and heat soon become more prominent than the other flavors and an important element of the finish is cut short. But I don’t want to overemphasize this. The spice and heat here are more than tolerable – they are elemental and are long and lingering enough to allow some discrimination among the flavors of the spice itself. And, in the end, the overall effect is very warming, which to me is essential. (21/25)

Balance/Structure

This tastes more like single malt than any other blend I’ve ever tasted, including vatted malts. Every element is so well integrated with every other – perhaps because they all come from the same region of Scotland? a region called Speyside? if that is even a little true? – that you spend your time with it savoring the whole rather than tripping over the parts. And though the finish gave me a little trouble due to the way I drink whisky – very slowly, savoring every sip – I think the seamless integration of the several elements that went into making this blend is evidence of real mastery of the blender’s art. If, like me, your diurnal dram is nearly always – as in 99.5% of the time – a single malt Scotch whisky, this 21 year old Exclusive Blend may blow your mind; short of that, it will definitely change your mind about a huge portion of the Scotch whisky universe you thought might never appeal to you. This is truly a blend for the single malt connoisseur. (24/25)

Total points for this whisky: 90

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If you’re already a fan of this blend or of other whiskies in The Exclusive Malts line, feast your eyes on this photo to the left, a little glimpse into the very near future… Many thanks to Sam Filmus at ImpEx Beverages.

Harmonious blending…

3 thoughts on “Intoxicating Harmony: The Creative Whisky Co.’s The Exclusive Blend 21 Year Old Blended Scotch Whisky

  1. I think this is nice to see those reviews but all the links about how to get those whiskeys are useless. There is no way to find them. So for example, lucky you that you get whiskeys from ImpEx Beverages, however, it is a useless site as it is only for wholesalers and not end users like most of your readers. So perhaps, get your whiskeys at places many of your readers can get them

    • Thank you, Pizaro for the great review!

      Kiki — Pizaro provided you with outstanding guidance of how to find your favorite bottle of Whisky or try something new. It’s true that our ImpEx website is geared toward wholesalers because we are not allowed to sell directly to the consumer. Our Facebook page (www.facebook.com/impexbev), however, is a great source of information for whisky enthusiasts so check us out there.

      If you need any information on where to find a particular expression of Exclusive Malts, please contact me by email – samf@impexbev.com Let me know where you reside and/or prefer to shop, and I’ll do my best to facilitate your search. Cheers!

  2. I’m not sure where you live, but nearly everything I review is available at my favorite local liquor store – Norfolk (MA) Wine & Spirits. I know of at least three stores within 40 minutes of my house where I can pick up The Exclusive Blend 21, the subject of the review you commented on (and notice the picture I used is of TWO bottles, plus the photo of the newer release at the end of the review – those are my bottles!). And anything I can’t find in local stores, I order online or take a field trip to pick up. I end up buying a full bottle of nearly everything I review – especially if I give it a high score! The most obscure whisky I’ve reviewed – it was very limited and distributed only once 10 years ago, in 2004 – was the Classic Cask bottling of the 28 year old Dallas Dhu, and at this point I have found four bottles of it within 50 minutes of my house. Friends have been able to find it, too. I firmly believe that most of the best bottles becoming available are from independent bottlers and they are worth seeking out. Independents are offering some of the best bargains out there, too. If you can’t find them, ask your local liquor store owner to order them. Find out who the importer’s local reps are, call them and ask where you can find the bottles you want – I’ve done that a few times and they are more than happy to help you out. And try to convince your local whisky sellers to host tastings of independents; the more people get to taste them, the more people will want them. Once that’s the case, you’ll be able to buy them locally. Finally, just to emphasize what I’ve already said, let me assure you that I have been able to find every bottle I’ve ever wanted (and could afford), with only one exception, a Blackadder bottling of Tullibardine that is one of the best whiskies I’ve ever had, but so far it has eluded me. I have found it online, but I’m determined to find it in a store – and I will!

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