North of Scotland was a grain whisky distillery, located close to the Highland town of Alloa to the north of Edinburgh. The distillery was founded in 1958 by a man named George Christie, who later went on to found the Speyside distillery in Speyside (unsurprisingly!). Christie converted some old brewery buildings, dating back to 1786, and installed a special type of column still at the distillery called a Coffey still. This was designed to produce grain whisky, like traditional column stills, but could also produce single malt whisky. The experiment proved a costly failure and after just two years North of Scotland switched to solely producing grain whisky for a number of large blending clients. The distillery closed in 1980 and the equipment was dismantled and sold off in 1993.
The name of Clan Denny is used by Glasgow based independent bottling company Douglas Laing & Co. They use it for their ranges of single grain whiskies and a series of vatted malts. The origin of the name is a little hazy although Douglas Laing tell the story of a Taiwanese businessman who wanted a blended whisky to be made and named after himself. His name was Dennis and his suggestion was MacDennis, which Douglas Laing changed to Clan Dennis. Over time this has been adapted to Clan Denny.
The colour of this North of Scotland grain whisky is golden amber and the nose is fresh and vibrant despite the age of the whisky. It was distilled in 1966, bottled at 39 years of age in 2005 and has an alcohol strength of 44.4% ABV. There is a lovely combination of vanilla, oak, cereal grains, dried fruit (especially sultanas and candied lemon peel) and coconut. On the palate this feels creamy, smooth and mellow. The cereal grains are more prominent and give a slight bitter edge to the other sweeter elements - vanilla, honey, dried fruit (think more of candied orange peel this time, rather than the lemon of the nose). There is also a woody note that adds a spicy edge to the palate (think of a wood spice like cinnamon, some ginger and the oak from the nose). This again balances with the bitter and sweeter notes well. Upon adding a drop of water, the whisky becomes more woody and feels thinner and less pleasant. The finish is long, creamy and lingering with plenty of sweet vanilla, cereals and the woody spiciness.
This was a rare chance to try a grain whisky at such an age and was well worth it. Truly lovely and enjoyable stuff. We must thank Michael Hopert of Royal Mile Whiskies for allowing us a sample of this gorgeous grain whisky from his own personal bottle! It is hard to find, even in specialist whisky retailers, but well worth it if you do. A bottle should cost £130-140.