The Sassenach Blended Scotch Whisky: The Ultimate Bottle Guide

Since its launch in 2014, Sony Pictures' hit show "Outlander" has earned rave reviews from critics and audiences alike. The story centers around an English combat nurse in the tumultuous second World War who travels back in time to mid-18th century Scotland, where she marries a Highlander out of necessity but soon finds herself falling in love with the roguish Scot. With 82 award nominations and 34 wins (per IMDB), "Outlander" has held strong for seven seasons and has catapulted many of its primary actors into superstardom ... and beyond.

"Outlander" actor Sam Heughan, who plays lead character Jamie Frasier, has managed to parlay his successful acting career into the launch of another booming venture: an award-winning blended Scotch whisky that Heughan dubbed The Sassenach in honor of the long-running series. Crafted from meticulously selected single malts and shining with a honey-like golden hue, The Sassenach Blended Scotch Whisky features notes of butterscotch, citrus, and spices and is 46% alcohol by volume.

The Sassenach is not available worldwide (yet) — currently, it is only available in the United Kingdom, several European countries, and certain US states. However, if its critical success in recent years is any indication, The Sassenach Blended Scotch Whisky is well on its way to world domination. Here's everything you need to know about the citrusy, smoky, and sweet bottle.

History of The Sassenach Blended Scotch Whisky

The name "Sassenach" was inspired by Sassenach Spirits founder Sam Heughan's hit show, "Outlander." In the show, "sassenach" is Scotsman Jamie Frasier's affectionate nickname for his wife, Claire Randall, and Heughan wanted his inaugural whisky to honor the show and his homeland. According to The Scotsman, Heughan claimed that everyone on the set was a whisky fan, and a one-of-a-kind Scotch whisky seemed the perfect way to pay tribute. While its name honors the founder's time on "Outlander," the bottle's logo features a unicorn, which, as the National Trust for Scotland details, happens to be the national animal of Heughan's home, Scotland.

Luxe Digital writes that Heughan began his journey by sampling whiskies from all over the world, taking meticulous notes on the tastes, scents, and other elements he liked in each one. Coupling his affinity for the smooth subtlety of Asian whiskies and the complexity of American bourbons with his desire to create something that reflected his beloved Scotland, the actor partnered with Master Blender Michael Henry of Loch Lomond Distillery to come up with The Sassenach. The whisky was released in early 2020 and has been a smash hit since its launch, just like the show that inspired it.

What does The Sassenach Blended Scotch Whisky taste like?

Sassenach Spirits crafted its whisky to dredge up nostalgic waves of home, regardless of where one's home might lie. The malts selected for The Sassenach were picked especially for the ripe, fruit-forward notes, and indeed, reviewers like the popular Master of Malt describe touches of orange on the nose and in the finish. Other aromas in this dram include woodsy oak, smooth caramel, and a trace of baking spices cinnamon.

On the tongue, the fruity flavor of the carefully selected malts tends to melt away into an array of pleasant sweetness. More dessert-forward notes like butterscotch, honey, and custard burst forward, along with a hint of nutty browned butter and baking spices like cinnamon and nutmeg. After swallowing, these saccharine flavors fade into pleasant bittersweet flavors of licorice, vanilla, and a touch of pepper.

Keep in mind that Scotch is also famed for its peated, smoky flavor. As one Redditor commented: "If you don't like the smokey taste, then I'd say this would be a Scotch to pass on" and that "it is VERY similar to most highland scotches that you would find. I'd say more similar to Lagavulin," a Scotch brand immortalized by Nick Offerman in the "Parks and Recreation" TV series.

How is The Sassenach Blended Scotch Whisky made?

As with all exquisite liquors, it takes time, care, and a whole lot of knowledge to produce The Sassenach Blended Scotch Whisky. According to Scotch Malt Whisky, many Scotch whiskies are made by combining single malt whisky and grain whisky, then aging the two together for a set amount of time. The Sassenach is no different: To kick things off, Master Blender Michael Henry punctiliously chooses single malt whiskies — the exact single malts used in this blend are a closely-guarded secret, but according to the Whiskey Reviewer, the single malts used in The Sassenach are aged between 9 to 20 years.

