This vertical was arranged by the Whisky Wire and I was really excited to be part of it, particularly as I discovered at their stand at the whisky show that we were to try all four batches of the Tweeddale blend, the first of which is now unavailable. The blend comes from Alasdair Day’s great grandfather where it had been commercially sold as the Tweeddale blend since 1899, production stopping and all casks sold off after 1940 due to WW2. The original recipe was noted in Richard Day’s cellar book from this time, and resurrected by Alasdair in 2010 as the Tweeddale blend batch 1. Since then three more batches have been produced, with the recipe being altered slightly each time to include a different grain and to swap out one of the malts (the remaining malts are tapped from the same casks for each batch and are simply getting older each year).
I asked Alasdair about the casks that go into the blends and how the batches differ.
Every batch of The Tweeddale is unique as it was when my Great Grandfather and J&A Davidson blended it before me. There are nine whiskies from nine distilleries in the blend. So for batch one I went out and bought 9 casks of aged Scotch Whisky; a single grain and 8 single malts (Lowlands, Highlands, Speyside and Islay).
For each batch I use all of the grain and all of one of the malts. The seven remaining malts have been used in all four batches. The required quantities for each batch are drawn from the single casks and the quantity remaining in the cask continues to mature. The Islay cask is going to last for quite a few batches – it only makes up 2% of the total blend but that's enough to add that wee hint of smoke and also to "dry" the blend out a little. Some of the other casks will be replaced before long but there is enough of the seven for a 5th batch at least. Swapping out the single casks will all add to the unique limited edition nature of The Tweeddale. For me the opportunity to purchase "new" cask for every batch allows me to produce a different limited edition of The Tweeddale each time.
Batch 1 and 2 were non chill filtered and bottled at 46%. My great grandfather use sherry or rum to colour the whisky and this is recorded in the original recipe. However the SWA regs would not allow me to do the same and still call it Scotch Whisky. In order to adhere to the original recipe I used colour for batch 1 and for batch 2. Building on the feedback from the 1st batch and the desire for every batch to be unique, batches 3 and 4 are natural colour, 46% and non chill filtered.
I am also bottling the single lowland malt aged 14 years and the single lowland grain aged 16 years both components of batch 4 under The Tweeddale name this week. Both single cask bottlings.
In short this is how scotch whisky was traditionally produced over 100 years ago, long before the first single malt brand was bottled in the 1960s. Matthew Gloag in Perth, John Dewar & Sons in Perth, the Chivas Brothers in Aberdeen and John Walker & Sons in Kilmarnock were all Licensed Grocers and would have produced there blends in this way but not these days.
Tweeddale Batch 1 – 10 years old, 46%, A
Nose – Rich melon, good plastic, lemon sherbert. Very nice balance with the wood. Fresh apple, creamy toffee and a whisper of peat. Fig roll.
Body – Get the grain now, Medium smooth with a little edge. Some rich malt, good pepper and loads of wood.
Finish – Sharp wood developing into wood spices, structure falters a little at the end, a little bitterness.
Tweeddale Batch 2 – 12 years old, 46%, A⊕
In batch two the same single grain whisky is 15 years old from a sherry butt. Seven of the eight single malts are from the same casks as batch 1 but a year older 12 years old to 21 years old. One of the malts in batch 2 is 14 years old from a different cask. 1600 bottles.
Nose – Shoe polish. Jelly and strawberry ice cream. Fresh sherry with light coastal backing. Completely different to 1 (and a pointer to batches 3 and 4). Cleaning aisle in a small Spanish supermarket (in a good way!), bananas a rich tropical fruits developing. Refreshers.
Body – Sweet and rich malt, banana and tropical fruit, stunning integration. Very well integrated, subtle peat.
Finish – Very long, sweet finish, loads of sherry, creamy fruit. Lasting sherbet fizz, does not falter.
On the list.
Tweeddale Batch 3 – 13 years old, 46%, A⊕
In batch three the same single grain is 18 years old from two different refill sherry butts. Seven of the malts are from the same casks as batch 1 & 2 but a year older (13 to 21 years old). The core malt is 14 years old from different casks. This release has natural colour and is non-chill filtered. 2700 bottles.
Nose – More restrained, older sherry but with a much sweeter edge, backed with green apple and chewy moss. Tropical fruit really develops later. Pear drops, some bees wax, buttered popcorn, furniture polish, then caramel. Chocolate popcorn!
Body – Sweet, ripe malt and banana. Rich, beautifully balanced and creamy. Quite a lot of peat. Custard, fresh apples and (fiery) ginger beer. Cointreau.
Finish – Long, sweet, well balanced finish. Sweetness tails nicely into well presented wood, so a bit better balance than batch 2 right at the end.
Tweeddale Batch 4 – 14 years old, 46%, A⊕
In batch four, the core malt is 14 years old and was matured in an Islay cask, and the grain is 16 years old from a refill hogshead (not sherry). 1420 bottles.
Nose – Initially restrained, then big tropical wax again, more banana with lemon sherbet. The most elegant, balanced batch yet, and very rich on the nose. Bit of school library and fruit salad chews.
Body – Really sweet and balanced by deep malt. Deep, chewy tropical fruit and real structure
Finish – Long and evolving but not as long as 2 or 3. Unfaltering balance. Sechuan peppercorns at the end.
There are clearly some very high quality malts in here and frankly these are extremely good value. Batch 2 is my favourite, then 4, 3 and 1. Great vertical, thanks all and thanks Alasdair for bringing them into the world again!