Distillery and tasting notes for single malts Glen Grant 170th Anniversary, Cardhu 12, Glengoyne 12 CS

We’ve taken a bit of detour from Scotch whisky in our recent tastings, exploring American Bourbon and Japanese Whisky, which were quite nice, but its time to get back to exploring Scotch!

As we work our way through all the distilleries of Scotland we come upon Glen Grant, Cardhu and Glengoyne. No particular reason for the grouping, just some nice whisky to explore.

 Glen Grant Distillery was founded in 1840 by brothers James and John Grant (J&J Grant) who were managers of the, Dandelaith Distillery, which had closed in 1837. John would go on to buy the Glenfarclas Distillery about 1870, their ownership known as J&G Grant.

In 1897 James Grant Jr. decided to build a second distillery across the road known as Glen Grant No. 2, which was idled in 1902.  In 1965 No. 2 was back in production and renamed Caperdonich. After multiple ownership changes, including Chivas Brothers from1953-2006, Campari bought Glen Grant for 115 million euros in an acquisition that included whisky blends Old Smuggler and Braemar for another 15 million euros.

Gruppo Campari own multiple spirits including Skyy Vodka, Carolan’s Irish Cream, Wild Turkey, Frangelico and of course, Campari. In 2006 Braemar Blended Scotch was sold only in Eastern Europe, Greece, Turkey, Thailand and the Caribbean. At that time Old Smuggler was the 8th largest selling Scotch in the US.

Glen Grant was the first distillery to have electric light and its distillery character is said to be a result of tall slender stills and purifiers, which create a fresh malty flavor. Glen Grant is a Speyside whisky and is in the Rothes area near the town of Aberlour. In 2006 when Gruppo Campari bought Glen Grant, it was the worlds No. 2 single malt by volume and No. 1 in France and Germany. In Italy it was the No.1 single malt and whisky. Today it is the world’s No. 5 selling Single Malt. Its water comes from the Caperdonich well on the hillside above the distillery and the Black Burn.

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Sadly our visit to Cardhu didn’t involve a tour through the distillery as it is currently closed for annual repairs but we did have a tour through the Johnnie Walker heritage building with Ewan Gunn where we got to see some interesting bottles and memorabilia. The bottle of Johnnie Walker 1805 with a replica of Alexander Walker’s notebook and the collection of Blue Label bottles that were released with the engravings of the different Striding Men throughout the years were two of the highlights.

Ewan also guided us through a tasting of the Red, Black, Green and Gold label which, no matter how many times I do it, is always an enjoyable experience. After much sidetracked conversation about different styles of new-make spirit and blending techniques we were given the opportunity to create our own blend which was a rather entertaining activity.

That evening we stayed in the Drammuir Castle and indulged in a Johnnie Walker Blue Label tasting as well as having access to the Library which contains some of the rarest whiskies I have ever seen as well as limited edition bottlings. That however is a story for another time.

Barrels Aging

When you see that a bottle of Knob Creek has been aged nine years or a bottle of Lagavulin for 16 years, do you know what that means? 

I didn’t used to.

The age statement on these bottles refers to the youngest whisky in the bottle. For Lagavulin 16, that means that the whisky spent a minimum of 16 years in oak casks. For blended whiskies like Chivas 18, there could be whiskies that have been aging for even more than 18 years, but no whisky in that bottle has been aging for less than 18 years.

They say that the longer the maturation period, the more complex the whisky.

I have now visited whisky distilleries in both Scotland (Cardhu Distillery, home of Johnnie Walker; Aberfeldy Distillery, home of Dewar’s) as well as in Kentucky (Maker’s Mark Distillery, Jim Beam Distillery, and Woodford Reserve Distillery) and Tennessee (The Jack Daniel’s Distillery).

Below are a few pictures of whisky aging in barrels from my trips to some of the distilleries.

Eventually these barrels will help fill bottles of Johnnie Walker Black. Now they are just whisky aging at Blackgrange Bond in Scotland, April, 2010.

Tour guide Dave explains the aging process at Maker’s Mark Distillery, May, 2011.

Aging bottles of Dewar’s and Aberfeldy whiskies at Aberfeldy Distillery in Scotland, July, 2012.

Bourbon barrels at Woodford Reserve Distillery in Kentucky, October, 2012.