Whisky: Antiquary Red
Keeper of the Quaich Steve Notman on the blend with a Tomatin backbone.
What is it I am always fascinated by the provenance and composition of blended whisky. Some blending houses have had to go through periods of evolution before they got to the identity we love today. For instance, the first range of Johnnie Walker to feature White, Red and Black Label was only introduced in 1909, 42 years after the company began producing whisky. Despite only recently being introduced to the China market, Antiquary has an equally strong heritage – it was first blended in 1888 by John & William Hardie, years before popular blends such as Cutty Sark and Famous Grouse – and its name comes from the gothic novel written by Sir Walter Scott. In most blends there is one signature single malt that is the backbone of the composition – such as Strathisla for Chivas Regal. Highland single malt Tomatin plays this role in Antiquary. But compared to many other blends, Antiquary Red shows greater transparency about the percentage of malt used within the whisky – which is extremely high at 45 per cent.
What it tastes like On initial evaluation, the nose is surprisingly smooth with light orange, lemon zest, vanilla and a light smoke note. Not fiery young grain notes. A good mouthfeel follows: toffee sweetness, hints of smoke with little bitterness coming through (a telltale sign of a heavily used cask within a standard blend). The finish is of medium length with subtle caramel and a little dryness. One can imagine that this will sit at the price point next to Johnnie Walker Red Label and Ballantine’s Finest but I advise you to compare and contrast all three to fully understand how well Antiquary is structured.