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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 part 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 establish the most famous Irish whiskey brand in the world. It was perhaps inevitable, therefore, 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. Its 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 traditional 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 bottles 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 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.
Thoughts: There’s no doubt it lacks the complexity and depth of a good single malt but it is not without its charms. If nothing else, it offers a very affordable way to sample grain whisky.
Single grain whisky seems to be gaining momentum at the moment. Independent bottlers are releasing older expressions on a regular basis and they offer an alternative flavour profile to single malt. The spirit can also represent good value for money compared to malts of a similar age.
Due to its affordability and palatability, Cameron Brig represents a fine starting point on any exploration of this less celebrated corner of the whisky world.
*Since the publication of this review, Cameron Brig has been discontinued and is no longer available.