I missed the live event for this whisky tasting, but the head malt nut Barry was kind enough to supply me with samples after I dropped off a grain whisky, a bourbon and a bunch of empty sample bottles. Barry then filled them and labeled them the same as the flights and I didn’t find out what I was drinking until after I had done the notes and tastings at home a few days later.
We snuck a bourbon there since that’s the closest cousin to Scottish Grain whisky and like I thought it would, the bourbon stuck out like a sore thumb. The second I smelled it I knew which one was the bourbon and even though it was a low-grade bourbon it tasted and smelled like the most heavenly thing on earth compared to what was surrounding it at the time… but I’m getting ahead of myself.
As usual it was all blind, mine was just blinded in minis and the rounds looked like this
1. North British + the bourbon
2. Port Dundas & Caledonian
That’s right the rounds were distilleries instead of the usual cut, Cask strength, finished, etc. rounds. How’s that for changing things up a bit?
North British (and a bourbon)
- Nose: Peachy grain, harsh chemical, toffee and cleaner with a touch of tannic oak.
- Palate: Peachy grain, caramel, fruity, artificial toffee, bit of char.
- Finish: Medium -> Fruity, grain, finish, alcohol pops.
- Overall: C- (70-72) Has an overly sweet character, raw grain and has an overall plastic character to it.
1B: Signatory Vintage North British 7 years (07-13): 65.5% – ex-Bourbon Cask
- Nose: Fruity, grainy sweetness, toffee, nuts, 7-UP citrus and alkaline mineral water.
- Palate: Fruity, nutty, sweetness, malt, dark sweets and a touch of mineral water.
- Finish: Medium -> Fruit, nuts, sweetness and vanilla
- Overall: C+ (77-79) Doesn’t taste so much like a grain as it does a low quality single malt. Not terrible, but not something I’d ever go out of my way to pick up either.
1C: Berry’s North British 18 years (96-15): 57%
- Nose: Alcohol, funk, bitterness, rotten bananas, sour fruit and copper.
- Palate: Artificial caramel, artificial vanilla, plastic, overripe bananas, sour fruit and a harsh bitter minerality.
- Finish: Medium -> Old bananas, plastic, minerals and artificial sweetener.
- Overall: F (0-59) Holy crap nuggets this is bad. I spit it out after tasting it, I couldn’t finish it, it was just too awful.
1D: Duncan Taylor North British 30 years (78-09): 55.4%
- Nose: Spirity, caramel, vanilla marshmallows, toasted nuts, alcohol, wax and apple juice.
- Palate: Musty funk, spirity, caramel, vanilla, nuts, Pixie Stix, cinnamon and wax.
- Finish: Medium -> Funk that reminds me of OBE, spirit, cinnamon and waxy candy.
- Overall: C (73-76) I was quite bad and not something you, or anyone else, should ever seek out. It has this overall quality of old waxy candy, like Candy Corn from 2 years ago.
1E: The Sovereign North British: 57.5%
- Nose: Banana, coconut, hazelnuts, toffee, cocoa and a bit of spice.
- Palate: Banana, coconut, hazelnuts, toffee, pie crust, and vanilla.
- Finish: Short -> Coconut, vanilla, pie crust and hazelnuts.
- Overall: B- (80-82) The nose is actually quite nice as is the palate. Maybe it’s because I’m coming out of the dumpster fire that began this tasting, but this one is quite enjoyable. It was a bit like a coconut cream pie.
1F: Henry McKenna: 40% – new charred oak
- Nose: Fruity, caramel, banana, Twizzlers, sweet grain and vanilla.
- Palate: Caramel, vanilla, banana, Twizzlers, sweet grain, peanuts, oak and spice.
- Finish: Medium -> Caramel, vanilla, banana, Twizzlers and peanuts.
- Overall: B (83-86) There was no doubt in my mind this was the Henry McKenna. At this point it was a breath of fresh air and a much needed break. It was an oasis of enjoyment.
Port Dundas & Caledonian
2A: Cadenhead’s Port Dundas 10 years: 59.6% – X Cask
- Nose: Alcohol soaked pears, chlorine and everclear.
- Palate: Alcohol soaked pears, chlorine and everclear.
- Finish: Short -> Alcohol soaked pears, chlorine and everclear.
- Overall: F (0-59) Like sipping on a puree of pears and everclear while lounging in a community pool. I’ll go back to the Henry McKenna now please. It’s like getting pool water up your nose, but less enjoyable.
2B: The Sovereign The Caledonian 45 years (66-11): 46.2%
- Nose: Weak herbal, oak, sweet grain, “staleness”, strong alkaline bite, OBE and melted plastic.
- Palate: Worn out oak, sweet grain, copper, OBE and old bananas with a touch of caramel sweetness.
- Finish: Medium -> Cloying, grainy, plasticy and old bananay
- Overall: C (73-76) Not something I’d ever seek out on purpose.
3A: Burns Malt Invergordon 7 years (06-14): 60.2% – ex-Sherry Cask & ex-PX Octave
- Nose: Strawberry frosting, citrus candy, ribbon candy, marshmallows and a touch earthy… it doesn’t suck.
- Palate: Sherry, candied citrus, toffee, ribbon candy, toasted marshmallows, coconut and spice.
- Finish: Long -> Dark fruit, marshmallows and coconut.
- Overall: B (83-86) Wow… just… wow. I wonder how this would last outside of this tasting because right now I’m enthralled with it after the run that’s brought us to this point. Did you ever have those coconut marshmallows that were around in the late 80s – early 90s? This is like that with some sherry and at the moment it’s teetering on a B+.
3B: Exclusive Malts Invergordon 30 years (84-15): 52.3%
- Nose: Nuts, herbal, citrus, coconut, banana and hazelnut.
- Palate: Nuts, oak, herbal, toasted coconut, banana, marshmallows and candied citrus.
- Finish: Long -> Caramel, toasted coconut, banana, nuts and marshmallows.
- Overall: B (83-86) Ok, not bad, not too bad at all. This drinks more like an old blend and is better than almost anything else we had in this vertical. It’s a coconut explosion, but in a good way.
3C: The Sovereign Invergordon: 48.8%
- Nose: Spirity vanilla, banana bread, lemon oil, marshmallows, dried coconut and a creamy sweetness.
- Palate: Bananan Twinkies, marshmallows, dried coconut, and vanilla taffy.
- Finish: Medium -> Banana taffy, marshmallows and dried coconut.
- Overall: B (83-86) Decidedly not terrible and it reminds me of a combination of candy from my youth. Like a combination of the vanilla Tootsie Rolls and Banana Twinkies.
And that’s all there is. A whole bunch of grain, most of it terrible, but we did it. We experienced it, we relished the experience (at least I did… I don’t know about everyone else) and came out more knowledgable for it at the end. An awesome education in grain whisky.
Till next time, cheers!