Review: Usquaebach Reserve and 15 Years Old

usquaebach 15 Yr Old USQAs the back label of Usquaebach Reserve tells us, Robert Burns immortalized the name of Usquaebach in his poem “Tam O’Shanter,” when he wrote, “Wi usquabae we’ll face the de’il.”

Usquaebach, pronounced OOS-keh-bah, is a brand of blended whiskies that are made in the Scottish Highlands. The highest end bottling of the three expressions of Usquaebach (sadly not reviewed here) is bottled in an iconic stoneware decanter.

Note that the two whiskies reviewed below are both blends, but offer markedly different compositions: One is a blended Scotch (which includes grain whisky), one is a blended malt (which only includes whisky made from malted barley). Let’s dig in and see how these stack up.

Usquaebach Reserve Blended Scotch Whisky – A solid blend, with none of the acrid rubberiness of so many blended Scotches. Malty and full of cereal notes, but balanced by gentle sugars, mushroom notes, hints of cloves, banana, and sweetened coconut. That sounds like a lot going on, but this is a quiet blend that doesn’t push things too far in any of these directions. Mild but accessible from start to finish, it’s a glorious entry-level dram that doesn’t take itself too seriously (Robert Burns’ stipple photo on the back label be damned), but which is hard not to find a delight writ small. 86 proof. B+ / $44

Usquaebach Blended Malt Scotch Whiskey 15 Years Old – Austere and heavily malty with big overtones of leather oil and aged wood on the nose. Wintry and warming, it offers a heady nuttiness on the palate, with notes of cloves, dark toffee, molasses, tree sap, and dates. Well-roasted cereals round out an oily and dense body that is otherwise fairly straightforward and evocative of many a Highland whisky. Some pruny, almost Port-like notes on the finish add to the winter-weather character. 86 proof. B+ / $86

usquaebach.com

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