Those closest to me will tell you I’m constantly annoyed by nostalgia. Viewing the past with rose coloured glasses has hurt countless generations. It leads people to love the past without noting the injustices done and the inequalities there. I never would want to go back to any of it.
Enter the idea of dusty whiskies. Which the above bias I have has a hard time reconciling. Because on the one hand looking at the past with boundless happiness isn’t healthy, painting the past with a brush that damns everything back then is arguably just as bad.
Therefore I have to take a second to understand dusties. I can understand that the circumstances of previous decades could be a giant shit sandwich while still producing something better or worse than currently.
Enter blends. There was a time where you could purchase a small bottle of a blend and it had an age statement, it wasn’t automatically 40%, and it could be drunk by itself. I know, I know: I was shocked too. Now when someone mentions a good blend I assume it’s not readily available
Today we have three different dusty blends to see if things really were better back in the day (cheap blend whisky wise). Maybe we can learn something and someone can find a way to make something close, though given the current state of the industry I’m not holding my breath.
White Heather 5 comes to us from S. Campbell & Son Ltd, a Glasgow blender Muir Mackenzie & Co was bought out by Forbes McGregor & Co in the 1930s. The company would go on to purchase Aberlour distillery and eventually established White Heather Distillers Ltd to make this whisky (as well as a NAS, an 8-year-old version and a “deluxe” 15-year-old blend).
Eventually it was all bought out by Pernod Ricard in 1974 and then stopped in 1984 to focus on Clan Campbell, which was doing very well in France.
That’s a lot to take in. This particular whisky was made either prior to the purchase by Pernod or just after. We have a blend that we know has Aberlour in it, since that’s the main place they pick from.
New whisky fans will look at the name and be confused: The number there is the age of the whisky, or rather the youngest age of all whiskies blended together. That’s something blends used to do without charging you a lot of money. It’s handy as it gives you an idea of what rough age you prefer in each distillery and in your whiskies.
But did it taste good? Let’s see, shall we?
Price: € 149
Estimated Bottling: 1960s/1970s
Colour: 5Y 8/8
Nose: Mango, cereal, linen, rose, orange
I’m really quite impressed with the sheer amount of mango on the nose here. Yes, it’s not going to blow your mind, but come on: It’s a 5-year-old blended whisky. That said, holy damn that’s a lot of mango. So much in fact I’d expect it to be driving a van and selling it by the roadside in summer.
Taste: Brown sugar, cracker, brine, lettuce, walnut
Sweeter with some vegetal/nutty notes. I’m not getting the intensity of the nose, however I’m not minding sipping on it. It’s less sweet on the taste, which I think more people would prefer.
Finish: Brown sugar, ginger, banana, lemon, smoke
Ok, I get it, brown sugar. If I had to guess I’d say Aberlour in ex-bourbon for a short amount of time (5 to 10) adds a lot of brown sugar. Also the sun rises each day (so far).
Love the banana at the end, though it goes quick and fades quicker.
Conclusion: Great nose, interesting, nice daily drinker (if it wasn’t 60+ years old). This does what you’d want a young blend to do: Heck I’d argue this does it better than some entry level blends of right now. After having a Johnnie Walker vertical tasting I can frankly say there’s enough malt in here to make most people happy.
Is it perfect and I’m going to find a genie to wish to go back to the Summer of Love? No, not at all. Not to mention I’m pretty sure you could wait a few more years and then sell the components for a higher amount to SMWS. But if you have the cash, or just the chance to try this, do it. It’s quite nice to have and the nose will surprise you.
Gilbey’s Spey Royal Fine Old is an old popular blend that used Speyside as it’s base. It was made by W&A Gilbey to sell alongside Gilbey’s Gin after they bought a blending firm in 1916.
Ads claimed that it came from “many years in Sherry casks from the best distilleries in Glenlivet.” For those of you missing it, before Glenlivet distillery starting legally threatening other distilleries there was a region called Glenlivet. You can still see it on Cadenhead’s bottles because they don’t give a fuck.
This is supposedly blended right at Glen Spey and contained blends of the distilleries that Gilbey’s owned, being Strathmill, Knochando, and Glen Spey. You could buy it up until the 1980s, and the company is still owned by Diageo, though it’s a dormant subsidiary and probably only comes up when they hire a new auditing firm/accountant.
But how did it taste? This is a blend that survived two world wars, one police action, other terrible wars, and the moon landing. And then Diageo stopped it, because the 80s were terrible. It could be good, or maybe it wasn’t. Let’s see, shall we?
