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Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Birthday Malt Report: Glen Grant 35 year old 1974 The Octave (Duncan Taylor)

Last year, I was the 34 year old boy who had the 34 year old Glen Grant.

This year, I was the 35 year old boy who had the 35 year old Glen Grant.

Distillery: Glen Grant
Ownership: Campari
Bottler: Duncan Taylor
Brand: The Octave
Age: 35 years (1974 - 12 January 2010)
Maturation: refill ex-bourbon for first 35 years, then 3 months in a sherry octave
Region: Speyside
Alcohol by Volume: 48.8%
Chill filtered? No
Caramel Coloring? No
Limited Release: 70 bottles

Why Glen Grant again?

There are (or at least used to be) a number of fairly affordable old indie (Laing, Duncan Taylor, Gordon & MacPhail, etc.) Glen Grants on the market.  For instance, this bottle of 35 year old cask strength single malt was about $140 two years ago.  Today, whiskies half that age (and some of them not cask strength) go for that price.

But more importantly, Master of Malt had a sample of it.  I was on the lookout for a 35 year old dram and they were selling it.  Simple as that.  Anyway, I gave a similar speech last year so let's move along to the boozy part.

Last year's old Glen Grant was very good and noticeably peated.  This year's old Glen Grant was also good, but had no peat and just a little smoke in the finish.

Last year, I gave the big thumbs up to the fact that Speyside/Highland distilleries like Glen Grant used to have their own peated maltings, thus the presence of the light phenolic note on the 34yr.  This year, let me say: Yes, the old distilleries used to have their own malting floors, but Glen Grant closed theirs in 1962 and have been sourcing their malted barley ever since.  And their current source has been unpeated for quite some time.  So I wasn't necessarily wrong last year but......HEY WHAT'S THAT OVER THERE!

I gave this malt and its drinking companion (to be posted tomorrow) 35 minutes in the Glencairn before approach.  And as in all birthday malt situations, water was not added.

Color - Copper (or more specifically, a light gold with slight red highlights)

Nose - Sweet and spicy oak hit first, which is surprising for an oldie.  I'm assuming this comes from the tiny octave cask they used for the finish.  Perhaps they used generously charred American oak before swishing the sherry around?  But after that immediate burst, the nose gets dreamy.  Cinnamon and sugar on buttered toast, then toffee cake, cotton candy, and apricot jam.  And it keeps going...

When my wife whips up a batch of her stunning pie crust, there's always bit of dough left over.  So she puts butter, cinnamon, and sugar inside, then rolls it up and bakes it.  Out of the oven comes The Hobo Roll and it is devoured before it cools.  Who put Hobo Roll in my Glen Grant?

When I was a kid, my mom baked mandel bread (or mandelbrot).  Her version was a simple dough with chocolate chips inside.  After it's baked, cinnamon and sugar are sprinkled on top while it cools.  It is then munched on by happy children.  Who put Mom's mandel bread in my Glen Grant?

Setting aside the intense sense memories, I saw the cinnamon & sugar & dough theme running through.

Palate - Pipe tobacco and leather at the start.  Cinnamon candy and sea salt caramels.  It's very malty and there's still something like cookie dough in there.  After some time, a Glen Grant-esque herbal note peeks out in the background, but then it gets pushed aside by masculine cologne and Orange Crush.  Not bad, but it doesn't sustain the nose's beauty.

Finish - Sweeter here with citrus peel.  And now someone smoked that pipe tobacco.  Maybe some smoked almonds, but it's definitely nutty.  Orange Crush and cologne again.

This one started very strongly then gradually slowed down.  The nose may have placed itself in the All-Time Subjective Top Ten, but even though the palate was very good, it couldn't compete.  The finish was decent but not significant.  The descent may be due to the fact that I wasn't crazy about the cologne and Orange Crush combo as it felt slightly off, clashing with everything else in the whisky.  Those quibbles don't stick in my mind that much.  What I do remember most is the joy of the baked treats from my past and present.

Availability - It's all gone  :-(
Pricing - Here's a link to the old good price
Rating - 89


  1. I was just watching Ralfy announce that he is holding a small whisky tasting at the Good Spirits Co. in Glasgow on the 11th and one of the bottles is another 1974 Glen Grant that's being donated by Berry Bros. & Rudd. That one looks like it's all ex-sherry cask. This event looks like a lot of fun but it's tough to fly to Scotland on such short notice.

    1. Oops, I typed that a bit fast. The bottle he was showing off was a BB&R Jura but there will be a '74 Glen Grant at the event. He's also bring a Macallan 10 (purchased back in 1993), a Longmorn 15, 20 yr. old Millburn, and a 30 yr. Brora. Now that is an impressive selection.

    2. Quick! Time to get the first flight out to Glasgow!

      I'm still holding out hope to try that old official Longmorn 15. All the long-time malt drinkers say it was miles better than the 16 year old.

      Those '74 BB&R Glen Grant casks were supposed to have been great, and went for relatively decent prices. But then a certain Whisky Bible writer gave 'em huge scores and away they went.

    3. I've recently noticed an awful lot of 1989 and 1990 Mortlach casks on the indie market (the 2013 K&L Chieftan's bottle is also from 1990). Looking at the prevalence of 1974 Glen Grants in independent hands, it makes one curious why on particular years large chunks of the distillery's output was sold away. My guess would be a surplus year where the blenders did not need too much of a distillery's product.

    4. I'm thinking it has to do with surpluses too. Something creeped out DCL (proto-Diageo) enough back then to drop a bunch of casks onto the market, then if the blenders were facing their own surplus, BOOM, a wealth of Mortlach. And I've read good things about a lot of those bottles.

      I don't think we're going to see surpluses like that for at least another 3 years, when the ramped up production starts coming of age. If the Chinese liking the Johnnie Walker brand, we can say goodbye forever to Diageo casks on the market. Of course the Chinese will love RED Label. Communism joke!

    5. So... I actually was in Glasgow and went to the tasting. It was a good Glen Grant (and definitely sherried), though I felt like I needed a lot more time and a fresher palate to really enjoy it. Sadly, it was the last bottle of the stuff (donated by BB&R for the event), so that's not one you'll ever see on shelves.

    6. LUCKY!!!! Naw, I'm glad you had a chance to do it! I was curious to see if Ralfy is the same in front of a crowd as he is in front of his camera.