Jaw-dropping: Aberlour 1973, Bunnahabhain 1968 and 1969, Bowmore 1968, Caperdonich 1972, Glen Grant 1974, Glenfarclas 1966, Glenlivet 1968 and 1970, Highland Park 1967 and 1970, and Macallan 1969. It includes a 14% grain content from Caledonian 1974, Carsebridge 1970, Girvan 1974, Invergordon 1972, Lochside 1966, North of Scotland 1974, and Port Dundas 1973. An elegant, refined mélange of peach, pear, soft oak, and rose cream florals, with dark fruit, chocolate, and fine pepper. Outstanding.
Duncan Taylor (distilled at Glen Grant), Cask #3480, 37 year old, 51.5%
Single Malt Scotch | $336.00
I am amazed by how many old, sherried Glen Grant whiskies have been released to the market in the past ten years. (Did the distillery owners at the time also own sherry bodegas, or what?) Anyway, some of these have been dark, decadent, and delicious, and I’ll put this whisky in that category. Chestnut colored, with lush fruit, treacle, dark chocolate, leather, tobacco, roasted walnuts, and cherry cough syrup. A complex, well-structured whisky.
Gordon & MacPhail (distilled at Glen Grant) 60 year old, 42.3%
Single Malt Scotch | $12000.00
Rich gold. Superb mature nose with subtle whisky rancio, mixing fragrant mango with a little mint, rosewater, and waxiness; there’s even some custard and a whiff of woodsmoke before sandalwood brings back the exotic edge. The palate is delicate with an amazingly fresh acidity that becomes herbal (basil and tarragon). It’s late summer, when there’s a sense of the year turning, and you allow fond memories to gently wash over you. £7,800
William Grant Rare Cask Reserves Ghosted Reserve 21 year old, 42.8%
Blended Scotch Whisky | $140
A purity and fragility rarely encountered, with aromas as fleeting as footprints on wet sand: marshmallow, meringue, honey, and rose petals. A delicacy to the structure brings banana, caramel, spun sugar, and orange peel. The oak spices build slowly, making the lips throb from the inside. It’s an elaborate maze of ethereal suggestion and an apparition of calm beauty. It atrophies reluctantly, leaving tangy peels and lengthy sweetness anchored by spicy base notes. (12,000 bottles)
Glen Grant’s new(ish) owner Campari is putting its money where its mouth is. Investment in plant, wood, and an impressive visitor center is slowly being backed up with a series of new releases. This venerable example comes from Gordon & MacPhail’s stocks, but is an official bottling due out in time for Christmas. This is GG in relaxed, avuncular mode: subtle woods, amber, Oolong tea, anise. The palate is old apple, fresh plum, cream, and ginger spiciness. £255(Available at the distillery, in France, and Travel Retail in Asia only.)
Hart Brothers (distilled at Glen Grant) 22 year old, 51.1%
Single Malt Scotch | $103
A welcome return for Hart Brothers. This Glen Grant is light, clean, and penetrating, with lots of gooseberry, melon, basil, and cut grass. This turns into an intriguing note of concentrated fruits; think yellow wine gums and fresh William pear. The palate has classic Glen Grant purity, with a hint of tropical fruits. Water adds another graceful layer on top, making the effect more like a rose garden…one which you keep returning to. Excellent. £66
Gordon & MacPhail (distilled at Glen Grant), 1966, 41 year old, 49.4%
Single Malt Scotch | $512.00
There have been a lot of old, heavily sherried, independently bottled Glen Grant whiskies on the market over the past several years. This one appears to be from a refill sherry cask, as its influence is more subtle. It has aged well, showing no excessive oak, but plenty of fruit (summer fruits, dried citrus, stewed fruits, tangerine, golden raisin), balanced by polished oak, grape skin, and subtle dark chocolate. Distinctively pleasing. Don’t add too much water, though, as it breaks down. (A Kensington Wine Market exclusive.) $500 (CAD)
Gordon & MacPhail 1954 (distilled at Glen Grant), 40%
Single Malt Scotch | $2020
This veteran expression was fully matured in first-fill sherry butts. Fragrant on the nose, with black treacle, prunes, raisins, lanolin, bung cloths, and polished oak. Big stewed fruit and warm leather notes on the palate, soon reeled in by spicy tannic oak, plus licorice and aniseed, though a stubborn dusty fruitiness persists. The finish is lengthy and mouth-drying, with lots of dark oak. A lovely example of its kind. £1,575
