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Whisky Reviews

Tasting The Avengers Of Distilled Spirits From The Last Drop - Assemble!

No. 22 Colin JP Scott 50 Year Old Blended Scotch | No. 26 Petite Champagne Cognac | No. 28 Drew Mayville Kentucky Straight Whiskey Blend | No. 32 JJ Corry 32 Year Old Irish Single Malt



A kind friend popped by one balmy Saturday afternoon and offered me some samples he snuck away from a recent tasting he had attended - now I was not told what it was till I actually had it handed over. When I got it, very casually passed along a round table at a recently organised rum gathering, I was pretty surprised. It was a set from The Last Drop which I had heard about but hadn't tried till now. 

Considering what rarities these were, I thought I should do a proper introduction just to make sure I immortalise what transpired.


The Last Drop - as the name sounds - are bottlers of some very impressive spirits. Their aim is to search for or help lay the canvas for some very impressive distillates, no matter the spirit time nor the house style. They've released 32 expressions now in 15 years - so this isn't one of those "we're really picky, but hey we've got 20 different releases this year alone" sort.


Not quite your run of the mill independent bottler it seems.


Pry alittle deeper and you'll see expressions including lost distilleries such as Japanese legend Hanyu and the historic American George T. Stagg Distillery, spirits including a 1976 Jamaican rum, 1947 single estate Cognac, and you start to get the impression that The Last Drop ain't fooling around. Let's go another step further, you've also got bespoke blends created specially for The Last Drop by popular Irish Whiskey brand JJ Corry's founder, US giant Buffalo Trace's Master Blender - if you've been around spirits long enough, you start to figure, these folks have got to be something. Who else had that much suasion, speaking as someone who can barely get my cat to get on my lap on demand - let's not even think about getting my feline roommate to start making some expensive blends.


See anything familiar? 


The About page quickly informs us that The Last Drop was founded in 2008 by one Tom Jago and a James Espey OBE (don't see too many of that around) - and if you're like me and don't recognise these names as uncles from the family gathering or that classmate you lost touch with, Google will tell you that they are the folks behind Bailey's Irish Cream - yep, that one - and wait, Malibu Coconut Flavoured Liqueur - yes, also that one - and two more here - the Classic Malts of Scotland and Johnnie Walker Blue Label, both under Diageo.


From Left to Right: Rebecca Jago, Beanie Geraedts-Espey, Tom Jago, James Espey.


So that's why they could get these folks to make blends for them, I wonder what they can do with my cat, she really needs to learn how to get off the couch.

I won't go too much into their history, but Jago's the guy who's made these iconic brands and their associated spirits, while Espey has been a long time collaborator who operated as the Chairman of International Distillers and Vintners (IDV), where he and Jago first worked together, and also President of United Distillers (UD), both of which is today Diageo, after which he was President of Chivas as well. 

Today The Last Drop is run by Rebecca Jago, Tom Jago's daughter, who took over the reins when her dad had passed. Espey's daughter Beanie Geraedts-Espey is also part of the business as well. What about me? Nope, unfortunately. Maybe I missed the mail.


Today's roster.


Now back to the spirits themselves, given that The Last Drop has such select expressions you can count on 7 hands, they've numbered each expression. And so today we've got No. 22 a 50 Year Old Blended Scotch, No. 26 a c. 1950 Petite Champagne Cognac, No. 28 Kentucky Straight Whiskey Blend and No. 32 a 32 Year Old Irish Single Malt. 

The Last Drop No. 22 Colin JP Scott Signature Blend 50 Year Old Blended Scotch Whisky - Review

After 21 expressions being selected and bottled, the folks of The Last Drop figured that given their experience, maybe creating a blended Scotch of their own would be pretty lovely - and so they enlisted Colin JP Scott, Master Blender for Chivas, but also a former colleague and fellow architect of the now popular Chivas Regal 18 expression, to create this debut Signature blend.

The blend is said to contain malt, grain and blended Scotch whiskies that were married together, all aged at least 50 years across Bourbon and Sherry casks.



Tasting Notes

Color: Gold

Aroma: Deep notes of musty oak, a discernible peanut butter funk and a side of eucalyptus herbaceousness. There’s lots of caramel, candy corn, butterscotch, alittle bit of caraway seeds. 

Over time it almost gets sweeter and deeper, opening up to more on mulled wine, leather, more treacle, before an even more intense bouquet of farmhouse notes of hay, funky animal hide, smoked cheese, vanilla cream, barley grist, a light bit of engine oil, industrial smoke, lemon curd - it evens out to a gorgeous brightness of pressed meadow florals, vanilla cream and hay - still that touch of farm-y funkiness. Lots of floral potpourri aromas in the empty glass.

