Updated: May 5
Blended whiskies have undoubtedly been making more of a noise over the past couple of years, and Independent Bottlers (IB's), are becoming more prevalent. This is good for 2 reasons:
Blends can be astonishing. Choosing different ratios of multiple whiskies and blending them together can result in absolutely glorious new flavours and experiences. It's a mixture of know-how and alchemy in perfect contradictory harmony.
IB's have more to prove, so their selections and choices of what they bottle needs to be top notch and consistently good. One duff release, and it can be quite damaging to their reputation - especially when they're a new company. So you're generally likely to get some crackers in their releases.
Brothers Ally and Gordon Stevenson have launched a new Independent bottling brand called Turntable. They're also a blending house that select casks of whisky, and throw them into a Magimix blender* to create new flavours. Their mission statement is pretty spot-on: "Blending opens endless opportunities for innovation and flavour development"
Turntable's branding, language, and personality also gives a big nod to the music industry - by using "Track" to name their bottles, with each release paying homage to well known music tracks by various groups, and dropping in music buzzwords in the descriptions. It's quite clever, unique, and the artwork that's wrapped around the packaging is really rather banging (some of it reminds me of some stage lighting at a Friendly Fires concert from a few years ago)
But the neat bit I really like and appreciate is that they not only openly display the distilleries and cask types used in the blends, but they also show the ratios of the liquid used. That's great for a lot of consumers, as we can clearly see exactly what's in the mix. Transparency. Bravo to that.
Turntable's three inaugural bottles are:
Track 1 (Joy. Discovery. Invention) - 46%
17% Knockdhu Chinkapin Barrel,
40% Linkwood Virgin Oak Barrel
24% Girvin ex-Red Wine Barrel
19% Strathclyde ex-Cognac Barrel
Appearance: Golden amber with fast & oily legs
Nose: Berries & cereal. Cherries & pineapple. Milk chocolate covered raisins & nuts. It’s very aromatic with layers of fruit, light caramel, and vanilla.
Palate: Slightly tingly at first before a sweet nuttiness appears. Now it becomes oilier & richer with a more complex makeup the longer it stays on the tongue. There’s a lovely berry-fruit-forward profile here that’s no doubt coming from the Girvin ex-wine cask. A gentle dry & bitter note finishes it off at the end.
Finish: Medium-long with a fruity-nuttiness that fades to an oaken dryness.
Conclusion: Vary, very drinkable. The choice of merging the Girvin ex-wine casks with the other cask-types has created a dram that would be a crowd-pleaser.
Track 2 (Firestarter) - 46%
40% Caol Ila Virgin Oak Barrel
23% Cameronbridge Virgin Oak Barrel
22% Benrinnes Chinkapin Barrel
15% Invergordon Virgin Oak Barrel
Appearance: Golden amber with fast & oily legs
Nose: Thick & rich peat that carries that wonderful Caol Ila level of well-balanced phenols and medicinal sea-mist. It’s their particular style of peat note that works so well for me. There’s also a lovely note of adhesive and sweaty silver coins (this is a positive note for me!) More nosing reveals a sweet & sour note with some fresh Panettone.
Palate: Sweetness appears and grows in layers on the tongue, and becomes sweeter and richer over time. Heaps of sweet vanilla appear accompanied by the Panettone note that was spotted on the nose. Gentle smoked peat and sweetness stay on the tongue until the end.
Finish: Long, sweet, and delicately peated.
Conclusion: I really like this a lot. This is such a great selection of whiskies to showcase in a blend.
Track 3 (Purple Haze) - 46%
42% Craigellachie Oloroso Sherry Butt
44% Balmenach PX Sherry Puncheon
14% Invergordon ex Sherry Barrel
Appearance: Deep & dark amber. Fast oily legs.
Nose: Big & bold with a hit of sherry, but with the added element of furniture polish, pear drops (acetone), and mince pies. It’s showing some cracking trademarks of a good and almost chewable sherried whisky.
Palate: High coco content dark chocolate that’s been laced with some dry Oloroso sherry. Nuts, oily toffee, and sweetness dance around. Chocolate coated raisins are there at the end.
Finish: Medium-long with sweetness and the faintest wisp of tobacco. Dryness and sherry-soaked oak produce a lovely “woody confection” on the finish.
Conclusion: Hard to believe this is a blend – but wait! Aren’t a lot of blends out there knocking them out of the park and pushing many single malts out of the way? This is doing exactly that. This could (and does), stand up to many single malt sherrybombs.
These Brothers definitely know what they're doing when it comes to blending. Each one of the three whiskies in this review is genuinely superb - and they've covered the fruity, peated, and big sherried bases in a single release. I've had enough blended whiskies in my lifetime to know that when it's done right, the mighty blend can shine, and these do. Personally, I would rate the Firestarter as my favourite, closely followed by Purple Haze.
Available at various retailers for around £65 per bottle.
* they don't really use a Magimix.