Today we will be having a look at another grain whisky. I am getting quite partial to my grains of late, it’s a nice refreshing alternative to a malt and lets you really experience what a cask can give. This is a sample that I got from Drinks by the Dram a while ago and never got round to opening, until now. It is a 27yo, cask strength, North British, and it is rather good!
North British has an interesting story; I won’t go into it in too much detail as it has a long history but you should have a look into it. It was founded by a group of independent blenders and spirits merchants in 1885 as a way of countering the monopoly that was D.C.L. (Distillers Company Limited). At this time most of the big Grain distilling companies merged together to form D.C.L. and because of the huge stake they had in the industry they could effectively set the price and quality of what was going onto the market. By building this distillery the independents were able to ensure some level of quality and price control of what was being produced by D.C.L. and ensure the stability of the market.
The North British that we have today is a bottling from That Boutique- Whisky Company (TBWC). This is their 3rd batch from North British, and is presented at 27 years of age and at 56.3% ABV. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, I love the value for money that you get for single grains. This is 27 years old, and only 760 bottles were released! Yet a bottle, 50cl, only cost £53.
You can instantly tell when you put your nose in the glass that this is a grain whisky. It is so much lighter than a malt whisky or a Bourbon. It’s delicate and floral but still has a huge amount going on. There is a lot of sweetness upfront, as you might expect from ex Bourbon barrel maturation, runny honey, burnt caramel sauce and white chocolate are prominent here. In addition to this there is also icing/powdered sugar and a sweet acetone-pear drop aroma. On the subject of fruits there are plenty of those too here with cantaloupe melon, red apples and nectarine. A delicate sweet spice comes through towards the back of the nose with fresh vanilla pods, a dash of cinnamon and a good amount of nutmeg. It reminds me on the nose of a custardy pumpkin pie with dried mixed spices sprinkled on top, served with a dollop of vanilla ice cream.
Well, now more of the alcohol comes across, it was so fresh and delicate on the nose but the 56.3% shows a lot more of its strength here. As you might expect there are a lot of similarities with Bourbon. It is even quite corny tasting like Bourbon, I believe North British have a quite high corn content in their mash bill which would explain why. It also has that thick and creamy and luxurious mouthfeel that you get from Bourbon. But this has a much more refined character, likely the result of sitting for 27 years in a cask. Big alcohol and spice hit upfront on the palate with loads more cinnamon and cloves than on the nose. After the spice attack dies down the sweetness and fruitiness returns. With toffee apples, vanilla custard and an earthy honeyed note. A touch of water brings out burnt caramel and butterscotch but it does detract a lot from the other characters on the palate. Towards the back of the palate the wood tannins become the dominant character with old toasted oak, leather and a flash of dried orange peel.
The finish is relatively short, surprisingly so for the strength, but it leaves you wanting another sip. The tannic woodiness and the dried mixed peel continue from the palate, and it is joined by a caramel waffle sort of taste.
This is lovely, and offers a really unique experience which is totally different from malt whisky. Grain whisky is so underrated as many people see it as only being fit for filler in blends, but it can offer equally as enjoyable of an experience as a malt. And for a very good price too, this bottle, for a 50cl, comes to only £53! It is sold out now unfortunately but if you have a bottle at home, or see it in an auction, get it and crack it open. You won’t be disappointed!