These days, every time I turn around the price of an old standby goes up. I can’t get Laphroaig 10 for $31 anymore, or Balvenie DoubleWood for $34, or GlenDronach 12 for $40. Across the board, prices on single malts have risen by between 2% and 20% in the last year. Whisky boom indeed – it’s times like these that a resourceful noob turns to rediscover cheaper alternatives.
So how about some airplane whisky? Cutty Sark is one of those run-of-the-mill blends that happens to be on every bar counter, well, everywhere. Born in 1923 as a Berry Bros. & Rudd blend to sell to their wine-loving clientele, the blend was reputedly the first to eschew caramel coloring in favor of a natural, pale coloring. As it’s primarily young whisky aged in American oak, it takes on very little cask coloring, and is notably paler than most scotch on the market, blends or otherwise. The brand is now owned by Edrington Group, who also sell Famous Grouse, and own both Macallan and Highland Park distilleries.
The malts in Cutty Sark are “mostly Speyside”, according to the website. I do wish these companies would release more information on the components of their blends. While most bar-goers don’t care – I might be more inclined to sip on a cheap blend if I knew that its primary malt ingredient was something I’m familiar with and enjoy. A little Internet research reveals that, among others, Cutty Sark contains some Macallan, Highland Park, Glenrothes, Tamdhu, Bunnahabhain and Glengoyne.
Nose: Getting past the waft of nail polish remover, there is some nice vanilla, peach pit, and lemon sorbet. There’s also an odd, compost-y scent, like molding fruit. Eugh.
Palate: Medium-bodied. Relatively low tongue burn. Middling notes of toffee and apricot jam, and a nice milk chocolate chaser. Really, not too bad.
Finish: Short finish. Milk chocolate again, and mild nuts. The nuts turn somewhat bitter as they fade.
With Water: A healthy splash of water does nothing to help the nose. The palate is sweetened, and the finish becomes, if anything, more bitter. Stick with ice or mixers, since water is no improvement.
Overall: Well, aside from that obnoxious rotting vegetation odor, it’s not that bad. The milk chocolate notes are impressive, and while the blend isn’t complex, it’s not offensive to the palate. Just don’t… er… smell it. At any rate, if you’re digging this deep to find affordable whisky, you may as well be putting it on ice or mixing it. It’s hard to imagine sitting back in an overstuffed chair with a snifter of this and actually enjoying it. The search continues…
There is an error in title that needs to be fixed! Otherwise, another great review! 😉
Oops! Thanks Dan – I copy/paste posts to retain formatting. Thanks for the catch!
To me Cutty Sark is one of the worst whiskies in the world. So bad that I don’t even consider is worth of being called whisky. It is better described as drain opener.
When I’ve have tried in recent times, it has given me a headache even after just a couple of nips where nothing much else in scotch has except for “1495 scotch whiskey” which i liked the smell and taste of alot more anyway. I think for a safe cheap scotch bet (depending again where you live) Johnny Walker Red is best (preffered over black)the batches will vary a bit in character but i havent had an objectionable one yet & its only a couple of $ more and the same price as the Black at Dan’s in Queensland, OZ.
Agreed, Cutty Sark is rannk. I drank it once…
The good consistent budget scotch is Black Bottle. Still remarkably cheap and always pleasant.
if you can obtain a bottle of cutty when it was 43%
you will have a very positive experence. why these fools blended down to this shit other than to inflate their profits amazes me. a good look at what is being used to cut this scotch will suprise you but we all like to be steeped in carcinogens don’t we.
For me Cutty Sark was better then Chivas 12, but I would save my money no something better.
I got a bottle of CS as a gift, and I’m really a Bourbon drinker, although I’m familiar with single malt Scotch whisky, Macallans 18 yr. old being my favorite (no comparison IMO). CS is relatively innocuous and inoffensive, and as I read about its history, it appears that from the 50’s onward, it was marketed as a scotch whisky for cocktails — it was blended to be mixed. Drinking it on the rocks is hardly an earth-shattering experience, and can hardly compare to something like Macallans 18 yr old. For “cheap” scotch, it may not be bad, and I’m sure in cocktails it’s probably fine. We all know or should know how subjective tastes are and how much marketing (propaganda) goes into these branding efforts. I leave you Scotch drinkers to your own navel-gazing. For me, I’d rather be sipping some Elijah Craig 12 yr old Bourbon @ $25 a bottle (750ml).
