Friday, December 27, 2013
New release - Girvan 25 years old
The Girvan distillery is one of largest facilities making whisky in Scotland, yet remains one of the country's best kept secrets. Until now. The distillery is located on the outskirts of the coastal town of Girvan, which is about an hour's drive south of Glasgow, and sits on the picturesque Ailsa Bay overlooking the isles of Arran and Ailsa Craig. The Girvan distillery is owned by William Grant & Sons, who also own the Speyside single malt distilleries of Glenfiddich, Balvenie and Kininvie.
The distillery is named after the neighbouring town of Girvan and was founded in 1963. It was the idea of Charles Grant, the great-grandson of the original William Grant. The Grant's blended brand was growing so their was a need to produce significant volumes of their own whisky in order to meet demand. Construction work was swift and the site was completed in just nine months. The first spirit flowed on Christmas Day.
The 25 years old is bottled at 42% ABV and has a recommended retail price of £250. The packaging also shows a departure for the company, which owns the Glenfiddich and Balvenie distilleries amongst other brands, as it is presented in a tall elegant bottle which sits in a 'picture frame' style box. It will be joined in Spring 2014 by two further expressions - the no age statement 5974 and the 30 years old. The prices of these are rumoured to be around the £75 and £375 mark, although they will be confirmed when launched.
Our tasting notes
The colour is a pale golden yellow and the nose is exhibits a wonderful mix of aromas - this combines expressive vanilla, honey and coconut with more delicate notes of lemon zest, honeysuckle and white chocolate. Underneath are further aromas of cereal grains, dried tropical fruits (especially mango) and cinnamon.
On the palate this whisky feels soft, viscous and creamy. There is an intense woodiness to begin with that is a little drying, but the sweeter notes from the nose soon appear to add balance, complexity and further softness. There is again a prominent vanilla note, although this time it feels more like vanilla custard or custard powder, along with delicious honey and fresh coconut. With time, some bittersweet cereal grains come through and this grips your taste buds. The dried tropical fruits (the mango again, plus pineapple), cinnamon and hints of star anise, ginger and lemon zest round everything off.
The finish is reasonably long with the sweet honey, vanilla and tropical fruit notes fading slowly to leave the spicier, woodier flavours in the mouth. These lingering notes include coconut, although this is more reminiscent of dessicated dried coconut, bittersweet cereals and cinnamon sticks. Some later freshness is introduced by a hint of lemon zest.
What's the verdict?
William Grant & Son are taking a bold step by releasing this series of whiskies. By pricing the three expressions as they are, they are saying they are equal to single malts in terms of both stature and quality. Some will argue that this could never be the case and that they are too expensive. We will leave that argument for others.
This is no gamble by William Grant's - they have seen a niche in an ever expanding market and have put products out in that niche. They may be the first but they certainly won't be the last of the big companies to release a range of single grain whiskies, especially if this series goes well. This 25 years old is a lovely whisky, as are the other two expressions which we sampled at the launch in London. They should do well.