Review but not really: Whyte & Mackay, Special Blend

Whyte & Mackay, Special Blended Scotch Whiskey, 40.0% ABV
Whyte & Mackay, Special Blended Scotch Whisky, 40.0% ABV

Last week I wrangled some volunteer hack work with the Flaneur Art Blog for this year’s Edinburgh Festival. They said there was no need to wait until the festival itself started and mentioned, among other things, a desire for people to write for a new food section; the words ‘whisky reviews’ were used – well okay then.

By sheer coincidence I happen to have a bottle of Glasgow’s finest underneath the table. Of course I realise what I should be doing is sampling wee drams of nefariously expensive single malts on the Royal Mile but as this is an expenses free gig, this philistine is calling the shots.

They’d seen my own blog so knew what to expect. The only strictures were that there must not be any obscene, libellous or blasphemous content; yet it should not be boring. Such a feat could prove troublesome. Because I’m impatient I’ll post the results here before they get a chance to have a read; I’m very interested in what they cut out, or in fact if they decline to post it entirely, which I admit is far more likely.

So, if memory serves, a single measure of whisky on this wet island is 25ml. In order to make this ‘tasting’ as scientifically accurate as possible I will measure each drink. Unfortunately all I have is a salad dressing shaker but then I am doing this alone in my room like some chronic addict so that’s perhaps the least of my embarrassments.

In the interests of science I will be drinking the whisky straight; tasting it, savouring it – not slugging it back. I will not be spitting it out either; waste simply isn’t in my nature. Insert prison joke of your own here if you wish.

Drink #1

Whyte & Mackay is a blended scotch whisky distilled in Glasgow, Scotland. The writing on the back of the bottle is quite small and prone to blur if I squint so we’ll go over that first.

The whisky is a blend of aged single malts that is left for several months; then, aged grain whiskies are added and ‘married’ in sherry casks. It’s this process which, they say, makes the whisky special.

I visited the Glengoyne distillery last year. As I understand it, the single malt we bought there uses malted barley dried using only warm air, hence the lack of the strong peaty taste I’m not overly fond of.

I’ve got a bit of a bunged up nose as I’ve just been on a four hour meandering reconnoitre through the rain of south Edinburgh; but I can’t say the drink smells at all ‘bad’ or as sickly caramel as Chivas Regal. I drank a bottle of that with a lecturer once and neither of us came out fighting.

As far as I can see, ‘Special’ – which is how I’ll refer to it from here on in, simply because it means less typing – is typically golden in colour and reasonably smooth; around the sharp double kick there is a flavoursome tang. Not too sweet or troublesomely smoky.

Drink #2

I went on a second date the other day – with the young lady who instigated contact by comparing me to Charles Manson – and it was her suggestion that we take a bottle into the cinema with us. There in the dark, she provided us with polystyrene cups and poured us both a measure.

Previously, she had led me to believe that my customary habit of adding a splash of water to my drink showed me to be no better than a common tourist and a probable homosexual. I therefore drank it straight, and in the excitement with Joss Whedon’s master work, drank swiftly.

I hadn’t seen the bottle as she poured it but on sticking my nose in the cup was assailed by a most delightful aroma, reminding me of the time I had money and left more than £50 to the Glasgow barkeep who introduced me to Talisker.

But amusingly enough, or not, I looked to the floor and it was a bottle of Special.

‘Good call,’ I said, and she smiled.

I guess that just goes to show that olfactory senses rely as much on memory as scent itself; or possibly it was a serendipitous reaction with the polystyrene and cinema odour.

The Binturongs, or Bearcats, of Edinburgh Zoo leave musk that stinks like popcorn; and of course there’s a popcorn stand nearby. Oh the hilarity of discovering that for the first time. I digress.

Drink #3

I’m pretty sure caramel is added for colour, but I’m deliberately avoiding tasting notes or reviews because they might unduly affect the genuine layman’s innocence of this very serious scientific endeavour.

It’s really cold today. What happened? Back in March I was drinking beer in the sun of Princess Street Gardens. Now I’m shivering.

Drink #4

I remember once, years ago, when one of my flatmates and I had to leave our apartment for fear of getting shot by another of us. It was sub zero and snowing so we holed up in a children’s play area drinking cheap supermarket pilsner and smoking roll-ups.

It was cold as hell, but that gun was never discharged in my presence.

