Glen Grant 10 and 16 Year Old
|The Spirit Stills at Glen Grant|
|Glen Grant Distillery|
Glen Grant 10 Year Old 1 Litre 40% abv NIS 160 Airport Travel Retail
Glen Grant 16 Year Old 1 Litre 43% abv NIS 310 Airport Travel Retail
Introduction: A Marketing Disaster!
The Glen Grant 10 Year Old is one of the cheapest Single Malts on the shelf and with its kitschy Touristy generic sounding name and its kitschy Touristy label (featuring a couple of Highland soldiers standing around a barrel drinking whisky), it certainly does not do itself any favours when it comes to enticing any serious single malt drinker to pick it up.
If by some miracle you do pick it up and read the label then what you get is some Scottish Tourist Board style story about “The Major” who founded the distillery. The blurb goes on to give you some quasi details about the whisky displaying a “deep golden colour…” and then “informs” you (I use the term lightly), about its “sweet and smooth palate…”. I just wonder. If they all put their heads together, could the marketing guys at Campari actually come up with anything better which would be absolutely certain to put off any discerning single malt whisky drinker? Anyone with even a modicum of whisky knowledge would read this and certainly conclude that this is sickly sweet– bargain basement – heavily Caramel coloured, cheap muck and this my friends, could not be further from the truth!
It now goes from the ridiculous to the bizarre because the description of the colour being a “deep golden colour…” is actually false. You wouldn’t know it before any possible purchase as the bottle is made from Victorian style green coloured glass. However, when poured, the whisky displays a beautiful and completely natural pale yellow colour which looks pretty much like the Tomintoul 14 year old and Glencadam 10 Year old which both state on their bottles that they are natural colour with no E150a caramel added. (Honestly, is there some guy in the Campari marketing department working for Diageo, payed to sabotage sales?).
Even with the best distilleries, any tasting notes they give you on the box should be taken with a pinch of salt. Considering the total failure of the rest of the text printed on the box, the Glen Grant’s tasting notes, printed at the very bottom, (in an almost surreal display of childish honesty), are uncannily accurate.
“An Intense bouquet of ripe orchard fruits…” and the Ten Year old adds “[with] a nutty finish”.
According to our tasting experience of both Glen Grants, this pretty much nails it on the head!
In total contrast, the 16 Year Old which shares with its younger sister this unfortunate box design, is (unlike the 10 YO), certainly not cheap, competing against such well-known superstars such as the Ardbeg NAS range to name but one.
This distillery is owned by Campari, the famous Italian drinks company and so almost all its production is exported to the Italian market with the rest going to the Travel retail around the European airports. Glen Grant can however be found in the specialist whisky shops in Britain where I believe they have been re-imported back from Italy.
Glen Grant 10 Year Old 1 Litre NIS 160 Airport Travel Retail
A friend of mine picked me up a bottle at the airport in Madrid.
Imagine walking through a green apple orchard just after a downpour. Placing the glass on your top lip and breathing in, what strikes you is a natural clean green fruit tree freshness with something raw almondy like in the background like squeezed apple pips.
Initial sip gives you a totally natural, light and unprocessed clean and crisp taste. Swirling the liquid around in your mouth reveals a hidden complexity. There is countryside heather honey and crunchy barley laying gently on the pallet, a touch of aniseed (?), a delicate green and yellow fruity sweetness with a delightful spiced wood and delicious but slightly dryer roasted almonds finish. The only negative comment I would make of this truly exceptional malt is that its finish, although not short, does seem to fade away and not last in the mouth.
|Glen Grant 10 YO Tasting Notes|
As I had it to hand, I thought I’d compare The Glen Grant 10 YO to the similarly priced “The Glenlivet 12 Year Old First Fill” as both have been matured in Ex-Bourbon casks
The Glen Grant displays a light yellow colour, The Glenlivet is considerably more orangy (and we know what that means “Malty Menchin” don’t we? – the dreaded E150a!)! The Glenlivet12, despite having a known light fruity character, was markedly heavier than the Glen Grant, more of a pasty barley taste, but even less aftertaste than the Glen Grant.
