...where distraction is the main attraction.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

NOT Single Malt Report: North British 20yr 1991 Single Grain Whisky (Master of Malt)

On Tuesday I posted a report on the first of three single grain whiskys -- Cambus 18yr 1991 -- sampled on a March 10th Taste Off.  It was better than I had expected and gained a bit of character when water was added.  Now on to the next single grain whisky, also distilled in 1991:

Name blurred to protect the unreported.

Distillery: North British
Owner: 50% Diageo, 50% The Edrington Group
Independent Bottler: Master of Malt
Age: 20 years (January 1991 - October 2011)
Maturation: first fill bourbon
Type: Single Grain
Alcohol by Volume: 54.1%
Cask: 3228
Limited Release: 237 bottles


North British Distillery was established in Edinburgh in 1885 and began distilling in 1887.  Back then, it was squeezing out 1 million liters a year.  In 1917, a grain shortage caused by The Great War, brought distilling to a halt and North British was converted into an acetone factory.  It never actually produced any acetone, then went back to distilling grain whisky in 1920.  Its capacity was up to 9m liters/year.

Today it's the second largest distillery in Scotland, cranking out 65 million liters of alcohol.  Its ownership is split between Diageo and The Edrington Group.  It supplies the grain whisky for J&B, Chivas, Famous Grouse, and Cutty Sark.  That last one gave me pause before I bought this dram, as I've found Cutty to be point-blank hideous.  But that held three-year-old whisky.  This one was 20 years old and aged in a first fill bourbon cask by the bottler.


I am a big Master of Malt fan and I have thus sung their praises a couple times on this site.  They are a very good online UK spirits retailer.  Their prices are always competitive and they have the AWESOME Drinks by the Dram option.  As you can see from some of my whisky pics, I purchase these samples from time to time (as finances allow).

A couple years ago, Master of Malt branched out into the independent bottling side of the business.  They release some anonymous whiskys under their own name, but also release some excellent single cask bottlings (with the distillery name) non-chillfiltered and coloring-free.  In 2011 they released a North British single grain single cask (#3225) bottling that sold out.  So they backed it up with a second release.  That's the one I've sampled below.


Was it going to taste like all the bad parts of Cutty, but soaked in bourbon?

Or was time and proper attention going to unlock something better?

Color -- Light gold, darker than an oaky white wine.
Nose -- Caramel (not the fake stuff), toffee, brown sugar, homemade vanilla frosting, vanilla extract
Palate -- Bourbon and candy!, sugary but not off-putting
Finish -- Ah the best part; extensive, warm, a mild sweetness

Sort of similar to the Cambus, but more bourbony.  Let's hydrate it a smidge.

WITH WATER (approx 42.7%)
Nose -- Flowers and granulated sugar, the inside of a candy store
Palate -- Perfumy, floral, tropical fruit, Japanese flower kiss candy
Finish -- Mellowed out, moderate, the candy sugars remain

Wow, that was one of the most abrupt transformations I've ever experienced when adding water to a whisky.  It went from a mild almost-bourbon to a Japanese candy store explosion.  While those characteristics aren't something I often seek in my whisky, they made the whisky more fun than most of the stuff I've sampled.

Another positive grain whisky experience.  Will there be more to follow next week????

Availability - Sold out, but available at Master of Malt if it returns
Pricing - was 58GBP (ex-VAT, w/shipping)
Rating - 83