Google A Surge of Scottish Grain Whiskies

Serge whiskyfun
Thousands of tastings,
all the music,
all the rambligs
and all the fun


Facebook Twitter Logo
Guaranteed ad-free
copyright 2002-2024


Hi, this is one of our (almost) daily tastings. Santé!

May 15, 2024


A Surge of Scottish Grain Whiskies
Part one, North British

Norh British

North British's 38-whashbacks tun room (North British Distillery)



Some old grain whiskies are quite interesting, while the younger ones are better suited for use as antifreeze. I'm joking, of course. That said, I recalled the other day that several malt distilleries used to initially treat new or first-fill casks with grain whisky to remove certain, shall we say, excessive characteristics (the kind we seek nowadays, times have changed) before pouring the precious malts into them. This is why visitors were often finding batches of very young empty grain casks in the yards of malt distilleries where they would fill the casks on site. These grain whiskies were thus beginning their life in very active wood, which is somewhat similar to practices in Cognac, for instance. Or in Kentucky or Tennessee… This might explain some profiles being quite dominated by vanillin and coconut notes in some grain whiskies, even older ones. Let's delve into this…

Ah, I almost forgot, we'll start with a small series from North British. It's an interesting distillery because it has long distilled a lot of French maize, and I imagine they continue to do so. Today, it is a joint venture between Diageo and The Edrington Group. The production capacity varies significantly depending on the websites discussing it, and the current shittification of Google (bang, another jab at WF's pagerank!) isn't helping matters. It's crucial to know what we are talking about, just the grain whiskies or the total capacity, including neutral spirits for vodka, etc. So, if you agree, we'll avoid displaying approximate or even false data (too bad for ChatGPT and the others). PS: the official site still mentions 2.5 billion litres! Billions!

Oh dear, what a lengthy introduction that was! So, as we mentioned, a few North British...



North British 32 yo 1991/2023 (47.6%, Whisky Picnic Bar, cask #200323, first fill barrel, 176 bottles)

North British 32 yo 1991/2023 (47.6%, Whisky Picnic Bar, cask #200323, first fill barrel, 176 bottles) Four stars
We find ourselves in Taiwan once more; always a delight. Colour: very pale white wine. Quite surprising for a first fill of over thirty years. Nose: absolutely typical of a carpentry workshop (ha), with warm sawdust, plenty of vanilla, a hint of coconut and pineapple, and above all, an overwhelming impression of piña colada. An entire vat of piña colada, plus a small touch of pine resin and cumin adding an extra twist. Great softness on the nose, rather lovely. Mouth: almost no harshness despite the presence of wood, then lots of green tea (the Taiwanese ones are excellent, I've just realised this again), some fruit candies, then the expected vanilla and coconut. All this without excess, it can quickly become dreadful but we're not at all there. Finish: short to medium length, soft, really a lot on green tea. Some orange juice in the aftertaste, which offers a bit of zest in the finish. Slight smoky side. Comments: simply very good for a grain that will have seen only another grain (bourbon, presumably). Very nice balance.
SGP:651 - 86 points.

North British 31 yo 1991/2023 (46.7%, Hogshead Imports, first fill bourbon barrel, 186 bottles)

North British 31 yo 1991/2023 (46.7%, Hogshead Imports, first fill bourbon barrel, 186 bottles) Four stars
Is it allowed to call yourself Hogshead Import and bottle barrels? (S., this is the most ridiculous joke since the year 2000!) Colour: pure gold. Nose: this one is more mentholated, terpenic, more concentrated, yet it never veers towards glue or acetone. Plenty of orange blossom, panettone, raisin bread, then a touch of eucalyptus essential oil, massage oil, sauna… And finally, hints of soft rum, perhaps from Belize (I'm guessing here, but it's neither Jamaican, nor French, nor 'Venezuelan' in style). Mouth: we're closer to the Picnic Bar, but with more orange, zests, vanilla, with a touch of mild curry and white chocolate. Quite a few wood spices but again, we remain balanced. Finish: medium length. The coconut and pineapple now emerge, it's almost as if we're in the Caribbean, indeed. Comments: they are very different but of the same overall quality. High overall quality for some simple grain whisky.
SGP:651 - 85 points.

For now, everything is going very well... Come on, let's have another 1991 then...

North British 33 yo 1991/2024 (47.1%,, 1st fill bourbon barrel, cask #200317, 178 bottles)

North British 33 yo 1991/2024 (47.1%,, 1st fill bourbon barrel, cask #200317, 178 bottles) Four stars
A sister cask to the Picnic Bar, quite evidently. Colour: white wine. Nose: no, it's very different, even purer, you can almost smell the maize, popcorn, white nougat, blancmange, but also freshly cut grass and candle wax. It's very nicely narrow, rather refined, with just a touch of cumin again. Mouth: we are very close now. Green tea, vanilla, coconut, piña colada, then some orange juice. A slight varnish note as well. Finish: medium length, with some mild vegetables. Salsify and even, perhaps, a bit of cassava. Cassava in Edinburgh! Comments: in the end, it's the orange juice that had the last word.
SGP:651 - 85 points.

These barrels are rather similar, we're somewhat in a tunnel. You might add that, moreover, they are from the same vintages. So, one last one then, from a different vintage…

North British 30 yo 1993/2024 (51.5%, Frank McHardy's Signature Reserve, 166 bottles)

North British 30 yo 1993/2024 (51.5%, Frank McHardy's Signature Reserve, 166 bottles) Four stars
I find it amusing that the former manager of Springbank, who crafted so many rich, textured, and full-bodied malts, has such a keen interest in grain whiskies. But after all, Stallone is also a painter… Colour: pale gold. Nose: this time we're much more on almond croissants, vanilla flan, white chocolate, nougat, brioche, toasted bread, breakfast honey… It's all very gentle. With water: a touch of sawdust, oak chips, and milk chocolate. Mouth (neat): a bit of varnish and glue, of the better kind, then orange syrup and mixed fruit brandy. Much more powerful and a tad rustic compared to the nose. With water: blonde almond turron. That's delightfully nostalgic, we love it. This little North British swims very well. Finish: medium length, with the return of oranges and nougat. A bit of caramel and sweetcorn cream in the aftertaste, with a few drops of whisky in it (naturally). Try corn soup with whisky, it's magical. Comments: it's quite gentle, it's quite round, it's reassuring. And there are none of the flaws often found in grains (empty spirits, right). Excellent, despite the lack of Springbanky flavours and aromas (I couldn't resist).
SGP:641 - 87 points.

More tasting notesCheck the index of all grains we've tasted so far







Whiskyfun's Home