William Grant Rare Cask Reserves Blended Reserve 26 year old, 42%
Blended Malt Scotch Whisky | $399
William Grant & Sons will be releasing a series of Ghosted Reserves in the years ahead, drawing on their remaining stock from closed distilleries. Here, Brian Kinsman has used whisky from Ladyburn and Inverleven to create a nose of zesty key lime pie, peach, butter mintoes, and sweet oak. It is truly moreish, with creamy, malty flavors of sweet mandarin, marzipan, and strawberry with a chalky mouthfeel of candy sticks that lingers through the finish. Exceptionally good whisky. (6,000 bottles)
Created by Dennis Malcolm to celebrate his half century at Glen Grant, this uses casks
from each of his five decades. Pale it may be, but this is no dainty little
thing. There’s lots of buttery oak before classic Glen Grant lift and energy
emerge: green apple, fruit blossom, William pear, and yellow fruits; lemon
butter icing and nettles with water. The palate is vibrant and energetic, but
holds to the middle of the tongue. A suitably celebratory dram.
Berry Brothers & Rudd (distilled at Glen Grant) 1972 37 year old, 51.8%
Single Malt Scotch | $289.00
This is quite different from the Adelphi Glen Grant bottling (below), being more cask-driven, but Glen Grant’s clean fruitiness remains, although transformed by age. Its apples are baked, with some added caramelized juices thrown in; we see apricot alongside dried lemon peel, and light, sweet spice. The waxiness here is akin to leather oil, while the oak has sufficient grip to give structure. In time, there are hints of the cellar — burlap and wet earth. Delicious, and best neat. £184
Mahogany color. Full-bodied, thick and chewy. Incredibly rich aroma and flavors of toffee, fudge, spice cake, ripe fruit, burnished leather, and oak. Nicely balanced throughout, with a long, satisfying finish.
Tullamore D.E.W. XO Caribbean Rum Cask Finish, 43%
Irish Blended Whiskey | $26
Rum-finishing specialists William Grant & Sons add to Ireland’s league of existing rum-finished whiskeys. The lush tropical fruit complexity is abundant with mango, passion fruit, dried papaya, and green apple on the nose. Red apple flavors dominate with Demerara sugariness, dried strawberry, egg custard, and toffee chews, before drifting off into sweeter, fruitier territory. Short finish with a shot of sweet nutmeg.
Described by its distillers as “the most intensified expression” of Glen Grant, this was matured in first-fill bourbon barrels and is non-chill filtered. The nose is fresh and floral, with rose petals, Turkish delight, and cinnamon. Supple on the palate, clean and fruity, with developing soft toffee, pear drops, ginger, and a floral carryover from the nose. The finish is medium in length, with slightly astringent oak.
Here they take a triple distilled blend of pot still, malt, and grain whiskey matured in bourbon and oloroso sherry and finish it in golden rum casks (a favorite finishing vessel at Wm. Grant). A soft, relaxing sweetness emits from the glass, showing barley sugars, lemon bonbon, vanilla, and freshly-planed oak. The oloroso has been used sparingly, but rounds off the lemon, light fudge, and hazelnut flavors. There’s a spicy last stand that burns brightly. A terrific composition.
William Grant is making pioneering efforts to develop Girvan as a single grain whisky brand, with more to come. The aromas beckon with masses of buttery vanilla notes, fresh apple, cinnamon stick bundles, dark peel, and chocolate pralines. The creamy, unctuous texture packs in white chocolate, citrus, lime, chewy caramels, and pineapple, with soft American oak characteristics. Long finish of vanilla, ground cinnamon, and mint. One of the tastiest grains on the market: expensive, but still, it’s patently very good. £250
I was surprised to find that Grant’s blends were noticeable by their absence in the U.S. But with the purchase of Tuthilltown in New York and Tullamore Dew in Ireland, that is slowly changing; and here's proof. Beautiful, honeyed, rich, but the 40% ABV makes it the whisky equivalent of a radio DJ cutting off “Freebird” before the solo at the end. Still great, and indeed better than most competition, but not the classic it could be.
