Gordon & MacPhail do a number of “licensed” releases under these old-style labels (I put “licensed” in quotes here because while I’ve seen a number of references over the years to these as licensed bottlings, I don’t really know what that means in this context). The distilleries that most often show up in this general livery in the US these days are Mortlach, Strathisla and Glen Grant. Actually, I don’t know if they still show up steadily or if the bottles I see from time to time are old stock, as G&M don’t put bottling or vintage dates on most of these bottles. They also don’t bottle them at a very high proof: many of them are at 43% or below—nor do I know if the colour is natural. This one is at 40%. I’ve been tempted by it for some time but when a local retailer marked it down late last year I was finally unable to talk myself out of taking a flyer on it. Well, I am glad to say that it did not disappoint.
Glen Grant 21 (40%; Gordon & MacPhail; from my own bottle)
Nose: Gunpowder, orange peel, raisins and salt—all nicely integrated and really quite nice. Gets sweeter as it goes (the raisins become more pronounced). Not a whole lot of change after that except that after a good while the gunpowder notes mellow quite a bit. With a drop of water there’s some toffee.
Palate: Very much as on the nose, with perhaps a bit more bitterness (chocolate?) and a hint of smoke along with the gunpowder. More of the orange peel on the second and third sip and some caramel on the back end. A bit of cinnamon too. The mouthfeel is a bit too thin. With more time the citrus expands but it also gets more oaky and not entirely pleasantly so. Gets thinner as it goes. And with water it become so thin that it slips through the cracks of reality.
Finish: Medium. No development as such—mild bitterness on the edges of my tongue as the sweeter notes wash out. As the palate gets oakier the finish gets spicier. And with water gets quite tannic.
Comments: This is a simple sherried whisky but it’s very pleasant and incredibly drinkable (though the utter sulphur-phobes will disagree). Some of that is down to the low strength but I do wish they would have released this at a higher strength. Just knock it up to 43% and it would likely be a far more complex whisky (the nose is still very nice; it’s the palate that needs some power). Hard to justify the price, though, given that it in the sherried class it competes with the Highland Park 18 and the Glendronach 18 and is quite a bit more expensive than the Glendronach 15 and the Springbank 12 CS. There’s also the question of batch variation given the difficulties of telling these G&M releases apart. Still, I”m glad I finally satisfied my curiosity about it.
Rating: 85 points.