Easily the oldest blended scotch I've every tasted, Black Bull 40 Year Old comes to us from Duncan Taylor, an excellent independent bottler. Since the 1960s they've been filling their own casks and maturing whisky, and were acquired by Euan Shand in 2001 (apparently for a song).
Black Bull, on the other hand, has been around much longer, since 1933. The brand was trademarked by George Willshire & Co. of Dundee and has always featured the "black bull" image on the packaging. The spirit itself is 90% single malt and 10% single grain, from the following distilleries: Bunnahabhain, Glenfarclas, Glenlivet, Glenburgie, Highland Park, Miltonduff, Springbank, Tamdhu and Invergordon. The whiskies here have been matured for between 40 and 44 years; 80% of the contents come from ex-bourbon casks, and the rest from ex-sherry casks. This is the first Batch No. 1, bottled in November 2009, and is cask strength, non-chill filtered and non-coloured.
The colour is light gold. The nose is crisp barley sugar, caramel, and a gentle whiff of peat. Leather, pipe tobacco, green apple and wet hay; quite floral and fruity, with fresh pineapple. Lots of oak integrated with the tropical fruits and caramel. A drop of water gives a little more peat and oak. Only a drop - this is a very old, delicate whisky which will fall apart with too much water (I imagine - luckily I haven't made that mistake yet!)
The palate has a soft, luxurious, silky mouthfeel. More dark fruits, raisins, vanilla and caramel, but these elements are not overpowering. There is a delicacy weaving between these deep, rich notes. Very fruity on the second sip, with more pineapple, orange and papaya. A drop of water brings out some sweet caramels and vanillas; it also gets spicier with more time in the glass.
The finish is warm and lingering - spicier with anise, cinnamon and ginger - medium length on the first few sips, longer with more time in the glass. At the very end that ginger becomes crystallized. Incredibly easy to drink for a 40 year old scotch (which is dangerous, given the price!) To say this is a stellar blend is an understatement - it has completely wowed everyone I've ever poured this for. It is unbelievably complex and rich, yet completely approachable for even the most novice scotch drinker. One of the greatest whiskies I've ever tasted. Winner of the Best Blended Scotch Award at the 2012 World Whiskies Awards, as well as a host of other awards and praises.
ps. You purists out there are going to kill me, but I just made a Rusty Nail with this and Gordon & Macphail's Dunkeld Atholl Brose liqueur (similar to Drambuie but far superior, more delicate and floral). I used an ice ball instead of cubes (but skipped the lemon twist garnish). It's a beautiful cocktail, the two spirits blend together perfectly - not too sweet, bright and refreshing, floral and just a hint of smoke. Delicious. Some of you are disgusted that I would do this to a 40 year old scotch. So sue me.
A five-star review of a five-star whisky. I love Black Bull 30 yo, which some say is a more robust version of the 40, but I've read enough great things about the 40 that it's on my whisky bucket list. Owing to your review, it's now moved up a few notches on my list. Thanks a lot, I must say--I could barely afford the 30, let alone the 40!
And thanks a lot for making me lose a mouthful of Uigeadail, once I did a spit take over your Rusty Nail disclosure. Oh well, at least it sounds like an intelligently made cocktail...if that justifies it.