Tag Archive: Girvan


Girvan 30

Girvan: 30 year (Scottish Single Grain Whisky: 30 years: 42.6% ABV)

Visual: Light gold.

Viscosity: Thin fast streaks.

Nose: Shredded wheat. Butter. Crumpets. Sugar dusting. Dried apricot and subtle dried dates. Dried banana. Marshmallows. Water brings out passion fruit.

Body: Vanilla pods. Banana. Pear drops. Toasted teacakes. White chocolate. Oily touch. Creamy. Water adds passion fruit, lychee and apricot.

Finish: Butterscotch. Mango. Light oak. Malt drinks. Toast. Truffle oil. Jolly ranchers. Water adds lychee and choc orange.

Conclusion: This is very a nice, very smooth whisky. It has the light fruity notes that seem to be Girvan’s style – with the creamy and smooth texture – but here it has a gentle toasted base that really helps the other flavours stand out.

Of all the Girvan whiskies I have tried this is the most open to contemplation – There is such subtle fruit, both yellow and orange, all very gentle rather than sparkling. Gentle sweetness in the form of marshmallow and vanilla. because it is so gentle it doesn’t hit you instantly instead building up over time, and despite the gentle character it still manages to grip well. You do not replace your previous sip each time so much as add another layer to it.

It feels odd that such an old a delicate whisky would need a few drops of water to open it up, but so it actually is. Water adds even more subtle fruit in lychee style – at this point it goes from good to a brilliantly complex whisky, without giving up the easy to drink characteristics.

Treating it as an easy drinking whisky wont give you the full experience though. You really need time and patience to get the full experience. It hits its peak about half way through a measure, which is both a strength and a weakness depending upon how you look at it.

For downsides, well there is a slight alcohol and not quite perfectly matched oak note in the finish – I guess all that time in the oak has made it just slightly over dry at the end. Apart from that, very impressive. Even better, when returning to it to try at home I found slightly different notes to those tried on the trip, so it keeps giving over time. Typical, my favourite is the one I am least likely to be able to afford. very good whisky though.

Background: Ok, you all know the drill by now. Full disclosure – Girvan paid for flight, etc so I could tour their distillery, gave me whisky there, and have sent me some whisky to do notes on. This is the final one – the thirty year old, and one from the last year that they used maize to make the spirit. little touches like that always fascinate me. Drunk while listening to some tracks from LukHash – I’ve been playing a free bullet hell shooter called “Jigoku Kisetsukan Sense of the Seasons” and some of the soundtrack is from that artist. Retro style music for some old whisky, a perfect match, no?

Girvan 25 Year

Girvan: 25 Year Old (Scottish Single Grain Whisky: 25 Years: 42.6% ABV)

Visual: Pale gold.

Viscosity: Very fast thick streaks.

Nose: Smooth and light. Candy sugar. Sugared orange jelly sweets. Tiramisu and light walnuts. Fruit sugars. Water adds oak notes.

Body: Very smooth. Custard. Orange. Treacle notes underneath. Jelly fruit sweets. Water brings out a more tangerine kind of orange.

Finish: Bright orange. Passion fruit. Caramel. “That whisky character” air. Water adds oak notes, toasted teacakes and coffee cake.

Conclusion: Smooth as heck comes to mind – all The Girvan expressions I have tried so far have had a certain smoothness, even the proof strength with enough water, but this has it to such a degree that water seems superfluous for the most part.

This is still a fruity expression, but concentrates more on the bright orange fruit notes, with a very tangerine sweetness. The backing to that is similar to the 4 Apps, but smoother delivered. It has a similar sweetness, more custard here with coffee cake and tiramisu underlying it. Similar but more nuanced. Very dessert like in all the imagery it brings.

The coffee cream flavour rises over time, showing more of that base creamy nature of the whisky, thickening and filling your mouth.

Oddly, at the tasting event I found this slightly a let down, fun but one note. Having had the chance to take more time with it at home, well, it definitely benefits from being treated as a more luxuriously slow drink. And at its price point one would really hope so!

I still prefer another in the Girvan range (With one more tasting to go, what could that be…?) but I have grown to respect this one. Smooth up front, bright initially into a creamy dessert character. Still needs just a touch more complexity to be an all time great, but very good.

Background: Ok, as always with these, full disclosure. Girvan paid for me to head up, visit their distillery and do a tasting, then sent me these whiskies to do notes on. I will, as always, try not to let this affect my notes. This, the 25 year they consider their signature expression of the brand – Due to the age this came from their older machinery, rather than the vacuum distilled 4 and 5 apps, and was aged in American Oak barrels. This was drunk while copying my entire music collection to my new MP3 player. It took a while. I always hate it when an old mp3 player dies on me, I get attached to the silly things.

