Monday, July 19, 2021

Review / Gladstone Axe 'American Oak' & 'The Black Axe'

These two new whiskies are a pair of Scotch blended malts from wine and spirits company Biggar & Leith. The Gladstone Axe 'American Oak' and the Gladstone Axe 'The Black Axe' are designed to be 'a modern twist on classic Scotch' and are named after four-times UK Prime Minister William Gladstone. The brand and both blended malts have been created by Elwyn Gladstone, the founder of Biggar & Leith and the great great great grandson of William Gladstone. 

The American Oak expression is made from 14 single malts from the Highlands and Islay. These have been matured in American oak ex-bourbon barrels. The Black Axe also features 14 single malts but with a higher proportion from Islay. Both are bottled at 41% ABV and will cost £32 each from selected online retailers to begin with. The bottle features an embossed design, cork stopper and wax dipped cap.


"We are really excited to be launching a new blended malt whisky bearing the name of my ancestor. In 1860, he signed the Spirits Act. This allowed the legal blending of Scotch whisky for the first time and essentially creating the Scotch whisky industry as we know it today." 
Elwyn Gladstone. 
Our tasting notes

Gladstone Axe 'American Oak'
The colour is a pale gold (deceptive as it comes in a blue glass bottle) and the nose is fresh and vibrant. Lively cereal and icing sugar aromas mix with green apple, toffee and vanilla essence. Underneath are further aromas of candied orange peel, something floral and hints of white chocolate and earthy peat smoke.

On the palate this whisky is sugary and sweet. Brown sugar and white chocolate kick things off, along with a distinct malty and biscuit-like quality. The green apple is present again, although this is more cooked and stewed now than it was on the nose. Vanilla, butterscotch and a hint of coconut add depth. Late suggestions of peat smoke and candied orange come through towards the end. The finish is short and sweet. The butterscotch and and cereals fade to reveal a pinch of baking spice and fresh oak. This gives a crisp dryness to end with. 


Gladstone Axe 'The Black Axe'
The colour is golden yellow (this one comes in a smoke grey glass bottle) and the nose has a mix of sweet and savoury aromas. Fresh green apple and toffee mingle with hay, robust malted cereals and damp earth. This becomes more mossy with a whiff of seaweed over time. A late hit of orange oil, vanilla and oak come through also.
On the palate this whisky has an immediate savoury nature. The damp earthy peat smoke licks around everything, along with a pinch of white pepper. Heather honey and stewed green apple are to the fore and these notes grip on to the robust malted cereal notes. Then comes more sweetness in the form of milk chocolate and vanilla fudge. The whisky then becomes hot and spicy. Oak tannins and warming baking spices, plus more white pepper contribute to this. The finish is short and becomes a touch bitter. The sweet elements quickly fade to leave the savoury ones to play.  
What's the verdict?
It is good to see the blended malt category expanding so much these days. As more and more products come on to the market it is becoming increasingly more difficult to stand out from the crowd. The concept for the Gladstone Axe (ie : one softer sweeter one and one peatier smoky one) should allow the brand to do that. However they both just seem a bit flat, a bit young and a bit predictable. 
Of course we must remember that these are both £30 whiskies and may develop over time. The American Oak is pleasant but basic, while The Black Axe turns bitter and hot too quickly for us. It will be interesting to see what becomes of the brand and its future releases.

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