Calling your products ‘Exceptional’ is a bold move. One which American independent bottler Sutcliffe and Son has proudly done.
The company was founded by Don Sutcliffe and Willie Phillips. Sutcliffe has worked in the spirits industry for 35 years and Phillips is a former Managing Director of Macallan.
So its fair to say they should know exceptional when they see it.
One of three whiskies in Sutcliffe & Son’s Exceptional series, the Exceptional Blend contains grain from North British, Strathclyde and Cameronbridge distilleries with an additional 11 malt whiskies, including some from Kininvie and some 30-year-old Macallan (no surprise considering Willie Phillips involvement)
There are three products in the Sutcliffe & Son core range: The Exceptional Grain, The Exceptional Malt and The Exceptional Blend. Each one is vatting of whiskies from several different distilleries which are then married together in sherry casks and bottled at 43% ABV.
To their immense credit The Exceptional are very transparent (a rare thing when it comes to the whisky world and especially regarding the dark arts of blending…) when it comes to the contents of the bottle. According to their website the Exceptional Blend contains:
Loch Lomond – 6yo
North British – 9yo & 14yo
Strathclyde – 20yo
Carsebridge – 33yo
Cameronbridge – 34yo
Glenfarclas – 8yo
A vatted barrel of 3 very special (William Grant owned) Speyside Distilleries – 8yo Allt-a-Bhainne – 8yo
Westport – 14yo
Ben Nevis – 12yo, 20yo & 21yo
Glenallachie – 22yo
Auchroisk – 22yo. Speyside Distillery 8yo. Macallan- 30yo
Today we will be focusing on the Exceptional Blend. Will the exceptional ingredients make for an exceptional dram?
The Exceptional Blend (Batch 1), IB (Sutcliffe & Sons), 43%abv, sourced via sample swap, (available here)
Appearance: Light golden straw, long thick and slow legs.
Nose: Wafts of vanilla intermingle with some slight orangey notes and a sprinkling of cinder toffee. There is an element of soft tobacco and distant redcurrant, which fades to leave a very gentle woodiness and a soft ginger, theres a sweet fruity not reminiscent of grilled ruby grapefruit sprinkled with brown sugar.
Palate: The palate is softer and quite understated. There is not a massive depth here but thats doesn’t mean its not satisfying. The vanilla is still here but it becomes very buttery indeed in the mouth. The soft ginger returns alongside a slight nuttiness and a few sultanas. There is a faint but quite perceptible sweet white wine feeling as we move to the finish.
Finish: Kiwi fruit, soft spice and gentle wood fade underneath some nutty and malty elements. Theres a slight upturn in spice from the grain here but its rather minimal and not to any detriment.
I must admit to being very impressed with this. For £80 (ish) it is going to face stiff competition at that price point, however considering the component malts (including, but not limited to, the 30 yo Macallan to say the least) then I dare say it isn’t bad value for what you are getting.
It’s just a matter of what else you can get for the same price that may be slightly off putting to some.
As with all blends there’s a limit on depth and complexity but there’s quite a lot of good things going on here, enough to keep interest and make far a pleasant dram indeed.
Thanks to Tobias Piwek from BarleyMania for the sample. He was kind enough to send me samples of not only the Exceptional Blend, but also the Exceptional Grain and The Exceptional Malt. Look out for reviews of these in future
Find many more tasting notes and whisky news in the Amateur Drammers Archives.
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