...where distraction is the main attraction.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Meditations on Stay-At-Home Fatherhood and also Girvan 48 year old 1964 Nectar of the Daily Drams (Single Grain)

You will pick your baby's nose.  Write that down and accept it.  There are the nasal sprays and Boogie Wipes.  There are respirator bulbs and the nightmarish Snot Suckers.  But sometimes the wee snoot is just sitting right there on the edge of her nostril and nothing else can remove it like your thumb and forefinger.  And it's not that bad, really.  Unless you get the Iceberg Booger.  You think it's just a little nub and then you pluck it and it turns out to be a half-foot-long succubus, as if her right nostril is goddamned clown car, and you shove the snot in a tissue and you almost throw up on her bedroom carpet.  Other than that, you'll be fine.

During the first three months of Mathilda's life, I probably tripled my drinking.  At least I wasn't sleeping either.  Or eating consistently.  My memories of the first three months have either blown themselves up or are desperately trying to.  I'm glad that nature assumes parents will responsibly maintain a helpless pupa while they can barely keep themselves alive.  There's nothing like seeing the clock read 2:30pm and realize that you haven't eaten or hydrated during the 10 hours you've been awake and then walking to Domino's for bacon & jalapeño cheesy bread and then washing that "food" down with a highball of whatever.

At some point Mathilda started sleeping really well.  And that was the point that I realized I needed to return to the one-drink-a-day life (while staying in four-desserts-a-day mode for the next seventeen years).  When I got to that awareness level my preferences changed drastically.  At the end of a full day of battling (er, safely raising) my ever-calm child, when I finally sit down to have a drink, I no longer have any interest in so-so whisk(e)y.  Not even kinda-good whisk(e)y.  Children teach parents new unknown levels of exhaustion and in the quiet after the onslaught this parent only wants to drink something excellent.  Something so good that I exclaim, "Man, that is f---ing great!" loud enough to wake my child that just took over an hour to put to bed.  And I've had a lot of *shrug* whisk(e)y recently.  I've dumped more whisk(e)y down the drain than ever before.  Whisky, astonish me.

Okay, maybe those expectations are unreasonable with this whisky as it is a single grain.  Even if it is a forty-eight year old single grain.  I was trying to count up how many single grain whiskies I've had, but they've been so forgettable that I don't really know.  There was a single cask Greenore, from Ireland, that was kinda fun.  A couple of North Britishes that were palatable.  Compass Box's Hedonism (a vatting, admittedly) smells very nice.  But I think I've had 15-20 others that weren't far removed from a watery mix of Malibu Rum and blended American whiskey.  I'll settle for:  Single Grain Whisky, be somewhat memorable for positive reasons.

Distillery: Girvan
Ownership: William Grant & Sons, Ltd.
Bottler: Daily Dram
Series: The Nectar
Age: 48 years (1964-2012)
Maturation: probably an American oak cask
Region: Lowlands
Type: Single Grain
Alcohol by Volume: 49.3%
Chillfiltered? No
Caramel Colorant? No

Don't worry nervous people, no whisky was harmed in the filming of this event.
The whisky has a brass color, a little lighter than I expected from something that spent almost a half century in a barrel.  The nose starts off with roasted corn, furniture polish, tree bark, and clover honey.  Then it takes on notes that flit between blooming violets and lilac-scented hand cream.  Soon some grape candy joins the party, followed by pine needles.  It grows more candied with time, and picks up some mustiness along the way.  After a good 45 minutes in the glass, there's also some hazelnut liqueur, toffee, pencil shavings, curry powder, roasted grains, and lots of sugar.  It's happily light on the vanilla and devoid of coconut.  The palate has quite a kick for such an oldie.  A real sweetie with lots of wood spice (thinkin' cinnamon syrup and green peppercorns), whipped cream, and caramel sauce.  And then there's all the tannins and wood pulp.  After 45 minutes not a hint of coconut (yay!).  Again, light on the vanilla with some roasted almonds thrown in.  It's mostly oak though very tolerable.  The finish is sugary and toasty.  Those almonds now float in toffee.  Crème fraîche and agave nectar.  Some woody bitterness appears but somehow remains palatable.

