Tonight I’m trying Black Bottle 10 year blended scotch whisky, bottled at 43% alc./vol. On the bottle, it says “Finest Scotch Whisky with a Heart of Islay” When they say it has a heart of Islay, they mean it. This blended whisky apparently contains whisky from all 7 Islay distilleries (this is pre-Kilchoman). Black Bottle is owned by Burn Stewart Distillers, who also own Bunnahabhain [boon-a-havn], so you can expect for there to be a fair amount of that particular Islay single malt in this blend. Of course, as a blend it also contains grain whiskies. When I first bought this bottle, I tried it by itself and liked it. However, I immediately ran across postings in the Whisky Magazine forums that recommended mixing in a few drops of your favorite Islay single malt. Black Bottle does a great job of taking on the character of that malt, and I discovered that I really enjoy it with a few drops of Caol Ila or Ardbeg. Tonight, however, I’m focusing on Black Bottle 10 as a stand-alone whisky.
On the nose, there seems to be a cereal grain scent that gives away the fact that this is a blend, perhaps even a hint of rubber. Leaving the glass sitting for a bit, this seems to go away almost completely. Now, getting down to business…I get fruit over sweet peat that reminds me of a combination of Bunnahabain and Caol Ila. There’s also some smoke there, but not a big camp fire smoke like Ardbeg or Lagavulin. Finally, there seems to be a fresh wood component, and maybe a hint of iodine that reminds me of Laphroaig QC or 10 CS.
The palate is very gentle and fruity. The feel reminds me of Bunnahabhain 12. This is such a warm, friendly spirit. No bite at all from the grain whiskies. It’s not a heavy body, but it’s not watery either. Thankfully, they bottled it at 43% and not 40%.
On the finish, there is a smoke that seems to separate from the spirit and rise up through the nostrils. Once again, I’m reminded of Caol Ila, more than the smoke from any of the other peaty Islays. It’s not as strong or as long lasting as a straight Caol Ila, though. The remaining liquid on the back of the tongue once again reminds me of Bunnahabhain 12. No…it IS Bunna 12. It’s a sweet, malty flavor that’s fairly light, but does stick around for a little while. It’s interesting how these components separate on the finish and co-exist as two completely different entities.
This really is a wonderful blend, and a fantastic introduction to the world of Islay malts. It tastes great by itself, and it can transform into your favorite Islay single malt (especially Caol Ila) just by adding a few drops. Unfortunately, Black Bottle is no longer producing this 10 year expression. I believe their younger NAS (No Age Statement) bottling is the only one currently in production. Here in AZ, however, I can still find the 10 year in a number of stores for $35-$40, but have yet to see the NAS. I’ve read that the NAS expression is very good as well, but if you have a chance to pick up this 10 year, I strongly recommend doing so while you can.
You’ll see really high scores in the Other Opinions below, but I’m thinking those are relative scores, taking into account that this is a blend. I feel like a score of around 84/100 is appropriate for this very enjoyable whisky, relative to the other whiskies I’ve tried. The price makes it an incredible value. As a blend, this is an amazing whisky, and one you should try to get into your cupboard.
- Malt Advocate – 93 points…wow! In their ratings scheme, it does say that this means it’s “one of the best for its style.”
- whisky-pages – Another postive review, I think they found it to be a bit more peaty and phenolic than I did.
- Also on the whisky-pages web site, a great overview of Black Bottle, discussing the heritage, character, and the blend itself.
- Whisky Magazine – Scores and notes from Michael Jackson and Jim Murray, with both giving it a 9/10 score.
- WHISKYFUN by Serge (Scroll down to “Five Islander Blends”)- A review of BB NAS and 10 year. Note the 10 year is from 2003 and bottled at 40%, so maybe a little weaker than the one I tried.