Blended Malts: Shackleton Legend, Campbeltown Loch Batch 1, North Star Spirits Supersonic Mach 2

Continuing my look at affordable blended malts we have a trio of very different drams ranging from £24 to £42 a bottle, prices that are well within the reach of most whisky enthusiasts and may even tempt those finding their feet in whisky exploration to spend a little more than normal.

Browsing through my local Sainsbury's its kind of amazing what £40 buys you these days. Jura 10 (perish the thought), Laphroaig 10, Tullibardine Sovereign, Aberlour 12 to name a few. Getting close to £50 and you can get Talisker 10, Glenfiddich 15, Ardbeg 10 (just about worth it at that price) or Glenmorangie Lasanta 12 year old. 

With this the state of affairs in our supermarkets, once the places to pick up good quality drops at reasonable prices, it's good to look further afield for value and quality.

The first up today is the Shackleton Legend from Whyte & Mackay. Called the 'Legend' because Sir Ernest Shackleton brought 25 cases of Mackinlay's Rare Old Highland malt whisky to help keep the spirits of his expedition team aboard the Endurance in good order. In 2007, 100 years after Shackleton set off for Antarctica, 3 cases of the Mackinlay's was found perfectly preserved in the ice at Cape Royds, Shackleton's base camp. This was then analysed by 'The Nose' himself, Richard Paterson and a recreation made. 50,000 bottles of this 'MacKinlay's Rare Old Highland' malt were released in 2011 at around £200 a bottle. Today's version of that whisky is thankfully much cheaper at £24 a bottle but can often be found cheaper. 

Whyte & Mackay own the Dalmore, Fettercairn, Tamnavulin and Jura malt distilleries so at first glance this doesn't look too promising but we'll keep and open mind. Being a blend of highland malts it looks like it'll be Dalmore and Fettercairn we are tasting in this. The spirit has been matured in ex-bourbon and ex-sherry casks and I think we can safely assume has been treated to chill filtration, has a healthy dose of fake tan added and it's been bottled at 40% abv.

Next up is the North Star Spirits Super Sonic Mach 2. I've reviewed a few of their Vega blended malts which have been on the whole very enjoyable but they were also much pricier than this offering due to the high age statements.

This blended malt consists of spirits distilled in 2013 and bottled in 2021 after a full maturation in sherry butts. Sadly I can't find any information at all as to the make up of the blend. At any rate this makes the whisky 7 to 8 years old, it's bottled at 50% abv and in true North Star Spirits tradition it's non chill filtered and natural colour. The outturn was just 780 bottles and was priced at £42 per bottle. If you look online some bottles are still available at the rrp.

Finally, we have Campbeltown Loch Batch 1. As per usual with anything in a Springbank embossed bottle, the world and his wife went into a frenzy of enormous proportions. Batch 1 proved difficult to get hold off but thanks to Fairley's Wines I was able to grab a bottle. Thankfully though that initial frenzy has dissipated and it's a whisky that's pretty easy to get hold of online.

This is made up of all five malts from Campbeltown's three distilleries. Springbank producing Springbank (obvs), Hazelburn and Longrow, Glengyle producing Kilkerran and finally Glen Scotia. Matured in a combination of ex-sherry and ex-bourbon casks, and then vatted and bottled at Springbank distillery this is an affordable way to experience that renowned Campbeltown funk with the entry fee being only £40. Like all things Springbank it's natural colour, non chill filtered and it has been bottled at 46%. There is no indication of the age of the spirit involved in the vatting.

Shackleton Blended Malt 40% abv

Nose: Quite an enticing nose. Fruity first - pear and lychee, a touch of dried apricot. Vanilla, honey and even some coconut. Along with some dried ginger spice there is a slightly acetone note indicating a bit of youth to this.

Palate: The body is a little thin and watery (yeah I know it only cost £24...but still). Honey and malt on arrival alongside some burnt sugar and sultanas. Then comes my favourite note of all....envelope glue leading to ginger warmth and pepper plus dry oak. Only a hint of the fresh fruit the nose suggested.

Finish: Short with that glue note lingering along with tannic oak

Score: 4 out of 10


North Star Spirits Supersonic Mach 2 50% abv

Nose: Mr Kipling Bakewell slices, butter, vanilla cream, milk chocolate with orange peel and almonds. Caramel and a touch of mocha. A light perfumy note too giving away it's youth.

 Palate: An easy drinker even at 50% abv. Some orchard fruit (apples and pears) covered in toffee plus a touch of sweet black coffee. Terry's milk chocolate orange segments in there too along with cracked walnuts.

Finish: Short to medium with toasted nuts, a hint of coffee and orchard fruit.

Score: 6 out of 10

Campbeltown Loch Batch 1 46% abv

Nose: Zesty, fruity and creamy. Lemon and lime zest are the immediate hit followed by apple strudel and vanilla cream. There's a slight coastal salinity to the nose alongside whiffs of tar and light menthol. There's a certain cheesiness too indicating the Campbeltown funk is alive and well. Waxy, a dusty bookshelf and then peach and mango Robinsons squash.

Palate: A fairly oily mouthfeel leads to that peach and mango note from the nose followed by lemon zest, pink grapefruit and a chalky minerality. Mid palate we get a white pepper spice hit leading back to vanilla custard and licks of bonfire smoke. A nice malty note pervades the entire experience.

Finish: medium length with ashy, salted lemons and sweet malt

Score: 7 out of 10

Overall: Like most of my reviews, peaks and troughs. Sadly for me the Shackleton is most certainly in a trough. It has a promising nose but the palate is a let down for me. Not one I'd likely buy again, especially when I can get Power's Gold Label or Black Bush for the same or similar prices.

I've reviewed a few drams from North Star Spirits now and they have never really disappointed. Like wise the Supersonic 2 is a great little drop. Nicely sherried without being an absolute sherry bomb. Not overly complex but very drinkable and at £42 for the entry fee there is very, very little to complain about.

I nearly feel bad for the Campbeltown Loch to be the clear winner in this roundup as it could seem a little cliché, but it is genuinely a super drop for the money. You get to experience that Campbeltown funk without having to re-mortgage the house. Okay it's no Springbank 10 but at least you're likely to be able to get your hands on a Campbeltown Loch, especially if you actually visit Fairley's in Coleraine.

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