Every once in a while you stumble across something that stays camouflaged in the background but just for that instance gets caught in your field of vision. And though it might not always be a high dollar spirit, the act of discovery itself manifests an interest that draws you to pour yourself a dram and see if it was worth the euphoria. My discovery -The Vat 69 Black, a produce of ‘William Sanderson and Son‘ and owned by Diageo.
You don’t really see this scotch occupying a lot of real estate at the liqour stores; chances are its younger, cheaper sibling would in all rights feed on all the popularity. The ‘Black’ was introduced somewhere near the end of 2011 primarily for Asian markets, India in particular. Owing to the lack of public awareness chances are you might even end up sipping on some of the early batches; not that it would really matter since the contents age minimally if not at all once bottled. However, changes in the proportions or its constituents between then and now could expose different shades in terms of an older bottling and one that is more recent.
Physical attributes are very much like the Vat 69, with the major difference being on the exteriors – the black and matte-opaque design lending it a little more of an expensive and enigmatic feel.
Although the distillers haven’t been very vocal on the contents of the 69, they chose a more liberal, open approach with the Black. The major malts that form its heart come from the Clynelish and Glen Ord distilleries. These malts also form the base in many of the more popular blends from the Diageo portfolio – Johnnie Walker and Dewar’s. Both these are of highland origin, with the Clynelish being slightly peaty with hints of salt due to its maritime qualities while the Glen Ord is matured for a majority within European casks giving it a more smoother feel.
Eye: Burnished – This did surprise me considering the young nature of the whisky. *Is it the presence of the Glen Ord malts or is it a wee-bit of Caramel coloring!?!*
Nose: Burnt sugar, caramel, honey and raisins trailed by earthy wood with hints of smoke and peat. Grain and malt tones are evident with grapes, red apples and a bit of citrus zest being more prominent.
Taste: A lot of that sweetness from the nosing comes through to the palate. Honey, grapes, Christmas fruit cakes, and a wee bit of smoke. Light aromatics from spices like cinnamon and nutmeg with a touch of brine in the background.
Finish: Short and honey-sweet.
The Vat 69 Black is light, young and crisp. It does hold onto the characteristic sweet genes of the Vat 69 but has more depth with different attributes rendering its sweet profile. It’s definitely a step above its sibling and for the price can give stiff competition to the likes of other entry level scotches. However having said that, it seems to do a lot more justice as a ‘desert whisky‘ or a digestif similar to the Pedro Ximenes (PX) Sherries and/or desert wines.
The Black can be consumed neat, with a couple of rocks or as a cocktail when paired well. But I wouldn’t mix it with water as the flavors would just get mushed and muddled.