It wounds me to say it but I really can't help feeling that the grain dominates too much in this and all the cheaper blended scotch whiskies.
I was having an Islay afternoon - Black Bottle, Ardberg 10YO, and some Safeway's Islay (a vatted supermarket malt that is very good).
Bottom line: malt tastes better than grain in scotch no matter what the expression (imho).
The only blend that really cuts it for me is JW black label.
Bamber: I agree wholeheartedly with you. Often in a series of tastings, you can start with blends and then move up to malts. However, if you have a malt or two, & then try a blend, it is a very rare blend indeed that has the necessary body, depth, & flavour to stand up & compete.
I suspect the only reason why JW Black cuts it for you is that - being a Diageo product - there's probably enough Lagavulin, Caol Ila, & Talisker in there to give it sufficient bite.
bamber, I agree for the most part with your opinion on malts VS blends. But sometimes malts can be flat and dull, whereas the grain and malts in a blend can spice things up and bring a new dimension to it that plenty of malts can't manage on their own.
About the JWBL, as far as I know there's no Lagavulin in it at all now, only Caol Ila...?
I went to a Johnnie Walker Black Label promotion night about 18 months ago, and they advised that Lagavulin was indeed one of the component malts.
However, given that there are (apparently) 41 different grain & malt whiskies in JW Black, you would expect there to be more than just Caol Ila supplying the Islay content! Maybe they also use Ardbeg or Laphroiag?
It's nice to think that Diageo do their best to use only their own products in their blends, but - according to the JW legend - the recipe for JW Black has remained unchanged. (I'm very sceptical about this, since countless distilleries have closed since JW Black was first produced). In any event, back when JW Black was first conceived, it is most probable that distilleries like Lagavulin, Caol Ila, and Talisker were all owned & run by three different & independent companies.
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