This was a rather fine tasting laid on by “the Grainfather” Phillip Storry (grain hoover) at SMWS for me and Whisky Cyclist. I saw this as an introduction to Girvan, a whisky I’ve certainly tried before but not concentrated on much (the odd glass at a whisky festival, a couple of society drams).
Girvan, New Make spirit 42.6% A+
This comes off the still at some outrageous percentage (94%), which our host apparently tried at the Whisky Show one year and enjoyed (“full of fruity flavours like the peach, orange juice and apple skins, but the alcohol masked the flavours a little”). Sadly they let it down a bit before putting it in these tasting packs!
Nose - Sweet cereal and green apple skin. Wheat (dry grass), hot baked grass and light peach stone. Bubblegum (hubba bubba, before you start chewing it). Bread. Loads going on the nose for a "neutral grain spirit".
Body - Light, perfumed, sweet but grapey, white winey – grappa-like with more grass and white grapes. Beautifully clean, with a note of cheap orange squash. Incredible for a new make, they should bottle and sell this!
Finish - A touch of spice, surprisingly long finish for an unaged spirit, cinnamon and prickly like carbonation would bring.
Apps No. 4 refers to the number 4 apparatus – an unimaginative name for the fourth still at Girvan (although only three remain). This is an official NAS Girvan expression. At under £45, this is the best place for your money on official Girvan. If you were feeling more spendy, the independents will see you right.
Body - Sweet and intensely volatile. Remarkably oily with tinned fruit and gat gun.
Finish - Very short, a burst of grapefruit zest, balanced and delicious. This would be a lovely dram to have at the start of a hot summers evening.
Priced to match where officially bottled grain whisky will no doubt soon be, this is an excellent grain whisky.
Nose - Darkly sweet and waxy, not obviously a grain. Pink grapefruit juice, musky, very juicy with an edge of volatiles. This is a fabulous nose that would be well placed on a 25 year old single malt.
Body - Butterscotch and honeycomb. Cadburys milk chocolate. Again very oily but balanced by a wooded dry edge. Some warming spices, bitter chocolate,
Finish - Crunchy bar, a bit short though. Twix at the end.
A competent whisky - well put together with amazing fruit on the nose and chocolate at the finish. Not something I'd drop £250 on though, that comes later.
This was distilled just before Girvan switched from corn to wheat.
Nose - Darker, more deeply toffeed, waxier than the 25. Blood orange, but despite it being instantly more luxurious on the nose, it's more recognisably a grain later. Coffee and chocolate, hot summer foxgloves, classic foam bananas. Spicier on the nose with some time, and a little bit meaty.
Body - Rich, cereal, very grainy retronasally, with lots of corn, some lemon.
Finish - Medium short, quite new makey weirdly. Later, apples and apple skin again. Quite a confused whisky though.
The Whisky Agency, Girvan 1964-2012, 48yo, 49.5% A⊕+
Here’s a crazy whisky. Sherry cask full term, 487 bottles. Apparently from the first quarter of ‘64 - 2nd or 3rd run at the brand new Girvan distillery at the very latest. Bottled 2012.
Nose - Dark raisin, a touch of new elastoplast, sweet Christmas spices and sharp with aged vinegar and beautiful oak. Beautiful sherry and very well integrated - underneath there's a really perfect structural wood. This wears it's ancient age so wonderfully - what's right here is the intensity, plus the restraint. An absolutely wonderful nose.
Body - Orange wood, pomander and incense oil. Spicy, sexy and very Christmassy. Amazing stuff.
Finish - Long, beautifully balanced and fruity. Well poised, but massively wooded. Sandalwood in the empty bottle/glass. A truly epic whisky, and certainly dram of the night for me.
G7.2, Fascinating and inspiring, 27yo, 60.3% A⊕
28th May 1984, 270 bottles, refill bourbon hogshead. A little SMWS magic to end the session on.
Body - Bright, sweet, spicy and a bit sharp and thin. With water, coconut, some petrol and olive, grappa again and very dry and grown up. Seriously interesting and chewy in the immediate mouthfeel. Like most big SMWS grains, it's at first, austere but then very compelling and moreish.
Finish - Oily and sharp. Quite short and stern.
I consider myself properly introduced. Thanks a million Phil!