Grain whisky.. Its there just to bulk out the blends right ? A cheaper way of basically filling the gaps to reduce costs, helping the blenders throw out twice as much blended whisky rather that just blended malts etc.. That might be the case in most instances but over the last several years the world of whisky lovers has started to look in different corners for the “whisky fix” , the emergence of world whiskies has given us an alternative, grain whisky is another of the alternate options to single malt or blended whisky that we are starting to discover.. Grain whisky has generally always been made cheaply and stored in over used or dead oak casks for the simple reason it was not intended to impart too much flavour into the finished whisky for intentions of use in blends.. Generally made using wheat or maize ( corn) and distilled using a continuous still or column still ( generally a coffey still ) the resulting spirit is generally higher in abv but carries less flavour than the spirit produced for single malt.. The spirit is then generally matured in poor old oak casks just awaiting the blenders nod. These days however the grain whisky is starting to gather a name for itself with the emergence of several companies releasing some well aged single grain expressions as well as some well aged blended grains such as Garnheath and Invergordon, these companies are also starting to store the grains in a better class of casks and even using some sherry, wine and other casks for the intention of producing single grain releases, recently there has been some very good finished and fully matured Oloroso grain whisky.
The Grain whisky distilleries were generally built to churn out large amounts of whisky and as mentioned the flavour was never really an issue, the volume was always priority which is a shame today as the grain whisky ( usually well aged) has a great flavour profile and carries good complex notes, today, some of the best grain releases have come from independent bottlers and at a very reasonable price when you consider the contents.. A well aged grain, and by well aged I mean 40+ years can easily be bought at sub £250 and quite often easily picked up for under the £200 mark from some bottlers.. Even the closed grain distilleries can be obtained for a very reasonable price unlike a single malt from a closed distillery.. Although there is millions of litres of grain whisky produced there are not actually a large amount of working grain distilleries these days..
Cameronbridge, Fife, Diageo
North British, Edinburgh, Diageo/The Edrington Group
Strathclyde, Glasgow, Pernod Ricard
Invergordon, Easter Ross Emperador Inc.
Girvan South, Ayrshire, William Grant & Sons
Loch Lomond, Alexandria, Loch Lomond Distillers
Glen Turner, Livingston, La Martiniquaise
Closed grain distilleries..
Caledonian, Haymarket, Edinburgh Diageo 1988
Cambus, Tullibody, Diageo 1993
Carsebridge, Alloa, Scottish Grain Distillers 1983
Dumbarton, West Dunbartonshire, Pernod Ricard 2002
Garnheath, Inver house distillers 1986
Port Dundas ,Glasgow, Diageo 2010
Strathmore, Tullibody, North Of Scotland 1980.
( picture courtesy of the spirits business.)
So next time your thinking of buying a bottle, and want such flavours as Vanilla, Butterscotch, Caramel, Toffee, Gentle Spices, don’t just assume it has to be a single malt or Blended whisky, just try thinking outside the box a little and check out the bottles of Grain whisky that’s on offer.. You might just be surprised how good it actually is !!
Picture courtesy of Toms whisky reviews.
Below. Picture courtesy of Invergordon archives.