A lot can happen over coffee they say…and in the case of the Cutty Sark, it happened over lunch between Francis Berry, Hugh Rudd (partners of Berry Bros. & Rudd) and James McBey. The idea was to introduce a whisky that could be mixed into a cocktail or sipped as an aperitif, a move from the traditional ‘whisky on the rocks’. The name was coined as an inspiration from the Scottish built clipper ship, ‘The Cutty Sark’.
The brand gained a lot of popularity during Prohibition, thanks to a smuggler by the name Captain Bill McCoy, who provided the opportunity for the blend to set roots in America. Once Prohibition ended, sales surged even further and the Cutty came to become one of the most selling scotch whiskies in the US.
The characteristic Green and Yellow label was initially called ‘Scots Whisky‘ and has transformed in shape and color over the years honing a more modern yet contemporary style. ‘Scots Whisky‘ now has been altered to the more known ‘Scotch Whisky‘ and the ‘Green and Yellow’ has morphed into a ‘Black and Yellow’ charm while still keeping the Cutty Sark (the ship) at the center with its sails spread high.
The blend is made of a mix of Speyside malts and grain whiskies that are aged separately at first and then blended and further matured for around a year and a half. Looking at the color, the whisky seems to be amateurish, not more than 3-4 years housed within previously filled American Oak barrels. The consistency also is light with an almost water like viscosity with no artificial coloring or flavoring; which is definitely a good thing, giving more of an untainted, purist feel.
Eyes: Pale Gold
Nose: Starts sweet and fruity; a mix of vanilla, pineapple, coconut and a hint of green apples and white wine. Crisp, light, malty and oaky followed by a slight bit of spice.
Taste: Sugar Cane and honey takes the bulk of the spectrum with the slightest amounts of wood and spice in the background.
Finish: Sweet and dry but short.
The Cutty is very much one dimensional with little to no breadth on the palate. The nose ironically has much more of a punch and lets you believe that there could be more while sipping the whisky. Unfortunately you are left with a sweetness and some burn from the alcohol, not something worth filling the glass neat. The makers of the brand did move out of tradition with the intent of creating a blend that would serve well as a mixer. However in my opinion the flavors are too bleak and subtle that I feel it wouldn’t really add much vibrance to a cocktail. It surely does serve its purpose but I wouldn’t expect miracles out of it.
For the price, the scotch does make a decent mixer, but with options like the Black & White or the Whyte & Mackay available, you could better leverage their flavor profiles to heighten the resulting cocktail.