For today I will review a grain whisky, a 44-year-old Invergordon that made it all the way from Taiwan!
Before I started writing this article, I was browsing through the Malt website. I was looking for other articles about single grain whisky—and to my surprise, the last article came out in 2017. The last time that something about Invergordon was written was even further back, in 2016.
For me, this immediately reflects what is happening with grain whisky: it is often overlooked, and not everyone appreciates it. I, myself—I must admit—was not the biggest fan of single grain whisky, either, although I’ve come to appreciate it more and more lately.
A few years ago, it seemed that it was rising in popularity, but I feel that it has stagnated a bit. It may well be a good product for whisky enthusiasts, but in my opinion, it will never be as popular as single malt with the mainstream whisky drinker. There aren’t many original bottlings, and those few that are out there are simply not very interesting, or are too expensive for a grain whisky. Remember Haig Club? Or the Girvan releases?
The fact that it is generally cheaper than single malt doesn’t play a role here, either, since single grain has to be matured much longer before it gets really good. And so, those old single grains are again too expensive for many mainstream whisky drinkers.
Additionally, a single grain is by no means as romantic as its popular sibling, the single malt. Its general associations are as an inexpensive mass product made for adding to blends. Its distilleries are large factories, which in no way resemble the often beautiful distilleries where single malt whisky is produced. But do not let this stop you from trying a good grain whisky. Look for a nice independent release, and you will certainly be surprised.
For the ones not familiar with single grain whisky, it is made in one single distillery, just like single malt whisky. But different here is that single grain whisky doesn’t have to be made from malted barley. In fact, you can use all sorts of cereals. That said, the most common types used are maize, rye, and wheat. Often a mixture between malted barley and another malted or unmalted cereal is utilized.
Another big difference is that single grain isn’t created in the traditional pot stills used for single malt, but rather, is distilled in column stills, also called Coffey stills. These are named after Aeneas Coffey, an Irish man who perfected this distilling method and then patented it in 1830. A big advantage is that these column stills distill continuously. This is great, of course, for efficiency reasons, but is also meant to produce a spirit that has a higher alcohol strength than single malt, at about 95%… yet it is also softer and cleaner. Perfect for a blend!
Anyway, this oldie has matured in a refill butt for 44 years, and it is bottled at a lovely 46.5% ABV and packaged by the new Taiwanese bottler the Whisky Blues. This was actually his first release! It’ll set you back €230 (about £197); for comparison, that is a hell of a lot cheaper than, for example, the Speyside 1973 that Mark just reviewed.
The Whisky Blues Invergordon 1974 – review
On the nose: Ohh, this is very nice! Somewhat buttery or nutty, almonds? Coconut. Tinned pineapple in the background. If I had tasted this blindly, I wouldn’t have expected this to be a grain whisky. A bit of honey and mandarins. Dark chocolate. And a nice hint of fresh tobacco.
In the mouth: It’s quite creamy. A hint of coconut. Taste of Werther’s original, with a bit of vanilla, or vanilla waffles, even. Almonds, followed by orange peels. And then dark chocolate again. Raisins. Now a hint of Digestive biscuits too. I really like it, it’s just full of flavour.
As I try more grain whiskies, I discover that there are really good ones out there. This Invergordon is definitely one of them, a very good example of how good an old grain whisky can be. Even if you’re not a fan of single grain whisky, this is worth a try. Very, very good pick from the Whisky Blues!
Sample kindly provided by the Whisky Blues.