Taste: Vanilla cream, candy corn, bright meadow florals, hay, lemon curd - it’s creamy and bright, vanillic and floral. It’s amalgamated by mint jellies, dried oregano, and then a more industrial note of engine grease. It spans quite the spectrum seamlessly. Add another scoop of sweet cream and butterscotch here.

Finish: More herbal and herbaceous here, before a more powerful bit of Sherry-led notes of leather, mulled wine, cacao and also a bit of coffee grounds. Clean and aromatic finish, like a bowl of potpourri.


My Thoughts

Very nice, very nice indeed. This was really enjoyable in so many dimensions - from an incredibly layered and constantly evolving aroma on the nose, to a bright, beautiful full palette of flavours to be tasted, and then a lovely aromatic finish.

On the nose, I could have sworn it was a Bourbon at the start, but give it a minute or two and whatever you thought - throw that out the window, we’re in a Sherry-led intermission which precedes the second act which was a mix of Lowland and Campbeltown notes - floral, farm-y but also with an industrial quality. The scents are so rich and well-expressed here but at the same time unhurried, stabilising into a full on vibrance.

On the palate, I got a full spectrum that gave it a really delightful richness, vibrance and complexity that ranged from bright florals and cream to deeper, darker notes of industrial engine grease - yet it manages to remain bright and lifted.

The finish was a final burst of intensity before it left cleanly and only had wisps of potpourri left behind.

Now, it is stated that this is a blend, but I’d say that this overlaps most closely with a certain Springbank - specifically something right out of the 70’s. And on top of that, in spite of the age, half a century old, it remains so vibrant and bright, fully expressive and of such vigour!

Really amazing work here. 

The Last Drop No. 26 Petite Champagne Cognac Hors D’Age Distilled c. 1950 - Review

Single estate Cognac from Petite Champagne that comes from an unnamed historic distillery along the banks of the Charente that has recently closed, this was found in the original oak barrels that has seen its maturation for the past seven decades.



Tasting Notes

Color: Deep Amber 

Aroma: Deep notes of black grapes - lightly tannic, yellow raisins, apples, some musty wood, backed up by honey, beeswax, caramel - really fresh but also densely lush. With time, more fresh peaches, lychee, rose water and rose flowers - it’s brighter and more floral.

Taste: Lots more honey and beeswax, accompanied by green apples, yellow raisins, light bitterness of wood tannins. There’s a hit of black pepper too, with some almond nuttiness, praline, and then more earthy coffee grounds.

Finish: A good dusting of cocoa powder, and then more on leather, browned leaves, polished wood, cigar boxes. A last wisp of peach - fresh and floral. Lingering light tannins from black grape skins.


My Thoughts

Really well done - lots of freshness and vibrance, a really beautiful contrasting bouquet on the nose, having started off with darker scents and then continuing to open up and brighten into a basket of fruits and florals - absolutely enjoyable.

The palate has a nice buoyancy, it has a sort of crystalline brilliance of something of a cross of maltose sugar crystals and fruit jelly cups. Quite the opposite of the scents on the nose, this went from bright and fruity to more autumnal and earthy - what a transition!

I really love this to and fro, going back and forth, traversing one shade of the spectrum to another and then displaying that versatility to transition the other way around. Quite remarkable really.

The finish showcased more tannins and darker, denser, but sweeter flavours of the earth, but just before it goes, one last kiss of juicy, vibrant peach!

Quite something really!

The Last Drop No. 28 Signature Blend Kentucky Straight Whiskeys - Review

We've had Scotch, Cognac, and now we come to some Kentucky Straight Whiskey. As is the case with the modus operandi of The Last Drop, an American whiskey would require the work of some illustrious person in that category - in this case that's Drew Mayville, Master Blender for Buffalo Trace.

This blend is created using Kentucky Straight Whiskeys including Bourbon and Straight Ryes from Buffalo Trace.

Let's go!


Tasting Notes

Color: Amber

Aroma: Heavy notes of peanut butter funk, backed up by freshly sawn wood and musty dunnage, with a more herbaceous side of parsley. There’s a thick but denser creamy note almost reminiscent of peanut butter ice cream - very rich and quite confectionary. 

As it continues to open up there’s more of an orange cupcake or orange pound cake with strips of candied orange peels; also a sort of blueberry swirl or blueberry pastry note as well with a good dusting of powdered sugar and cream cheese frosting. Really lovely notes that open up with time.

Taste: Ooh really punchy here - really complex but expressive bundle of peanut butter, mint and parsley, manuka honey, butterscotch - it sort of comes at you all at once. Quickly thereafter there’s some salted caramels, candied oranges, cream - sweeter and more mellow, still quite confectionary. There’s still that musty dunnage quality, old wood, alittle bit of that farmhouse flavour too, but also lots of these caraway and fennel seeds. 