A William Grant & Sons single malt from an undisclosed Lowland distillery. It offers flavors of mashed turnip sprinkled with table salt early on the nose; brittle toffee, malt, and vanilla aromas develop. Creamy toffee, more salt, honey, orange fondant, and sweet oak on the palate. The lengthy finish features gentle spices, oak, and white pepper. £22
Deep ruby with a yellow rim. Clearly mature, and heavily sherried. A highly concentrated nose: Marmite and soy sauce, and all the fresh fruits of youth reduced to essence. Drinkwise, it’s closest to Chinato: curative barks, dried herbs (mint, hyssop, oregano). The palate is unsurprisingly thick and lightly smoky, but the tannins aren't overly astringent, and there remains a sweet core still, even if the overall effect is dark. It’s not obviously Glen Grant, but it is a fascinating glass.
Refill bourbon, American oak, and virgin oak are the woods in question. Technically, they are all American oak, just at different flavor-giving stages of their productive lives. Honey, fresh apricot, floral, and supple barley notes, candied orange, star anise, dried chili, and a touch of aniseed. Exceptionally smooth with caramel, date, red fruits, chocolate, and pecan pie, finishing with wood char and spice. One wood three ways, I grant you. Previously labeled as Grant’s Family Reserve
Scott Selection (distilled at Glen Grant) 1973, 26 year old, 58.2%
Single Malt Scotch | $98.00
Amber chestnut color. Aromas are rich and express great depth, with highlights of ripe fruit and wood spices. Well-rounded flavors are balanced very nicely, with a gentle sweetness up front that marries well with ripe fruit, becoming dry with background wood spice notes.
Gordon & MacPhail 10 year old (distilled at Glen Grant), 40%
Single Malt Scotch | $50
This expression of Glen Grant has been matured in refill bourbon casks and is arguably more characterful than the distiller’s own variant of the same age. Ripe orchard fruits on the nose, with honey and cinder toffee. The palate is light to medium in weight, offering more fresh fruit notes, vanilla, milk chocolate, and a hint of ginger. The nutty finish dries with just a hint of smoke.
Ladyburn malt distillery was part of William Grant’s Girvan grain distilling complex in Ayrshire from 1966 to 1975. It was located close to where Ailsa Bay now stands. This veteran bottling is mature and rounded on a nose of sweet pears, nectarines, subtle vanilla, and a hint of old hemp. Fresh fruit and lively spice on the early palate, with worn leather and malt. The fruit lingers through the very long finish with oak, licorice, and slightly bitter citrus notes.
Adelphi (distilled at Glen Grant) 1985 25 year old, 55%
Single Malt Scotch | $138.00
Old gold in color. Obviously an old whisky, but a delicate one that has subtle complexities; the balance between the dried grass/hayloft, the dried orange peel, and stewed apple, for example. Sweet and fragrant, it shows chypre notes with water alongside a more gentle floral aspect. The palate is drier than the nose suggests, quite mineral, with a lacy character. The finish shows melon and mint. Glen Grant in gentle repose.£88
William Grant & Sons’ Land Cask is a peated Lowland single malt from an undisclosed distillery. Sweet peat smoke and tangy orange on the nose. More orange, plus vanilla, toffee, and peaty oak on the smooth medium palate. Peat smoke and earthy, nutty, toffee in the finish. Straightforward, but eminently drinkable. £22
The last eighteen months have been very good ones for blended and blended malt Scotch whisky. Shackleton and Compass Box set out in a fresh direction and there were top releases from the likes of Johnnie Walker and Blue Hanger. So quality brands from the likes of Grant’s have to rethink. This is well made, tasty, balanced, complex, and drinkable without water or a mixer. But shouldn’t a premium whisky justify a strength of 46% ABV? I think so. £50
Thicker and fruitier than the entry level 10 year old, with greater mouthfeel and a drier finish. Orchard fruit (especially pear), kiwi, lime, and creamy vanilla, with suggestions of toasted coconut, hay, and marshmallow. Dry, gently spicy finish. A bit more involved than the 10 year old, but still with the same DNA. Very pleasant.
