A friend of mine had recently travelled to the US on business, and had got me a bottle of Bushmills 10 YO for my review. While making a trip nearby, he thought of handing over the bottle instead of me having to do the travel. I had recently changed jobs and the meet turned out to be a great opportunity for us to catch up on lost events. In a short while we found ourselves deep in conversation – talks around work, his recent travel, experiences and the usual everyday chitter-chatter. In the distance, I could pick up the clamour of an animal, an adolescent bull perhaps. The chap appeared pretty busy engaging in what seemed like a few bushes. Every time the bush would move towards him, he would intelligently sway away and then swerve back in to throw in a hard head butt! A while later, bored of all the action or probably the lack of it, he walked towards his herd a few meters ahead, still seeming quite annoyed and un-rested. During this time, he almost brushed shoulders with a passerby who flung his bag across the calves’ head. A heavy grunt, a groan and the chap continued trotting ahead.
While still in dialogue, I noticed the background grew awfully quiet with just the breeze making a gentle mumble. It was not more than a minute later that I observed a white figure hovering around my peripheral vision. I turned to focus on this blur and with that I was propelled a few feet away! A bit frazzled at first, it was then I realised I was being attacked by the very same bull! His dark eyes gazed at mine for a second, only to be disrupted by his second attempt at forcing me to the floor. I tried pushing the animal away with my hands but he was just too strong. I noticed my area of opportunity when the bull took a step back for a third swing; I rolled over onto my stomach, got up and made a dash for the space between two cars a short distance ahead. With that a huge gathering of people began shooing the bull who then sped away in the opposite direction.
My friend raced up to me inquiring if I was hurt, and though I wasn’t on the outside, the experience left me feeling weird, comical and embarrassed within. And though I’ve had interactions with cattle during my vacations as a child– my grandparents were farmers, this was the first one with a juvenile that just didn’t have it his way.
Fast forward a few hours and the day had come to an end. I spent the night thinking about how the calf was so similar to the mischievous, young adolescent lads and lasses we once were – foolish tantrums and the acts of stupidity that followed!
With that, I figured it was only fair to honour the little chap for taking me back to my early mischievous days by penning my thoughts and of course dedicating a tasting to him – and so I got myself the 100 Pipers 12 Years Old, a blended scotch currently owned by the Pernod Ricard Group.
The ‘100 Pipers’ name takes inspiration from the poem, “The Hundred Pipers” which speaks of the ‘Battle of Culloden’ between the Jacobites and the ‘Redcoats’; wherein a troupe of 100 Pipers led the uprising into battle playing their bagpipes as they marched along– an ancient Scottish tradition. The 100 Pipers culminated out of need as the Chivas Brothers wanted a blended whisky that was lighter and less expensive than the Chivas Regal, and could compete with similar placed blends like those of the J&B and the Cutty Sark. The blend did outperform and though not as popular now in the Americas, it still remains a mainstay whisky for India, parts of Europe and much of Asia.
The 12 YO version was introduced on the back of the 100 Pipers popularity and was Pernod’s gateway into the premier whisky segment. The heart of the blend comes from the malts of the Speyside distilleries of Braeval and Allt a’ Bhainne. And though these distilleries do not have a bottling facility, their aged spirits are transported and sent off to independent bottlers which are then sold under the Pernod umbrella. The distilleries themselves have released only a handful of Single Malts themselves; however they continue to manufacture malts primarily for blending purposes- Chivas Regal and Passport being other customers to this malt.
The alcohol itself is light bodied and young in nature. Looking at the colour, there’s every chance you might be fooled into thinking the hue is an after effect of the European Cask maturation. Unfortunately, the crisp amber colour is very much artificial caramel colouring!
ABV : 42.8%
Nose: Sweet sherry, smoke with traces of earthiness. Fine grain, charred oak, honey and red apples with white pepper faintly lingering in the background and the hint of vanilla making a presence towards the end.
Taste: Vanilla and honey layered with bits of smoke and wood. Definite grain, soon to be lost in the midst of the oncoming sherry. Fruity- Raisins, red cherries, and a light zest, with a spice mix of nutmeg and white pepper.
Finish: Medium and sweet with traces of sherry, honey and white pepper.
On dilution: The nosing exposes some caramel, along with smoke and wood which now seems more pronounced. The sherry is less omnipresent, but instead you get fruitcake and fruity aromatics. The palate is subtle, sweet, balanced and light although still heavy on the grain. Certainly some spice – specks of pepper, interleaved between the wood; followed by a light sweet cherry finish.
The 12 YO comes to me as a typical Speyside whisky, with a lot of fruit, fragrance and sweetness. The sherry residues from the European casks definitely show and make the blend quite sweet – another pleasant aperitif in my view! The flavors aren’t complex and seem rather straightforward which makes it easier for novice sippers to appreciate the whisky. However, it is a bit grainy at various junctures of the tasting which tells me efforts in terms of blending could have led to a better unison amongst the various constituents.
The 12 YO is good value for money, one that can be enjoyed neat or with a few dribbles of H-2-O!