Thursday, December 2, 2010

Have just tried > The Tweeddale Blend

the tweeddale blendA whisky reborn
The Tweeddale Blend is a whisky created by Stonedean Limited. The company was established by Alasdair Day, who is currently the director, in January 2009 and his aim was to resurrect an old blended whisky recipe that was last produced over 70 years ago. This was named The Tweeddale Blend and was produced by Alasdair's great grandfather, Richard Day. He owned a licensed grocery shop in Duke Street, Edinburgh from the early 1920s but the recipe for the blend dates back even further - back to the 1820s when the previous owners, J&A Davidson, followed the trend of the day and started producing their own range of blended whiskies.

Recreating history
Upon gaining ownership of the shop and the whisky brand, Richard Day carried on production until the outbreak of World War II. It was not to be produced again until Alasdair came in to the possession of a family heirloom - a book containing the recipe for The Tweeddale Blend. This included the names of the single malts and grain whiskies involved, the type of casks that they were matured in and the quantities of each. Inspired by this, Alasdair set about recreating The Tweeddale Blend as closely as possible to how his great grandfather had produced it.

High single malt content
The sample that we tried is from the first batch of The Tweeddale Blend, which contains just 1,252 bottles. Another batch will hit the marketplace in the early part of next year and it will again follow the same traditional blend recipe of Alasdair's great grandfather. The exact recipe is a closely guarded secret but it is known that the Tweeddale has a single malt content of 50%, with the other 50% being grain whisky. This single malt percentage is high compared to other blends, which will generally contain anything between 10-40% as single malt. All of the whiskies included in the blend have a minimum age of 10 years. The Tweeddale Blend is bottled at 46% ABV and can be purchased from selected specialist retailers - a list of these can be found on Stonedean's website

Our tasting notes
The colour of The Tweeddale Blend is bright golden yellow and the nose is pleasant but slightly understated with subtle notes vying for attention. These include noticeable aromas of toffee, sultanas, stewed apples, honey, vanilla and malty cereal grains. The initial understatement subsides with time in the glass, as the sweeter notes in particular come more to the fore. On the palate, this is distinctly malty and packed with cereals grain character to begin with. These notes are quickly joined by some lovely sweet elements including soft dried fruits (think of sultanas, dates and prunes), honey, toffee and vanilla. These sweet elements become more prominent on the palate with time, becoming pleasantly sugary by the time the whisky is swallowed. Two final flavours are detectable, but as nothing more than a hint - some nuts and bonfire smoke. The finish is decently long and is the palate in reverse. It begins with the sweet honey, sultana and toffee notes becoming slightly drier as the cereals come through. A final hint of woody spice (imagine nutmeg) adds to the interesting, almost bittersweet nature of the finish.

What's the verdict?
This is a whisky that makes you throw any preconceptions that you may have about blends being an inferior product to single malt out of the window. It is very pleasant, positively full flavoured and firm in flavour, while being soft and easy drinking - it doesn't have the harshness or youth that can affect some blended whiskies. The blend has clearly been well constructed using good single malts and grain whiskies and these qualities show through in the final dram. We think that Alasdair has done his great grandfather proud.


Macdeffe said...

I agree on the verdict. It's a wonderful whisky


Ludo said...

Thank you both, I hadn't heard of this blend and will make sure to give it a try.

If I can add a bit to what you wrote. I don't think it's unusual for blends of that age to use around 50% malt and 50% grain whisky. It's important at a younger age to use more single grain whiskies as these add, amongs other things, maturity to a blend (although a fair amount of single malt is also important), but blenders will often use more malt whisky as their blend gets older (especially when looking for balanced flavours).

10 to 15 years is often the tipping point, with older blends usually containing more malt whisky than grain whisky.