Color me almost astonished:  A single grain that I (gasp!) like.  Yes, it did take 48 years to blossom and did cost at least €300 -- though, €300 is not an unreasonable price for a 48-year-old whisky in this market.  It's also enormously oaky, which should not be a surprise at its age, so that's a warning for those who'd rather avoid this sort of thing.  But the oak has allowed some grainy stuff to live on and merge with the tannins and spice.

What it's missing is the artificial-coconut-flavoring note (hence the Malibu rum comment above) that I've found in almost every single grain I've tried.  That note is a dealbreaker for my palate.  The moment I find it, I just don't want to drink anymore.  This Girvan had not even a hint of it.  Could that be attributed to a good cask?

Overall, the nose is the best part, just loaded with decades of oddities courtesy of chemistry.  The palate cannot be accused of complexity, but is very pleasant for those with high oak tolerance.  Meanwhile, the finish is a little on the short side and quite sweet, but never really disappointing.  While I don't think this can compete with great single malts, it would be a good alternative to middling blends and bourbons.  And that's the nicest thing I've ever said about a single grain.

Availability - Possibly a few European specialty retailers
Pricing - €300-€350 w/VAT
Rating - 86


  1. Be sure to try the North British 16 YO for Binny's (I think Florin might have some). It's not the flashiest grain, but it reminds me of a more polished American wheat whiskey.

    1. Yeah, Florin opened that one when I was visiting recently. I remember that it wasn't bad and that the full strength helped it out. I now have a sample, so there will be a proper write up of it someday.

  2. Other than the fact that I didn't even read the whisky review part of this whisky review, I absolutely love this post. It speak truth. Massive kudos for writing this.

    And yes, parents or soon-to-be-parents, it is all true.

    I found myself drinking Glenugie and well aged GlenDronachs on a Tuesday.

    1. Thank you! I found myself drinking full-strength Port Charlotte on a hot day. That was a first. :)

  3. Yes. So much drinking. So, so much drinking. Bottle for baby, bottle for daddy.

    1. Rather, bottles for babies, bottle(s) for daddy.

    2. This is true, he responds one week later...

  4. Good thing your little critter is more interested in the camera! Is she walking yet?

    I feel Girvan is a very competent single grain. The 20 year old I had was a vanilla and oak monster but not very complex. Which isn't a bad thing because it was quite enjoyable.

    1. Thanks Eric! She likes standing while holding onto stuff. She likes crawling even more. Also, she is quite interested in the little sample bottles so I usually keep them far from her little fingers.

      Competent is a good word for Girvan. I'd try the official 25yo if the price wasn't so damned silly.

    2. *Sigh* I decided to pick up K&L's new 28 year old Port Dundas (Old Particular) after I missed out on their previous 26 year from last year. Then I discovered I had a bottle of the K&L Sovereign 36 year Port Dundas sitting in a storage box.... Some days I hate Driscoll or rather my wallet hates Driscoll. At least I've got two examples of old and older single grain whisky.

    3. I've been so unmoved by single grains, other than the super old ones. Let me know if you find any success with those Dundases.

    4. There's something funny about the way you're calling them Dundases...

      I also grabbed the 28 year North British before that one sold out (I'm still surprised the Port Dundas is still in stock). And the 15 year old Old Particular Bowmore. That is some tasty ex-bourbon Bowmore.

    5. Glad you picked up that Bowmore! I'm a sucker for indie Bowmores. Don't know why it's so damn hard for Beam Suntory to figure out how to bottle their stuff properly.

    6. Well, this (old) particular Bowmore is an exception to the indie rule, unfortunately...