...where distraction is the main attraction.

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Single Malt Report: Grangestone Double Cask

Total Wine & More has an interesting approach to whisk(e)y.  Their locations (or at least their California ones) have excellent selections of single malts, including an extensive number of independent bottlings.  So they clearly have a knowledgable spirits buyer.  But they staff their stores with folks who don't know anything about these products.  Either they'll admit that whisky isn't their strong point or they'll just make up information.  And this includes the managers.  The first two times I heard the tall tales, I waited until the staff member left and provided some actual assistance to the customers.  In both cases, it was a middle-aged wife looking to get her husband something for his birthday.  After that, I had to ignore it.  They're far from the only liquor retailer with this problem, in fact they're in the majority.  But find it funny that they work so hard to get Exclusive Malts, AD Rattray, Berry Bros. & Rudd, Battlehill, Montgomeries, etc. onto their shelves but are not set up to move the actual bottles.

One of my friends used to work for Total Wine.  This person confirmed that product education was not valued while she worked there.  But what was/is prioritized foremost is the selling their own exclusive labels (I think they're called Spirits Direct products).  For instance, Grangestone is one of their whisky labels.  There are Grangestone blends and single malts, from NAS to 30 years.  And their because Grangestone's prices are very reasonable, I've stared at these bottles for longer than I should have.  But I don't know what's inside the bottles and (due to my experiences) I don't trust their staff to accurately inform me.  It's too bad that SoCal has so many liquor permit issues because a full public Grangestone tasting would be very useful for them (Total Wine) and us (the customers).

Happily, one of my other whisky friends (J.L.R.) received a bottle of Grangestone Double Cask as a Christmas present.  "Happily" for me, not for him.  He was not a fan, but he was more than amenable to part with a review sample.
Photobomb by someone who is not J.L.R.
Listed as "Grangestone Bourbon Cask" on Total Wine's website, the Double Cask is all of $24.99, a reasonable price for an NAS whisky.  The label is sort of vague.  It says that the first maturation happens in "handcrafted white oak casks", while the second maturation happens in "bourbon oak casks".  Since "bourbon oak casks" are in fact handcrafted from white oak, and the vast majority (and least expensive) white oak casks previously held bourbon, we might as well call the whisky, Grangestone Tautology.  Their website is of a little more help, noting that the first pass happens in "traditional American oak", then the second in first fill bourbon casks.  So let's just go with: 1st maturation is refill ex-bourbons, 2nd maturation is first fill ex-bourbons.
Warning: high quality photo!
Label: Grangestone
Retailer: Total Wine & More
Distillery: ???
Type: Single Malt
Region: Highlands
Age: no statement
Maturation: probably refill ex-bourbons and first fill ex-bourbons
Alcohol by Volume: 40%
Thank you to J.L.R. for this sample!

It has the dark orange gold glow of added caramel colorant.  The nose starts of with a bit of orange candy.  Then switches directly to cardboard.  Then more cardboard and microwaved plastic fumes.  That's followed by cassia cinnamon, chives, mint, and hay.  After some airing out, notes of vanilla and pear, um, appear.  The palate has a weird amount of heat for a 40%abv whisky.  There's some vanilla and caramel up front.  Then notebook paper and Nilla wafers.  It doesn't air out well, growing sour and developing a case of The Turps.  It does have some texture to it, though.  It finishes with caramel and lemons.  It gets grainier with time and picks up some chlorophyl-ish notes.

Gah! Awful, awful, awful bitter poison. Cutty Sark reborn! Kill it! I tried to stab it with my United boot knife, but succeeded only in cracking the tumbler.

Refreshing, but that's due to all of the club soda I dumped in it.  There may be whispers of apple and vanilla in there though.

I'll start with the positives.  It's not an utter failure like Lismore NAS.  Aside from all of the cardboard notes, the nose isn't bad.  It doesn't taste too poorly as long as one drinks it immediately.  And the highball was consumable.  It's better than Dewar's White and JW Red (as if that was a feat).

Otherwise this is really young whisky.  And while it's possible to have characterful zippy baby single malt, this ain't it.  In fact, this is almost exactly like the current NAS iteration of Canadian Club 1858, with its Nillas, orange candy, caramel, and turpentine.  But what is this whisky in actuality?  Well, the label does say "Highland" on it.  My top three guesses would be in this order: Tomatin, reject Glenmorangie, and Dalmore.

And finally, though the price sounds tempting, there are better things to be found.  At Total Wine (in CA) one can get Glenfiddich 12, Tomatin 12, Glenmorangie 10, Speyburn 10, Chivas 12, and JW Black Label for almost the same amount (or less).  So it's difficult to recommend this on any level.  If the older Grangestones are any better, please let us know in the comment section!

Availability - Total Wine & More
Pricing - $24.99
Rating - 70