Girvan Proof Strength

Girvan: Proof Strength (Scottish Single Grain Whisky: No Age Statement: 57.1% ABV)

Visual: Brackish gold.

Viscosity: Thick fast streaks.

Nose: Honeysuckle. Heather. Thick. Oak. Water gives more honey, some coffee bean notes and almonds.

Body: Treacle. Slight alcohol burn. Vanilla. Orange sorbet. Water makes smoother – adds more treacle and some coffee liqueur. More water brings similar to 4 Apps.

Finish: Tongue numbing initially. Toffee. Oak. Malt chocolate and caramel. Water adds more toffee and milky coffee comes out.

Conclusion: Such a difference a bit of abv strength can make, here the whisky that was fresh and bright at standard bottling becomes really thick with treacle and caramel notes – there does still seem to be some fruit notes, especially with water – but it is far from the light drink No 4 is.

Even more unusually the first few additions of water doesn’t really return the lighter and higher notes, instead bringing unexpected coffee liqueur out along with becoming more creamy, then finally with enough water – smooth. That last one is thankful – neat it has such burn I could barely realise the finish.

Neat it really doesn’t get my love, it is impressive forceful but as a more punchy whisky it seems to lose the advantage of single grain, instead feeling like a slightly sub par single malt style.

Water helps bridge the gap – gaining back the smoother character – while still keeping those heavier coffee notes. Until I added an absolute mass of water those expected apple and pear fruit notes never came out, and by that point it was basically app 4, but had with a bit less water it is an interesting coffee whisky experience.

I would say I prefer 4 apps, as this is at its best when you have added enough water to make it basically 4 apps. That was a well balanced package. This while interesting seems less as a whisky, and loses a lot of grain’s advantages.

Probably the weakest of the set I tried, the extra abv doesn’t seem to add a lot to the experience.

Background: A ramped up version of 4 Apps. If I remember rightly, this is the same whisky just not watered down to 42% abv. This is also the only whisky that isn’t in the box of samples sent to me, so I am going by my notes from the night of the tastings. As hinted in the last statement, I was invited to a tasting and tour which was paid for by Girvan, so full disclosure of possible biases. In the image, this is the third glass on the top row.

Girvan No 4 Apps

Girvan: No 4 Apps (Scottish Single Grain Whisky: No Age Statement: 42.6% ABV)

Visual: Light pale and brackish. Becomes hazy with water.

Viscosity: Very slow thin streaks.

Nose: Light oak. Butterscotch and oatmeal. Oily. Pear drops and apple. Water adds heather, white sugar dusting and fruity hard sweets.

Body: Butterscotch. Smooth. Vanilla. Lime sorbet. Light apricot. Water sweetens, adds apples and pears. Caramel. light nuttiness.

Finish: Malt chocolate. Oak. Energy to the air. Light milky coffee. Light apricot. Zesty lime note. Water adds apples and pear drops.

Conclusion: This is very interesting, coming on the back of the New Make Spirit as it does. Neat it has a similar sweet character, but with slightly oilier and heavier whisky notes. The sweetness is butterscotch and vanilla developing off the creamy character. It takes water to bring out the promise of bright green fruit that was in the make spirit.

So, without water it feels like a standard, slightly middle of the road whisky, however just a few drops of whisky helps bring it into its own – and it really needs those drops to shine. Without is seems a bit too heavy for the flavour and the slightly oily character feels out of place. Water gives ample smoothness, akin to a well made lowland whisky. The butterscotch richness now has milky coffee dessert undertones.

While not vastly complex this seems to be a straight shot of the quality that have come to think of as the Girvan style. A thick caramel but slick texture delivering sweet notes and a few high hats of green fruit that call to the house style identifiable in the make spirit.

It is a solid mainstay, like my first experience of Girvan it is one that delivers a compelling argument for single grain, though here with slightly fewer flourishes. A very solid dram.

Background: The second of the samples sent to me by Girvan. As before, full disclosure they sent me the samples, and had paid for me to visit the distillery, etc. This, which is a mix of whisky from their new no 4 and no 5 vacuum distillation columns has been aged in American Oak. Initially tried at the trip to Scotland, I took time back home to drink this while listening to some relaxing Iron Maiden: Dance Of Death. odd things relax me. leave me alone.

Girvan New Make Spirit

Girvan: New Make Spirit (Scottish Single Grain Make Spirit: 42.6% ABV)

Visual: Clear.

