Category Archives: Scottish Single Grain

Loch Lomond Single Grain (2016-)

Bought: Master of Malt, 2nd August 2017

Ratings:
93/100 – Whisky Bible 2017
78.52/100 – Whiskybase (average from 33 member votes)

It seems the only reason this single grain from the Loch Lomond distillery isn’t single malt is because of the continuous distillation process, which is a ‘single grain’ thing. It’s exclusively made from malted barley, which ticks the single malt box. According to a Whiskybase member who visited the distillery, “it has aged for around 4-5 years in first fill bourbon casks (around 20 per cent of each batch) and the remaining 80 per cent come from refill bourbon casks.” On the back of the tube it says “soft fruits and creamy vanilla with a hint of smoke and peat.” Peat as well! Blimey! And at 46% this is far from being a typical budget single grain.

Scoring 78.5/100 on Whiskybase is the sort of score I’d expect to see for a good, if a bit young, single malt. How appropriate considering that’s what this Loch Lomond nearly is. Comments online include “nice, easy drinking, every day dram”, “a real surprise, never had such a malted grain style whisky before and to be honest – I like it” and “sweet & spicy and easy-drinking with an interesting malty twist”. No mention of peat though.

93/100 in the Whisky Bible means that Jim Murray thinks the Loch Lomond Single Grain is “brilliant”! He says about the taste, “the sugars on the nose are indicative of a sweet grain, for the delivery centres around the maple syrup lead. The oak is something like most anchors at work: barely visible to invisible”. He summaries with, “elegant grain; keeps the sweetness controlled”.

Tasting notes from Master of Malt:

Nose: Plenty of sweet, fruity grain character here. Citrus peels, icing sugar, a little bit of grassiness.
Palate: Pineapple starts to develop on the palate, with a touch or two of oak spice keeping it from becoming overly sweet.
Finish: Continued fruity freshness.

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Haig Club ‘Clubman’

Bought: Tesco, 6th October 2016

Ratings:
4/10 – Whisky Wednesday (video review below)
2/5 – Master of Malt (from 9 reviews)
0/100 – Whiskybase (no member votes yet)

It’s been over 2 months since the Clubman was added to Whiskybase but still no reviews. If it were a new bottle of Ardbeg there would be over 100 ratings by now but that’s because Whiskybase is more about single malts. The Clubman on the other hand is a cheap single grain and, unlike the original Club, the Clubman is priced correctly for its use in whisky-based cocktails. At £15 it’s a bit more expensive than a Lidl or Aldi basic grain but you’re paying more for the marketing and stylish blue bottle. Indeed, comments on Amazon suggest it’s being bought as a Christmas present, which has more to do with the presentation. In fact, stick a light in an empty Clubman bottle and you’ve got a festive bauble for Christmas 2017!

Although scores from most whisky drinkers aren’t great there are some fans of the Clubman. Comments online include “superb for a mixer drink”, “smooth, sweet and light” and “not particularly complex or deep in flavours, but just a really nice light whisky to sup.” Remarks about the taste say it’s sweet and the bourbon ageing give it vanilla notes so it sounds perfect to mix with cola, lemonade or ginger ale.

Here’s Whisky Wednesday with their review on You Tube (October 2016):

haig-club-clubman-nas-70cl

Strathclyde 2005 10-year-old Old Particular

Bought: Master of Malt, 3rd August 2016

Ratings:
72/100 – Whisky Bible 2017
86/100 – Whiskybase (average from 10 member votes)

The Strathclyde grain distillery began life in 1927 and is located in Glasgow in the central belt of Scotland. It’s owned by Pernod Ricard, who own numerous single malt distilleries including Glenlivet, Scapa and Aberlour. Strathclyde grain whisky is used in the production of blends such as Ballantine’s and Teacher’s.

Whiskybase members have loaded up the details of 46 different bottlings of Strathclyde but only 2 of those have come from the distillery owners. 44 have been from independent bottlers such as my ‘Old Particular’ by Douglas Laing. Scoring 86/100 from 10 votes is an excellent score. One member who rates it 87/100 kindly leaves these tasting notes:

Nose: Cherry, cranberry, toffee, orange and lemon. The latter gets stronger, bringing that typical freshness of young grains. A small whiff of smoke and later a little tree resin.
Taste: Cranberry, toffee, lemon, orange, spice and a little marshmallow.
Finish: Cherry, toffee and cranberry.