Finish: More citrus here, also more of those dried herbs and spices - the parsley and dill persists for so long but in a really nice way, balanced by the peanut butter funk, old wood, but also a layer of cream sweetness. Bits of leather and musty attics really.


My Thoughts

Very wonderful stuff - it definitely knows it needs to put on its best show here. It has layers and complexity and so much going on, sometimes all at once (especially on the palate), and yet long after it’s done you continue to get this very classic core of spices, herbs, candied citrus, funky peanut butter and musty dunnage that just stays on and on - really quite something.

It has not just great cadence and evolution, but continually switches it up. On the nose - you definitely want to give it time, it keeps opening up and showing more nuance before mellowing out to all these unimaginable pastries and confectionaries. On the palate it speeds up and comes at you full blast of flavour but mellow (no heat whatsoever), packing in all these harmonised flavours yet somehow it still makes clear it’s a combination of bourbon and rye. Then on the finish it just doesn’t give out - it keeps that essence going long after.

Quite honestly, this is not one of those whack you in the face whiskies in terms of heat and power, nor is it one of those take you down a rabbit hole type stuff, what it offers is elegance that cannot be understated and a profile that’s at once familiar but not quite. It is immaculately entertaining and persistent in its flavours that are so well expressed.

The Last Drop No. 32 Signature Creation 32 Years Old Single Malt Irish Whiskey - Review

We get to the fourth and last dram of the day - our last drop so to speak. This is the third signature creation for The Last Drop, the previous two being the work of Colin JP Scott, Drew Mayville, and now we've got one from Louise McGuane, the founder of Irish distiller JJ Corry (along with Helen Mulholland of Lough Gill Distillery). These folks are all part of The Last Drop's Assembly which aims to bring together experts of various fields to see their visions come to reality.

Here we have a 32 Year Old Single Malt Irish Whiskey hailing from the 1991 vintage of distillates which was then married and finished in an ex-Oloroso Sherry Butt before bottling.

We move forward.

Tasting Notes

Color: Deep Amber

Aroma: Intense notes of pink guavas - flesh and peel. There’s also mint jellies, oregano, with a light and bright rancio note, brie rinds. More on lychees, rose petals, passionfruit, jackfruit. At the back a deep Sherry sweetness of blackberry and raspberry jams, a light nuttiness and earthy mushroom note, musty oak - almost like cream Sherry. Also leather, cigar boxes, brown leaves, tobacco leaves - all these autumnal scents.

It’s really fruity upfront but also vibrant and rich whilst not dense - an almost bright syrupy body.

Taste: Immediately bright, vibrant fruit jelly cups - green apples and pink guavas, alongside mint jellies. It’s at once sweet, herbaceous and lightly bitter. There’s a layer of cacao nibs - bittersweet and rich. There’s some leather too, but also an umaminess of dried mushrooms.

Finish: More herbaceous - big hit of those dried oregano and mint jellies, and then back to the tropical fruit programming - guava, jackfruit, duku. It’s a sort of light acidity and greenness combined with muskiness. There’s some bits of leather and miso paste, aged parmesan - slightly salty and umami. Finally it takes a more Cognac approach of honey, yellow raisins, green grapes and maltose candy. Pink guava jelly cups long after.


My Thoughts

Wow! To say this was a stunner is quite an understatement. It was all out on the pink guavas - intense tropical fruits with a mix of bright sweetness and acidity, with a side of muskiness. Just incredibly big and vibrant. 

Intermingled are these Sherry rancio notes that are distinct and creamy sweet, but not dense, which complements all those bright fruits. This is all alongside a persistent note of mint jellies and dried oregano that really gives this so much character, complexity and really just makes it outstanding.

The flavours on the palate comes through intensely and quickly - it packs it all in from the first sip and can at times feel like a bullet train, the finish was equally a masterclass as with its aromas, with such interwoven flavour profiles that layer atop one another - fresh, vibrant, elegant and exceptionally flavour forward.

Absolutely spectacular! I could cry a river at how much I enjoyed this.

The Last Word

Four drams in is a pretty good way as any to be acquainted with the work of The Last Drops, all the more so given that they're pretty spread out in terms of categories and styles, ranging from blended Scotch to Irish single malts, Kentucky straight whiskies and then a Cognac to boot.

It's pretty clear that these folks have not only the backing of some incredible figures in the field who - frankly - can only be called upon by the likes of the luminaries who founded The Last Drop, that means unparalleled selections and bespoke creations, all of which while typically touted as the value proposition of independent bottlers, is rarely, if ever, as proven to be the case with The Last Drop. What they've got is impressive to say the least.

Of the four expressions I got to try (thanks to my good pal who has some interesting things in the works!), the highlight for me was the No. 32 Irish Single Malt - an out of this world experience of intense tropical fruits.