Drink #5

Whyte & Mackay also offer ‘The Thirteen’. It was on offer once in Asda so I got a bottle; it comes in a box and everything – well posh. I had to google to remind myself of the name and couldn’t help but snatch ‘…the rounded quality of the nose…’ off the page.

Don’t expect any of that kind of language here though, young Padawan. Oh, and no need to be concerned about contamination as the salad shaker is unused. What’s that? You’re not surprised, looking at me. Oh how witty of you.

Anyway, 13 year old Whyte & Mackay is certainly tasty. The distillery has quite a selection, most not available in our local supermarket. The most intriguing surely being a whisky recreated from samples of Ernest Shackleton’s Antarctic stash found beneath the ice. I mean that’s pretty much the Isla Nublar of whiskys; and if you got that reference, let’s have babies.

Drink #6

The drink is doing its job.

As I said, I was at the cinema the other day; I forgot to switch my phone back on though so wasn’t sure if anyone had tried to contact me. You see I’d reminded my date that I used to cook for a living and she’d invited me to make dinner for her before swallowing my jaw and dashing for her train.

That’s what the whisky under the table had been for, but I called it off for reasons I’ll bore you with.

Drink #7

In retrospect, I should have guessed there was something awry when her cold shoulder excuse to me later was the same as the one she made to get a day off work once cloistered in my sweaty pit.

I’m listening to Portishead and just started singing along to one of the slow ones. As you can imagine, how good it feels to break those harmonies is inversely proportional to how horrible it sounds; like a cow begging for mercy.

We had, it seemed, a lot in common. I guess that’s not such a good thing after all; I mean if the sum of all my quirks make me an unhinged, maddening imbecile, why on earth would I seek out similar traits in others?

Drink #8

A wave of strange sadness has overcome me. Dopamine and serotonin levels at critical Captain! Hull breach imminent!

I’ll drink this next one quickly and put something else on the music box.

Drink #9

Hull breach – that’s hilarious, she was actually from Hull. I don’t believe in Freudian slips, not now I’ve been to Hull and back.

That’s ridiculous. I’m such a weird obsessive monster.

This is dreadful, how do alcoholics do this, day in, day out? According to governmental guidelines, this 700ml bottle contains almost precisely the UK units a man is allowed over the course of a week. To attempt it in an evening is pure madness.

But I remember hearing how five portions of fruit and veg a day was pretty much the maximum anyone imagined they could convince the average Brit to eat. In Denmark it’s ‘Seks om Dagen’, which is a play on words because their word for sex is sex, which rhymes with their word for six, which is seks.

So does that mean I should technically drink even less?

I’m a bit drunk now and I realise I forgot to change the music, but now it’s okay.

‘I just wanna be a wo-ho-man…’

Just in case this ever turns up in a pathologist report, today I’ve had a flask of coffee and a very drab sandwich from Greggs because I got there too late for their bacon roll and coffee deal even though it was a whole six minutes before 11am.

Fat white guy problems.

When I returned home, I consumed two modest bacon rolls – purely as a form of protest.

Drink #10

I don’t know why but I need a wee, is that normal? Seriously, that can’t be good. Am I allowed to drink water?

Drink #11

That’s better, I can think straight now. My kitchen always seems to smell of barbecued ribs and boiled sweat. Someone’s washing has been dumped, wet out of the machine, on the kitchen table and has sat there for days now, festering into sad mould.

I live with people like myself. Happy to be divorced from ordinary social interaction – glad for the robins and the blue-tits in the garden, the bunny rabbits and the squirrels – just so long as the ordinary man doesn’t trouble us with normalcy.

Unfortunately, social misfits seem unable to clean up after themselves.

I’ve got one of those toilets with the curly hairs stuck fast with dried urine motif; and I swear someone’s chewing on the seat.

Drink #12

Michael Jackson is singing now. It doesn’t feel right but I’m afraid if I change then God will think I’m listening to the tabloids.

I live in Scotland. Why on earth would I sleep with an English girl? I’m such a racist.

The thing with this salad dressing measuring device I’m using for my whisky science is it gives you the relative levels in what I take to be an order:

  • 50ml cream
  • 20ml white wine vinegar
  • 1 tsp sugar, pich of salt

Now each of these has different volumes/densities right? So in ignoring the sugar and salt and simply adding a glug over the level for white wine vinegar, can this really be considered accurate measurement?

I think I’ve broken science.

Drink #13

When I was a kid, I didn’t see my dad for the longest time. His excuse was that he didn’t want to speak to my stepfather – somehow oblivious to the fact that I had to live with the psychopath.