Wow, that’s a lot of fruit flavours, with toffee, spice and a hint of smoke. It seems to me that single grain is a secret pleasure of a minority of whisky drinkers when it should have wider appeal. Good examples are there to be found. I’m beginning to wish I’d bought a 70cl bottle rather than a 3cl sample!

Update – added the score of 72/100 from the new Whisky Bible 2017, which classifies this whisky as “usually drinkable but don’t expect the earth to move”. This is because the author detects some sulphur on the nose and finish but summaries with “some attractive silkiness at least”.

Here’s ‘The Good Dram Show’ on You Tube with their thoughts on this 10yo as part of a review of 6 different bottlings of Strathclyde (November 2016):

Strathclyde 2005 10yo 3cl

North British 2000 12-year-old

Bought: Master of Malt, 3rd August 2016

Ratings:
82.67/100 – Whiskybase (average from 5 member votes)

According to Whiskybase, Berry Bros & Rudd have bottled 6 versions of North British single grain and my example comes third in the five to be rated. Top of the list is a 50-year-old released in 2012 that scores 91/100. You often see old single grains getting extremely high marks but 82.67/100 for my 12yo is a very good score. Although one member describes it as “hollow” and not far off the Haig Club, another member says “super nice aperitif whisky” and leaves these tasting notes:

Nose: fruity, orange, floral, grass and hay, vanilla, nutty and peppery (black)
Taste: dry, spicy, peppery
Finish: medium long dry

It’s nice to add a new single grain distillery to my collection. Most of my existing examples are from closed distilleries. It seems the Scottish whisky industry have reduced the number of grain distilleries over the years and increased the output at those that remain. All in the name of efficiency and maximising revenue. North British distillery produces 65,000,000 litres per year, second only to Cameronbridge, which churns out 120,000,000 litres.

In 2015 the North British distillery hit a milestone of 2.5 billion litres of spirit since being established in 1885. That’s about 25% of Blagdon Lake, a reservoir south of Bristol in Somerset. No, I’ve never heard of it either but it was the first thing I could find on Google to try and give a sense of scale. Basically it’s a lot of alcohol, which is more than can be said for my 3cl sample!

North British 2000 12yo 3cl

Cameron Brig

Bought: Master of Malt, 3rd August 2016

Ratings:
4.5/5 Stars – Master of Malt (average from 11 ratings)
71.97/100 – Whiskybase (average from 34 member votes)

If you think of ‘Master of Malts’ score as representing the average (or new) whisky drinker and the Whiskybase score representing the more dedicated dramsters you realise where Cameron Brig falls. As you can tell from the tasting notes below, this is a simple, no nonsense whisky. As a single grain it’s hardly going to be complex but very few alcoholic drinks are (or drunk as if they are). Sometimes it’s nice to kick back with a whisky that doesn’t need to be left for 10 minutes to ‘open up’ and then requires 30 minutes with a notebook as you jot down every taste bud experience. Comments on ‘Master of Malt’ include “beautifully clean and soft”, “slides over the taste buds like double cream” and “this is not whisky, this is nectar”.

For an established single malt drinker, trying Cameron Brig is more like a science experiment as neatly summed up in this comment on Whiskybase “recommended for educational purpose on blended whiskies. Taste and learn.” And I admit that’s why I bought a sample rather than a full bottle. When I finally get more serious about drinking blends I’ll try this Cameron Brig to educate my pallet on detecting the grain notes. Other comments on Whiskybase include “best way to introduce a newcomer to whisky…very palatable. easy drink” and “way better than Haig Club and less than 1/2 the price”.

Tasting notes from Master of Malt:

Nose: Light, subtle. Honey, spice.
Palate: Caramel, mixed peels, a touch of sherry, sultanas.
Finish: Medium length, oak and honey, more peels.

