Review: Cutty Sark Blended Malt

Review: Cutty Sark Blended Malt

First, terminology for the newbs: Blended malt Scotch lies between single malt and blended varieties. Single malt is made from malted barley from a single distillery. Blended Scotch is made from malt whiskey plus grain whiskey and can come from just about anywhere. (Blended Scotch is blended with the intent of making it consistent from year to year and, generally, more affordable.) Blended malt Scotch is comparably rare and lies between these two: It’s created by mixing single malt Scotches, with no addition of the cheaper grain alcohol to the blend, but the goal is to be as consistent as blended Scotch but having a more upscale taste. (To confuse matters further, blended malt is sometimes also called “pure malt” Scotch. Single malt purists prefer the original term of “vatted malt.”) In theory you can make your own blended malt at home by mixing up your favorite single malts just to see what happens.

Venerable blender Cutty Sark recently put out a blended malt bottling at 80 proof. This one, made of some 20 or so whiskys, isn’t bad at all. There’s smoke up front, then honey and vanilla. Some bits of citrus, then heat and plenty of it. The finish is a little thin as the taste wisps away. The flavors in the blend are all well and good, but there’s something about them that doesn’t quite work together. To use a terrible metaphor, it’s a bit like a layer cake, rather than a custard.

Cutty’s blended malt is perfectly drinkable (I know: I’ve been drinking it after dinner for three nights straight), but the nuance of many single malts that makes them so completely memorable seems curiously blended away. The decent price, however, makes this a somewhat compelling bottle for a Scotch. (It will, at least, when it makes it into wide release in the U.S.)

80 proof.

B / $30

Cutty Sark Blended Malt




Christopher Null is the founder and editor in chief of Drinkhacker. A veteran writer and journalist, he also operates Null Media, a bespoke content creation company.


  1. The Absinthe Review Network on February 16, 2009 at 10:03 pm

    Nice review, you’ve described it well. It is quite drinkable, and if it were a little more rich I’d consider keeping a bottle on hand for the very reasonable price. Plenty of vanilla as you mentioned, but the oak was lost in the blend. It tastes diluted very quickly as well, so I don’t add a splash of water to this one.

    I think you may have the price confused with another, though. I’ve never paid a dime over $17 for a bottle.:)

  2. Christopher Null on February 16, 2009 at 10:13 pm

    TARN – The standard Cutty Sark (“Blended Scotch Whisky”) runs $17 here — on sale, $21 is normal. The Blended Malt Scotch Whisky is typically a bit more… $30 is not uncommon, but prices as always very insanely based on the merchant. If you’re finding the Malt for $17 you are doing well!

  3. Paul Fialowitz on November 22, 2009 at 11:31 am

    There is a confusing ambiguity in the text of your Blended Scotch discussion.

    To quote: “Blended Scotch is made from malt whiskey plus grain whiskey”.

    Yet later your say: “…..with no addition of the cheaper grain alcohol to the blend”.

    My specific question is, in the standard, bottom line blended Cutty Sark, do they use “grain whiskey” or “cheaper grain (vodka?) alcohol” in with the Malt Scotches?

    Paul Fialcowitz

  4. Christopher Null on November 22, 2009 at 12:10 pm

    Paul – you missed the key word in the latter part you quoted: Blended MALT Scotch doesn’t have the extra grain whisky, it’s a blend of single malts. Blended Scotch is different and includes other grain whiskeys. In standard Cutty Sark, yes, it’s a regular blend which uses grain whiskey in the mix. This bottling is different.

  5. Christopher Null on November 22, 2009 at 12:18 pm

    BTW this confusion is why the term “blended malt scotch” is so controversial… the term “pure malt” has already been banned in Scotland.

  6. muchui maingi on April 10, 2010 at 6:54 pm

    its the shizzle. from kenya with love !

  7. Yochanan on December 13, 2010 at 12:57 pm

    I prefer to refer to “Malt Blends as “Vatted Malts”-Although the “vatting” process in these is little used, it is quite a bit more distinctive, and leaves much less room for confusion.

    I’ve personally never nosed/tasted any Cutty Sark offering myself. I hear it is quite typical of the cheap-tasting blends that match their price- all too light, watery, sugary, cloying, deliberately manufactured as the base ingredient in a mixer. I may be bordering on pretension, but if I’m drinking scotch, I want full, rich flavour….and I don’t mind-even welcome- a little burn to remind me that I’m drinking whisky, and not a smoothie. Cheers!

  8. Joe on September 24, 2011 at 1:11 pm

    “Blended Malt Scotch”… also known as a “vatted” malt scotch – similar to Johnny Walker Green Label.

    I just had a free sample of the Cutty Sark and it was pretty good! A decent bargain, although I would still prefer an inexpensive single malt like Old Pulteney in the sub-$40 price range.

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