“I’ll have a Scotch on the rocks, please. Any Scotch will do, as long as it’s not a blend, of course. Single malt, Glenlivet, Glenfiddich perhaps, maybe a Glen Gow… any Glen.” – Swingers
I imagine that Malt’s contributors on the other side of the Atlantic sometimes feel as bewildered by the American whiskey landscape as I occasionally do by the Scotch whisky landscape. Despite having lived there for four years and having a better-than-average sense of Scottish geography (OK, for an American), I still step in it frequently enough to imbue me with a (well-deserved) sense of humility.
For an embarrassingly long time, I persisted in the folly of believing that the Glenrothes distillery was in the town of the same name in Fife. I once referred to Clynelish as a Speyside malt, before I was taken aaside and beaten viciously until I would never forget that it was a proud Highlander.
Don’t even get me started on the Glens. I’m not as benighted or pretentious as the character that uttered the quote used to commence this review. However, by about the eighth or ninth one in, I start to get a little hazy. For reference: Wikipedia has a list of 26 active distilleries bearing “Glen” at the beginning of their name. That’s not even counting the ones that used to have “Glenlivet” as part of their name, such as Braeval.
Glenlivet and Glenfiddich are two of the ubiquitous mega-malts, thus I’m reasonably conversant in their particulars. Glenfarclas, of course, is a jewel in the crown of Speyside, and a go-to for when I’m asked for a Scotch whisky recommendation. Glenmorangie is occasionally very good, though mostly not as much. Glengoyne – particularly their Cask Strength expression – is an overlooked sleeper of a distillery. I’ve had better (IB) and worse (OB) Glenrothes. Glen Scotia is a handy standby when that other Campbeltown distillery’s bottlings are anything but handy.
Here’s where things get murky. Looking back on my pre-Malt era tasting notes informs me that I once had a bottle of IB Glen Keith… how about that?!? I had forgotten all about the wine cask matured Glen Garioch until I started to research this review. Speaking of ancient notes: I apparently enjoyed a 1989 Glenburgie bottled by Samaroli, though I couldn’t tell you the first thing about it now. See what I’m getting at?
One of the Glens which appears to have eluded my attention heretofore is Glen Grant. It seems I’m in good company; we’re fast approaching the one year anniversary of the last Glen Grant reviewed on Malt, a 12 year old travel retail exclusive picked up on a holiday to Bali by Mark P, jammy dodger that he is.
While cleaning out my sample stash, I came upon an independently bottled Glen Grant that was kindly bestowed upon me. Best I can tell (unreliable narrator that I am), I have never tried a Glen Grant whisky. I was happy to read Noortje’s concise history of the distillery, while John brought us up to speed on more recent events in his review of the range.
As for myself: my consciousness of Glen Grant came mostly from years back… and secondhand, at that. I must now confess to having owned two editions of Jim Murray’s Whisky Bible (2016 and 2017), and he’d occasionally award top marks to one or the other expression from this distillery. I made a mental note to explore Glen Grant’s offerings, one which I promptly forgot.
I have the opportunity to remedy that today, courtesy of a sample of Glen Grant independently bottled by “The Munros.” Like the distillery, this bottler is new to me. Googling this particular whisky, I learned that it is a K&L Wines exclusive. From K&L’s own site for this bottling:
”The lovely small batch bottlings in the ‘Munros’ line up are selected by the small Glasgow Whisky Company and represent some of the best values in single malt Scotch today… The Munros line is a reference to Scotland’s 282 mountains over 3000 feet. Explorers across the UK had long considered climbing each peak a rite of passage and likewise the great malts represent the heights of achievement in the eyes of whisky lovers across the world.”
Well and good that may be, but what about the whisky? Fortunately, they elaborate further:
”This exceptional expression of the famous Speyside distillery, Glen Grant, was distilled entirely on July 26th, 1995. Filled into refill American oak ex-bourbon barrels, it’s been allowed more than 22 years to mature in the cool climate of northern Scotland. Bottled on the 30th of October, 2017 without chill filtration, the addition of water or color whatsoever.”
This was a sample from Bryan (thank you, sir!) who wrote “(crushable!)” on the label… so I’ve got that going for me, which is nice. K&L had this listed at a price of $110, so I’ll use that for scoring on our price-sensitive scoring bands. I get that this probably seems a fantastical price in the year 2023. It was even so back when this was bottled. In fact, K&L said as much themselves:
“Thanks to incredible work securing these stocks and unbelievable prices, we’re able to offer the Munros line-up significantly below market value. While this is an exclusive in California for K&L, you might see the same bottle in other markets fetching upwards of $200.”
On second thought, should I score this using “upwards of $200” as a benchmark? As a compromise, I’ll base my score on the retail price, but will evaluate in reference to having paid nearly double, as well. Final details: this is bottled at 53.9% ABV.
The Munros Glen Grant 22 Years Old – Review
Color: Medium sunny yellow.
On the nose: Malty, buttery, and sweet. This smells like a quintessential bourbon barrel maturation. Floral tones and a pert note of mint are balanced by a creamy richness. There’s a whiff of white pepper and even some black licorice in here. Fantastic complexity that only deepens with time in the glass.
In the mouth: Consistent with the nose overall; this starts with a floral flavor that tacks toward the soapy side. There’s a bit of woody spice as this moves toward the middle of the mouth. There, instead of broadening out like the nose, this actually becomes noticeably more thin in texture. This is redeemed somewhat with a perky kick of spice toward the back of the tongue, though the whisky quiets down again as it reaches the finish. There’s a faint, lingering stoniness as well as a slightly tingly heat throughout the mouth, but not a great deal of flavor.
Better to sniff than sip, this wants for a bit of heft and complexity in the mouth. At points there is a pronounced maltiness to this, which is actually the most developed flavor being presented here. I’m not versed well enough in this distillery’s output to say whether this is indicative of the discernible character of Glen Grant, but I do enjoy it. However, there’s not much else in the way of nuance to this, which is particularly disappointing given how promising it was on the nose.
Not bad whisky, no obvious flaws, but I’d be happier having paid $110 for this than the mooted $200. I also wouldn’t be running out to secure a second bottle. To reflect that, I’m giving this a score bang in the middle of the range.
While this whisky doesn’t have me feeling as though I summited a mountain peak, I’ve at least added another Glen to my mental collection. Eleven down (I think?), fifteen to go!
Lead image courtesy of K&L.