Here’s Jo of Whisky Wednesday with his You Tube review where he scores Cameron Brig 7/10 and suggests using it in a Highball cocktail (August 2013):

Cameron Brig NAS 3cl

Dumbarton 1987 29-year-old

Bought: Whisky Broker, 25th May 2016

Ratings:
84.33/100 – Whiskybase (from 5 member votes)

My only other example from the closed Dumbarton grain distillery is a 1961 Signatory Vintage miniature I bought at auction in May 2015, which cost a small fortune. After winning it I discovered on Whiskybase and Malt Maniacs that it was one of the worse whiskies in my collection. Since then I’ve been trying to get another example of Dumbarton that wont make me screw up my face if I decide to drink it. I narrowly missed out on a 25-year-old, 70cl, being sold by Edencroft for £110 in autumn 2015. Since then a similar example by the Scotch Malt Whisky Society (SMWS) regularly appears at auction for a comparable price. Therefore you can imagine my surprise when I found this 29-year-old Dumbarton being sold as new for £60 by the independent bottler Whisky Broker. Before it had sold out a bottle had been ‘flipped’ at auction for £140.

Dumbarton distillery opened in 1938 and closed in 2002, gradually being demolished between 2006 and 2008. As you can see from the aerial view below, there’s not much left of it. The output was mainly for the Ballantine’s blend but the distillery also produced the Inverleven and extremely rare Lomond single malts (not to be confused with ‘Loch Lomond’, a distillery further north).

84.33/100 on Whiskybase is a very good mark. This is clearly a significantly better example of Dumbarton single grain than my miniature. An upgrade successfully achieved!

Here’s a fly-over of what’s left of the Dumbarton distillery (Sept 2015):

Dumbarton 1987 29yo 70cl

Garnheath 1974 41-year-old Xtra Old Particular

Bought: Master of Malt, 3rd March 2016

Ratings:
94/100 – Whisky Bible 2017
8.7/100 – Scotchwhisky.com
87.5/100 – Whiskybase (average from 4 member votes)

Garnheath was a single grain whisky produced at the lowlands Moffat distillery between 1965 and its closure in 1986. The distillery also produced the single malts Glen Flagler, Killyloch and Islebrae. Killyloch stopped production in the 1970s and Islebrae was only used for blending and never bottled as single malt. Imagine if it was! It would cost a fortune because of its rarity. I can only assume that no casks still exist of Islebrae or someone would have bottled it by now.

94/100 in the Whisky Bible by Jim Murray classifies this single grain as a “superstar whisky that gives us all a reason to live”. The author says of the taste “wow! More than a hint of ginger here! Really a very warmed-up dram with spices holding the tiller and contrasting sublimely against the muscovado sugar and big butterscotch”. He summaries with “the rarest of the rare single grain – as though aware of its unique place in the lexicon of vanishing scotch – doesn’t disappoint for a moment.”

There are only 15 bottlings of Garnheath mentioned on Whiskybase, 6 from the 1960s, 8 from the 1970s and one from the distillery’s final year in 1986. 12 of the 15 are rated and none score less than 84.2/100, which is an excellent mark. The highest scoring bottle is a ‘Celebration of the Cask’ by Carn Mor, a 41yo from 1974, which is exactly the same year and age as my bottle by Douglas Laing.

Scoring a fantastic 87.5/100 on Whiskybase from 4 member votes, one taster leaves this summary “smooth, creamy and very appealing. Although 41 years of age, the influence of the wood is obvious but the oak isn’t overpowering at all. The spirit has extracted delicate toffee, vanilla and coconut flavours over time and is in perfect balance with subtle flavours of sandalwood and cedarwood coming from the oak. Don’t add water! A brilliant whisky experience – I very much enjoyed this beauty!”

Garnheath 1974 41yo 70cl

Invergordon 24-year-old – Whisky Broker

Bought: Whisky Broker, 4th February 2016

Ratings:
C+ – Whiskybase (from 1 member vote)

Since I was putting in an order with the Whisky Broker I thought I’d treat myself to a few cheap miniatures including this single grain my Invergordon. It seems strange that it’s taken me so long to get an example from this distillery but I never felt there was any rush. Owned by Whyte & Mackay, Invergordon began life in the early 1960s and currently produces about 40 million litres of spirit each year. Unlike so many closed single grain distilleries there’s no shortage of Invergordon.

