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Master of Malt Blog

Tag: Jim Murray

Jim Murray and Glen Grant: A love affair

Creating world class Scotch means staying true to your roots, Jim Murray believes. It’s an approach that Glen Grant’s master distiller Dennis Malcolm knows a thing or two about. We…

Creating world class Scotch means staying true to your roots, Jim Murray believes. It’s an approach that Glen Grant’s master distiller Dennis Malcolm knows a thing or two about. We spoke to both in London to find out more.

Once again, Glen Grant 18 Year Old has been awarded the prize of Scotch Whisky of the Year in the 2019 edition of 2019 edition of Murray’s Whisky Bible. For the third year in a row, in fact.

It’s no small feat. Over 5,000 whiskies, a thousand of which were new entrants, were rated by Murray. In the end, only the 2017 Buffalo Trace Antique Collection release of William Larue Weller ranked higher to scoop the coveted accolade of World Whisky of the Year. In an official statement, Murray declared: “Once more the stunning Glen Grant 18 Year Old single malt carried the banner for Scotland, displaying Speyside Whisky in its most sparkling light.”

Glen Grant

Jim Murray

Providing the world with a refined whisky is what Glen Grant has been all about since 1840, when brothers John and James Grant founded the site in Rothes in Speyside. Some will tell you the secret to its style is the innovative tall slender stills, others will point to the revolutionary purifiers that James ‘The Major’ Grant, son of founder James Grant, was one of the first to introduce to the Scotch whisky industry over a century ago.

Malcolm appreciates the influence of both, but is keen to underline the importance of approach, “it’s consistent quality from the whole process, from the production right through. I used to jokingly say to people, when you mill it and mash it and ferment it, it’s almost a generic process!” he explains, “the secret is in your stills and your casks, that’s your big influencers, but you’ve got to be consistent with everything you’re doing.”

It’s this steadiness that resonates with Murray. “Glen Grant is the best distillery in Scotland and it is the most consistent. What I can tell you, is that if you tasted Glen Grant from a 1952 distilling or whatever, there’s no difference to now. It’s one of the few distilleries where the DNA has not changed”, Murray told us, “I can’t think of any other distillery that is as true now as it was in the past. And it’s one of the reasons I love it so much, and that makes it virtually unique in Scotch.”

Glen Grant 18 Year Old

Master distiller Dennis Malcolm

Nobody typifies the consistency at Glen Grant like the multi-award winning Malcolm. He was actually born in the grounds of Glen Grant in 1946 and has worked for the distillery in various capacities for over five decades. “My grandfather worked at Glen Grant and worked for the son of the founder, then my father worked there and then I left school at the age of 15 and went to be a cooper”, Malcolm recalls, “I wanted to create casks. That’s helped me along my career but I’ve always said ‘I know what casks are all about.’ Casks are like people, they all mature at different stages.”

It’s because of this background that he knows what Glen Grant whisky should be better than anybody. When I ask Malcolm how he knows when a spirit has that crucial Glen Grant profile, he says: “We look at it before we put it into the cask and what we want is a new, fine, fruity, estery Glen Grant new spirit. So the spirit at Glen Grant is monitored and passed fit for casking in the still house. That’s when we do it.”

Every part of the Glen Grant distillation process is about retaining a consistent quality. “We have a standardised system so it’s easy to operate. It’s broken into four pairs of stills, so one batch does a six hour process from mashing into distilling,” Malcolm explains, “when the spirit comes off, the first one pair, two pair, three pair, four pair, goes into separate receivers and it’s checked individually. I think attention to detail is the secret of consistent quality.”

Glen Grant 18 Year Old

The legendary Glen Grant stills

Murray concurs, revealing that when he trains blenders around the world it’s by following this approach. “So they can always make sure that they’ve got control. Because if you take your eye off it and you don’t have control that’s when suddenly something goes wrong,” he says, “now it’s this attention to detail that separates the great distilleries from the good distilleries and Glen Grant is just a great distillery, it just is.”

Talking to Malcolm and Murray, it’s clear how passionate they are that part of Glen Grant’s triumph is that it retained its identity and didn’t change simply to satisfy the market. “You’ve got to hold your ground. You have to be careful it doesn’t just become a fashion item for that one year. So what I try to do is protect the DNA of Glen Grant,” Malcolm says, “if the financial people want to save some money, they would say ‘use the casks four times there because you’re using a million pounds for bloomin’ casks every year!’ and that would put another million pounds on the bottom line. But I say: ‘hey, wait a minute, the only reason we’re here is because of our consistent quality so we need to keep that’.”

The Campari Group, who acquired Glen Grant whisky distillery in 2006 for €115m, were obviously wise enough to heed Malcolm’s advice. Under its ownership, the 12 Year Old and 18 Year Old whiskies were added to the core range in 2016, alongside The Major’s Reserve and the 10 Year Old. It’s notable to Murray that these were additions, and not replacements.

