Friday, 12 September 2014

Girvan Grain Tweet Tasting

Whisky Discovery
At the end of August Dave took part in the #GirvanGrain Tweet tasting hosted by Steve Rush of @TheWhiskyWire. A beautifully packaged sample set arrived in good time containing four vials of Single Grain Whisky from the Girvan Distillery. Two of the samples immediately looked to be new 'Whisky Discoveries' alongside two that Dave had tasted before, when the 25 Year Old was launched last October.

The Girvan distillery was the most advanced distillery in the world at the time, and the very first still called 'No.1 Apps' (a distillery term for apparatus) was built in 1963 under the stewardship of Charles Gordon, a whisky production pioneer and the great-grandson of William Grant.  The Stills are Continuous Patent or Coffey Stills, named after their inventor Aeneas Coffey.  

We have a small claim to fame here, as we met Charlie Gordon, many years ago when Dave was working in the Far East. We were invited aboard his yacht 'Cinderella II' and Dave was given a bottle of whisky to take away and Kat was given a crew shirt (she would have been just 12 at the time), The crew shirt lasted a lot longer than the whisky. Dave, not being a whisky Drinker back then, gave it away to a friend who he thought would appreciate it!

The Girvan Patent Still Single Grain 25 Year Old Scotch was originally launched as a UK only exclusive on Friday October 4th 2013. It was the Friday before The Whisky Exchange Show, and Dave was invited down to the launch. It was significant landmark in William Grant & Sons’ history as it broke whisky convention with the first release of a Distillery bottling of a Single Grain Whisky. Yes there have been independent releases of single grain from Girvan, but the majority of this spirit is used in Grants blended Scotch Whisky. 

Whisky Discovery #979

Girvan New Make Spirit (42% abv)
Single Grain New Make Spirit
Not currently for Sale
Whisky Discovery
A beautifully presented tasting pack - surely there is a market for this?
Although termed 'single grain' in actual fact the 'mash bill' contains about 10% malt to kick-start fermentation, rest is wheat. The spirit normally runs off the still at around 94% abv but for comparison purposes has been bottled at 42% abv. New make spirit is the core raw essence of what will be whisky, once it’s been aged in oak casks for a minimum of 3 years according to Scotch Whisky Laws. 

So What Did I Think?
It's always interesting to taste new make spirit, and something I always strive to do when visiting a distillery. I would have loved to have nosed/sampled this at full strength and at the level it's reduced to before casking, but the samples sent out were all reduced to 42% abv, in line with the finished whiskies we'd be tasting.

Nose: Very tame for 'new make' but to be expected when bottled at 42% abv. It comes across as sweet and grassy. Steamed corn on the cob with a lime squeezed over. Popcorn notes too
Palate: Slight bitter pith-like quality to this although there is a sweetness underlying, quite creamy too. Quite a dry finish too and that pith-like bitterness remains right through to the end, leaving grapefruit  Second sip and finding some weak toffee notes with a touch of sherbet too
Verdict: Not sure I would consider buying this if it was made available, however it was a useful addition to the tasting so that comparisons could be made throughout the evening. I'd consider it at casking strength though, as it would allow me to experiment.....mwahahaha!

What Did Everyone Else Think?
@AlpacaJo: Slightly sweet, sort of sweet shop aroma on the nose with the new make spirit.
@MashtunandMeow: Lovely light headiness, with a lemony sweetness on the nose. Pear drops in there too?
@MyWhiskyGuide: Nose; first thought is of saké actually, sweet, light and grassy, not as harsh as I was expecting, has a smoothness to it
@TheWhiskyWire: Loving the fresh fruity feist-ette of the palate. Would love to road test this at the full 94% ABV 
@kizzsmyth: Quite sweet initially, fades quickly and is not too dissimilar to vanilla vodka
@mynameisgone: Palate; sweet smooth but with a warmth, slightly herbal/medicinal taste, vanilla coming through towards the finish
@BeersIveKnown: Light, elegant and fruity apricot/ pineapple, residual sweetness, touch of warmth on lips
@TheWhiskyBoys: Tastes very sweet with a hint of sweetcorn, I'm sure there's custard in there too
@rodbodtoo: Sweet and estery. Bananas - I see where you get the rum comparison Steve You could sell this stuff as Banana Vodka!

