Single Grain

Review: Carsebridge 48 Year Old Single Grain Scotch Whisky (Diageo Special Releases 2018) by Jason Hambrey

Image courtesy of Diageo.

Image courtesy of Diageo.

ABV
43.2%
Aging
48 Years; Refill American Oak Hogsheads
Recipe
100% Grain (Likely Corn)
Distiller Carsebridge (Alloa, Scotland)

Carsebridge was a lowland grain distillery which closed in 1983, but at one point it was the largest distillery (by area, not necessarily production) in Scotland in 1886. It was thought to be the largest grain distillery in Scotland when it closed. Scottish grain whiskies are becoming more common now, column distilled from corn or wheat into a very light whisky which is used as the base for blends.


Review (2018)

  • Batch: Diageo Special Releases 2018

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: ~2018

What a nose! It is incredibly rich, and not too oaky. I really like old, lighter whiskies.

It’s slightly sour, with lots of vanilla, and touches of a floral character. That combined with the vanilla makes me think of a dried vanilla flower, if such a thing even exists. Yet, the nose is still intense and oaky. Old, dry seville marmelade, dried dill, honey, and luscious aged whisky notes. Also, it’s a bit dusty. The palate has this - but it’s quite sweet, creamy, and slightly sour with a sense of umami throughout. The seville marmelade really comes out, but also the honey, vanilla, dried flowers, peach, and not too much oak at all! Finish is short and light, lightly sweet and clean.

I tried this next to Nikka Coffey Grain and it made Coffey Grain taste like a bottom shelf product (it is not!).

Very Highly Recommended (18% of all whiskies I’ve reviewed to date get this recommendation or higher). Nearly, but not quite, a level higher.

Value: Very Low (based on $1500)


Review: Bain's Cape Mountain Single Grain South African Whisky by Jason Hambrey

Bains.jpg
ABV
43%
Aging
4-6 Years; First fill bourbon casks (twice)
Recipe
100% South African Yellow Maize
Distillers James Sedgewick Distillery (Wellington, South Africa)

This whisky - a single grain whisky made from South African maize, is quite one of a kind - about as creamy a whisky as you can get, due to the nature of using both 100% corn and maturation in first fill bourbon casks (twice! matured for 3 years in first fill bourbon casks, then dumped into another set of first fill bourbon casks for another 18-30 months).


Review (2017)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: ~2016

Interesting to try some of this, especially as I taste a lot of corn whisky in Canada – fruity, creamy, and what you would expect from a corn whisky matured in reused casks. Very creamy. Terrific tropical fruit and spice notes to the nose. Coconut, dried papaya, dried mango, dried raisins, banana, honey, geranium – rich and yet soft. The palate leads with coconut, vanilla, dried fruit, corn husks, pineaplle, and remarkable creaminess. The finish is full of dried tropical fruit, pear, and light tannins. Terrific spice notes too – worth a try for every whisky enthusiast, in my opinion.

Recommended (81% of whiskies I’ve reviewed to date get this recommendation or higher).

Value: Average, at $48.


Review: North British 53 Year Old 1961 Single Grain Scotch Whisky (Douglas Laing XOP) by Jason Hambrey

ABV
51.8%
Aging
53 Years; Refill Sherry Cask
Recipe
N/A
Distiller North British (Edinburgh, Scotland)

Scottish Grain whiskies are broadly similar to Canadian corn whiskies (I suppose that is my reference point!). They represent a portion of the Scotch whisky segment which is quite different from Single Malts - the distilleries can use column stills and any grain they wish - usually corn (the cheapest) or wheat. The segment has grown, but most of the whisky goes straight to supplying blends and is not released in the same way that single malts would be. The easiest access to them is through independent bottlers, like this one. Also, because they are not in high demand, you can get very old whisky at a fraction of the cost of a similarly aged single malt.

North British was founded in 1885, and is the only remaining distillery in Edinburgh. As a single grain whisky distillery for Scottish blends, it is massive distillery which distills 180,000 tonnes of cereal (traditionally corn) each year in their coffey continous still. It is jointly owned by Diageo and Edrington group.

This is old! It is not often you find a whisky more than 50 years old. This was matured in a refill sherry butt.


Review (2016)

  • Batch: Cask 10708 (186 bottles)

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2015

Classic aged grain whisky on the nose – buttery, rich and oily grain, vanilla, and lots of oak. The oak breaches upon bitterness here – no surprise after 53 years! Dried elderflower, roasted stem tea, earthiness from all the wood, and there’s still a bit of white grape in this – but semi-dried. Quite a magnificent nose. A bit of rubber, too. Lots of beeswax.

The taste is quite cereal-led, with a good dose of earthiness (cacao!) and a slowly unfolding finish full of spices and held firm with tannin and a bit of bitterness. The bitterness isn’t strong enough that it is negative, but I also wouldn’t say it is positive here – I would say over-oaked. The lightest touch of edgy sherry too.

The finish has lots of vanilla and oak. Relatively clean – cloves and corn still on the end though as well. It is complex, and the cacao in the middle significantly elevates this one. The bitterness doesn’t help – a terrific whisky, sitting somewhere between my reference points of Ninety 20 Year old and Canadian Rockies 21 Year old for whiskies in a similar camp. However, terrific to be able to taste.

Very Highly Recommended (18% of all whiskies I’ve reviewed to date get this recommendation or higher).

Value: Very low, based on $670.


Review: Borders Single Grain Scotch Whisky by Jason Hambrey

ABV
51.7%
Aging
Finished in Oloroso Sherry
Recipe
50% Wheat, 50% Barley
Distiller N/A (Scottish Highlands)

This is produced by R & B Distillers (Raasay & Borders), from one distillery, bottled ncf and no caramel added at 51.7% by R & B distillers. They also produce Raasay and the Tweedale Blend.


Review (2017)

  • Batch: 001

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: ~2016

Light bodied. The nose is full of sherry, and it is nice – not too dominant. Balsamic vinegar, raisin, dried apricot, almond, coconut, and dried currants. The palate is again nutty, with some interesting berry notes – black currants! I don’t see them often – and rancio, light orange and cinnamon on the finish too. Marmelade, too – seville orange. The grains are nice, and there is a nice creamy porridge type character to it. A good length of finish, with rancio and dried fruits. Quite a nice single grain – not boring and one that I would recommend to those interested in exploring the category. Granted, I haven’t had many single grains. The wheat has nice character – it sweeps broadly across the palate and gives a nice softness to the whisky. Really quite nice with a drop of water- it opens up quite well, though it is still easy at full strength – the finish suffers, but the rest I like a bit more.

It is a really nice casual dram – I really like it. But not quite up my alley and complexity could be upped.

Recommended (81% of whiskies I’ve reviewed to date get this recommendation or higher).

Value: Average, at $89.