Glen Grant 18 Year Old

Glen Grant Distillery

“There was another really brilliant Speyside whisky that used to be ten years of age and it doesn’t exist anymore now because the company that owns it decided that ten years was too young. Not because ten years was too young for the whisky, it was too young in marketing terms,” Murray says. “Because the main guys that they were fighting against were 12 year olds. So they obliterated this fantastic whisky and bought it out as a 12 year old which was brainless! Utterly brainless! They had just destroyed a great whisky.”

So, after all that work, how did it feel to be honoured with the title of Scotch Whisky of the Year? “Well, you can’t really print what I said when I heard it for a start!” Malcolm jokes, “I really liked it because I was going back in time with this one, back to our roots. I thought, ‘well maybe it hasn’t always got to be new decorations all the time’, you know you decorate a house in different colours every year?”.

But what makes Glen Grant 18 Year Old stand out among all other Scotch whiskies for Murray? Well, one reason, he explained, is that it’s so complex that it takes him longer to nose then any other whisky: “You just watch every nuance come through because there’s a half hour journey in every single glass. You never get it on one nose.” Murray told us that the tasting note in the Whisky Bible is actually the shortened version: “You think ‘this could go over two pages, this is ridiculous’, because it is that complex. That’s why it gets number two in the world.”

Glen Grant

In all its glory: The Glen Grant 18 Year Old

Murray is particularly impressed by this depth of character given it’s what he describes as a “purely naked whisky.” He explains that, “because it’s 100% bourbon cask. There’s no sherry or anything in there that can go over the top and hide something, it’s all there to be seen. Which makes it very special.” Malcolm agrees: “There’s no sherry there, there’s no colour correction there, it’s just natural single malt Glen Grant.”

It’s clear that Murray feels a very strong connection to the Glen Grant distillery and its whisky: “I’ve tasted Glen Grants from before the Second World War, I’ve tasted a lot of Glen Grant over many, many years. Everything about it is natural and it’s just utterly true to its roots, it is the true Speyside.” Glen Grant 18 Year Old is his go-to whisky when he’s at home. “If I’m travelling around and I’m knackered, I just curl up with a glass of this, over half an hour and suddenly I just feel human again, it’s just absolutely amazing.”

It’s fascinating watching Murray be so intensely passionate about a Scotch whisky, because he’s acutely aware of his and the bible’s reputation. “People say to me ‘oh Jim, you don’t like Scotch’ and I say ‘don’t I, really?! Have you ever seen what I’ve written about the 18 year old Glen Grant?’” he explains defiantly. “Scotland makes some of the best whisky in the world, because there’s things like Glen Grant 18 that can just absolutely seduce you.”

Having enjoyed a dram or two myself that night, I’m inclined to agree.

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Master of Malt’s most read stories of 2018

As 2018 draws to a close, we reflect on the news and features that caught your eye the most this year. Well, we’ve reached the end of another year. The…

As 2018 draws to a close, we reflect on the news and features that caught your eye the most this year.

Well, we’ve reached the end of another year. The Earth has put in another hell of a shift in its orbit around the Sun. Now is the time where we reflect on all that happened in 2018.

It has been another 12 months filled with standout stories, all manner of incidents, and of course highs and lows. Among the articles you read most on our award-winning blog were round-ups of great booze, limited-edition whisky launches, and a sorry tale of a collapsing warehouse. We shed a tear for all that bourbon.

Without further delay, these are the top 10 stories that you read, shared and talked about the most in 2018.

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William Larue Weller takes top spot in Jim Murray’s Whisky Bible 2019

America wins World Whisky of the Year again in the new edition of Jim Murray’s Whisky Bible but the big story is the rise of English and Welsh whiskies with…

America wins World Whisky of the Year again in the new edition of Jim Murray’s Whisky Bible but the big story is the rise of English and Welsh whiskies with a special section devoted to them.

The new edition of the world’s bestselling whisky book is out, and I’m afraid it’s bad news for the Scots with the title of World Whisky of the Year going to William Larue Weller (2017 Release) – the third consecutive American champion. Jim Murray commented on “its unique brilliance” and said it was the “the most delicious lesson in whiskey structure imaginable”.

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Colonel EH Taylor Four Grain 12yo top in Jim Murray’s Whisky Bible 2018

The “sheer undiluted beauty” of Colonel EH Taylor Four Grain Bottled in Bond Aged 12 Years has nabbed it the title of world’s best whisky in Jim Murray’s Whisky Bible…

The “sheer undiluted beauty” of Colonel EH Taylor Four Grain Bottled in Bond Aged 12 Years has nabbed it the title of world’s best whisky in Jim Murray’s Whisky Bible 2018.

Just as it says on the tin, the expression is made using a quartet of grains – corn, rye, wheat and malted barley – and scored 97.5 out of 100 in Murray’s nose-taste-finish-balance assessment system.

