Three XO Blends (Toronto Whisky Society, Maltbarn, Kensington Wine Market)

I’ve told this story many times, but we’re getting to the end of this particular blip of whiskies, so one more time:

Many years ago someone was at a warehouse, trying whisky. They noticed some old barrels, tasted them, realized they were old Macallan, Glenrothes, Mortlach, and Tamdhu, all of which were no longer wanted because they were underproof. By vatting them together with some young, underdeveloped Glenfarclas for a few years in ex-sherry casks, we ended up with a very interesting series.

For a while now there have been vatted whiskies that have the name XO Blend pop up. These have been one of the easiest ways for people like myself to try whiskies from the 70s, enjoy what can be done with blending, and overall be fun to have.

All fun eventually comes to an end. The last of the Blended Malt XO have hit the market. In the past few weeks, I’ve been lucky enough to review three of them. So let’s see how they taste, shall we?


This year, as one of the admins for the Toronto Whisky Society, we decided to go out on a limb with one of the Blended XO whiskies. Toronto Whisky Society Blended Malt XO came from it, and I’ve finally had about three minutes to review it.

Price: Sold out

Region: Blend

Matured in a Butt

Abv: 45.5%

Colour: 2.5Y 6/8

Nose: Strawberry pie, leather, manure, molasses, cherry/almond

Sweet note. Very light red fruit notes from the sherry cask, along with some peated elements. Lovely leather, some farminess, and sweet.

I wish the nose had a bit more. That said, I am a sucker for a leather note in a whisky, so I’m happy.

Taste: Cherry juice, oak, papaya, vanilla, plum, ginger Very sweet to start with, but more tropical, oak, and tart notes to balance it. This is the reason we take extra sips.

Sweeter, glad the oak is there and some of the tart/spice is helping.

Finish: Tobacco, brine, oak, manure, grapefruit, ginger

Back to more of the tobacco/farmy parts. That is what was missing from the taste. Lovely tartness keeps kicking some ass here, less strong sweet notes.

Younger tasting this time. I’d almost guess there may have been more Glenfarclas here than the others? Maybe.

Conclusion: Lighter/spritier, still has some good leather to it. On the one hand, I’m happy with this as I love cherry and leather. I’m a sucker for those elements. Also, it’s still great to try these old whiskies.

On the other hand, I’ve had other XO Blended Malts. I can’t ignore what this could be. Or what I think it should be. I’m happy to share it, happy to be associated with it, but I wish for just a bit more. Or a lot more.

So if you are one of our members or know one, have a dram of it. See what you think. It’s fruity and leathery, and one of the last times we’ll all have 70s malt.

82/100


Epitome 24 1993 Maltbarn was sampled at a tasting, which will pop up every so often. The connection to the above? Also part of the Toronto Whisky Society’s recent tasting in which we explored Maltbarn whiskies, the process of picking them, and not releasing a whisky until it’s just right.

So how will this extra level of quality change these whiskies? Let’s see, shall we?

Price: Sold out

Region: Blend

Vintage: 1993

Bottled: 2018

Cask type: Sherry cask

Number of bottles: 170

Abv: 53.1%

Colour: 10YR 5/6

Nose: Red liquorice, tobacco (minty anise type I guess), leather, sulphur, asparagus, fermented lime, almonds

Nice amounts of earth/tobacco going on. Works well with that leather and anise. Getting more of a floral/earth mixture going on here than the TWS one. I’m not the biggest tobacco fan, personally, but the amount of leather, fruit, and nutty elements works with it.

Taste: Malted chocolate, caramel, almond, apple cobbler, cashew butter

Good malt, some chocolate, lovely caramel and nuttiness. A good mixture of fruit and spice, some buttery aspects. It all makes you want to go back for more. Is that what more-ish means? Let’s go with that.

Finish: Malt, lots of cloves, cinnamon, and ginger, orange peel, chocolate cake

More malt, less chocolate (until I added water and it came back in a cereal way that works very nicely), and a ton of spices. Loads of spice. If you have an issue having Xmas spices in summer, this may be your winter dram.

Given I’ve heard about Xmas in July 3 times now…. I’ll be good.

Conclusion: Lovely spiced sherry dram. The extra years, waiting until it’s ready, and overall the lovely mixture of old drams all came together perfectly. I’ve said before, and I’ll say again: I miss these big sherried drams, as they are harder to find each year.

I think this is the closest to the first, great XO Blend I was served. If you see this, pick it up, pure and simple. It’s quite good, and I really wanted more after I had it. This is the kind of dram you buy three bottles of and want more again.

85/100


The Whisky Agency Blended Malt XO Kensington Wine Market is a pick by Kensington Wine Market, under the same idea. It did come in at a similar time to the Toronto Society pick.

Now… I’ve been back and forth on some Kensington Wine Market picks. I don’t always line up to their tastes. However, so far I’ve really enjoyed these XO blends.

So how will I feel about this? Is it just another excuse to write butt in a review? If you’ve read my previous reviews, you know I’ll write it anyway, so let’s see how this tastes, shall we?

Price: $204.99 (CAD) at the Kensington Wine Market

Matured in a Butt

Number of bottles: 90

Abv: 45.6%

Colour: 7.5Y 8/8

Nose: Nectarine syrup, earth, cloves, mineral

Quite sweet and strong stone fruit. A bit shy of a nose. Takes some time to be more than a generic Scotch nose, with very little sherry notes. So far I’m liking the TWS XO Blend nose better.

Taste: Tobacco (mint, vegetal), ginger, cumin, cream, macadamia

Ah, here we go. Big spice notes, incorporates the earth well and has a creaminess to it. Really nice nuttiness. Lovely sherry influence that’s balanced with the whisky.

That all said, like above, it’s clear we’re hitting the last of these XO blends. Less complex than previous ones that were quickly picked up by great people like those behind Maltbarn.

Finish: Cinnamon, caramel, dusty, peanuts, malt, almond milk

Spice, caramel, bit musty. Water is what opens up and makes the finish shine. More of that cream, more malt, and even takes on the idea of sweetness and balances it without going nuts (pun) on citrus.

Nice moderate finish.

Conclusion: So if you base it on the nose alone, you’ll be sad with this. If, on the other hand, you base it on time, a bit of water, and a growing whisky, then it’s quite nice. A well-constructed blend that shows off nuttiness, earth, and balanced sweetness.

Will it blow your mind? Probably not if you’ve had the other XO Blends. However those are in the past, and this is now, and I can’t slag off this blend. It’s a nice whisky, and I’m happy with my portion.

83/100

Scotch reviews #1121-3, Blend review #94-96, Whisky review #1742-4

4 thoughts on “Three XO Blends (Toronto Whisky Society, Maltbarn, Kensington Wine Market)

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