Maybe it’s just the algorithm, but my Instagram feed has been positively lit up by pictures and reels of the new blended whiskies from Turntable Spirits. I mean, the bottles are very colourful and photogenic, so I understand why they work so well in front of a lens.
But the key term from that first paragraph is blended whiskies. It is what sets Turntable apart. They create small-batch blended whiskies. Whereas most new whisky companies often focus on independent bottling and only occasionally release a blended malt. (Of course, not a blended whisky, because that might scare malt whisky drinkers away.)
Turntable Spirits isn’t unique. Compass Box has been beating the drum of small-batch blended whiskies for decades. And in recent years Billy Walker has done some great work with the White Heather blend. But even though industry legends like Walker and John Glaser have been blazing a trail, not many people have dared to walk it. Turntable founders (and brothers) Gordon and Ally Stevenson do.
Gordon spent a decade on the sales side of the business, covering markets such as Scandinavia and Northern Europe, North America, Africa and the Middle East, racking up air miles at Inver House Distillers and Douglas Laing & Co.
Ally started his career with a five-year stint at the BenRiach Distillery Company before moving on to GlenAllachie. In both roles, he learned the subtle art of whisky blending, working under the auspices, indeed, master blender Billy Walker. And Walker’s influence can certainly be recognised in the recipes of Turntable Spirits’ first releases. Or maybe I should say Debut Album, which is more in line with their music-themed whiskies. (Check their titles below.)
“Gordon and I have been fortunate enough to travel the world with whisky”, says Ally. “A real frustration of ours in recent years has been the global perception of blended whisky – the widespread opinion that single malt is where the quality lies, and blends are volume brands. Why does that need to be the case?
“Blending opens endless opportunities for innovation and flavour development. We started Turntable with the belief that we could combine the best of both worlds -the attention to detail, transparency and provenance of single malts, and the scope of creativity and flavour development within blends. With Turntable we aim to flip the record on ordinary and create something truly special.”
I met up with Ally a few weeks ago during a flying visit to Edinburgh. We’d only ever spoken in person once before. When he still worked for GlenAllachie and I visited to write an article, Ally graciously hosted me, showed me around, and ensured I had all the information I needed.
This time around he brought samples of his own Turntable releases. I smuggled them all back to the Netherlands in my plastic liquids bag, as I only brought some carry-on luggage. Luckily they were not confiscated, otherwise, you wouldn’t have been reading these reviews.
Nose: Notes of vanilla, butterscotch and fudge, but covered with a bright, fruity veneer. The Linkwood influence seems fairly prominent on the nose. Touches of tinned pineapple, raspberries, and nectarines. Taste: Proper creamy mouthfeel and a sweet arrival. Stroopsoldaatjes (a traditional dark caramel Dutch treat), fudge, warming spices and gentle touches of oak, but also a whiff of orange liqueur. The grain whisky is a little more present here. Finish: Medium length. Lingering spices, butterscotch, and a touch of eucalyptus. Finally soft whispers of tropical fruits.
Very approachable, fresh, inviting whisky where the grain seems to add a fruitiness that elevates the entire experience.
Nose: A hit of proper campfire smoke with a whiff of dried seaweed, a soft mineral edge, and gentle porridge notes. But also touches of caramel-glazed apple, sandalwood, and apricots. Taste: Mouthfeel is somewhat oily, while the palate is very much Caol Ila forward, as is to be expected. Smoked husks, smouldering embers, and ashes, but also a lovely salinity. Touches of vanilla and a whiff of conifer. Finish: Medium to long. A pinch of salt, somewhat green peat, and hemp rope.
Because the peat is dialed down, this comes across as a more mature peated whisky, which gets you bonus points in my book.
Nose: This is just all about sherry. Fresh red berries accompanied by pralines and dark chocolate, but also notes of figs, tobacco and hazelnuts. Finally slightly more candy-esque. A cherry-flavoured candy cane comes to mind. Taste: Warming baking spices with more of that dark chocolate influence, but also damp oak, raisins galore, and soft notes of toffee. Some crushed mint leaves and a hint of raspberry add to the balance. Finish: Medium length. A whisper of cinnamon, soft tannins, and chocolate.
The sherry influence is dominant, yet I'd never call this a sherry bomb. There's a delicate balance here that is just extremely enjoyable.