Why I am fascinated with the tangled stories of ownership in the whisky world is beyond me. Partly, I suppose I like the notion that throughout such upheaval and change, many distilleries just kept right on mashing, worting, washing, and distilling away. Maybe I just find all that corporate hubris and jockeying humorous, mystifying, and a little sad. Maybe I just need to type it all in to a post to keep track of all the ridiculousness. Glen Grant is another one of those distilleries whose early history was a family affair (several generations of Grants), but whose later history is a familiar, though still mind-boggling, run-through of the biggest names in drinks business. In 1953, the J & J Grant Company was run by Douglas Mackessack, Major Grant’s grandson, but had joined forces with George & J. G. Smith Co., the owners of Glenlivet. This new company was called, cleverly enough, The Glenlivet & Glen Grant Distillers, Ltd. In 1972, that amalgamation joined with Hill Thompson & Co. and Longmorn-Glenlivet Ltd. to form the Glenlivet Distillers. By 1978, the mighty Seagram’s had bought the Glenlivet Distillers and added Glen Grant to its Chivas group. Everything remained fairly quiet then until 2000 when Seagram’s began imploding, and in 2001, Diageo and Pernod-Ricard pounced on the ailing behemoth of a company like a couple of lions taking down some sad sack ungulate. The spoils of that conquest were divided up and Pernod Ricard ended up with Glen Grant (among others) in their portfolio. Finally, in 2006, The Campari Group, fittingly, purchased Glen Grant for a large boatload of money and the Campari Group is where Glen Grant remains today. Glen Grant is one of the best selling single malts in the world primarily because of its popularity in Italy, which is why it is fitting that they’re now owned by the large Italian drinks company. Glen Grant has a broad range of distillery bottlings available and this is not one of them. No, this is an independent single cask release from the Creative Whisky Company’s Exclusive Malts range, distilled in 1992, matured in an American oak re-fill bourbon barrel, and bottled 20 years later in 2012.
The Nose: Light and sweetly malty. Malt syrup and milk chocolate are most prominent with apple cider rounding out the sweetness. Soft orange blossom honey, vanilla extract, and toasty grain play a lesser role along with soft woodspice notes of nutmeg and clove. Further back yet are tiny hints of fermented wash and sweet lime. Adding water adds more fruit, juicy apple, hard pear and plump orange, without taking too much away from that prominent malty-ness. The spice notes, however, softened somewhat.
The Palate: The palate is unexpectedly quite different from the nose starting with an almost instant burst of sweet citrus and thin honey. The malt from the nose does return albeit with a bit of burnt sugar crème brûlée and baker’s chocolate. Another wave of juicy, sweet-sour citrus leads to some healthy, tannic woodspice notes of clove, nutmeg and ginger. Water serves to calm things down and round off some of the high ABV sharp edges. It’s still livelier than the nose, but water does help to integrate the two better. In 1952,
The Finish: Nicely spicy, yet a little hot with continued citrus puckering sweetness, and tannic clove.
Thoughts: Interesting, though slightly more youthful seeming stuff. Straight, the nice but rather uneventful, grain-forward nose doesn’t give away much about the zippy, almost hyper-active palate to come, making the latter a bit of a surprise. While the two do not necessarily work that well together, they also do not necessarily not work well together if you get my meaning. I enjoyed it quite a bit more with water, the nose became a little more complex and worked better with the now becalmed palate. A fine aperitif whisky, while this one it has some very approachable “older” Speyside notes that are quite pleasant, it also has elements that feel “younger” than 20 years old to me.
The Exclusive Malts 1992 Glen Grant 20 Year Old, Speyside, IB-2012