Viscosity: Fast streaks.

Nose: Sugar dusting. Creamy passion fruit. Tropical fruit chunks. Old fashioned sweet shop. Slight viscous alcohol notes. Gelatine chunks.

Body: Creamy. Light oak. Passion fruit. Vanilla. White chocolate. Smooth. Lemon curd.

Finish: Dry oak. Lightly creamy. Kiwi fruit air. Gin air – juniper berries.

Conclusion: It is quite rare that I run into a make spirit. Rarer still to find one that I would recommend as anything but a learning experience. Make spirit can be fascinating, bright, alcohol bubbling through – but often you will find that they can be mistaken for hygiene products.

This, then, is a surprisingly smooth sugar dusted creamy spirit. The entire atmosphere of the thing feels like an old school sweetshop, with sugar dustings and hard fruit sweets aromas floating in the air. The more expected make spirit character is visible in an alcohol jelly style viscous character – which while warm is far from burning as you would expect. It does have a bit of a kick, and will make for a wake up call if you don’t expect it but it is far less intense than I would have guessed. Even there a few drops of water smoothes it down nicely – I am impressed with how smooth they got this thing. Guess they weren’t lying with their PR on the whole vacuum distillation thing.

Thus had with water this is a pleasant creamy, lively and clean feeling spirit. Having those flavours on an utterly clear spirit makes me feel like this is the tab clear of the whisky world. If you aren’t old enough to get that reference I hate you for your energetic youth. In a nice way.

I would say the finish is the weakest point – it is there that there is still notable alcohol hanging around, in a juniper or gin style, the remnants of this thing’s youth.

I also had the chance to try the full strength (ninety odd percent) make spirit which was…. an experience shall we say. Burning, warm, when had with a ton of water finally exposing the pleasant experience I have with this version of it. I can see why they bottle at 42.6%.

While it is still a bright faced experience and not for everyone this is probably the first make spirit I would actually drink for fun rather than just as a learning experience. Now, if they had the actual whisky version of the spirit available I would probably go for that instead, but this is fun.

It is a simple burst of creamy, hard candy and tropical fruit – and a gleeful experience as that

Background: First tried at the Girvan even I was invited to, with the notes complemented by the samples they sent me. So yes, disclaimer, Girvan have been providing me with items for review, and also covered the costs of visiting their distillery etc as covered in the recent article. Ok. Full disclosure done. I think this is the first Make Spirit I have done notes on – Whisky cannot be called whisky until it has been aged at least three years ( I think six for Ireland). before that it is called Make Spirit.

Essays and Alcoholisms: Working With The Grain – A Girvan Trip

Enjoying Whisky

Single Grain. It’s a term that has been popping up on the outskirts of my whisky hunting experiences over the past few years. From the first few encounters at whisky shows, to rare special releases, to highly recommended bottlings being pressed into my hands at local pubs – a lot has happened to make me look again at what has oft been considered as the weaker end of the blending mix. A lot that has really shaken up my preconceptions. What I have never had though is that story, the bit of ”Useless Knowledge” that, as Bertrand Russell pointed out, is not useless but in fact an integral part in increasing our enjoyment, in adding context to an experience and making it feel all the more.

All of which is a very circumloquacious way of saying I was recently invited by Anonymous Artists to head up to the Girvan Distillery for a tour, some tastings, and some background on the whole enterprise. Which is also a good a point as any to bring up the full disclosure that they covered cost of transport, accommodation, food, whisky, etc for the trip. As always I will try my best to be unbiased, but feel full disclosure is important as, well, unlike gamergate I actually do believe in ethics in journalism and don’t just use it as a term to harass people with. I also made sure before the trip I could write whatever I wanted, and was given no hassle at all, for which I thank them

So, where to start? I think one thing that captured the two aspects of the trip, and defined them well was a comment from Kevin Abrook (William Grant & Sons’ Global Whisky Specialist) who lead the tastings and much of the experience, a comment I shall paraphrase here. The difference in Single Malt to Single Grain comes down to a perception of craft and romance on the side of the Single Malts, and engineering and science on the side of Single Grain. The idea that the single grain is taking the adaptability and customisation of the column stills and using them to fine tune the spirit to their needs.

However, as I mentioned in the opening, I am a sucker for the useless knowledge, the context and, yes – the romance – which despite that statement turned out not to be absent from the history of the grain. So, if you will indulge me my foibles, it is there I shall start,

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Cambeltown Loch 21

Springbank: Campbeltown Loch 21 Year (Scottish Blended Campbeltown Whisky: 21 Years: 46% ABV)

Visual: Light yellow to grain.