Murray McDavid (distilled at Glen Grant) 1969, 46%
Single Malt Scotch | $150.00
Style: Speyside single malt scotch Color: Deep gold Aroma: Mature. Plenty of oak, but it’s clean. Coconut and citrus fruit. Background spices. Palate: Lovely balance and restrained woodiness for such an old whisky-the wood really doesn’t emerge until the end. Citrus and coconut up front wrapped in a blanket of malt, becoming dry and spicy, but not excessively so. Delicate, lingering oak finish.
Duncan Taylor Octave (distilled at Glen Grant) 1995, 47.7%
Single Malt Scotch | $151
The impact given by secondary maturation in small (octave) sherry casks is what sets this range apart. Here, Glen Grant’s light fruits are given a darker twist, with some bodega notes, blackberry, and a surprising note of curry spices before milk chocolate develops; this is particularly apparent on the palate. The palate is gentle and quite creamy (cream sherry?) but it doesn’t like water. A pleasing dram. £99
Buttercream, fresh-cut bread, taffy candy, citrus, and a distinctive hoppy note from the craft ale casks. Charmingly smooth but quite light bodied, there is warmed bramble fruit, bitter grapefruit peel, and plenty of peppery spice. This stands up well to other ale-cask finished whiskies, but in the Grant’s range there are better whiskies with more to offer.
The black-labeled Carbon relates to heavily charred casks, which bring aromas of toffee, raisin, chocolate, dark concentrated fruits, barbecued meat, and ashy soot. The smokiness broods malevolently if you leave the glass. The texture feels too light to shoulder the flavors of dark char, toffee, spice, and dark fruity chocolate as the balance becomes swamped in smoke. It’s like a young child wearing their father’s thickest winter overcoat. (Global Travel Retail only)
Glenfarclas 27 year old 1981 Vintage (Cask #128), 53.4%
Single Malt Scotch | $200
When I toured Glenfarclas in May 2008, George Grant told me that, while it is usually not their policy to stray from aging their whisky in sherry and bourbon oak casks, they have done some experimenting. One of these experiments, aged entirely in a port cask, has finally been bottled. The nice thing about Glenfarclas is that it is a rich spirit and can stand up to a good dose of port wine (or sherry for that matter). The port notes are lush, with ripe fruit (plum, red grape skin, caramelized apricot, prune) and dates complementing the whisky’s malty, maple syrup foundation. The 27 years also impart a good dose of polished oak for balance. Not as complex as other Glenfarclas whiskies of this age, but this is certainly a solid, enjoyable change of pace for Glenfarclas. (A Park Avenue Liquor exclusive.)
Cask & Thistle (distilled at Glen Grant), 15 year old, 1988 vintage, 46%
Single Malt Scotch | $50.00
A nice example of what port wood finishing should do for a whisky. The port influence (finished one year in a port pipe) has taken what would normally have been a fairly straight-forward whisky when it is young-clean, light, and dry with subtle notes of herbs and spices-and added some extra weight along with balancing sweet toffee and full fruit, without dominating. (Bottled exclusively for Binny’s Beverage Depot.)
Scott's Selection (distilled at Glen Grant), 26 year old, 1977 Vintage, 53.5%
Single Malt Scotch | $145.00
What is it with all these older, sherried bottles of Glen Grant from the independent bottlers, anyway? Fortunately, this is one of the nicer ones. The balance of sherry and oak is commendable, and the flavor is clean with that Glen Grant “dried herb” character still evident. Sweet fruit notes (berries in honey, peach pits, sultana, ripe grape) along with almonds and tobacco fill out the palate. Clean, warming finish.