“Nothing could match the astonishing beauty of its surprisingly delicate weight and complexity combined,” Murray said of the whiskey. “It was though time stood still in the tasting room; I just knew…”

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Jim Murray’s Whisky Bible 2017 Winners

Jim Murray has announced the winners in this year’s Whisky Bible, with a rye claiming top spot for the second year running and a Scotch whisky in the top three…

Jim Murray's Whisky Bible 2017

Jim Murray has announced the winners in this year’s Whisky Bible, with a rye claiming top spot for the second year running and a Scotch whisky in the top three for the first time since 2014.

Following on from Crown Royal’s Northern Harvest Canadian rye, it’s an American rye whiskey that’s been named World Whisky of the Year in Jim Murray’s Whisky Bible this time around: Booker’s ‘Big Time Batch’, aged for 13 years, 1 month and 12 days. Laid down by the legendary Booker Noe himself in 2003, shortly before his death, his son continued to watch over the casks and they were finally released earlier this year. Booker’s first ever rye, it was already described by Beam as an “extremely rare, limited edition offering, made from a very limited number of barrels” and will now become an even more sought-after bottling.

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Tasmanian Whisky – Everything You Need to Know! (Part 6: Nant Distillery)

This week we’ll be looking at Nant – one of the most critically acclaimed distilleries on Tasmania, with high profile fans including legendary whisky commentator Jim Murray. It began in…

Nant distillery

This week we’ll be looking at Nant – one of the most critically acclaimed distilleries on Tasmania, with high profile fans including legendary whisky commentator Jim Murray.

It began in 2004, when Brisbane-based property developer Keith Batt purchased the Nant Estate, just an hour from Hobart. This ancient estate was built in around 1821, and since the 2004 purchase, it has been lovingly and carefully restored with an investment of some $5 million. The result is arrestingly beautiful; a stunning estate surrounded by breathtakingly scenic countryside.

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#WhiskySanta Gives Away The World’s Finest Whisky

Since I began granting one Christmas wish per day, there’s been one product in particular that’s been rather popular on your wishlists. Some chap in a panama hat with fluorescent…

Whisky Santa Pug Yamazaki Sherry 2013

Since I began granting one Christmas wish per day, there’s been one product in particular that’s been rather popular on your wishlists. Some chap in a panama hat with fluorescent eyes said it was rather good or something. Not much call for panama hats at the North Pole, you know. Still, if there’s one thing I’ve learned travelling all around the globe every year it’s that it takes all sorts!

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Old Pulteney 40 Year Old!

Prepare your faces for glee and/or delight, for we bring glad tidings all the way from Caithness (the north-eastern tip of the Scottish mainland – presumably very wet and cold)….

Prepare your faces for glee and/or delight, for we bring glad tidings all the way from Caithness (the north-eastern tip of the Scottish mainland – presumably very wet and cold). We’ve had word from the Old Pulteney distillery that today (well, 11pm last night, to be precise, but today for most of us) we can, at last, announce the launch of the oldest official single malt the distillery has ever produced…

Earlier in the year, Pulteney 21 year old was named World Whisky of the Year in Jim Murray’s 2012 Whisky Bible. It’s a pretty astonishing single malt, all things considered, but what else would you expect from the northernmost distillery on the Scottish mainland. That far north, the weather and the terroir play a huge part in the flavour of maturing spirit; a windswept seafront seasons the whisky and gives it real provenance. There’s also the effect of the unusually shaped spirit still, the U-shape and bulbous neck of which account for a particularly oily spirit. Dave Broom calls Old Pulteney “eccentric”, and I think we’re inclined to agree…

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Aldi’s 40 Year Old Whisky

So, a couple of Tuesdays ago, I had possibly one of the most random evenings of my life. And I’m not talking about the end of the evening, where Myself,…

So, a couple of Tuesdays ago, I had possibly one of the most random evenings of my life. And I’m not talking about the end of the evening, where Myself, Joel Harrison (one half of caskstrength.net), Dr. Whisky, and Pierre from off of that there Connosr ended up in a basement Sherry bar late in the evening arguing the finer points of the various Port Ellen releases over Manzanilla and nibbles. No. I’m talking about the launch of Aldi’s 40 year old whisky.

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Old Pulteney 21 Year Old Voted World’s best whisky

So – it’s that time of year again. Jim Murray waves his magic wand, and retailers and brand owners alike scrabble around frantically trying to fulfil orders of what, last…

So – it’s that time of year again. Jim Murray waves his magic wand, and retailers and brand owners alike scrabble around frantically trying to fulfil orders of what, last week, was a very good, if slow-selling line (before you ask, the 90 bottles I managed to prise out of the distributor’s hands disappeared within an hour and a half. I’ll let you know when there’s more stock available).

For those of you who are interested, you can read all about my trip up to The Old Pulteney distillery here and Mike’s tasting notes of the full range (including an exclusive taste of the soon-to-be-released 40yo) here.

Now; I’m going to leave all the usual punditry around whether or not it deserves this title to others (and I’m sure there’ll be no shortage of discussion as ever). It’s a very good whisky, for sure, but what I really wanted to talk about was this screenshot:

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