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Issue 60 - Out of the shadows

Whisky Magazine Issue 60
November 2006


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Out of the shadows

Grain whisky is stepping into the spotlight after years of being undervalued. Ian Wisniewski finds out more

What a change. Just as it seemed that grain whisky would always be consigned to its traditional, supporting role within blended Scotch, a new era has begun. A growing number of grain whiskies are being released in their own right, and getting a very good reception.

“We've had phenomenal growth in our grain whisky sales, we launched seven grain whiskies two years ago, each attributed to a particular distillery, and won a lot of awards. At some tastings some people have considered some of our grain whiskies on the same level as top-notch malts,” says Euan Shand of Duncan Taylor.

That's great news. But there's still plenty to be done in terms of telling the story of grain whisky.

Having often been described (and perceived) as the pragmatic element of a blend, with a ‘lighter' character counter-balancing the complexity of malts, it's hardly surprising grain whisky is undervalued.

“Sadly grain whisky is looked at as a commodity.

I've come across gorgeous casks of 10-25 year old grain whisky, it's capable of being beautiful,” says John Glaser of Compass Box. Euan Shand adds, “I think people don't understand grain, perhaps people think that continuous distillation is a less expensive, more industrial process than pot still, and that grain whisky should be cheaper.” While grain whisky can be less expensive than malts, that doesn't mean there need be a compromise in terms of flavour delivery. “It's a revelation that grain whiskies can give such a range of flavours...

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