Occasionally I remember that whiskies I’ve reviewed years (and years) ago might have changed and could do with a re-taste, especially those that I heavily recommend. Bank Note 5 year Blended Scotch has been my go-to pick for an inexpensive blended scotch that doesn’t taste like paint thinner (which describes, frankly, almost every non-age-stated blended scotch on the market). It’s easy to recommend Great King Street: Artist’s Blend as a superior example of the art of blended scotch but it costs like $40, more than some single malts, and that’s not quite what people mean when they ask for a good blend.
Read my original review for details on what goes into Bank Note. You might also be interested in the peated version, which I did not like nearly as much.
I’ve been told that the quality of this blend has decreased as the Morrison family no longer has access to the mature whisky stocks that once powered Bank Note. Alas, I don’t have any details on what that means, so all I can do is stick my nose in a glass and see if I can tell a difference. The bottle still has a “5 Year” age statement on it, thank goodness, and is still bottled at 43% ABV. I bought the bottle in 2021 for about $20.
Nose: Familiar ex-bourbon notes: hay, caramel, vanilla, toffee. There’s a bit of grassiness that I don’t remember from prior tastings, but it comes across more like green tea than grass. There’s also a decent dose of lemon peel. Together, they almost produce an Arnold Palmer note. Otherwise, it’s very baseline blended scotch, with no off notes but also little depth.
Palate: Thin body. Mild (almost nonexistent) tongue burn. Nutty upfront, with an unexpected hazelnut and dry cocoa note. Root beer. Vanilla. Inoffensive.
Finish: Medium-short. Some of the aroma notes (tea, lemon) return. Mild bitterness that lingers longer than the other notes, leaving more bitterness on the tongue than I prefer.
With Water: A few drops of water amp up some much-needed sweetness, adding lemon-lime to the aroma and marshmallow and vanilla pastry cream to the palate. The finish also gains a bit more liveliness and a “tingle”. A splash of water isn’t a bad idea here, but don’t dilute it too much.
Overall: My primary descriptor for this is “inoffensive” which sounds like damning with faint praise, and it would be if this weren’t still one of the best deals in whisky. Try finding another $20/bottle blended scotch that is equally inoffensive. That said, I do notice a bit of a decline in quality since my last attempt to analyze this dram. It doesn’t stand out from the crowd as much as I remember. Alas.
I would still recommend this to anyone who wants an easy, inexpensive blended scotch… but it no longer wows. I am going to leave the “Must Try” rating on this one, since I still think it’s the best blend available for $20.
Whenever this happens to me I’m always stuck wondering did the whisky change or did I? My first instinct is always to blame the whisky. I’ve never had Bank Note, but in this case I’m sure it’s what’s in the bottle and not you.
It scratches that itch. Not an every day drinker for me, but I purchase a few bottles a year.
I maintain that Teacher’s Highland Cream is eminently enjoyable as an everyday whisky. If ever the day comes when I can’t afford anything better, I won’t despair.
A fine review as always, but do you really think Bank Note 5yo is “better” than the similarly priced Gordon Graham’s Black Bottle? Personally I find it hard to recommend any ~$20 blend with more than a few malts available for about the same price; Sheildaig Single Malts from Total Wine and More begin at about $20 and tend to be highly drinkable. Cheers!
Hi Christopher. I do recommend Black Bottle (or I did, I haven’t tried it lately) However, I think of peated blends as an entirely different category. If a newcomer to scotch, or a drinker of solely blends, asks me for a recommendation for a cheap scotch then I say Bank Note, because such people are rarely interested in a peated blend (at least, not yet!). Cheers!
Thanks for your reply, and you make a good point about Black Bottle and its limited appeal to casual blend-drinkers.
I’m curious, if you have access to some of the budget malts & blended malts from Total Wine and More? There’s really are some exceptional values to be had IMHO; Islay Gold Lorcan @46% for $28 is a favorite.
I wish I had read this before I bought it. I already have a bunch of ‘inoffensive’ $20 scotches, including one that does lemony thing to a ‘T:’ good ol’ Cutty Sark.
For reference, my everyday scotch is Glenmorangie 10. On a whim today, I picked up a bottle of Bank Note. I have to say, it is not bad for the price. At least as good — and maybe better — than many mass produced blends, including Johnnie Walker, Dewars, J&B, etc. If memory serves, it’s a little like Chivas 12.
For $20, why not?