Single grain whisky needs a lot of time. It needs to sit in a cask for a very long time before it’s really fit for consumption. So how about 43 years? That’s what we’ve got with this rarity.
Let’s cut to the chase: single grain whisky is about as unsexy as Scotch whisky can be. More so than even the largest malt distilleries, grain distilleries, which use enormous (Coffey patented) column stills instead of attractive copper stills, and I think it’s fair to say the places look like apocalyptic compounds. They are not the kind of places you’d take your granny for a cup of tea and to buy some whisky fudge.
Grain whisky – which uses different grains instead of malted barley, predominantly maize – shoots off the stills at a higher strength than malt whisky. It’s much closer to being a neutral spirit such as vodka, and therefore – objectively speaking – contains fewer of the juicy molecules that actually contribute to flavour. Higher ABV spirits also mature much more slowly and extract less from the cask. So, if you value things like… oh I don’t know, taste, then it probably isn’t as good as malt whisky, scientifically speaking. However, you can mass produce the crap out of it, and stick it into blended whisky; and as blends make up the vast majority of Scotch whisky, you could easily surmise that grain whisky is the backbone of the industry.
But some people do like it. I must admit, I do have a soft spot for a good grain whisky. Given a long time in good casks, grain whisky can be pretty decent stuff indeed (I really liked the older bottlings of the Clan Denny range). And I have an old grain whisky today – one that’s spent 43 years in a cask. This 1972 Invergordon single grain whisky was a bespoke bottling for the whisky bar at Dornoch Castle, split with Kimura Limited, Japan. 218 bottles were available, but only 100 were available to collect from the whisky bar itself. It’s bottled at 48.9% ABV and costs £150.
Invergordon 1972, Cask 37 Tasting Notes
Colour: deep copper.
On the nose: thick golden syrup. Vanilla. Over-ripe banana. Ginger biscuits. Madeira cake. Lemon sponge. Orange marmalade. Pears simmering away in a pan. Caramelised sugar.
In the mouth: now that’s the nicest single grain whisky I’ve had in a long, long time. Gorgeous texture, and the strength feels bang on. Again, much of the nose follows on here: it is syrup-y, but not too sweet. A slight bitterness from the tannins keeps that in check. Vanilla fudge. Toffee. A little toasted fennel. Very fruity, veering now and then into solvent territory. Pears again. Grape juice. A lot of warmth on the finish. Muscovado sugar. Branston pickle. A slight metallic aftertaste, and not too woody.
A very interesting, complex grain whisky. It is absolutely delicious. I’m just not quite sure I could see myself spending £150 for a grain whisky, though, no matter how old it is…
Note: I managed to get my hefty sample again from my whisky dealer, Whisky Rover. See what he thought of it here.