The Glen Grant isn’t one of your more prominent distilleries in Scotland or abroad. A classic example of a Speyside producer. A solid if unspectacular whisky nowadays that remains popular in Europe thanks to the influence of its current Italian owners Campari.
Since 1840 Glen Grant has enjoyed great success and widespread acclaim. Not so much in recent years, as sales have taken a dent and the distillery has stumbled from one owner to another. Jim Murray in recent editions of his tub-thumping manifesto has taken it upon himself to prompt Glen Grant to a higher purpose. We recently reviewed the staple 10 year old Glen Grant that was solid if a little mundane. To put it mildly, it didn’t have us rushing out to track down the 18 expression that won the best Scotch and best single malt categories.
Awards are very much opinion based. As our Phil showcased in his Jameson Signature review, they are a modern-day whisky cancer where entry almost guarantees an award of some kind. Such awards look great on any marketing and lure in unsuspecting onlookers making their initial steps into whisky. That old gambit that if it won an award it must be pretty good then?
If only in reality and this is why we tend not to do awards here on Malt. Whilst others will gladly populate your browser with meaningless top 10 lists or shopping guides, we’d rather just do something more worthwhile. Hence this Scotch Malt Whisky Society release. We’ve managed to up our coverage of this independent bottler in 2018. Personally, I’ve tried quite a few and nothing has broken the 7 score barrier. That’s a reflection not only of the sheer class escaping the Society cask management programme currently, but also that I’m a right fussy git. A grumpy one if you listen to Phil as well.
However, an upshot of this Scotch Malt Whisky Society focus is my increasing familiarity with their labelling. The devil is in the details. I always have a problem with the SMWS labels as they only tend to showcase 1 cask type. For instance here looking at the bottle label, you’d believe this was fully matured in a 1st fill charred red wine barrique?
Wrong. Reading the description via the official site confirms this spent 14 years in an ex-bourbon barrel before the barrique. This means an entirely different proposition. Sure, they’ve tried to patch things by mentioning the bourbon barrel in the tasting notes on the label. Things could be clearer and this purple stripe that cuts through some of the tasting notes and bottle number is too dark against black font. That’s one of my gripes from this year of SMWS releases and we’ll address the balance with some positives in a future piece. After all, I’m still searching for that showstopper 8 or 9 bottle that hits home. Still, in retrospect at least we do have some details on the label unlike say Macallan and Highland Park where you’d be better just making them up.
Back to the details for this specific release. This was distilled on 21st August 2002 before being bottled at 15 years of age. An outturn of 184 bottles was harvested at a pleasant 57.9% strength. This will set you back £66 online which for a 15 year old is perfectly reasonable – if the contents stack up.
SMWS 9.153 Magical Whirlwind Tour – review
Colour: A Scottish sunrise.
On the nose: A herbal thyme quality soon passes into a memory. Standing in a damp forest with a united element of autumnal leaves, pine, wood sap and moss. There’s an injection of redness from the finish but not forcibly. Red liquorice, dried bark, charcoal dust and rose petals. Giving time in the glass, Bakewell tart and oddly polystyrene packaging. With water white chocolate appears alongside a heather honey.
In the mouth: Sweeter than the nose suggests. Red grapes and red wine vinegar. Cranberries, a high-quality dark chocolate with a very dry finish. The cask finish comes through strongly, so much so the Glen Grant DNA is lost. A vanilla and honey pannacotta, olive oil and tannins. With water, things become less cask aggressive and more rounded. A creamy rice pudding and a more sincere finish are deployed.
This is must be said isn’t really my sort of thing. The cask finish has ridden roughshod over the previous ex-bourbon cask foundations. What remains is drinkable and for some enjoyable but for me its all a bit meh and decidedly average.
When I think about Glen Grant it becomes all about the layers. The wonders of Speyside and bourbon casks, or those subtle sherry notes from the 1970s or prior. This modern offering just isn’t indicative or to my taste. Distinctly average.
Thanks to Ian for the sample.