Tasting Notes: Black Bottle NAS

It’s tough economic times, and whisky can be an expensive habit. Now more than ever it’s important to be able to find a good dram on the cheap.

I’m a huge fan of Islay whiskies, so I thought I’d crack open some Black Bottle — a blend of many of the single malts of Islay. In 2008, Black Bottle finished second in the Drammy Awards in the “Best Bang for the Buck” category. Unlike most Islay whiskies, this isn’t a peat monster. The base of the blend is composed mostly of Bunnahabhain, one of the least peated of Islay whiskies. This proved to be a little jarring to me as it bucked my expectations, which admittedly might have been high since I’ve heard some buzz about Black Bottle recently.

Cost per bottle: ~$25

Color: golden

Nose: Honey sweet. More reminiscent of a speyside like Balvenie than a Laphroaig or Ardbeg.

Taste: It’s a very light, almost thin whisky, and again the honeyed sweetness comes through upfront and seems to dominate the dram. There is a hint of smoke at the end, which is not quite as “clean” as the honey upfront. The more I drink, the more pronounced this smoke on the end becomes, but the dram is gone almost as soon as it is consumed. There is very little taste lingering in the mouth, which adds to the elusive quality of the smoke on the finish.

Overall: A little disappointing — I was expecting a much more smokey, peaty dram than what I got. I’m not too familiar with Bunnahabhain, the base Islay of the blend, which I’ve only sampled once or twice. I’m much more familiar with Ardbeg and Laphroaig, both much more smokier, phenolic, and salty scotches. Those tastes were not in evidence to the degree I desired. That said, it’s still a tasty scotch and certainly a highly drinkable whisky, and I think it still lives up to it’s “bang for the buck” reputation. Definitely worth the time to try once or twice, but don’t expect Black Bottle to become your cheap, go-to bottle when you are craving that traditional Islay taste.

Note: There is also a Black Bottle 10 year. It costs about $10 more, but also generally receives better reviews than the No Age Statement Black Bottle. That might be worth checking out.