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Tuesday, 25 June 2013

Sing When You're Winning, You Only Sing When You're Winning: Glen Grant Five Decades Single Malt Scotch Whisky

When you first discover music, and I mean proper music, not some pop-tastic, here-today-gone-tomorrow, tweenie-aimed, profit-driven offering from a major record company, you often realise what a wealth of natural talent there is to hear in the world.

The are so many artists who have had a genuine impact on culture that it would probably be impossible to listen to every track by every artist listed under the ‘influential’ banner. As a result, as we move through life, we hear certain tracks (usually the biggest ‘hits’) by major acts and we pick and choose whose back catalogues we would like to dig a little deeper in to.

Every-so-often, and due to the huge reservoir of recorded music in the world, we’re hit with a classic artist or album which we’ve genuinely never heard before. I remember when I first subscribed to Spotify; it was a nightmare for about a week, because I didn’t know whether to go through and enjoy all the music I knew I already liked, or to explore the artists I loved, or to simply listen to loads of ‘new’ music (or at least new to me, if not in the literal sense).

And of course, there is brand new music being created every day. This just adds to the ever increasing pile of music, from both past and present, on the great ‘unlistened-to’ playlist in the sky.

However, it is good to have a cheeky look sometimes at some of the acts which have sold bucket-loads of records in the past, who have shaped modern culture and the sound of many of today’s artist.

The whisky business is booming at the moment. Okay, so sales maybe down overall (with profits up), but the expansion of various Scottish distilleries, the re-opening of others and the building of new premises, both in Scotland and across the world, makes it seem like we’re in the middle of the industrial revolution.

With all this new sprit being generated and previously snoozing brands coming back to life, it is easy to forget the stalwarts, one of them being Glen Grant.

The first distillery to be opened in the now whisky-focused Speyside town of Rothes (home not just to several distilleries but also to the Combination of Rothers Distillers (CoRD) dark grains plant, as well as Forsyths, world-renowned coppersmiths and stillmakers), Glen Grant has established itself as a major player, one of the biggest selling single malt in the world

Pretty impressive stuff, really.

With a powerhouse in the USA and Italy as its sales foundation, since it was acquired by Gruppo Campari in late 2005, the range has been expanded to cover a No Age Statement ‘Major’s Reserve’, a 10 Years Old and a 16 Years Old, all supplement by market-specific offerings, such as a 5 Years Old in Italy, all of which are matured in ex-Bourbon casks.

The running of the distillery is overseen by an industry legend, Dennis Malcolm who started at the distillery in April 1961 as an apprentice cooper. Having been in charge of both Glen Grant and its sister distillery, the now-departed Caperdonich, in his 50 years plus Dennis has worked in all stages of the whisky making process. Needless to say that what he has forgotten about whisky making is more than I’ll probably ever know.

To celebrate his five decades at the distillery, Glen Grant have release a special, limited edition bottling simply known as ‘Five Decades’, containing whisky from each of the decades, which was launched at a dinner in Edinburgh last week.

Dinner is always great (something I try to fit in every single day, don’t you know) but the two real treats of the evening were firstly being able to spend some time chatting to Dennis about his career and the business and secondly, trying the core expressions from Glen Grant, something I really haven’t done in a very long time, if at all with a couple of the expressions. Going through the Major’s Reserve and the 16 Year Old was a little like digging into the past albums from a great act which you haven’t really spent much time with before. Suddenly you realise why they are so well loved.

Having sampled the 10 Years Old, the 16 Years Old and the aforementioned Major’s Reserve, we were treated to a glass of the new release, Five Decades.

Putting together a whisky using stock from the 60’s, 70’s, 80’s, 80’s and 00’s can’t be an easy feat, but Glen Grant has a history of fantastic old stock, much of it bottled by the brilliant independent bottlers, Gordon & MacPhail. This new release is not to be confused with one of these vitnage bottlings, as it is very much its own beast, but the age does shines through, coupled with youthful bursts of spirit along the way. Unusually for Glen Grant, this uses a portion of whisky matured in Oloroso sherry butts.

Glen Grant – Five Decades – Limited Edition – 46%abv 70cl

Nose: Orange blossom, honey and nuts (crunchy nut cornflakes?), sweet vanilla and golden syrup. Yet more honey as it develops in the glass.

Palate: Vanillas, orange citrus fruits, milk chocolate (rum and raisin?), apricots, rye bread with salted butter.  

Finish: a hint of smoke (just a tiny amount), some blackcurrant  and liquorice tones.

Overall: This is available from July 2013 for an RRP of £115. One of the hot potatoe topics of the whisky business at present is that of age statements. Here, you have a whisky carrying no age, but with the knowledge that it contains a good portion of whisky from a span of five decades. A sweet and soft whisky which will appeal in abundance to the Glen Grant drinker, this is well worth a try.

Having discovered their core range and fully understood quite how this distillery can be so well respected (the 16 Years Old is particularly fantastic stuff), it has inspired me to go off and dig around on Spotify and find some of those major-uit-shifting acts which I’m not all that familiar with: Neil Diamond, Chicago and Foreigner await. This could be a very long evening... someone pass me a glass of Glen Grant.