Cutty Sark Prohibition Edition Review

UPDATE: I’ve edited my description to include a breakdown of the malt whiskies that make up the blend. Read on if you’re interested in some geeky details.

When it comes to Scotch whisky, many aficionados/connoisseurs/geeks tend to overlook blended whiskies in favor of the next hot new single malt. In my opinion, this is a shame, because there are quite a few really great blended whiskies out there, and it’d be a pity to pass them over unnecessarily.

Case in point: the Cutty Sark Prohibition Edition, which was an extremely pleasant surprise for me. Supposedly, this whisky was produced to commemorate Captain William McCoy, who smuggled Cutty Sark whisky into the United States during prohibition. Cutty Sark claims that the phrase “The Real McCoy” arose as a moniker for the great whisky he snuck into the county.

Cutty Sark Prohibition Edition

I’m not sure how much truth there is to the story (I’ve heard several stories laying claim to the “Real McCoy” moniker), but what the heck, it’s a good story. What really matters is the contents of the bottle, which in this case you’d be hard pressed to see through the nearly jet black glass.

I received this bottle for use when making some Scotch whisky cocktails for a previous post, and I honestly wasn’t too sure what to expect. I figured it would be a serviceable blend, serviceable for use in some cocktails, but perhaps otherwise unremarkable.

However, I was incredibly pleasantly surprised by it, and found that I enjoy it most when sipped on its own. In fact, it’s quickly become one of my recent favorite “everyday whiskies.” It’s affordable, approachable, and (most importantly), richly flavored and delicious. Word from a trusted source is that the malts used in this whisky include Glenturret, Tamdhu, Glenrothes, Macallan, and Highland Park. Just by tasting it, I can tell that it contains a high proportion of those malts (as opposed to grain whiskies), contributing to a richer, more full-bodied dram.

Cutty Dram

Strength: 50% ABV. I think it’s commendably strong for a reasonably priced blend. This high strength captures a lot of concentrated flavor, which enables it to stand out in a Scotch whisky cocktail. That said, the flavors are excellent on their own, and I love sipping this whisky with just a few drops of water. It doesn’t really need dilution, but breaking the surface tension releases all kinds of delicious aromas and flavors that are otherwise trapped in suspension.

Adding Water

Nose: The high malt content definitely shows on the nose. The initial impression is rich and sweet, with vanilla, toffee, cinnamon, and sweet grains. This is followed by caramelized peaches, baked apple, clove, and allspice. A few drops of water mutes a bit of the sweetness and brings out some delightful floral notes, and a bit of fresh cut grass. I also get the aroma of fresh baked wheat bread and a little ripe banana.

Taste: The arrival is relatively sweet, but slightly less so than I expected from the nose. I get plenty of caramel, green apple, and cinnamon-laced cream of wheat. There’s also lots of candied almonds, a bit of orange zest, and a hint of bittersweet cocoa and some cracked black pepper. The finish dries out a bit, with notes of dark chocolate, coffee, cinnamon, and almonds. A few drops of water brings out enticing notes of ripe bananas, baked apples, and lots of baking spices, like cardamom, clove, and allspice. The finish also lengthens, melting toward the back of the palate with lingering chocolate, banana, and cinnamon. The lingering finish continually made me want to go back for another sip. Maybe that’s why my bottle emptied so quickly.

Perhaps most critically, this whisky got my cat’s seal of approval.

Cutty and a Cat

Despite his protests, I wasn’t sharing my whisky.

The cocktail I featured in my previous post with this whisky was geared for hot summer drinking – it was sweet and sour, and didn’t taste very boozy at all. That being said, I’ve come to like this whisky so much that if I do mix it (and I’ve mostly been drinking it on its own), I’ll go for a cocktail where the spirit can be front and center. Personally, I think it makes an excellent Rob Roy.

In my opinion, this whisky is a great reminder that no matter how much we geek out over the next great, limited release single malt, we shouldn’t overlook affordable and readily available blends like this one, which can have quite a lot to offer. What do you think? Feel free to leave your opinions in the comments section!

Disclosure Statement: This whisky was sent to me by Mara Flynn with M Booth. All thoughts and opinions are exclusively my own.

Question of the Day: What qualities do you look for in a blended whisky?


  1. says

    I agree that whisky snobs tend to overlook ALL blends, thinking that none of them can be any good! I have to say that whilst I will always have a dear love of all things pure single malt, blended malts can be done extremely well if the blender has a clue. Cutty Sark seem to have nailed it with this and also “Storm” which was the first “special edition” from their master blender (who incidentally happens to be female-which is a rare thing is this business!). In answer to your question of the day; I think a blend should be mellow and complex as a result of marrying up the flavours of the individual malts involved, rather than just chucking loads of inferior vats in together to use them up, resulting in a horrendous burning liquid, like molten lava going down and no depth of flavour or mouthfeel.

  2. Tim says

    Just tried this as today is 5 December. There are good reasons for blended scotch, just as there are good reasons for blended wines. I love this Prohibition issue w a single small ice cube. Rich, complex, smooth, not too peaty, great price.

    • Josh says

      Well said, Tim! Sometimes, I just want a solid, flavorful dram that doesn’t require too much analysis. This one always fits the bill. Cheers!

  3. Marc says

    I too was intrigued by some online reviews, but hesitated to pull the trigger for the longest time. Finally bought a bottle last week, and I am seriously impressed. The 50% ABV does not result in any noticeable alcohol burn, which is common in affordable blends; it has good complexity, and a medium-long finish of caramel, chocolate, and light smoke. Will pick up a couple more bottles, as this tends to have limited availability in my area. A very pleasant surprise, highly recommended!

    • Josh says

      Well said, Marc! I keep coming back to this blend because it impressed me so much. Sometimes I just want a good, rich, and straightforward dram. This one always fits the bill! My bottle is starting to run low, so I’m due to stock up again soon.

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