Ingrained In Grain?

Looking for something a little different to your usual Malt? Why not try a Single Grain whisky? Over the last four or five years, Grain whisky has made a bit of a resurgence in the UK, principally led by Haig Club. It is light, delicate, slightly sweet and quite clean in style and has been marketed to within an inch of its life! Great for summer drinking over lots of ice.

Made from Wheat or Maize (rather than Barley that is used in Malt Whiskies) young Grain whiskies are sharp and sweet and are primarily used in Blended Whiskies. These Blended Whiskies are made using a combination of Malt Whisky and Grain whisky where the Grain element is used to fill out the blend. The higher the proportion of grain to malt the cheaper the whisky as it is cheaper to produce grain whiskies than it is to produce malt whiskies. Where Malt is made in batches, Grain whiskies are made continuously in the column still method, hence the lower costs.

Given a bit of ageing though, Single Grain whiskies can offer up something immensely complex, deep and very interesting. Obviously, there will be more influence from the cask used, but the spirit itself develops a roundedness taking away the 'spirity' edge. They also develop the character which they can lack when they are young and their ageing potential in cask can be immense, which is why you get some quite old whiskies!

Hunter Laing Sovereign Caledonian 1982 (35 year old) 46.9%

Code: SOV2117 Dist: Feb 1982 Btl: 2017 Tasted: Nov 2017 Intense aromas of dark, dried fruit and subtle treacle. Almost malty in character with sweet cinnamon, pepper, heather, raisin, plum, orange and mature American oak. The grain gives it a lovely crisp edge and with time some toasty oak appears.

The palate opens with the dark dried fruit fouind on the nose, followed by sweet vanilla oak and hints of sub-Cognac-esque oxidised fruit. Hints of dark chocolate, spice comes through and some citrus notes freshen the mid palate. Long and succulent with dark chocolate, earth and vanilla. Slightly drying finish but the tannins are super smooth and a little treacle balances.

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Carn Mor Carn Mor Celebration of the Cask Invergordon 1987 (30 year old) 43.3%

Bourbon Barrel 903820 Dist: Oct 1987 Btl: Oct 2017 Tasted: Dec 2017 The nose is slightly herbal with crisp dried fruit and hints of honey, lemon, nuts and a lovely column still nip. The oak is very subtle and adds just a little oily caramel note with time.

The palate is fresh and crisp with dried apricot and white fruit. Elegant and quite nutty with the oak sitting in the background, although it does become slightly milky on the middle. The fresh, nippy column still spices return on the finish along with the dried fruit.

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Nikka (Other) Nikka Coffey Grain 45%

Bottle Code: 14B06B6 Tasted: Dec 2012 An intensely fresh nose yet the grain has a lovely softness of character along with a herbal, coffee demeanour. Beautifully sweet and almost gristy! The oak is quite light, elegant and slightly buttery. With time the grain notes harden and hints of juniper, citrus, walnut and light smoke become evident.

The palate begins quite sweetly with the oak showing a similar buttery quality. The grain comes through to add a nippy freshness and the spirit becomes quite herbal on the middle and mingles with the oak sweetness. Very full and wonderfully textured, but the grain finally beats the oak with a wave of citrus. It finishes quite dry with the oak adding a light marzipan sweetness along with a lingering cocoa, light coffee, liquorice and raisin note.

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Hunter Laing & Co Ltd Hunter Laing Sovereign Dumbarton 1987 (30 year old) 50.2%

Code: SOV2118 Dist: Mar 1987 Btl: 2017 Tasted: Nov 2017 A superbly rich and succulent nose of mature oak and plenty of sultana, dried grape and apricot, liberally coated in syrup. Subtle column still spices nip and balances the oak. Late hints of coconut, toffee and charred oak.

The palate is lithe and elegant with lightly dried fruit and hints of citrus rind, cinnamon and coconut. Very full and soft with developing succulent raisinated fruit. Excellent depth with lingering slightly coffee’d oak, dark chocolate and wood spice.

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James Macarthur Old Masters Invergordon 1991 (23 year old) 57.9%

Bourbon Cask 77732 Dist: 1991 Btl: 2014 Tasted: Dec 2014 An elegant and slightly high toned nose with oily vanilla and oily dried fruit. The soft and subtle oak adds hints of coconut, almond and mocha. Wonderfully complex with developing herbal, straw, earth and brown sugar notes.

The palate is soft and vanilla’d with moist, nutty dried fruit and coconut. Beautiful spicy on the middle with hints of praline and coffee. The alcohol gives those spices a real bite, however the soft vanilla and light honey counters. The finish is pure crème brulee with a lightly toasted granulated sugar coating.

A drop of water emphasises the oils, straw, flax and gives the grain a slight perfumed edge. The palate is very coconutty now but in saying that it is more grain focused and crisper. It’s just like a moist bounty bar but without the chocolate topping! And............. I love bounty bars!

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Douglas Laing & Co Ltd Old Particular Strathclyde 2005 (11 year old) 55.5%

Sherry Butt Code: OLD0478 Dist: Nov 2005 Btl: Aug 2017 Tasted: Sept 2017 Rich, spicy and sherried nose with the crisp graininess scything through. Hints of treacle, tar, wood smoke and liquorice follow. With time the smoke develops into an almost burnt scrub-like character, al la Balcones Brimstone!

The palate shows more of the grainy dried fruit spirit character with hints of wood smoke. The sherry spices and dried fruit come through on the middle along with the alcohol and burnt scrub notes. Intense, dried fruit and smoke finish. Wow, you have got to love the primal intensity of this grain whisky!

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Dewar Rattray North British Distillery A.D Rattray North British 1991 (25 year old) 53.2%

Re-Charred Sherry Butt 262058 Dist: Sept 1991 Btl: Jun 2017 Tasted: Apr 2018 Aromas of mature, rum-like baked fruit and plenty of winey spices. The sherry is very subtle and adds just a soupcon of sweet-ish raisinated fruit, cinnamon, redcurrant and nutmeg. A balancing crisp, grain note comes through with time.

The palate opens with more of the sherried dried fruit, walnut, liquorice, nutmeg and cinnamon, although some subtle grainy dried fruit does come through. Hints of cream coconut and vanilla on the middle, which has turned into a riot of peppery spice! Good length with lingering grainy dried fruit.

A drop of water emphasises the grain but also brings out a touch of chocolate, sweet prune and warm vanilla. The grainy fruit is emphasised on the palate as well and now there’s a touch of menthol and mint. Mouth-filling and juicy, but still pretty peppery on the finish!

See my review in Episode 264 of the Good Dram Show -

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