June 26, 2013

Review: Berry Brothers' Glen Grant 1974 - A Dead Body in a Whisky Barrel! Disco Dram #3

A Barrel That Is A Coffin!

abridged from The Vanishing Smuggler by Stephen Chalmers

    Giles Serymegeour looked long and stupidly at the barrel.  What kind of joke was this?  Then slowly, into his eyes there dawned a look of horror and dread.  He suddenly remembered that which Smuggle-Erie had said - about bringing home Grant in "a barrel - that is a coffin!"  The perspiration stood in big beads on the miser's face, although the morning was quite fresh.  The whispering and knocking at his cowardly conscience became a thundering and shrieking of certainty.  He laid his hot, trembling hands upon it.  The cold iron rings stung him like serpents.  He flung open the shop door, seized the barrel and began hurdling it inside.  It was heavy.  And strangely balanced!  He could not feel even the weight of liquid, but his frenzied imagination seemed to hear the sullen rolling and rumbling.    
   Then the barrel was opened.  
   There are some things in life which are better left undescribed.  The scene that immediately ensued is one of them.  Whether Captain John Grant, master of the Thistle Down, may or may not have been the infamous smuggler Heather Bloom, concerned us little in the face of the tragedy.  A murder had been done!

1975 Birthday Bonanza Finale - Well Almost!

First the bad news: We were lining up a string of malts from hubby's year of birth - 1975.  We had a final dram in mind, a disco king so to speak, but it got held up in transit.  Alas the "hubby's getting old" celebration was in jeopardy.  Now the good news: we found a badass 1974 malt to make up for it.  Sure, whisky that's as old as you has that certain something, that shared history, that magical year of birth, yada yada.  But whisky that's actually older than you, now we're talking about a big brother'ish veneration, a new level of respect for one's elders.  Enter our stately sherried senior-classman: The Berry Brother's & Rudd Glen Grant Distillery 1974 vintage, 37 year-old single cask.

In Heaven

Berry Brother's & Rudd was founded on St James Street in London in 1698, so yeah they know a thing or two about whisky.  They offer a line of their own bottlings, as well as a cellar of hand-picked stock.  Berry Brother's is one of the top wine merchants in the world, specializing in the cream of the crop - Bordeaux, Burgundy, and Rhone.  If you are a hifalutin English gentlemen, you may choose to have Berry Bro's cellar some of your vast wine collection.  They will care for your millions of pounds in rare reds and add choice selections twice per year for future imbibing or sale.  Basically we just want to set up cots in Berrys' and sleep there in the cellar surrounded by wine and scotch forever.

Now Back To That Infamous Barrel!

Glen Grant is our kind of story.  It's not known whether the fictional account above is based on real events.  Was John Grant captain of the notorious Thistle Down?  Did he go by the pseudonym Heather Bloom and command shipmates with names like Smuggle-Erie and The Red Mole?  Did he end up being delivered dead in a whisky barrel to the miser Serymegeour?  Unclear.  It is a known fact that both John and James Grant were acknowledged smugglers and bootleggers before they founded Glen Grant in 1840.  It is also well known that James led seven hundred Grant clansmen in the 'Raid on Elgin' - the last clan revolt in Scottish history.

The Grant's stomping grounds in Rothes were bordered to the north by The Port of Garmouth and to the south by the River Spey.  Easily accessible by sea and river, and surrounded by vast plains of barley, it was a whisky smuggler's paradise.  Since whisky distilling wasn't officially legal until the middle of the eighteen-hundreds, all whisky makers were officially smugglers, but these two evidently took it to new heights.  After the brothers' passing, young James "The Major" Grant took over the distillery.   The Major was purportedly the first man in the Highlands to own car, and Glen Grant was the first distillery to have electric lights.

Today Glen Grant is one of the biggest selling single malt whiskies in the world.  Their bottles range from "The Major's Reserve," a low-end No Age Statement malt, to a mid-range 10 Year, and quickly jump into an amazing range of vintages and bottlings dating back to the 1930's and covering every decade in between.

Tasting Notes

Appearance:  Unchillfiltered - Uncoloured - Oh yeah!  The color is flat-out gorgeous.  No color correction in that centerfold above.  This is a dark and lovely shade.  Almost a combination of Jack Daniels and Welches Grape Juice.

Nose:  Lots of amazing fruit going on here.  Watermelon, cherries, lemon, a medley of berries.  A hefty undercut of oak.  And wonderful fresh herbals - just-cut mint, fresh thyme, rosemary.  On a second pass more citrus, but getting denser into an orange rind, and some of the nice leather polish that we get with old whisky.

Body:  There's a distinct creaminess.  Like Dr. Brown's Cream Soda.  Intense vanilla.  Some root beer flavors coming through.  Really lovely desert-like body, very delicate and immensely enjoyable.

Finish: A medium length finish where the vanilla and sweet cream fade into a nice belly warmth and sweetness on the tongue.  Fading into hints of oak and leather, twist of lemon and lingering honey/molasses.


The Berry Brother's Glen Grant is available from our friends at RoyalMileWhiskies for £120.79 (around $185).  So this is a real splurge, or if you're feeling euphemistic (read: drunk), it's an investment.  And hey if you had enough self-control to let this bad boy sit on your shelf for twenty years, it might well be an investment.  But who's kidding who?  You'd sooner end up dead in a barrel than let this stuff sit on your shelf.  Of course you're going to drink it!  Anyway, at this price we wouldn't recommend anything that wasn't truly special.  This one is.  It's something that anyone and everyone would appreciate, from a first date to a veteran whisky hound.  What it's not:  a smoky beast.  If you're looking for a peaty, Islay gem, this is not your pony.  But for something that comes out on a special occasion, after a beautiful meal, and doesn't wipe the palate with smoke and peat, this is pretty close to ideal.  It was a perfect way to cap off birthday month, thanks for celebrating with us!  /smokybeast

Click here for the next installment of Disco Drams, a whopper of 1970's vintage scotch: Signatory 1973 Craigduff, & Samaroli Glenlivet 1977 

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