ramblings of Andy
I hardly had the best start to grain whisky, choking back a measure of vicious Haig Club, confirming my rookie suspicions that grain is all filler for blends, like sawdust in the meat stew at a stern 1950s primary school. Any such thoughts were soon dispelled by the glorious Invergordon 43yo from That Boutique-y Whisky Company, enjoyed by myself and everyone else fortunate enough to be included in their 5th Birthday Tweet Tasting (described here in full by OCD Whisky aka Sorren Krebs).
So, as I lifted the lid on my Drinks By The Dram Lowland Whisky Tasting Set, received as a kind Christmas gift from my little brother, I was drawn to the two grain whiskies in the set - North British 20yo 1994 Single Cask and Girvan Patent Still Proof Strength. Would I be any the wiser to the charms of grain after trying these out?
North British 20yo 1994 Single Cask (51.7% ABV)
North British has been producing grain whisky at its Edinburgh distillery right next to Heart's Tynecastle Park stadium since 1887, to meet a growing demand for blending grain. This Master of Malt release was bottled at cask strength in a limited batch of only 115 bottles and went into refill bourbon casks at the end of 1994. It's sweet and herbal on the nose, totally tropical and slightly spicy on the palate and a medium-length candy floss finish. Full bottles are discontinued (and I'm not totally sure I was convinced enough to buy in quantity) but can still be found in 3CL samples for about a fiver and is worth that punt certainly.
Girvan Patent Still Proof Strength (57.1% ABV)
Girvan is William Grant & Sons grain distillery, and it is used in the production of many high-selling and a few very fine blends. The distillery can produce up 15 million litres a year, mostly for blending, and single grain bottlings are released by Girvan themselves and several independent bottlers, generally aged for 20+ years. The nose is sweet and despite the claims of the bottler, quite spirited given the ABV. The palate is a superb pick n' mix of citrus, tropical fruit and rich sweetness with a long, peppery finish.
All in all, these are two very fine grain whiskies and the number of 'Good Grains' I've tried are fast outnumbering the 'Bad Grains'. I'd be happy to drink a dram of the North British, happier still with a bottle of the Girvan but I'd be tempted most of all to dig around for another £30 to pay for the next (please let there be a next...) batch of Boutique-y Invergordon.
As I said during the Tweet Tasting, to universal digital groans, this kind of whisky is really grain on me. You have to say it in a Scottish accent, you see...