Whisky Discovery #980

Girvan No. 4 Apps NAS (42% abv)
Single Grain Whisky
Circa £44.00 70cl
Whisky Discovery
OK, not as pretty as Pot Stills, but as an engineer I find this rather exciting!
I'm fairly certain this is the same whisky that I tasted at the official launch of the 25 Year Old back in October. Back then however, it was named '#5974' and there were bottles labelled up accordingly. I registered it then as Whisky Discovery No.547 and have assigned a new discovery number for this release (It's my 'Liquid Log' and I make the rules)

No.4 Apps, takes its name from the distillery term for 'Apparatus' and has been in use at the distillery since 1992. This single grain whisky is maturated in vanilla rich American oak barrels. 

So What Did I Think?
Nose: Immediate impressions; Light and fruity and there's a 'Chewits' flavour to this. A short while in the glass and some grassy notes develop, not sweet fresh cut grass however, more like grass clippings that has been cut a few days previously, slightly yellowing. Later the vanilla comes through along with some freshly squeezed lime.
Palate; A candy sweetness, with 'pseudo' candy citrus flavours. Some pith-like bitterness starts to creep in, tempered with an icing sugar sweetness and I found a sugared almond note before it finishes with a dry woody flavour
Verdict: The price is affordable, and to be fair it's quite drinkable, perhaps a little too sweet and candy like for me, and wasn't my favourite of the evening. I didn't think it was great value whisky and would probably steer you somewhere else if asked directly

What Did Everyone Else Think?
@MashtunandMeow: This is like an orchard on the nose. Still with the bubblegum picked up from the new make, and very crisp yet gentle. Also getting a scent of sugared almonds and perfumed vanilla
@MikeJack1976: Very nice, vanilla notes through it, almonds? US sweets: sugar daddies. Clings nicely to the glass, syrupy texture. Which leads to a light maple syrup nose, 
would go quite nicely with a blackberry and apple crumble or into a whisky marmalade...!
@TheWhiskyWire: Green apples, vanilla fudge and Tootie Frooties all now providing some fab balanced interplay on the nose.
@rodbodtoo: Palate; light, sweet, honeyed. A very soft allspice note. This reminds me somewhat of Auchentoshan Classic 
@Whisky_Belfast: Palate - Gorgeous spices throughout this to the end, warm pepper and chilli and in no way harsh
@msykesjones: Palate - Sweetness coming through, still get some cereal, but yes, who said apples - toffee apples, but very subtle
@raithrover: Fudge, whipped cream with a Rich Tea biscuit vibe kinda like a deconstructed Orkney Fudge cheesecake
@NeilMacKinnon1: Tastes of sweet oak and the fruitiness is a delight, a perfect aperitif
@kizzsmyth: Sweet, overripe peaches and nectarines. Still quite spirity or ‘young’. Not the longest finish, but a pleasant dram

Whisky Discovery #546

Girvan 25 Year Old (42% abv)
Single Grain Whisky
Circa £270.00 70cl
Whisky Discovery
A photo taken at the official launch of the 25 Year Old last October
The  25 Year Old was the first bottling from the Girvan Patent Still range of single grain whiskies released in October 2013 which Dave attended the launch of. We'd also both re-visited this at Whisky Live London in April 2014. The Girvan 25 Year Old has been matured in American oak barrels.

So What Did I Think?
Nose: Immediately the wood influence is clear with this; with well seasoned timber, and toasted coconut flavours develop alongside stronger vanilla notes. Spices follow with cloves, but not quite as strong as I was hoping for!
Palate: Soft, sweet and mellow. Vanilla giving some fudge like toffee flavours and the toasted coconut just comes across too, but the wood dominating the palate with pencil shavings, turning to forest floor towards the end. I Would love to have tried this at a higher strength, personally I feel it would benefit from it. 
Verdict: This is a nice drop of single grain whisky, I enjoyed it and it was my favourite of the evening. However I don't find the pricing very attractive! Yes it is a 25 Year Old whisky, but at £270 feel it's overpriced, I'd also like see it bottled at a higher strength and feel it could have offered so much more at cask strength.