The single malts selected by Henry are then aged in Madeira wine casks, which (per infuses the malts with a spicy sweetness and also contributes to a darker color in the finished product. The infusion of the single malts in these fortified wine barrels likely leads to the citrus notes that can be detected in the finished Sassenach dram. After the single malts have finished aging, each is combined with a twenty-year-old organic single-grain Scotch whisky to build up the single malts and coax out the additional sweetness and other subtle flavors.

How to drink The Sassenach Blended Scotch Whisky

Technically, there's no wrong way to drink Scotch whisky — that said, you'll leave seasoned Scotch drinkers clutching their pearls in horror if you drink a higher-end Scotch like The Sassenach with Dr. Pepper or sweetened with Splenda à la Michael Scott in "The Office" ("Tastes like Splenda, gets you drunk like Scotch!"). Bottles like this are painstakingly crafted and boast a symphony of tastes and aromas, and tampering with these drams is somewhat akin to requesting a bunch of substitutions at a restaurant: You're not going to experience the meal (or, in this case, the whisky) in the way its creator intended.

If you like your Scotch neat, the general consensus seems to be that the proper temperature for a neat whisky is room temperature (per The Whiskey Wash) ... so forget everything your friends taught you in college and do not, by any means, stick your bottle of The Sassenach in the fridge or freezer. Some folks swear that adding a few drops of water to Scotch helps to bring out its flavors, but a recent survey we conducted showed that the best way to enjoy whisky is on the rocks. Suppose you're looking for something a little more complex. In that case, a classic cocktail Old Fashioned recipe is a great way to enjoy The Sassenach — or check out Sassenach creator Sam Heughan's own invention using his Scotch, which is a twist on an Old Pal using vermouth and Campari.

Why is The Sassenach Blended Scotch Whisky so expensive?

Reserve Bar, the site Sassenach Spirits links to for ordering purposes, currently has The Sassenach Blended Scotch Whisky listed at $120 USD. Part of the reason for Sassenach's relatively high price tag is that it's only available in the UK, parts of Europe, and certain US states — small-batch alcohol with a limited distribution area will always be more costly than widely available liquors. However, generally speaking, Scotch whiskies are more costly than other varieties. As Whisky Ride explains, there are quite a few factors behind the trend.

In order to be labeled as a true Scotch, a whisky must be aged for a minimum of three years, but most are aged far longer than that. This holds true even for blends with no age statement like The Sassenach — and as previously mentioned, the single malts used in this dram are aged between 9 to 12 years. Aging and storing whiskies for this long involves a variety of factors that affect the price. During the maturation process, a barrel loses an average of two percent of its enclosed spirit via evaporation each year in an effect commonly referred to as "the angel's share." Taxes and import tariffs also play a role in the price of Scotch whiskies like The Sassenach, and let's not forget about the costs of marketing, packaging, and manufacturing that are built into the cost of the finished product.

The Sassenach has won multiple international spirits awards

The Sassenach Blended Scotch Whisky is fairly new to the market, but it's already won some impressive awards worldwide. Shortly after its launch in the US, The Sassenach was awarded double gold at the 2020 San Francisco World Spirits Competition, and it won the same award in the two years following (via Reserve Bar). The San Francisco World Spirits Competition bills itself as "the largest and most prestigious spirits competition in the world," but the Sassenach's accolades haven't stopped there.

In addition to its double gold at SFWSC, The Sassenach has won double gold and best in class at the New York World Wine and Spirits Competition, double gold and best in class again at the Singapore International Spirits Competition, gold at the International Spirits Competition, and several more. Considering that the whisky only launched a few years ago, Heughan is (rightly) incredibly proud of its success — in a recent interview, he told Parade that "I think it's a really special, very magical drink because you have a lot of emotional attachment to whisky," he said. "It can really conjure up great emotions, great company, great memories."

Sassenach Spirits cannot be sold in Germany

Not everyone is as happy about The Sassenach's success. In 2021, Sam Heughan entered a legal battle with German distillery Sasse when he attempted to trademark the name "The Sassenach" across Europe. Located in Schoppingen, Sasse is famed for its Lagerkorn creations, which are distilled by hand and created using only the finest of raw materials, according to the manufacturer.

