Not too long ago, I hosted a tasting for a group of French visitors spending a few days in Edinburgh. It was a fairly informal affair, taking place at Gordon Nicolson, where each visitor underwent a kilt fitting in between drams. Obviously, with this all-male crowd, there were occasions where my terribly British character came into its own and I managed to avert my gaze whilst simultaneously pouring, and talking about, the whisky.
As well as this Glen Grant, the line-up included whisky from Girvan, BenRiach and GlenDronach. I enjoy hosting tastings in French but even I have to admit that, although my explanation of chill filtration went well, the story of James Allardice and a couple of prostitutes may have lost something in translation. Despite this, the whisky itself knew no language barriers and the most popular of the evening proved to be this bottling of Glen Grant from Cadenhead’s.
Should you wish to read a little more about Glen Grant distillery itself, head over to Jason’s review of the Duncan Taylor 1974 36 year old bottling from earlier this month. There’s no point in me repeating the same information here (albeit in a far inferior way).
Apart from the actual whisky itself, the focus point of this post is the wonderful packaging. These days, there’s no excuse for poor packaging. So, thankfully, this whisky comes in a bottle. The bottle, made of glass, does a grand job of containing the whisky. As does the stopper. Both the bottle and the stopper are identical to many of the other bottles and stoppers that contain many of Cadenhead’s other whiskies. The sides of the bottle have been ‘pinched’ slightly making it very easy to pick up, especially if you have tiny hands like me. The breathtaking aspect here, though, is the label. It’s black with silver letters that are a little bit shiny. This is a nice touch as you can see the shiny letters through the gap in the box which is made entirely from black card.
Of course, such fancy packaging comes at a price. This cask strength, small batch, Glen Grant was purchased for a whopping £77.50. As an example, simply for comparison purposes, you could buy a bottle of another 23 year old Speysider, Longmorn, bottled at 48% ABV, with its silver top and ‘lacquered, deep purple, wooden gift box’, for £410.
Admittedly, the Longmorn reference might be a bit dated now but hopefully you understand my point. If I wanted aesthetics, I’d buy a work of art (although Ikea is more my budget, these days). If I wanted tactility, I’d buy a guinea pig. When I buy a bottle of whisky, I don’t want to stroke it or stare at it; I just want to drink it. Therefore, if the price I pay is a true reflection of the contents of the bottle, rather than all the other guff, then I’m a happy dramsel.
Cadenhead’s Glen Grant-Glenlivet 23 years (distilled 1992; bottled 2016)
Bottled at 53.1% abv with 414 bottles produced from a vatting of two casks: a bourbon hogshead and a bourbon barrel.
On the nose: there’s an initial hit of lemon meringue pie with hints of pencil sharpenings. After a while, tinned pineapple chunks in syrup emerge and there are cut grass notes. A certain fustiness lingers in the background. With a few drops of water, this develops further and it becomes reminiscent of both old books and new leather.
In the mouth: without water, this has a lot of oak spice with a slight citrus tang and is quite bitter and drying into the finish. A few drops of water opens it up and honey, lemon and glycerine syrup appears with a dollop of vanilla ice cream. Sour apple pips sweets make way for a hint of aniseed towards the finish.