What Did Everyone Else Think?
@AlpacaJo: Smells dark and rich. Just the thing for a dreary evening.
@TheWhiskyBoys: There's a really woody aroma with a big waft of candy or toffee apple
@mynameisgone: Nose; wood, slightly burnt barbecued bananas, dried figs, some citrus, slightly mulchy and petrichor.
@MyWhiskyGuide: Nose; Spicy, oaky, raisins, slight vanilla, citrusy, orange me thinks, s
ome toffee coming through, but a dark toffee
@WhiskyWriter: This is where the sweetness of grain really comes in play. Really combines with the wood to give a more complex nose
@rodbodtoo: Nose: complex; sweet vanilla, light rum, brown sugar, bananas. Lovely
@DramblerJM: Nose: creamy, some vanilla, *lack* of "acetone" character typical of grain is notable.Cereal, vegetal, faint banana. Reminiscent of light rum. Pleasant.
@TheWhiskyWire: The palate well and truly welcomes you along for the ride with its sumptuously smooth and darkly decadently delish delight.
@kizzsmyth: Festive spices (cinnamon, cloves), subtle sweetness gives way to quite a dry woody finish with a brandy quality to it overall

Whisky Discovery #548

Girvan 30 Year Old (42% abv)
Single Grain Whisky
Circa £375.00 70cl
Whisky Discovery
The 30 Year Old comes in a rather splendid wooden box
This was also previewed at the 25 Year Old Launch back in October 2013, and was officially launched at Whisky Live London 2014. This is the oldest bottling in the Girvan Patent Still range, matured for 30 years in American oak barrels and is unique, at it is from the last year, 1984, that maize was used in the mashbill. Again 10% malt to start fermentation and 90% maize. From 1985 onwards wheat has been the grain of choice.

So What Did I Think?
Nose: This opened up with tarred paper on first pouring, but as soon as it had settled in the glass it was much softer than I was expecting, perhaps I've been spoilt with too many single cask grains? My notes on the evening found; Soft caramelised fruits with vanilla ice cream topped with ginger and toasted coconut.
Palate: Again quite soft and mellow on the palate but spicier than the 25 Year Old with some nice tobacco notes too. Woody with cloves, a gentle chilli heat before turning creamy, creme brûlée-like, with a touch of charcoal too.  Again would have loved to taste this at a slightly higher abv, circa 50% ish to allow me to play with the profile
Verdict: Again a very nice whisky, but not quite sure where the marketing department were going with this one! £375 puts it out of reach to the majority of us and also puts it up against some very good single malt whiskies. Again, I'd also like see it bottled at a higher strength and feel it could have offered so much more at cask strength.

What Did Everyone Else Think?
@TheWhiskyWire: Tea dunked bread pudding, vanilla custard cream biscuits, blackberry's and wood spice. Fruity, fresh and finesselfull.
@mynameisgone: Nose; frusli apple and cinnamon cereal bars without the cinnamon, slightly medicinal (cough syrup?), lime, cream, peppery.
@NeilMacKinnon1: Nose; Crisp clean and earthy, has the fruitiness again but softer, getting a pipe tobacco scent
@TheWhiskyphiles: Nose: Tropical mango, pineapple, perfumed Turkish delight, syrup and honey sweet, creamy toasted coconut
@SWWIG: Some almond on the nose, citrus and that signature sweetness we've found throughout the range As the nose develops, I get more tropical notes coming through
@BeersIveKnown: This is actually fairly sweet, plenty of vanilla, warming, peppery some orange oil in finish
@MikeJack1976: Palate, Not initially sweet, but then explodes on your tongue, "so sweet it's furred up the back of my teeth" More vanilla, cleaner than the 25. Almonds again? Very smooth still, no rough edges at all. Getting a little pepper on the finish now too. Water releases some orange notes.
@DramblerJM: Finish: Long. Builds from cream to sweetness to spice. Very pleasant.

And finally....
A massive THANK YOU to Steve Rush at @TheWhiskyWire, to @KevinAbrook Global Whisky Specialist at William Grant & Sons and the team at the Girvan Distillery and of course the tweet tasters who were:

@TheWhiskyWire @WhiskyDiscovery @DramblerJM @raithrover @TheWhiskyBoys @SWWIG @simon_m_field @MyWhiskyGuide @Alpacajo @kizzsmyth @mynameisgone @WhiskyWriter @NeilMacKinnon1 @MashtunandMeow @Smokiechops @Whisky_Belfast @scotslarder @rodbodtoo @msykesjones @MikeJack1976 @BeersIveKnown @TheWhiskyphiles @annawizauk

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