Antiquary: A Victorian Blend With Edinburgh Roots

The name Antiquary derives its origin from the 1816 Gothic Novel by Sir Walter Scott.  True to its historical origin, Antiquary is a Victorian whisky blend with Edinburgh roots, currently falling under Japanese ownership.

Today Antiquary is available as a no-age-statement, 12-year-old and 21-year-old, and as a limited edition 35-year-old. It strikes a balance between highland and Speyside malts providing typical citrus and vanilla notes, while a dash of Islay malt accounts for its light smokiness.

A Brief History

Tea, wine, and spirits merchant James Hardie moved into blending business in 1880, calling his company as J&W Hardie Ltd. As business grew, his family registered one of their blends – The Antiquary as a brand. In 1917 the brand was sold to J & G Stewart, which was again taken over by the DCL in the same year. By early 1980s, The Antiquary gained global acclaim, and was made widely available in countries such as Venezuela, Paraguay, Italy, France, Spain, Portugal, Japan and Andorra. In 1996 J&W Hardie was bought by the Tomatin Distillery Co. Ltd, which had been under Japanese ownership since 1985. This signaled the owner’s confidence in entering the premium blended Scotch whisky market with an established and reputable brand. The brand got a makeover in 2015 to identify with a younger audience.

Tomatin has a history as a distilling dating back to the fifteenth century. In 1985, the distillery was re-established as The Tomatin Distillery Co. Ltd. It now operates 12 stills, and produces 660,000 gallons of whisky per year. Traditionally Tomatin provided whisky for Scotland’s major blends, but today the focus is on its own brands.

The unique diamond bottle shape which was introduced in the mid-20th century was however retained. The company decided to enhance the design further by creating a bespoke label that matches the geometric shape of the front face thereby improving standout. The label was also revamped with more detail and calligraphy. A cleaner typography was introduced to make it up-to-date. The outer cartons depict The Antiquary’s distinguishing contours for the maximum impact.

Today some of the successful markets of the blend include France, Portugal, Russia, Angola, the UK and US.

The Palate

The palate has a nice balance between the bourbon and sherry casks but the grain alcohol is also quite evident. It's quite light and clean for a 21 Year old blend. The underlying notes are sweet, medium-dry and malty with very subtle hints of grassy peat and light smoke. One can also pick up traces of sweet cereals, buttered toast, vanilla, caramel, toffee, heather-honey, straw, dried herbs, dusty road, banana flavoured candy, citrus, black currant jam, cooked apples, cinnamon, light menthol, aniseed, refill oak casks and traces of pepper and nuts. These aromas are merely impressions and is not identifiable easily. You would expect some clearer notes after 21 Years which leads to the possible conclusion that most of the casks weren't very active.

The overall impression of the palate comes out as slightly bland, mainly sweet with clear notes of malt, cereals, fruits and spices. The finish is long, fruity and pleasantly sweet.

The popularity of this blend has never been marred by its rarity. With each new chapter this superb whisky has grown to become a true classic.