I was very fortunate a few days ago to get the chance to participate in my first whisky Tweet Tasting, hosted by Steve Rush from the Whisky Wire. For those unfamiliar with the concept of a tweet tasting it is pretty self-explanatory, you sample several whiskies and you tweet your thoughts on that particular dram, discussing it with other tasters via twitter. I was lucky enough to get to take part in this as a result of my friends Hugh and Richard at the Edradynate Whisky Club – check them out here: Edradynate Whisky Club – who very generously offered to share their samples with me, which I can’t thank them enough for. The particular tweet tasting that we participated in included some aged Girvan grain whiskies and Ancient Reserve blends.
Girvan is Grain distillery that is situated on the Ayrshire coast, and has been pumping out grain whiskies for filling William Grant & Sons blends since 1963, with only a very small amount of this exceptionally good grain being bottled as a single grain. Ancient Reserves is a part of the William Grant & Sons banner, bottling old, rare and unique whiskies.
The samples arrived about a week before the event, and it looked like a very good offering indeed. This samples that were sent out for the tasting were as follows:
- A non-age statement Girvan Grain whisky ‘Proof Strength’ at 51.7% ABV.
- A 25yo Girvan single grain.
- Ancient Reserves Ghosted Reserve 21yo blended Scotch whisky.
- Ancient Reserves Ghosted Reserve 26yo blended malt.
The first two were both grain whiskies from Girvan and the final two, the Ghosted Reserves, are blends made up from distilleries that are no longer in production. Very exciting stuff!
Finally the night arrived, we had all of the samples and glasses set out and watched the clock as time slowed to a halt, counting down the minutes until it was time to crack them open. Then finally that fateful tweet appeared on our newsfeeds “Lets kick things off with our first dram”, excited didn’t even come close as we cracked the seal on that first sample bottle.
Dram #1 for the evening was the Girvan grain patent still Proof Strength, non-age statement, 51.7% ABV. Matured solely in American oak casks – £75 a bottle.
Nose – the Proof Strength on the nose, as probably could have been guessed by the strength, has a big whack of spirit, lots of sweetness too. Initial thoughts included a boozy vanilla fudge, floral sweetness, followed by pear drops and lemon peel. With time, and a splash of water, this dram opens up hugely. It becomes much fruitier and sweeter with suggestions of toffee apples and caramelised pears.
Palate – like with the nose there is a big punch of spirit, the palate is much spicier than the nose with chillies, white pepper and tannic sweetness. There is a lot of woody nutmeg, vanilla and a caramel sweetness which gets quite bitter and woody through the development.
Dram #2, the Girvan grain patent still 25yo, at 42% ABV. As with the Proof strength this was matured entirely in American oak casks and so lots of sweet vanillas and toffees are to be expected – £250 a bottle!
Nose – just wow, the nose on this whisky is incredible, there are a lot of different aromas and complexities which have been developed through the years that it has spent in the cask. Initially seasoned oak comes to the front, with damp leather, sweet vanilla and a slight fizzy citric note. There is also a note which, to me, reminds me slightly of cream soda. I could have kept nosing this whisky for hours, but I had to move on to the palate, and there were more whiskies to be sampled.
Palate – the palate was very different from the nose, it was nowhere near as sweet. It’s soft, velvety and rich. The first thing that came to mind was rum and raisin ice-cream, as well as a rich oaky sweetness and tonnes of toffee.
Dram #3 was the first of the Ancient Reserve samples on offer; it was their Rare Cask Ghosted Reserve 21yo blended scotch, 42% ABV. This blend is made up solely from distilleries that are no longer in production, including Inverleven, Ladyburn and Dumbarton, it was a real treat to get the chance to try this whisky – £99 per bottle.
Nose- this blend had a very interesting nose, big alcohol hit and a smell not dissimilar to airfix glue, as well as pears and toffee. With time I found that this opens up immensely and becomes much fruitier. Sweet caramel, orange flavoured boiled sweets and a suggestion of black cherries.
Palate – it feels like an old whisky on the palate, loads of seasoned oak and tannic woodiness, vanilla and possibly a slight dusting of cinnamon, with coconut shavings. Very good dram and a superior quality of blend!
Dram #4, unfortunately the last of the evening, the 26yo rare cask Ghosted Reserve blended malt, bottled at 42% ABV. Again this blend is made up from whiskies only from closed distilleries, including Inverleven and Ladyburn – a whopping £375 a bottle!
Nose – the first thing that came across to me with the final whisky was that there was a slight saline/briny note, and to be honest it was actually quite refreshing after all of the sweetness thus far. It was very fruity as well; it was like having a fruit salad by the sea. With time the nose becomes a lot more dessert-like with apple crumble and strawberry tarts, with a hint of cask char in the background.
Palate – I found the palate fairly bitter, bitter sappy wood with some tannic spices; vanilla, nutmeg, cinnamon, and possibly even ginger. There was a small amount of toffee coming through, and a pretty short and sweet finish.
Then, as always with a whisky tasting, it was over too quickly. I had a fantastic night and I was so grateful to get the chance to try such rare whiskies. For myself and the Edradynate Whisky Club the 25yo Girvan grain was probably the winner, it was such a lovely and complex grain whisky. That said the price for a bottle was pretty steep. I think the real winner for me was the 21yo Ghosted Reserve blend. It is probably the best blended whisky I have ever tasted, and the story behind it and what goes into making it makes it an absolute privilege to try, at £99 it definitely is worth the money.
I would like to again thank Steve Rush and the Whisky Wire for hosting the event and Girvan Grain and Ancient Reserves for providing such excellent samples! Also a huge thank you to Hugh and Richard at the Edradynate Whisky Club for allowing me to try some of their samples, it was very generous and I can’t thank them enough.
I really hope that I get selected to participate in another tweet tasting in the future as it was great fun, but until then…