Brian Kinsman’s new creation was inspired by their founder William Grant, with a remit to create a malty blend of character. Digestive biscuits, malt, honeycomb, and confectioner’s chocolate melted over a bain-marie. It’s a satisfyingly rich dram, well-structured with a great mouthfeel that wanes with natural dilution. Banoffee pie, caramel biscuits, and maltiness deepen to flavors of coffee bean and molasses, leaving a teeth-coating finish of black coffee. (UK and France only) £18
Single Malts of Scotland (distilled at Glen Grant) 1992, 57.8%
Single Malt Scotch | $127
The initial nose is soft fruits doused in condensed milk, which contributes to an overall impression of light toffee and, weirdly for this distillery in its contemporary guise, some smoke. The fruits manage to mix the ripe and slightly sour. Quite intense; it needs water, which calms proceedings allowing typical Glen Grant purity to come through. The fruits now have some added weight and, again, that smokiness. Intriguing! £75
A new addition to the core range, this shows Glen Grant with a little more weight, but just a little. I’ve never been one for the heavily-sherried versions. Here, the distillery’s signature green elements—spring flowers, fresh apple and pear notes are given a little added weight—apple syrup, toffee, and cooked fruits on the palate. If you’d like an alternative to Glenlivet or Glenfddich 12 then look no further. £43
Duncan Taylor (distilled at Glen Grant) 1972 Vintage, 31 year old, 56.1% ABV
Single Malt Scotch | $155.00
I don’t normally like to add water to old whiskies, but this one needs a little at this strength. Whether you will like this whisky or not depends on whether you like woody whiskies with lots of sherry, and whether you care at all about recognizing the distillery character. The flavors are nicely balanced, rich, and very soothing in nature, but I struggle to find Glen Grant in here. Ripe fallen fruit, chewy toffee, maple syrup, honey-glazed almonds, damp oak resins-it’s all there, and it’s all balanced and quite entertaining. I personally want to taste the distillery character in my whisky. If that didn’t matter to me, I would have given this whisky a higher score.
Hart Brothers (distilled at Glen Grant), 29 year old, 1972 vintage, 53.6%
Single Malt Scotch | $160.00
Like many older Glen Grant offerings, this one is from a sherry cask. The sherry, and the long oak aging, transforms what is normally a light and easy drinking whisky to a more serious affair. Ripe, heavy fruit dominate the palate-the sherry is very evident here, but it is not cloying. It’s quite nutty too, along with polished oak and toffee. The oak balances the sherry notes very nicely, and the whisky is clean and uncomplicated throughout, all the way through to its finish.
Cadenhead’s (distilled at Glen Grant) 15 year old, 55.8%
Single Malt Scotch | $100
As this is slightly closed when neat, you have to search for Glen Grant’s classic apple notes behind a tense nose which, even with water, remains inward-looking. Thankfully, this changes on the tongue with pure, very linear (typical of GG) flavors of cool mint, cucumber, basil, and yes, apple. Easy-going from a relaxed cask, but with more substance than you’d expect.
Molten blossom honey, almond milk puddings, and Parma violets interlaced with a fine, drifting chimney smoke compose the nose of this new blend from William Grant & Sons. Smooth, burnished orange and honey cough drops initially, then the flavor develops through more pronounced citrus and gentle spices to achieve a sweeter climax. The grain is quite evident in the harmony of the blend. The finish is long, more beeswax than honey, the sweetness finally depleted. (Travel Retail only) £20
Gordon & MacPhail Single Cask #5054 (distilled at Glen Grant) 1990 Vintage, 56.0% ABV
Single Malt Scotch | $65.00
Here’s a whisky not seen very often in the U.S. When it is seen, it’s from one of the independent bottlers. I have always felt that younger Glen Grant whiskies make a nice introduction to the single malt category-especially for a blend drinker trading up. The whisky is usually light to medium in body and uncomplicated-with no harsh edges to be particularly offensive. And so it is with this whisky. A soft, cereal grain maltiness marries nicely with floral, delicately fruity notes throughout. Gentle, dry but malty finish, with suggestions of shortbread cookies and vanilla. A nice representation of a younger Glen Grant. The flavors are clean and tight.
