Girvan 10yo 2006/2017 (50%, Creative Whisky Company, Single Cask Exclusives, GV005)

Five years ago I wrote about a North British Single Grain Whisky. There, I briefly explained what a Single Grain is. Most of you will know their Blended Whisky (Blends as we anoraks call them) and Single Malts. But lesser known are probably the Blended Malt Whiskies (Vatted Malts to us), and Grain Whiskies. The latter is used as the basis for Blended Whisky with some Single Malt added.

The North British, I reviewed earlier, was a decent example of a well aged Grain Whisky from yesteryear, since It was distilled way back in 1964. Now we have the chance to look at a very modern Grain Whisky distilled at Girvan. Girvan is a grain Whisky you will find, for example, in Grant’s Blended Whisky. Yes Girvan has the same owners as Glenfiddich, Balvenie, Kininvie (closed) and Ailsa Bay (new). Another fun fact is that Hendrick’s Gin is also made at Girvan, although I doubt I will find any cucumber in this 10yo Girvan.

Color: Straw

Nose: Sweet and bread-like, cookie dough. Very friendly and lively. Floral, perfumy, soft, laid-back and restrained. Toffee, caramel and slightly grassy. Some whiffs don’t even smell like Whisky to me, but closer to an aged Wodka, Gin, Calvados or even better: Jenever or Korenwijn. No evolution in the glass whatsoever, it stays the same through several minutes of breathing. Smells nice though, appetizing and sweet, but a Single Malt it is most definitely not. We have landed on a different planet altogether, folks.

Taste: Sweet on entry, with nice soft wood notes. Lots of caramel and toffee, and again, aged Gin notes. Slightly burnt edge from toasted oak. The texture isn’t cloying nor syrupy and isn’t sugary sweet as well, so if I would like something sweet(er), yet not really sweet, this would do the trick. If I would like something really sweet I still wouldn’t reach for a Liqueur but rather go for a PX-Sherry, but that’s me. Apart from that, I really don’t have a sweet tooth to boot.

So, this is sweet and creamy on entry, helped by the slightly higher than normal ABV. For me the 50% works very well. in fact, this isn’t for Liqueur or PX-drinkers at all, it shows too much spicy, and fresh, wood for that. It’s a Whisky after all. After the full-on entry, the body itself is already less big, creamy or sweet, yet somewhat hotter and drier. Reminds me a bit of a Brazilian Rum, something like Epris maybe. Hints of fruit emerge, candied ones obviously. Amazingly, since the entry is rather big and creamy, the body still holds its own. The finish itself is a bit hot and quite “small”. All seems gone for a moment, but it comes back in the aftertaste of which still has medium length.

Quite a surprise if you are expecting a Whisky. It’s still a Whisky made by the wood it was aged in. This was, again like the North British, a learning experience as well. Better, but also different, than expected and not very expensive, so try it if you dare, it won’t break the bank.

Points: 82

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North British 25yo 1964/1990 (46%, Signatory Vintage, Cask #10451-10454, 1300 bottles, 75cl)

Well lets end this month with something different. Wow! Look at the label. Pure Grain Scotch Whisky! Today we call this a Single Grain Whisky. North British was founded in 1885 and lies near Edinburgh, on the site of a former pig farm. North British is a joint venture between Diageo and The Edrington Group. I don’t think Diageo needs an introduction, but the Edrington Group today is best known for their Highland Park and Macallan distilleries and The Famous Grouse and Cutty Sark blends.

Grain whisky is usually made in a continuous column still. Most important is that this still operates continuously as opposed to a pot still. The alcohol from a continuous still is much cheaper to make. The spirit is made at a higher strength (ABV) and has less flavor, more neutral. This kind of whisky is made for blended whisky, and is not often bottled by itself. If bottled by itself, like this single grain, almost all of it is aged for a prolonged period of time, to get as much flavor as possible from the cask is matures in.

Color: Gold

Nose: Clean sweet rum. Not overly woody, but the wood speaks. Fantastically old and creamy. Lots of vanilla. Spicy and floral. The floral part does remind me of roadside flowers in bloom. A very summery feel, and we need summer just about now. Fresh butter, cookie dough, creamy and very lively. If I could, I would eat this!

Taste: It’s the hint of clean yellow, light rum, the nice wood, the creaminess and the vanilla that come right through into the taste, but that’s it, nothing more. It is great as an example of an old grain, and it’s likable and utterly drinkable. A whisky lemonade, gone before you know it. Just hook this up to a soda machine that adds bubbles to your drink. This will be your summer refreshment! Alas in a bit of a diluted fashion. This should have been cask strength probably. It’s fabulous and very, very, simple.

As I have found in the past, old grains usually do smell the part, but lack a bit in the taste department. This smells fantastic but has a very simple taste, with a finish to match. I found this whisky to gain a lot of taste and balance from a lot of breathing. Do you like it? You bet I do!

Points: 84

Thanks to Michel for providing the sample!