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Single grain whisky has become a common sight on the shelves of spirit retailers in recent years, with well aged expressions coming in at comparatively lower cost than malts of a similar vintage. Glasgow based blender and independent bottler Douglas Laing & Co have been a prominent exponent of the category, releasing an array of single casks, some of which have carried rather impressive age statements.
The recent Easter Edition of their Old Particular range is one such bottle, originating from the Invergordon grain distillery in the Highlands of Scotland. Distilled in May 1997, it was aged for 22 years in a refill barrel before it was emptied in March of this year and just 155 bottles filled.
The Invergordon distillery was encouraged by the Provost of Inverness as a means to create employment in the town after the Navy withdrew in 1956. He argued that the port gave the location fine links to the south and the surrounding fields provided excellent land for growing grain. In mid-century, post-war Britain there was something of a clamour for new distilleries, as the blending houses struggled to keep up with a new surge in demand. It wasn’t long before the Provost’s wish was granted.
Invergordon Distillers Ltd built the first grain distillery in the Highlands and commenced production in 1961. Within a few short years they were expanding, building a pot still malt distillery on the same complex. Named Ben Wyvis, it began distilling in 1965 but Invergordon weren’t finished there.
A year later the company started work on Tamnavulin distillery in Speyside and followed it with the acquisition of Bruichladdich in 1968. In 1971 they took over Brodie Hepburn Ltd of Glasgow and gained Tullibardine and a commanding share in Deanston along with it. Despite Ben Wyvis closing down in 1977, the company continued to expand. The mid-80’s saw them buy Ronald Morrison Ltd for its Glayva whisky liqueur and the purchase of Charles MacKinlay & Co brought Jura and Glenallachie into the fold.
By the time Whyte & MacKay took a controlling interest in Invergordon in the early 90’s however the company had begun to scale back. Glenallachie was sold in 1989. Deanston was offloaded the following year. Bruichladdich was mothballed, then eventually sold in 2000 and Tullibardine followed in 2003.
Despite this clearout however, Invergordon remained operational within the Whyte & MacKay stable where it remains today, albeit now under the ownership of Philippines outfit Emperador Distillers.
The Old Particular “Easter Editon” Invergordon is bottled at 48.9% abv and retails at £85.
Full disclosure: the fine folk at Douglas Laing sent me this sample so that I might share my thoughts with you the readers. As always I will strive to give an honest and impartial view as to the inherent quality of the product and the value for money it represents.
Smell: Creme brûlée. Coconut. Vanilla. Honey, Apple, little spritz of lemon. Curious mix of sawdust and flour.
Taste: Salted caramel and buttery smooth vanilla fudge. Madeira cake with some subtle winter spices, cinnamon predominantly. Breakfast cereal too.
Thoughts: It’s always a struggle to describe an £85 bottle as good value for money because I imagine that to some it would be an obscene amount to spend on what is essentially a bottle of plonk. When compared with the rest of the market however, this single grain does quite well.
Single grain can’t always match the complexity of a single malt but it can provide a fullness of flavour that surprises many. This Invergordon is one such dram, coming across like liquidised fudge drizzled on sponge cake with a dusting of cinnamon on top. It manages to combine a lightness on the palate with a pleasingly creamy texture and delivers just enough of that subtle woody spice to hint at, rather than brag about, its age.
Visit the Douglas Laing & Co website here.