Sasse distillery claimed that the name was too similar to its own brand, stating, "The Sasse distillery has established itself nationwide in the industry and made a name — this should continue to be upheld and preserved," according to The Drinks Business. Heughan's legal team argued that based on the phenomenal fame that "Outlander" had found around the globe, it would be simple to distinguish between the two brands, but to no avail. The European Union Intellectual Property Office ruled in favor of the German Sasse distillery. Sassenach Blended Scotch Whisky cannot currently be sold in Germany under its trademarked name (although Sasse granted Heughan permission to sell it in Germany should the name be changed). As The Sassenach continues to grow in popularity, only time will tell if the "Outlander"-inspired bottle will ultimately find a home in Germany.

Sassenach Spirits is branching out from whisky

Sam Heughan's "Outlander" character Jamie Frasier isn't small-minded, and similarly, Heughan's plans for Sassenach Spirits seem to know no bounds. While The Sassenach Blended Scotch Whisky remains the premier brand in the Sassenach Spirits portfolio, in 2021, Heughan partnered with well-established tequila producer El Tequileño to release a signature tequila dubbed "El Tequileño The Sassenach Select," a double wood reposado tequila. Tequila Matchmaker reviewers have given it an 85/100 rating, noting unusual tasting points like cooked agave, caramel, earthy sweetness, and oak. Still, they have noted that its cost ($122 USD on Reserve Bar) is a bit high for a reposado.

More recently, in August of 2022, Heuhan announced via Instagram that Sassenach Spirits had begun work on a line of gin. According to Town & Country, Sassenach Gin currently holds an anticipated release date of sometime in 2023. In an Instagram video, Heughan stated that similar to his Scotch, the gin will be a "Scottish gin" using ingredients from Scotland itself — "It's been a long tasting process, but we are almost there; it's in the final stages."

The name Sassenach comes from Outlander

"Sassenach" is a typically derogatory Scottish Gaelic term literally translated by Merriam Webster to "a typical Englishman or something considered typical of England." It's often used as a slur against the English by people from Ireland and Scotland — however, in "Outlander," "sassenach" becomes a term of endearment used by Heughan's character Jamie toward his love interest (and ultimate wife), Claire Randell.

The phrase highlights what "Outlander's" premise is based on: That two characters from vastly different worlds (and, in fact, from different centuries) can come together and appreciate each other for their differences rather than using them to further a divide. In fact, Diana Gabaldon, who authored the book series that "Outlander" was adapted from, told Town & Country that Jamie is attracted to Claire because of the ways she's different from him: "One of the things and only one of the things that attract him to her, is that she is an English woman. He kind of likes to think of it as 'I've got one of their women.'" Naming his whisky after this affectionate nickname is not only a nod to the show, it's a way of celebrating all the unique elements of Scottish history and culture — including its whisky.

Sassenach Spirits is growing quickly

In addition to expanding its product offerings with the release of El Tequileño's The Sassenach Select in 2021 and the anticipated launch of a gin in 2023, Sassenach Spirits is broadening its global reach. In November of 2022, Heughan partnered with Southern Glazer's Wine and Spirits, a major alcoholic beverage distributor, on a distribution deal (via Business Insider). Sassenach Spirits are now part of Southern Glazer's luxury spirits division, which also includes such celebrated brands as Casa Dragones, El Silencio, and Horse Soldier.

Sam Heughan has also recently partnered with Scottish chef Tom Kitchin, whose four restaurants (including the Michelin-starred The Kitchin) will now offer The Sassenach Blended Scotch Whisky. Kitchin's restaurants are the very first in the UK to carry The Sassenach, which is a pretty impressive win for a small-batch whisky brand. As Chef Kitchin told The Drinks Business, "Our menus are all a reflection of the Scottish seasons and landscapes, so sharing a whisky that has been inspired by the Highland landscapes is a real marriage of flavors for us." Kitchin's restaurants began serving Heughan's Scotch in November of 2022. They may be ordered on their own or in Kitchin's new signature cocktail, The Outlander Serve, inspired by the timeless whisky sour.