Sunday, 5 February 2017

Girvan single grain foursome

A Tasty Dram Whisky Blog tasting notes

Girvan single grain whisky is part of William Grant & Sons, the company behind Glenfiddich and The Balvenie single malts. It is a gigantic unromantic heavy duty grain whisky distillery situated in the Scottish lowlands. Girvan produces over 100 million litres of alcohol. For comparison, the 10 biggest single malt distilleries (if we exclude Diageo’s Roseisle for a minute) do not produce that much whisky together…


The distillery was built in only 9 months time in 1963 and mostly supplies whisky for blends. From 1968 until 1975 the production site housed a single malt distillery, Ladyburn. It is now one of the most sought-after Scottish single malts. As of 2007 there is a new single malt distillery on site that only recently released a peated Lowlands single malt. Peated whisky is a rarity when it comes to the Lowlands region. Hendrick’s Gin is also produced on the site.

It is one of the very few companies that actually market a single grain whisky. Apart from Haig Club - the David Beckham brand distilled at Cameronbridge aiming at wodka drinkers - there aren’t too many options. Some independent bottlers have released some utterly fabulous old grain whiskies. They paved the way for brands such as Girvan to come out in the open.

The core range of Girvan exists of a NAS entry whisky, a cask strength version and a 25 and 30 year old expression. Let’s have a taste of the new make and some of their whiskies.

Girvan New Make

Tasting new make is always exciting. Certainly if you can include it in a session with aged versions of the same new make or whisky-in-the-making.
  • New make single grain (unaged)

  • Alcohol: 42% ABV (leaflet says 42.6%)
Colour: Clear as water, oily texture.

Nose: Sweet and grainy. Slightly metallic. Milk bread and crispy bread crust. Corn bread with lots of butter. Mint and crème au beurre (butter cream).

Taste: Sweet alcohol. Honey. Fairly rounded flavours. Hand crafted ice cream without additional flavourings. Banana and butter.

Finish: short and sweet.

Girvan n°4 Apps

N°4 Apps is the entry level single grain. It is named after the Girvan Patent Still N°4. Apps is distillery speak for apparatus.
  • NAS single grain

  • Matured in American oak casks

  • Alcohol: 42% ABV
Colour: Light yellow. A pale chardonnay wine. Light texture in the glass and swift legs.

Nose: Very subtle aromas. Less pronounced than the new make. Hard fruit candy, mostly lemon and orange candy. Vanilla extract in the background. Crispy milk bread from the new make resurfaces. Grain jenever with coriander and juniper.

Taste: Sweet vanilla mixed with oak. Sugar candy has now dropped to the last place. Wood flakes and whipped cream.

Finish: Short and crispy with plenty of sweet corn.

Girvan 25

The 25 year old single grain was one of the first expressions introduced as an official Girvan expression in 2013. It is distilled from wheat and spent its life in casks made from quercus alba (American oak in human tongue)
  • 25 year old single grain

  • Matured in American oak casks

  • Alcohol: 42% ABV
Colour: A nice natural golden colour, slow legs appear on the glass.

Nose: Chocolate with orange liquor. Pink pepper and vanilla.  Stewed white fruit. Apple, pear and pineapple. Wine gums and dutch sand cookies with butter. Wood shavings and bergamot orange rind.

Taste: Sweet from the start. Candy apple and chocolate. Then it evolves to something more spicy. Pink pepper. Canned fruits, peaches and white chocolate. Creamy and greasy. A touch of bitterness from oak brings balance.

Finish: White chocolate. Creamy vanilla pudding. Sticky and sweet in the aftertaste.

Girvan 30

The 30 year old Girvan single grain is the only Girvan distilled from maize. They used maize for  the last time in 1984. This  30 year old expression was first introduced in 2013.
  • 30 year old single grain

  • Matured in American oak casks

  • Alcohol: 42% ABV
Colour: Gold. Almost identical to the 25 year old version. Equally slow legs too.

Nose: Vanilla and musk. Dried bananas and lychees. Cherry wood and melon. White tea with fruit. Coconut. Wood spices.

Taste: This is a game between sweet and spicy. Lychee and banana versus pepper and nutmeg. Vanilla. Rounded and spicy. A soft bitter touch. A drop of water really unleashed  the melon flavours.

Finish. Vanilla beans and melon. A long and fruity finish with a lingering spiciness.

Single grains are making a comeback. Girvan is partly responsible for the resurrection. Kudos they didn't add artificial colouring and left out the chill filtering. The new make and N°4 Apps Girvan single grain whiskies are both promising and enjoyable drams. The 25 and 30 year old single grains are simply stunning. They are living proof that single grains are a match to single malts if you take two things into account: time and good oak. Unfortunately both are becoming scarce in the industry these days...

They have one major drawback. The pricing strategy of both whiskies aren't in line with the indies. The 25yo costs almost €300 and the 30yo about €450. And if I tell you can get a 25yo Cambus (a closed distillery)  for half of the money...

Sample disclosure: The  Girvan single grain gift pack was offered by Girvan/William Grant & Sons. Opinions expressed in this review are of course my own.
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