Usually whisky connoisseurs are a bit sniffy about grain whiskies so when I invited a couple of the lads to a blind tasting they were a bit taken aback when I confessed that they were being offered a North British Distillery single grain whisky. They perked up at the news that it was aged 21 years in a bourbon cask and had an ABV of 56.8%
This is the first offering from Independent Bottler Robbie Douglas, who admits to having learnt most of what he knows from his girlfriend’s father. As a barman, Robbie has met a few whiskies, not all of them particularly good value, Â and decided that he could offer something better. He seems to have got off to a good start. What he has here is the perfect introductory whisky, lighter, sweeter and generally easier than a malt, but still with a satisfying kick. You could say that it’s the whisky to offer a woman who thinks she doesn’t like whisky but knows she ought to appreciate her Scottish heritage. This could change her mind.
The appearance is light, a pale straw colour, not very promising, but it has no additives, so we forgave it.
The bouquet gives you clover, buttercups and vanilla â€“ the poetic chef claimed he was transported to a field of corn in Springtime.
Straight away this whisky attacks the tongue and palette â€“ you think it might be a bit rough â€“ but then it settles down with a honeyed, clovery, syrupy feel that becomes lighter and leaves a very soothing aftertaste, sweet and oily.
It’s a bit like a Canadian rye but nicer. You could just about take it without water but it still dilutes well. The chef thought a teaspoonful would go well in the pan with sautÃ©ed strawberries, brown sugar and double cream or even in an apple pie instead of cinnamon.
Distilled in 1991 and bottled last year, the cask produced 240 bottles and retails at Â£60 fromÂ The Good Spirits Company. It’s not bad at all for the price and probably also collectable in a financial investment sort of way, being the first from this bottler.Â Robbie’s next bottling will be from Bunnahabhain, just across the water from Jura where he worked as a barman for a while. This is one of the less peaty Islay malts so again Robbie will be going easy on the palate â€“ watch out for the laughing pig label.