Some distilleries get shouted about from the highest mountains whilst others just silently plod along doing things at their own pace, the whisky speaks for itself and with each release that comes along still manages to sell well without all the fuss that surrounds the others.
Then we have those silent distilleries that suddenly become very trendy, the likes of Port Ellen, Rosebank, Brora to name just 3, these are of course very well known by most of you out there who enjoy a whisky or two.
There are many distilleries that have fallen silent over the years for which the memory is fading away along with the signs they were once a bustling industry component. A very sad truth is these distilleries produced the backbone of the whisky industry but were never considered trendy or popular for the average drinker, why? because they produced grain whisky, that’s why..
Grain whisky still struggles to capture the imagination of many whisky drinkers because it isnt sexy, its not a Macallan or a Glenfidich to again only name a couple but what they are or were is distilleries that produced liquid by the millions of litres, giants within their own rights.
Garnheath’s history as a distillery is pretty short unfortunately (22 years), founded in 1964 but sadly closed and demolished in within a few decades (1986) the distillery only produced grain whisky for a short time, and although the annual capacity was 15,000,000 proof gallons, most would have gone straight into blends..
What we do know, albeit vague alternative versions exist is that the distillery probably ran with five continuous stills in order to produce the 15 million litres of spirit, this distillery sat alongside the Glen Flagger distillery and Killyloch distillery who both produced malt whisky to go alongside the grain produced by Garnheath.. The Killyloch distillery fell silent in the early 1970’s and Glen Flagger followed suit in 1985 and sadly only one year later The Garnheath distillery closed its doors also..
What is apparent is Grain whisky that manages to mature for a long period works extremely well, the flavours and aromas generally become very complex and can withstand competition from many of those single malts of similar ages, the big difference of course is price !!
As you will probably be aware grain whisky is often filled into poorer quality casks (after all, the finest oak casks are always reserved for the single malt market) which in turn offers up a far less attractive proposition for sale as a stand alone release.
That said there is now more and more grain whiskies maturing within some of those “finer” oak casks in order to have a sale value as a commodity within itself, id say look at the indie bottlers for the value for money and quality grain whisky at both ends of the scale but don’t overlook some of the distilleries offering official bottlings..
As the title suggests this review is looking at the top end of Grain whiskies and it is not just a well aged grain whisky it is also from one of those long gone distilleries that is sadly becoming a fading memory rather than a distillery that is fondly memory.
47 Year Old 1974 Garnheath Grain Whisky – Xtra Old Particular
Region.. Lowlands ( Demolished )
Age.. 47 years
Distilled.. February 1974
Bottled.. March 2021
Cask.. Re-Fill Barrel
Outturn.. 124 Bottles
Bottler.. Douglas Laing – XOP series
Nose.. This whisky has a lovely sweetness that engulfs the senses instantly, vanilla and fudge notes steadily give way to toffee, werthers original sweets and lemon drizzle cake. There are some oak notes lurking but what do you expect after 47 years.. Tobacco aromas merge with coffee bean, chocolate and pineapple upside down cake before a ripe apple note arrives with baked banana and Bounty chocolate cars..
Palate.. Dates, plum and dark chocolate battle with ginger, cinnamon and a soft pepper note for dominance early on but its not long before the sweetness has a moment. Vanilla, apple pie and popcorn notes are evident with coffee bitterness and custard cream biscuits..
Finish.. Spice and sweetness..
Thoughts.. I want to say this is a bargain but at £395 that would come across as a little pushy for those who’s budget is no where near that mark but take into consideration this is 47 years old, distilled in 1974 and from a closed distillery that can only be remembered from its legacy and yes £395 becomes a bargain!!
Bottles like this will only become scarce and eventually the number of bottles from this distillery will be none or at least only a handful because of those who manage to hide a few away for the memory..
Memories are the only way we will remember these distilleries, especially the grain distilleries that like i said earlier are not “sexy” or popular enough to command a loyal following.
I did once believe grain whisky would be the new malt whisky due to prices surrounding the single malt market continuing to rise with no end point on site but the simple fact is that its still not happening and is starting to look like grain whisky will never have its big moment from anything other than a small amount of whisky drinkers that just know !!