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Issue 136 - Grain Whisky and its Ageing Process

Whisky Magazine Issue 136
June 2016

 

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Grain Whisky and its Ageing Process

How the flavour profile develops

The opportunities to sample a grain whisky are growing, but the number available, bottled either under a brand name or the name of the distillery which produced it, remains relatively small. Meanwhile,
the vast majority of grain whisky is blended with malt whisky to produce blended Scotch.

There are seven grain whisky distilleries (compared to 110 malt whisky distilleries) in Scotland. These are: Loch Lomond, Cameronbridge (owned by Diageo), Girvan (William Grant & Sons), Invergordon (Whyte & Mackay), Strathclyde (Chivas Brothers), North British (a joint venture between the Edrington Group and Diageo), with Starlaw (owned by La Martiniquaise) the most recent, operational since 2010.

“Grain whisky from each distillery has its own individual character. The range goes from robust to delicate and sweet, and there's plenty in between. I can't stress enough how large that range is, and when you're making a blended Scotch you can't just substitute one grain whisky for another,” says Sandy Hyslop, Ballantine's Master Blender.

How the flavour profile of a grain whisky develops depends on various factors, including the type of grain distilled, the profile of the resulting spirit, the type of cask used, and length of the ageing period.

Grain whisky was traditionally distilled from maize, though most distilleries changed to wheat in the 1980s. Whether, and to what extent, the choice of grain influences the new make spirit depends on the distillation regime, which can either ...

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