Review: Cutty Sark Tam o’Shanter Blended Scotch Whisky

Cutty Sark Tam o'Shanter Blended Whisky
Cutty Sark Tam o’Shanter Blended Scotch Whisky

Cutty Sark is one of the world’s great blended whisky brands. Started back in the 1920s by the legendary Scotch traders Berry Brothers & Rudd, Cutty Sark became extremely popular in the United States after prohibition. In the 1960s Cutty Sark became the best selling Scotch whisky in America and the first Scotch whisky to crack the million case mark. With its glory days in the 60s and 70s, the brand began to slowly fade in the late 80s and 90s and almost disappear in the early 2000s as Johnnie Walker began to dominate the blended whiskey category.

In 2010 the brand was sold to The Edrington Group, owners of The Macallan, Famous Grouse, Brugal, and Highland Park. Edrington retooled the brand and is now re-launching it with a number of new expressions including the high-end Cutty Sark Tam o’Shanter Whisky. As with all blends, the age statement on the bottle (in this case 25 years) reflects the youngest whisky in the mix. Tam o’Shanter Whisky is a limited release with only 5,000 bottles worldwide and just under a thousand released in the United States.

Cutty Sark Tam o’Shanter Whisky (46.5% ABV / 93 Proof, $300) – dark brown in color, the Tam o’Shanter clearly has a fair amount of much older whiskey in the blend than 25 years. Rancio is clearly discernible on the nose right from the get-go. The nose also has many of the ear marks of an older spirit including dark stewed fruits, iris, dried orange peel, chocolate, toffee, oak, and black pepper. The nose is well integrated, complex, and inviting. At 25 years, the Tam o’Shanter presents a lot more like a malt whiskey 30-40 years old. The entry for Cutty Sark Tam o’Shanter is lush and flavorful with many of the notes from the nose on the palate. Again, this is textbook whisky with nice impact from sherry barrel, a nice level of rancio, solid deep dried fruit notes, nice chocolate and toffee, and nice spice. In the midpalate the whiskey shifts a bit and becomes more spicy; in addition to the oak spice, there’s allspice, black pepper, and ginger. It’s towards the end of the midpalate that the grain whisky shows itself with some heat. That grain whisky helps dry out the finish, which is much drier and shorter than most malt whiskies would be at this age. The finish is mostly focused on the spicy notes and drops many of the great things from the midpalate.

Cutty Sark Tam o’Shanter Whisky is a textbook example of a solid whisky blend showcasing old whisky. But textbook doesn’t mean exciting, and for the $300 price tag we feel that Cutty Sark’s reach here exceeds their grasp. Tam o’Shanter does stand as an excellent example of what Cutty Sark is capable of, and in many ways is a nice refresh for the brand, but it’s just priced too high. Given that such gems as Highland Park 21 are almost half this price, it’s hard to justify shelling out $300 for a textbook 25 year old blend.