White Horse Blended Scotch: 40% abv
Background: White Horse Scotch is a Blended Scotch, and it marks a couple firsts for us. It marks the first time we’re reviewing a Blended Scotch, the first time we’re reviewing a Scotch under $20, and the first time we’re documenting a new experiment. I will explain that in a second. White Horse is made with a blend of Lagavulin, Talisker, Caol Ila, and Linkwood. Of course, there are many more malts in this whisky, but they aren’t all mentioned. For the price, this is a nice blend and it has a moderate amount of peat influence to it, due to the Islay Scotches involved. What’s the experiment part about? If you have paid attention to our decanter in the background, it currently has some liquid in it. It is a homemade solera vat. A solera vat is a process where a certain amount of liquid is taken out and is replaced by an equal amount of liquid of a different quality. So what we do is take a majority of a certain whisky we don’t find particularly appealing, and then add higher quality whiskies incrementally. This White Horse will be the base of a new peated Scotch Solera Vat, and we will take some notes every couple of times we add new Scotches. For now, let’s see how standard White Horse is.
Nose: The complexities in a blended whisky are actually not that hard to find. Right off the nose, you start to see some prominent notes of champagne and creamy barley coming through. There is a lemon-like tartness and some fruity notes coming through intensely. There is a noticeable maltiness, with some sweetness akin to caramel and vanilla complimenting the grain character. Now, as you would expect there is a sense of peatiness here, but it is more like a suggestion of peat, not a huge presence of peat. Along with that though, there is a far more dominant spiciness that adds intensity and heat to the nose. The spice seems like a mixture of hot spices, but doesn’t promote a single character very definitively to us. There is also a sense of tequila present in this nose, which is kind of peculiar. It isn’t even subtle in this case. I can’t fully explain what would evoke such aromas, but we enjoy it nonetheless. Overall, this is an above average nose for a blended scotch.
Arrival: The arrival starts off soft and creamy, in a pleasant, smooth way. There is no intense woody character or harsh burn present from the grain. This is truly a higher quality than I would ever expect from this offering. It has nice vanilla and malt overtones to it, with genuine sugar sweetness coming forth as well. None of the harsh peatiness we expect from these whiskies is coming through. If you really agitate the whisky in your mouth, you can start to get some pepper notes and slight bitterness coming through, but it doesn’t strike me as off-putting or coarse.
Body: In the body, there is still a large sense of vanilla and creaminess, which seems to be the highlight of this whisky. That soft character must be coming from the grain spirit, because the single malts listed are going to be a more dominant character. There starts to be an evolution into some soft sherry notes, although it doesn’t come out in a rich, dark flavor, but more over a light, fruity hint of sherry. There is some dry fruitiness in the body that carries over to the finish. This isn’t a flavor you’ll normally see from a single malt, and I think it has something to do with the grain whisky.
Finish: The finish starts to bring out the contribution of peat, although the cream and vanilla notes that we noticed in the other parts of the whisky has not diminished much at all. The grainy harshness of the barley starts to become prevalent here, but is still not terribly off-putting. By the same token, it should come as no surprise that there is some spice character coming through as well. The agave we smelled in the nose makes a small appearance here, albeit it is hardly the star of the show in this whisky. There is still the sense of a dry fruit presence, which can unfortunately provide a slightly pasty residual mouth-feel.
Nose: Generally, when we see a whisky at 40%, especially a Blended Scotch, we try to be really shy with the water, so we only added a small portion. After adding said water, the intensity of the barley spirit comes out more, emphasizing darker, richer characters. In general, the biggest highlight is some more sherry and dark fruits coming through, but they are not overly prominent which respect to the other notes.
Arrival: Surprisingly, the nose here is even softer than before, with little flavor change and just a smoother mouthfeel.
Body: The body has become hugely enhanced with the barley sugar flavor. There is a big sweetness that was not so much an overtone in flavor that comes out now, and lasts for quite a while.
Finish: The finish takes on the sweetness character that was discussed in the body. It lasts like a sugar cookie treat with some malt sprinkled on top. What a pleasant treat, but it doesn’t do much for the complexity side of things. It sort of overshadows the peat aspect.
Final Comments: This whisky is only the beginning of an experience, but it might be more than that to you. It is completely drinkable neat, and requires no water. It is sweet and smooth, and is not cheaply crafted. It also doesn’t taste horribly young and doesn’t reflect what you might call a high grain content blend. It also has some interesting flavors that we enjoyed when we tried it. It is by no means a groundbreaking whisky, but for the money, it doesn’t need to be. I think this might have just replaced Dewars, Black and White, Chivas Regal, and maybe even Grants.
Why you’d buy it: You want to drink cheap Scotch but still enjoy yourself.
Why you wouldn’t: You like Johnnie Walker Red because you feel cool saying you’re drinking Johnnie Walker (that’s an IQ issue)