You could be forgiven for calling me a Bank Note fanboy. The first words out of my mouth when someone asks about budget whisky are “Bank Note”. It makes every list of cabinet staples or “Must Haves” that I put together. It’s easily – still! – simultaneously the best deal in scotch and the best blended scotch under $40. It’s age-stated at a reasonable-for-the-price 5 years. It’s delicious and has almost no sign of youthful grain whisky. It’s relatively little-known so the price doesn’t go up and it it doesn’t go on allocation.
Of course, with lockdowns causing mass drink-at-home mania, the liquor stores sell out of everything cheap, so the last time I braved a Total Wine run I was dismayed to see I couldn’t stock up on my beloved Bank Note. They had the new Peated Reserve edition, though, so I figured “why not?” I’m not a huge fan of peated blends… I feel that the peat takes over but only the less-desirable cigarette ash and soil notes persist through being watered-down by grain whisky. It takes a masterful hand to make good peated blended scotch, and I thought the Morrisons must have that mastery since regular Bank Note is so good.
The Bank Note Peated Reserve is a little pricier – I paid $25 for 750ml when I’m used to paying $20 for 1000ml (1 liter) for the regular Bank Note. It still has a 5-year age statement and is bottled at the same 43% ABV, which is a nice touch for a budget blend. The formulation, which is said to be a fairly standard 40% malt and 60% lowland grain whisky, is mostly the same here, but with a little peated Islay malt thrown in.
Nose: Clear but slightly antiseptic peat. Lemon Pledge, marshmallow, banana. One-dimensional.
Palate: Thin body. Mild tongue burn that resolves into muddy, marshy peat (I’m trying hard not to call it “swamp gas”. Oops, I guess I just did), engine oil, sheep dip, molasses, Thai fish sauce. Weird.
Finish: Medium-long. That engine oil / degreaser note persists on the finish, along with black walnut oil and scorched sugar. Unpleasant.
With Water: Why bother? Fine, ok. Several drops of water increase the smoky notes without making them more palatable. Smog. Now it smells like smog. The palate might be a little sweeter – brown sugar – but the finish is unchanged.
Overall: Ugh. No. I do not like this. Don’t buy it.
I expect that the bottle will grow on me as I force myself to drink it so it doesn’t go to waste. (Despite hyperbole, I’ve never actually poured anything down the drain.) Still, the $25 could have been much better spent on a bottle of regular non-peated Bank Note, or a bottle of bourbon or rye, or a Johnnie Walker black label.