Scotland is synonymous with single malt, a drink made with fermented barley from a single distillery. But this particular style of whisky, highly revered throughout the world, is hardly the be-all and end-all of scotch. In fact, many folks regard Johnnie Walker Blue Label — a blend — as the most elegant expression of brown spirit…and Johnnie hardly holds the monopoly on that game. Take Syndicate 58/6, a blend faithfully reconstructed from a 19th-century recipe. It has garnered critical acclaim by employing the Solera method in the maturation process. The brand’s latest premium release is now available in bars and bottle shops throughout the city.
Contemporary craft spirits constantly strive to carve out their own niche with compelling back stories, frequently printed on artfully designed back labels. Although Syndicate 58/6 maintains a modish simplicity on its bottle, this Scotch whisky holds claim to a legitimately noteworthy lineage. In 1958, a rare blend of single malt and grain whisky was discovered in an Edinburgh warehouse. The limited stock of 10 oak casks was traced back to a blend recipe created by Marshall Taplow in the early 1800s. The reserve was left to age in the barrels for 12 years, when it was initially bottled for the private use of six influential aristocrats of the day. This was the birth of the Syndicate 58/6 brand.
To preserve the legacy and consistency of that initial bottling, the master blender established a Solera system, wherein newer whiskies in the blend are continually merged with small portions of the original 1958 stock. Although that 50-year-old whisky is continually diluted with each passing year, a dram of this year’s 58/6 still contains trace amounts.
Adding even more complexity to this high-end hooch is a final marrying process, wherein the proprietary blend of 18 single malts and four single-grain whiskies age for up to two years in Oloroso sherry casks. The result is a well-rounded product of exceptional smoothness, with a touch of spice from the grain interlacing with intimations of sweet apricot from that final maturation. Complex enough to give many a single-malt snob serious pause.
The 86-proof Syndicate 58/6 Premium blended scotch retails at about $165 at fine liquor stores, such as Park Ave. Liquor Shop in midtown. It’s also available online at DrinkUpNy.com, currently at a discounted rate. Enjoy a dram at many fine watering holes throughout New York. I sipped on mine immersed in the old-world charm of Union Square’s Headless Horseman tavern.