If you’re of the opinion that single grain whisky is ‘all mouth, no trousers’ – as in, multiple cereals but zero flavour – you’re very sadly mistaken. Here, we’ve picked out 10 of the most sumptuous single grains the world has to offer. Tasting glasses at the ready…
It’s quaffable, affordable, and forms the backbone of many a blended whisky: could it be time to cut single grain some slack? David Beckham obviously thinks so, and we’re inclined to agree (though this list is, we assure you, Haig-free).
In reality, the things that many would consider to be grain whisky’s biggest weaknesses – light in character, industrial, no grain off-limits – have been transformed into the category’s greatest strengths by diligent distillers.
Now, I’m pretty nosy, so I wanted to find out a little bit more about the kinds of grains you can expect to find in each bottling. Easier said than done, because this information generally isn’t readily available.
So, where possible I’ve included the variety of grain each distillery primarily dabbles in (or dabbled, should it now be silent), so you can draw your own conclusions if you so wish…
North British 26 Year Old (That Boutique-y Whisky Company)
Ever bought a whisky that smells like Nutella on toast and stroopwafel? Don’t answer out loud – you’ll be talking at a computer screen and that’s weird – but either way, now you can. A corker of a single grain from independent bottlers That Boutique-y Whisky Company, this fabulously creamy 26 year old dram hails from North British distillery – one of Scotland’s largest grain whisky producers, which traditionally distils maize.
The Chita Single Grain Whisky
Make no mistake, House of Suntory’s Chita Distillery (so named due to its location in the Chita Peninsula in central Japan) takes grain seriously. In fact, three types of grain whisky – “clean, medium, and heavy” – are produced there, made from “mainly corn”. The team has aged these lovely liquids in a combination of sherry, bourbon and wine casks, and then brought them together to produce The Chita. Flavour-wise, expect vanilla, honey, and fresh-cut flowers.
The Girvan Patent Still 30 Year Old
Don’t be bashful. You knew a little Girvan number was coming. Rich and complex, this 30 year old is a sterling example of grain whisky coming into its own. William Grant & Sons is a patient bunch, aren’t they? The liquid has been nestled away in American white oak for three decades (y’know, before grain whisky was cool. God, hipsters) and now it’s available to drink in all its honeyed, spiced oak, nutty glory. Girvan, by the way, mostly deals with wheat.
Midleton Method and Madness Single Grain
We can only assume that the Method and Madness collection is the result of Midleton’s various whiskey masters and their apprentices sharing one Irish Coffee too many. And we are here for it. This particular bottling is what happens when you take delicate single grain Irish whiskey (heavy on the unmalted barley, I believe), mature it in ex-bourbon casks, and then finish it in virgin Spanish oak. On the palate: warm toasted oak, fresh peeled grapefruit and zesty wood spices.
Darkness! Loch Lomond 20 Year Old Oloroso Cask Finish
An independently-bottled sherry bomb single grain from Highland distillery Loch Lomond? Oooh, go on then, you’ve twisted my arm. This 20 year old beauty has been finished in small, specially-coopered oloroso casks, giving the liquid a fabulous kick. They only produced 67 bottles, so it’s pretty rare stuff. Loch Lomond produces both grain and malt whisky, so this dram could well be made from malted barley that has simply been distilled differently.
Bain’s Cape Mountain Single Grain
This isn’t just any old bottle, it’s history in the making. Behold, South Africa’s first-ever single grain whisky, produced by The James Sedgwick Distillery in Wellington, just outside Cape Town. Made entirely from South African yellow maize (this *is* confirmed) the liquid spends three years in first-fill bourbon casks before it’s moved to fresh first-fill bourbon casks. All that first-fill bourbon treatment makes for a soft, vanillic, well-rounded tipple.
Dà Mhìle Single Grain Welsh Whisky
This organic single grain hails from single-estate Welsh whisky distillery, Dà Mhìle, where owner and farmer John Savage-Onstwedder is no stranger to organic booze. In 1992, he sent 11 tonnes of organic barley to Scotland’s Springbank Distillery, which would become the world’s first organic whisky. It’s unclear which grain(s) are involved in this particular bottling, but with a dram this delightful, who cares?
Port Dundas 13 Year Old 2004 (cask 12465) – Old Particular (Douglas Laing)
Scottish grain distillery Port Dundas may be silent now, but its spirit lives on. Quite literally. Independently bottled by Douglas Laing, this 13 year old single grain was distilled back in July 2004 before being matured in American oak. Once the largest distillery in Scotland, Port Dundas was known to distil corn, barley, and rye.
Nikka Coffey Grain Whisky
Another Japanese treat to wet your whistle, this time from Nikka, and it’s a hidden gem to say the least. This gorgeously mellow single grain is distilled mainly from corn in two Coffey stills at the company’s Tōhoku-based Miyagikyo Distillery. It’s sweet and fruity on the palate, rounded out by biscuits and vanilla.
Caledonian 33 Year Old 1982 – Single Cask (Master of Malt)
Forgive us for blowing our own trumpet*, but this single grain Scotch from the now-closed Caledonian distillery really is summin’ else. It was distilled the very year that Michael Jackson released Thriller (1982, if your memory fogs) and lay patiently waiting in a refill hogshead until we bottled it back in January 2016. You’ve got spicy caramel, you’ve got nutmeg, you’ve got banana bread. What more could you want?