Tag Archive: Single Grain


Macleod’s : Lowland Single Grain (Scotland Lowland Single Grain Whisky: 40% ABV)

Visual: Deep, slightly darkened gold. Fast thick streaks come from the spirit.

Nose: Alcohol air. Clean. Vanilla. Muesli.

Body: Light and smooth front. Alcohol jelly touch to the middle, but not heavy. Jelly babies Marshmallow. Water adds white chocolate. Toasted teacakes. Buttery notes.

Finish: Tinned tropical fruit. Clean. Vodka. White chocolate. Apricot. Water adds more white chocolate. Some chocolate cake. Sugar dusting.

Conclusion: You know, considering the dark gold colour this has, I was expecting a bit more to the flavour it comes with. Or at least a bit more weight to it. Ok, yes this is a lowland single grain, but man this looked utterly soaked in its bourbon ageing.

Instead, without water, this is a fairly clean, smooth spirit. It is a tad alcohol touched, but not too much, just a bit more than you would expect from a 40% abv lowland. It is kind of vodka with whisky flavours added in style more than anything else.

So, yeah, this definitely needs water in order to get it going. Which is no real surprise with the exception of the aforementioned colour of the spirit. I’m guessing that this isn’t old spirit, despite it being generally smooth, so a bit of water always helps, and this is doubly true with grain whisky.

Now water makes this a fluffy, marshmallow, lightly sweet thing – against a still sweet, but bready toasted teacake backing. It is still nothing like what you would expect from the darker gold colour, but, oh yeah, this is some easy drinking fun.

It is still not up there at brilliant, the tail end finish is kind of neutral alcohol which is .. meh – but generally it is a gentle, sweet, light fluffy thing. In fact it very much shows the bourbon influence – maybe that is all that is shown – like a lot of grain whisky the base is very neutral, so nearly all if not all the flavour is from the oak.

Still, it is nice bourbon ageing. It is very much a one style whisky, and very much needs water, and even with that has a few off notes buuut generally you will find it an easy drinking, sweet and fun whisky for a fairly decent price.

I dig it.

Background: I can’t actually find much on this whisky. I can find a lot on Macleod’s Single malt regions range, but, while this is visually very similar, and comes from the lowland region, this is in fact a single grain whisky. Which does not get listed with the regional single malts for obvious reasons. Anyway, there are not many lowland single malts, which I guess is why they went with a single grain for their pick for this – I’ve only had a few single grains, and while very different from single malt they have earned their place. Tend to be much more influenced by oak ageing than base spirit in my experience. Anyway- have been playing the utter hell out of Celeste for a while, so went with Celeste: farewell OST for drinking music. Such a good game. This was another one grabbed from Independent Spirit.

Douglas Laing: Old Particular: Port Dundas 14 Year (Scottish Single Grain Whisky: 14 Year: 48.4% abv)

Visual: Deep gold. Middling speed thick streaks come from the spirit.

Nose: Thick honey. Honey nut cornflakes. Slight alcohol tingle. Grapes. Caramel. Vanilla. Water adds light sulphur and apples.

Body: Honey. Apricot. Oak. Smooth orange juice hints. Grapes. Slight alcohol harshness. Water makes smooth, with more honey and slight apple. Custard sweetness.

Finish: Caramel. Honey. Oak. Alcohol air. Water adds apples and more honey.

Conclusion: Wow, this is a honey sweet, syrupy, caramel laden whisky. I don’t think I have ever encountered a whisky as flat out sweet as this before.

It has a touch of rough alcohol neat, but a few drops of water quickly sorts that out. Then, had with those few drops of water, you have massively sweet, syrupy tasting whisky delivered smoothly with a few green fruit notes around the edges.

It’s fairly simple, but impressively powerful in the sweet flavours. I will have to admit that I have yet to get a grip on what exactly is the Port Dundas house style – every expression I’ve had has been so very different, possible the house style is that it takes so much from the oak and that is why, but any which way, I can definitely see the appeal of this one. It is very well set to be an easy sipping whisky, with water at least – the only bit against that is that it gets a tad overly oaken in the finish, but generally it is good.

So, a sweet burst of a whisky – if that is your thing then definitely check it out.

