Since I didn’t post written reviews to accompany the videos I made of the 12 Year Old Blends series, I thought I’d whip a quick and dirty summary, for those that just want a quick reference.
If you’re interested in a more in-depth discussion on the whisky I still recommend watching the video review(s), but for a quick comparison here we go:
Duncan Taylor 12 (40% ABV):
Nose: Light, sweet, some underlying vegetal peatiness, malty, vanilla, green apple.
Palate: Sugary sweet, vanilla frosting, light peat that fades during the development, cereal maltiness, fresh green apple, slight strawberry, red currant, oaky bite.
Finish: Short, sweet, unremarkable.
Black Bull (50% ABV):
Nose: A bit aggressive, sweet barley malt, milk chocolate, fresh cherry and plum, pear.
Taste: Heavy cereal and chocolate immediately, dried fruits (raisin and prune) on the development, fresh strawberry.
Finish: The cereal maltiness carries right through to the finish, as does the sweet chocolate note. No spice to speak of.
Syndicate 58/6 (43% ABV):
Nose: Big sugary, sweetness, orange peel, rich chocolate, musty mushrooms.
Palate: Rich, viscous, heavy mouthfeel. Sweet milk chocolate, citrus, orange peel, orange pekoe tea, musty tobacco, leather.
Finish: Drying but short, with residual sweetness and a hint of citrusy, zesty spice.
Johnnie Walker Black (40% ABV):
Nose: Hint of fresh cream, caramel sweetness, gentle hint of muddled fruit, and a subtle waft of light smoke.
Palate: Sweet, soft smoke, creamy maltiness, sweet caramel and artificial sweetener, and a slight nutty character. Very little development and, on the whole, fairly muddled flavours.
Finish: Short, slightly acrid, light spice and a sense of ethanol.
Score: Less than the other 3…
Really, I don’t think you can go wrong with any of these 4 whiskies. Your personal favorite (as with mine) will depend largely on your flavour preferences, but all 4 do the job they were constructed to do. I don’t know that any of them hold much of a candle to a good single malt whisky (in my opinion), but they aren’t priced to compete with those anyway.
Duncan Taylor 12 is an excellent starter scotch, highly approachable (and very affordable), but still enjoyable as an easy sipper even to experienced whisky fans.
Black Bull is a punchier (and slightly more expensive) big brother to the Duncan Taylor 12, offering a more aggressive and heavily sherried experience, while still not being terribly complex or challenging.
Syndicate 58/6 is the most expensive of the group, by a fair ways, and struggles to be even as interesting as either the Duncan Taylor 12 or Black Bull. It’s certainly rich, sweet, and heavily influenced by some sherry aged whisky in the blend, but it offers little discernible complexity and falls a bit flat in the finish.
Johnnie Walker Black is (again, in my opinion) the least interesting blend of the bunch, but it’s also not really built to be. This whisky is designed to be easy, approachable, and appealing to the widest audience possible, and it’s hard for me to say that they failed in that respect. Were someone to offer me a dram of this I would take it and probably enjoy it, but, unlike the previous 3 blends, I don’t think I would ever pour myself one at home (even though it’s in my bar).