The label on this miniature bottle had me confused.
I always associated Grant’s with being a big selling Speyside blend with a distinctive triangular shaped bottle which hadn’t exactly set my palate alight.
Yet here was a round Glen Grant bottle proclaiming to be from the Highlands.
Turns out there were 2 or 3 Mr Grants who set up whisky distilleries in the 1800’s.
In the 1840’s brothers John & James Grant founded the Glen Grant Distillery. It has gone through many changes of ownership and is now in the hands of the Campari Group – which immediately takes me back to an old advert!
Later on a certain William Grant laid the stones for the Glenfiddich Distillery back in 1886. The company is still with the same family today and has gone on to great success. It is responsible for the Grant’s range of blended whiskies – as well as notable single malts and built the new Tullamore Distillery in Ireland.
So that’s one issue sorted.
Highland Malt when quite clearly it’s a Speyside distillery?
Well not so fast bucko.
Scottish Whisky Regions are actually a fairly recent construct and in my opinion more tied in with clever marketing & branding rather than anything intrinsically connecting whiskies made in these regions. An internet search found an enjoyable explanation here.
Since my miniature seems to be an old bottling – the closest I could identify is offered on Whisky Exchange here – which pre-dates current Scotch Whiskey Region rules.
But I only found all this out after tasting Glen Grant Highland Malt – as I fairly enjoyed it.
There was a slight funkiness on the nose – not overpowering & actually quite characterful – which I’d possibly allow as deterioration from the old bottling – yet otherwise fresh & light.
The palate was signature Speyside – soft, subtle fruits & easy sweet biscuity malt with a hint of spice towards the finish.
If anything the 43% presentation had boosted the flavours within & given an enhanced appeal to my palate.
Not bad at all.
It enticed me to unearth the information above – all from a mixed bag auction lot purchase.
Interestingly – from an Irish perspective – there were a couple of Irishmen aboard; Ernest Shackleton from Co Kildare & Tom Crean from Co Kerry – both of whom contributed to further Antarctic exploration and adventures.
Whisky also featured on these voyages – often only for the use of ‘officers and scientific staff only’ as labelled on the Discovery Whisky from 1901.
Yet in the museum shop bottles of a recreated Discovery Whisky are available to all – regardless of rank or status.
So I bought one – along with a dinky commemorative glass too.
There is no indication of distillery of origin – other than ‘sourced’ on the label that resembles the original – also non distillery specific.
The colour is reassuringly pale.
The palate started off smoothly – yet built in body & flavour. There were hints of leather, hints of smoke and a lovely drying finish with decent prickly heat to boot.
A suitably robust & characterful whisky with some depth & bite that befits the memory of the hardy souls who sailed into the unknown on that Antarctic Adventure of 1901.
It was a new experience for me – taking part in a Whisky Auction.
I wasn’t after rare or collectable bottles – just a few odd ones to try at an affordable price.
I bid on some mixed bags of miniatures – a broad sweep of whiskies to sample – and happily managed to secure one.
The first result flunked.
An old Haig Dimple bottle with indeterminate writing on the back had obviously suffered some spirit loss.
The cap was loose too – allowing air in – with predictable results.
The whiskey inside had deteriorated to such an extent the nose was painful – the sample went straight down the sink!
I ploughed on with an intact bottle of Glenfiddich Pure Malt.
Now Pure Malt is an outdated term. It began to fade in the 1980’s and generally denoted what we’d now call a single malt i.e. malt produced at one distillery. It could also have meant a blended malt i.e. malt produced at more than one distillery, but as Single Malt also appears on the Glenfiddich label – we can count on the former interpretation.
Basically what I had in front of me was an old Glenfiddich Whisky bottle – so I cracked it open and poured myself a drink.
Clean & fresh!
A heavy butterscotch sweetness combined with a gentle soft smokiness greeted me.
I was just happy to get a bottle that hadn’t gone off!
To be honest I found the sweet caramel too much – but the gentle smokiness – like the wisps of a fire – made it an enjoyable experience.
A pleasant easy drinking single malt with enough character & flavour to keep it cheerful.
When your country estate already pulls in a substantial amount of visitors to the stunningly ornate gardens with magnificent views of Sugarloaf Mountain behind.
When a 5 Star hotel graces your grounds along with 2 championship designed golf courses laid out in the beautiful Wicklow scenery.
Not to mention the history, tales and adventures contained within the walls of the grand 18th Century mansion of Powerscourt House itself.
What exactly would be the icing on the cake?
Well a single estate whiskey distillery wouldn’t go amiss now would it?
Discreetly built onto the old estate sawmill, Powerscourt Distillery is fully operational busily laying down casks of single malt Irish Whiskey to mature in it’s nearby warehouse.
The 3 resplendent copper pot stills – made by Forsyths – sit majestically in a modern clean & bright open plan space allowing visitors a close up look, feel & smell of the whole grain to glass process of whiskey making.
Noel Sweeney has brought his many distinguished years of knowledge as Master Distiller to Powerscourt overseeing the production of both single malt – as well as single pot still distillate – to this exciting distillery.
It will be a few years before Powerscourt Distillery’s own spirit is fully mature – but in the meantime a trio of whiskeys released under the Fercullen label – the old name for the lands Powersourt Estate sits on – are available.
Unusually in this instance Noel probably had a hand in distilling these sourced whiskeys from his days at Cooley & Kilbeggan Distilleries under a number of different owners.
Tours include a tasting of all 3 whiskeys in one of Powerscourt Distillery’s sumptuously laid out rooms.
The 10 Year Old Fercullen Single Grain Whiskey was offered first.
Now there aren’t that many single grains on the market – which is a pity – as this one shows up the light yet delicately balanced sweet & fruity flavours within a great single grain. Far from being silent there were notes of honey, citrus and a gentle woody spice too.
Very approachable & easy on the palate.
The attractively priced Fercullen Blend was a bit of a pleaser too.
It displayed a complex set of notes from soft fruitiness to darker oaky tannins within an extremely well balanced mix.
A blend you can happily sit back & savour.
The pride of place meanwhile went to the Fercullen 14 Year Old Single Malt.
Packing extra ABV at 46% – as opposed to the 40% of it’s siblings – the 14 Year Old had added depth & boosted character from the exclusively ex-bourbon cask maturation used in all 3 offerings.
When many a distillery relies on additional finishes to give the spirit a lift – Fercullen demonstrates the beauty of what to many is a simple standard of Irish Whiskey.
A very impressive range of whiskeys for a very impressive distillery.