The Antiquary 12. Best blend I’d never heard of?

I’ll hold my hands up and say that I am a sucker for some cool packaging and a cool bottle. At the right price admittedly, you won’t find me buying any Macallan M any time soon; a steal at only £3,500.

I was in my one of my local off licences and something shiny and very elegant looking caught my eye. A black and gold box with The Antiquary est. 1857. Aged 12 years emblazoned across its front. I was drawn in, and took a punt on it at £30.

Oooh Shiny. . .

I’d never seen this in any shop before. It’s certainly not on any supermarket shelves that I know of, so the only place you’re ever likely to see it is in a specialist whisky shop or online. Still I can always use it as a mixer if its a little rough around the edges.

The Antiquary is a blended scotch that was created by John and William Hardie in Edinburgh and was named after the Sir Walter Scott book of the same name.

The firm of J&W Hardie itself has been going since around the 1850’s as a wine tea and later spirit merchant in Edinburgh. It saw a great sales opportunity in the blending of whisky for the markets south of the border and Europe and they hit on a winning formula.

The Antiquary was created in the 1880’s during a time when Scotch whisky was enjoying a boom thanks to The Great French Wine Blight decimating wine and therefore fortified wine stocks; a new on-trend drink was needed for the brandy fanatics in England. So many blenders created your Johnnie Walkers, Grants and The Antiquary to sell to the English markets as a soda mixer alternative. It’s use of Highland and Speyside malts mixed with some grain whisky too created a light and sippable drink for its ‘softer drinking’ southern customer base.

Like the other blends at the time its sales sky-rocketed right up until the early 1900’s. The brand was sold to another firm in 1917 which was then absorbed by the giant conglomerate Distillers Company Limited that very same year. The J&W Hardie name was eventually reunited with The Antiquary brand in 1937 thanks to, you guessed it, being acquired by the mighty DCL.

The brand was renewed and revitalised in the 1960’s by giving it a whole new look and that distinctive shaped bottle; an iconic style that has stayed with it ever since.

Admittedly the bottle is empty but what can I say, its deceptively sippable. . .

Now owned by Tomatin Distillery in the Highlands the range includes a non-age statement, the 12 year old and the 21 year old.

I took this down to a whisky tasting evening for some friends to try. We used it as a starter whisky to get everyone’s palates in tune and the general consensus was it was a solid whisky with enough flavour to warm you up for a good tasting session, but still strong enough in character to hold its own against the single malt competition of the evening.

Now let’s talk tasting notes…

Nose. Light. Ovaltine right as you open the jar, honey nut corn flakes.

Palate. Warming. The honey nut corn flakes linger on but then you get the oak coming through as it dances a little citrus near the end.

Finish. Lingers for a while with oak and some citrus and finishes off with a slightly bitter caramel.

It’s a solid blend, certainly a step up from your Grants and Bells. If you have a whisky drinker in your family and your not sure what to get them, try them with this, or better yet treat yourself! It’s inexpensive and something different, and the bottle looks cool! Oh and if you are gifting this to someone maybe slip into conversation Jim Murrays Whisky Bible awarded this stuff 92/100 in its 2013 edition. For a 30 quid whisky. Belting!

All views are my own bottle was purchased for £30 at T. Wright’s wines Horwich.

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