Viscosity: Very slow thick streaks.

Nose: Clear lemon and heather. Vanilla. Husked grain. Water brings out a grassy character.

Body: Smooth. Spritzer undertone. Grassy. Some fire. Toffee. Water soothes the fire, adds custard sweetness, more grass and heather. Light smoke.

Finish: Warming and oaken. Malt drink touch. grassy. Fudge. Water builds fudge up, adds light rocks and light meat broth. Kaffir lime. Slight sprizty touch.

Conclusion: You know, I try to be an open minded fellow – I really do. I would even like to think I do ok at it – but it some ways I am old fashioned. For example I am generally a single malt guy. I have enjoyed vatted malts, blended whisky and single grain – but my go to is single malt. So I was interested, if a tad wary at a mix of single malt and single grain.

Now first impressions didn’t help here – it opened smooth, but quickly became fiery and the finish was mainly oaken. Of course, grain’s best friend is water, and so I held back final decision until I could add water.

It turns out they are still best buds.

Water really brings out the grassy Springbank character backed here by a smoother toffee and vanilla character than most Campbeltowns – which, based on experience, may be the influence of the Girvan Single Grain. With a bit more water you even get some smoke and a meaty broth character in the finish – which is why I guess it was Springbank used – the slightly peated malt I’m thinking.

Here, with the water, it is like a smoother and sweeter Springbank 10, which is the closest comparison. It benefits from light citrus notes added top and tail, very light as the main character is very recognise grassy Springbank.

As a single malt fan I will say I prefer the Springbank 15, but this is a very nice balance between the strengths of both grain and malt, with the sweetness making it more easy drinking than usual. So on personal preference I go with the 15, but is down to just that, the personal preference. They are both very proficient expressions.

Background: Saw this at Brewdog Bristol and was intrigued. It is a mix of 60% Single Malt (I presume Springbank) and 40% Single Grain (Girvan). At 21 years it is a very interesting expression. So, as an utter Springbank nut, I of course gave it a go. Thanks to the staff who helped out with the info on this one when I asked.

Clan Denny Girvan 1992

Clan Denny: Girvan Distillery:Vintage 1992 (Scottish Single Cask Single Grain Whisky: 21 Year: 59.6% ABV)

Visual: Quite thick viscous look in custard to gold colour.

Viscosity: Medium speed thick streaks from the spirit.

Nose: Caramel. Vanilla. Grain husks. Light sharp citrus notes. Custard. Sloe gin. Barley. Water makes slightly stewed fruit.

Body: Squeezed lime up front. Vanilla and custard. Warming but not burning. Cherries under cake sponge. Malt chocolate. Water removes the little alcohol presence and gives very smooth custard and toffee. Brings out apples, light cinnamon and twisted treacle.

Finish: Cherries and fruitcake. Raisins. Vanilla toffee. Light alcohol numbing. Malt chocolate and orange. Water adds cinnamon apples, but still has an alcoholic air.

Conclusion: Single grain, ok I will admit that even I take shots at single grain whisky at times. Unfairly. Well, mostly unfairly. Well, sometimes unfairly. This however puts its stall out and gives a good case for single grain whisky to exist.

For one thing it shows how with single grain the oak influence is very immediately evident, here with lots of smooth caramel, custard and vanilla flavour. Despite the abv the main body virtually never reaches that burning point where the alcohol obscures the flavour.

For another it shows a remarkable amount of depth. Neat you get a sharp lime touch on first sip, hints of dark fruit as you hold it, into a more evident fruitcake touched finish. With water the darker fruits shift and turn revealing green fruit flavours previously hidden.

It is that progression, both from sweet aroma to fruity finish, and in the progression with water, that makes it and between them it gives you a lot to examine. Now, the finish does always hold a slightly too alcoholic air for me, but for the most part it is very smooth and layered. Nothing harsh, just what I was looking for at the time.

It reminds me of blended malts in that it is very smooth, but here that single cask nature seems to present just enough of those slight odd unpolished edges that make up a charming whisky for me.

The distinguished end of easy going.

Background: Ok, Clan Denny is a name for a collection of (usually blended malt) Whiskys. Girvan is a single grain distillery. Ok, I’ve got it. This was drunk at Brewdog Bristol, recommended as something a bit different when I wanted a low peat whisky to start the day with. Now single grain and I have not got along often, but I have seen enough to know there are special grain whiskys out there. Therefore I took my pen, notebook and water and gave it a chance.

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