It’s early days for getting reviews of this single grain but one member on Whiskybase rates it C+ (whatever that means) and says of the taste “initially malty, honeyed and quite raw but developing on more sugary/sour-sweet & buttery vanilla cream and cocao nibs. It then thickens towards an enveloping mouth-feel before turning quite sour. There’s grainy modern oak here and it’s done well to tame the spirit. Malty-sour into the finish.” They summarise with “one of the better Invergordons I’ve had, as most round this age [or less] tend to have been spirit led and arguably bottled prematurely in my opinion. Highlights include the nose [after time & water] and the mouth-feel on development – but the overall result is a struggle with all that sourness” and add “a full bottle I think would be a real struggle.”

I’m glad the reviewer feels this is one of the better Invergordons they’ve had because it will be a first for me when I have time to drink it.

Invergordon 24yo 5cl

Caledonian 1987 28-year-old

Bought: Whisky Broker, 4th February 2016

Ratings:
95/100 – Whisky Bible 2017
89.07/100 – Whiskybase (from 17 member votes)

The Caledonian distillery closed in 1988, which makes it quite collectable even for a single grain producer. Having closed 28 years ago, anything bottled now is going to be close to or over 30 years old, and generally pretty tasty. Dumbarton distillery, also single grain, closed more recently in 2002 and I narrowly missed a 25-year-old bottling last year that sold for £110. So how much would you pay for a rarer Caledonian 28yo that gets great reviews on Whiskybase? £150? £170 maybe? As I write this it’s still available on the Whisky Broker’s website for £60, such is the goodness of some independent bottlers. It’s nice to see that the greed currently rife in the whisky industry hasn’t poisoned everywhere. I would have bought two bottles if I weren’t constantly after other things.

Over 89/100 on Whiskybase from 17 member votes is a fantastic score. One voter who I recognise as a regular taster and contributor to the website leaves these tasting notes:

Nose: Sweet with a lot of vanilla. Lime, fresh leaves, caramel, strawberry and apple. With water more citrus.
Taste: A typical grain profile, but in a sweet and smooth sense. Vanilla, lemon, caramel, peach, strawberry, tonic and gentle spice. Water adds a salty touch.
Finish: Vanilla, lime, tonic, caramel, cinnamon and spice.
Comments: I’m not very much into grains, but this one has a very nice profile.

Caledonian 1987 28yo 70cl

Port Dundas 1992 21-year-old

Bought: Nickolls & Perks, 22nd January 2016

Ratings:
93/100 – Whisky Bible 2014
87.79/100 – Whiskybase (average from 16 member votes)

Port Dundas single grain distillery closed in 2010 but whoever bought up the old stock isn’t selling off the most recent casks for bottling. Why would they since vintage casks from a closed distillery are far more likely to bring a profit. This 21-year-old was one of the youngest examples of Port Dundas mentioned in the Whisky Bible 2014 with 5 of the 9 listed being 30+ years old.

Jim Murray, author of the Whisky Bible, really rates this Port Dundas 1992. 93/100 categorises it as “brilliant” and Mr Murray says of the taste “although the oak has dug in and makes an early impact, the spreading of what appears to be soft corn oils helps the ever-intensifying sugars to see off the underlying toastiness.” He summarises with “astonishingly invigorating. Leaps from the glass with intent and purpose. Wonderful!”

Scoring nearly 88/100 on Whiskybase is a fantastic score. Voters include comments of “absolutely stunning single grain!” , “so very well balanced, no off notes, not too grainy, not too sweet. I love this! This one easily beats most single malts in its price range.” And “bulls eye, this Port Dundas. Quite a complex grain! Recommended.”

Port Dundas is a very good introduction to single grain whisky, and a big step up from an entry level £20 bottle of Cameron Brig. But it seems that having a sweet tooth would be an advantage.

Port Dundas 1992 21yo 70cl