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No way to get around it, with single malt prices reaching astronomical figures, grain whiskies are hot stuff. Official and independent bottlers alike are well aware of the growing popularity and line up to cash in on this trend. And when I say cash in, I mean they’re pulling out all the tricks in the book to charge us extra for a product, that’s neither rare nor expensive to produce. Given the high yield of most grain distillery plants, the commodity’s cost is next to nothing. And while on average grain whisky will never be as good as its malted cousin, given time and careful cask selection they can create a product that might spark the whisky enthusiasts’ interest. Ergo, you would think that no reasonable person would buy into the trend. But no, we’re inveterate when it comes to our appetite. Grain whiskies can be an awful lot of fun and thus far notch batches that have hit the shelves were top notch. Case in point, this single grain from North British, a joint venture between Diageo and Edrington, matured in an unusual cask.
Description: part of the Signatory Vintage Cask Strength Collection, matured for 16 years in a Californian Sherry cask #259480.
Nose: an intensely fruity and sweet welcome: notes of sultanas, cherries, dates, dry hay, gum drops and red jelly babies. Though it all smells highly artificial it never becomes unpleasant. Given time it will develop into a more expressive vegetable profile with aromas reminiscent of spinach.
Mouth: a rich body, slightly tart at first. Quite a complex palate: bitter wood, a fair dash red wine, some Cynar (Italian herbal liquor), coffee cichorei and demerara sugar. It all comes with a salty touch
Finish: coffee, with a bitter herbal touch, lingers in the background.
Verdict: if it had been part of a blind tasting, I would have classified it as a whisky liqueur. Who’s the culprit? cask or spirit? Unanticipated flavours, unusual profile,… it’s all so strange and unfamiliar. It only got a 77/100 score on Whiskybase, but I sincerely enjoyed it. ?