“I’ve often compared Blended Scotch Whisky to a symphony orchestra, where all of the musicians are playing in unison and no one soloist stands out as they play the same composition seamlessly as one, while a Single Malt Scotch Whisky is like a jazz soloist (or a jazz band) in that it may be rough at times, and it may be kind of squeaky at times, but it’s always going to be interesting and individualistic when compared to the role that the symphony plays in a blend…”
– Mark Gillespie, The Premier Episode of WhiskyCast Virtual Tastings (August 2011)
If Blended Scotch is a symphony orchestra, and if Single Malts are a jazz band, then what is Single Grain Whisky? Rather than scouring the interwebz for answers, I decided to go the crowdsourcing route and asked the question to the wonderful peeps on the #Whiskyfabric Facebook group. Here’s what I found out…
“John Paul Jones. Stood in the shadow for years but really was a brilliant player.”
– Jeremiah Wheelock
“The brass section. Loud, blaring notes that aren’t quite a full composition.”
“The ties that bind.”
– Marshall Smith
“Single grain is like the lead vocal of a successful band who thought that he could have a much better career if he leaves the band. But most of the time, the truth is not even close to what he hoped for… a.k.a. Phil Collins, Axl Rose, Bruce Dickinson… And yes, once in a while you get a Peter Gabriel or Sting.”
– Bozkurt “Bozzy” Karasu, Tire-Bouchon
“As a fan of single grains, I would dance too, but there’s a restraining order suggesting that I don’t do that in public.”
– Rick Culver
“Single grain is a concert violinist that needs many many years to come to perfection.”
– Andrew Smith
“Single grain is like the collected spit out of the brass instruments. You don’t even want to know it’s there when the orchestra plays and someone would need to pay or drunken dare you to drink it!”
– Barry Bradford, The Whiskyphiles
“The elevator Muzak in the background.”
– Seth Klaskin, Single Cask Nation
“It has to be The Maestro (Symphony Leader) that brings the Single Malts together to play in perfect harmony…”
– Frank Biskupek
So what do I think of Single Grain Whisky? Based upon my limited experience with the stuff, I consider it to be the rhythm section of a really solid R&B band (think The Funk Brothers). It may not be the star of the show, but when expertly combined with a cornucopia of Single Malt Whiskies, it helps to create something that is greater than the sum of its parts. Then again, if you’ve been lucky enough to try Suntory’s Chita Grain Whisky, Nikka’s Coffey Grain Whisky, or Compass Box Hedonism, then you know that a Single Grain Whisky can also be one hell of a soloist! Now that we know what the #WhiskyFabric thinks of Single Grain Whisky, let’s find out if this 43 Year Old Invergordon from The Exclusive Malts is any good…
Much like what happened with my review of The Exclusive Malts Balmenach 2003, there wasn’t much information available on the interwebz about this whisky. Here’s what I was able to find on The Whisky Shop site:
Single grain whisky from the northern highlands, distilled in 1972 and bottled at 48.2% alcohol by volume. Exclusive Malts bottled from cask No 12.
And here are my impressions…
- Appearance: Pale copper color with thick, slow moving legs forming when you give it a swirl.
- Aroma: The nose takes you from the pastry shoppe to the cigar lounge. Iced gingerbread men. Spiced carrot cake with cream cheese icing. Connecticut Shade cigar wrapper.
- Taste: Slightly watery mouthfeel. Lots of baking spices and dark brown sugar at the start. Gets hot in the middle with a bold chile pepper spice kicking in. The finish is really dry with oodles of dark fruit, tobacco, and lingering spice. All of these flavors are concentrated on the middle of my tongue.
- ABV: 48.2%
Well that certainly was a fun whisky. I really enjoyed the intensity and the range of flavors. My only issue regards the astringency which lingers for just a little too long. Other than that minor quibble, this stuff was really yummy.