Monday, 24 November 2014

Old St. Andrews Blended Scotch Whisky Range

Love whisky? Love golf? Then these could be the perfect drams for you! Or maybe they’d make a delightful present for a loved one this Christmas, though be sure you write ‘fore: [insert name here], puns are always a winner.

However, if you’re more of a traditionalist, you might turn your nose up at these sorts of bottles - they’re quite an acquired taste - but in the spirit of not judging a book by its cover, we’ve given them a go.

Following a Tweet Tasting with The Whisky Wire last month, the generous folks at Old St. Andrews Whisky sent over some samples of their range – in actual golf ball sized miniature bottles – in order to review. There are four blends in the range, all at 40%, going from the ‘signature’ 3 year old Clubhouse whisky to the 15 year old Nightcap. They all seem to have a familiar note underpinning them and, in my opinion, each would work well as a tasty session dram.

Clubhouse 3YO 40% ABV (£21.00 70cl from Asda, or £21.27 50cl / £23.49 70cl and £38.21 100cl from Master of Malt)

Blended from whiskies that were in sherry and port casks, this drinks surprisingly well for its youth. You get green apples on the nose at first, which develop a damp and mossy aroma before buttery caramel sweetness becomes apparent. It’s creamy and a there’s a gentle wisp of smoke at the end.

The creaminess continues in texture on the palate, and there’s sugar, spice and all things nice. It's an inoffensive easy drinker with tingling pepperiness and a short finish, though the addition of a drop of water lengthens this with toffee apple flavours, and the pepper and smoke blossom.

Twilight 10YO 40% ABV, 70cl (£31.07 from Master of Malt)

Matured in American white oak casks, this is typically delicate; light and lemony with a faint floral smell. Its sweetness is like a pick n mix - literally - rich and honeyed in one sense, then candy floss and chewy milk bottles in the next.

It has a silky mouthfeel, and a warming finish with cloves. The sweet and citrusy character is more apparent with the addition of water, and overall, it's quite an interesting zippy dram that quenches your whisky-thirst.

Fireside 12YO 40% ABV, 70cl (£33.85 from Master of Malt)

100% malt and no grain, Fireside is matured for 12 years in oak casks. This one is marketed as being "the smoky one", but there's an early autumn sweetness about its scent; walnuts, raisins, orange and peach.

The fruits get a more baked flavour on the palate, and it has quite a waxy texture. The peat suddenly seeps in, and a savoury - though not salty - taste lingers on the finish. This has much more complexity to it, and the layers open up as you continue to drink. Despite its marketing, it's not mega smoky, but for those who are new to peated malts, then this would make a good intro. This one's best suited to drinking straight up.

Nightcap 15YO 40% ABV, 70cl (£36.95 from Master of Malt)

Matured in European oak casks, this is the richest of the set. A floral meadow aroma with sugary nougat, progresses to more of a tropical style; coconut, mango and golden syrup. There’s a sharp tang lurking in there too.

On the palate it offers plenty of dark fruits with brown sugar, and there’s an almost chocolate-y depth to its flavour. Like Fireside, I'd recommend sipping and savouring the taste of this without ice.

Overall, I was pleasantly surprised with the Old St. Andrews range; I guess the snob in me presumed an inferior drink due to the gimmicky packaging. I’ll accept the mega slaps on the wrist now. Each have their own delicate complexities which sustains intrigue, but there’s a creaminess which unites the 'fab four'.

They’ve also got their pricing pretty spot on, in fact it’s pretty good value considering the quality of the blends; even Jim Murray’s rated them highly! Without a doubt, the 12 year old Fireside was my fave, from the first sniff to the last drop, the flavours continued to develop... And I’m a sucker for peat!

I kind of think I prefer the daintier 5cl golf ball bottles as opposed to the full 70cl versions - they’d be perfect for putting in stockings - but as far as I can see, only the Clubhouse is currently available in this format (£2.95 from The Whisky Exchange). You can, however, get the other three in miniature 5cl barrels; the triple Whisky Barrel Tasting Set, with Twilight 10, Fireside 12 and Nightcap 15, is £19.89 on Drink Supermarket.

Bargain blends… Par-tee time?!

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