...where distraction is the main attraction.

Monday, January 25, 2021

Glen Grant 25 year old 1988 SMWS 9.84

(Glen Grant cluster homepage)

Of course there has to be an SMWS sample in the bunch! For a bottler I criticize so consistently, SMWS sure does have a considerable presence in my sample collection.

The first six Glen Grant cluster whiskies were distilled during the 1990s, when the distillery transitioned fully to indirect steam heated stills. But in 1988, when today's whisky was distilled, the wash stills were still being coal fired.

This is the cluster's second sherry cask whisky. The first one's cask was a bit, well, dead. Let's see if there's more action in this one.

Distillery: Glen Grant
Region: Speyside (Rothes)
Ownership at time of distillation: Seagram's
Independent Bottler: Scotch Malt Whisky Society
Age: 20 years (18 April 1988 - 2014)
Maturation: refill ex-sherry butt
Cask#: 9.84
Outturn: 534 bottles
Cask "name": Playing ‘Sea Battle’ in the garden
Alcohol by Volume: 55.6%
(thank you to Brett for the sample!)

The floppy, messy nose begins with peanut dust and sawdust. Old Spice aftershave, cucumber skin and a hint of kelp. It's very floral, almost like perfume. More peanuts, burnt peanuts appear once the whisky is reduced to 46%abv. The floral notes become gentler, while lettuces replace the cucumber notes. A bit of fudge in there too. Reducing it to 40%abv tones down the burnt peanuts while emboldening the flower and veg notes, with peppercorns, green apples and orange pixy stix in the background

The palate is all peanut dust and bitter oak at first. Lots of pepper. Cardboard sprinkled with kelp granules. Notes of lemon and almond butter arrive, eventually. Some potpourri too. Diluting it to 46%abv sweetens it up, but it remains tannic and bitter. There's a strong synthetic fibrous note and a vague hint of sour fruit. Diluting it further to 40%abv brings out a lot of vanilla and caramel, as well as hints of lime and black pepper. The sweetness remains, as does a little bit of the bitter oak.

All that bitter oak carries over to the finish. Metal and pepper in the midground. Sour citrus and marzipan in the back. Reducing it 46%abv doesn't help matters. It's all burnt peanuts and mushy peas. It gets sweeter at 40%abv, but can't let go of the palate's bitter oak and black pepper.

I considered dumping this whisky out. The burnt peanut note, man. Ugh. Then bitter staves, cardboard and perfume. It just kept checking off all the wrong boxes. Though I wouldn't exactly call it "good" at 40%abv, that was the point where it clawed its way out of the depths into something drinkable. Perhaps it could improve with additional water. Or not.

The term "refill ex-sherry butt" has lost its meaning. Each year independently-bottled single casks hit the market that are dark chocolate-colored and winey or pinto grigio-tinted and raw, yet both have the "refill ex-sherry butt" designation on the label. So who knows what happened with this cask, but I couldn't find any Glen Grant within.

Availability - Sold out
Pricing - ???
Rating - 74 (with lots of dilution, 5-8 points lower when neat)