Old Parr Superior Scotch Whisky
Review: Old Parr Superior 18 Year Old Scotch Whisky 92/100
a review by Chip Dykstra (Aka Arctic Wolf)
Posted January 20, 2010
When Jim Murray published his fourth Whisky Bible for the year 2007, he pretty much shocked the whisky world with his selection for 2007 World Whisky of the Year. His choice, Old Parr Superior 18 Year Old Whisky. This choice rocked the whisky paradigm of connoisseurs and aficionados worldwide. You see Old Parr Superior Whisky, is not a much heralded single malt; in fact it isn’t even a single malt. Old Parr Whisky is a blend.
Now I maybe should give a bit of background on Scottish blends that maybe the average person does not know. Blends are the powerhouse of the Scottish Whiskey industry. I estimate that 80 to 90 per cent of all Scottish whisky sold is blended scotch. Most single malts do not have it in their destiny to be sold as they are. The destiny of Single Malt whiskies is for the most part to serve as just one of the many ingredients in a fine Scottish blend.
I credit Jim Murray for not only recognizing that blends by their very nature have a capacity to be the superior whisky product, but actually saying and recognizing it in 2007. The reason blends have the capacity to be superior is simple; the Master Blender and distillers have so many more choices to work with. Give any craftsmen more choices and they will have the capacity to do better.
With Old Parr Superior Whiskey we have the result of just such blending and distilling freedom. A truly great whisky, which my sources say is coming to North America soon.
In the Bottle 5/5
To the right is my bottle of Old Parr that I am reviewing. Protected by a professional looking black box with gold trim, is a funky, brown bottle which oozes character and charm. The bottle is not smooth but instead it is mottled and wrinkled similar to the skin of an very old man. I think that is a wonderful touch. You see, Thomas Parr, for whom the blend is named, was reputed to be the oldest man in the history of England, living for more that 150 years. The 1635 date on the top of the bottle is the year he was accorded the honor of burial in Westminster Abbey, by King Charles the First.
In the Glass 9/10
As I pour the whisky into my glass my nose was greeted, rather I should say assaulted, by a veritable wave of aroma. The wave hits all at once, and I had to let the glencairn glass sit for a moment before I could begin to decipher individuality amongst the myriad of sensations striking my nostrils. Trails of smokey peat rising from the glass seem to carry sawgrass, lavender, and marshland willow to my nose. Sweeter vanilla, and unripened fruit lie in between the smokey trails and the entire process of smelling the glass is heavenly.
A quick swirl of the glass brings more aroma to my nose, and leaves a light oily sheen on the sides of the glass which delivers long skinny legs back to the dram.
In the Mouth 54.5/60
The whisky arrives in the mouth with a soft chewy peat. The soft peat completely envelops the palate, and it is as if you have to chew through the smoke and peat to get at the other flavours. As the Old Parr sits on my tongue, the other flavours pop out of the smoke one by one. A firm vanilla tinged with oak and spice begins to rise first, with sawgrass, and green willow following. There is a faint briny quality as well, just strong enough to give this a touch of Islay. And if one is patient, flavours of honey and caramel can be found down in the soft smoke as well.
The peat and smoke are the dominant feature of this blend, but what I appreciate is how they act to carry the other flavours forward. Although clearly present, the smoke is soft and malleable allowing the entire whisky to be appreciated.
In the Throat 14/15
The finish is long and smooth. The smoke moves to chocolate, and the vanilla and caramel seem to find a firmer footing. At the very end of the finish a marshland sawgrass tickles the throat.
The Afterburn 9.5/10
This is certainly a stellar whisky. It is just a touch peatier than I would like, as I found the other flavours in the taste profile at times struggled to find their place. It is however the style of peatiness that I enjoy. A softer peat than gives body to the whisky without devouring it.
You may read some of my other Whisky Reviews (click the link) if you wish to have some comparative reviews.
Okay, I admit that this is a huge stretch; a cocktail for the 2007 Jim Murray World Whisky of the year. This whisky was created as a well crafted blend of up to fifteen aged single malt whiskies exclusively for the foreign market. I will admit to some guilt over suggesting a different way to drink the Old Parr; but, I will not lose any sleep over the matter. After all, the argument which was used previously to establish that blends have the capacity to be better than Single Malts holds true here as well. Additional well crafted effort, with more materials at hand should be able to result in a well designed cocktail or two. The first cocktail I am recommending is based upon a very nice cocktail I found in my handy-dandy cocktail book, 1001 Cocktails: 1001 Recipes for the Perfect Drink (Hardcover) ~ Alex Barker (Compiler), On page 18 we have:
2 oz Scotch
1 oz Cointreau
1 Oz Lime Juice
Garnish with a slice of Lime
A recipe of my construction is very similar, but I use less lime and substitute the cider for Orange and Mango soda. Such a soda is available in Alberta under the brand name ‘Koala Coolers’.
An Old Scottish Tumbler
2 oz Old Parr Superior Scotch Whisky
1 oz Cointreau
1/2 oz Lime
Orange and Mango Soda
Garnish with a slice of Lime
Build on Ice in a large Tumbler Glass.
(If Orange and Mango Soda is unavailable use 2 oz of Orange/Mango Juice (50-50) and club soda.
The name for the drink is a bit of a double entendre. A ‘tumbler’ is a style of circus ‘acrobat’. So my cocktail being a style of ‘acrobat’ can certainly be called a tumbler. But, I am, told, that a ‘tumble’ is a slang term for what is done between consenting adults in the heat of passion. Based upon my research of Thomas Parr, and his passions, the name is entirely appropriate. I’ll let you do your own research to confirm my suggestion.
Remember, the aim is not to drink more, it is to drink better!
As always you may interpret the scores I provide as follows.
0-25 A spirit with a rating this low would actually kill you.
26-49 Depending upon your fortitude you might actually survive this.
50 -59 You are safe to drink this…but you shouldn’t.
60-69 Substandard swill which you may offer to people you do not want to see again.
70-74 Now we have a fair mixing rum or whisky. Accept this but make sure it is mixed into a cocktail.
75-79 You may begin to serve this to friends, again probably still cocktail territory.
80-84 We begin to enjoy this spirit neat or on the rocks. (I will still primarily mix cocktails)
85-89 Excellent for sipping or for mixing!
90-94 Definitely a primary sipping spirit, in fact you may want to hoard this for yourself.
95-97.5 The Cream of the Crop
98+ I haven’t met this bottle yet…but I want to.
Very loosely we may put my scores into terms that you may be more familiar with on a Gold, Silver, and Bronze medal scale as follows:
70 – 79.5 Bronze Medal (Recommended only as a mixer)
80 – 89.5 Silver Medal (Recommended for sipping and or a high quality mixer)
90 – 95 Gold Medal (Highly recommended for sipping and for sublime cocktails.)
95.5+ Platinum Award (Highest Recommendation)