“Well, aside from that obnoxious rotting vegetation odor, it’s not that bad.”
NOT EXACTLY A ROUSING ENDORSEMENT, YOU COULD PROBABLY SAY THE SAME THING ABOUT MY FLATULENT UNCLE.
OK, I just laughed out loud a little bit….
I just googled for “what does cutty sark smell like” and you hit it on the nose: NAIL POLISH REMOVER! Thanks for the informative info. I’ll try another to find the other flavors — I have to finish this bottle eventually.
I was recently given a “1 Litre” bottle of Cutty Sark 43% that states that it was “Distilled, Blended and Bottled in Scotland.” I am trying to find out more about this bottle because it has an old-style label and I cannot find out what year it was made. It has a white screw-top lid and says “product of Scotland.” Does anyone know if this is a special year that might be better than another? If it is a good one, I’d like to give it to someone who can actually appreciate it, rather than just put it out at a party.
Hi Sabrina. Hard to say what it is, if there’s no year of distillation on it. It’s likely from an older batch (80s? 70s?). It’s unlikely to be significantly different than modern Cutty Sark, although it might be slightly better because they were blending in higher-quality components back then. If it had a date (or had some identifying mark that would allow someone knowledgeable to date it), and was particularly old (from the 50s or 60s), it would have some value to collectors. Unfortunately, I don’t know any more than that. Cheers!
Three things to help date it:
1) who is the US Importer listed at the bottom of the label?
2) Is there a UPC Bar Code on the back label?
3) Is there a surgeon general’s health warning on the back label?
I just came into a similar 43% “1 Liter” that I am guessing is 1990/1991 based on the presence of the government warning and the fact that the importer was WA Taylor.
Putting it in a slinky dress might also help get it a date.
– I don’t care who you are, that’s funny!
The ever-present Cutty turned me off to scotch many years ago, due to Cutty’s horrific stench. Now older and more refined, after attending a scotch tasting and being introduced to single malts, I cannot believe that I ever drank such rotgut. Pass on Cutty and for $10 more, pick up a bottle of Laphroaig 10 and you might have a chance to actually really enjoy scotch.
the comments are for the most part patronizing rubbish, from i presume young guys that like to ‘dram’ and all that so called ‘expert’ nonsense that they read.. Everything is relative to its function/price, it’s a very light, no added caramel, so a natural… lemony, fruity slightly malty affordable pleasant sipper, and a fine Mixer, no of course its not Lagavulin or Talisker, snoobs, snobs, snobs, try enjoying a simple well made blend. The nose is malt, apples, the initial faint nail polish no worse than the norm for many scotches blended or single. Not my favorite but perfectly fine, if i’m offered it, i take it with enjoyment
get off the high horses and enjoy it for what it is, not Swill or drain opener that’s idiotic stuff, showing cleverness i suppose.
Thank-you Mike. I prefer CS over a number of so called “better” whiskys.
owhhh ……………….. CS better than CR who r u bro get a doc for testing test … 🙂 or try B&W u will die to change ur statmnt
As a woman, I like the soft non-bitter taste, the light finish with no aftertaste. I don’t want the taste to stay with me all night long.
I personally like the Cutty Sark blend….a nose of fruit with some smoke..a palate of Speyside and a hint of smoke with a long finish of grain with the smoke still lingering…….probably not the blend for the elitist scotch drinker ….but for the honest lover of blended scotch this is a decent one….try it and reach your own conclusions.
Agreed! There’s nothing wrong with CS. Put it next to Highland Park Magnus, at twice the price, and in a blind taste test most of these posers couldn’t tell the difference!
Well said Will !
Toffee, spice smooth. This is quite excellent on ice. For the price , it’s quite a bargain. Cutty Sark is one I’ll keep on my shelf…