Four years ago Glen Grant was in a sorry state, its beautiful gardens in need of some love and attention, its malts neglected and seemingly unloved. Then Campari bought it and we have heard very little more since. That’s until now. With a new visitor center, the gardens in full bloom, and the owners determined to make it a major player, things are looking up. This limited edition 170th anniversary bottling is made up of vintages stretching back to the 70s. They include a couple of sherry butts and some peated spirit. The result is a rich malt with some buttery toffee notes at first, distinctive lemon and green apple notes, and a touch of aniseed. Midway through, it sets off in a more feisty direction, with some peat, sharp spice, and green banana skin. Beguiling and unusual, it’s a statement of intent from an iconic distillery — watch this space. (Selected specialist outlets, excluding the U.S.)
William Grant’s answer to Drambuie is a much less sweet and higher proof Irish whiskey-based liqueur. Monster caramel leaps out of the glass with an undercurrent of cola. Caramel leads to chocolate on the palate before malt and grain whiskey undertones emerge. Mid-palate is a little hot, but it helps cut through the underlying sweetness and also features some botanicals like juniper and black pepper. Clearly a mixing spirit and probably best thrown into a cola or ginger ale.
William Grant Rare Cask Reserves The Annasach Reserve 25 year old, 46%
Blended Malt Scotch Whisky | $340
William Grant & Sons Rare Cask Reserves are micro-blends created jointly by Brian Kinsman and various liquor store proprietors, drawing on a choice of over 40 different single malts (importantly, not Glenfiddich or Balvenie). Quite herbal, with tarragon, cilantro, boiled candies, and unripe plums. A slow starter; vegetal notes yield to fudge, milk chocolate, orange, and maltiness, with pepper, oak, and spices in the latter phases. Stocked in only five U.S. retailers.
Light (for a Speysider), floral, fresh, and elegant, showing honeyed vanilla and lively fruit, along with a hint of marshmallow and hay. Soft, dry finish. Pleasant, straightforward, and uncomplicated. A good clean introductory malt that’s easy to embrace.
Blackadder Raw Cask #6437 (distilled at Glen Grant) 1971 Vintage, 31 year old, 55.7% ABV
Single Malt Scotch | $175.00
From a sherry hogshead, which is confirmed by its deep amber/crimson color. A very clean whisky for 31 years in oak, and its complexity is subtle. It’s sort of the antithesis of the Blackadder Longmorn also reviewed here. Both are heavily sherried. The Longmorn shows its age proudly, and is bold, complex, and a bit rustic. This one is clean, more conservative, and nicely balanced. You’ll find notes of honey-laced fruit, caramel, and toffee, with an infusion of nutty, ginger-spiced notes, leading to a polished oak finish. A straight-forward and uncomplicated Speysider.
Somewhat sidelined thanks to the presence of Glenrothes and Glen Grant (not to mention Speyburn) in the same village, Glen Spey gets on with producing fillings for numerous Diageo blends (primarily J&B). As a result, it’s rarely seen as a single malt, with even independent bottlings pretty thin on the ground.
This 21 year old is the color of old gold, and while the nose initially surprises with a hint of suet dumplings, there’s a rich and dangerously hedonistic sweetness behind, which is strangely hard to pin down. Coconut cream? Suntan lotion? Blackening butter in a frying pan? Eventually it appears to settle in the crème brûlée area, along with a fruity base (sweet, of course). There’s a light green note that suggests it might be distillery character coming through, but water suggests it’s new wood.
In the mouth, there’s vanilla fudge and toffee, before a hint of muesli alongside dried mango. Overall it’s a bit like eating breakfast in a new ski chalet. Showy and impressive, but for me the wood’s in charge.
It's great that Irish whiskey is thriving and William Grant has bought Tullamore Dew. But they need help. To paraphrase English football fans, someone doesn't know what he's doing. The label says this is 12 years old, small batch, and limited edition. What? The normal whiskey is a blend and there's no distillery. So what is this, and why small batch? The whiskey's a mess, too — flabby, characterless, and confused — the whiskey equivalent of a karaoke singer doing Led Zeppelin.