Monday, December 10, 2007

Malt Mission 2007 #211

Upper Ten
Finest Blended Scotch Whisky

40% abv


Another Monday morning and the third (and final) week of our internationally-themed weeks here on the mission. Hope you continue to enjoy it. Thanks for your emails, comments and links.

This is a blended whisky that, so far as I know, is only available in Norway. Like I have said before, the Vinmonopolet has some unusual malts and blends. But don't let this lead you to believe that this stuff is garbage. It has won awards(in the IWSC beating out Ballantines and Johnnie Walker) and outsells the best selling single malt(in Norway) by a longshot.

It is said that the blend is of superior quality because more money can be spent on its contents rather than marketing and/or promotion due to the fact it is illegal to advertise alcohol in Norway.

Apparently Upper Ten contains whisky from 30-35 distilleries and grain from 3. It has a malt content of 47% (which is VERY high for a standard blend). It is four years old, which means that the youngest whisky is 4 years old but there are considerably older whiskies used. It is a powerful whisky, sweet but full of smoke and malt. The blend originated after the First World War when a "pjolter" (whisky and seltzer) was being consumed as a 'cool', 'hip' cocktail. In 1927 there was a wish to create a Norwegian whisky that could be the whisky base in this cocktail. To match the salty seltzers there was a need for something powerful, a smoky and malty whisky. The ambition of this creation was to be among the top 10 in the list of Norway's most popular whiskies, hence the name.
This has happened: Glenfiddich sells 10,000 litres per year while Upper Ten sells 165,000 litres.

The label reads "Distinctive peaty character," but the funnier bit is this: "Age old Scottish heritage and craftsmanship lie behind the making of Upper Ten Scotch Whisky at its best." I love these kinds of descriptions. What does it mean? What is "age-old (...) heritage"? Isn't heritage 'age old' by definition, that which has been inherited through the ages? In fact, isn't AGE always AGE-OLD and that which is OLD, old due to AGE? I seriously giggle out loud when I read these things, like shampoo bottles: they'll never say, "mediocre, not suitable for daily use, smells like soap," but rather things like, "Used daily, Shampoor helps fight residue building shine and body, leaving hair voluminous and fresh as the spring air."

But back to the Upper Ten label. The bigger blunder here lies in the last three words, "at its best." In the context of the sentence, is this label not telling us that ONLY when Upper Ten is at its best are craftsmanship and 'age-old' heritage responsible; beyond that, it is left to fate... ?! Love it. LOVE IT!


Very Teachers-like nose, with less toffee: creamy, damp and earthy, with a slightly astringent grain presence. Malt and some smoke are also present along with some salt and pepper, magazine paper and instant coffee.

Bready, malty, surprisingly weighty in the mouth. Smoke, peat, and damp earthiness are balanced against brown sugar and some pepper. A long, waxy finish of damp wood, oatmeal cookies, and some smoke. Long.


Rich, smoky whisky with a very long oaky finish that definitely tastes bigger than its price tag, as a great blended whisky should. Excellent, and for under £10 for a litre at Duty Free in Norway this is an absolute steal.

Don't trust the Dr? Need a second opinion? Visit Malthead's Upper Ten review HERE.

Malt Mission #210
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