Blended Scotch Whisky
By Paul Adams
Translated by Anna Yang
When most Scots whisky drinkers talk about blended Scotch, it's often with a derisory snort. The most popular blends on the market are lovingly referred to as "cooking whisky" back home, reserved for either diluting with mixers, serving alongside a half pint to pensioners, or fobbing off to the less discerning. However, that reputation is now coming to be seen as unfair, with more truly remarkable blends hitting the shelves every year.
Black Bull has been around for a while. But it's the new 12-year-old bottling which is raising eyebrows. As a 50/50 mix of malt and grain whiskies it shouldn't taste quite as good as it does, but somehow bottlers Duncan Taylor & Co have pulled off a miracle. This packs quite a flavour punch from the nose onwards, with aromas promising everything from sweet berries through to richer chocolate. It doesn't disappoint and is a very rewarding experience, a thick creamy sherry sensation underscored with salt and smoke. If you're lucky you can find it here for as little as NT$1,100.
Speaking of smoke, Big Peat from Glasgow-based Douglas Laing collects some of the hardest hitters from Islay. Though a blend of Ardbeg, Port Ellen, Bowmore, and Caol Ila may be expected to be peat heavy, it's nothing to be afraid of. The peat is actually surprisingly tame in this blend, making it suitable for a much wider crowd. It's excessively light colouration might lull you into a false sense of security before you take a sniff, for the nose is actually full of smoke and brine, but on tasting it's far more mellow. There are strong flavours of cut grass, alongside a syrupy sweetness which pleasantly burns on the way down. This is very worth seeking out, for around NT$1,200.
My last recommendation--a personal favourite--is Scallywag from Douglas Laing and Co. I confess that I first bought this purely because the dog on the bottle reminded me a little of one of my pups, but I'm so very glad I did. Its mixture of Speyside malts offers sweet, thick warmth all the way through. From the first sniff you get a kind of pudding sweetness, which further develops as you taste it. Butter, spices, brandy and fruits all make an appearance and the pleasant heat it delivers makes it ideal for the cooler months. The standard 46% ABV version is about NT$1,500 but there's also a cask-strength version out there for the adventurous.