Review: J&B Rare Blended Scotch
NAS, 40% ABV
J&B "Rare" is of course anything but rare. I've been in hole in the wall bars that don't even carry Johnnie Walker, the best selling Scotch whisky on earth, but manage to somehow have J&B. Why? It's dirt cheap and bland, common denominator stuff. Aggressively marketed as a "party scotch," J&B is probably destined for mixing, though with it's thin body and lack of character, it doesn't even do that well.
J&B is one blend in particular that I suspect was better years ago. The 60's and 70's were sort of a heyday for blends, and as the years have rolled by, palates have gotten less discriminating and liquor company budgets tighter. J&B currently boasts that it's made from 42 single malts...why, why would a higher number of malts in a recipe be a good thing? The proportion of grain is not broadly advertised...I've often heard that 40% single malt is typical of most blends, though I have no reference on that. Nor is the age broadly advertised, though I'm willing to bet it leans pretty close to the 3 year legal minimum...hell, at least Teacher's comes right out and says it's only 3 years old!
On the nose, J&B is sweet to the point of cloying, sharing more with cheap Irish whisky here. There might be a faint hit of Speyside toasted caramel, but then again, maybe that's just wishful thinking. I've read claims of 1% Islay malt...why bother? Why waste the effort to put a dollop per barrel when you get not even the hint of peat in the nose or in the glass? The glass confirms the nose, cloying, syrupy sweetness, again rather like Jameson. There's that bare hint of Speyside character, gone as quickly as it came, and a quick suggestion of mustiness that might have once had a faint connection with peat...ooh, is this the 1% Islay? The flavors are rough and quick: here caramel and syrup, here a little fruit, and they all fade into a hot, fast finish with a rather lot of alcohol. As a mixer, much like Cutty Sark, J&B made a passable Old Fashioned, but again, an Old Fashioned is so much better with bourbon or rye, why not stay American here?
I've heard that J&B puts out a 15 year version that has a decent proportion of peat smoke. I'd be curious to try it, but frankly, at $40 a bottle, why would I ever bother? Score: 65 (D-)