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White Horse

Average score from 3 reviews and 4 ratings 77

White Horse

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White Horse

Diageo's White Horse blended Scotch whisky is based on Lagavulin malt and is 3 years old. The reviewed sample is from a freshly opened bottle

Nose: yep, White Horse smells just like dilute Lagavulin malt...and dilute wheat whisky. There is very soft peat in the Lagavulin 16 style, with no real smoke, nice,... but you wish the wheat whisky just weren't there

Taste: just like the nose, only a little fuller, with black licorice from the peat. There is some good bite on the palate which does not present in the nose. Despite some strong flavours in the mouth the mouthfeel remains thin

Finish: flavours last medium long and then just slowly fade out

Balance: the Lagavulin tastes fine here. I just don't think it harmonises very well with the flavours of wheat grain whisky. In my book, dilute wheat whisky is the bane of failed blended Scotch whisky. White Horse would only serve for me either as a substitute for either pure Lagavulin malt or pure wheat whisky. Lots of malt lovers claim blended Scotch whisky to be inferior, but they rarely give any coherent reasons why. For me it is clear: WHEAT. It clashes with both peat and wine. Sometimes it works. Usually it does not work so well

As far as I know the grain whiskies are barrelled at their distillation proofs. My understanding is that the Scottish blenders dilute both the malt and grain whiskies prior to blending them together with one another, viz. they make one or more diluted malt whiskies, they make one or more diluted grain whiskies, and then they blend them all together, in whatever proportions they choose. This procedure especially makes sense if they are 'blending by the nose', as they are reported to do. The nose for making the decisions would not be the same if the component whiskies were not nosed together at their final proofs.

Scottish 'grain whisky' is usually a combination of both corn and wheat. The corn just doesn't have much taste and blends in, really without being noticed. The wheat, on the other hand, has a good bit of flavour, even at the 90+% abv at which Scottish grain whisky is distilled...before being diluted to 40% abv. Most blended Scottish whiskies will contain some wheat 'grain whiskies' within them. For me it is very easy to taste the wheat in blended Scotch, and I usually don't like it.


Sadly, we come to our final of the twelve old blended minis I won at Scotch Whisky Auctions. White Horse is a very old, very famous blend. In 1890 "Restless Peter" Mackie took over the White Horse family firm (est. 1742) and created this iconic scotch. The history of White Horse is inextricably intertwined with the history of Lagavulin, the backbone of the blend (there are Speysiders such as Aultmore in here as well). This particular mini is bottled at 43% (rather than the usual 40%) and comes from Chile!

The colour is a burnished gold. On the nose - wow. This is a stellar combination of earthy malt, floral peat, shoe leather, pineapple, papaya and green apple skins. Check off fruit, check off peat, check off old-fashioned heavy malt. Creamy. A drop of water brings out more smoke, but mutes the other elements a little. Nevertheless, this is fantastic, just what you are looking for in an old blend.

Even fruitier on the palate - and creamier - with light golden raisins, banana and more papaya. The smoke is very present but fairly light. Some vanilla as well, and very, very light caramel. The peat is beautiful here. Water brings out more barley sugar, crisp grain and more smoke - an improvement. Robust and complex.

The finish is spicy (but not too spicy), with some butterscotch showing up. Mouthwatering. As we have many times on our journey through these old blends, this one has that savoury heavy malt, conjuring up images of old dusty bookshelves and leather armchairs. It reminds me a little of old Johnnie Black (which shouldn't be a big surprise, given the Diageo connection). I can only imagine what those older bottlings of White Horse that we see at auctions must taste like! Tasted side-by-side with Lagavulin 16, the clear influence of this smoky malt is apparent; at the same time, the softer malts balance things out beautifully.

Well, that wraps up our twelve minis. It's been very instructive to see all the different similarities, and differences, between them; but also to see how they contrast with the more current bottlings we have today. Each and every time, I have preferred the older ones; I'm just a sucker for scotch the way it used to be blended, I guess! And I'm glad we finished on White Horse, as I have another bottle of Lagavulin to compare this with (and it's not the 16 Year Old)! Stay tuned...

A friend just gave me a bunch of old minis from his late father's collection, including a US imported White Horse at 43.4% abv. My friend says he thinks these bottles come from the early 1960s. I know for sure that the tax stamp format on them was discontinued in 1977. Soon I'll try that baby out and compare it to the 2014 release White Horse. This little mini appears to be packed to make it to the year 2100, with metal wire and metal foil. The air in the bottle is really tiny. The label looks like something you'd expect to see on Shackleton's bottles.

Give it a try, let me know what you think!


White Horse blended whisky has tradition: it was first produced in 1861. White Horse also got the 'Blended Whisky of the Year' in 2007 Whisky Bible by Jim Murray.

White Horse is owned by Diageo and apparently Lagavulin is the key factor in it. Okay for a blend, a malty one. But still, robustly blended so not as good as I expected. The fruitiness in a robust palate wasn't "my cup of tea".

I can still imagine people liking this one more than my score may indicate, because it has character.

Nose: Very malty. Oak, peat and fruits.

Taste: Malty and fruity. Robust and sweet with hints of honey.

Finish: Fairly long. Spicy oak and vanilla.

Balance: Quality blend. Good balance and even much complexity, especially for a blended whisky. Still, the palate isn't for my taste.

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