Background: So, eighth time around – Mini whisky samples! Woo woo! (I’m repeating myself so much that I’m starting to feel like San at the end of a bad run on Undertale …) These were donated to me by Independent Spirit for me to do notes on – much appreciated! Being a sample this is a smaller measure than normal, so may be slightly shorter notes that usual, not that I’m complaining. From a quick google I think this is distilled 2004, bottled 2014 and was aged in a Pedro Ximénez cask, which would explain a lot of the unusual notes I got. Went with some unusual heavy tunes for this, a CD a mate gifted to me years ago – Byzantine – The Fundamental Component – I have no idea what the lyrics are saying, but it is heavy as fuck.

Douglas Laing: Cambus Old Particular 25 Year (Scottish Single Grain Whisky: 25 Year: 51.5% ABV)

Visual: Pale greened gold with fast thick streaks from the spirit.

Nose: Strong alcohol. Thick aroma. Lighter fluid touch. Apples. Praline hint. Nutty. Vanilla. Oak. Water adds jelly babies, slight sulphur and eggs.

Body: Soft. Vanilla. Creamy. Oily alcohol evident but not harsh. Apricot. Dry oak. Water makes smooth. Hot cross buns and butter. Jelly babies.

Finish: Oily alcohol. Pear drops. Vanilla. Oaken. Dry. Water adds hot cross buns. Slight raisins. Slight dry spice. Soft bitter red wine.

Conclusion: Ok, this one is packed with some viscous, oily alcohol. Be prepared and warned. I was worried from the waft of alcohol that came out on first pour that this was going to be pure lighter fluid.

So, yeah a tad nervous as I went onto the first sip and … it is comparatively restrained actually. There is still a thick watered down jelly like alcohol feel, but there is no burn with it. The flavours are similarly gentle, with soft vanilla and creamy notes against subtle fruity backing.

It still definitely benefits from water though – the thick alcohol is smoothed out and given a bready, hot cross bun like feel and taste which helps it stand out from the ok, but fairly generic flavours it had before.

Similarly water brings out what I would guess at sherry ageing, though the light colour of the whisky makes me unsure on calling that one. 25 years in a sherry butt would give more colour I would guess, unless it was third fill? I dunno. Anyway, it brings out subtle red wine and spice notes in an understated sweet way that makes me thing of a more gentle take on some young Glenfarclas.

Despite that it doesn’t really stand out as a must have. It has got a nice weight to it, a surprising lack of alcohol burn, but feels like basic notes done well rather than a stand out wonder.

Ok, but I’d expect more from a 25 year whisky.

Background: So, second time around – Mini whisky samples! Woo woo! These were donated to me by Independent Spirit for me to do notes on – much appreciated! Being a sample this is a smaller measure than normal, so may be slightly shorter notes that usual, not that I’m complaining. Cambus is a lowland single grain distillery which I have never tried anything from before, so this should be interesting. Decided to go for some heavy contemplation music, so went for the experimental masterpiece from Godspeed you! Black Emperor! That is Don’t Bend Ascend. Such haunting, background yet weighty music for serious whisky tasting.

Clan Denny / Douglas Laing: North British : 1991 (Scottish Single Grain Whisky: 25 Year: 46.7% ABV)

Visual: Very pale yellowed grain. Fast thick streaks from the spirit.

Nose: Baileys. Orange cream to choc orange. Crushed bourbon biscuits. Water adds tannins, lemon cheesecake and menthol to grapes notes.

Body: Custard. Golden syrup. Apples. Calvados. Water adds icing sugar, lemon cheesecake, has more of a waxy and alcohol feel.

Finish: Apples. Pears. Creamy to baileys. Pear drops. Lightly waxy. Slight dry shortbread. Water adds light oak and white chocolate. More water brings out menthol notes and grapes.

Conclusion: This is a sweet and creamy one. Initially it really pushes a Baileys style – thick and creamy against young spirit style green fruit notes. There is a slight thickness to it, actually a kind of polish to wax feel that actually enhances the creaminess.

Water makes it drier and slightly spicier, but otherwise manages to marry the two sides of the neat whisky. The fruit notes become creamier in a soft lemon style over a sweet cheesecake like base, rather than the brighter green fruits of the neat spirit.

Here, with water, more of the bourbon cask influence shows, more oak, more white chocolate, all emphasising sweeter notes that makes this feel like a bright, dessert style, whisky. Adding just a drop of water does bring out more alcohol roughness, but if you can push through that, adding even more water mellows it down again and lets you enjoy the gentle lemon character.

It always keeps a touch of energy that comes from the grain spirit style, but matches it to a sweeter, gentler, dessert style which means it manages to be relaxing despite that grain energy. It feels like some thing to enjoy post meal and relax with.