Price: £ 399
Estimated bottling: 1950s
Colour: 5Y 9/6
Nose: Peach jam, caramel popcorn, butter and toast
That’s a surprisingly interesting peach note. And there’s buttery notes with complex cereal and caramel notes. Don’t get me wrong: Nothing here is different or unique, or vastly complex, however there’s something here.
Is there a chance this was a blended malt? Nothing I read said that but there’s either some older grain used or someone gave a shit. Which is impressive, as these days giving a shit is usually given up for an extra buck.
Taste: Peach bellini, brown sugar, herbal, cumin
So on the one side you get a simpler flavour: Generic herbal, some earthy spice, and molasses.
But right off the bat you get this peach and mineral/effervescent notes. That was impressive. Sure it falls off, and you get simpler notes, but for one second there it’s very nice.
Finish: Brown sugar, almond, peach/plum, rosemary
The finish doesn’t have a show stopper in it. The herbal note gets more floral, the peach goes more tart, and there’s a nice nuttiness. If anything the finish is still very nice, and simple, but it’s a bit of a step down from the taste or the nose.
Conclusion: Simple, unique, fruity, and some complexity that gets buried. Is that due to a good blender who has taken a nice mixture and made it better? Probably. Having had an older Johnnie Walker Red that had older grain used, I think that’s the case here, though I have little experience to back that up.
What I can say is I see the trend of a blend having a great nose here. And while I normally complain about that, as it’s typically in an older, pricier blend (these days), here I have no problem, as this was presumably an affordable dram. This is a very nice whisky to sip on at the end of the day, and has some bits that are interesting and fun to explore.
We’d be lucky to have something like this on a regular basis now.
Logan’s Deluxe was created as part of the White Horse company. It’s named after the owner’s uncle, James Logan Mackie, who was a whisky merchant with an interest in Lagavulin. The man loved whisky so much, and not so much having kids (man after my own heart), so he sent his nephew to learn about whisky in the 19th century and then had him join the business.
That nephew? Alfred Einstein… Wait, no, that’s an old meme. The nephew was actually Sir Peter Mackie, who would eventually become a whisky baron. Sadly he would lose his son to World War I, become depressed, and then pass away in 1924, with Diageo (known as Distillers Company Ltd. at the time) would absorb the company.
You can still purchase Logan, however the amount of malt has changed over the years. There’s stories of the amount of Lagavulin in here that I cannot confirm or deny. I’ve never really had a chance to try it until now.
So we have another blend that is the source of whispers and praise in the whisky world. But what do I, the person writing that you’re reading (which I appreciate), think about it? Let’s see, shall we?
Price: € 127
Estimated Bottling: 1960s
Colour: 2.5Y 8/6
Nose: Peach jam, brown butter, cashew
Yes I checked if I had peach jam on my face while reviewing these. No, I did not. It was blueberry.
Lovely jammy note, good brown butter fatty/nuttiness, and then that grows to cashew. I’m sold. I’m in. We’re here. Let’s do this.
Taste: Jujubes, fruit punch, salt, cereal
Fake fruit takes the main stage and doesn’t let anyone up there. There’s some salt and some cereal notes but those get pushed off the stage like a dork in an 80s teen movie.
Finish: Jujubes, brown sugar, grapefruit, heather/smoke
More fruit, now with actual fruit notes, and this lovely smoke note that finishes at the end. Nothing too over the top, and the amount of tart is a lovely way to finish a dram and feel great.
Conclusion: Interesting blend, like a much better version of lower end blends we have now. The amount of malt is evident here, as the cereal notes either get pushed to the side (where they belong) or are well developed. I didn’t get as much smoke as I expected: After reading some reviews that went on and on about Lagavulin in here I was expecting Ron to show up to my house and start a campfire.
Instead it’s well balanced, fruity, and damn I’d be happy with a full bottle. This is the first dusty whisky where I get the drive to buy these old drams. The others seem to be a bit too expensive, but if I was used to this at a price of $20-$25 in 1960, then I’d want it to.
That all said, and to be fair to the past: A quick look at an inflation calculator shows that this would be $184 in today’s dollars if it was that price in 1960. So maybe that’s what this costs. Blends that are worth it cost the dollars, and maybe we find more winners with single casks.
Still tasty though.
Scotch review #1421-3, Blend review #125-7, Whisky Network review #2101-3