When I started secondary school, I got my Sherlock cap on and found I was two bus stops away from the old man. I knocked on the door and, amusingly, he mistook me for his other son.

Son #1 never came back, yet he did instil in our father a quite arresting love of debilitating skaggy hash.

Which is where I came in; Dad would ask me to go to the school labs to procure Erlenmeyer flasks to construct bongs out of. I remember they had accurate measurements on the side.

Drink #14

Rather than break with tradition, I’ve just eaten a small bacon sandwich. I washed it down with a good few good swigs of water.

I should have made a note of the time. It’s only been a couple of hours, tops, pretty much, I think. As whisky reviews go, I realise this is missing vital tasting points.

But then again, hasn’t this become more a test of resilience and strength than one of how the smoke tickles my tongue?

Michael Jackson was depressing me; not because of the songs – which I usually enjoy – but because I got to thinking about the whole ‘did he?’ or ‘didn’t he?’ press fiasco.

I’m starting to get angry, thinking about the Leveson inquiry, but this is the pub, right? Let’s leave Murdoch outside with the dog muck, where his ilk belongs.

Drink #15

This is horrible. I don’t feel drunk, just kind of wasted. Maybe I should go out. Am I drinking too slowly?

Drink #16

Okay, the slow warm buzz is back. Maybe the bacon’s games are done. This feels pretty sad though, just sat here in my musky dressing gown, the heater on full, watching the grey sky through the tree.

I’m tempted to knock this on the head, but the minute I step outside I know I’ve the hill to contend with, and the bus trip into town.

I’m not an animal, this is how drunk teenagers feel when they challenge police officers.

If I continue, perhaps I’ll learn something.

Drink #17

Hunting trumpets on the music box now.

The International Wine And Spirit competition named Whyte & Mackay Global Distiller of the Year 2009. Whyte & Mackay Special (this one) has been a silver medallist over the last consecutive three years of IWSC awards

40 year old Whyte & Mackay received the highest award possible at the Scotch Whisky Masters in 2010. It has also won the Best Blended Whisky category at the World Whisky Awards.

Drink #18

Wondering about my date, if perhaps I was hasty in calling it what it was; but if you’re going to bate a trap, don’t use your vagina.

Remember, ladies and gentlemen, eighteen drinks in – to me that was hilarious.

Drink #19

The trick here, is not slowing down.

Drink #20

I’ve only been to a couple of tasting events before and come to think of it, that’s probably more what they were suggesting, rather than reviewing the descent into a single bottle, like a radge Aldous Huxley.

I’ve given up on the measure – two fingers is plenty.

Ha ha, that was sexual.

When we were kids, we bought Bells or Teachers. I shared my first cigar with a mate and one of those small bottles behind a fruit and veg stall by the Tricorn in Portsmouth. Thankfully for Pompey both the Tricorn and the man I stole that cigar from are now dust but it still reminds me of that taste.

White and Mackay’s taste is infinitely preferable to Bells or Teachers but kind of on a par with Famous Grouse, if memory serves. That’s all I got.

Drink #21

I don’t understand women.

I feel belligerent, empty and bored.

I can only imagine how hungover editor Chris is going to translate the cluster of consonants pertaining to be ‘belligerent’ tomorrow, because at the moment the spell check wants to correct it to bell-ringer.

Another bacon sandwich and

Drink #22

watch the news.

Drink#23

Throbbing head, dull boring pain. Am I drinking this too slowly?

I wonder if the ghost of my great grandmother is watching this pathetic spectacle. I still can’t get over how, of all the places I could move to in Edinburgh, I came, purely by accident, to pick the old hospital where she spent her final days.

Drink #24

Confused and knocked out. I can’t continue. Whyte and Mackay is a fine wee dram but for the love of god don’t be an idiot like this idiot. Add some water, even if it does make you a a homosexual, I mean there’s nothing wrong with that, in fact I’m considering it.

Gentle guys only first, please.

Mah heid is pure bangin. Ganneh gah eet fer a wark.

Whyte & Mackay, Special Blended Scotch Whisky. 40.0% ABV

Enjoyed sensibly: 7 out of 10

Spelling, grammar and profanity was corrected during a most cruel and unusual hangover.

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3 thoughts on “Review but not really: Whyte & Mackay, Special Blend”

  1. Trouble is I can picture you doing this as the story unfolds. How may squirrels am I holding up two or four
    arrgghh

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