Going Grainy – Girvan 30 year and Cameronbridge 36 year

Grains are rarely found solo as their main purpose is to round out the more dynamic malts in a blend. However, there has been increasing attention on some grains – including Cameronbridge with its new “Haig” brand.

So we decided to turn our attention to grains and select a pair from our Drinks by the Drams Single Cask Whisky Advent Calendar:

  • Girvan 30 year (1988) cask 13076 58.1% (Xtra Old Particular)
  • Cameronbridge 36 year (1982) cask 8289 His Excellency (Bartels Whisky) 51.9%

Both are from the Lowlands region in Scotland and we began our exploration with the Girvan…

Girvan 30 year (1988) cask 13076 58.1% (Xtra Old Particular) 230 bottles

  • Nose – Yikes! Is that glue? The kind of old-style molding glue from childhood, a bio-chemistry lab… a bit of citrus polish, some tannins? Then a curious thing began to happen… after our 1st sip, it opened up, unfurling like a flower from which a joyful honeyed perfume emerged, joined by milk chocolate, vanilla, chocolate, over-ripe fruits – particularly bananas, then more floral and herbal
  • Palate – Wow! Pure honey delight! Then deepens into chocolate, full, rounded with a lovely balance, fruity with resins, ‘sacher torte’, heavy oils, phenomenally creamy, showing its maturity
  • Finish – Lovely finish with more chocolate, sweetly lingers

There was such a surprise with this one – the initial aroma was not at all inspiring but then on the palate? Just fabulous! And when we went back to the nose, it just became more and more interesting and inviting. Even hours later the empty glass was a delight. This was an exceptional grain and we were lucky to have an opportunity to try it. Whilst now sold out, it was once available at Master of malt for Eur 166.

What do the folks at Master of Malt have to say?

Distilled in July 1988 at Girvan, this single grain Scotch whisky was aged in a single refill hogshead which yielded 230 bottles. After 30 years this special liquid was bottled at 58.1% ABV in March 2019, for Douglas Laing’s Xtra Old Particular series. Very extra and very old indeed.

Tasting Note by The Producer

  • Nose: The nose brings a vanilla fudge character with milky cereal and rhubarb.
  • Palate: The creamy palate bursts with toffee apples, pineapple chunks in syrup and cinnamon.
  • Finish: The finish is long and warming with polished oak, BBQ’d bananas and runny honey.

We then moved on to our next grain… this time 36 years!

Cameronbridge 36 year (Feb 1982/Nov 2018) cask 8289 His Excellency (Bartels Whisky) 51.9% 192 bottles

  • Nose – Clean and fresh, light and very sweet, a hint of fruit, friendly or sympathetic but then… nothing much more
  • Palate – Very sweet, a bit of roasted barley or biscuits, pleasant but unidimensional, some sweet grapes, apples, or even a grappa-like quality
  • Finish – A bitter edge, a touch of caraway

While it had a promising start, it quickly fell short. After the Girvan, we were expecting, well, more. It is a quite pleasant grain, but misses having something distinguishing or remarkable. We concluded that it simply isn’t a ‘solo act’, singing a single simple melody that is nice and uncomplicated but would probably be more interesting when in harmony with others.

What more do we know? Well, the folks at Master of Malt have this to say when it was for sale for EUR 75 – now sold out:

As part of the His Excellency series, Bartels Whisky have bottled a rather delightful 36 Year Old single grain from Cameronbridge, the largest grain distillery in Europe. It was taken from a single cask, filled in February 1982 and then bottled November 2018. A limited outturn of only 192 bottles.

Tasting Note by The Chaps at Master of Malt

  • Nose: Cereal notes, creamy milk chocolate and fruit cake with cinnamon and ginger spices.
  • Palate: Stewed apples, another helping of spices and digestive biscuits.
  • Finish: Think scones with clotted cream and zingy jam.

Curious about other experiences with these grains? Here are a few previous brushes:

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Whisky Ladies Go Against the Grain – Haig Club 40%

From Cameronbridge distillery in Fife, on the edge of Eastern Highlands and Lowlands, the Haig grain has set about creating a marketing space for a “different” kind of whisky.

It does not look like your traditional whisky bottle.

It does not attempt to claim space with your standard dram.

It steers far away from being “traditional” and instead embraces being a base for cocktails, welcomes ice, says hello to cola and more….

As they put it, it is deliberately “designed” to be different.

Forget everything you thought you knew about scotch. Experience the new world of scotch whisky.

So what did the Whisky Ladies of Mumbai collectively think?

Haig Club 40%

  • Nose – Initially a hit of pure alcohol, then starts to slip into a fresh, citrusy scent, some spice, light vanilla that over time started to reveal a nice butterscotch or caramel quality
  • Palate – We had quite a mixed response here – some found it smooth, innocuous honey water whereas others thought it flat to the extend of simply nondescript alcohol
  • Finish – Not much, short, perhaps a hint of honey ginger?
  • Water – Surprisingly given this was already at the low end of alcohol strength for a whisky, we actually did try it with water… and found it made it even more of an “easy drinking” whisky

We certainly weren’t “wowed” by this Haig grain but hadn’t expected to be either.

It was very “accessible” which is a nice way of saying easy-drinking without much distinctive character.

What was more amusing was the division of opinion on whether the “perfume” style bottle was aesthetically pleasing or not. Just like the palate, the room was divided between liking and not.

What is it exactly? A combination of three cask types – first-fill, rejuvenated and refill bourbon barrel-matured whiskies.

Beyond that… here’s what the folks producing it have to  say :

HAIG CLUB’s ultra-smooth character and toffee and butterscotch notes can be paired with a variety of complementary flavours to add extra layers of complexity, resulting in a range of cocktail styles that eclipse most whisky brands and showcase unexpected ways for people to enjoy Scotch.

  • Appearance: Light, bright gold with a fine viscosity, suggesting freshness and sweet flavour.
  • Nose: Light creamy butterscotch or custard, with tropical fruits and citrus becoming richer and sweet; a pleasing light woody spiciness.
  • Taste: Icing sugar or coconut creamy sweetness, butterscotch, and a mouth-watering spiciness. Like a tropical fruit salad with a fresh clean balance.
  • Finish: Short and very clean, with traces of freshly sawn wood.

And what would a bottle of the Haig set you back? You can find it online at Master of Malt for £39.95 or various duty free airports around Asia. Our bottle was purchased a few years ago and opened in September 2018.

PS – Photo credit goes to our contributor – with thanks!

What did the Whisky Ladies try in their Grain evening?

You can find more on a page dedicated just to Grains here.

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