A lovely bit of a dessert edged dram.

Background: One of about 300 bottles this is a single cask single grain whisky and the first of five whiskies I tried at the most recent Uber whisky tasting at Independent Spirit. Single grain gets a lot of shit as the lesser cousin of single malt, but there are some gems hidden in its depths as I have found over the years. Time will tell if this is one of them. This was aged in a refill hogshead cask. As is usual for these kind of events I was slightly distracted by the event, but still tried to do the best notes I could as who would know when I would get the chance to try whisky like this again.

Douglas Laing: Independent Spirit: Old Particular: Port Dundas 13 Year (Scottish Single Grain Whisky: 13 Year: 48.4% ABV)

Visual: Very pale. Brackish water to pale yellow. Fast streaks come from the spirit.

Nose: Viscous alcohol. Apples. Menthol. Water makes creamy and adds light peppermint.

Body: Baileys. Green apple. Strong alcohol. Water makes more creamy. Light peppermint. Toffee. Pears. More baileys. Viscous jelly alcohol feel.

Finish: Alcohol air. Menthol. Baileys. Pear. Water adds white chocolate. Tinned tropical fruit. Creamier and with peppermint notes.

Conclusion: This is a mix of the expected and the unexpected. I had tried this in the shop before buying and I have general memories of being impressed by it. Hence why I bought it, it wouldn’t make sense otherwise, right?

On first open of this bottle this seemed familiar, but I couldn’t work out why it had jumped out at me before. It had green fruit that spoke of a younger spirit matched with a thicker, viscous body – warming with a jelly like alcohol feel, but not burning like a young spirit would be. Good, but hardly stand out.

Which is why, these days, I do notes about a week after breaking open a bottle. It really seems to make all the difference.

Now, a week on, it has a lightly creamy liqueur like set of notes which becomes distinctly Baileys like with water. It is a completely unexpected blast that mixes with the green fruit to crate a thicker and heavier single grain experience. It is still that thick, viscous alcohol character in the body that you often get of grain, but with the creamier flavours heading out into a fresh peppermint and menthol endgame.

Usually I expect single grain to show more of the cask influence, but here the whisky is very much its own thing. There is white chocolate, toffee and tinned tropical fruit notes, that say bourbon ageing to me – but they take time to come out and take the stage.

This is very good – it does have some rough alcohol edges and slight overly heavy jelly alcohol character at times which are not the best, but generally it is very enjoyable. A touch of water helps but never quite removes the alcohol character – a flaw but not one that ruins this interesting experience.

Background: Another independent bottling from Independent Spirit – this time in collaboration with Douglas Laing. This is one of 126 bottles and was aged from 2004 to 2017. Port Dundas was a single grain distillery that stopped production in 2011. I’ve tried a 20 year bottling of it before, but is my sole experience of this distillery and not quite to my tastes. This was drunk while listening to the new Arch Enemy CD for the 2nd time– seems more varied than prior albums, taking a bit of time to get used to it.

Boarders Single Grain Scotch Whisky

Boarders: Single Grain Scotch Whisky (Scottish Single Grain Whisky: 51.7% ABV)

Visual: Deep yellowed grain.

Viscosity: Many fast thick streaks.

Nose: Sugared almonds. Definite alcohol. Vanilla. Rum and raisin. Water makes smoother and more nutty. More water adds slight lemon cakes.

Body: Quite smooth mouthfeel despite the alcohol. Rum and raisin. Cardboard. Water adds raspberry liqueur. Gin. Soft lemon cake. Quite viscous still. More water makes more lemony. Some squeezed orange. Peach syrup and tinned peaches. Even more water adds pineapple chunks.

Finish: Rum and raisin ice cream. Cardboard. Alcohol air. Water adds a quite medicinal air, nutty and slightly rough. More water gives orange, lemon, watermelon Jolly Ranchers and dried apricot.

Conclusion: You really have to lay on the water with a trowel for this one. At over 50% abv for a single grain whisky that isn’t a surprise, but it is still worth pointing out. Ya know, just in case. What is surprising is that despite a distinct alcohol character you can still feel the viscous yet smooth texture to the whisky even neat. A good sign there at the start.

The rest of it – not so good neat. A slight cardboard like character, definite alcohol – you can feel a nice rum and raisin character there but it is overwhelmed by the rougher notes.

