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.
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.