The Black Bull range of blends is owned by Duncan Taylor & Co, one of Scotland's largest independent bottling companies. They have recently revamped the brand and we have been lucky enough to get a sample of the 12 years old to try (we thank Karen Law at Duncan Taylor for this). The blend has been around for over 70 years since it was originally produced in the early 1930s, with Duncan Taylor taking over the brand in 2001. This new 12 years old version is a blend of 50% single malt whisky and 50% grain whisky and is also bottled at 50% ABV, to carry on the 50% theme! They also release a 30 years old version. A bottle of Black Bull 12 years old should cost around £35 from specialist whisky retailers. More information can be found on www.blackbullwhisky.com.
Duncan Taylor and Co. were set up in Glasgow in 1938 with the plan to bottle and blend whisky for export to America following Prohibition. They are now based in the town of Huntly, close to the Speyside whisky region of Scotland. Duncan Taylor are reported to have one of the largest privately held collections of rare whisky casks in the world and bottle approximately 200 different whiskies a year. Their range is extensive and has numerous branches to it . For more information on their ranges of whisky and Duncan Taylor, check out their website www.dtcscotch.com.
The colour of this Black Bull 12 years old is golden amber and the nose is robust and aromatic. It is packed with clean, expressive notes that fight for your attention and make you want to take a sip - malty cereal grains and vanilla are particularly prominent, with dark dried fruits (think of raisins and sultanas), caramel, woody coconut and a hint of something darker (imagine cocoa powder). On the palate, this feels viscous, oily and little buttery. The malty grains hit first with a lovely sweet combination of the vanilla, caramel and coconut coming through shortly afterwards. There is also a distinct woody spiciness (think of cinnamon with a touch of pepper), some more dried fruit (especially sultanas) and some other fruits that are reminiscent of stewed pears and apples. The finish is clean, long and begins sweetly with vanilla, toffee and fruit before turning dry and slightly bitter (think of the coconut husks here). This leaves your mouth watering and wanting more.
Black Bull 12 years old is a rich, complex and characterful whisky that demonstrates how good blended whiskies can be if they are constructed and married with care and expertise. The robust nature and strength of the alcohol lends itself to adding water to the whisky and this takes away the spiciness and especially the dryness on the finish. This softens it and may appeal more, but in our opinion we prefer at 50% ABV as it is more interesting and flavoursome. A pleasant and enjoyable dram that is well worth a try.