In a blind tasting contest, I’m sure I would recognise The Glenlivet 12 as a descent budget Speyside single malt but the Glen Grant 10 YO, I would have guessed it to be some very expensive single cask limited edition from a much smaller and less industrialised distillery.
Glen Grant 16 Year Old 1 Litre 43% abv NIS 310 Airport Travel Retail
My son picked this up at Geneva International airport.
As mentioned above, there is no technical information printed on the label regarding the whisky at all but direct visual comparisons with the Glencadam 10 Year Old proves that this must be Natural Colour with no caramel added whatsoever. When water was added to both glasses, the only way you could tell these two apart was that the Glencadam was misty and the Glen Grant crystal clear – a sure sign that the Glen Grant has been Chill Filtered.
Imagine walking through a green apple orchard just after a downpour. Even after another six years of maturation in 100% ex-Bourbon casks, the whisky is as fresh and green as the 10 Year Old, but fruit and blossom are intensified. Breathing in, just like the 10 YO, you get a wonderful natural clean green fruit tree freshness but this time with something slightly sweeter and with more body. To my surprise, I also detected a whiff of wood smoke with the 16 YO? A delightful and definitely more complex aroma than the 10 YO but just as perfectly balanced.
Yep, the 16 YO has that recognisable natural countryside heather honey from the 10 YO but less of the crunchy barley - more like custard and shortbread actually. There is a bit of light burnt sweet wood spice there under a platter of apple fruity sweetness and then comes the finale: A rich almond fruit cake which remains in the mouth for a satisfying finish. Superb!
The Glen Grant reminded me very much of The Glenlivet Nadurra 16 Year Old which also exhibits green apple orchard flavours but it also reminded me of the Glencadam 10 Year Old with its natural fresh taste so I decided to compare these two. As mentioned above, the colour in both glasses was pretty much identical and the only way to tell them apart was that the the Glencadam was misty after adding water due to the fact that it is Non Chill Filtered. The Glen Grant remained crystal clear however. (Ahem Campari!).
|Glen Grant 16 YO Tasting Notes|
The Glencadam 10 Year Old has a a slightly more creamier body, more vanilla cream digestive biscuits taste and is the only whisky I know that manages to somehow expose its raw ingrediants and present it on a platter for you. Hello, there is the roasted brown malted barley! Ah, yes there is the yeast (like you'd taste in a good bear) and a warm welcome to those top quality toffee honey and vanilla Ex-Bourbon casks. The Glencadam shares with the Glen Grant that delicious countryside heather honey but missing much of the green fruity notes of the Glen Grant 16 and remains grainy sweet throughout. The Glencadam has more mouth full and complexity. Now going back to the Glen Grant 16 reveals a touch of Ledaig dryness about it on the finish. A very slight farmyard hay earthy taste and smell which none of us noticed before, yet after tasting and smelling the Glencadam 10, is very evident now. How very interesting. I mentioned that it has rich sweet almond and fruit cake finish but now I understand why I mentioned almonds. There is a slight (and I mean slight) hint of bitterness like you get with raw almonds but its coated with brown sugar and glazed fruit cake.
Putting Speyside back on the map
If you find yourself being sucked into the world of heavily flavoured phenolic island whiskies and feel that you might be forever trapped there, unable to ever enjoy again a whisky from any other region, then clean your palette out, wait a few days and then try these Glen Grants. I guarantee, as impossible as it might seem, it will put Speyside back on the map for you.
I cannot praise these whiskies highly enough but would love to try a Non Chilled Filtered version with every ounce of flavour kept in tact. If you get the chance to pass through an airport in Europe, forget the special editions, The Retail Exclusives etc, if you are on a budget or have never tried Glen Grant then buy the 10 Year Old. If you have some cash to spare and want to take your Glen Grant experience to the next stage then pick up the 16 Year Old. These are quality drams to share with your best friends.
Now, all this talk about fresh starts, going back to basics as well as the obvious apple and honey flavour references has obviously reminded me that the month of Elul, Teshuva and Rosh Hashana are just around the corner.