CUTTY SARK “PROHIBITION EDITION” BLENDED SCOTCH WHISKEY
PRODUCER: EDRINGTON SPIRITS, 2500 Great Western Road, Glasgow, Scotland
BARRELS: AMERICAN OAK ABV: 100 Proof (50%)
I can’t even remember the last time I got actually excited, got that pleasant fluttering in the diaphragm, over a bottle of blended Scotch….which is not an indictment of the concept. I’ve found a lot to enjoy about some of them in the past. Usquaebach Rare was my first real Scotch thrill, back in 1967, when (slightly, uh, underage) I first tasted a relative’s stash. It remains the single greatest blended Scotch I’ve ever found but is now well over $100 a bottle, so it’s on my side table about as often as we see a planetary alignment. Islay Mist, Rattay Cask Islay, Buchanan 18, Compass Box “Hedonism”, Haig & Haig Pinch – especially the “Dimple Pinch” -, and even the occasional Johnny Walker have been my occasional tangents off the One True Path of Single Malty Snobbery. But “excited“? Not for a while, now…until this striking black bottle showed up on my doorstep last Friday. I’ll freely admit to not having tasted Cutty in well over a decade. Not that it’s wasn’t pleasurable but…it was just old news, for me. Cutty Sark is the textbook definition of steady and dependable; always good but always the same, and for a thrill-seeker like me, it held no surprises.
Cutty Sark “Prohibition Edition” is a whole different animal. One of the drawbacks in blends, IMHO, is the far more predictable flavor range and the usual lack of any distinctive regional characteristics like that seaweed/peat bog tang that continues to make me a slave of Islay. But this new expression from Cutty’s parent company, Edrington Spirits, is almost a Punk Rock version of a classic blended Scotch. It has a staggering immediacy and intensity that I find every bit as compelling as The Clash’s “London Calling“. There is a massive and instantaneous blast of black pepper that announces itself with authority and then neatly segues into a smoky, peaty earthiness and grace notes of caramel, coconut, rosemary, toffee. citrus peels, vanilla, and wildflower honey. To use that hackneyed old term, Prohibition is also immaculately smooth. It’s as easy-drinkin’ a big Scotch as I’ve come across in a while and, while it certainly does not sport a definable regional character, it is quintessentially Scotch, with all that woody, dry, warming personality that turns some of us into life-long disciples of the Wee Dram.
Cutty Sark Prohibition Edition is, simply put, a fabulous Scotch. By any definition of what that names carries with it – character, soulful flavors and silken textures, and a wildly compelling flavor profile that’s not even approached in any other world Whiskey region – Prohibition Edition delivers value far in excess of the ridiculously small sticker price…about $30(!) pretty much everywhere…except here in Washington, that place where the State Liquor Board couldn’t find its own ass with six bloodhounds and a GPS.
THE INSPIRATION FOR “PROHIBITION EDITION”
William Frederick McCoy (1877 – December 30, 1948), also known as “Bill” McCoy, was an American sea captain and smuggler during the Prohibition in the United States. In pursuing the trade of smuggling alcohol from the Bahamas to the Eastern Seaboard, Capt. McCoy, a nondrinker who never touched liquor, found a role model in John Hancock of pre-revolutionary Boston and considered himself an “honest lawbreaker.” McCoy took pride in the fact that he never paid a cent to organized crime, politicians, or law enforcement for protection. Unlike many operations that illegally produced and smuggled alcohol for consumption during Prohibition, McCoy sold his merchandise unadulterated, uncut and clean, and potent; Whiskey of that era was supposed to offer maximum Bang For Buck, the more octane, the better… and much of that contraband liquor was the original Cutty Sark 100 Proof.
McCoy began to smuggle whisky into the U.S., traveling from Nassau and Bimini in the Bahamas to the east coast of the United States, spending most time dealing on “Rum Row” off Long Island. McCoy also became an enemy of the U.S. Government and organized crime. When the Coast Guard discovered McCoy, he established the system of anchoring large ships off the coast in international waters and selling liquor to smaller ships that transferred it to the shore. McCoy also smuggled liquor and spirits from the French islands of Saint-Pierre and Miquelon located south of Newfoundland.
Despite urban legends saying otherwise, McCoy did not give his name to the phrase: “It’s the real McCoy”, which originated much earlier, but many people at the time routinely associated the phrase with Captain McCoy, whose spirits were so superior that buyers always asked if the casks they were offered were “The Real McCoy“.