Cheap Blend Reviews: Té Bheag, Islay Mist and Black Grouse Alpha

These are a few reviews from about 3 years ago of some cheap blends available at the LCBO, average price of about $30. when I was just building up my assortment, these were helpful to have on the shelf to serve to non-whisky drinking friends, or just to have a cheaper daily dram. My original scoring system back then differentiated between blends and single malts (and world whiskies and american whiskies etc), but I’ve tried to harmonize my scoring across the board. I’ll include my original scores from back then plus an adjusted score for how they’d stack up today. Sorry for the shitty picture… I only took a pic of the Grouse, and it was potato quality anyway. Had to glean the other two from Google.

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Black Grouse Alpha – 40% ABV

this was a random purchase when I saw it on clearance for $28 bucks. Normally $35 at the LCBO, I guess they shipped one to a store that didn’t want it. It was missing the feather thing on the neck, so apparently they had to discount it. I wasn’t complaining!

  • Appearance: dark orange. Obviously coloured.
  • Nose: alcohol primary on the nose, unfortunately, despite only being 40% ABV. A hint of smoke and some vanilla.
  • Taste: a little smoke, some honey, diesel fuel.
  • Finish: short and warm. Musty basement.
  • Score: 67/100
  • Adjusted Score: 60/100

worse than a lot of blends I’ve tasted. Glad I didn’t pay full price. I’m now using the bottle (sans label) for my peated Solera bottle.

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Té Bheag unchilfiltred Gaelic Whisky – NCF – 40% ABV

I’ve gone through a couple bottles of this already but never managed to write a review. Crazy. This guy is NCF and high malt for a blend.

  • Appearance: light, pale straw
  • Nose: grainy, citrus, some spices, honey, salty
  • Taste: spicy pepper, caramel, some fruit, the mildest of coastal peat, brine, more spices
  • Finish: short and peppery
  • Score: 79/100
  • Adjusted Score: 72/100

highest score I’ve ever given a blend, but still can’t crack the 80 mark. This one has some real character to it though. Reminds me of a really weak Talisker. This is still my recommendation to someone in Ontario thinking of getting into scotch. Now using the bottle for an unpeated Solera.

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Islay Mist 8 – Blended 40% ABV

  • Appearance: light gold, probably some colouring in it, but not much. No real legs, quite thin
  • Nose: light smoke, iodine, flowers, some peat
  • Taste: sweet peat, a little smoke, marshmallows, sour grape, iodine, earthiness
  • Finish: lasts pretty long for a blend actually. Smokey and medicinal, sea salt
  • Score: 75/100
  • Adjusted Score: 68/100

At $30, it’s an affordable daily drinker in Ontario, and not bad for a blend. Doesn’t compare to any single malts or a Te Bheag even, but it’s peat-on-the-cheap and we over-charged Ontarians can’t be overly choosy sometimes! I’m not sure what goes into this, but it tastes almost like a waterered down Laphroaig.

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So there you go. if you’re in Ontario, thinking of getting into whisky and looking for some cheaper bottles, these three are options. I recommend the last two above the Grouse.

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