By Richard Thomas
When studying whiskey history, it seems the single defining event of the industry around the world was U.S. Prohibition. The 18th Amendment didn’t just come close to destroying the American whiskey industry, but left its mark on the business in Scotland and Ireland as well.
Take Cutty Sark. One of the highlights of its story is how one Captain William McCoy smuggled the blended whisky into America, his name and wares giving rise to the phrase “the real McCoy.” This willful undercutting of American law established Berry Brothers & Rudd, the then owners of Cutty Sark, as a brand to be reckoned with in the American market after Prohibition came to an end.
Cutty Sark chose to mark the 90th anniversary of the end of Prohibition last year by releasing Cutty Sark Prohibition, a special spin on its blended whisky marked by higher proof, small batch blending, and a new, jazzed-up look.
Cutty Sark Prohibition comes in a very eye-catching package: a classy, ovoid-width black glass bottle topped with a plastic neck wrapper and wood-and-cork stopper. The malt and grain whiskies, drawing from Glenrothes, Highland Park, The Macallan, Tamdhu, Bunnahabhain and Glengoyne, are aged in American oak, and the blend is bottled at a very stepped up 50% abv (100 proof). Compare that to the 40, 43, and 46% that are the norms for the overwhelming majority of all scotches!
The coloring is a rich, appealing gold, speaking to a more vibrant character than the standard Cutty Sark. The nose has a bit of a rubbing alcohol kick to it in the snifter, but not so much of a bite to block the scent: toffee and butterscotch, malty grains and honey, and dried fruits. It’s a restrained, well-balanced nose, but I suggest taking it in a tumbler rather than a snifter or Glencairn, so as to avoid that little kick that comes out of the elevated proof.
The mouthfeel is creamy and the flavor starts with a orange zest and dried apricot sweetness, but this is rapidly swamped by a bold, spicy wave of cinnamon, pepper, and dry, toasty wood. It’s not overpowering, but just a forceful, rushing ride. The finish leaves a spicy afterglow on the tongue from that ride, but surprisingly little warmth to go with it.
This is an interesting sipper, and in view of its price (see below), Cutty Sark Prohibition is a strong alternative to craft and middle aged-blends.
The retail price of Cutty Sark Prohibition is $30. The whisky is also available in India, but the price there is unknown.