Progress with water is initially a mixed bag- rougher nutty comes came out which are kind of unpleasant and the cardboard, while it lightens, never fully goes away. On the positive side the flavour style definitely improves – less alcohol, more rum and raisin, then slowly lemon cake. Then, with more water, a full fruity burst that seems like grain whisky’s speciality style. Out comes lots of lemon, watermelon, peach – all backed by the gentle rim and raisin.

So, good? Erm, well, even with a ton of water it has those cardboard backing and rougher edges. I don’t know the age of this, but it feels young, and while I have had some very good single grain whisky over the past years; Whisky that has shocked me away from my preconceptions of grain whisky, they still seem far more reliant on age for quality than their single malt counterparts.

So, not one I can really get into. Its good points are always layered over that weak backdrop. It needs a better base before the, admittedly ok, bells and whistles can work. So not worth it, especially at the slightly higher price point this comes at. It needs a few more years I think to work out the rough edges, then maybe its strengths can shine.

Background: Like Raasay before it, this is not made at its named distillery. Instead being distilled at an unnamed Highland distillery and finished in Oloroso sherry casks. It is said to be an example of what they hope their whisky will be like when it is done. Apparently this is the only single grain scotch whisky to be made from 50% wheat and 50% malted barley. So they say. Bias warning – this was gifted to me after Independent Spirit’s Raasay whisky tasting night for me to take home and do notes on. As always I will try to not let that affect my notes. Many thanks for the whisky. This was drunk while listening to Godspeed You! Black Emperor!’s Lift Your Skinny Fists Like Antennas To Heaven – very relaxing and vibrant music for doing notes.

Invergordon 50 year Old 1964 Cask 2 Xtra Old Particular
Douglas Laing: Invergordon 50 year Old 1964: Cask 2: Xtra Old Particular (Scottish Single Grain Whisky: 50 Year: 43% ABV)

Visual: Watered down treacle to gold.

Viscosity: Mixed speed streaks.

Nose: Perfume. Cedar wood. Honey. Rose bush. Cherries. Treacle. Vanilla. Water adds oatmeal biscuits.

Body: Smooth but surprisingly thick feel. Oak. Cherries. Treacle. Rose wine. Water adds digestive biscuits and vanilla.

Finish; Mild milky coffee. Cherry pocked digestives. Lemon cakes. Water loses some of the character but adds vanilla. Very long lasting.

Conclusion: Ok, the wood influence here is off the charts, yet someone how not dull and single note oaken. You have my attention. This breaks out with what I think may be a very aromatic cedar wood style along with cherry notes. I say may as I am not exactly an expert on wood, grant me some lattitude here – it is kind of rosebush style as well, very floral.

Normally too much raw oak puts me off a whisky, but that is because they get dull – here the wood influences all have a character of their own. It feels and smells like so many different types of wood which I am fairly sure were never used in the ageing but seem there nonetheless.

When you start to sip the feel is thicker than you would expect from such an old whisky – not heavy, just viscous. It makes the sweetness so treacle styled against the still floral and cherry dominate oak style. It is very different to the very old Malt Whisky I have tried – the whole thing puts me in the mind of one of those sweet dried cherry pocked digestives you can get. Possible cherry wood influence as well – though that is based entirely on a comparison to a Stone Brewing beer I had that had been made with Cherry wood. I find it odd that cherry wood seems to actually give cherry notes. Go figure.

Careful application of water seems to mainly bring out more digestives and vanilla sweetness. It doesn’t make a huge difference and the whisky is fine by itself. While this is not my favourite whisky it is most definitely something I have not seen before. A real showcase of the influence of oak- fascinating and still pretty good as a standalone whisky. At the cost of a bottle I would probably not grab one, but it is well worth trying if you get the chance without committing to a whole bottle.

Background: One final time! “Ok, bias warning first: This is a part of the Masters Of Malt Whisky Calendar given to The Bath Whisky and Rum Club, part of Independent Spirit, who invited me to assist with the notes in return for uploading them to alcohol and aphorisms. Sounded a very fair deal to me. Also, due to this we each only had half of the 3cl bottle so thoughts are based on a smaller exploration than usual. On the other hand I could not say no to the chance to try so many new whiskies. Many thanks!”. So a few things about this whisky. 1) It is fifty years old. I repeat 50 YEARS. Ok, age isn’t everything but this is the first time I have run into a single grain whisky this old. 2) IT IS SPELLED EXTRA MOTHER FUCKERS. THERE IS AN E IN IT. Anyway, excited, the final whisky of the whisky calendar, it was a fun time.

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.

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