Thursday, 28 August 2014

Grant’s Sherry Cask Edition: An affordable blended scotch


Here you go, another blended scotch at the “affordable” end of the price spectrum. This one is Grant’s Sherry Cask Edition, so it’s your standard Grant’s that has been aged for a further four months in sherry casks. Interesting. Grant’s also produce an ale cask edition in this range, which as the name suggests, has been aged for four months in casks that were used to hold ale (Innis and Gunn, apparently) for a few months previous to that. And that is apparently unique.

If you’re shopping in a standard UK supermarket, you can expect to pick up the usual Grant’s at around £12-15, while the other editions are more around £18-20. I picked up my sherry cask edition on sale at £15. No doubt you can do better, though this was the first time I’d seen it on offer. We picked up a bottle of the ale cask for my brother-in-law at roughly the same time, which I actually got to try before I opened my bottle, but a little more on that later.

All three expressions are bottled at a standard blend ABV of 40%, and are presented in identical triangular bottles with a different coloured label denoting each one. They’ve picked nice shades (red, green and blue) for these. The Sherry Cask is the green one.

Experiencing

I seem to find my initial impression of any whisky is tempered by what I’ve become familiar with of the same genre immediately prior. It is like I want to be blown away every time, and sometimes that just doesn’t happen.

So the previous blend I’d been growing friendly with was Ballantine’s Finest, and I’d been enjoying it very much. Despite having a drop of that left, I decided not to do a comparative tasting immediately so that I might meet Grant’s on its own terms.

First Taste

I opened it then, one Saturday night and what I was left with was a flat disappointment. It seemed to have no nose, and nothing of interest on the palate. I had come to expect a sweet luxuriousness from the Ballantine’s, so while it is usually unfair to expect the same qualities from a different brand… this has been (however briefly) matured in ex-sherry casks, so surely you should be able to expect a more rich sweetness than other basic blends? Perhaps not.

After about 20 minutes of tasting I did notice there developed an impression of fresh apple and a surprisingly long finish, but nothing else came to the fore and I put the Grant’s back into the cupboard that I might enjoy something else.

Second Sampling

The second appearance came the following Thursday night after Mrs Cake and I had returned from a local restaurant. I had already been drinking Peroni as well as what I’m going to call the nicest red wine I can recall sampling and, along with all that rich food I was thinking this might not be the most opportune occasion to enjoy a fine whisky. So I didn’t pull a fine whisky from the cupboard, I went for the Grant’s Sherry Cask.

Most unexpectedly, the experience was far more rounded and fulfilling than previously. Perhaps I had been too quick to judge.

Competition

It was time then, to see how it fared alongside the Ballantine’s. Result: fairly well actually. Though I hadn’t managed to enjoy it on its own as much as I had the Ballantine’s, when tasted side by side I didn’t detect that much difference. As far as the Ballantine’s was concerned, I felt that was a sad end to a bargain dram that had delivered consistently over the last few months. I’ll remember it for the good times, rather than this one let down. It was with some sadness that I put that attractive brown bottle in the recycling, but I made a solemn vow that I would pick up another some day.

Further tastings

 As time has progressed the Grant’s Sherry Cask has grown into its role of lead cheap blend. It makes a pleasant, uncomplicated drink for early evening and the over stimulated palate. In later weeks it has been joined in the cupboard by the dregs of the great supermarket blend test, so it has been interesting to see how it has fared alongside such competition, and despite very enjoyable products from Asda and Morrison’s, this Grant’s benefits from a little more depth of flavour than any of the supermarket products can offer. Is it better than McKendrick’s? As time goes on I’m becoming more certain that it is. Once again, it must be the magical effects of oxidation, as this liquid seems to grow sweeter and more interesting by the day.

There was one notable occasion where I had to pour a glass back into the bottle because I realised after tasting it that I simply didn’t want it… but that was severe hangover related, and the Grant’s reasserted its quality a few days later.

How does the Ale Cask edition measure up?

Yes, before I go, I need to address the ale cask edition that Mrs Cake and I bought for her brother. I did get to have a taste one evening over Christmas while helping put some Lego construction together and I can report being fairly impressed. It is of course difficult to compare when several thousand miles and a few weeks separate my experiences, but for the sake of offering a simple conclusion, if you were going to buy only one, I would say you might be missing out if you didn’t return and get the other one in the fullness of time.  Jim Murray places quite a few marks between the two in his 2013 Whisky Bible, but I don’t think there is such a gulf in class as he does, and I suspect I will be returning for that ale cask edition at some point – and I wouldn’t shy away from buying this one again either – at the right price.


Thanks for joining my this week. Next week I’ll be continuing on my one man mission to promote the consumption of grappa throughout the world by looking at La Castellina Squaricalupi – a bottle I picked up nearly a year ago, and finished only this week. See you then.