Sincere thanks to JA and Usquaebach for the sample.
In my previous post about Usquaebach’s Old Rare Blend, I forgot to mention a curious historical tidbit the brand highlights on their website. According to Usquaebach, the Old Rare blend was served at two U.S. presidential inaugural dinners – Nixon’s first in 1969 and George Bush Sr.’s only (thankfully) in 1989. Specific mention as to wines served at inaugural and state dinners is relatively commonplace, but I’ve never seen any other instances where a specific brand of whisk(e)y has been singled out in such an event…of course, I’ve never bothered to look for that kind of info, either, so…
In any case, we’ll take Usquaebach’s word for it. It would be an honor indeed to have one’s whisky poured at a president’s inauguration. In this case, though, it’s unfortunate that it was these two particular presidents. Nixon, while deserving some credit for being surprisingly musically competent and helping to establish the Environmental Protection Agency, will pretty much just go down in history for being a crook. Sadly, he’s set the standard to which so many politicians aspire to today. Bush deserves some credit for not inadvertently setting off world war III (not really) after barfing on the Japanese Prime Minister. Obviously, any positives from that event are offset by the huge, glaring, ruinous negatives of the man having fathered several other Bush’s.
Enough weighty political discourse, let’s get to the whisky. Usquaebach Reserve Premium Blended Scotch Whisky comes in the traditional glass bottle as opposed to the flagon-wearing Usquaebach Old Rare. This blend is 50/50 single malts to grain whisky, with the single malts being aged between 16 and 18 years old.
The Nose: Well, well, well…weightier and more sherried than I was expecting. Thick, dark honey and vanilla pudding, along with plump raisins and stewed prunes. Nice notes of fruit cake, dried fruits and holiday spices, soft cinnamon, nutmeg, and clove, along with subtler, rancio-esque, slightly vegetal notes of cumin, and old, damp oak.
The Palate: A rich mouthfeel, more honey, raisin, and brown sugared sweetness which washes over everything. Sweet citrus, orgeat syrup, and nutty chocolate brownies march right into mature, balanced spice notes. of sturdy, nicely tannic oak, hot cinnamon, clove, ground pepper, and nutmeg
The Finish: Medium-ish…kind of. That honeyed sweetness fades quickly, leaving more tannic oak, clove and pepper, which all hang around for a while longer.
Thoughts: A mildly pleasant surprise. Of Usqueabach’s two blended whiskies, I suppose the Reserve is more deserving of a flagon. This one definitely comes across as an older whisky with a richness and depth the other is lacking. While there are some edgy notes that indicate younger grain whisky, in general, I think this one feels more single malt heavy than it is. The sherry cask influence gives it decent complexity and balance throughout. Its $40 price tag is consistent with other blends its age.