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Cameronbridge Distillery was founded in 1824 by John Haig, a man with whisky in his blood. Haig’s great, great, great grandfather Robert found himself in a spot of bother in 1751 after being caught distilling on the Sabbath. His Mother Margaret was of the Stein family, owners of several distilleries throughout Scotland and Ireland and three of his brothers became distillers, even his sister Margaret married John Jameson and moved with him to Dublin where he would eventually create the most famous Irish whiskey brand in the world. It was therefore, perhaps inevitable that Haig himself would make his mark on the whisky industry.
Cameronbridge was the first and still the largest distillery in Scotland to produce grain whisky. It’s transformation from a traditional malt distillery began in 1830 with the installation of a column (or continuous) still, designed by Irishman Aeneas Coffey. Unlike the famous Pot Still, the Column allowed for continuous, uninterrupted distillation and provided the means for bulk production of grain whisky with which to supply a growing appetite for blended scotch.
Today, under the ownership of Diageo, Cameronbridge spirit remains much in demand, providing for blends like Johnnie Walker, J&B, Bell’s, Black & White and Vat 69. The whisky made here also fills the distinctive blue bottles of the David Beckham-fronted ‘Haig Club’ and neutral spirit is created for the likes of Pimms, Smirnoff, Gordons and Tanqueray.
Diageo also bottle a single grain Cameron Brig at 40% abv. Available in the UK for around £25, it is an intriguing and affordable insight into this lesser known component of fine blended scotch whisky.
Smell: Creamy Vanilla and Cereal notes combine with Coconut, Honey and Shortbread.
Taste: Vanilla, Honey and Caramel predominantly with a hint of a Dried Fruits / Sherry influence.
Value for Money: A perfectly drinkable dram, albeit lacking in the complexities of a good single malt.
Single grain whisky seems to be gaining a little momentum amongst independent bottlers, with well aged varieties in particular offering the connoisseur an alternative flavour profile to single malt. Grain can also represent good value for money compared to malts of a similar age and if nothing else, it is satisfying to educate oneself as to it’s charms – all the better to recognise it’s contribution to the next blend one enjoys. Due to it’s affordability and it’s palatability, Cameron Brig represents a fine starting point on any exploration of this less celebrated corner of the whisky world.