So I know this is The Wine Society but TWS does have some whiskies on its books but with maybe half a dozen single malts and a few blends I almost feel like saying to them “why bother?” It hardly seems worth it with such a small choice - I have more on my shelf in the kitchen.
I first got into whisky on the basis that since people seem to talk about the different flavours of each single malt almost as much as wine lovers talk about the different flavours of wines, there must be something to it and so I set about tasting many different single malts and now have about 20 in the house (as I drink so little, it’s a good job an opened bottle can survive so well).
So I buy most of my whiskies online but not from TWS as their choice is too small to be worth viewing. Anybody have any thoughts on this? Is it maybe silly of me to expect a wine society to do any more than dabble half a dozen toes in the Scottish peaty burns?
Not a single malt, and I have to admit I haven’t had this yet (though intend to get some before winter), but the society’s blended 16 yo gets great reviews here and on the tws site.
@MikeFranklin These are the three I have tried. The 1 litre 16 year blended is amazing value. The Exhibition Speyside 12 year old is a great example and the Islay has a great peaty, iodine hit if you like that sort of thing.
I will definitely reorder these. I don’t drink a great deal of Whisky but find these a pleasure to drink
As I said a few single malts and a few blends. I’m sure the blends are just fine (though I’ve yet to find a blend that I actually like - they invariable seem to me to be harsher than the single malts) but what I’m getting at is it is like the wine list here only having a few single estate producers and a few wines blended from the rest. You wouldn’t exactly rate it as a very wonderful selection to choose from.
TWS is, of course, a wine society not a whisky society, but what I find strange is that having decided to sell some whisky they don’t seem to want to go for a selection that even begins to compare with the average supermarket.
Take those examples above; the two ‘single malts’ don’t even tell us which single malt. For example Bunnahabhain, Bowmore, Laphroaig and Lagavulin are four very nice and totally different Islays so that one could taste like any one or none of them.
It’s just that the TWS approach to Whisky seems barely worth the bother of having those special bottlings done for them.
This maybe of help.
There have been posts on this forum by various buyers stating that the list would increase if more people bought.
Like the Exhibition wines they are a great example of its place.
I believe The wine Society has used the likes mortlach in its bottles and would have to sell it for much more if they advertised this.
Regarding the blend. I don’t find it harsh and it is worth a try.
Thanks for that I would possibly go for a blend if that was all I’m using but, as I like a selection of different whiskies just like I like a selection of different wines, the blends really don’t appeal much. I appreciate what people might say about more people buying them but that’s a bit of a vicious circle; bigger range if people buy, people don’t buy because there isn’t a bigger range…
It’s not a major issue as I have some good online sources for my whisky purchases. I was just curious about TWS going just so far on the whisky route but not seeming to really commit to it. And I may get some of their singles since they’re mostly ones I do like, though I haven’t compared the prices yet…
Whilst I can see where you might be coming from…two comments…
The 16 year old blended malt is a great whisky. I buy it every year. Part of the charm is trying to identify the parts…
You will also find that in some cases the WS is legally prevented from identifying the distillery source…I tried my best to get them to tell me which Islay was in the 16 year old but they wouldn’t…at least officially.
I also disagree with your comment that it’s not as good as supermarket ranges. Most of them are much the same old Diageo names.
Do you buy from A D Rattray at all? They have some very good own name bottlings or less well known single malts.
Just wanted to mention about the 16 year old blended - its worth noting that the blend is the average year, as far as I know won’t be making any more of it owing to the very old single malts that were used initially (we have our own barrels stored in Scotland).
Basically get it while you can, I really enjoy the 16 year old blended, my wife and father in law only ever like aged single malts, however they really like the 16 year old blended, probably due to the much older single malts used in the blend!
I did think it was too good to be true and the distillers now keep it…
I’ve not tried that particular dealer. I generally know what whisky I want and then search for the cheapest online supplier
I’d be quite surprised if 16 years is the average age. Generally speaking the advertised whisky age is required to be the age of the youngest whisky used in the blend. It is normal practice for blenders to buy older barrels that are generally kept in the bonded warehouses of the distilleries. One distillery I visited had a fifty year old barrel that was owned by a specific blender.
It should be appreciated that almost all single malt whiskies are in fact blends just all taken from the same malt. The master blender if blending say a 10 year old single malt will start with the 10 year old whisky and then add whisky from older barrels of the same malt in an attempt to maintain a consistent flavour. Generally speaking the only exceptions to this are the single barrel bottlings which a number of distilleries do (for example Balvenie). The problem for the buyer of these bottles is that each bottle can be a bit of a gamble and typically there are subtle (and not so subtle) differences between each bottle bought. In that sense not so different to wine.
Ah, might have got the wrong definition and thinking more about the Sherry Solara system, looks like if a Whisky has an age statement the age is the youngest:
Most blended whisky has grain as well as malt whisky in the blend. Do you know if the TWS ones have grain whisky included? I ask because that’s primarily the problem that I have with the blends; I just can’t stand grain whisky, even small amounts blended in.
The 16 year old does have some old grain whisky too , but it doesn’t really come across. The main issue I had with it a few years ago was that it had, I am almost certain, 16 yr old Lagavulin in it, which gives me a headache after even a small dram. I queried it and they (almost) admitted it…however I liked the blend so much I tried it again a year or two later and no problems. I suspect the mix had altered then as the taste was different and that element seemed missing. Still very good though. Lagavulin is the only Islay malt I’ve ever had that reaction to…I once bought a bottle of it and had to give it away.
I’d have thought Laphroaig would be the one to give a headache. I must admit Lagavulin is probably my favourite of the peaty Islays.
Just returned from my driving Miss Daisy trip to Sainsburys, and as with all the other supermarkets one cannot help notice the huge rise in the selections of whiskies on the shelves and the same with Bourbon, with aged bottles fetching lots of money at auction whisky is certainly on a roll at the moment.
As with a lot of things tastes change over time and whilst I used to enjoy a dram or two it just fell out of favour and I can’t remember the last time I had a glass, perhaps I should try again.
There’s a lot of so called market segmentation going on, with all these casked finishes etc.
It’s all about trying to squeeze out more margin in my view.
There have been a lot of new distilleries coming on tap (or back on tap) in some cases in recent years. I suspect that 10 years down the line there might even be a glut but who knows.
My favourite blend, Baillie Nicol Jarvie, got pulled a few years ago as they wanted to keep all the malts and sell them at twice the price…
The history of single malts is actually quite interesting. Go back a good few years and almost all the single malt production was used in blends. Then it starting becoming fashionable to buy single malts and now many of the distilleries prime market is selling the single malt though some do still have the majority going to blenders. I believe my local, Glen Ord, still mostly supplies blenders rather than bottling their own. And as you say they are all now marketing lots of weird and wonderful new expressions. Bruichladdich under it’s new (French I think!) owners now has three expressions one of which is, I believe, completely unpeated (shock horror for an Islay) and one, I believe, now claims to be the most peated of the Islays, even more so than Laphroaig!
But yes, it is interesting how, even down south, the choice of whiskies on supermarket shelves has blossomed.
Are you based up here in Scotland @MarkC?
Yep their Octomore are the uber peaty expressions and whilst not the norm, Bunnahabhain on Islay generally are unpeated, so unusual, but not completely unknown
@MikeFranklin yes I am. Other end of country from you though! In Ayrshire. Rattray’s have a whisky shop and tasting room in Kirkoswald, about 40 minutes away from me.
As you say, many malts used to go into blends.