As drinking stories go, they seldom come more shrouded in folklore than the wonderfully eerie tale of Tam o' Shanter - a classic Burns poem dating back to the late 18th Century. It paints a torrid picture of the drinking classes in Ayr around the time and showcases Burns' incredible sense of imagination as the hero of the piece, Tam, witnesses a vision of hellish proportions on his way home from the pub. One of the classic scenes in the poem is of Tam and his horse Meg narrowly escaping the terrifying clutches of the witch Nannie Dee wearing her 'Cutty Sark' or short shirt. Tam fortunately escaped, with Meg losing part of her modesty...
The fearsome Nannie Dee, holding the majority of Meg's tail.
It was of course this image of the witch in her Cutty Sark, which became the figurehead of the famous Tea Clipper ship, which was adopted by Berry Bros when creating the Cutty Sark blended whisky back in the early 1920s. Like the ship, the whisky conquered the globe becoming one of the most popular blends ever produced.
Today, the blend is in the hands of the Edrington Group and there are big plans afoot to once again relaunch the iconic yellow label on the whisky loving public across the world.
The first release in this 'new era' harks right back to the original story of Tam o' Shanter. A brand new 25 year old blend, put together by master blender, Kirsteen Campbell comes in a beautifully packaged bottle and wooden box, featuring images from the tale. But it's not only the whisky, which looks to excite there senses here. It is the inclusion of book containing some truly stunning illustrations of the whole Tam o' Shanter poem, created by Alexander Goudie, considered by many to be one of Scotland's finest artists. The original book, long since out of print is a real rarity to find and the reprint has been lovingly reprinted.
Limited to 5000 bottles, Cutty Sark Tam o' Shanter has no doubt captured our attention and has got the whisky community talking about the potential of blends again, which we wholeheartedly salute.
So what of the liquid itself? Does it match up to the beauty of its enclosure?? Let's find out...
Cutty Sark - Tam o' Shanter blend -25 Year Old - 46.5% - Limited to 5,000 bottles
Nose: Sweet lord. This is rich. Notes of sponge cake, vanilla, ripe plums, aged leather sofas, some very aromatic spices (think cedar wood and star anise), ginger biscuits and hazel nuts. Superbly balanced and fully demanding of your attention.
Palate: An explosion of aged oak, vanilla, liquorice, wafts of light smoke, more hazel nut notes, some rich Oloroso sherry and some aromatic vermouth flavours. Bold, but extremely easily drinking. Some super casks must have gone into this.
Finish: Lingering fruity notes and oaky vanilla dominate, with tingling spice right on the death.
Overall: A masterpiece of blending, which highlights just how much this iconic blend has been missed, despite never really going away. With whiskies like this, watch Cutty Sark sail away with your palate.