STRATHCLYDE SINGLE GRAIN SCOTCH
cask strength single barrel bottled for K&L (2018)
MASH BILL – Undisclosed grain mash bill (rumored wheat-based)
PROOF – 103.6
AGE – 30 years 11 months
DISTILLERY – Strathclyde (bottled by Douglas Laing)
PRICE – $108 (on sale from $130)
BUY AGAIN? – All 211 bottles are long gone… But another Strathclyde? At a good price, sure!
I continue to have good luck with secondary-bottler Douglas Laing’s “Old Particular” line of scotch whiskies. My first was a North British Distillery 28 Year Single Grain, distilled in 1988 and bottled in 2016. It was a single cask that yielded 187 bottles at 102.6 proof. I wish I’d picked up a second bottle. Its overflow of creamy caramel flavors were very appealing to a bourbon fan like myself. I couldn’t believe I’d enjoyed such a tasty, well aged, cask strength scotch for only $75. I’ve been keeping tabs on K&L’s annual Old Particular offerings ever since.
So, how does this Strathclyde hold up? First some notes in brief, taken a little over a month after uncorking and halfway through the bottle:
COLOR – a beautifully clear pale yellow, like a buttery chardonnay
NOSE – reserved, creams, light caramels, baked shortbread cookies, acidic lemon zest
TASTE – a buttery texture, a crisp edge from the lemon zest, creams, soft vanilla caramels, a swell of citric pepperiness at the end
FINISH – a refreshing, cooling heat from the lemon zest, then quickly fading creamy caramels that linger on low
OVERALL – perfectly enjoyable, nicely balancing the citric and cream aspects, but doesn’t linger long in the memory
Though not as wowing as that 2016 North British 28 Year, this Strathclyde likewise makes a good argument on behalf of single grain scotch in general. Single malt is the big target for most buyers. But these single grain bottlings—whether the grain is corn, wheat, or barley—can often stand very well on their own.
Before going on, what’s the difference between single grain and single malt? ☟
Single Malt / Single Grain are terms most associated with scotch, though they are not limited to scotch. Here “single” refers not to the grain or a single barrel, but to the distillate (or distillates, in a blend) having been produced at one single distillery. “Malt” means the basis of the mash bill is malted grain—most typically malted barley, but possibly another malted grain or combination of malted grains. “Grain” means the basis of the mash bill is an un-malted grain or grains.
Single grain distillates are most typically dumped into mass blendings and never known by their own name. They become Johnny Walker or Chivas Regal. But when a delectable cask manages to escape blended anonymity, whiskey fans are afforded access to exceptionally well-aged products at a fraction of the typical name brand price. Imagine the cost of a 30-year Macallan or Balvenie. Four digits at least, and the first wouldn’t be 1…!
This Strathclyde satisfies that hankering I sometimes have after a savory meal, when I don’t need a big dessert, just some small piece of creamy, gooey caramel or the like to satiate the ol’ sweet tooth. The lemon zest aspect gives the flowy creams and caramels a nice edge of distinction, snapping the whole into focus. The color is lovely and clear. Something about that clarity in combination with the whisky’s buttery texture makes for a lovely look as it swirls around the glass.
It’s refreshing like spring and bright like summer. It’s pleasing without demanding too much attention. The finish fades fairly quickly, leaving this whisky easily forgotten. But then each sip is so sweet and fun, with the creaminess grounding it while the lemon zest gives it zip. It’s very much an in the moment whisky. A nice outdoor party whisky.
I’m often posting notes on this blog about these singular scotch casks that are long since sold out. From a buyer’s standpoint, what’s the point in that? Well, assuming anyone here is somewhere along their whisky journey, hopefully reading a bit about these one-off Douglas Laing or Alexander & Murray bottlings might help toward an exploration of what secondary bottlers have to offer, and the great gamut of scotch in general. Scotch can be so dang expensive. My own range of knowledge about specific regional distilleries in Scotland comes almost exclusively from the chances I’ve taken on secondary bottler offerings. I’ve come to love what happens to single grain scotch once it crosses the 20-year mark. Young single malts can be extraordinary as well. Age isn’t everything. But with these single grain scotches, the depth and variety and interesting layers seem to really pop after a couple decades in the barrel.
And in the case of this Strathclyde offering, given I am a big fan of wheated bourbons, the chance to taste a 30-year wheat grain scotch for $108 was just too good to pass up!