Here is the last of the Glen Grants I’d said I’d review back in February; and it’s the last Glen Grant I’ll probably review for a while. Like the Whisky-fässle and Maltbarn bottles I reviewed recently, this is also from 1992, but it is two years older than those two. It’s also unlike them in that it’s smoky, which I was not quite expecting. Now, the Whisky Exchange’s notes do mention “a distinct whiff of wood smoke” but there’s quite a bit more than a whiff here—everyone in my local tasting group remarked it when the bottle was opened earlier this year and if anything it’s got stronger as the bottle’s stayed open. In fact, I would say it’s smokier than indicated in Whisky Magazine’s notes, which do mention smoke. Surprisingly, Serge Valentin’s notes on Whiskyfun don’t mention smoke at all—that one’s a bit of a head-scratcher; there are no notes on it on Whiskybase. If you’ve had it, please write in and let me know if you found no/faint/palpable smoky notes.
Glen Grant 22, 1992 (57.8%; bourbon barrel; from my own bottle)
Nose: Apples, lemon zest and some prickly, peppery peat. Gets a bit sweeter as it sits but is a bit tight at full strength. Not much other change with time. With a few drops of water it gets mentholated and the apple gets a little baked and the peat recedes.
Palate: Leads with peppery peat and ashy smoke. The citrus and the softer fruit show up in the second wave. Very nice, oily mouthfeel. With more time the citrus, zesty and oily, begins to move to the fore and melds nicely with the pepper and peat. The smoke fades a bit with time but is always present. Less peaty/smoky here too with water but there’s still no mistaking it.
Finish: Long. The ashiness lingers for a while. With water it’s less ashy but more peppery.
Comments: I don’t think I’ve encountered palpable levels of peat in modern Glen Grant before—it’s certainly not present in any of the others I’ve reviewed this year, including the other 1992s. Did they run the occasional peated distillation in the early 1990s? Or is this a case of maturation in a cask that had previously held smoky whisky? If you know more about this—or have more experience with peaty Glen Grant—do write in below.
Rating: 88 points.
There’s an effect I’ve sometimes seen in old whiskies, especially if they’ve been a long time in refill casks, where I perceive the oak character as being akin to smokiness. So it might be that.
Or (and I think this is an equally plausible explanation), the spirit was filled into a cask which previously held peated whisky.
I don’t this has to do with age: this tasted like a lightly peated whisky. I drank most of the bottle over a few months, so it wasn’t an improperly cleaned glass or something else going on with my palate at a specific time—and, as I said, everyone in my local tasting group noted it too. So, unless someone knows about experimental peated runs at Glen Grant in 1992, it would appear it must be the previous contents of the cask that was the source. I do have to say it worked rather well…
I’ll check with a few others who also got samples from this bottle from me.
1) This has been filled into an ex-peater cask. This is unlikely to have as profound an effect as you mention in your notes, however. All of the ‘sweet malt aged in ex-Islay casks’ I’ve had have shown rather a muted earthy or woody smoke rather than full-on peat which seems to be at play here.
2) This is a peated run – but not intentionally. There is always a risk that your maltster delivers a load which has had some peated malt thrown in and before anyone can notice this has been mashed and fermented and you just have to distil it. This wouldn’t be impossible today, never mind the early 90s.
3) Caperdonich was doing heavily-peated runs in the 1990s and the new make spirit would be piped over the road to Glen Grant to be filled into casks. Either Caperdonich peated spirit was put into a cask which was then stencilled ‘Glen Grant’ or the cask from which your bottle comes was filled straight after a run of Caperdonich and the lines weren’t cleaned out properly.
If only we had a whisky sleuth who could prove one way or the other.
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The Caperdonich possibility had not occurred to me. This is certainly not as heavily peated as the few peated 90s Caperdonichs I’ve had—and it’s not a phenolic peat either.
I should also say that it’s not as profoundly peated as my notes may have led you to think: nobody would mistake this for a Longrow or any peated Islay malt. It’s just that peat and smoke seemed obviously present to me (and more on the palate than on nose) and perhaps because I wasn’t expecting that I noted it more. A little surprised that there are so few reviews of this out there. I can’t find anything beyond the linked reviews from Whisky Magazine (the two reviewers find differing levels of smoke; the second closer to my experience) and Serge (who finds none).