A recent foreign holiday combined with flights served to underline the slim pickings at travel retail. The days of a bargain are seemingly fewer and far between. We all love a deal and travellers more than most, with any interesting items eerily documented by empty spaces.
I often question the existence of travel exclusives. Their purpose and genesis. Most exclusives and concoctions are marketing spiel and arguably fill a price point or request from the retailer. Credit where its due however with this Grant’s Elementary Carbon for putting an age statement on the packaging. Just 6 years old. It may have you reeling with embarrassment and disdain but I personally find it rewarding. Give us more candid age statements and allow the consumer whether to make an informed purchase and ultimate judgement.
The Elementary range was launched in 2016 specifically for the travel retail market. Carbon forms the entry level release in the range and its principal aim was to highlight the science behind whisky making. The aim of showcasing various features would be to create more appreciation of their influence collectively on the finished product. Unsurprisingly Carbon focuses on charred casks, or in its cask heavily charred casks to mature its spirit for a minimum period of 6 years. There’s an attempt to highlight the science but its lukewarm and fairly tepid. As an onlooker with more interest, I would have appreciated an insert in the packaging about what the team had attempted and hoped to showcase. Even the Grant’s Carbon website is threadbare. A missed opportunity and potentially highlights that the concept of carbon was forced to the front as a fake exterior.
Cask charring can unlock new flavours. Roughly there are about 200 flavour compounds that can be harnessed from the wood and certain groups of these are only unlocked by cask charring and the level of burn applied to the cask. Master Blender, Brian Kinsman, created this blend from grain and peated whiskies of unspecified origin. In other words, Girvan grain and very likely Ailsa Bay that resides on the same site. This newish distillery produces a range of single malt whiskies – peated and otherwise for Grant’s blend.
I’ve never been a fan of Ailsa Bay and its output to date. Note there’s always an opportunity to change this. The batches I’ve tried don’t appeal to my palate with a level of peat and sweetness that feels too engineered, clean cut and synthetic. Let’s check out this Grant’s release.
Grant’s Elementary Carbon 6 Year Old – review
On the nose: spicy with cardamom, black pepper and sweet cinnamon. The char suggests smoke but far from thick or intoxicating. A Highland toffee, a noticeable level of grain comes rushing in followed by crushed digestive biscuits, cider and a light floral note. Very light, neutral with just the charred casks adding character. Water releases lemon peel and a little white wine vinegar.
In the mouth: very benign, again grain neutral with only the cask char adding anything with crème Brulee, cracked black peppery and a wisp of smoke. This is pretty flavourless stuff with a light floral nature with gentle dark spices. Water tones down the grain but leaves you little else other than mouthwash.
Rubbish. I paid 23 euros or so and feel robbed. For all the plaudits around the age statement and using charred casks, the end result is a very neutral spirit. This will live on as a cocktail mixer or base spirit for something else. Yet, as a standalone dram, forget about it.