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James Buchanan's Special Reserve 18 Year



Whisky Review: James Buchanan’s Special Reserve 18 Year

Tasting Notes:

40% ABV. Mash bill: Undisclosed. 80 Proof. MSRP 87.99 USD.
Burnished Copper
With the low burn of the blend, I can clearly pick out a forward scent of orange zest. Going deeper, I can find a softer layer of bran cereal smoothing out the scent.
It opens early with a somewhat medicinal taste and an oily mouthfeel. I put this down to tasting alcohol clearly, with no burn to offset the taste. Settling over the tongue, I can feel citrus notes and a slightly bready quality, like orange jam over a biscuit. It finishes with a note of bitter orange, with the bread quality evolving into a taste of toasted nuts.
It’s been nice to catch up with an old friend, and see where six years has taken us. The Buchanan’s Special Reserve 18 Year Blended Scotch certainly retains the characteristic smoothness that made its younger expression easy to enjoy. There’s a low burn and a clean taste, which gives clarity to the flavor and makes for an easy sip. However, when it comes to older, and more expensive, expressions I’m looking more for depth of flavor than smooth drinking. I enjoyed Buchanan’s Special Reserve 18, but I can only recommend it as a smooth, basic sipper and not an especially complex taster.
A bottle of James Buchanan's 18 Year Old Special Reserve
We review James Buchanan’s 18 Year Old Special Reserve, an older variant of the classic Buchanan’s 12 Year.

Editor’s Note: This whisky was provided to us as a review sample by the party behind it. This in no way, per our editorial policies, influenced the final outcome of this review. It should also be noted that by clicking the buy link in this review our site receives a small referral payment which helps to support, but not influence, our editorial and other costs.

While I like to think I was always a whiskey snob, I was once a young person with a budget. I still did my best to drink proper whiskey, and so I was on the lookout for something outside of the usual names that I could snag on a budget.

In particular, I gave a shot to anything with an appearance suggesting “fine whiskey.” I quickly developed a soft spot for James Buchanan’s Blended Scotch, specifically their 12 year expression.

Before I had any real background, I put my faith in age statements as the ultimate sign of high-end whiskey. Buchanan’s caught my eye as one of the few 12 year old expressions that I could find in my price range. It was a smooth sipper that I could find regularly, making it a fine introduction to aged scotch. Even as I experimented elsewhere, I still revisited Buchanan’s 12 relatively often.

Time passed, and I moved onto a wider range of whiskeys. I built a better understanding of what I enjoy.

Revisiting James Buchanan’s 18 Year Old Special Reserve

Trying James Buchanan’s 18 Year Old Special Reserve now is like reuniting with an old friend after a long absence. We’ve both matured, and I have a chance to apply a more refined palate to a more refined expression. I’m interested to see how well the nostalgia holds.

However, before I can talk about Buchanan’s whisky, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention how to get past their bizarre bottle design. After removing the seal on a bottle, which is modeled after a WWI canteen, tighten the cap until you hear the pop that indicates the outer and interior caps have locked. Loosen and remove the combined caps. Then you’ll find a plastic plug and ball stopper mechanism. For each pour, you’ll need to hold the bottle sideways over your glass. Next, give a few firm taps to the side of the neck to dislodge the ball and allow the whisky to flow. It’s unintuitive, but this is the kind of eccentricity you can’t help but enjoy in an old friend.

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