Here’s comes the grain again.
I’m only happy when it grains.
Um… it’s graining men...
So single grain whisky then. If you pay attention to Whisky blogs or anything to do with whisky for long enough even now and again the issue of single grain whisky comes up.
A typical blog post on single grain will proceed thusly;
“Hold up. Wait. What? Single grain whisky? What’s that?!” Followed by an explanation, followed by something about how it’s unfairly seen as a poor cousin to single malt whisky, followed by a review of a single grain and a recommendation to try it and widen your whisky experience.
Although I confess that whenever I see someone covering single grain this whiskysponge article usually comes to mind…http://whiskysponge.com/2014/02/09/people-still-pretending-to-enjoy-grain-whiskies/
I’m not going to give you a definition or explanation of Single Grain because Google. I just wanted to talk about my recent grain whisky experience. My sole experience of grain whisky had been trying a 25+ year old one at the Malt Whisky Society that had tasted like Whethers Originals (in a good way).
That was until a couple of weeks ago when I took part in the Girvan Patent Still Tweet Taste.
These are my notes;
Girvan New Make Spirit (42% abv)
Unsurprisingly very light on the nose. A bit of vanilla and a bit of cereal. This was the first time I’d ever tried new make grain whisky before. It seems like a little like a decent vodka. Maybe good for cocktail making. Not that it's for sale anyway but it was interesting to taste.
Girvan No. 4 Apps NAS (42% abv)
This was the same stuff aged a few years. There was more vanilla and now a bit more fruity. It had a comforting apple pie and custard smell, with a syrup sponge taste. Fruity but in a more confectionery way, like rosy apples.
At £44 it was quite drinkable but in all honesty I could recommend other whiskies to spend £44 on.
Girvan 25 Year Old (42% abv)
This was one where the sweetness of grain really came into play, combining with the wood to give a more complex nose. My notes on the night said “Smells like a galleon at sea transporting sugar cane from the West Indies... probably” (bear in mind I was 3 drams in by this point).
I got banana, burnt sugar and dark chocolate on the palate. Creme Brulee on to taste – in fact generally desserts were a theme during the tasting.
This was a lovely whisky – certainly this is where I can see people saying grain is the equal of malt but at £270… it’s pretty far down the list of bottles I'd be buying if I had that kind of money burning a hole in my pocket.
Girvan 30 Year Old (42% abv)
For me the winner on the night. An Eton Mess with a little slosh of rum over it. Rich and creamy with berries and some nice warming rum notes. For me it was more subtle than the 25 and more rewarding, nicely balancing the flavours. A bit of lemon sponge in there, just very light and not overpowering.
Again whilst this was the equal of many single malts the £375 price tag is just too prohibitive.
If there is anything one can draw from this it’s that purely from a taste point of view, single grain whisky can be as well regarded as single malt. However it seems that it takes a long time in the barrel for that too happen. And it’s going to set you back a few quid too.
Otherwise it seems to me that younger single grain can just feel a little too synthetic and sweet. But I'm very glad to have been given such an education in single grain.
Many thanks again to The Whisky Wire and William Grant and Son for arranging the Tweet Tasting